Chapter 7: The Children Wept
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender. If I did Mai and Ty Lee would have more than two lines every other episode. I mean really, Mai was only in like four fights during season two and Ty Lee has only been seen like once during season three.
Author's Note: Sorry it took so long to get this out. This chapter will not contain my signature violence, but I think it is a fitting closing that you will all appreciate.
Aang, Katara, and Sokka were mentally and physically exhausted. What they had been forced to witness, and to do, had left their minds in a daze. The knowledge that they were the ones that had released that monster, for Kaku must be a monster and not another human being to do what he did, weighed heavily on them.
They hurried through the fort as fast as they could. The fort was slowly collapsing around them. The destruction of the pillars and the ground floor that had been the ceiling in the dungeon had weakened the structures integrity. The fort had been made to protect from attacks on the outside, not the inside. The metal that made up the interior was thin and relatively weak. With the foundation ruined, the fort was collapsing in on itself.
Soldiers were scrambling out of the fort. They did not know what had happened. They new that they were on high alert and that the building they called home was falling in on their heads. Many of them were new recruits that did not even know the truth of the monster that had been imprisoned below their feet.
The three children wormed their way through the corridors. Jumping around corners to avoid being spotted by the fleeing soldiers helped to keep their minds from focusing on the horror they had been apart of. Their minds focused in on only one thought, escape. As pieces of the ceiling fell around them and the floor started to crumble, they finally spotted the exit ahead.
They could see that the soldiers were gathered in the courtyard. Some were watching the building crumble while others looked towards the defensive wall thinking that they were under attack. It was not a large force. The small garrison was a simple outpost that did not need more than sixty men. With all of the soldiers that Kaku had slaughtered, the number of soldiers was a fraction of what there should have been. The few officers were moving through the ranks cajoling and rallying the men into formation.
As they stood in the shadows of the doorway, Aang took out the bison whistle and gave it a hard blow. The sound, so high-pitched that no human could hear it, traveled through the air and out into the woods where Appa was waiting for them. It was only a minute before the sky bison had reached the fort. Few of the soldiers were watching the night sky so it was a great shock when the massive beast landed in the courtyard.
The three children made a mad dash for their beloved ride before the shock of Appa's appearance wore off on the soldiers. They had just climbed aboard as the officers started shouting attack orders. With a powerful slap of his tale, Appa launched into the air. The winds of his ascent buffeted some of the soldiers and knocked them from their feet. A few of the firebenders thought to launch a volley of flames at the retreating sky bison and his passengers. A simple evasive maneuver took Appa out of the flames' path and up into the safety of the night sky.
They were content to just let Appa choose their course; they were too exhausted to think about something that at the moment seemed so trivial. Momo sensed Aang's troubled mind and scurried over to him. Aang picked the lemur up and held him tight to him. Momo looked at the young monk unable to comprehend his inner turmoil, but willing act as a security blanket. Sokka sat solemnly watching the other two. It was Katara that finally broke the silence. The sound of her sobs quickly drew the attention of the two boys.
"We're horrible. All of those people are dead because of us!" Katara sobbed as she drew her knees up to her.
"Katara…we…" Aang started as he reached over to her, but realized that he did not have anything comforting to say. His head dropped, "You're right, we're murders."
"No! We are not murders," Sokka told them both sternly as he rose up onto his knees. "We didn't kill them, Kaku did. Besides, they were just Fire Nation soldiers."
"Sokka, how can you say something like that?" Katara asked as she looked up at him. "They were people. They were someone's family and now they are gone because of us."
"Just like our family is gone because of the Fire Nation," Sokka spat. He watched as Katara recoiled at his outburst. He knew he should feel some sort of guilt, but at the moment he found himself filled with nothing, but rage.
"Sokka, don't act like that," Aang said as he looked up at his friend. Tears were starting to stream down his own face. "Kaku didn't murder all of those people because they were Fire Nation. He did it because he wanted to."
