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|With Great Vengeance|
Chapter 3 – With Great Vengeance
Words of Avatar Roku:
When we are pleased and loved, we radiate a gentle flame of happiness and content, cradling it in our hearts.
When we are threatened, we react with a desperate spark, a fear for our own survival.
But when someone we love is in mortal danger, or falls before an enemy onslaught...
There are few words to describe the inferno of emotions.
An endless, churning sea of hatred and grief.
It does not think.
It does not love.
It does not feel pity, shame, regret, or fear.
It seeks only to destroy.
Enter the Spirit of Fire, merciless fury of the elements.
...and I Shall Strike Down Upon Thee With Great Vengeance and FURIOUS Anger...
Ba Sing Se, courtyard...
Sokka and Toph immediately knew the danger they faced.
It was obvious that, though Aang was a fully realized Avatar, he was not in control at the moment. Sokka knew that Aang could easily kill them, and not even realize it.
However, he also knew that Aang would never, EVER hurt Katara, no matter what kind of state he was in, and Sokka trusted him.
"Get down!" he yelled to Toph, and ran toward Katara's still form. He was battered left to right by harsh winds and intense heat from Aang. Dust and debris pelted his eyes, and it was hard to see. Still, he made it to her. Bending over, he picked her up easily and ran back to Toph, setting her down before turning to watch the battle. It was carnage already.
Rebels were being thrown around from the force of the winds, but this was only the beginning.
Toph yelled "I'm gonna give us some shelter!" She sliced downward, and a giant earth tent rose up around them. It was entirely covered except for a slit in one of the walls through which Sokka was watching the unfolding events. The wind was howling against the tent, but they were efficiently protected.
Toph knelt next to Katara, checking for her pulse.
Smiling, Toph stated, "Sokka, Katara is one of the toughest girls I have ever met. Her pulse is extremely strong." Reaching down, Toph gave a sharp tap to Katara's forehead with two fingers.
"Her reflexes are still intact, too," said Toph. "I guess the only problem is the burn and the whack on the head."
Sokka barely heard her.
The devastation outside was major. Sokka could see Aang through everything. He was a flurry of movement. Fire erupted from his mouth when he roared and formed a shield around him, and ice encased one of his arms. Raising that arm, he sent razor edged shards flying across the courtyard, pinning three rebels against a wall. He used rocks from the surrounding walls as shrapnel. Constant blasts of air made several soldiers fly and Sokka jumped back as one of the flying men hit the side of the earth tent.
"Toph, it's turning into a bloodbath out there!" Sokka called.
Toph nodded. "I know. I can feel it." Standing, she left Katara's side. "Plus, Aang isn't in control. If we don't stop him, we'll be squashed as well."
For a short moment, Toph and Sokka stood together in silence, watching and feeling the battle outside.
Consumed By the Inferno...
Aang was furious. He was enraged.
But above all...he was grief-stricken.
He could feel himself inside his body, but he did not attempt to regain control. He thought of the pain Katara must have been in when she fell.
He wanted to inflict the same pain on these people...these monsters.
Katara's voice was pounding in his head...
"I promise, Aang..."
His face twisted. Lunging out, he slammed a man against a wall with a blast of air, quickly followed by a jet of flame. And yet, he still was not in control.
Katara can't be dead... he thought. She just can't be...but, she looked...no...
Tears leaked from his eyes in uncontrollable streams as he continued to unleash his wrath.
I'm sorry I couldn't protect you...
To Protect My Beloved.
Fuzzy and out of focus.
It was uncomfortable and dizzying, and she just wanted to rest. But for some reason, there was urgency...she couldn't quite remember. Something to do with an arrow...it was a strain to even think. She didn't even want to try.
Just let me sleep...
Yet, that urgency was just nagging and nagging her, and wouldn't stop.
Finally, she gave in. Slowly, with great caution, she started to push herself up from the hard, bumpy ground. She was quickly averted when a searing pain crawled up her arm. Gasping, she fell back with a small yelp. Almost right after she toppled over, Katara heard footsteps running toward her.
No! Get away from me!
In a moment of blind panic, she kicked a ball of water in the direction of the approaching figures.
The water hit Sokka smack in the face, and he fell over backward.
