Disclaimer: All recognisable characters and places belong to Bryan and Michael.

The Waterbender's Scroll.

Book 1: Writing In Water.

My grandmother used to tell me stories about the old days, a time of peace when the Avatar kept balance between the Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads. We used to sit around the fire on cold nights and listen to the amazing tales of the one and only person who could master the four elements: the Avatar.

Gran Gran's voice, crackling like the fire in front of her, would keep us kids riveted in our sleeping bags as she recounted the Avatar's amazing feats, for her eyes would kindle with excitement, and she spoke as though she actually remembered those days.

But she couldn't have.

Grandma Kanna is very old, but more than a hundred years have passed since the last Avatar disappeared and even she can't be that old.

The last Avatar disappeared some twelve years before the Fire Nation attacked the Air Nomads, and the winds of war that had already been sweeping across the four nations were suddenly fanned into raging flames, flames that have been burning for almost a hundred years now.

Gran Gran doesn't tell us those tales anymore. I guess we're too old for bedtime stories now – Sokka's fifteen and I'm turning fourteen in two days' time – but I think it's because she has lost all hope that this war will ever end. The ruthless Fire Nation is very near victory now, and things are looking pretty grim.

Gran Gran has stopped believing in those stories. Some people believe that the Avatar was never reborn into the Air Nomads and that the cycle is broken. Sokka says the stories are legends, and she must've invented some or embellished them, but then my brother's pretty sceptical about anything he can't see or touch.

But I believe those stories.

I haven't lost hope. I still believe that somehow, the Avatar will return to save the world. I have to believe things will get better, because if not...

If not, I really, really don't know what to do. Sometimes I just feel so angry and frustrated and helpless and mad at someone or something: I just don't know who!

Today, I snapped at Gran Gran.

We were delivering Tutega's baby. It was a difficult birth, for Tutega was already exhausted from travelling all the way here from her home, a small outpost to the east where her husband and teenage son used to hunt Tiger Seals.

It was in the early hours of the morning when the baby finally came. It's usually always an amazing and heart-warming thing to see the tiny little newborn cuddling up to its mother, but Tutega started crying when Gran Gran put her new baby boy in her arms.

'Kulitak'll never see his son, Kanna! This baby will grow up fatherless,' she moaned, covering her face with her hand, even while clutching the baby to her with the other.

Something twisted painfully inside me and I looked, stony-faced, at the weeping woman and what she reminded me of. Another fatherless child. There were so many of them. Try as I might, however, I felt a lump in my throat as I cleaned the bloodied rags and prepared the afterbirth for disposal in the traditional way. Poor Tutega! Kulitak, her husband, and their small family lived alone in such a remote area, that he, together with their teenage son, was the last of the men to leave the South Pole. Kulitak left his wife and their young, six-year old daughter alone in the frozen wastes to the east of our village.

I guess he didn't know she was pregnant.

That was early this year. The rest of the men in our tribe left the South Pole two years ago. They have gone to the Earth Kingdom to help fight against the Fire Nation.

Gran Gran tried to console Tutega.

'You have to think of your baby, Tutega' she said, placing a soft sealskin shawl around the tiny baby, 'this child needs you now. Your daughter needs you.'

Tutega dried her tears and looked down at the small bundle in her arms, tucking the blankets around the tiny face with a gesture that was both sad and tender. Iluak, her little girl, peaked round the curtain to the igloo, her large eyes wide and apprehensive. I called her in to see her new baby brother.

'Even if the men don't make it back,' Gran Gran continued, sounding defeated, and not noticing little Iluak had come in, 'It is our duty to care for the little ones. Just as it was their duty to leave, and go where it was necessary for them to be- '

It was then that I snapped.

'The men WILL come back!' I shouted angrily, feeling the prickling of tears in my eyes, but unwilling to let it show. I'd had enough of sadness and tears: 'You shouldn't be talking that way, Gran Gran! If you've lost all hope, well, I HAVEN'T!'

