Take my advice; never go on a journey with a hyperactive twelve-year-old and a stubborn, ignorant fifteen-year-old who hit puberty before he was ready. You will never be the same. Especially if you throw in the fact that the twelve-year-old has to save the world by summer's end and happens to be the Avatar who disappeared over one hundred years ago.
My life had been simple enough before Sokka and I found Aang. I got up, I did chores, I practiced a little Bending, I ate, and I went to bed. Then, I had one tantrum and wham! My life changed forever.
A prime example of this would be when Aang, Sokka, and I had just escaped from the swamp. That powerful female Firebender had found us at a small village and we had to make a run for it.
"Aang! Can't you do something?" I called, ducking one of the blasts of blue fire as I dashed towards Appa.
"Hold on!" He sent a blast of air at the three girls chasing us. It didn't deter them one bit. "Nope!" Aang called back, picking up the pace. Sokka and I followed suit, reaching Appa not a moment too soon. The one with the weapons sent some of those sharp circular things at the spot where my foot had been not half a minute earlier.
"Let's get outta here!" Sokka cried. Appa didn't need the customary call of "yip yip!" to get him going. With a groan, the flying bison took off.
I collapsed as soon as we were airborne. Momo hopped over to me and curled in my lap; absently, I stroked him. "That was close," I murmured.
"Too close," my brother replied, looking down at our pursuers. "It almost makes me wish Zuko was chasing us again; he didn't have creepy weapons at his disposal. Smelly ones, but not creepy." I shuddered at the rather repulsive memory of the hot sticker the Fire Prince had shot at us on the Solstice. It had taken weeks for me to get the smell out of my nose and hair.
Aang looked over his shoulder. "I don't think we should land tonight," he said. "Those Fire Nation citizens might catch up to us if we camp."
"Fine by me," I remarked. "I didn't want to get stuck with cooking duty like I always do anyway."
I began to dig through the food packs to find something easy that didn't need to be cooked. I found some bread given to us by the General, that chicken stuff from that swamp, dried fish from the North Pole, and some jerky we had gotten from the Northern Air Temple that had amazingly kept for so long. (I wasn't even entirely sure it had started out as jerky.) There was also the food we had bought before that Firebending monster and her cronies had found us.
I pulled out some of the bread and the jerked meat, handing portions to Sokka and Aang. "Um, Katara?" Aang said. "I don't eat meat, remember?" I hit my forehead with my palm.
"Sorry, Aang. Here, take an apple instead," I apologized, taking his jerky and handed him the apple. He gave me that smile of his and bit into the apple eagerly. I smiled and began eating my dinner.
As night drew nearer, I began to feel lethargic. Sokka was already asleep, being the lazy bum he is. Aang was dozing on Appa's head, with Momo on his shoulder. Yawning, I lay down on Appa's saddle and curled my body into a tight ball, falling asleep in a matter of minutes.
I woke up later that night to the sound of flapping. Sitting up, I noticed Momo had dumped most of our supplies overboard. "Momo!" I complained. "Look at what you did!"
"What did he do now?" Sokka groaned, waking up. I pointed to the supply pack.
"All of our food, gone! He chunked it over the side of Appa!" Aang stood and picked up Momo. (My cries must have awoken him.)
"Bad Momo!" he rebuked. "Now we have to stop and get more food in the morning!" I leaned over the side of Appa.
"You're in luck; there's a village just below us," I told Aang.
"We'll stop when in gets light," he decided, sighing at Momo's blatant waste of supplies. "Y'know, for a lemur, you sure cause a lot of trouble," I heard Aang say.
It became light not long after this discussion and we landed outside the village. "Okay, we go in, we get our supplies, we get out. Got it?" Sokka said in a hushed tone. Aang and I nodded, following my older brother into the village.
It took longer than we would have liked to get the food to replenish our stocks. I had to argue over the price of some miniature melons with a merchant, Aang had to keep running from dogs that smelt Momo on him and wanted to hunt, and Sokka kept getting confused and lost in the market. By the time we had bought sufficient supplies, it was already noon.
"Come on," I whispered to Aang and Sokka when we met up with each other again. "I don't think we should be here this long. I don't want anyone to find us-" I was cut off by a cruel voice somewhere behind us.
"Yes, he has a blue arrow on his forehead." It was that girl from Omashu.
"Hey, Azula! There they are!" The bubbly one that had taken away my bending away momentarily had spotted us.
"Run!" Sokka screamed. The three of us went off in different directions like greased lightning. Aang headed straight for Appa, Sokka went further into the village, and I headed out into the woods surrounding the village.
I wish I hadn't.
I ran and dodged the branches that stood in my way, while at the same avoiding the sharp weapons thrown at me by that girl. (I later learned her name was Mai.) "You really think you can escape? Azula will already have caught your friend the Avatar and that annoying loudmouth," she taunted.
"And she'll have a hard time stopping the bison from wrecking the village and crushing her," I replied. Appa would get riled if Aang got captured.
Suddenly, my pursuer stopped, shock etched on her features. Looking back ahead of me, the last thing I saw was the inside of a burlap sack before I was knocked unconscious.
"Unnh," I moaned. Gingerly, I moved my hand to my head. As I lifted one hand, I was perplexed as my other moved with it.
A gentle hand stayed my hand. "Be still now. You got a nasty bang from Ke Lin's sword hilt and your head is going to be hurtin' for some time, even after I heal the bump." I felt water touch my head; the pain receded, not much, but enough so every little sound didn't send a jolt of pain through my cranium. Slowly, I cracked my eyes open.
A kindly older woman with sliver hair was standing over me. I recognized her hairstyle to be one from the Water Tribes. She was a Waterbender, which would explain the way she had helped my head with merely water.
"Thank you," I said. Looking down at my hands, I realized they were bound with some rope. "Where am I? What happened?" I sat up. Were Aang and Sokka okay?
The woman pushed me back down gently. "You ran into Master Chen's Slavecatchers, that's what happened." Slavecatchers? Oh, no. That was not good. I turned my attention back to the woman, who was still talking. "Ke Lin, the one that knocked you out, sent you here, still out cold. I was told to revive you and keep you here until Master Chen has time to see you."
"Will you explain that again? Only, skip to the part about slavecatchers," I asked, trying to take it all in. The woman smiled sadly.
"You've been captured by the Slavecatchers; that's their title. Master Chen sends them out into the forest to capture wayward travelers and bring them here. He shows no preference. Fire Nation, Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, he doesn't care. All the Water Healers, like me, work here in the Infirmary, the Firebenders work either in the kitchen, keeping food hot, or in the furnace. Earthbenders are usually stuck building Master Chen's mansion, which gets larger with each passing month. All of those who can't bend are sent to the fields."
"What about regular Waterbenders?"
"Cleaning," the woman said with a shrug. "Why? Can't you heal?" She seemed to get worried
I gingerly shook my head. "No, I can heal." The woman relaxed.
"Thank Spirits. Here, drink this. It's bitter, but it'll help your head. By the way, I'm Soon-Yi." I took the drink from Soon-Yi and sipped at it slowly. It was bitter.
It was almost three hours later before anyone else remembered I was there. Soon-Yi was checking up on me when a man in all black stalked over. "Master Chen demands that the new girl be brought to him at once," he ordered without so much as a "hello". Soon-Yi bowed and helped me to stand. My legs were a little weak, but I stumbled my way after the man.
He led me to an amazingly bright chamber. "Enter," he ordered, opening the door. I stumbled through the entryway only to be thrust down onto the ground but spearbutts.
I saw silk-clad feet circle me, as if I was some prize mount he was inspecting. Hands clutched my chin and forced my mouth open, why is still beyond me. A cold, cruel voice rang out.
"Can you bend?" I nodded. "Can you heal?" Another nod from me. I was too shocked to speak. "Good. Give her two days rest, then put her to work in the Infirmary." I felt rough hands seize me and drag me off down halls I hadn't been down yet.
I was bodily thrown into a room with a small window on the right wall. A door slammed somewhere behind me. I struggled to get myself upright.
I was in a cell, there was no other term for it. A single cot, a small fireplace, the window, and the door. I saw a sharp stone, walked over to it, and cut my bonds. Suddenly, there was a knock. I turned to see Soon-Yi.
"Master Chen sent me with these." She held up what appeared to a cotton tunic and skirt. "And to bring you food. It's not much, but it's food." Soon-Yi handed me some bread and jerked beef, along with a cup of icy water.
"Thanks," I said, taking the offered things. "What is going around here? Who is this Chen guy and what right does he have to enslave people?"
"One, always refer to him as Master Chen, or just plain Master," Soon-Yi told me. "He grew up in a family that still harbored the old 'prisoners-of-war become servants' thing. When left home, he set up a secret hideaway and captured anyone who trespassed in the forest. No one ever escapes here, try as they might. Any who try are killed instantly."
"So, I'm stuck here until Aang and Sokka find me?" I muttered. Soon-Yi paid no attention to me.
"You're lucky; you have a single room so far. Some here have three people in a one-person room. The next person Master Chen captures will more than likely be stuck here with you, so enjoy it while you can. I need to get back to the Infirmary. See you later."
It was several hours after her departure that the realization that I was, at the moment, slave to some man with ego problems hit. Sitting down on the cot, I held my head in my hands and began to cry inconsolably.
There, my first chapter to "Prisoners of Fate". I wanted to call it "Prisoners of Love", but that title was taken! Grrr... Oh well. Yes, this will be Zutara. (You have to ask?)