Prologue – Taken
Disclaimer… A: TLA isn't mine. Here it is, the sequel to Cold Fire. Hot Water! Haha. I had to think of a title that would work with its predecessor. If you have not read Cold Fire, please do so, then this story will make more sense.
This story follows the TV show up to episode 1x17 'The Northern Air Temple' and after that, this story goes on its own, since most of this was written when Season One was on the air, and was in fact started not long after episode 09, 'The Waterbending Scroll' first aired (yes, the very episode that launched more than a thousand Zutara ships, including my own!)
I'm not going to be all like OMG TRIGGER WARNINGS but I will say that this story is not child-friendly. There's a reason it's rated T and above. Okay, that's quite enough for an AN. On with the story! Please enjoy, and don't forget to leave feedback if you enjoyed the story!
Katara sighed softly as she threw the last of the rations in the cooking pot, making a stew with the mishmash of vegetables and dried meat she had scrounged up from the last of the bags. She just hoped that they would fly near a village tomorrow, or find supplies to forage for, as this forest didn't have much to offer. Just moss…and nuts...and like her brother once said, rock shaped nuts and nuts that just might be rocks.
And Sokka was eyeing the pot hungrily. Katara blew at the fire, adding some more wood. It had taken her long enough to set it up, and she knew he was hungry, hell they all were. If they didn't hit a village soon, she hoped that the Northern Air Temple would have some palatable vegetation. And that it would be warm within. The solstice had already passed, but there wasn't much of a difference in the short days.
Yes, it got colder than this at the South Pole, but that didn't mean she had to like the cold. She frowned as she stirred the stew, adding in the last clove of garlic she could find among their depleted food stores, for flavor. Sokka had been able to get some meat, but the animal was small. At least Aang refused to eat meat, leaving more for the Water siblings. She did understand it from his perspective and respected that, but in the wild, animals ate one another, and if this rabbit-squirrel hadn't been killed with Sokka's boomerang, it was likely that it would have been eaten by bat-wolves or whatever else still roamed these woods.
Aang glanced at her quietly as she stirred the stew, and she shot him a reassuring smile. It was just a few hours ago that they had managed to lose Zuko's damned ship. They didn't see any smoke anywhere in the distance, and all of them were much relieved. The forest was thick around them and Aang had made sure to lead Appa deep inland.
The Prince of the Fire Nation needed something else to do. They had been trying to elude the ship and the stubborn Firebender for several days, and had been much harried and all of them needed rest. Appa had been pushed to the brink of exhaustion. And they still had some ways to go before getting to the Northern Pole, she prayed they hadn't been decimated like the South had been.
But unbeknownst to them, their pursuer had come up with a new plan. He knew that the trail of smoke from his ship – or any Fire Nation ship for that matter, was hard to miss. He had cut the engines while keeping an eye out for them with his telescope, letting them think they had managed to lose him. He had learned enough from his previous encounters with the Avatar to think of new approaches to solve the problem that had continued to frustrate him.
Katara hoped they would reach one of the Earth Nation's cities tomorrow, or at least a place where people lived, no matter how small. She sighed softly as she lifted the lid off the pot, and Sokka practically lunged at her, his eyes gleaming as they fixed on the cookware and the steam rising from it. She lifted the spoon, whipping it in his direction and causing a bit of broth to splatter on his cheek.
"I have to divide this between the three of us." she chided, wagging a finger. The Water Tribe youth grumbled and crossed his arms, quickly bringing up a couple of fingers to lick the broth off. He wasted not a single morsel of food, not ever. He had always been like that.
"I know you're hungry, Sokka, we're all hungry but this is all." she sighed as she ladled some of the stew into his cup. He eagerly claimed it as well as a good amount of the meat that had been cooking on a stick over the fire. She took what remained, wishing that she had some kind of spice to prepare the meat with. Having had no food all day – thanks to their frantic escape from Zuko – caused the Water Tribe boy to attack his meal with relish. Growling hunger provided the impetus for Katara to quickly scarf down her meat before starting on the vegetables. In no time, Sokka had completed his meal, meat and all, while Aang sat there, still eating his stew, chewing slowly.
"This is the last of it isn't it?" he asked with a soft whine as he examined his now-empty cup.
"I said that already. But I think there's still a bit of broth in the pot."
"Great." Sokka leaned forward.
"Not so fast. It's not my fault you ate so quickly." Much to her relief, there was some more broth – but not a lot of it – and she divided this as well. The blue-eyed boy lifted his cup, downing the rest of the vegetables-and-garlic flavored liquid, licking his lips. She looked over at Aang who was calmly sipping his broth, trying to make it last longer.
"We'll sleep here and leave first thing in the morning. We lost Zuko, but who knows how long it might last."
