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Chapter 1: Darkness Rises
Words of Avatar Aang:
I am familiar with Death.
I know of his hands, cold and clammy.
I know of his breath, icy and rattling.
I know of his heart, twisted and merciless.
I know that his favorite environment is that of a war-torn world, one infected with hatred and murder.
However...Death can never conquer his immortal enemy, no matter his efforts.
His enemy...is Love.
This is our story.
Ba Sing Se, "The Impenetrable City", two years and ten months after Sozin's Comet passed through the upper atmosphere and the bloody Hundred-Year War was declared over by the efforts of Avatar Aang and his friends...
Rain poured outside, droning a steady rhythm on the tile green tile roof of the Earth Kingdom home, situated in the Upper Ring of Ba Sing Se.
Not just any home, though. The home of the Avatar and his family.
Sokka was polishing his new sword, strong arms delicately swabbing the glistening blade. Though his face showed the utmost concentration, he was hardly into it.
Toph was half-heartedly picking at her toes, occasionally stopping to scratch an armpit or insert a finger up her nose. She sighed in absolute boredom.
Aang, exhausted from keeping up with Firebender rebellions, was nodding off at the table, mouth gently falling open in a gape.
Katara studied some scrolls on the couch, massaging her temples as the many laws inscribed upon it twisted her mind.
Everything was dead silent, except for the gentle patter of rain on the rooftop.
Suddenly, the silence was broken by Aang. He had dozed off, and his nodding head had smacked into the polished tabletop. Everybody jumped, startled. But, they were goaded into amused laughter when they realized what had happened.
Katara giggled at Aang's stunned expression.
"Table beats airbender" Sokka punned, grinning at his self-proclaimed joke. He was soon rebuked when a blast of frigid air that sent his face smashing into the bowl of polish on his lap.
Katara, Aang, and Toph laughed together, basking in Sokka's humiliation when he pulled his blackened face from the dish.
Aang, still smiling, stood and stretched his arms above his head, grunting. "Ugh," he yawned, "I need to do something...I don't know...active. I need to be ready just in case I'm called again...I guess I'll be outside." He then strode to the doorway, hesitating when the pelting rain splattered at his feet. Sighing, he stepped into the storm, forming a water shield above his head.
Katara smiled at his little shield, shaking her head. To think that he learned that from me...he wasn't even listening, he was mesmerized... Closing her eyes, she thought back to that beautiful evening, now three years ago...
The Water Shield.
Ba Sing Se, outside the Jasmine Dragon, home and tea shop of General Iroh...
Katara and Aang sat at the edge of Iroh's property, gazing into the setting sun. Aang was leaning back on his hands. Katara was sitting at his side with her feet curled under her. Her head was propped against Aang's shoulder, and one of her hands was placed over one of Aang's.
It was perfect.
For once, they weren't on the run. They were wearing fresh clothes and breathing smoke-free air. For once, they could just...relax.
Katara was smiling ridiculously. Aang looked rather goofy himself; his beam took up half of his face. Chuckling, he pressed his cheek against the side of Katara's head. He loved the smell of her hair.
Oh, wow... he thought. That was corny...
"Katara?" he murmured, a bit self-conscious about his words.
"Hmm?" she answered.
Aang smiled again despite his worry. "Thank you."
Katara's lips twitched into a confused pucker. Pulling away, she asked, "For what?"
Aang reached up hesitantly and lightly began to pull his fingers through her hair. "For everything," he answered. "You have always been there for me, from the first moment at the South Pole. You didn't know it, but you were a lot of the reason I kept going."
Katara blushed slightly, embarrassed. Picking at the grass nervously, she asked, "Really?"
Aang nodded vigorously. "Remember the Serpent's Pass? And when I first started training with Toph?"
"Those were some of the hardest times in my life. I got through because of you." Aang stopped, marveling at his words while still playing with Katara's hair.
She loved the feeling. Her eyes closed with content. "You're welcome." She chimed. "Although I should be the one thanking you...you saved the world." She opened her eyes and gazed deep into his, still smiling. "I'm just happy that I could help."
The evening could not have been more beautiful.
That is, until the malevolent rain swept in.
Both Aang and Katara were dozing, exhausted of words and content to rest together. Aang was startled awake when the first raindrop hit him squarely on the eyelid, seeping through his eyelashes. His jump woke Katara, who yawned.
"Rain," informed Aang, rubbing his eye.
Casting her gaze to the skies, Katara was surprised to see ominous black clouds looming overhead. Soon, they were assaulted by heavy rain.
Laughing, Aang jumped to his feet, pulling Katara with him. They giggled together for a few minutes, sparing a few to twirl around in the downfall. Then, Katara taught Aang how to create the water shield, which guarded the majority of his body against the water.
Aang hardly listened, staring in awe.
Katara was breathtakingly beautiful in the rain. Her quiet laugh was chiming music, and when she danced in the falling water, she was an angel.
Wow... he thought faintly.
She caught Aang staring at her, instantly blushing. Slowly, her smile faded along with her shield. She became rather serious and stopped dancing.
Aang, caught up in the moment, slowly reached over and placed a trembling hand on Katara's cheek. Thunder boomed over their heads as he drew her closer, voices screaming in his head, and finally kissed her.
It was a soft, gentle kiss, a simple phrase that seemed to emphasize the meaning of the word love. Katara felt as if she could fly.
In fact, she knew that her spirit truly was soaring.
Spirits...yes! This was meant to be...
She also noticed that she couldn't feel any rain.
The simple water shield sat above their occupied figures.
As Darkness Rises.
Ba Sing Se, inside Team Avatar's home...
Katara smiled to herself. This was meant to be...
Now that her tired mind was on Aang, she turned to watch him through the doorway.
He was training. The drops around him were being pulled into a maelstrom while the wind whipped around him in a powerful cyclone. The power each gust and every drop possessed was tangible.
Then, everything froze.
Aang stood in the middle, holding his hands straight out in a stark figure T. The rain hung, suspended in midair. He clenched his hands into fists, and all of the little droplets froze and cracked, exploding into miniscule pieces of ice. It was like snow dust.
Katara stared at Aang in wonder. Sure, he's a fully realized Avatar and all, but it's more than that. He has...true power. She grappled with her own thoughts for a moment, and always came back to the same simple conclusion. I...I love him.
Outside, Aang was creating a bubble of rippling water above his head when he suddenly froze. His training stance vanished, replaced by his traditional fighting stance, and the water fell around him in a loud splash.
Oh no. Katara was on her feet in a split second, leaping from the couch and throwing the documents aside in a flurry of parchment.
Something was wrong.
"Aang!" she snapped, flying through the doorway.
At the same moment her body passed into the icy rain, a solid thunk was heard.
She slid to a halt, mouth agape in a horrified way.
Aang fell to his knees, grasping the arrow that was now protruding from his chest. Breathing labored, he slowly met Katara's stunned gaze.
NO! The world seemed to stop around her as she stared at Aang, her love, mortally wounded.
Mouthing something inaudible, the Avatar slowly toppled to the cobblestoned ground, gasping for breath.
As always, be sure to check out the rest of the series, more chapters coming soon!
For the collective works of the author, go here.