Disclaimer: I don't own anything of ATLA.
A/N: Hi! This is the first fanfic I ever publish, and I was kind of afraid to do it, so please be nice! My native language is Spanish and even though I'm studying translation I still make lots of mistakes, so feel free to contact me about my bad grammar, or mistakes you spot on the text.
I hope you like it :)
The Other Waterbender From The Southern Tribe
Chapter 1: Fate
The day that would change my life forever started easy, almost as ordinary as any other. Almost.
The sea was calm in that chilly midday of late winter. The Southern Water Tribe was bustling around, preparing itself for a new day of work, the women waking their children and setting little fires in front of their tiny ice huts.
The leaders of the Tribe, the children of the Chief, had left early in the morning to fish the daily ration of food for the entire Tribe. I had seen them off, staying behind to watch over the Tribe, since today was my turn.
Sokka was convinced that the War would catch up on us sooner or later, so he had established the rule that whenever someone of the three of us had to go fishing, at least one of us would remain in the Tribe. Just in case.
Katara would sometimes protest that he was being paranoid, but I always backed him up in these kind of cases, so she ended up losing the arguments. What can I say? I believe in being prepared.
But when the sun passed its peak in the sky, and began to fall, almost imperceptibly, I began to get worried. I ran up my favorite snow slope, which, after the heavy snowfall we had had last week, had grown even bigger than usual, and stared at the open ocean.
When would Katara and Sokka return? I felt something tugging from my coat and looked down, to see the round face of Wei Sun, a five year old girl.
"Kira, I'm hungry…" she moaned.
I knelt beside her, forcing a smile, and brushed her brown hair with my gloved hand.
"I know. But we must trust Katara and Sokka. They've gone for food and will be back soon."
Wei Sun pouted, not comforted. I sighed as I straightened up, holding the girl's hand in mine. It was, indeed, taking them longer than usual. But lately it was becoming harder to bring food for everyone, specially considering the harsher winter weather was still to come and we needed to stock up on food.
I heard footsteps behind me and glanced over my shoulder. Gran Gran was climbing the snow slope, breathing hard at the effort.
I turned around and reached out my hand to help her up.
"They should be here by now," I said after a few seconds of silence. "Perhaps we should send someone after them?"
The old lady sighed. "Patience, Kira. You know as well as I do how hard it has become lately to fish enough food."
I bit my lower lip, choosing not to answer, but I narrowed my eyes, willing them to see anything over the line of the horizon. Gran Gran was right, of course, but I was still nervous.
Wei Sun, who was still clutching at my leg, had better eyesight than me. "There!" she said, pointing at a tiny black dot that suddenly appeared over the water. I smiled, relieved. Finally! I would get back on Sokka when they arrived for being late.
The girl did a happy dance, making me laugh.
"I'll go tell mommy!" she said excitedly. She grabbed Gran Gran's hand. "Come, Gran Gran! We have to tell them!"
I grinned as the five year old dragged the old lady away, chattering so quickly Gran Gran couldn't catch a break, but I didn't follow them. I wanted to make sure my adoptive siblings arrived well.
But when the spot became larger, I realized it was not a canoe. Canoes don't have horns, or hair.
I slid down the snow slope and ran back to the village, and I almost crashed against Wei Sun, who was seemingly coming back to get me.
"Kira! Gran Gran wants to see you."
I grabbed the girl's hand. "That's gonna have to wait. I need you to come and tell me something."
I helped her up the snow slope, and then picked her up in my arms so she could get a clearer view of the ocean ahead.
"What do you see, Wei Sun? What is that over there?"
She hesitated. "I don't know… I think it's a monster."
I felt my uneasiness grow. It had been six years since the last time the Fire Nation had sailed all the way here, and they had killed Katara and Sokka's mom, Kya. Although I wasn't in the Tribe at the time –I had arrived a few months after that– I had heard many a tale about the firebenders' brutality and cunning. It wouldn't be a surprise if they decided to pay us a second visit, after so long. And as far as I knew, they had all sorts of machinery and ships, even things that would look like a "monster" for a five year old.
I knelt beside Wei Sun.
"Can you go get Gran Gran for me? We need to ask her about the monster."
She agreed, with a frown of worry in her tiny face that was hilarious and sad at the same time. She was too young, she shouldn't have to worry about such things. But it was the world we lived in, I thought sadly.
I watched the thing with the horns come steadily closer, and it wasn't too long before Gran Gran came along again, this time without Wei Sun, who was running around the village warning everyone about the "hairy monster".
"What is this monster thing Wei Sun is talking about? Aren't Katara and Sokka back?"
