Avatar: The Cycle's End...

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Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Mon May 28, 2012 7:10 pm

Avatar: The Cycle's End...
(An Avatar Alternate Universe Role Play)
Book One
Chapter One: "Journey to Ba Sing Se"

"Listen up." Came the gravelly voice of their commander as he stared down each and every one of the people who were assembled there. Ten some odd men and women of varying ages looked at him, some with respect, some with contempt, others with fear. The golden eyes that stared back held none of those things for them, only wisdom and conviction. Their commander was smart enough to know that each time they went out, their chances of survival diminished severely. That each time they were sent out there against their brothers, the chances that one of them would come back maimed, beaten, broken would increase exponentially. The chance that they wouldn’t come back at all was always a concern. Those golden eyes had seen it happen, they had endured the loss of people that he had cared about and had not broken. They had seen horrors that most of them could not imagine, and had not shed a tear. And one eye in particular spoke of pain that had been endured, things that could not be ever undone that had been met in the past, and served as a grave reminder that the people that they were facing would not hesitate to hurt them, to scar them, to take everything away from them.

"We strike at the peak of the moon when their bending is at its weakest." The commander continued, slamming his fingertip down on a map. It was of a particular valley that ran through the edge of the Earth Kingdom, one of the few that lead out close to the edge of their Kingdom, and opened up into the great sea where the Fire Nation ships could sail from it to attack the Water Tribe. It was there that several rebels had been caught, rebels that the commander meant to free. They were of a particularly bloodthirsty and savage lot, but Iroh had always said that the enemy of one's enemy was a friend. Even if he released them out into the world, if their work at the Shipyard had been any indication, they would take out at least 10 for every one of them that was freed, if not more. In a war where they were outnumbered a hundred if not a thousand to one when it came to the Fire Nation's might vs. that of those who would oppose them, numbers like that became startlingly important, as Iroh would be quick to remind them.

"So we're going to strike when your bending will be at its weakest?" Came the sardonic voice of a poufy haired kid in the back who was leaning up against one of the tent poles, a lazy straw hanging out of his mouth as he raised his eyebrows at the commander. His insubordination wasn't unexpected in the slightest, but the commander knew well enough to know that his practical begging to be sucker punched was merely the whining of a dog without teeth, startling to any but those who knew that there was no bite behind anything that he did.

"My bending is never weak." The commander growled back dismissively. "And more importantly, there are water tribe rebels inside of this caravan. If we all are weak, and they are at their best, then we have the advantage. If we attack when the water benders are at their weakest, then we will be strong, but not have the superior numbers to fight off our opponents." He said, tapping the board again. "Are there any other stupid questions? Or has Jet managed to take care of all of them... again?"

There was a slight chuckle that rose from the tent. Jet scowled a little at it and started to raise his hook swords, only to find the cold eyes of the commander on him. There was a moment of silence that fell over the tent, but all present knew well enough to know that the commander wouldn't need to bend in order to take out the poufy haired youth, there would only need to be the drawing of his Dao blades to all but guarantee victory. Jet clearly sized up the situation in that heartbeat as well, along with the cold glare of the commander and lowered his blades then, crossing his arms as he let out a little bit of a huff as he chewed on his strand of straw again noisily and sighed. "Whatever."

"The Captain is going with us on this one, so..." A cheer rose up from the tent at that and the commander sighed softly. It was wonderful for morale, of course, but he knew well enough to know what it meant that the Captain happened to be going with them. It meant that there was another chance in a firefight for him not to be watching the Captain's back, for the Captain to give him a cocky grin only to be downed by a fireball aimed at his back, to have a thrown blade lodge itself in his side, to not see it as an arc of cold fire went through him and lodged into the ground, killing him instantly where it was that he stood. The commander had experienced nightmares of it many times, and had seen again and again the grim face of Iroh as he accepted the news. It was not something that he relished ever having to do in real life. "The captain is coming, so we can't get this wrong." The commander growled with extra ferocity.

"You, you, and you." He pointed at Jet last. "You're going to be taking the head car and in the meantime cause a distraction. The Captain and I will be taking the two cars in the rear once you cause the vanguard to advance to meet you. Since you seem to be rather good at being annoying, I'm guessing that won't be too much of a problem for you?" The commander scowled, glaring a little at Jet.

"You know me, boss, I'm always making friends..." Jet said with a little bit of a shrug. "Must be my award winning personality."

"The rest of you are going to be sniping from the edge of the cliffs and coming down to surprise their guard from above. This isn't anything we haven't done a dozen times before, but that means that they've probably know most of our standard tactics. Let's start with the special stuff tonight, if anything these people are supposed to be some of the best that the Norther-... that the Water Tribe has left." The commander said, correcting himself. Jet looked at him with raised eyebrows, but the commander shook it off. It was still not easy to think about the fact that up until 4 years ago there had been a Southern Water Tribe, that there had been an avatar that protected them from the fire nation. When Sozin's comet had come it had changed everything, and now there was just... nothing left any longer.

"Alright, you all have your orders. Dismissed. Get some sleep. I'll need you all at your best tonight... there isn't going to be any margin for error here." The commander sat back and sighed a little as the men filed out of the tent, watching them go and doing his best not to roll his eyes as Jet made a mockery of a salute at him as he leaned against the table, looking at the well drawn map that he had made off of the landscape, the way that he had drawn the iron caravan that would be making its way across the landscape. He remembered when he used to draw other things, when his mother's hands guided his own across the pages. Before she'd gone to a place where she could be safe. It had taken forever to track her down, and it had been worth it all for that one moment he had been in her arms again, like the little kid that he'd always been.

"Good job, 'Commander'" Came a patronizing voice of the Captain as he stood in the doorway. The Commander's golden eyes wandered outside the tent to see if anyone else was looking, but he saw the Captain smirk a little and shake his head. "Don't worry, brother, no one is actually looking, and hey, I appreciate that you actually checked, it took a hell of a long time to rid you of all that formality inside of you. Look, I can see your face twisting into a frown right now; it's in there just begging to come out isn't it?" The Captain's grin widened as he came up and punched the commander in the shoulder. "You are wound far too tight, brother...."

The Captain wasn't his brother, not really. In fact they were cousins, but they had lived together, fought side by side long enough that somewhere along the line the Captain had just started to call him brother, and it had stuck. It didn't hurt matters any that his own father didn't want him at all, and Iroh had pulled him alongside as a surrogate son. Teaching him everything that he could. The years of training had been harsh, agonizing even, but Iroh's hand had been steady. And the Captain had been more than willing, eager even, to fill in the blanks left by Iroh's tutelage, to the point where the gruff old man had growled and been forced to teach Iroh enough to be a Firebending master for fear that the Captain's 'half lessons' would cause them both to get into a world of trouble. That hadn't stopped them of course, but it had taught the Commander the basis for everything else in his life. The Commander felt the twisted scowl on his face starting to fade the more that the Captain spoke, the way that it always did.

"Spirits, you are wound WAY too tight, aren't you?" The Captain said with a sigh, and then gave a light shrug to his second in command. "You need to start taking my advice and start well... y'know... sowing those wild fire oats. Plowing those fields, slipping one in the wild Honey Beave-"

"I get it Lu Ten!" The commander interrupted him, feeling the heat in his face, then watching as Lu Ten's face lit up as the Commander's started to turn as red as molten Fire Nation steel. The Commander spun around to hide his face but he knew that Lu Ten wouldn't leave it at that. They had trained long enough that he knew exactly what would happen as soon as he turned away, but he didn't really have anywhere to go at this point, even if all he wanted to do was to burn a hole in the side of the tent and dash out of it as quickly as he could to hide before they got together to free the prisoners tonight and-

"Oh. Spirits. You still are a..." Lu Ten wrapped his arm around the Commander's neck from behind and pulled him close as he looked him in his unmarred eye and raised his eyebrows skyward. "Brother, you can't possibly be serious. Last month, we were in that one place... there was that girl from Ba Sing Se... What was her name again?"


"Jin! And what did I tell you? What did I tell you? C'mon..." Lu Ten started poking the commander's ribs hard enough that he tried to squirm away, even though the older man had him in a headlock. "WHAT DID I TELL YOU?"

"You said I should..."

"I said you SHOULLLLLLDDD....."

"Get...." The Commander flushed, "Get... 'in' Jin...."

"I SAID YOU SHOULD GET... IN... JIN.... Now why the hell did you not get 'in' Jin?" Lu Ten demanded, finally letting him free from his head lock. "I specifically said, 'Get "IN" Jin', it was not that complex of a task. You can take down an entire squadron of men single handedly. You can do things with firebending that even I cannot do... you are a Master Bender, and, well, if you didn't suck at making tea you would probably be my father's successor... so why the hell could you not do that one... little... thing!"

"It's not that simple... she..."

"Oh no... Do not give me that, I saw what 'she' wanted to do. She was practically mauling you when I left the two of you to get some privacy..."

The commander's face turned so red that literal steam was rising off of it. "Y-y-you were watching us?!"

"IN Jin. In Jin. It was not that complex. You pushed her away didn't you?" Lu Ten pushed an accusing finger in the Commander's face that caused him to back up a step and then cross his arms over his chest as he glowered.

"I... I just wasn't ready..."

"Oh spirits why?" Lu Ten threw up his arms. "It is the end of the world, Brother. This is it. Great Grandfather Sozin killed all of the airbenders, including the avatar when he was just a kid the first time Sozin's comet rolled around. That's it; the cycle is officially broken unless someone somewhere happens to just pop out an airbender by some magic of fate. Which, given that they were 'above' such things as common breeding with, well, normal people, doesn't seem very likely to me..."

"That's not... No one knows what is going to happen when the cycle finally ends, and I don't want to think about it. Besides, there is always the Earth Avatar..."

"Who can't learn airbending because there is no more airbending. And who is probably going to be toasted by the fire nation the next time Sozin's comet rolls past, the same way the Water Tribe Avatar was. The time is NOW.... you can't wait. Hell, girls are out there practically dropping their panties because they don't know that the world won't end tomorrow with the cycle broken, and it happened like a hundred years ago!" Lu Ten exclaimed. "You know how many girls that admit after I've slept with them that they think you're super cute?"

"That is really, really awkwar-"

"A lot! A... lot. You are missing out, Bro. You are seriously missing out on the bigger picture. Just think about what Father would do..." Lu Ten said. "I mean, just the last time we saw him he was-"

"Please stop..."

"And she was like my age, man... can you even imagine-"

"Please... please?" The commander pleaded. "I just... it's not right..."

Lu Ten frowned at that. "This is about that Mai chick, isn't it?" A long silence filled the air. "That wasn't your fault, you know. That bastard did it to push your buttons... you can't... If you let that stop you from ever loving again then you're just letting him win..."

"I know... I just... I can't." The commander sighed as he pushed his way out in the tent into the night. He glanced behind him and saw Lu Ten's shoulders sag. He wanted to go and tell his brother that it was alright, that he would be alright... but then they had promised that they wouldn't lie to one another like that. With a sigh the commander lowered his head, his shaggy hair falling down over his face before he brushed it off and stalked away into the night, looking up at the night sky, knowing that there wasn't a way that he was going to be able to sleep tonight.

