The Confrontational Approach

By Advocaat

Chapter Eighteen

The Spirit Plane

Bright light and intense heat. That's all he remembered.

Now, all that surrounded Zuko was darkness and biting, bitter cold.

He hugged Katara closer as he trudged through knee-deep snow, sheltering her from the howling gale with his body. He didn't know how far he'd walked, or even where he was going—he didn't have the energy to waste worrying about such things—all he knew was that Katara needed help and he wasn't going to find it by staying in this frigid tundra.

He knew he should be thinking about how he got here and why he couldn't remember anything after jumping into the sea, but that and the million other questions he probably ought to be asking himself were locked away with the memory of blazing eyes and wordless whispers inside his head.

He glanced down at his burden and sucked in a breath when he saw the blue creeping into her lips. Quickly, he shifted her in his arms, and with numb fingers, pulled her travel bag around and brought out her Water Tribe tunic. It wasn't much, but he'd take anything he could get to keep her warm. He carefully slid her arms through the short sleeves and wound the white belt around her middle to keep it in place. Then he fished his crimson cloak out of his own bag and, rearranging her again so that he could move more easily, threw it around the both of them in order to help conserve heat.

Katara slept on, not stirring even once through the process, and Zuko's anxiety continued to mount. Why hadn't she woken up yet?

Blearily, he looked at the surrounding area, trying to memorize landmarks so that he wouldn't get all mixed up and end up heading back the way he'd come. The last thing he needed was to wind up traveling in circles through a blizzard.

Not that he could travel much longer. Even firebenders could only last so long in the snow, as he'd found back at the North Pole when he'd tried to carry Aang off through a similar blizzard. And back then he'd been dressed for the occasion. Now, dressed only in his light Fire Nation summer-ware, the only thing keeping him from freezing to death was his bending.

He needed to find shelter. Somewhere he could rest for a while and regain his strength. He cast his gaze around again, but the surrounding area was completely devoid of anything tall enough to offer any measure of relief from the icy wind.

His foot hit a patch of hard-packed snow, and unable to find the strength to correct his balance, he pitched forward, falling onto the soft layer of powder on top. He rolled onto his back in an effort to keep Katara's body out of the snow as much as possible, but he was unable to muster the energy to get back up again. Instead, he lay back and closed his eyes and just focused on breathing. He knew it was dangerous to stop moving, but he shoved that along with all other concerns from his mind.

He allowed his thoughts to wander, letting his mind take him to warmer places. He thought of fire and sand and warm blankets and hot food. "I'll take that roast duck now, Uncle," he murmured. Now that he thought about it, when was the last time he'd eaten? He couldn't remember.

He opened his eyes and saw that snow was beginning to pile up on Katara's body. With a grunt of effort, he managed to hoist himself up and brush the snow from her back before lifting her into his arms again. He stumbled a bit, but was able to stabilize himself by closing his eyes and patiently waiting for the world to stop spinning.

That's when he smelled it.

Smoke? he thought, sniffing the air, but the direction of the wind changed, taking the smell with it. Zuko stood still and waited for the smell to come again, and a moment later it did. He wan't mistaken. He definitely smelled smoke on the air.

With new determination, he began walking again in the direction of the smell. Smoke meant fire, and in a frozen wasteland, fire could only mean people.

Just a little more, Katara, he thought as he trudged on, hugging her just a bit closer.


"Hey, Korok! I think I see something out there."

"Probably just a an antarctic wolf-hound. No other animal is dumb enough to go out in this weather."

"That doesn't look like any wolf-hound I've ever seen."

Korok looked out over the edge of the wall to where his buddy was pointing and saw a dark figure approaching through the snow. It was hard to see it well in the twilight, but it was clearly no wolf.

"I think it's a person," his friend said, squinting into the darkness.

"That's impossible. Who in their right mind would be out now?"

The figure continued to draw closer, and Korok's eyes widened as he became able to make out the color of the person's clothing.

"Fire Nation!" he cried, pointing his spear down at the approaching figure.

