Author's note: Hello, everyone. This is my first time posting to this site, although I've written many fanfictions for a lot of different fandoms. Anyways, I'd like to give you a heads up that this story does not follow the storyline of the show very strictly.

Also, I would like to point out that everyone in this story is older than they were in the show. Katara is already seventeen. And she is already a master water bender. As well, she is immensely skilled in hand to hand combat. The story will be written from her perspective.

Disclaimer: I do not own ATLA or the characters.

Down in Flames

I stand at the edge of a small pond, bending the water off of my body to dry. After much convincing on my part, Aang had agreed to go into the market by himself. He just never seems to understand my desire to take long baths and always ends up hurrying me along, shouting for me to "come on already!" from wherever our camp is set up. It gets to be quite annoying.

It's been almost two weeks since we began our travel to the Earth Kingdom. Ever since we'd heard of the Fire Nation airship attack attempt on the Northern Water City a few weeks ago, we'd decided that traveling with Appa would be more dangerous than traveling by foot.

It's been a long trip, but I'm glad to have Aang for company. His positive demeanor is encouraging. Plus, he always has something interesting to talk about. I would easily consider Aang my best friend.

We finally entered the Earth Kingdom this morning. It was easy to tell by the gradual change from ice to earth beneath our feet. And we were able to locate a market just about a mile ahead. It's small and there are only a few vendors, but atleast we're definitely on the right track. We both agreed to come back here to make camp by the pond and try to sleep a while longer. We still have a long way to go before we reach Ba Sing Se.

With my help, Aang is well on his way to mastering the element of water. Now we need to find someone who can teach him how to earthbend.

Sokka is back in the Southern Water Tribe. After our father's death two years ago, Sokka had taken over as chief of the tribe. It caused him to grow up rather quickly. I still find it hard to accept the idea of my once silly, obnoxious brother as a man.

But then, the war has changed all of us in many ways.

I slip on my black leggings and my blue wraparound shirt. It's much warmer here in the Earth Kingdom than back home, so Aang and I ditched a few layers a while back. I've really come to enjoy traveling. It's nice to get a change of scenery once in a while. If only the threat of the Fire Nation wasn't constantly breathing down our necks.

I quickly dry out my hair and make my way back over to our campsite. We'd picked a spot in a small clearing separated from the pond by a row of trees. After packing up our few things, I start to cover the area with leaves and twigs, hoping to leave it looking untouched. We can't risk leaving a trail.

I glance up in the sky. From the sun's position, I'd say that it's just past eleven am. Aang will definitely be expecting me by now. I'd better hurry up. I hate to make Aang worry.

When I stand, I immediately sense the change in the area. A change in the air tells me that I'm not alone. My instincts tell me that whoever is here is not a friend.

My body tenses, but I remain frozen in my place, listening attentively.

At the sound of a rustle in the leaves, I whirl around, sending a water whip out as I do. Everything quiets again. I concentrate on the pull of the pond just a few feet away as I wait in anticipation.

After a long moment, I hear the same sound, this time coming from the opposite direction. I dart into the bushes and collide into the chest of a giant Fire Nation officer. He grins down at me and roughly grabs me by my arms.

"Bad idea." I warn him, narrowing my eyes.

The man simply laughs in response and raises his fist, aiming right at my face.

Well… I warned him.

I use my elbows to knock his grip off of my arms and spin around, sweeping my leg under his as I do. He tumbles onto his back with a shocked expression on his face. I bend a chuck of ice into the side of his head and his arms drop at his sides with unconsciousness.

"Told you." I whisper.

In the next instant, I am yanked back by my hair. My arms are quickly pulled behind my back and bound in what feels like rope. A strong arm winds around my neck, effectively cutting off my oxygen. I use the back of my heel to kick my captor in the shin. He bends from the impact and I squirm out of his grasp.

When I turn, I realize to my horror that I am surrounded by nearly twenty Fire Nation soldiers. And all of them are quickly closing in on me. They all look the same; large and evil and angry. And they all have the same menacing look in their eyes. I fight wildly at the rope that binds my hands, thrashing my entire body around.

A fist comes down on my shoulder. Then another in the middle of my back. I fall forward onto my stomach, not able to stop the impact because of my tied hands. I grunt from the collision. My chin hits the ground and I bite my tongue. It's a stinging pain and my mouth fills with the taste of blood.

I feel a boot on my calves, preventing me from kicking as my feet are bound as well. Then I'm yanked up by my elbow and the same strong arm locks around my neck. Within seconds, the air is gone and I've fallen into an abyss of blackness.

Short chapter, I know. I just wanted to give a bit of background and throw you all into the action. :)