As the moon began to rise high the Commander looked out across the canyon as his troops lay in wait, staring down at the caravan beneath. Slowly below them the troops rolled along, silently making their way through the passes that wound through the earth kingdom. They were comfortable now, as expected. They had expected an ambush closer to the entrance of this canyon, where it would have been a simpler process, but now that they were in the valley itself, it was merely a matter of rolling on through. The commander motioned to each of his troops to begin, noting the brazen thumbs up that Jet gave him before starting his approach. Jet would certainly excel at starting trouble, it was just his hope that Jet would leave it to just that.

Under the glow of the full moon then, the black clad rebels began their descent like shadows in the night. Jet's distraction lit up the night in the front of the caravan and the vanguard came rushing from the back to the front to crush whatever resistance might have stopped their convoy, but Jet was already making his way into the rocky sides of the cliffs, harassing the fire nation troops as he went. As the convoy passed the Commander noted Lu Ten saluting him and giving him a wink as he casually leapt down, the Commander following his suit as he landed soundlessly on top of the convoy.

Taking in a breath the Commander reached into his pack and pulled out some of the special wire that all the rebels had on them. It was a particular alloy that was left over from the smelting process of other metals, yet didn't melt as quickly as iron. It had been the commander's idea to use this in order to slip in and out of places without too bright of a show for it. Slowly he laid it out in a small circle on the top of the roof and began to bend into the wire, focusing the heat towards the edges of it, down lower and lower, feeling the heat as it melted its way through an amazingly thin section of the roof in a perfect circle. The trick was to keep bending the heat downward so you didn't get burned while you did it. Just before he had burned completely through he stopped, bending the heat out of the wire as he pressed on the heated iron beneath him just enough to cause one side to slide downward while the other slid up, so that when it finally gave way he could catch it and set it on top of the roof rather than letting it clatter to the bottom below.

Throwing down two half melted balls of wax, the Commander dropped into the hole, landing silently while at the same time pointing at either one to cause them to burst into life on either side of him, illuminating the container in a startling manner as he held up his hands in case there were any guards in the car who could bend. All he saw though were frightened looking rebels who had been beaten, abused. He put his hands to his where his mask covered his lips to signify they should be quiet as he began to boost them out of the cabin one by one, until he was left alone in the car...

No, not quite alone. In the back there was a fearsome looking woman who was chained to the top of the car, her ankles shackled to the bottom so she couldn't possibly move. When he took a step forward she boldly demanded his name, and the Commander paused with a sigh, debating, before pulling off his mask to show her his face, scarred half and all as his yellow eyes looked at her.

"My Name is Zuko; I'm here to rescue you..." He growled out as he approached her, bending heat into her lower restraints to free her legs before doing the same to her upper ones to free her, making sure to be close enough to catch her if she looked like she was going to fall...

Join date : 2009-10-03

Posts : 144
Age : 1516
Location : On a mountain somewhere

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Mon May 28, 2012 7:39 pm

“Katara, you will be the ambassador to appeal to the Earth King for aid if you choose to accept the task.” Chief Arnook said. The young woman’s sapphire eyes widened at this revelation. Though she had immersed herself into the Northern Water Tribe thoroughly over the last four years – including the political aspects – she never in a million years would have expected to be placed in a role such as this.

Ever since she’d gotten to the Northern Water Tribe, there had been stress and tension. She was a woman who used waterbending fighting styles in a land where women with the gift were taught only to heal. She fought hard for change so that Master Pakku would teach her, and she eventually got through to him – though not in the way she had tried. However, no other woman had stepped up to learn from him, and many of them thought lowly of the Southern peasant who had fractured an important part of their culture. Still, Yugoda taught her all she knew in the healing huts during periods when she wasn’t training to fight with Master Pakku. Sokka, her brother, encouraged her all the way, but they became outcasts of a sort. That didn’t mean she would dispute Chief Arnook’s choice.

“Yes, Sir.” Katara responded, a small smile forming at the corners of her lips despite herself.

“Good. You will have a small party of five others with whom to travel as protection. I would give you more, but I fear it would be too risky when trying to remain out of the sights of the Fire Nation soldiers.”

“I understand, Chief Arnook. I know just who to take with me if they consent.”

“Katara, why am I not on your list?” A young man near her age peered over her shoulder at the parchment in her hands. He was attractive with shoulder length, black hair and a strong jaw. His skin was a couple of shades lighter than hers.

“You’re not going.” She said simply.

“But… I can’t let you go alone. What if something happens to you? I couldn’t bear to lose you!”

Katara stiffened and placed a hand gently on his shoulder. “Hanu, I am not yours to lose. You are married to Yania, and she loves you. You should pay more attention to her. Besides, I’ll have my brother and some of the finest warriors and benders to look after me.”

His face darkened. “I don’t love her. I love you. Will you at least wear my token while you’re gone?”

“Just because a marriage is arranged, it doesn’t mean that love can’t blossom in that kind of relationship. Give her a chance. I won’t wear your token, Hanu. I’m sorry you feel the way you do, but it’s for the best that you pay attention to the family you have and not the one you think you wish you had.” Katara spoke gently, but he was getting on her last nerve. He’d stalked her since she had shaken up the Northern Water Tribe, and he’d professed his love to her on many an occasion despite the fact that he’d been married for a full year before her arrival. However, no matter how many times she insisted he leave her be, he always returned.


“I don’t love you! How many times do I have to tell you! You’re not coming with me to the Earth Kingdom, and I will never be with you. I will never be your mistress, and I will never be your wife. Even if she left you a widower, I would not marry you. Now, leave! I have work to do.” He stalked away like a polar bear dog with its tail between its legs, but she didn’t soften. She had exploded in anger at him on many an occasion, and each time, he looked so sad and pathetic as he left only to return as eager as ever. Katara felt that her mistake had been apologizing for her first outburst which she suspected made him believe she didn’t mean the hurtful things she said to him. She closed her eyes tightly and sighed with frustration. How was she supposed to successfully get the Earth King to help her when she couldn’t even convince Hanu to leave her be?

“Take care of each other.” Katara and Sokka’s grandmother told them. There were tears in her eyes, but she was very proud of them. “There are only five of us left from the Southern Tribe. We must watch out for each other, and that means you two must survive at all costs.” Sokka’s jaw clenched at the reminder, but he and Katara hugged their grandmother tightly.

“We will.” He said resolutely.

“Be safe.” Master Pakku told them from behind Gran Gran.

“No problems there, Gramp Gramp!” Sokka said with a chuckle. The nickname drew a weary sigh from the old man and a small smile from Katara.

“Here, Katara. Take this.” He produced a small vial attached to twine. “It’s water from the Spirit Oasis. It has special properties, so don’t lose it, and don’t squander it.”

“Thank you, Master Pakku.” She replied, slipping the vial around her neck before turning back to her grandmother and squeezing her hand. “We’ll be back before you know it.”

“We’re surrounded!” Tamo shouted, clenching his spear defensively. Fire raged all around them as faceless soldiers descended upon them.

“How did they find us?” Punakai shouted, pulling the stoppers from his water skins.

“It doesn’t matter!” Sokka shouted. “Protect Katara!” He rushed forward, his bone club raised in offense.

The group of six fought hard. Katara was by far the most powerful bender of the four in the party. Water streams whipped from the four water skins she carried, constantly changing their shapes, densities, and forms. Ice shot forward toward one soldier, some shards clanging uselessly off his armor, but some found their homes in the unprotected flesh of his throat. He fell.

As she began to run low on water, she remembered the teachings of another Master, a woman, who had trained her secretly, for Master Pakku would not permit the old woman to teach publicly due to her sex. Katara had never been able to utilize this technique because she lived on a frozen tundra, but the old woman had taught her the movements and explained the basis for it well enough that the young waterbender felt ready to try it.

Raising her arms, she quickly pulled them forward. A tree exploded into dust and wood chips behind her as its life-giving water was torn from it. The water was a significant amount, for the tree had been tall and old, and she wove it about herself in powerful bursts of liquid and ice, taking down more and more of the enemy. More trees were victimized in Katara’s battle, and another waterbender, Ipo, caught onto the trick. On the first try, he managed only to tear a bit of water from the leaves of the tree, and he was stabbed in the leg while caught off guard for his trouble. The young woman passed a quantity of water to him so that he could better protect himself. “Now is not the time to try moves you don’t know!” She shouted loudly. It wasn’t her intent to be condescending, and he seemed to understand that because their lives were on the line.

More soldiers fell as the waterbenders and warriors fought onward, but they were sorely outnumbered. Katara realized she couldn’t see her brother anywhere in the fray, and she fought harder, hoping he was not lost to her. However, five Water Tribesmen were no match for the thirty remaining Fire Nation soldiers, and eventually, the flames brought them to their knees. Beside her, Katara saw Tamo’s lifeless eyes staring toward the midday sky. His wife would grieve – as the waterbender now grieved for her missing brother – if Katara ever got the chance to tell the woman of her husband’s bravery.

They were terrible to her, especially, because she had proven to be so deadly with her bending. All of them were stripped of their weapons and supplies – including the rare vial of Spirit Oasis water. The four waterbenders were chained hand and foot to disable their bending, but Katara was bound more tightly than the others, and she was separated from the rest of her group. Katara was placed into a metal cart with strangers she’d never met, and she could not see the sun. Her head hung in defeat, for she had failed everyone: her brother, herself, and her tribe.

Katara stood upon the icy tundra, watching the old woman stand before her while the full moon cast its glow upon them from above. “What I'm about to show you, I discovered in that wretched, Fire Nation prison. The guards were always careful to keep any water away from us. They piped in dry air and had us suspended away from the ground. Before giving us any water, they would bind our hands and feet so we couldn't bend. Any sign of trouble was met with cruel retribution.

“And yet, each month, I felt the full moon enriching me with its energy. There had to be something I could do to escape. Then I realized that where there is life, there is water. The rats that scurried across the floor of my cage were nothing more than skins filled with liquid, and I passed years developing the skills that would lead to my escape. Bloodbending: controlling the water in another body, enforcing your own will over theirs. Once I had mastered the rats, I was ready for the men, and during the next full moon, I walked free for the first time in decades – my cell unlocked by the very guards assigned to keep me in.

“Once you perfect this technique, you can control
anything or anyone.”

Katara’s eyes widened in shock at Hama’s story. “But… to reach inside someone and control them? I don’t know if I want that kind of power.” She looked away from Master Hama, ashamed of both the idea of bloodbending and the fact that she was letting her teacher down by refusing to learn it.

Hama laced her fingers together. “The choice is not yours. The power exists, and it’s your
duty to use the gifts you’ve been given to win this war! Katara, they wiped us out, our entire culture, your mother and father! Only five of us remain of the South Pole!”

Katara looked at the snow at her feet, watching how the moon’s radiance caused it to glitter. “I know.” She said softly.

“Then you should understand what I’m talking about! We’re the last waterbenders of the Southern Tribe. We have to fight these people whenever we can, wherever they are with any means necessary!”

The young waterbender rubbed her arms through her thick parka, but it was more than just the weather that had her chilled. This was the moment when she had to decide what she would do to help her people, to take down the Fire Nation.

