A/N: So here we are again ladies and gentlemen with the second part of the planned quadrilogy that is Avatar: The Fall. Anyway, I'd just like to thank those of you who have followed me over from part one for your continued support! I'm ecstatic that you all are back and I can't wait for this story to get underway! That being said, on with the story!
Disclaimer: I do not own A:TLA or any of it's characters. I do however, own Azzan, Kia, Nova, the dear old couple Seto and Mara and any other OCs that come about.
Fire Nation Capitol—Four days after Aang's death.
"All hands to your posts! By order of the Fire Lord we leave for the colonies in ten minutes to begin purging the lands of any and all Water Nation citizens!"
Complete pandemonium flooded the docks of the Fire Nation Capitol as soldiers rushed back and forth through the throngs of panicked civilians in order to get to their posts. Taking measured steps, Azzan couldn't help the weary sigh that escaped his lips as he wove his way through the crowded streets.
News of the Avatar's death had traveled fast from the walls of the palace—though Azzan guessed it was unavoidable with Princess Azula's return a few days prior being heralded by the Fire Lord himself and the eerie old twin sisters Li and Lo.
"All hail the mighty Princess Azula, slayer of the Avatar! Let the world know that none can stand before the Fire Nation!" The twins shouted in unison as the palanquin bearing the princess moved forward.
Standing in the crowd, Azzan felt the breath leave his body as their words hit him square in the chest. 'The Avatar…dead?' He couldn't believe it, this wasn't how things were supposed to play out—he wasn't supposed to go out hunting Water Tribe descendants for the psychotic dictator of his homeland! Kia, his wife, was Water Tribe for Agni's sake!
He continued to watch the procession as the princess stood victoriously atop her palanquin, her arms crossed and a wicked smirk on her face. The Fire Lord stood imperiously on the steps of the palace waiting for his daughter, the same look of satisfaction present on his lips.
And the people all around them were eating it up.
Once the procession had stopped and Ozai had welcomed his daughter back, Li and Lo came to the top of the massive staircase, each one pulling a scroll from within the folds of their robes and unrolling them.
"Attention citizens of the Fire Nation, this is a decree from your Fire Lord to be put into effect immediately!"
At this point, the twin who had remained silent took up where her sister left off, "Anyone of Water Tribe descent be they man, woman or child, are to be put to death."
There was a soft grumble of protest from the crowd, whispers of dissent, but the sisters continued on in their tag team style of speech.
"Anyone believed to be associated with people of the Water Tribe will be brought in for questioning. Those who are found guilty will be put to death."
More whispers, though Azzan noticed that they were growing in volume. How were these people supposed to know if they had talked to someone of the Water Tribe?
"Anyone discovered to be aiding a Water Tribe national will be put to death. However, those who come forward now will be spared—provided they have pertinent information."
This missive was met with even more hostility, things beginning to get out of hand.
"Finally every home in the Capitol is subject to a mandatory military inspection. Failure to comply will result in the immediate arrest of the home owners to be taken in for questioning and, should their information be deemed useless, put to death."
Outright shouting broke out, the once enraptured population now completely enraged by the Fire Lord's declaration. It wasn't long before the royal guard was deployed to control the hostile crowd, fire burning in their palms, their faces hidden beneath the skull-like masks.
The emerging riot was silenced quickly at the sight of the Fire Lord's benders and Li and Lo spoke once more.
"And so it has been declared by the Fire Lord! Those who follow protocol will come to no harm. Long live the Fire Nation! Long live Fire Lord Ozai!"
Now, as he continued on to his house and pregnant wife, Azzan couldn't help but be eternally grateful for their next-door neighbors Seto and Mara. He had approached them in a panic shortly after he had been informed that he would be shipping out in two days.
"Ah Azzan! Come in, come in! It's so good to see you," Mara greeted warmly as she ushered him into the small house she and her husband occupied in the capitol, "Seto just stepped out to the market; he said he wanted to resupply the food stores, just in case the Fire Lord's "intervention" goes awry and everyone is confined to their homes the paranoid old geezer!"
Azzan felt his lips quirk at the woman's description of her husband. Despite what she said he knew that the couple was incredibly close—they just enjoyed riling each other up. It was a game that they played and had been the initial spark that had drawn Azzan and Kia over to the pair while strolling through the market one day.
"Well, you can't blame him," Azzan said after a moment, sighing heavily, "what with the Avatar's death being heralded by yet another attempt at genocide on behalf of our benevolent Fire Lord."
He knew his words held more venom and bite than was probably allowed in public, but he couldn't care less at this point.
