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The following story is indubitably fanon and should not be considered actual canon.
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THE STORY OF MALU, THE LAST AIRBENDER
"The Airbending Massacre---the ambush of my people..." Aang sighed as he watched the ruthless Firebenders literally slay his dwindling race... "I said I would travel to see everything I missed while in that ice berg, but now---" Aang couldn't watch another second of it, the anger and pain he felt would have been enough to send him into the Avatar State one-hundred times over, had it not been for the soul fact that he was dead.All ages, some as old as Monk Gyatso, and then the children---Aang knew so many kids at each of the temples, boys and girls much younger than he was. There were even babies---mostly at the Eastern Air Temple with the nuns, but there were newborn Airbenders there...Surely the Fire Nation didn't murder helpless newborns? Or, so Aang thought...
No Airbender escaped genocide, the men, the women, the children, and even the Bison were all but extinguished as Aang was helpless to do anything about this horrible time in history that he had visited. It was then Aang caught a glimpse of hope. He watched an older nun from the Eastern Temple sneak away as the other women tried to fight back the comet-enhanced Fire Nation Armies. Aang followed her and noticed a basket clutched in her arms as she ran as fast as she could down the stairs, down the mountain towards the ocean. Inside the small basket was a child, a baby even, and the nun gave the infant one last look before casting it into the water, bending a powerful breeze to send the waves farther and faster away from this horrible onslaught.
"Someone escaped?" Aang gasped. In his travels, Aang realized that if he thought about someone or some time that he remembered, Aang would be sent there automatically in order to visit the time period; for the unknown eras however, Aang found that projecting his voice was the only way to get a link on the time period he was looking for...so Aang stated to the air, "I need to see what became of this child!"
Instantly Aang found himself in a cave, lit with a dim fire as a kind old gentleman sat with a wet basket at his side, a baby propped up on his leg.
"Where did you come from little one?" he asked sweetly towards the sleeping baby. With a smack of his lips as he pondered it over, the nearly toothless old man assumed, "Well....judging by the current, I'd say you came up from around the mountains somewhere---think there's a temple of monks living up there, if I'm not mistaken?" He had a small animal cooking over the fire and he ripped off a tiny hunk of meat and held it to the baby, "Hungry there?"
Not only did this baby Airbender not know what this food was, but it cringed a little as though it already knew that it wanted to be a vegetarian.
"Ah, fine then," the man chuckled, "I don't know much about raising a baby, but I'll jot down food as the first thing to look into..." He yawned, "As soon as that dern' comet is gone, I'll take you back up to your temple and let the monks know I found you...bet they're worried sick about ya."
Aang frowned and stared outside at the temple. It was high above the treetops, covered in a smoky fog...the people below couldn't see the flames that were torching the place to the ground---Aang couldn't even hear any screams or signs of a struggle. This hermit man was kind enough---a little clueless, but kind nonetheless. Aang looked back and wondered what this man would find after hiking up to the nun's temple in the morning---and so the Avatar's spirit skipped straight to that point in time as the world faded back in a flash.
"Oh no..." the hermit man sighed, "Looks like a fire broke out overnight?" The baby cried a little, wrapped up in a cloth against the man's chest, but the old guy patted it softly until the infant hushed down. He then said, "Little one, you reckon someone did this on purpose now?"
A clatter erupted in the distance, and all three of them jumped from the noise, Aang included. It was simply a foundation giving way from the scorched support beams. Aang and the hermit let out a sigh of relief and then the man hollered, "Hello!? Is anyone here?"
Not a sound could be heard for miles and miles, only the faint wind echoing the drifting sound of smoke and creasing building material.
"Well little one," he coughed lightly, "I suppose we're going to be stuck together for a little while---there ain't no monks around these parts."
With a final look at the destruction, the man turned down through a few buildings to get back to the staircase down the mountain. It was then he saw the actual horrors of what had taken place the night before; soldiers and women alike in an eternal slumber, many burned and beaten; the flag of the Fire Nation blowing dully in the breeze. The old man let out a very sharp gasp and stumbled back on pieces of broken wall before clutching the child in his arm and turning to hurry away from this dreadful place."What became of this child?" Aang asked to himself. In a flash, the world came back and he saw the old hermit and a four year old girl in a small shack nearby.