They were all looking at me in surprise, but at that moment I just didn't care.

'Katara, dear –' Gran Gran started.

But I was upset at her defeatist attitude; upset little Iluak had heard her father might not come back; upset at the war; and upset at a whole load of other things. And I was very tired, having been up all night doing chores, as well as helping with the delivery.

'Perhaps instead of moaning about why they left, perhaps we should join them! ' I cried.

This sounded stupid even to my own ears. I guess I just wanted to shake them out of their apathy, so I continued:

'Perhaps I should join them. I'm the only waterbender left in the South Pole, anyway!'

There - that would get their attention!

'Katara!' Gran Gran said, sharply.

My waterbending was something that was hushed up in front of outsiders. But Tutega was not an outsider anymore now. She had joined the village for good.

She had no choice.

'Ah, so this is the young waterbender,' Tutega said, her eyes widening slightly as she looked at me, 'My husband had heard the rumours, but we were so cut off ...' she looked up at Gran Gran, speaking kindly. 'Don't be too hard on her, Kanna. It's just a case of teenagerness. My son went through it, too. It'll pass...'

I turned and left then. If igloos had doors like earth kingdom houses, I guess I would've slammed it, because I didn't want to stick around and hear my 'teenagerness' discussed.

It sounded like something I wouldn't like to hear.

It couldn't have been much later when Gran Gran came looking for me. I was sitting on the ice wall that surrounds the village, looking at the moon. Not that much of it showed, given that there was a hint of dawn already, but the sight of its serene crescent always calms me down somehow.

I heard Gran Gran's footsteps crunching in the snow behind me, but didn't turn around. I was already feeling sorry for what I'd done. Tutega's baby boy will probably be the last baby to be born in our tribe for many years to come, and it should've been an occasion for celebration, not for me to be rude and yell at someone for what they can't help being.

'Katara.'

I expected Gran Gran to give me a good talking to, but her voice was gentle. Somehow, that made me feel worse. I didn't trust myself to speak.

'Katara, I brought you something.'

I turned round then. Gran Gran was holding out a scroll and a small glass bottle tied to a leather thong. I slid off the wall down to where she was. Glass bottles have become a rarity in the tribe nowadays, given that we've been cut off from the world by the war, and merchant ships with such goods don't venture here any more.

'It's your birthday, day after tomorrow,' she said, with a smile, 'and I was saving these for then, but I think you should have them now.'

I had just yelled at Gran Gran, yet here she was, giving me a present I didn't deserve. I felt a lump in my throat.

'What – what is it?' I choked out, taking the scroll in my hands.

'An empty scroll and a special ink. In fact, it is not even ink, it is water.'

'Water?'

She nodded. 'Special water. Add ink to this water and, for a while, it will work like any other ink, but use it on its own and its true nature will come alive, and your thoughts, written in water, will be revealed to none but yourself.'

'I'm not sure I understand.'

'Remember when you were a young girl, Katara, and your mother taught you and Sokka how to read and write? Not many girls in the tribe are interested in learning, but your mother was. Kya came to me as a small girl, insisting I teach her. So I did, along with my son, Hakoda.'

'Oh. I didn't know. Dad never said.'

'Your father was clever and learnt fast, but his mind was constantly on the outdoors and the adventures awaiting him there. I suspect he only endured the lessons because your Mom was there. He always liked Kya, you see.'

I grinned. It was almost like having my parents back again when Gran Gran told these little anecdotes.

But they weren't. Both my parents were someplace I could not reach. My smile faded.

'And you're very much like your mother in many ways, Katara. Like you, she loved hearing stories about the traditions and heritage of the Southern Water Tribe. She wanted to write about them to preserve the culture, and the knowledge of the Southern Tribe waterbenders, for as you know, they had all gone by her childhood. But the Fire Nation raids, when I was a young woman, were unrelenting and had left the tribe impoverished. It was a struggle to survive and Kya never got round to writing anything. When Sokka and you were born, she had her hands full...'

