Category: Avatar: Last Airbender
Author: Mrs Pettyfer
Title: The Rise of One
Pairing(s): Multiple pairings that you will just have to wait to see ;)
Rating: M - to be safe. For dark themes, violence, and light language. No lemons.
A/N: Welcome to the sequel of The Black Games! If you have not read that, I highly encourage you do because this won't make quite as much sense. ;) I am really excited to dive into the second installment with you guys. Your support gave me that spark to make TBG into a trilogy so thank you for that! The plot is not exactly like Catching Fire, but there will be some similar elements. I'm expecting this to be about 20-25 chapters.
Disclaimer: The Avatar world and characters belong to Mike Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The Hunger Games belongs to Suzanne Collins. Both inspired me to write this story.
in·sur·gent - /ɪnˈsɜrdʒənt/ Show Spelled[in-sur-juhnt] noun
Origin: 1755–65; Latin insurgent- (stem of insurgēns ) present participle of insurgere to get up, ascend, rebel. See in-2 , surge, -ent
1. A person who rises in forcible opposition to lawful authority, especially a person who engages in armed resistance to a government or to the execution of its laws; rebel.
Prologue - Insurgent
My dad used to say that often we only do what we think is expected of us, unaware that we are capable of so much more. I never really understood what he meant, though, because I always assumed we did everything to our own capabilities.
But that was before the Black Games.
I didn't know my own capabilities until I was put to the test. Until I was pushed beyond my own comfortable limits. Pushed and pushed until I broke. Except I didn't let myself break, even when it would have been easy to do so.
My name is Katara, the girl who wore water, and I am the victor of the 75th Annual Black Games. At least, that's what everyone keeps saying. Victor. Winner. Champion. But I don't feel like any of those things. The finer details are left out—that in order to be the victor you have to lose everything. Family. Friendship. Love. Doesn't sound much like a victor, does it?
I lost pieces of my soul in that arena. Somewhere along the way I lost the ability to discern the truth from lies, reality and fantasy. I bled, I cried, I fought, I ran, I hid, I lied, I loved, I killed. I became someone I had no idea I could be because I had to. I don't even remember the girl I used to be before the Games. She's there, I suppose, hidden beneath an icy plane. I don't know if she can find her way to the surface again. I wish I could feel guilty about some of the things I did in the Games, but somehow I feel like I'm betraying myself if I do. If I had done some things differently, I might not be alive today. I can't let myself believe in regrets—that's what everyone keeps telling me. They say I'll never be able to live if I do.
And that would be an insult to my brother. He told me to win, and I did. He never believed in accidents or mistakes, and if he was here now, he'd remind me of that.
I guess he has a point.
I didn't win the Black Games on accident, and I didn't win by making mistakes. I won because I went as far as I could go, and then I kept going. Because every time I fell, I stood back up. Tell me to jump, I'll say how high. Tell me to run, I'll say how far. Tell me I can't do something, I'll prove you wrong. Tell me to surrender, and I'll say never.
I won because the twenty three other tributes couldn't keep me down. And neither can the Capital. Winning didn't make me cherish my life more. It made me want to fight for it again. Not just for me, but for everyone I love—the ones who are here, and the ones that have moved on to a better place. For all of the Fire Nation. We deserve freedom. And I'm going to give it to them. Or I'll die trying.
I am a believer. A law breaker. A rebel.
I am an insurgent.
"And now I know my place.
We're all just pieces in their games." – Just a Game, Birdy
Chapter 1 - The Day After Tomorrow
Tomorrow at dusk, I'm supposed to say goodbye. I'm supposed to stand back like a good girl, remain silent, and let destiny take its course, while the prince of the Fire Nation goes up in flames. I'm not supposed to struggle, to ask for more time, or do anything that might disrupt thousands of years of tradition at the Capital.
Unfortunately for them though, I was never one to do what I'm supposed to do.
It's early at Caldera City, the sun rising just behind the looming cliff mountains of Province One. I stay hidden beneath a dark cloak as I move quietly through the golden lit streets. I'm careful not to draw attention, keeping to the shadows and skirting along the sides of buildings. A hand instinctively presses against my pocket, concealing a rolled up piece of parchment that I've read and analyzed so much the ink is starting to fade.
