An Avatar: The Last Air-bender Fanfiction
Avatar: The Last Air-bender is produced and distributed by Nickelodeon TV. This is a non-profit work of fanfiction for free distribution through the world-wide web. No infringement of copyright or trademark is intended. No claim of ownership is made or implied.
This is AU from the end of Book 2 onwards. Little or nothing of the canon Season 3 will be referenced in this story.
This chapter was not planned in any way. I was just reading the first chapter again and was suddenly struck by the inspiration bug. I wanted to tell the story of the living as well as of the dead.
Censor:K+ - Not for the little ones, but nothing too bad
And as she lunged for her husband, ignored and forgotten behind her, an old woman's body breathed its last and a loyal, loving granddaughter's voice rose in one last keen of grief and loss.
"Gran-GRAAANNN!!!" Jia's scream was like a blade grating against the bones of everyone in the Dowager Chieftainess's bedchamber. The weeping blue-clad fire-bender collapsed against Azula's chest, wailing inarticulately. It took Tao and his attendants' combined strength (and Tao's quiet words) to convince her to release her grip on her grandmother's body.
As Nuo helped her mother stand and led the weeping woman away from the bed (her eyes were suspiciously wet too), it fell to Tao, as the oldest son of the oldest child and the leader of Clan Hadoka, to perform the final rite of closing his grandmother's eyes. He leaned forwards and kissed the old woman's forehead. "Farewell, Gran-gran," he murmured. "I hope to see you again one day."
"You will." Tao looked over and noted that Shen-Ru had his 'Avatar Smile' on - one that he was sure that the Air Monk had learnt directly from his father. "Have no doubt about that, Tao. Whatever sins she may have committed in her youth, your grandmother more than proved her penitence and rehabilitation before you were even born. I cannot believe that she has any punishment awaiting her in the next life."
Tao was about to offer the Air Monk some words of thanks when he heard a scuffle at the door. Jia broke away from Nuo and Tao's attendants and ran from the room.
Jia ran from her Gran-gran's bedchamber, she ran from the Chieftain's Hall and did not stop until she was outside of the walls of the capital of the Southern Water Tribe. She was only barely aware of the shocked expressions on the faces of the tribes-folk as the Chieftain's sister ran past, her face streaked with tears, her face twisted with a passion that made all wary of approaching her. All she could do was get as far away as she could from that lifeless shell that wasn't... that couldn't be her Gran-gran. All she could think of was her memories of Azula who, in her own way, was closer to her than her mother:
Gran-gran caring for her as a child when her mother and father were off about their various duties...
Gran-gran telling her stories of Grandfather and the Great Unification War...
Gran-gran teaching her fire-bending and the forms of unarmed and armed combat that went with it...
Gran-gran teasing her about her first boyfriend...
Gran-gran comforting her during her first break-up...
Gran-gran smiling and winking mischievously at her as she recited her vows at her wedding to Baoe...
Gran-gran nodding in approval and smiling with tears in her eyes when she was told that Jia had named her son 'Sokka'...
Gran-gran holding her up at father and mother's funeral and whispering to her to focus on the good memories... and on her vow of vengeance upon the raiders who did this...
Gran-gran being held up by Jia in turn at Grandfather Sokka's funeral but paradoxically smiling... perhaps she was remembering the good memories too...?
Jia staggered to a halt just outside the gates and felt all the pain and rage from her loss gathering around her. She looked up at the sky and raised her fists to the heavens. As she did so, tongues of blue fire appeared, gathered around her and combined into a blazing sheath of flame. With a throat-shredding scream, she unleashed the blue fire that she, like all of Gran-gran's female fire-bender descendants could command, into the skies, creating a flaring blue fountain of light that shot up, up, and up into the heavens.
Jia suddenly felt empty and fell to her knees in the snow, her flames dissipating as she did so. She put her face into her hands and wept.
"Little Beauty?" Only one surviving relative would dare to call Jia that. She looked up into the blue eyes of her Chieftain and beloved older brother, Tao. "Jia... Jia everyone in the city saw that flare. Are you okay?"
"Okay...?" Jia's voice sounded hollow and rough. "N... No, Tao. I'm not."
With a sigh, the big man dropped to his knees beside his younger sister. He reflected that, in many ways, Jia was so very similar to Gran-gran in nature and temperament. Passionate, focussed, lethal when provoked and filled with emotions that blazed so very, very hot. Fortunately, like the fire that was so obviously her element, these storms of passion rarely burned too long. However, the after-affects were always draining. "She wouldn't want you to tear yourself apart so, Jia."
