“Ugh!” I groaned as I hit the ground with a loud thud. I could hear the growling from behind me which quickly sprung me to my feet, continuing my failing escape plan as thorns and rocks dug their ways into my skin and bare feet. Shit shit shit, I repeated in my head as I clutched my bundle of fabric closer to my chest, still running from the creatures that were chasing me. I dared to turn my head over my shoulder momentarily only to see one of the horrid things jump at me with its mouth open, its sharp teeth and long tongue making its way towards me.
I shrieked loudly and swiftly turned to the left where I could soon see a path start to form. The rustling and growling and snapping of teeth behind me only got louder and louder as my legs screamed out in pain.
I ran and I ran until I could feel my body start to give out beneath me and panic flooded over me. I frantically turned my head in all directions, looking for any possible way out of here and saw the edge of a cliff and heard the sound of rushing water.
Fortune favours the bold, I thought to myself as I sprinted towards the cliff. I stopped for a moment at the edge, panting heavily, looking down and seeing a huge waterfall with a small pool of water at the bottom.
Suddenly a twig snapped behind me and I turned around to see a group of five or so creatures creeping towards me, all with their mouths hanging open to display their sharp teeth and their wide eyes fully focused on me and the bundle of cloth that I held. I took a cautious step back, stumbling when my heel hit the edge of the cliff sending a few small rocks tumbling over the edge and a yelp escaped my mouth.
The snarling creatures creeped closer, drool dripping down their wide open jaws as giant, clawed paws hit the ground with soft thuds.
I took a deep breath, squeezed my eyes shut and took the last step back, falling over the edge.
I curled myself into a ball, clutching the bundle tight to my chest as wind rushed past me, making my short auburn hair move like waves.
Out of pure muscle memory, my body started shifting mid-air, going from a fetal position to fully straight, prepared to meet the surface of the water. And it came. Very suddenly, as the tips of my toes stung from the impact while the rest of my body was enveloped with the cool liquid.
Instinctively my knees started going back up to regain my fetal position, before my brain kicked in and I instead started swimming to the surface. My legs flailing wildly, I finally reached the surface, opening my amber eyes and taking in a much needed breath.
Tossing my hair to the side, I let one of my arms leave its grip on the bundle that I still had clutched to my chest and started to swim towards the shore. Reaching the edge, I reach up and grab hold of the ground, dragging my body out of the water as deep breaths slowly came out of my mouth.
Sitting at the edge, my lower legs mindlessly dangling around in the water, I finally place the cloth on my thighs, unfolding the fabric.
I carefully pick up some fruit and a piece of, now soggy, bread, carefully munching on the food as the red hues of the sunset softly hit the water lapping softly at my feet.
Suddenly, I hear a low roar and a loud thud as something big hits the ground and I freeze, listening for any indication of danger, when I suddenly hear voices. Relaxing my stance, I turn my head and look curiously in the direction of the voices. They sound young, maybe around my age.
Curiosity getting the better of me, I rise fully out of the water and walk towards the sound, making sure to stay light on my feet. Wouldn’t want to accidentally startle a Fire Nation troup.
Wincing slightly as I start feeling the stinging from stepping on rocks and pebbles, I finally reach a clearing, hiding behind some bushes as I observe the group of people.
Three. That’s how many they were. One short, young boy with a bald head and a blue arrow running out from his back, reaching his forehead, dressed in vibrant oranges and reds was petting a giant fuzzy animal with six legs while the other two were bickering. The other two were significantly taller, one a guy and one a girl. They both had tan skin and fluffy, dark brown hair with striking blue eyes, both of their clothing dark blue with a few white parts.
Silently watching the group of them interact, I subconsciously start backing away from them, not wanting to interfere with them as they would surely realise what I was, if my auburn hair, red, ragged clothes and bright, glowing amber eyes were any indication.
Suddenly a twig snapped underneath my foot, because of course it had to. Fuck. I thought as all their heads turned in my direction. “Who's there?!” the taller guy with the short ponytail yelled, reaching behind his back and bringing out a boomerang. The girl went into a bending stance and looked around, while the last one protectively placed a hand on the animal's nose, who seemed to be the only one that didn’t care.
“We know you’re there! Just come out, you won’t be able to surprise us anymore!” the guy yelled again.
Taking a deep breath to try and calm my racing heart, my clothes clinging to my still wet body, I carefully step out of the bushes and watch as all their eyes widen slightly.
“I’m not here to hurt you, I promise.” I mumble out before any of them can say anything. “I just heard you all talking and wanted to see what was going on, but, I’ll leave you alone.” I started to turn around but suddenly the girl spoke.
“Are you alright?” she asked apprehensively. Looking at her, she had lowered her bending stance and was carefully making her way over to me. Freezing to the spot, a small frown appeared on my lips as my eyes widened in terror, shaking my head slightly.
Her face softened and she reached out to touch my arm, which promptly caused me to flinch. She looked up at me and I could see she looked sad, which wasn’t much of a surprise.
