Tag Archives: Ember Island

Twilight of the Spirit World: Epilogue

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Author’s note: In which a short “x years later” snapshot is offered, the author teases the Korra canon in a hopefully subtle way and for once happy endings do not have strings attached to them. It’s been a journey and a half everyone!

Previous chapter: link

***Epilogue***

The summer sun heated gently the sandy beach and a gentle breeze caused small waves in the sapphire blue sea. It was a truly beautiful place, serene and picturesque, a place that would certainly calm the most troubled of minds.

“MOM! SUYIN AND BATO TOOK MY SCROLL!”

“Suyin Bei Fong give your sister her scroll back!”

“Bato! Start acting your age or your father will NOT be taking you ice-dodging anytime soon!”

Well, perhaps not all minds.

 

Not far from the seashore Toph and Suki were berating their more mischievous offspring, much to the amusement of their friends. With a huff Lin snatched the scroll that her pouting twin held and marched off to sit next to Zuko and Katara’s eldest, Izumi. Next to them, and closer to their parents was Izumi’s younger sister, Kya, and Suki and Sokka’s youngest (for the time being), Yue. The two little girls were watching in fascination Lin and Suyin’s little brother, Bumi, as he re-enacted an over-the-top rendition of the epic tale of “The Bear of Ba Sing Se”. If in the process he raised more sand than his sisters’ attempts at sandbending that was certainly not intentional.

 

With a huff the two women sat back down, Toph taking baby Tenzin from Aang. Suki turned exasperated to Katara.

“Was Sokka like that too at that age?” Katara chuckled.

“More or less,” she said, ignoring her brother’s indignant look.

“Is that true Councilman Sokka?” Zuko asked laughing. Sokka glared at him.

“I’m sure if Azula was visiting Fire Lord Zuko she would have some interesting stories to say for you too.” Zuko raised an eyebrow.

“No doubt about it,” he said dryly.

 

Before ribbing between the two men could escalate, or Toph could get involved, Kya happened to look up. Seeing a familiar portal opening in the distance she jumped to her feet, dragging her cousin up excitedly.

“Aunt Azula!” the two girls squealed in delight as a very pregnant Azula stepped out of the portal, with Ao on her side looking very much like he would prefer to be carrying his lover rather than letting her walk through the sand. The little girls were almost instantly at their sides, seemingly determined to drag them were the rest of their family was standing and approaching them at a more sedate pace.

“Wait little ones,” Azula said as she carefully kneeled to hug them. Yue giggled, feeling the baby kicked. “We have a surprise for everyone.”

“And what would that be?” Zuko asked, hugging his sister carefully and giving a friendly nod to Ao. The couple smiled mysteriously.

“Turns out that when Agni and Lia went up to that mountain of theirs, they weren’t just coming up with new firebending moves,” Ao said mischievously. Katara’s eyes widened.

“You don’t mean?” she asked. It had been nearly a year since Lia and Agni had last visited the mortal plane after all…

“Oh, yes!” Azula said enthusiastically. Zuko paled slightly. Two daughters and several nieces and nephews later this kind of code was no longer lost to him. That did not mean he cared much for the implications. When Azula and Ao had first told them they were expecting he had been torn between wanting to congratulate them and wanting to punch Ao. Sokka had actually punched him when they had announced they were expecting Izumi! Ao turned towards the portal.

“Well?” he called. “What are you lot waiting for?” Almost as if cued Agni and Lia stepped through, both with wide smiled on their faces. In Lia’s arms, wrapped in a white-gold blanket, was a new-born baby.

“Everyone, meet Kōjin,” Agni said softly as the portal closed silently behind them. Even little Tenzin turned curiously in his mother’s arms towards the new centre of attention.

 

The children immediately surrounded Lia, the shorter ones standing on their tip-toes in order to peer at the latest addition to the family.

“He’s so small!” Lin whispered, her eyes widening when Kōjin opened his eyes and turned slightly towards the sound of her voice. Lia smiled at the girl. Of all of Aang and Toph’s children she had been the one to inherit most of the blind earthbender’s brash attitude. And, like her mother, Lin tended to melt when around babies.

“Let’s go sit down,” the redhead said, “and you can hold him if you want.” Lin nodded eagerly and the group moved back to where they had originally been sitting.

 

Much later, when the sun was setting over the sea, bathing everything in a soft red glow, the entire second generation of the gaang was sat around Izumi as she read to them, with the occasional interruption from Bato, an account of General Iroh’s travels through the Earth Kingdom. Tenzin was napping in a blanket next to his father, too young to stay awake after a day of excitement, while the adults were talking quietly among themselves. Zuko turned to Lia, who was leaning against him contently.

“Are you happy?” he asked her. Lia looked around thoughtfully for a moment, her eyes resting at Agni, who was rocking Kōjin gently, lulling the baby to sleep, and gave her brother a soft smile.

“Yes,” she said. “I am.”

The End

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – Ember Island Players

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Author’s note: In which Bryke were teasing the fandom so the author is doing the same by actually putting some serious stuff in Season III’s funniest episode.

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Next chapter: link

***The Ember Island Players***

If there was one person glad for the change of scenery, it was Lia. The warmer climate of Ember Island and the large house with a courtyard big enough for her to practice in would be enough to put her in a good mood. And then she discovered THE CLOSET. There was no other way of describing it. Apparently Azula, or some of her servants, sent there any clothes that the princess grew out of or bored of. Katara and Toph were fine with their outfits but Suki and Lia did not resist the temptation of playing dress up. Most of the house was in dire need for repairs but there had been enough rooms for everyone to get comfortable in, especially since certain people were sharing a room.

 

It only took them a few days to get settled. One morning Suki volunteered herself and a suspiciously non-reluctant Sokka to go to the market for supplies. Zuko was training with Aang in the courtyard with Katara and Toph overlooking them.