"Malu," the old man coughed, "Time to eat, child."
"Alright!" she cheered, "Coming Grandpa!"
Aang smiled at the two just in time to see the girl called Malu glide over to the tiny wooden table with Airbending and although the grandfather never lost his smile, there was concern in his eyes like no other.
"Y-you remember what I told you now, about flying in public?" he stammered slightly.
"To not to?" she grinned, "Cause it scares all the town folk, and they're scared of little flying monsters?"
"Well, you're the best little monster and old man could ever know," he laughed, making her giggle and he set a large roasted slab of meat on the table and stated, "Dig in!"
In the end it seems that Malu was perfectly hidden high up on this lone mountain in the middle of the forest, no Fire Nation in sight, and she was under care of this generous old man—she even eats---well like Sokka, but still it would be hard to connect her to an Airbender in any way unless she was Airbending.
Before Aang could realize it, he was sent forth in time to a few years in the future. Malu was eight and roaming the forest, talking to animals and playing around with a long pole in hand, carved by her grandfather no doubt. Aang looked back at the house to see a small band of Fire Nation soldiers infiltrating her home, and all Aang could do was frown and say, "Oh no."
By the time Malu made it home, the fire had already consumed the house and the soldiers were waiting for her. She ran as quick as the wind to reach home as soon as she saw the smoke. When there the soldiers were coming for her post haste, but Malu swiped them all away with her pole and then used a massive gust of wind to extinguish the fire at her door, long enough to rush inside, shouting all the while for her grandfather.
"What are you crazy!?" a soldier halted as his team stopped cold in their tracks, "That Airbender is as good as dead in there anyway---Let's get back and tell the captain that another rumor has been put to rest."
"Another?" Aang gasped, quickly remembering the trap he'd stumbled upon many years ago as a boy. They were said to have tricked the last remaining Airbenders to those caves and extinguished them when the Airbenders got there.
"Grandpa!" Malu screamed, coughing the smoke before a faint voice called for her from beneath their wooden kitchen table... "Grandpa!"
"Malu," he sighed weakly as the little girl rushed to him in tears, "Those men are---Fire Nation---they'll stop at---at nothing to get you---"
"Why Grandpa? What do they want?" she teared.
"Long ago the Fire Nation killed your people, Malu---" he coughed, "I found you in the water and raised you----I---I thought keeping you---in the woods---w-would keep us safe, but they f-f-ound us."
"I'll get you out of here Grandpa!" she cried, tugging on his shoulders, but she was merely a tiny eight year old girl and could not make her grandfather budge an inch. The breaking home was also collapsing around them, and Malu's grandfather was pinned underneath a support beam from the ceiling. Little Malu was too young and frightened to realize what was going on around her though and focused solely on her Grandpa.The old man grabbed onto her shoulder and ordered with all the strength he had left, "Malu, I want you to run out the back of the house," he coughed violently from the smoke and continued, "Run and hide as high up into the mountains as you can and don't come back here!"
"I---I won't leave you!" she bawled, coughing to as the smoke now filled the floor where the last remaining supply of air had been. Malu tried to Airbend the smoke away, but she wasn't doing much good with the scorching fire outweighing the amount of air inside the cabin.
With a smile, the old man pointed her off and said, "I'll be right behind you child, I'll hold off the guards and m-meet you at our secret s-spot..."
"By the river?" she asked.
He chuckled very weakly and nodded, before screaming in a hushed groan, "Now Go, go right now Malu! Run away! GO!"
Believing the words of her grandfather, she turned and escaped silently through the back of the house and took in a large gasp of fresh air before following her grandfather's orders and running far off into the mountains.
Years after Aang jumped in time, now not even willingly---he saw many of the Airbenders who had escaped now dying in those traps set by the Fire Nation, and even children he saw were being slaughtered by the ruthless soldiers. Every time the soldiers tested the Airbenders to see if they were the long forgotten Avatar, but none of them were and Aang soon realized that it had been ten years into the bloody rage of The Hundred Year War. Then he appeared at a large mountainous area in the Eastern Earth Kingdom, it was lush with trees and utterly quiet. On the mountain in one flash of orange, a figure rushed by and vanished again in an instant. All the while, small group of shaking soldiers were hiking slowly up the mountain to the temple, white as sheep, as though they were sneaking into the lair of an angry dragon. Suddenly, a fierce wind sent them tumbling downward and screaming in terror, "It's the witch! The ghost witch of the mountain!"
