Disclaimer: I solemnly swear that I am up to no theft.
The Waterbending Master
We had officially reached the Northern Territory of the Water Tribe two days previously and had yet to find any sign of people. It was constant flying, and tempers were running high for everyone.
"I'm not one to complain, but can't Appa fly any higher?" Sokka was draped over the back of the saddle, staring out across the open water behind us, and every time he opened his mouth, I grew that much friendlier to the thought of tipping him over the side. I refused to get involved in any squabbling and ignored him, continuing to sharpen my swords on a stone from our last stop. The edge hadn't been sharpened in so long, they were growing dull.
Aang whipped around at Sokka's barbed remark and gave a counter-argument. "I have an idea, why don't we all get on your back and you can fly us to the North Pole?"
"I'd love to," he quipped back. "Climb on everyone, Sokka's ready for takeoff." Momo, in one of his oddly hilarious moments, leapt onto Sokka's back and seemed to look at him expectantly.
Trying to quell everyone's anger, Katara became the voice of reason and said plainly, "we're all just cranky from flying for so long without stopping."
"And for what? We can't even find the Northern Water Tribe. There's nothing up here." Immediately following Sokka's words was the sound of ice shifting and forming rapidly. Without warning, a jagged chunk of ice speared its way out of the water in front of us, too perfectly timed to be accidental. With a frightened yell, Aang pulled at the reigns and tried getting Appa further in the air before getting hit. Unfortunately, he wasn't quick enough, one of Appa's legs getting caught for an instant, spinning us harshly before dropping into the water. Ice now freezing us in place, half a dozen canoes steered their way out from behind the icebergs around us.
"They're water benders," Katara said excitedly. "We found the Water Tribe."
"More like the Water Tribe found us," I laughed, relaxing back into the saddle to further sharpen my blades.
The many boats flanked us in the water, guiding us towards the entrance of the hidden city from between a massive maze of icebergs. The great wall we came to was hundreds of feet high and dozens of feet thick. The benders in the lead of our odd little procession gouged a path under the wall for us to pass through, the next section of the gate like a huge puzzle activated by many benders standing at the top of each wall around us. The sight of the city in all its glory was truly astounding, like nothing I had ever seen. And that thought sent a cold stab of dread through my heart.
When we first met, I told Aang, Katara, and Sokka that my mother was from the Northern Water Tribe but had left when she was little. My story was a complete lie and I silently prayed to the spirits for the others to conveniently forget my words.
There was to be a formal dinner in honor of our arrival to the Northern Tribe, a feast presented to us with abundant drinks and entertainment. While the others were taken to their chambers to freshen up, I stayed behind with Appa in the Grand Courtyard where the feast would take place. There was a raised platform and table at the head of the courtyard where the others would sit with the Chief, his daughter, and three of the tribal elders. I would be feasting elsewhere as part of my decision to remain as anonymous as possible.
"You are still welcome at the head table if you change your mind Lady Kya." Chief Arnook had slowly made his way to me from behind and placed a hand on Appa's side, running his fingers through the soft fur affectionately. He looked down at me with his clear blue eyes, kindness and strength perfectly balanced within their depths.
"I am honored you think me worthy of your respect, but I am no one of importance. I am not one who needs celebrated." I couldn't risk questions being asked, and truly, I was not worthy of praise.
"The Avatar tells me you travel with him as a protector. You may not see your worth, but to be the protector of an Avatar in training, the last hope we have of ending this war, is a great honor. You have made it clear that you wish to remain unnoticed, and I will grant you that wish. But you cannot deny me the right to thank you." He called out to a few servants still preparing the courtyard for the celebration, gesturing for them to come forward. "Prepare a small table here away from the head table in honor of the Guardian." The men nodded swiftly and went about their task.
"What do you mean Guardian?" He merely smiled at my question and walked away with a twinkle in his eyes.
The feast began just after sunset, the moon hanging high in the sky and shining her light upon all in attendance. Chief Arnook stood from the head table and raised his arms for silence. "Tonight we celebrate the arrival of our brother and sister from the southern tribe. And they have brought with them someone very special, someone who many of us believed disappeared from the world until now: the Avatar." A sudden burst of cheering resounded through the courtyard, quieting once more when the chief raised his hand. "We also celebrate my daughter's sixteenth birthday. Princess Yue is now of marrying age."
