A/N- And here it is, Chapter 16. And in good time, too! It took a few twists and turns that I didn't expect- rather like a labyrinth in and of itself- but I'm rather pleased with it. Solo Aang is surprisingly difficult but extremely rewarding to write, especially at this particular juncture. He's vacillating wildly between being unable to accept the tragedy that's occurred to him, being totally emotionally destroyed by it, and just plain refusing to deal with it. It makes for an interesting cocktail of shifting emotional states.
I have a few announcement/PSA type things to deal with, too, but I'll put that at the end of the chapter because I'm sure you're more interested in the chapter right now than in listening to me babble.
~*Book 1: Wind & Water*~
Chapter 16: Aang in the Labyrinth
"Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Now there's a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom,
blown on the steel breeze."
When Aang awoke, he was alone. Well, mostly alone. Momo was still with him, curled up on the pillow with his tail wrapped comfortably around the crown of Aang's head. Aang could feel his rapid little heartbeat against his skin as the lemur let out a drowsy hum and snuggled closer against him. He smiled, rolling his eyes upward in a futile attempt to catch a glimpse of his tiny friend, then gave up the effort and sat up, causing Momo to squeak in displeasure as his repose was disturbed.
Aang realized almost immediately upon glancing around the room that Sokka and Katara were gone. The beds they had slept in were empty and the bedding had been stripped. He didn't know how this had been accomplished without waking him, but he was pretty sure the queasy feeling in his stomach wasn't completely from nerves and worry. Aang was not a suspicious boy by nature, but he had a funny feeling that the cabbage soup the three of them had eaten the night before had been laced with herbs to induce drowsiness. They had all fallen asleep remarkably quickly. Come to think of it, considering the circumstances, he should have been more surprised last night that Sokka didn't want to discuss strategies for how to deal with the Mad King's challenge quickly and be on their way, but dropped off to sleep almost immediately upon lying down.
He frowned. His intuition last night had seemed to tell him that the king wasn't a real danger to them, despite appearances. This morning, however, with his friends missing and the sealed chamber empty except for himself and the little lemur, the whole circumstance seemed so much more sinister.
He swung his legs out of bed, calling Katara and Sokka's names even though he knew it was futile. He even peeked under the beds in the vain hope that they were just playing a very strange prank on him. But eventually he was forced to accept that his first suspicion was correct, and the siblings had been removed from the room.
Aang heard a low rumble outside before a portion of the stone wall sank sharply into the earth, creating a door into the corridor. Two of the king's earthbender guards entered.
"Where are my friends?" Aang demanded.
One of the guards, a short, broad-shouldered woman who stared at him with a slight sneer curling her lip said, "The king has ordered that the children of Hakoda be taken into custody until you have proven yourself in the task he has set you."
"What?" he protested. "No! Let them go! They shouldn't be involved in this!"
"You'll have to take it up with the king," she said curtly.
"So take me to him," Aang said.
The taller guard shook his head. "No can do, kid. We've got orders to bring you to the entrance to the labyrinth so you can face your challenge."
Aang glared down both the man and the woman, but both seemed wholly unimpressed by his defiant stare. The woman crossed her arms and tapped her foot impatiently. He kept up the attempt as long as he had the patience for, but eventually realized that matching stubbornness with an earthbender probably wasn't his forte.
"Fine," he capitulated with a sigh and a slump of the shoulders. "What do I have to do?"
It turned out that when the Mad King said he would be facing the labyrinth of Omashu, he meant that quite literally. The two guards had led him up and down and around and through so many identical corridors that he couldn't have said with certainty that he was even still in the city. This continued for some time, until he was brought face to face with a gaping black hole in the wall flanked by open stone gates. The gap was in a plain room of stone blocks with a low ceiling lit by dimly flickering torches, and the room was dominated by the entrance to the labyrinth. Just looking into the abyss before him made Aang feel claustrophobic and jittery.
"I'm going in there?" he asked, glancing up at the shorter guard with a horror-struck expression on his face.