“Master Pakku wouldn’t approve.” She said weakly.

“Of course he wouldn’t! He will never understand what it’s like to lose the people we truly love to the Fire Nation, what it’s like to have our entire tribe wiped out, so he could never comprehend why we would need this technique.” Hama responded, her voice a little softer, but it was still firm.

Katara hesitated for a moment longer, her gaze traveling to the moon.
Spirits, give me strength… She thought to herself before her blue eyes turned back to her teacher.

“I’ll do it.”

Katara awoke with a start when the cart began to move. How much time had passed? Minutes? Hours? She couldn’t say. All she knew was that her limbs felt cramped, and where the metal bindings held her, her skin chaffed. The terrain jostled the people around the cart who weren’t bound, and they occasionally bumped into her, jabbing her with their elbows or knees or shoulders. Sweat beaded on her brow, and her dark curls had matted against her face and neck.

“Where are they taking us?” Katara asked those in the cart.

“Don’t know.” One man said.

“Probably an execution for the Fire Lord’s amusement.” A woman said sardonically.

“Can one of you unbind me?” Asked the waterbender.

The woman laughed. “Don’t you think we tried? If anyone could get us out, it would be the one badass they didn’t let loose in here. There’s no busting through that metal unless you’ve got the key. It’s not like earthbenders can bend metal.”

The talking ceased for the next few hours – or was it merely minutes? Katara couldn’t tell. She only knew that she could feel the power of the full moon flow through her useless body.

All at once, light flared into the cart. She could see the glow of the moon trickle through a hole in the roof, and a dark shadow dropped inside before two flames burst to life. Her eyes watched warily, and she struggled against her bonds until she realized that this person was helping them escape. She watched silently as he moved quietly, encouraging the others to be just as noiseless. At last, when everyone else was free, he noticed her and moved toward her. Katara’s muscles tensed.

“Who are you? What is your name?” She demanded. She heard him sigh, like she was just a small child asking something silly. However, he removed the coverings from his face, revealing a brutal scar over his left eye that traveled into his hairline and over his ear.

“My name is Zuko. I’m here to rescue you.” He said as if she was some idiot who couldn’t see that for herself. She glared at him, torn between relief and irritation at the perceived insults.

“Well, I hope you have a key or can somehow bend metal.” Katara said sarcastically as he moved toward the shackles around her ankles. It quickly became unsurprisingly apparent that he had neither the key nor the ability to bend metal, but she could feel the heat as he bent it into the metal, working it so skillfully that the heat never became unbearably painful and wouldn’t leave a burn on her flesh. Fear moved through her, but she could do nothing until she was freed.

At last, all the chains fell from her, and she took a step forward only to have her legs give out from having been still for so long. He reached out to her and caught her as she fell, but she quickly regained herself and pushed him away. “You’re Fire Nation! This is a trick!” She shouted, raising her arms. She did just what Hama had so gladly shown her and took control of the blood within his body, the precious, life-giving water. She drew her hands together and downward, forcing him to his knees. “Where is my brother? Did your people kill him? Am I just a lamb to the slaughter if I leave through the same hole as those people? Are you here to just give us hope before we’re all killed!” The fury was clear in her voice as she spoke.

The doors to the cabin were opened, and a soldier peered inside. Without hesitating, she used her other hand to reach inside him and bring him to submission as well. “Fuck! Katara! It’s like my brain has a mind of its own! Stop it, body!” A familiar voice sounded from behind the armored plate of the helmet.

“Sokka?” Katara called to him, forcing his hand to remove the plate covering his face. It was him! Immediately, she released him. “I’m so sorry; I thought you were a soldier!”

“Duh! That’s the point. That was you controlling me? Holy shit! Where did you learn that? Let go of that guy, and come use that on people who deserve it!”

“He’s Fire Nation! He’s tricking us!” Katara shouted, not allowing Zuko to go.

Sokka shook his head. “He’s leading the dudes who are helping us. Come on!” He stumbled inside the cabin, grabbing her arm and pulling her out of her bending stance. Zuko seemed to collapse into himself as he regained his own movements.

“I’m sorry… I thought…” Her eyes were wide and apologetic, but Sokka tugged her harder.

“You can apologize later. We need you out here!” He practically threw his little sister onto the ground outside, and after a minor stumble, she quickly set herself into motion. “How long until sunrise?” She asked her brother, her arms raised, causing one soldier to stiffen before he moved jerkily to attack one of his allies.

“Um… I don’t know… Like… eight hours?” He estimated.

“Okay… We can do this. I can only control two at a time without accidentally killing someone, so I’ll-”

“It doesn’t matter if they live, Katara! If you’re going to not kill anyone, make it that guy!” Sokka pointed to one soldier whose apparel was highly decorated. “The rest are expendable.”

We have to fight these people whenever we can, wherever they are with any means necessary… Hama’s voice rang in her mind as she forced the soldier to thrust his sword into his comrade before three more soldiers stiffened. One began to choke as she directed his spear into another she wasn’t controlling, and his head lolled side to side as the parts of his body not directly controlled by Katara began to convulse. When his blood ceased its natural flow, she dropped him and moved onto the next.

At one point, she had control of six men, four of whom were convulsing in much the same way as the first to die by her art. The light of the full moon filled her, and she was touched by a sense of power that she had never before encountered. Bloodbending in animals was one thing, but these were real, live people. She clenched her fist, and two firebenders clutched at their throats as they suffocated. She was in awe of her own gifts, in awe of the fact that she could feel when their hearts stopped beating, and she had control over when that moment was. Hama had been right; the power existed in all waterbenders, and Hama had been gracious enough to bestow the knowledge of it on her of all people.

Among the soldiers, it became obvious that the female was the one to take out, but getting close was another matter entirely, for Sokka hacked gleefully away at any who tried to sneak up on his sister, and Katara took control of any within her line of sight.

Sokka caused one soldier to spill onto his back. “I have a kōan for you! What’s the sound of one hand cracking?” The soldier started to get up, but the Water Tribe warrior stomped hard on his hand, adding the sounds of breaking bones and the man’s screams of agony to the cacophony of battle. “Get it?” He shouted at the soldier while he laughed before he stabbed the man with his own sword.

A few of the rebels who had been released actually ran away from the fight, but most stayed – including the waterbenders – to wreak havoc on the Fire Nation soldiers. With the moon full and round in the sky, the benders of water were definitely the stars of the show, for the firebenders and the Fire Nation warriors who could not bend were no match for the four masters of their art – especially the girl who had learned to control their bodies.

When at last the battle was over and the Fire Nation soldiers had been defeated in one way or another, Katara moved swiftly to the supply cart and rifled through it for those things belonging to her small party. She returned water skins to her people, and she found the real thing for which she had been looking – the vial of water from the Spirit Oasis, thankfully full and undamaged – and looped it over her head to rest beneath her clothing at her breast.

Her hair was wild, having come loose even from the bun she usually had holding back half of her hair. Only the beads at her hair line holding two streams of hair told of her usual hair style – half up in a bun with loops of hair that would be secured to it. Her clothing was torn, and sweat coated her body beneath it. Her breathing was heavy, and she felt weak, for so much bloodbending had never before been done by her, and it had taken a lot out of her. It wasn’t just energy that had been consumed in the battle. Though Katara had killed in the past, she had never taken pleasure in it until this night, and she wasn’t sure she could ever forgive herself for that.

Other rebels began to raid the supply cart for food and other things, but Katara was finished. Her people had their belongings, and she moved from ally to ally, using her gifts as a healer to cleanse and to close their wounds. She knew that Sokka would be among those interrogating the leader whose life she had purposely spared.

Last edited by Kathryn Lacey on Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:34 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Mon May 28, 2012 9:42 pm

Zuko could feel the woman that he was helping free pratcically trembling against him as he heated the metal away from her. Unfortunately to reach it he had to press against her body to reach high enough up on the chain, making it a little less than comfortable experience for both of them. Still, the way that she was wincing about what he was doing made him wonder if she had any idea what he was capable of. "Relax..." he growled out in a gravelly tone. "There really wouldn't be any point in rescuing you if it meant burning you so you couldn't fight..." Zuko said honestly. They expected these people to take out a swath of fire nation people as they went across the land. The unfortunate truth of it was that in a group like they were, they were probably unlikely to do more than take out a modest number, but even that was potentially worth it if it started to make the odds even just a fraction more in their favor. Iroh was quick to remind them that wars were not won by single violent battles but by the steady attrition of one's enemy.

As she fell on unsteady legs his hands went out to catch her, holding her against his frame as she got herself back together. He had placed his hands where they wouldn't be... intimate, and yet he could still feel the curves of her body against him as he held her upright, realizing that she was perhaps the curviest woman that he had met in some time, with perhaps the exception of the 'Lees'. Though when one thought about a family of violently psychotic Chi blockers, attraction was not really the first thing that came to mind. Repulsion, fear... those were all adequate emotions, but attraction? Well, Ty Lee had made her intentions towards him known once with an offer that still both made Zuko blush and shudder in disgust all at the same time. Thankfully Lu Ten had managed to bend her off of him just as she'd blocked half of one of his sides in the pause that he had made at her words.

Zuko shook his head as he tried to banish the thought of Ty Lee from his mind. It certainly wasn't the sort of thing he wanted to have in there when he was holding a gorgeous woman in his arms. When she looked up he gave her a light smile as if to tell her that everything was going to be alright, opening his mouth to find one of Lu Ten's famous compliments on his tongue, his lips parting to release it just as her hand slammed into his chest, his natural reaction to slam his wrist down on hers to push it off, stepping backward to avoid a blow aimed at his midsection before flipping away from her as he took a more classic Fire Bending defensive pose, his eyes narrowing at her as he waited for her to attack, growling out. "What the hell is wrong with yo-" But then he saw it, he saw her hands raise up preparing to bend, and not knowing what water might be around them he turned to brace for the attack...

Only he didn't. Katara would see it there, the look of horror on his face as he tried to move and found his body couldn't. She had his arms and legs somehow and... she was bending the liquid inside of him. Uncle Iroh had always said that the elements lived inside of us, that fire was the energy that flowed through the veins, and that earth and water were what made flesh... flesh. He had seen it for himself as well, he realized as he was being held. He had cut men open before, watched their blood spill out of them like a waterfall before they fell to the ground. If a water bender could control that, did that mean that he could drain the very life out of a person like this? Or worse... immolate them from within? The idea of it was absurd, and yet he realized now that his uncle had been right... yet still, the idea of bending a life was... forbidden... horrific...

With a motion of her hand she forced him down onto his knees in front of her, and in the gleam of the light she would see his golden eyes staring at her like a wolf-bat's in the night, violent and deadly. There was something about him that was dangerous, even in the clutch of her bending here. He took in a breath, but held it here as he debated using his uncle's dragon breath against her. If she could bend him like this, then he would need to kill her. He could breathe fire at her to cause her to break her hold on him, then use his firebending to keep her off balance, but he would need to scorch the entire side of the wagon that she was in, and that would be it. He should have done it, it would have taken just an instant to start it, but he hesitated just a little too long, glaring at her with his dangerous eyes...