"Fire Nation? But why...?"

Korok shoved his friend toward the ladder leading down from the wall. "I'll take care of him! Go warn the elder. There could be more on the way."

The other man nodded and hurried down the ladder, leaving Korok alone to deal with the threat. Korok cast aside his spear and picked up a bow, deftly nocking an arrow and aiming it down at the figure below. "I'll teach you to mess with the Water Tribes!" he hissed, and let the arrow fly.

The projectile sung through the air on a direct path toward the target below. Korok's shot hit its mark and the figure stumbled and crumpled to the ground. The warrior quickly scaled the wall and ran toward the person just as the main gate opened and several other warriors rushed out to join him.

Korok reached the body first, approaching warily until he saw the dark stain creeping across the snow beneath them. Deciding the person no longer posed a threat, he rushed up and knelt beside them. The person was definitely male, and his body was shrouded in a long cloak the same color as the blood still seeping from his wound.

Korok was about to roll the body over when a hand shot out and grabbed his arm in a vice-like grip. He looked quickly at the man's face and saw a single golden eye glaring at him from behind matted black bangs. The eye traveled from his face to his clothes, and then the hostility in it faded and he let out a sigh of relief. "Please," he said, his voice weak and barely audible. "Help her. Please." Then he lifted his arm and the cloak fell away, revealing a second figure clad in blue.

Korok stumbled back and swiftly pivoted around to address the other warriors. "Get the elder! Quickly!"


Katara curled in on herself, trying to conserve body heat. She was so cold.

"Hey," a voice called somewhere nearby. "You awake?"

Groggily, she opened her eyes, but she was forced to shut them again immediately due to the intensity of the light around her. She groaned and sat up slowly, keeping her eyelids closed to block out the glare.

"Oh, good," the voice—definitely a female's, although not familiar at all—spoke again. "I was beginning to think I'd be stuck with nobody to talk to the entire time."

Confused, Katara cracked her eyes open again and looked around. The feeling of coldness in her bones abruptly fled the moment her eyes landed on her surroundings. She was in an open meadow; a plush expanse of vibrant green dotted with colorful flowers. She thought she heard a stream somewhere nearby. "Where am I?" she asked, bringing a hand up to shield her eyes as she opened them further.

"You don't know?" the woman asked, sounding perplexed. "Well, I there goes my guess about you being a spirit."

Katara followed the voice and her eyes fell on the figure of a teenaged-looking girl, maybe a few years older than herself, her dark skin and blue eyes immediately identifying her as Water Tribe. A member of the Northern tribe, perhaps? "Who are you?" Katara questioned.

The older girl gave her a lopsided smile and pointed at her chest with her thumb. "Name's Korra."

The way she said it made Katara feel like she was expecting some kind of recognition at the name, but it certainly didn't ring any bells for her. "Oh, well, nice to meet you, Korra," she said, offering a smile of her own. "My name's Katara."

Korra's expression flickered, mild surprise registering on her face. "Katara, huh? That's a pretty prestigious name."

Katara blinked, taken aback. "I guess." The other girl's knowledge of the rareness of her name surprised her. 'Katara' was a uniquely Southern name, generally reserved for members of the nobility—back when her tribe still had some semblance of a hierarchy. It was one of the few privileges of status she was given as the daughter of the chief. If Korra knew about that, then was she mistaken about her being from the Northern Tribe? But that couldn't be, because Katara knew every member of the Southern Tribe personally.

Then again, she supposed it wasn't impossible for someone from the North to know. She shrugged it off and geared her mind back to the more pressing matter at hand, specifically the absence of her traveling companion. "Hey, um, have you seen anyone else around here? A firebender...a bit older than me, gold eyes, frowns a lot...?"

Korra shook her head. "Can't say that I have. I don't usually see people who aren't spirits around here."

Katara scrunched her nose in confusion. This was the second time this girl had mentioned spirits. "Um, where is 'here', exactly?"

