Monthly Archives: February 2015

The maid and her two lovers

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A maid lived once, much beloved,

Of the ocean and the sun.

Long had the two in combat met

To win her tender favour.

Long had the maid despaired

Over her lovers’ strife.

One summer day, on the pebbled shore,

She stood and so she cried:

‘Oh Ocean, ever-tumbling, ever-lasting,

Much do I love thee!

Your waves embrace me in passion

Your currents lead me on a woman’s dance.

You ebb and flow, you follow

My lady Moon’s commands.

Your burning, salty breath heals

The sickness of my body.

How can I part from thee, beloved,

When all my inner self belongs

To thy passionate demands?’

The Ocean much swelled in pride

To gain such favour from the lovely maid.

But still the maiden cried and turned

Her flowing eyes to the sun.

‘Oh Sun, all-burning, all-revealing,

How can I not love thee?

Your gentle kiss and your caress

Warm my frost-covered skin.

Your smile is favour to my lady Earth’s

Bounty that feeds my kith and kin.

Thy love is distant, yet enduring,

Thy affection steadfast and true.

How can I part from thee, beloved,

Whose favour helps endure the winter months?’

The Sun hears and swelled with pride

At the maiden’s commendation.

But still the maiden despaired

At the fickleness of her own heart;

To have such worthy suitors

And yet unable to love one.

She wept and wept and wept.

Her tears painted her lover Ocean’s

Waters blue.

She wept and wept and wept.

Her tears were dried by her lover Sun’s

Rays as kisses soft.

All day and night the maid lamented

And in the coming dawn,

Her kith and kin came to the coast,

To find no maid; only a tree,

Prickly and gnarled with tears

Streaming from its leaves

And ever kissed by Ocean and Sun.

In which I climb on the proverbial soapbox

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Or…in which I vent my academic status-related frustrations.

Dear (fictional) Mr Nimrod,

I am sick and tired of you pointing out the impracticality of my area of study. Yes, I am aware of the lack of readily-available, entry-level jobs. Yes, I know that it will very likely take years of underpaid overtime to establish myself professionally. Yes, I understand that your concern is my comfort and financial independence. I am certain you are completely altruistic in your constant belittling of my study choices. My answer to you well-meant barbs? WAKE UP NIMROD! Not everyone is cut for the -undeniably cutthroat- world of marketing/economics/business/whatever-well-established-career-path-you-suggest. I do not consider Humanities superior to any other discipline, why do I need to constantly defend it’s use to society? I mean, say what you will about Renaissance and Enlightenment era gender politics, but at least they got one thing right: every discipline that can be studied is important and ought to be studied. Heck! We’d probably be in less of a mess right now if people were not pushed/guilt-tripped into professions they are not suited for.

Admittedly this is written from my undeniably privileged point of view and I understand that sometimes making ends meet is more important. I completely understand. What I don’t understand is this trend of looking down on Humanities and Liberal Arts in favor of the more numerically-inclined degrees. Some tension between schools will be inevitably, much like any conversation with my brothers will inevitably lead to a boys vs girls debate. But I shouldn’t have to defend my preference for further studying over finding a job as soon as I get my BA. I shouldn’t have to explain why the subject(s) I love are worth my time and effort. I don’t call Math students “detached from reality” for enjoying the flow of equations, why should I be called so? And yes, I have been called so, as well as been told that my area of specialization had no practical applications.Well, guess what? If nobody bothered with those musty, dusty, old manuscripts I nerd about our understanding of history, past societies and what led to the formation of the modern world would be sorely lacking. Science doesn’t hold the answers to everything, nor should it.

Leonardo da Vinci was considered such a great scholar because of his wide field. Granted, the man was a genious, but, even by genious standards, his range of interests was insane! He was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. And that’s just from a Wikipedia gloss, so there’s probably more. Why can’t societies be more like that? Why can’t it be accepted that everything has its merit and ought to be cherished and studied (and hopefully understood)? It’s just that, you see. I shouldn’t feel like I have to defend myself and my choices, and yet I do. Why? Why can’t we just agree to disagree? Why can’t people get off their high horses long enough to admit that just because they don’t understand or don’t have interest in something that doesn’t mean that no one ought to be interested in it.

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Avatar and the Firelord

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Author’s Note: In which there are flashbacks and Spirit World travels but not all that much action. Also, in which we get proof that enigmatic talking is a side-effect of old age and not just Iroh’s shtick. Huh! Go figure!

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Avatar and the Firelord***

– Aang’s dream-

Roku appeared in front of Aang through a wall of fire, his usual benevolent smile in place.

Aang, it’s time you and your friend Zuko learned my history with Fire Lord Sozin. You need to understand how the war began, if you want to know how to end it. Meet me on my home island on the day of the summer solstice.” With these words he disappeared.

-End of Aang’s dream-

Aang shifted on Appa’s saddle.

“Okay Roku,”, he mumbled before rolling over.

 

A flock of birds looked curiously as an abnormally large cloud moved fast towards an island. Inside the cloud the Avatar bended air and water together to keep up their camouflage. Seeing the island up ahead he called to the rest of the group.

“There it is. That’s Roku’s home.” Katara looked over the edge confused.

“But there’s nothing here,” she said. They landed and Toph was the first to jump off the saddle, curious about the place where the previous Avatar had lived. The vibrations sobered her mood.

“Yes, there is. An entire village. Hundreds of houses. All completely buried in ash,” she explained. Indeed the entire island was covered by a thick layer of solid magma.

 

The gang found a plateau and Aang hurried to take his meditating stance. Zuko followed him hesitantly.

“So, explain to me again why I have to do this?” he asked. Aang opened an eye and shrugged.

“Don’t know,” he said cheerfully. “But Roku said you have to be there so I guess it’s important.”

“But how I’m even going to cross into the Spirit World?” the prince exclaimed. “You are the only one who can cross in and out without a problem.” Aang slumped.

“Well…” he began uncertainly. “I guess if you concentrated reaaaaaaaally hard…” Zuko gave him a look.

“As stupid as it sounds, Aang is right, Zuko,” Lia interfered before the boys could start arguing. “Crossing over in Spirit form is basically very deep meditation. Iroh managed it. You can do it too.” With a deep breath and a final nod the two boys returned to their meditation. Aang’s tattoos and eyes began glowing but Zuko gave no sign that he had followed his airbending friend.

“Did Zuko cross over too?” Katara asked Lia. The redhead closed her eyes, concentrated and then flashed a brilliant smile.

“He did it!” she smiled, proud of her student.

 

Inside the Spirit World Zuko and Aang found themselves atop of a mountain, scanning the clouds around them. A growl was heard and Fang appeared, with Roku riding him. The old Avatar smiled down at the two youngsters as the dragon hovered in front of them.

“Come, boys,” Roku said kindly. Aang climbed behind him eagerly, Zuko following him a little apprehensively. Being in Sprit form felt strange to him. Like a very important part of him was missing. Plus a very old, very powerful person was in front of him (and he didn’t mean Aang). The airbender didn’t seem to share his inhibitions.

“Where are we going?” he asked curiously.

“To visit my past,” Roku explained with a smile. “Our shared past.” As Aang smiled back, Zuko dared a question.