Mara raised a wrinkled brow as concern flitted across her face, "At any rate, you didn't come here to discuss the failing's of our government or my curiosity of a husband. What did you need dear?"
"I hate to ask this of you Mara," Azzan began scratching the back of his head in embarrassment, "but I've been assigned to the colonies for the purge. I…I won't be here for Kia when she gives birth and I was wondering—hoping rather—if you and Seto would take her in. It would set my soul at rest knowing that she had someone to help her and be there for her when the time comes."
The old woman smiled brightly, "Oh dear, of course she can stay here! Seto has actually been pestering me about asking you two if you needed anything but this will be so much easier than having to go back and forth every few minutes."
A relieved sigh broke through the captain's lips at the response, "Thank Agni! Thank you Mara, thank you so much!" A thought struck him then, wiping the smile right off his face, "Mara…Kia is, I mean to say…she's not…umm…"
But elderly woman merely chuckled, "Dear, do you think Seto and I were born yesterday? We know that Kia is of the Water Tribe and, quite honestly, we don't care. She's such a lovely girl and, if you ask me, ten times better than any of the other snobs that live around here! So yes, we know the risks and are quite willing to accept them, even if it means we have to stick it to dear old Ozai!" She thought for a moment, a finger on her chin, "Especially if it means sticking one to Ozai!"
Overwhelmed at her enthused response, Azzan quickly wrapped Mara up in a tight hug, his mind once again at ease.
"Thank you Mara."
She returned the hug and ran a soothing hand over his back, "Of course Azzan. She'll be safe with us—this isn't the only place we've got to hole up in. So even if the Fire Nation gets wind of Kia's heritage, they'll have a hell of a chase on their hands before they even think of getting their hands on her and the baby."
Pulling away she placed a hand on each of Azzan's shoulders, "Now you go home to that wife of yours and dote on her until you're blue in the face! That's an order young man!"
With a bright smile Azzan opened the door, "Yes ma'am and again, thank you. And tell Seto thank you as well Agni knows things are stressful enough for him as it is."
Now, as Azzan cut through the crowd, he felt his heart pounding against his chest. He was shipping out today, heading to the colonies to begin "The Cleansing" and he had to make it back to Kia before the final call.
Finally their house came into view and Azzan felt his heart lighten when he saw his wife, heavily pregnant, out in the garden singing softly to herself while running a hand lovingly over her swollen belly. As he drew nearer, her melodic voice carried to his ears and he heard the lullaby that he had become so familiar to him over the last nine months.
"Cry no more little child, do not worry on things that you cannot change.
"Cry not for what has passed, weep no more on things to come, worry not for I am always with you."
Silently he walked up behind her and wrapped his arms tenderly around her waist, "Hello," he whispered softly as he took in a deep breath, inhaling her scent, his worries for the moment, forgotten.
A smile broke out over her face as she laid her own hands over her husband's, "Hello to you too love. Where have you been, hmm?"
All at once Azzan felt the joy leave him. With a heavy sigh, he rested his forehead on Kia's shoulder before answering, "The Fire Lord has ordered the entirety of the navy to ship out to the colonies and…and carry out his purge."
Kia gasped and turned sharply on her heel, a remarkable feat for a woman so far along in her pregnancy, "But the baby…the baby will be here any day now! You can't—surely they'll make an exception!"
Azzan shook his head sadly, "Kia, love, you know there's no such thing as an exception under Ozai's rule! If I don't go now you and the baby will be punished—put to death—I won't have that, especially if I can prevent it!" He gripped her hands tightly, "I hate the fact that I'm being deployed to go kill innocent people and I hate that I'm going to miss my own child's birth but…I'd rather the two of you be safe without me than in danger with me, okay?"
Tears were pooling in Kia's eyes and her whole body began to shake, "Azzan how…what happens when the searches start? Don't you think my eyes will give me away? There aren't exactly an abundance of blue eyed citizens in the Fire Nation!"
It was true. Her ice blue eyes, now shining with unshed tears, had always been vibrant and her most recognizable feature. Everyone that they couple had ever met in the capitol since they had married two years ago had made it a point to compliment the Water Tribe native on her foreign characteristics—her light brown skin, silky brown hair and of course, her eyes.
They always remembered her eyes.
"I talked to Mara a few days ago," Azzan whispered, fighting his own desire to cry, "she and Seto have agreed to take care of you and the baby when it's time." He looked into her eyes, "They're good people Kia, you know that, don't you?"