Toph would have laughed, but she was concerned for Katara. She was kicking up a flurry of water in panicked movements. Toph raised her arms and clenched her fists, and small braces encased Katara's legs and uninjured arm.
Sokka, now up and recovered, ran to Katara. "Katara!" he said, "It's just us!" he placed his face into her line of sight. Her eyes had the similar look of a cornered animal, but when she saw Sokka, she calmed down easily.
"Sokka!" she rasped in a hoarse voice. She blinked very rapidly, and then tried to move. She frowned when she found that she was in earth shackles. "What's going on?" she mumbled.
Sokka was inspecting the bump on her head. It had stopped bleeding, but it was the size of a turkey-goose egg. "Well," he sighed, without looking her in the eye. "You got hit, badly." He moved on to her arm. "When you came running out of the house, you were great and all, but not two minutes later, one of the men out there blasted a fireball at you. You were distracted with trying to fight off two others, and he got you. When you fell, you hit your head, hard, and it knocked you out cold. "
Katara winced at the pain in her arm. It was red and blistered all the way up. "Let me go, Toph," she said, "I need to heal my arm."
Toph gladly released Katara's arm and legs.
Once free, Katara summoned water from the ground to cover her arm. She picked the fried clothing from her shoulder as the water began to glow blue.
Suddenly, she remembered everything, and the water collapsed.
"Aang!" she gasped, looking around, even though she knew he wasn't there. He would have been by her side. Katara whipped around to ask Sokka. "Where is he?!" she demanded. When Sokka didn't answer, she grabbed the front of his robes.
He just looked away. That's when Katara noticed it.
Screeching and howling wind...constant thuds and crashes.
Katara went pale. Jumping to her feet, she loped to the hole in the wall. Outside was scary. Katara could see at least five bodies, and the rest couldn't escape.
Aang had constructed walls, trapping the soldiers so they couldn't get away, and he was torturing them. He threw one twenty feet in the air, and watched him fall.
Katara couldn't watch. That's not Aang. That's...
"He...he's not in control, is he?" she whispered.
There was a moment of silence until Sokka answered.
Katara looked out to Aang. He was glowing with intensity. He looked like he had no intention of stopping, and Katara knew what she had to do. Steeling herself, she turned to Toph.
"Let me out." She stated quietly.
Toph turned toward Katara. "Excuse me?" she snorted. "Would you like to be squashed like a spider-fly out there? I can feel the guys out there wishing they were dead."
Katara glared at Toph icily. "Toph, I'm the only one who can calm him down, and you know it. You both know it!" She glared at Sokka now. "You were both there at the desert when I calmed him down and YOU where there when he found Gyatso's skeleton. I stopped him there, too!" her voice was raising. "At the Earth Kingdom base controlled by General Fong! When he forced Aang into the Avatar State, Aang destroyed everything in that courtyard, but he left me untouched and safe. When I held him, he told me he hoped I would never have to see him like that again."
She motioned to the window.
"I'm seeing it now, and I HATE seeing Aang, MY gentle, fun-loving Aang, in so much anguish." Katara breathed heavily, daring Sokka or Toph to challenge her. "He chose me over his Avatar duties. The least I can do for Aang is choose him over my own safety." She turned to her brother. "Sokka, he won't hurt me. You know it."
Sokka stared at Katara, contemplating. They looked at each other in silence as the wind whistled through the small window. Finally, Sokka slowly nodded.
"Toph." He said. "Let her out. Aang will destroy half of Ba Sing Se if he doesn't stop."
Toph sighed and shrugged. "Your funeral." She relaxed her hand and a hole in one of the walls appeared.
"Katara." Sokka caught her shoulder. "Be careful."
Katara gently pulled away. "I can't promise that." on that, she stepped out into the howling gale.
Stumbling, she almost fell over with the force of the elements. Rain, wind, and sand were flying with painful speeds and the intense heat made it difficult to breathe. She could see Aang surrounded by a shield of fire, and Katara wasn't going to take any chances. Squinting, she pushed forward, but it was nearly impossible with all of the carnage swirling around her.
"Ugh!" she snarled in frustration. Covering her face with her arms, she plunged into the storm.
Chills ran up her arms when she drew near him.
He was about ten feet away from her. Fire erupted from his mouth as he roared in fury. A pile of jagged, crumbled rock lay at his feet. Icicles stuck up in jagged shards all around one of his arms. The heat from the fire rushed Katara, and she covered her eyes.
