The scene opens at the Beifong Metalbending Academy; a shot of the building's exterior shows a large crowd gathered within, some of them standing on the steps and watching through the open windows. A loud voice sounds from inside, carrying all the way to even the people in the back.
The Dark One Heed my words, students of the Beifong Metalbending Academy!
Cut to the inside, where a large group of students stands in front of The Dark One, Ho Tun, and Penga; the students stand in an earthbending stance as The Dark One continues addressing them.
The Dark One Chi clings to your very being like a heavy, suffocating cloak! Take hold of its many dark folds, and keep guard against the impish breath of distraction!
Quick cut to the students, who seem confused by their instructions. Cut back to Ho Tun, who rephrases the instructions.
Ho Tun Uh ... what The Dark One is trying to say is concentrate. Gather your chi deep in the pit of your gut. Then use it to feel the metal all around you.
Cut to a student, who whispers uncertainly to the girl next to him.
Student I guess that makes more sense ...?
As the girl gives him an equally confused look, Sokka suddenly bursts through the crowd, yelling.
Sokka Ho Tun! Penga! The Dark One! I need you to come with me!
Cut to the outside, as the four runs to Appa, who waits on the far side of the courtyard. The Dark One, stopping for a moment, points back at the students, who are watching them leave from the porch.
The Dark One In our absence, continue your training! Resist the impish breath!
Penga [Hugging Sokka's arm affectionately as he runs.] You're not trying to reignite our romance, are you, Sokka? I've outgrown you.
Ho Tun [Concernedly.] Penga, stop! This looks serious!
Sokka It is! Hurry!

Gurihiru - Toph's students haven't appeared for a long time. Since we like them, we had fun drawing them.

The Dark One [Running toward Appa once again.] O dreadful haste! How you fill my heart with dreadful questions!
Sokka I'll explain more on the way, Dark One-- [He climbs onto Appa's back, faces them and finishes.] --but it's Sifu Toph. She needs your help!
Cut to the refinery. Aang, with Momo on his head, scans the cloudy grayish sky for any sign of Appa. Kneeling, he places a hand on the ground at the bottom of the crater.
Aang Katara?
From within the ground, Katara's voice is heard.
Katara Sokka's back?
Aang No, not yet. I just wanted to hear your voice. Tell everybody down there to hang on just a while longer. The metalbenders will be here in no time, I'm sure of it! How's Toph holding up?
The scene switches from Aang above to Katara below, her face smeared with dirt as she responds.
Katara As good as can be expected, I guess ...
The shot zooms out, showing some of the other trapped men as Toph stands in the center of the chamber, her arms extended toward the ceiling to prevent the rubble from crushing them all.
Katara ... Considering she's literally carrying the weight of our world.

Gene - I've said before that Sokka is to Team Avatar what Hawkeye is to the Avengers -- the one normal guy who hangs out with the most powerful people on the planet. Toph, then, is the team's Hulk -- the mean, green fighting machine. When I was a kid, one of my favorite comic book covers was Secret Wars #4. The Hulk was buried underground with his friends, holding up, the cover copy claimed, "one hundred and fifty billion tons." Surely, if the Hulk can do something like that, so can Toph.

