Disclaimer: Of course I own nothing related to Avatar, however, Avatar Mara is my own creation, and I'm quite fond of her. I hope you enjoy.Avatar Mara
This is a tale that dates back to the Long-Ago. Before there were cities, before there were roads, before these things were even dreamed of. The records of this tale have been passed down for generations by the Air Nomads, and in the Water Tribe. Later Avatars who dedicated themselves to history had Mara herself dictate the story of her life to them. The biographies of Avatars past has always been a popular subject for plays and fairy-tales and retellings, so some colorful paint may have been splashed onto the dry ink of history. Read on, and remember this story.
Great Tui and La, fill me with the light and power of understanding.
Stone, Shaker, Soil, and Stillness, Earth Spirits, make my words clear and my meaning strong.
High blazing Agni, make my passion as great as the sun, and my thought as great
And numberless Winds that spiral to and fro about, guide those who would hear to come to my story, come to my side.
The very first Avatar was born into the Water Tribe, under the full moon. In those days, the Tribe wandered the Arctic Circle without a name or identity, only living from the sea, and visiting the Oasis once a year, not understanding its purpose. It was said (passed down through the pristine oral tradition of the Water Tribes) that a month before the child's birth, when the mother had been attending the pool, a light shone from the floor of the Oasis, and the face of a spirit moved across the water, and the mother felt the child leap within her. The mother felt certain that her child would be special, and, moved by the vision, promised herself that she would give birth at the Oasis.
30 days later, she felt her pains begin and, assisted by her midwife and husband, struggled to the Oasis despite the winter chill. As the new moon and the sun both hovered in the sky, the baby slipped out and for one instant, the Spirit Oasis shone with an incredible luminescence – but then grew dim again. The baby girl squalled and her parents clutched her against the cold. The tribe's medicine woman, remembering a dream of the night before, named her "Mara," after the bitter sea.
It was during Mara's infancy that the people learned Waterbending from the Moon and Ocean, and as soon as she was old enough, she took to the art rapidly and inventively. Her grandmother taught her and her cousin the skill, for it was taught at first that only women should teach women. So great was Mara's progress that when she was still young the tribe leader, fearing that she might overpower him, had banned her from using it at night, or from ever bending with more strength than her cousin, Sedna, who was only competent.
One night, under a full moon, Mara, still very young, and her head full of dreams sent from mysterious spirits she did not know, took off on her own. In her father's canoe she went, fully intending to come home later, but wanting to practice her bending – and test exactly the limits of her power.
A storm came up. She was blown far off-course, adrift at sea, and all her bending could only just save her, for in those days the elements were wrathful, and fought often. The Earth would shake itself under the sea, forcing the Ocean to rock itself uncontrollably, until it achieved revenge by crashing the rocky shores to pieces. The Fire spirits spewed volcanic ash into the air, blackening the sky and causing storms. All these things swept Mara away from her home, away from her people.
As a great wave crashed and Mara felt the canoe creak under her, she wept, begging any spirit to help her. Carried upward by yet another wave, a lightning strike suddenly illuminated the entire horizon, and Mara gasped to see what looked like a whole ocean full of islands – moving islands – unlike anything she'd seen before. As she fell unconscious, she had a vision of great beasts with the wisdom of turtles and the ferocity of lions, ferrying her to safety.
She awoke with the sun on her cheeks and the breeze in her hair, on an unknown shore.
She walked along it and encountered death for the first time – a mother wolf, frozen, cradling her pups against the surf. Mara wailed for the beautiful creature and the innocent offspring, but then one of them mewled, alive. Mara took the puppy and, though she had little idea how she herself would live, nursed it to health. Pouring a little of her own life and energy into the pup must have strengthened it in some unforeseen way, for it lived far longer than any wolf before, and accompanied her wherever she went. She named her Koko.
She could only find two pieces of her father's canoe – the eyes painted near the prow, to safely watch the seas. She kept them near her, and set off looking for other people to see if they could take her home, or at least shelter her.
Far inland she and Koko traveled, and for many days. She would come across villages of people who worshipped the earth and marveled at her descriptions of the Ocean. "How awful!" they would say, "To live where it is so cold, all year, to have to rely on this great salty, inconstant sea! You should be glad to be away from there – to be on the ground, where all is firm."
Yet in each household where she stayed, she would share a bit of Water Tribe lore, or weave a cloth in the Water Tribe style, or at least offer a prayer to the Moon and Ocean spirits, asking for guidance. When she left, the family within would still shake their heads at the oddness of the Northern people – but think that maybe it would be nice to meet a few more, one day, or to see those magnificent glaciers.
