Summary: Post Episode 8 AU. Back in the South Pole, Tonraq finds out that his daughter has been kidnapped, and he'll stop at nothing to return her to safety. Liam Neeson's got nothing on him. Originally posted on my tumblr account.
Pairing: Tonraq's fist x Tarrlok's face
The knock on the door of their home comes just as the sun is setting, just as Tonraq and Senna are preparing their evening meal.
He stops stirring the sea prune stew, while Senna looks up from the frying fish. They exchange nonplussed looks for a moment, before she finishes with the fish and comes up to the stove, taking the ladle from him. He goes to the door and pulls it open, expecting to see one of the village children or a fellow warrior, somebody in need of healing. Senna is one of the best healers in the whole Southern Water Tribe, after all.
Instead, his - and Korra's - former Waterbending master stands in front of them, a letter folded in her hands. The expression on Katara's face is so grave that a chill of foreboding runs through Tonraq's spine before she can even say a word. But then Senna's hand is light on his back, and his wife looks back and forth between him and their visitor, her brow creasing with worry. "Master Katara," she greets, her voice wavering slightly. "Please come in. Is everything all right?"
They escort Katara to the small sitting room, and she sinks down on one of the chairs slowly, looking even older than her years, as she gestures for them to do so as well. She takes a deep, steadying breath, before smoothing the letter out on the table with trembling hands. "It just arrived from Air Temple Island half an hour ago," Katara murmurs. She sounds as shaken as Tonraq feels. "Apparently, Korra is…missing, under suspicious circumstances."
Her words take a moment to register. But then the world halts on its axis, his heart skips a beat, he can't seem to breathe in again.
Senna's face drains of all color. "What?" she whispers, grabbing the letter. "How…"
She scans it rapidly, looking more and more sickened by the moment. When she tries to read it out loud, she breaks down before getting halfway through. Tonraq pulls her into his arms and rubs her back comfortingly, even though he feels like he's being frozen from the inside out. They listen to the entire story again, from the moment that Korra didn't come down for breakfast and Tenzin's daughters came running to him, scared, saying that she and Naga were gone, and then how Tenzin found the distressed Naga wandering the streets of Republic City, with Korra nowhere in sight. City Hall had been destroyed. In the rubble, Tenzin had found a scrap of blue fabric, a few singed locks of dark chestnut brown hair….and blood. They listen to Katara's assurances that Tenzin and Republic City's former Chief of Police have been searching for Korra nonstop, and they will continue their search, night and day, until they find her.
But the old woman's eyes fill up with tears as well, and they trickle down her lined face. Katara has always been his and Senna's favorite, out of all of Korra's instructors. She is one of the few people in the world who sees and loves their daughter as a person, and not just the Avatar.
Tonraq kisses his wife on the forehead one last time and excuses himself. He barely makes it to the washroom before becoming violently sick. Tenzin's words echo in his head mercilessly, relentlessly, with every heartbeat. A scrap of blue fabric. A few singed locks of dark chestnut brown hair. Blood.
He kneels on the floor, drenched in cold sweat. Ten years ago, on a hunt, he had been savaged by a polar leopard, and almost died of blood loss. The beast had clawed him from hip to shoulder, and it felt like being burned alive. That was the most pain he had ever endured, until this. Until now. A scrap of blue fabric. A few singed locks of dark chestnut brown hair. Blood.
He's never felt so powerless in his life.
Eventually, Tonraq manages to drag himself up into a standing position and freshen up. Then he makes his way to the bedroom and gathers his entire collection of weapons - knives, daggers, twin swords, spear - almost calmly, on autopilot. The blind panic and agony of just a few minutes earlier has been replaced by something else entirely, something cold and dead and calculating.
When he enters the sitting room again, Senna and Katara look up at him, their tear-streaked faces initially uncomprehending - but then his wife's eyes light on the weapons, on the look of grim determination on his face and the light sealskin travel bag over his shoulder, and she stands up. "Tonraq…?"
He nods slightly in response the question on her face. Neither she or Katara attempt to talk him out of it. "There's a merchant ship leaving at sunrise," Katara tells him.
"I don't intend to wait."
His former waterbending teacher frowns. "It'll be a long swim."
"You've taught me well. I'll get there by sunrise."