The earthbender shrugged. "King's orders. It's an hour past dawn. You have until sunset to navigate the labyrinth," she said. "If you're successful, you'll find your friends waiting for you at the exit."
"And if I fail?" Aang asked.
"He didn't say."
Well that's reassuring, he thought grumpily. "Okay, fine," he said. "How big is the labyrinth?"
"Damned if I know," the taller guard commented.
He reached up a hand to stroke Momo reassuringly, more for his own sake than for the little animal perched on his shoulder. "Okay, I guess we'll be going, then," he said shortly.
"Hold on just a moment," the female guard spoke up sharply. "The animal stays."
"What?" Aang exclaimed, clutching onto Momo protectively.
She reached out and extracted the lemur from his hands by force, and Aang didn't have a whole lot of choice. He was strong, but she was stronger and it came down to holding on or risking harming Momo while she tugged on him. "You can't take Momo!" he insisted. Momo, for his part, seemed to be protesting in his own way, chittering angrily and scratching at the woman's hands.
She shook her head. "You're not taking the lemur underground. You can either go in with dignity or we can drag you in."
"Well, when you put it that way..."
Aang drew in a deep breath, wrinkling his nose at the stale reek on the air that was emanating from the entrance. If going underground wasn't bad enough, going underground alone was downright awful. This was the absolute last thing he wanted to do, but he didn't have a whole lot of choice. His friends were counting on him.
"Take care of him, okay?" he asked the two earthbenders. The man nodded. He figured that was as good as he was going to get. Aang turned around to face the entrance of the labyrinth.
"Wait!" the man spoke up suddenly. "I almost forgot- the king has offered you a piece of advice for navigating the labyrinth."
"What's that?" Aang asked.
"Open your brain to the possibilities," he replied, looking every bit as confused as the nonsensical advice warranted.
Aang couldn't help but think he'd heard someone say that before, but he didn't have time to ponder it. He needed to focus on getting back above-ground as quickly as possible.
He plunged into the darkness, and the doors shut behind him.
Everything was silent save for the faint sound of water far away down the tunnel and an odd noise like the scraping of stone against stone. Maybe it was the echoes of the doors sliding shut.
Aang stood frozen for some moments, drawing in heaving lungfuls of air and reminding himself repeatedly that the tunnel was not shrinking. He had never liked being underground. He wasn't as ill-suited to being under the earth as a sky bison, but close, still spaces where he couldn't feel the air currents and his movements were limited still had a tendency to make him feel like he was suffocating. It could be worse, he reminded himself. The tunnel is pretty wide. You'll do fine.
As his eyes began to adjust to the darkness, he realized that there were sporadic patches of phosphorescent moss or fungus clinging to the walls. The slight greenish luminescence wasn't much at all. It didn't illuminate the floor, or even the walls themselves, really. Still, it gave him a clear sense of where the walls were and which direction the tunnel ran. It helped him breathe a little easier, knowing he had something to help him navigate in the darkness.
Collecting himself, he marched forward. He had a time limit, after all, and with the onset of winter the days were getting shorter. Sunset was closer than he would have liked. He estimated that he had maybe ten or eleven hours at most before his time ran out.
Even with the faint glow of the moss to keep him from bumping into the walls, Aang quickly began to feel incredibly disoriented. He thought the floor was sloping. Maybe. But he wasn't totally sure which direction. He also thought the tunnel was curved, but he had no way by which to judge, as he couldn't see far enough ahead or behind to be certain. It was troubling, because airbenders had exceptional senses of direction by nature, and Aang had never in all his fourteen years felt so bafflingly turned around as he did as the darkness deepened.
Almost as worrisome, the little patches of light he had used to guide him thus far were growing more sparse. They had not been much to begin with, but they were smaller and farther between with every yard he put behind him. His pulse picked up at the thought of being left in total darkness without even that meager light to follow.
