Authors Note: : ) I'm glad you Reviewers approve of this, I think it's turning out really well. Hopefully "Of Fire and Ice" won't be as confusing. I am really proud of "Fire and Ice", with it being my first work of fiction on this site, and definitely not the last. But I think we all can agree that it needed some help, a little … 'boost' if you will. Which is what Luca and I are trying achieve now. Chapter by chapter, Canon and OOC characters, one at a time, one by one. I sincerely hope you all continue to support this just as much as you did the original. And please, if you had confusing moments on certain chapters PM me so I can address it in "Of Fire and Ice", and with that said, : ) Happy Reading.
Disclaimer: I do not, nor will I ever (no matter how hard I beg), own Avatar The Last Airbender.
Of Fire and Ice
Katara's face was pressed against something cold, hard and rough. Well that didn't make any sense, and the dank, moldy smell didn't really register in her mind either. Questions came unbidden to her mind. Why couldn't she hear her brother's obnoxious snoring? Why wasn't there the comforting warmth and crackle of a dwindling fire? She couldn't hear Appa's deep breathing or Momo's gibbering.
Reality seemed intent on crushing her. Then her body began to mount its own attack by filling her senses with more pain and discomfort with each passing second. Breathing became its own labor as the recent events came crashing down on her disbelieving mind. She sucked in a sharp breath. It felt as if she had been charged by a komodo rhino. Katara didn't want to open her eyes.
But she did open them. She would be strong. The first thing that filled her blurry vision was stone, a stone wall discolored with age. She was laying stomach first on the floor, and her face felt as if it were trying to become one with the floor. Her neck protested as she tried to take in more of her new surroundings.
Katara was sprawled across the floor with one of her legs twisted awkwardly beneath her torso, she couldn't really feel the limb at the moment but she knew she would in a minute. Katara's arms remained firmly shackled behind her back. A foul wetness had made its way over her entire body, making her want to scrub the dank-induced sweat away where it gathered heavily at the back of her neck, and in between her shoulder blades.
She quickly deduced that she had been carelessly thrown to the ground. Her aching muscles seemed to scream their approval at her reasoning. With difficulty she began straightening her tangled legs before curling them underneath her again. It was very painful and slow, but she was a big girl and she knew she could do it. With a grunt she propelled her torso upwards, against gravity, and into an erect position. She was out of breath and now. Before she could lose confidence she shot backwards, willing her legs to work so she could stand properly.
Her lower limbs protested and didn't straighten past a sitting position. Katara found herself crashing backwards onto what felt like hard, metal bars. The bars didn't stop her body from continuing its descent as she ricocheted off. She landed earth-shatteringly on her knees. Her agonized cry was muffled but filled the small room easily as tears gathered behind her scrunched eye-lids. When the pain dulled to an ache, she opened her eyes, not caring about the tears that raced down her dirty skin or the knotted hair that clung to her face.
A large rectangular plank lay level with her eyes on the far wall in front of her. The crude thing protruded from the stone and was held up by two frail-looking chains anchoring it to the wall. They expected her to sleep on that? Well, she made this her new target. She had to get off of the floor and away from the bars so she could see what lay beyond them. Katara stood, using the bars behind her for purchase. Her knees threatened to give out as she made her way toward the plank. But she made it and collapsed on the insubstantial thing with an expulsion of air and sound, not pausing for even a second to look around and take register of her surroundings.
She was in a small rectangular room, a row of thick bars cut across the middle separating her from a metal door and another bench. The floors and walls were all rough and un-even stone, and obviously built to keep fire benders controlled and restricted from burning the place down. In places, the jagged stone was covered in ash and in others, large scorch marks were visible.
She scoffed. If she had been a fire bender and they had only given themselves a few yards away from her cell, then they'd have been flayed. But as she surveyed her cell a little more she saw nooks and crannies, random hooks and loops filled with thick chains that obviously meant to keep the benders' contained.
At the bottom of each chain, a foot-long metal canister lay open. She realized with a start that this was designed to encase a fire bender's hands and feet. A wide assortment of cuffs hung on the walls and she wondered who had inhabited this room before her. Probably some criminal who deserved to be in here . . . no more than she did. With a start she realized that the only difference between her and that person, that 'criminal', was that they were fire nation and she was water tribe.