A beautiful young girl with white hair and a kind smile stepped forward to join her father. "Thank you, Father. May the great Ocean and Moon spirits watch over us during these troubled times." She then walked over to take a seat next to Sokka, gracing him with another smile.
Chief Arnook clapped once and gestured to the rear of the courtyard where an elderly man and two boys not much older than us stood waiting. "Now, Master Pakku and his students will perform." Their hands moved together in fluid, sweeping motions, contorting the water in a swift, uniformed manner. As I watched the performance, I couldn't help but overhear Sokka's failed attempt at seducing the princess. His comment about being a sort of prince himself back in the Southern Tribe had me stifling a laugh with a bread roll.
Momo chirped and cocked his head to the side, looking at me like I had grown an extra limb out of my forehead. "Shut up," I muttered and threw the roll at him, only for him to catch it and start nibbling happily.
The next morning was Aang and Katara's first lesson with Master Pakku, and Katara was simply bursting with excitement. After the feast in Aang's honor, Chief Arnook led us back to the main palace and showed us the room we were meant to stay in. It was sparsely decorated with the walls and floor draped in furs for insulation and wonderfully warm for a building made of ice. Granted, it was still far colder than I hoped. Aang and Katara left bright and early for their lesson, both chattering away about what they would learn. Soon after they left, Sokka emerged from the washroom with a fiercely determined, yet oddly lovesick expression on his face, no doubt headed off to find Princess Yue. I ventured out not long after, weaving my way through the city and marveling at the ornate carvings and intricate architecture.
It wasn't long before I came to a small marketplace selling various food items and warm clothes. The most promising of the market stalls had rows of animal pelts and winter coats hung on multileveled bars along the walls. Heavy boots lined the walls along the floor, like soldiers ready to march into battle. With that somewhat morbid thought, I turned to the proprietor to inquire about the price of his coats. "I'm looking for something easy to move in and as warm as possible."
"Well, I have a number of options. The most important thing is your price range," he said with a rather greasy smile.
"If it's at all possible, something in the range of, I don't know, free?"
"No." With a sickly smile, he shooed me away from his stall, watching my hands so I didn't steal anything. Good call on his part.
"You don't want his stuff anyway," said a voice from my left. I turned to find a boy no older than me with dark wild hair and a mischievous glint in his eye. He looked like a water tribe version of Jet, but held a hidden inner power like Zuko. This boy was quite obviously an urchin of the street, just far cleaner than those I'm used to in the Earth Kingdom. "He's greedy, and prices everything twice what it's worth. He doesn't even do any of the sewing himself. You need Alma." He flashed a friendly smile and gestured to follow him.
Keeping a pace's distance between us, we weaved between various stalls, hopped over a low wall or two, and finally ducked in through a hidden entrance in the side of a large building. The inside was cavernous and empty of everything but beds, half of them occupied by children and adults alike. There were single persons and entire families huddled together around a single fire in the center of the room listening to an older woman speak as she dished out food to everyone.
She looked up at us and smiled warmly. "Who is your new friend, Kannu? She looks mighty cold." The only warmth I had managed to procure was a soft blue robe from the palace, more than adequate for inside, but far from enough for outside in the wind. "Come, child, we'll find you something better." She led me over to a closet door built into the wall and pulled it open, revealing a small selection of fur coats hung above a pile of snow boots. With a smile, she removed a simple dark brown coat and held it open for me to slip into. The fit was secure but loose enough to move in if the situation called. I smiled in thanks and we rejoined the circle around the fire, a warm bowl of seal blubber stew placed in my hands.
After a warm meal and a friendly talk, I said goodbye to Alma and her many charges, popping back out onto a major path and wandering the city once more. A frustrated huff broke me out of my reverie, and I looked up to find Katara storming past me with a thunderous expression and tightly curled fists. Jogging to catch up, I walked calmly at her side waiting for her to explain. Sure enough, a moment later she stopped, spun to face me, and started ranting.
"I can't believe him! What is wrong with this place? Denying girls any proper training? It's ridiculous! If a girl wants to fight, she should be encouraged to learn how, not ignored and sent off like a weakling!" Katara huffed a few more times, took a deep breath in and breathed out, "I feel better."
