72 nd day of our Journey. These two days have been very eventful. Following the vague rumours of the existence of 'Air walkers', the Avatar concluded that, given our close proximity to the Northern Air Temple, there could possibly be some surviving Air Benders there.
We did not find any, but instead, we found a group of people displaced by a severe flood, who had made the temple their home. Their leader, who called himself a Mechanist, was an inventor of many unusual machines and contraptions, including a flying one that uses air currents to glide. This had given rise to the story of the Air Walkers.
The Mechanist and his men have riddled the entire temple with steam-carrying pipes and other mechanical contraptions, destroying ancient and precious Air Temple paintings and statues by doing so. This angered the Avatar at first, but perhaps there is one part of the temple left untouched – The Inner Sanctuary. Only an Airbender can open the door to it, and Aang refused to, in the hope that it will remain untouched.
I knew that old man had set Aang's hopes up again.
'It's only a few days away,' Aang said yesterday, waving his hand in the direction of the jagged-edged mountain range, 'And we're heading in that direction anyway.'
'We're heading in that direction because Zhao was lurking in caves further north,' Sokka grimaced.
'Exactly,' Aang grinned, 'So we'll be miles away from him.'
'Whatever,' Sokka said, as he heaved our stuff onto Appa's saddle.
'It won't really delay our getting to the North Pole,' I said, as I formed a wave with the snow piled beyond the sparse growing Fir trees.
The snow was reminding me of the purpose of our travelling so far north, and now that we were getting so close, I was really eager to get there finally. I used every minute of my spare time to practise. Alone. Aang still wasn't that interested, and I had given up asking him to practise with me.
I'm probably much better than he is at waterbending now, but the idea does not thrill me anymore. Sometimes, I wonder whether it's me he's objecting to – perhaps if it was Meng he'd be more enthusiastic.
Anyway, be that as it may, as we travelled further in a North Easterly direction, snow covered the ground completely and the mountains became impossibly high.
This morning, Aang assured us we were getting close and soon enough, perched on the highest and remotest peak of all, stood the Northern Air Temple. It was very similar to the Southern Air temple: pinnacles and turrets stretching upwards at dizzying heights, like fingers eagerly reaching through the clouds to seek the infinite sky beyond.
As we drew closer, I could see the there were things circling lazily among the turrets.
'They really are airbenders!' I cried excitedly.
'No, they're not,' Aang said, his voice heavy with disappointment.
It was the first of many.
It turned out that the flying people were only gliding, not airbending. Aang could tell by the way they moved.
It was then that one of the gliders flew so close we had to duck. I caught a glimpse of a goggled teenager and heard a carefree laugh. Aang got very competitive, and jumped onto his own glider, no doubt to give them a taste of what real airbending is all about.
It was pretty cool to see both of them go. Aang obviously had moves the gliding boy could not imitate, but I think he got taken down a peg or two when the teenager drew an unflattering picture of Aang in the sky with the smoke coming from his glider.
We landed at the temple soon after. It turned out his name was Teo and he was the wheelchair-bound son of the Mechanist. He recognised Aang immediately as a real airbender and the Avatar, and said that his Dad had invented the glider. He took us inside the Air temple, saying he'd show us the other stuff his Dad had invented, and that's when things turned a bit sour.
You could see the chamber's ancient glory, but very dimly, through layers of dirt and black grime that covered the whole place. Like the Southern Air temple, the main entrance gave way to a large chamber: statues of monks and air bison and murals of the lost airbender culture were all along the wall, but they had been desecrated by pipes and machinery that tore right through the precious murals and statues. Smoke and steam belched from fissures in the pipes, and even a beautiful bison fountain flowed with a slow, glutinous, green liquid instead of the limpid clear water it must have once held. The sad old eyes of a monk's statue gazed helplessly at the destruction.
I was shocked. Even the century-old neglect and sense of loneliness at the abandoned Southern Air Temple was nothing as harsh as this wanton disregard and purposeful destruction of the Airbenders' culture.
And if I was shocked, how must Aang be feeling?
Teo was proudly explaining how everything worked by hot air and Sokka was enthusiastic, but Aang was less than impressed. I tried to explain to Teo that Aang knew this Temple in its heyday, and that he was unhappy with the changes.
'This is supposed to be the history of my people,' Aang said, as he looked up at the desecrated mural.
'I'm sure some parts of the Temple are still the same,' I said as the bison statue emitted a foul belch of black smoke. Surely in such a huge place some areas had remained untouched.