Katara wishes him luck and embraces him, surprisingly strong, despite her frail arms.
Senna cups her face in her hands and stretches up on the very tips of her toes to kiss him, and he tastes the salt on her lips. He clings to her for a few moments, and she to him. When she pulls back, there are no more tears, and her eyes - eyes like the sea, Korra's eyes - are filled with a cold fire. "Bring her home safe, Tonraq."
He promises that he will.
It's the middle of winter, and the ocean should freeze him to the bone and make every muscle numb. He's gone diving in midwinter before, and every moment of being submerged in the icy water is like a million pinpricks to the face.
He feels nothing, this time. Every pull through the water is powered by memories more than physical reserves. Korra as a baby and a toddler, sitting in his lap, watching in awe as he demonstrated waterbending for her. Little Korra riding around on his back and pretending that he was a polar bear-dog, long before Naga's arrival. Korra's insistence as a child that he do her hair, because he would just put it in haphazard ponytails, like his own. She had hated it when Senna tried to comb and braid her hair in the styles the other girls favored. Later in life, teaching Korra to track and dive and hunt and handle conventional Water Tribe weapons. Telling her tribal legends by firelight. And later still…saying goodbye, when she left for Republic City. He'd sat up for half the night with Senna, both of them unable to believe how fast the past seventeen years had gone by, and how their precious baby girl had grown up so fast, into a tough, brave, independent young woman. In weeks past, eagerly awaiting her weekly letters, written in her distinctive, slightly messy handwriting; sitting with the radio and listening to her pro-bending matches.
And now, this. A scrap of blue fabric. A few singed locks of dark chestnut brown hair. Blood.
He swims faster; pushes himself harder.
Tonraq enters Republic City as the sun is rising, ignoring the shocked looks of several dock workers, as he waterbends himself out of Yue Bay and onto the harbor, drying himself off with one quick shake. From his bag, he pulls out a handful of ma huang leaves and chews them, uncaring of the bitter taste. There will be no time for sleep or breaks for food until he knows that Korra is safe.
He's only been to Republic City once, long ago, but he remembers his way around - even though the city looks unfamiliar, covered in a thick blanket of snow for this far north. It doesn't take long before he spots two familiar figures in the distance. The distinctive yellow-and-red robes of the Air Nomads stand out in the crowd, as does the massive polar bear-dog at the man's side.
Naga is pacing back and forth restlessly, her hackles raised and her anxiety obvious, and she sees him first. She lets out a loud bark, and Tenzin and his companions - the former police chief, Lin Beifong, as well as three teenagers who can only be Mako, Bolin, and Asami - turn to him.
Tenzin splits from the pack to walk toward him, followed by Naga. "Tonraq," he says, and like Katara, he looks older than his years; stress lines engraved on his face, shoulders slumped, dark circles underneath his eyes. "Mother told me you would be coming."
They embrace briefly, and Tenzin sighs, looking down at the ground beneath them. "I am so sorry," he says heavily. "You and Senna entrusted Korra to my protection, and I've failed all of you. I can't even imagine-"
"There's no need to apologize," Tonraq replies genuinely, placing a gentle hand on his friend's shoulder. "You had no way of knowing that Korra was planning on going back to the city. And you haven't failed us. We're going to get her back, Tenzin."
After a hasty round of introductions, they cluster into a deserted tea shop for a council meeting, of sorts. Mako, Bolin, and Asami all talk to him at once, filling him in on the events of the past few days - nighttime patrols, subduing a team of chi-blockers, conflicts with the corrupt Councilman Tarrlok's task force due to the extreme measures the man was taking against anti-benders, at least one known confrontation between Tarrlok and Korra, and finally, Korra's friends being arrested. Tenzin and Chief Beifong both believe that Tarrlok is directly responsible for Korra's disappearance, even though the police force and the newspapers refuse to listen to their theories.
"The police force is saying that the Equalists probably got her," Bolin says flatly, his hands curling into fists. "And the newspapers are saying that she just ran away. Korra would never do that!"
"They're obviously being bribed," Mako adds darkly. "Tarrlok has the power and the money to do it."
Tonraq takes a deep breath and looks down at the photograph of the councilman at some kind of press conference, torn out of an old newspaper, that Chief Beifong had slid in front of him. He sizes up the man in the photograph as he would any dangerous predator out on the tundra. Tarrlok is a few years younger than him. They are the same height, but he would guess that he has the advantage in weight and muscle mass. He is a master waterbender, apparently.