And then some idiot burst in. For the strangest reason from the way that he talked, Zuko got the sensation that had they been on the same side, Lu Ten and this soldier probably would have got along famously. Still, they weren't on the same side, and Zuko had no particular qualms about remaining silent while the soldier discovered the hard way that he couldn't move his arms or legs. Good, another fire nation bender down at the very least. Zuko had already made his peace with the fact that he had taken out far many more of their number than he was probably worth, at least he would have one more that stumbled in to come with him to the spirit world once all of this was done. Of course, instantly Zuko's hopes for it were dashed, apparently she knew this person, which meant that he was likely going to die alone at this point if he didn't act.. he would need to incinerate her bofore she could stop him.

Just as he drew in the breath he heard Sokka demand his release, that he wasn't a Fire Nation spy, and he exhaled with an annoyed glower. "Well, at least someone here has a scrap of common sense..." he growled out, suddenly feeling his arms and legs return to his control. He rubbed them silently as he rose up, towering over her frame as he glared at her in the candle light. "Do that to me again, and you won't live to try it on anyone else..." He promised her, giving her a look that welled up with hatred as he took a step back and crouched down before making an impressive vertical leap up and out of the hole in the roof that he had made earlier, glowering back down it before turning to see Lu Ten standing on the roof there, his eyebrows raised beneath his mask as Zuko put his back on.

"You took a long time down there..." Lu Ten pointed out.

"Things got complicated." Zuko growled back angrily as he started to move, watching Katara and Sokka dashing out the normal entrance of the wagon to take on some of the Fire Nation troops.

"Oooh... Looks like it was pretty steamy..." Lu Ten said, nudging Zuko as he checked out Katara's butt as she ran. "She's in pretty good shape, I gotta say, Z, that is some A Grade, right there... I'm guessing the candle mood lighting you set down there must have finally paid off for you."

"It's not like that, she's got some funky power-"

"Oh, I bet she does."

"She forced me to my knees and-"

"Oh, I bet she did. Rrrawr."

Zuko let out a cry of frustration as he air strangled in Lu Ten's direction and then shook his head, leaping from the wagon they were on to the next one, and the next as they neared the front of the fight. Zuko was in no mood to help the water bender, so instead he leapt over to the other side of the wagon, starting to take on at least 3 firebenders at once. Even with standard bending basics, they couldn't produce the amount of fire that he could and he was able to force them back before sending a baragge of fireballs at their midsections that exploded there with force, not enough to kill them but to incapacitate them. It was at that point that Zuko could hear the cries of horror that were coming from the other side of the wagon.

Katara's rescue force, and the troops that had been sent to rescue her, even some of the opposing forces were watching in horror as she blood bent half a dozen of them and began to kill them after such a fashion. As Zuko watched he could feel his stomach twisting a little bit as he saw it. This wasn't the sort of thing that was right, or even fair. In a fight there were winners and losers, but it was a match of skill on skill, where the better bender won. This had nothing to do with skill, or ability, she was simply destroying them, crushing them before they even had a chance to move, pratically torturing them as she did it. There was no contest in this, no battle, it was just murder, plain and simple.

"Spirits... that is... fucked up." Lu Ten commented, the concern in his voice growing as well. Then he paused... "Your new girlfriend has some issues..."

"She's not my girlfriend!" Zuko hissed at the captain.

"I'm just saying, this is the whole Ty Lee thing alllllll over again." Lu Ten said as he shook his head. As the pair of them watched Sokka in action Zuko was instantly sorry that he had thought the water tribesman had been anything like Lu Ten. If anything he was not quite all there upstairs, though it was really hard for anyone to out perform Katara on that front, after watching what it was that she could do. Zuko could see Lu Ten frowning as he debated, and knew that the captain was wondering if Katara and her brother were too dangerous to be allowed to leave here alive. The bigger question was, even if they were, could Zuko or any of the firebenders here actually stop her at the height of her power like this?

"Alright people, let's mop up!" Lu Ten suddenly shouted, and that seemed to snap the troops away from their horror at seeing what Katara could do, their ranks crashing into those of the Fire Nation, whose morale had been devestated by the Water Witch who could seem to control them with her mind. The fight ended quickly after that, the remnants of the convoy being dispatched with alarming speed and visciousness. Zuko thought perhaps Jet was the only person in the bunch who hadn't been violently put off by the way that the water tribesmen handled their foes, which was likely because his own methods were no less brutal. When all was said and done Zuko sighed a little, guiding a couple of the men to seal up the survivors in one of the metal carts and bind their hands. With luck the fire nation would save them before they starved or died of heat stroke... if not... well...

While some of the refuggees were willing to accept healing from her, a large number of the force that had come to rescue her were not. Only those with graver wounds submitted to it, and all of them looked at her the same way save for one poofy haired individual, who winked at her whenever he got the chance. Most of them, however, wanted little to do with her, instead preferring to have small nicks and cuts rather than be healed by the Water Witch who had crushed the windpipes of their enemies from a distance without seeming effort or pity.

As they approached the leader, Lu Ten took the lead, smirking at the man through his mask. "So here's the thing, you're going to have to tell us what you know, or things are going to get... well, let's just say 'rough' for you here. You seem like a smart enough guy, you can tell us what we want to hear, and we can lock you up with your friends, or you can not, and we'll have to try to figure out ways to motivate you. I'm really not good with that part, but you see the guy with the hook swords over there? he's actually pretty fantastic at it if I give him enough time..."

"You goddamned traitor... you and your father were a cancer upon our lands!" The enemy commander spat at Lu Ten, who raised an eyebrow, and then peeled off his mask.

"See, now that... that's a problem, Tseng. I was willing to let bygones be bygones, assume you didn't know me, and not let you know that I knew who you were. It would really have made this whole thing easier." He gripped the man's shoulder tightly, and smirked as he saw Katara coming up to greet them all, and Lu Ten smiled a little as he leaned down. "Oh good, the Water Witch is done. You know what's crazy? I've seen her in action before, and this is actually going light on people. With the right amount of concentration she can actually make a man's testicles explode." Lu Ten said with a straight face, then patted the guy on the back. "Since you won't tell me what I want to hear, I figure I'll see if she can't loose-"

"I'll talk, I'll talk I'll talk I'll talk...." The man sputtered as what little color he had in his face drained out of it. "What do you want to know, please?"

"Why were you taking them across land in the first place? Why not sail them over to the fire nation?" Lu Ten growled.

"We... we were taking them to Admiral Zhao... I..." The man paled, and then looked at Katara again, looking as if he was considering wetting himself. "Zhao wants to interrogate them about the Northern Water Tribes' defenses so that his invasion fleet will be able to crush the remnants of the water tribe before regrouping to attack the Earth Kingdom head on..."

Zuko frowned at that. "What do you mean? There's no way that Zhao commands-"

"He commands over 300 ships you little gnat, and when he gets here..."

"Wait." Lu Ten stopped the man. "He commands over 300 ships, but he's on land. How many people are with him now?" Lu Ten watched Tseng starting to squirm at the idea of revealing that information. "Dude, if you don't care about your sac, that's your own business." He said, starting to walk away before the man sputtered out.

"Wait, wait, I... The ships are sailing in loose formation to avoid being spotted by the Water Tribe as anything more than fishing vessels, that's how we found out about this bunch, one of our scout ships saw them sailing and followed them."

"And where is Zhao now?" Lu Ten asked.

"He's... he's a week's journey from here, traveling by fire lizard." Tseng finally blurted. "Please... you have to let me go, once Zhao finds out that I've told you he-" The sound of the sword pressing through his armour from behind silenced him as Lu Ten finished pushing it in and pulled it back out.

"You don't need to worry about that, Tseng. For what it's worth, I'm sorry." Lu Ten said, shaking his head.

"Was that really necessary?" Zuko growled.

"He saw my face, he knew who we were. Those were the rules. Remember that YOU were the one who made them, Commander, to prevent another incident like..." Lu Ten trailed off before the word Mai slipped from his lips, shaking his head. "Look, I'm sorry, it's been a long night." Lu Ten said with a sigh. He paused then, and turned to the water tribesmen around him.

"You need to find a way back to warn your people before in case we fail... meanwhile it sounds like we have an Admiral to hunt. Safe travels..." Lu Ten offered.

And good riddance, thought Zuko crossly.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Tue May 29, 2012 1:03 am

Katara had dealt with people’s ignorance of her in the Northern Water Tribe, their blind hatred just because she was willing to fight for changes that they didn’t seem to want. This was different. She hadn’t really noticed how her own allies had peered at her – even the waterbenders – when she’d been utilizing her bloodbending skill. Now, in the aftermath, their unwillingness to even allow her to heal them of their minor wounds made her incredibly ashamed of herself, of her actions.

Do that to me again, and you won't live to try it on anyone else... He’d said that to her just before Sokka had shoved her off the metal wagon, and now she felt that he had every right to do so.

Rebels scurried away from her if she drew near unless they were gravely wounded or in incredible pain. They feared her, and they were completely repulsed by her. How could she have allowed herself to become this person? It wasn’t right. She wasn’t right. Katara had never truly been this person, and she didn’t know how the transition had happened.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely… Who had told her that? She couldn’t even recall, but she finally felt as if she could understand the meaning behind it. Tonight, she had become so corrupted by the power of bloodbending that she had forgotten who she was, who she wanted to be. She had not been the woman that Chief Arnook had trusted to appeal to the Earth King; she had been a monster who crushed her enemies willingly and gladly.

How could she ever amend for what she had done? “That was some great bending out there.” A stranger said from behind her. Katara spun around to face a man who looked to be a few years older than her. His spiky hair stuck out in all directions, and a single stick of wheat stuck from between his lips. A pair of hook swords hung on his back. He was taller than her by several inches, and he was leanly built. She probably would have been attracted to him once, but now his words sounded like poison in her ears.

“Yeah. Maybe too great.” She muttered, turning away from him.

“No, I mean it. You shouldn’t be ashamed. These people can’t understand it, but I can. You were protecting them – all of us, really. Our death toll may have been greater if not for you.”

“What about their families? These men may have had wives and children at home, and I’ve just stolen all of that from them. I’m no better than they are.” She responded.

“They should have thought of that when they enlisted in their army and began attacking villages and wiping out tribes.” He countered.

“They were only fighting for a cause they believed in.”

“So were you.” He placed his hand on her shoulder.

“No. I never believed in… this.” Her blue eyes cast about the bodies of those she’d killed. She left the poofy-haired man and continued to offer her healing to those who were harmed.

We have to fight these people whenever we can, wherever they are with any means necessary…

Hama was wrong. This wasn’t right, and there were better ways. She had been a well respected Waterbending Master, and now she was… nothing… a murderer… The word “witch” met her ears in hushed whispers from people who were supposed to be her allies. Even Sokka who relished the deaths of the Fire Nation soldiers seemed to understand that what she’d done – no matter how he’d encouraged her – had been wrong, but he wasn’t judging her either way. No matter what, she was still his little sister.

Tears swam in her eyes as Sokka neared her. “I’m sorry, Sis’. I wish people were more open-minded.”

“And I wish I knew how to turn back the moon and change what I’ve done.” A few tears fell onto his shirt, and he hugged her tighter. “Don’t tell Gran Gran.”

He patted her hair. “I promise.”