I looked down at my boots, blinking hard.

'This is hers, isn't it?' I asked, holding out the scroll with the water symbols carved into the ends, 'This is what she never wrote.'

Gran Gran nodded. 'I think you should write in it, Katara. I know there may not be many left in this tribe who could remember the days when the Waterbenders were alive, but you, as the last Waterbender, can make your own history. You can write anything you want in this scroll. It is a blank space, and you may make your mark on it in whichever way you like.'

I opened the scroll a little bit. The outer part was yellowing, but the rest of the parchment inside was ivory-white and a bit stiff through non-use.

'What – what shall I write?'

'Whatever you want. Don't be afraid of choosing your own path. I wasn't.' Gran Gran said, her eyes wrinkling up in a rare smile, 'You are Kya's daughter and you will write to her in water, in her own scroll. '

I clutched the scroll to me and wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. Perhaps it would, in a way, be like writing to my mother.

'So what about this magic water?' I asked finally, looking at the small bottle glittering mysteriously in Gran-Gran's hand.

'It's not magic. It's more ...spiritual... in nature,' she answered. 'It's very powerful and a few drops of it in normal ink will render the ink invisible after a while, for it removes all impurities.'

'So whatever I write will disappear from the scroll? How will I know what I've written?'

'The moon will show you. Hold it up to the light of the moon and what you have written will appear once more, gleaming bright like the moon itself.' Gran Gran smiled, 'And be sure not to let Sokka know its secret!'

I spluttered a laugh. Of course -Sokka would die of curiosity if he knew I was writing anything secret. He wouldn't be able to resist! Not that I have any secrets... I think...

'Where d'you get this spiritual water from, Gran Gran?' I asked.

'From far away.'

'But we haven't had merchant ships travelling here in ages.'

Gran Gran just gave me a small smile and didn't answer, but turned and left me standing there with my Mom's unwritten scroll and the small bottle of water dangling from its leather thong on my hand. Of course, perhaps Dad or one of the other men might've brought the curious little bottle back from somewhere exotic, back in the days when the Southern Water Tribe ships still ventured on sailing trips. Still, as I watched Gran Gran's receding back I felt a mixture of guilt, and, for the first time in months, a cautious excitement!

Excitement at having something to do besides the endless chores, the sewing, the cleaning, the mending and tending...something with a purpose that goes beyond housework!

And that's what I'm doing now: writing in my mother's scroll. I've been dithering for ages about what to put in the scroll.

After all, it's got to be important!

So I thought of starting what my mother never had: a kind of history based on whatever Gran Gran - who is the oldest person in the village – can remember of the old days. Gran Gran knows a lot of stories – not only about the Avatar, but about the mysterious Ocean and Moon spirits, about the legends of the heroes that made a name for themselves in icy vastness of our land, and beyond. However, my grandmother does not speak much about the days when the Southern Water Tribe had its own Waterbenders. She should remember them, for they were there in her youth, but Gran Gran has always been mysteriously silent about her younger days, and she does not speak much of the time before she married my Grandfather.

However, I kind of got sidetracked.

Instead of an account of tribal customs and stuff, I started to write about myself.

I think Gran Gran knew it, that's why she gave me the invisible ink or spirit water or whatever this stuff is. It really works! I added a drop of it to some normal squid ink and after a while, the words disappeared. I can see them again now, late at night, gleaming faintly white in the light of the moon.

I've tried writing using just the spirit water by itself too, and boy, does it glow in the light of the moon! Even brighter than when it's mixed with ink. But in its pure form, you kinda find it hard to see what you've just written, unless you're under the light of a full moon.

It will take some getting used to...

Writing has strangely calmed me down. Of course, I know I'm not really writing to my mother, but it feels like I am, and it's kinda therapeutic. I guess it's like talking to someone who understands me and what I get so frustrated about.