A close-up shot of Toph's face shows beads of sweat run freely down it as she concentrates intensely. Another shot shows the ceiling, which creaks ominously above them as it settles downward against Toph's bending. Katara takes her bending pouch from her side and hands it to Satoru.
Katara Satoru, bring this to her.
Satoru Isn't this the last of your water?
Katara Yeah, but if Toph fails, me running out of water won't matter all that much.
Satoru crouches next to Toph, opening the pouch as he talks.
Satoru Hey. [A short pause in which Toph says nothing before Satoru offers her the water.] Don't speak. Just drink.
Toph drinks deeply from the pouch. When she stops drinking, Satoru withdraws it from her face.
Satoru [Examining the pouch.] I'm sorry ... That's the last of it. I can check if any of the others have --
Toph [Suddenly speaking, her voice strained due to her effort.] Satoru ... Stay with me ... Talk to me.
Satoru Really? Won't that make it harder for you to concentrate?
Toph On what ... this? Psh ... this is nothing ... [She groans.] Barely ... breaking ... a sweat.
Satoru sits down next to Toph, his head down. After a short time, he raises his head, turns to Toph, and asks a question.
Satoru You ... you ran away from home, didn't you?
Toph makes no audible response; she gives only a slight nod in answer to his inquest. Satoru continues, the scene fading into a flashback of Satoru's past as he speaks.
Satoru I'm a runaway, too.
As the scene fades to a flashback, a younger Satoru is seen running from the front of a large house, a pack on his back.
Satoru Both my parents used to work for Ozai's government. After you guys defeated the Fire Lord, they joined this underground pro-Ozai society. I just couldn't go along with it, so I ran away.
The scene changes to show Satoru kneeling on a mat on the side of a dirt street; both the mat and Satoru are covered in dirt and Satoru's clothes are slightly torn. People walk past him, paying him no mind, as he holds a beggar's cup in his hands.
Satoru I spent months on the streets of Ba Sing Se's Lower Ring, begging for food.
A shot of Loban in front of Satoru, talking as Satoru smiles excitedly.
Satoru When my uncle heard what'd happened, he came to find me. He fed me, housed me, gave me a job. I admired him so much. Unlike my parents, he doesn't care about politics at all.
Back in the present, Satoru turns to cast a glance at Loban, who is yelling at one of his Rough Rhino guards.
Satoru But now I realize that's because he only cares about money. I guess I was too scared of getting thrown back out on the streets to see it earlier. [To Toph, still struggling.] You're right, Toph. I'm a sniveling flunky.
Toph Nhh ... no ... you're not.
Satoru [Encouraged.] I wish I were brave like you. You confronted your dad, even after all those terrible things he said. There really is no end to your amazingness, Toph Beifong.
The sound of someone nearby clearing their throat pulls Satoru out of his reverie. Lao stands over him.
Lao Excuse us a moment, Satoru.
Satoru [Surprised.] Of course.
As Satoru leaves them alone, Lao's face fills with sadness. He speaks to Toph.
Lao [Hesitant.] Young lady ... Toph ... My daughter. This is neither the ideal time nor place, but I'm afraid -- please, hear me out. I'm ... I'm so ... I'm ... [He sighs.] After Master Yu and Xin Fu gave up their search for you, things fell apart between your mother and me. She blamed me for losing you. Perhaps she was right. She didn't want anything to do with me, so I left Gaoling and made a new life for myself here. [A tear runs down his face.] But now look at us. Trapped underground, not knowing whether we'll live or die. In case these are our final moments, Toph, I need you to know -- not a day has gone by when I haven't thought of you.
Cut to Toph. Even as she strains against the weight of the ceiling, her own eyes show that she feels the same sadness as Lao.
Lao I love you, my daughter. And I'm sorry. For everything.
A few moments pass in silence as Lao wipes his eyes. He suddenly drops his hand from his face as Toph begins speaking.
Toph That's ... your whole ... problem, Dad. [The frame, standing at a distance from Toph, begins gradually zooming in on her.] If you knew me ... the real me ... you wouldn't be wondering ... if we're gonna live or die ... because you'd know ... I can keep ... this up ... as long as I need to. I'm Toph Beifong ... [The frame is now zoomed in on her face, filled with a euphoric confidence.] ... the greatest earthbender ... of all time.
Cut to Katara as Aang's voice is heard above them.
Aang Katara! They're here! Toph's students are here!
Katara That's wonderful! I'll go tell Toph!
Cut to the world above as the three metalbenders run to the shallow crater where Aang stands.
Aang Metalbenders! Are we glad to see you! Sifu Toph and a bunch of other people are buried underground, in a collapsed mine! I can't dig them out because they're under these giant iron ore deposits!
Ho Tun So you want us to dig them out with our metalbending?
Aang That's the plan!
They stop talkking as Katara's voice emanates from the ground below their feet.
Katara Aang! Toph says to tell her students that this is just like spider-ants beneath stomping feet, only flipped!
The three students take in the words.
Aang [Not knowing what it means.] That mean something to you guys?
The Dark One Spider-ants beneath stomping feet?! My soul is ablaze with ebon anxiousness!
Ho Tun [Covering his eyes.] It's an exercise where Sifu Toph blindfolds us and makes us stand in a sand pit!
Penga [Pantomiming the actions she describes.] Then we have to throw these giant metal plates back and forth over our heads! And I mean giant. Bigger than Ho Tun!
Ho Tun Hey!
The Dark One [A hand on his head.] When we messed up, we'd get stomped by the plates.
Sokka "Messed up"? "Stomped"? What happened to the poetry, Dark One?
The Dark One [Shrugging.] Talented as I am, I can't compose poetry when I'm freaked out of my mind.
Aang Wow. The Beifong Metalbending Academy sounds pretty ... intense.
Ho Tun I-I don't know about this, Avatar Aang ...
Aang Ho Tun, you've got this! This is what you've trained for!
The three students take their bending stances as Aang and Sokka move away.
