DISCLAIMER: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender, nor am I in any way affiliated with Michael Dante DiMartino or Bryan Konietzko. This story is purely fan-made.
OTHER DISCLAIMER: All lyrics included in this fanfiction solely belong to the credited artist and, sadly, not myself.
I can't feel my senses, I just feel the cold. All colors seem to fade away...I can't reach my soul.
- Frozen by Within Temptation
Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an Airbender named Aang. Together with Aang we travelled the world, helping him master the elements and fulfil his destiny to defeat the Fire Lord. Finally, the epic battle arrived and, together with our allies, we fought the Fire Nation. But it wasnt enough. Soon into the battle, the Fire Lord and his children delivered a devastating strike, which, alongside destroying part of the palace, killed Aang and most of our allies. The survivors barely escaped. Now, two years on, the Fire Lord is deteriorating in health and the Water Tribes and Earth Kingdom are slowly planning another invasion. But I've lost hope. Without the Avatar, we cannot win this war.
Katara lay on her bed, not really taking in the icy ceiling above her or the biting cold that encased the room. In a couple of months, it would be the second anniversary of Aang's death. It was odd, looking back, to see how much had changed since their spectacular failure at the Fire Nation. The battle itself and the weeks that followed were a blur; all Katara remembered was the Fire Nation Royal Family's lightning combining and the heat and blinding light it emitted when it exploded outwards. Everyone in the vicinity had been hurled backwards into the marble pillars and hard stone walls. Fire Lord Ozai, Azula and Zuko had recovered much quicker than their enemies and continued the ruthless attack. The rest, Katara had forced herself to block out. The pain of smashing into solid marble was nothing compared to the agony of realizing that the majority of people she had come into battle with she would have to leave behind. She had managed to cling onto Aang's body though, and given it the decent burial that he more than deserved.
The frozen walls of her bedroom began to crack and splinter, and Katara quickly shut her eyes in concentration and focused on controlling her breathing. Her Waterbending, powerfully linked to her emotions, had never quite been the same after the failed invasion. Katara wouldn't allow anyone to come near her in the few days after fleeing the Fire Nation; her unpredictable and unmanageable Waterbending threatened to harm anyone who dared to be in the same room as her. Toph and Sokka, who had both miraculously survived the invasion, edged their way around her for months afterwards, and had only just begun to act normally around her again. Toph regularly visited on Appa, yet had chosen to go back to her parents and try to build bridges with them. Sokka remained in the South Pole, his room next to Katara's.
Going back to the newly built-up South Pole had been difficult for both the siblings; everything reminded them of what they had lost. Their old home had been improved, yet Katara couldn't help yearning for the simplicity of the old South Pole. As well as new houses and buildings, including a war hut, there was a statue of remembrance for all the lives lost to the Fire Nation. Katara had ensured that Aang took his rightful place as the top name, followed by Princess Yue and Bato, who had later died from injuries sustained in battle. Sokka and Katara's mother was also high on the list, as was Jet and his freedom fighters, and Haru. Rather than look upon this statue with pride, Katara always rushed past it with her eyes averted, unwilling to be reminded of the tortuous sorrow the Fire Nation had caused. Every time Sokka or Gran Gran tentatively tried to bring the subject up, Katara would either snap at them or leave the room angrily. Townspeople would mutter about denial, but Katara ignored them. Every night, she would find herself back in her room, staring at the ceiling and wishing for the old times.
Katara rolled her eyes and groaned at the voice just outside of her bedroom door. Despite her constant refusals, the world now knew her as 'Lady Katara, Master Waterbender'. She had insisted that everyone in the South Pole call her Katara, but they now viewed her with annoying respect, as though she had done something amazing.
"It's Katara," she muttered in correction, before calling louder, "Yes?"
"Your father and the higher men of the tribe wish to speak with you," came the nervous voice. "Your grandmother and Sir Sokka are there also."
Sir SokkaKatara silently snorted. The title still amused her slightly. Then the messenger's words sank in and she frowned.
"This had better not be another intervention," she grumbled, heaving herself up and stumbling slightly towards the door. It was still hard to walk properly in all the layers that living in the South Pole demanded. It was as though the year she had spent travelling the world had made her forget the need for warm necessities. However, the fur collar made her neck nice and snug and she never went to bed cold, so she supposed it was worth it. Opening and closing the heavy ice door, Katara sealed it shut with an icy lock. No one would dare break into her room, but it was better to be cautious. Everything Katara did had an edge of caution to it now.
The messenger - Katara didn't remember his name - bowed to her as she emerged, something else that made her frown. She didn't even bother bowing back anymore, just waved her hand carelessly and set off along the small corridor, leaving the messenger scurrying in her wake. Ducking her head to avoid the low roof, Katara stepped out into the night. The fresh, cold air made her wince as it harshly slapped her face, making her cheeks sting and tears to spring to her dull cerulean eyes. As she continued walking in the darkness, the tears subsided on their own. After the initial few days after the invasion, Katara had become too numb to cry…or feel much at all, come to that.
Ploughing through the snow, Katara allowed her feet to carry her down the familiar pathway to the large structure usually used for town meetings or celebratory events. There was a faint, warm orange glow coming from one of the windows as Katara got nearer, and the thought of heat was welcoming. But, inevitably, the thought of heat led to thoughts of fire, which caused her to hesitate for longer than was necessary in the cold snow. Behind her, the messenger breathlessly caught up and started chattering about something irrelevant, his warm breath misting in front of him. Ignoring him, Katara took the few extra steps to the door before pulling it open, allowing the messenger to hurry in after her, and then shutting it, banishing the cold night behind her.
