Hello fellow Avatar fans. This is my first attempt at writing an Avatar fic. I think I did a pretty good job.
So a little warning first. This fic will a little more dark and grim then your average Avatar fic. This will be Grimdark, if you will, and for those of you who know what I'm talking about then you will quickly see the style that I'm trying to replicate.
If that's alright with then enjoy, if not well I hope you read any way.
Shattered Mind: Chapter 1: Fallout
It burned. Everything burned. The pain was incredible. The pain was all consuming. He no longer knew anything. He knew nothing, nothing but the pain of his flesh burning. Fire had washed over his skin, blistering the flesh, exposing and scorching bone and shattering his mind.
Pain... There was only the pain.
And then he fell. Where there was once pain, once where there had been the raging firestorm that danced across his blistering and splitting flesh; there was now nothing. Nothing but emptiness of the void. He drifted through the nothingness calm and peaceful; there was no pain, just peace. Time became inconsequential. He floated, drifting through ages past and future. A single second could be decades, and yet millennia could pass by with a single blink of an eye.
The man smiled. Peace. There was no pain. There was only the peace of that cold void.
A bright light, silver, warm suddenly cut through the blackness of the void. He recoiled in fear, as the warm light washed over him, expecting for the pain of the burns to return. Expecting the heat to wash over his skin again, for the tortured and burnt flesh to blister and hiss to split and run like wax. Could he die again? Could he die in this cold void of his grave?
But there was no burning. There was no fire. There was no torturous heat. Instead the light seemed to be... gentle. Warm. Friendly. Loving. He laid back, allowing the silver light to wash over him; feeling it bathing him in its warm glow, as it gently flowed over his burnt and blistered skin.
Then there was a voice. A voice in the light. Gentle, soothing... loving.
Not your time
He knew that voice. He tried to think, tried to remember. Pain shot through him as he tried. Tried, tried so desperately hard to remember. Jagged shards of memory and thought cut through his mind sending sharp waves of pain through his broken mind. The silver light tried to sooth him, tried to comfort him in his pain and madness. But the injuries of the mind were not so easily healed.
The light withdrew into the void, almost... regretfully. Sorrowfully. As though anguishing that she could do nothing for the shattered mind. The flesh, the body, she could heal... The mind? That was something beyond any mortal or spirit. Beyond even the Avatar.
As she took her place back in the night sky, she looked back down onto the world that she had left not so long ago. It would be up to him now. She had done all that she could for him. She hoped that one day; he would be able to forgive her.
The void was changing all around him. Lights twinkled into existence, as his eyes opened to the world around him. The smells of death, and burnt hair, flesh and cooking meat filled his nostrils, as the breath of life passed down through his scorched throat and into his lungs.
Why? His shattered mind screamed. Why did he still yet live? Fire had consumed him. Fire had washed over him, burning him. Killing him. Yet he still lived. WHY?
He shifted his body, expecting pain. Expecting burning pain to shoot through his body as he disturbed his burns. Nothing. He lifted his hand. Red and white and yellow splotches of scar tissue marred his misshapen hand as he flexed, testing the strength in the appendage.
Lowering his hand, he glanced around. He wasn't alone. Bodies. Dozens of corpses lay around him. Most where dressed in armour, either dark blue and bone white or a dull green and yellow. While others... Others were so horrifically burned; he couldn't tell if they had once been man or woman, all distinguishing features had been washed away by the flames of Demons.
He should have been sickened. He should have been disgusted, that these brave warriors had been left to rot alongside him. But he wasn't. Instead he felt jealousy. He felt angry. And he felt an intense longing to know the peace that they now knew.
He stood up and glanced around, his blackened armour crackling with his movement and flaking off in small slivers of ash and grit. He walked among the dead, stepping lightly as though he feared waking them. He stepped over bodies, severed limbs and the burnt ashen remains.
He stopped in front of a blue clad warrior. His sightless blue eyes starring up into the summer sky, his chest, a ruined mess of blood and bone, his long brown hair tied into a warrior's wolf's tale.
He glared down at the body. "Why you?" he asked the corpse. His voice a gravely whisper across the otherwise silent grave. "Why you, brother? Why did Death take you, and not me?"