Screaming like little girls, the mob fled as fast as they could as the eerie echoes trailed them down the mountain. As soon as they had vanished, a ten year old Malu snickered out from behind the bushes and collected all of the supplies the soldiers had dropped in their tracks before disappearing into the trees again.
"She's alive?" Aang grinned, following the figment of Malu to the house of her grandfather, still scorched and tattered, but it remained standing and Malu climbed inside through the ceiling. Nearby a grave sat for her grandfather, and also there was posted a faint sign that read, "Beware the ghost witch of the mountains". For two years and apparently for many years after, Malu haunted any passerby who dared enter this part of the mountain. She was even favored by the small town that lived below the cliffs, and they brought her gifts of tribute for protecting their land from Fire Nation Soldiers. Try as they may, Malu was there in the mountains, the last Airbender of the century, keeping evil away from her last hiding spot, and eventually the Fire Nation stopped coming altogether in fear of being cursed by the angry witch's spirit. Malu remained in the mountains all of her life and suddenly Aang found himself back in Zhěngjiù with Avatar Roku and the other spirits.
"Did you find what you were looking for?" Roku asked.
Aang frowned, "It was terrible...I watched every one of my people---they all were killed---all except for that one girl."
"Who, me?" a voice trailed in the distance.
Aang turned to see a woman waiting behind them; she wore and orange poncho and held a carven staff of wood in her hand; she bore a smile to the two Avatars as she and the other Airbender spirits came forward to greet Aang after his travel to the past.
"You're Malu?" the old Avatar smiled.
"I am," she nodded, "Formally known as the last Airbender---well, until you came around?"
Her attitude was kind and snarky---she reminded Aang much of Toph, especially when she gave him a gruff punch on the shoulder. Gyatso waited nearby and Aang was without words, as he tried to express his apologies for the genocide that he had just witnessed.
"No need to feel sorry, Aang," Gyatso smiled, "What happened then is long forgotten, and we have made amends with our deaths, as should you my pupil."Malu and her grandfather nodded and the other Airbenders all felt the same.
"There is no need to feel hurt or angry about the past any longer," Gyatso continued, "While this news may seem new to you Aang, we have all been gone for over one-hundred years and are just happy to be here together now."
"Easier said than done," Aang tried to chuckle, "After what I saw...it could take a while---"
"Forgiveness is the first step you have to begin healing," Sister Iio smiled, "We have forgiven the Fire Nation already, and now it is time for you to do the same."
Aang grinned and looked to the Airbenders with a smile.
"One thing..." Aang wondered, "Malu, how did you wind up here?"
"Oh, you mean how did I die?" she scoffed in a laugh, speaking calmly as though she were merely talking about the weather, "The soldiers finally caught me and killed me after they realized I wasn't the Airbender that they were looking for, nor was I a witch that lived in the mountains. They were pretty embarrassed about being tricked by an old lady..."
Aang blinked uncomfortably.
Malu snorted and laughed, "Just kidding! You should see the look on your face, it is priceless! Look, I protected the mountains until I was an old woman and then killed over of old age. Really peaceful-like. I never had any kids or fell in love---there was that one soldier that I stalked for a little while, but that's a different story. I truly thought that I had died the last of the Airbenders, but I died calmly and without any regrets."
"Oh..." Aang was almost relieved until he caught himself and changed tones, "I mean...I am so sorry---"
"Yeah yeah," Malu rolled her eyes, "Trust me Aang, I got enough revenge for all of us when I was still alive, so don't even worry about feeling upset about those soldiers anymore."
"I'll take your word for it," he nodded uncomfortably, "There is no way I'm going back to that time period for a long, long time."
"Come on Aang," Gyatso laughed heartily, "And I'll treat you to a sporting game of Pai Sho to take your mind off of things."
"You have games here?" Aang was shocked to find out.
"Things would get pretty boring if we didn't," Gyatso chuckled, "The poor Pai Sho Table met with the most gruesome demise though---very tragic I'm afraid..." Aang was confused and all of the thousands of Airbenders laughed at him before Gyatso chuckled, "That was a joke old friend, I simply could not resist."