“Doesn’t it seem kinda weird that we’re hiding from the Fire Lord in his own house‌?” Katara asked absently, trying to keep herself from staring too openly at Zuko.

“I told you, my father hasn’t come here since our family was actually happy. And that was a long time ago. This is the last place anyone would think to look for us,” Zuko explained as he took a towel from her and sat next to the girls. Lia was just walking up to them from her own practice, her clothes singed a little. Toph raised an eyebrow, smelling the smoke emanating from the redhead.

“You seem a little burn out,” she told the Spirit. Before Lia had a chance to retort Sokka’s excited voice was heard.

“You guys are not going to believe this! There’s a play about us,” he said smugly.

“We were just in town and we found this poster,” Suki explained as her boyfriend unrolled a dramatic poster.

“What?” Katara exclaimed. “How is that possible?”

“Listen to this. ‘The Boy in the Iceberg’ is a new production from acclaimed playwright M. Night Shyamalan who scoured the globe gathering information on the Avatar from the icy South Pole to the heart of Ba Sing Se. His sources include singing nomads, pirates, prisoners of war and a surprisingly knowledgeable merchant of cabbage,” Sokka read.

“Brought to you by the critically acclaimed Ember Island Players,” Suki finished.
“My mother used to take us to see them. They butchered ‘Love Amongst the Dragons’ every year,” Zuko suddenly groaned. Katara looked at her brother doubtfully.

“Sokka, do you really think it’s a good idea for us to attend a play about ourselves‌?” she asked. He looked at her in disbelief.

“Come on, a day at the theatre? This is the kind of wacky time wasting nonsense I’ve been missing!”

 

Sokka decided to drag everyone to the theatre that very night for the opening of the play. Lia went ahead to buy tickets for everyone (with the money she borrowed from a noble for old time’s sake) while the rest of the gang snuck in. Zuko and Aang, the most recognisable were wearing a hood and a hat. Katara and Toph rushed to take seats in the front row with Zuko sitting next to the waterbender. Aang was left standing awkwardly. He had wanted to sit next to Katara.

“Hey, uh… I wanted to sit there,” he said meekly. Zuko lowered his hood and gave him an annoyed look.

“Just sit next to Toph, what’s the big deal‌?” he asked. Katara gave them a look and sighed. She had though Aang was past his crush on her by now. Sokka and Suki had taken the back seat and Lia was leaning against the wall near the railing of the box.

“I was just… I wanted to… Okay.” Aang threw himself between Zuko and Toph disappointed.

“Why are we sitting in the nose bleed section‌? My feet can’t see a thing from up here,” Toph complained.

“Don’t worry, I’ll tell your feet what’s happening,” Lia laughed. She had a bet going with the little earthbender about whether or not she would appear in the play. She didn’t think so.

 

The curtain was raised to reveal two actors playing Sokka and Katara. Lia took a double look in surprise. The overly made-up actress sighed dramatically.

“Sokka, my only brother. We constantly roam these icy South Pole seas and yet never do we find anything fulfilling.”

“All I want is a full feeling in my stomach, I’m starving!” The audience burst into laughter.

“This is pathetic. My jokes are way funnier than this!” the real Sokka exclaimed indignantly.

“I think he’s got you pegged,” Toph smiled at his general direction.

“Every day, the world awaits a beacon to guide us, yet none appears. Still, we cannot give up hope. For hope is all we have and we must never relinquish it. Even…even to our dying breath.” The actress Katara sniffed and pretended to sob over the side of the boat.

“Well, that’s just silly. I don’t sound like that,” Katara huffed annoyed to her laughing friends.

“Oh man, this writer’s a genius!” Toph insisted.

 

Aang had been softly laughing at Sokka’s and Katara’s unfortunate casting until the Avatar made his first appearance on stage.

“Wait,” he said in disbelief, “is that a woman playing me‌?” The rest of the gang burst out laughing at the pirouetting actress on stage. “I don’t do that. That’s not what I’m like! And… I’m not a woman!” Aang sputtered.

“Oh, they nailed you, Twinkle Toes.” Toph wrapped an arm around his shoulders to keep from falling to the ground laughing.
The next appearance was that of Zuko on his ship accompanied by a caricature of Iroh. Lia was nowhere in sight.

“I must capture the Avatar to regain my honour!” the actor Zuko declared. Iroh, who was holding a large plate with cake, answered carelessly.

“Well, while you do that, maybe I’ll capture another slice.”

“You sicken me.”

“They make me totally stiff and humourless,” Zuko complained.

“Actually, I think that actor’s pretty spot-on,” Katara said amused.

“How could you say that‌?” Zuko exclaimed. This was his girlfriend! She was supposed to be supportive.

“Let’s forget about the Avatar and get massages,” Iroh’s actor suggested.

“How could you say that?” actor Zuko said in outrage. Lia and Katara gave Zuko identical smug looks and he slumped to his seat in defeat.
The play passed through the Southern Air Temple and then to Kyoshi Island. Zuko turned to give Sokka an incredulous look, ready to ask him if he had really worn a dress. Sokka’s blush and Suki’s giggles were answers enough. King Bumi was uncannily in-character. Mercifully for both Katara and Zuko the same could not be said for the pirate scene. Both sighed in relief and then looked at each other and blushed.

“I think it was romantic,” Katara whispered to Zuko, guessing that he was too thinking of that night. The strangest thing happened when a caricature of the Blue Spirit appeared to free the Avatar from…Zuko? The two boys shared an incredulous look, their previous tension forgotten. The actress that played Aang swooned at the sight of the Blue Spirit.

“My hero!” she sighed. Lia gave the two boys a raised eyebrow as she stifled her laugh.

 

The next part of the journey involved Jet. Katara buried her face in Zuko’s shirt.

“Whatever they say,” she mumbled, “it’s not true.” Zuko had to admit that he sincerely wished she was right. Katara looked up again when the scene had changed to the North Pole. ‘Sokka’ was standing there, holding hands with an overly made-up Yue.

