Author's Notes: Playing around with the idea of Tahno and Korra meeting when they're kids seemed fun at the time, so here it is. I wanted to try this because 1) I wanted to do something different from the first story I published and 2) I have NO idea where the show is going to go (but I wait with bated breath).
Disclaimer: I don't own Legend of Korra or its characters.
Chapter 1: First Impressions
He had spent almost two weeks in the South Pole, and Tahno decided that he hated it as much as a 14-year-old boy from Republic City could hate an eternally frozen wasteland.
He never had much reason to trust grown-ups, and this trip certainly didn't change his opinion. First, the captain, who assured Tahno that he was experienced with navigating the southern waters, had docked the boat in the wrong village.
Due to a chain of stray icebergs or to a misreading of the ever-shifting constellations, the ship had navigated off course. Tahno really didn't remember which excuse the captain rambled off. What mattered was that he was stuck in some dull little village in the South Pole, and it wasn't even the right dull little village. It had taken him a couple days' time to find a guide to lead him to his destination.
Next, when he finally arrived at the right settlement, he was told that their residential waterbending master-the sole reason he made this stupid trip-was currently unavailable. The locals said that she had important business to attend to outside of the settlement, and she wouldn't return for another week.
He smiled politely enough when he was told the unfortunate news, but truthfully he was irritated beyond rational thought. Tahno had come to this desolate place to seek out the Southern Water tribe woman named Katara. After training with the most well-known waterbendering teachers in Republic City, he wasn't satisfied being told that there was nothing more he could learn.
When he discovered that the waterbender famous for helping end the Hundred Year War was alive and well in the South Pole, Tahno decided to take his yuans out of the city to find Katara. As much as he despised having to wait, he consoled himself knowing that he would soon be training under the previous Avatar's waterbending master. He spent his days in a small igloo that served as a pathetic excuse for an inn, passing the time mostly in his room by either reading or training by himself.
Restlessness got the better of him on the fourth day. Even though he knew there was nothing interesting in the dull village, Tahno went for a walk. As soon as he stepped outside, he cursed quietly when the stinging wind blew through his wavy black hair. He regretted not packing a thicker jacket with each second he spent trudging past the lit huts.
He was beginning to wonder how any human being could live in this arctic backcountry when he saw it.
In the distance, a massive glacier had cleanly split in two with a low, rumbling growl. As he watched the dual pieces of solid ice tumble back into the ocean, he realized that it was actually the dead of winter. A glacier breaking off into pieces wasn't unheard of, but it usually didn't happen until the temperatures rose. And if the bone-chilling cold that his jacket did little to protect was any indicator, spring was very far off.
Moments after the glacier had broken, an immense stream of water spiraled into the air. It twisted fluidly underneath the gray sky, and as Tahno watched in astonishment, the flowing movements slowly became more rigid. As the sun broke out from the thick clouds, the light glistened off the newly-formed ice spiral that stood where the massive glacier had been before.
Hoping that the waterbending master had returned sooner than he was told, Tahno broke into a run.
The snow and ice crunched loudly underneath his boots as he sprinted further away from the village and closer towards the ocean. Each breath of cold air he took burned in his lungs, and his feet were becoming numb from the ice he ran though, but he didn't slow down. Finally, after almost two weeks of travel and setbacks, he was going to meet the waterbender who trained Avatar Aang. He was finally going to become stronger.
The ice spiral loomed over him like a frozen sentinel as he ran closer. When he finally reached the coastline, he was surprised to find a small coated figure standing near the edge of the water. A mound of snow, which he swore was moving, laid to the right of the waterbender. The figure's back was to Tahno as they faced the newly-formed glacier that jutted out from the ocean depths.
The roar of the ocean made the waterbender deaf to any other presence. The hood of their dark blue coat wasn't drawn up, revealing dark hair untidily pulled back in a ponytail. Tahno watched silently as the waterbender's hands were poised upwards, their feet firmly planted in the ice. They remained in that stance for several minutes, and then their small hands slashed downward. Cracks rapidly spread across the glossy surface of the spiral, and within minutes, the gigantic structure splintered into pieces. A sound similar to the clinging of several silver bells rang through the air as the waterbender and Tahno watched the ice fall back into the water like thousands of glass shards.