“And why am I here?” he asked respectfully.

“Because some parts of this story are important to understanding your legacy too,” the old man said.
The scene shifted to a courtyard. With a pang of longing Zuko recognised it as a part of the Fire Nation Palace. Two young men were sparring, using some quite impressive firebending. Zuko frowned, as he looked closer at the two men. They seemed familiar. The taller man took a few steps back to avoid an attack and ended up tripping over a root. His friend stood over him smiling.

“Looks like I win again, Roku,” he said, extending a hand to the fallen man. The young Roku chuckled.

“Are you kidding?” he asked as he took his friend’s hand. “The tree root did all the work.” He patted his friend on the back. “Nice work Sozin.” Aang turned surprised to Roku.

“You were friends with Fire Lord Sozin?”

“Back then, he was just prince Sozin, and he was my best friend.” The two boys shared an astonished look.
As Sozin and Roku left the courtyard, a young woman passed by the door. Roku instantly blushed and stared at her with a dreamy expression. Sozin shook his head exasperated and nudged his friend.

“Say something to her,” he urged. Roku made a move towards the woman but didn’t manage to utter a word. Embarrassed beyond belief he slumped to the ground. Sozin sat next to him and the two of them started to talk as the memory faded.

“Love is hard when you’re young,” the older Roku remarked.

“You don’t have to tell me,” Aang sighed.

“Don’t worry,” his past life assured him. “It gets better. Now come with me. We have a party to attend.

 

The scene shifted to a large celebration. Lanterns were lit everywhere and people were laughing and having a good time. Two figures stood out at the top of a staircase.

“Wait,” Aang said confused. “Whose party is that?”

“Sozin and I shared many things, including a birthday,” Roku explained. They watched as the two friends walked down the stairs. Roku noticed the young woman from earlier just as she looked away blushing. Blushing himself, he tripped on the stairs and Sozin had to grab him to avoid an embarrassment. Suddenly the crowd went quiet as a group of Fire Sages appeared. Sozin walked down the last steps, concern evident in his expression.

“Did something happen to my father‌?” he asked. The Head Sage moved forward.

“No, prince Sozin. We are not here for you. We are here to announce the identity of the next avatar.” Whispers ran through the crowd in new-found excitement. The Sages bowed. “It is our honour to serve you, Avatar Roku.” The young man could only watch in shock as everyone, including his long-time friend, bowed before him.
The three Spirits returned to Fang and started flying through Roku’s memories again. Soon another familiar place appeared.

“Hey, we’re almost at the Southern Air Temple!” Aang said excitedly to Zuko.

“This was the first stop on my avatar journey,” Roku explained. They watched as a group of young airbenders were instructed. At the end of the line, young Roku was airbending his long hair at the face of a young monk.

“It was the place where I was trained to master airbending and also where I met an old friend of yours, Monk Gyatso,” the older Roku explained.

“No way!” Aang exclaimed incredulously.

 

As Fang flew gracefully around the mountains, they watched the young monks do an airbending exercise on their gliders. Zuko watched amazed, having only seen Aang in action when it came to airbending. Roku brought Fang closer to the mountainside, while his younger self called out to his friend.

“Hey, Gyatso, you want to see a new glider trick?!” he did a double loop and looked at the young monk expectantly. Gyatso just laughed.

“Check THIS out!” He called before flipping his glider and standing on top of it.

“He’s air-gliding!” Aang exclaimed a little jealously. “I can’t believe I never thought of that.

“A good thing you didn’t,” Zuko remarked. Gyatso had lost his balance and although Roku caught him before he fell to his death, the added weight threw them off balance and sent them crashing in front of the rest of the students.
“That’s amazing,” Aang said smiling. “I can’t believe you were friends with Monk Gyatso just like I was!”

“Some friendships are so strong, they can even transcend lifetimes,” his previous life said fondly.

 

The background surrounding them faded to reconstruct itself to the glaciers of the North Pole. Roku was standing on a small iceberg looking older.

“After my years mastering airbending, I travelled to the Northern Water Tribe,” the spirit-Roku explained. “Waterbending was especially challenging for me.” He remarked as his younger self was knocked in the water, unable to block his master’s attack. Zuko winced sympathetically, having been at the receiving end of one too many waterwhips. “In time though, I mastered it as well.”
The scene faded again and an Earth Kingdom mountain replaced it. Roku was a grown man now, as he practised earthbending.

“I moved on to the Earth Kingdom. My Earthbending master, Sud, was uncompromising, stubborn, and blunt…” the two earthbenders raced each other uphill. “…and a lifelong friend.” Sud stopped satisfied at the top of the mountain, confident he had finished first, to turn and see Roku already there, sipping his tea. Zuko stifled a laugh at the scene that reminded him so much of his uncle.
The next scene Zuko recognised as the Fire Nation Palace throne room. Roku entered cheerfully, his travels having made him a fully-realised Avatar. His friend also had moved on.

“Sozin!” Roku greeted with a smile. “Or should I say, Fire Lord?”

“Customarily, my subjects bow before greeting me,” Sozin began sombrely, before breaking to a smile, “but you’re the exception.”

“After all these years he was still my friend,” Roku said to the two boys. A wedding ceremony appeared before them. “And a few months later, he was my best man.” A beautiful young woman was standing next to the young Roku.

“Roku, it’s that girl who didn’t even know you were alive!” Aang said surprised.

“Ta Min,” Roku said with a fond smile. “I was persistent. When love is real, it finds a way, and being the Avatar doesn’t hurt your chances with the ladies, either,” he winked to his next incarnation.

The three of them watched the reception and then the banquet. Zuko was trying to memorize as many details as possible, his mind already on Katara. The younger Roku and Ta Min were thanking their guests when Sozin approached them.

“Excuse me. May I borrow him for a moment‌?” he asked Ta Min. She raised an eyebrow.

“It’s not very traditional, but ok.”
The two men went to the balcony, in search for some peace and quiet.

“What’s on your mind?” Roku asked his friend worried.

“I’ve been thinking hard about the state of the world lately,” Sozin said seriously. Roku shook his head incredulously.

“Sozin, it’s my wedding. Have a cookie. Dance with someone. Lighten up,” he tried to lighten the Fire Lord’s mood.

“I know, I know, but just hear me out. Right from the start, I was destined to be Fire Lord. And although we didn’t always know it, you were destined to be the Avatar. It’s an amazing stroke of fate we know each other so well, isn’t it?‌ Together, we could do…anything!” Sozin said.

“Yeah…” Roku looked at him hesitantly. “We could.”

“Our nation is enjoying an unprecedented time of peace and wealth. Our people are happy, and we’re so fortunate in so many ways,” Sozin continued in an almost delirious way.

“Where are you going with this‌?” Roku asked suspicious.

“I’ve been thinking,” Sozin explained, “We should share this prosperity with the rest of the world. In our hands is the most successful empire in history. It’s time we expanded it.”  Roku took a step back, horrified at the idea.

“No. The four nations are meant to be just that: four.”

“Roku, you haven’t even stopped to consider the possibilities.”

“There are no possibilities. This is the last I want to hear about this,” Roku stalked away angrily.