“Don’t go, Yue. You’re the only woman who’s ever taken my mind off of food.” They kissed audibly and Lia’s face turned a little green. ‘Sokka’s’ expression turned from melodramatic to disgusted. “Wait, did you have pickled fish for dinner‌?” he asked.

“Goodbye, Sokka,” the actress said as she was elevated away from the stage. “I have important Moon duties to take care of. And yes, I did have pickled fish.”

“You never told me you made out with the Moon Spirit,” Suki teased her boyfriend.

“Shh. I’m trying to watch,” Sokka sniffed, close to tears. His girlfriend huffed annoyed and turned to look at the stage again. ‘Aang’ was wearing an Ocean-Spirit bulky costume and jumping on toy-size Fire Nation ships.

“The Avatar is back to save the day! Yay!” she laughed before tripping over the costume and falling face-flat to the ground. The curtain was hastily lowered.

 

For the break they retreated at a balcony outside and plopped themselves down on the stairs.

“So far, this intermission is the best part of the play,” Zuko grumbled.

“Apparently, the playwright thinks I’m an idiot who tells bad jokes about meat all the time,” Sokka grumbled, biting on a strip of meat.

“Yeah, you tell bad jokes about plenty of other topics,” Suki laughed.

“I know!” Sokka explained, missing the insult.

“At least this Sokka actor kinda looks like you.” Aang sighed. “That woman playing the Avatar doesn’t resemble me at all.”

“I don’t know, you are more in touch with your feminine side than most guys,” Toph shrugged, decidedly ignoring the hovering Spirit that was standing near her expectantly.

“Relax Aang,” Katara said calmly. “They’re not accurate portrayals. It’s not like I’m a preachy crybaby who can’t resist giving overemotional speeches about hope all the time.” She noticed everyone looking at her. “What?” she asked self-consciously.

“Yeah,” Aang sat down. “That’s not you at all.”

“Listen, friends. It’s obvious that the playwright did his research. I know it must hurt but what you’re seeing up there on that stage is the truth,” Toph said cheerfully.

“And you avoided me long enough,” Lia told the youngest girl. “I won the bet, so pay up!” Toph shook her head.

“No can do,” she said. “There are still two more acts on the play.”

“What bet?” Sokka asked confused.

“We have a bet going about whether or not I’ll appear in the play,” Lia explained, smiling innocently at her brother.

 

Toph didn’t bother sitting down when they went back inside. Instead she leaned against the railing next to Lia, eager to hear her character.

“This is it! This must be where I come in.” she said excitedly as the actors looked for an earthbending teacher.

“I flew all over town but I couldn’t find a single earthbending master,” ‘Aang’ whined.

“Here it comes!” Toph leaned even further and Lia hurriedly grabbed the back of her shirt, fearing that the earthbender might fall.

“You can’t find an earthbending master in the sky, you have to look underground,” the actor playing Toph said, appearing from under a rock on the stage. Everyone in the gang felt their jaws hit the floor.

“Wait a minute,” Toph said as the actors continued their talk, “I sound like… a really buff guy.”

“Well Toph, what you hear up there is the truth. It hurts, doesn’t it‌?” Katara teased.

“Are you kidding me‌?” Toph said with a wide grin. “I wouldn’t have cast it any other way. At least it’s not a flying bald lady.” Aang and Katara glared at her.
Lia tensed a bit when they reached the scene at the abandoned town. If they were going to include her character it would be now.

“Azula! My sister. What are you doing here‌?” ‘Zuko’ exclaimed. Both Lia and the real Zuko snickered at the sight of Azula dressed in pink and heavily made-up.

“You caught me. Wait. What’s that‌?” she pointed at the audience. “I think it’s your honor.” Everyone else on stage turned.

“Where?” ‘Azula’ slipped through a door.

“She escaped. But how‌?” ‘Katara’ wondered. Lia relaxed

“I won,” she whispered smugly.
“I have to admit, Prince Zuko. I really find you attractive,” ‘Katara’ told a sulking ‘Zuko’. The real Katara turned red as everyone’s eyes – especially Sokka’s – moved back and forth from the stage to her and Zuko.

“You don’t have to make fun of me!” ‘Zuko’ snapped. ‘Katara’ shook her head and sat near him.

“But I mean it. I had eyes for you since the day you first captured me.” Aang frowned, thinking back at the incident with the pirates. Katara had never told them what had happened that night.

“Wait. I thought you were the Avatar’s girl.” ‘Zuko’ said surprised. ‘Katara’ laughed.

“The Avatar‌?” she said walking up to ‘Zuko’. “Why, he’s like a little brother to me. I certainly don’t think of him in a romantic way. Besides, how could he ever find out about this?” The two actors started to make out on stage. Sokka leaned over to his sister and boyfriend.

“Is that what happened in Ba Sing Se?” he whispered harshly. Suki pulled him back.

“It’s none of your business,” she reprimanded him. Aang suddenly stood and walked to the door.

“Oh, you’re getting up? ‌ Can you get me some fire flakes‌?” Sokka whispered to him before pulling Suki to an embrace. “Oh and fire gummies!” he called, turning suddenly. Suki scowled at him annoyed.

 

To everyone’s shock when the confrontation in Ba Sing Se came Zuko allowed his uncle to be captured.

“I hate you uncle!” he said. “You smell and I hate you for all time!” The real Zuko looked at the other side. He still regretted not going back for Iroh.

“You didn’t really say that,” Katara said, consoling him.

“I might as well have,” Zuko answered softly.

 

They didn’t bother to go back at the balcony during the next intermission. They just gathered at the corridor outside their box. Lia and Toph were fighting again about who was winning their bet.

“There’s still one act left!” Toph said with a slight tone of panic in her voice. It would ruin her reputation to lose a bet.