Sokka, Gran Gran and Hakoda all looked up as the door snapped shut, their perplexed faces dissolving into uneasy smiles as they saw Katara. She and Gran Gran were the only women there; both Water Tribe poles were still having trouble getting over their sexism. Everyone in the room stood awkwardly near a small spluttering fire. Every time a wall looked in danger of melting, a Waterbender would effortlessly restore the ice and snow to perfection, before gnawing on his lip anxiously. Katara was immediately put on alert by the welcome she had been given, and walked warily over to her family.
"A little late for a chat, isn't it?" she asked, her eyebrows knitting together.
"We have…received some news. From the Fire Nation," Hakoda explained hesitantly to his daughter. As expected, Katara went rigid at the mention of the Fire Nation and her face became impassive to hide any emotion that might otherwise have shown through. She could feel the nervous eyes of everyone in the room lingering on her, but she only watched her father. If anyone had been paying attention, they might have seen the small cracks beginning to form in the icy walls of the room.
"I don't wish to know anything about the Fire Nation," Katara informed Hakoda curtly.
"You'll want to know this news!" Sokka cut in. His eager grin grew fainter as he shrugged. "At least, the first part."
Katara's eyes flickered to him, then back to her father. She couldn't help the questioning look she now gave him.
"Fire Lord Ozai is dead," Hakoda said carefully. "He is succeeded by his brother, Iroh. For now."
Katara's heart leapt for the first time in months, her eyes widened and a smile tugged at the corner of her lips. A million thoughts ran through her mind, so she chose one at random and exclaimed it.
"That's great! I don't think Iroh's as willing to carry on this war!" Katara paused thoughtfully, before muttering to herself excitedly, "And even if he doesn't back down, it'll be a lot easier to take down him than Ozai, who-"
"Katara," Gran Gran interrupted her granddaughter gently. Katara's eyes sparkled with hope as she turned to her grandmother. "There's something else."
Glancing around the room, Katara's smile slowly faded as she took in all the pitying looks she was getting. Even Sokka wouldn't meet her gaze. Feeling her stomach sinking horribly, Katara slowly turned back to her father and grandmother with dread.
"Iroh has only taken the throne for a short time. He is preparing his nephew, Prince-"
"I know who his nephew is," Katara cut in hotly. The cracks in the wall increased. A few heads turned, but mostly it went ignored.
"Of course," Hakoda sighed sadly. "Iroh explained in his letters that all was not as it seemed with his nephew at the time of the invasion. There were underlying issues that we were unaware of. Are still unaware of." Hakoda cleared his throat uneasily as Katara scowled. "Yes, so Iroh is preparing his nephew to take over the Fire Nation. But there's a problem. The Council in the Fire Nation are being more careful this time; they want to ensure that the future Fire Lord is secure in all aspects of his life."
"Iroh has offered the Water Tribes a peace offering. If we form an alliance with the Fire Nation, then the Earth Kingdom will not dare attack either of us. The world would finally be at peace," Gran Gran said, taking over from her son. Her voice implored Katara to listen, which, reluctantly, she did.
"But Iroh says that the alliance we make has to be unbreakable," Sokka continued disgustedly. Katara wished that her family would get to the point, and stop swapping narrators. "We have to show our loyalty to the agreement by doing something else that is unbreakable."
"One of the conditions to Zuko" - the fractures in the wall splintered violently as Katara seethed at the name- "taking the throne is that he has to be married first."
There was a lengthy pause, and everyone seemed to hold their breath collectively. Katara frowned in confusion.
"So…?" she prompted, clearly not understanding what her father was trying to say and wondering why he would call her here to tell her about the man she hated and his impending nuptials.
Good luck to whoever ends up with him, she thought viciously, before turning back to her father who was talking again.
"Iroh thought that if both the children of the leaders of the Fire Nation and Water Tribes were married, then it would strengthen the bond and assure that the alliance is permanent," Hakoda continued slowly, wincing as he said the word 'married'. "We all agreed." He waited for his daughter to react, but she continued frowning.
"But why…" she trailed off as horrifying comprehension dawned. Her eyes grew wide. The walls surrounding them were in serious danger of rupturing as Katara began to shake violently.
"Just think about it, Katara," Gran Gran pleaded. "Because of your noble sacrifice, the world will never have to be at war again. Generations will live in harmony together, as they're supposed to."
Hakoda moved forward swiftly to place a comforting hand on his daughter shoulder, but she shrugged it off angrily.
"You don't seriously expect me to agree to this, do you?" she spat, rounding on her father. "We're talking about the people who-"
"Are offering us a chance to save lives," Sokka interrupted. "Look, I hate this as much as you do, sis, maybe more-"
"Oh I seriously doubt that," Katara hissed dangerously.
"-but we don't have a choice," Sokka continued. "Iroh has promised to invade the Water Tribes unless we agree to his terms."
"We always have a choice! I choose to stay here and fight when he attacks!" Katara shouted, feeling desperately outnumbered as more and more people argued against her. The crush of voices trying to persuade her to agree was overbearing as each person tried to prove their point. Katara could feel the cracks in the walls fracturing dangerously as she tried to make sense of what was happening and failed. The sea of voices and sounds was drowning Katara, and she struggled to keep her head up. Then one voice pushed her under.
"I'm afraid, in this instance, you don't have a choice. I've already sent word back to Iroh agreeing with his terms. The Fire Nation ship arrives tomorrow, and in a few weeks you'll serve opposite Zuko as the Fire Lady."
The four icy walls of the war hut shattered outwards simultaneously as Katara lost control.
Hello! I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of Sanctuary. I know this isnt a completely original idea, but I really want to make this story unique. As the more observant of you have probably figured out, everyone in this story is two years older (but unfortunately not much wiser).
Please review to let me know what you think of this chapter (: