We all know that Sokka and Katara's mother was killed in a Fire Nation raid. And there are probably many stories out there detailing how this happened. This is my version, so if someone else has already done something like this, I'm sorry, I didn't know. But no two stories can be a like, so here's my take. This is the story of how the Southern Water Tribe came to fall, and the story of how Sokka and Katara came to be what they are today. Sokka didn't always despair, and Katara was not always an optimist. But cruel times lead to changes in ourselves that would otherwise never surface. This is the story of those changes, and how the culture of the Southern Water Tribe began to die.
I've also written a story about how Zuko transformed into who he is in the present. It's called "From the Ashes". This is Sokka and Katara's version of "From the Ashes".
I don't own any of the Avatar characters. I wish I did, as do we all. Sigh.
She clenched the small blue choker in her hand tightly, as if it was the only link left to a dying world. And it was. To Katara, this necklace was the one link left to a life she would never live again.
The scent of smoke was thick in her lungs, making her chest burn. But this pain was insignificant compared to what was simmering just below the surface of her haunted, ice-blue eyes. This fire was slowly swelling, threatening to burst forth, threatening to engulf her mind just as the Fire Nation soldiers had entrapped her home within destruction, pain and rage.
She hard heard of this fire before. She had heard of it in the stories that her elders would tell during frigid, dark nights. The fire had run rampant through tales of war and sorrow, tales of what had once been but would never be again. So thus these flames were alien, but at the same time, they were as familiar as a mother.
Familiar as the mother she had lost mere moments earlier. Familiar as the woman who had comforted her when she had been scared. Familiar as the woman who would embrace her when she was sick. Familiar as what would never fade into a distant memory.
This fire within Katara's heart had been born as she had heard her mother's last, anguished cry.
And the fire had a name. It was despair.
And now, this despair was the reason for every breath she drew into her body.
…One year later…
Sometimes, it was hard not to grumble. Katara loved her brother, yes, but he was so…well…male. He would strut around the Water Tribe's small village, aspiring to being something more than what he was. But Fate had never seemed to smile upon Sokka. On the contrary, the Spirit World seemed to be laughing at him much of the time.
Meaning that this day was a day just like any other. She had been practicing her Waterbending, and was quite proud that she was now able to form a small ball of water and move it around. The hardest part had been learning how to coax the water to keep its given shape, but once she had mastered this ability, the technique became much easier. And when she heard Sokka call her name, she fought the urge to hurl the ball of water into his face. What could the boy possibly want now?
A scowl was on Sokka's face. Typical. Just what injustice had the world thrown upon him now?
Katara almost didn't need to ask. Her older brother was sopping wet.
Slowly, discreetly, she placed her hand over a pile of snow, preparing to Waterbend an avalanche. Sometimes it was hard to not add to Sokka's self-inflicted angst.
The urge to make him even wetter dissolved immediately as Katara realized that she would be doing more harm than good. There was, after all, another way to deal with such a situation, a way that didn't involve bruising egos and bodies.
Amusement. The emotion that had saved Katara's mind so many times.
Her hand flew to her mouth to hide her smile.
"Let me guess. You fell through thin ice again."
"No! It was a penguin!"
She couldn't hold back any longer. Letting her hand fall to her side, Katara laughed.
"A penguin. A penguin got you wet."
"And just how did this tragedy happen?"
A surly shadow darkened Sokka's face. "The herd of seals that we've been hunting has moved on. There's no more meat in the village."
"We can always eat YOU." Katara made a face. "Though you'd probably be tough and stringy. The best part of the seal is the blubber, and you don't have any on you."
"I would if we had better food. And better weapons to hunt the food," Sokka grumbled. Katara smirked.
But still, she had to try to make another small round of desperation into something that they could both laugh about. She couldn't allow him to pity himself. Such a thing would always throw Sokka into a mental winter, a winter that would cast shadows over his face for days at a time.
Katara knew the winter. It was the only season that the Southern Water Tribe had ever known.
Yet perhaps this wasn't true. There had been a time when the village was full of different faces, entire families. The Water Tribe had been prospering. No family had yet lost a son, a father, a husband. Their lives were whole and complete. So what if the snow never melted? They paid no attention to the cold, except to admire its beauty. There was a way that the sun reflected off of the frozen tundra that was positively enchanting. But now, that same glow had turned into nothing more than a painful glare, a glare which had to be avoided at all times.
The survivors of the Water Tribe never lingered on this once beautiful shine. They tried never to think about the loved ones that had been lost.