“It seems like every time there’s a big battle you guys barely make it out alive. I mean, you guys lose a lot,” Suki suddenly said. Sokka rolled his eyes.

“You’re one to talk, Suki. Didn’t Azula take you captive‌? That’s right, she did,” he said. Suki’s look was something between a glare and a pout.

“Are you trying to get on my bad side‌?” she asked.

“I’m just saying,” Sokka said nervously. Katara looked around from where she was sitting next to Zuko.

“Does anyone know where Aang is‌?” she asked a little worried. He had left right after the scene at the Crystal Catacombs. She hoped he wasn’t sulking about it.

“He left to get me fire gummies like, ten minutes ago. And I’m still waiting,” Sokka said, crossing his arms annoyed.
“I’m going to check outside,” Toph offered, surprising almost everyone.

 

She followed his vibrations to the balcony, feeling a little worried.

“You okay Twinkle-Toes?” she asked, not bothering to put up an act of being tough.

“No, I’m not,” Aang snapped and threw his hat to the ground. “I hate this play!”

“Geez Aang!” Toph raised an eyebrow. “You’re overreacting.”

“Overreacting? ‌ If I hadn’t blocked my chakra, I’d probably be in the Avatar State right now!” came the dramatic reply.
Back inside Sokka had a sudden inspiration.

“Suki, what are the chances you can get me backstage?‌ I got some jokes I want to give to the actor me.” His girlfriend gave him a frightening glare.

“I’m an elite warrior who’s trained for many years in the art of stealth.” The glare melted to a cheerful smile. “I think I can get you backstage,” she said. As they walked away Lia pushed herself off the wall she was leaning against.

“I’m going outside,” she told Zuko and Katara. “I’ll see you in a while.” They both nodded. As soon as she was out of earshot Katara turned to Zuko. He was still down from what had happened at the closing scene of the act.

“I know it must have been hard for you to see all this again,” she told him softly, lacing her fingers with his, “but I hope you know none of us would ever consider what happened down there the truth, no matter what Toph says.”

“You don’t get it,” Zuko told her as he pulled her to an embrace. Holding her close calmed him. “For me, it takes all the mistakes I’ve made in my life and shoves them back in my face. I should have been there for uncle Iroh like he always was for me.” Katara leaned back a little to look at his eyes.

“I know your uncle would be proud of you and besides you said that he has escaped. We’ll probably find him soon.” She stood and pulled Zuko up as well. “Let’s go back in.” She motioned at the box. Zuko raised an eyebrow.

“Why?” he asked. Katara pulled her face close to his and smiled coyly.

“I’m sure you don’t want my brother to find us kissing in the corridor.” Zuko smiled softly at that and followed her back to their seats. One reason he loved the waterbender was that she always knew what to do to make him feel better.

 

Lia had stepped out of the theater and was leaning against a wall there, her eyes sweeping the landscape. The nightmares had eased a little while they had been at the Western Air Temple but they were returning with a vengeance now. She still could not remember what was happening but she knew it was important. The Spirit had never been more thankful for the foresight to take a bedroom that was far from the others. The other night she had woken up because of how loud her sobs were. She knew that whatever she was dreaming was prophetic in a way and now, away from the others she conjured the white flames that allowed her to see the future. The battlefield that appeared before her was the most horrifying she had ever seen and she instantly recognized it. The flames were showing her her dream. She watched with bated breath herself fight and suddenly a body jumping in front of her, taking a blow she hadn’t noticed coming. The man fell to the ground and gave her a pained smile before his eyes closed. Lia saw herself screaming in anguish and releasing a terrible force before she stopped the conjuration and fell to her knees trembling in horror.

“Why?” she whispered. “Why did it have to be you?”

 

On the balcony things weren’t any more lighthearted.

“Toph,” Aang asked hesitantly, “Do you think Katara meant what she said in there?”

“Meant what?” Toph asked, understanding that Aang was talking about the play.

“When she said I was just like a brother to her and she didn’t have feelings for me.”

“An actor said that,” Toph corrected calmly.

“But it’s true, isn’t it‌?”

“Yes Aang,” Toph sighed. “And you knew that Sweetness has had feelings for Sparky for quite some time. I thought you were over her.”

“I love her!” Aang insisted angrily.

“Then you should have let her go!” Toph said just as angry. “I let you go!” Her eyes widened and one hand went to cup her mouth in shock before she rushed back inside. Aang’s eyes doubled in shock and realization. He banged his head at the railing annoyed.

“I’m such an idiot!” he yelled to himself.

 

When he finally went back in, the last part of the play had begun. Aang paused at the door for a moment. Zuko and Katara were still on their previous seats but leaning against each other in manner similar to that of Sokka and Suki. Toph was sitting next to Lia, her eyes trained in the direction of the scene with the Spirit next to her having wrapped an arm around the younger girl’s shoulders in a sisterly embrace. With a sigh Aang sat next to Sokka.

“Here’s what you missed,” Sokka told him in an excited voice. “We went to the Fire Nation and you got better and Katara was the Painted Lady and I got a sword and I think Combustion Man died. Ooo look, the Invasion’s about to start. Shh.” He scooted back to his girlfriend.

 

“I just want to let you know Aang, that I’ll always love you. Like a brother,” ‘Katara’ told ‘Aang’.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way!” ‘Aang’ answered chirpily. The real airbender pulled his hat closer to his eyes. It hurt to hear ‘himself’ say that but not as much as he thought it would.

“Hey Toph,” ‘Sokka’ said suddenly, “would you say you and Aang have a rocky relationship‌?” the audience laughed and Aang’s eyes snapped to his earthbending teacher. He noticed her stiffen and Lia’s arm subtly tighten around her. The play rushed through the failed invasion with the gang running away in a rather undignified manner.

“I guess that’s it.” Sokka stood up. “The play’s caught up to the present now.” Suki pulled him back down.

“Wait!” she said. “The play’s not over.”

