I have returned from the dead! I hope that you guys can forgive me for being absent for so long. The only reason I have behind my prolonged writing hiatus is that life happens.
This chapter, as the title hints, is the start of an explanation. An explanation for what, you ask? Read on and see, my friends. Let me know what you think afterwards if you feel so inclined.
And thank you, everyone, for still reviewing this story and messaging me about it after all this time. I don't deserve readers as incredibly awesome as you guys.
Hama decides that she will die thinking of the ocean. She decides that she will think about the salty sea air, the cold icy crunch underneath her feet as she'd walk about her beloved South Pole. She decides to think on her family, her friends, her lovers as she dies. She decides to envision their smiling faces before their lives and freedoms were stripped from them by the Fire Nation. She picks up the dagger from her small bedside table.
She has decided to die. There is no longer anything left from her in this dry, pathetic, overbearing Nation. She has no desire to pretend to fit in anymore.
There's commotion outside of her shabby hut as her neighbors head to the center of the village. It's another national holiday, and Hama is far from feeling celebratory.
She makes a deep slice from her wrist to her elbow without flinching. She sighs, her blood dribbling quickly onto the floor. Fireworks erupt, brightening the darkening evening sky.
The villagers probably won't find her body for days. They've always avoided her, been suspicious of her. And with good reason.
She did always daydream about cornering each and every one of them and peeling off their fingernails.
She can feel her life slipping away with her blood, notices the way her vision is beginning to blur. Her bedroom is suddenly illuminated with red, and she can hear the villagers crying out with delight as the fireworks continue to whistle into the air. Red, like the fire they used to burn down her beautiful Southern home.
She will always hate them, dead or alive.
Her heartbeat is slowing, and the scarlet in her vision grows brighter and brighter. The sky booms and crackles as this country celebrates itself. Celebrates its all-encompassing power that was built with the blood and genocide of other nations.
She'll die soon, and there is a sudden, startling twinge of regret in Hama's chest. She still thirsts for all of their blood, for all of their deaths.
It is probably a good thing that she is removing herself from the picture.
Her right hand twitches, despite the fact that she did not move it, despite the fact that the rest of her body has gone numb. It twitches again and Hama realizes that her body is doing something that it has never done before.
The pool of blood by her feet begins to grow smaller. After a moment, her vision begins to grow clearer and clearer, and the twinge of regret she had felt in her chest blooms in sudden satisfaction.
Her old body is no longer numb, and there is a new, terrible throbbing pain coming from her injured arm. The old waterbender watches as her bending surprises her yet again.
When all that's left is a thick gash running along her arm, Hama lets out a shriek of laughter.
Murdering the entire village comes easier then she would have thought. And murdering the second comes even easier than that.
When she first finds him, he is cowering from her in a dusty Capitol alley, terrified. Hama doesn't normally like killing children, but he had seen her draw her own blood back into her body after she had been stabbed in the leg by a victim. No one can know about her secrets, and Hama must protect herself and her mission above all else.
But she'll make it quick. He is, after all, only a child.
She raises her right hand, already feeling the way his blood rushes thick and hot in his veins, already feeling the way his heart beats thunderously in his chest. She catches the flicker of his eyes as he peers up at her in panic.
And that's when she notices that the flicker is gray. She pauses, grabs his chin and forces him to look directly into her gaze. There's a just barely visible ring of blue surrounding his pupil. Hama shoves him away, bile rising in her throat as she realizes what she almost did.
She almost took out a lovely, precious child of water. She stares down at him, a feral smile spreading across her wrinkled mouth. It has been so long since she has seen someone who came from home. So long. His skin is light, so he is not pure, but that is no matter. He is dear to her all the same.
She forces him to stand up, ignoring the fact that he's wet himself.
"Run back to your rich Capitol parents, my sweet," she purrs, touching a finger to his forehead. "But next week, next week you come and visit Mama Hama, or suffer the consequences, understand?"
The boy is shaking violently, and he swallows thickly. "You're a witch." His petrified voice barely reaches above a whisper.
Laughing, Hama steps aside, allowing the young boy to sprint home. She has a hunch that he'll prove incredibly useful to her one day.
And he does.
The boy with the gray eyes is no longer a boy, but a young man. A young man who is poised to take a highly coveted position as a palace guard.
Hama sits with him in her shabby apartment in the Capitol's lower ring. She has never bothered to learn his name, choosing instead to call him "child".
And he always calls her "witch".
She gives him a wide smile, suddenly uninterested in the rare tea that he has brought her as a gift. "What fascinating company you're about to keep."
His eyes narrow as he shrugs. "I'm not going to murder anyone from the royal family for you, witch, if that's what you're thinking."
Hama's smile quickly turns into a deep frown. "You would waste such an opportunity?" She leans forward, forcing herself not to wrap her frail hands around his throat. "Do you remember what they did to us, child? How they destroyed our freedoms, our culture, our home?"
When he was young he would devour her seaweed soup and ocean kumquats and her tales of the freezing southern tundra with eager, eager eyes. Now he only visits her once a month in a distrustful but loyal sort of way. She fears his father, who has encouraged him from a young age to never speak of where his mother was from, has poisoned his mind against his own heritage. This saddens Hama's heart more than anything else in this world.