Some firebending would come in really handy right now, he thought. How many times had he and Kuzon gone exploring after dark in the foothills surrounding his village, their way lit by a little flame cupped in his friend's palm? He really missed Kuzon.
He really missed all his old friends.
It hit him suddenly, painfully, that everyone was gone. The wave of desperate, helpless longing for people long dead was so intense he was left gasping, and he dropped to the ground because he was suddenly incapable of supporting his own weight. His knees and palms slammed against the ground. He struggled to catch a full breath, his inhalations harsh and shallow as tears welled up in his eyes. It was too dark for him to even register the blurring of his vision.
He was alone. It was all gone, all of it, and it wasn't coming back and spirits help him he couldn't stand it! It wasn't just the Air Nomads. That was enough to stun him breathless, but they weren't all he'd lost: it was everyone. He felt panicked and he couldn't even move and what was he supposed to do? He let out a strangled, gutteral cry. Every last one of the people he had ever met was dead. War had robbed him of his people and time had robbed him of everyone else. There were no more familiar faces, no one he could run to who would know him by name, nothing familiar at all left in this cold world full of war and fear and anger and he just wanted things to go back to the way they were! He couldn't- he couldn't- Oh spirits, Kuzon was dead, and Swati who had taught him to dance, and Bumi and Ilak and Chitra and Tsing Lan and Akemi and- and... How could they all just be gone, in the blink of an eye? How could this happen? He didn't... there wasn't anyone!
No, that's not true, some tiny still corner of his hysterical mind whispered. You have Katara and Sokka.
"But it's not the same," he moaned, and he had a hard time getting back the air he had expended to say it.
Nothing is ever going to be the same, his mental voice responded. Don't you know? You lost the right to anything normal the minute they told you you're the Avatar. Now get up! Your friends are counting on you. Don't let them down the way you let everyone else down.
Aang rocked back, shifting his weight to rest on his folded legs. He wiped his tears from his cheeks and stinging eyes, taking slow measured breaths as he had been taught many years ago in an effort to steady his racing heart and regain control over his breathing. It took him a few minutes to collect himself, but eventually he got himself under control and stood up. He still felt shaky and a little dizzy from the sheer force of grief that had overwhelmed him, but he was on his feet.
I can't keep losing control like his, he thought. He needed to keep a tighter rein on this, because he couldn't afford to be sent reeling like that any more. Things had changed, the whole world had changed, and he needed to have a clear head. Somehow he had to take all these emotions and just... just put them aside or something. Maybe someday there would be an opportunity to deal with that, to process it and to sort through his grief, if such a thing was even possible. For now, though, he needed to isolate those feelings as much as he could.
He had no idea how he was going to manage such a thing, but he was going to try.
Thus resolved, Aang took another step forward into the darkness.
It might have been another hour or two before Aang finally had to admit that he was hopelessly lost. Having no way to mark the passages he'd already traveled through, he had been relying exclusively on his keen sense of direction to take him in a direction he was relatively certain was upward, and generally opposite from where he had started out. Unfortunately, the labyrinth lived up to its name. When faced with a fork in the tunnel, Aang was forced to blindly guess which route was the correct one, and for some reason he never seemed to be able to find his way back to the deviation if he decided that the route he'd chosen wasn't getting him anywhere.
Every tunnel looked the same. The same little patches of bioluminescent fungus grew on the walls. Each corridor was slightly damp, but the floor remained clear of water. The tunnels were all the same size, with the same low ceiling and wide walls. A taller person might have had to stoop, but fortunately for Aang, he was short enough to walk upright through the maze. That didn't change the fact that he had no idea where he was, or that he felt like jumping out of his skin. Tiny little enclosed spaces were not his favorite thing, and at every little sound he couldn't identify, he nearly had a heart attack. There was just something about being lost alone in the dark with nothing to guide you and no idea where you were that tended to make a guy a little twitchy.
It probably didn't help any that he hadn't eaten since the king's cabbage-enhanced feast the night before and his stomach was protesting loudly at regular intervals.