She kept receiving visions in her sleep urging her to go south, giving her a vision of a war between – between two indistinct but identical forms. So south she went, even though every hot noonday made her long for the North Pole. Eventually she learned to fashion a boat out of ice, and she and Koko moved farther south, until they heard a rumor of two tribes that were fighting each other.
She and Koko went to the canyon of the warring tribes. They went first to the northern village, and asked about the war. There was no agreement on how the war had started, and many people said, "Who cares how it started? They're bad, and we're good." Only one man, a gentle fellow named Shu, said to her that he thought the war should end in peace. He was sad, though, because the village ordered him to fight in the war that he so hated, and that was his last night at home.
Mara decided to go to the rivaling village and see what life was like there. She went and found that life was the same, with the same hatred without memory of how the fight had started. Resigned, she decided to go back to the first village and recruit Shu's help. However, hardly had she lost sight of the village when the earth shook beneath her.
Koko started whining, and they ran to a pond to surround themselves with ice. As they watched, an astonishing feat took place: The two villages, moving as though on waves of the sea, came together as the earth shook incredibly. Stone pillars broke through the houses and the people clung to the earth, weeping and praying and clutching each other. For the first time in their history, the two villages faced each other. Then, the earth fell still. From out of the mountain where monsters lived came a figure.
It was a young woman in the white robes of mourning, with her hair down and her eyes streaming with tears. The members of one village recognized her and called her by name: "Oma! What are you doing? Come help us!"
Then, one of the men from the other village stood up, threw a rock at her, and cried, "Witch!"
She stomped her foot and the earth trembled. As she extended her arms, the earth beneath the two villages was thrust even higher and fiercer, so that the people of each were literally face-to-face.
"Look at each other," Oma screamed, rising high above them on a rock pillar, her voice carrying over the hills. "Look at each other! Look at how you have slandered each other, hurt each other, killed each other! Look in the faces of those you have killed!"
Now the monsters from within the mountain came out: the huge, blind behemoths who, in sympathy with the wailing lady, pounded the earth with their claws and created deep furrows in the ground.
"You deserve to die together – to die looking in the face of those you have hated!"
The woman, Oma, high above them, then extended her hands to heaven, and commanded the Earth Spirits to witness her next act. The earth shook terribly, and then subsided. The furrows, fissures, and other scars of the upheavals were shifted away into fecund, solid earth. Oma took a deep breath, and lowered her hands. "The war is over," she said. The birds began to sing again, and she walked away from the villagers, her head bowed. The people tried to follow her into the mountain, but the Badgermoles blocked the cave door with stone.
Later, she returned to find all the people still waiting for her, sitting quietly. She folded her hair back up into a loose bun, and addressed them anew.
That was the first time that Mara, or anyone, had ever seen Earthbending. The people resolved to build a city in the canyon between their tribes, and several of them discovered that they could Earthbend. Mara began to live with them, always saying she was from the opposite tribe of anyone who wondered who she was.
After she was discovered Waterbending in secret, she admitted herself and willingly went before Oma (now the ruling queen of this new city). Mara related to the entire assemblage the story of her life thus far, and her journeys from the far North, and her visions from the spirits.
Oma took the girl out, alone, to the Badgermoles' cave, to see if she could Earthbend as well. Mara insisted several times that she could not, but Oma tricked her into it. Oma maintained, "it is not a coincidence that you have come to the site of Earthbending all the way from the North Pole. It could not have been coincidence that the first person you met and connected with was Shu. No, in his memory, and by the Earth Spirits, you are now my pupil. I will teach you Earthbending myself."
For some years Mara stayed there, under Oma's tutelage and care. The two became the closest of friends, despite the difference in their ages. Mara wore her hair in baubles, the way that her own mother had, and still prayed every night to the Moon and Ocean Spirits. However, now she prayed, too, to the Earth Spirits – Shaker, Stillness, Stone, and Soil. Her fame as Water and Earth bender spread. As she grew up, expeditions were sent out to other Earth villages, to teach them the way of Bending so that no side could spring it in surprise, in war. She accompanied them, learning much about the Earth and its people.
One day, they arrived at a village near the seashore. When the other Omashu trainers fell asleep that night, Mara went to the ocean and swam and sailed on it in delight, feeling the arctic cold currents rushing under her, and she rejoiced.
When the moon sank below the horizon, but before the sun began to rise, Mara felt a great presence approaching her in the water. Becoming wise to the ways of spirits, she formed a platform of ice to stand on and calmed herself, watching and listening closely. She saw nothing, but heard low, inhuman, but kind voices singing to her.
