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|The Wasted Warrior, Part 1: Cycles|
March 1st, 2011
It had been six months since "the paint incident" (as the staff in the Southern Air Temple would forever remember Aang's mishap). Sora was 10 months old now, and had fortunately become a much sounder sleeper, waking up only once every night to feed.
In said timeframe, there had only been two major battles which had required the Avatar's participation, both of them successful. Consequently, the Avatar family had been able to settle into a more or less stable family routine.
It was just past dawn and Aang was at the practice grounds sparring with Fu Xi, the head of the Temple's guard. He was not doing as well as he thought he was...
"Your Excellency, you need to work on making those forms more explosive."
Aang laughed "But I've beaten you every time"
"I'm older, slower – your speed and reflexes are compensating and giving you an edge. Trust me, if it were His Royal Highness you would be in trouble."
Aang smiled, but still nodded and bowed to his most recent firebending master.
No sooner had the match began anew, Fu Xi did a series of quick, powerful moves which broke Aang's flow and quickly overpowered him.
Aang was on the floor, dumbfounded "Didn't see that coming..."
"I know it is against your nature, but fire is an aggressive element which calls for an aggressive approach."
Aang, now wearing a more serious expression, bowed again before standing at the ready.
They were about to start another round when they saw the Messenger Hawk. Aang knew it had to be Hawky, since it flew straight to him instead of heading to the coop. Aang wrapped his towel around his forearm to protect his skin from the bird's talons. The hawk emits a small cry, as if saying hello – Aang says hello back and pets the bird before retrieving the message.
His good humor immediately vanishes "Fu Xi, please have the staff prepare everything for me and my family's immediate departure."
Fu Xi knew that tone. "Right away, your Excellency."
"And Fu Xi?"
"No one talks to Katara until I do."
"About what, sire?"
But Aang did not reply, wanting to eliminate any chance of someone in the staff accidentally spilling the news.
The news about the family's sudden flight spread quickly through the temple, as the staff's activity reaches fever pitch. Aang rushes to the alcove, where he quickly sets about washing up. Katara is still asleep, but not wanting to risk anything, he takes the message with him into the bathroom.
Sure enough – he is still drying off when he hears Sora crying. The mother rises to take care of the baby and sees Aang drying up and dressing.
"Honey, get ready! We have to go. I'll meet you at breakfast, hurry."
Aang insisted that they go have breakfast right away. He feared breaking the news immediately to Katara might work against them preparing for a long, arduous trip.
Katara noticed her husband's somber demeanor and interrogated him during breakfast.
"I can tell something's wrong Aang, why not just tell me?"
"Honey, it's not something for the dinner table, okay? We'll talk right after we eat, I promise."
She decides not to press further and resumes her meal and feeding Sora.
After breakfast, Aang took Katara out on the garden while Fu Xi's wife, Lianzi (the Temple's Head Mistress) took over cleaning and changing Sora. From afar, Fu Xi and Lianzi watch over the young couple as the husband finally hands the scroll over to his wife. Immediately after her eyes begin to travel over the parchment, the young woman is seized by grief, and her loud sobs are heard from the Temple.
Cang carefully measured his steps walking into to the Garden: "Your Excellency – everything is ready."
A few moments later, the Avatar family mounted Appa and started their long, sad journey.
Meanwhile father and son sail silently; they are sad, but still remain vigilant, as the threat of an attack is ever-present. They are just past the midpoint of their journey when they hear a bellowing cry fall from the sky above. Moments later, Appa lands on the boat's deck. Bato readied a ladder (Sokka's design) to help the Avatar family down.
Aang instinctively took the child into his arms as Katara rushed to her brother and father. All clutched together in a long, throbbing hung which resembled a sad, broken dance, set to the music of their lamentations. Aang could not hold back his own tears, as Bato comforted him with an understanding embrace.
It was a silent, bleak two weeks until they had reached the Northern Water Tribe. They were received by Arnook's personal Honor Guard, who immediately set about carrying their luggage to their quarters. Everything had been prepared well in advance for their arrival. Once the elementary logistics had unfolded, they were escorted to the Chieftain Hall.
The family is hesitant, apprehensive – deciding whether or not they have the strength to face the blow head on. Sokka went in first.
In the dead center of the room, laid an old woman, encased in an ornate block of ice, helping preserve her from decay until her family arrived from their long trip from across the World. The coffin sculpture was beautifully appointed with an intricate Water Tribe motif, with Tui and La dancing around each other on the top.
The artisan was none other than her now widowed lover, who sat beside it vigilantly, day and night, wearing a broken, somber expression. Having loved her since his youth and throughout his whole life, up until her death, he had now lavished upon her a final work of love in this beautifully sculpted urn. He had nothing else to give.