He scratched thoughtfully at his scalp, staring around at the dimly lit corridor in consternation. He couldn't keep wandering around like this. He would burn up his time much too quickly that way, and if what he'd seen so far was any indication, the labyrinth probably went on for miles. He simply didn't have time to explore every possible route.
What was it that guard had told him? Open your brain to the possibilities.
Well, what did that mean, anyway? Aang still couldn't shake the feeling that he'd heard someone say that before, but for the life of him he couldn't think who. Not that it probably matters, he thought bitterly. Whoever it was has been dead for a long time.
Abruptly, the stillness was shattered by the high shriek of some kind of animal echoed from somewhere down the cavern behind him. If Aang had had hair, it would have stood on end and he stared into the darkness, eyes opening ridiculously wide as if that would somehow help him see better in the near-total darkness. He felt rooted to the spot.
A scuttling noise and a leathery sound like wingbeats could be faintly heard growing closer. Despite the coolness of the air underground, Aang began to sweat and his pulse picked up. He suddenly recalled that the caves in the southwestern Earth Kingdom were frequently inhabited by enormous carnivorous wolfbats.
The shrill cry echoed again.
Aang turned and fled, not caring if the route he was taking would lead him to the surface any more. He was not going to be a meal for a wolfbat!
Rounding a bend, he found himself facing another fork in the road. He surveyed the options before him and realized that the dim glow of the moss was much brighter down one tunnel than the other three, and immediately raced off in that direction. If he wasn't able to outrun his pursuer, he would much prefer to face it in a place where he could see.
It was fortunate that Aang was gifted with the incredible speed of an airbender, for even running flat out, at easily five or six times the speed a non-bender could have hoped to achieve, he could hear his pursuer gaining on him. The rustling noise, thick leathery wings beating at the air and claws scrabbling against stone, echoed off the walls and filled his ears. He chanced a quick look over his shoulder and immediately wished he hadn't. A ways down the tunnel, much too close for his comfort, he could see a dark shape scuttling after him, racing along the wall and up onto the ceiling before swinging back down onto the tunnel floor.
The tunnel walls racing by were growing narrower. When he realized this, Aang really began to panic. Airbender or not, he began to feel helplessly out of breath, choked by the walls closing in. What if this came to a dead end? He would be trapped between a stone wall and a hungry wolfbat! Animal lover that he was, Aang could not repress a shudder at the thought of how that kind of confrontation would end.
Aang's foot abruptly sank deep into something soft and squishy. Caught, his great speed worked against him and sent him crashing to the floor in a large pile of the same substance. Bat poop, he realized, wrinkling his nose. He had accidentally stumbled into the wolfbat's lair. The noise of his pursuer caught up to him, taking advantage of his fall to close the gap between them. That's it, he moaned internally, I'm done for! He screwed his eyes shut, anticipating an attack any moment.
It never came. Instead he heard a chorus of soft little shrieks from somewhere above him.
Aang risked a glance upward, lifting his face out of the muck. To his astonishment, he saw six pairs of bright eyes staring back at him, shining in the reflective glow of the moss-covered walls.
"Hey," he said, "you're not wolfbats."
And indeed they weren't. The distinctly orange fur, visible even in the strange light, and the unique long toes identified the creatures immediately as orangubats, a frugivorous species also native to the western Earth Kingdom. The enormous mother-bat who had been chasing him watched him suspiciously while her five babies blinked at him in lazy curiosity.
Aang got cautiously to his feet. The mother let out a warning squawk at him and he held up his hands in a placating gesture. She bared her blunt teeth at him but made no further protests.
He went about brushing off the guano that was all over the front of his clothes, grimacing at the mess. Aang was not repulsed by animal droppings, having done plenty of work in the air bison stables as all temple novices did, and while the orangubat guano was much cleaner and drier than what Appa was prone to leaving behind, he still wasn't pleased to have fallen face-first into a huge pile of it. He supposed the guano was the reason the luminescent moss grew so thickly on the walls here. Once he had gotten himself as clean as he figured he would be able to without a bath, he looked up at the little cluster of animals clinging to the ceiling.
