Title: Five Men Who Didn't Kill Katara's Mother
Disclaimer: Avatar: The Last Airbender belongs to other people.
Summary: I liked "The Southern Raiders" – I thought that the reveal of the sort of man who killed Katara's mother was well done. But that doesn't stop me from wondering about the other directions that Yon Rah could have taken ….
Thanks to my friend Bethany for her beta work.
1. Mothers and Fathers
"Do a dragon, Daddy!" shrieked the little girl as she jumped up and down, more wisps of unruly dark hair escaping from her messy ponytail with each bounce. Beside her, her younger brother by perhaps a year added his support, chanting, "Dwagon! Dwagon!"
Katara watched her mother's murderer bend another whimsical shape out of fire to the cheers of his audience.
She had wondered what kind of man could destroy her world in a moment.
Now she wondered what kind of woman could do the same.
2. The Burden of the Fire Nation
Yon Rah's superiors tell him to burn all the waterbenders. It is the only way. The Water Tribe threatens the sovereignty of the Fire Nation, using their control of the oceans to attack all ships sailing under the Flame.
When the woman confesses, Yon Rah does what is necessary.
It is the first time Yon Rah uses his firebending on another living being.
The waterbender screams as her furs and then flesh chars and crisps. Yon Rah gags as the squalid tent, already heavy with the scent of unwashed bodies, grows fouler with the acrid smoke of cooking flesh. He runs outside to vomit in the snow.
She deserved it. That woman and her kind stand against progress, against civilization, and the Fire Lord. It was the outbreaks of violence from the barbarians that brought him here. His nation offered peace, and these tribes only responded with war.
Besides, Yon Rah thinks as he returns to his ship, throat raw and stomach empty, even in this we raise these peasants up. It is through fire one is purified, reduced to ashes so the spirit is freed. The ignorant Water Tribesmen, instead of cremation, would throw their dead into the water and let the bloated bodies become carrion. Through fire he spared his enemy the desecration of the body that awaited her from these savages.
I did the right thing, he repeats, after he reports success.
I defended my nation, he tells himself after his promotion.
I followed my orders, Yon Rah pleads to the waterbender, the real one.
3. War Stories
"Yeah, I wouldn't say no to another drink. Moon's barely risen. Heard a story once that the moon died. Don't look dead to me.
"They say waterbenders use the moon. Of course, the waterbenders are just about gone now. You're talking to the man who killed the last waterbender in the South Pole. Badge of honor, that is.
"Got my orders from the captain himself. Village had the last waterbender, he says, so while we attack and try to smoke'em out that way, you go 'round the back and get answers. First hut I hit had what looked like a nice piece of ass, even under all those furs. Never found out for sure though – she fessed up to being the waterbender real quick. No fucking way was I going to risk getting my dick frozen off – killed her then and there. Got myself promoted out of that ice hell.
"No, I'm not forgetting anything. You want another story, buy me another drink.
"What about the girl? I killed her, weren't you listening? A daughter … yeah, there was a kid, but she ran off. Not that I cared. I'm not a fucking pervert.
"The wrong one? What do you mean, the wrong one?
"Who the hell are you? What do you want? I'll give it to you, just tell me! Don't – aagh! – what is happening? Forgive me, I didn't know – "
4. Lesser of Two Evils
After sending the child away to seek help, the woman confessed to being the waterbender. When she made no move to defend herself with her element, Yon Rah saw the truth and honored her sacrifice. Her death was a quick and clean as he had skill to do. Able now to report success, Yon Rah led his men away from the South Pole. There was no longer a need to harass the defenseless tribe.
When a Water Tribe girl sought him out for revenge, Yon Rah knew had had done the right thing.
The child, the woman's daughter, had grown into the most powerful waterbender he could imagine.
This was a future worth dying for.
Forever in Agni's embrace
Katara collapsed at the foot of the grave marker. Behind her, Zuko stood guard in the pouring rain and wondered if this could be enough.