Author's Note: I was able to scrap a dozen few ideas together to make this story
Author's Note: I was able to scrap a dozen few ideas together to make this story. I doubt it will stand to scrutiny and most of the details could be easily dismissed by a number of fans. But this (and many others) is a tribute to Avatar, the Last Airbender. The story has ended quite well and I doubt any other cartoon in the near future could possibly surpass it. My story is simply a continuation and not the real story of the Avatar franchise.
Disclaimer: I own no part of Avatar, the Last Airbender. But this story and this plot is entirely of my own creation. Any similarities to the official Avatar plotline are mere coincidences or are used for necessary events in the story. The same goes with the characters and settings.
Autumn is the season of my people…
The serenity of the season reflects the state of the world. And the world is at peace with itself. There is the usual hustle and bustle here and there. The noise from the earth kingdom markets is perpetual. The South Pole is being rebuilt to its former glory. And hundreds of soldiers are coming home.
A wind blows through the naked trees. Heaps of leaves are scattered throughout the land, making the ground appear yellow underneath the afternoon sun.
Children are laughing. Their joys are quickly strangled by the ever-watchful mothers who tell them to go inside for dinner. 'Chicken today', say the mothers.
Just beyond the village is a long stretching line of people, carrying all their possessions: spears, pots, swords, and the occasional cooked pig. Smiles mark their faces and they greet one another with light hearts.
No one is hiding in fear.
I see the sun dimming out quickly, as if hurried by some other entity. The summer has come to pass and the new season is setting in. Autumn is setting in.
But not all peace comes fully intact.
The long line of soldiers marching home has tempted a few robbers to ransack their possessions and steal their food. The world is still filled with desperate people and it has driven them to this. So these soldiers are not afraid, but they are watchful. One of them had just lost his good pig. A woman in uniform had her money taken right out of her belt. I know I have to do something about it but I am tired. The Avatar is tired.
Then there are rumours circulating around a particular Earth Kingdom village. It is disturbing news. A man has gotten himself lost in the wilderness while hunting for game. They search for him and when they find his body, it is a horrific sight. His eyes and mouth were open to such strange proportions that he appeared to be screaming even after he went faint. There seemed to be no sign of struggle, just lines all over the ground. They could see the ribs protrude from within the chest like a hollow barrel.
I will see into the matter immediately, if not sooner.
I just hope it isn't a terrible problem. After all, what can be worse than stopping the end of the world?
Ba Sing Se, Inner Ring, the Jasmine Dragon tea shop
"You're leaving already? Couldn't you wait a little longer?"
Zuko turned to his uncle once more and gave him a heartfelt smile. "I have to go, uncle. The Fire Nation needs me. There are a lot of things to finish. Did you know that we're tearing down the Great Gates of Azulon to allow free trade?"
The look of pride in Iroh's face was unmatched. But he waved Zuko off, stopping him from speaking. "I'll leave politics to the Fire Lord. But couldn't you just stay for a day or two. The grand festival is approaching and a lot of customers come when you're around." Iroh pointed to the customers directly behind Zuko.
Zuko turned around to see dozens of girls occupied around other people, all squirming their way to pass him a wave. They blinked, winked, waved, and smiled at him. An awkward blush crept over Zuko's face and he turned away, scratching the back of his neck.
Iroh laughed and slammed his hand on the back of his nephew, jarring him from his feet. "Don't look so embarrassed, my nephew! They've been coming here for a while now."
Zuko couldn't help but stammer. "B-But…don't they know that I already have…you know—a girlfriend?"
Iroh grabbed Zuko's head and thrust it downward until they were face to face. "Quiet down! They don't really know who you are. They think you're my handsome tea waiter, Lee. Having them know that the Fire Lord is here would make this shop too overrated."
Zuko was aghast. "What?"
Iroh put on a sly expression. "Truthfully, business has been slow. When I reopened the shop, not much people seemed to come. But when you came here, some daughters of the noblemen came by to see you. They were ecstatic and I told them about you. It's a strategy I'm working on. If a nobleman's daughter came to see the shop then they would tell their parents all about it and I would have more customers!"
Zuko looked at the girls again and realized that it was a wrong move. They seemed more interested in him than the tea. "Uncle…? Is there a backdoor to this shop? I don't think I can pass by the entrance without being…attacked…"
Iroh laughed. "Of course. But one of the girls is asking for a strand of your hair before she leaves in exchange for a visit from her entire family."
"I'm not surrendering my hair to anybody!" Zuko exclaimed and grabbed his head to protect his hair.
Iroh chuckled in a way that only he could. "I was just kidding Zuko! You can go to the back exit. Make sure you don't disturb the tea makers there. They get distracted easily."