Sort of weird, because I'm only just putting down my thoughts on an old empty scroll, really.

Well, the village is only made up of women and children so it's difficult to have a heart-to-heart with anyone my age (obviously I'm not counting Sokka, who'd just make fun of me). Gran Gran is the only one who understands, but she is very busy, for she's the Head of our village now, and she's also the only one who's any good with healing medicines.

So I guess it's just you and me, scroll!

There - first sign of insanity (– or perhaps 'teenagerness') – is when you start talking to your own moonlit words!

But I don't care. I've hardly had it for a day (or night, rather) and I'm already fond of my scroll. Gran said to make my mark on it whichever way I want, and I guess for now, this purposeful randomness will have to do. It'll keep me sane, and give me something to look forward to doing, besides the constant drudgery of chores that gets me so frustrated. This way I won't flare up again like I did earlier, and bite off someone else's head.

I didn't always feel this bad. There was a time when the daily chores were something that actually helped me get through the day.

It helped all of us, I think.

Six years ago, when mom was taken from us, it tore our family apart. Dad seemed lost and broken, and would be gone for hours on end, alone in the snow. Sokka started behaving strange and wild, uncontrollably wild, and Dad didn't even seem to notice. Gran Gran tried to help, but Grandfather's health was failing then and she couldn't be with us all the time. Days passed and none of us seemed able to pick up the pieces.

It broke my heart to see our family come apart.

It was my Mom's family too, and she wouldn't have wanted it to end that way.

So I started doing everything she did in the hope that they would recognise that her spirit lived on. I couldn't let her go myself, so I just imitated her and her ways the best I could.

I'm not even sure what I did, only I tried hard, real, real, hard, to make it seem as though she was still there, and after a while, Dad seemed to come round.

He wouldn't say anything but he would hug me tight, and eat whatever I cooked (even though, in the beginning, it was tasted horrible!) Sokka stopped behaving like an idiot (well, not any worse than the usual idiot that he still is) and he would come to me and tell me about his plans and stuff (or to mend his clothes whenever they got torn).

For years we survived in a kind of uneasy stability. I remember having nightmares about the Fire Nation raids. I was afraid that the Fire Nation soldiers would somehow get to know there was still a Waterbender in the Southern Water Tribe, and that this time, Dad or Gran Gran or Sokka would be killed.

After the nightmares, I used to spend hours looking at the moon, unable to sleep. I couldn't tell anyone. I felt it was my fault that our family had been shattered – they had come looking for me after all.

Then, just when things seemed to be looking up a bit, and I had even plucked up courage to start trying to practise waterbending, everything was turned upside down again.

Two years ago my father gathered the remaining men of my tribe and journeyed to the Earth Kingdom to help fight against the Fire Nation, leaving me and my brother to look after our tribe.

I was devastated. I had worked so, so hard for years, to make it work. To make a home for them like Mom had done, but it hadn't worked. It was all for nothing. Dad never quite lost the restless, brooding look in his eyes whenever Fire Nation was mentioned. He tried to explain to me that he needed to go, that, as Chief of the village, he represented the Southern Water Tribe, and that he needed to be where it was necessary, but I was too angry to listen. It was bad enough losing Mom, but if he went too, what would be left of our family?

Sokka took it badly too, but that was because he wanted to go with him.

I didn't want him to leave.

The day my Dad's ship set sail and the men of our tribe left, I stayed inside the tent until the very last minute. Then I joined Sokka to watch the ships sail away in the dim light of a dark winter day. As the ships disappeared over the horizon, I felt more empty and lost than I had ever felt before.

I think that's when the frustration started. Suddenly all the chores and daily routine seemed so pointless and useless. I was stuck with a lot of women and children and nothing to do for days on end but an endless mountain of work ( a lot of it created by Sokka, who's messy, and thinks I'm just there to mend his clothes and prepare his food!) and nothing to look forward to but the constant worry of how we'd survive from one day to the next, especially during the harsh, dark months.