There is no address on the letter. No signature, either. But I knew it was for me when I found it, slipped under my door. It's simple and short, straight to the point.
I know what you did. I know your secret and I know how to help. You cannot wish to save Prince Zuko alone and you have little time. Meet me at the Black Jade in Caldera City just after dawn the day after tomorrow. Ask for Mo and show him what I have disclosed. Make sure you are not followed.
I haven't shown the letter to any of my team and I'll need to be back before they notice I'm missing. I know I probably should have told someone I'm trekking through the city, but I guess I'm confident that I can handle myself if I run into trouble. Besides, I don't think anyone would understand why I'm doing it in the first place—how could I even try to explain myself? Of course, it's occurred to me that this might be a trick or a trap, but I'm so desperate that I have no other choice. What do I have to lose, anyway, that I haven't lost already?
By tomorrow night, Prince Zuko will be burned on the pyre at the Royal Plaza and I'll have no choice but to accept that he is gone. That he's never coming back. But see, that's the problem. I'm not ready to accept that. I still cling to hope, latching on to it with all my strength; irrational it may be, but there it is.
So here I am, sneaking past Guards and lurking through the city, following the instructions of an anonymous tip that may or may not lead to my demise. After the things I've seen, I'm not even afraid. I'm afraid of what will become of me if I watch Zuko go up in flames. That scares me far more than any other assassin or conspirator ever could.
The people of the Capital are early risers so the streets are crowded enough that I don't stand out. The Guards are a little lax around these parts, considering Caldera City is our National Capital, right in the heart of Province One. The people of Province One live and bathe in luxury. They're trained in the arts of fighting—both benders and non-benders alike—and do not have to worry about such things as finding scraps for supper or worrying about the hot water. These people are the wealthiest of our nation, hardly having a care in the world.
So naturally, you would think I really wouldn't need to bother about sneaking around. Who really cares about a sixteen year old girl from Province Nine? Well, a few months ago I wouldn't have to take such precautions as keeping to the shadows, but now the entire nation knows my name and face.
Just two days ago, I was crowned the victor of the 75th Annual Black Games and was presented to the Capital. My team and I sat through a tortuous recap of the Games and I had to watch my brother die, again, and was reminded of how I could not stop it from happening. I watched Aang's life get taken away in a flash of light. Again. But the worst was watching myself and the things I did. Almost every brutal and horrible memory was resurfaced, opening up the wounds I keep trying to heal, as if the nightmares aren't bad enough already. The healers tell me the nightmares and memories will eventually fade, but then I say, "How can you know if you weren't in the Black Games?"
They have no answer to that.
I find the Black Jade and a tinkle of a bell goes off when I step inside. The walls are made of dark wood, the tables round and small, with mismatching chairs. Waiters wearing white aprons weave through the tables, pouring cups of hot steaming tea for the customers. No money is thrown on the table, so the tea must be complimentary. We don't have places like this to eat back at home, and tea is most certainly not free. In my world, nothing comes without a price. Seeing the chatting customers makes my fists clench at my side, resentment building up in me so fast it almost surprises me.
"Can I help you?" a voice calls from the counter, and thankfully saves me from doing something stupid. I keep my face down, my hood carefully concealing it, and move toward the front of the shop. No one even bothers to look at me. Good.
Without looking at the man behind the counter, I slid the small, round token I received with the letter and say, "I'm looking for Mo."
"Ah," says the man, pushing the tile back toward me after a swift glance. "Follow me, please." I pocket the tile and follow him through the back door, up a staircase, and into a room that sits over the Black Jade. "Wait here," he orders.
I walk around the tiny room, restless, unable to sit, even though there's a table with two welcoming chairs. A potted plant sits in a corner, the sweetness mixing with the musky scent of wood. I can't help but think this is some type of meeting room. It's much too scarce to be someone's house, and the only furniture is the table and chairs. No pictures. No bed. No wardrobe. Only a steaming teapot and two empty tea cups sit on the table. A tiny circular window reveals the crowded streets below; I can hear children laughing. The sound is like shattering glass to my ears.