He held out a hand toward them. The mother hissed, but one of her babies crawled across the ceiling to sniff at him. The little mammal investigated his hand tentatively, then licked at his fingers. Aang giggled at the ticklish feeling. "You're really cute," he said, scratching the animal's pointed ears.
Apparently deciding she'd had enough, the mother bat reached out and snagged her offspring with the hooked claw on her wing joint and hauled it back with the rest of them. She then proceeded to crawl on top of her babies protectively. The young orangubats squeaked in protest.
Aang smiled, then let out a frustrated sigh, dropping back against the mossy wall. "I suppose you must know the way out of here," he mused, addressing the mother bat. "Not that you can tell me."
She spread her wings abruptly and with an almighty screech, rocketed past him with her babies clinging to her belly, cuffing him around the head with one enormous wing as she went.
If she was fleeing from an intruder in her roost, maybe she would head for the exit! Before he could lose sight of her in the dim light, Aang took off after her. For several thousand yards he was able to keep pace, following her as close as he could. As fleet-footed as he was, though, she was faster in the air than he was on the ground and without his glider he couldn't take to the air. She began putting distance between them and eventually she vanished around a corner and out of his line of sight. For a time Aang was still able to follow her through the tunnel by honing in on the soft noise of her wings and the protesting squeaks of the little ones clinging to her belly, but eventually he was left behind.
He slowed his pace, more lost than before but also more optimistic. The encounter with the orangubat and her babies had been a pleasant surprise. That wasn't all, though. Although he hadn't been able to follow her to the exit, he knew that he wasn't imagining that the air was fresher here. If he wasn't out of the labyrinth, he was at least closer than he had been before!
The tunnel was much darker than it had been near the bats' roost, and he found himself having to pick his way more carefully along the floor, as it was rougher and full of sudden dips and potholes and jagged edges. He felt his way across the ground for perhaps another hour, testing each step out tentatively before he rested his foot solidly against the cavern floor. He followed the direction of the fresh-smelling air as best he could. Eventually it appeared that he had reached more consistent ground and let out a soft sigh of relief, glad to be able to walk more normally.
He had dropped his guard too soon. His right foot suddenly found nothing but empty air and then he was pitching forward, slithering down a steep slope covered in loose gravel and then launching out into empty air. He whipped up a cushion of air to ease his descent and landed lightly on his feet a few moments later.
It was very dark at the bottom of the hole he had fallen into. From what he could make out in the faint light filtering down from above, he was able to discern that he seemed to have slid through a cave-in in the floor to a portion of the labyrinth that was lower than the tunnel he'd been in.
"Well that's no good," he remarked to himself. "I want to go up, not down."
The air was a little fresher and less musty down in the lower tunnel, but he was positive he needed to head upwards if he was going to get to the exit of the labyrinth and meet back up with Katara and Sokka. He crouched, twisting his body to prepare to bend himself back up into the upper tunnel.
Light flared somewhere down the tunnel he was standing in. Not the sickly greenish illumination he had gotten used to in the last several hours but real, honest to goodness light. It was far away, but bright and strong. Aang straightened up, glancing between the opening above him and the glimmering distant light. Did he dare take the chance?
After a few moments indecision, the lure of being able to see properly became too much and he raced towards the beacon calling to him.
It took him several minutes to reach the bend in the tunnel around which the light had been shining. He hesitated at the corner, struck by the realization that the light had the soft pyrrhous glow of firelight. Firelight, not daylight? That didn't make sense if this was the way out... unless he'd spent more time down here in the dark than he'd thought, and he'd already missed his sunset deadline. The thought of what might happen to his friends if he didn't reach them quickly spurred him into motion before he could think about it any more. He hurtled around the bend and into an enormous circular cavern...