Appa was already sound asleep, a huge mound of soft white fur and a soft, rumbling breath in a more than well-deserved rest. The cups were set down and the fire put out. The young Avatar curled up against Appa, a blanket draped across his lithe form. Sokka did not waste time in joining him, curled up on the soft fur in his sleeping bag. Both of them looked exhausted, and the Waterbender knew that she probably looked no better than them.
Katara couldn't help but smile as she saw how Sokka and Aang were curled up against Appa, their heads against the thick white fur as the bison dozed peacefully. They were asleep in no time and she yawned, knowing that she would join them soon. Quickly she rinsed the cups and the pot out with an amount of water she bent out of the jug, stacking them up to dry before spreading out her bedding near the now dying fire.
She sighed softly to herself as she unrolled her sleeping bag, finding herself missing their pursuer. It had been nearly a month since that fateful night, though sometimes it felt more like days, sometimes more like months, as if time had lost meaning for her, and sometimes...she felt herself hoping he would catch them.
But she would immediately berate herself for these thoughts. He wanted the Avatar, and that must not happen. Disaster would only follow if the Avatar ended up in the hands of the Fire Lord, and thoughts of wanting Zuko weren't loyal. Especially after what he had done to her!
She wished that there could be peace. Sometimes fire surrounded her in her dreams, and she remembered the fateful day when the soldiers had arrived in her village. Her mother had fought so valiantly, begging for mercy, and all in vain. Katara gasped softly and jerked awake, seeing the clearing and her companions. These dreams had to stop. Otherwise she would go insane.
Other dreams were of him, and she always woke up blushing. If Aang or Sokka found out, then they would hate her. Well, she didn't know if they would hate her for sure, but she didn't want to find out. She didn't want that night, it wasn't her fault, she kept telling herself. Zuko had held her hostage, what could she do?
Yet she felt that tingle between her legs every now and then and hated whenever she felt that way. It made her feel...so dirty, as if she had committed some unforgivable offense.
She sighed softly, curling up and trying to fall asleep, and mercifully, her exhaustion allowed just that.
The soldiers were silently creeping through the forest with Zuko at the head of the group, riding a Komodo rhino. He could have just stayed on the ship, but he would not just send out a group to get the Avatar. He wanted to see and do it himself, that was the only way. He refused, absolutely refused to have the soldiers come back to him and report a failure. He had waited too long, and would not let his strategy go to waste.
They had everything ready – bags, ropes, darts – and moved stealthily. This group was handpicked by Zuko and was the best of his crew, picked for their exceptional talents in agility and subtlety. They barely made any noise as they moved through the trees and brush.
Zuko smirked coldly as he saw the clearing and raised his hand, signaling everyone to stop. Carefully, he dismounted his animal, landing on the grass with a minimal amount of noise. With several whispered words and a couple of hand gestures, the men fanned out, taking formation around the clearing. The Avatar's creature continued sleeping, and the Prince nodded to himself as he lit a brief flame with his fingers, the flash visible across the clearing.
Several darts zinged through the air. Silence met his ears and he nodded slowly, knowing it was a good idea to have brought the darts.
He saw them all and he allowed himself a low chuckle. The flying bison was not important, he would just leave it where it was. When he had set out to look for the Avatar, he hadn't counted on any animals. There was no room on his ship to hold such a beast except on the deck, or behind the ship, dragged along in chains. They did not have the kind of food it needed, much less enough to keep it healthy on the trip to the Fire Nation. The Avatar was the most important thing here, and if this beast chose to follow them, he would deal with it. For now, it would be left alone. He was no sadist, and would not abuse or harm the animal.
It would sleep for a while due to the fact that it had a few darts in it, and upon his command several more were fired at it. It was not important to his mission, but this sky bison was a large creature, and it would be no use to be careless about animals when he had calculated and planned on how to capture the Avatar for so long. He could just capture it later if it did come after them. He paused before looking at the little animal beside the bison. It looked cute, and if the situation was different, he might have petted it, perhaps even let it curl up in his lap. He had seen it with the Avatar a couple of times, and a little animal could be just as much of a nuisance as a big one, if not more. Best to leave it be, though he carefully plucked the dart from its small body.
The soldiers went to work, tying up the sleepers. It would have been better to actually fight the people before taking them prisoner, but he learned from his mistakes. Every time a fight ensued, the Avatar always had luck on his side. Here there was no chance for them to escape, bound and drugged.
He knew he would feel better if he had fought the Avatar in hand to hand combat and taken him down the proper way. But they had eluded him so many times before, he reasoned. He was simply taking a new approach, that was all. He had failed enough times against this... child, and he was not taking any chances.