 

The spirit Roku looked at the youngsters sadly.

“That was my first real test as the Avatar. Unfortunately, it was many years before I learned that Sozin had gone ahead with his plan, despite my warning.”
They were transported back the Fire Nation throne room. A middle aged Roku burst through the doors enraged.

“I’ve seen the colony, Sozin. How dare you occupy Earth Kingdom territory?” The Fire Lord regarded him coldly.

“How dare you, a citizen of the Fire Nation, address your Fire Lord this way? Your loyalty is to our nation first. Anything less makes you a traitor.” Roku’s eyes narrowed.

“Don’t do this, Sozin,” he warned. “Don’t challenge me. It will only end badly. It’s over.” With a disappointed look he turned to leave.

 

As the Avatar turned to leave saddened, Sozin leaped from the throne furious and sent an enormous blast of fire to his old friend. The room was filled with smoke and when the air cleared Roku was nowhere to be found. Sozin looked around, alarmed. Roku suddenly appeared behind him through the floor. He blasted the Fire Lord away with air and before he had time to stand in his feet again, Roku had earthbended him inside an earth pillar in the middle of the nearly-demolished throne room. Roku airbended himself in front of his old friend.

“I’m sparing you, Sozin. I’m letting you go in the name of our past friendship, but I warn you, even a single step out of line will result in your permanent end.” Without another word, the Avatar left.

 

Fang drifted away from the scene, his passengers’ spirits low. Their next destination was a small volcanic island that seemed eerily familiar.

“Sozin and I didn’t speak or see each other for 25 years after our battle. I spent most of my spare time here at my home,” Roku continued his story. Suddenly the volcano in the middle of the island began erupting. A much older Roku rushed out of his house with his wife.

 

Below them the townspeople were running away, panicking. Roku took the lead, bringing them to safety, when lava started spurting out of the volcano. The Avatar paused for a moment and then motioned to Ta Min to go on without him. Assured that everyone would safely be soon on the boats Roku turned to face the destruction. A landslide was approaching the city. Roku bended the earth to change its course. He created a channel, sending the lava to meet the sea.

“This is amazing, Roku. You’re battling a volcano, and you’re winning!” Aang exclaimed amazed. His older counterpart shook his head grimly.

“Unfortunately, my success didn’t last, Aang. There was no way I could do it all. Battling the elements was hard enough. I had to do it while I could barely breathe. The poisonous, volcanic gasses were overwhelming.”
The real Fang appeared and tried to approach his master. Roku waved him away.

“It’s all right, Fang. Get out of here, I’m fine,” he choked.  As soon as the dragon obeyed, Roku’s eyes flashed and he entered the Avatar State. He managed to pacify the volcano, but a second crater erupted a little further away. Zuko nudged Aang suddenly.

“Look!” he said pointing in the distance.

“Need a hand, old friend‌?” Sozin’s voice called. He was approaching on a blue dragon.

“Sozin?” Roku called surprised. The Fire Lord landed next to him.

“There’s not a moment to waste,” he said grimly.
The two men continued their efforts to put out the volcanoes. A rumble passed through the ground and Sozin lost his footing. Roku bended a shelf of earth underneath his feet, saving his life. Before either of them could say anything another wave of ash appeared. They turned to run.

“Don’t breathe the toxic gas,” Roku called, bending the air around his old friend clean. Another wave of gas erupted in front of him and caught him by surprise. The old Avatar fell to his knees. He turned towards Sozin and held out a hand, weakly asking for help. Sozin’s face was set in stone.

“Without you, all my plans are suddenly possible.” His dragon landed in front of him and he mounted. “I have a vision for the future, Roku.” With these parting words he left.  Aang and Zuko watched in horror and disbelief as lava came down and engulfed Roku and Fang.
A blinding light appeared and the next thing they knew they were flying over a field in the Spirit World.

“Where are we?” Zuko asked confused.

“The Spirit World,” Roku explained, “where I met a good friend of yours.” A familiar redhead was talking with the Roku of the memory.

“That’s Lia!” Aang exclaimed surprised. Roku nodded.

“With her help I was able to watch over my loved ones, even after I crossed over. I had the chance to see my granddaughter to grow up to a beautiful young woman and marry the second grandson of my once best friend.” The two teenagers looked at him and then at its other astonished.

I’m Avatar Roku’s great-grandson! Zuko thought in disbelief. Below them they could see Lia, appearing a little younger and a lot more care-free, sneaking out to watch over the Fire Nation palace.

“She watched over you Zuko without me asking her to,” Roku explained softly. “But I’m glad that she did. I didn’t want Sozin’s influence over my great-grandchildren.”

“She was banished from the Spirit World because of me,” Zuko said guiltily. He couldn’t help but think it was his fault. They were back at the field where they had first arrived. The ancient Avatar put a hand on the firebender’s shoulder.

“Do not feel guilty. You have helped her as much as she has helped you.” He turned to Aang. “Make sense of our past Aang and you will bring peace and restore balance in the world.” With these words he disappeared, leaving the boys alone. With a start, they woke up in their bodies.
The two boys only gave a brief recount of what they have seen, still dazed from the revelations. After they finished, silence reigned for a few minutes.

“You mean, after all Roku and Sozin went through together…even after Roku showed him mercy, Sozin betrayed him like that‌?” Katara finally asked her voice full of disbelief. Toph seemed to share her sentiments.

“It’s like these people are born bad.” Zuko hung his head at that, ashamed that one of his ancestors was the reason Avatar Roku had died. Aang shook his head.

“No, that’s wrong. I don’t think that was the point of what Roku showed me at all.”

“Then what’s the point?” Sokka asked confused.
“Sozin was just as much Fire Nation as Roku and Zuko, right‌? If anything, this story proves anyone’s capable of great good and great evil. Everyone, even the Fire Lord
and the Fire Nation have to be treated like they’re worth giving a chance. And I also think it was about friendships.”

“Do you really think friendships can last more than one lifetime‌?” Toph asked softly. Aang took her hand and blushed a little.

“I don’t see why not.”

 

Katara took hold of Toph’s other hand, with Zuko and Lia following them.

“Well, scientifically speaking, there’s no way to prove that…” Sokka began. Lia rolled her eyes.

“Oh just shut up and hold hands Sokka!” she said. The boy didn’t turn but his hand shot to grab hers. With a laugh they all looked at each other. Some friendships may not last, but theirs would surely would.

The Mother

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The mother Morgana

Gazes at her child;

She smiles through her tears

And cries through her smile.

The mother Morgana

Can read the threads

Of the fate of her brother,

Her lover, her son.

 

Her precious promised child

Dying at the hands of Fate

To bring about the end

Of the Golden Age of Men.

And women will weep,

At the alabaster towers of Camelot,

For their proud Corn King,

For Arthur Pendragon.

 

But who will weep

For the Dark Prince?

Who will weep for Mordred?

When the Fey, dry-eyed,

Welcomes her brother to Avalon.

 

And so the mother Morgana

Gazes at her child,

Sings him to sleep,

And cries.

In which there are pancakes

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Happy Pancake Day!