Zuko smiled. "Goodbye, uncle."
Iroh hugged his nephew warmly. "Goodbye Fire Lord Zuko. Restore the Fire Nation to its former glory. And come back again when you can."
Zuko gave his uncle one last handshake and left, passing the back and avoiding the glances of a dozen customers who seemed disappointed when he left.
Iroh watched Zuko walk away from the corner of his eye. He lifted a strand of hair to the sunlight and a big devious smile crept up his face.
"The girls are going to love this."
Ba Sing Se, Inner Ring, New Bei Fong Estate
It was clear that whoever owned this large house was wealthy. The golden gongs that hung beside the pillars glinted in the afternoon sun. The roof seemed larger than the entire house itself; clearly displaying that it wasn't just a place for refuge, but this house was also a form of pedestrian decoration.
Someone knocked on the wooden door.
"Hello? Who's there?" asked the guard.
The guard caught sight of a small boy, barely taller than the daughter of the man who owned this place. He had a cape around his neck and a small war helmet on his head. The guard would have laughed at the boy's outfit had he not spotted the giant standing behind him.
"Hello," smiled the boy cheerfully. "Is Toph here? She said she'll play with us."
The guard was about to say that commoners were strictly told never to come within a few feet of anyone in the Bei Fong family. He was supposed to say this, when someone thrust him to the side.
"Sorry!" said Toph. "Please tell my mom and dad that I'll be back for dinner later!"
The guard was about to say something but the girl and the other two people had already disappeared down an alley.
"So what did you say was so urgent?" Toph demanded immediately. "And why did you write down the message on a piece of paper? I had to ask a servant just to read it, you know."
The Duke smiled apologetically. "Sorry about that. But we need you now. It's a life or death situation."
"Life or death?" Toph asked. She wasn't so afraid of the words. In fact, she was excited. Staying back with her family had been nice and all, but no one could really keep an adventurous girl like Toph caged.
It had been hard for awhile. Her parents had agreed to move to Ba Sing Se so Toph could be closer to her friends. But everybody else had to go back to their own lives too. They did agree to meet every month at the Jasmine Dragon, but waiting for that to happen just left her bored throughout most of her time at home.
"So what's wrong this time? Firebenders attacking? Dai Li agents hypnotizing people?" Toph asked enthusiastically.
The Duke shook his head. "We need a third person for Earthbending Soccer."
Toph's sense of adventure wasn't too satisfied. "You got me out of the house for that?"
Pipsqueak shook his large head and bellowed in his deep voice. "Me and the Duke tried betting for food with a bunch of kids two days ago over a game of Earthbending soccer."
"We thought it was an easy game," continued the Duke, "After all, Pipsqueak always wins in any game. But their Earthbending was a lot better than we thought. We lost…" The Duke's eyes became watery and he sobbed. "They took my salty nuuuuts! Wah! Wah! My little salty nuuuuts! My poor babies!"
Toph sighed over this little melodrama. "So you guys called me so you could get your nuts back?"
The Duke's face was filled with determination. "No! They stole from me! We must steal from them! Ha!"
Pipsqueak sighed. "The Duke made a bet with them that if they win against us in another game, they take more food from us. He told them about adding a blind girl to the team and the kids just laughed at him."
The Duke looked very sinister as he rubbed his hands together. "It's payback time! They won't see us coming!"
"Are you guys seriously thinking of beating us with a blind girl?" asked the lead player. "I hope you guys brought the goods because you're about to be robbed."
Toph put on her most naïve face in her life. She played with her toes and jutted her lower lip out in a pout. If you didn't know her, you would have testified that she looked like any sweet little girl in a fancy bright dress.
"You guys get first move…since you lost last time," said the lead player. A cocky smile was on his face. "I hope you guys score this time."
In thirty seconds, The Duke's team was leading by thirty points.
"What just happened?" said one kid, still in a daze.
"I've never seen anything like it…" awed another.
The lead player wasn't one to back down from a fight. "Stand up you idiots! She's blind! And get back in position. We're going for another round!"
The Duke ran for the ball and kicked it hard. The lead player was waiting for the strike. He thrust both his fists, aiming for the ground. A wall of earth shot up and deflected the ball back, heading towards his team mate in the opposite side
That's when Toph shot up from underground.
The blind girl landed hard on her feet and kicked high into the air, sending a pillar of earth to hit the ball. The ball shot back to its original direction, flying over the kids' surprised faces.
An opposing player acting as the goalie used Earthbending to thrust him skywards. He caught the ball in midair and sent it back to the lead player. The lead player caught it with his foot.
And for a moment, everything was at a standstill.
The lead player held the ball under his foot.