Korra crossed her arms over her chest and leaned her weight on one leg, jutting out a hip. "The Spirit Plane."

"Spirit Plane?" she questioned, dread suddenly creeping through her. "You mean like the Spirit World?"

"Sort of. More like the edge of the Spirit World."

Katara felt panic seize her. "What? But how? I can't be in the Spirit World! I was just with Zuko..." suddenly, memories of the incident she'd been in just recently flooded into her mind. The jet boat, the storm, the wave... It couldn't be... was she...dead? Had she been crushed by the wave? Drowned in the sea? But then, wouldn't Zuko have died too? But he wasn't here...

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Korra said, wagging her hands in font of her. "Did you say Zuko? As in the Zuko?"

Katara paused in her panicking to regard the other girl oddly. "What do you mean, the Zuko? What, is he famous around here?"

Korra's eyes widened and something like disbelief crossed her face. She raised her hand and pointed at Katara. "Hold up! wouldn't happen to be Avatar Aang's waterbending master? That Katara?"

"Is there another Katara?" she asked.

Korra stared at her, wide eyed, as if seeing her for the first time. "No way."

Before Katara could say anything to that, Korra took her hands and lifted them over hear head, forcibly turning her this way and that and examining her with amazement.

"You were a babe!" the older girl exclaimed, letting her go and stepping back to take her in as a whole again.

"Excuse me?" Katara asked, having no idea how to respond to such a remark. Could this girl get any more confusing?

A look of realization crossed Korra's face suddenly, but it passed quickly and she smiled sheepishly, lifting a hand to rub the back of her head. "Sorry," she apologized awkwardly. "It's just that I've, uh, heard a lot about you. And I was surprised to meet this."

The fear from before came back as Korra reminded her of their current location. Katara bit her lip briefly and then asked, "I'm not dead, am I?"

Her question caused Korra to smile. "I doubt it. That would be a bit problematic for the future." The older girl's eyes turned serious then, and she regarded Katara with an expression of soberness that made her look years—centuries—older. "But you're headed for a different one, I can tell."

Katara cocked her head to the side, still having absolutely no idea what this girl was talking about, but her response meant that she wasn't dead, right? Probably. She looked around again, taking in the luscious greenery and warm breeze. So, this was part of the spirit world? She'd always wondered what the spirit world was like.

Looking back at Korra, she asked, "So, um, are you a spirit?"

Korra laughed at that. "No, no," she replied, shaking her head. "I just have stronger than normal ties to this place. Comes with my job, you could say. I often end up here when I sleep."

"When you sleep? You mean like dreaming?"

"Yep." Korra crossed her arms and her ankles and looking down at Katara with a nonchalant smile.

"Oh," Katara uttered, her mind working. "Then, do you think I'm dreaming too?"

Korra shrugged. "Could be."

"I have been having a lot of strange dreams recently," she divulged. "Although none of them have been quite like this."

"Well you know, dreams are vessels the spirits use to communicate with us," Korra said matter-of-factly. "Something about our consciouses being less grounded to our bodies when we dream...or something like that. Tenzin knows more about that kind of stuff than me." She scratched her chin somewhat embarrassedly. "What I'm trying to say is that if you're having odd dreams, you should pay attention to them. The spirits might be trying to tell you something."

Katara chuckled a bit at that. "Zuko told me exactly the same thing."

Her statement caused Korra to smirk slightly. "Zuko must be very wise."

Katara full on laughed this time. "I don't know about that. I think he just soaks up little bits of wisdom from his uncle."

Korra laughed as well, but her laughter quickly petered off and she gave Katara a look that she didn't quite understand. "You sound pretty fond of him."

Katara couldn't help the soft smile that lifted her lips at Korra's observation. "I don't know... I guess I am." She looked down at her feet as a light blush stained her cheeks. "He's so awkward and dorky...but he's also determined and sweet. It's hard not to like him."

"Really?" Korra asked, sounding surprised. "I never would've imagined him like that."