The Chieftain of the Southern Water Tribe slowly made his way through the Northern Hall, all of the Honor Guard saluting in respect. Once he reaches the coffin, he salutes back, having the warriors stand at ease. He gently strokes the coffin, finally resting his hand on Tui.
"She goes to you now. Please, take good care of her. She's the best I've ever had..."
Sokka watched about him and saw his father at the entrance, gazing at the floor, unable to move. He went back to him and beckoned him to enter.
When Hakoda finally entered the hall and beheld the sight of his mother, his knees buckled and failed him. Sokka and Bato had to help him to the front. Once there, he nodded, letting his companions know he'd regained control. He passed his right hand over his beard and pulled in Sokka, who was at his left side. He gestured as if trying to say something. Finally, after holding back a series of sobs, he finally spoke:
"Thank You, Mother, for taking care of my little ones while I was gone. For making sure Sokka here turned into a man..." his voice trailed off... "Thank for welcoming the Avatar back into our World, and for trusting my children enough to help him fulfill his destiny." After these words, he once again fell into a deep sob.
After a long time contemplating the ice coffin, he turned to the back of the room to Katara and Aang. Katara sat up with Sora in her arms, Aang supporting her every step of the way. As she arrived to the coffin, she let the baby into Aang's arms. She then placed both hands on the ice block, lifting her eyes briefly to meet those of Pakku, who sat next to his beloved, late wife. He nodded. Katara then turned her eyes back to Kanna and melted the top portion of the block just enough to reveal her face and her shoulders.
Katara gently caresses her Gran Gran's face and hair, tears flowing down her face. She beckons Aang for Sora.
"Look Gran Gran, it's my baby...I just wanted you to see her..." Her voice got louder as she could no longer contain the pain. The cycle had been broken. She could not present her child to the one who had reared her. She felt empty, incomplete, unaccomplished...
A slow procession carried Kanna's coffin up into the Spirit Oasis. There Chief Arnook said a final farewell:
"This rare honor we bestow only on the most distinguished members of our tribe. Kanna, late wife to our Great Master Pakku, mother of the late Chief Hakoda of The Southern Water Tribe, grandmother to Chief Sokka of The Southern Water Tribe, grandmother to The Mighty Lady Katara, and now kin to Avatar Aang, Principal Elder of the Air Nomads, we lay you to rest in the waters of the Spirit Oasis, praying that your years of silent, faithful service to the peace of this World may count as an offering that will please the Moon and Ocean Spirits. May you rest in peace."
As the ice casket was placed in the sacred pool, an unnatural glow emerged from the pond. The coffin and Kanna both seemed to dissolve in the warm waters, as the Moon Spirit took a young woman by the hand. The woman turned around for a last look at her loved ones. Katara was stunned as she gazed upon what looked like her Spirit World reflection. Young Kanna looked at the baby, who stretched her hand "Mama!"
Kanna smiled, and then turned to Yue. They both smiled at each other as they ascended to the arctic sky.
The trip back South was equally solemn, but much less somber that their previous one. Evenings were spent sharing all sorts of memories from Kanna. From Hakoda's practical jokes to the tender moments they all shared.
During the trip, Sora had taken to trying to prop herself up and use her legs for walking. This of course led to a conversation about Katara's first steps and how Kanna and Kya showed a surprised Hakoda one evening that his little girl could finally walk...
Sokka mentioned: "I'm pretty sure Sora could do it right now..."
"Not really Sokka, she's still too small." Katara retorted.
"Only one way to find out" Hakoda said, as he had Aang hold the baby across the small stateroom.
"Here baby, here Sora! Come to Grandpa!"
And just like that, she toppled and stumbled her way across the room into Hakoda's arms...
Cheering and laughing and celebrating broke out in the Southbound vessel.
Life had meaning once again...
When my eldest daughter was born, we kept her confined to the home for the first three months as much as we could. My wife's grandmother had been sick, so we had avoided the household. When we finally were out and about visiting family so they could meet the baby, we got the call that her grandmother had passed.
My wife never got the chance to show her baby to her grandmother. The blow was strong enough that seven years after the fact I remember as it was yesterday.
We never know how long we have to show our loved ones our appreciation. We will never know...
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Honor Thy Father Chapters|
| Hope Against Hope - A Change of Pace - Tainted Sanctuary - A New Home - Recovered - Empowered - When In Doubt - The Hunt - Full Moon - Reckonings - Sora
The Love of the Daughter - The Wasted Warrior, Part 1: Cycles- The Wasted Warrior, Part 2: Regrets- Daddy - The Charade, Part 1: The Shadow - The Charade Part 2: The Beast - The Charade, Part 3: The Fool - The Breakthrough - Redemption, Part 1: Dejection - Redemption, Part 2: Dominion