They warned her of war to come, which she must stop; they told her that this part of her journey was ending, and to prepare herself for another.
She asked, "Will I return to the North Pole?" but no answer came.
They whispered again of war, they said they would be watching over her. Then, they departed.
So she returned to Omashu and told Oma of her vision, in secret, and then bid her farewell. The two parted tearfully, for they had comforted each other like sisters in the days of Omashu's founding. Mara left with her one of the two painted eyes that she had brought with her from her ruined canoe of the Water Tribe. Mara bade good-bye to the other friends she had made, and then she and Koko set out to the West.
In those days there was a land bridge connecting the Earth Kingdom to what would one day be the Fire Nation, and Mara took this route, Earthbending so as to cover great distances in one day. Further on she walked, staying by the shore (in case the watching spirits should want to talk to her again) and one night, could walk no more. She put down her pack, offered a prayer to the spirits, and slept on the shore, Koko beside her.
She woke up to hear Koko growling beneath her, and the next instant, they were ambushed. Mara was bound hand and foot, blindfolded, gagged, and carried far. When she was dropped on the ground and her gag removed, a loud and commanding voice asked, "Who are you and why do you come here?"
She responded by asking, "Is my dog all right?"
The voice said, "Yes, yes your wolf is all right. Just tied up, that's all." Someone stepped forward and took off her blindfold. She saw a proud and fierce people unlike any she had seen before. The owner of the voice was a skinny young man who leaned on a throne. On the dais were four other thrones, occupied by two other men and two women. The people wore heavy gold earrings and feathers in their hair, and their faces were painted with red ochre. The skinny young man got off the throne and walked up to her. He snapped his fingers and fire sprouted in his hands.
Mara started. The man leaned forward, a smirk on his face. "Welcome to the Sun Warriors."
In the distance a dragon roared.
Mara lost no time in telling them exactly who she was: Mara of the Water Tribe, she who could bend both water and earth. Some were skeptical, but they allowed her to be untied, and she demonstrated both of her bending abilities. They were astounded and, after whispering among themselves, the crowd turned to look at the five thrones. Mara bowed before them in the Water Tribe fashion and asked, humbly, to be taught their art of flame-bending.
"Fire-bending," corrected one of the women, a harsh-looking older lady whose white hair was dyed with streaks of henna.
"Why do you want to learn?" asked one of the men, a heavy man in middle age who gave off an air of calm.
"I am the only person in the world who can bend both elements. I have received visions since I was a little girl – I am meant to learn, this I know. If there is any bending art, I am meant to know it. I have been guided to prevent conflict and spread understanding."
"Do you follow every spirit's whim, and never act at all on your own?" asked the skinny young man.
Mara scowled. "Of course I do," she said, "but I act for the greater good. Please, allow me to learn Firebending."
The council did not take long to allow her tutelage – with a few caveats. The Sun Sages, as they called themselves, would test her to see if she indeed had the capacity to bend fire. If, after they had tested her, she could not bend, she would leave them and never ask to learn from them again, for they were jealous of this skill, and proud. Mara agreed to this, and asked that Koko be restored to her. They were treated as honored guests of the Sun Sages, and the people soon took her to their hearts.
However, it did not seem that Mara had the natural gift of bending. Despite the training of the Five Chieftains in the hottest hours of the day, and despite her every wish to produce a flame, she could not make even a spark. The aged Chieftaness gave her the task of preventing a fire from reaching the edges of a leaf, and at this she succeeded. They agreed that she had the capacity to control fire, but whether or not she could generate it was still an argument.
Out of the Five, there was one who was her sternest teacher, and as time passed he continuously advocated that Mara did not deserve to learn the art of Firebending. This was the scrawny, aloof male Sage who had greeted her on her first arrival, and his name was Tamusi. Mara, after a long day and evening of trying, but no progress, could not take his sharp remarks anymore and confronted him. One dramatization of their conflict goes thus:
Mara politely stopped Tamusi from going any further. She asked, "Why don't you want me to learn Firebending? Am I not good enough? Is it because I'm not one of you? Are you so jealous that you'll stall me here forever, even though you hate me, rather than share –"
"It's because you don't care!" Tamusi shouted, and his voice echoed in the silent hills. "We didn't just find Firebending and say it was our right to learn it, we begged for it! We had no protection from others, nothing uniting us, nothing guiding us! We begged the gods for some way to protect ourselves, and the dragons heard. Every one who can bend fire doesn't take it for granted – they are envied and cherished for their ability to protect the rest of us. Firebending is everything to me, everything to my people, and you sit there, expecting it to come easy, and whining when it doesn't, because of course you have a right to all the elements, even though you care about nothing! You take our kindness for granted, you assume our tutelage is your due – the only thing on earth that you care about at all is that dumb wolf! You've got nothing that you care about, nothing that moves you in any way. That's disgusting. You might as well be dead."