Thankfully, the door cracks open before I lose my mind; out of instinct I whirl around defensively. A dark cloaked figure steps into the room. Male. Not quite as tall as my dad. Older. Slightly overweight.
My hand flies to my hip, ready to whip out the water if necessary, but the man holds up his hands in a sign of peace and then slowly slides off his hood.
"Lady Katara," says the man. He gives me the official bow of the Capital. "Thank you for meeting me."
I stare for a moment, and then clamp my gaping mouth shut. "General Iroh? You wrote me the letter?"
"Ah, so I did." He smiles, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes. His pale face is lined with age, and shadows paint under his soft gold eyes. Another cloaked figure steps into the room, pulls down the hood, and I actually gasp this time.
It's the General and Prince Lu Ten.
Iroh takes a seat at the table and gestures for me to do the same. "Would you care for some tea?"
I blink in surprise. Somehow I find myself taking a seat, but I can't take my eyes off the General, too stunned and wary to trust him just yet. Are we really about to have tea?
Lu Ten just crosses his arms and leans against the closed door, watching silently. His presence is already making me jumpy and uncomfortable. I have not missed his dislike for me—nor can I blame him.
"I promise it is not poisoned," says Iroh, noticing my hesitancy. "If I was going to poison someone, I would not ruin a perfectly brewed pot of Ginseng tea to do so." He pours steaming brown liquid into a white chipped cup methodically, taking great care in the simple act. "Lu Ten does not care for Ginseng. It's hard to believe we are related."
"You sent in the phoenix tears," I blurt out suddenly. "And the food." And a bunch of other things. "I—it saved me. Us."
"You saved yourself, Lady Katara. And I was only the messenger," he says. He holds out the pot to me in question. More out of manners than anything else, I snatch the remaining cup and allow him to pour me some tea. "The sponsors were responsible for purchasing the gifts."
He's uncharacteristically humble. I don't expect that. My eyes shift to Lu Ten nervously, but he's still expressionless and watchful.
"Well, thank you," I say, and bring the cup to my lips. I blow cool breath over the rim of the cup before taking a small sip. It's spicier than I expect, but still very sweet and warm. Tasty.
"Thank you for saving my nephew's life," Iroh says gently, looking and sounding both sympathetic and nowhere near as angry as I anticipated.
"I also ended it." The words fly out before I can stop myself. The reminder is so painful it's like I've been slapped in the face with fire.
"I do not think he would see it that way."
How can he not?
"I didn't want to kill him," I whisper. "Either of them."
The look on the General's face only fuels my torment. It's soft and kind—forgiving, even. The way my dad looks at every animal he kills, just after he strikes a spear through it. Pity. Sympathy. Sorrow.
How can he possibly look like this to the person who killed part of his family? How is he strong enough to do that?
"I know," Iroh says gently. "My neice and nephew—"
"I can save him," I blurt out suddenly.
I can hear Lu Ten shifting at the door. Maybe he's surprised by my omission? The General stares at me with barely concealed neutralism, and only now do I see how hard it is for him to remain calm and collected. I think he's doing it for my sake rather than his own. And this, more than anything, even despite the fact that Lu Ten is here, allows my harboring secret to finally seep out.
"I—I have special healing water from the spirit oasis," I whisper. Pure, irrational desperation colors my words, and suddenly I don't care how I sound. "I got it before the Games. I've been waiting to use it and I…I think this is what it's meant for. To bring Zuko back."
"Yes," says Iroh, surprising me. "I suspected you were up to something when I saw you lurking through the palace corridors. The black cloak is ever suspicious."
I flush in embarrassment and look away. "I was going to try, but there were Guards everywhere."
"Where did you get something like that? People don't just rise from the dead." Lu Ten says suddenly, not bothering to hide his skepticism. There's something else in his tone, something I recognize. The implication is clear.
I shift in my seat, giving him a nasty look, and tell him exactly what he expects. "I stole it from the spirit world," I say mockingly.
"Wouldn't be the first thing you've taken."
I start to rise from my chair. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Lu Ten, that is enough," Iroh scolds. He doesn't raise his voice, but he might as well have with that tone. The prince looks away, his jaw tightening. The gesture is so similar to Zuko that it momentarily jars me. They don't really look alike—Lu Ten is shorter and stockier than Zuko, and his hair is pulled up in a top knot and seemingly longer. But their mannerisms are similar.
