“Okay, this sucks .” Sokka complained for the fourth time since they’d started the fishing trip in the iceberg field.
“ So you’ve said,” Katara eyed the small fish that had once more eluded her brother’s spear.
Sokka scowled at his sister over his shoulder, and then refocused on the fish. “Okay, it’s not getting away from me this time. Watch and learn Katara!”
“ Sure thing Sokka.” Katara desired nothing less than to watch her brother fish, but then a small movement caught her eye. There was another fish, swimming closer to the canoe. She glanced back at her brother, who was distracted, and then took a deep breath. Remembering what Zuko had told her about pushing and pulling, she took off her mitten, and tried bending the fish out of the water.
It was difficult, and the water did not respond easily, but slowly, a ball of water encapsulating the fish rose above the water. “Sokka, look, I caught one.”
“Hang on, I’ve almost got this.” Sokka jostled the canoe, and Katara’s control started to slip. She tried bending the water over the boat before she dropped the fish, and overcorrected, losing any hold on the water...right over her brother’s head.
Sokka yelps, accidentally knocking the fish that had now fallen in the canoe back in the water, and turns to glare at her. “Katara!”
“Why is it, whenever you play with magic water, I get soaked! I almost had that fish!”
“It’s not magic, it’s waterbending ! And unlike you, I actually had a fish, until you knocked it back in the water.”
“Whatever! Just don’t use that weird freaky magic around me!” Sokka yelled, and Katara scowled at him.
“It’s not weir...whoa!” The boat jerked suddenly during their fight, and the siblings looked around, noticing that they were now caught in a current of rapidly shifting icebergs.
“Oh, no! Hold on!” Sokka takes control of the paddles, and tries desperately to direct the canoe away from impacting with the ice.
“Watch out!” Katara cries, noticing too late another iceberg heading right for them.
Making a split decision, Sokka grabs his sister, and flings them both out of the canoe, onto a nearby iceberg, just as the boat is smashed by the ice.
The two siblings come back to their senses, and watch the debris of their boat float apart, and Katara frowns. “Well that’s just great!” Sokka groans.
“What part of watch out did you not get?” Katara shoots at him, and Sokka’s face twists with anger.
“Hey, I was at least doing something! Maybe if you had used your bending, we’d still have our boat right now!”
“Oh, so it’s my fault!” Katara cries, infuriated.
“Ugh, I knew I should’ve left you at home. Leave it to a girl to screw things up!” Sokka spits, and Katara stiffens, before going red entirely.
“You are the most...sexist...nut-brained...immature...jerk!” Katara flung snow at her brother, not noticing her emotions’ impact they were standing on. “I’m...I’m embarrassed to even be RELATED to you! Ugh!”
Sokka’s eyes widened, noticing large cracks form in the ice outcropping. His face takes on an expression of terror, which Katara doesn’t notice.
“Ever since Zuko left, I’ve been doing all the work, while you’ve been playing warrior!” The ice starts to slide apart, and tumble downwards.
“Between you and Dad, I’ve been left alone...”
“Katara!” Sokka yells, and points, and she finally turns, seeing the ice landslide. She gasps, and the iceberg splits completely in half, pounds of snow and ice tumbling into the water, and towards them, throwing the siblings flat on their backs.
Coughing, and shivering, they sit up, and Sokka looks at his sister blankly. “Okay, weird magic suddenly became freakish!”
Katara blinks, and stares at the iceberg in shock. “You mean...I did that?”
“Yep,” Sokka tries to get up, but slips on the fresh snow. “Congratulations.” The iceberg that they’re left laying on suddenly tips, and a large dome of ice suddenly surges out of the water. Sokka and Katara scramble to find purchase so that they’re not thrown in the water, but the ground eventually settles.
The two Water Tribe members eye the dome, which is subtly glowing. Inching closer, Katara realizes that she can see the form of something...no, someone inside.
Sokka pokes the dome with his spear, which was laying half buried in the snow. The glow gets rapidly brighter, and the figure that they can see appears to open their eyes.
“Oh my...he’s alive. We have to help!”