If that were even a difference at all. In her eyes, it was. A big difference. All Fire Nation were scum. Then she thought about all the people she had helped, at the time knowing that they were Fire Nation and helping them anyway. Her mind drifted to the words she'd yelled in anger when her brother had confronted her 'I'll NEVER turn my back on people who need me!', and she had meant it.
Good people, did they count as scum too?
People who had been controlled and hurt unfairly by their own nation? And Zuko, the Fire Nation took away his mother, just like they took hers. Did that mean he counted too? No, nothing could excuse his betrayal. It was his fault and his fault only for his actions. The only other way he could be excused, in her eyes, is if someone else had controlled him and had physically made him choose the wrong choice. Which was impossible.
She was fuming. She'd never forgive him. He sure did a great job at getting his precious 'honor' back. She sneered, He's not even capable of a single honorable thought in his body, the thoughts came angrily. She would look at him just as she looked at his father and his crazy sister; cruel, heartless and honor-less.
Katara went back to her inspection, trying to forget how angry and emotional she felt for thinking of him. In front of the bars and against the far wall was a bench. Off to the side of it was a small, metal door that was probably about as thick as the bars locking her in.
The plank that she sat on wasn't a plank at all. It hadn't even so much as squeaked in protest when she had dropped onto it. It was rusted metal with so much filth on it that it had looked brown from a distance. Well that, and the fact that her eyes had been blurred with tears hadn't helped much either.
In the corner lay some dirty and moldy straw surrounding a drain. She guessed it was to be used to relieve herself. She scoffed. Of course.
After making sure she was completely alone, and ignoring the sounds that came from the rest of the dungeon, she lay down on her side and waited, not caring for the rust that was sure to stain her Fire Nation disguise. If it had been her Water Tribe attire, she would have thought differently.
She waited and waited, for what exactly, she didn't know. Her mind wandered and she found herself thinking about her friends. They were safe and that was what mattered. There was still a chance that the Fire Nation would fall, and she hoped she was there to see it. At this moment in time, she wasn't sure of her future. But she wouldn't give up.
There was no reason to.
She wished desperately that her friends wouldn't come to rescue her. All of her efforts would have been lost, and she prayed to the spirits that Sokka would realize this. Her brother was smart, even if he seemed empty-headed; he'd do what he'd have to do, even if it meant sacrificing his sister to save the world. Well, that last thought made her unsure. At least, that is what she hoped he'd do. Her brother was protective of her, there was no denying that, she hoped he would choose wisely and continued on their quest without her.
Footsteps sounded on the hard floor and the door was unlatched, swinging open with a groan. Katara launched herself upright, muscles preparing for a fight, and once it was firmly established that her arms weren't going anywhere, she was primed for flight. Escape was highly unlikely, though anything was possible. Especially on Fire Nation territory, and most definitely since she was in the Fire Nation Imperial Palace dungeons.
A guard stood in the doorway, and she was most definitely female. The woman walked into the room and closed the door behind her. She had a bowl in her hand. Katara looked on warily as the woman set the bowl down inside the bars. She stood and turned to walk out. Katara was surprised by how much emotion was portrayed in her voice as she swallowed her pride and croaked out desperately, "Wait!"
The guard paused briefly.
"I – I can't eat without my hands and the guards who put me in here didn't take them off. Could you unlock them . . . please?"
The guard's voice was hesitant, yet kindly. "I don't have the key, I'm sorry. I don't usually work down here," The guard's eyes panned over the room searching for other beings. It was as if she was afraid of being heard.
"Then why are you here?" Katara asked confused, the woman came closer to the bars, eyeing the rust with distaste.
Her voice was low and urgent. "I am under direct orders, from the Fire Prince himself, to keep an eye on you. Consider yourself lucky to be in his good graces."
Katara's expression hardened and she looked away. How dare he? How dare he care now?
She was brought back to reality when the door closed and latched. She was in this position because of him. He had betrayed them. He had betrayed her. And she would never trust him again. She eyed the bowl of food with suspicion. She knew she would need her strength so she made her way over to the bowl, wincing at how her knees hurt. A green bruise had spread rather unattractively across both of her knees and it hurt even to think about it.