Iroh turns back to me. "My apologies, Lady Katara. Lu Ten has forgotten his hospitality and manners. As for your nightly crusades through the corridors, it was a good effort, but you were searching in the wrong place. You would not find Prince Zuko in his bedchamber. He is in protective care in one of our healing wings. His body must be preserved…" Iroh's voice trails off painfully. I swallow hard, wishing he would stop, but knowing this conversation has to happen. "Unless you are royalty and in relation to Prince Zuko, you will not be permitted to enter the wing."
"What if I go in with you?"
"And then what? You must learn to think ahead, as I often tell my nephew." The General takes a casual sip from his cup; I mirror him just to do something with my numb hands. "I have heard stories of the magical properties of the spirit oasis, but I cannot say I have seen the truth myself. Even if this water possesses such power, and you were able to bring Prince Zuko back, then what happens? The world saw him die." He tips his chin to me. "Saw you kill him. How do you explain bringing him back?"
And just like that, the ground drops from beneath me. Truthfully, I haven't thought that much ahead. I just thought I could bring Zuko back and everything would be fine. I suppose the world doesn't work like that, does it? You can't simply end a life and then take it back, expecting no consequences.
"His father is the Fire Lord," I say, frustrated. "Since when has Fire Lord Ozai felt obligated to owe the world an explanation for anything?"
I clamp my mouth shut and look away, slightly horrified that I've just insulted the brother to the man that sits before me, someone who has clearly gone out on a limb to talk to me. I sneak a glance, tentatively, but Iroh does not look offended. He simply pours himself more tea, and when he looks up at me, his expression is soft.
"My father created the Black Games many years ago, before you were born."
"As a punishment for the Day of Black Sun," I interrupt bitterly. "I know."
"Yes, and no," Iroh reasons. "Do you know why there is a victor, Lady Katara?"
I open my mouth, ready to spit out an obvious retort, and then close it. Why wouldn't there be a victor? It's a game. Someone has to win, right? Every game as a winner and a loser. In this case, twenty-three losers.
"Hope," the General clarifies softly. "It is the only thing in this world that is stronger than fear. If my father simply wanted to punish the provinces, he would have called forth twenty four tributes to be executed every year. There would be no need for the Black Games at all."
I blink at him, not exactly sure where he's going with this. Iroh sets down his cup and leans forward, folding his arms on the table in front of him.
"Let me ask you this: why did you fight in the Games? Why not refuse?" he asks.
"Because…I wanted to go home," I say simply. "I wanted to win."
"Because you were presented with the opportunity to win," he corrects. "The odds were not high, but it was enough hope for you to fight. If there was no victor, how could the Games exist? Why would the tributes fight if no one could win?"
"So you're saying your father did this to give the people hope?" I say, completely confounded.
"If there was no hope in this world, then no one would feel the need to fight."
"And what's so bad about that? Isn't that what we should strive for? Peace and no fighting?"
Iroh gives me a thoughtful look. "It is not the fighting, Lady Katara, but the reasons, that matter. If you had no will to fight, I suspect you would not be here, trying to find a way to save my nephew."
I stare at him, my chest aching. So what? What's his point?
Iroh sighs. "If the world loses the hope and desire to fight for what they believe in—for their desires, their beliefs—it will be a very sad place."
"Is it not already?" I whisper. Iroh gives me a weak, knowing smile.
I sit back in my seat. Iroh's words, hearing them phrased this way, make sense, but I just can't understand why this man is the one speaking them to me. A man who is the son of the Fire Lord who created the Black Games, the current brother of the tyrant of our nation.
"My brother, like my father before me, believes the way to control the world is with a little hope and unquestionable fear. The world fears my brother far more than they hold out hope, but they have enough hope left in them to fight in the Games."
"So what would happen if everyone just decided not to fight? All twenty four tributes just said no?"
"The likelihood of that is very slim, but if that were to happen, I suspect the arena would be manipulated so they are forced to fight or die," Iroh says simply. "And the winnings for the victor are too great to turn down. Imagine how your province would feel if they knew you deliberately threw away a chance to bring them better fortune."