She nodded and wiped away tears, "Yeah…yeah I know. They've been there for us since the beginning. Plus Mara came over just before you got here and explained everything to me. That's why I was out here in the first place."
Azzan was about to speak when a long, shrill whistle split the air. He squeezed his eyes shut tight, not wanting to believe he had to go, "Kia…"
"I know love…you have to go. I know," she gave him a weak, watery smile, "It doesn't mean I have to like it." She pulled his head down gently and kissed him for all she was worth, pouring every single emotion she had into what could possibly be their last embrace.
Azzan felt the tears falling but did nothing to stop them. He wasn't ashamed, just incredibly sad. Leaving his pregnant wife to go and kill her people? How much more was Sozin's war going to cost the world? Another race? Two?
He could literally feel the little hope he'd had left for peace dying in his chest. He pulled away reluctantly, his eyes shining with unshed tears, "I'm so sorry Kia. So sorry."
Shaking her head, she placed a finger on his lips, "Hush love, please. You know I love you and I know you would rather stay but," she gave a hollow laugh, "…duty calls, right?"
Azzan gave her another soft kiss as the whistle pierced the air yet again, "I love you so much Kia," he paused and laid a hand gently on her belly, "and you as well little one. I love you both."
And then he was gone.
Three days after Azzan's departure found Kia on the back porch of Seto and Mara's house enjoying the setting sun as it fell below the horizon, it's warmth enveloping the land and it's light sprinkling the surface of the clear blue ocean with breathtaking reflections.
The day had been a harrowing one for the poor woman, as she had been shuffled in and out of the couple's hidden basement every couple of hours due to the Fire Lord's mandatory inspections.
Sighing in defeat at the unfairness of her life recently, she made to get up when she felt something trickling down her leg.
Her water had broken!
"Seto? Mara? It's happening—the baby's coming!"
The elderly couple, who had been lounging inside, appeared immediately and raced to her side, Seto slightly behind his wife. As soon as Mara reached him she began issuing orders.
"Hot water Seto, now!" she screamed as she set herself down by Kia's side, taking hold of the hyperventilating woman's hand, "And towels! On the double!"
"I'm going woman, I'm going! An eighty year old man can only move so fast!"
Meeting Kia's panicked eyes, Mara spoke in a gentle voice, "Come on dear, let's get you inside and into a bed—you'll find it a lot more comfortable than this old chair to deliver a baby!"
Soon enough Mara had Kia set up in a one of the guest bedrooms and Seto was back with the required items and had taken over Mara's hand holding duties. Seto soon found himself regretting his decision as the first of many contractions swept over Kia, resulting in his hand nearly being crushed.
"Blessed Agni above," he groaned trying to get some kind of feeling back into his now numb appendage, "that was only the first one?"
Mara rolled her eyes, "Be quiet you big baby, it's not like you haven't been through this before!" Despite her admonishment, a hint of a smile played at the corner of her mouth.
"Very true Mara dear, but I might have blocked out the whole pain thing!"
"AAAAAAHHHH!" Kia screamed in agony, "PAIN? WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT PAIN? I'LL TRADE YOU PAIN SETO! NO? THEN STOP WHINING!"
"Well…that was a little rude Kia. I was just giving you a compliment you know!"
Mara couldn't help but laugh at her husband's affronted look, "I guess Azzan should consider himself lucky that he couldn't be here! Or else he'd be the one getting chewed out."
"Oooh! Azzan that bastard! Mara, remind me to kill him the next time I see him! This is his fault!"
Things went on in a similar manner for the next few hours and well into the early hours of the morning. By this time Seto, despite the pain of Kia's vice like grip, was drifting off to sleep, his eyes struggling to stay open even as his head fell forward onto his chest.
Glancing over at her husband Mara rolled her eyes, "An iron will that one. Don't know why he's tired."
She dipped another towel in the now cool water and then ran it across Kia's sweaty forehead. The poor woman looked completely exhausted as she fought off her own urge to fall asleep.
"It hurts so much Mara," the blued eyed woman whispered hoarsely, "I don't want to do this anymore! I just want Azzan; I just want my husband."
"I know child, I know, but you have to keep fighting! The baby is nearly here, just a little longer! And you know that Azzan wanted nothing more than to be here with you for this! You just—"
She was cut off as Kia let out a gut-wrenching scream, jarring Seto out of his sleepy daze.
"YEOW! OOH OW OW OW OW!" He yipped loudly, sounding like a baby moose-lion that had just been kicked, "I think she broke something!"
