Shattering Ice

Chapter One

By DamageCtrl

All Standard Disclaimers Apply: I do not own A:TLA or anything associated with it.

Sapphire eyes watched steadfastly as the small canoe slowly disappeared into the icy mist beyond the frozen shores of the South Pole. She could barely see Sokka's silhouette as he maneuvered the craft between the chunks of frozen ice. Katara's tightly braided brown hair now seemed to melt into her blue overcoat.

The old woman lifted her hand over her chest and whispered a silent prayer to gods she had long stopped praying to for their safety. As her precious grandchildren vanished from her gaze, Gran-Gran stepped back and began to walk back to their tribe.

The snow crunched beneath her feet with each small step she took. It was necessary, she thought to herself. The children, especially her granddaughter, had to see the world. They had to experience life outside their tiny tribe.

"You let them go?" a confused voice asked as she entered through the break in the wall that surrounded the few tents and ice structures.

"Of course," the old woman rasped out as she walked passed one of the tribeswomen. "There is a world beyond our icy walls, beyond the frozen plains of our pole that they must see."

"But the Fire Nation!" another woman gasped. "Grandmother Kana, they could be killed!"

"You saw what those Fire Nation men did when they arrived!" another woman agreed, exasperated, as she pointed to the crumbled remains of their wall.

"I know that they did not kill anyone. I know that they could've done more," Gran-Gran stopped before the entrance to her tent. She slowly turned around and looked at the dozen or so pairs of blue eyes that settled on her. "And I know that they kept their word and left once they took the boy."

"They just don't see us as a threat," another woman spat out as she crossed her arms and looked away. "That's why they left us alone."

"Or somewhere, even the Fire Nation still has honor," the old woman told them. "You have never left this village. You are ignorant of the world outside and it is that ignorance that would've consumed my grandson had he not left."

"And Katara?" someone else asked. "Katara is only fourteen…not even fifteen yet, Grandmother Kana. She's too young to leave like that!"

"The world will teach Katara things I could not," Gran-Gran admitted sternly. "She would never be content to stand by helplessly and even if I did not let her go, I could not stop her if she wished to go."

"But why? Why did you let them go?"

For a moment, the oldest woman in the tribe went silent. Her old, crinkled eyes slowly went across the tiny village; a far cry from when she had first arrived to the shores of a glorious frozen civilization. She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. The cold, salt-laden air filled her lungs; the same air she had first inhaled when the last Water Tribe trade ship from the Earth Kingdom docked just an arm's length away where she now stood.

Blue eyes opened and for just a second, she could see the houses built of ice, the towering walls, the curved bridges and sprawling market place. She could see the man she married laughing with the same smile Hakoda and Sokka both inherited. And almost as soon as she saw it, it faded away.

"Grandmother Kana?" a voice asked, bringing her attention back to the present.

The old woman looked at the circle of women around her and the children that had gathered around their legs. "To let them go and live their lives to their fullest, without any regret, is the best I could ever give them. I will not hold them back from the world…I believe there is something more for them beyond our village."

Before anyone else could say anything more, the old woman turned around and slipped silently into her tent. Without Katara by the old clay stove, blowing into the glowing embers to encourage the fire, and Sokka in his corner, filling the tent with the sounds of sharpening stone against metal, the small tent seemed large and empty.

Carefully, she walled around the floor lined with animal pelts. She made her way to her sleeping area and slowly sat down. A small fire in the center of the tent warmed the tent as the old woman shuffled through her belongings and finally pulled out an old leather bag.

Knotted and wrinkled brown hands began to untie the latch with the utmost care. How long had it been since she last opened the bag? The draw string was pulled open and revealed a thin, worn, blue cloth. Old eyes crinkled more at the sight. Shaking hands slowly pulled out the cloth.

The old overcoat fell on her lap. Its former deep blue had been faded with time, just like her eyes. Her hand slowly caressed the nearly bare threads as it ran over the material. The once deep blue color was unique to the Northern Water Tribe. Thin lips pursed. Perhaps her grandchildren would see her home tribe…and everything she left behind. Her eyes closed.