Suddenly I feel sick. The Capital purposely keeps us on a tight rope, cutting back our resources, so we're able to skirt by with the bare minimum. If we were all living in luxury, we wouldn't need the winnings so much. They've backed us into a corner with only one escape—to fight in the Games so we can win. But what of the Fire Provinces? They are not as poor and sick as we are. Their motives for winning must clearly be different. Is it like Zuko said? About honor and pride? Either way it doesn't matter. In the end, we're all trapped and caged. Our motivations might be different but every tribute that fights is somebody's daughter or son. We are the victims. All of us.
I look back at the General, expressionless. "So what do you suggest I do? I don't even know if this spirit water will work. But I have to try. Can't—wouldn't Fire Lord Ozai want his son back?"
"If my brother knew of your plans, he would have you use the water on Princess Azula," Iroh says softly, stunning me into silence. "In fact, he will probably be very angry if you save Zuko instead of her." My expression must be horrified because the General gives me a gentle smile.
"I will not try to explain Ozai to you, for he is a mystery even to me. But I do know that if you do this, you will be traveling down a dark path that no one but you can go. There will be no turning back, and I do not know how many bridges will be burned along the way. You are entering uncharted waters and playing with fate, Lady Katara, and the spirits are not to be reckoned with."
He's given me too many metaphors but I think I get the picture.
"Look, I have this water." My voice starts to tremble. "And maybe it's stupid and won't work, but if it doesn't, well—" my voice breaks off miserably, and all I can manage now is a whisper. "—he's dead anyway, isn't he? Too many people have died so I can live. Zuko saved me and I have to try to save him if I can. I can't just not try. The world needs their prince back. I need him back…"
I feel like I'm choking, or being strangled. I can't' talk anymore or I'm going to cry. So I look away, focusing on the chipped crimson paint of the walls. Ever since I won the Games I've tried to numb my feelings, sealing them shut so I don't have to feel. Talking about all this is reopening the wounds, and I'm afraid if I keep talking, I'll never be able to seal them shut again.
It's so dangerous to hope. When you do, it makes it so much harder when you're let down. But then I see Zuko's face. You can't just forget about the face of your last hope.
I can feel Iroh and Lu Ten looking at me but I just can't look up yet. What they must think of me. What I feel for Zuko can't even compare to what they must feel. I don't know anything about the prince. I don't know his favorite foods, or stories, or how he likes his tea. I don't know anything about his past, his dreams—nothing. None of these things that his uncle and cousin must know. All I know is how Zuko operates. I know how he moves, when he's deep in thought, when he's not going to budge in an argument.
I know how he works. I just don't know how he is.
"Do not make the mistake of thinking you are the only one who wishes he was still alive," Lu Ten says in a low, cold voice.
"Lu Ten," Iroh warns.
I shake my head. "I didn't mean—"
"Because you're not."
I look up, and our eyes lock. "I know. And I'm sorry."
Lu Ten scoffs and pushes himself off the door. "No, you're not. You won, didn't you?"
I jump to my feet, enraged. "Don't act like you're the only one who lost someone in that arena! I lost my brother! I watched him die and there was nothing I could do about it! I held his body as he was dying, bleeding away before my eyes. How is that winning when I have to live with that for the rest of my life?"
The room falls into silence. Lu Ten looks away. Maybe it's a trick of the light, but his face seems to soften just a little.
"I'm not proud of what I've done but I'm trying to do something right about it. I'm trying to save one of your cousins," I say to the prince, heatedly. My fist slams down on the table; Iroh jumps in surprise, and my cup of tea spills over. "You can think whatever you want of me, I don't care. This water didn't appear for me when I wanted it to. I couldn't use it on my brother. I'm not about to waste it now. I will try to save Zuko with or without your help. I owe him to try."
I slump back into my chair, pulling at my hair, suddenly drained. This is the most emotion I've let myself feel in days, and it's exhausting.
"And if it doesn't work…" I just can't afford to think like that. I look up and glance between Iroh and Lu Ten. "Are you going to help me or do I have to blow apart your palace to find Zuko on my own?"