The bowl held a rice slop mixture and she gingerly knelt in front of it, now glad that the woman had gone. She had felt bad when she hadn't given the guard any proper thanks, but she didn't want anyone to see her being forced eat like a pig. Katara ate. It was thick and spicy and she desperately wished that the woman had brought her water. She needed something, anything to quench her thirst and that burning feeling in her mouth. She had run into the same problem at the meat shop they'd eaten at the day before. Everything in the Fire Nation was seasoned too strongly for her palate.
She would have thought that whoever had made the food wouldn't waste precious spices and seasonings on lowly prisoner food. When she finished she shuffled closer to the bars and leaned heavily against them to get to her feet again. She then walked over to her bench and sat, bending over so she could wipe her mouth against her skirt.
Just as she did this, the latch clicked once again and the female guard who had given her food earlier came in with a metal cup. "I brought some water. I could really get in trouble for this but that mash looked absolutely vile," Her nose wrinkled in disgust and Katara found herself chuckling. Then her smile faltered, and after a second or so of watching the woman fiddle with the door, and looking out a to see if they truly were alone, "Aren't you afraid?"
"Afraid of who? You? You probably just got on the Fire Lord's nerves."
Katara frowned. "I taught the Avatar water bending. . . Maybe they did leave these cuffs on me on purpose…"
The guard looked stricken and Katara realized that the woman wasn't even past her twenty-fifth winter. "Well, that mash I gave you earlier had at least some water in it. If you wanted to attack me you would have done so already."
The woman sounded so sure of herself. Katara found that she liked the woman. Wait a minute. This was a Fire Nation guard. Katara wanted to smack herself in the head, then thought better of it. She didn't want to like anyone who was of the Fire Nation. Especially not the people who were holding her captive.
Maybe, she thought, Maybe, I could use a Fire Nation ally. Before she could think farther on the subject the woman brought the tin cup through the bars and to her lips. "Here."
Katara obliged, drinking it hesitantly at first, then greedily. The cool water felt good against her lips, immediately soothing the burning sensation that the rice slop had caused.
"Thank you," Katara whispered as the woman pulled away, nodding sympathetically as she left.
Katara went back to her cot. She now felt that she was ready for anyone to walk through that door, even if it was the Fire Lord himself. Little did she know that she would have no visitors, and it would be hours before she would finally succumb to her dreams. And after three more meals were served to her she believed that with each meal, a day passed by. She didn't find herself hungry often, which was surprising. Her stomach and tongue seemed to understand that the spicy rice slop was the only thing she'd be eating for a while, because she was never hungry anymore. Well, she wasn't hungry for the slop anymore.
On the third day, after her third meal, a group of guards came to her cell and ordered her onto the ground where they hooked chains onto her cuffs to keep her from running and to keep them from having to hold her, risking her escape from them. Word had spread quickly of how her little meet and greet with the Fire Lord had gone the first time.
This would be the second time she'd be brought before the Fire Lord.
Katara was brought to the throne room, and she couldn't help but notice that Zuko and Azula were not in attendance. She refused to kneel so the guards had kicked her knees in, making her land on them. She wouldn't give the Fire Lord or this Fire Nation scum the satisfaction of seeing her in pain so she put on a brave face, glaring at anything within sight.
The man's harsh voice echoed throughout the room. "Rise, Princess Katara of the Water Tribes."
She was jerked to her feet then, looked up at the Fire Lord, confused. "I'm no Princess. I'm the last water bender from the Northern Tribe."
The big man sighed patiently. "Are you or are you not the only daughter of Chief Hakoda?"
"-And are there any other living princesses of the Water Tribes?" He cut in, his voice edging on impatience.
She shook her head warily, completely confused.
"Then you are considered the last Princess of the Northern and Southern tribes, Princess Katara."
She had never thought of it like that before. She figured that this ruthless monarch was only treating her with an ounce of respect because she probably wouldn't live to tell the tale. Either that or he expected her father to pay up. This thought made her stomach drop with dread, as the latter option was more likely. The Fire Lord wouldn't have taken the time to bother explaining her title to her if he had already decided to take her life.