Boy, do I love this holiday! Is it a holiday? Don’t know. It should be. (In case you didn’t notice, I’m functioning with a slight sugar rush right now. Apologies for any typos.) So, yeah… I actually didn’t know that there was such a day until I came to England. I mean I know it originally started as a “Let’s clear out the kitchen before Lent” thing but I am of the firm (and probably heretic) opinion that sometimes celebrating the name is more important than celebrating the reason behind the holiday. You should have seen what I did in honour of Never-you-mind-my-relationship-status Day last Saturday. And how will this crazy kid celebrate Pancake Day you ask? Well, for one I’ll be eating lots of pancakes. For another I will be doing the first round of spring cleaning in my house. Random, I know, but I have this soufflé recipe I wanna try, and I don’t know about you, but I cannot cook in a dirty kitchen. And if I’m gonna clean the kitchen, might as well do the entire house (minus flatmates’ bedrooms, that’s their problem). Unfortunately, before I do any of this I need to get some homework out of the way, so I will cut this short and go back to my complaining about the insane amount of alliteration in Morte Arthur (only 1000 lines to go!)

I hope you all have wonderful days and don’t get a stomach ache from too many pancakes!

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Beach

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Author’s note: In which there are major revelations, (not so) subtle shipping, and a new minor villain. Also, in which the author would like to point out that this was originally written before Legend of Korra and she sooooo came up with the idea of Spirits possessing mortals first! So there! -ahem- Thank you, rant over.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Beach***

Flying around aimlessly can only be fun for so long. With Sokka’s schedule lost somewhere along the way, it was even less fun. Zuko went as far as threatening to send the other boy off Appa if he didn’t shut up, a sentiment shared by the others silently. At last Aang couldn’t take the constant grumbling anymore and landed on a random island.

“There is no way we will continue flying if you are going to be like this!” he declared, giving a stern look at the rest of the gaang.

 

There was surprisingly little complaining on this decision. Appa had landed next to a lake, surrounded by tall rocks. In no time everyone was either swimming or playing near the water. Sokka was once again trying to prove his fishing abilities, while Aang floated around with Momo resting on his stomach. Zuko and Katara had swum a little away to get a break from Sokka’s constant disapproving glances. Lia had only dived in for the fun and now was resting on a flat rock, while Toph had absolutely refused to put anything but her toes inside the water.

“Aang, I know swimming is fun and all,” she called to her earthbending student, “but do you really think you should be exposing yourself like that‌? Cover up!” Aang looked at her confused.

“What‌ I’m wearing trunks?” he called back.

“I know…” Toph said with a slight blush. “It’s your tattoos I’m worried about.” She raised her hands in frustration. “What if someone sees you?”

“There are walls all around us Toph,” Lia said lazily. “Relax, it’s completely safe.”

 

Or rather, it was safe until Aang decided that just being in the lake was boring. Noticing a tunnel with a waterfall he jumped in, along with Momo, for a flash of adventure. What he didn’t see when he landed was two horrified Fire Nation soldiers. But they saw him, and a messenger hawk was on its way to the palace in no time…

 

Back on the lake a giggling Katara let Zuko chase her around in the water. They ended up on a small cave where they sat to catch their breath (and kiss undisturbed). When they broke away Zuko noticed a small seashell near them. On the one side it was shiny and as the light fell on it, various colours appeared. He picked it up and handed it to the waterbender.

“Here…” he said nervously. “This is for you.” Katara gave him a sweet smile.

“Oh, Zuko, it’s beautiful!” she sighed and kissed him again.

“It reminds me of you,” her boyfriend said shyly.

 

They returned to the rest of the group in time to see Aang climbing back to the lake. Zuko scowled, his previous good mood forgotten. He swam angrily to where the boy sat next to the fire Sokka had made.

“What were you thinking Aang?” he asked angrily. The airbender looked at him surprised. “We don’t know if there is anyone living here. Someone might see you! And then what?” he pinched the bridge of his nose trying to calm himself. “My father would know about you being alive before dinnertime rolled around.” Aang had the decency to look a little ashamed.

“What’s done is done now,” Katara said calmly, pulling the Fire prince to sit next to her, giving a disappointed look to Aang anyway.

“Come on everyone!” Sokka called excitedly. “Come and see the miracle I made out of my catch!” Surprisingly there was enough fish for everyone on the fire.

 

They all gathered around to eat with the exception of Lia. She didn’t seem to have heard him or any of them as a matter of fact. She just continued lying on the stone, glaring at the sun that was right over her head. Sokka took a look at her and smirked.

“You know,” he called, “if you keep glaring at the sun like that he’s gonna come down here to ask what is your problem.” Lia froze.

“The sun coming down here…” she repeated spellbound. Jumping to her feet she rushed to her stuff and drew out her parchments. Reading them hastily, her eyes widened. “Of course!” she exclaimed. “It all makes sense now!”

“Uh… What makes sense exactly?” Toph asked confused.

“Everything!” Lia sat next to her, realisation and anger switching places on her expression. “The war!” The rest of the gang looked at her lost. She sighed in frustration. “Hadn’t it ever occurred to you how awfully convenient everything about this war has been? I mean it’s like Sozin woke up a sunny day and decided to take over the world. And once everything’s ready, a comet arrives, making his firebenders even deadlier. The airbenders are all but wiped out and then Azulon takes over the throne. Like his father was renowned as a strategist he is known for his power at firebending. He has two sons. Iroh seems the perfect candidate to carry on the traditions until the siege of Ba Sing Se.”

“What happened there?” Sokka asked curious.

“My cousin, Lu Ten, died,” Zuko explained in a sad voice. “It broke uncle Iroh. After that he was almost openly opposed to the war.”

“But at the same time,” Lia continued, “your father grew more ambitious, right?” At Zuko’s surprised look she explained. “I had a talk with your mother when I found her. She told me that Ozai’s change in character coincided with the failure of the siege. And Azula followed right to her father’s footsteps.” The gang looked at her thoughtfully. “Now think of that. The last four generations of the Royal family are renowned for their strategic abilities and powerful firebending, two traits associated with one spirit.” She glared at the sun again. “Agni.”

“But aren’t you Agni?” Katara asked confused. Lia shook her head.

“A common misconception. The nature of fire is so dual; it needed two Spirits to be expressed. I am the benevolent side of the fire.” She gestured at the cooking fire in front of her. “Agni is the destructive force used at this war.”

 

Another thought crossed her mind and her expression darkened even more.

“There’s more to that, isn’t there?” Zuko asked in a grave voice. To everyone’s surprise, Lia looked away guiltily.

“Spit it out,” Toph commanded bluntly.

“If you want of course,” Aang added on a milder but still curious tone.

“Well…” Lia began uncertainly. “It’s not something I had ever talked about. Spirit World stuff.”

“If you can’t talk about it, we’ll understand,” Katara assured her comfortingly. Lia shook her head.

“No, you have a right to know.” She took a breath. “The genocide of the Air Nomads was too much of a disturbance to the balance to remain unpunished. So the High Council of the Spirits decided that as a punishment, no mortal shall receive aid from the Spirit World until the balance is restored. The Avatar is a special case.” She cut Aang off before he asked.

“But you helped me a lot of times,” Zuko said suspiciously. Lia avoided his eyes. “Did you get in trouble for that?”