'The circular building outside the west wing- we hardly ever go there,' Teo said soberly, coming up behind us, 'I think that's more or less untouched. D'you wanna go there?'
'Yeah,' Aang cast one last displeased look at the fountain and followed Teo back outside and then through another door and onto a bridge.
'The main Hallway is the part where most of the pipe work had to go' Teo said, glancing over at Aang 'We can't really survive without the hot steam.'
'The monks survived just fine without steam pipes!' Aang said darkly, 'They had the wind!'
'Oh, right. Wind power! I heard my Dad say something about that - something about the design of the place, and how it catches the wind... ' Teo faltered, and stopped.
'It's just that we're not Airbenders, Aang, we can't use the wind's energy like they did,' he continued, more firmly.
I felt that Teo understood Aang's distress now, at seeing the changes they had made, but at the same time, he was simply saying that they, too, had to survive in this place, using the techniques that they were more familiar with.
'It's nice to see one part of the temple that isn't ruined,' Aang said finally as we entered the circular building and found it untouched.
The calm serenity of the monks' peaceful life still permeated the ancient place. It was in the very air around us and evident in the benign but wise expressions of the statues of the monks and in the harmonious contours of the old building.
And suddenly the wall exploded.
Teo's father and some workers came through saying they were constructing a Bathhouse. A wrecking machine beyond was ready for the next blow, and that's when Aang really lost it!
'Do you know what you did? he shouted angrily ' You just destroyed something sacred! For a stupid bathhouse!'
And he slammed down his staff and blasted their wrecking machine right off the edge of the cliff beyond. I must say I felt like doing the same thing myself. The insensitivity of these people was jaw-dropping!
Teo, who turned out to be a bit more sensitive than his dad, explained who Aang was, but Aang was totally on the defensive now.
'What are you doing? Who said you could be here?' he bit out, advancing on the Mechanist.
Then the Mechanist explained how a devastating flood had uprooted his people, leaving an infant Teo a cripple and killing his mother. They had found the Temple empty and the Airbender gliders had given him the idea of restoring the mobility fate had robbed his son of. I was moved by his story, for I know that a parent would go to any lengths for their child... my mother did.
I found myself wiping my tears on Aang's short mantle, a choking feeling in my throat. Teo and his Dad were lucky to have one another, and Teo could certainly have been much worse off if his Dad hadn't invented the flying chair. It kind of put a new perspective on things.
Sokka was completely taken by the Mechanist's strange inventions, and followed him and his workers to see more of them, but Aang was still unhappy and I think Teo saw this.
'Hey, Aang, I want to show you something' he said, wheeling his chair about and heading for the bridge that connected the circular building with the rest of the temple complex, 'I think you'll like it.'
We followed him back through a side door of the main hall and down some corridors. There wasn't a single wall or room or corridor that did not have pipework running through it, as well as strange machines, pulleys and lifts, and metal structural supports. They sat incongruously on the ancient murals and elegant design of the stonework that had so been patiently carved by the monks over hundreds, if not a thousands, of years of history.
They were a harsh reminder that the era of the Airbenders was gone for good, and it seemed as though not even this temple would be left to commemorate the passing of their culture.
Aang walked in silence, his eyes raking across the defiled temple walls.
'You know, back at the South Pole,' I said slowly 'our homes are made of ice and snow, so there are no buildings that last for eons like these temples, so we transfer that attachment to other stuff: ceremonial masks and carved whalebone weapons and other items. They can become very important …' I absent-mindedly touched my mother's necklace. 'I think what I'm trying to say is…'
'What you're trying to say is,' Teo slowed down, looking back at us with a contrite expression, 'that this place represents the cultural inheritance of the Airbender people, and should therefore have been preserved.'
Aang's frown turned to something like surprise.
'Look – I know you're pretty mad about all this,' Teo waved his hand, indicating the ever-present pipework above our heads, 'But you've got to understand that my father – everyone, in fact – thought the Airbenders gone forever. We didn't know there was one last Airbender left. True, my Dad was never one interested in culture, and, according to the tales, what little our people had in the way of historical and cultural buildings and items, got swept away by the flood. We were left with nothing but the clothes we stood in, and yet ... many were grateful to get away with their lives. I guess that's why none of us are really attached to such stuff.'
'The Monks always said one shouldn't get attached to material things,' Aang said finally, with a sigh, 'Still, this temple was more than just an old building…'
'Perhaps something can still be done about it,' I suggested, looking at Teo hopefully.