With that, he began to walk away. Mara stopped him in his tracks, covering his feet with Earthbending. "You'll take that back," she said, low, dangerous.
"No, I won't."
"Then I will make you take it back." And with a stomp of her foot, she expanded the ground around them to a battle arena. Tamusi turned around, smirking.
"You'll regret this!" he shouted, and the battle commenced.
He fought her with fire, and she retaliated with Earthbending, until the sun began to set and the moon to rise. Tamusi and Mara fought with their greatest strength and cunning. Mara teased him, tricked him, until he gave a short laugh – and she heard a note in that laugh that she wanted.
She stomped her foot and pulled her arms back, opening a tunnel into the earth. She slipped in, and Tamusi, laughing with the love of battle, followed her.
The tunnel continued on, and Tamusi, a flame in one hand, was beginning to grow a little frightened, feeling the darkness and solidity close in around him. Then, the tunnel filled with the sound of running water. He ran forward and found Mara standing on the shores of an underground lake. Their battle became ferocious, the darkness and the sparks of flame and the reflections of the cold water heightening all their senses. Then Tamusi's advantage grew, as the sun rose out of their sight. Finally, when he was close enough and about to perform the finishing move, Mara, too furious to let him win, bent a wall of earth between them and sent him flying back against the wall – too far, too hard.
At once her adrenalin fell, and the match was over. She ran to his side, bent some water to her, and then moved them up through the earth and back to the open air. He had a gaping wound on his arm, which was badly twisted, and bruises all over his back and shoulders. Mara floated the water over his wounds, but had to calm herself and remember back to her childhood at the Water Tribe, when she watched women experimenting with healing with water, and how they did it. Through some improvisation and some memory, she managed to repair the worst of the damage.
Tamusi's first words, when the pain subsided, were, "That was good."
Mara replied, "No, it wasn't. I hurt you and I shouldn't have."
"But you forgot that you shouldn't hurt me. You let go of your inhibitions. You let the fight – invigorate you. You fought just… right. Ow. And when did you learn how to heal?"
Mara, to her surprise and shame, found that the next words were hard to say. She stood up and turned away from him. "You're fine now."
Tamusi sat up. "No. Tell me. When did you learn how to heal?"
"I never learned," she said. "I just watched it being – invented – back at the North Pole. At the Water Tribe." She brushed away tears with her sleeve. "I never realized I could – I didn't try it for so long – I haven't thought of that in so long. Haven't thought of it at all – the woman who invented that, she was old, she's probably dead by now – she was my grandmother. And what happened to Sedna?" All at once she had broken down and was crying.
Tamusi tried to get up, but it took him a while. When he finally got to her she had stopped crying. Her eyes were clear as she looked at him. "This is why I need to learn Firebending," she said. "I can't go back to the Water Tribe until I have mastered every bending art there is. Until I can go home, how can I be at peace? I left behind everything I knew there, and since then I haven't belonged anywhere. How can I have passion, wandering forever away from my home? That is why I'm learning."
Temusi looked at her, something new and bewildered in his face, and took her own hands in his. Then, opening her hands, he sparked a flame within them and withdrew his own. She stared, her whole body tense, as the flame kept flickering between her palms.
"Keep it alive," he said. "Don't pour too much energy into it, or it'll grow beyond your control. Be too timid and it'll starve and go out. Keep it steady."
Without another word, he led her back to the village, while she kept diligent focus on her flame. Tamusi then informed the other Sun Sages that Mara had the ability to Firebend, and would be staying with them until she mastered it.
Mara stayed with the Sun Warriors, and learned Firebending. She and Tamusi learned the Dragon Dance and danced it together with the Greater Dragons, where she learned the true nature of fire within and without the human soul.
She came to respect and love all of the Fire Sages, but found, one dazzling summer day, that she had lost her heart to Tamusi, the challenger, the sharp-tongued, the brave, the noble.
It became the custom in the Sun Warriors, and still is in the Fire Nation, for women to pick their husbands, a unique idea among the Four Nations. However, despite this, for a long time Mara could not overcome her shyness. It was the winter solstice, when her power as a Waterbender was at its height, that she found him alone by the shore and offered her love to him, plainly and deeply. For her dowry she could only an eye painted on wood, the last remain of her wrecked canoe. He accepted.
They kissed for a long time, and then he took her hands and they danced and spun on the white sands, before collapsing into laughter under the moonlight.
