Tyro learned to earthbend in the old days, the good days. By the time Haru left his bare footprints in solid rock, the Fire Nation's hot breath could already be felt on their necks, and they knew it was a matter of time. Haru's mother faltered—it might be best, she said, for their son, if his talents were never developed. But Tyro had looked forward with far-seeing eyes, that same expression he would wear two years later fighting and losing a hopeless battle, and said, "Stay steady."
Haru cannot think of his father without thinking of earthbending, and can rarely earthbend without thinking of his father. There's a stillness in the rocks, a calm sense of waiting, and it is all too like his father's gentle patience. Sometimes he thinks of his father on the prison ship, waiting so patiently to be free, like the stones that have forever, only he doesn't. These thoughts fill him with a sense of impatience and urgency, and his earthbending suffers, as though the rocks themselves would mock his restlessness.
"You must be very, very sure of yourself, or the rocks won't be sure of you," his father had used to say.
In the mine where Tyro used to work, there are plenty of places where the rocks have been cut and lie open and raw. Haru runs his hands over these, and feels a bit of separate life in each layer, each era that has been pressed under those that came after. It's these moments when he thinks he understands his father's patience. Tyro does have forever, like the stones. Haru is his forever.
Lying still on the earth, Haru can close his eyes and sink down into that forever, into that ancient stillness that waits for the Fire Nation to flare and flicker and pass, unscorched, untouched by time itself, the cold stone heart of the world that knows no pain or fear. Haru can bear the thought of dying in battle, of being burnt to ash and reuniting with the soil, or having his corpse buried face-down to stare into this eternity forever, as still and perfect as the earth itself, but the idea of joining his father on the prison ship, being surrounded only by metal and water for the rest of his life and never feeling the world beneath him again, this fills him with something he cannot name, a preemptive sense of loss.
When he passes the occupying troops, Haru is not defiant. He bows his head, and slips past them like a shadow. His heart feels like a stone in his chest, hard and cold and passive and unyielding. His jaw tightens, and they don't see. They don't see him, an earthbender in their midst, and so he's won. The Fire Nation went to the Southern Water Tribe and took all the benders away, but he's here, and that's all the victory they need to carry on.
Somehow he's forgotten what it really means to be an earthbender: an earthbender is a person who changes the world by walking on it.
The night after meeting the Avatar, Haru weeps. He chokes on his tears, keeping them as silent as he can, and the pain sears through him like a hot knife through butter. It's just as the girl Katara said: the Avatar brings people hope. Haru's hopelessness had run so deep for so long, that now it's like tectonic plates shifting, and for the first time, he isn't sure of the ground beneath him.
Katara has surety enough for both of them. She says that word, "hope," like a war cry. Haru is torn between his instinct to survive, and that part of him that says that surviving isn't enough.
It only takes an instant, believing in hope, believing in the Avatar, believing in her. Haru lies face-up on the cold metal of the prison ship, feeling the sway of the sea and looking into the stars. For the first time in his life, he cannot feel the earth.
"Are you afraid, my son?" Tyro asks, his voice gentle but weary, the voice of a man who has seen too many defeats.
Haru closes his eyes. He can still feel that profound calmness, the still at the core of the earth that waits and waits. His greatest fear already realized, Haru knows he has nothing left to fear. "It was inside me all along," he says softly. "I was so afraid of being separated from the earth, of losing that part of myself. But it was inside me. No one can take it."
Tyro puts his hand on his shoulder, and Haru looks up at him and smiles. "Stay steady, Father. We'll see our way through this."
Tyro says, "An avalanche begins when a single pebble chooses to fall."