"Nor would I until just recently," she admitted. "When I first met him, he was a big, angry jerk," she informed the other girl, scrunching her nose at the memory. "But then I got to know him, and sometimes I can hardly believe he's the same person as the guy I met half a year ago. He's still moody and irritable, but he's one of the nicest people I know. He's helped me so much...I don't know if I'll ever be able to make it up to him. I was a real witch to him when he joined us."

Korra turned her chin away awkwardly and Katara thought she saw a hint of a blush on the older girl's own face. "Yeah... I've been known to act that way myself, upon occasion."

Katara smiled. She liked this girl, weird as she was. "So," she said, switching back to their earlier topic, "if the spirits are trying to tell me something through my dreams, what do you think they're saying with this one?"

Korra frowned slightly at her question. "I don't think the spirits were the ones who brought you here," she said, glancing back at Katara out of the corner of her eye. "If you're here, then that can only mean that you did it yourself."

"Myself?" Katara echoed. "But how? I don't remember doing anything that would bring me to the spirit world."

"That's a really good question," Korra said, looking down with a contemplative expression. "I've never heard of someone who wasn't... well, someone like you, being able to come here. It doesn't make sense."

"What do you mean, 'someone like me'?"

Korra lifted her hand to rub the back of her head again. "Oh, um...just that, well, it takes someone with especially strong spiritual energy to come here. People like that are kinda rare, y'know?"

Katara thought about that. "Aang has really strong spiritual energy," she mused. "Do you think he ever comes here?"

Korra chuckled at that. "Oh, I'm sure he does," she answered. "He might not remember it, though. I often forget when I wake up, but it all just kinda comes rushing back the next time I'm here."

Katara sat back down in the grass and pulled her knees in to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. Korra did the same. "I wonder how he's doing," Katara pondered aloud. "I haven't seen him or Sokka or Toph or Suki in so long."

Korra gave her an inquisitive look. "Could I ask why?"

"There was an attack on the air temple where we were hiding from the Fire Lord," she explained. "Zuko and I were forced to stay behind when the others escaped. Appa, our flying bison, couldn't carry all of us."

Korra nodded along. "So, you've been separated ever since?"

Katara placed her chin on her knees. "Yes," she answered simply. Then she added, "But it's been good in a way. I've experienced a lot of things that I probably wouldn't've if this hadn't happened. And it's been fun learning about Zuko, too. He was our enemy for so long... I guess traveling with him has helped me really get to know him."

Korra smiled knowingly. "There's this guy I know... I wasn't too keen on him at first, but then we were forced to work together and somewhere along the way he just kind of grew on me. He's a firebender too, actually."

Katara was surprised by that. "A firebender?" she repeated. "You're friends with a firebender? How?"

Korra's posture stiffened. It was just slightly, but Katara noticed. "Oh, uh... well, you know..." she trailed off, shrugging her shoulders and looking away far too nonchalantly.

Katara crossed her arms. She smelled a story. "No, I don't," she said, raising an eyebrow at the older girl. Was there some kind of forbidden romance going on with her and this guy? If so, Katara was all ears.

Korra laughed awkwardly. "It's kind of a long story, so..."

"Do you like him?" Katara asked, ignoring her obvious hesitance.

Korra said nothing, but the blush that spread across her cheeks was answer enough.

Katara's face broke into a grin. "You do!" she exclaimed. "You like a firebender!"

Korra turned her nose up huffily and crossed her arms. "So do you," she retaliated.

Katara blushed. "Wha—I do not!" she denied hotly.

"Oh yeah? Well, you sure talk about one a lot," the older girl fired back, lifting a finger from her arm to point at her.

"That's—that's just because I've spent so much time with him lately," she objected. "I don't like him."

Korra grinned and stepped forward to poke her in the chest. "Admit it! You have a big, fatcrush on Fire Lord Zuko."

Katara opened her mouth to deny these accusations further, but she stopped and a perplexed look crossed her face. "Fire Lord?"