"Good, now start from the beginning." Katara quickly went through the events that led up to her angry stampede through the city streets, my blood quickly coming to a boil at her explanation. "That's absurd! And rather barbaric to be honest, but there's nothing you can do." She looked at me in surprised indignation, her mouth hanging open slightly and eyes wide. "Katara, I may agree with you on how unjust these rules are, but we are talking about customs reaching back probably hundreds of years. One girl from the southern tribe won't change anything. A single voice may be able to spark a rebellion, but no battle can be won if that spark does not catch fire. Just think on that while at your healing class."
"And where will you be? Searching out the urchins and befriending the homeless?"
"No," I said with a laugh, "I did that already. I think I'll go sit in on Aang's lessons from now on."
I sat perched on the rim of a fountain and watched Aang get more and more frustrated with Master Pakku as their lessons progressed. He was stern, patronizing, and overall just plain mean. All I could think was how grateful I was to not be his student.
"Little girl, if you are here to learn water bending, you are sadly mistaken."
Narrowing my eyes at his pompous sneer, I gave him a smile bordering on a grimace. "My name is Kya, I don't bend, and if you call me little girl again, I'll remove your hands." That certainly got the point across. He sniffed at me and turned his back to me to bark at Aang to try harder. The lesson continued much the same until the sun began to set and Aang's exhaustion became too much to ignore. "He is done for the night."
Master Pakku turned around slowly with tense shoulders and an icy sheen to his expression. "You are not the teacher here, litt-" He cut off his nickname for me abruptly, unsure if I would follow through with my threat or not. The swords still strapped to my back were of no comfort to him. "It is my decision when each lesson is over."
"He is the Avatar, and as his Guardian it is my decision when he is in need of rest." The title felt so foreign and still had no meaning to me, but it seemed to mean something to Master Pakku, as he quickly bowed and nodded once to Aang before walking away at a brisk pace.
"I have no idea what you just said," Aang said, joining me at my side, "but thanks!" He graced me with a huge grin, and we set off together back to the palace.
The four of us were setting up our beds to sleep that night when Katara asked her brother about the warrior training he had mentioned wanting to attend. His response was to kick his bag and flop face down on the floor with a frustrated huff. Such a drama queen.
"That bad?" asked Aang, scratching Momo's ears affectionately.
"No, it's Princess Yue. I don't get it, one minute she wants to go out with me and the next she's telling me to get lost. So, how's water bending training?"
Katara proceeded to flop face down as well, as Aang explained what had happened this morning. "Master Poophead won't teach her because she's a girl." I couldn't help but notice that he neglected to mention how it was against their culture's customs. No matter how wrong and unjust it was, we could not ask him to just ignore a centuries old belief on the grounds of it not being fair. It would need to be fought strategically.
"Why don't you just teach her, Aang?" came Sokka's voice. That's not what I meant.
"This will not end well."
"What do you want me to do, force Master Pakku to take Aang back as his student?" The next morning found us in the royal hall of the palace seeking counsel with the chief, his daughter, and the tribal elders, Master Pakku sitting stoically beside Chief Arnook.
"Yes," Katara said," that's exactly what I want, please."
"I suspect he might change his mind if you swallow your pride and apologize to him."
Katara reluctantly agreed after glancing back at a silent Aang. "I'm waiting little girl." The sound of a blade hitting the throne-like platform made everyone look down at me sharply. The message for Pakku was clear; my earlier threat about his hands included Katara.
"No! No way am I apologizing to a sour old man like you!" Katara's ranting was harshly punctuated with angry gestures of her hands and arms and a savage cracking of the ice below our feet. Two large decorative urns at either side of the platform burst open suddenly, spilling the water they held across the floor, drowning our feet. "I'll be outside if you're man enough to fight me." A gasp from the princess followed Katara's challenge as the irate young girl stormed from the hall. I ran after her quickly, worried she would do something even more stupid if left alone.
Aang and Sokka quickly caught up to us and voiced their opinions. "Are you crazy, Katara? You're not gunna win this fight."
"I know, and I don't care," she snarled, tossing her heavy coat into Sokka's arms. Without the extra bulk she seemed so small but strangely more formidable.
Aang tried reasoning with her as we made it to the bottom of the long staircase down from the palace. "You don't have to do this for me. I can find a new teacher."