Ho Tun Your gut furnaces ready, everybody?
The Dark One I can feel the iron beneath us!
Penga There's so much of it!
Ho Tun All right then, Team Beifong! Let's metalbend!
As the three of them metalbend simlutaneiously, the ground heaves and contorts, huge fragments of iron rising up from the ground and into the air.
Ho Tun Keep going, keep going!
The view shifts to the air, looking down on the pit left in the absence of the metal. At its very bottom, clearly visible as the large chunks of iron move away from it, lies a massive mask crafted of iron, its teeth bared and its mouth open. As the benders see it, they throw the metal aside and stare at it, unbelieving.
Ho Tun Aah!
The Dark One What manner of monstrosity have we uncovered?!
Aang [Rushing forward.] Looks like the mask of a giant warrior ... a giant spirit!
Cut back to the underground chamber. As the iron above them is removed, the remaining iron and dirt shift treacherously, with an audible creaking and groaning. As one of the workers gasps in panic and dirt cascades downward onto the trapped people, Toph lets out a groan of pain. Cut back to the surface.
Penga [Still bending the iron even as The Dark One and Ho Tun have panicked and stopped.] The Dark One! Ho Tun! Stay focused!
Ho Tun I d-d-don't know about this ... I mean, w-w-we're just a bunch of metalbending novices!
Aang No! Right now, outside of Sifu Toph, you're the three best metalbenders in the entire world! [Cut to Ho Tun's face, once again determined.] No one can do this but you!
Cut Xing Ying and Yee-Li, looking on. Yee-Li turns to ask Xing Ying a question.
Yee-Li Xing Ying, who are those guys?
Xing Ying [Staring in amazement at the three.] Toph's metalbending students. They're pretty great, huh?
Yee-Li [As The Dark One lofts a massive chunk of iron from the earth.] Yeah. Pretty great.
Penga [Suddenly realizing.] Hey! I can feel the space where Sifu Toph and the others are!
Ho Tun [Over his shoulder to Aang.] Avatar Aang, we need you for this last part! As we pull up the last few pieces of iron, don't let any of the dirt collapse back into the mine!
Aang [Taking up his own earthbending stance.] Got it.
Ho Tun [Yelling to the others.] This is it! One last heave, Team Beifong!
Quick cut to Toph.
Toph Come on ... guys ... almost there ...
The final massive chunk of iron lifts from the ground, dirt tumbling off it as the three metalbenders on the surface move it up and out of the way, revealing a gaping hole in the ground. At the bottom of the hole, the newly freed people gaze up at the four people standing above them. Toph gives a thumbs-up to her students, breathing hard and smiling weakly.
Toph [Panting for breath.] ... Not ... [Gasping again.] ... not bad ...
Utterly spent, Toph passes out, falling toward the ground with a faint groan.
Lao [Standing nearby, reaching out and catching her before she hits the ground.] Toph!
The earthbenders create a flight of stone stairs leading out of the hole, which the freed people climb. Waiting at the top are a crowd of applauding workers along with the metalbenders, Aang, Sokka, and Jingbo, his arms and pack full of wooden splints and fabric wraps.
Jingbo Anybody hurt? I've got plenty of bandages and splints!
Aang [Running to Katara, his arms extended toward her.] Sweetie!
Ho Tun [Looking down at the unconscious Toph in Lao's arms.] Sifu Toph!
Sokka [Turning his head toward Momo as he lands on his shoulder, while Aang and Katara kiss in the foreground.] I know, I know. But those oogies are well deserved.
Aang [To Katara, still embracing her.] I'm so glad you're out of there.
Katara Me too.
Meanwhile, the metalbenders gather around Lao and Toph.
Penga Oh no! Is she --?
The Dark One Dread upon dread! Lo, how the dark fog of despair rolls relentlessly through my heart!
Lao She's just exhausted. She'll be fine.
Ho Tun She looks so ... small. Fragile, almost.
Penga Sssh! Are you crazy?! You'll get pummeled if she hears you talking like that!
The Dark One [To Lao.] Stranger, keep not your identity hidden from us, like a secret treasure in an ancient chest!
Lao I'm ... Toph's father.
Penga Sifu Toph has a dad?
Ho Tun What'd you think, she popped out of a rock?
Penga It'd make sense, wouldn't it?
In the background, Sokka and Katara can be seen reuniting as Aang looks on, smiling. The scene focuses on them as they watch Nutha and Niyok walk by; Nutha has her arm in a sling.
Katara Nutha, let one of the Air Acolytes check you to make sure you're okay.
Nutha sees Katara and looks at her regretfully.
Nutha Katara ... I, uh ... thanks.
Katara Yeah, no problem.
Cut to Loban; as Niyok and Nutha walk away to his right, he walks among the scattered boulder-sized chunks of iron lying loose on the ground.
Loban I thought it's take months to dig that iron ore out of the ground -- [Kneeling next to the toothed mask, feeling it with his hand.] -- but now it's here, all around us! I'm surrounded by a fortune! [Turning to two of the Rough Rhinos as Jingbo tends to their minor injuries.] Kahchi! Vachir! Go fetch your Komodo Rhinos! We're going to haul as much of this iron ore as we can down to the beach, so I can ship it to my plant in the Fire Nation! If I process it there, that coward Lao won't have any claim on my profits! [Peering over his shoulder at the preoccupied Lao and the people gathered around him and the still-unconscious Toph.] I believe my partnership with the Earth Kingdom is over.
Cut to a shot of the refinery, several workers standing in the courtyard; the wind blows as dark clouds roll in, filling the sky. Cut to Katara and Aang, among the clods of ore, as they gaze up at the clouds, leaves blowing past their faces.
Katara Looks like a storm's coming in.
Aang I don't think it's just any old storm.
Aang, turning his head to the left, sees the vision of Yangchen once more; her lips are moving, but once again she is mute.
Aang [As Katara looks on behind him.] Avatar Yangchen! I'm sorry, but I'm back to not being able to hear you again! Give me a second, I'll find the Acolytes -- [Rushing back to the Acolytes, where he left them.] Guys, I need to finish the ceremonial meal! You still have the food and the incense and the other stuff?