Then Katara could learn waterbending and become the master Kana always knew she would be. After all, it had been years. Perhaps, things had changed.

Kana opened her eyes and looked back down at the worn article of clothing. She could still remember the first time she saw that coat…and the man who had bought it for her one cold winter night.

Northern Water Tribe, Many, Many, Many Years Earlier…

"Hmm…" Full pink lips pulled into a tight line as deep blue eyes narrowed critically. Sure, it was a nice color and style, but was it worth the price they were charging? It's a little steep…

Brown hands that tapered off into neatly trimmed nails were hidden beneath thick, warm cloves as she adjusted the basket of vegetables and fish against her hip in front of a shop window. The cloth was a vibrant shade of blue. It stood out from all the other shades immediately and was what caught her eye in the first place.

For a moment, she had fantasized buying the high quality piece, but after finding out the price, she knew it was currently beyond her grasp. Perhaps next month, after she earned some money helping at her father's booth in the market place, she could afford it. If it was still there when she returned. Her reflection in the window looked defeated as the white fur that lined the edge of her hood framed her face. Only part of her hair loopies could be seen pressed against her cheeks.

A heavy sigh escaped her lips and she forced herself to turn away from her dream coat. Her family wasn't exactly wealthy and even if they were, she doubted her father would just allow her spend without a care in the world. She was raised to work hard for her things. She supposed that was fine. It did mean she'd appreciate it more.

She looked over her shoulder longingly at the coat. And she would definitely appreciate that piece. No, not now...focus, Kana, focus! She told herself sternly. She stood up straight and readjusted the woven, leather lined basket of groceries she had purchased on her way home from her father's booth.

Her father and his brothers were fishermen, her father being the youngest of five brothers. With her older female cousins married off and older male cousins also out fishing, she was left with her uncle's wife to man their booth in the market place. Her aunt had told her go home early to cook dinner.

News had reached them that her mother, the midwife of their neighborhood, had to rush over to someone's house for a birthing. Kana thanked her aunt and then rushed off to gather some fresh food to cook. With some time left over, she had decided to do a little window shopping before heading home.

"Kana!" Somewhere inside, Kana groaned. Perhaps it was a bad idea to window shop. She should've gone straight home. Her father would be hungry when he got back from fishing with his brothers. "Kana!" And she would not be currently under the gaze of her best friend.

"Yugoda…" Kana trailed off. She knew that glint in the other fifteen year old's eyes. That eager, earnest look that meant she was going to drag Kana off somewhere.

"Kana! Kana, are you busy?" the young woman stumbled to a stop in front of her best friend.

"I just finished some grocery shopping," Kana said, lifting up her basket. "Did you just get out of class?"

"Yes!" Yugoda said energetically. Kana smiled softly. Her friend was so cute. Short and petite with a big smile. If Kana was a betting woman, she would have to say that Yugoda would get married first, regardless of the fact that Kana was three months older.

"Great, so what are you up to now?" Kana took a step forward, hinting that she would like to get going, but Yugoda grabbed on to her free arm.

"Getting you!"

"What?" She should've known.

Yugoda beamed her wide smile. "Getting you," she told her cheerfully. "Ever since you started working full time at the market, we hardly ever get to see you any more."

"Well, we're all busy now," Kana reminded her. Almost all her childhood playmates were waterbenders and attended school in the day time to harness and master their abilities. Like her non-bending friends, she had taken up a job in the market. "It's understandable."

"But we miss you," Yugoda sighed heavily. She tugged on Kana's arm and pulled her forward. "Come on, let's go!"

The taller brunette's eyebrows furrowed. "Go where, exactly?"

"To the lodge!" Yugoda beamed.

"The lodge? What…" Kana's eyes drifted from her friend and up the tiers of their city to the structure at the very top. It suddenly seemed far away from where they were currently standing. "Yugoda, I don't have time to go up there! I need to go home!"

"Just for a second!"

"Let's see…we have to walk all the way up there…just so I can stay for a second? Not worth it."