A memory from long ago entered her mind.
If I Did It Once...
Si Wong Desert, below the Vulture-wasp hives...
"I recognize the son's voice..." murmured Toph. "He's the one that stole Appa."
"Are you sure?" Katara asked, her eyes glancing at the Earthbender.
"I never forget a voice.
Katara felt an ice cold breeze rustle behind her. Worry entered her heart as Aang passed her, stiff with anger.
"You stole Appa!" he snapped. "Where is he?! What have you done with him?!"
"He's lying!" exclaimed the young Sandbender. "They're the thieves!"
Aang tensed and sent a slice of air ripping across the sand, blasting one of the Sandsailers to pieces. "Where is my bison?!" he yelled. "You tell me where he is NOW!" Striking, he destroyed another boat.
Katara began to worry even more.
"What did you do?" Asked the father, turning to his son.
"It wasn't me!" the son answered, lying again.
"You said to put a muzzle on him!" retorted Toph.
Aang turned sharply back to the Sandbenders. "You MUZZLED APPA?!"
Katara knew it was going to happen. Dread was racing through her as Aang began to glow. He was visibly shaking, and easily destroyed a third boat. Katara shuddered, and she saw Toph and Sokka take a nervous step back.
"I'm sorry!" yelled the son. "I didn't know that it belonged to the Avatar!"
"TELL ME WHERE APPA IS!!" roared Aang. His voice was filled with the rage of a thousand past Avatars.
"I traded him!" the man answered, his voice trembling. "To some merchants! He's probably in Ba Sing Se by now...they were going to sell him there. Please, we'll escort you out of the desert! We'll help however we can!"
But Aang didn't want to hear it. The wind began to pick up, kicking up the sand as it went. It was quickly and steadily growing into a massive dust storm.
Sokka acted. "Just get out of here! Run!" He pulled Toph with him, and the Sandbenders fled as well.
Katara didn't move.
She was scared and sad. Aang's words were repeating in her head...
I hope you never have to see me like that again...
Katara was pained that he was breaking that hope.
He wasn't him anymore.
He was an enraged Avatar.
He wasn't a fun-loving boy.
He was thousands of years of power and strength.
It scared Katara. It scared her because she knew she could lose him.
She walked forward into the bubble of air that was rapidly expanding around Aang. She wanted to protect Aang from himself.
When she grabbed his wrist, he was five feet off the ground. When he felt her, his head snapped around to glare at her and a thrill of fear ran up Katara's spine as his glowing eyes penetrated her, but she didn't let go. She reached up with her free arm and took his other hand, ignoring his resistance, and pulled him to the ground, then into her arms. She could feel him shaking, and he was crying. Katara could tell that under all of his current hate, he was just a devastated boy who had lost his best friend.
Katara was crying as well. She started to feel the wind ease up as she called Aang back from the Avatar State with the comfort of her embrace. Gradually, Aang's tense body began to relax, leaning on Katara more and more.
Finally, the wind ceased altogether, and Aang stopped glowing. Sobs began to wrack his body, and he turned his forehead into Katara's shoulder.
Relieved, Katara held him tighter, and let him cry his pain away.
...Then I Can Do It Again.
Ba Sing Se, courtyard...
Stumbling, Katara blinked the moistness from her eyes.
Stay strong. she told herself. Do this for Aang. Digging in, she forced herself forward. It was getting harder and harder. At last, she reached Aang. Up close, he was truly terrifying.
"AANG!" she screamed.
On the good side, he turned toward her.
On the bad side, he was looking murderous. He was staring at her with a snarl on his face.
He...he dosen't recognize me under all of his rage!
Aang had explained the sensation of the Avatar State to her once, and his words flashed across her mind faintly.
"When I'm in the Avatar State, I don't feel any emotion, and I can only see in black and white. I can't tell my friends from enemies. The only thing I feel is that overwhelming power."
At that moment Katara knew he was going to try and kill her.
Her eyes widened in fear.
He raised both arms over his head, and his flame shield parted for a moment as he prepared to strike...
After all we've been through...NO! Her mind screamed the thought. She furrowed her eyebrows and clenched her teeth. Devotion flooded her body, her love and will to protect him, to bring him back. I won't let it end this way!