The corpse did not answer.
In a fit of anger he reached down, grabbing the warrior by his armour and dragging the corpse close to him. "Why do I live!? Why do you know peace and yet death rejects me!?" He yelled, spittle running down his split and scorched lips mixing in with the blood dribbling down his chin.
He panted in rage, but the corpse did not answer, and continued to stare up into the stars that danced above them.
As quick as his anger had come, it vanished, as though he was ashamed of his outburst and jealously that he had shown to his fallen brother.
"I'm... I'm sorry, brother. Do you forgive me?" He hugged the corpse close, as though comforting it, his voice dropping back to a gravel whisper. "I cannot help myself brother. All I see are the dead. The dead. And the dead. And the fire. And the dead, the flames, the fire. The fire and the dead. The fire. And the Demons, brother. The killers and the killed. That is all that I see now."
The mad man calmed himself, and relaxed his hold on the corpse, allowing it to drop back down onto the ground and return to its rest.
As he turned to leave, to leave these men alone in their peace, in their slumber, in their grave, he caught something out of the corner of his eye.
A ruined black blade, sunken hilt up into the ground; and beside that, a blackened helm shaped in visage of snarling wolf. He lifted the helm to his face, turning it, examining it. It seemed sound and sturdy, good enough.
As he clamped onto his head, a memory, fuzzy, distorted, rose to the surface of his mind, sending sharp, fresh, waves of pain lancing through him.
A campfire, smoke filling a tent made from the skin of tiger-seal... Hazy and warm. Shapes. Human shapes gathered around. Food passed from one to another, gloved hands sharing bowls of dried meat. Words, distorted, intangible, indiscernible. Save one.
The Wolf who guarded the gates of Hell.
Was that his name? He couldn't remember.
It didn't matter.
He reached down, with a scarred, mutilated hand, gripped the ruined leather hilt and pulled the blade free. Its killing edge was nicked and scarred into a jagged, serrated blade that tapered into fine, wickedly sharp point. Whether blackened from soot and ash and smoke of the fire Demons or whether it came from some other worldly origin, he did not know, nor did he care, he liked the blade.
He didn't know why.
Maybe because it was just as ruined as the rest of him was, just as jagged and as scarred as his memories and his mind. Maybe because the hilt sat so well in the palm of his hand, and the weight seemed to be balanced just for him. He swung it a couple of times, getting the feel of the blade, it felt perfect. It felt right.
He ran a thumb down the jagged blade and was pleased to see rivets of red blood trickle down the black blade from the wound. Still sharp. Still useful. It could still kill. A battered sheath of blackened leather lay just off to the side of where he had found the sword. Sheathing the sword, he belted it across his back.
A sound caused him to snap around as he heard grunting, panting, and thump of armour clashing on armour. His eyes narrowed as he moved towards the sounds. There in moonlight, were three human shapes; two of them hefted a large burden between them, swinging it between them, before tossing the object into the mass grave, while the third one watched impassively nearby.
His eyes narrowed, as he caught a glimpse of their scarlet and black armour in the moonlight.
These were the Demons. They were the ones who had killed him; they were the ones who had caused Death to reject him. Then realization hit him. The sword. The helm. They were a sign. The sword and the helm were gifts. There was a reason why Death had had yet to reclaim him. There was purpose to his rejection.
This was it.
His broken mind, a mess of tumbling voices and jagged shards of memory and broken thoughts had all come together to form one lucid, singular, purpose.
The sword seemed to scream as it left the sheath. His boots thumped the ground as charged, bounding over the corpse of the fallen, over the corpse of his more fortunate brothers.
The Demons looked up in surprise, quickly going for weapons as the backed away from the screaming, burnt... thing that charged them.
He screamed as he leapt into the air. "Demons! I come for you!"
His jagged, nicked sword came slicing down into the side of the neck of the first Demon. Cutting through flesh and rending bone. Hot blood spat into his face, and splattered his blackened armour.
The warrior laughed.
His mind screamed.
KILL! KILL! KILL!
As the Demon fell back with a gurgle, the warrior pulled his sword back, and launched a barge of psychotic attacks towards the next. The Demon managed to barely fend off one, before he was overwhelmed, and warrior plunged his sword into the Demons gut and then tore it out. The serrated edge causing more damage as it exited, pulling out gobbets of flesh and trails of guts.