Jingbo [Digging in his bag.] Kind of ... [Producing the fragments of the vase that broke during the earthquake.] ... but there's a problem with the ceremonial vase.
Aang Oh no. [Closing his eyes, his hand on his chin.] There's gotta be another way ...
As Aang remembers Yangchen's words, her bluish image appears next to his head.
Yangchen Like your meditation beads, the Avatars are linked, one to the other.
Opening his eyes, Aang begins to remove himself from the group. Katara makes as though to follow him.
Katara Anything I can do to help?
Aang No, I got this. I just need some peace, quiet, and a good-sized rock.
Walking into the silent solitude of the empty courtyard, Aang searches the ground. Finally, he finds a rock slightly larger than his fist. Lifting it from the earth, he bends it in his hand into circular disc, the symbol of fire etched into its surface. Removing the string of meditation beads from his cloak, he attaches the replacement totem to them and sits to meditate. The world goes dark as Aang enters the plane of his past lives. Opening his eyes, he looks up to see Roku standing over him and his eyes widen.
Aang Master Roku.
Roku Aang.
Aang [His eyes downcast.] About how I left things before ... I can explain. I didn't feel ... I just ...
Aang looks up at Roku once again, the old master's arms are spread wide. Aang, on the verge of tears, rushes to him and embraces him.
Aang I'm sorry, Master Roku. I missed you so much.
Roku Aang, your past lives can only advise you from the perspectives of our own life histories, based on our own triumphs and failures. As the Avatar, you must find balance. Not just between the spirit and the human, but between the past and the present, between us and you. [Motioning to his left, where the past Avatars are lined up in a row.] Remember this as you search for a solution to your current dilemma.
Aang walks down the line, addressing the first few Avatars, their eyes aglow, as he passes them.
Aang [Waving.] Hey, Avatar Kyoshi! How ya doin', Avatar Kuruk? [Coming to Yangchen.] Avatar Yangchen. [Her eyes fade to normal as Aang goes on.] I need to know the terms of your agreement with General Old Iron. Finish your story, please.
Yangchen [As the shot zooms on her face.] General Old Iron promised to never again take up his armor against humankind. [Cut to Yangchen's flashback; she and Boma stand on the cliffside, looking at the statue of the beautiful woman as the sun sets in the distance and cranefish fly around the statue's head.] In return, I built a memorial for his friend Lady Tienhai. I also promised that this land would return to is natural state, free of human civilization. [Cut to a shot of the forest, covering mountains and valleys.] It would be a sign that humans are capable of preserving and protecting, that balance can be achieved between the spirit and human worlds. [Cut to a shot of a group of nomads gathered at the base of the statue, eating a meal as cranefish fly around the statue's head.] Once a year, I led the Air Nomads here for a festival. Because those living in the region knew this place was sacred to our people, no one dared defile it. After my death, the tradition became known as Yangchen's Festival. The Air Nomads kept it faithfully until we were wiped out.
Cut back to Aang and Yangchen.
Aang All that iron the metalbenders dug up, that was General Old Iron's armor?
Yangchen Yes. My promise has been broken. Now, it's only a matter of time before General Old Iron returns.
Aang [Upset.] But there's gotta be a way to turn him back! What if we put things back to the way they were? What if we bury the armor again, and return this place to its natural state? Wouldn't that, you know, unbreak you promise to General Old Iron?
Yangchen makes no reply, but simply looks at Aang, almost sadly.
Yangchen Go, Aang. You friends need you.
Returning to the iron field, Aang opens his eyes. Standing up, he airbends himself upward on a column of spinning air and gazes into the distance, where a indistinct form pierces the flat surface of the water, rising higher out of the sea as it draws nearer to the coast. General Old Iron's head is soon exposed, his red eyes glowing and his eyebrows furrowed in anger. Aang beholds the massive spirit, his eyes widening in fear. Dropping back to the ground, Katara and Sokka rush up to him. Rain begins to fall as they talk.
Katara Aang! What'd Yangchen say?
Aang [Pointing at a chunk of iron.] All this iron is actually the armor of an ancient spirit. We need to put it back in the ground. Then I've got to make this place look the way it did before the humans started building stuff here.
Sokka But doesn't that mean you'd have to destroy the refinery? And the entire town?
Aang Yes. Katara, can you make sure everyone's out of the buildings?
Katara Of course!
Aang I'll get Toph's students to help me with -- [Looking around, realizing something is different, as a forklift races up behind him.] Wait a minute. Wasn't there a giant iron mask? What happened to the mask?
The forklift driver stops.
Aang Satoru!
Satoru [Coming to a stop.] I saw my uncle and a couple Rough Rhinos dragging the mask down to the beach!
Aang We need it back here!
Satoru [Lowering his goggles over his eyes.] I'm on it!
Sokka [Jumping onto the seat of the forklift next to Satoru.] Me too! [The forklift takes off toward the beach. Sokka talks to Satoru, enthusiastically, pointing at himself.] Can I drive?
Satoru No.
Cut to Katara as she stands outside the cabbage merchant's restaurant, evacuating the residents of the town as she bends the rain off their heads. The cabbage merchant stands with her, trying to go back to his restaurant; a single solitary cabbage lies motionless on the doorstep.
Cabbage merchant My cabbages!
Katara I'm sorry, sir, but it isn't safe for you to stay here! [Caught off guard as the merchant breaks down and starts crying.] I'm sure we can, uh, get you new cabbages when this is all over.
Cabbage merchant Oh, it won't be the same! It's never the same! My poor cabbages! Oh my --
Hearing a rumble behind him, he looks up. Satoru and Sokka are racing by on the forklift. The merchant gazes in wonder at the machine, all but a tiny tear gone from his eyes.
Cabbage merchant Oh my goodness! What a remarkable machine!