Punakai approached them, and Katara quickly wiped away her tears while parting from her brother. His voice was soft but firm. “I don’t know where you learned to do that, but we’re all really worried about you.” Her didn’t touch her. In his eyes, she could see disdain.

“Don’t worry. I won’t be doing it again.” She replied, looking away, her cheeks glowing with shame.

“Good because we can’t follow someone who would willingly do something like that. It’s wrong. People do not control that kind of power; it controls them.”

“Don’t you think I know that, Punakai! I am not proud of what I’ve done. It just sort of… happened. I don’t have this power all the time, but even when I do, I know better than to ever allow myself to go that far again. You cannot feel more disgust for me than I feel for myself right now.” She responded bitterly.

“Katara,” Sokka started, “that kind of power is dangerous, but if we don’t let it get out of hand again, it’s not a bad thing.” Katara looked around the area. Everyone refused to meet her gaze with the exception of the wheat-stalk guy who winked suggestively at her, causing her eyes to narrow unappreciatively.

“I don’t know if I can keep it from getting out of hand once I’ve started, and I am not willing to test that theory.”

Sokka shrugged. “Whatever you want. I just… Sorry, Baby Sister. You don’t have to use it. You’re a great bender with or without it.”

Katara composed herself, and she and Sokka left Punakai to see how the interrogation was going. As she approached, she heard the man doing the interrogation say, “Oh good. The Water Witch is done.” Her jaw clenched, for that was a term she’d been hearing amongst her own allies to each other, so his using it as a scare tactic for a Fire Nation soldier did little to make her want to own the title. What good was a title whispered among enemies if ones allies whispered it, too?

Then he said he could make a man’s testicles explode, and her face coloured. Her lips parted to dispute this, but Sokka elbowed her in the ribs, seeming to understand what she was about to say. He looked at her with eyes that said that she should keep her mouth shut, and the meaning spoke to her loud and clear. She didn’t have to like it, but this was an important process. However, this didn’t mean she did anything to play up the idea that she could relieve him of his masculinity, either. This was not a fun game for her.

Katara’s eyes widened in shock at the soldier’s revelation. She continued to listen, and her dread grew as she learned that a man named Zhao had command of over three hundred vessels. An attack that size could wipe out the final Water Tribe if they avoided attacking near the full moon. The threat of losing her people altogether horrified her. Katara and Sokka were two of the last five of the Southern Water Tribe left, and now it seemed like there would be none left in the Northern Tribe soon.

She winced as the interrogator thrust a sword into the man. There had been so much death today, most of it by her hand, and she wasn’t sure she could handle much more. However, this was war, and if one wasn’t willing to be brutal when necessary, they would lose. There was simply a limit to how much brutality was acceptable.

“We have to get to the Earth King and tell him what’s happening. We need his help if our people are going to fend off the Admiral’s attack.” Katara said, panic rising in her though she refused to allow it to enter her voice.

Punakai, Ipo, and Haik stepped forward. “We can return to the Water Tribe to warn our people.” Katara looked away in shame. Those three were the only ones left who were a part of her party other than Sokka – who would stand by his sister – and Tano – who was dead. “We won’t… divulge what happened here tonight other than the fact that we fought Fire Nation soldiers and interrogated one of them. You two should go to the Earth King.” He added, looking directly at the young woman who didn’t see because she couldn’t bear to look at them.

“Thank you.” She said softly, unable to keep her regret from her voice.

Sokka looked at the two leaders of the rebels. “We’ll need people to come with us since our party has to return to the North Pole.” He cast his eyes around the others. “Is there anyone who would be willing to come with us? There is the added bonus of being better protected than anyone else.” He added, as if Katara’s abilities were much revered and not dishonorable.

“Sokka, I can’t… I won’t do that anymore. It’s… not right.” Katara growled at him.

“But they don’t know that.” He replied.

“Well, they should if we want any help on this!” She sighed and looked at the one who had called himself Zuko. “I’m really sorry about earlier. I thought you were trying to trick us, and I had no right to use bloodbending against you… or anyone for that matter. If you can provide us with men, they should know that I’m not going to use my abilities on them, and they’ll never again have to witness… what they saw tonight.” Katara was truly repentant about what had happened, and it took all of her willpower not to simply curl herself into a ball somewhere and die where none would ever have to see her again. She had to clear her name. She could not be known as the Water Witch; she refused to allow that to be her legacy.

Last edited by Kathryn Lacey on Wed May 30, 2012 7:12 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Tue May 29, 2012 3:48 pm

“We have to get to the Earth King and tell him what’s happening. We need his help if our people are going to fend off the Admiral’s attack.”

"Has the Water Tribe been asleep for the past 10 years?" Zuko snarled. "Have you seen any ships sailing from the Earth Kingdom since the Fire Nation started it's advance on your people? The Earth Kingdom isn't going to help you, they're too convinced that Ba Sing Se is impenetrable and that there's no way that anyone could slip past their Dai Li agents. The Fire Nation killed the Avatar for the love of the Spirits, and what aid have you seen come from the Earth Kingdom? What have they ever done to help anyone other than themselves in the past 100 years?" This was stupid, if anything they needed to figure out a way to cut the head off of the snake, not worry about pleaing for help from a foreign body that wouldn't come to their rescue.

“We’ll need people to come with us since our party has to return to the North Pole. Is there anyone who would be willing to come with us? There is the added bonus of being better protected than anyone else.”

Sokka would glance around the rebels that were there, but there was silence amongst them, save for the soft shout of one poofy haired idiot in the background, jumping up and waving his hand. "I'll go!" came the small cry, followed by: "Ooh, ooh, pick me!" There was kind of a collective groan that settled over the rest of the rebels at that point, and Zuko put his palm over his face in shame as a long silence settled in over the people that were gathered there, along with the sounds of crickets around them. Finally willing to pull his hand from his face Zuko looked over at Jet... who was still waving his hand back and forth like that eager kid wanting to get picked for a particular team.

"Aside from the group idiot," Lu Ten started bitingly, "I don't think you quite understand how this works, Sokka. This isn't the Water Tribe where you can call for volunteers. We're not Fire Nation, but we're sure as hell not at the beck and call of the Water Tribe. We rescued you because it was the right thing to do, and because we're on the same side, but I don't have the men to spare going off on some fool's errand to get yourself a free trip to a Dai Li prison somewhere, which is exactly what is going to happen if you decide to try to go on this little quest of yours. You want to go, that's your own business, but you do it alone. Try to take out some Fire Nation before you wind up in a jail cell for the rest of your lives..." Lu Ten said icily, clearly unhappy that Sokka seemed to be trying to go over the chain of command on this one.

Zuko shook his head at Katara's apology, almost not acknowledging it at all except to stare at her with his cold yellow eyes, gleaming there in the moonlight as he reminded her of his promise. "I told you before, if you use it on me again, there won't be a third time." he promised icily, crossing his arms as he turned away from her. He wanted about as much to do with the Water Witch as the rest of them did. Not because he didn't understand what it was that she had done, but because she seemed to snuff the life from their enemies with all the callousness that a child might use stepping on an ant in order to get to a favorite toy. There was no respect for life in her actions, just respect for power, and it reminded him all too much of a part of his family that he was desperately trying to forget, a part that was inside him as well.

"And it doesn't matter if they're well protected..." Lu Ten interjected at Katara and Sokka, loud enough for just them to hear rather than the group. "These people follow us because they respect us. They don't respect you, they're afraid of you... and if that's how you plan to lead then you'd fit in better with my Uncle Ozai than with any rebels..." Lu Ten growled.

"I'll still go!" Called Jet from the background.

Zuko grimaced as he tried to think of what Uncle Iroh would do in a situation like this. He had learned, albeit slowly, Pai Sho from his Uncle, but the process had been slow, and painful, and the lessons that it was supposed to reveal seemed to be elusive, even though Iroh was able to point them out as if they made common sense. It infuriated Zuko, but he had slowly begun to learn about it, and through it learn about people. Not that Lu Ten didn't revel in stealing money from him any time Zuko was foolish enough to gamble with his cousin, but still, there had been some lessons learned there. One key strategy was to make your opponent feel good about their chances by making it seem as if your forces might be divided, even when they weren't with a few moves. Could the same be applied as a peace offering?

"You want us to divide our forces, then you have to do the same." Zuko said, crossing his arms. "One of you goes with us to deal with Zhao, while we send men along with the other one of you to go to Ba Sing Se." Zuko could see on Sokka and Lu Ten's faces that clearly neither one of them liked the idea in the slightest. Something about it reminded him of Iroh saying that when dealing with two hard headed people, that a compromise was often what made each of them equally unhappy. "It's a sign of good faith. You can take it or leave it." Zuko offered as Lu Ten pulled him to the side so that he could confer in private, as Sokka and Katara did the same.

"You know this is crazy, right?" Lu Ten growled at him. "We should just leave them here, we don't owe them anything, and they're friggin crazy."

"We don't exactly have an over abundance of allies in this." Zuko reminded him calmly.

"You realize that no one is going to go with the Witch unless one of us goes, and I'm not sleeping within 10 miles of that crazy. You're totally going to have to go," Lu Ten hissed.

"I'll go!" Jet reminded them from a distance.

Zuko rolled his eyes as he turned around to the two watertribesmen and crossed his arms, waiting for their answer. "Well?"

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Tue May 29, 2012 7:55 pm

Katara glared at Zuko. He was really getting on her nerves. “As far as the Earth Kingdom has seen, the Fire Nation really only cares about defeating the Water Tribes. The Fire Lord didn’t wipe out the Earth Kingdom when Sozin’s Comet came, so maybe the Earth King thinks he’s safe. That’s why we have to go. If we tell him that once the Water Tribes are completely gone, the Fire Nation’s plan is to take out the Earth Kingdom, then he’ll have to listen!” Her voice was enraged, but all she did was clench her fists.

When Sokka requested men to go with Katara and himself, things seemed to get a little out of hand. It didn’t help matters that the one person who wasn’t intent on imagining the waterbender as some sort of goddess was all for joining them. She wasn’t sure she wanted him on her team. She hadn’t seen him fight, so she didn’t know how beneficial he would be to their cause. Besides, the way he kept ogling her and winking at her made her extremely uncomfortable. It seemed the Water Tribesmen weren’t the only ones who disapproved of him; even his own team seemed to dislike him. Then again, beggars couldn’t be choosers, so Katara said nothing about not wanting him with her.

Katara and Sokka listened, knuckles whitening as the apparent leader began to yell at them about what idiots they apparently were just because they believed in their mission above the one he’d assigned to himself. As if going after a man who commanded over three hundred ships wasn’t a bigger death sentence than asking the Earth King for his help. She could see her brother was about to explode, and she gripped his wrist tightly. He didn’t handle insults to his people well, especially considering there were so few of them left. She knew he was about to insult these people, but she also knew she needed their help to get all the way to the Earth King, so she couldn’t let her brother speak.

