First I have to say: I do not own any part of Avatar the Last Airbender which remains the property of Nickelodeon and its creators. My fan fiction is meant for entertainment purposes only is not intended to violate any copyright.
Setting of Story: A short time after their encounter with the pirates in the episode "The Waterbending Scroll."
I actually wrote this a while ago, but just finished finalizing it and getting the nerve to post it. This is my first story so please don't be too hard on the criticism. This is meant to hopefully be a three part chapter story. Hope you enjoy!
While Katara pulled out their bedrolls Sokka was busy rummaging through one of the food sacks, a deep frown on his face. He pulled out a handful of squished berries covered in lint. "Man what's a guy supposed to eat around here! I'm starving! I could have sworn we had more food than this yesterday!"
"We did," Katara commented. "But one of us apparently has a much bigger appetite than the rest."
Sokka looked accusingly at Aang's pet flying lemur Momo, who simply gazed back at him with large saucer eyes, until he realized his sister was talking about him. "Hey, it takes a lot of energy to be a warrior. Unlike you I actually have to work for what I get."
Katara stopped what she was doing and crossed her arms. "And exactly what is that suppose to mean?"
He shrugged. "Simple. You just have to wave your arms and do your "magic" thing," he replied a little sarcastically, referring to Katara's waterbending abilities, "while I have to do all the real work."
Katara retorted indignantly. "For your information I do as much as you around here. Besides, it takes a lot more concentration and energy to bend than to use a boomerang."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever." He waved his arm nonchalantly as he searched for another food sack. "I'll still take my boomerang over your weirdness any day little sister!" Suddenly Sokka was pelted upside the head by a bedroll. "Hey! What was that for!"
"Sometimes you can be the most infuriating…."
"Uh, hey guys. What's going on?" Aang interrupted. He'd just returned from gathering wood for their campfire and could see Sokka and Katara were at it again.
"My brother here seems to think benders have it a lot easier than those that can't."
"Why would he think that?" Aang asked.
"Uuggh! Forget it. Forget it!" With a grumbling stomach, the last thing he wanted was both of them ganging up on him. "Look. I'm just a guy with simple needs and right now my stomach needs something besides squished berries and …" he pulled something unidentifiable out of the bottom of the sack and held it up to his nose, "fuzzy green fruit that stinks!" He tossed the rotten smelly food over his shoulder making a face in disgust
"My, you're sure grumpy today, aren't you?" Katara retorted.
"I am not grumpy! I'm hungry."
Katara grinned. "Same difference."
"Okay." Aang said slowly, knowing he'd better break the two of them up soon before Katara did something Sokka would regret. "Um, Katara, are you finished setting up camp?"
"I guess I am."
"Great. Then I thought maybe we could go down to the river and do some waterbending." Aang said hopefully. "I haven't been able to practice much since we escaped from Zuko and those pirates a few weeks ago."
"Of course. That sounds like a great plan," Katara replied.
"Uh….Sokka wanna come and watch?" Aang asked.
Sokka momentarily looked up from his resumed foraging. "Are you kidding! No offense Aang but the last time the two of you "practiced" you nearly drowned me with that tidal wave!"
Aang looked a little embarrassed. "Uh, well, I said I was sorry Sokka. It was my first try after all. I'm sure I'll have better control of it this time," he said optimistically.
"Humph! We'll I'm not about to stick around to find out. Between you and my sister, who needs to worry about Firebenders trying to kill me!" He picked up the empty food sack. "Besides, I have more important things to do than play in the water, like trying to find us some food!"
As Sokka took off into the woods, Katara couldn't help the smirky grin that came over her face.
"Gee, Katara. I didn't' think he'd still be mad about that?"
Katara giggled. "Don't worry about it Aang. He always gets this way when he's hungry. Come on let's go down and practice those moves."
Down at the edge of the river Aang and Katara examined the scroll.
"Hey, Katara check this one out" Aang said pointing excitedly to a pictorial of a twisted water funnel that resembled a water snake. "Can we try this one?"
"I don't know. It's got a lot of complicated moves." But seeing Aang's enthusiasm she replied, "Sure why not. Let's give it a try."