And the thought of him fighting Korra, hurting Korra, makes his blood boil; makes his vision bleed red with uncharacteristic, unprecedented rage. Underneath it all, his insides curdle with fear and horror. His daughter is the Avatar, but more than that, she has an indomitable fighting spirit. How badly would somebody need to hurt her to subdue her enough to take her away against her will?
Tonraq pushes the photograph away, too disgusted to look on it further. Under the table, his fingers brush the water container he carries for bending. The councilman isn't the only master waterbender in Republic City any longer. And he is a politician, living in the soft comfort and luxury of the city, not a fully trained warrior like he is. Let's see how well you do against an opponent your own size, Tarrlok.
"Have you tried talking to him yet?" he asks, trying to maintain a facade of calm. "Is he even still in the city?"
"He's nailed up in Police Headquarters with Saikhan and the members of his task force," Chief Beifong replies with a scowl. "Tenzin and I tried to get to him yesterday and this morning, and they forced us out of the building both times."
"And we were planning on following him home after he left work last night, but he didn't seem to leave the building at all. Unless he left through a secret exit or something…"
"Mako and I broke into his house yesterday," Bolin cuts in, before shrugging helplessly. "We searched everywhere, and there was no sign of Korra, and no clues about where he's hiding her."
The air in the tea shop thickens and it gets hard to breathe again, just as it was when Katara first told them the news. "You're sure that he's taken Korra captive," Tonraq manages, his throat so tight that he can barely squeeze the words out. He can't believe he's even considering the alternative, and the fragmented, terrifying thoughts only linger for a few moments before he forces them out; they make him feel like he is being cut to ribbons.
Korra's friends look shocked, and Tenzin inclines his head gravely, all the breath leaving his body in a weary sigh. "Mako, Bolin, and Asami told me that Tarrlok is determined - in his own words - to get Korra 'out of his way'. He's obviously gone to extreme measures to do so…but I cannot believe that even he would…" He trails off, unable to say the words. "Murder is an unspeakably terrible thing," he finishes softly. "And the murder of an Avatar is a crime against the universe, against the spirits. You know the lore - that anybody who does such a thing would be cursed for life."
"Of course, we can't say anything for sure," Chief Beifong says bitterly, but then she rests a comforting hand on his arm for a brief moment. "But for the moment, we're operating under the assumption that your daughter is still alive."
They spend the next hour debating where to go from there, until finally, they all split up. Mako, Asami, and Bolin each head to different transit avenues - Asami to the airships, Mako to the harbor, and Bolin to the armored trucks - to ask questions about whether Tarrlok had contact with anybody in those fleets over the past days. After all, as Tenzin says, it's not out of the question that he subdued Korra, sealed her into a crate, and put her on a ship to a secluded island in the Earth Kingdom or the Fire Nation. The thought just re-kindles the cold, furious flame that has been burning in Tonraq since reading the letter, but it is better than the unthinkable alternative.
Chief Beifong leaves to search the west side of Republic City. Tenzin plans to search the east, and he is the last one to leave, at Tonraq's side. Upon seeing both of them step out of the tea shop, Naga rises and makes her way to Tonraq, nuzzling against him as soft whines emanate from her throat, and he pets his daughter's beloved companion with a heavy heart. He had been the only person, apart from Katara, who hadn't been against the seven-year-old Korra's determination to keep the lost polar bear-dog puppy she had found wandering outside the Order of the White Lotus compound. Part of his motivation had been the knowledge that Naga would be there to protect and defend Korra as her path as the Avatar led her away from the South Pole, and he wouldn't be able to do so himself.
"She's been very distressed since I found her outside City Hall yesterday morning," Tenzin observes, folding his arms into his sleeves. "She's normally very gentle, but she's been snapping and growling at all of us if we try to get too close. I believe she's confused about Korra's sudden disappearance, and upset because she's having a hard time picking up on her scent, for some reason."
"I think I'll go with her," Tonraq says, looking over at the master airbender. "I respect what you and Chief Beifong had to say, but…" he sighs, unable to think of a way to articulate his thoughts, but then he remembers that Tenzin is a father too, and of course he would understand. "I sense that Korra is closer than that, I feel traces of her presence here-"
He has to stop before he gets too overwrought, and Tenzin touches his shoulder lightly. "I understand."
