A/N: Believe it or not, I dreamed this story. It was just like watching an episode, it was so cool! The sleeping mind is an amazing thing. Now, lets hope I can get what happened in my head onto paper, shall we?
Special thanks to Neko-chan for coming up with the name for the God, and to Angelique and TD for encouraging me to make this a story. This is for you guys.
Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar, it's owned by Nick. If I owned it we would have a giant Appa beanbag.
Title: The Sacrifice
Sokka turned the bag upside down eagerly. When nothing came out, he shook it. A few crumbs fell out but were quickly blown away by the breeze. With a sigh, Sokka threw the bag over his shoulder. "Why am I not surprised we're out of food, again?"
"Well, it isn't like flying around on a bison is a very profitable business," Katara shot back from where she was seated next to Aang at the front of the saddle.
"You know, Aang, maybe we should start charging to save people. That way, we wouldn't go hungry nearly as often."
"What, it was just a suggestion."
Katara shook her head as Aang let out a sudden gasp.
"Where?" Sokka was up next to him quickly, leaning over Appa's saddle to get a better look. Sure enough, below them was a large tree with its golden fruit visible even from that distance. "Oh man! Those have to be bigger than my head!"
"Even Appa isn't bigger than your head," Katara said, climbing up beside the two boys.
"Very funny," Sokka muttered back.
Katara looked at the peaches longingly before shaking her head, "peaches don't grow naturally like that. Someone has to tend to them. If we just take them it will be stealing."
"Do you see any houses around?" Sokka asked, gesturing toward the expanse of forest that stretched for miles in every direction. "You don't just grow a gigantic peach tree and not have a house. Besides, Aang's the Avatar." Sokka wrapped his arm around Aang's shoulder at this, and Aang grinned. "The only people who don't want to help the Avatar are those in the Fire Nation. Does this look like the Fire Nation to you?"
"You just want the peaches."
"You just don't want to admit I'm right," Sokka said as his stomach growled loudly. Aang laughed as Katara threw her arms up in defeat.
"Alright, fine. We are all hungry, and I'm sure we can always offer to work for them if they get mad about it."
"You do that then," Sokka said, leaning back with a triumphant look on his face. Katara scowled at him.
"Come on, Appa," Aang said excitedly as he pulled on the reigns, "lets go get some food!"
The gaint bison made a noise of agreement, and the weary travelers found themselves quickly descending. No sooner had Appa's feet touched the ground than Sokka was sliding off his side and dashing toward the tree. Unsheathing his boomerang, he threw it up and snapped the twigs holding three of the peaches in place. He caught his boomerang and sheathed it before dashing forward and grabbing the falling fruit as well. They weren't quite bigger than his head, but still large enough to make a meal on their own.
Sokka quickly took a bite, and let out a loud and overly dramatic sigh of satisfaction. "These are so good!"
"Let me try," Aang whined, running over and snatching one of the pieces from Sokka. He took a careful bite, and his grey eyes lit up with delight. "Katara, you have to try this!"
Sighing and shaking her head as she watched the two boys devour their own peaches, Katara took the one her brother offered her. She took a small bite, and smiled. "Well, they are pretty good."
"Pretty good? They're amazing!" Sokka said, wiping some of the juice off his face with the back of his hand. Appa made a noise of protest, and the trio looked at him. Aang smiled.
"You want some too, don't you boy?"
"I'm on it," Sokka said, unsheathing his boomerang again. He pulled back to throw again when a sudden whistling sound filled the air. Aang and Katara watched in surprise as an arrow sudden appeared and stuck Sokka to a nearby tree by the sleeve of his shirt.
"Sokka! Are you alright?"
"Duck!" Was all Sokka responded, and both Aang and Katara followed his direction without question. Arrows littered the ground a few feet away, their paths slicing the air where their heads had been moments before. Katara jumped to her feet as soon as the arrows stopped falling, racing to her brother's side to see if she could pull him away from the tree.
"I told you this was a bad idea!"
"Katara, this really isn't the time!"
Aang jumped to his feet, bending the air around him into a protective shield from the next volley of arrows. What he didn't expect was more arrows to come from a different direction. He barely had time to duck out of the way.
"Could you please try and hurry?"
"I am hurrying! This thing is wedged tight!" Katara said as she strained her muscles against the resilient arrow.
The ground beneath them suddenly began to heave violently, and both Katara and Aang found themselves on the ground.
"Earthbenders!" Katara shouted as a warning to Aang. The young Airbender didn't have time to respond as the ground around his feet turned soft and he sunk up to his knees before it hardened again.
Aang let out a cry as he fell backward, unable to stand anymore, as Katara looked around frantically for some water to bend. She found none before she let out a yell of fright as two men stepped out of the bushes, grabbing her from behind. A third man came over and bound Sokka's hands and feet before unleashing the arrow and dragging him over to where Aang was still struggling against the earth.
Sokka glanced around as best he could, trying to find an escape route. There appeared to be none. They were completely surrounded by members of the Earth Kingdom. He counted nearly fifty in all.
One of them stepped out for the circle, an elderly man with his face painted in some kind of complex green pattern. As Sokka stared at it, he was reminded of staring up through leaves in summertime.
"Strangers! How dare you set foot in the sacred forest of Tane!"
Katara, Aang, and Sokka looked at each other in confusion.
"Who?" Sokka asked after a moment, one eyebrow raised in a look of confusion.
The man seemed to become angry at this as he lunged forward so his face was inches from Sokka's. With a cry of surprise Sokka jerked back, his tied feet causing him to fall over backwards. The green-faced man loomed over him, eyes flashing.
"Tane is the God of this forest, and these are his sacred peaches! Not only have you angered him by setting foot here, strangers, but you have also eaten his sacred fruit! Tane demands payment!"
"We haven't got any money," Katara explained hurriedly, looking around. "We're just poor travelers, but we'd be happy to try and work to pay you for them!"
The man turned to her now, eyes still dark with rage. Unconsciously, the young Waterbender pulled back slightly in fear.
"Tane does not want money, young Water maiden."
"Well, we haven't got anything else!" Sokka protested, forcing himself up into a sitting position. "That's we stopped to eat your peaches!"
"Tane," the man said as if he hadn't heard Sokka at all, "demands for this most grievous of sins, sacrifice. Tane, demands blood."
Sokka, Katara, and Aang all looked at each other in horror, unable to say speak.