Gene - In The Legend of Korra, the cabbage merchant's descendant runs Cabbage Corp., a direct competitor of Future Industries. How did the cabbage merchant turn his humble cabbage business into one of the world's largest companies? We show the beginnings of it here.

Cut to the dock at the oceanside, where Loban yells at the Rough Rhinos pulling the mask.
Loban Put you backs into it, Rough Rhinos! What am I paying you for?!
Kahchi [Turning in his saddle toward Loban.] You're not gonna be able to set sail in this weather, boss man Loban! Can't we wait till the storm is over?
Loban In business, waiting is the same as losing! Now get that iron onto that ship!
All of a sudden, Sokka's boomerang cuts through the cords connecting the komodo rhinos to the mask. As Vachir, hearing the noise, turns his head to see the cords snap, the boomerang flies back where it came from: Sokka's hand. He and Satoru stand at the opposite end of the dock.
Sokka The Avatar needs you to return that mask.
Satoru Uncle, your greed almost got us killed in that mine! Haven't you learned your lesson?
Loban [Angrily.] I'd planned for you to be my successor, Satoru, but I was wrong about you. You just don't have what it takes.
A bolt of lightning cracks the darkened sky as Sokka withdraws his club and Satoru cowers behind him. Loban turns to his soldiers as they withdraw their own weapons.
Loban Rough Rhinos, take care of those two!
Cut to the city, vacant and silent as the rain pours down. Outside the fence, looking at the empty town, Aang and Katara stand together.
Aang [Without looking at Katara.] Everyone's out of the buildings?
Katara Everyone's out.
Aang turns his head to his left, staring once again at the angry spirit rising out of the water on the horizon.
Aang You see him?
Katara Yeah, I do. [Walking to Aang, putting a hand on his shoulder.] So he'll turn back if this place looks the way it used to, before the town and the refinery were built?
Aang [Eyes closed, head down.] I hope so.
Behind the two stands a worker, listening in shock as she hears Aang's plan.
Katara Then you've got to hurry, Aang. You can't wait for Sokka and Satoru to bring the mask back.
Aang [Sighing reluctantly as the worker runs away from them, unseen.] I hate destroying things.
Katara [Giving him a kiss on the cheek.] I know.
Aang [Walking away.] You'll make sure folks stay away while I do this?
Katara Don't worry about them, Aang. I'll handle it.
Having received a final assurance, Aang puts his fists together and enters the Avatar State. Bending each of the four elements around him in a shield, he rises into the air and soars away. Cut to the worker from the last scene, who rushes up to Lao and the metalbenders in a panic as Toph lies motionless on a table.
Refinery worker Boss man Lao! Boss man Lao!
Lao Keep your voice down! My daughter needs her rest!
The worker makes no reply, but walks up to Lao and whispers in his ear. His face fills with shock and he rises, moving to the edge of the canopy covering them and staring up into the sky.
Lao He can't be!
Refinery worker [Pointing up into the sky.] Look!
The shot, now behind them looking up at the sky, shows Aang floating high above, surrounded by the elements. Behind them, Toph stirs.
Lao We've worked too hard! we've got to find a way to stop him!
Refinery worker What can we do?! He's the Avatar!
Toph [Trying to sit up.] Dad ...? What's going on?
Lao [Whirling around.] The Avatar is -- is -- [His expression becomes softer and less shocked.] It's nothing for you to worry about, my daughter. Rest. What matters is that you're safe.
Toph [Propping herself into a sitting position.] Dad, stop treating me like some hothouse flower! I don't wanna be safe. I wanna know what's going on!
Lao is momentarily shocked by Toph's outburst. He drops his head, closing his eyes.
Lao You're right. Forgive me. One of my employees just informed me that the Avatar is about to destroy my refinery.
Toph What?! Why?
Lao [Leaning on the table, his head down.] I don't know. Losing that refinery would ruin me, but it's more than just that. We wanted to do something new. Something important. The Earthen Fire Refinery isn't just a business -- it's a symbol. It's a joint project between nations, you understand? It can only exist in a world at peace. [Bowing his head respectfully to his daughter.] So please, Toph Beifong. You're the greatest earthbender of all time. Help me.
The shot zooms on Toph's smiling face. She jumps from the table and breaks into a run, yelling to the metalbenders behind her.
Toph Come on, you lily livers! Let's help the man out!
Cut to Aang, facing the refinery from his position in the air, surrounded by his shield of the elements. The shot cuts to his glowing eyes for a moment before moving back as he begins to firebend; the flames circling him flare and roar and he sends three massive balls of flame at the building. Seemingly out of nowhere, Toph and her students rise from the ground, standing on a wall of earth and a shield of iron. Aang's flames collide with the new barrier; blocked, they fizzle out and die. Aang's eyes stop glowing as he regards the four in front of him.
Aang [Surprised.] Toph?! What are you guys doing?!
Toph [Pointing at Aang, accusingly.] What does it look like we're doing?! We're stopping you!
Cut to the dock. As Vachir fires an arrow at Sokka, he stands firm, swatting it away with his boomerang as Satoru puts up an arm to protect himself. As Kahchi races toward them, Sokka tosses his club to Satoru, who bobbles it uncomfortably.
Sokka Satoru! Take my battle club!
Satoru Aah! [Running away from a hotly pursuing Kahchi with the club in his hands as Sokka runs toward Vachir.] What am I supposed to do with this?! I don't know how to fight! I'm an engineer!
Sokka [As an arrow strikes at his feet, barely misses him.] Look, I fight more powerful people than me all the time! If you can't beat 'em, outthink 'em! [He throws his boomerang; it catches Vachir in the hand and his bow drops to the ground. Sokka grins as they both raise their fists.] Hello, Mr. Rough-Rhino-Archer-Guy. Here's my guess -- you got super good at the bow and arrow because you're not so good at hand-to-hand combat.
Vachir Th-that's not true! I trained for years as --
As Vachir throws the first punch, Sokka catches the swinging hand with his own; leveraging himself under Vachir, he lifts him from the ground and slams him down onto his back. Meanwhile, Satoru has outrun Kahchi and is running toward his forklift; reaching it, he opens the engine cover and turns around to see Kahchi still bearing down. He immediately smashes the engine once with the club. The engine begins to pop and hiss threateningly and, as Kahchi is almost on top of Satoru, pieces of the engine fly outward, striking Kahchi in the face. He topples to the ground and lies motionless as Sokka walks up to the victorious Satoru.
Satoru So, outthink 'em like that?
Sokka Yeah. Exactly like that.
Satoru You think you advice applies to opponents even bigger than the Rough Rhinos?
Sokka How big?
Satoru [Turning toward the water on his left.] That big.
As Sokka turns, the shot zooms out. The massive glowing form of General Old Iron, towering over Satoru and Sokka as they stare up at him, is stepping out of the water and onto the dock as lightning splits the sky behind him. He glares down at the humans below him, his fists clenched. Cut to Loban, who tries to haul the mask himself along the same dock, unaware of the massive spirit.