"Not bad." He commented nonchalantly over the splashing noise the ice fragments made as they returned into the waiting ocean.
The figure whipped around, and a pair of vibrant blue eyes gaped at him. Her long bangs were askew as they hung about her tanned, round face. The girl's hands were balled up into fists at her side as if she ready to attack. He estimated that she couldn't have been older than 12 or 13.
He greeted her casually with a grin. The startled look quickly disappeared, and her mouth was set in a deep frown. "Don't sneak up on people!"
"I wasn't sneaking up on you," he clarified, taking a few steps closer to her. "Maybe you should be more aware of your surroundings."
The slight difference in height didn't seem to matter to the younger girl as her chin tilted upwards at him in challenge. Her lips formed a pout and the bright blue eyes were narrowed at him.
"Your clothes look weird." Her words were blunt, but he didn't detect a hint of malice in them. "Where are you from?"
"Civilization, where we don't ask rude questions to people we just met."
Anger flickered across her face. "This is a civilization! And I'm NOT being rude!"
"Five huts and a couple of igloos in the middle of nowhere isn't civilization. And yes, you are being rude. But I'll let it slide if you answer one of my questions, now."
She raised a thin brow suspiciously, but said nothing.
"Who taught you how to waterbend?"
The girl crossed her arms. "Why do you want to know?"
He smirked. "It's none of your business."
"Of course it is! What do you want with Master Katara?"
His smirk widened when the girl confirmed his suspicions. "Because maybe I'm a waterbender, and I want to train with the master who taught the last Avatar."
He wasn't sure which part of his statement did it, but she suddenly stood up straight and her eyes widened in slight alarm. The confidence that emulated from her a few moments disappeared, and she now looked uneasy.
Tahno chose against questioning the abrupt change in behavior, but he pressed on about the master's whereabouts. "Well? Where is she?"
Her eyes shifted away from him and to the snow at their feet when she finally answered, "Her hut's about ten minutes south from the rest of the village."
"Is she back there now?"
"I answered your stupid question already!" The anger had returned in the girl's voice, and she pointed an accusatory finger at him. "If you want to talk to Master Katara, go see her yourself!" With that, the girl spun away from him and back to the water. She didn't spare him another glance, and she forced herself to fall back into a waterbender's stance.
He could haveleft that infuriating girl to her training and go back to the inn, but no. He never liked it when people were less than helpful to him, and now wasn't any different.
A devious smile played on his lips as he set the bait. "I'm sure Katara will like teaching a talented waterbender for once."
The arc of water that she began to manipulate immediately broke. Her head slowly turned, her bright blue eyes glinting furiously at him.
Knowing he had her caught, he continued. "It'll be a nice change from babysitting little girls."
He was anticipating her to utilize the ocean behind her; he was even ready to dodge any incoming water whips that she may have sent his way. She did raise her hand, but there was no waterbending. Instead, she lifted two fingers to her lips in a shrill whistle.
He was knocked onto his stomach without warning. A wave of cold rapidly washed over him when his face hit the snow, and Tahno whimpered audibly when he realized that something huge had him pinned down. The low growls of a feral animal resounded in his ears, its foul, fish-tainted breath was hot on the back of his jacket. From the corner of his eye, he was able to make out the shape of its pointed, bared fangs and a pair of wrathful black eyes that glowered at him from atop an elongated snout.
"That's enough, Naga."
He gasped for air when the creature lifted its two massive paws from off his back. Tahno scrambled up from the snow and away from the furry arctic beast that now obediently sat at the girl's side. Apparently, his eyes weren't playing tricks on him when he saw that mound of snow from earlier move.
The girl patted her pet's snout lovingly. "What's the matter? Never seen a polar bear dog before?"
He glared at her, a combination of embarrassment and anger preventing his mind from forming a clever comeback. She laughed at his silence and clambered onto the saddle that was strapped on the beast's back. She looked down at him from where she sat on her pet, and she shot Tahno a victorious grin.
"Good luck getting Master Katara to teach you, pretty boy!" She stuck her tongue out mockingly at him before the creature bounded off into a sprint. His eyes followed the girl as she disappeared with her pet onto the white horizon of the tundra. She never looked back.