“But it is over. Unless…this is the future,” he said in a spooky voice.

 

The future, as it was imagined by the playwright, involved two drawn out battles that ended with Zuko’s defeat by Azula and Aang’s by Ozai. Both boys paled at the sight and the thunderous applause that followed and the rest of their friends looked at them nervously.

“It is over, father. We’ve done it!” ‘Azula’ said triumphantly.

“Yes, we have done it! The dreams of my father and my father’s father have now been realized. The world is mine!” A large Fire Nation banner appeared behind ‘Ozai’, signaling the end of the play.

 

The gang hurried out of the theater and started walking towards the beach house in silence.

“That… wasn’t a good play,” Zuko finally broke the silence when the house appeared before them. Aang nodded from behind.

“I’ll say.”

“No kidding,” Katara said, squeezing her boyfriend’s hand.

“Horrible,” Suki added.

“You said it,” Toph nodded absentmindedly. Sokka shrugged.

“But the effects were decent,” he said, earning himself half-hearted glares from everyone else.

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Southern Raiders

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Author’s note: In which there is a lot of shipping, Katara gets some character development and the gaang relocates to the author’s favourite setting in the Avatar ‘verse.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Southern Raiders***

A few weeks later everyone was sleepily preparing breakfast near the campfire in the courtyard. Aang was standing near Appa, feeding the bison a few melons when suddenly a bomb came hissing through the air. Before anyone else had time to react Lia jumped to her feet and kicked it back out of the courtyard, a fireball forming at her hand at the same time. The gang jumped to their feet as Aang airbended the doors of the courtyard closed. Safe for the moment they rushed to gather their things as more bombs rattled outside. The old structure started to protest. A part of the ceiling was beginning to crumble. Katara was kneeling under it next to a backpack, hurriedly stuffing it with supplies, unaware of the danger.

“Watch out!” Zuko called as he ran. Before the rock had a chance to crush them he pushed her out of the way.

“What are you doing?” Katara asked alarmed.

“Keeping rocks from crushing you,” came the answer as the prince tightened his hold around her waist. Katara gave him a small smile and raised an eyebrow.

“Well, I’m not crushed,” she said teasingly. “You can get off me now.” Zuko chuckled and helped her to her feet.

“I’ll take that as a thank you,” he said.

 

Haru and Toph hurriedly made a tunnel at the far end of the courtyard.

“Come on, we can get out through here!” Toph called to the others. Haru, Teo, Chit Sang and the Duke hurried with Lia and Suki following them. Aang was trying to pull Appa inside the tunnel when he noticed Zuko standing still in front of the rumble.

“What are you doing?” he asked alarmed.

“Go ahead, I’ll hold them off. I think this is a family visit.” The firebender explained calmly. Katara’s eyes widened.

“Zuko, no!” she made a move to follow him but Sokka put a hand on her shoulder to stop her.

“Come on, we gotta get out of here.” The waterbender bit her lip and turned to help the others pull Appa.

 

Zuko took one last look at them and then ran through the smoke to face the airships. Lia would take care of the gaang. The leading airship came into view, with a very familiar figure standing on it.

“What are you doing here?” Zuko called coldly. Azula gave him a half-crazed smile.

“You mean it’s not obvious yet? I’m about to celebrate becoming an only child!” Using the railing as leverage she sent fire through her feet. Zuko ran ahead, avoiding the deadly flames. The courtyard was slowly but steadily falling apart under his feet. He jumped towards the airship, sending a few fireballs towards Azula while at it. The princess jumped from the observation tower where she was perched before it was destroyed. She watched as her brother started falling, not having enough momentum to reach the airship safely.
Inside the still somewhat protected part of the courtyard Aang was facing a few difficulties.

“I can’t get him to go in there. Appa hates tunnels,” he grumbled to the others.

“Aang, there’s no way we can fly out of here,” Katara answered sternly.

“We’ll have to find a way,” Aang insisted. Sokka turned to the others.

“We need to split up. Take the tunnel and get to the stolen airship,” he told them. Katara’s eyes widened.

“No,” she exclaimed, “the Fire Nation can’t separate our family again.”

“It’ll be okay, it’s not forever.” Hakoda embraced his daughter and then his son before they rushed back to the Avatar’s side. Suki and Lia climbed to the saddle after them and Toph knelt to the ground, concentrating on its structure.

“I can clear that away and we can fly out through there,” she told Aang before jumping to the saddle herself.

“Umm, there’s an awful lot of fire in that general direction,” Suki said nervously, scooting closer to Sokka.

“We’ll get through,” Aang said resolutely. “Let’s go.”
Toph held the earth wall in front of them for the first few moments after they rushed out of the courtyard before letting the barrier fall. Azula turned to firebend at them but stopped when a chill ran down her spine. On the airship behind her stood Zuko, a resolute expression on his face. He took off running again and this time he managed to land on his sister’s airship. Azula did not hesitate to send her fire at him but Zuko blocked each attack and rushed forward with his own.

 

Behind them Appa was flying, trying to avoid the blasts from the airships. Katara was standing at the saddle, bending her water in the form of a shield, protecting the rest of the gang. Lia was flying next to Appa, blocking as many blasts as she could, while Aang struggled to keep the bison under control.

 

Back on the airship Zuko and Azula attacked simultaneously. The explosion sent them both off the airship and into the air as gravity kicked in. Appa rushed forward and Katara stood hurriedly, catching Zuko by the wrist and pulling him on the saddle, hugging him close. Lia landed next to them, quickly checking her brother for any burns. Zuko turned to watch Azula as she continued falling.

“She’s not going to make it,” he said in disbelief. His little sister, the one that had tormented him for so long, was going to fall to her death. Azula seemed to have other plans. Ripping the hairpiece that held her bun she propelled herself to the wall of the cliff and managed to stop her fall. “Of course she did,” Zuko sighed as they flew away.