Gene - Gurihiru's full-page illustrations are always so amazing.

Gurihiru - We like the scene when General Old Iron appears and we feel like we were able to depict him with the right amount of impact. But we did have some trouble with drawing the armor, which takes a lot of time.

Loban If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself. [Muttering and grumbling under his breath before turning angrily toward the cowering komodo rhinos behind him.] You mangy beasts! Get over here and help me! [The rhinos see the spirit behind; scared, they turn and run from him toward the boat at the end of the dock.] Where do you think you're going?! Don't you know who I am?! [Still screaming after them, unaware of danger even as a foot of the spirit plants itself right next to him.] I'll have you made into steaks if you don't get back here this instant!
The mask suddenly begins to glow purple. Since Loban faces away from it, he does not see this, nor does he notice that the mask is rising into the air. Turning away from the rhinos, Loban finally sees General Old Iron. He looks upward at the towering spirit and the floating mask, dumbfounded. As Satoru and Sokka rush up to him, Loban is lifted into the air, as he is still holding onto the ropes.
Satoru Uncle Loban?!
Sokka [As Satoru jumps, reaching for his uncle.] Satoru, stop!
Satoru ignores Sokka. Grabbing a hold of Loban, the two of them are raised into the air by the mask.
Satoru Let go, uncle! Let go!
Sokka [As the shot zooms out to reveal that he is also hanging off Loban.] No! Don't let go! Whatever you do, don't let go!
Having reached face-level with the spirit, the mask attaches to his face with an audible clack. Cut to Aang and the four metalbenders as lightning strikes behind them.
Aang So there's this giant, ancient spirit, right? Named General Old Iron. And Yangchen, when she was young, made a deal with this General guy -- but then the humans came and built all this stuff and now he's probably going to come back because, well -- [Abandoning the futile pursuit.] Toph, there's just no time to explain! You just gotta trust me, okay? I have to make this place look the way it used to!
Toph [Arms crossed.] Why? So you and your Acolytes can have your little picnics here and act like it's the olden times again?!
Aang Well, yeah, but this isn't about that! I have to show that we humans know how to preserve and protect!
Toph By destroying everything those people built?! I told you already, my dad's refinery -- that's the future. I'm not letting you tear down the future!
Aang Toph, please! You guys gotta get out of the way!
The shot cuts to a frontal view of Toph with her students behind her. As they prepare to challenge Aang, Toph does the same, her eyebrows furrowed and her expression defiant.
Toph Make us.
Aang immediately casts four spinning rings of air toward the four metalbenders. While Toph erects a barrier to successfully shield herself from the attack, the others are caught and swept off their feet, falling off the back side of the wall.
Penga Aaah!
Ho Tun Sifu Toph!
The Dark One Dread upon dread!
Toph punches the wall, firing a round chunk of it at Aang. Still midair, he spins out of the way and it rockets past him. Toph repeats her attack in rapid succession, poking several round holes in her barrier as the chunks of rock shoot toward Aang. He dodges the incoming projectiles, though lets out an "Oof!" when he is hit in the stomach by one of them. Meanwhile, the metalbenders have landed softly on the ground and look up at the fight above, while Toph launches more rocks at Aang. Aang sits on the ground, holding his midsection, as another rock aimed straight at his head bears down on him. Gasping as he cracks open one eye and looks up, seeing it, he punches at it, earthbending the rock to splinters while Toph slides down from the top of her wall to meet her students. Standing more or less on a line, the four metalbenders each take a stance behind an iron boulder.
Toph Get ready, Team Beifong! Let's metalbend!
The metalbenders raise the iron off the ground and kick it toward Aang. Quickly rising on a vortex of air, he evades the projectiles, propelling himself past them and landing before them. Aang and Toph speak while remaining in their battle stances.
Toph Twinkle Toes, don't you get how ridiculous this is?!
Aang Toph, we're friends. You know me! You know that if there were any other way --
In the background, Toph's students are looking past Aang, shock registering on their faces.
Ho Tun [Biting his fingernails anxiously.] Um, S-S-Sifu -- ?! A-Avatar -- ?!
Aang [Turning around as Ho Tun's jaw drops.] What -- ?
Penga [Pointing with wide eyes.] Is that the giant, ancient spirit you were talking about?
The shot cuts to a view of the refinery and the rain pouring down from the gray-black sky; General Old Iron towers above the complex, making his way through it as Loban, Satoru, and Sokka still hang from his mask. As the shot cuts back to Aang and the metalbenders, the chunks of metal begin levitating off the ground, unassisted by the metalbenders.
Aang [As the group looks around in surprise and fear at the floating iron around them.] What -- ?!
The pieces of metal rise above them, connecting with the body of the spirit in a cacophony of loud clacking. Cut to Katara and the Acolytes, assisting workers as the immense spirit passes by, his form now completely covered in metal. As everybody stares in awe, Katara gasps in horror as she sees the three people dangling high in the air. The shot cuts to them before switching back to Katara. She runs toward the spirit, separated from her by a fence.
Katara Sokka ... ? Sokka! Hang on!
Sokka [As the shot cuts to him, clinging to Loban high above Katara as he opens one eye.] Like I have a choice!
Katara bends a large stream of water upward toward Sokka, Loban, and Satoru, bringing it to a stop just below them.
Katara I've got you guys! Now let go!
Sokka [As the shot cuts back to the three on the rope.] You heard my sister! Come on!
Satoru Uncle! It's time to let go!
Loban [Eyes shut tightly, holding desperately to the rope.] I-I c-c-can't!
Satoru Yes, you can. Just breathe out slowly. And let go.
Loban's eyes widen as he hears Satoru's instructions. The next frame shows them all falling through the tube of water before another cut shows them on the ground as Katara rushes to Sokka.
Sokka [Coughing.] You know, I don't think I like water slides any better than dirt slides.
Satoru [Turning to Loban.] Uncle, you all right?
Loban [His expression appreciative.] I'm alive. Thanks to you, my nephew.
Cut to Aang rising upward on a column of air to confront General Old Iron, now completely covered in his armor.
Aang General Old Iron! I am the Avatar, the --
Old Iron I know who you are.
Aang Well, then you know it's my job to maintain balance between the humans and the spirits. General, I know about the agreement that you and --
Old Iron Quiet! I was once taken in by the chittering of one of you predecessors. No more. I've come to do what I should have done long ago -- Wipe your kind from existence!
The vengeful spirit smashes his fist into the ground, destroying a tent and sending terrified workers fleeing for safety. As he tries to repeat the action, Katara steps between the workers and the spirit, blocking his fist with a pillar of ice; the blow slams into the ice, failing to break it.
Katara Not today, you're not!
The shot cuts to the spirit as a conglomerate of stones shaped like an arm impacts the back of its head. The spirit turns its head to view its attacker and the view changes to show Aang enclosed in his elemental orb atop a massive body of earth which he has earthbent for himself. Turning its body toward Aang's, the spirit charges the Avatar, throwing a punch which Aang blocks with an outstretched left arm. Aang swings with his right; even though he connects, the spirit does not move. As they continue to do battle, the shot cuts to the street in the town, where the metalbenders stand motionless, beholding the fight of the colossal beings unfolding before them. Cut to Toph's face, her expression one of astonishment as she regards the battle before her. With a new focus, she begins running toward the battle, calling to her students.
Toph [Urgency in her face.] Hop to it, Team Beifong! The Avatar needs our help!
Penga [As Ho Tun looks shocked and The Dark One follows Toph; confused.] Hey! Weren't we just trying to fight him off a second ago?
The scene cuts to a brief time later as the group reaches the scene of the battle. Toph turns to face her students.
Toph Aang won't be able to get anywhere with that giant spirit because of its iron armor! We're gonna peel it off scale by scale to give the Avatar a fighting chance! [Taking up her bending stance.] This'll be just like forest bowing to the east wind!
Penga [As she and the others take up their own positions.] Aw. I hate forest bowing to the east wind almost as much as spider-ants beneath stomping feet!
Toph Take your stances, steady and strong! Then follow my lead!
As the shot zooms briefly on the collision of Aang's earthen and Old Iron's iron fists, the armor of the spirit suddenly begins to fall off. As Old Iron stops fighting, bewildered by the partial loss of his armor, the shot cuts back to the metalbenders on the ground, all four of them bending the armor.
Toph It's working! Keep it up!
Old Iron [The shot cuts back to the spirit and Aang.] What is this?
Aang [Looking at the ground below, the air shield dissipating around him.] Toph?
Toph [Calling up to Aang as iron falls around them.] Aang! You got a clear shot now, right in his chest! Go back into the Avatar State and give him everything you've got!
Old Iron [Watching as the armor peels off his arm.] What is happening to me?!
Aang No, Toph! Without his armor, a shot like that might be too much for him to take! I can't risk it!
Toph [As the shot cuts back to her on the ground, infuriated.] Are you out of your gourd, Twinkle Toes?! He's about to crush you! Do it! Do it now!
The shot cuts back to General Old Iron's head as he turns his face toward the metalbenders below him; all that remains of his armor is the iron forming his helmet.
Old Iron You?! You're the ones ripping my armor from me?! How did you mortals develop such power?! How dare you use it against me?!
Ho Tun Uh-oh.
The spirit, enraged, abandons Aang to pursue the metalbenders, reaching his arms downward toward them as the metalbenders take up chunks of the fallen armor to defend themselves.
Toph [Head turned toward her students.] Ho Tun, Penga, Dark One, I'll hold him off! You guys run!
Ho Tun We're not leaving you, Sifu Toph!
The Dark One The bitter grip of death is still better than disloyalty!
The shot cuts back to the head of the spirit; Aang, still borne on his column of air, shoots himself ahead of it.
Aang No! General Old Iron, leave them alone! It's me you want! I'm the Avatar! I'm the one who let you down!
Cut back to Toph, arms extended toward the spirit.
Toph Can't hold him off! He's moving too fast!
Cut back to the spirit; having reached the metalbenders, it raises its arms, preparing to crush the humans beneath him.
Old Iron How dare you?!
Aang [As the shot cuts to his face, eyes and tattoos glowing.] No!
The scene cuts to a full-page shot; Aang, screaming as he throws himself between the spirit and the metalbenders, strikes the spirit in the chest with a column made of all the elements.
Aang Stay away from my friend!
Aang leaves the Avatar State and hovers over the spirit, who lies on the ground with a gaping hole bored through his chest.
Aang [Gasps.] General Old Iron! [Lowering to the ground next to his head.] Oh no! I didn't mean to --
Old Iron [As a tear rolls from his eye.] Too late ... too late ... for my kind ... [He pulls himself to a sitting position, turning his head toward the metalbenders on his left; two brilliant white streams start to rise up from the wound.] Long ago, I was much more powerful than you humans. Now, look at me. And look at you. [Standing, starting to walk away from the smoldering town. A third stream rises up.] Lady Tienhai refused to acknowledge it, but I was right. I was right all along.
Aang [Riding his air spout.] My girlfriend is a healer, one of the best in the world! Let her look at your wound --
Old Iron [Wiping another tear from his eye.] My agreement with your predecessor only staved off the inevitable. There is no longer a place for spirits in this world.

