Memories from the Western Air Temple

Chapter 60

Your Spirits Beside Me

The world had still been veiled in darkness when Aang had woken in Zuko's arms. At first Aang hadn't known what had woken him, but then he'd felt it: a burning fire deep within his stomach. Aang had quickly realized that this was what Zuko had been feeling for days now; the comet was drawing closer. In mere hours it would be visible in the sky.

A wave of panic had taken Aang over then. He had no idea how he was supposed to stop an evil megalomaniac from destroying everything around him without actually killing the man. Aang had been hoping something would come to him during the last days but he'd been so effectively distracted by all the drama that he had still been in square one.

Zuko had mumbled something in his sleep and suddenly Aang hadn't felt so much like a wreck anymore. The boy had taken a few calming breaths and a thought had come to him. Certainly he wasn't the first Avatar with this sort of a responsibility. There had to have been an Avatar before him conflicted over a difficult situation.

That thought had pulled Aang away from Zuko's side, and drawn the airbender out to the vast planes outside the camp. He had needed to find a good place to meditate. A place where the separation of the realms had been weakened and Aang could call out the spirits connected to him.

Aang had recognized the right spot on feeling alone. The air around the area had been tense, but the sensation had also been faded. There had been a shrine or a small temple nearby, possibly some time ago. All visible signs of a place of worship were gone, but the spirit that had frequented the area had left behind traces of its power. While humans would forget their temples in a couple of generations, spirits would always remember.

The spot wasn't much more than a couple of rocks piled on each other but Aang had quickly erected a half-dome of earth to bow over him and keep him from being distracted by anything while he was meditating. Then Aang had called out to the depths of his own soul.

Sinking into meditation like Guru Pathik had thought him, Aang created something tangible within his mind, not unlike the path he had last created to reach the Avatar State. The Avatar State was unreachable now, but not the spirits of the Avatars before him; those were all a part of him.

Four spirits appeared in a half-circle; two of them Aang recognized easily. Aang had spoken with Roku many times before, and there was no mistaking Kyoshi's hulking form. Beside Kyoshi stood a man in Water Tribe garb and the last one was an Air Nomad woman. They were the complete last circle of Avatars right before Aang himself.

"You are troubled, Aang," Roku spoke out, his voice a guiding comfort even now, and Aang started pouring out his troubles with no more prompting than that required.

"The Fire Lord is attacking the Earth Kingdom today, and I know I have to be the one to stop him, I just don't know how. Every time before I just needed to be quick or clever to make due, or sometimes I actually needed raw power but, this time, it seems like I'm going to have to be ruthless too, and I'm not sure I have that in me." Aang's gaze moved over the four previous Avatars, all so steady, sure and strong. "I don't have a plan."

"Sometimes, you don't need one," Roku started. "Sometimes, all you can do is react to the situation at hand, even if it leads you down a path you'd prefer not to take."

"The important thing is to take responsibility for your actions," the Air Nomad Avatar continued after Roku. "Do not seek excuses from us."

Kyoshi looked more like a rock than any other person Aang had ever encountered, her face stony and voice deep as she spoke: "You know I killed Chin the Conqueror and that I do not excuse my actions. Only when taking responsibility for the bad can I take credit for the good I have done. I saved my people."

"The most important thing is that you understand that, whatever you do, the consequences are on you." The Water Tribe Avatar joined in. "I didn't do my duty, and the evil spirit Koh took my lover. I bear the guilt and responsibility for my inaction when I lost her."

This wasn't helping; it was only making the situation seem worse. Aang knew he had to make the others understand.

"I can't just kill him. I saw what almost killing Azula did to Zuko. By killing a person, you take away something precious from another human being and also break something inside yourself." Aang gave the gathered Avatars a desperate look. "Not only is killing not something to be taken lightly, it shouldn't have to be considered at all." The boy turned his gaze to the Air Nomad Avatar. "Isn't that what the monks at the temple taught?"

The woman nodded her head, conceding, but before Aang could celebrate his victory she spoke out: "You truly are honouring the lifestyle of the Air Nomads but, Aang, that is only admirable in an airbender. For the Avatar such ideals only hinder you from fulfilling your duty."

"What Yangchen is trying to say is that you're being a spineless coward and should pull yourself together and rid the world of that madman," Kyoshi's unforgiving voice cut in mercilessly.

"And here I thought at least one of you would tell me to stay true to myself…" Aang grumbled to himself with distaste. He gave the other Avatars, by his own estimation, what must have been a pretty impressive glare. "You guys are the worst spirit advisors ever!"