They landed on a small deserted island near the mainland of the Fire Nation. The entire gang was gathered around the fire, sharing dinner.

“Wow, camping. It really seems like old times again, doesn’t it?” Aang laughed. Zuko rolled his eyes.

“If you really want to feel like old times, I could, uhh… chase you around a while and try to capture you.” Everyone but Katara laughed at that. After the morning’s excitement had died down the waterbender had been distant, ignoring the others and remaining deep in her thoughts. Zuko gave her a questioning look which she missed as she was staring at the fire. Sokka raised his cup.

“To Zuko. Who knew after all those times he tried to snuff us out, today, he’d be our hero.” Everyone but Katara rose their cups cheerfully, toasting at the prince.

“I’m touched. I don’t deserve this,” Zuko said, blushing a little.

“Nonsense!” Lia said in a sisterly bossing way. Katara suddenly rose to her feet and stalked away from the fire.

“What’s with her?” Sokka asked confused.

“I wish I knew,” Zuko sighed and stood as well to follow the girl. Sokka watched him even more confused.

“What’s with him?” he asked no one in particular.
Zuko found Katara by the beach, watching the nearly full moon. She started when she felt him near her but instead of going to him she hugged herself and stared stubbornly ahead. Zuko stopped behind her, close enough for the waterbender to feel his warmth but not quite touching her.

“What’s wrong?” he asked her softly.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Katara said, without turning to look at him. Zuko sighed and turned to leave.

“When you want to, please come. I’ll be waiting for you,” he said, a little hurt, and began to walk away. Katara turned sharply, suddenly regretting pushing him away. Reaching out she took his hand.

“Wait,” she said softly. Zuko turned to look at her. “I’m sorry,” she continued. “It’s just that… today was the anniversary of the day I lost my mother.” At the first sign of tears she turned from him and he embraced her from behind.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “If there is anything I can do…” he trailed as she shook her head.

“Just hold me.”

 

Zuko did so until she fell asleep and then he placed her softly inside her tent, before marching up to Sokka’s. Before he had a chance to get in someone bumped to him.

“Opps, wrong tent,” Suki said blushing.

“Sorry. Do you need to talk to Sokka too?” Zuko asked her tiredly. It had been a long day and it would only get longer.

“Nope.” Suki turned even redder. “Not me.” Rolling his eyes Zuko moved inside. And his jaw promptly hit the floor.

 

Sokka had lighted candles and was lying on his sleeping mat. Hearing someone entering he turned, a rose in his mouth.

“Well, hellooo…” he trailed off noticing who it was that entered the tent. He swallowed the flower and choked on it. Zuko hit him in the back wordlessly. “Uh, Zuko. Yes, why would I be expecting any one different?” he pulled himself together and sat opposite of his friend. “So what’s on your mind?”

“Your sister,” Zuko answered immediately, ignoring the way Sokka’s expression darkened. “She’s been a wreck all day and it has something to do with your mother. I know this may seem out of nowhere, but I want you to tell me what happened to her.” Sokka looked to the side.

“It’s not a day I like to remember,” he said grimly. “Many of the warriors have seen the black snow before and they knew what it meant. A Fire Nation raid. We were badly outnumbered. But somehow, we managed to drive them off. As quickly as they came, they just left. I was so relieved when it was over but, that’s because I didn’t know yet what have happened. I didn’t know we lost our mother.”

“Wait. Can you remember any details about the soldiers who raided your village? Like, what the lead ship looked like?”

“Yeah…” Sokka said slowly. “Sea Ravens. The main ship had flags with sea ravens on them.” Zuko nodded.

“The symbol of the Southern Raiders. Thanks, Sokka.”

“No problem! Thanks for stopping by.” Sokka shoved him out and sighed. “Thought he’d never leave.” He eagerly popped his head out. “Suki!’ he called quietly. Then he noticed Zuko still standing outside the tent. Sokka started whistling innocently as the older boy walked off shaking his head.

 

The next morning a surprise awaited Katara when she came out of her tent, not quite remembering how she had ended up there. Zuko was sitting on a rock in front of her, looking ready to fall asleep.

“You look terrible,” she told him concerned.

“I waited out here all night,” he explained rubbing his eyes.

“You should have come in,” Katara said lightly, even as blush dusted her cheeks, reaching to take her comb from her bag.

“I didn’t want to disturb you,” Zuko explained. “I talked with Sokka. I know who killed your mother. I’m going to help you find him.” Katara spun around and stared at him in shock before her eyes narrowed in determination.

 

They hurriedly packed a few things in their bags and walked up to where Aang was feeding his bison.

“I need to borrow Appa,” Katara said curtly. Aang took a look at them and chuckled.

“Why? Is it your turn to take a little fieldtrip with Zuko?” he asked. Neither of the older teens seemed to appreciate the joke.

“Yes, it is,” the waterbender said. Aang looked surprised at the seriousness.

“Oh,” he said. “What’s going on?”

“We’re going to find the man who took my mother from me.” None of them noticed Sokka and Lia walking up to see what they were talking about.

“Sokka told me the story of what happened. I know who did it. And I know how to find him,” they heard Zuko explain. Sokka’s eyes widened in alarm.

“Umm… and what exactly do you think this would accomplish?” Aang asked. Katara scoffed.

“I knew you wouldn’t understand.” She turned away, only to come face to face with her brother.

“Wait, stop, I do understand. You’re feeling unbelievable pain and rage. How do you think I felt about the sandbenders when they stole Appa? How do you think I felt about the Fire Nation when I found out what happened to my people?” Aang said hurriedly. He didn’t like seeing the usually cheerful waterbender like that. Zuko walked up next to Katara.

“She needs this Aang,” he tried to explain to the monk. “This is about getting closure and justice.” Aang shook his head and frowned.

“I don’t think so. I think it’s about getting revenge.”