He rose to his feet, brushing off the snow from his jacket. His thin fingers ran through the mussed black curls of his hair, his erratic heartbeat steadying itself again. After he collected himself, he tried to remember the last time anything or anyone had gotten under his skin.
When he couldn't remember, he decided that the only thing he hated more than the South Pole was that loudmouthed little Water Tribe girl.
He begrudgingly followed the girl's directions the next day. Fortunately, the waterbending master was present and welcomed him into her home. While she prepared tea for both of them, she began asking questions about his journey. Accustomed to making small talk with grown-ups, Tahno hid his impatience with polite answers.
When they were finally seated on the matted floor of the living area, Tahno began to skip the rest of the pleasantries and go right to the purpose of his visit. "I travelled a long way here, Master Katara."
"Yes, Republic City is quite the distance." The old woman commented after taking a delicate sip of the fresh-brewed tea.
"I trained with all the best waterbenders there," he continued, "and I've learned all I could from them. Now, I want to learn from you."
Katara was quiet, but her blue eyes, lucid even now at her age, seemed as if they were searching him for something. He pressed on, attempting to keep his voice even. "I read how you taught Avatar Aang waterbending. I want to learn what he learned. When I go back home, I want to be the strongest waterbender in Republic City."
The old woman lifted her cup to her lips, and after she set it back down, she softly replied, "It takes more than a few advanced lessons to become a strong waterbender, young man."
Dumbfounded by the statement, Tahno tried a different approach. "I have enough yuans to cover-"
"You can't buy strength, either," Katara gently interrupted. "Waterbending takes time and patience to master. It's not something you can rush."
She slowly got up to her feet. "I'll be starting classes again every morning, starting tomorrow. You're more than welcome to attend with my advanced students-"
"I'm already an advanced waterbender." He interjected crossly, his well-mannered facade was beginning to crack.
"You may be in Republic City, but I have yet to see your waterbending skills. Out here, a person works for what they've earned. After you've participated in the classes, I'll decide if you're ready for more lessons."
The firmness in her keen eyes made him fight back the impulse to yell at the old woman. She was elderly, but Tahno knew she was far from weak-willed.
"I have an appointment to keep. Class will start tomorrow morning." Her voice wasn't unkind, but it was stern. Knowing better than to argue, Tahno only nodded before he left.
His anger burned white-hot in the arctic chill of the morning. The old woman's refusal stung as harshly as the polar winds that rose steadily from the ocean.
Tahno's mood only worsened when he saw a small figure in a familiar dark blue coat walk over a nearby snow bank ahead. She was alone this time, and she regarded him warily when she recognized him.
"Where's your smelly mongrel? You lose it somewhere?" He asked, enjoying the furious look she shot him in response.
"Her name's Naga!"
"Whatever. Aren't you too little to be walking by yourself?"
She scowled at him. "I'm definitely not too little to kick your teeth in."
He grinned venomously at her challenge. "Why don't you try?"
Looking down at her, Tahno noticed how bright her blue eyes really were underneath the rising morning sun. Her dark brown hair was held back in that messy ponytail again. Her long bangs whipped violently against the wind, which did nothing to hide the girl's expression of utter contempt.
"Korra!" The elderly waterbender's voice broke out over the rolling banks of snow and ice. "Korra, is that you?"
The girl's eyes widened in recognition, and Tahno watched her arms, which were tensed a moment ago, relax at her sides once more.
He knew it was pointless then to continue. "You're being called, little girl. Run along now."
The taunt earned him a reproachful glare and another threat. "Let me know whenever you want to go toe-to-toe with me, pretty boy."
"I'm shaking." He responded airily. The girl marched past him, her boots leaving prints in the snow. She stuck her tongue out at him like she had done yesterday, and when her back was turned to him, the game was over for now.
As he watched her leave for a second time, he mulled her first name over in his head: Korra. It was easy enough to remember, but Tahno decided that being on a first-name basis with that ill-mannered brat was out of the question. He was fine with calling her "little girl" for now.
In the meantime, he was relieved that there was something to amuse him in this dull little village.