Korra's face paled. "Ah! No, I mean Prince Zuko," she corrected, laughing awkwardly.

Katara looked at her skeptically. This girl was definitely a strange one.

Without warning, a feeling like intense tiredness overcame her all at once, and Katara reeled. She automatically clutched the grass to steady herself. "Whoa," she said, blinking as dizziness washed over her.

"Looks like you're waking up," she heard Korra's voice as her vision blurred, making the other girl's features swim out of clarity. "Well, it was fun talking to you. Gotta remember this when I wake up."

"Will I ever see you again?" Katara asked as her arms gave out and she began to succumb to gravity.

"Oh, I'm pretty sure you will," Korra's voice replied. "But it could be a while."

Katara's cheek hit the grass and she closed her eyes. She hoped she did. She liked this girl, odd as she was.

"Hey," she heard Korra's voice one last time before her consciousness left her. "Hang in there, okay?"


Kanna jerked herself out of her half asleep state when she caught stirring from the bed in front of her. Swiftly, she rose from her seat and stood expectantly over the girl in the bed, wrapped snugly in heavy furs. The old woman breathed a sigh of relief when one eye cracked open, followed a moment later by the other.

"Gran...gran?" Katara uttered, bringing a hand up to rub at her eyes. She looked up at Kanna in confusion, and the elder could tell that she was trying to piece things together in her head. Realization sparked suddenly on her face, and with a huge smile she abruptly sat up threw her arms around Kanna's neck. "Gran-Gran!" she cried joyfully.

Kanna's face broke into a smile. "Oh, Katara," she responded, hugging her granddaughter close.

"I've missed you so much!" she said, pulling away and beaming at her. "What are you doing here? How did you get here?"

Kanna raised a brow at her granddaughter's question. "Me? My dear, that is what I hoped to ask you." She moved aside and gestured around the hut for Katara to see.

She wasn't surprised when Katara's eyes widened as she took in her surroundings. "I'm...home?"

Kanna nodded.

Katara shook her head disbelievingly. " When?" Her eyes darted around the room frantically. "Where's Zuko?"

Kanna studied her granddaughter's panicked expression and frowned. Was she referring to the Fire child she was found with? The whole situation surrounding Katara's return was troubling to Kanna, and she didn't know how she felt about her granddaughter's quickness to ask after him. "If you mean that Fire Nation boy you were with, he's recovering in the next room."

Katara's eyes snapped back to her, and there was definite concern in her eyes as she asked, "What do you mean, recovering? What happened to him?"

Kanna stood and motioned for her granddaughter to follow her. She lead the distressed girl into the adjoining room and gestured to Sokka's old cot where the son of fire lay sleeping. Beside her, Katara sucked in a breath and then rushed to the boy's side, dropping to her knees by the cot.

Kanna observed her granddaughter as she took in the boy's injury. Katara lifted her hand over his prone form and hesitated just briefly before delicately laying it on his chest. She took a moment to study his wound through the bandages and then reached up to cup his face in both hands. "Zuko," she called softly, peering down at his unresponsive face. "Zuko," she called a little louder, but the young man didn't stir.

Kanna started at the expression in her granddaughter's eyes when she whipped her head around and asked, "What happened? Why is he like this?"

"He was shot by one of our Northern warriors," she told her grandchild evenly. "They saw him approaching the village and assumed he was an invader."

Katara's expression grew furious. "They just shot him? Without even checking to see if he was an enemy first?" she asked, her tone incredulous.

Kanna regarded her granddaughter with a flat look. "He's not?"

Katara cast her a disbelieving look. "Of course not! He's–" she stopped abruptly and the outrage faded from her eyes, replaced by understanding. "You remember him." She looked suddenly anxious.

Kanna nodded. "I recognized him the moment I saw him."

Katara quickly moved so that she was standing protectively between her grandmother and the unconscious firebender. "He's not bad," she declared, her expression earnest.

"I never said he was," Kanna stated evenly. "I'll reserve that judgement for after I've talked to him myself."