Katara saw her opportunity, and seized it.
She threw herself at Aang, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her face into his chest. He stumbled back in surprise and froze. His body went rigid, and his arms sat stiff out in front of him.
It was just like the desert. Aang was not in control. He was crying. Katara had her arms around him, attempting to calm him down, to save him from himself.
"Come back to me, Aang. I know you're angry, and hurt, but you have to stop this." she whispered fiercely.
As the gale began to weaken, the granules of sand settled and the inferno that surrounded Aang dissippated with a low growl.
Sokka and Toph watched in amazement as the air cleared.
As the last of the maelstrom died down, the gentle rain pattered on the cobblestone courtyard once again.
Aang was still glowing, but he was limp. His face wasn't twisted anymore, and he actually looked very calm with his eyes closed. Katara noticed how everything had changed, but she was still waiting for him to give her a sign that he was himself again.
Aang was returning to himself. He could feel the Spirit of Fire slowly receding from his mind. The inferno of rage gradually relinquished it's grasp and he began to feel everything around him, including a pleasant warmth pressed against his chest.
Suddenly, he returned with a start and the glow faded. Katara felt him jump. He was breathing extremely heavily. Swiveling his head, he tried to take in all of the damage around him.
He finally comprehended that Katara was still hanging on to him, and the realization that she was alive caused his heart to skip beats.
Gasping, he threw his arms around her and let out several sobs.
That's when Katara knew that he was back. She squeezed him tighter, pressing her forehead against his collarbone. Neither of them had anything to say. The utter relief that they were still together was enough.
They stood there for a few moments, each composing themselves, and then Aang spoke. "I'm so sorry, Katara. I know you hate seeing me when I'm like that. I just...saw you...you weren't moving. The thought of you leaving me...just set me off." He held her closer. "I don't know how, Katara, but you're the only one who can bring me back...I know that now."
Aang... Katara lost the composure she had gained and broke down again. "I'm so scared w-when you're like that..."she sniffed. "But not because I know you could...kill me, because I'm afraid you'll lose yourself, and never, ever be able to come back to me." Her voice got steadier. "I promised that I would come back to you. Now you promise that YOU will always come back to ME."
Aang gently pulled Katara's arms from around his neck. Sighing, he ran his fingers through her hair, pulling her forward to press his forehead against hers. They stood there for a moment, eyes closed.
When Aang opened his eyes, Katara's crystal-blue ones were staring at him expectantly. It made him smile.
"I promise, Katara, but you have to be there to catch me when I fall."
When Katara smiled, Aang's heart could've melted, and he pulled her into a gentle kiss.
That's when Katara realized that the water shield sat over their heads.
They were all gone. Every one of them...dead. As Aang walked around the courtyard, hand in hand with Katara, grief began to replace relief. Every rebel was dead.
Katara could tell that Aang was getting upset. She squeezed his hand frequently to remind him that she was still there. Every time she did, Aang would pull her hand up to his lips and kiss it to acknowledge her comfort.
A ways off, Sokka and Toph were also looking for survivors. Sokka was leading Toph past a body when she stopped.
"What is it?" asked Sokka.
"That man," she pointed toward someone who appeared to be dead, "his heart is beating. He's unconscious, but alive."
Sokka turned to look at the rebel she had pointed to. Calling out, he yelled "Aang! One of them is still alive!"
Aang immediately ran over, closely followed by Katara.
Sokka and Toph were standing over the unconscious man. As Aang and Katara reached them, Toph's eyes suddenly widened in disbelief.
"Guys, this is going to sound weird, but we know this person..."
Frowning, Katara released Aang's hand. He placed it on her shoulder, not willing to let her out of his reach. Who can blame him she thought, brushing her fingertips across his hand as she bent down. She grasped the Fire Nation helmet that concealed a known identity and pulled it off.
They all gasped, and Aang pulled Katara back up and into his arms.
They knew who it was all right.
A face that had haunted their nightmares for months...
And a weak blue flame was still flickering in the palm of her hand.
Reference to Ezekiel 25:17 "Blessed is he, who in the name of Charity and Good Will, shepherds the weak through the Valley of Darkness, for he is truly his brothers' keeper, and the finder of lost children. And I shall strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger, those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers..."
Just an interesting side note :)
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.