A/N: Hello, I've been lurking around for some time now and here is my first effort. As a warning, I'm very new to computers so please bear with me as I learn how this works.
This story is rated T for dark themes and for mild swearing. It is based on the first thirteen chapters of the Book of Water.
Disclaimer: I own nothing of Avatar; the people at Nick do, so please don't sue. This disclaimer remains true for this chapter and every consecutive chapter that follows. I do claim Anko as my own though. All right, I think I'm ready, so here we go!
As usual she was the first one to rise in the morning. Katara didn't mind. It gave her a chance to enjoy the peace and tranquility before the boys woke up. She stretched lightly, shivering a little in the cool morning air. Peace was a rare treat these days. Katara sighed to herself as she splashed some cold water on her face from the reservoir they had camped next to. A scrambling noise attracted her attention, but it was only Momo. The winged lemur was pursuing a June beetle around the campsite. With a triumphant chir he caught it, and Katara averted her gaze as he crunched down on his breakfast. Done washing, she rose refreshed, listening to the birds sing their morning songs. The sky changed to a multi-colored hue as the sun peeked over the horizon. She smiled. It looked as if it was going to be a beautiful day.
Admiral Zhao lowered the binoculars with an exasperated growl. Any moment now the others would awaken and his carefully laid plan would be ruined. "What the hell could be taking them so long?" The Yu-yan archer next to him remained silent, merely gesturing with an arrow to an area across from their vantage point. "Finally," Zhao said, a smirk working its way across his face as he too spotted the flashing light that indicated his troops were in position. "This time Avatar, there will be no escape."
Katara used her water bending skills to stream some water into their canteens. "Come on guys. Rise and shine!" Aang stirred and jumped up almost instantly. The Avatar's constant energy never ceased to amaze Katara.
"Morning, Katara. Is there time for a swim before we go?"
"Looks like it since some people like to waste half the morning in bed."
"Hey, I heard that," Sokka muttered sleepily from inside his sleeping bag. "Sleep is never a waste of time."
Aang grinned as a well directed water whip got Sokka up in a flash. "KATARA!" he yelped as Aang laughed. "Good one, Katara!" As the siblings began their usual morning squabble, Aang turned his attention to their ten ton mode of fuzzy transportation. "Come on Appa, come on boy; let's go for a swim!" Appa gave a sleepy grunt that turned into a loud moan as an arrow planted itself into his side.
"APPA!" Aang shouted as arrow after arrow followed the path of the first. Each shaft splintering as the original arrowhead was driven further and further into the bison's thick hide. At the sound of Aang's frantic yell, the water-tribe siblings instantly stopped their fighting. Sokka dove for his weapons as Katara uncorked her canteen. Aang grabbed for his air bending staff while simultaneously directing a protective air blast towards Appa.
"Now!" Zhao ordered. The yu-yan archers stationed with him instantly opened fire, not at the bison, but at the Avatar. Aang's rapid dash towards Appa ended as his shoes were suddenly pinned to the ground. More arrows assaulted Appa's other side. The bison's moan turned into an unearthly scream as more and more penetrated his thick, furry coat.
"Perfect," Zhao grinned. Everything was going according to plan. Incapacitate the flying bison, distract and incapacitate the Avatar, and now...' He shot a fiery blast into the sky. The carefully hidden Fire Nation soldiers emerged from their hiding spots, nearly surrounding the small group of resisters. "Now he's mine!"
Katara caught sight of the flash of fire from the distant trees. She gasped as the tell-tale red and brown armor appeared. They were going to be surrounded! Aang had freed himself and was protecting Appa as Sokka and Momo pulled out the arrows. Only she saw the imminent danger they were all in. The dam!' It was a desperate idea but it might work.
"Aang, Sokka, come on. Hurry! This way, across the dam!"
The boys quickly responded. Sokka led the limping Appa by his reins while Aang provided cover. He blasted the advancing Fire nation troops with air to drive them back, and then erected an air bubble to divert the onslaught of arrows raining down from above. Sokka half led, half pulled the groaning bison across the earthen dam, to where his sister had stopped. He looked past her, only to see more firebenders approaching from the other side. The leaders took up the classic firebending attack stance.
"Oh no," he groaned. "Now what, genius?"