Toph just stood there, waiting.
Then the lead player made his move, taking a step backward, going for the charge. He held his leg back, ready to make the kick.
Toph sensed his movement a fraction of a second before he even completed the action. Her right hand was already extended out, palm facing down. She lowered her hand and felt the shift in the earth.
When the lead player kicked, his feet swung up too high. He didn't hit anything and he lost balance, landing hard on his back. "Where did the ball go?" was his last cry.
The Duke saw what had happened. Toph had buried the ball underground. He turned to her and waved his hands into the air. "Pass it here!"
Toph moved forward, jumped, and landed. As her feet hit the ground, she did a thrusting uppercut punch and the ball shot out of the ground. It shot up high—too high for the Duke to reach.
Toph was adept. "HA!"
A column of earth shot up from beneath the Duke, sending him up into the air, in line with the ball. He spun and hit the ball with his instep.
Pipsqueak was already running. The goalie trembled with fright under each of Pipsqueak's footfalls. When the ball landed in front of Pipsqueak, all he had to do was kick it and it shot in the goal.
"YES!" cheered the three in unison. And they huddled together, celebrating the glory of an easy victory.
South Pole, a few kilometers away from the Southern Water Tribe
For the first time in a long time, Katara and Sokka felt a true sense of exhaustion. How long had it been since they had last seen home, felt the cold air, or smelled the ripe odor of freshly cooked sea prunes? Had it really been that long? Had they really changed the face of the world?
"I can already smell the sweet scent of blubbered fish," Sokka said, raising a thumbs-up in the face of his sister. He rubbed his hands together with his tongue licking the lips. "I can already taste it," he said heavenly. "Smoked fish, sea prunes, and seal jerky. Gran-gran's fixing us a buffet right now! I know it!"
Katara smiled along with Sokka's enthusiasm. "I can't wait to see Gran-gran. I've missed her so much that—"
Suddenly, the Water Tribe catamaran that they were riding shuddered to a stop. The fleet had stopped right in the middle of a small inlet. On the ships, A few people had lost balance.
Sokka turned to his father who was steering the ship. "Dad…why did we stop…?"
General Hakkoda pointed ahead of them. "Because of that."
A huge ice mountain towered over the small fleet of Water Tribe ships. But engraved on the front side of this mountain was the Water Tribe insignia.
Katara traced the mountain's height. "How did this get here?"
Master Pakku stepped forward with a smile. "This is one of the things we added when I and a few other Waterbenders came to the South Pole."
General Hakkoda stepped forward. "How are we going to get inside?"
Master Pakku stuck his fingers in his mouth and gave a strong, high-pitched whistle. One by one, people in blue Eskimo clothes began popping out from behind the mountain's sharp icy contours.
These people gathered around the inlet, surrounding the fleet of ships.
Two Waterbenders stood on each side of the inlet's opening—and with a strong whip-like hand motion—a wall of ice sealed them in the inlet, extending all the way down to the seafloor. The other Waterbenders that surrounded the fleet spread their arms into the sky and slowly brought their hands down. This motion lowered the water level in the inlet, bringing the fleet below sea level. The obvious displacement of water inside made the water outside the inlet rise.
Katara, Sokka, Hakkoda, and his men were awed by the things that occurred around them, their sights fixed on everything that was happening. Master Pakku had this smug smile on his face.
The water level fell lower and lower. And then the water level stopped dropping.
Sokka was staring at the wall of ice that was directly in front of them. "So…. What now…?"
It didn't take long. A huge hole in the ice wall was made and the fleet rushed inside the wall with the surging water. When all of them were inside, Waterbenders sealed off the hole.
The sight before them was amazing.
The Southern Water Tribe was nothing like it had ever been before. The city itself was nestled deep in the heart of the ice mountain, below sea level. A huge skylight at the top of the ice mountain allowed the city air and sunlight. The city itself was a dazzling place. The center of the city was a large igloo. Other smaller igloos surrounded the center of the city. Ice docks were made to hold the fleet in the artificial harbour.
Women and children were already waiting for them there, waving. They shed tears of joy. The men on the ship couldn't help but wave back. They had returned from war, successful and tired.
Sokka was frantically trying to get their grandmother's attention. "Gran-gran! Over here! We saved the world! We are AWESOME!!"
General Hakkoda stood beside Master Pakku and awkwardly made small talk.
"I guess you're kind of my father now, huh?" said Hakkoda, standing strong but averting his eyes away from the Waterbending master.