The soldiers hoisted up the three prisoners and he nodded. He quickly surveyed the campsite. Nothing here worth taking. Sleeping bags. A few empty dishes. His prisoners would no longer be needing them.
The group headed back through the woods to the shore and boarded the ship.
The Avatar is finally mine, he thought with a triumphant smirk as he felt the engines hum to life.
Instead of simply ordering the guards to take the Avatar and his companions down, Zuko went down there himself, seeing for himself that the boy was under lock and key. He was not taking any chances. Last time the boy had been on the ship, he had let the guards take him away, and look what happened. Not this time. Not ever. He had learned too much.
His eyes lingered on the dark-skinned girl for a moment as the soldier who had carried her lay her down on the cell floor. He'd missed her. As much as he had tried to deny it since that fateful night, it kept bubbling up in his mind and his dreams.
Now...he had her again. And this time he would not let her go. The young Firebender could imagine she would not be happy about the situation when she woke up, but he would be her master.
Zuko looked down at the boy again. See, I have learned from my mistakes. I have finally caught you, boy. The Avatar didn't respond. But how could he? He was blindfolded, gagged, and drugged.
He nudged the body with his foot, and the child did not respond. For some reason he felt a bit soiled by this. Drugging, it seemed like a cheap trick, compared to actually knocking him down in a fight. But it had worked! he argued with himself.
Zuko quickly shrugged it off and used his foot to roll the girl over onto her back. She would have to stay down here for a few hours, but just a few, until he had overseen everything and made sure everything was running along smoothly.
He exited the cell and slammed the door shut, locking it.
The Prince of the Fire Nation felt victorious for the first time in so long. He had learned from each one of his defeats, logging all the data in his mind, thinking about different approaches to the problem. He would return home with honor, after over two years. Two years or being outside Ozai's displeasure and all because he'd spoken out of turn, for speaking out for honor. Ironic, really.
He would prove to that bastard Admiral Zhao that he was better, and to his father as well. The last two years had been hard and lonely.
Katara had been rendered blind and mute just like her companions. She remembered being huddled up to either Sokka or Aang in the dungeon of the ship after waking up like this. She had been wishing she could speak and when she didn't hear anyone else talk, she deduced that her companions had been gagged as well. The only voices she heard were that of the guards. At first, she wasn't sure where she might be, but once the guards mentioned the Avatar, the Prince, and Fire Nation, she knew.
She took some comfort in knowing that the body she was huddled up to was Sokka's, she could tell because her cheek had pressed against the cloth of his shirt and the fabric he wore was slightly rougher than Aang's. And she had to wonder where Aang was, but she was answered by a whimper that she knew was not Sokka's because the Water Tribe boy did not whimper, he grunted.
She felt dizzy, her head was pounding, and she did not know how long she had been out of it. She huddled up against Sokka more even as she tried to figure a way out of her expertly done bindings, but that was until she felt herself being roughly tossed over someone's shoulder. She whimpered softly, missing the comfort of being huddled up to her brother. She knew just who was responsible for all of this, but she didn't want to come to terms with it.
The blue-eyed girl felt the ascent from the lower levels before she felt cool air on her face and she whimpered and wiggled around on the shoulder of whoever was carrying her.
"Stop yer squirming. He wants to talk with you, I don't know why. But you have no choice in the matter, little girl." a gruff voice told her. It was a voice she didn't recognize, but she knew she would identify Zuko's voice once he spoke.
She whimpered softly but stopped. What choice did she have? She was bound so that all she could do was wiggle like a worm.
The lack of cool air on her face told her she was now in a room or at least a hallway of the ship, and she was suddenly dumped onto the floor none too gently. She heard receding footsteps, but another pair approached her and she was picked up once again.
The young Waterbender heard a couple of doors open and close, metal against metal before she was thrown onto something soft and the blindfold was removed. She blinked, getting accustomed to the light as she glared up at him.
Golden eyes met blue ones for a moment before she tore her gaze away, looking down at the blankets as if she was repulsed by the very sight of him.
"Hello, Katara." Zuko whispered, standing there with his shoulders back, trying to look regal and dignified as he stared down at her. She refused to meet his gaze, or even acknowledge his words.
"I've missed you." the Prince of the Fire Nation stated calmly, but she made no move to make any sort of response. She stared down at the blanket fixedly, and it was such a luxurious shade of red, like wine or blood. Blood, that wasn't something she needed to be thinking about...
He approached her with careful steps despite her bindings. His hand reached out to touch her hair and she flinched, wiggling away. He reached out again and she raised her head to glare at him, a protest muffled by the gag. He silently removed her gag, tossing the strip of cloth aside. The first thing that issued from her mouth was a demand for release.
"If I release you, you will leave." came the matter-of-fact reply as he crossed his arms.