Instead, she swallowed her pride and gave an official apology to Zuko who looked to be the second in command. Then, the jerk acted like he hadn’t even heard a word she’d just said. No, he acted like she’d just threatened him with bloodbending rather than what she’d actually done in letting him know she wouldn’t even be using it again, ever. Her dark brow twitched as he turned his back to her. Was he serious? Earlier, he’d treated her like a child, and now, he was acting like a hurt child. It wasn’t like she’d wounded him or anything. She had released him as soon as she’d realized he was actually on her side. Katara supposed she’d hurt his pride or maybe even frightened him, and maybe he wasn’t the type of person who could handle such things. Still, it was extremely frustrating that he wasn’t even willing to help after she pretty much made sure that none of his men were injured.

No… She couldn’t afford to think like that. The poufy haired guy was not right about her ability. It was… monstrous… That was why these people hated her despite having offered her healing to those who would accept it. She was nothing more than a monster in their eyes. Katara was about to tell Sokka they should just go alone, that they could be stealthier as two people than as a group when the leader spoke again, adding insult to injury. However, there was one revelation that had the Water Tribesmen’s eyes widening. This man who led these rebels was… a relative of their enemy? How was that possible? She felt her stomach drop, and she realized she wasn’t sure if she wanted their help any more. What if this was all an elaborate trick? She couldn’t risk it. Even those who were going home to warn their people seemed very uneasy.

The one his own commander had dubbed an “idiot” spoke up again about wanting to travel with the Water Tribe Ambassador and her brother. She sighed.

“Sokka,” Katara whispered to her fuming brother, “we should just-”

But Zuko’s words interrupted her whispers. He said that they would have help only if they were each willing to split up their family. His leader pulled him to the side after he’d made his offer, and she and her brother took that moment to discuss this new turn of events.

“I don’t trust it. I won’t let our family be split up.” Katara insisted.

“Do we have a choice?” Sokka asked.

“Yes! There is always a choice. We can be stealthier with just the two of us; we can get disguises to throw them off! I don’t trust them. Their leader is related to the Fire Lord. What if this is just a trap to split us apart and kill us before we can do anything to help our people? That other guy with him is a firebender, too. We can’t trust them!”

Sokka was silent for a moment, looking between his sister and the leaders of the rebels. “I don’t know.” He said at last. “I don’t have a bad feeling about these guys. I think their plan is pretty solid. I’d feel better if I could be with you to help protect you, but you can clearly take care of yourself. At least if I’m not with you, you’ll have others with you to help. Katara, I don’t like being separated, either, but we can’t do this alone. Besides, won’t it look better if we’ve got some Earth Kingdom people with you when you ask for aid? Zuko said having us split up would be a show of good faith. Well, befriending Earth Kingdom natives will be a good show of faith to the King, too, right? He’ll see that we’re in good with the citizens, and he’ll see that the citizens are good with us, too.”

Katara looked at him, her frustration clear, but her brother had a point. Sometimes, he could be so clever; he was practically a genius at times. It was weird because most often he was just sort of strange and goofy and made terrible jokes, but when he was serious, he was extremely logical.

“Well?” Zuko called to them, making her fists clench more tightly. Couldn’t they just have two more minutes to discuss this?

“We’ll do it,” Sokka said before Katara could say a word in favor of or against the plan, “but we want more than just that guy to go to the Earth Kingdom with Katara.” The poufy haired guy glared at Sokka before he brightened at the prospect of traveling with the Water Witch. “I’ll go with whatever group is going to face that Zhao guy.” She looked at him furiously. His voice became hushed. “It’s for the best, Katara. Don’t worry. We’ll see each other again.”

No one seemed particularly pleased with the prospect of having one of the two siblings on their team, but it was pretty obvious that the rebels would rather go with their leader to face Zhao with the crazy warrior than to go to Ba Sing Se with the Water Witch. She was, after all, the more horrifying of the two. Katara found herself wondering if Zuko hadn’t just been saying that to get them to reject the offer so he wouldn’t have to deal with them anymore, but she couldn’t look a gift buffalo yak in the mouth.

They regrouped back at the rebel’s camp, bringing with them whatever supplies they’d raided from the caravan. They slept through the rest of the night though those of the Water Tribe slept away from the others.

The next day, plans were made for the Water Tribe benders to travel back to the sea to go home while Katara would be allowed five people from the rebels to travel with her. That made up the same size as the one she’d lost. However, this time, she was not permitted to choose who would go with her. It was decided that Zuko would be one of them because no man would go with her without their true leader. The poufy-haired man whose name was revealed to be Jet would also go with them if for no other reason than the fact that he was the only one who was genuinely glad to go on the journey with her. The other three consisted of two earthbenders – Gui and Shen – and one archer named Ping. The rest, including Sokka, would go after Zhao.

“Thank you giving us assistance. We really appreciate it.” Katara said at last after they’d eaten and had made their plans. The groups gathered up the supplies they would need, packing them well, for they would begin their travels in the morning.

As Katara carefully packed away some food into her pack – the others wouldn’t let her near theirs even if she had done a better job of packing her things than they did theirs – Jet dropped his pack next to hers. It was a mess with extra clothes and his sleeping bag poking out at odd angles. “Do you think you could help me with this? You seem able to fit more into yours than I can in mine.”

Katara’s brow rose as she looked at his pack. “You’re really going to let me near it? Aren’t you afraid of the Water Witch like your comrades?” She asked sarcastically.

“I told you before that your power is amazing. I’m not afraid of it or of you. It’s clear you’re on our side, so that’s all that matters to me.” He responded, causing Katara to soften.

“Okay, I’ll help you. Your first problem is that your sleeping back doesn’t go inside the pack. You roll it up and strap it to the top to save room for things that aren’t so easily contained.” She showed him how to roll up his bag, wrapping it in a bit of tarp to keep it clean and dry in case the weather changed for the worst.

“Then, you have to fold your spare clothes to make them as small as possible to make room for bigger things like bundles of food, water skins, and supplies that can’t be made smaller. If they’re too big, the easiest way is to just attach it securely to the outside, like this.” She demonstrated what she meant as she spoke and gave him some things to pack away himself. After all, she wasn’t going to baby him every time. You could give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he’ll be fed for a lifetime. Her father had taught that to Sokka and to her when they were very young, and she’d never forgotten it.

Jet’s hands passed over hers as he took his supplies from her to try her teachings himself. As they touched, his dark eyes met her light ones, and the intensity of his gaze made her uncomfortable. She quickly pulled her hands away as her optics moved to her sides. “So, there you go. Next time, you won’t even need my help!”

“Thanks, Katara.” His voice was a little too husky for her tastes, and she quickly grabbed her pack and went back to her Tribesmen.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Thu May 31, 2012 1:36 am

Lu Ten wasn't happy about this arrangement at all. Looking at Zuko, he could see that his right hand wasn't particularly enamoured with the prospect either. On the other hand, he had to admire Zuko's willingness to 'Marry the Beast' as it were, a phrase that his father used often, an old reference to some of the tales where people of honor would marry a particular beast from the spirit realm in order to secure some sort of blessing for their country or town. Lu Ten wasn't exactly sure what sort of blessing the Water Witch could actually give them, but having seen her in action he knew with certainty that Zuko was certainly wedding a beast in this case, for better or for worse. Not that he would actually tell the Witch that, mind you. Especially if she could actually... with the family jewels. Euggghh. It was almost enough to make him walk funny thinking about.

While the two watertribesmen went back to meld in with their group, Lu Ten hung back to talk with the rest of the group, assigning one of the rebels to show those from the Water Tribe the way to their camp, while Zuko seemed to stalk off to deal with his own issues. Lu Ten could tell that he didn't like this plan in the slightest, but he had to admit it sounded like the sort of plan that Father would have appreciated. Lu Ten could almost hear his father's coarse laughter chuckling at the very situation, and calling out a statement to Zuko that the youth would have snorted at and walked off all the faster because of. It was almost on the tip of his tongue as well, but Lu Ten thought better of it. The trip alone was going to be antagonizing enough without Zuko being all the more annoyed in the morning.

"You can't REALLY expect us to go with the Witch, Lu Ten..." Gui growled to him once he thought that the water tribe was out of earshot.

"You saw what she did to those people. This is a suicide mission and you know it." Shen replied on the other side of him.

"I'm sending my own blood along with you guys. Zuko is going to be volunteering for this mission..." Lu Ten said, avoiding the controversial subject of what 'volunteering' actually meant in this particular use. "Do you think that I would do that if this was a suicide mission?" Lu Ten had to give it to Zuko, it seemed to qualm their fears quite a bit. A show of good faith was what had been needed here, though Lu Ten wondered if it would be enough. Gui and Shen seemed at ease with going, and they were definitely on the roster in Lu Ten's mind. Surround the Water Witch with firebenders and there was no telling if she would just flip out again and go postal. That was perhaps the last thing that Lu Ten wanted, given that if the Witch did loose it and Zuko put her down like he had promised, it would be an incident that would keep peace between the two nations, likely for the rest of time. Better to keep the balance of fire to water benders, send along earth benders and non benders. Something told him that Jet would be more than willing to go.

As if sensing that his name had been thought of, Lu Ten heard the typical clomping of Jet behind him, forgoing all sense of stealth in order to greedily bound after what he thought he absolutely wanted. Lu Ten wasn't really in the mood to hear him beg, so he simply let out an exasperated sigh and said, "Yes, you can go, but if you're caught screwing around with the Water Tribe girl instead of doing your job, you know that Zuko isn't going to hesitate to roast you like a plump wooly-pig." Lu Ten warned.

"YES!" Jet exclaimed. "Woo hoo! Finally, a mission where my skills can shine..."

"I don't think hitting on women who don't want anything to do with you is a particularly valuable team skill..." Lu Ten said with another sigh.

"No, you don't see the beauty of it. Once Katara is enamoured by me, our love will inspire her to be super badass again!" Jet said with a wink. "Besides, she's freaked out the rest of the guys in the group, that's what I call easy pickings..."

Lu Ten raised an eyebrow slightly. "I'd hate to think what she'd say about that if she ever found out you said it, Jet..." He let it slide though. Who was he to keep either the Water Witch or Jet from making bad decisions? Experience told him that it was going to be Jet, if he had to place some gold on it. He stroked his chin though after Jet had left with a light shrug. The concept of the Water bender going into this uninformed had brought up a disturbing idea that Lu Ten would need to put to rest before he could feel good about their little trip to Ba Sing Se.

As he approached the tent he looked around and then sighed, clearing his throat lightly before he pulled back the tent flaps in order to point to Katara and Sokka and motion for them to follow him outside of the tent. "C'mon, let's go for a walk." He said in a sober tone as he clasped his hands behind his back and walked an equal distance away from the rebel camp and where the Water tribe was staying. There, there was a few logs for a fire that were unlit. With a motion in the direction of it he caused it to light, and then motioned for the pair of them to have a seat around the campfire where it would be warm even in the cold night chill.

"I wanted to talk about what you brought up, Katara." He said, making sure not to call her the Witch, as that would be somewhat undiplomatic of him, and that was important. "Sooner or later one of our group is going to let it slip, so I figured it would be best for me to talk about it up front, since my Commander, Cousin, and the closest thing I have to a brother is going to have his life in your hands." He said, gesturing to Katara. "I'm the nephew of Fire Lord Ozai, and as you can guess given that he's my cousin, Zuko is his first and only son." Lu Ten let that sink in for a moment before continuing.