"Well…" I started. By the time she came, the spot had become large enough for me to see it was an animal –as weird as that sounded– that carried some sort of leather basket on top of its back, large enough to fit people in it. There were three figures on top of the leather basket, and two of them wore blue overcoats. Most likely, those were really Sokka and Katara, but we had been fearing for the Tribe's safety for so long, I couldn't help my uneasiness, fearing a trap. After all, nobody ever came all the way down to the South Pole unless they wanted something from us. And that was never good.
I pointed at the animal. "What do you see, Gran Gran?"
The old lady sighed. "Kira, my eyes are old and tired. I cannot see much more than a dark spot in the ocean. But tell me, what do you see?"
I took a deep breath of salty, freezing air. "It seems to be an animal that is swimming towards us. It has a hairy head, with horns, and has some sort of leather thing on its back, over which I can see three people."
Gran Gran nodded, indicating me to continue, showing no signs of fear or worry.
I sighed, feeling defeated. "Two of them wear blue overcoats."
She smiled. "There you have it. They must be Katara and Sokka."
"But there's another person with them! And the animal?"
She pointed a wrinkled finger at me, and spoke sternly, but lovingly. "You are too suspicious, Kira. You see danger in every corner. The world is not all evil, you know. Perhaps Katara and Sokka found a friend and offered them shelter, as good manners demand."
I looked down. "You are right, but–"
"I know what you're thinking. The Fire Nation. But we have nothing of interest to them. We are only women and children. And we are too far from everything. Why would they come this far?"
I grimaced. She was right, as usual. But still, I couldn't shake off the unnerving feeling inside of me that told me that today was the day our lives would change forever. And that animal swimming towards us, whatever it was, was what would bring change about.
Finally, I relented. "Okay," I told Gran Gran with a forced smile. "I will tone down the paranoia, but I'd still like you to stay alert."
Gran Gran smiled. "Very well."
The old lady returned to the village, and attempted to stall the little revolution Wei Sun had triggered, with children crying and their mothers coming out of their huts to see what the heck was going on. I felt a twinge of guilt, since I was partially responsible for the mess, but it soon passed, as I thought that these days, one could never be too cautious.
My nervousness faded a bit when the figures on top of the animal became clearly visible, and I saw Katara smiling and waving her hand to me. The third figure revealed itself as a white bald kid, younger than us, who wore light, yellowish clothes.
I felt relieved, because, what damage could a lone kid cause? But still, my nose had caught the whiff of change and I would not be completely relaxed until I was absolutely sure no harm could be done.
The animal finally arrived in our shore, and as it climbed out of the water and onto the ice we could see that it had six legs, a huge head, and that the leather thing was a large saddle. Its brown eyes were staring at everyone with a look of innocent curiosity.
Katara leaned over the bald kid, who seemed to be asleep, and whispered something to him. The boy awoke with a gasp, and looked around with a look of confusion, but Katara said something and he smiled.
They both slid down from the saddle, and I was intrigued to discover an array of blue tattoos on the boy's skin, that seemed to be shaped as arrows, drawn over his head and arms.
Unable to contain my curiosity any longer, and after a quick glance at the horizon to check that nothing more was approaching, using the distraction the boy and his animal caused, I slid down the snow slope and approached Katara, who seemed to be introducing him to the Tribe.
"… Entire village, Aang."
The Tribe stared at the stranger with curiosity, undoubtedly piqued by his tattoos, the wooden staff on his hand and the light clothes he was wearing. Aang bowed respectfully, but no one dared approach him yet.
He looked at Katara with confusion. "Uh… why are they all looking at me like that? Did Appa sneeze on me?"
I gathered that Appa was the furry, six-legged animal, and couldn't help a smile at the boy's naïveté. In fact, if I had to describe the first impression he made on me, I would say "naïve". His big gray eyes sparkled with innocence, the kind of look you could see in children's eyes, the kind of look that was hard to find around here anymore, after the War had broken up families when Chief Hakoda took all the men in the Tribe with him.
Gran Gran was the first to approach the bald kid, and offered him a wide, warm smile.
"No one has seen an airbender in a hundred years," she explained Aang, and I blinked.
An airbender? So that was the reason for the funny clothing and the tattoos?
"We thought they were extinct until my granddaughter and my grandson found you," Gran Gran continued.
I was still shocked. A real-life airbender, in the Southern Water Tribe? But weren't they…?
"Extinct?" Aang seemed as confused as I was.
And then Katara saw me, and hurried to my side.
"Katara! Where– How did you…?"
She cut through my questions. "I'll tell you later, now come meet him, he's nice, I swear!" she said, pulling from my hand and dragging me through the crowd.
"Aang, these are my grandmother and my sister, Kira."