"Please!?" Yugoda pleaded. She tugged on Kana's arm. "Come on, Kana, we hardly ever get to see you know a days. We've even seen the twins more and they're working in the eastern market. I even ran all the way here to get you…"

Guilt gnawed at the older female. Yugoda had a point. She had been neglecting her friends recently. She carefully readjusted her basket as she thought. "Okay, fine," Kana relented. Yugoda gave a happy squeal. "Just for a second, though! I need to get back. Mom is at a birthing and won't be home to make dinner, so I have to do it."

"Great! I told the others I'd come get you," Yugoda said. She looped her arm around Kana's free one and began to lead her up to the lodge. "We've all been so busy lately, we should get together more. We have less than a year before we're eligible to be married."

Kana sighed heavily. "Don't remind me," she said tiredly. "My uncles have already begun the so called 'search' and my cousins' husbands all have brothers who are apparently interested."

"They always say that, Kana," Yugoda assured her. "I'm sure it's not as bad as you think. I mean…if your cousin Sedna's brother-in-laws are as handsome as her husband, you won't have to worry about a thing."

Kana crinkled up her nose. "Sedna's husband and all his brothers are nothing but a bunch of little perverts. Handsome or not, I won't put up with a man who has a thing for Earth Kingdom women's underwear."

"Really?" Yugoda's eyes widened and Kana nodded. "That's expensive…does Sedna mind?"

"Who said Sedna's the one wearing them?" Yugoda's eyes doubled in size. "Yeah, I know…Don't tell anyone I told you, though," Yugoda nodded and they walked up the steps to the lodge. "So, what are we going to be doing? I can't stay long, you know."

"We're going to watch the boys bend," Almost instantly, Kana turned around and headed down the steps. Yugoda's arm flew out and grabbed on to Kana's hand before she managed to get too far away. "You're almost there! You can't leave now!"

"I knew there was something fishy about this," Kana frowned as her eyes narrowed. "I'm going to take part in that sea cow parade up at the lodge!"

"It's not a parade!" Yugoda whimpered. Kana was basically correct. The plaza in front of the lodge was where the older male waterbending students practiced. After the girls would get out of class, they would often go there to watch.

When they were little, Kana and Yugoda used to tag along with Yugoda's older sister and Kana's older cousins. Oh, how Kana had wished she could do what those boys did. It always seemed so much more fun than Yugoda's healing. However, girls weren't allowed to learn other techniques. Not that she could. She wasn't even a bender.

When she realized that girls couldn't participate with the boys, she no longer found any reason for her to stay and watch. It was only a punishment, she figured, having to watch something she could never do. Besides, there were more important things. Like dinner and… Her mind drew a blank. Oh, spirits, her life was boring.

"Yugoda! Kana! Up here!" another voice shouted. Kana looked up and saw the half dozen girls standing to the side waving enthusiastically at her. "You made it!"

Yugoda looked back at Kana. "See? Everyone waited for you."

A heavy sigh escaped the non-bender and she nodded. "Okay, fine…" She tugged her basket closer to her and stomped up the rest of the stairs. Yugoda smiled triumphantly as she led her to where their friends were.

"Kana!" Several girls threw their arms around the newcomer as they brought her into their little circle.

"She almost didn't come," Yugoda told them. "She has to go home, soon, though. Dinner."

"Good job, Yugoda," another girl said as she slung her arm around her shorter friend. "Kana can never say no to you."

Yugoda chuckled. "It's the skill of a best friend."

"Right, right…" Kana sighed. She was pulled forward and stood amongst her childhood friends by the edge of the area. All around the plaza framed by totem poles, were young women and children.

A dozen or so young men were inside the area, all showing off their bending to their audience. "So...anything interesting?" Yugoda asked as she peered into the crowds. She could recognize a few other waterbenders and waved.

"Nothing yet," one of their friends said, disappointedly. "Pakku hasn't even come out yet."

