The scent of Spruce Sap incense filled the small tent, making her feel drowsy and carrying all of her fears away with each exhale of perfumed air. The shaman listened patiently as she explained her reasons for requesting an audience with him. She began by chatting about her progress with bending the various elements, letting him guide the conversation as he brewed a tea of roots and dried berry on the small fire grate. It was so relaxing just watching him work on his task, surrounded by the fragrant smoke. Her words were spilling from her lips before she could even fully form them in her mind. He listened, as he always did, until she was finished; and then he spoke in the deep rumbling tones of an age wizened man who had more than just a passing relationship with the spirits of the tribe.
"You are having a hard time connecting to the spirit realm, not just because of your own blockages but because the spirits are restless. All of this technology, all of these buildings, have sent the spirits fleeing, and they are angry, Korra. Everything has a spiritual essence and the spirits who ride the wind and help to usher the worthy to their realm are not feeling very inviting right now. Even to the Avatar, the creator of balance between nations and worlds. Your innate connection to the spirit realm has been closed to you," he explained, pressing his forefinger between her eyebrows, prodding at Ajna, the third eye. He mumbled a blessing in the old tongue and Korra's eyes fluttered shut as she felt tingles erupt around the crown of her head.
Long beats passed, the Shaman of the Southern Water Tribe and the Avatar staring at each other in quiet reflection. The Shaman nodded his head as if coming to a decision, or as if he were listening to something or someone that Korra could not hear.
"…We will be holding the ritual to communicate with the spirits in two night's time," he began, "You are old enough to participate now, if you are ready," he looked at her consideringly, "It would be your final rite of passage into Womanhood. The Avatar's presence would please the spirits greatly."
Her heart beat loudly in her ears. She knew to what he was referring, the Sacred Union. Where the people of the Southern Water Tribe honored the spirits through carnal pleasure.
She could feel her skin growing warm. It wasn't a foreign concept to her; she had grown up around the animistic beliefs of her people. Had known what went on in the big hut every few years. Hell, she had been conceived on one of those occasions, when the Tribe had asked the spirits to bless their village with the new incarnation of the Avatar.
Oh, she knew the basics of what it all entailed, the drinking of what her people called "The Bridge" in their native tongue. Bodies pressed together, the time of choosing, and the completion.
She knew, too, the religious purpose of the Sacred Union; the ritualized connection of the spirits to the people. It was the fastest way to raise magical energy, pleasure acting as an offering that nourished the spirits and, in turn, the spirits would bless the people.
It was the belief of the Southern Water Tribe that no act was more sacred than the act of sex. The joining of the Masculine and the Feminine was sacred; each side was incomplete without the other.
They believed that sex was linked to 'compassion' (the masculine) and 'insight' (the feminine) and that when the two were joined bodily, under the right ritualistic conditions, and under the supervision of the Shaman, that the boundaries between the two worlds would fall apart.
Mako couldn't sleep. It wasn't the cold. Not really. The caribou-bison skins were enough to keep him warm, even if they did exacerbate the itchiness of his own skin from the dryness. He was unused to the climate and everything felt chapped and dry, it was hard enough trying to keep his clothing dry (Not helped by Korra and Bolin's snowball fights) and the blood in his toes and fingers circulating without the added tightness of dry skin.
Bolin snored loudly from the corner of their shared hut and Mako sighed. Bolin could sleep through anything. Change didn't bother the earth-bender as much as it did his older brother. Mako was still adjusting to so much here, not the least of which was the fact that they had arrived during the southern winter. It was only March, but in the South Pole that meant that winter had come and that they wouldn't see the sun for another six months. The lack of light from that giant sustaining star made the fire-bender feel weak.
His two least favorite things were feeling like he had no control and feeling weak. Here, he felt both. Lovely.
Still, his body was so exhausted that even his worry-wart of a brain wasn't enough to keep him awake tonight.
There was something…different in the air tonight. He couldn't explain it. His heart was beating quickly, as if dancing to a rhythm that his ears were privy to. He needed to do something. He just needed to get out, because he couldn't breathe in here and his heart was beating way too fast. He started to wonder if he was having a panic attack.
The cool air would do him some good.
He pulled his boots back onto his feet and wrapped himself up in the fur pelts that had been given to him by the elders when they had arrived on Naga's back over a week ago.
He squatted near the lip of their hut, not wanting to let too much of the biting temperature into the room as he left, thinking of Bolin's still sleeping form. He slid under the door cover and stepped out into the night, his feet sinking into the snow and crunching as he moved.
It was deathly quiet at night, only the howling of the wind as it passed over the wall of the village and between the huts.
He pulled the fur lined hood tighter over his hair and lifted his scarf to wrap around his face, covering his nose, lips, and ears.
His feet were moving and he didn't care where they took him, he was too busy staring at the stars, so much brighter here than in the city. He lost himself momentarily, his body beginning to calm.
Dah Bum Bum.
It carried through the air, the sound of drums being played somewhere in the distance. Thick and heavy beats that made him sweat under his pelts and his heart begin to tango against his ribs.