So she couldn't allow him to pity himself. She couldn't allow him to embrace that fiery light that had taken his world away.
So she would make self-pity seem like a shameful thing. Sarcasm could be cruel, but in the Southern Water Tribe, it was a survival tool.
"Poor Sokka." Katara stood up and brushed the thin layer of powdered snow from her jacket. "Why don't we go home and make some tea? Maybe that will help you cope with the injustice of the world a bit."
"There's no tea either. Or sugar."
"Then let's drink hot water and pretend to be prosperous."
Sometimes, this was all that the Water Tribe could managed. They were locked in a seemingly eternal game of "Let's Pretend".
Let's pretend to be prosperous.
Let's pretend that our families are whole.
Let's pretend that there is no war, and there never will be.
Let's pretend to be happy.
But they could not think of these things. They couldn't afford not to pretend. It would suck them into a chasm from which they would never be able to escape.
Ignore, ignore. We all know how to ignore.
But can we ever forget?
Sokka's scowl melted into a grin. "Fine, fine. I guess I can tolerate your optimism for half an hour."
"Thanks, from the bottom of my heart."
The sarcasm only made his grin wider. Katara traded her own grin for a scowl.
"You look stupid when you're smiling."
"It's why I don't do it much."
Katara didn't respond. She knew that what Sokka had said was only part of the truth.
I know the reason why he never smiles. I know the reason why he spends every minute of his life wishing that he was somewhere else. Sokka is in a cage, in a cage that no one can see but me. He spends his days gripping the bars of that cage, looking out. He wonders if the world beyond our icy home is anything like the dreams he has at night. But those dreams make my brother cry. I hear him every night. And nearly every morning, he wakes up with tears on his cheeks.
I notice, but I never say anything. If nothing else, Sokka needs to be able to keep his pride.
And Katara knew exactly when the cage door had slammed shut on her brother.
It had been only a year earlier when the men of the Water Tribe had left, but that year had passed in what seemed like a lifetime. Both Sokka and Katara had been forced to grow up in a matter of days. The process had not been a hard one for Katara. She was already a full woman member of the Tribe, despite her young age. At thirteen, Katara was only a year shy of being traditionally old enough to be a full member of the tribe. But even now, the Water tribe spared her no duty. By her own choice, Katara had long ago decided to work and serve.
Sokka, on the other hand…
Sokka had been Katara's present age when their father had left. Like Katara, he had only been a year shy of being initiated as a full member of the Water Tribe. But unlike Katara, who had felt the weight of the world settling on her shoulders as the war intensified, Sokka had been carefree and happy. His age allowed him to be a child, and he took full advantage of it. Sokka had remained with their father most days, helping out with work when he could, and all the while trying to figure out how to become a man. Or at least, that's what Sokka told his sister that he was doing. But Katara knew the truth.
. Mostly, the young Sokka just looking for any excuse to make a mess or get into trouble, anything to provide him with a smile or an evil laugh.
Oh, how times had changed.
She sometimes grieved for the boy that he had been. Because that happy-go-lucky boy had never known the pain that Sokka did in the present. In a sense, that boy was now long dead.
And the dead could never be brought back to life.
My name is Katara. You don't need to know anything more than that.
I live in a village that was once a great empire. But now, that village is little more than a tiny, crumbling settlement at the bottom of the world. The ashes of what my tribe had once been lie on the ground at my feet, reflected in the ash and dust that still darkens the snow. The Fire Nation raid was long ago, but still the traces of their hatred remain. When the attack began, the snow beneath our feet had been black from the coal that they used to power their ships. That day, that black day, was when I lost my mother. The last I saw of her was the look of shock and pain on her face as she collapsed onto that darkened ground.
Over time the ash faded as more snow came in to take its place.
Over time the ashes of our mind faded as old memories and new hopes came in to blind us.
To this day there are still traces of ash in our village. Not much, not even enough to notice if you are not looking for it. But enough to remind me of what had once been, and now would never be again.
My name is Katara.
And this is how my life fell apart.
This is only the first chapter of something that I'm hoping will be kind of long. I'm in the middle of editing a book to send in to publishers, so I have time left over to devote to Avatar fiction. This chapter was the setup for chapters to come. Next time we'll go into the past, a few years back from where we are now, and take a look at who Katara and Sokka were when the war had not yet destroyed all they knew. Please keep reading, and review! Thanks for hanging around.
Much gratitude to you all,