"I'm not doing this for you. Someone needs to slap some sense into that man."
Aang made to argue further before I pulled him away. Pakku made his way down the stairs and Katara prepped herself for battle. "Aang, Katara needs to do this. She is fighting for what she feels is right, so let her fight. You never know, she just might win something."
Master Pakku got to the bottom of the stairs but made no move to stop, not even sparing a glance in our direction. His casual departing words were enough to send Katara into a frenzy and make me seriously consider killing him with a well-aimed throwing knife. "Go back to the healing huts with the other women where you belong." The ensuing fight was both exciting and nerve-wracking, filled with crashing waves, stinging whips, patronizing remarks, and of course a wayward blast of water from Katara hitting Sokka in the chest. Though Katara held her own remarkably well, it still ended with her imprisoned in a circle of icicles, her head and hands pinned in place. "We are finished here."
Master Pakku began walking away calmly, but his steps faltered suddenly and stopped. He bent down and picked something up from the ground. "This is my necklace. I made this sixty years ago for the love of my life, for Kanna." His voice was filled with awe and heartbreak, making him finally seem human for once.
"My gran-gran was supposed to marry you?" Well, what a strange coincidence.
"I carved this necklace for your grandmother when we got engaged. I thought we would have a long, happy life together. I loved her."
"But she didn't love you, did she?" Katara had stepped forward out of her icicle cage as it suddenly melted around her. "It was an arranged marriage. Gran-gran wouldn't let your tribe's archaic customs run her life. That's why she left. It must have taken a lot of courage." The situation was having a dramatic effect on Princess Yue, and Katara's final words finally set her off. She quickly escaped from the courtyard in tears, Sokka darting after her a moment later.
The next morning's water bending lesson started in much higher spirits than the last had ended. Master Pakku was still demanding and his comments were still rather patronizing, but they were much more in jest rather than truly spiteful. My attention was dragged away from the class when Katara ran up to Aang's side.
"What do you think you're doing?" Pakku asked, suddenly angry. "It's past sunrise. You're late." He smiled softly his eyes giving a subtle warning not to do it again. The students all took their first positions to begin warm ups as Master Pakku wandered over to me. I was perched on the edge of one of two large wells cut through the ice to better allow the benders to practice. "Would you like to join us?"
I looked up at him incredulously and chuckled without humor. "I can't bend."
"Don't lie to me. I can see it in your eyes. If you wish to join us you may."
"I can't bend," I repeated, my voice lower than normal.
"Can't or won't?" The attention of the class had wavered and was now focused on us, Aang and Katara looking deeply confused.
"I can't bend." My voice was tight with quickly building anger, barely restrained and begging to break free. Tears prickled at my eyes, and I blinked them away before they could fall.
Master Pakku seemed deeply disappointed and turned around to continue his class. Halfway there, he stopped again, brought his arms up, and suddenly turned. From the opposite well, a great torrent of water rose over the heads of the class and slammed into my chest. I was knocked backwards into the water behind me, my lungs vacant of any air and burning in my chest. Breaking the water's surface once more, my control snapped. My hands rose without my permission and took hold of the water around me, freezing it into viciously sharp icicles and sending them barreling at Pakku at a startling speed.
"KYA, STOP!" Aang's shout brought me back to reality, the ice melting quickly before it could touch the now frightened Master. Fear screamed from everyone's eyes, fear of me.
"What have you done?" I whispered brokenly, my voice cracking pathetically. Aang made to step towards me, but I ran. And I kept running.
VERY IMPORTANT AUTHOR'S NOTE!
So, chaos has reigned supreme in my world for the last few months, but I will not be elaborating further than the explanations presented here. I am moving out of state soon for various reasons, some good but mostly the sucktastic I-just-have-to-put-up-with-this-shit kind. Sorry for the language. I will get the end of Book One posted before I leave but will not be posting again for a while. I'm moving to the middle of nowhere and may not have access to the internet for a while. I plan to take advantage of that and hopefully get Book Two done before the internet issue gets resolved. Luckily, I just bought all three seasons of the show, so having no access to the website I was using before won't be a problem.
Thanks for reading and please send me a comment or critique or anything. If you want to rant at me, that's fine too. I'll even accept a flame, because I haven't gotten one of those yet on any account, and I think getting one would be hilarious.