The child who is no longer a child stands up and makes his way toward the exit. "This is my home." He slams the door shut behind him.
"They have a waterbender." His voice is uneasy and hardly audible against the rain pounding down upon the street. He's still dressed in his guard uniform.
All the breath whooshes out of Hama's body. She steps aside and lets in her young friend, a question already poised on the tip of her tongue.
"For their Program," he explains, as if reading her thoughts. "They've managed to recruit a waterbender."
It's been a long time since Hama's blood has stirred like this. Here she has grown bored at picking off the occasional Fire Nation soldier, drug lord, or mob boss. But another waterbender within her midst's? And easily reachable thanks to her little, loyal friend? Her heart is soaring with newfound hope and her head is light with happiness.
"Bring her to me," she states, eyes wild.
But the young man's expression is grim. "I don't think I can."
Hama slaps him hard across the face, leaving a red handprint against his pale cheek. "How dare you spit upon a chance like this. How dare you."
He doesn't retaliate. "Someone like you would think that I could snatch up anyone I wanted just to suit your agenda, witch, but I can't. Even if I wanted to."
Hama pauses. "And would you want to, if the opportunity presented itself? Would you snatch her up and bring her to me?" She lets out a soft, dreamy sigh. "A fellow waterbender to show all of my teachings to, to share all of my secrets with."
"You'll finally get what you couldn't have with me." His voice is bitter. "A student."
Hama gently pats the cheek that she had viciously smacked a moment ago. "Oh, my sweet child. I have taught you many things about our culture throughout the years. You have kept me level headed, have kept me inspired to continue doing what must be done. But there is one thing that I have not been able to teach you, and that is not bending. That is pride. Pride in where you come from. Because whether you and your father like it or not, you will always be your mother's son. You will always be one of us."
Sometime later he tells her that the waterbender's name is Katara, that she is scarred, and that she is from the Southern Water Tribe, just like Hama.
Hama wonders if she is the granddaughter of anyone she used to know from back home. This makes her determination that much stronger. She encourages her friend to find a way to bring Katara to him.
"It's more difficult than that," he says one afternoon around a mouth full of smoked seal. "I'm not her only guard. There are others, and besides, Prince Zuko would—"
"What about the prince?" Hama snaps.
The young man frowns. "He's in love with her. And I'm fairly certain she's in love with him."
Hama locks herself in her room for the rest of the night.
This night is darker than most. Hama is half tempted to close her herb stand in the market district early because of it. Business has slowed to a trickle anyways.
There's screaming from beyond the palace gates, and citizens stop in the street to point to a palace balcony that's alit with flame.
And Hama…Hama knows.
Not bothering to properly close her stand, she ducks out of it and begins weaving in and out of the increasingly curious people. Most are facing toward the palace, so no one notices when she ducks into an alley close to the palace gates. It's the same alley where she met her young friend so long ago.
There's a grunt, and then out of the darkness someone stumbles toward her. She instantly recognizes him. His eyes widen when he sees her. "How did you know? You really are a witch." The skin of his face is pale. And the rest of him is soaked with blood that belongs to the dying woman cradled in his arms.
She smiles. Smart boy, making sure to cover himself with her blood instead of letting it dribble out of her as he escaped.
"Lay her down," she instructs, and he quickly obeys. First, Hama stops the bleeding and begins to draw the blood out from her friend's saturated uniform. She gently lets it flow back into Katara's body. And not a moment too soon.
"This wound is fatal." The look she gives her friend is icy. "I told you where on the body to stab her so that she would not die. Look at her, she's nearly dead you idiot."
"I didn't stab her," he admits regretfully. "Princess Azula did. She hated Katara."
Hama grins down at the waterbender before her. She is already proud of her newfound student. "How wonderful." She pushes the sweaty hair away from Katara's face. "This one will go very far." Katara's heartbeat, which had been nonexistent but a moment ago, is now growing steadier and steadier beneath Hama's blood stained palm.
The next morning Hama and Katara are in the back of a horse drawn wagon that's exiting the sprawling Capitol. Her young friend sits next to them, hands resting on his knees and eyes zeroed in on the scarred, but healing waterbender still sleeping on the wagon floor. Hama will take them all someplace safe where she can shape their minds in temporary peace. And then she will unleash them, both of them.
She has plans for the boy too.
There's a moan, and then blue eyes are peering up at them, alarmed. Hama reaches out and cups her scarred cheek. "Don't stir, my dear Katara. You are still in the process of healing. You should sleep more, if you can."
Katara's eyes flick about, and Hama can spy the growing unease in them. The young man immediately leans down to her level, water canteen in hand.
After a few sips, Katara coughs, and the young man pulls away. She looks Hama square in the eye. "Where's Zuko?"
And the old waterbender feels no emotion as she delivers the news. "Last night Prince Zuko assassinated his sister, Princess Azula, and then committed suicide. Do not fret, my dear. Today those who value freedom celebrate this great victory. The world is one step closer to harmony."
Fat tears pool in the scarred waterbender's blue, blue eyes and then spill down her cheeks.