He was there before he even made the conscious decision to move, his feet leading him to the large igloo in the center of the town.
And before he could turn back, before he had time to even consider what might be inside, and whether he was intruding, his feet had carried him inside.
He walked down the short hallway and then up a short tier of stairs and into the main room.
The beat was much louder here, echoing off of the walls and reverberating down to his core.
In the center of the room was a large fire, flames rising up to lick at the ceiling where a small hole had been placed to allow the smoke to escape, and to let the stars peek in.
The fire called to him, his element awakening in the sight of all that heat. Just beyond the flames he could make out the giant drums and the handful of people playing them but what really captured his attention, sending his senses on edge and burning him down to his middle was the dancers.
Naked skin illuminated by the firelight, shadows dappling abstract patterns that both haunted and excited him. Bodies moved in tandem and he couldn't tell who anyone was. Many were fully nude, but others wore pelts around their shoulders or waists. Some of the men wore full animal headdresses and moved like they were the beast themselves.
Mako was caught like a moth to a flame, caught somewhere between running away before he got to close and burned to death or going closer and letting the drum beat wash everything away.
"Welcome," A deep voice said from his side and Mako jumped, looking up into the stern and aged face of the Tribe Shaman.
"I-I don't know why I'm here," he said nervously, his eyes jumping back to the crowd and trying to take in everything at one.
"The spirits guided you," the Shaman replied confidently, his voice soothing.
"What… is all of this?"
"The Ritual of the Scared Union, it is the most powerful ritual of my people," silence fell between them for heavy moments, a moan swelling from the crowd of dancers as they touched and teased, twisting away from each other and spinning into waiting arms.
"The Avatar is with us tonight. The spirits are excited for her offering, can you feel it?"
Korra is here? Here, here? As in writhing in that pile of bodies by the fire 'here'? Somehow, just the thought of it was enough to send a twitch between his legs.
"Drink," the Shaman offered, distracting him from his thoughts and pressing a cup into Mako's hands.
Mako stared at the black liquid uneasily. It looked unusually thick and the insides of the cup were covered in dried flakes of the substance, as if it were grainy. He imagined the texture would be like wet sand.
The Shaman stared at him earnestly; his eyes were hard and commanding. Mako did not want to upset the elder (he didn't really want to drink either), but he knew Korra was here somewhere, and that she must have drunk from the same carved wooded cup that was gripped in his fingers. Determination tightened in his chest.
"What is it?" he asked, pressing the chalice to his lips and drinking deeply. It tasted of mud and fermented fruit, bitter and unpleasant. It smelled strongly of earth and the air after a hard freeze.
"The bridge between worlds."
He quickly swallowed two gulps, getting it over with quickly. The taste hit the back of his throat and he gagged, coughing violently. The Shaman took the cup back from him and Mako could feel his stomach spasming. I'm going to throw up, he thought, curling in on himself. Dry heaves wracked his body and then, as soon as it had started, the feelings went away. He was gasping for breath and his head was swimming. His tongue clacked against the roof of his mouth lazily. He felt strange.
"Good," The Shaman whispered at his side.
"I don't feel well," he said, his eyes falling shut. His voice sounded like it was echoing from far away and he wasn't entirely sure that he had spoken aloud.
"It will pass. Sit, enjoy the dancing," he collapsed to the floor, his eyes opening slowly. His first thought was that there was too much light. Everything was glowing. Tracers streamed around the large room as his eyes darted back and forth unable to stay still. The yellow flames of the fire in the center grate reflected off of the ice of the walls, everything was dripping. Everything was heat. Crystalline.
"The sacred union is outwardly a joining of the bodies of two people, but inwardly it is a joining of the two within one person. When complete, the two are connected eternally, and blessed by the spirits," the deep tones of the Shaman's voice washed over him and Mako tried to grasp at the words as they flitted away with tiny wings.
The air was vibrating; colors were clearer, sharper, the world shaking apart in front of him. The sound of flapping wings filled his ears, a rustling of feathers and then he saw it. A butterfly-bird of pure yellow light flying in front of his vision, a flame like tracer trailing in its wake as it lazy spiraled around the enclosure before swooping down and landing on the hand of one of the dancers before fading away.
"Go to her," a voice sounded inside of the shell of his ear, noisy and buzzing like a bee-wasp; the words resonating through him and driving him to his feet.
He moved forward and the world teetered under his feet. He was hot, too hot. He scratched at his skin, dropping his jacket to the floor and tossing his scarf behind his shoulder as he stumbled forward. He grappled with his shirt, tugging it off and managed to somehow kick off his boots.
He was burning. All over, he could feel sweat sliding down his skin, over the planes of his stomach and down his back.
His breathing was heavy when he reached them. They were gyrating all around, and as he took those final steps, they swallowed him into the throng with greedy hands and slick heat. It was all too much, the push and pull of the people around him, fingers slipping over his flesh and flowing over him like waves. Bodies dripping with sweat and skating around each other, gliding, like ice over hot steel. He could taste salt and smoke in the air and he felt as if he were drowning, being pulled under and succumbing to the overflow.