“What!” Sokka yelps. “No way! We don’t even know who, or what that thing is! Let’s just leave it alon...Katara!”
Katara lunges for her brother, quickly grabbing the machete on his back out of the sheath, and strikes the dome with it, causing cracks to form. She hits the ice again, and the cracks get wider, and wider. On the third strike, the dome splits open, and a blast of freezing air emerges, blasting the two backwards. Pushing themselves up, a large beam of light shoots into the air. Sokka leaps over his sister, but the light fades and the two cautiously approach the iceberg, which has now become a massive crater.
“What was that?” Katara whispers, and the two peek over the rim of the crater, before lurching backwards as someone heaves themselves out of the dome.
The boy is small, younger than either of them, completely bald and wearing bright yellow and orange clothing. Faint blue tattoos cover his hands and head. Before either of them can say anything, the figure collapses, and tumbles towards them, and Katara has to rush to catch him.
She gently sets the boy’s prone form on the snow, and Sokka pokes him a few times with the butt of his speak, before Katara snaps at him to stop.
It was then that the boy started to muster consciousness, and Katara realized that his eyes were starting to open. A soft noise emerged from his mouth, and she leant closer to try and hear him.
“I need to ask you something...” He whispered.
Katara nodded, and said “Okay, what is it?”
The boy struggled briefly to speak louder, and his eyes opened a bit more. “Please...”
Katara moved even closer, and his eyes finally focused, locking with hers. “Will you go penguin-sledding with me?”
“Uh...” Katara was stunned, and a little confused. “Sure, I guess.”
The boy sat up, and then in a fluid, impossible motion, floated to his feet. Katara and Sokka both stepped away in apprehension and awe.
“ So what’s going on? Where are we?” The boy asked.
“You tell us!” Sokka snapped. “How did you get in the ice? Why aren’t you frozen, or more accurately, dead?” He poked the boy in the side, but the boy pushed away the spear.
“I don’t know.” The boy asked absentmindedly, before a loud chuffing noise emerged from within the crater. Perking up, the boy scrambled back over the ridge, and Sokka and Katara peered after him, mouths dropping open upon seeing a large, white, fuzzy creature stirring at the bottom of the crater.
“Appa! You alright buddy? C’mon, wake up!” The creature moves slowly, and licks the boy, causing him to laugh.
“Wow, wow, whoa. Wait a second. What...is that thing?” Sokka stands up on the crest of the ridge.
“This is Appa,” The boy replied cheerfully. “...My flying bison.”
Sokka rolled his eyes, and snarked back in response. “Yeah, right, and this is Katara, my flying sister.” Katara frowns at her brother, and the boy looks at him in confusion before taking note of their surroundings.
“Woah, do you guys live around here?”
Sokka shifted into a defensive stance, and moved in front of Katara. “Don’t answer that! Did you see that flash of light? He could be trying to signal the Fire Nation.”
“Sokka, you’re being ridiculous. We’re at peace with the Fire Nation, and besides, does he LOOK like a spy for them?”
The boy blinked doe-like at the siblings, and Katara smirked, proving her point. Addressing the boy now, she shrugged, and said “The paranoid one is my brother, Sokka. What’s your name?””
The boy made to answer, but then a massive sneeze erupted from his nose, sending him flying several feet in the air.
Katara and Sokka watched the boy float back down in disbelief, and Katara put the pieces together. “You’re an airbender!”
“Sure am,” The boy smiled. “My name’s Aang.”
“There’s no way...I must be going crazy. I’m going home, where things make sense.” Sokka tried to walk off, but realized quickly that there was no way home, and he groaned loudly.
“Are you guys stuck? Appa and I can give you a ride.” Aang offered.
“Oh, no, we are not getting ON that thing! For all we know, it could eat us.” Sokka protested, but Katara nodded, and the boy offered her his hand, pulling her into the saddle, and not wanting to be left behind, Sokka quickly follows.
“Okay, hold on! Appa, yip yip!”
The sky bison climbs to his feet slowly, and takes a running jump, before landing heavily in the water, creating a large splash.
“I thought you said this thing could fly?” Sokka asked sarcastically.