Sokka's way of dealing with Dad's departure is to take it upon himself to teach the children how to be Water Tribe warriors even though some of them are barely more than toddlers.

Well, if playing soldier gets him through the day...

But there was one thing that got me through the days after dad left: Waterbending.

I started to practise with renewed vigour whenever I found the time, and very slowly got better. But it wasn't easy. There was no-one to teach me, and I had to figure it out by myself. It was very slow and sometimes, it was one step forward two steps back.

Just as it was an unearthly and beautiful sensation the first time I felt the ebb and flow of the water when I finally learnt how to push and pull it through conscious endeavour, it was a nerve-wracking , bitter and frustrating experience when it DIDN'T work!

And often, it didn't.

Gran Gran tried to give me some hints, for she's old enough to remember the waterbenders, but she is not a bender herself. She mentioned they used to speak about their 'stance' and Chi pathways, but I have even less of a clue than she does about what all of that means.

I guess it is the way you hold yourself, but I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. I have progressed to lifting and bending the water and even making waves on the shore, but I'm sure there's much more to that. I can feel there is much, much more, and from Gran Gran's story of the Avatar, I've only touched the tip of the waterbending iceberg yet!

I guess my increasing frustration these two years since Dad left is also because of the slow progress of my waterbending. I always feel guilty afterwards, because I know I should be helping Gran, not hindering her with angry outbursts, but I feel I can do so much more than cleaning and cooking!

Perhaps if I knew waterbending well, I could fight the Fire Nation soldiers if they come back to the South Pole again. This is my secret dream, but I know Sokka would laugh his head off if he had to read this.

Thanks to the magic ink, he WON'T!

There, now I feel much better. Writing on this scroll has really helped me and I feel calm now. I'd better go in to sleep.

I wonder if Sokka remembers my birthday? He usually doesn't.

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

Today something AMAZING has happened! Well, for one thing it's my Birthday: not that that is amazing in itself, for we don't really celebrate birthdays much, especially nowadays, but Sokka remembered it was my birthday which is slightly more amazing ( probably he had a helpful nudge from Gran Gran) and promised to take me fishing with him.

But what truly has made this day so special is sleeping right now in our tent even while I'm writing this down!

Let me begin at the beginning. Early this morning, Sokka surprised me by wishing me a happy birthday.

'Fourteen years old is an important birthday, kid sister,' he said in the voice he reserves for appearing older than he is.

'Then quit calling me 'kid sister'. I'm already 14-and-a-half-day old'

'Huh?'

'Gran Gran said I was born in the middle of a full moon night, so that means I'm already –'

'Whatever. Listen - a warrior's 14 th birthday is when he goes ice-dodging…' Warrior? I guess Sokka was speaking about himself – he can't know about my secret wish, '…and since both of us missed that special day,' my brother continued, 'I have decided that you, at least, can come fishing with me as a treat. I'll teach you how it's done.'

I ignored the 'as a treat' bit, and the pompous 'I'll teach you how', and hugged Sokka.

Anything for a change of scene.

Only I got more than I expected.

It started well enough with us trekking over the snow to where my brother keeps his canoe. Given that the end of the year is coming, days are longer and the weather more stable. I knew we'd be out all day at sea. Sokka spent the whole time blabbing on about hooks and bait and lines – as though I didn't know anything about fishing! Dad used to take me too, when I was a little girl! His patronising airs had already started to irritate me, but things went really downhill when I used waterbending to catch a fish!

I was very excited at how easy I'd done it, but then Sokka had to ruin it. He collapsed the water sphere for me, got soaked and started yelling. I hate it when Sokka calls water bending 'playing with magic water': it is NOT magic, and it certainly ISN'T playing!