After he's gone, Tonraq pulls something out from his travel bag. It is a bracelet, woven in a hundred blue, silver, and gold threads. The workmanship is somewhat clumsy, the stitches crooked, but he treasures the birthday gift that Korra gave him three years ago all the same. It's a good-luck charm of sorts in the Southern Water Tribe, intended to protect the wearer from harm. He offers it to Naga, and she sniffs it intently, picking up on the traces of scent, and not for the first time, he thinks back to the painstaking effort and the hours his daughter must have spent on it. Her hands were made for bending, not stitching, and he blinks away the tears that suddenly well in his eyes.
Naga allows him to climb onto her back. The snow is coming down in thick drifts, and the sky is an ominous shade of gray, and regardless of what Tenzin and Beifong had said earlier, Tonraq still feels like he's working against a ticking time bomb. Every second that Korra remains a captive is a second too long.
"Come on, Naga," he whispers, patting the dog's neck, feeling the muscle underneath his hands. "Let's go find my daughter."
Naga takes him back to City Hall. She sniffs for a long time, obviously trying to isolate Korra's scent amongst the thousands that have crossed this path, but eventually she starts moving again, leading him up a dusty, deserted road. The path seems to lead to the mountain ranges outside the city, and Tonraq looks up, feeling his stomach clench up from the strength of the foreboding that courses over him like a wave.
They continue down the road, and head up, and up, and up, and Tonraq loses track of time as they progress. Intuition leads him to guide Naga off the road and into the trees, out of sight. Minutes stretch by, and then hours, as they get closer to and then higher up the mountain, and every muscle in his body is tense and vigilant, but so far, he sees nothing but trees - certainly nowhere that Korra could be being held. He hates himself for it, but he starts to doubt the veracity of Tenzin's words, and he starts pleading to the spirits, begging them to hear him, praying with every fiber of his being that Naga isn't leading him to a patch of dirt that serves as an unmarked grave. A scrap of blue fabric. A few singed locks of dark chestnut hair. Blood. The last word haunts him. The wind seems to sing it every time it howls through the branches of the trees.
The air gets more bitterly cold with every step they take. The wild, irrational thought crosses his mind that he hopes Korra had her parka with her when she left Air Temple Island two nights ago. He doesn't want her to be cold.
The sky darkens with evening by the time Naga takes a sharp turn, veering even further into the dense forest. They are far out of Republic City now, enough so that the city lights are just the faintest twinkle in the distance. There is no birdsong and no animal sounds, just a dead, oppressive silence. The polar bear-dog moves through the woods as silently as a ghost.
He sees the old house - and the police vehicle parked outside it - at the same time Naga does. She stops, and then crouches low, her hackles raising as she snarls. Tonraq shushes her hastily, running his hands comfortingly over her trembling body. He knows - both of them know - that Korra is in there somewhere. "Stay here," he tells her softly, as he dismounts. He longs to lead her in a charge, to shatter the door into a thousand tiny pieces and race through the house and then let her savage Tarrlok with her fearsome fangs and claws. You spilled my daughter's blood. Your own will stain the floorboards by the time we're done with you.
But he needs to do this quietly. If Tarrlok realizes that they're not alone any longer, he might do something desperate. Tonraq knows that he should signal Beifong and Tenzin using the radio that Beifong had given him, and then wait for reinforcements before heading in, but he can't. He can't stay out here for another moment, knowing that Korra is in there with him, in who knows what condition. His blood is thrumming with adrenaline, making it impossible to remain still, and Senna's words echo in his ears. Bring her home safe, Tonraq.
He had promised, and he would. Even if it is the last thing he does.
He unsheathes the spear from across his back, and quietly bids Naga to stay. He pads up to the door, making absolutely no noise. The warrior's creed, the words by which he lives his life, plays through his mind - swift as a deer, quiet as shadow, strong as a bear, fierce as a wolverine, calm as still water. The mark of a successful hunter and warrior, who is always able to defeat his prey…and defend his loved ones.
Tonraq weaves a thin stream of water through the lock of the door until he hears it give way, and he slips inside the darkened house cautiously, thankful that the door doesn't squeak, with every fiber of his body on high alert.