“I wouldn’t call it trouble…” Lia started.

“But they did punish you,” Zuko frowned. “How?”

“Ten years exile,” the Spirit answered hastily.

“What?” the gang looked at her shocked. She shrugged.

“It’s nothing really. If I were a lesser Spirit they might have completely kicked me out.” It didn’t lighten anyone’s expression. Zuko especially looked ready to start beating himself up. “Don’t start blaming yourself Zuko,” Lia said sternly. “I was aware of the consequences when I made my choice. However, now that I know that Agni was behind all this, he is in so much trouble…” She sent another glare to the sun.

“Question!” Toph’s hand shot in the air. “How did you figure all this out?”

“I had my suspicions for quite some time now. And then there’s insanity.”

“And like that you lost me,” Sokka said, struggling to keep up.

“If a strong person is possessed by a Spirit, he tries to break free from the control. The result of an extended mental battle is insanity. All the Firelords so far, since Sozin, showed signs of insanity. Ozai especially.”

“That I’ll agree to,” Zuko scoffed. Another thing occurred to him. “Will I be affected too?” he asked, somewhat worried. The gaang turned their eyes collectively to the Spirit.

“No,” she said simply. “Not even Agni is reckless enough to try and take control of someone under my protection.”

“Is there a way to break his influence?” Aang asked. Lia looked thoughtful.

“Ozai is too far gone to be saved,” she said slowly. “But there might be a chance with Azula. She’s still young and much stronger than her father.”

 

Lia’s revelations put a damper on the mood of the gang for the rest of the day. After a quiet diner with the leftovers from Sokka’s catch they all went to bed. Toph in particular was having a rather nice dream of being able to show her parents exactly how good she was at earthbending when a wave of vibrations woke her up. She stood up noisily, waking everyone else in the process.

“Guys, you’re all gonna think I’m crazy, but it feels like a metal man is coming,” she said unsurely.

Suddenly a bright light fell on a still-sleepy Aang. Everyone’s eyes followed the beam to see a man whose arms and legs were covered in metal on a cliff overlooking their camp. His eyes were trained on Aang as he took a deep breath. A beam of energy was released from the eye tattoo on his forehead and blasted a rock over the camp. The kids were blown back from the impact. Toph was the first on her feet, and she bended a huge rock towards the man. He blasted them away, in time to dodge an attack from Katara, which resulted on him being hidden to a cloud of mist.

 

Without waiting for the mist to clear, he sent another blast. The kids barely had time to hide behind a rock.

“This is crazy! How can we beat a guy who blows things up with his mind‌?” Sokka exclaimed. Lia and Zuko shared a look.

“Jump on Appa,” the Spirit ordered. “We’ll distract him.” Before anyone had the chance to say anything the two firebenders charged. Lia ran straight towards the rock on which the man was standing, with Zuko blocking the beams that came after them. She sent a massive fireball to the rock, melting it and causing the man to lose his balance for a second.

 

That was all they needed to run towards a small field nearby that seemed planted with rocks. Blasts came after them soon and it wasn’t long before they actually heard the assassin closing in on them.

“Now what?” Zuko asked Lia. She was looking franticly around for an inspiration and suddenly flashed a grin.

“See that?” she pointed a few tall rock formations in front of them. Zuko nodded. “As soon as we pass them, blast the one nearer to you.” One more nod. They did so, causing the passage to be blocked completely. Seizing the opportunity, Aang landed Appa and they hurried up. Katara immediately tackled Zuko for a hug, checking for injuries.

“I’m okay,” He assured her softly, still a little winded from all the running.

“Well, that was random,” Toph raised an eyebrow. Katara looked doubtful.

“I don’t think so. I get the feeling he knows who we are.”

Can vei la lauzeta mover & Tristrant muose sunder dane

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Συνεχίζοντας το… Αγιοβαλεντινιάτικο θέμα της εβδομάδας, επιχείρησα να μεταφράσω δύο ποιήματα από το σημερινό σεμινάριο. Η αγγλική μετάφραση στην  οποία βασίστικα βρήσκεται εδω.

Can vei la lauzeta mover

1. Όταν βλέπω τον κορυδαλλό να πετάει

Γεμάτος χαρά προς το φως,

Και να ξεχνιέται και να πέφτει

Από την γλυκύτητα που γεμίζει την καρδιά του,

Α! Πόσο ζηλεύω

Όταν βλέπω τους μακάριους!

Δεν ξέρω γιατί η καρδιά μου

Από τον πόθο δεν λιώνει.

 

2. Αλί! Πόσα νόμιζα πως ήξερα

Για την αγάπη, και πόσο λίγα ξέρω!

Γιατί δεν μπορώ να μην αγαπήσω

Αυτή που δεν θ’ανταποκρίνει τα αισθήματα μου.

Έκλεψε την καρδιά μου και όλο μου το είναι

Και όλα όσα είναι και όλο τον κόσμο –

Κι αφότου με λήστεψε, δεν μου άφησε τίποτα

Εκτός από πόθο και μια καρδιά που λαχταρά.

 

3. Ναι, δεν μου ανήκει ο εαυτός μου,

Και δεν μου άνηκε από την στιγμή

Που στα μάτια της με άφησε να κοιτάξω,

Σ’ένα καθρέφτη που μ’αρέσει.

Καθρέφτη, από τότε που είδα τον εαυτό μου σε σένα,

Οι αναστεναγμοί με σκοτώνουν,

Κι έχασα τον εαυτό μου όπως

Ο όμορφος Νάρκισσος χάθηκε στην πηγή.

 

4. Οι γυναίκες μου προκάλεσαν μεγάλη δυστυχία.

Καμιά τους ποτέ δεν θα εμπιστευθώ.

Κι ακόμα κι αν κάποτε γι’αυτές πολεμούσα,

Από αυτή την στιγμή αποστατώ,

Μιας και καμιά τους δεν θα με βοηθήσει

Ενάντια σ’αυτή που με καταστρέφει.

Απελπισία και δυσπιστία για όλες τους,

Γιατί το ξέρω, είναι όλες τους ίδιες!

 

5. Κι έτσι η καλή μου φαίρεται σαν “γυναίκα”

(Δικό της το λάθος!)

Γιατί δεν επιθυμεί ό,τι ένας άντρας επιθυμεί

Κι οτιδήποτε αυτός της απαγορεύει, αυτή το κάνει.

Έχω πέσει από την επιείκεια.

Φέρθηκα σαν μωρός,

Και δεν ξέρω το γιατί:

Ήταν τα όνειρα μου πολύ μεγάλα;

 

6. Όλη η χάρη έχει χαθεί –αλήθεια-

(Κι ούτε καν την ένοιωσα!)

Μιας και αυτή που θα έπρεπε να την έχει

Δεν έχει καθόλου, που θα την βρω λοιπόν;

Α! Πόσο φριχτό (αν την βλέπατε)

Που αυτή που της ανήκει αυτός ο σκλάβος της αγάπης

Που τίποτα κάλο δεν θα έχει χωρίς αυτήν

Με αφήνει να πεθάνω, δεν με βοηθάει καθόλου.