Gene - The tension between the spirit world and the human one was incredibly difficult to write about. We know what happens in the future -- Aang and Zuko work together to build a beautiful, gleaming city in this area. But here, we talk about the cost. We foreshadow some of the conflicts that arise in The Legend of Korra, towards the end of book 2.

Aang [Close-up.] No! Don't you get it? That's why I'm here! It's my job to maintain balance between the spirits and the humans!
Old Iron [Back shot of the duo at they reach the ocean. Five brilliant streams are flowing around Old Iron.] You repeat those words over and over, like a mantra, but you are only fooling yourself. Whenever the border between our two worlds grows into a rift, the Avatar will always side with the humans. The Avatar is, after all, a human.
Aang [Frontal shot; still in midair, remaining on the shore as Old Iron wades into the water, six streams flowing out of his wound.] It doesn't have to be like that, General! Stay! I'll prove to you that balance is possible!
Old Iron At the core of human nature is the will to dominate. Look into your own heart and you'll see that it's true. There can be no balance between the Spirit World and the human one. [Turning toward Aang and bowing his head; the six energy streams encircle him.] I pay homage to you, young human. For you have vanquished me.
As his legs start to fade away in that same white light, the six tendrils of energy move upward. As they begin to change shape, more and more appear. Reaching a peak, the spirit dissolves into a number of glowing crayfish-like spirits, long tendrils of energy flowing out behind them like tails as they soar upward into the air. The shot cuts to Aang's position as the spirits disappear into the water on the horizon, before cutting to Aang's face as he sadly regards the spirit's departure. As he stands looking out over the water alone, Toph walks toward him from behind.

Gurihiru - General Old Iron transforms into serpent-lobster spiritual energy. We chose to leave the serpent-lobsters uncolored and instead expressed them with just light.

Toph Hey. [Aang turns toward her as the sea beyond brightens slightly.] That couldn't have been easy, attacking that spirit. I mean, with you being the Avatar and all. But you saved me and my students, so ... uh ... Thanks.

Gurihiru - In this scene it has finally stopped raining, which makes it stand out from the previous pages. We would have liked to have foreshadowed the importance of the cranefish with hints at the beginning of The Rift.