"Call me Gran Gran," the old woman grinned.
"Pleased to meet you," I added respectfully, bowing my head.
"Pfft, sister," Sokka scoffed, appearing from behind the furry animal Aang had called Appa. "More like, annoying person I'm forced to live with."
I winked at him. "Back at you, Sokka."
And then I turned to Aang, my interest piqued. "So you're an airbender, huh?"
But Sokka snatched the staff from the boy's hand, cutting him as he was about to answer. "What is this, a weapon? You can't stab anything with this."
Aang smiled gently. "It's not for stabbing. It's for airbending."
A gush of chilly wind took the staff from Sokka's hands and carried it to the airbender boy. I raised my eyebrows in surprise, and then he touched something in the staff and two brightly colored pieces of fabric spurted out of it and stretched out, like small sails.
Naturally, the whole town, that was gathered around him, gasped in surprise.
"Magic trick!" Wei Sun said with her tiny voice, pointing at Aang. "Do it again!"
Aang seemed amused at the girl's demand. "Not magic, airbending. It lets me control the air currents around my glider and fly."
"Last time I checked, humans couldn't fly," Sokka teased.
I glared at him. He was being as rude as he could be. But he didn't even glance my way, and Aang didn't seem to take offense from his words, since he winked at him.
"Check again!" he said before throwing the staff forward and jumping in the air. I gasped, instinctively reaching out to prevent him from smacking his face against the ground, but the boy gripped the underside of the sails and soared upwards with shocking grace and skill.
To the Tribe's delight –and Sokka's dismay–, he did some loops up and down in the air, earning cheers from the crowd. But then he got unfortunately distracted by Katara, who waved at him, and his distraction caused him to crash against Sokka's snow tower, making it collapse. Naturally, Sokka started jumping up and down in rage.
Aang quickly pushed the snow off him with a puff of air, and, ignoring Sokka's rage, headed straight to Katara, who was beaming.
"That was amazing!" she said, impressed.
The airbender twirled the staff in his hands and the red sails vanished. Then he grinned at Katara, clearly showing off, but my sister had taken the opportunity to smack Sokka's head with a snowball and was currently not paying attention, which made his grin fade.
Sokka growled, more even so after the whole Tribe started to giggle at him.
"Great," he groaned, shaking the snow off. "You're an airbender, Katara and Kira are waterbenders, together you can just waste time all day long."
"Hey!" I protested, but Aang seemed impressed.
"Well… sort of. Not yet," Katara said modestly.
"But we do train," I added, as I built my own snow ball to throw at Sokka. Having turned his back to me, he was an easy target.
He narrowed his eyes at me after the snow ball hit him on the back of his head, and I grinned. "That's for being late, dear brother!"
"All right, no more playing," Gran Gran cut in. "Katara, you have chores."
"But–" Katara tried to protest, but Gran Gran stared sternly at her, and she sighed. "Guess I'll see you later, Aang. You can hang out with my siblings here."
Aang blinked repeatedly, and then smiled. "Sure!"
"So, these tattoos… are they something exclusive to the Air Nomads? I'd never seen them before," I asked him, trying to create conversation. But the boy did not answer, eyes fixed on Katara's back, and when I raised my hand to shake it before his eyes he just walked away after Katara.
I watched him go in surprise, but I didn't have time to complain, for a snow ball hit the back of my head.
"Hey!" I protested, turning around to see Sokka grinning maliciously at me. I narrowed my eyes. "What, you want war?"
His eyes glimmered with enthusiasm. "You're on!"
But I had other plans, and I remembered, so had he. I gave him an evil grin, putting my hands on my hips.
"Oh Sokka… didn't you have a lesson to give today?"
He slapped his forehead. "Darn, you're right! But this isn't over, ya hear me?"
I smiled sweetly. "Don't worry, I'll kick your ass any time you want."
He stared at me for a second, looking for a comeback, and finding none when he remembered that more often than not I beat him at snowball battles. The perks of being a waterbender.
I didn't wait for him to reply, and turned around to return at my position on top of the snow slope, since I could not only keep an eye on the ocean from there, but I could also watch everything that happened in the Tribe.
"You are evil," Sokka finally said behind me.
I spent the rest of the day watching shenanigans ensue in the Tribe, like Aang playing with the children, making Sokka go mad when the kids started to desert from his class to go play with the airbender. After Katara was finished with her chores, she too approached Aang, and followed him when he raced away after a penguin, like it was the most interesting animal in the world.
Katara laughed at the boy's innocence, and I smiled, watching her laugh as she left after him.