Blushing of embarrassment Aang tugged at his collar, but followed his people off into the distance to enjoy an old game with his old friends.
"Another conference?" Tenzin held back a sigh and toned down the anti-pleasantries he hid in his tone, "Where will it be held this time, Tarrlok?"
"You and I are to resolve a few matters over in the next city. If all goes according to plan, we should be back home within the weekend; tomorrow at the earliest."
"Certainly Rocky or even Ruby could handle this matter with you instead?"
"All other council members are away on more pressing missions at the moment," Tarrlok frowned, "I realize that you might still need time to grieve, but this is part of our duty to the city and as our responsibility it cannot be ignored." He paused. "I could always go at it alone, if you would rather---"
"No, no," Tenzin huffed, "You're still too new to handle conflicts like this one alone. Chinook recommended you highly despite your young age, Tarrlok, but even I needed help when I first came into office." Tenzin sighed heavily and then smiled, "I won't let you down, don't worry, I'll pack my things and we can head out in about an hour. I'll meet you back at the capitol building."
He grinned and gave Tenzin half a bow before walking away. "That sounds like a good plan, but allow me to be your transportation this evening. I'll come by and pick you up at the docks. It will be much faster this way."
"No, it's no trouble, I do have Oogi after all?"
"I won't take no for an answer," he shooed away the objection, "Besides it will give me a chance to get some miles on my new Sato Mobile. Oh, and don't worry about a thing... I will be sure to mention your gracious assistance despite your personal dilemmas, at the next council meeting. Hopefully they understand your difficult position and send over a nice fruit basket and an apology."
Confused, Tenzin rolled his eyes at the man's statement and replied sarcastically, "Thank you Tarrlok..." Then he turned to head home himself and muttered under his breath, "You aren't the one who has to explain my leaving to my older sister though."
"What!? You're leaving again!?" Kya screeched.
"Kya," Katara eased, "Tenzin has many responsibilities to deal with, and he can't just stay cooped up around this old house."
"You'd think that they would allow him a little more time to heal properly---Bumi left to go back to the United Forces, and now Tenzin is leaving on a business trip. I can't bear the thought of you all alone on this island Mom!"
"It has been three months since your father passed away..." Katara frowned heavily, "That is no reason to stop living for the rest of you kids. Tenzin, you run along and get packed, it is your job to protect Republic City just as my brother did when he was on the council. Aang and Sokka pulled a lot of strings to get you admitted like they did, so do not disappoint their efforts!"
"Yes Mother," Tenzin hugged her and fled the room in order to prepare.
"And as for you Kya," Katara sighed, "You should be getting on with your life as well. Stop worrying about me, I'm fine here."
"No you're not!" Kya accused, "Don't even try lying to me Mom, I know you."
Katara could only frown... "It was a long winter, Kya, but now spring has come and the world is still in motion. It is a new year and it is time that you had some new adventures."
"Look Mom, I'm not going anywhere. I said I was going to stay with you and even if the boys are all too busy, I am always going to take care of you---it's a new adventure for me, right, you just said so yourself?"
"That isn't what I meant, Kya---" the old Waterbender started to protest.
"Nope, enough of that backtalk! Now how about we do something special for lunch today? I'm feeling like a well-deserved spa trip, and some of those fancy crab puff things that they serve there. Ooh, you want to see if the Beifong's are off today, we can make it a group thing!?"
"You certainly haven't changed, Kya," her mother laughed, "Still just as stubborn and spirited as you were when you were a child. Do I really have any choice in the matter, dear?"
"No ma'am," Kya snickered, "Now let's go call in some reservations!"
Meanwhile, Tarrlok and Tenzin were continuing their long drive out to the neighboring city, and Tenzin had a tight grip on the seatbelts. Every turn and hard right that Tarrlok made was even more terrifying to the Airbender---he had begun to think that Tarrlok was reveling in his discomfort and driving like this on purpose. Still, Sato-Mobiles were a fairly new luxury, it was common for drivers to be a little rough around the edges---it was one of the reasons that Tenzin would rather fly safely in the clouds than risk the dangerous roads below.
"What's the matter?" Tarrlok laughed, "Have you never ridden in a Sato-Mobile before? You've been clutched onto the panic bar ever since I picked you up at the docks."