Katara breathed a relieved sigh and her posture relaxed slightly.

"Putting that aside for now," Kanna said, shifting the conversation over to what she believed was a more pressing matter, "why are you here? And where is Sokka?"

Katara shook her head slowly, her expression becoming troubled. "I really don't know," she admitted. "The last thing I remember was trying to escape from Azula."


"This guy's crazy sister," she clarified, gesturing to the boy in the cot. "She's bad news. Her and Zuko don't exactly get along."

Kanna wondered just when it was that her granddaughter became familiar with this firebender's family, but she put that thought aside as she considered Katara's words. She pursed her lips and frowned. "So there are more firebenders running around the South Pole?" If that were the case, she'd need to call a tribe meeting immediately.

Katara shook her head. "No, we were in the Fire Nation."

Kanna's eyes grew large and she regarded her granddaughter with shock. "The Fire Nation?! Spirits of the Earth and sea, Katara! What were you doing in the Fire Nation?" The last she'd heard, her grandchildren had been traveling in the Earth Kingdom with the Avatar. Now Katara was here, not with Sokka or the Avatar, but with a firebender, and she was saying that she'd just been in the Fire Nation, the most dangerous place for a young waterbender girl to go!

Katara bit her lip. "That's kind of a long story..."

"A long story? That's all you have to say?" Kanna took her granddaughter by the shoulders and shook her slightly. "Katara, do you have any idea how dangerous that place is? Those people can kill you and not lose a moment of sleep!"

Katara removed her hands and held them in her own between them. "Gran-Gran, it's okay. I've been all over the Fire Nation. I can handle myself just fine."

Kanna shook her head. "Katara, I know you're a very strong young woman, but the Fire Nation is–"

She was cut off by a low groan from the cot. Katara's reaction was immediate. She dropped Kanna's hands and moved swiftly to the young man's side.

"Zuko," she called once again, her eyes scanning the firebender's face worriedly.

The boy's face scrunched in pain and he sucked in a breath. His eyes slowly opened, as strange and yellow as Kanna expected and had learned to fear when she was merely a girl. He blinked a couple times and then his gaze found Katara's.

"You're awake," he said in a weak voice, and his lips curled upward slightly.

Katara let out a breath and nodded. "So are you," she responded. "How are you feeling?"

The firebender winced and lifted his left hand to his right shoulder, touching the wound lightly. Kanna carefully took note of the familiarity in his tone as he spoke with her granddaughter. "Like I was chewed up by a dragon."

The old woman moved into the boy's line of sight and crossed her arms, deciding to make her presence known. "The arrow pierced your collarbone," she said in a detached voice. "You're lucky you didn't lose your neck."

The boy looked up at her, and Kanna saw the recognition in his eyes. However, instead of scowling like she remembered, his features adopted a guilty expression. "You're–"

"Ah," Katara cut in, coming between them. "I guess I should properly introduce the two of you, huh?" she said, scratching the back of her head. She then gestured to Kanna, and to the firebender, said, "Zuko, this is my grandmother."

Zuko met Kanna's eyes sheepishly and surprised her by nodding respectfully.

"And Gran-gran," Katara continued, addressing her this time, "this is Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation."

"Prince Zuko?" Kanna repeated, her eyebrows rising. Did Katara mean to tell her that this boy was a member of the Fire Nation royal family? The family that had brought nothing but suffering and pain upon the world for a hundred long years... The son of Ozai, the most feared man in the world? And now he was in her home... "I hadn't realized our tribe had received such a distinguished guest those months ago," she said.

Zuko cringed. Clearly the reminder of how he had acted that day was embarrassing for him, and Kanna wondered when he'd had such a change of heart. The boy she remembered hadn't appeared to spare a thought for the terror he'd brought their tribe that day. She was having trouble connecting the look he'd worn back then to the meek expression he wore now. In fact, were it not for the distinguishable scar marring the upper left side of his face, she'd think him a different boy entirely.