They were married, Mara and Tamusi, and lived together with much joy and some good-natured squabbling for some years. However, as time went by, they were saddened, for Mara did not conceive a child. Tamusi tried to solve the problem in his own ways but Mara, in her heart, felt that she knew the reason: her whole life had been a move from one place to another. Unlike the water she bent so well, she could not freeze her life, no matter how happy she was there. Eventually she would leave, again. Perhaps this was a blessing from the spirits, so that her heart would not break more than she knew it had to. But for Tamusi's sake, she wished that she could leave him a child to bring him joy when she was no longer there.
Under an autumnal full moon, she began to spend nights by the shore, waiting for a sign. Yet, no "ancient voices prophesying war," and no islands moving with the speed of tides appeared to her sight. One moon passed away and another came, and she grew restless, longing for the wait to be over. Every day with Tamusi and the Sun Warriors now was bitter for she knew it would pass, and she could not let go of them, and every night she waited and waited and nothing happened.
Furthermore, she began to hear rumors of Earthbending warriors encroaching from the south and north, and even whispers of Waterbenders. However, these rumors were bitter and vengeful: the Earthbenders were nothing so much as rocks given human form and inhuman malice, while Waterbenders were monsters, half-wolves who drowned people in columns of ice. Mara did her best to combat these rumors among the Sun Warriors, but they were quick to assume the worst about the other nations, and whispered among themselves that she was just "a good egg."
Additionally, there were reports coming from all over the country of people unlike either the Waterbenders or the Earthbenders before them. They soared in packs like sparrows, or individually like eagles, rode on clouds, and swooped down upon travelers or small villages by night, stealing and vandalizing. In addition to these, they were described variously: some said they were small as monkeys, and others described them as monsters as big as some dragons, with voices like hurricanes, and everything in between.
People feared Mara now, how she paced and shouted along the shore at night, never even coming to rest in Tamusi's arms any more. However, the other Fire Sages agreed that she was the only one who could face the threat of the strange people in the sky, and asked Tamusi to present the idea to her.
He accompanied her to the shore that night, which he had never done before, and told her of the Sages' will. She looked out to the sea for a while, and then agreed to it. He took her hands and promised to accompany her wherever she went. Then she looked at him with the eyes of their happier days. She nodded and they went home together under a waning moon.
The next morning they, with Koko and her pup, set out to where the flying people had last been seen. Mara's Earthbending carried them far in a single day, and then Tamusi urged her to rest. He built a fire and cooked them a little food. He would stand guard, he said, and let her sleep. Gratefully, she kissed him and then closed her eyes, and dreamed…
Dreamed of falling, and then of heat, overwhelming heat as on a summer day…
She woke up to Koko's barking. Their campfire had ignited the woods around them. She jumped up, shouting for Tamusi, but he was gone – she heard him calling for her above the treetops. He had always tended the fire so carefully, but now the trees and underbrush were alight – Mara could not control the fire itself, but broke the earth open to find underground springs and she doused the fire. In the ashes, she found the gold necklace he always wore.
As she and Koko ran around the ash-covered terrain, calling and calling for Tamusi, they heard a laugh somewhere far off, and Tamusi's voice: "Mara!"
She followed the laughter, using a flame to light her way, but it faded before she could reach them. She shrieked a curse to the skies, and wandered in that direction until daybreak, when she rested. Then until sunset the next day she pursued the long-faded laughter, until she fell from exhaustion.
She woke up to the sound of children's voices a ways off. At first she thought herself back in the Water Tribe – no, perhaps in Omashu? – surely they were Sun Warrior children – but Mara woke up fully and followed the sound until she was just behind a tree from where they were. She came around the tree and began to introduce herself –
But the children jumped up into the treetops in one motion, and pelted her with nuts, fruit and – air currents? And then whistled. At once a massive bison with six legs reared up from what Mara had thought to be a mountainside and it approached them. The children – there were about seven of them – jumped on and they began to fly away –
"Stop!" Mara cried. "Stop, please! I'm looking for my husband!"
Her voice must have carried, because they turned around and sent one child, a boy in his early teens, to talk to her. The boy's gray eyes were warier than that of the other children. "You say you are looking for your husband?"
"Yes," Mara replied. "He is one of the Sun Warriors. We were traveling together, looking for the people that come down from the sky, and he offered to take watch for the night. When I awoke, he was gone, the woods had been set alight, and he was taken away – by someone that I could not follow. The people who could soar on the air."
She eyed their sky bison mount, the light and easy ways that the children leapt down from the treetops to the ground. "Who are you?" Mara asked them. "Are you another tribe of the Sky People?"