I was wearing all tattered clothes, that were all wet and hung heavily around my body. Dark circles were formed around my eyes and my face had cuts all over it. My entire body was trembling uncontrollably, hunched over, and she reached out again, I didn’t react as much this time as I was prepared.
“Hey, stay for a while won’t you? You look like you could need some rest.” she offered me a kind smile. I looked at the other two, the young boy having a similar kind smile while the other guy just looked at me. I gave her a short nod and she started tugging me over towards where they had started setting up a camp.
“I’m Katara by the way.” she mumbled gently. “What?” I asked, dumbfounded.
She chuckled and gently sat me down by their fire. “My name, it’s Katara.” she repeated. “And yours?” I looked at her, still confused as to why they were being so nice to me, the other two slowly going over to where me and Katara sat.
“Oh, I, I’m Liv.” I muttered, staring down at the ground. “Well, it’s nice to meet you, Liv.” she chirped. She suddenly turned towards the other two as they sat down on either side of us. “This is Aang,” she gestured towards the short boy with the arrow, who was sitting next to her. He waved happily at me. “And this is my brother, Sokka.” she gestured towards the guy next to me with the short ponytail. He just looked at me suspiciously.
I nodded slowly and drew my knees up to my chest, shuffling closer to the fire.
“And the bison over there is Appa.” Aang happily explained as he gestured towards the giant, fuzzy creature, who just let out a loud yawn and lied down. I once again nodded, never looking up from the ground.
A few minutes of silence passed before Sokka decided to break it.
“So, Liv, where are you from?” he asked. Of course he had to ask that specific question. And now I had to answer.
I looked up at him, locking eyes with him and answered honestly. “I’m from the Fire Nation up north. I had escaped with my parents and my sister, but they were captured about two years ago.” I replied.
All their eyes widened slightly, and both Katara and Sokka moved away from me slightly. Of course, I thought. They’re Water Tribe, of course they would hate me after everything the Fire Nation has done to their people.
“I’m sorry, I’ll just go.” I started to sit up when Aang touched my arm softly. He didn’t look scared or angry, he just looked worried about me.
“Are you okay?” he asked softly. “You escaped from the Fire Nation so something must have happened. Do you want to talk about it?” I drew in a quick, deep breath, biting harshly down on my inner cheek as I felt tears starting to make their way to my eyes. I shook my head violently and started trembling again. “No. No, I don’t.” I muttered.
He nodded, a sympathetic frown on his face. Katara slowly started to relax as well, putting a comforting hand on my shoulder. They all looked at each other before Aang and Katara smiled, Sokka letting out a long sigh. I just looked at them, confused before he spoke.
“Okay, fine.” he muttered. “Do you want to stick with us?”
My shock and confusion had to be clear on my face cause he spoke again. “You could stay with us if you want. Aang is the Avatar, he’s looking for an earthbending teacher right now.” he explained. “Eventually he’s going to need a firebending teacher so if you stick around maybe you could teach him? If you are a firebender that is.”
I blinked slowly and nodded. “I am a firebender, I’m not that good at it but I know the basics.” a small smile made its way to my lips. “If you would let me stay with you, I would greatly appreciate that, and of course I could teach him firebending.”
“Great! We don’t have enough sleeping bags right now so you’ll just have to sleep with Appa. Don’t worry he’s really soft, right buddy?” Aang happily cheered as Appa growled.
Finally letting a bright smile make its way to my face, a few small tears slide down my cheeks and suddenly I’m enveloped in a warm hug by Aang and Katara. Clutching onto them like my life depended on it, heavy sobs suddenly wrecking my whole body as the weight of everything finally started to settle, suddenly realising how tired and hungry I was.
Katara mumbled sweet and comforting words into my ears while rubbing my back softly while Aang rocked all three of us back and forth.
“Come on, Sokka. get over here.” Kataras head suddenly left its spot at my shoulder to look at her brother. He sighed, muttering a ‘fine’ as he started to make his way over to us as well, though he didn’t look all that unhappy about it, if the giant smile on his face was anything to go by.
After a very long group hug, we finally finished setting camp while Katara cooked our food. It was the best thing I had eaten in a long time, being on the run and I almost started crying again, thanking her profusely for the food.
Eventually the sun set and we all went to go sleep, me making my way over to Appa, softly petting his nose as he closed his eyes slowly, leaning into the touch.
“Hey buddy, mind if I bunk with you tonight?” I mumbled gently to him. He gave me a short grunt, nuzzling his face against my whole body as my smile only widened.
“Seems like you won’t mind too much.” I walked over to his legs, climbing up on them and making myself comfortable in all his long, fluffy fur.
“Goodnight, everyone.” Katara yawned before settling into her sleeping bag. Everyone replied with a ‘goodnight’ of their own before going to sleep.
I placed my head against the giant bison's side, a contented smile still plastered on my lips as sleep slowly enveloped me into its warm darkness.