Yugoda frowned. "Aww…"

Kana sighed. Her basket was getting a bit heavy. "Guys, I really should be going home. My dad's going to come home and-"

"Just want until you see him, Kana," another girl assured her as she squeezed Kana's hand reassuringly. "He's the best waterbender of the lot!"

"I'm sure he is, but-"

"There he is!" a girl's voice rang through the plaza and, instantly, a series of yelling and shouting filled the area. All at once, the crowd that had surrounded the area pressed forward and Kana let out a yelp.

"Hey! Watch where you're pushing!" Kana clutched her basket closer to her as she was pushed forward along with her friends. "Yugoda!"

"There he is Kana!" her friend said as she pulled Kana beside her. She pointed to the tall figure walking out of the lodge with an older man.

Kana raised an eyebrow and glanced down at her friend. "Master Sae Kung?" He was the advanced boys' waterbending master.

"No," Yugoda sighed heavily. "The one next to him!"

"The tall, cute one with the dark brown hair." A friend grinned cheesily on Kana's other side. Kana rolled her eyes focused on the figure as he walked down the steps along side Master Sae Kung.

Dark brown hair was pulled back and tied to keep out of his face as the young man dressed in deep blues smirked. Kana narrowed her eyes as she studied him critically. That shade of blue dye was expensive.

"…the son of councilman Siku and his wife." She heard someone behind her say.

So, he was a little rich boy. Now it made sense. "Okay, I've seen him," Kana said as she tried to tug her arm away from Yugoda. "Can I go now?"

"You have to see him bend! He's at the top of his class." Yugoda insisted.

Kana looked back, past the crowds. The sun was setting and she mentally swore. Her father would be returning from the sea soon and she hadn't even started cooking yet.

From the stairs, Pakku spoke to his waterbending 'master' casually. He blissfully ignored the irritated look on the older man's face as they walked down the steps. "And that is why your octopus form was off today, Master Sae Kung."

"Yes…" the older man gritted his teeth. "Thank you for pointing that out, pupil Pakku."

"Even masters make mistakes, sir." Pakku told him. As they reached the bottom of the stairs, the loud voices surrounding the plaza could be heard. The young waterbender came a stop and grinned.

"Looks like you have a crowd, pupil Pakku," Master Sae Kung mused, somewhat annoyed. The crowds had doubled since the Siku's prodigal son made his debut under him. Before that, Pakku had been home taught by his father, another waterbending master. "You seem very popular."

A haughty smirk tugged at Pakku's lips. "Can you really blame them?"

Yes, I can. "At any rate, as a student here, please make sure that the crowd disperses without any trouble," the master said as he swiftly walked passed his student. "I will see you tomorrow morning."

"Have a good night, Master Sae Kung." Pakku gave a respectful bow and waited until the old bender slipped through the crowd and headed down the second set of stairs to the city below.

"Pakku!" another male voice shouted behind him. "Are you going to stand there all day or are you going to show your admirers why exactly they showed up?" the voice laughed amiably.

Pakku grinned and turned around to face his class mate. "Gladly."

Back in the crowds, Kana half heartedly watched the confident young man show off his skills against three waterbenders his age. He was obviously the best of the group and was not shy about it. Grumbling, Kana turned around and frowned.

Her way out had been blocked off by a rather large group of female admirers. Wonderful. She was about squeeze her way through and escape while her friends were distracted, when a voice caught her attention. She stopped in midstep and lowered her head dejectedly.

"What do you think, Kana?" one of her friends asked. "Amazing, isn't he? He's been training under his father privately for years."

"They're from the north side," another friend informed her. A content sigh escaped her lips as dreamy eyes focused on Pakku. "The eldest son of his family, too."

"Good for him," Kana sighed. "Okay, I've been here for several minutes now. By the time I get home, it'll be dark."

"If you're going to be late anyway, you might as well stay with us." Yugoda suggested.

"No," It was a firm and steady reply. "I have to get home. Come by the booth one day and visit me."

"Can you come tomorrow?" another friend asked. "We'll hunt down the twins. I'm sure they'd love to see this!"