He is prepared for it, in the abstract, but when his daughter's muffled scream - her voice hoarse and ragged with agony - echoes through the house, the sound almost makes him fall to his knees. Tonraq tightens his grip on the spear until his knuckles go white, and forces his pace to remain steady as he pads toward the back of the house. The importance of maintaining his concentration during the hunt had been one of the first lessons he had ever learned, but he can't seem to do it now. He needs to pin Tarrlok to the wall and impale him with a thousand shards of ice more than he needs to breathe.
The voices drift down the hall. There's an unfamiliar male voice, cold and reminiscent of the sound of snake scales on stone, that sets Tonraq's nerves on edge. "You know, Korra, I really don't know what to do with you." (and the sounds of pacing, sealskin boots against the stone floor). "You've remained unresponsive to all of my tactics so far. Do you really not see that it would be so much easier for both of us if you just fell in line?"
Tonraq tastes blood on the inside of his mouth as he pauses outside of the room; the last room on the left.
On the other side of the wall, his daughter actually laughs,the sound harsh and defiant. Underneath the layers of pain and rage, there's a twinge of pride at her unbreakable spirit. "Go to hell, Tarrlok." There is the sound of a dull impact, this time, and then a male hiss of pain-
And then something happens, and Korra screams, again - it is the worst sound in the world - and he's not going to stand by and listen to this any longer.
Tonraq kicks the door open, the solid wood shattering under the impact, and charges inside the large room, taking in the sight before him. Korra lies against the far wall as if thrown there, her arms brutally bound to her sides with a thick length of metal wire, and her hands…his stomach turns in revulsion. It looks like all of her fingers are broken. She's bleeding from cuts on her side and arms and cheekbone, her hair is disheveled and there are finger-shaped bruises on her chin and hand-shaped bruises curling up and down her arms like dark shadows, and her eyes are wide with shock. She's obviously been battered, but her shoulders still rise and fall hard, and it's one of the most beautiful things he's ever seen.
"Daddy?" she breathes, stunned, and the look on her face makes him feel like his heart is being squeezed by a hand of ice.
"Well, well," the other waterbender says coolly, a revolting nonchalance in his tone - but Tonraq sees the deep scratch marks that gouge his left cheekbone, the livid bruises on his neck that match perfectly with Korra's fingertips, and another one, on his jaw, and at least she could fight back, at least she could hurt him a little - but that was going to be nothing compared to what was going to happen to him now. "What do we have here?"
In lieu of a reply, Tonraq lunges forward with a roar of fury and attempts to impale Tarrlok with the spear. To his surprise, the man dodges the first strike, and the second, and Tonraq can tell that he's getting into a waterbending position, but-
"Daddy, no!" Korra yells, struggling upright. "Listen to me! Get out! He's a bloodbender!"
The raw panic and desperation in her tone distracts Tonraq for a fraction of a second. It's impossible. Besides, there's no full moon tonight-
But then Tarrlok moves sharply, a smirk twisting his features, his eyes narrowed in triumph, and Tonraq feels his entire body seize up. The pain is unbelievable, and at first, he can't comprehend that this is actually happening. But as hard as he tries, his limbs won't obey his commands; he's frozen; he can't even turn his head to respond to Korra's despairing cry.
"You should have listened to your daughter," Tarrlok observes offhandedly, manipulating him out of the attack stance and into a defenseless standing position. "She's a substandard Avatar, but an intelligent girl otherwise. She has been entertaining company for the past couple of days - haven't you, Korra?"
Tonraq chokes on his own rage, and he fights, he fights hard, harder than he ever has before, and his fingers twitch on their own, regaining the slightest modicum of control against the bloodbending. Tarrlok notices, and he frowns, and then the pressure he applies triples, sending blades of crippling pain all the way up his arm. "No, that won't do at all," he muses, but then a truly unsettling smile spreads across his face, as he glances over at Korra. "I think you arrived at the perfect time…Tonraq, is it? I was just considering the fact that Korra might need some more incentive to cooperate with me, since she seems to value her own well-being so little."
Korra goes pale, evidently understanding his meaning. "No," she whispers, her voice catching in her throat. "No, please."