The boy stepped back a little, lifting his chin proudly. "Yes. We are the children of the wind," he said. "Where we were born, we were stifled. We were told to not play with wind, not to talk to the bison, not to run as fast as we could. So we ran. We took the sky, with our bison, and our bison gathered together. We found each other and have traveled together ever since – we are each other's family. The stars are our brothers, the birds our sisters. We are Sky People."
Mara looked at the runaways – they did not seem underfed, but a part of her felt a pang seeing them parentless, with only each other to hold. "Why do you not band with the other Sky People, the ones who took my husband?"
"We can't fly fast enough," the boy answered. That seemed to suffice.
"So you are not their children?" Mara inquired.
"Oh, some of us are," he answered. "I do not know how it is that a man and a woman create children, but the Sky People do it – and sometimes they bear children, and take care of them for a while. But after the child gets too heavy, too unwieldy, they are expected to learn the ways of the sky bison as soon as possible. The children are no longer tended to by their parents: if you can keep up with the Sky People, you keep up. If not, you are left behind. But they don't leave many children – they don't have many." The boy shrugged.
"And how can you still follow them? Why do you follow?"
"Why, we want to catch up with them, of course," the boy said. "One day, we'll grow fast enough for them to admit us. But until then, we refuse to leave behind any more children that they do," and everyone in the group nodded.
"But as long as they keep having children, you'll be tending for them, and waiting for them to be fast enough," Mara said flatly.
The boy shrugged. "We can't abandon them."
"No. You can't." she stood up. "So why did you do nothing to stop them when they kidnapped my husband?"
"If we got on their bad side," one little girl wailed, "then they'll hate us forever and never want us to join them!"
"Hate you forever, I'd be surprised if some of them even remember they have children," Mara snarled.
"They cannot help their wanderlust," the main boy argued. "And neither can we. Our wanderlust is as much a part of us as our breath, our bending."
That word reminded her. Mara looked around at them and the bison. "You can manipulate the air currents? Show me."
At once every child leapt up, laughing. Some children sprang to the treetops, some took to their bison. Each one bent the air around him or her, twirling leaves or running all over the hillside with the speed of whirlwinds. Some children sang and carried their voices across the valley. Within minutes, Mara was surrounded completely by the harmony of the children at play.
"Incredible," she breathed.
When the children had finished, they all looked to her expectantly. She displayed her bending – first by pulling water out from underground and making a fountain in the air, then making a sky bison out of earth, and lastly by performing the Dragon Dance (her heart aching, thinking of when she and Tamusi had danced it together.)
The children applauded her and remarked that they had never before met someone who could bend more than one element. Mara then asked, humbly and very formally, to be allowed to learn how to bend air, so that she might find her husband. The head boy laughed at her airs and said he would be happy to teach her, and he introduced himself as Behruz.
Of her time with the Air Nomads, little is written. It is known that they kept secret from her Tamusi's true fate, for their own purposes, that Behruz became her particular Airbending teacher, and she adopted him as a son. It is of note that before he would let her bend air, she had to let Tamusi go from her mind. Not forget him, of course, but it was clear from the first day of training that Mara was eager to learn how to bend air and travel as fast and as far as she could, and Behruz decided she would never learn that way.
Instead, he urged her every day to put him from her mind, to make his absence as much of an acceptable and dismissible fact as the breath she took.
"If you hold on to one breath," he instructed her, "you will suffocate, you will stifle. However, if you take all that you need from that breath, and then let it go when it is done, you will find perfect peace and happiness."
When he began to sense that her pain over having lost Tamusi was easing (they told her that the adult Air Nomads would not harm him, that he would be taken care of), but before she had reached the appropriate amount of detachment, that is when Behruz taught her the forms and motions of Airbending.
After that, the oral tradition of the Air Nomads say little, save that she kept Koko with her at all times. The legends of other countries remain silent for the next five years regarding Mara's life, but they do speak of the war that grew between the nations – how people from all over the Great Continent rallied to Omashu to turn back the tide of the vicious, untraceable Sky People, how the Glacier Folk moved like the tide, striking seaside villages at the full moon and vanishing into the sea for the rest of the month, and the Sun Warriors, enraged by the loss of two of their own, and two of their best warriors, struck out of their secluded network of valleys to find them, and take revenge where they could.
When Behruz had come of age, along with several of the other Sky Children, Mara hosted a night of veneration and celebration for them, after the manner of the Water Tribe, at the Autumnal Equinox. Now her spirit had become calmer and lighter, and she was a Master Airbender, as well as the de facto mother of the Sky Children.