 

7. Αφού προσευχές, ευχαριστίες, και τα δικαιώματα μου

Δεν μπορούν να μου χαρίσουν την Κυρά μου,

Κι αφού δεν νοιάζεται καθόλου

Που την αγαπάω, ποτέ δεν θα της το πω.

Όχι,  θα την εγκαταλείψω, θα την παραδώσω.

Με δολοφόνησε. Σαν τους νεκρούς μιλάω.

Φεύγω μακριά αφού αυτή δεν με κρατάει

Αποθαρρυμένα, σε εξορία, δεν ξέρω που.

 

8. Τριστάνε, τίποτα άλλο δικό μου δεν θα πάρεις.

Φεύγω μακριά, αποθαρρυμένος, δεν ξέρω που.

Άλλο τραγούδι δεν θα ξαναγράψω.

Κρύβω τον εαυτό μου από αγάπη και χαρά.

 

Tristrant muose sunder dane

Ο Τριστάνος στεκόταν, χωρίς χαρά,

Ανάμεσα στης Ισόλδης τους πιστούς,

Γιατί η υποταγή στο μαγικό το φίλτρο

Είναι δυνατότερη ακόμα κι απ’την αγάπη.

Γι’αυτό αγαπημένη μου πρέπει να με’φχαρισείς

Γιατί το φίλτρο ποτέ δεν ήπια,

Κι όμως η αγάπη μου είναι δυνατή,

Καλύτερη απ’την δική του, αν είναι δυνατόν.

Όμορφη κόρη,

Χωρίς ψευτιά,

Θ’ανήκω σε σένα

Αν μ’αγαπάς αληθινά.

11 reasons it pays to be single on Valentine’s Day

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In honour of the upcoming Never-you-mind-my-relationship-status Day, here are my personal top eleven reasons on why Valentine’s Day is better for the singles.

  1. You get to have the house all to yourself. While your flatmates are out with their significant others you get to have a three hour long bubble bath with no one trying to break the door.
  2. You save money: no one to expect extravagant gifts means your budget might just get you through the month.
  3. No pre-date nerves of the “Ohmygoshwhattowearvariety”.
  4. Ladies: if you want to be lazy and NOT shave your legs, no one will know.
  5. No struggle to fit yet-another plushy to your already alarmingly large collection.
  6. If you want to have a junk food night in, washed down with a tub of Ben and Jerries, there’s bound to be someone on your friends list to join you.
  7. No embarrassingly sappy posts on Facebook/Twitter that you know you will regret in a few weeks’ time.
  8. You don’t have to sit through a movie you hate and pretend to like it for your date’s sake.
  9. Better yet! You don’t have to share your popcorn!
  10. You don’t lose sight of what’s important: specifically the upcoming Pancake Day.
  11. Massive chocolate clearance on every supermarket on the 15ht.

P.S. Kudos to the Nostalgia Critic for the Top 11 gimmick.

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – Sokka’s Master

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Author’s note:  In which the author struggling not to make an InuYasha reference, there are arts & crafts and shopping and Sokka gets a cool new toy.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***Sokka’s Master***

A rain of meteorites is something rare and therefore something unique. To have the chance to watch one during night time, especially with as busy a schedule as the gaang had, is definitely an occasion.

“This is amazing to watch,” Katara whispered her eyes glued to the night sky. Everyone was lying on their backs, staring upwards.

“Wow,” Katara said under her breath, snuggling closer to Zuko.

“Kind of makes you realize how insignificant we are,” Sokka added. He had taken to ignoring the fact that his baby sister had a boyfriend and that boyfriend was Zuko. Of course that happened after Katara tactfully told him that she would waterbend him to the South Pole and back if he tried to meddle.

 

Toph shrugged unimpressed.

“Eh, you’ve seen nothing once; you’ve seen it 1,000 times,” she said carelessly. A light flashed at the sky and a meteorite sprinted through the atmosphere. Everyone except Toph sat up.

“Oh, man,” Sokka whistled. “You’ve never not seen anything like this.” They watched as the meteorite grew bigger, until it crashed in the distance. The sound of the explosion sent everyone to their feet. They rushed on Appa and flew near the crater.

“Look!” Lia suddenly exclaimed. There was a small city nearby.

“The fire is gonna destroy that town!” Katara said worried.

“Not if we can stop it,” Aang decided.

 

They landed as close to the fire as they dared and everyone but Katara jumped off.

“There’s a creek over here. I’ll bend the water on to the fire,” she explained and took off. Aang turned to his earthbending teacher.

“Toph, let’s make a trench to keep the fire from coming any closer.” She nodded and they followed Zuko and Lia who were already putting out the fire with their bending.

“What should I do‌?” Sokka called after them disappointed. Aang turned unsure. Then with a sudden inspiration.

“Keep an eye on Momo!” Momo landed on his head.

“So what, I’m just a lemur-sitter‌?” Sokka whined. Mom chirped unhappily and Sokka petted him. “There, there. Feel better‌?”

 

Aang and Toph wasted no time in making a trench between the meteorite and the fire. Zuko and Lia remained inside the trench, staying as close as they dared to the flames, subduing them with firebending. Katara flew to the creek and half-emptied it with her waterbending. Controlling the orb over her head she sprayed the fire under Sokka’s wistful look. A few embers flew to his direction and he frantically put one out. He turned for the next one, to see that Momo had put all the other out. Sokka slumped to the ground again. Toph bended the earth to cover a line of fire, while Aang waterbended Katara’s supply near him.

“Sokka, stand clear.” He called over his shoulder, concentrating on his bending. Sokka stood up and walked away slowly.

“Right, stand clear. Got it.” Before he could move fast enough, Aang turned the water into snow and sprayed it on the fire, extinguishing it. Sokka got buried under the snow. Without noticing it Aang dusted his hands off.

“Good work, everybody!” he praised his friends.

 

The next morning they decided to visit the small town. Fearing that someone might see Appa they left him at their camp with Momo and walked the whole way. They arrived by midday and, after Toph’s demand, went straight to a small restaurant. They ordered their food; Katara was very thankful that Zuko explained them what some of the weirder foods were. Aang looked around.

“These people have no idea how close they were to getting toasted last night,” he said thoughtfully. Toph nodded from his side.

“Yeah, the worst thing about being in disguise is we don’t get the hero worship anymore. I miss the love.” Lia rolled her eyes.

“Boo-hoo, poor heroes,” Sokka called from the side of the veranda, where he was sitting with his feet dangling and his back turned to his friends.

“What’s your problem‌? You haven’t even touched your smoked sea slug,” Katara said worried.

“It’s just…all you guys can do this awesome bending stuff like putting out forest fires, and flying around, and making other stuff fly around. I can’t fly around, ok? ‌ I can’t do anything,” Sokka explained depressingly.

“That’s not true. No one can read a map like you,” Katara exclaimed.

“I can’t read at all,” Toph offered.

“Yeah, and who keeps us laughing with sarcastic comments all the time? ‌ I mean, look at Katara’s hair, right‌?” Aang grabbed one of Katara’s braids. “What’s up with that‌?” he asked. Katara took her hair back nervously.

“What‌? What’s wrong with my hair‌?” she asked. Zuko rolled his eyes and wrapped an arm on her waist.