She looked down at him sternly; appraisingly. He was the son of Fire Lord Ozai and a dangerous firebender. She had more than half a mind to cast him out into the tundra and let him battle the elements, but although he was both of those things, he was just a child. And more than that, he was someone her granddaughter had somehow come to worry over. True, Katara could be a hair too trusting, but Tui, if that girl didn't have an eye for spotting the good in a person. And this boy surely had some good in him yet. He was young still.

"I will permit you to stay in our tribe," she told him, "as my granddaughter appears to look on you as a friend." The boy perked up a bit at that. "However," she continued, causing his face to fall again, "if you show any hint of enmity or aggression toward her or the people living here, you will be cast out. Do you understand?"

The firebender's swallowed and nodded and then winced as the action pulled at his injury.

Katara noticed and she furrowed her eyebrows in concern. "Hold on and I'll heal you," she told him, glancing around the room as though looking for something. "Gran-Gran, where are my water skins?"

Kanna regarded her grandchild with confusion before pulling the dual skins from a closet and handing them to her. "Heal him? Katara, are you able to use waterbending healing?"

When she'd left the tribe, Katara could barely move water. Could her skills have already improved so much?

Katara smiled back at her. "Oh, yeah, I guess you wouldn't know. My bending has come a long way since I left home," she declared proudly.

Kanna regarded her granddaughter with interest. Pakku had told her that Katara had become quite an impressive bender, but he hadn't elaborated on that point. Pakku knew little about healing, so Kanna had assumed it wouldn't have been a part of Katara's training. Really, she had been too busy being amazed that he'd agreed to teach her at all to question him about it when he'd told her. Now she wondered just what new skills her granddaughter had developed.

Uncorking one of her skins, Katara waved a hand over the opening and then frowned, her brows furrowing together.

"What's wrong?" the boy asked, frowning as well.

Katara shook the skin next to her ear and then brought the opening to her eye and peered inside. The water's not responding to me."

"What do you mean it's not responding to you? Are you sure it's not just empty?"

Katara tipped the skin and water poured out onto the floor, splashing her toes. Her frown deepened and she thrust the skin back into her grandmother's hands before assuming a bending pose and circling her arms gracefully through the air over the puddle, but the water didn't so much as ripple. She stopped and took a step back, looking down at the unresponsive water with an uncomprehending expression on her face. "I don't understand. Why can't I bend it?"

Without warning, Katara turned on her heel and rushed out of the room. Kanna followed her out to the entrance of the hut and watched as she exited the structure and proceeded to wind her arms in similar motions above the snow just outside. However, like the water from the skin, the snow remained motionless.

Katara dropped her arms and took several steps back, stumbling and falling to her knees just inside the door. She brought her hands to her face and shook her head with a look of shock. "I can't bend," she whispered, a note of panic in her voice. "I can't waterbend."

She turned around and Kanna saw horror in her eyes. "I've lost my bending!"


Heeey. So, I may have been a little late with this chapter. *shifty look* But, you know, four months isn't that long. Oh, is that a new pitchfork? *sweats*

Anyway, you've reached the end of chapter 18! Yay! (Or nay.) And what a surprising chapter it was! I've been excited to put this one out for a long, long time. Kind of makes you wonder why it's months late. Well, my friends, that is because I'm a butthole. I hope that answers any and all questions about my tardiness. At first, it was other responsibilities getting in my way, then it was the holidays (very busy time), but more recently it's really just because I'm a butthole. Please accept me for this glaring personality flaw.

How many of you were expecting our heroes to land themselves at the south pole? Probably none of you. Which makes sense, because why on earth would they end up there? In fact, it's quite an interesting story. You see... Naw, you'll just have to wait and find out.

Oh! I'm also excited to announce that the wonderful, magnificent Jaum has drawn a lovely picture for this story (and Haunted as well) which can be found on my profile. Fanart! *throws pompoms* Go check them out!

Next chapter: Welcome to the Southern Water Tribe. Zuko learns a few things and faces a few challenges...and perhaps a bit of competition.