Kana let out another heavy breath. Did the not understand what she was trying to say? "I can't come back tomorrow! You know I have more important things to do than watch some spoiled rich boy show off!"

"Spoiled rich boy?" The crowds had suddenly gone silent and Kana could feel eyes plastered upon her back. Beside her, she could see the wide, surprised eyes of her friends as they fixed themselves on the figure standing behind her. A small, mocking laugh sounded behind her. "I'm sure you're not talking about me."

Kana lowered her head and mentally cursed her luck. So much for sneaking away unnoticed, and getting back home. Gripping her basket against her, she turned around and slowly brought her eyes up.

High quality black boots. Brand new dark blue pants. Brand new dark blue over coat rimmed with…was that artic weasel fur? She blinked and shook her head. No time to get distracted by the inviting, fluffy white fur. She lifted her head up and met the half-amused, half-smirking look on his self assured face.

Pakku kept the look of sheer confidence on him as he watched the drab blue clad girl turn around and face him. Big, deep blue eyes were narrowed into annoyed slits as she lifted her hooded head to meet his gaze defiantly. Her heart shaped, brown face was framed by the white fur that lined her hood. He could barely make out the small tuffs of brown hair escaping it.

"Well, unless Anyu over there suddenly struck it rich," Kana said, lifting her chin to acknowledge one of the young men the new guy had been showing off against. "Then, yeah, I am talking about you. Spoiled rich boy. All you're doing is showing off. The only reason you're so good at bending is because you have time to practice."

Ice blue eyes narrowed. "In order to become a master bender, one must practice," Pakku retorted. "That is a given. I thought even children can figure that out."

"And the reason you have so much time to practice is because, unlike the rest of us, you don't have the responsibilities of helping your family or work," Kana replied sharply. "So your father spent a lot of time teaching you. That only means you had a lot of leisure time. It's not like you had chores or anything. You didn't have to work as hard as everyone else here to control your bending."

"She does make a good point…" another male bender mumbled. Pakku looked over his shoulder and shot him a glare.

"So, I'm apparently unworthy because my family can afford to spend time teaching me?" Pakku asked, annoyed. "I'm sorry if I was given an advantage." He grumbled sarcastically.

Kana merely lifted her nose at him and turned back around. She didn't have time to deal with him. She had food to cook. "Yugoda, guys, I'm heading home. I'll see you some other time."

She took two steps when a male voice reached her. "You can think whatever you want," Pakku's mocking voice sounded. "But in five years, I'll be the next waterbending master and you…you'll be just another woman gutting fish for her husband in the market place."

Kana's jaw locked. Her fingers dug into the basket in front of her and she whirled around. A deadly gleam was in her eye as she stomped forward. She shoved her basket in Yugoda's arms as she passed.

"I'm sorry," she hissed in a low voice as she stood inches from Pakku's taller figure. "If you think that there is something wrong with working hard for a living. But I would rather be another woman gutting fish for some faceless husband in the market place than be the poor, sad woman who will have to put up with you for the rest of her life!"

She heard him take in a sharp gasp as she whirled around. Kana snatched the basket from Yugoda and stormed down the stairs. As her friends called after her, Pakku stood rooted in his spot, his eyes wide.

"Did…did she just say that…?" he began to mumble. His face twisted into a scowl. She had just insulted him! "How dare she!?"

Behind him, the other male students began to try to appease the crowd and take attention from the shocked and now furious waterbender.

"Pakku," Anyu placed his hand on the other bender's shoulders and shook his head. "I didn't know you were so sensitive over what someone says about you."

The young man let out a scoff and twisted his shoulder away from the other man's hand. "Hardly," Pakku stated coolly. He ran one gloved hand through his hair and turned back to his peers. As he lifted up his hands, and bended up a ball of snow with ease, he mocked the very idea. "What would I care about the opinion of some temperamental girl who can't even bend?"

Kana fell against her door as she panted and fumbled with the door knob. She had made it half way down the stairs from the lodge as dignified as she could, then took off running. She had taken every short cut she knew of as she wove through the city, trying to get to her house before her father.