“Nothing. Aang is simply useless at making jokes,” he said.

“Says Gloomy-Face!” Toph said sarcastically. The prince glared at her. Sokka sighed.

“Look, I appreciate the effort, but the fact is each of you is so amazing and so special, and I’m not. I’m just the guy in the group who’s regular.” Katara walked up and sat next to him.

“I’m sorry you’re feeling so down, but I hope you know none of us see you that way.” With a sudden inspiration she smiled at him. “I know something that’s gonna make you feel better.”

“You do‌?” Sokka asked uninterested.

 

His sister nodded and as soon as they finished their meal, she dragged everyone to a nearby building. Sokka’s eyes doubled in size when he spied the variety of weapons inside.

“Shopping!” he cried, clapping his hands in glee. He ran forward, jumping from weapon to weapon while the others scattered around the room.

“Maybe a little something to reinvigorate my battling,” Sokka muttered to himself, trying item after item. Toph and Lia wandered together mostly bored. Zuko went straight to the swords. Katara was trying on some gloves when Aang called her. She turned to face him and widened her eyes.

“What do you think‌?” the airbender asked. He was wearing a huge armour shinning from the light coming from the door. “Pretty slick, huh‌? All I need to complete the outfit is a wind sword.” Katara’s eyes widened.

“What’s a wind sword?” she asked confused. She had thought that the Air Nomads were peaceful.

“It’s where I get a sword handle. And then I just swing this around and bend air out like a blade,” Aang explained excited.

“Yeah…nice,” the waterbender agreed hesitantly. Aang gave her a dazzling smile when the armour – too heavy for him – started teetering. Katara made a move to catch him but he crashed to the floor.

“I’ll just stick to what I got,” he said weakly.

 

Sokka had moved from disappointment to disappointment through the different weapons on the shop. He noticed Zuko still examining the swords and walked up there. His eyes widened.

“That’s what Sokka’s talking about,” he said satisfied.

“You have a good eye,” the shop keeper commented as everyone gathered near them. “That’s an original from Piandao, the greatest sword master and sword maker in Fire Nation history. He lives in the big castle up the road from here.” Zuko’s eyes widened when he heard the famous name.

“That’s it. That’s what you needed all along, Sokka,” Aang said with a sudden inspiration.

“A sword‌?” the Water Tribe warrior asked confused.

“Not the sword…a master,” Lia said catching on. “All of us, me included, had people to help us get better. You should see if you can study with Piandao.”

“That’s a great idea. I could’ve never gotten to where I am without Master Pakku. Everyone needs a teacher,” Katara admitted.

“I learned from badger moles,” Toph shrugged. “They don’t talk, but they’re still good teachers.” Sokka looked at the sword thoughtfully.

“It would be nice to be a master swordfighter,” he said. “All right, I’ll talk to him.”

 

With Sokka gone everything was quiet at the little camp. Bored and a little sleepy Aang looked at the others, sprawled to the ground lazily.

“What should we do today‌?” he asked reluctantly.

“I’m tapped out. I already picked my toes, twice,” Toph said bored.

“Twice‌?” Zuko questioned, raising an eyebrow.

“The first time was for cleaning, but the second time’s just for the sweet picking sensation,” Toph explained, oblivious to the disgusted looks the others shared.

“Sokka’s been in charge of the schedule. I’m not sure what we should be doing,” Katara admitted. Lia sniggered a little, opening one eye.

“Never thought I’d heard that from you.”

“Plus, it’s so hot today!” Toph groaned.

“How hot is it‌?” Aang asked her expectantly.

“I don’t know,” She shrugged. “Real hot‌.”
“It’s so hot, it’s so hot…Momo is shedding like Appa,” Katara tried to make a joke out of it. Only Zuko sent her a soft smile.

“I guess the jokes don’t run in the family,” Aang sighed. Katara crossed her arms.

“Oh, everyone’s a critic.”

 

The silence that followed didn’t last for long. Lia jumped to her feet, having decided that she was bored long enough. She looked at the half-way asleep teens.

“We could always train, you know,” she pointed out.

“Nah!” Aang and Toph said at the same time. “Too hot.” Katara had fallen asleep already so Zuko was the only one left. Noticing his mentor’s expectant look he sighed and stood up. With a glare to the Avatar he followed the Spirit a little further.

“You so owe me one,” he hissed at the airbender as he passed him.

 

At sunset he and Lia returned, Zuko sporting a small burn in his arm. As soon as Katara saw it, she abandoned her cooking and rushed to his side. Zuko closed his eyes as the cooling sensation of a healing relaxed him. The waterbender glared at the Fire Spirit.

“Couldn’t you have been more careful?” she snapped. Lia raised her eyebrow.

“It’s firebending practise,” She said walking away. “Someone is bound to get burnt.” Picking up her bag she climbed on Appa’s saddle and took out her parchments.

“I think she’s more stressed about the invasion than we are,” Zuko told softly his girlfriend. “She wasn’t really going hard on me but that was because her mind was elsewhere. I think that she knows something and she doesn’t tell us.”

“She’s never absent-minded enough to burn you during practise,” Katara pointed out as they walked near the fire again. Zuko smiled sheepishly.

“That was my fault,” he admitted. “I didn’t block properly.” Katara sighed and leaned against him as she stirred the stew with her bending. An over-exaggerated cough was heard behind them.

“Excuse us lovey-dovies but we’re hungry,” Toph said, earthbending them apart and sitting between them. “What’s for dinner?” The two older teens glared at her. Aang saw it and decided to play peacemaker. He quickly served two bowls and turned to the earthbender.

“I’ve served for both of us Toph. Why don’t you come and sit with me?” his eyes widened when he realised what he had said. Both he and Toph turned redder than their clothes.

“If you really want this Twinkle-Toes,” Toph said dramatically to cover her embarrassment, “I’ll humour you.” She sat next to him and soon they were too absorbed into their conversation to notice the satisfied looks Katara and Zuko exchanged.

 

The next morning Katara insisted on taking out Sokka’s maps to figure out at least where were they.
“So where are we going next‌?” she wondered out loud. She picked a random island. “We’re starting from here.” Aang shook his head.

“No, we’re over on this island.” He pointed a place far from Katara’s. Toph “looked” at the sky frustrated.

“You noodle-brains don’t know what you’re doing. I miss Sokka,” she whined the last part. Katara suddenly smiled triumphantly.

“Ooh, I got one. If you miss him so much, why don’t you marry him‌?” she grinned hopefully at Toph and Aang. The earthbender rolled to her side to face away from Katara. Sensing Zuko and Lia returning from their practice she pointed at their general direction.

“Just… go make out with your boyfriend…” she mumbled-ordered. Huffing Katara marched up at them and dragged Zuko away, ignoring his yelp of surprise.

 

Lia sat next to Aang.

“Another lame joke?” she guessed. Aang nodded, looking very disheartened. Toph must have felt his vibrations so she yelled after Katara.

“And I don’t have a crush of Snoozles!”

“Who do you have a crush on then?” Lia asked teasingly. “We’re running low on boys to choose for you.” Blushing, Toph stormed away. Aang ran after her immediately. With a short laugh Lia tidied the camp before lying down to enjoy the sun and quiet.