Neither of the two women paid him any heed though, Kia focused on the explosions of pain she was experiencing and Mara busy trying to coach the water tribe woman through everything.
"Listen to me now Kia, you have to push—I can see the head! Take a deep breath now, get ready—push!"
Seto's cry of pain was drowned out by the high-pitched wails of the newborn infant in Mara's arms. Deftly severing the umbilical chord, she proceeded to wipe the small child clean even as she marveled at the new life before her.
"Kia," she whispered, managing to be heard despite the baby's cries, "she's…beautiful."
The exhausted mother couldn't help the small laugh that escaped her, nor the tired smile that graced her face, "A girl? I-it's a girl? I have a daughter?" At Mara's nod she nearly broke down in tears of joy, "I have a daughter!"
The blue-eyed mother gave Seto's hand a gentle squeeze, eliciting a pained gasp from the grizzled old man, and laughed sheepishly, "Sorry about your hand Seto, but thank you so much." She giggled when he gave her a weak smile, "I have a daughter!"
"I'm assuming you want to hold your daughter now Kia?" Mara asked jokingly as she brought the now swathed girl to her mother's side, "Maybe you can get her to settle down before she attracts too much attention."
When she finally had her daughter in her arms, Kia felt the air leave her body.
This was her child—hers and Azzan's—and, looking at her now as she wailed away so full of life and energy, Kia could see that she was definitely her father's daughter.
She had Azzan's beautiful ebony hair, a small smattering of it covering her head, and she had smooth brown skin just like Kia herself, as well as her mother's button nose. The defined eyebrows were a dead ringer for her father and her eyes—
"Mara!" Kia gasped as she met her daughter's inquisitive stare, the baby quiet now that she was focused on something she found intriguing, "H-her eyes Mara! They're…they're—"
"Blue and…and gold?" Mara gasped, her hand reaching up to cover her mouth in shock.
"But I see green and purple," Seto murmured, his own tone baffled, "and red."
Kia shook her head, "Orange? And…pink?"
They were silent for a moment; the only sound in the room the content gurgling noises coming from the object of their attention. How was it possible for a baby to have multiple colors in her eyes?
"I've heard myths of people with two different colored eyes," Seto spoke, breaking the tense silence, "they were believed to be demons or some kind of hell spawn that were usually cast out and discarded by their people, even their families. But this," he explained with a shake of his head, "this is…this is unheard of!"
Kia seemed to shake herself free of shock and awe first, her bewildered frown and concerned eyes giving way to a loving smile as she looked deeply into her daughter's eyes, "You are such a beautiful child. You have the best of your father and I and the most breathtaking eyes I have ever seen."
Here the infant broke into a toothless grin almost as if she could understand her mother perfectly, her glittering eyes alight with what could only be described as happiness.
"And you deserve a name that will do you justice." Kia paused here, wracking her brain for such a name. It came to her seconds later, "I have it my little angel, I have the perfect name for you. In this world there are few phenomena that can take a person's breath away. Of these, there are fewer still that can change one's life. And among those sacred few, only one has the power to completely change a world: a supernova."
She ran a gentle hand through the wispy tufts of ebony hair on her daughter's head as the girl's eyes—radiant and luminescent—began to drift closed in exhaustion, "Nova…that's your name my darling. My beautiful, beautiful Nova."
The next couple of days flew by in a blur of dirty diapers, crying fits (from both Nova and Seto; the latter in response to the former's spectacular lung capacity) and continual adoration of the tiny girl recently brought into the world.
The Fire Lord's search within the capitol was still in full effect, though it seemed that the soldiers had moved on to different districts as there hadn't been a disturbance on the street since the day of Nova's birth. Countless people were being bullied out of their homes and forced to undergo merciless interrogation simply because they were suspected of defection.
It was early morning and Kia had just finished feeding Nova when Seto burst into the house, eyes frantic and wide, his entire being radiating fear.
"Mara, Kia quick! We have to gather what we need now and pack up as fast as we can! The Fire Lord has issued another decree and I don't think we're going to be able to get away from this one!"
Kia held Nova closer to her, trying to ward off the feeling of foreboding at Seto's words, "What do you mean Seto? What decree? What's happened?"
In response he handed her a piece of parchment with a tear at the top, almost as if someone had ripped it from where it had been nailed up. Thick and new, it bore the royal seal on it in bold, proud characters.
"By order of Fire Lord Ozai," Kia read aloud, "all women within the capital city who are pregnant or have given birth between the time of the Avatar's death and the passing of the new moon, not two days ago, are required to present themselves and, where possible, their offspring to the Fire Lord immediately.