'He lets me in on many of his projects, teaching me the mechanics of his inventions,' Teo muttered thoughtfully, 'Perhaps I can get him to curb his more excessive projects. Though you may not think so, I'm really fond of this place, and I've explored almost every nook and cranny. Perhaps we can still preserve it!'
'If there's anything left to preserve' Aang said, dourly 'I just can't get over it. There's not a single thing that's the same.'
Then Teo bent down and picked up a little black and white striped hermit crab and passed it on to me. As he explained, this was probably a descendant of the same creatures who lived here a hundred years ago: keepers of the Temples' origins. I passed it on to Aang and was rewarded with a smile, but this faded when Teo showed us what he had wanted us to see: it was a temple door that only Airbenders could open, and it was exactly the same as the one that guarded the entrance to the Southern Air temple Sanctuary.
Teo knew that it was the only untouched part of the temple, its Inner Sanctum, but Aang refused to open it:
'I'm sorry, this is the last part of temple that's the same as it was. I want it to stay that way,' he said, lowering his head.
I was with him on that one, and Teo understood, too though he had been curious to see what's inside.
'Perhaps when the war is over, you can salvage some of this stuff, Aang,' I said as we headed back, 'As the last Airbender, it's rightfully yours.'
'Yeah. Well, that's not gonna happen any time soon, but sure… I can do that. No-one here appreciates it anyway,' Aang replied, morosely.
'But there's one thing Airbenders had that we really, really appreciate,' Teo grinned, 'And that's the AIR! Tomorrow, we'll go flyin'!'
73 rd day of our journey. Today we found out that the Mechanist had been blackmailed by the Fire nation into offering his services as an inventor, and was working for the War Minister Qin, producing war machines for the Fire Lord. The Avatar put an immediate stop to this, with the result that the Fire Nation carried out its threat of attacking the Air Temple itself.
However, as Aang pointed out, we had the advantage of our location and our gliders to attack the Fire Nation Soldiers, and used our control of the skies to our advantage. Smoke and Fire bombs were very effective against the foot soldiers, but the metal war machines with their climbing chains and grappling hooks that enabled them to climb the sheer sides of the mountain, were another matter. My brother and the Machanist had jointly come up with the idea of using a hot Air Ship to bombard the remaining soldiers and their war machines. Finally, victory was ours when Sokka used flames of the Airship engine to cause natural gas that leaked from a fissure in the mountain side to explode, completely destroying the soldiers' route up the mountain as well as the soldiers themselves.
We have spent the evening celebrating our victory with these people, but tomorrow we must leave at dawn for our presence here could hardly have gone unnoticed and news of this Fire Nation defeat will soon reach the Ozai's ears.
The day started off well enough with Teo sticking to his promise to 'go flyin'!'
That's how I found myself standing on the edge of a precipice holding a glider in my hand and my heart in my mouth. Gravity may be something Aang laughed at, but at that moment, it seemed to me to be a very real physical force that was telling me I'd be smashed into a million pieces somewhere beneath the misty clouds that hid the bottom of the precipice.
Aang and Teo spoke about another mysterious force that was supposed to keep me aloft: Aang called it 'spirit' and I suppose, in the end, that's what made me do it. I knew I had to find out. My brain was screaming out No don't do it, but another part of me wanted to see if I had the spirit, and to trust in its mysterious force.
I launched myself into the abyss and promptly screamed my head off as I plunged several hundred feet. Then something inside me felt lighter than air: perhaps it was the surprisingly warm air currents – Teo had said they used steam to create uplifting currents of air around the temple – or perhaps it was this mysterious 'spirit' - whatever it was, I was suddenly airborne and screaming in sheer delight. It was exhilarating, liberating, exciting and a hundred other things sensations I cannot describe! It was exactly as Teo said: there was something inside of me, and it wanted to soar!
I flew back and forth, the wind whistling past my ears: Teo saw I had got the hang of it and left me to it, a big grin on his face. A second later, I was flying with Aang.
He flew by my side, amused at my excitement, but I couldn't help it - it was all new to me. I had sort of flown with Aang before: but that was more like hanging on to dear life while he airlifted me and my brother out of harm's way on his glider, when those Pirates were after us. This was completely different.
I banked to one side and then the other as I gained more confidence. Aang followed me easily.
'Teo was right about the air!' I shouted above the wind, 'All I had to do was trust it. Let it carry me'.
'Even though Teo's not an airbender,' Aang replied, looking sideways at the receding landing platform, 'he really does have the spirit of one!'