The Fire Lord seemed to know exactly what she was thinking because he said softly, "I can trade you for the Northern Tribe at least. Your father would most likely do anything in order to secure the safety of someone as skilled in water bending and well-bred as you are. Besides, you are his only daughter." He smirked.
"But if he refuses, you will be considered a prisoner of war and beheaded. If not here, then you'll be taken to either of the Water Tribes for trial before the people."
Before Fire Lord Ozai could continue she cut in angrily, "Would you sit and watch as your own daughter was captured and beheaded?"
The man looked stricken, then scoffed, "Unlike you, Princess Azula is more than capable of handling herself."
Katara growled out, "With all due respect, sir,-" she spat "-That wasn't my question. Would you watch your own daughter die at enemy hands?"
The Fire Lord's eyes narrowed and he glared at her. Guards started to move in on her but the Fire Lord raised his hand, stilling them. "I'll be lenient with you, Princess Katara. I'll answer your question as it apparently seems to mean so much to you," He sneered. "If the time came for me to view my daughter's death then I would not be weak. Even if, need be, it were to be at MY own hands. Does that answer your question? Was that the answer you had in mind?"
She balked. Forget that he would watch Azula die, without remorse, but he would kill his own daughter?
He sneered at her confused expression then said, amused, "I'll keep you alive . . . for now. Perhaps once your father knows of your….predicament, he won't be slow in re-attaining you."
She swallowed her confusion. Her throat felt constricted making her voice sound thick and strangled. "How do you know that my father, or my tribe, won't just let me die? Why do you assume that they'll do anything to get me back, that they'll surrender?"
With this said, a cruel smirk slid its way across his face. "Because they're weak."
Katara sat in her cell. The cuffs were still heavy around her wrists. She thought about what her father would do if he knew she were here. He would most definitely try to break her out, but he wouldn't do anything that would put the tribe in danger. She sighed hopelessly, and laid on her side. How long would she have to stay like this? She was bait, for her tribe, yes. But also for her friends. The Fire Lord just didn't know it. And she hoped that it would stay that way.
Katara closed her eyes, drowning out the muffled noises of the dungeon so she could sleep. Her thoughts drifted lazily from Appa and Momo to Aang and the others. Then to her dad and what he might be doing right now, and what he would do when he heard of her capture. Then to Azula, the wicked girl had a monster for a father. No wonder she was so crazy. And Zuko . . . well she didn't want to think about him right now. He was a traitor in her eyes, a selfish traitor, only doing things that benefited him.
He had betrayed her and she would never trust him again.
As thoughts and memories drifted in her mind's eye, she fell asleep. She was awoken when the latch on her door clicked and it slid open stealthily. Something told her to keep her eyes closed and her breathing steady. She sensed a hint of danger. What did they want this time? Perhaps if they saw her still asleep then they would just leave. The door closed, and she listened trying to see if the person was still in the room.
Steps sounded. They were heavy, very much unlike the woman guard's soft steps. The torches in the room were snuffed out, and Katara found her breathing coming out in soft pants, she tried to steady it. But it wasn't working. She began to panic when she heard the rattling of keys. She wanted to hop up and fight, but she couldn't move. Her body had locked in panic. What was happening? Her eyes were wide open and staring into the darkness. Why were the lights out? Why didn't the person announce themselves at the door? What was this?
Her cell door squeaked open and then slammed close. What in the Spirit World-?
A gloved hand came down on her face muffling her scream.
Author's Note: And as always, please review. One, it makes me want to want to update faster Two, it makes me the most incredibly happy FanFiction Author EVER. I hope this chapter was worth the wait.
Beta's Note: Kat and I have had so much fun (and a little hair-pulling, lol) getting this story revised. We had originally planned on just editing each chapter and reposting them to "Fire and Ice." It didn't take us long to realize this was more work that we'd thought it would be. Thus "Of Fire and Ice," the same story told in quite a different way. I totally appreciate you guys being patient and supportive during this process. If anyone is interested in my work as well, my story "Closer to the Edge" is also a Zutara fic. Thanks for reading and reviewing guys. It means a lot.