"Failure to comply with this new decree will result in life in prison, the destruction of all property owned by the guilty party and the public execution of the offender's immediate family. The homes that have been searched so far are subject to being completely dismantled and razed if resistance is met and use of deadly force has been authorized in order to ensure the goals of the Fire Nation are met! All hail Fire Lord Ozai!"
The only sound that permeated the silence following Kia's reading was Seto's hurried movements as he threw together clothes, food, blankets and whatever else he thought that they would need.
"Oh Agni," Mara breathed as she rested her head in her hands, "We're going to have to catch the ferry Seto. Preferably before noon, that way we can make it to the farmhouse before nightfall."
The scrambling man nodded, "Yes, that's what I was thinking. We can take the ostrich-horses and the wagon and Kia," he looked over at the shell-shocked woman, "you and Nova will have to hide away in the back so that we can get on without too much hassle."
Kia was still at a loss for words, holding Nova tightly to her chest, "B-but couldn't we just hide in the in the basement again? They didn't find it last time!"
Seto nodded, "While that is true my dear, the Fire Lord has granted them the ability to use lethal force in the event that they believe they are being lied to by anyone they interrogate."
Mara came up to the shivering woman placing a comforting hand on her shoulder, "And while Seto is an excellent liar, we can't say the same for the neighbors. We haven't exactly kept you hidden and Nova's birth—and the sound effects—had to have been figured out by now."
The water tribe native sighed, "I just hate being the reason for uprooting your lives here!"
"Kia," Seto laughed, "Believe it or not, Mara and I had been planning a trip out to the farmstead for a while now, but we just never found the time to actually go or had a real reason. Now we have both!"
"So you're actually doing us a favor child!" Mara said giving her a small smile, "Besides the city is getting less and less appealing every day."
Kia was desperately fighting back tears, a wobbly smile on her face, "Thank you. Thank you so much the both of you. I don't know what I would do without you two."
In less than an hour the three of them had managed to get all that they needed together and loaded onto the wagon. Seto was hitching up the two ostrich-horses that the couple owned as he spoke to the Kia.
"Now listen Kia; as we get closer to the docks you're going to have to hide with Nova in one of the big baskets. I know it's not ideal but let's be honest—you don't exactly blend in."
Kia snorted, "That's the understatement of the year."
Mara laughed as Seto rolled his eyes, "My point Kia, is that you're going to have to keep Nova quiet until we get throught security." He paused briefly in thought, "Come to think of it, you'll have to keep her quiet for the whole trip."
The tanned woman's eyes widened, "How long is the ride?" That task of keeping her week old daughter quiet for any amount of time was a daunting one.
"Barring any unforeseen events?" Mara responded nonchalantly, "No more than four hours."
"Oh sweet La!" Kia gasped, panic written all over her face as she stared down at the sleeping bundle in her arms, "I don't think that's possible, she's sleeping now but once she's had her nap, she's a menace!"
Seto shrugged, "Very true, the girl certainly knows how to holler. But we have no other choice; neither of you would make it through security without arousing suspicion. You're just to different."
Seeing the distraught look on the youger woman's face, Mara gave her shoulder a squeeze, "Relax Kia, everything will be fine, you'll see."
She really should have expected it, she knew. What had made her think that even attempting this would go off without a hitch? Seto's plan had had a gaping hole in it from the very beginning and yet none of them had managed to see it.
Dirty diapers reek.
And it seemed to Kia that this particular diaper contained some of Nova's most…potent poo to date. She loved her daughter very much but being stuck in a basket that just didn't breathe enough with a baby who needed changing was just not fair.
Not to mention that Nova was now getting antsy from the lack of a clean diaper and the feel of her hard work rubbing all over her tender bottom. Thank La she seemed to realize, however farfetched it was, the situation they were in and that her mother needed her to keep quiet otherwise getting through security would have been a nightmare to get through.
Not that it was a picnic.
There had been a really close call when Nova woke up from her nap and was about to start crying from being in the dark when Kia, hearing the guards so close to their position, quickly placed a hand over her daughter's mouth and managed to silence any cries.
That had been their only brush with danger and now, as the ferry drew closer to its destination (which, Mara explained, was far enough outside the capitol city to be overlooked) and the captain gave out last minute instructions, Kia heaved a sigh of relief.
And immediately regretted it as she inhaled, gagging on the foul odor.
'Just a few more minutes,' she recited to herself, 'Just a few more minutes and I can get out of here and kill Seto for even thinking up this idea! "It'll be fine!" This is the last time I listen to him!'