After studying the scroll for a few more minutes Aang stood in front of the fast flowing river in a stance similar to the pictorial. Taking a slow steady breath he began a series of gentle circular movements with his hands. Within minutes a stream of water rose and began to spin and twist into a circular water funnel. Aang moved his wrists and the water swayed rhythmically from side to side like a water snake in its natural element.
"Look Katara, I'm doing it!"
Raising his arms a little higher and bending them to the right, he watched as the funnel twisted sideways and flared out like a cobra getting ready to strike. "Wow. That was neat!" Aang said as he let the water drop back. "Come on Katara, you give it a try now."
"I don't know."
"Come on. You can do it!"
Katara stepped forward a little uncertainly. Concentrating hard, she repeated the process and after several attempts managed to create a smaller funnel which she drew up about two feet but when she tried to curve it, the funnel collapsed into itself. Clenching her teeth, she let out a frustrated grunt.
Aang bit his lip nervously still a little unsure of Katara's response. Seeing his guarded look, Katara smiled ruefully, "Don't worry about it Aang. I'll get it eventually. Not everyone can be the Avatar," she joked.
Aang smiled back. "Thanks Katara."
Though a gifted Waterbender herself, Katara still couldn't help but feel a nudge of envy over Aang's apparent ease in mastering some of the advanced bending techniques found in the scroll while she continued to struggle through the exercises. But she was determined at least to accept his talents more graciously.
After all, it wasn't Aang's fault he was who he was. Besides, being the Avatar wasn't all it was cracked up to be, especially now. With only a few short months before Sozin's Comet was due to return, Aang needed to master all four elements if he was ever going to have a chance of defeating Fire Lord Ozai and restoring balance to the world. It was a daunting task even for an experienced Avatar, let alone a twelve year old boy frozen in ice for a hundred years without a master to teach him. It was one of the reasons she and her brother were determined to get Aang to the North Pole to find a Waterbending Master. But for now he needed all the help he could get.
"Come on, let's get back to work," Katara said.
Meanwhile in a small pub just on the edge of town, Prince Zuko and Iroh were sitting down for a meal while waiting for supplies to be loaded aboard their ship. Or rather Iroh was eating. Prince Zuko was once again pouring over some maps with several zig zagging lines which indicated the latest trail of the Avatar.
A pretty young bar matron came over to refresh Iroh's tea and looked curiously over at the teenage prince. She smiled shyly before pouring Zuko another cup. But the young prince didn't look up or even acknowledge her presence so intent was he on examining the maps. She placed a tray of delicious sticky cakes before him, but still he said nothing. Giving a little shrug, she bowed respectfully to Iroh and quietly she retreated to the back room.
"Really Prince Zuko, you should put aside those maps and enjoy this lovely meal and even lovelier view."
Zuko glanced up at the shabby dim interior of the pub and shook his head. "What are you talking about Uncle? This place is a dump."
Iroh sighed. "You're quest for the Avatar is making you blind to everything else."
"Until I find the Avatar and bring him back before my father, nothing else matters!"
"It saddens me to see you so cynical Prince Zuko at such a young age."
"Can you blame me Uncle?"
Iroh looked at his nephew and the scar which disfigured the entire left side of his face. "No, but I can always hope," Iroh said and sipped his tea.
Their meal was interrupted when a Firebender soldier arrived.
"Prince Zuko. We've just gotten a report that a patrol spotted the flying bison."
Zuko immediately stood up from his seat. "Where?" He demanded.
"Not far from here."
"Then take me to him!" Zuko demanded. "Come on Uncle, we must not loose the trail."
Iroh sighed, took another sip of his tea, grabbed some of the sweet cakes and headed out the door. He was really getting too old for this.
Sokka, in the meanwhile, continued searching for some nuts and berries but was secretly hoping to find something a little more edible. Though a vegetarian cuisine might be all right for a certain bald-headed monk, Sokka's stomach was grumbling for meat.
Then a flash of movement in a small clearing caught his attention and to his delight he spotted a squirrel-rabbit munching on some sweet grass. Sokka licked his lips and looked up at the sky mouthing a silent "Thank you."
But the squirrel-rabbit apparently had other ideas about becoming Sokka's next meal and darted off into the woods.
"Oh no you don't!" he exclaimed taking up the pursuit.