Katara ignored him. "Aang, help me! The big wave thing I showed you, quick!"
Aang obeyed instantly, dropping his airbending to raise his arms above his head. The water of the lake responded, rising up in a big wave. Katara took control, toppling the wave; not at the approaching firebenders but directly at her own group.
"NO!" Admiral Zhao yelled as the wave crashed through the dam and swept his prize downstream. "Go", he ordered his archers. "Capture the Avatar! Now!"
Katara had miscalculated. Although they had yet to find Aang a suitable waterbending teacher, his natural abilities far surpassed her own.
It was too big!' The water tribe girl had only intended to wash their little group off the dam and hopefully out of reach of the firebenders. Now, as she fought with a combination of waterbending and natural skills to keep her head above the torrent of debris filled water, she realized Aang's wave had washed part of the dam away too.
"Aang! Aang!" she yelled above the now roaring river. Sokka, she knew, could handle himself; but could the airbender? "Aang!" She spotted a flash of orange and tried to swim toward it. "Hold on, I'm coming!" Katara used waterbending to shoot herself momentarily clear of the river and towards her friend. Aang, she saw, was only semi-conscious, clinging to a log to stay afloat. Katara worked her self closer to Aang until she could latch onto the same log. He gave her a weak smile.
"Hey Katara, nice trick… but I think I overdid it a little." Katara saw a trickle of blood course down his temple. It was washed away as they both were dunked underwater, only to immediately reemerge.
"Aang, you're hurt!"
"I'm okay, but have you seen Appa and Sokka?"
"Don't worry Aang. Sokka is a really good swimmer and this shouldn't last too long." She didn't mention the already wounded Appa. No reason to worry him even more. "What about Momo?" she asked. At the sound of his name the sodden lemur stuck his head out of Aang's shirt and chirred at her. A sense of relief swept over Katara. She gave the airbender a confident smile. "Just hold on Aang; we'll be alright."
Suddenly their makeshift raft crashed into a large rock. Katara lost her grip and slipped underwater. She shot right back up, just in time to see an arrow-driven net surround her friend; the arrows piercing the log the Avatar clung to, each one trailing a rope back to shore.
"NO…Aang!" she yelled as the air bender was dragged backwards away from her and towards a shoreline swarming with firebenders. Before Katara even had time to pursue, more of the weakened earthen dam gave way. A new rush of water washed her helplessly away from the Avatar. Just then Appa's large white body went sweeping by, Sokka clinging on top of his back.
"Katara, climb on!" he shouted. She grabbed his outstretched hand and he heaved her free of the muddy water.
"But what about Aang?" she demanded.
"Appa can't fly! We'll have to ride this out and then come back for him. Don't worry Katara; he can handle himself." Katara made no reply as she watched the Fire Nation troops rapidly shrink into the distance. They gave the escaping teens no heed. After all, they had their prize.
Admiral Zhao was one of the soldiers ready to "greet" the Avatar. "As soon as he is dragged ashore, bind him tightly." he ordered. "I don't want him to be able to move an inch."
"Sir, do you want us to pursue his allies?" a subordinate queried.
"No need. With the bison wounded and without the Avatar to aid them, they pose no threat to us. Securing the Avatar is our top priority." This time the Admiral would not repeat the same mistakes. The Avatar was far too dangerous to keep anywhere but the Fire Nation itself. And Zhao himself would transport the boy there immediately. He smiled as the young monk's bound body was deposited in front of him. "Welcome back Avatar." he gloated to the glaring boy.
"My friends will come for me!" Aang spat.
"Oh… I don't think so. The bison is probably already dead." Zhao taunted, his face inches from Aang's. "If the others don't drown, I'll just have my men round them up later. And then, I'll personally execute them." Aang took a deep breathe, preparing to blow the Admiral's smirking face as far away from him as he could.
"I wouldn't if I were you." Zhao dangled a tied up Momo in front of Aang's nose. "Behave, if you want your pet to stay alive."
Aang's eyes widened. "No, please don't hurt him!"
Satisfied, Zhao straightened. "Back to the ship!" he barked to his men. "We leave immediately for the Fire Nation. Already he planned on summoning a scribe as soon as he returned to his ship. After all, the sooner the Firelord knew of his accomplishment, the sooner he could reap the rewards of capturing the Avatar.