As she dashed passed the docks, she could see the boat her father and uncles were on and mentally groaned. She had pulled all her strength together to make it to their house before her father made it back. As soon as the door opened, she stumbled through and ran up the stairs to their flat. Their house was right by the far edge of the southern docks. Further down was were the trade ships from other countries docked. Smaller fishing vessels docked closer to where they lived.

That would prove a problem considering it wouldn't take her father long to return.

Kana burst through the door and practically threw her basket of groceries into the kitchen as she made a beeline for her bedroom. Tugging off her sweater, she quickly changed into thinner house clothes and headed for the kitchen.

By the time the door opened and her tired father came through, she was half way through cooking dinner. As she lifted a spoon to her lips, her father's head peeked from behind the wall to the kitchen and smiled widely. "I thought I smelled something good."

"Hi, dad," Kana beamed him a smile as she shoved down the guilt. "Catch anything good today?"

"You'll have quite a time at the market with today's catch in the morning, Kana," the man said as he walked in and looked over his daughter's shoulders. "Trying for sea prunes again?" He placed his hands on his stomach and pretended it hurt. "I don't know if I can survive another batch."

"Mom said it was good," Kana retorted proudly. "She liked it."

Her father laughed and patted her on the shoulder as he passed. "Once you're finished, pack some for her. I'll go drop it off at Hey's house."

Kana perked up. "You know Mom's there?"

"Your Aunt Nauja met us at the dock," the man told her. "I had stopped by there on the way home and Akna has her hands full." Kana's smile faltered.

"Is the birthing going okay…?" she asked solemnly.

Her father lowered his eyes. "We don't know…let's just pray to the spirits that it will be a successful birth," Kana nodded and returned to her pot. "I'm going to rest a bit before I head out."

"I'll call you for dinner, dad."

"I'll eat when I come back from the meeting." he said from the open area. Kana looked over her shoulder and frowned.

"What meeting?"

"Chief Sura has called a meeting…" he trailed off, unsure how to explain it to his daughter. "It's a serious topic and will affect trade."

Kana's eyebrows furrowed. "I see…"

"I'll tell you about it when I get back," he assured her. "Don't worry too much, Kana. I'm sure the fish trade will be fine."

Kana nodded and gave her father a smile. "If you say so dad…" she let out a sigh and stirred her pot. "Looks like I'm on my own tonight…"

"If you need anything, your cousin Chu is next door."

"I know, I know…" Kana rolled her eyes. "I'm fifteen, Dad. I can stay a few hours by myself at home. I do it all the time."

The man chuckled and stretched out on one of the cushions. "Tomorrow, you'll need to get up early. Your aunt will need help setting up at the market."

"Get up early," Kana mentally nodded as she nodded and began packing a meal for her mother. "I got it."

"Pakku!" A petite woman stood at the door step to the frozen yard beyond their home. Her hands were clasped together in front of her as thick blue robes protected her from the cold. A soft frown reached her face as she watched her son repeat yet another move. "Pakku!"

"What is it, mother?" Pakku raised his arms and moved to the side as he concentrated on moving the snow around him into ice.

"It's late," the woman told him, exasperatedly. His thick over coat was folded neatly to the side. Sweat was dripping on his forehead from hours of concentrated practice. "You should get to bed soon."

"Let him practice, Sesi." a deep voice said from within the large house. She turned around and saw a tall, dark haired man approaching her. His dark blue outer wear was still on as he stood by her side and looked out at his son.

"Siku," Pakku's mother bowed her head respectfully. "Is the meeting over already?"

"For tonight, yes," Siku nodded. "However, tomorrow we'll have a council meeting with Chief Sura and the masters."

"It is dire times then, my husband…" Sesi whispered. She turned back to her son outside.

"Pakku!" Siku's strong voice cut through his son's concentration and the ball of snow Pakku had been controlling fell lifelessly to the ground.

The young man turned around immediately and faced his father with a quick bow of his head. "Yes, Father?"