"That's my point. Kaku killed them, not us," Sokka said in an exasperated voice, "He is responsible, not us."
"Maybe he did it, but we're the ones that let him loose. I'm the Avatar, I should have been able to do something to stop him before he killed all of those people. I wanted a waterbending master so I would be closer to making up for failing to stop the Fire Nation, but look what happened. This is just more people that I have failed," Aang said, his voice coming out a whisper.
"Aang…" Katara said lightly as she raised her own head to look at him. She knew that it always weighed heavily on him whenever he felt that he had failed someone. She reached a tentative arm over to him as she tried to calm her own crying and console him, "You did everything you could, we all did. Just watching what he did, it made my whole body to freeze up."
"She's right Aang. Kaku was a monster. Using blood like that is something only an inhuman monster could do that," Sokka said. He regretted his words, though, as soon as he saw Katara's reaction. He watched her face go pale and her hold body stiffen like she had just been shocked. It was then that he remembered that she had used bloodbending to save Aang.
"I-I'm a monster…" she said weakly.
"No, you're not a monster Katara," Aang said, his own misery pushed to the back of his mind.
"But I used bloodbending just like Kaku," Katara said as tears again flowed down her cheek. "I used it to try and kill him."
"Katara, Aang would have been killed if you hadn't done that," Sokka said at the verge of yelling. "Katara, you are not a monster and Aang, you are not responsible for what happened. I'm the one that found out about the prison. It was my idea to go in. I'm the one that didn't find out why Kaku was there. I'm the one that set him free, so I'm the one that is responsible for everything that happened and everyone that died."
Katara moved to comfort her brother as she realized the truth of his anger, but saw that he wanted to be left alone. That was the way he dealt with pain. The way he though a man should deal with it.
So the three of them sat there quietly. Aang held Momo in his lap and slowly petted him. He tried not to think about how people kept suffering for his failures and selfishness. Katara quietly cried to herself. She thought about how horrible all of those men's deaths were and how she was as much a monster as Kaku. Sokka tried to hold onto his rage and tell himself that it did not mater, that they were Fire Nation soldiers. However, he knew that was wrong and as the strength of his anger burned away, it was replaced with a knowing guilt that he was responsible for what happened. All three children, and truly at this moment they were children in a frightening, adult world, fell asleep with tears on their cheeks and dreamed nightmares that were tinged with crimson.
End Note: Well, there is the completion of my first multi-chapter story. I have enjoyed writing this and I think that it has turned out wonderfully.I would like to thank all of you that read this to the end. I have put a lot of work into this story and I am pleased that you have all enjoyed it so much.
Creation Note: This was a pretty tricky story to write at certain points. The first two chapters were largely set up, though they seemed to receive good reviews. In the third chapter I had a lot of fun introducing Kaku. He is the first OC I have really done. His appearance, personality, nick name and how he was introduced were roughly based off of my favorite Fullmetal Alchemist character, Kimblee: the Crimson Alchemist. I had trouble figuring out what the prison looked like. I wanted it to have pillars and a stairway. I wish I had though more about it when I was writing the first two chapters. I also had to go back and make some edits to it when I put out the fourth chapter. Now the forth chapter was what this was all about. I think that it was easily some of my best writing. The fifth chapter turned out pretty short, but was mainly just to explain why Aang, Katara, and Sokka had not acted. The sixth chapter was the longest chapter I have ever written. I kind of wish I had broken it up some more and added some more details, but I was tired and hurrying. I had even planned a big bloodbending battle. Still, I think it was pretty good. I might go back and add some more. There would be a note on my profile if I do. The seventh and final chapter was meant to be a closing epilogue. I had known how it was going to end from the beginning, especially Sokka. Still, coming up with the actual dialogue was pretty tricky. In the end, I am very happy with it and I hope that you are too. Let me know what you think and leave a review.
Spin-offs: I plan to write a prequel to this about Kaku and his past. I am also considering an alternate ending to this story where Katara accepts Kaku as a teacher. Let me know what you think.