Secrets of the Wind

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Author's Notes: For those of you who are wondering, a feral airbender is an airbender born outside of the Air Nation. I figure it's not something that would happen at all, prior to Sozin's Conquest. However, with the genocide of the Air Nomads, there is a big gaping hole in the elemental balance that needs to be filled.

The spirits are very big on balance. So for the last hundred years, there have been children scattered throughout the three nations who 'bend the fourth element.

This takes place approximately during the spring and summer before the return of Sozin's Comet unless mentioned otherwise.

Jae Hwa, Migao, and their supporting cast belong to Dark Puck and are used with her permission.

Ketu, Migao, and Tashi are all adults. Longshot is 16-17. Nilak and Jae Hwa are about 14. Meng is about 11-12.

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shh!

His name isn't Longshot. None of them use their real names anymore, not even Jet. Especially not Jet, even.

Yet his name is Longshot. It's what he does. He shoots the farthest with a bow, farther than anyone thinks someone can make an arrow go with the bow he uses.

He's had to hold back for the last few years, really. Smellerbee's sharp. Jet's sharper. He has to be the best, but he can't be the best too much. They have to believe he's doing this on skill alone.

He's so used to holding back with how far he can shoot, he doesn't realize it's a mistake to shatter the Dai Li's rock-gloves with his arrow until he sees the flash of Smellerbee's eyes as she stares at him.

Jet's death distracts her. It distracts him, too.

Next time he shoots, it's an impossible shot. Too far, too precise, too forceful.

Smellerbee stares at him, questions in her eyes.

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i hope they don't find out

Jae Hwa has come a long way from trying to hold a too-heavy sword against the Fire Nation squad who came for her village. Captain Datu and his men take care of her now, treating her like she's each of their's daughter.

It's not such a bad way to live for an Earth Kingdom girl. Better than before. The Earth-soldiers who were supposed to protect her village had brutalized them instead. Captain Datu and his men just made sure there was no resistance, made sure the village would pay their taxes to the Fire Nation, and waited for a more permanent occupation force.

Then they'd moved on, and Jae Hwa had gone with them.

They're her friends. Izo has been teaching her to shoot a bow, and they're both so proud of how far she's come in the last few months. She never even misses anymore.

She worries, though. When she's angry, the grasses rustle, and she's felt Captain Datu heat up when he's angry.

She doesn't think earthbending makes plants stir like that.

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little white lie

"Me? I can't earthbend!" Meng exclaims as the soldiers come through her little town. They're Earth Kingdom soldiers, sure, but they're still soldiers, and she's got enough of a knack with the clouds to not like what they say about those men. Or maybe it's what they bring with them. She's not entirely sure just yet.

She just knows she can't let them find out she's a 'bender.

Aunt Wu slants a glance at her, quick and sharp as obsidian from the volcano. "Of course not, dear. We'd have known by now if you had any knack with 'bending."

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nervous laugh

It's dark out, and Nilak is supposed to be asleep with the rest of her family. She's supposed to be a lot of things, really. Steadfast and serious, a model for the younger children to look up to. A hunter, because there are no men left in her mother's camp. They've all gone off to fight with Chief Hakoda.

She's not supposed to resent that. It was her father's choice, her brother's choice. They chose to go and fight with the man from the other camp.

But she does and she isn't. She dances in the moonlit snow instead, flurries spinning around her like schools of fish.

"Nilak!" Someone hisses, and the snow drops to the ground like something dead.

She turns to see her cousin Tikaani standing there, expression hidden by the shadows of her parka's hood.

Nilak stands there, shifting from foot to foot, not sure of what to say. Technically, she's not doing anything wrong.

"Snow always does that around you," Tikaani says softly, like she's hunting through her words to find the best pieces to make into arrowheads. "Are you...?"

Nilak tenses, her shoulders climbing up around her ears. "Am I what?"

Her voice sounds all wrong, too defensive like a lazy little girl caught in a lie.

"Are you a waterbender?"

Relief floods her, and Nilak laughs softly. "No! No, of course not! How could you even think that?"

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what are you talking about?

The smoke scratches at his eyes and throat, and Migao reaches up to unhook his mask from his helm. He lifts the skull-plate away from his mouth and blows gently, dispersing the smoke from the battlefield.

Shen glances at him, his partner's golden eyes wary. "You shouldn't do that."

"I shouldn't do what?" Migao grins as he slips the mask back into place. Technically he doesn't rate a firebender's uniform, but he's a good soldier and he works well with Shen. Splitting them up has never been worth it.

Shen purses his lips. "Be that way."

"I always am." Migao grins behind his mask, the expression audible in his voice.

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hiding something

"Where'd you get those eyes?" The soldier demands. "Those are Fire eyes!"

Ketu tilts his head slightly. The man is the only one left alive in his squad, dressed all in red armor dulled by the blowing sand of the desert. He is panting, eyes wild. As well they should be.

Around them, a sandstorm rages, but here, where Ketu stands, there is stillness.

"My father," Ketu says finally.

"You dress like a fucking sandbender," the soldier swears, pointing at him accusingly.

Ketu shrugs. He does, of course. It is the best sort of clothing for the Si Wong Desert. Besides, the sandbenders did not question why a djinn would prefer to wear clothes of oranges and yellow. Other men of the Earth Kingdom would certainly wonder why any man would dare to wear such colors.

The robes cover the blue triple spiral tattoo he'd given himself, too.

"Why are you even doing this?" The soldier demands again. "We're on the same side!"

"I never said my mother was Fire Nation," Ketu says softly.

The sandstorm folds over them both.

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they'll never know

The Si Wong Desert hides ten thousand things.

Few men of the Fire Nation have ever ventured to its edges. Men of the Earth Kingdom have gone deeper, but few have any desire to in these troubled days. It is a wasteland, fit only for barbarians and wild animals.

A sand-sailer skims over the dunes, a tornado whirling behind its sail. Sand gets caught in the winds and pulled into a spiral, but any merchant who deals with the sandbenders would tell you there is too little sand in that tornado for it to push the sailer so fast. The woman at the helm seems to be barely sandbending!

Behind her orange veil, the only flash of color among her dun robes, Tashi smiles.

She is of the sandbender tribes, but she is not a sandbender.

-End-