As the storm breaks and the clouds part, sunlight cascading down on the land and the water, the ship, and the forklift, Aang and Toph embrace. Cut to the workers' makeshift encampment as Lao, standing on a earthen pedestal of Toph's making, addresses them.
Lao My dear friends, I know you've been through a lot, but please, stay with me! [Continuing his speech as the shot cuts to the cabbage merchant; he walks up behind Satoru as he stands in a food line directed by Jingbo and pulls his sleeve, getting his attention.] Rebuild with me! I promise it will be worth your while, and not just financially.
Cabbage merchant Hey, I heard you're the one who built that remarkable machine!
The shot cuts to an overhead shot of several actions as Lao continues: The Dark One and Yee-Li sit together on a bench, talking with each other as they eat; Sokka, food in hand and utensil in mouth, runs down the dirt alley in front of them as Momo chases him; Xing Ying offers a bowl of soup to Loban, who sits wrapped in a blanket on the other side of the alley.
Lao After all, the Earthen Fire Refinery is the future. [Cut back to him as he concludes.] Let's build the future together! [As the small crowd of workers applauds, he turns and descends a short flight of stairs leading off the pedestal; he extends his hand to a waiting Toph, who takes it.] What'd you think?
Toph [Smiling.] Not bad. Not as good as the speeches I give at the school, of course, but not bad.
The shot has switched and it now shows Lao and Toph in the background, while in the foreground, Nutha, Katara, and Niyok eat at a table while talking.
Nutha ... And, well, you remember Auntie Ashuna's seal jerky?
Katara Do I ever! When I was six, I broke my tooth trying to eat that stuff!
Across the table from Nutha and on Katara's left, Niyok laughs, raising her hand to her face. The shot switches again and partially shows Aang sitting on a rock in solitude with the group of Water Tribe women at the table behind him. Katara rises.
Katara Niyok, Nutha, excuse me. Aang looks like he might need someone to talk to. [Cut back to a close-up of Nutha and Katara.] It was so great to catch up with you both! About not going back home ... I'm sorry. I miss the tribe so much. I'm going to --
Nutha [Raising a hand.] Katara, stop. I acted like an idiot, all right? [She stands as well, a hand on her chest, as Katara and Niyok smile.] You and Sokka, you make us Southern Water Tribers proud.
The scene cuts to Aang and Katara, having walked together a short distance away from the encampment. They stand at the rubble of what was once the statue of Lady Tienhai.
Katara How awful! What happened?
Aang All those earthquakes, maybe? I'm not sure. [Cut to a side shot of his face as Katara turns to look at him; he appears troubled.] General Old Iron believed that the spirits no longer have a place here. What if he's right? What if the spirits are ... are ... just relics of the past, with no future in the human world?
Katara That can't be true, Aang. [Taking his hands, looking into his eyes.] I believe in the Avatar. I believe in you. You're between the spirits and us. If you have a part in our world's future, then the spirits must have one, too. [Moving her hands to his shoulders.] Maybe you ought to talk to one of your past lives about it.
Aang I don't know ... We're talking about the future, and they're my past lives.
Katara I don't think the past and the future are separate. They're connected, you know? By today. By us. [Releasing him, she turns to leave him by himself, waving as she goes.] Find me if you need me, sweetie.
Aang [Sitting with his meditation beads in hand.] I will.
As Aang prepares to meditate, a cranefish lands on his right, giving a screech.
Aang I know. You poor cranefish don't have a statue to perch on anymore.
As Aang watches, a number of other cranefish land around him and to his surprise, small streamers begin rising from the wings of the animals. As the streamers begin to effuse a purplish-white light, he reaches to an animal on his left, holding it under the chin.
Aang You ... you aren't just normal birds, are you?
The view changes. The glowing spiritual energy from the cranefish reforms in front of Aang in a woman who rises high above him; he stares up at her.
Lady Tienhai Avatar Aang.
Aang It's you!
Tienhai [Spreading her arms as the finer details of her form appear.] We are -- I am --- Lady Tienhai. I was once caretaker of this place. Under my watch, the seashore was beautiful, but also stagnant, characterless, and unchanging. That is, until a small group of humans built a magnificent city here. [The scene changes to a flashback of the spirit's in a sepia-like tone; a woman in white walks through a market full of people.] After my friend General Old Iron left me, I began a new tradition. Once a year, I would take the form of a human for a night and stroll through the city's streets. I marveled at everything the humans created. [The next shot of the flashback shows Tienhai and a man in a room filled with various things; they smile at each other as he motions with his left hand toward several of the items.] On one of these visits, I met the city's precocious young prince. His curiosity was endless, and so was his energy. He made the most beautiful things -- machines and books, sculptures and building designs. I wanted to always be near him. I willingly accepted my human form as permanent, even though it meant that I would eventually die a human death. [The next frame is a view of the two standing facing forward, smiling.] We married. My prince eventually became king, and we lived in happiness for many years. [The next frame displays Tienhai's husband resting his head in his arms as he mourns at Tienhai's body inside an open coffin.] When I died, however, the king blamed himself. He believed he had seduced me into giving up my original, immortal form.
The scene returns to Aang, still gazing up at the spirit towering over him.
Aang But you didn't die. You're here right now.
Tienhai [As her form begins to fade.] Yes. My dear king was brilliant, but he was wrong. Spirits don't die. We simply take on new forms. General Old Iron was wrong as well. It is not human nature to dominate, but to create.
The energy composing the spirit's form dissolves, descending in glowing spirals and returning to the cranefish.
Aang [Unsure.] I don't know, Lady Tienhai. We promised to preserve and protect this place, and we failed.
Tienhai [Speaking through the cranefish which stands at Aang's side.] Yes, humankind falters every now and then, but you know how to learn from your past mistakes. You've done it before, and you can do it again. I believe that ultimately, you will create a civilization that preserves and protects even as it grows. [She continues as the flock of cranefish begins to depart into the clear blue sky above.] Do you understand? The spirits will always have a place in this world, as long as you -- and humans like you -- create a place for us.
Aang [Confused.] But how can you be sure that we'll do that? How can you know?
The cranefish next to Aang takes flight, speaking one last time to Aang as he watches it leave him behind.
Tienhai I don't know, young Avatar. I hope.
As Aang watches the flock's departure, accompanied by their myriad of grating cries, the uncertainty vanishes from his face, replaced by a smile.

Cut to a shot of cranefish-shaped kites flying against a sunny sky dotted by clouds. A dialogue box reads: Three months later. Cut to a shot of a parade procession making its way through the refinery village, confetti falling and kites flying toward the procession's rear. At its head walk the Air Acolytes; Xing Ying plays a horn, Jingbo plays a large reed, and Yee-Li, playing the cymbals, smiles at The Dark One, who holds a pair of cymbals over his own head with metalbending as he also smiles. Behind them are Penga, also with a reed instrument, and Ho Tun, who holds a small drum. Further behind them, Loban holds two maracas fashioned from gourds and Vachir holds a horn farther behind him. Behind them all are a number of refinery workers holding banners on poles. Cut to a shot of an arm clothed partly by a gray sleeve as Toph's fist punches it.

Gene - Loban repents by joining the Air Acolytes!

Satoru Ow! [Shot zooms out, showing him sitting at a table as Toph stands beside him; the parade passes behind them in the street. He raises his arm in defense.] What was that for?!
Toph The refinery's been open for almost two weeks and you haven't invited me back yet! Weren't we supposed to start some kind of partnership?!
Satoru [Cut to an overhead view; he smiles.] Well, I was sort of expecting you to waltz back in whenever you felt like it.
Toph What?! My father raised me better than that!
Meanwhile, just off the porch on which Toph and Satoru sit, Sokka stands in an apron in front of an open coal-fire stove, holding meat kebabs in either hand while yelling to the crowd.
Sokka Meat kebabs! Get your fresh meat kebabs right here! Just like a shish kebab, only without all the stuff you don't like!
Cut to Katara and Aang. An eyebrow arched in wonder, Katara watches the parade and talks without looking at Aang, who stands behind her.
Katara Kites with strings? Sokka selling meat? A loud parade instead of a quiet procession? [Aang puts an arm around her shoulder and she turns her head to look at him.] When you said we were coming back here for a celebration, I thought we were gonna give Yangchen's Festival another go. But this doesn't seem very Air Nomad-like at all.
Aang [Smiling.] It's not ... but it also kinda is. We're calling it the Spirits' Friendship Festival.
The shot zooms out, offering a final look at the street, filled with people in red, green, and blue; the procession is making its way toward the lower border of the shot as many on the sides watch. On the left of the street lies the porch on which Toph and Satoru were conversing; while the latter stands on the porch, watching, Toph has moved to the street, her arms crossed. Further up the street, on the same side as Toph, Satoru, and Sokka, stand Aang and Katara. Appa lies behind them as Momo flies through the air below the kites and amid the confetti.
Aang Same tradition, only in a new form.

Gene - The words on the banners mean "spirits," which also happens to be the title of The Legend of Korra's second season.








See also