That was already bad enough but when we got caught by some currents and Sokka turned right instead of left and we ended up crushed between some floating icebergs, things really started to look bad. Our canoe was gone, we were stranded on floating ice, and, to add insult to injury, Sokka blamed it all on me:

'I knew I should have left you home' he said 'Leave it to a girl to screw things up!'

I really lost it then.

I forgot all about my resolutions and gave him a piece of my mind. More than a piece: I let him know exactly how I felt! I was so mad I didn't realise immediately that Sokka's shocked expression wasn't because I was yelling.

In my temper, I accidentally broke an iceberg.

Yes, I know it sounds weird, (it was a HUGE iceberg) but it happens sometimes that I waterbend kind of by accident and without having any control. Especially when angry. That's how they found out I was a waterbender when I was very little.

But I had never done anything that big before. The shattered blocks of ice crashed into the sea, the shockwaves almost overturning our small island of ice, but what happened next was even stranger. The sea shone bluish-white beneath us and suddenly, a huge, round sphere of ice emerged from the water, as large as the iceberg I had shattered.

I guess the strange frozen ball had been entrapped in the part of the iceberg that was beneath the surface.

We both took a step backwards, looking up at the glowing ball of ice looming above us, as bright as the moon. My heart was beating fast, for there was something really unusual about this strange iceberg.

It was then that I saw him.

Eyes closed, as though asleep, a small, delicately-carved face and hands with strange markings. SomeONE was in there! I could see the small figure as a darker shadow in the glowing ball of ice – the strange, arrow-like markings appeared to catch the glow from the ice and shone a bright bluish-white, like the moon. He looked so ethereal that, for a moment, I thought he must come from the spirit world, but he was completely still. He appeared very young and seemed to have been frozen in a meditation position. I felt a sudden sadness for the young boy: what a horrible way to die: cold and alone in the middle of a desolate sea.

And yet there was something about him...

What happened next almost made me scream out loud. His eyes suddenly opened and they, like the arrow markings on his head and hands, glowed an incandescent white. It took me by surprise, but instincts long-honed by working with Gran Gran tending the sick and ailing in our village, soon kicked in: that boy was alive and I had to get him out of that ice!

I grabbed Sokka's spear and headed towards the frozen sphere. If he was alive, there must be a pocket of air inside, so I started whacking the ice with all my strength, knowing there couldn't be too much oxygen left in there.

In fact there wasn't.

It wasn't oxygen or even air: when I broke through the ice whatever came out was something so strong and powerful it almost blew me and Sokka off our feet. It was like a sheer wall of energy. It tore the ice sphere apart and coalesced into a beam of incandescent white light that shot up skywards, lighting the whole heavens with nature's lanterns: the Aurora, wave upon wave upon wave of it.

When I could finally open my eyes I saw that the whole top of the frozen ball of ice had been blown off and in the residual glow of the energy storm, I could see that the boy was moving. He stood up, eyes still glowing eerily, and climbed to the edge of the crater left by the explosion, high above us.

Sokka pointed his spear at the strange, other-worldly apparition. I couldn't blame him. My heart was racing and I was feeling scared at what I had released from the frozen depths of the sea. Though just a young kid, there was something intimidating about him, and the expression on his face was strange: an old, knowing look, grim yet strangely impassive, and very, very odd to see on a young boy's face.

The next instant, however, I saw his expression change. The strange look was gone, the glow dissipated, both from the sky and the strange markings on his skin, and he closed his eyes and swayed.

I recognised the symptoms immediately: he was fainting! I rushed forward and caught him just as he tumbled down the slope of the crater and eased him gently back down on the snow, fending off a suspicious Sokka.

The strange boy moaned softly, but I could see his chest rise and fall and I knew he would come round soon. A million questions filled my mind, but the strongest feeling was one of inexplicable relief that he was not dead.

I observed him closely, wondering at his miraculous escape. He couldn't be older than his early teens and he had a pale skin, a small pointed face and shaven hair. The markings that had glowed were actually pale blue arrow tattoos, and he was dressed in loose yellow and red clothes.