The third Demon had not been idle, using the distraction of his comrades; the Demon had retreated, putting space between him and the psychotic warrior. As the second one fell, the Demon took a stance and thrust out with his hands in a series of quick, vicious jabs. Blasts of fire erupted from the Demon's fist and roared towards the warrior with lethal intent.
The warrior saw the bright blasts of red and orange and lethal yellow and threw himself forward into a roll. The waves of fire blasted over him and fresh pain blossomed over his scorched back.
The warrior did not cry out in pain, but merely screamed in anger and raw hatred. "I am death denied! I am vengeance!"
The Demon shot another wave of desperate fire blasts at the warrior, trying to keep the raging beast back and from closing in on it.
The warrior just kept coming.
Finally it proved too much, and the warrior slashed downwards, just as the Demon extended a fist to unleash another fireball, the jagged edge of the swordsman's blade ripped through the armoured gauntlet, cut into the flesh and severed the Demon's hand.
The Demon collapsed, cradling its severed limb to its chest, howling in pain. The warrior did not hesitate, as his burnt, scorched lips pulled into a snarl of hatred and he plunged his sword to the heart Demon on its knees in front of him.
As Demon gurgled and died the warrior's rage and hate did not dissipate. He wanted to lash out, to kill and kill and kill again, he turned his rage onto the bodies of the Demons, hacking them apart, until they were unrecognizable. Just mangled pieces of meat, bone and rent armour.
Panting more in rage then exhaustion, the warrior turned and disappeared into the forest that surrounded the grave. His grave and place of rebirth.
He ran, paying no heed to the branches that lashed out and cut into his skin. He had no idea where was going, but something, a ghost of a memory, or pure instinct drove him on. He ran deeper and deeper into the dark woods, never stopping, even as the moon faded from the dark sky and sun began its climb.
Finally the woods thinned and the warrior came to a halt. He stood at the edge of cliff, that over looked the deep blue of the sea. The sun was just peaking over the horizon, tingeing the grey morning sky with red.
The warrior stepped forward until he stood upon the very edge of the cliff and spread his arms out as though to embrace this red, bloody dawn.
"Death rejects me. But it gave me purpose." He whispered manically to himself. "But did I fulfill it? I avenged my brothers. Can I die now? Can death take me? How do I know? How do I not know?"
He chuckled. A cold, rasping sound.
"Shall I throw myself from this cliff into the embrace of the empty air and allow myself to fall, to be dashed upon the rocks below? Should I try? Try. Again. To die? If only it were so simple."
He moved to the very edge of the cliff, almost as if daring fate to take him. To give him that last little push of the wind or tug of gravity that would sending him falling to the rocks and the unforgiving sea below him.
"You cannot take me." He whispered to the empty air. "You do not know me."
He backed away from the periphery. "I know my purpose." He continued in the same, gravely, hoarse whisper. "I... I have become Kerberos. The wolf-hound at the gates of Hell. The Demons... The Demons have been set loose, they have upset the balance."
He breathed deep and chuckled again. "They caused this war. They caused this death and this misery. And I will see it go on and on and on. I will be the avenger. I will be justice no longer denied. I must kill. Kill and kill and kill, until Death claims me. Until the scales are balanced."
The warrior turned away from the blood red sun rise, his eyes alight with the clear, perfect focus of the true mad man. He had purpose.
It had been a week. A single, miserable, gloomy week.
A week since Sokka had gone missing, and their planned invasion of the Fire Nation had been defeated.
It had been an excellent plan. And like most excellent plans had been fairly simple: Get the Earth King's approval and support and then, with Earth Kingdom's armies at their back, attack the Fire Nation's Capital during the Day of Black Sun. A day when a solar eclipse would blackout the sun and render all fire bending useless.
Then Aang would defeat the now helpless Fire Lord Ozai. The hundred year long war would end and with balance returned to the world, there would be peace.
Aang sighed heavily as he looked up from where he had been meditating in the Western Air Temple. One of the few safe havens in the whole world that were now left to him and his friends thanks to Azula and the Fire Lord. In the distance he could hear the sounds of boulders crashing against each other and breaking apart in thunderous booms.