Soon Kia felt the shifting of the wagon as passengers began departing the ship, each one of them eager to finally be off the ship after nearly four hours of claustrophobic seating. She heard Seto and Mara talking over the rhubarb of the bustling people, something about never catching a ferry in wartime again but she tuned them out as she glanced down at Nova.
Even though there was hardly any light Kia could still make out her daughter's bright, sparkling eyes. It still caused her breath to hitch every time she locked gazes with those glittering orbs.
"I know baby, I know," she whispered softly as the infant let out a displeased gurgle at her continued predicament, "believe me you're not the only one who wants your diaper changed." She placed a soft kiss on Nova's forehead, temporarily placating the child.
There was the sound of wheels screeching to a halt and the protesting of the ostrich-horses as the wagon came to a stop. Seconds later the lid was lifted off of Kia and Nova's temporary prison and the smell of cool, clean air overwhelmed their senses.
"Oh sweet La, thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Kia, with Nova held tightly in one arm, wrapped her other around the unsuspecting Seto who had finally deemed it safe for them to come out, "Seto if you hadn't've put me in there with Nova I would kiss you right now. However…" Her eyes narrowed and a scowl took over her face, "It was your idea that led to four hours of smelly, foul, evil soiled diapers!"
Her free hand had moved to grab his collar as she proceeded to shake and try to choke the poor man. Seto was pretty sure he was seeing the beginnings of stars in his vision when Mara—he knew he had married her for a reason—called out above the ruckus.
He was released and unceremoniously dropped to the ground as Kia walked over to Mara's side, her eyes wide and her mouth slightly open in surprise, "It's…it's beautiful Mara!"
And indeed it was.
The setting sun was a magnificent backdrop; it's pink, purple and yellow hues accenting the deep green of the healthy, albeit overgrown, grass and fading crops. It was obvious that the couple hadn't been to their farmstead getaway in a long while, but the natural beauty of the place could not be denied.
"It's a little rough around the edges," Mara replied as Seto picked himself up off the ground and walked over to her side, "but this is our home away from home. Not too many people know we own it and even fewer know when it's actually occupied. It's just far enough away on the outskirts of Fire Nation territory that the army and the Fire Lord won't bother us."
Seto chuckled a little as he brushed off some dirt from his sleeve, "What she means is that we're safe here Kia. All of us."
Kia's smile was mirrored by her daughter for all of five seconds before the mother felt something bubble against her hands, which were currently supporting Nova's backside.
With a shiver and a resigned sigh, Kia turned to the old couple, "While I would love to take my time in admiring your lovely accommodations from afar for several unnecessarily long, drawn out minutes…Nova needs a diaper change. Now!"
The farm was officially home.
The days on the farm passed in relative peace, with only the occasional rainstorm to liven the otherwise monotonous landscape. On their initial arrival Kia had been positive that there was no way she would ever get over the scenic view of the vast fields that stretched onward for miles before giving way to the mountain range far in the distance. As the days grew into weeks and the weeks extending into months, the water tribe woman found herself hard-pressed to keep her sanity.
The only thing that managed to take her mind away from the dull lifestyle she now led, aside from helping Mara and Seto make the farm habitable again, was Nova. Her little girl required nearly round the clock attention but Kia was more than happy to give it.
Now at just over a month old the toddler was beginning to explore, crawling everywhere and anywhere her little limbs would allow, and it was enough to give all three of the occupants a headache. Countless times she had managed to silently slip away from their watchful eyes and get into some kind of trouble. It wasn't out of place to be startled out of a nap by a shrill cry of pain coming from a different room.
"Nova?" Kia called as she continued to knead the dough she was preparing for dinner. The baby had been able to recognize her name whenever it was called, or at least the sound of her name, for a few weeks now and would usually respond with a pleased gurgle when she heard it. This time however, Kia received no response from her daughter.
"Nova?" she questioned again wiping her hands with a dish-towel and abandoning the dough to see if she could locate the toddler, "Nova sweetie, where are you?" She hadn't had her head turned for more than a minute and yet somehow her daughter had pulled her escape act yet again!
With a frustrated sigh Kia made her way into the living room hoping that Nova wasn't too far off or, Agni forbid, getting into any trouble.
"Nova please come out baby, you're starting to worry me." There was no sign of her in the living room so Kia moved on to her bedroom, which she shared with Nova. She let out a relieved breath as she caught sight of the baby happily playing with one of her many toys that littered the floor, her thumb in her mouth.