Tonraq watches with a sense of numb, spreading horror, as Tarrlok guides his hand to his belt and forces him to pull out his own sword and point it at himself. His vocal cords have been clamped shut. He can't even offer the smallest sound of comfort to his tearful daughter.
"It's too late, Korra," Tarrlok says dispassionately. "I've given you numerous chances. It's time you faced the consequences of your behavior."
It isn't the sword Tonraq fears. It's the look of unimaginable pain and heartbreak on Korra's face that gives him the strength to fight through the pain, as he forces the sword back, one excruciating inch at a time.
A brief expression of annoyance crosses Tarrlok's face. "Enough of this," he declares shortly, and then his arm convulses and the sword plunges back toward him, and-
Korra bodily flings herself at Tarrlok with a scream of unearthly fury. "Not my dad, you monster!"
Her attack knocks him backward and off balance, both of them collapsing against the wall, and as suddenly as if Tonraq has been doused with a bucket of icy water…the spell is broken, and not a moment too soon. He throws the sword aside and grabs Korra by the shoulder, pulling her back to safety. Tarrlok glares up at him, seething, moving his arms into the stance again, and-
Tonraq punches him in the face with all the strength he has in his body. "Bloodbend this, you bastard!"
Tarrlok flies against the opposite wall, collapsing and sliding to the floor with a thud, and Tonraq crosses the room in three quick strides, grabbing the barely conscious councilman by the collar and lifting him up again. The next punch shatters his cheekbone with an audible crack, and he's unconscious by the time Tonraq pulls his fist back and releases him in disgust, letting him slide to the floor in a motionless heap.
Korra limps over to his side, looking down at the fallen man with cold hatred in her eyes. Despite her restraints and her mangled hands, her face contorts with sheer power of will, and a terrifyingly large flame ignites in her palm. She leans over him, and-
Tonraq carefully wraps his large hand around his daughter's smaller one, extinguishing the fire with water, and she looks up at him in confusion. "Dad?"
"He's not worth the blood on your hands, princess," he says softly.
Korra frowns, tilting her head to the side. "But you were going to…"
The tears that have been welling up ever since he saw her finally spill over, and Tonraq hugs her tight, careful not to hurt her further. "I'm just glad that you're alive," he manages, kissing the top of her head. "I'm so glad - your mother and Katara and I were so worried…"
Korra buries her head in his chest, and he feels her tears dampen his parka. "Me too," she mumbles, sounding utterly overwhelmed. "I'm so happy you came. I never expected…"
With great care, Tonraq cuts her free of the bindings, and helps her rub circulation back into her arms and shoulders - and he uses the same metal wire to tie the still-unconscious Tarrlok, hand and foot, twice as tightly. To his dismay, he's never healed anything as severe as broken fingers, and won't risk them by taking guesses, but Korra is brave, as always, and she doesn't complain of the pain. He radios the worried Beifong and Tenzin and fills them in on what happened.
"They're coming by airship," Tonraq tells her then, wrapping an arm around her gently. Occasional tremors wrack Korra's body, and his heart breaks for what she's been through, for the lasting emotional scars that this ordeal will leave on her. And as grateful - so grateful - as he is that she's alive, he knows that seeing her like this will fuel his own nightmares for years to come.
When his little girl had toddled out of the igloo to greet him on the way back from a hunt, holding a living flame in her hand, her eyes alight with joy - daddy, daddy, look what I can do! and he'd stopped dead, shocked beyond belief…he had realized then, what his daughter was; that the weight of the world and a great and terrible responsibility rested on her small shoulders. But he had never imagined that the cost of being the Avatar would be this high. He takes another deep, steadying breath, holding her close. "They'll all be here in less than half an hour."
"Good," Korra replies shakily. She leans her head against his shoulder, anchoring her arms around him. He's reminded of teaching her to walk, when she would grip his leg with her tiny arms and toddle around beside him. "…I love you, Dad," she whispers.
Tonraq bends down to kiss her on the forehead tenderly. There's so much he wants to say to her, but all of that can wait, for now. "I love you too, Korra."
And they wait for help to come.
The warrior's creed that Tonraq references is taken from Arya Stark's mantra in the incredible A Song of Ice and Fire novel series, written by George R.R Martin. Thank you for reading, and any and all feedback would be very much appreciated. :)