"I... I miss her so much..." Jia sobbed miserably. "She's not even been gone an hour, Tao! How am I supposed to endure days... months... years?"
Tao sighed and hugged Jia against his chest, stroking her long black hair that she, alone of all his siblings, had inherited from their grandmother.
"Jia, the pain of the moment of loss is still with you," Shen-Ru said. The Air Monk had appeared out of nowhere and was standing at a respectful distance, his expression sober but comforting. "With time, this wound will heal, if only a little. You will still feel the pain when you think of her, but you will also remember all the good times."
Jia looked up at the air-bender thoughtfully. "Was it that way for you?" she asked at last. "When your father and mother died?"
Shen-Ru sighed. "For the longest time, Jia, I felt a great resentment towards my father for abandoning us so soon after we lost my mother. To me it was a kind of cowardice to double our family's grief in such a way. However, with time, I came to understand that what my father did was an act of love. He loved mother so much and so absolutely that he could not, would not exist in a world without her." The air-bender smiled, looking inward to his memories. "That realisation reminded me of his love towards us all and all the good times that I could remember. I could not begrudge him his rest with all he did for us for so long and without complaint." The old man with the blue arrow tattoos looked into the bewildered golden eyes of the blue-clad fire-bender woman and smiled. "In time, you too will also remember only the good things, and the fact that your grandmother's life was both full and happy, and be able to draw comfort from these things."
Jia made a snuffling noise, possibly a sob, but managed to nod. "You're definitely the Avatar's son," she said with a slight grin.
Shen-Ru bowed slightly. Jia wasn't the only one who saw a great resemblance between him and Avatar Aang. Oddly enough, Aang himself had always credited Katara with inculcating such wisdom into their younger son. The Air Monk looked over as three blue-and-grey clad figures burst out of the city gates.
Shen-Ru stood aside and gave Jia her space as Tao helped her to her feet and her husband, Baoe, and her children, Sokka and Nuo, surrounded her in an attempt to comfort her. "Always remember the good things," he murmured with a smile. Those were his father's last words to him.
"A send-off worthy of one of the greatest fire-benders of her or any generation," Qiang, Tao's cousin and the current Fire Lord murmured as he walked in the courtyard of the Chieftain's Hall. "I never realised that your sister was so powerful or passionate!"
Tao smiled slightly. "Jia... Well, she was always the closest of us to Gran-gran. In nature as well as in heart."
Qiang nodded wisely. "Grandmother's reaction to Grandfather's death was not so different. I feared that the earthquake would destroy the city." The Fire Lord was quiet for a moment before continuing. "Of course, now we have lost our last link to history. The last living memory of the Unification War and all the tangled politics that marked it and its aftermath." The man sighed. "Without those voices, it is going to be a bit more difficult to keep the nationalist and imperialist groups in all the nations quiet."
"Their voices only need to be silent if we allow them to be." Tao and Qiang looked at Shen-Ru. The Air Monk unhurriedly walked over to join them. "It is for this reason that I have a request. Before Lady Azula's journals are returned to Hong Jing for inclusion in the Imperial Archives, I would like to have the opportunity to transcribe them."
"Really? Why?" Tao wanted to know.
"The time has come to tell the story in its entirety," Shen-Ru said. The usually-sober septuagenarian began to get excited and animated. "I have already finished similar work on the journals and memories of my father and mother as well as those of the Fire Lord Zuko and Fire Lady Toph. I have also had access to the war diaries of Lord Iroh, as well as some of the memoirs of Mai Zheng and Ty-Lee Chang. Lord Zuko even allowed me to see some of his mother and father's writings. With the addition of Chieftain Sokka and Lady Azula's writings, I will have a complete picture of this most astonishing time in our history from the perspective of those who lived it."
Qiang was stroking his short, pointed beard thoughtfully. "You intend to combine them into a single comprehensive history of the Unification War and the period that followed it?"
Shen-Ru nodded. "Our ancestors will thus always be able to speak to following generations with the clearest authority. Their story, in the most clear and comprehensive form, will be there for all to see."
The fire-bender looked at his water-bender cousin and grinned slightly, well used to the academically-inclined Air Monk's eccentricities. "And what will this great work be called, pray tell?"
Shen-Ru smiled. "I thought it appropriate that it be named for the one who was the catalyst who brought all their stories together. I thought to name it: 'Avatar - The Last Air-bender'. I planned to separate the history into volumes covering the different phases of the events. The first volume, I think, should tell the story of how it began and thus should carry the name of the place it began. I believe it should be called simply... 'Water'."