The Water Tribe Avatar actually sounded amused when he said: "Well, think of it this way: all of us, no matter how powerful, were all just human beings. Talking to us is like asking help from any group of people." There was a moment of silence when all the other Avatars turned to give him a look. The man coughed into his fist before pressing on: "But, of course, we've all been the Avatar at one point or another, so we're privileged in the knowledge we have. Also, we're older than you, so you can count on our life experience."

Yeah, for all the good it did him. Although there was no way Aang was going to say those thoughts out loud. Instead he found his thoughts wandering to the task at hand, to the world, the people he needed to protect. Zuko...

"You need to leave now," Roku spoke out suddenly and Aang started to protest: "You haven't even given me any good advice yet!"

"We are not here to solve your problems for you," Kyoshi spoke coldly. "We are equals, to help sort your thoughts."

"The one you're thinking of, he's in grave danger." Aang didn't question how Roku knew that; there were several possibilities, all of which were likely options. All Aang cared about was the fact that, because there were so many options, Roku couldn't be wrong.

"How will I know which way to go?" Aang asked worriedly. He had just then realized that he had no way of knowing Zuko's exact location.

"You are the Avatar," Roku spoke out. "All spirits are inclined to assist you, even if in a self-serving or roundabout way."

Aang could see the truth in the words. When he had been forced to turn to Koh for assistance, the spirit had seen Aang as prey, and yet it had helped him in the end. So Aang nodded his head, gave a quick thanks, and opened his eyes to the real world.

It took Aang several tries, but finally Aang did manage to call into his mind the same kind of guide that had led him to Appa once. All the spirits in the world really were on his side, especially today, and that started a plan forming in Aang's thoughts as he dashed off with enough speed to outrun any hurricane.

Guided by the invisible spirits of the nature, Aang arrived on the battlefield, where all thoughts of a half-baked plan vanished from his mind. There was Zuko, but he was on the ground, on his knees, and Ozai had a tight hold of his hair. The only thoughts going through Aang's mind after seeing that were about how Ozai had Zuko, was going to hurt Zuko, and how Aang would never allow that to happen.

The sudden wave or rage that filled Aang's mind dissipated only after he'd slammed against Ozai as hard as he could, wrapped up in a cocoon of stone that had been formed as almost an afterthought. The suddenness of his attack had Ozai unable to defend himself and when the man was sent sprawling, Aang wasted no time checking Zuko over.

"Are you alright?" Aang snapped quickly. There were no outward injuries worse than bruises, but Zuko was cradling his right wrist to his chest and seemed to be unable to stand. The flaming hand Ozai had been about to press to Zuko's face had burned away some of Zuko's bangs but that wasn't the end of the world.

"Yes, I'm fine." Zuko winced, then changed his mind. "No, I'm really not. You have no idea how glad I am you showed up when you did. I don't think I can remember when I last hurt this much." The firebender's expression darkened. "Actually, I can. Quite lividly." A moment of silence passed before Zuko seemed to brush the matter aside to focus on Aang. "Are you ready for this, Aang?"

Zuko had been honest with him, so Aang decided to return the favour: "No, I'm not, not really. But I'm going to do this anyway." The boy managed a weak chuckle. "You know, for all the trouble it ended up being, I wouldn't mind having my Avatar State right now." Aang had explained all about his clogged chakras to Zuko during the time Zuko had spent on the team, but only just now did the mention of them bring a thoughtful look on Zuko's face.

"Come closer," Zuko spoke hurriedly. "Before Ozai gets up again."

Aang did as was instructed and Zuko brought his uninjured arm around Aang, the hand slipping under the folds of the other's clothes to find the exact place of the scar Azula's attack had left behind. Immediately Aang started feeling heat radiate from the spot.

"No blockage can stop the flow of life, at least when it's given a little boost." Zuko licked his upper lip in concentration and Aang could feel the life bending opening up a path for his energy, his life energy, to flow freely. "Life should be free."

It was a familiar sensation, but one that had been gone for so that Aang had almost forgotten what it felt like. It was more than a thousand souls flowing through his body at once, generation after generation of the greatest champions of the world.

It was pure power.

To be continued…

Author's Notes: Sorry about not introducing the Avatars, but I felt an introductions sequence would have broken the spacing a bit too much. Also, my favorite Avatars to write were Kyoshi and Kuruk, mostly because Kyoshi reminds me of Batman and Kuruk reminds me of the Flash. Haha.