Prologue

When this baby was born, the whole village celebrated. Another mouth to feed in the cold and icy tundra would be a hardship, but the new life was worth it. A girl-child, daughter of the chief of their tribe. She would be the wisdom behind her brother when his father died. She was to be the heart of the storm.

When this child was one, she was given her baby-name. She was called So, after her mother. And though her grandmother did not say a word, she cried in her heart for the childhood friend of the same name.

When So was two, she learnt to walk. She was the joy of the village, and their greatest fear. For what if, in her endless stumbles, she chanced upon a tiger-seal, or a hole in the ice? A wall was built around the village on that day; not high, not sturdy, but just enough to keep her safe.

When So was three, her brother turned five, and was taken hunting by the other men. Nothing was expected of him; he was there to watch and learn. Which was why the women were surprised when the men returned to the village late, but with a triumphant boy, carrying his first kill; a baby turtle-seal. He was given his tribe name then, and his manhood syllable. A new man to hunt for the tribe was welcomed. Sokka, son of Hakkoda.

When So turned four, she nearly drowned. She had been outside with her brother, admiring him as he showed her how to hold a spear and thrust with it. After a while, she had become bored and wandered away. She would have drowned if Yuona had not spotted her discarded parka in the snow, and the hole in the ice where she had decided to swim, not knowing that the water could freeze over again in minutes, and the cold would steal the breath from her small body. The wall around the village was rebuilt taller, and with a small watchtower (at her brother's insistence).

When So turned five, her children's clothes were put away for the next baby, and she was given a new name Ka- for her mother and Ta- for her wisdom, and early knowledge of death.

When Kata was six, she earned her last syllable, and was welcomed as a woman. This, like her brother before her, is a surprise. Whilst washing clothes; a tricky enterprise in this cold weather, she finds she can freeze and unfreeze the water with a single breath. She is now Katara, daughter of Sora and Hakkoda. This is the day that her mother gives her the necklace she has always worn, passing it on to her as her mother did for her.

When Katara is seven, a dark cloud gathers on the horizon and black snow begins to fall over the village. On this day, Katara watches her mother die at the hand of a skull-faced warrior. She runs from the relative safety of the collapsed tent, ignoring her brother's cry of "Katara, don't!" She falls in the snow as a blast of fire hits her shoulder. When the warriors have gone, and the remnants of the village begin collecting the dead, they cannot find her body. Sokka has hope that she is still alive; his father knows better.

When Katara should have turned eight, her brother gives up hope. His father performs the ceremony to allow La and Tui to guide her through the spirit world, and they give her clothes and toys to the ocean. Afterwards, Sokka sits in the igloo and finally allows his tears to fall. On this day, Sokka vows he will not fail again, because he cannot stand to lose the ones he loves.