What was her destiny? To be revealed and glorified as the Avatar.
How was this destiny made manifest? Through the first war.
Whence did this war spring? Through hatred. Ignorance. Distrust. Fear.
Who is meant to combat these things? The Avatar.
It is a paradox.
Like ospreys and gulls, with their fierce cruel beaks and their wings shattering the water below them, the Glacier Folk came south.
Like salamanders writhing and spurting from the belly of the fire, the Sun Warriors came down from their volcanic hills.
The Earth Dwellers dug trenches, caverns, expanded grottos and natural caves into fortresses. They squirreled themselves in the earth and anticipated attack.
And above it all, the Sky People wheeled in circles, laughing by day and descending by night, to steal, to rape, to sport.
From all corners of the earth, they came together. Rumors of it reached Mara over the winter, and she at first could not believe – could not believe – that her friends would turn on each other. Even though they had never met, she knew them, and could not believe them to be savage. As winter turned to spring she made her way to Omashu, leading the Children of the Air with her. However, when they arrived, she found Omashu to be a half-drained city, the earthbenders and men having departed – all but Oma. While the Children of the Air wandered and explored the empty palace, Oma and Mara greeted each other with great joy. Oma marveled at her friends' new skills and gladly told of the city's growth, all the learning and trading that was happening within.
However, Mara pressed Oma for the facts, and Oma eventually had to divulge that the earthbenders were, for the first time, marching to war. Oma's power was still foremost among the earthbenders in the city, but they had overruled her.
Mara was disbelieving and enraged. She demanded to know where the battle was going to take place. Oma told her, but said that she would not let Mara go alone.
So, on the backs of Sky Bisons, Mara and Oma left Omashu behind and made for the battlefield. Mara tries to leave the children behind, but they follow in secret.
By the shoreline, they found the battle commencing. The Sky People greeted them as allies at first, and left them in peace. The Earth Dwellers had already created a fort for themselves in the center of the field. However, it appeared that a disturbance was already breaking out among the Sun Warriors. Mara guided the bison down closer, and she and Oma saw that one man was holding the Sun Warriors back with superior firebending, preventing them from stepping a bit closer, keeping them to the shore and to their boats.
Mara somehow recognized him, even from this distance. "Tamusi!" she shouted.
He looked up at her voice, and dropped his guard, allowing a Warrior to knock him in the gut with a club, taking his wind away.
Mara leaped off of the Sky Bison's back and used Waterbending to shove all the Sun Warriors away from him. She held him close, whispering, "I thought you were dead. What did the Sky People do to you?"
"They just dropped me back in the Valley," he coughed in reply. "But the Sun Warriors – don't let them get away!" Because they were, they were swarming away from the boats and onto the shore.
"Forget them," she said, taking a leap and soaring onto the back of the Sky Bison, with him in her arms. He gasped, "Where did you learn this?"
"In the air." She quickly introduced him to Oma, and then spotted the Sky Children behind them. Before she could upbraid them, they landed around her and urged her to leave, before things got too dangerous.
"Very well," she replied, "I will get you out of here before any of you –" she looked at Oma and Tamusi – "get in more danger. And you, Behruz, lying to me about Tamusi!"
"Otherwise you would not have joined us," he answered simply. She didn't answer but directed the Bison to head into the sky. By this point the Sky People had realized that she was not one of them, and started to attack them with airbending. Their sky bison steed turned towards the ocean. Mara looked out over it and her heart stopped.
"The Glacier Folk!" Oma cried.
For indeed it was. In blue canoes with eyes painted on the prows, with white and black war paint, they arrived. And in the front of the canoe was a woman who wore her hair in loops.
"Sedna!" Mara leaped off of the Sky Bison and glided on the air currents to shore, in front of the armada. "Sedna! Sedna, it's me! Mara!"
Sedna leaned forward to see better. "Is that…"
"She's in the clothes of the Sky People!" someone behind her urged. "Get her!"
And at once, the Earth Dwellers struck at her feet, the Sun Warriors attacked her from behind, the Sky People struck at her head, and she was doused with a wave from the front and completely wiped out. She tried to surface, but the canoes and oars of the Glacier Folk knocked her down every time. Oma and Tamusi and Behruz and even Sedna turned to watch the water, anxiously, but she did not resurface.
As the Four People turned to do battle on each other, suddenly the fish started leaping crazily in the sea. Birds cawed loudly overhead, and seals came onto the shore and barked. The dragons, sky bisons, badgermoles, and wolves howled. The earth trembled and the winds heightened. Then, the sea began to glow.