"No---No I have not! I can say that I never expected to ride in one of these things for three hours straight either..." Tenzin swallowed back his nausea and groaned, "How do people get anywhere without a Flying Bison?"
"Welcome to the real world," the young man laughed, "We all don't get to pilot huge, fuzzy monsters. You should be happy! This is the newest model straight off of Sato's lot! She runs like a dream!"
"Sato? As in Hiroshi?" He murmured, "I think he's a friend of my cousin's? Of course they would have a hand in building such a stomach-turning contraption."
"There, there," Tarrlok laughed, "Look we're already in town, this journey is almost over."
He sighed and set his sickly green head on the dashboard, "Thank goodness..."
They parked near a rather large building and Tarrlok handed off his keys to a valet while Tenzin stared at the large meeting hall. It was a rather massive structure for such a small city, but still, it was smaller than the Capitol Building where the United Council worked.
"What's wrong?" Tarrlok smiled deviously. "Still car-sick?"
"No, I'm fine," the Airbender huffed, "Let's just hurry and get this over with."
"Oh look, that must be the Avatar!" An onlooker awed.
"It is! It's the Avatar!" another shouted, "Just look at those tattoos!"
A few other people came over and swarmed him as Tarrlok was shoved to the back of the crowd. Soon the mob was in a fanatic frenzy and neither councilman could get a word in edgewise. Tarrlok gave up his efforts to break through and just stood back to watch the madness as Tenzin was surrounded by eager pedestrians.
"I heard rumors that you had died!" Someone said.
"My, you are certainly much younger in person, Aang!" Another giggled.
Someone tugged at his cloak, "Could you sign this for my niece, she's a huge fan!"
Tenzin grimaced as the overlapping chatter grew louder and louder. He had been mistaken for his father before, and he always knew it was a common enough mistake. Tenzin and Aang were spitting images and with the rare Airbender tattoos, it was understandable that some people would get them confused. Still, every word, every sentence from the admiring crowd was like rubbing salt in another fresh wound---and eventually Tenzin couldn't take it anymore. Air flowed down from the sky and surrounded the councilman's feet, the whirlwind a vortex of might as the twister separated him from the mob. The crowd shouted and exclaimed as they all took a few massive steps backwards in order to get away from Tenzin's small twister.
"I apologize!" Tenzin tried to sound polite, but the words still came out aggravated and angry; the vortex died down and the councilman composed himself as he declared loudly, "I am not Avatar Aang. My father passed away a little over three months ago! I am simply here for a business meeting between the mayor and the United Republic. Now if you will all kindly excuse me, I have a meeting to get to."
The crowd, their eyes still wide and watching, they stared after Tenzin as he huffed in defeat and started marching up the stairs. Meanwhile, Tarrlok watched from the streets and his brows arched as he glared towards Tenzin. Eventually he cleared his throat and slapped on another fake smile as he started up the steps himself, calling out for Tenzin to wait up.
- The Attack of the Air Temples happened over one-hundred and fifty-five years ago, marking the first coming of Sozin's Comet.
- The escaped Airbender was partially inspired by the questionable character, Malu.
- Some of the events of this year including: Malu's "Grandfather", Malu's raising, and Malu's mountain home was inspired by events that happened in the old television series, Dragon Ball.
- This is the first stop for Aang on his spiritual journey into the past, and he has been dead for exactly three months on the mortal plane. (It is now March of the next Year.)
- Spirits in Zhěngjiù take form of whatever age they wish, some choose to remain old, some like to be young again; however, infants are automatically sent back to the mortal world as other babies, and children/ teenagers are to remain the age they were at their end.
- The traps set by the Fire Nation for the remaining Airbenders, were referenced in the ATLA comic: "Relics" which can also be read here.
- This is the first Tarrlok has had any dialogue in the Fanon, and also the first we see of him (or any character) driving a Sato Mobile.
- Let it be known that Tenzin gets car-sick very easily.
- Kya has moved back to Air Temple Island to be with her mother and will later move to the Southern Water Tribe in order to keep her from being all alone as stated in the LOK episode: "Civil Wars, Part 1"
- The last time that Tenzin was mistaken for the Avatar was back in Year 44.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
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