Toph wasn't taking their forced inaction well.
And Katara... Although she put on a brave face and tried to act normal just for the sake of appearance and morale, Aang could tell that Katara was deeply depressed. He couldn't really blame her, she had been reunited with her father, although that had been... somewhat tense. Now she had been forced to abandon him along with her brother.
It was his fault, Sokka was gone.
He had arrived at the Palace, ready to fight, ready to face his destiny as Avatar. Only to find the palace empty and throne room abandoned. Ozai it appeared had known of the planned invasion of his nation and had acted accordingly.
Aang had flown back finding the invasion force attempting to break through a Fire Nation counter attack. Sokka had insisted that the Fire Lord was close by.
"He would have a secret bunker." Sokka had said. "Somewhere he could go and be safe during the siege; but still be close enough to lead his nation."
That had sparked the flame of hope in Aang. He could still do this; he could still beat the Fire Lord before the eclipse was over.
He should have listened to Katara.
Katara had wanted to use the time that they had left to pull out, and ensure that everyone could evacuate safely. Hakoda, Sokka's and Katara's father had argued in favour of pushing ahead, claiming that every soldier there knew the risks and were willing to sacrifice anything to win the day, as long as there was a chance.
Sokka had left the decision up to him.
Aang had chosen to fight.
Azula had been waiting for them. Sokka, knowing that she was not as dangerous now with the eclipse in effect, had told both him and Toph to ignore Azula and concentrate on the Fire Lord.
Then Azula had mentioned Suki.
That had stopped Sokka in his tracks.
Seeing the effect that just the implication of Suki, had on him, Azula continued, not bothering to hide the smug satisfaction that dripped from her tone. She told him of how her favourite prisoner had always mentioned him, had always been convinced that Sokka would come and rescue her.
And how Sokka had abandoned her and Suki had finally given up hope.
Screaming in rage, sword drawn, with tears of hate dripping from his eyes, Sokka had charged Azula, fully intending to kill her, only for his target to dodge his first attack and run deeper into the tunnels, with Sokka hot on her heels.
Aang and Toph had tried to chase after him, but apparently Azula had brought some old friends from Ba Sing Se to the Fire Nation capitol. The Dai Li, had been waiting in the throne room all along had now sprung their ambush.
The Dai Li were persistent, and the two of them had been forced to subdue the Dai Li, Aang had settled for knocking them out with strikes from his staff, blasts of air, or hunks of rocks. Toph simply trapping them in metal cages formed from whatever bits and pieces she had found.
By the time the Dai Li were no longer a factor, the eclipse was over.
And Sokka was no where in sight.
Aang stood up. They had rested enough. They needed to act. They needed to find Sokka.
Toph could feel the vibrations of the boulder as it rolled towards her at an alarming speed. She could feel every bump, and rough patch, every uneven, jagged line as it bounced and rolled towards her.
To anyone who had not witnessed Toph's mastery of earth bending, the scene before them would have been horrifying; a little girl, not much older than twelve, facing down a giant boulder, which would crush and grind her into the dust. To anyone who did know her or had witnessed Toph's prowess; the scene would be, at best, a minor curiosity or an annoying distraction at worst.
She widened her stance. Making sure her feet where planted and unmoving, that she was as solid, as unmoving, as stone. Toph was the rock and she would not yield. Thunder boomed, as the giant boulder crashed towards her, Toph threw out her fist.
The boulder exploded, a scant few inches from crushing the small girl, into thousands of tiny fragments, razor sharp and deadly. Instead of flying towards Toph and killing her, the fragments denied the physics of inertia and simply scattered onto the stone floor in front of her.
This was good for her. It helped with the stress. It helped her think.
Everyone was upset. Aang had spent much of his time alone; either gliding around the temple, or sitting in some part of the temple, either meditating or practicing his bending. Sometimes he would join Haru, Teo, or The Duke in exploring the temple, but that was rare. It wasn't hard to see just how badly Aang was taking their defeat in the capital; everyone had been counting on him. And he had failed them.