With a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning, the sea was split. Mara burst out of the ocean atop a column of white water. Her eyes were glowing. She called down a terrific wind, spiked with rain and hail and drove the Sky People to the earth, where she buried them up to their necks. Then with one arm she marooned the Glacier Folk on the highest, barest rock and surrounded them with fire, and with the other covered the Sun Warriors in salt water and froze it, leaving only their heads exposed. Finally, for the Earth Dwellers she forced water up into great stalagmites and suspended them there, between heaven and earth.
Mara spoke, and her voice carried in it the power of the tides and of volcanoes.
"People of the world, you have found one another at last, you who were foundering in ignorance of each other and of your world. You have come to know of each other's existence, and what do you do with that knowledge? You fear. You hate. You fight one another. This one is disappointed in you, and this one shall see that you are…"
"Who is 'this one?'" Behruz demanded suddenly from the ground.
Mara looked down on him – or seemed to, her glowing eyes made it difficult to place anything. "This one is…" She paused.
"Mara!" Behruz cried. "Mara!" Tamusi picked up the call, crying to her, "Mara!" Then Oma, and finally Sedna, cried her name to her and started to approach her.
"This one… this one is…" the voice faltered as Sedna, Oma, Tamusi, and Behruz caught her in a group hug. She closed her eyes, opened them again, and looked around at them all. She began to sing in her own voice,
"I crossed the sea on the moon's path
At morningtide, I came on to earth
At high noon I rested under the sun
At evening I danced along the wind
Where I went I found friends
Where I went I found learning
Here I am
Here I am
I know what it is to ripen an apple
I know what it is to compel the tides
I have felt the earth's heartbeat
I have dreamed of storms to come
I bear the spirit that never dies
I am the eyes
I am the ears
I am the voice
Of the planet that always endures
I am she
I am this one
And so all was complete.
No-one understood the song exactly, not even Mara, but it was all right. The war was ended immediately. The Sky People were freed from the earth and faced with their children. They sorely repented of their previous neglect, and promised that they would never leave any of their own behind again. The Four People were introduced to each other. They would have become one nation, crowning Mara as their queen, but she stopped them. She would never, she said, be a queen, and only wished for the four nations to live in equality. To that, she said, she would dedicate her life, and whatever should remain of her after her body had passed away.
Again, no one understood her. But, the Four People began to live in peace. The Sky People started to carry news and trade goods from one land to another. And Mara at long last, with singing and feasting, returned to the Northern Water Tribe, together with Sedna, her long lost friend found again, and Oma, and Tamusi, and Behruz. However, she continued to travel among the lands, amending conflicts, encouraging understanding and discovery. She and Tamusi had two children, one of whom had gold eyes, and the other, blue. It is said that one went to live among the Sun Warriors, and the other among the Glacier Folk, and that as long as the world endures, her line will continue among the Fire Nation and the Water Tribe, uniting them as sister nations.
Mara lived for a hundred years of strength and peace, and outlived Oma, Tamusi, and Sedna. However, she gathered her children, grandchildren, and the Sky Children around her as she spoke to them one last time. She told them that she loved them without end, and that she did not quite fully understand herself, but that she was certain the world would, one day. She then bade them start a celebration. So on the shore they lit a bonfire and shared food and made merry. As they began to sing, Mara slipped away, with Koko, now an old, old wolf, but spry enough for one more journey. A canoe with blue eyes painted on the prow was waiting for them on the beach. To the sound of the Song of Purple Summer, the boat and its passengers slipped away into the water, never to be seen again by human eyes.
However, Behruz chanced to look out to sea, then, and saw great shapes on the horizon, like mountains moving out of the sea. This was the first sighting of the Lionturtles in this age of the world.
And thus Mara, and Koko, her wolf, passed out of the world, and out of the history of the living.
Until, thirty days later, a caravan of Earth Dwellers looking for a place to settle celebrated the healthy birth of a squalling boy. They had just pitched a good spot by an oasis, that one day, unbeknownst to them, would be known as Ba Sing Se, the greatest city on the planet.
But for the present, they blessed the infant in the name of the Four Spirits of Earth, and named him Tenmu. He looked around him with eyes that were a little wiser and a little more knowing than a baby's should be, but his is another story. And after him, comes the story of Lady Zyll, the child of the Sun Warriors, who spoke with the shades of Mara and Tenmu and was the first to record their life stories. And after her, comes Usain, the Air Nomad who spent an entire month in meditation on the nature of himself and his past lives, and was the first to name and recognize the Avatar State for what it was, and is, and always shall be.
Go out, you who have ears and have heard, and remember the story of Mara. Share it with others, and may the spirits watch over you. So be it.