Mater Pakku coughed a bit and pulled at his collar. "Oh…Yes…"
"Um… Welcome to the family…uh…dad…"
Master Pakku felt embarrassed beyond recognition. "Oh. No. You can just call me Pakku…"
Both of them looked away, trying to find something interesting. Katara, who had watched the whole thing, smiled inwardly. Her father and her master were getting along. Seeing the whole thing made her heart feel incredibly lighter.
Sokka ruined the moment when he splashed some terribly cold water on her.
Earth Kingdom village
"Hello Avatar Aang," said a woman as he entered the infirmary. She bowed low and paid respect to the child.
Aang smiled kindly at her. "That won't be necessary ma'am. Where is he?
"The man is in here."
"Is he dead?"
The woman's face was downcast and you could tell that she rather not speak of it. "He is alive, but the way he is, he'd rather be dead. We had to shoo away all the man's child relatives because…well…if you look at him…"
The woman led Aang down the infirmary. Other injured were here, most from the recent war. Aang could see burns and huge scars. Some had open gashes and others had cut legs. Bandages were laid scattered on the floor with blood stained on them. But despite the clear agony they were facing, it was clear that these people were finally at peace. The war itself had internally wounded them; creating wounds no one could ever heal.
Now, the war was over. Their faces were serene, peaceful.
Then the woman stopped over someone's bed and Aang saw a face that wasn't so serene.
The man's eyes were open wide. His eyes' were blood red and they seemed to bulge out of their sockets. His face—the skin had wrapped itself around the man's skull. And his mouth formed an "O". Aang could see his dry tongue from within. He was a cadaver of a man. Aang dared not look beneath the blankets.
Aang grimaced and felt revolted. "What could have done this to him?"
The woman kept her gaze on the man's horrid face. She shook her head. "I don't know. He was such a kind man. He sold the best deer because he knew where the deer always stayed and he wouldn't tell anybody. When we found him, he was walking back home. He wasn't bleeding but his face showed great pain. He looked like he was suffocating, but I couldn't tell why. He kept asking us for air, as if he couldn't breathe."
Aang was surprised. "He could talk?"
The woman nodded. "Barely. When he talks, it is a painful effort. He speaks as he is taking in air. The reason why we kept his mouth open like that is so that he could breathe deeply. I fear if he stays like this for too long, he might die. Feeding him food and letting him drink was almost impossible."
Aang went closer to the man. "Have you tried asking him what had happened?"
"Yes," she said. "But he wouldn't tell. Fear has silenced him."
Aang bent low to examine the man's face. He could hear the deep breathing from him. It was terribly forced, as if the man had forgotten to breathe altogether and he had to keep a conscious effort to keep it up.
Then the man's eyes focused on Aang.
"Ahhh… Ah… Ahhh…" he gasped. His movement was awkward, but it was clear that he was struggling. There was terrible fright on the man's face.
"What's he doing now?" asked Aang.
The woman lowered her eyebrows in a confused look. "I…I don't know."
Aang looked at the man's face as he looked at him. It was a horrible face. And it was a fearful face. And that face was staring at him. "What did this to you, old man?"
The man struggled to lift a bony finger. He held it up high enough for it to reach Aang's forehead. He spoke again; his voice was raspy and shaken.
"Ahhh… Arrr… Stay back…Arrow… Man…"
Aang didn't understand what he was saying. "What did this to you?" he repeated.
The man barely grasped at his words. He just repeated his last line.
Then, the man's eyes shut and his mouth hung limply. The sound of his breathing had disappeared. The woman saw this and hurried beside the man, feeling his heart and opening his eyes. But there was nothing. The man's last sigh had truly been his last.
He was dead.
Aang went out of the infirmary and the woman followed.
"There will be a burial following the man's death. Will you come?" asked the woman.
"Yes. Of course," said Aang.
And the woman cried. Tears streamed down her cheeks. "Thank you… He was my father…"
Aang nodded solemnly but his thoughts were easily distracted by the words of the man. "What did he mean by an 'Arrow Man'? Was he talking about an archer? Did an archer attack him?"
The woman shook her head. "I found neither arrows on the ground nor any punctures in the body. He wasn't attacked by anything."
Aang wasn't so sure. The man had been frightened by one thing. And that fear came back when he saw him. What did that mean? And why did he tap his forehead? The entire situation was all so misleading.
Aang gave a heavy sigh and scratched his head.
His eye caught sight of a nearby mirror. He smiled at himself for a second, playing around with his reflection. He admired his blue tattoos.
And then, realization struck him.
He had an arrow tattooed on his head…
I will be posting the next few chapters in a week. Hopefully, all the first five chapters will be finished soon. After the first five chapters are finished, I plan to update by the week. There are 24 chapters in all.
I hope you liked the story so far. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, then type them down. If you want to flame the story, please do so in a constructive manner. And one more thing…