"Tomorrow, I have a meeting with the council," he told him sternly. "I need you to go to the southern docks tomorrow and meet with some Earth Kingdom merchants. I am expecting a package for your sister's dowry and need you to pick it up."

Pakku bowed his head obediently once more. "Yes, Father."

"Early tomorrow morning." Siku stressed. He turned around and headed back into the house. The woman at his side looked back at her son and smiled warmly.

"Get some rest, Pakku."

The young man nodded and returned her smile with a small one of his own. "I will, Mother." He watched as both parents disappeared into the house before he returned to his practice.

His hands rose and so did the snow he had dropped earlier.

Spoiled rich boy.

Pakku gritted this teeth. Her defying, stubborn voice had plagued him since she left. What was her problem, anyway? He didn't even know who she was, how dare she judge him.

His body twisted to the side, bending the snow with him as he did so. What was wrong with being rich? So his father, the greatest waterbender in the city, just happened to teach him himself. What was wrong with that? He was lucky to have enough time to spend on his bending.

Didn't work for it? Of course he worked for it! It just wasn't the kind of work she thought it was. Just because he didn't spend his other time toiling over a stove or freezing his nose off over the water fishing, didn't mean he didn't work at mastering his bending.

If anything, he worked harder than all those other students. Didn't they realize what he had to live up to? His father, his grandfather, all his forefathers had been master waterbenders. There wasn't a man in his family who didn't marry a waterbending wife just to ensure waterbending progeny. He had a lineage to uphold.

He had been striving since he first bended, to live up to the reputation his family had come to attain through the generations. Just because she didn't understand that didn't mean she could immediately categorize him as some spoiled rich boy. So what if he never went hunting or gone fishing? He had to bend.

The snow fell to the ground and Pakku stared at the pile. His chest rose and fell with each ragged breath as he narrowed his eyes. So what if he didn't know how to do much else? He turned around and looked past the yard and down the tiers of the eastern part of the city at the glowing city before him.

His family's wealth and status didn't come from hunting or fishing. It came from bending. So what did it matter if he didn't know how to do other things? He knew what mattered.

"So what…" Pakku repeated to himself quietly as frowned and gritted his teeth. So what if she's right?

She could smell the salty sea air drifting into her cold room and rolled over on her bed. She tugged the thick fur blankets up to her head and groaned.

Get up early…

Her father's voice echoed in her head and she immediately sat up. Long brown hair that had neatly been in a braid when she went to sleep, was now a loosely coiled mess with a good handful of hair escaping around her. Her hands rose and rubbed her half-asleep eyes before reaching up and unbraiding her tangle of hair.

She ran her fingers through it a few times before letting out a heavy breath and making a mental list of what she had to do that day. It was a lot. She wrapped her arms around herself and looked over at the window by her bedside. The morning sun was about to break in the horizon.

Her father was probably already out at sea with his brothers. She wondered if her mother had finally returned home from the birthing. Silently, she hoped it went well. Kana reached over and grabbed her robe. She still had to practice her flute for the festival at the beginning of the new moon before she went to the market. She would join her cousins in performing in their neighborhood as they did every year.

Kana crawled over to the edge of her bed and sat beside the window. In the distance, she could see the ships docking in their spaces, waiting for the day to begin. Sighing tiredly, she folded her arms across her window sill and gazed out at the ocean beyond their gates in the distance. Her arms rose and pushed the windows open.

Years ago, when she would go to the market with her mother, she would awe at the different items the traders from other countries brought. She would hear the stories of the Earth Kingdom and wondered what would it be like to be in a place where the season was a perpetual springtime? Just like in the scrolls they sold.

A wry smile graced her face. One day…when she was older. She would go aboard a ship, not just to play with one of the Earth Kingdom children she had met, but to travel. She'd get to see what was out there; what was beyond the market and whatever future staying in the Northern Water Tribe would give her.

"The wife of a fisherman…" she mouthed quietly, remembering the words of the bender she had met the other day. "At least a fisherman can get me out of the city…"

Baring the cold, she slipped into her house boots and went to retrieve her instrument. As she examined the wooden instrument, she sat back on her bed and brought the flute up to her lips.