 

Early in the afternoon, she was still alone on camp when Sokka’s figure appeared approaching from the distance. Sitting up hurriedly she yelled.

“Come out, come out everyone! Sokka’s back!”

Aang and Toph appeared first, covered in dust. Apparently they had been earthbending. Zuko and Katara came hand in hand from another direction, flushed and Zuko looking very annoyed.

“Hey, guys. What are you doing‌?” Sokka called as soon as he was close enough. Aang, Katara and Toph tackled him into a hug.

“We missed you so much!” Katara exclaimed.

“Say something funny!” Aang asked eagerly.

“Funny how?” the Water Tribe boy said confused. Nevertheless his three friends laughed heartily. Alarmed he turned to the firebending siblings. “What’s their deal?” Lia shrugged.

“They missed you or something. I’m going to miss the peace and quiet now,” she said.

“Thanks. That warms my heart,” Sokka said sarcastically. Turning to the others he smiled again. “Anyway, I need some help.”

 

He told them of his lessons with Piandao and of his current problem.

“You want to make the sword out of the meteorite?” Zuko asked sceptically.

“Master Piandao said I could use a something special,” Sokka insisted indignantly. Why not a meteorite?”

“This thing is huge Sokka.” Aang said hesitantly. “It’s going to take some serious bending to move it and…”

“Hello!” Toph called, waving her arms. “Best earthbender in the world!”

“…and we need to be discreet,” Aang finished. Toph huffed.

“I can be discreet if I want to.”

 

After some talking Toph and Sokka convinced the rest of them. They ended up pushing the meteorite uphill to Piandao’s estate, while Toph came last and pushed it forward with her earthbending, smiling smugly. Sokka rushed to the door and knocked enthusiastically. Piandao opened almost immediately. Spying the group of teens he asked his student.

“Who’s this?”

“Oh, these are my friends. Just other good Fire Nation folks,” Sokka hurried to assure him. Piandao bowed to them slightly and they bowed back. Turning at the meteorite Sokka asked. “Do you think we can make a sword out of a meteorite‌?” The sword master laid a hand on its surface, examining it.

“We’ll make a sword unlike any other in the world,” he finally declared.
Sokka slaved over the fires for the entire night, declining everyone’s help. With Piandao’s guidance he crafted a sleek, black blade. Zuko felt a pang of jealousy looking at it and then at his own battered Duos. In the morning they gathered inside the mansion. Sokka knelt in front of his master, as Piandao took the new sword in his hands.

“Sokka, when you first arrived, you were so unsure. You even seemed down on yourself. But I saw something in you right away. I saw a heart as strong as a lion turtle, and twice as big. And as we trained, it wasn’t your skills that impressed me.” He smiled lightly. “No, it certainly wasn’t your skills. You showed something beyond that. Creativity, versatility, intelligence…these are the traits that define a great swordsman. And these are the traits that define you.” He knelt in front of Sokka and gave him the sword. “You told me you didn’t know if you were worthy, but I believe that you are more worthy than any man I have ever trained.” Sokka looked at the weapon in his hands and hung his head.

“I’m sorry, Master. You’re wrong. I am not worthy. I’m not who you think I am. I’m not from the Fire Nation. I’m from the Southern Water Tribe.” The gang behind him exchanged worried looks. Sokka continued talking. “I lied so that I could learn swordsmanship from you. I’m sorry.” Piandao turned to the other side.

“I’m sorry too,” he said gravely, before swinging his sword at Sokka.

 

Piandao spun and moved to attack Sokka. The gang jumped on their feet, ready to join the fight, but Sokka raised his hand.

“No, this is my fight, alone.”

Lia thought she caught a glim of pride on Piandao’s eyes, but when she looked again it was gone. As the two warriors took the fight out on the garden, the gang gathered on the balcony, where they could watch. They collectively winced at a few close calls as the duel drew to an end, with Sokka on the ground and Piandao’s sword over him. They immediately jumped behind Piandao but before they could attack him, he sheathed his sword.

“Excellent work Sokka,” he praised the winded boy. Sensing them behind him, he turned on their direction and smiled friendlily at Aang. “I think I’m a little old to be fighting the Avatar,” he said wryly.

 

The kids looked at him surprised.

“How did you know?” Aang asked astonished. Piandao shrugged.

“Oh, I’ve been around a while. You pick things up. Of course, I knew from the beginning that Sokka was Water Tribe. You might want to think of a better Fire Nation cover name,” he told the boy. “Try ‘Lee.’ There’s a million ‘Lees’.” Zuko let a small snort. Katara was still weary.

“But why would you agree to train someone from the Water Tribe‌?” she asked the older man.

“The way of the sword doesn’t belong to any one nation. Knowledge of the arts belongs to us all.” He picked Sokka’s sword from the ground and gave it back to him. “Sokka, you must continue your training on your own. If you stay on this path, I know that one day you will become an even greater master than I am.” He bowed at Sokka, who bowed back.

 

As they were leaving the mansion, they heard someone calling them.

“Wait!” they turned to see Piandao’s butler. “The Master wanted you to have this, as something to remember him by.” He gave Sokka a small bag. The children gathered around him curiously. Sokka opened the bag to reveal a Lotus tile.

“It’s a Pai Sho tile!” he said surprised.

“It’s the white lotus,” Zuko explained. “It was uncle’s favourite.”

“What does it mean?” Katara asked confused.

“No idea,” Sokka said. Behind them they heard the doors to the mansion closing. They turned to see a white lotus decorating them. Sokka jumped slightly.

“Ooh, that reminds me. Toph, I thought you might like this since you’ve probably never had a chance to bend space earth before.” He gave the girl a small piece from the meteorite. Toph’s eyes widened in delight as she bended the material.

“Sweet! Check this out!” She formed a bracelet and put it on.

“You know, I don’t think there’s such a thing as ‘space earth’. If it’s from space, then it’s not really ‘earth’,” Katara said thoughtfully.

“Must you ruin everything‌?” her brother whined. Katara sighed.

“I can’t believe I missed you!”

The Maid on the Boat

Standard

Red roses rest upon a windowsill,

Fading in the fake, flickering light.

Pale petals, washed out with age,

Scattered against the damask fabric.

My name is Elaine and this is my tale.

 

Red was the blood that fled from your side,

Fading the life with every hour’s strike.

Pale-faced you called to your Lady for mercy,

Scattered memories like discarded tokens.

My name is Elaine and I saved your life.

 

Red was my brother’s shield that you bore,

Fading my dreams, drowning in the river.

Pale sunlight, barely a gleam,

Scattered dewdrops as you rode away.

My name is Elaine and you betrayed me.

 

Red is the sky as I take to the river,

Fading my youth, “wasted”, they say.

Pale is the parchment that rests on my hands,

Scattered my song, trails in the air.

My name is Elaine, Elaine of Astolat, the Lilly Maid.

 

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,

Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,

Till her blood was frozen slowly,

And her eyes were darkened wholly,

Turn’d to towered Camelot.

For ere she reach’d upon the tide

The first house by the water-side,

Singing in her song she died,

The Lady of Shalott.