It was nice to see Katara smile like that, so naturally, almost as if she had no worries. For too long had the shadow of the far War darkened our hearts and home. Even if we had Gran Gran's counseling to rely on –and in fact she was the true force behind every important decision ever made–, we carried the responsibility of watching over the Tribe.
Sokka, being the last man remaining, always went around showing off, acting as the benevolent, but fierce warrior he was in his heart. But Katara had a role just as important. She was more level-headed, more compassionate, and had more common sense than Sokka, and she had ended up mothering both of us sometimes.
As a result, she was always worried about something, and it had been a long time since I had seen her have honest fun, like she should have at fourteen.
After they disappeared behind a snow slope, I sat down, still smiling, my heart feeling a bit lighter than usual. We hadn't had anything new or different in a while, after all. Change, when it was small, was welcome.
I thought then that Gran Gran had been right when she called me a paranoid. All that had happened was that Katara and Sokka had found an airbender, a young boy, and brought him home. It was strange, though, that a lone airbender appeared at the South Pole after a hundred years.
I wondered not only where he had come from, but also what this would mean for the war. Was Aang part of a family of airbenders that had survived the genocide? And perhaps, just perhaps, the Avatar might have survived too!
Everybody knew that the Avatar rotated between the four Nations, reincarnating in each of them, following the cycle: Fire-Air-Water-Earth. The last Avatar had been a firebender, so the Fire Nation had tried to wipe out the airbenders from existence, hoping that, when the Avatar died, he could not be reborn and the cycle would be broken. The whole world believed they had succeeded.
But if Aang was alive and he was an airbender, the Avatar might have survived too! Although it wasn't very nice of them to hide away for a lifetime. And I doubted the Avatar could live a hundred years. If the Avatar had survived the genocide, they could have died already and a new Avatar would have been born to the Water Tribes.
The single thought made me shiver.
But spirits, I was just being stupid and fantasizing. The Avatar was gone, and it was in our hands as inhabitants of this world to end the crippling war. Someday, I had sworn to myself, someday I would board a ship just like Chief Hakoda had and I'd go away to fight. Someday I would help end this. For now, we just had to watch the Tribe while Hakoda was gone.
I turned around. Sokka was climbing the snow slope with a cup of sea prune soup.
"Gran Gran sends this to you and says you shouldn't overload yourself."
I sipped the soup, and grimaced when I burnt my tongue. Sokka sat beside me.
"She also said to warn you that it was hot, but I thought it'd be funny to watch you get burnt."
I punched him in the forearm, but said nothing, used to his jibs at me.
"What do you think of the airbender?"
I thought about it for a few minutes. "I think it's odd that he should appear now, and here, out of all places. Where did you guys find him, by the way?"
"In a block of ice."
I laughed. "C'mon."
But he was serious. "It's true! Katara did some of her stupid water magic and made a huge iceberg crack in two and turns out the kid was frozen inside of it."
I stared at him, trying to figure out if it was one of the elaborate jokes no one but Sokka could come up with. But he seemed dead serious.
"Wish I was. What do you think Dad would say? Would he have cooked the bison? We could feed the Tribe for a month with that much meat!"
I looked away, holding back a snort at the last part of his question. "I don't know, Sokka. Maybe Hakoda would have invited the kid to dinner and interrogated him then."
Sokka rolled his eyes. "Are you ever going to start calling him Dad or not? It sounds weird when you talk about him like that. You are part of our family, you know, even though you're mean and I don't like you."
I shifted in my place, uncomfortable. "Can we not do this right now? We have a lot to think about."
He sighed. "You are just as annoying as Katara."
Suddenly, the afternoon sky lit up when a bright column of light and smoke appeared somewhere on our right and rose to the skies. Sokka and I jumped to our feet and exchanged a horrified look.
"The Fire Navy ship!" we said at once.
"It must have been the airbender!" Sokka started running towards where we knew the old ship was buried in ice.
"Don't jump to conclusions, Sokka!" I shouted back, as I ran after him. In spite of that, I understood where he was coming from. Everyone in the Tribe knew very well we weren't supposed to approach that ship, and nobody ever had. The only person who would have done something like that was the airbender boy.
A bunch of kids beat us to the end of the village, since it took Sokka and I precious minutes to get down from the snow slope.
I heard the voice of Wei Sun ahead.
"Yaaay! Aang is back!"
Sokka ran even faster, and I tried to keep up. I knew that he was a great guy, but his tolerance ended when the security of the Tribe was concerned, and I didn't want him to be any harsher than necessary.
He slowed down when Katara and Aang appeared walking down the shore.
"I knew it!" He pointed an accusatory finger at Aang. "You signaled the Fire Navy with that flare! You're leading them straight to us, aren't you?"
"Aang didn't do anything. It was an accident," Katara said quickly.