When his father said early, he had assumed before the break of dawn early. He was apparently wrong. The Earth Kingdom trading shops that were docked at the southern docks had yet to open and begin trading for the day.

Grumbling, Pakku scowled. Nothing was open yet. He couldn't even get something warm to drink. For what seemed like the tenth time, he began pacing the length of the docks impatiently. He still had to get up to the front of the lodge for morning bending lessons with Master Sae Kung.

He was halfway back down to where the ships were docked when he heard something break the empty silence of the morning. He paused in mid step and looked back over his shoulder. A wooden flute? This early in the morning?

He stopped completely and craned his neck to the sound of the high pitched melody. His mother played the flute quite well, he remembered, but whoever was playing now, as much as he hated to admit it, was better. Narrowing his eyes, he began to weave through the narrow inner streets and follow the sound.

With each step, the sound seemed to grow stronger…more powerful. Silently, Pakku slipped through the narrow alleys until he came to a street corner just a few feet away from the every edge of the docks.

He stood in his place and listened for the sound. He was close…it was right above him. His head was drawn upwards to the third story window of one of the houses…and he froze.

His hands unclasped at his sides as he watched long brown hair billow in the cold morning breeze. Soft pink lips were placed against the tip of a wooden flute as deep sapphire eyes calmly looked out to sea, far beyond the docks and ice walls. Slender fingers danced across the holes of the instruments with each note as free strands of hair danced around her soft face.

Pakku stood in his spot, mouth slightly agape as his eyes drank in the sight of the young woman sitting by the window, playing the flute. For a moment, he completely forgot about the chilling wind or the very reason he was there in the first place.

There was just him, her, and the sound of her flute. Slowly, his eyes drifted closed as he lost himself in the music. Each smooth sound filled his veins as he saw the young woman in front of him, playing for him and only him. She'd look at him with those blue eyes and he'd happily drown within them. He knew he would.

He didn't know how long he was standing there. He didn't even realize that she had stopped.

"Pakku!" a hand slammed on his shoulder and the bender's eyes flashed open. His body seemed to jump as the hand removed itself from his shoulder. "Are you all right?"

"What…?" The young man turned around and saw one of his fellow benders standing there looking at him with a raised eyebrow. "Anyu…what are you doing here?"

"I live in the area," Anyu said as he crossed his arms over his chest. He frowned and looked at the other pupil. "What are you doing here? This is a long way from the east side."

"Oh…" Pakku shook his head and rubbed his forehead. "My father sent me to the docks to pick up something from the Earth Kingdom merchants."

"Well, this isn't the trading docks." Anyu smirked.

"I'm aware of that," Pakku hissed. "I was just going for a walk and…" His voice trailed off and suppressed the urge to look back at the open window. His eyes narrowed and shot an annoyed glare at Anyu. "Why am I even wasting my time explaining it to you? I have an errand to run."

He brushed passed Anyu with a scowl and the other young man laughed. "See you in class then. I'll tell Master Sae Kung you'll be late!"

Pakku growled and whirled around to reassure his fellow student that he would not be late, only to find that Anyu was already jogging up the street. Pakku narrowed his eyes and frowned. He turned once more and paused as his eyes settled over the now vacant window.

A tinge of disappointment bubbled in his stomach. He would've liked to see her once more before he left. Pakku frowned and shook his head. He had to get back to the docks. With one last look at the window, he turned and jogged off.

Kana placed her flute back into its case and walked back across the room to her window. She reached out to close it and stopped. Her eyes immediately narrowed into guarded slits as she watched the dark blue-clad figure running into one of the streets across from her house.

The corner of her lip curled up distastefully as she grabbed the edges of her window and pulled it closed. Great… she thought to herself sarcastically as she closed the doors. She snorted and turned her head away. "Exactly what I want to see first thing in the morning…spoiled rich boy."

A.N. - Written as a prize for a little mini challenge I did on LJ. :)