Chasing the furry creature across the clearing into the woods, it maneuvered through thickets and around several trees before eventually darting under some brush. With the thought of fresh roasting rabbit evaporating quickly from his mind, Sokka dove head first in after it.
Unfortunately when he came out the other side he found himself tumbling down a steep incline making a loud crunching racket through the dead leaves and branches before coming to a sudden stop as he landed face first at the bottom of the hill.
"Blah!" Sokka spit out a mouthful of grass and dirt just in time to see his dinner disappear from site. "Great! Nice going there Sokka" he muttered to himself.
But as he sat up he suddenly became aware of four Fire Nation soldiers looking curiously at him a short distance away.
As he slowly tried to retreat back up the hill he heard one of them shout. "You! Hold it right there!"
Sokka cringed, turned and took off running.
"Katara you're doing it!" Aang said excitedly as he watched Katara's funnel began to twist wobbly to the side.
Her face was pinched up in concentration as she struggled to maintain the form. "I am!" Katara replied in amazement. But when Sokka suddenly erupted into the clearing her concentration was broken and the funnel immediately lost its form, falling lifelessly back into the water. By the look on her brother's face, she knew something was wrong.
"Firebenders!" he said without preamble. He was breathing hard. "I think I managed to loose them but we better get out of here fast."
Aang and Katara sprang into action. As Katara quickly rolled the scroll up and tucked it in her belt, Sokka looked impatiently around for the flying bison. "Where's Appa?"
"I sent him down into the valley with Momo to graze," Aang replied. "I thought we'd be here a while."
"Great! Just when you need that big furry monster he's never around!"
Aang pulled the bison whistle out and blew on it just as two soldiers broke into the clearing. "Ah, Sokka, I think they found us," Aang commented.
Spotting the trio, one of the soldiers shouted over his shoulder. "Over here!" The two soldiers quickly spread apart into attack positions, with feet wide apart, knees bent. "Stay where you are!"
But Sokka wasn't about to let them take the advantage. Even though he did not posses the same waterbending gift as his sister or Aang's airbending abilities, he was still an adept well trained warrior. Quickly he reached behind his back and grabbed the boomerang blade he always carried with him and sliced it through the air. With precision accuracy the blade nicked one of the soldiers in the arm before spinning around on its return. The soldier dropped to his knees in pain.
The other immediately retaliated thrusting his arm forward in a quick jabbing motion. A stream of jet flame shot out from his fist.
Aang leaped in front of Sokka and quickly deflected the flame with a fast swirling current of air. But suddenly another red hot torch shot at them, this time from the other side as two more Firebenders arrived on the scene. Sokka was forced to duck as one of the flames missed him by mere inches. With a kick spin Aang airbended a blast of current into the chest of one of the soldiers knocking him several feet backwards and onto the ground.
"Go get re-enforcements!" They heard one of the soldiers shout. The injured soldier took off running as the remaining three continued their attack.
While Aang was kept busy trying to deflect several more fire balls, Katara positioned herself near the water and concentrated. There was one thing she had mastered already and that was the water whip. With a stinging zing, she began zapping the one of the Firebenders upside the head until he finally fell to the ground dazed.
Then Aang did a funny sideways flip as another flaming torched zoomed past his face before landing gracefully back on his feet. Crouching low, he made a swift low sweeping movement of his arms and a powerful jet of air moved with lightening speed across the ground knocking the feet right out from under the two remaining soldiers. They landed on the ground with a big thud groaning.
Examining the three dazed Firebenders, Katara smiled and stood up from her crouched position. "Nicely done!"
But their victory was short lived as she heard her brother shout, "Katara, look out!"
Before she could turn around Katara was grabbed from behind. Sokka raced towards his sister but was suddenly tackled to the ground as more soldiers arrived on scene.
Aang spun about and managed to knock the soldier off Katara with an air blast but his attention was quickly pulled away from his friends as he was forced to deflect more fire blasts from the half dozen Firebenders who quickly spread out in front of him. Aang crouched low ready to strike again.
But a few seconds later a solitary figure stepped into the semi-circle.
Aang of course recognized Prince Zuko immediately by the horribly disfigured scar across his left eye extending back behind his ear, a smug look of victory on his face.