"Yeah, we were on the ship, and there was this booby trap and well… we 'boobied' right into it."
Gran Gran caught up with us, two kids bringing her by the hands. "Katara, you shouldn't have gone on that ship. Now we could all be in danger!"
"Don't blame Katara!" Aang said, widening his eyes. "I brought her there. It's my fault…"
The boy looked down with clear regret, and I felt bad for him. And then another idea came to mind.
"I know!" I said, but Sokka cut me, pointing at Aang with his trusty boomerang.
"Aha! The traitor confesses! Warriors, away from the enemy!" On his command, the children walked away from Aang and surrounded Gran Gran instead, looking at the airbender with fear and sadness in his eyes. Aang watched them go with even deeper sadness. "The foreigner is banned from our village!"
I shook my head. "Sokka–"
"You're making a mistake," Katara said, frowning with rising anger.
"No! I'm keeping my promise to Dad! I'm protecting you from threats like him!"
I didn't want to undermine Sokka's authority in front of the children, whose mothers were approaching us too now, but this was starting to get too far.
"Aang is not our enemy!" Katara said, pointing at the airbender with a wide motion of her arm. "Don't you see? Aang's brought us something we haven't had in a long time. Fun."
I widened my eyes. It was totally the wrong thing to say to an angry Sokka. Instead of calming him down, it upset him even more.
"Fun! We can't fight firebenders with fun!"
"You should try it sometime," Aang interceded with a sweet smile.
I sighed and shut my eyes, knowing what was coming.
"Get out of our village! NOW!"
I walked closer to Sokka and grabbed his elbow to call his attention quietly.
"That's not a good idea. Think about it–"
But instead of discussing quietly with me as I had intended, Sokka shoved me away and stepped away from me, looking at me as if I had stabbed a knife in his back.
"You're siding with them?!"
"No, I'm just–"
"Grandmother, please, don't let Sokka do this," Katara turned to Gran Gran, who usually had the final word in an argument between any of us.
Gran Gran shook her head sadly. "Katara, you knew going on that ship was forbidden. Sokka is right. I think it best if the airbender leaves."
Katara froze for a moment, looking shocked. And then she burst.
"Then I'm banished too! C'mon Aang, let's go!"
Her words surprised everybody, but no one looked as surprised as Sokka.
"Where do you think you're going?!"
"To find a waterbender! Aang is taking me to the North Pole!"
"I am?" The airbender frowned with confusion, but then his eyes brightened up. "Great!"
Katara turned towards me. "Kira, will you come with us?"
My first impulse was to step back, but only because of the hostility on her face. Yet she misinterpreted me and frowned angrily.
"Fine!" she growled, before turning around and walking towards Appa.
Aang, still looking a bit confused, followed her.
"Katara!" Sokka called her, still shocked at his sister's violent reaction. "Would you really choose him over your tribe? Your own family?"
I looked from one to the other, unable to believe what I was watching. My sister was going to leave the Tribe, her family, her responsibilities, for a boy she had met only a few hours ago?
And then I felt my stomach twist when I realized that my gut had told me this boy would change everything. It had told me that our lives were about to change. And I had dared to hope everything would be alright. Silly me.
A few yards away, Katara stopped walking. She looked back, and I saw the indecision cloud her face.
Aang caught up with her and took her hand. "Katara, I don't want to come between you and your family." He walked past her, towards Appa.
She looked at him. "So, you're leaving the South Pole? This is goodbye?"
Aang gave her a sad smile, his innocent eyes betraying a hint of deep melancholy, as he climbed on top of the six-legged animal. "Thanks for penguin sledding with me."
I felt bad for him, and even though I wanted him to stay, deep down I agreed with Gran Gran. The kid wasn't bad, but he had already put us in danger by setting that ship's flare. Perhaps it would be best for all if he left. Still, my gut told me this wasn't over.
"Where will you go?" Katara whispered, her voice thick with sadness.
"Guess I'll go back home and look for the airbenders." Aang smiled, clearly trying to raise the mood. "Wow, I haven't cleaned my room in a hundred years. Not looking forward to that."
He looked at each one of us, and when he looked at me, I tried to tell him without words that I was sorry, too, that he had to leave.
"It was nice meeting everyone."
"Let's see your bison fly now, air boy," Sokka said maliciously.
"Come on, Appa, you can do it!" Aang cheered the huge animal. "Yip yip!"
But the –did Sokka say bison?– merely groaned and got to its feet.
"Yeah, I thought so," Sokka said venomously.
I glared at Sokka, and he mouthed "What?" at me.
Wei Sun ran forward and clung on to Katara's coat, tears running down her lovely face.