Katara was even worse. She rarely ate and wasn't sleeping. Katara had also, much to Toph's immense displeasure, had become even more motherly and over-protective. To her it felt like Toph was back home in the Beifong Mansion.
Toph slammed her foot down, creating another giant boulder, then using her earth bending, she tossed the boulder up a steep ramp that she had created and 'watched' as it came rolling back down towards her.
The group was directionless and unfocused. None of them were exactly sure on what to do next.
With a casual flick of her wrists, the boulder split into three large disks and with three quick jabs, Toph sent the spinning disks flying out from the edge of the temple to smash apart on the other side of the canyon.
Sokka had been that direction. He had always been the one who kept the whole group of them on track and focused. Now he was gone, missing since the invasion.
And it was her fault.
Toph was the greatest earth bender in the world. She had invented metal bending and through a combination of the vibrations in the ground and earth bending she could 'see' better than anybody in the group. But in the tunnels of the Fire Lord's bunker she had allowed Aang and herself to be ambushed by the Dai Li.
It had taken them too long to defeat Azula's lackeys. By the time they had subdued them; the eclipse was over and through out the whole complex Toph could feel the pounding of metal boots on rough stone, as the cave system was flooded with Fire nation soldiers and benders.
They had to flee. They were out numbered and now the invasion force was in trouble. As much as both Aang and Toph had wanted to stay and look for Sokka, they both realized that if they tried they too would be cut off, and lost.
Toph growled as she created several, crude, statues in the shape of the armoured forms of the Fire Nation's benders. She hated running. It was the antithesis of the earth bending philosophy. You should stand your ground, unmoving and unflinching, be like stone.
With a stomp and a thrust, Toph sent a spinning boulder through the chest of one of her improvised fire benders, when she felt the slight touch of something landing behind her.
Toph grunted in annoyance, as she decapitated another statue. She knew who it was. Only one person in their group could move so lightly.
"Toph..." Aang began.
"What's up, Twinkle-Toes? Are you done sulking yet?"
Aang winced. Toph was not the most diplomatic of people. Even on her best days, Toph was incredibly blunt and had a tongue that could lacerate. This was obviously not her best day.
"I needed time to think." Aang was defensive, "and we all needed some time to rest."
Toph snorted as she brought a boulder crashing down onto a statue, crushing it into dust. "It's been a week, oh mighty and wise Avatar. A day should have been enough for you to figure out what we should be doing. We should be looking for Sokka!"
"I know, Toph, I know." Aang admitted, "But we need a plan first, or at least a starting point. Which is why I came looking for you."
"If you got an idea, I'm listening."
Aang shook his head; a gesture was lost on the blind girl. "I don't have one actually. Which is why I came looking for you and Katara. I'm sure that the three of us can come up with something."
Toph didn't even need a moment. She slammed her foot into the ground, causing the remaining stone statues to crumble back into the ground.
"Well, let's go find her then." Toph ecstatic, after a week of doing nothing, they were now finally getting back on track. "I think she's back at camp making dinner."
With that the two of them set off, purpose now in their step and their morale rising. Team Avatar would soon be back in business.
The soup bubbled and popped in its pot over the fire. Whiffs of steam and tantalizing smells drifted through the air. The smell often drew some of the others to the camp, with questions of dinner, or complaints of hunger. Their inquires, however received only absentminded answers; if they received an answer at all.
Katara stirred the contents of the pot with slow gestures of her hand, as she stared off into the distance. She wasn't holding up well. She tried to hide it, she tried to put on a brave face for the rest of them but it was getting harder everyday not to crack.
In truth she was angry. Enraged.
Katara was angry at everything. She was angry at the Fire Nation, at the Fire Lord and his bastard offspring, at this stupid war, at her father, even at Aang and Toph. But mostly she was angry at herself.
It was her fault.
It was her fault that Sokka was missing.
She should have pressed harder. She should have pushed harder to have the invasion force retreat when things were starting to go wrong. Then they wouldn't be in this mess.
Katara was tying her best, but it was becoming more difficult with each day. She didn't have an appetite, and she wasn't sleeping. The others, well, Aang mostly, was starting to worry about her, but she was just too worried, too anxious.