With Sokka captured and Aang cornered Katara's temper flared. All she wanted to do was to wipe the twisted grin off Zuko's face. With a sweep of her arm she unleashed her water whip straight at him. But with reflexes born from years of training, Zuko quickly countered. The ferocious flame made instant contact with the water and produced a cloud of boiling hot steam which he forced back at her. She let out a gasp of surprise and dove quickly to the ground to prevent being scalded.
"Katara!" Aang cried out in concern.
"Enough!" Prince Zuko commanded.
Towering over Katara, Zuko tried hard not to loose his temper at the water peasant's impertinence. "Foolish girl. Your primitive water tricks are no match for me. Take her!" he ordered one of the guards.
"Leave her alone!" Aang shouted attempting to intervene, but was blocked by several more fire blasts which he had to do some fancy moves and spins to evade. Doing a backward flip in the air he landed smoothly back on the ground but was breathing heavily. The young prince could see the anger in the boy's eyes.
Zuko smiled. "It is pointless to fight me further Avatar! My men have you surrounded. You are outnumbered and the fate of your friends now rest in my hands." To prove his point Zuko produced a steady flame of fire in the palm of his hand. He waved it menacingly in front of Sokka's face. "Give yourself up and I promise they will come to no further harm."
"Yeah, like we'd really believe anything from a barbarian fire scum," Sokka spat back struggling, then grimaced at his arm was twisted painfully behind his back.
Zuko ignored Sokka's outburst, his eyes turning back to the boy. Though still crouched in a defensive stance ready to continue the fight, Prince Zuko could see the flicker of hesitation. Prince Zuko pressed his advantage, "On my honor I give you my word Avatar. Your friends will not be harmed. It is only you I want."
Aang looked anxiously from Katara to Sokka to the line of soldiers with their backs to the river still positioned to strike. It was then he noticed the waterbending scroll still tucked in Katara's belt. He stared at his for several seconds before looking back up at his adversary. Biting his lip, Aang seemed to have made a decision. Rising from his crouched position he stood defenselessly before Prince Zuko.
Realizing he intended to sacrifice himself for their sake, Sokka tried to plead with him. "Don't do it, Aang!"
But with hands at his side, Aang replied quietly. "Sorry Sokka, but I have to do this. Please don't be mad."
Slowly turning to Prince Zuko, he said, "All right, I give up," and raised his arms in the air.
"You have chosen wisely, Avatar."
But with their backs to the river what Prince Zuko and the rest of his men had failed to see was a huge wall of water suddenly levitating out of the river, rising steeply and cresting precariously above them.
Sokka felt a drop of moisture hit his face. He looked suspiciously at Aang and thought he saw a flicker of a smile. Then he saw Katara's eyes widen. Darting a quick glance at the position of Aang's raised arms he noticed a slight tremor in his fingers. Nervously Sokka rolled his eyes upward and let out a strangled choke. Sucking in a deep breath he braced himself as Aang dropped his arms. He had only a second to glimpse the huge wall of water as it started crashing down on all of them.
The initial impact sent Firebenders splaying out in all directions, arms and legs flailing about. And before they could regain their footing, Aang swung his arms sideways creating a fast moving current which swept several Firebenders into the river. Katara not intent on staying idle wiggled free of her surprised captor and sprung into action. Those still on their feet were countered with a quick water whip to the back of the knees.
Sokka came up sputtering in the swirling current and realized to his dismay he was being swept over the steep bank and into the river. Blindly he grabbed at whatever he could find which in his case turned out to be a foot. The foot unfortunately belong one very angry scar-faced prince clinging to a clump of low hanging branches off a dead tree already leaning at a severe angle above the water.
"Get off of me!" Zuko growled through clenched teeth as he tried to shake Sokka loose. When that failed, the prince tried to hang onto the branch with one hand and shoot a flame of fire at him with his other.
Suddenly both were jolted downward as the entire tree leaned further into the water. Zuko looked up and saw to his dismay the roots from the dead tree beginning to separate from the bank due to their combined weights. Realizing what was about to happen, Zuko tried to kick Sokka off with his other foot. "Let go before we both end up in the water!"
But Sokka clung tight. "Little help here!" he shouted.
Meanwhile, back on dry ground, "Aang, where's Sokka?" Katara exclaimed.