"Aang! Don't go! We'll miss you!"
The airbender tried to smile, but failed. "I'll miss you too."
He pulled from Appa's reigns and, with a deep groan, bison and boy turned around and walked away.
Gran Gran approached Katara, who seemed about to burst in tears too. "Katara, you'll feel better after you–"
"You happy now?" Katara replied angrily, shaking off the old woman, and pointing at the place where Aang and Appa had disappeared from view. "There goes my one chance of becoming a waterbender!"
She then stormed off towards the center of the village. Sokka huffed and tried to go after her, but I stopped him.
"Let her go."
"You ruined the chance of a lifetime for her and banished her only friend. Don't expect her to receive you with a smile and a cup of soup."
Sokka shoved me off. "I forgot, you're sided with them."
"I'm not sided with anyone! I want to protect the Tribe, too, but I just don't think banishing the only person in miles around who might have been helpful in fighting the Fire Nation was the best idea you've ever had! And Katara and I do need to learn waterbending, in case you forgot!"
Sokka's jaw dropped. "I… I didn't think of that."
By now I was getting angry with him, and as usual when I got angry, I didn't measure my words. "Of course you didn't! You were too busy acting as a protector to actually think like one! Now go finish your ridiculous warrior class if you think it'll be worth for something!"
He looked genuinely hurt and guilty, but I was too angry, so I turned around and strolled away, climbing my snow slope once again and muttering obscenities under my breath.
The idea I'd had was to "punish" Aang by having him stay and help us if the Fire Nation showed up. True, Gran Gran was right, it was unlikely that any ship would come this far, since we had nothing of value, but if there happened to be a ship around, they would certainly have seen the flare, and they'd be coming here this instant. In that case, an airbender's abilities would become really useful, specially considering that Katara and I were not really very skilled waterbenders. Without Aang, we would be pretty much defenseless against a sudden attack from the Fire Navy.
I had tried to tell Sokka my idea, but he had not listened to me, and with Katara going wild and all that, I had been too shocked to do something when it had to be done.
And for that I felt guilty, too.
At tea time, the evening mist started to rise from the ocean, and the Tribe began to wrap up their labor and started to prepare for the night. Sokka finished his class and then resumed his observation spot on top of the ice wall.
Tea time usually signaled the ending of a watching shift and the beginning of the next, meaning that Sokka's turn was starting and mine finishing, but I didn't want to go back to our hut just yet. I didn't want to deal with my siblings' fight until dinner, if possible. In my experience, at least Sokka was far more compliant after having eaten.
But I wasn't going to have any more dinners with my siblings for a very, very long time.
The sun was only a line in the horizon, marking the end of yet another very short day in the South Pole winter season. Its last rays allowed me to see Sokka standing a few yards away in the outer ice wall, when suddenly the ground began to shake, and a deep, loud noise filled the air, making me cover my ears with my hands and shriek.
I turned around to look at the Tribe, and saw women and children alike running around, screaming and covering their ears with their hands as well. I stood up, and looked around, trying to find the origin of the horrible noise.
Sokka's watchtower collapsed, due to the ground shaking, and I watched him fall down in the snow. I yelled his name, but I couldn't even hear my own voice, and probably neither could he.
I glanced at the Tribe again, and noticed Katara standing in the midst of the chaos, staring with terrified eyes at something through the mist. I followed the direction of her gaze and saw an enormous shadow, which materialized in a Fire Nation ship, just in front of our noses.
The ship was following a collision course with the watchtower.
I yelled at Sokka again, panicking, but the noise stopped and I could hear myself screaming hysterically. I slid down the slope and ran towards the ice wall.
To my dismay, Sokka extricated himself from the mountain of snow, but instead of running away, stood in front of the ship, staring at it like a moron.
"Sokka, get out of the way!" Katara cried out, and I echoed her words in desperation.
The vessel's bow cut through the shore, and as it approached, the snow started to pile up in front of its hull. It was finally that snow which pushed Sokka out of the way. The ship finally came to a stop, and silence fell over the Southern Water Tribe, as we all froze in anticipation, staring at the flares of steam coming out of the vents.
With a loud creak, the pointy bow separated itself from the ship, and fell forward, threatening to crush both Sokka and me, since I was close enough now, after all my running.
I dove sideways, praying to every spirit alive that Sokka would manage to get away too. I crawled backwards and away from the thing, which now resembled something like a gangplank, and stood up to run back to the Tribe as the sound of marching feet filled the air.
A thick pack of soldiers marched out in two lines, led by a young, pale man who wore a helmet and had a large scar over his left eye.
As they came closer, the full realization of what was happening dawned upon me.
I had been right. There was a Fire Navy ship around that had seen the flare go off, and had come.