"Our family is... complicated. My Father, Iroh, was always an honorable man. He didn't participate in any masacres, he followed rules when it came to warfare. He treated the Water Tribe with respect, even though he was raised to consider them enemies. He raised me in the same manner. But Zuko's side of the family is... different. Ozai, as you probably have guessed, doesn't share my Father's traits. He believes in domination at any cost, and he thinks that any form of weakness should be purged. He raised his daughter, Zuko's sister to the same standard..."

Lu Ten sighed. "And Zuko is... in the middle. He was raised by a monster and a saint. Ursa, his mother, is a wonderful woman... but Ozai saw to it that she was forced to leave, the same time that he framed me for being a traitor so he could usurp my Father's blood right to the throne." Lu Ten glowered at that, but shook his head. "That's... that's another story though. You asked why it is that you should trust us, and I want you to know why you should trust Zuko even though he's the son of a monster..."

Lu Ten frowned. "First, your word that you won't talk to Zuko about this... he wouldn't ever tell you himself, because he doesn't care what people think about him. But I need you to know so you can trust him." He looked at Katara, waiting for her affirmative on it as well as Sokka's before he sighed softly and shook his head. "Zuko wouldn't even tell me all the details of it until I pressed him on it, and it was years after it happened..."

"It was years after I was banished. Zuko's mom had already been forced to leave as well..." Lu Ten frowned slightly as if the story made him somewhat uncomfortable. "Azula, my niece, told Zuko that his father was looking for him, while the Fire Lord was holding a war council. Zuko, eager to please him, rushed to join the council, thinking that his father actually wanted him there. In reality, it was little more than an annoyance to the Fire Lord, but before Zuko could leave the Fire Lord demanded that he stay instead as a matter of bettering himself as a commander. What they were planning in that session was the plans for the Crimson battle..." Lu Ten said, lowering his head.

He knew that the Water Tribesmen would know what the Crimson battle was, it had been the bloodiest battle of the war with the Water Tribe. The Fire Nation had a single person aboard each one of 20 boats sabotage the steering mechanisms on the boats without warning the crew, and rigged the ships to explode to deal with a particularly nasty village of Water Tribesmen close to the main Village where Katara had come from. The plan had worked, the ships had exploded and in the process created so many casualties on both sides that the water around the remnants of the village had ran red with blood from the corpses for nearly a week. Most of the casualties on the Water Tribes side had been women and children.

"When Zuko heard the plan from one of the generals, he spoke out against it, instead trying to persuade them that a superior show of force at one side would both demoralize the Water Tribe troops while at the same time allowing them to evacuate their women and children without having to face a fire nation assault." Lu Ten paused, and shook his head. "Zuko was immediately tossed out of the assembly and informed that by speaking out against the plans of the generals, he had shown them disrespect, and been challenged to an Agni Kai, a Fire Bending dual for honor. Zuko accepted... but what he did not know was that his father claimed that rather than the generals, Zuko had disrespected The Fire Lord himself by doing it in his prescence. My Cousin wasn't told any of this however, so when he entered the ring the day of the challenge..."

Lu Ten frowned softly. "He found himself facing his father instead of one of the Generals. Zuko did what he thought was best, he fell to his knees, with the elite of the Fire Nation watching, and begged for his father's forgiveness. Instead, Ozai gave him the scar you see across his face to this day, and had him thrown out of the fire nation as a traitor. When my father and I found him he had been half starved, and had been wandering the Earth Kingdom wastes. Ozai declared to the nation shortly after that weakness was intolerable, even in the Fire Lord's own son, and that Ozai had given his own son the worst punishment he could imagine, exile, so that he might die a slow death, knowing he was a traitor and a failure as a son."

Lu Ten bowed his head lightly and sighed. "So before you think that this might be a Fire Nation trick, take a good look at that scar on Zuko's face, and ask yourself if you would go back to the person who did that to you."

"Zuko has sacrificed more for this war than anyone else here. He has to struggle to prove that he's not what he came from every day. He was there, the day the Southern Water Tribe got wiped out. He lead in a strike force that managed to take out 10 of the enemies largest boats before they were discovered..." Lu Ten frowned, shaking his head. "I know it didn't make a difference, but... he tried. And for it his father tortured him again..." Lu Ten closed his eyes, wincing a little at the thought of it. "But no one should talk about that. Do yourself a favor and avoid the topic of Mai if it comes up." he said softly, then stood, dusting himself lightly. "I know nothing I can say can really make you trust him, but... at least believe it when I say that he's probably got more hatred for the Fire Nation than most of the people you brought along with you..." Lu Ten offered, and then turned to walk away from them.

"We leave early tomorrow, make sure you guys are ready."

His right hand was throbbing. As he pulled himself across the ice, he looked at the burning ships with a sense of satisfaction and bittersweet remorse. They were gone, Azula's forces had seen to that. And in turn, Zuko had given his sister a memory that she wouldn't soon forget, though the price of it had been more than he had considered at the time. He stuck it into the ice and watched as steam rose from the ice in a cloud, causing him to grit his teeth so violently he thought they might break as spots swam in front of his vision. As he pulled it out he looked with horror as he saw the skin on it bubbled and peeling off, nearly seeming to fall off in strips as he shuddered and pulled himself to his knees to watch as the fire nation ships burned in front of his eyes, those beyond swirling with a sense of disorientation and confusion.

Zuko's party had managed to take out the lead ships, and now those with lesser commanders were likely squabbling over the chain of command in order to try to figure out who should be leading this whole mess.

But even as his hopes rose seeing the Fire Nation ships in disarray Zuko's blood froze as he saw the airships out on the horizon, looming death waiting to swoop in and eliminate everything once and for all. The comet made it so that each Fire Bender was exponentially more powerful than they were without it, and Zuko knew that those ships were going to rain down fire from the skies the likes of which the Water Tribe had never seen before. Enough firepower to take out the Southern Water Tribe and then some... Ozai could have focused his attention elsewhere, but the idea of getting the prize of the Avatar was too much for him to see past. Zuko knew little of his fleet was headed north, not when a victory against the Avatar could be guaranteed.

"DAMMIT." Zuko growled, slamming his good hand into the ice. "I didn't do anything!"

"Now now, that's not true." Came a wisened voice from behind him, and Zuko spun, clutching his bad arm defensively. The voice gasped, and sighed. "Oh dear, what have you done to that? Ssh, hold still..." came the voice as it made an orb of glowing water that seemed to mesmerize Zuko as the older woman walked forward with it and placed it on his arm, the coolness of it flooding over him. "You don't need to be afraid, Zuko, Great Grandson of Avatar Roku..."

Zuko's eyes flew open from his euphoria, and he blinked slowly. "Are you...?"

"The avatar, yes." The older woman said softly as she looked at his healed arm. "There, good as new."

Zuko marveled at it, and then looked at the sky. "You have to get out of here, those ships-"

"Are here to kill me, and will." The Avatar said solemnly. "Which is why you need to go. You may think you did nothing today, but you gave us a chance to get more people away from this place, you saved lives, Zuko. But you have to go... the spirits tell me that there is a good chance, at the Cycle's End, you will represent the Spirit of the People..."

"The... what? I..."

"Mmm, and tell your Uncle that you need to hunt a Dragon the way that he did." The Avatar said with a deep chuckle.

"No, I'm not going to leave you, we have to get you out of-" Zuko didn't even see the blow that the Avatar made that knocked him out, but as the blackness took his vision he swore he could hear the Avatar whispering something to him.

"Keep my ... safe. She is ... important than anyone suspects."

Zuko's eyes flew open as the dream came rushing back to his mind enough to leave cold sweat across his brow. He winced openly and looked down at his right arm, but there was nothing wrong with it. Still, when he pressed it up his other, it looked smoother, younger... irrevocably changed, even after all this time having been healed by the Avatar. He wondered what Lu Ten might have thought of such a story if he had ever told him it... Lu Ten probably would have presumed he had been lying.

Zuko growled a little as he went and packed up the tent he had been sleeping in for the past week, watching as the others did the same. If experience had taught them anything it had been to keep moving, no matter what the direction. Zuko set his pack down in front of Lu Ten, and offered him a shake of the hand, which Lu Ten immediately grabbed and pulled him into a tight hug with.

"You don't get off that easy, Brother." Lu Ten said with a chuckle, and then looked around, before whispering. "Seriously though, if you try to make a move on the water chick... bite her neck. All the kinky girls like that."

Zuko shoved away from him, which caused Lu Ten to errupt into a fit of laughter that reminded him of his Uncle Iroh way too much. "Be careful, Lu Ten... Zhao is not to be underestimated..." Zuko warned. "And Uncle would fry me if something happened to you..." Zuko said with a light smile, which Lu Ten nodded at playfully. They both knew that Iroh wouldn't, but at the same time, what might happen to the old man's smile if something were to happen to his son... Zuko didn't even want to think about it.

Turning towards the Water Bender as she approached, Zuko crossed his arms. "Ready to go?"

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Thu May 31, 2012 8:59 pm

Katara’s head jerked up as she heard someone outside her tent clear his throat before pulling back the tanned leather flaps. One large tent was being shared by all five Water Tribesmen so they could talk amongst themselves before they parted ways. Her dark brows furrowed as she saw Captain Lu Ten poke his face inside. He seemed displeased with the situation, like a man who had to put down a wounded animal as a mercy killing. Her muscles tensed, but she and Sokka left the tent to go with him as he’d requested. It seemed highly unlikely that he would ask to speak with them privately if it wasn’t important.

They walked a ways until they were out of earshot or easy eyesight of either groups of their people before Lu Ten made a swift, precise motion and fire shot through the night to light some wood. Katara winced, for she had a difficult time accepting the fact that she was allowing herself and her brother to become allied to a couple of firebenders, and this one was actually related to the Fire Lord.

Katara and Sokka would have been fine even without the campfire. They’d lived on a land made of ice and snow their entire lives, and the springs of the Earth Kingdom were a summer retreat by comparison. However, a man from the Fire Nation would probably be freezing this time of year at night.

“What I brought up?” She asked after he’d stated his first sentence.

“That Zuko and I are firebenders.” He reminded her before continuing. Katara and Sokka both gaped as the Captain informed them that Commander Zuko was his cousin. Having heard that the Fire Lord had only one sibling, it wasn’t hard to guess who the jerk’s father was, but the revelation had her mind reeling. The meager amount of trust she’d had evaporated, and she realized that she’d rather travel alone than to go with the Fire Lord’s son. However, before her shock could fully subside enough for her to speak, Lu Ten continued.

The siblings listened as a condensed description of Zuko’s family was divulged – okay uncle, okay cousin, evil father, evil sister, and… good mother. That was a shock. There were people in the Fire Nation who were inherently good? The only ones Katara and Sokka had ever met had been monsters.
Then he divulged that the current Fire Lord had sabotaged Lu Ten to screw over his own brother. Katara could tell that Sokka wanted to know more about this – after all, he was going to be the one to travel with the Captain – but she squeezed his arm to silence him, and Lu Ten got back to the point of the conversation. However, he first wanted their oaths that they would refrain from ever speaking of it. They agreed to keep their silence though the waterbender knew she would have a hard time not discussing it with him later. Then again, maybe it wouldn’t be so difficult. After all, he showed contempt for her at every turn, no matter how nice she was to him. She’d already resolved earlier that day to stop trying at all because there would be no gaining his respect after what she’d done last night.