I knew then that Aang and Teo would get along. I had, in fact, agreed to go flying with them in the hope it would break the ice a bit. And it did. I smiled as I saw Aang head back to Teo and land beside him.
I glided a bit back and forth, walking with the wind. I knew I would probably never ever get this close to flying again, so I made the most of it, Momo chittering excitedly nearby: the little lemur couldn't understand how I'd suddenly spouted wings! I was just realising I didn't know how to land the glider, when I swallowed a bug! Aang had warned me to keep my mouth closed!
Now, there is nothing more unpleasant than that scratchy, choking sensation and bitter taste of bug in your mouth! My glider wobbled as I coughed and spluttered. I recovered soon enough though, and a few minutes later Aang was by my side, a wide grin on his face.
'I warned you,' he grinned, looping gracefully twice around my glider.
'Ok, Aang, now quit showing off and tell me how to land this thing – I can't stay up here forever...' But the wind and the clouds and the mysterious, exciting force told me otherwise: 'Or perhaps I can stay a little longer...'
I banked sharply to the left and downwards, noticing how much faster it went when you tilted the wings just so. My heart was drumming against my chest, the wind, cold and bracing, was whistling by my ears and with the clouds below me, and the sky above me, even gravity seemed to have taken on a different meaning. This was like the Airbenders must have felt a 100 years ago as they wheeled and dove in and out of the clouds around their temple! I felt like squealing like a little girl from the sheer joy of it!
Something must have shown on my face for one particular airbender was finding it pretty amusing: Aang appeared from behind me and then turned his glider round so that he was flying upside down below me: an airbending move that I could not hope to emulate with a glider. We flew barely a foot apart, mirror images of one another. Aang had a bemused expression on his face, and, as I swerved and raced to touch the clouds, Aang followed suit, mirroring my moves in easy grace, his eyes never leaving my face. It felt like an arial dance, and soon my eyes were drawn more and more to the boy flying in synchronicity with me, rather than to where I was flying. Up here in the air, and at close quarters, Aang's prowess in his natural element was even more evident.
'I told Teo I'd open that door,' Aang said, just when I was starting to feel strangely awkward under his unswerving gaze.
'That's really nice of you, Aang. Really. Uh... how about you teach me to land now?'
'Sure - follow me and do what I do. Without Airbending, you have to slow the gliders' speed before landing by tilting upwards, like this.'
He demonstrated and landed near Teo on the old Airbenders' glider platform. My landing wasn't so graceful, and I stumbled as I landed hard, but Aang's arms were around me, steadying me and taking some of the weight of the glider.
Teo came up to us then, the look on his face betraying his eager impatience to see what's behind that door. Well, as an inventor's son, I guess he's bound to be naturally curious, so we made our way once more down the dimly lit corridor that led to the door only an airbender could open.
And just as he had done at the Southern Air Temple, Aang created a blast of air that opened the door's simple, but effective locking mechanism.
And the secret was revealed: I had been half-expecting another vast room with the Avatar statues but instead we were shocked to find what looked like a Fire Nation Arsenal depot. And my horror grew as I took in the deadly weapons, the strange, but evil-looking metal contraptions that could only have been designed with death and destruction in mind. These were not the rusty remnants of the Fire Nations century-old first attack on the temple - these were gleaming new and obviously under construction! My head snapped to Teo, but the horrified look on his face told me he hadn't known about this.
Our entry must have set off an alarm because next minute we found the Mechanist standing behind us, with Sokka in his wake.
'You're making weapons for the Fire Nation!' Aang shouted pointing an accusatory finger at the inventor.
Teo was even more upset. 'Explain all this! Now!' he yelled at his father.
How could he betray his people, his own son, like this? Any grudging respect I had for this man melted away.
The mechanist bowed his head and did not deny the accusations , but his explanation left me in a quandary. Blackmailed by the Fire Nation into offering his services in return for the continued peaceful existence of his people in the temple, he said he had no choice. He said he did it for Teo, but Teo turned away from him in shame. It was horrible seeing the shock in poor Teo's eyes. I could see that he had idolised his father, but now… those weapons were being used to tear apart other families, they were murdering people.
'He should've told you, at least,' I couldn't keep the bitterness out of my voice.
He should never have agreed to help the Fire Nation… but then, if the price to pay was Teo's life and that of his people…
'There's gotta be something else we can do…' Sokka scowled.
He had taken the Mechanist's revelation to heart, and seemed even more surprised and upset than I was.
'Yes,' Aang said grimly, with a look that brooked no refusal, 'We can stand and fight!'