The memory of what they had done to Kya came back to my memory, fresh as the day they had told me about it, and I stepped closer to Katara. I wouldn't let anyone get killed if I could help it, but I was still terrified.
A yell came from our left, and Sokka –dear, brave and idiotic old Sokka– charged towards the firebenders, club in hand. The young man on front merely waited for him to get closer and maneuvered to throw him over the gangplank with little effort. Sokka ended up with his head buried in the snow.
The Tribe behind me gasped and stepped back, frightened at the fall of our only soldier.
I gripped Katara's hand, both for reassurance and to try to present a front to the firebenders. After all, we were the leaders of the Tribe. We were supposed to deal with a situation like this.
The young firebender that had pushed Sokka away stepped forward, and looked down upon us for a whole minute.
"Where are you hiding him?"
I blinked and glanced at Katara. That was definitely not what I was expecting.
The firebender watched us, but when no one answered, he reached out for Gran Gran, who was on our left, slightly behind Katara, and he grabbed her wrist. He pulled her forward, and I felt my heart stop for a second, before he spoke again.
"He'd be about this age? Master of all elements?"
I was slightly relieved when I understood that he wasn't going to kill her right in the spot, and the mixed emotions did not give me time to reflect on what he was saying. All my mind registered was that he was looking for someone, and that I had no idea who the hell he was talking about.
After a few seconds, he pushed Gran Gran forward, throwing her over Katara, who stumbled backwards and nearly fell down, and I felt a sudden wave of rage sweep through my body at his completely unnecessary roughness with an old woman.
"Hey!" I shouted, and then I wanted to slap myself. What was I doing?
But the firebender leaned backwards and kicked an arc of fire all over our heads. The whole village screamed and ducked, their fear palpable.
"I know you're hiding him!" the firebender said.
"Who?" I said, unable to contain myself. "We have no idea what you're talking about!"
"Kira!" Gran Gran's surprised and scared call made me glance at her over my shoulder, but then a hand closed around my wrist, and when I looked forward, I saw a pair of fierce eyes the color of the sun glaring at me.
I noticed the Tribe had stepped back, leaving me slightly ahead of everyone, and now the firebender must have thought I was the leader. I gulped down my fear, reminding myself that it was my duty as the adoptive daughter of the Chief to protect the Tribe. And frankly, I didn't know who the firebender was looking for, but I did know he was not here.
And that was the moment Sokka chose to charge again at the young man from behind.
The firebender turned around, looking annoyed, and let go of me as he dodged Sokka's attack and lashed back with a ball of fire. Sokka rolled out of the way, and then he threw his boomerang at the firebender, but the latter managed to dodge that too, by a tiny margin.
One of the Tribe kids, who had taken Sokka's warrior classes, threw him a spear, as he yelled "Show no fear!" and the crowd burst in cheers.
Sokka, encouraged, charged again, but the firebender caught the spear, broke it in two pieces, and hit Sokka's head with one of them. My brother was knocked down, and let out a soft moan, gripping his head. The firebender stood before him, and raised a hand to strike again. I gasped and stepped forward, terrified, but then Sokka's boomerang returned and hit him on the back of his head.
Unfortunately, it didn't knock him out, but it rather seemed to make him angrier. Two tongues of fire grew from his hands, and he wielded them like swords, ready to take his revenge on Sokka.
"No!" I screamed, but in that precise moment, Aang appeared out of nowhere, sliding on a penguin.
He came from behind the firebender and crashed against his legs, sending him flying backwards. While Aang made a smooth landing right in front of us, the firebender landed with his head on the snow and his butt up, and then his helmet landed on his butt.
"Hey Katara. Hey Kira. Hey Sokka," Aang said happily.
"Hi, Aang. Thanks for coming," Sokka replied drily.
I ran towards Sokka and dragged him out of the way, and signaled Katara, Gran Gran, and the rest of the Tribe to step back, as Aang stepped forward to defend us.
The firebender jumped to his feet, fuming after the humiliation of being ridiculed like that, and the other firebenders, who had so far stayed behind, started to surround Aang.
I took one step closer to Aang, unable to decide. It wasn't fair to let him fight the firebenders alone, not after we had banished him, but then, he was the only realized bender we had.
Gran Gran caught my wrist, and when I glanced at her I saw fear edged in her old blue eyes, silently begging me to do nothing. But as Aang kept the firebenders at bay with jets of wind, Katara, Sokka and I exchanged worried glances. What should we do?
"Looking for me?" Aang said.
"You're the airbender? You're the Avatar?" the firebender could barely contain his shock.
But his shock was nothing compared to ours. Aang was the Avatar?! Aang? Little baldy, innocent Aang?