Or at least he thought it was room was afire. Fire seemed to leap from all around and it was blisteringly hot. For Aang's eyes, now accustomed to darkness, it was much too bright and he immediately had to close them. Sweat broke out all over his body. It beaded on his forehead and rolled down his back, making his tunic stick to him uncomfortably. He threw up his arms before him, trying to protect his face. It was too hot, too bright, too much!
He was disoriented, dizzy now from light instead of claustrophobic darkness. He cracked his eyes open the barest slit and tried to turn around, desperate to return to the corridor he had come from. To his horror, however, he discovered when he turned around that the entrance he had come through seemed to have disappeared, or been hidden from him by a wall of flame. Aang let out a choked cry of panic and whirled around, searching for another exit, any exit. His foot caught against something and he fell hard against the cool stone floor-
Wait, cool floor? Aang squinted at the smooth surface beneath him and saw that it too appeared to be afire, but he could clearly feel that it was just stone. Although slightly warm on the surface from the apparent fire and the heat of the room, he could feel that it still held the eternal chill of stone that lies deep underground away from light and the warmth of the sun. It looked like flames, but it was only stone. Suddenly, he understood.
"It's all reflections..." he whispered.
Pushing himself back to his feet, he squinted around, trying to find the heart of the fire. When he located it at last, he inhaled a huge lungful of air, then expelled it as only an airbender could, blowing out the enormous bonfire that sat at the center of the cavern as easily as one might snuff out a candle.
The room fell dark and the great heat decreased immediately. The thick bed of coals lingering in the sunken grate still gleamed a lively red-orange, providing more than enough light for Aang to see by once the purplish spots before his eyes faded away. When his eyes were adjusted, he spun in a circle, surveying the room.
Every surface in the room appeared to be composed of enormous slabs of naturally occurring magnetite, polished mirror-smooth. The facets reflected off each other in endless distorted tessellations, making it seem as though the chamber went on forever. The grate where the fire had lain was at the center of the room, smoking gently. Someone had to be in these tunnels with him, he surmised. The fire had only been lit after he had fallen through the cave-in. And...
A glance over his shoulder confirmed that the entrance he had come through had indeed vanished. It had probably been sealed by earthbending.
This is really weird, Aang thought.
Something niggled at the back of Aang's mind... some memory from long ago. This room reminded him of something. What was it? He laid a hand against an outcropping of the polished stone as he struggled to recall. The dying embers reflected in the mirrored surfaces around him like dim red stars.
"I'm never going to grow up," Bumi proclaimed loudly, "But when I'm older I'm going to get a whole mess of mirrors and use 'em to make the stars look closer!"
Aang grinned. For an earthbender, Bumi was unusually drawn to the sky. Maybe it came of being friends with an airbender, he didn't know. "I'll help!" he promised.
"You better believe it," Bumi said. "I wouldn't want to do it without you!"
And then the words the guard had spoken earlier, the advice from the king, that had sounded so oddly familiar...
"Open your brain to the possibilities," Aang whispered to himself, his eyes widening sharply as the realization hit him.
And if he was right about the architect behind this whole charade, then the way out should be obvious. Aang turned back to the grate the fire had lain in and knelt beside it. He ran his fingers along the seam where the metal grate sat in the floor, and... there. The tiniest little divot in the stone, just large enough to work ones fingers into. Aang lifted gently and the grate swung back. Coals scattered across the polished floor and a great cloud of ash billowed up, making him cough, but Aang didn't mind. He'd found what he was looking for.
Beneath the fire pit there was a hole in the floor. Inside it there was a narrow polished stone chute that could only be described as a slide. Aang grinned. He leapt into the hole.
The exit to the labyrinth was at the base of the mountain. Aang's approach, climbing uphill the whole time, had been unproductive because he was going in entirely the wrong direction. It was in his nature as an airbender to reach upward toward the sky, but in this instance that particular instinct had served him poorly. An earthbender going to ground might have escaped from the tunnels much sooner, but it had taken Aang until late in the afternoon to find his way out.