Her bother was out there somewhere. No one knew whether he was alive, dead, wounded, or captured and each day Katara was only becoming more and more worried.
She wanted to be out there, out looking for him, and if Aang hadn't instead that they first rest and regroup, she would be back at the Fire Nation capital right now looking for her brother.
Aang's insistence and Katara's worry over her brother's fate, had been the spark that had created a massive and heated argument, well, heated on her end, between the two of them.
Katara had accused Aang of not caring about her brother and demanded that they head back immediately to search for him. Aang had been stung by that, but had calmly retorted that none of them were in any shape to head back into a fight that would no doubt be waiting for them.
That had caused Katara pause. She had looked around at their small group and saw that Aang was right. They looked beaten and tired. Every one of them looked like they had aged several decades. Even Toph; strong, stubborn and tough looked like she was about to collapse.
She had conceded the point. They would wait. They would recover, and when they were ready the would go back to the capitol, find Sokka, get Aang a master who could teach him how to fire bend, and then defeat the Fire Lord before Sozin's Comet arrived.
But even that to her felt amazingly optimistic, or dangerously naive.
Katara turned back to the pot. Dinner was ready. The Duke would be the first to get here. The small boy was little more than a walking stomach. The Haru and Teo would come often followed shortly by Toph. Aang would be the last. They would eat in silence and then go their separate ways until bed time.
The dismal state of her friends was not helping her state of mind.
That was Aang.
She looked over to see both Aang and Toph hurrying towards her. Her first thought was that the Fire Nation had found them and was preparing to attack. Leaping to her feet, she got into a stance prepared for anything to happen.
She looked at the two of them curiously.
"Aang... Toph... What's going on?"
Toph turned her head and spat. "Well, princess, Aang here figures that we've been sitting around for too long. We're all getting lazy and fat."
Aang rubbed the back of his neck, "Well not exactly. Look I've been thinking; we've been here a week now, and the panic over the invasion has probably passed in the Fire Nation by now, especially because the majority of the invasion force have been taken prisoner."
Katara sighed heavily, as she felt her worry increased ten fold. She had been so worried about Sokka that she had almost forgotten about her father Hakoda. Her father was a prisoner of the Fire Nation and her mind returned to dark thoughts and images that had plagued since the day of black sun.
"No need to remind me, Aang."
He had the decency to look guilty, but continued on never the less. "Look what I'm saying is that this could be the time to go back."
She looked at him curiously. What was he saying? It had been his idea to hide here and rest. So what had changed?
"We could go back to the capitol, and look for Sokka. It would probably still be dangerous, but I'm sure we would be okay if we just keep a low profile."
Katara felt the shroud of depression that settled on her shoulders and hope flooded her veins.
Unfortunately, Toph knew exactly what to say to bring right back down to reality. "The thing is, we don't know where to look. He could be wounded, captured, hiding. The capitol is a big place and with out knowing... well... anything, we would be in a lot of trouble."
And just like that, the depression came roaring back. Katara's shoulders slumped and a defeated looked passed over her face.
Aang saw it and was quick to try and reassure her. "That's why Toph and I came to talk to you. We need to come up with a plan, or at least with an idea of where to start."
Katara sat down, resting on the balls of her feet. She was no good at this. Sokka had always been the idea guy. The planer. He had always taken care of their schedule and had always made sure that the group was on course.
Then it hit her.
She had an idea.
"What about prisoners?" She asked. Aang and Toph looked up at her in confusion. "The Fire Nation took the invasion force prisoner. If we can find out where they were taken, they we can at least try to rescue a few and find out if Sokka was captured along with them."
Aang snapped his fingers. "That's a great idea. But where would the Fire Nation keep prisoners of the war?"
"I can answer that." A new voice, a familiar voice answered Aang's question.
Katara, Aang and Toph leapt to their feet, each one taking a stance, ready to fight, as he came out from behind a stone pillar that he had been hiding behind.
Katara's eyes narrowed, as Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation stepped into view.
"Zuko." She hissed.
So what do you think? I know that I'm throwing a couple of Western and Greek myths into a primarily Asian influenced cartoon, but I say what the heck. If they can give an Eskimo a boomerang as well as steam powered tanks and submarines I don't feel too bad.