And then there she was; standing in front of him like a dream, a vision of dark skin that shone like onyx and red jasper, glossy with sweat.
The firelight hung over her shoulders like a shroud and shadows accentuated the lines and curves of her form. She was naked, aside from the pelt tied around her waist and the beads in her loose hanging hair. Her breasts were round and bouncing as she swayed to the beat, serpentine and slow. Her hips rolled sensuously, her arms stretched above her head and her back arched. Her movements were a form of worship- praise to the duality of everything; the cold of the walls and heat of the flames.
He was shivering with the need to touch her and as his hand fell upon her waist, sliding over the skin, the rest of the world flew away. Disappearing as if through a black hole until all that he could see was her chocolate skin and her eyes, so hauntingly blue, meeting his own molten gaze.
"Mako," his name brushed passed her lips in an ecstatic rush as she was pressed against him.
Her breasts were soft and supple against his chest and her skin was as soft as rose petals. She rolled against him, the beat intoxicating her as she spun in his arms until her back was pressed to his chest.
Strong arms wrapped protectively around her middle, fingertips smoothing down the dip of her waist and over the rise of her hip bone where it undulated under his palm. He tugged her against him, feeling her writhe against his skin, her bottom pressing into the hardening mass in the front of his trousers.
He groaned as she reached her hands behind his neck, nails scraping at his skin desperately.
His hands traveled up her stomach, cupping her breasts and twisting over the pebbled flesh of her nipples. She moaned deeply, her head falling back against his shoulder and he felt like an animal, all instinct, as his sharp white teeth dug into the flesh of her neck, as he bucked against her ass, aligning his body with hers.
His ears were filled with the crescendo of the speeding drums and the rush of blood, pounding under his skin. Everything was heightened, every feeling, every emotion. He felt hot tears springing to his eyes and he needed relief. He needed her; to lose himself in the beat of the drums, the humidity, the warmth of her skin, and wetness of her core.
He slanted his mouth over the crevice of her collar bone, the slope of her shoulder. Every taste of her a testament to his ownership. Every mark that he left on her flesh, with sharp bites and soothing lips, a burning proof of his claim; branding her with blistering intensity. Mine.
Long fingered hands brushed over her, until he was cupping her sex, a single digit slipping passed her curls and between her folds. She was shaking in his arms, gasping and gripping him more tightly.
"Yes," she whimpered, choosing, and it was all he needed. He was pulling her away from the other dancers who were quickly partnering up, sneaking away into corners and side rooms. Cries of pleasure filling the air.
They didn't make it far, collapsing upon a makeshift bed of straw twigs and caribou furs, shrouded in shadow.
She undid his belt with desperate movements, her hands jerking over the leather and pulling it free. His mouth slanted over hers as she undid the buttons and his fingers found the tie to her pelt, letting them fall to the side.
As soon as he was free he was upon her, thrusting into her with one decisive lunge. She gasped, gripping his shoulders and crying out as the last barrier between them disappeared. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he registered that he should be gentler with her but the drum beat was driving him and he couldn't slow down. He could only obey. He rolled his hips against her, thrusting in and out with harsh, shallow movements that matched their breathing.
Connected. The effects of the dark liquid were still flowing through him, feverish and demanding.
She was calling his name, her back arching as she pushed herself against him and all he could taste, smell, see, and feel was Korra. Korra, Korra, Korra a tattoo upon his heart and in his brain before the world and everything in it dropped away, making him forget, for precious moments, the illusion of his separateness.
Everything was yellow light, their skin glittering like sunlight on water but even less tangible. They were melting into each other, becoming one. He could see the patterns of her veins, a railway of information, and then electricity as all of the knowledge of her skipped passed the barrier of her vessel and into him.
He could see the red ribbons that tied them together, markers of their destiny locking them together. It tied them together at their toes, their hands, their eyes, and their sex. One being, one experience.
The world was exploding around them, hotter than a star, trumpeting and colliding. Spinning so fast and all he could do was focus on the sensations coalescing from their union.
They were transported back. Back to soft pelts and rose petal skin. She was keening in pleasure and shock under him, her eyes glowing brightly as she sang.
He came, his hips melded tightly to hers as he cried out, collapsing into her arms and into the dark.
She cried out in pleasure, her muscles tensing. She felt like she was twitching all over, electric shocks tingling along her skin, static. He was falling into her arms and she reached up to catch him and felt…
No weight met her arms. No blankets covered her skin. She was spinning up and away, like a feather carried with the current of a strong breeze. She had a brief moment to glance down and see her body below her, entwined with Mako's in a lover's embrace. Then there was a tug and an earsplitting frequency, like the sound of a gong, vibrating in multiple harmonies. And she was gone.
Transported and dispersed among the stars. Atoms and elements, and all of the knowledge of the universe was here for her discovery and perusal.
"Welcome, Avatar Korra," a cacophony of voices spoke, all of the voices of every teacher she had even known. It was familiar and comforting.
Stars were spiraling overhead, a swarm of galaxies just within reach of her fingertips and she felt an immense feeling of content. She had reached the parallel plane of reality that co-existed with their own. Her blockage was gone and the spirits had welcomed her.