"There you are you little magician you!" she smiled scooping up the child and rubbing their noses together, eliciting a happy giggle, "Are you trying to give mommy a heart attack by disappearing like that? Hmm?" All she got was another gurgled laugh in reply. Picking up Nova's toy and shaking her head Kia made her way back to the kitchen, "Well whether or not you were consciously trying to end mommy's life, I'll let it pass this time, just as long as you stay with me in the kitchen, alright?"
Bright blue eyes met the shimmering multitude of colors within Nova's. The smile that lit her features told Kia all she needed to know.
Setting Nova down in the high chair that Seto had put together for her, Kia went over to the counter, picked up the dough and the cutting board she'd been working on, and brought it over to the table so that she could finish preparing dinner without letting Nova out of her sight.
She tapped the baby on her nose, "I'll not be letting you out of my sight again baby girl, you hear me?"
"Bah?" A surprised look flitted across Nova's face and her eyes crossed as she tried to figure out what her mother was doing.
With a laugh, Kia went back to kneading, her thoughts—for once—focused solely on the bundle of joy next to her.
But a disgruntled grunt from the high chair brought her attention back to Nova, who's face was scrunched up in discomfort, her hands rubbing desperately at her nose as if something was bothering her.
"Nova baby, what's wrong?"
"WAAAAH!" Kia screamed, eyes wide in fright.
There was a crash as the door to the back yard was flung open, Mara and Seto bursting in and glancing around in panic, "Kia," Mara gasped, her eyes darting back and forth, "Kia what's wrong? What happened?"
Shaking Kia only shook her head and pointed at Nova, who was still in her high chair looking incredibly pleased with herself.
"What? What are you pointing at? Is it Nova?" Seto was completely confused, there was no immediate threat and all he could see in the kitchen was Nova, Kia and a loaf of freshly baked bread that looked as if it had just come out of the oven judging by the steam still rising from it.
"Look!" Kia insisted, still pointing toward her daughter.
Both Seto and Mara looked again but they still couldn't see anything out of place. Shaking his head Seto voiced his opinion, "Kia, all I see is Nova having a grand old time in her high chair and a freshly baked loaf of bread."
"EXACTLY!" Kia cried, her eyes wide as she looked at them imploringly, "Exactly! Not one minute ago that bread was nothing more than dough that was ready to be put in the oven! I hadn't even gotten the pan out to put it in!"
Mara tried to placate the frantic woman, "Darling maybe you just—"
But Kia wouldn't have it, "Mara, Seto I am telling you that was not me! It was Nova! She…she bent! She bent fire!"
The couples' eyes widened at this proclamation, hardly daring to believe what they were hearing. They looked at each other, then at Nova and then to each other again as if they were trying to figure out what to say to the distraught mother.
It was Seto that finally broke the silence, "Kia…are you sure it was Nova?"
"Am I sure it was…? What do you think I am, some kind of idiot?" the ferocity in her eyes caused the older man to step back in fright, "Of course I'm sure it was Nova! She nearly bent my face off! Watch!"
Kia marched over to her daughter—who until now had been completely happy just observing the conversation between the three adults—and gently tapped her nose again.
When nothing happened for a few seconds, Mara tried again, "Kia maybe—"
"Wait!" Kia barked, eyes focused on the infant whose face was once again scrunched up in discomfort.
A small stream of flame shot out from her mouth as steam issued from her nose the sight completely taking the elderly couple by surprise.
"B-b-but…wh…by Agni!" Seto managed after a pause, "She's…she's a firebender."
Mara seemed at a loss for words, her eyes flicking to Kia who stood silent in front of her daughter, "Kia? Are you alright?"
The water tribe woman heaved a heavy sigh as she sat down next to her daughter, carefully extracting her from the high chair, "Yes Mara, I'm fine. I just…I can't believe Azzan missed it. Nova's first time bending. Bending before she's even spoken a single word!" She seemed to be fighting back tears as she hugged the small girl to her chest, "He always talked about wanting to be there to see it; it didn't matter if our child was a waterbender or a firebender, he just wanted to see it. But…but he missed it."
"Oh Kia," Mara whispered, pulling a chair up next to the silently weeping woman and wrapping her arm around her shoulders, "Dear you know that Azzan would rather be here than doing the Fire Lord's bidding! You know he would've given anything to see Nova bend—he'd probably give anything just to see Nova at all!"
Seto came over and knelt down before Kia, "Mara's right you know. Azzan may not have been here for Nova's first bend, but you do have something special to tell him when he does get here."
"What?" Kia questioned with a sniff, placing a soft kiss to Nova's forehead.