“He can. He just must be tired from being in the ice.” The boy grinned at Katara, who brushed her hair behind her ear uncomfortably.
“Um...why are you staring at me like that?”
“Oh, uh...I was staring?” The boy blushed, and Katara flushed a little herself. Sokka stuck his tongue out at her.
After a little ways towards the village, Katara started asking questions. “Hey, Aang, I was wondering...since you’re an airbender , do you have any idea what happened to the Avatar?”
Aang tensed slightly, but shook his head. “No, sorry. I don’t know him. I mean, I know people that know him, but I don’t.”
“Okay, I was just cur. ..wait . Know?” Katara caught Aang’s verb tense. Sokka sat up, having caught it as well. “Are you saying the Avatar is still alive?”
Aang frowned, and nodded, before answering. “I guess, why?”
Sokka makes a noise of shock and disgust. “Uh, then where has he been for the last hundred years?”
“What are you talking about?” Aang asks.
“The war. The Fire Nation, where has the Avatar been the whole time, and why didn’t he do anything about it?”
“What war?” Aang stares at them like they’ve lost their minds.
“Okay, I’m starting to think that I’m not the one going crazy!” Sokka exclaimed, and sat back, settling against the rim of the saddle. Katara stared at Aang, trying to understand his confusion, before sitting back herself in silence.
As they continued towards the Water Tribe village, Aang curled up inside the saddle, and fell asleep, trusting Appa to take them where they needed to go. The sleep might even have been restful, if the echoes of lightning and thunder didn’t shatter his dreams.
Miles away from the Water Tribe, a lone Fire Navy ship patrolled at the edge of Fire Nation borders, and a single man stood on the deck, a telescope aimed at the South Pole. Spotting the flash of light in the distance, he smiled to himself, and turned to the soldiers posted on the bow.
“Fetch me a messenger hawk, we have our motive to break the contract with the Water Tribe.”
“Yes, Commander Zhao.”
Back in the Fire Nation, Zuko wandered aimlessly around the royal palace, looking up and admiring the portraits of past Firelords . He was so enarmored with them that he didn’t hear his father come up behind him.
“Zuko, there you are.” Zuko startled, and whirled around, facing the imposing man.
“Prince Ozai , I didn’t hear you coming. I apologize.”
“I would speak with you a moment.”
“Of course, sir.” Internally, Zuko started panicking.
“Walk with me.” Ozai gestured down the hallway, and Zuko complied.
“You start sailing back to the Southern Water Tribe tomorrow, yes?” Ozai asked, already knowing the answer.
“I understand that you’ve acclimated well to being in the South Pole?”
Zuko was suspicious. “It’s taken some adjustment, and it will take a great deal more time to be fully comfortable, but yes, I suppose. I am happy to do so though, in order to fulfill my duty to the throne, and our nation.”
Ozai made a pleased noise. “Yes, that is good to hear. Unfortunately, I must tell you something. I have received a troubling message from a ship posted at our Southern ocean border.”
Zuko was alarmed, but made no indication of such on his face. “What was the message?”
“It seems that the Southern Water Tribe has been keeping a secret, one that violates the terms of our peace treaty.”
“What is the secret?” Zuko asks, concerned.
“It seems that they have been harboring the Avatar.”
Shock and disbelief washed over Zuko, and his mind briefly thought of Katara, the only bender in the village. Had she looked at his scrolls, and learned to firebend?
“How is that possible? The Avatar was killed over a hundred years ago, during the siege on the Air Nomads!” Zuko protested, refusing to believe his father’s words.
“That is what you must determine. You will meet Commander Zhao on your journey back to the Water Tribe, identify the Avatar, and bring them back here. If you deliver them, the Fire Nation will consider the contract between the Water Tribes and the Fire Nation fulfilled, and they will be left alone. But if the Avatar eludes us...”
Ozai trailed off, allowing his tone to speak for him. Zuko realized what his father was saying. If the Avatar was not handed over to the Fire Nation, the Fire Nation would destroy the Southern Water Tribe.
“I will bring the Avatar to you, personally.” Zuko bowed, and Ozai nodded.
“See that you do. After all, your honor as a member of this family depends upon it."