Iroh chuckles. "I do not think that will be necessary."
"What you're talking about is impossible," the prince says to me.
"It's only impossible if I don't try," I say.
We're silent for a long moment. I'm back on my feet again, my fists clenched at my sides. I thought this meeting was to help me. This is just a waste of my time.
"You really think you can do this." Lu Ten fixes me with a hard stare. "You really think this...blessed water will bring him back?"
"I don't know," I say honestly. "But I'm willing to find out. Willing to take the risks and the consequences. I'll take it all."
"It is easy to see why my nephew cares for you so," Iroh says gently. I flush at his statement. "Although I was not in the arena, I was still able to see. And I saw enough to know what you mean to him. It is nice to see those feelings are finally reciprocated."
Finally? What does that mean?
"I would do anything in my power to have my nephew back again." The General sighs. "But…I am not so sure it is in my power. It is you who possess the water, and only you who can use it."
Despair threatens to pull me under, but I won't let it. "You can't help me?"
Iroh shakes his head. "Not in the ways you will require."
"Then why are you here?"
Lu Ten steps forward. "Because I know someone who can."
A/N: Thank you for reading! Hope you liked it! I'd like to point something out: for those who read This Is My Idea, you can probably figure out Lu Ten is different in this story. He has good reason to not trust Katara entirely, so I hope you guys don't give him too much heat. :P And by the way, the trailer for this story is now up! Check it out on my profile. :)
EDIT: I combined the prologue and chapter one. I was getting the chapters all confused, lol.
iLovelyJulz: "I'm also wondering if you'll be coming up with your own OC's since a lot important characters- umm, passed away during the Black Games." - So far there is one main OC-besides Lu Ten. The rest of the characters that will be the main cast are secondary character's in the actual series. :)
"And will you be introducing us to a Finnick-like character?" - Yes! He is inspired by Finnick. :)
nerdimaddi: "I can't beleive you killed Zuko. I really didn't think you would do it." - Lol I think I shocked a lot of people with that one. There was just no way Katara could have healed him in that arena. The aftermath would have been much worse than it is already.
"the relationship between Katara and Zuko is by far, one of the best ones i've ever read." - Thank you! It's very different from any that I've written. The just of their relationship is really based on co-dependency. They use one another as a crutch in some ways. Katara's relationship with him is very similar to how she felt with Sokka-but of course, she is actually attracted to Zuko, lol. But it's that same feeling-that comfort, equality, trust, co-dependency.
ShipperBody: "You're going to add Korra on this?" - Negative, just some similar concepts! Technically with the timeline of this story, it would be about the time of Legend of Korra. But I don't want it that advanced technology wise.
PrudishPerversions: "I'm already being torn apart internally by Makorra feels" - Oh my Makorra feels are exploding after this saturday episode. They are perfect together.
Nostalgia: "But I am a little worried; the story isn't Katara/Zuko, but just Katara" - I did this on purpose! lol Right now Zuko is not alive, so he can't be a main character, can he? If he is able to be brought back, then I will change it. But I want everyone to keep all options open right now. :)
Random Reader: "If Katara plans on reviving Zuko, who would also have been experiencing (well, not exactly- his lifeless body couldn't really "experience" much) problems with decay and threat of cremation, /even/ if it didn't work out...Couldn't she also try reviving Sokka instead? - Well, Sokka's body is back at Province 9 by now. And like Katara says in this chapter, she believes the water is meant to save Zuko. (There's also no way Katara could get back to Province 9 before Sokka is sent off) As far as decomposing, the Capital uses their skilled healers and advanced technology to keep Zuko relatively preserved. That might not be scientifically correct in our world, or not possible, but keep in mind this world with bending and "magic" isn't the norm so our rules don't really apply. :P
A Flicker of Candlelight: "I will this entire story be centered around Katara? Or will there be different POV's?" - It will all be in Katara's POV, unless she dies.
Tiny Cherie: "I love how the prologue shows how much Katara changed-she didn't even remember the person she used to be." - Yeah, and you know, I wouldn't say she's changed, she just forgot. She's very cold after everything that has happened..but that doesn't mean she can't thaw a little as time passes. :)