He was like no-one I had ever seen before, but my previous apprehension had disappeared. He didn't look intimidating at all now: in fact, he looked kind of sweet. Thick, dark eyelashes, in sharp contrast to the whiteness of the skin they rested on, trembled slightly as he came round. I held my breath, feeling oddly excited as his eyelids fluttered open.

Two large, clear gray eyes were suddenly fixed upon me, and I heard a sharp intake of breath as he focussed on my face. We looked at each other for a split second that actually felt like a long time, then he whispered he wanted to ask me something, and if I could please come closer. When I did, he took me completely by surprise:

'Will you come Penguin sledding with me?'

It was not the only surprise.

A low growl from the crater revealed a huge (really HUGE) furry animal with six legs. The strange boy said it was his Flying bison ( Flying?!) and it was very clear that it was his pet too. And that wasn't the only surprise: he was an Airbender. He sneezed himself skywards for at least 20 feet and I realised immediately. Gran Gran had spoken so often about the Air Nomads and their airbending skills, but I thought she had said there weren't any left.

'I'm Aang,' the strange boy said.

I was getting more excited by the minute, but Sokka wasn't. My brother takes his warrior role too seriously. How could he think Aang a Fire Nation spy? Even though we'd just met him, I had a good feeling about the young guy! And besides, he looked as though he could never hurt a fly.

The good feeling lasted, because it was Appa, Aang's bison, who got us out of the there. Sokka took some persuading (he was still very suspicious of Aang), but as I took Aang's hand and was pulled up onto the furry creature, Sokka seemed to think better of being left behind, and got onto the saddle too.

Appa couldn't fly. He swam instead. Aang, who was in front, holding the reins tied to the bisons' horns, said the large creature was too tired. Well, I suppose I can't blame him, after being frozen in ice. Aang seemed quite unaffected by whatever happened to him. He is very light on his feet and seems to dance on air when he airbends himself to a higher position. It's so cool to see the way an Airbender moves! It's very graceful: almost as though gravity didn't quite apply to him as it does to the rest of us.

And it's just great to meet another bender – and a very rare one at that!

During the trip Aang kept looking back and smiling at me in a sort of bemused way. I wonder why? I guess I must appear strange to him. He can't have met anyone from the Southern Water Tribe. There are so few of us left.

Appa is a strong swimmer, still, it took ages to go all the way back to the village, and even the low, watery sun had gone down, leaving just the dim glow on the horizon. We had decided to take a nap, but I couldn't sleep. I was too excited.

An Airbender! I still couldn't get my head around it. I had hundreds of questions and I had to resist bombarding Aang with them – he'd been buried in ice, for goodness' sake!

Aang, however, did not appear weak or even sleepy, and there was one question that I just had to ask. The last Avatar had to be born among the Airbenders... I leaned over the saddle and asked Aang if he knew what happened to the Avatar. He gave me an odd look and said he didn't know.

Well, that was a bit disappointing, because I felt almost sure that just as Aang, an Airbender, had mysteriously appeared when everyone thought Airbenders were extinct, I was hoping the Avatar would have survived somewhere, too.

It was long past midnight when we arrived at the village, and all were asleep. Gran Gran had fallen asleep sitting by the fire in her tent. She was probably worried about us, for we should've been back hours ago. I didn't have the heart to wake her up, so I showed Aang to a tent and told him to get some rest.

Gran Gran is going to be so surprised tomorrow! I'm still in a bit of a dither myself. I can't get to sleep, so I'm writing what happened. I thought going fishing with Sokka was a change of scene – I didn't bargain on having something so amazing to write about on my birthday.

Talk about an unusual birthday present!

My eyes keep wondering to Aang's tent even as I'm writing this. A bender! Someone who can, perhaps, teach me bending! I just know this boy's something special – I think he may be the key to – well, I don't to what, exactly ... but if he can teach me bending, that's something, isn't it?