'I'm with you,' Teo's face was still pale with shock and his normally cheery expression was replaced by one of grim determination, as he turned to head back down the corridor.
'Teo, perhaps it's best if Aang and I speak to your father…' I said gently, fearing an irreparable showdown between father and son. After all, his father had had his son'a best interests at heart …
'No, Katara – he's my father! I can understand it must've been a difficult decision, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong. I've seen what the FireNation can do – I've seen their bones, deep beneath the mountain –' he stopped and bit his lip, as though afraid of having said too much and glanced at Aang.
We had arrived back at the main corridor, and Aang froze at Teo's words, his eyes fixed on the swirling Air symbols in the mosaic beneath our feet.
'You saw what, exactly?' Aang's voice was dead low and as cold, his eyes not moving from the swirling air mosaic.
'Aang – ' I started, but Teo answered anyway.
'I told you I explored every nook and cranny in the temple, with that one exception…' Teo thumbed his finger behind us at the secret room full of Fire Nation weaponry, 'One day, in a tunnel system deep beneath the mountain on which the temple is built, I found a Charnel house. Apart from a few bones, there are also rusty Fire Nation armour and weapons. My father told me that they had buried all the remnants of the Fire Nation's first attack on the Airbenders there, when they first moved in. I didn't want to tell you, cause it's kinda sad...some of those bones were so little...'
I glanced anxiously at Aang, whose face was set in anger.
'Well, the Fire Nation are not gonna win this time,' he said grimly, as he strode off again.
'We need to find out when they're coming,' Teo said, pushing the wheels of his chair forward, 'Some of that stuff in that room looked pretty much finished, and ready for collection. And my father is going to tell us!'
'You find out whether Fire Nation is coming anytime soon,' Sokka said, more briskly, 'If so, we need a plan. Katara, come with me - we need to have a look at the ramparts.'
I followed Sokka reluctantly out of the main entrance, and we explored the temple's accessibility from beyond the surrounding walls. Like all the air temples, this one was designed to be accessible only by Sky Bison, but the Mechanist had changed all that.
'There is only one way up here,' Sokka said, leaning over the bridge that led the way to the building that was to be a future bathhouse, 'There's a narrow ledge up the mountain side, possibly built by the Fire Nation during their first attack, and Teo's Dad has widened it to make it easier for those of his people who couldn't use a glider, and to get supplies in and out of – hey, look!'
Sokka pointed downwards, and I saw a small contingent of Fire Nation soldiers come round one of the sharp bends on the narrow ledge. They were moving hurriedly and with purpose away from the Air Temple. Their leader had something in his hands and with a wide gesture seemed to throw the object he was holding away. But the object opened a pair of fiery red wings and flew off- a Messanger hawk!
At that moment Aang and Teo came up and explained that they had just sent the Fire Nation emissary packing, saying the deal was over. The Fire Nation Official retorted that he would be returning soon with the small army that was camped nearby. It was barely past midday: they would arrive at by early afternoon.
'I've seen your Dad's inventions Teo,' Sokka said frowning,' 'they're really good! If that's anything to go by, his weapons will be just as good. This is bad! Very bad!'
But then Aang, like a true Airbender, came up with the idea that since we could control the sky, we stood a fighting chance, and when the Mechanist came humbly asking if he could help, we started feeling much more optimistic. I also finally started to think that maybe these people belonged to this place. In spite of their insensitive treatment of the temple, I could see how in a crisis they were ready to defend their home. Their home. It struck me then that these people needed the shelter the temple provided and they were alive now – the airbender monks, though the story is tragic, were all long gone, and no longer had any use for the building. Probably, they would have wanted the temple to be a shelter for these people.
We had a quick meeting with all the able-bodied people who could fly a glider well and got together a quick plan of attack – Sokka helped perfect the war balloon and we were pinning a lot of hope on that working. In the meantime, we filled a lot of skins with the disgusting sticky sludge from the bison fountain and soon we were back out on the launching platform, waiting for the attack.
It was a tense wait. I was a bit scared, yet also at the same time, strangely excited: finally I was going to strike back at the hated Fire Nation - no more running. Finally I was going to take a stand, and with Aang and Sokka by my side, as well as all these people, I somehow felt we had to win!
I'm not going into the detail of the battle: I wrote about it in the visible part of this scroll, for all to see, and to bear witness to our first victory over the fire Nation.
As befits a battle on an Air Temple, in the end it was those who controlled the air who won the battle, and though the tanks with spiked wheels and swivelling central parts were really tough to destroy ( having been invented by the genius of the Mechanist), they, too, were blown away by the explosion and Sokka's quick thinking.