“Fine!” Katara exclaimed frustrated. “Maybe it is. Maybe that’s what I need.” She lowered her voice. “Maybe that’s what he deserves.”

“Katara, you sound like Jet,” Aang said disapprovingly. The waterbender turned to face him angrily.

“It’s not the same,” she said. “Jet attacked the innocent. This man, he’s a monster!” Sokka walked up hesitantly.

“Katara, she was my mother too. But I think Aang might be right,” he said.

“Then you didn’t love her the way I did,” his sister snapped, ignoring his hurt look.

“The monks used to say that revenge is like a two-headed ratviper,” Aang said grimly. “While you watch your enemy go down, you’re being poisoned yourself.” Lia rolled her eyes.

“Perhaps, in theory. But this is the real world and some things cannot be laid to rest so simply.”

“Now that I know he’s out there, now that I know we could find him, I feel like I have no choice,” Katara insisted.

“Katara, you do have a choice. Forgiveness,” Aang pleaded.

“That’s the same as doing nothing,” Zuko scoffed. Aang shook his head.

“No it’s not. It’s easy to do nothing. But it’s hard to forgive.”

“It’s not just hard, it’s impossible,” Katara said darkly before walking away. Zuko and Lia followed her immediately, the Spirit blatantly ignoring the reproachful look from Aang.

 

Needless to say that neither Katara nor Zuko changed their minds. Late that night they dressed in dark clothes and sneaked out to Appa. They had nearly finished loading their bags when Aang and Sokka appeared from behind a rock.

“So you were just going to take Appa anyway?” Aang asked annoyed.

“Yes,” the waterbender answered curtly. Aang sighed.

“It’s okay, because I forgive you.” He smiled hopefully. “That give you any ideas?”

“Don’t try to stop us,” Katara insisted.

“I wasn’t planning to,” the airbender said seriously. “This is a journey you need to take. You need to face this man.” Katara smiled lightly and turned to climb on Appa. “But when you do, please don’t choose revenge. Let your anger out and then let it go. Forgive him.” Zuko rolled his eyes as he climbed to the saddle.

“Okay, we’ll be sure to do that guru-goody-goody,” he muttered through his teeth. Katara offered another soft smile to the Avatar.

“Thanks for understanding Aang,” she said before they took off.

 

“You know,” Sokka spoke for the first time, “you’re pretty wise for a kid.”

“Thanks Sokka,” Aang said surprised.

“Usually it’s annoying but right now, I’m just impressed.”

“I appreciate that.” Aang narrowed his eyes, not sure if that was a compliment or not.
“So… can I borrow Momo for a week?” Sokka asked suddenly. Aang looked at him alarmed.

“Why do you need Momo?” he asked surprised, to receive only a shrug as an answer.

 

Zuko had taken over steering Appa with Katara sitting tensely next to him.

“We need to find the Fire Navy communication tower,” he explained to her. “All the navy’s movements are coordinated by messenger hawk. And every tower has to be up to date on where everyone is deployed.”

“So once we find the communication tower, we bust in and take the information we need,” Katara summarized. Zuko shook his head.

“Not exactly. We need to be stealthy and make sure no one spots us. Otherwise, they’ll warn the Southern Raiders. Long before we reach them.”

 

Warning or no warning Katara moved silently next to her boyfriend, melding with the shadows, drawing from her days as the Painted Lady. They sneaked inside the tower through the ventilation system and crawled to where the archives were. A guard was sitting on a table there, painting a map. Katara silently bended the ink, making its bottle topple over the guard’s hands. She sighed in annoyance and went to clean up, not noticing the two shadows that jumped inside the room.

“Okay, Southern Raiders…” Zuko muttered as he went through some files. He pulled out a map. “There.” He pointed at a small insignia. “On patrol near Whale Tail Island.”

“Whale Tail Island, here we come,” Katara said, rushing back to their way out.

 

Zuko looked at her in worry as she took the reins once again. She had not slept the previous night and dark rings were beginning to appear under her eyes.

“You should get some rest. We’ll be there in a few hours. You’ll need all your strength,” he told her softly as he took a seat next to her and gently pried the reigns from her hands.

“Now, don’t you worry about my strength. I have plenty,” the waterbender said grimly. “I’m not the helpless little girl I was when they came.” She closed her eyes for a moment, reliving the day of the raid. “I ran as fast as I could to get help. But, we were too late. When we got there, the man was gone. And so was she.” Her voice broke a little. Zuko embraced her tightly.

“Your mother was a brave woman,” he said quietly, biting back the tears that threatened to escape. Katara clutched her necklace.

“I know.”

 

Zuko might hate to see her upset but at least now she had agreed to catch up on her sleep. He had taken over steering when a fleet appeared on the horizon. He shook Katara and when she opened her eyes, he gave her the telescope and pointed out.

“There! See those Sea Raven flags? It’s the Southern Raiders,” he explained. Katara looked at him determined.

“Let’s do this.”
Repeating the trick she had used during the invasion, Katara made an air bubble around Appa’s head and they dived underwater. Her eyes narrowed in concentration, she made them come out of the water near the flagship, following an enormous wave that knocked everyone off deck. Zuko took the lead while they navigated through the corridor, looking for the captain’s cabin and knocking guards out with his swords. They finally arrived at their destination.

“This is it, Katara. Are you ready to face him?” he asked taking a step back. Katara stood in front of him wordlessly, pulled down her mask and blasted the door off its hinges with her water. The captain turned at their less-than-subtle entrance and immediately attacked them. Zuko pushed himself in front of Katara, blocking the fireball and sending one back to the captain.

“Who are you?” he asked alarmed. Zuko’s eyes narrowed in anger.

“You don’t remember her?” he spat, stealing a glance to the glowering Katara. “You will soon. Trust me.” He firebended again and his opponent blocked but as he tried to move to attack again, he found himself not being able to move.