"No way," Sokka whispered.
The firebender seemed to be having a hard time at believing his eyes. "I've spent years preparing for this encounter! Training. Meditating. You're just a child!"
"Well, you're just a teenager," Aang retaliated.
After the revelation, the firebender started to send one fireball after another, clearly no longer hesitating.
But Aang was having difficulties holding him back. He managed to deflect one fireball, two, three, but the fourth one he missed and it flew over the heads of the Tribe, close enough to burn their hair.
The Tribe screamed and ducked, so nobody was hurt, but Aang looked back with worry and guilt and I realized he couldn't really stop them.
And that did it for me.
I jumped forward at Aang's side, my indecision over. I had to do something! I couldn't let anyone else get hurt! And if there was someone who should take the blow, that was me, because, no matter what Sokka, Katara, Gran Gran or Hakoda may say, I would never really be part of the Tribe. Sokka and Katara were necessary here, I was not.
And my sudden decision to stop being passive and take action triggered something in my mind.
I had a sudden vision of water. Lots and lots of water around me, almost as if I was sinking, drowning.
Suddenly, I knew exactly what to do.
I flicked my wrist, drawing a wide arc in the air with my arm, and out of the snow grew out a long tongue of water. I felt something in me shifting along with the water, as I spun on my feet, the water dancing around me, and then I threw it over the firebender.
The young man was thrown back by my water, and everyone fell completely silent.
The firebender sat up and stared at me, shocked.
"You're a waterbender! Waterbenders from the Southern Tribe weren't supposed to exist anymore!"
I couldn't say a word. I was even more shocked than him. I had never done anything like that before, I wouldn't even know how. In fact, I had hardly waterbended anything in my entire life. The only thing I had been able to do –and that was how we had found out I was a waterbender– was creating small waves. I hadn't even been able to make a ball of water rise, like Katara had done once or twice. Actually, saying I was a waterbender had always been a bit of an overstatement.
But now it was like something had unlocked inside of me, filling me with sudden knowledge of things I didn't know I knew. Movements, techniques, and a strange energy powering me, waiting for me to strike.
"Great!" the firebender said. "Two for the price of one: The Avatar and the last waterbender from the Southern Water Tribe. Get them!"
The soldiers, who had been knocked back by Aang before, marched towards us, and I stepped back, suddenly terrified. All that energy pouring through me faded, leaving me with nothing but fear.
Sokka and Katara ran forward. "No!"
But the firebenders turned around and adopted a stance, waiting for my siblings to come closer.
"No!" I screamed in horror. "Wait!"
"If I go with you," Aang told the young leader, interceding for us, "will you promise to leave everyone alone?"
He considered it for a second. "Umm… No."
Sokka tried to sneak between the firebenders separating me from him, but the two men closed ranks, forming something of a thick, human wall between me and my brother. He reached out his arm, sticking it between the men, trying to grab me. But I was only one step too far.
I suddenly realized there was no way of stopping them unless I agreed to go too. All my previous confidence had vanished, because I understood now that if I left, I would never be coming back, and I would maybe even die.
This was the day our lives changed forever.
This was what my gut was warning me about. This was it. The moment of choice. Of change. Of fate.
I stared at Sokka for another second, and he shook his head.
"No," he whispered. "Don't."
But I turned around and stared at the firebender, the leader.
"If I go with you willingly, do you promise to leave them alone?"
Aang's jaw dropped, and he looked like he wanted to say something, but I shook my head slightly, telling him silently not to.
The firebender examined me for a second, then looked at the rest of the Tribe.
I shut my eyes and dropped my head, and at a command from the leader, the firebenders surrounded me and put cold iron handcuffs around my wrists.
"Kira, Aang, don't do this!"
I couldn't see Sokka or Katara or anyone through the armored men all around me, but I could hear their screams.
"It will be okay, Katara!" Aang replied, somewhere on my left. "Just take care of Appa for me until I get back!"
Only after we had climbed the gangplank and it started to close did the men move away from me. I was allowed one last moment to stare at my siblings, the Tribe, everyone I knew and everyone who cared for me. The only place I knew and the only freedom I had ever known.
Katara's tears and Sokka's pain were the last thing the South Pole offered me before the gangplank slammed shut, sealing my fate.
"Goodbye," I whispered to no one in particular.
The sharp voice of the young leader rang like the bell of destiny over our heads.
"Head a course to the Fire Nation. I'm going home."
A/N: Hey, so, thanks for reading. This is just a warning notice to let you know that the story is in rewriting process, specially the first Book, so you'll probably find that parts of it all don't make any sense. It's a work in progress, sorry for the inconveniences!