Although we've had plenty of skirmishes with Fire Nation soldiers, and Zhao and Zuko in particular, this was my first time in a real battle, and you really, really need to keep your wits about you – and watch out for your friends, as they watch out for you! That's what I was thinking, as Aang and I faced those metal monster tanks on the sloped plateau at the base of the temple. We destroyed some of them but they came close to getting us too, if we hadn't been watching out for each other – and Appa, who finally came to our rescue when we were overwhelmed by their sheer numbers.
I had always imagined battles involved standing your ground and using your bending to destroy your enemy, but I found it has more to do with quick-thinking and keeping your head, heart and mind focussed. Really focussed: one wrong move, one distraction, and you could end up dead (or worse, if the Fire Nation captured you). It was also the first time I had felt really useful: I was doing something to help, something more tangible than what I had tried to do back home, back at the South Pole. It's something more worthwhile. Perhaps once I get the proper training at the North Pole, this is what I'm supposed to be doing...
After the explosion had wiped out all possible access to the Temple and most of the remaining war tanks, the soldiers retreated beyond the great chasm at the foot of the air temple carrying their wounded on top of what was left of the war tanks. That was a bit harder for me to see, for I guess I'm conditioned to try and heal, rather than harm, but they were fire Nation soldiers and after all, they were the ones to attack: we had only defended ourselves.
I hardened my heart : those soldiers will heal and live to fight another day and take more innocent lives...
If only I hadn't heard the groans...
Some of the war tanks had ended up in the chasm, twisted hulks of melted metal after the explosion. The soldiers in those weren't groaning any more...
We lost the war balloon as it plummeted downwards without the heat from its furnace. Aang saved my brother and the mechanist, pulling them out of the sinking balloon just before it plunged to its doom beneath the clouds, then we all gathered on the lotus terrace to celebrate our victory.
And there was more than one reason to celebrate, for Aang had come to terms with the fact that the temple was never going to be the same again.
'I'm really glad you guys all live here now. It's like the hermit crab' he said, picking one up from the stone bench where I was sitting, 'maybe you weren't born here, but you found this empty shell and made it your home. And now you protect each other.'
'That means a lot coming from you,' Teo grinned.
As everyone cheered I smiled and went up to Aang, putting my hands on his shoulders. I was so proud of how he had seen the needs of these people, and accepted their presence in the Air Temple. I know it was a hard thing to do, but ultimately, it was the right thing to do.
'Perhaps after the war is over, these people might feel safe enough to return to the Earth Kingdom, where they were uprooted from,' I said when we returned to the large echoing chamber were we had spent the previous night. We had already packed most of our stuff, and Teo had insisted on giving us all the supplies we could carry.
'Why should they? Teo wouldn't: he loves gliding way too much to want to leave,' Aang said as he threw himself down on the beautiful mosaic floor, 'Anyway, what if they do?'
'I already told you: Then you might reclaim the Temple: you are the last air bender.'
'I'm just one airbender kid – what'd I do with four huge temples, Katara?'
I glanced over to where he was sitting, arms resting on his knees and looking down at the huge central mosaic of the Air Nomad insignia on the floor beneath him. One small airbender surrounded by the sign of his lost people.
'Useless speculating, you guys. The war won't be over by tomorrow,' Sokka said, yawning in his sleeping bag, 'So I suggest you get some rest. We'll leave at dawn. After today, word would've got out you were at the Air Temple, Aang. Zhao, Zuko, or both, are bound to come sniffing around...' And with that Sokka lighted one of the sparking candles the Mechanist had given him, and turned round to sleep.
'Yeah, okay. I'll go check on Appa first, see you later.'
And Aang got up and left.
He has not returned yet, even though it's taken me ages to write this days' events – at least an hour by the sparking-candle time ( though I've blown it out now – I don't think I can sleep if it keeps exploding every hour).
Appa is stabled at the base of the temple. There the Bison stables are so huge ( Aang said the Northern Air Temple held Bison Polo games which he used to take part in) that a good part of them are still standing and Appa loved it there.
But I think Aang did not only go to the Bison stables: I think, perhaps, he is taking one last look at the temple, for he knows that even the last few remnants of his culture will soon be gone as the people here stamp their own character upon this place, as they make the temple their home.
Or perhaps he went to that charnel house to pay his respects, as the last airbender, to the bones of his people, and assure them that their home is still providing shelter to the new life within its walls.
I think I'd better stay up till he gets back.