 

Zuko’s head snapped towards Katara and his eyes widened in horror. He had noticed the full moon outside, but he didn’t think she would go as far as bloodbending to punish the man. Biting his lips he turned back at the captain. This was her fight.

“Think back. Think back to your last raid on the Southern Water Tribe,” he ordered him.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please, I don’t know!” the man begged horrified. Zuko grew angry.

“Don’t lie! You look her in the eye and you tell me you don’t remember what you did.” Katara forced him to sit up, starring hatefully at his eyes. A flash of shock passed through her body and she let him go.

“It’s not him,” she said backing away. “He’s not the man.”

“What?! What do you mean he’s not? He’s a leader of the Southern Raiders! He has to be the guy!” Zuko asked incredulously. The waterbender turned away in disappointment but he wasn’t ready to give up yet. He grabbed the captain and pinned him to the wall. “If you’re not the man we’re looking for, who is?” he demanded.

“You must be looking for Yon Rha. He retired four years ago,” the terrified man barely had time to explain before he was knocked out.

 

A quick look through some of the papers Zuko had “borrowed” revealed where Yon Rha was living now. Zuko was giving worried glances to Katara during the entire journey. The closer they got to her mother’s murderer, the colder she became, the kindness and compassion that she usually exuded completely gone. As they sneaked around at the village they noticed an old man walking away, looking nervously around him.

“That was him. That was the monster,” Katara hissed as soon as she saw his eyes.

 

The two of them prepared a quick booby trap noticing absently that it began to rain. Yon Rha seemed to have sensed that someone was watching him because suddenly he firebended at a random direction.

“Nobody sneaks up on me without being burned,” he yelled with a hint of nervousness in his voice. As he turned to walk away he tripped right over the booby trap. A blast of fire made him freeze before he even had a chance to move.

“We weren’t behind the bush,” Zuko said calmly and took another step towards the cowering man. “And I wouldn’t try firebending again.”

“Whoever you are, take my money. Take whatever you want, I’ll cooperate,” Yon Rha said frightened. Katara walked up and pulled her mask down.

“Do you know who I am?” she demanded coldly.

“No, I’m not sure,” Yon Rha said hesitantly.

“Oh you better remember me like your life depends on it! Why don’t you take a closer look?” she yelled.  Yon Rha’s eyes widened in realisation.

“Yes, yes. I remember you now. You’re the little Water Tribe girl.” His mind flashed back to that day. “The daughter of the waterbender I killed.” Katara’s eyes narrowed and she bit her lips in an effort to calm down.

“She lied to you,” she said brokenly. “She was protecting the last waterbender.”

“What? Who?” he asked surprised. Katara’s eyes snapped in fury.

“ME!” she yelled.

 

She raised her hands and the rain stood still. The raindrops formed a dome around them. Yon Rha looked around him horrified as Katara formed icicles and with a yell threw them at his direction. The old firebender cowered, closing his eyes and waiting for the end to come. When nothing happened he opened his eyes hesitantly. The icicles were still hovering near him but Katara had held back. Wordlessly she released her hold on the water.

“I did a bad thing. I know I did and you deserve revenge. So why don’t you take my mother? That would be fair,” Yon Rha blurted out, a tone of hopefulness in his voice that made both teens want to puke.

“I always wondered what kind of person could do such a thing. But now that I see you, I think I understand. There’s just nothing inside you. Nothing at all. You’re pathetic and sad and empty,” Katara said disgusted.

“Please spare me,” Yon Rha sobbed, still fearing for his life.
“But as much as I hate you…” her voice broke. “I just can’t do it.”

 

She turned to walk away and Yon Rha looked up with a slight smile of relief that was wiped away when he noticed the glare Zuko was giving him. The prince walked away too, leaving the man weeping in relief. On the ride back Zuko wordlessly changed directions. Katara didn’t look up from where she was sitting on the saddle until she felt them landing. Looking around disinterestedly at first, her eyes widened in shock.

“Where are we?” she asked surprised as she joined Zuko on the ground. They had arrived at an abandoned beach house.

“It’s my family’s summer house. It’s closer to the capital than our campsite and we’ll be more comfortable here,” he explained, wrapping an arm around her waist.

“But is it safe?” Katara insisted. Zuko simply nodded and looked at her worried.

“Will you be okay on your own?” he asked worried. “I need to go pick up the others and you’re too tired to come with me.”

“Are you afraid of me?” Katara asked hesitantly. Zuko shook his head, understanding what she was talking about.

“You were angry and hurt. It’s natural to lose control,” he said calmly. “But I won’t tell the others,” he added reassuringly. With a light kiss on the lips he walked back to Appa and turned to look at her. Katara managed a small smile before the bison took off.

 

By sunset the others had arrived. While Lia and Suki were busy trying to bring the house in some semblance of order –Sokka and Toph having conveniently disappeared–, Aang and Zuko went to find the waterbender. She was sitting at the small dock that was on the side of the house’s private beach.

“Katara!” Aang called from behind. “Are you okay?” he asked awkwardly.

“I’m doing fine.” The waterbender didn’t bother to turn.

“Zuko told me what you did. Or… what you didn’t do, I guess. I’m proud of you,” Aang continued with a smile. Katara turned to glare at him.

“I wanted to do it. I wanted to take out all my anger at him but, I couldn’t.” She turned to look at the ocean again. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m too weak to do it or if it’s because I’m strong enough not to.”

“You did the right thing,” Aang insisted. “Forgiveness is the first step you have to take to begin healing.” Katara stood up and looked at him angrily.

“I didn’t forgive him. I’ll never forgive him.” Her face softened as she walked up to Zuko. “But I am ready to move on.” She threw herself in his arms, kissing him lightly before she walked back to the house.

“You were right about what Katara needed. Violence wasn’t the answer,” Zuko said softly.

“It never is,” Aang answered simply. Zuko turned to look at him with a grim look.

“Then I have a question for you. What are you going to do when you face my father?”