AN: No ownie. More at the end.
A Meeting of Traditions
"There is no other choice, Highness," the elderly man with the receding hairline lamented. "We must honor the tradition and this child's destiny. If we do not, it could cause serious damage."
"But what of our own traditions?" another man—this one far younger—countered angrily. "This is not a woman's place. Are we to throw away our own norms of society just for one—"
"But she is not normal," the first man replied calmly and with all the wisdom afforded him by his age. "This is a special situation, and special situations tend to call for special measures. In this case, an exception. We knew this day would come, sooner or later, Highness. It comes now, and we must decide how to handle it."
Another man, clad in the robes of an attendant at the Water Temple, stepped forward. "We, the sages, have discussed this matter at length. We agree with Advisor Pu, Highness. An exception must be made for this child. This is a tradition that belongs to our whole world, and for the sake of our world we must honor that tradition above those of our own society and culture."
The ruler they were addressing, Shui, sat back and sighed. "I am not disagreeing with you on that count, Chuan," he said, speaking to the Temple sage. "I am not so blind as to think that our ways are the only ways. The dilemma then becomes how this is to be handled."
"We train her," Sage Chuan replied.
The younger advisor spoke again. "With the men and the boys?"
"At ease, Jiang," the elderly advisor, Pu, spoke. "She cannot know the full truth until she comes of age. This is a tradition as old as the cycle itself. So what reason are we to give for her training? We train her amidst the boys and the men—they will ask questions. Sooner or later the truth will come out, and it will reach her ears before she is ready for it. If we attempt to train her in secret, again, questions will be asked. I am confident that she will be an intelligent child, and thus will not take kindly to being brushed off."
Chief Shui spoke again, his expression thoughtful. "Could we wait until she comes of age to train her? When she is old enough to know the truth? That would make all of these issues irrelevant."
Sage Chuan spoke again. "On the surface, this idea seems plausible. But it is not plausible. She must learn and master the art before she comes of age. When the time comes for her to know the truth, she will begin training anew in fulfillment of her destiny. We cannot wait that long."
With a heavy sigh, Shui rose and crossed the Great Hall. "There is no easy answer. But we must decide soon, for the sake of the child and the world." He pushed open the doors and moved to the Palace entrance.
The chief, surrounded by his advisors and the representative of the Temple Sages, stood at the top of the palace steps and watched a young child sitting on the ground in the pavilion outside. Tended by a lone nurse, the child (a girl, barely past her third birthday) sat and played with four very old toys. She had chosen them out of thousands of toys, and refused any others.
They had been certain of her for a while, but her selection had placed the final seal on her destiny.
The little girl sat and played, blissfully unaware that she was to grow and become the one person who could keep the elements and the world they inhabited in perfect balance.
She was did not know that she to become the sole heir to all four elements and all four styles of Bending.
She had no way of knowing that she was the newest product of a cycle that had started at the beginning of time and would continue for as long as there were Benders to inherit it.
And she was innocently ignorant of the fact that at the moment, the Chief of the Northern Water Tribe and his advisors were at a complete loss for how to reconcile her duties and destiny with their own traditions regarding the art of Waterbending and a woman's place.
This was not going to be easy.
PS. This is an idea that's been eating at me for a long time, and the more I thought about it, the more complicated it got. Given how long the cycle has been going and the number of Avatars there have been, sooner or later a female Avatar must have been born into the Northern Water Tribe. So what would they do? I don't think this fic really answered that question, but it was sort of fun to write.
Thanks for reading, all! Much love!