"Over there!" Aang pointed to where Sokka and Prince Zuko were clinging precariously to the dead tree hanging over the river. But before either could reach him, the roots pulled free and Sokka and Zuko both plunged into the fast moving current.
Aang searched quickly for his air bending staff he had left off to the side earlier and popped it open into his winged glider. Several Firebenders were already struggling to their feet again as he shouted to Katara to grab hold then shot the glider upward.
In the river Sokka and Zuko had both managed to grab onto the opposite ends of the dead tree as it bobbed down the river. With one leg straddling the trunk and his hands grabbing at the loose branches all Sokka could do was hold on tight. Then to his utter amazement he watched as Zuko slowly stood up. Dripping wet, with teeth clenched in uncontrolled fury, Zuko inched forward. "I'll kill you myself you water tribe moron!"
Aang sailed over the river with Katara clinging to his waist, as they scanned the water below. "I don't see him!" Katara said desperately.
"Down there!" Aang replied, spotting Sokka. But he wasn't alone.
"Oh no!" Katara exclaimed. Zuko was now only a few feet away from where Sokka clung helpless.
"Hang on," Aang said as he practically nosed dived the glider downward.
As Zuko pulled back his arm ready to shoot a blast of flame he was suddenly knocked off balance as Katara's legs struck him in the back. The impact sent Zuko into the river and nearly Aang and Katara in after him.
"Grab onto me!" Katara shouted to her brother as Aang tried desperately to keep the glider airborne. Sokka didn't need to be told twice and quickly closed his hand around Katara's outstretched fingers. "I've got him!"
"Then hang on tight guys, this is going to get interesting," Aang shouted. Trying to pull Sokka out of the current and the added weight on the glider put Aang's airbending skills to the test as he gritted his teeth and tried gain altitude. Twice they skimmed the water as the glider lurched wildly from side to side before it slowly started to rise.
As Aang arched the glider away from the river Sokka, still dangling precariously beneath, suddenly saw the tops of the tree lined forest fast approaching. "Ahhhh! Tree Aang!" Sokka screamed. "Big tree!"
"I'm on it," Aang replied, banking the glider sharply to the left. Sokka had to quickly draw his legs up feeling the tops of the branches brushing the seat of his pants.
Once clear he let out a sigh of relief, but it was short lived as he felt his fingers suddenly start to slide out of sister's grasp. "Katara!"
"Aang, I can't hold onto to him much longer."
"Almost there," Aang replied as he focused on finding a suitable landing.
Finally he spotted a small clearing below. Dipping the glider downward he'd almost reached the ground when Katara felt her brother's hand slide out of hers.
"Sokka!" she cried as she watched him disappear into the brush below.
Before Aang could land the glider completely Katara dropped down and raced back towards her brother. Retracting the glider's wings back into the staff Aang quickly followed.
"Sokka! Sokka! Where are you?" Katara shouted desperately. Then a few seconds she saw her brother emerged from a clump of bushes. Though he looked uninjured he was doing a weird hopping dance and trying to brush something off him.
"Ahhhh! Blah! Yuck!" Several branches were sticking wildly out of his hair and clothes and he was covered in caked mud and leaves.
"Sokka are you all right?" Katara ran towards him only to come up short when she got a sudden whiff of a powerful stench coming off her brother. "What is that smell?" It was then she noticed the family of very irate skunk-rats scurry out from under the brush, squeaking hysterically. Despite herself, Katara couldn't help but laugh, relieved her brother wasn't hurt.
As Aang joined them he quickly brought his hand up and covered his nose. "Whoa! Sokka you stink!"
At the instant Sokka's whole body seemed to clench up and he started to tremble, his face contorted. For a moment he seemed incapable of coherent speech. Eyes bugged out, he pointed a shaky finger at Aang. "Is that all you have to say! You nearly drown me in a tidal wave, again, then almost kill in the air and all you can say is I stink?"
"Well you do," Aang replied innocently.
Sokka slapped the flat of his hand to his forehead then made a horrible face as he finally got a full whiff of himself. Screwing his face up he said forlornly, "Oh man I need a bath!"
Katara covered her mouth to hide the wicked smile on her face as saw the sudden gleam which appeared in Aang's eyes. "I'll get the water!"