"And you would expect anything less?" Katara retorted hotly, "Let me go! Let the Avatar go!"
"And I should do this... because?" he asked arching his one eyebrow.
"Because what you're doing is wrong, keeping us all prisoners is wrong, and taking Aang back to the Fire Lord is the worst!"
"I have no choice."
"Yes, you do." Katara said with a steely glare, "And I will not be your plaything again, bastard. Let us all go, now!"
"You think it's so easy for me don't you?" he asked with a snarl, "well, Waterbender, let me enlighten you to my problem. I cannot go back home until I bring the Avatar in. I am forever banished until I do so."
"You seem to be doing fine." she snapped back, "Why not just live somewhere else?"
The golden-eyed youth looked at her, feeling his anger building deep within, but...she also glimpsed something else.
Katara saw that he was homesick. She looked down angrily, saying nothing as she wiggled against her bonds. The last thing she needed was to feel any sympathy for him, even just a little bit.
"Just live somewhere else." he mimicked glaring at her now, "I cannot live anywhere until I bring him back, I have no home until I bring the Avatar back to my father, nor do I have any honor."
"What about me? Or the Avatar?" she snapped back, "Aang's just doing his job, doing what he's supposed to do!"
"As am I! I told you before that night, it's nothing personal."
"This is not honorable."
"Do you know what happens to those who die without honor?" he asked bitterly, "they are trapped between worlds, never knowing any peace."
"And what of him? Will the Fire Lord simply kill him?" Katara shot back, "And what of me? I am to be killed, yes? The Fire Nation has pushed my people to near extinction!"
"I am keeping you as my concubine." Zuko said matter-of-factly. Katara spat at him.
"I will not be a kept woman!" she said furiously. He moved his head so that her saliva missed him before he raised a hand to her, jabbing his finger in her direction.
"You will do as I command." he told her in his most commanding tone. She glared at him.
"I am not some toy to be used and then discarded when you get bored!"
"I fully intend on keeping you." Zuko said with all seriousness in his tone. Katara narrowed her eyes at him in disbelief and he shook his head.
"I give you my word on that."
"And why should I trust the word of a Firebender?" she retorted hotly.
"Do you have any other choice?" Zuko said, narrowing his eyes. "I want you. It's as simple as that."
"I refuse to be a toy. You can't just keep me and use me whenever you want!"
"What if I have other reasons for wanting you?" he asked.
"Ha!" Katara sneered contemptuously. She tried to kick at him but her bound legs were little use and Zuko simply glared at her.
She wiggled against her bonds even more furiously as he made his next proclamation.
"You are mine… whether you like it or not, Katara."
"I refuse!" she replied boldly, "I belong to nobody else, especially an ugly, spoiled brat like you!"
He hissed softly as if she had struck him, and he turned away. She wiggled to a sitting position. He turned back to her and without warning shoved her hard, sending her back onto the bed. Katara screamed, feeling her eyes tear up as she felt a dull pain in her shoulder. It had been a shove, but he had been so fast and hard that it felt like a blow.
"I hate you! You're a bastard!" she screamed as she struggled to get back up. He looked down at her, his anger flaring up even more before he shoved her down again.
"The feeling's mutual, peasant!"
Katara flinched back, wincing from the brutal push.
"I wish you would burn in the nine hells!" she screamed furiously.
"You first." he said, his hands starting to glow as he began to summon his fires, flames dancing around his fists.
Katara's eyes widened and she shook her head, wiggling back on the bed. She couldn't believe this was happening to her. Was she about to meet the same end as her mother?
"I have been patient, and more than fair to you. Yet you spit at my face and insult me." Zuko snarled and the flame of his hands intensified, dancing around his fists in sparks of gold and red. She yelped as he grabbed her robe. Fair? He had taken all of them as prisoners.
"Fair?" she screamed back at him, "You're nothing but an arrogant jackass!"
"I just told you that you will be spared, and you defy me!" he growled as he yanked at her robe.
The flames ate at the robe, and he tore some of it away, revealing her breasts and upper stomach as the flaming cloth fell on the floor. Her breast bindings came under the same assault, and she flinched, trying to yank away. She blinked and looked up at him, clearly startled.
"You will learn your place, Katara." He raised his index and middle fingers. Already a flame was forming at the point before he lowered it, closing in on her before she could wiggle back. She could feel the heat against her chest, what the hell was Zuko going to do? She tried to speak, as his fingers lowered, touching against her right breast, just above her nipple and pressing down, the flame shooting from his finger upwards.
She was stunned for a few moments, still processing of what had just happened as her eyes met his…
Then when she finally absorbed what he had just done to her, she let out a wordless shriek of pain that was heard outside the room and throughout most of the ship. To Zuko, that scream sounded just like his own when his father had scarred him.