"Most children don't show signs of bending until they're at least six or seven years old—for any element. Nova's already shown signs at one month! You get to tell your husband that your daughter is a firebending prodigy!"
A small smile graced Kia's tear streaked face as she gazed down at her grinning daughter, "I knew you were special sweetheart. My little Nova."
Things settled down soon after that, though the adults were a little more conscious of where Nova was at all times due to her random bouts of firebending. The last thing they needed was the house going up in flames because the toddler had a sneezing fit.
The worst incident so far had happened one morning while the little family had been sitting down to breakfast. Once again Nova was sat in her high chair looking completely content. Kia had just finished feeding her and stepped into the restroom to take a quick bath.
Mara and Seto were enjoying a hot cup of tea while trying—and succeeding—in keeping Nova entertained. Seto had just blown a wet raspberry on Nova's stomach and topped it off with a small flick on the nose when they heard a loud click! from outside where the ostrich-horses were penned. They brushed it off as nothing until, a couple of minutes later another click! was heard.
Seto looked at Mara before getting up and going to the door, "Mara can you watch the baby while I check on the ostrich-horses? I swear I heard something out here a few minutes ago."
"Of course Seto, though it's probably nothing."
Just as he was opening the door he heard the telltale wind up of another one of Nova's sneezes before Mara called out,
"NOVA NO! Seto get back in here! She's doing it again!"
Abandoning the investigation Seto bolted back into the kitchen, leaving the door to slam closed in his wake, just in time to see Nova loose another stream of fire though this one caught the edge of the table leaving the once pristine oak finish charred and burned.
The couple stared at the smoking table and were in the same positions until Kia came in, putting the finishing touches on braiding her hair, and noticed the silent couple and smoking table.
"Umm…what did I miss? Hehe…"
The next week brought about more dirty diapers, rain and several more pieces of smoking furniture that had to be subsequently tossed out. At this rate, Seto was going to be busy for the next month or so making all new chairs, tables and stools just to keep up with the rate of depletion.
Late one evening while gathered around the fireplace, Kia saw something flicker through the window outside in the field. She squinted, trying to get a better look but gave it up as a bad job when she failed to discern anything.
"What is it Kia?" Seto asked from his seat on the couch next to Mara who was busy knitting what looked like a small red blanket for Nova in honor of her bending abilities.
"I thought…I thought I saw something outside, like a fire or light…or something but…it was probably nothing."
Seto frowned as he got up and made his way over to the window. After a few moments of silence he spoke, "Mmhmm…that's definitely a fire. Though it's not wild so I'm assuming someone is out there. Probably just a traveling band of gypsies or something but I'd better go and check it out, just in case."
Kia nodded, "Alright then, I'll just go put Nova down for the night. If you need anything, let me know."
With that she turned to her room, Nova blinking her eyes sleepily at Mara and Seto on the way out.
"I'll be right back Mara," Seto said as he opened the door, "it shouldn't take too long. I'm just going to go and see who they are, ask them if they need anything. The usual."
The old woman sighed, "Just be careful please Seto."
The sound of many loud voices coming from the living room brought Kia out of sleep and back to the waking world. What was going on out there? It sounded as though Seto had brought back an entire city!
"Mara! Kia! I'm home! And I brought guests!" Seto's call was enough to get her up and going again and, gently picking up Nova so as not to disturb her daughter's sleep, made her way out into the living room.
She heard Mara's voice first as she responded good-naturedly to her husband's summons, "Seto who did you bring this time? I sweat that with the way you bring in random passersby it'd be a wonder if we haven't fed half of Ba Sing Se by now!" There was a pause before Kia heard a sharp gasp as Mara whispered, "By Agni…"
"Mara," Kia called as she rounded the corner, "Is everything alright?" She stopped in the doorway while glancing down at Nova to see if she was still sleeping, "What is going on he—" she stopped as she looked up, her eyes finding the tall, muscular figure before her, ebony locks falling in disheveled layers in front of his face. Ebony locks that were exactly the same as Nova's…and those eyes…
She could hardly believe it and could barely manage to speak, "A-Azzan?"
A/N: There you have it ladies and gents! The first chapter of Avatar: Emergence! I know some of you will probably be at my throat regarding proper development for Nova as an infant, but please-it's a story! I'm not going to change too much in regards to the facts of life and things like that, but just bear with me, alright? I've never led you wrong before!
Anyway, please read and review and make sure to let me know what you think! We've started yet another epic journey people, strap yourselves in because it's looking like a bumpy ride!