After one very long slide down through the very heart of the mountain, a ride that put every mail chute in Omashu to shame, and he was deposited out of the sheer face of the mountain onto a large pile of sand. He looked up and, to his delight, found Katara and Sokka waiting for him with the king and a little gathering of servants in tow.
Airbending himself to his feet, he rushed to his friends. "Katara, Sokka!" he exclaimed. "Are you guys alright?"
"We're fine!" Katara said. "We've been worrying about you!"
Aang hugged them both at the same time. Even having realized that his friends were in Bumi's care and wouldn't be harmed no matter what kind of mind games his (now much much older) friend was playing, he had still spent most of the day with a constant buzz of genuine fear for their safety fraying at his nerves.
Katara hugged him back fiercely, but Sokka squirmed under his arm. "Hey, Aang?" he said. "Not that I'm not happy to see you, but could you maybe let go? No offense, but you smell terrible."
Aang backed off and looked down at himself. He was still covered in mud and ash and sweat and bat droppings. No doubt he really was a little... aromatic at the moment. "Sorry," he said, offering them a sheepish grin. Sokka waved a hand as if to say, Don't worry about it.
Once he had assured himself that his friends were okay, he looked past them to where the white-haired king was waiting patiently, his expression unreadable. "Bumi," Aang said quietly, "You're a mad genius."
And Bumi smiled.
"It's good to see you too, Aang."
Ignoring Katara and Sokka's dropped jaws, completely unashamed of the tears that welled up in his eyes and spilled over his cheeks, Aang rushed across the sand and threw himself into his friend's arms, burying his face in the old king's robes and hugging him tight. Bumi hugged him back, chuckling a little, and a tiny piece of Aang's broken heart mended itself.
A/N- Now, just as previously mentioned, there's a couple of things I want to put out there.
#1- If you aren't already aware, I'm in the process of attempting to create a comprehensive link archive of all the quality Kataang fanfiction that exists on the internet. If you're interested in checking it out or want to make recommendations (especially for works on DeviantArt, LiveJournal, or other sites, that I may have a harder time finding), a link to the archive on Tumblr will be going up shortly.
#2- Relatedly, as I've been scouring the internet for good Kataang fic to archive, I've noticed something. There isn't a whole lot of epicfic for Kataang. There are a lot of really talented Kataang writers out there, tons of 'em, but the thing is, as a collective whole we seem much more prone to writing fluffy and/or angsty oneshots or shortfic than lengthy, complex, deeply engaging narratives that have Kataang at the center of them. Now, I love me some oneshot-style feels, but honestly I really love a longer read that sucks me in (that's probably why I drool over those rare and precious updates of The Avatar's Love so much) and keeps me captive and makes me stay awake until 5:30 in the morning because I can't stop until it's all over. That's the kind of fic I want to read. That's the kind of fic I want to write.
So here's the deal. As most of you probably know, November is NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month). Therefore, for that month, I am going to be ceasing all fandom activities. No work on Fireflight. No work on the KFA. No oneshots. I'm not even going to keep my up my Avatar blog on Tumblr except for setting up a queue to keep it kinda-sorta active. And for the whole month of November, I'm going to write like crazy and get an entire novel-length epic Kataang fanfiction written. (Probably my Bloodbending AU because I can't think about other fics until that's dealt with.)
I'm challenging every single Kataang writer out there who is able to do so to join me. Take the next couple of months and plot an outline, do whatever writerly things you usually do to get a story prepped. And then, when November rolls around... we all sit down and write. I'm so done with this "our ship is canon so we don't need to create as much fic/art" thing. So what if it's canon? Don't we still love it and want to celebrate it? Let's take at least this one opportunity to approach the pairing from a different angle than usual.
If "real" life prevents you from doing so or you just plain don't want to, that's perfectly fine. But if you can and are willing to... seriously, give it some thought. (Oh, and if you want to join me but don't have any plot ideas, bug me for some. I have too many that I will never write but which are too intriguing to be left to die in the back of my brain.)
Ciao, friends! Catch you next time.