Sokka’s mouth dropped open when Lu Ten mentioned the Crimson Battle. Everyone in the Water Tribes had heard of it, even all the way in the North. It had been a terrible day with so many casualties that Chief Hakoda and Avatar Inoa wouldn’t allow them to go anywhere near that village for months, even after Katara said she wanted to help. Even at only eleven years old, she had become a skilled healer due to partially to natural talent and greatly to the tutelage of the Avatar herself. However, she had been deemed too young to experience the horrors of that place.

It was so shocking to learn that any child of the Fire Nation would speak out against the battle, for in her mind, they were all sadistic killers. Yet here was Lu Ten, telling her brother and herself that the son of the Fire Lord himself had done so, only to be severely punished by his own father. Katara gasped, her hand covering her mouth. “How could any father do such a thing to his own son?”

Lu Ten shook his head and continued. He let them know that Zuko had fought against the forces that had obliterated the entire Southern Water Tribe during the day of Sozin’s Comet. “You’re wrong.” Katara said softly. “It did make a difference. If it wasn’t for whoever took out those ships, Sokka and I wouldn’t be sitting here today. Because those ten ships were incapacitated, seven of us were able to sneak away on a small ship and make it to the Earth Kingdom.”

“Yeah, I mean… We were all wounded, and two of us didn’t make it to the Northern Water Tribe” Sokka added, “but that’s better than everyone being dead.” He was silent for a moment. “Wow… We owe Zuko our lives.”

Katara had difficulty wrapping her head around this. She actually owed someone from the Fire Nation her life. There was a chance that with Sokka having disguised himself as a soldier, they would have made it out just fine last night, but without Zuko’s help, she and her brother would have been killed with the rest of the Southern Water Tribesmen. She didn’t want to believe it, but everything from Lu Ten’s tone of voice to his body language suggested he was being painfully honest, and she couldn’t deny that.

“Thank you for telling us, Captain. We will be ready.” Katara said, placing her fist against her palm and bowing before leaving the camp site with Sokka.

“Wow… Who would have thought that we’d owe our lives to the son of the Fire Nation?” Sokka asked aloud the question on her mind.

“I never would have, but it changes everything.” Katara thought about it for a moment. “Or maybe it doesn’t change anything. I may be less inclined to let him get hurt in battle, but I doubt he’ll even talk to me the entire way to Ba Sing Se if he doesn’t have to do so. His pride seems pretty wounded from my… taking control of him last night. I don’t know if he’ll ever forgive me.”

“Well, just because he’s the reason why we’re alive today, it doesn’t mean you have to cozy up to him. Just watch his back, and maybe one day you can repay your part of the debt.” Sokka said, patting her on the shoulder.

That evening, Katara lay on her pelt, recounting the events that occurred four years ago when she lost her entire tribe. Flames flashed in her mind’s eye, vibrant oranges and yellows and reds. She could almost feel the heat of it against her skin, the sweat beading on her brow as she fought not only for her life but also for the life of her family. Even surrounded by her natural element, she was no match for the hoards of soldiers whose abilities had never been stronger, more powerful. Then it all went black.

The next day, Katara pulled her hair back from her face, forming a horizontal bun at the back of her hair. Using beads, she separated two streams of hair from her hairline and swooped them under her ears, attaching them to her bun. The rest of her thick hair remained down. She dressed in gear which consisted of a pair of dark blue pants stuffed into brown boots with grey shin guards attached to them. A blue robe with white trim was wrapped around her curves, the sleeves short to compensate for the warmth of the Earth Kingdom. Then, a pair of fingerless gloves covered by a pair of grey gauntlets were placed on her arms. The finishing touch was a soft, blue dyed, leather choker with a pendent bearing a carving of the waterbending symbol. She helped the Water Tribesmen gather their things together for their separate journeys before hoisting her own pack onto her back.

Sokka approached his little sister. “If that Jet guy gives you any trouble, you take care of him. Don’t let him try anything funny with you. He seems a little… weird… Kind of like that Hanu guy.”

“Ugh… Don’t remind me. With any luck, Jet at least won’t be clingy, but I won’t let him get his paws anywhere near me.”

“If he does, when we see each other again, I can… make sure he never hassles another girl. Just give me the word.” He laughed at his joke, but Katara shook her head.

“No need. I can take care of myself. Just watch your back, and make sure you come back to me alive; got it?”

Sokka patted her head. “No problem!”

Katara gripped the forearms of each waterbender in turn as the time wound down. “Thank you for coming this far with me. You were all very brave, and I appreciate your efforts. May the Moon and Ocean Spirits guide you through a safe journey.” They nodded in turn, gripping their supplies and leaving the camp after thanking the rebels. Katara and Sokka embraced, tears forming in her eyes that she wouldn’t allow to fall, not here.

“Ready to go?” A gravelly voice sounded behind her, giving her cause to pull away from her brother and face Zuko.

“Yes.” She responded, her sapphire eyes passing over his scar and the rest of his face, as if trying to see the boy who had tried so brazenly to help a people he had been raised to loathe. She said nothing about what Lu Ten had discussed last night, for she’d been sworn to secrecy about it though she desperately wanted to discuss it. Still, she was not to be trusted in his eyes, and his disdain for her was clear from the way he crossed his arms before her and the way he looked at her.

With one last look between her brother and herself, she left the camp – which no longer appeared to have had anyone there at all – with Gui, Jet, Ping, Shen, and Zuko. Jet made a point of walking beside Katara as they traveled, occasionally tossing her a steamy look which she desperately tried to ignore. If she ever got a chance to speak to Zuko away from Jet – which was starting to seem like an impossibility because of Jet’s attentions and the fact that the Fire Prince hated her – she was going to ask him to try to keep the hook-sword-wielder away from her.

Last edited by Kathryn Lacey on Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:01 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:40 am

Zuko's eyes narrowed as he felt Katara looking at him, her eyes drifting to his scar and he turned away from her. It wasn't exactly the first time, he wasn't sure why it was that it annoyed him so much. People oggled him constantly in towns, however, whispering about the scar that was across his face. If he didn't mention it in some way, they assumed the worst. It did work wonders, however, in getting anti fire nation people to trust him. While firebenders could in fact be burned, it was in fact somewhat rare to have actually happen to yourself. Much more likely was that you burned a non firebender by not being careful. Even a novice Firebender was usually able to instinctually deflect flames aimed at themself, or cause them to disappate, and likewise, the flame of a firebender was usually enough to give first to second degree burns on someone's skin...

To deform another firebender with fire either took a method that was more difficult to bend away from yourself, like a heated coal, for example, or a Master Firebender, focusing on a blast that would maim, and a firebender with his guard down, the way that Zukos had been that day that he had begged his Father for forgiveness. It had been the last time the two of them had spoken directly, and time had only increased the bad blood since then. Zuko resisted the urge to touch the skin like he did sometimes to remind himself that the sagging flesh was there, and instead clenched his left hand into a fist. It didn't matter if the water bender stared at him, he was more than used to being a freak to everyone else, one more on the list wasn't going to hurt anything. Besides, he just needed to get to Ba Sing Se so he could show Katara that talking to the Earth King was a waste of time and then go home.

In truth, he hadn't wanted to go, he much rather would have taken the waterbender to help him hunt Zhao. At least that mission was going to accomplish something. Instead Lu Ten had assigned him what amounted to guard duty. Zuko didn't fuss about it though. It made sense, when he had thought about it. Lu Ten didn't want anything to do with the Water Bender, and it was better to have the men lead by the person that they were used to being lead by. Second in command just wasn't good enough on a mission like the one Lu Ten was going to be going on. Zuko once again felt a pang in his gut at this, the way that he did before all large missions that they undertook. He didn't like being left behind, and this was the next best thing. He was certain that Iroh likely wouldn't approve of the situation, but the dye had already been cast, there was nothing to do now but hurry to Ba Sing Se and pray that the Spirits would protect Lu Ten.

Once the Captain had finished his goodbyes, Zuko watched as he went up to Katara. He wasn't sure what he had to say to the water bender, but he was fairly certain that it had to do with Jet. Zuko had overheard the two of them talking about the Water Bender this morning, Lu Ten promising that he would put in a good word with the water bender for Jet, something to get her to stop playing 'the game and realize her true feelings for him'. Despite himself, Zuko found himself lingering within earshot of his cousin to see exactly how diplomatically he planned to handle this one, given that, unless Zuko was reading her body language wrong, there was a greater chance of the water bender seeking out the loving company of a mongoose dragon than there was of her snuggling up to Jet. Still, he had seen stranger things happen.

Lu Ten slapped a hand lightly on her shoulder, and leaned in to speek to her, giving Jet a light wink and a thumbs up as he said, just barely loud enough for Zuko to hear. "Jet's a complete asshole, and pretty much sees women as a notch on his belt." Lu Ten winked again at Jet and gave him the 'A-OK' sign again. "Seriously, a complete and total jerk. If he gives you too much trouble you have my permission to knock him upside the head in the hopes that it rattles his tiny brain enough to get some sense in there." Lu Ten said, nodding and giving Jet one last thumbs up as he muttered, "Sorry again... in advance."

Zuko closed his eyes and started walking as he processed Lu Ten's words, doing his best not to laugh at them. He had a point though, the sum total of drinks that had been thrown in Jet's face in bars was probably enough to fill a Fire Nation Tanker by now. Zuko and Lu Ten did their best to try to warn potential victims of Jet's wavering affections, but every now and again one slipped through, and Zuko felt bad as they were left crying when Jet would let them know that he was too busy for love and had to bolt. It was probably for the best that Lu Ten had given her the extra warning. The last thing Zuko wanted to do was deal with a heartbroken Water Bender that could use people as their puppets. Still, the idea of the Water Bender making Jet shove those damned hookswords up where the sun didn't shine was somewhat amusing at least.

As they began along, the first day was seemingly uneventful, but Zuko could tell already that there was going to be trouble. When he glanced back he could see Jet making eyes at the Water Bender, and Katara trying to brush it off as if there was nothing wrong with it. It was bad enough that it was starting to piss Zuko off, and he wasn't even the one standing next to the poofy haired fighter. Mentally groaning, Zuko thought about what it was that he was going to do, what he needed to do in order to figure out this whole Jet Katara mess. An idea formed in his head, and he decided to go with it even though it wasn't exactly the best idea in the world, it was better than nothing.

"Jet, I need you to take Ping and go scout ahead, make sure we're not running into any sort of enemy traps." Zuko said, noting the exasperated look that Jet was giving him already when it came to breaking away from Katara. Behind her back Jet's eyes bulged a little at Zuko, as if trying to demand how dare he actually interrupt their moment. He wondered if Jet had any clue how little the water bender wanted to be in that particular moment. "You're my best scout," Zuko lied, given that anyone who might have been a great scout and therefor offended by such a comment was actually with Lu Ten and not them. He could see Ping shaking with laughter held in though, clearly catching him in the lie.

Jet seemed to swallow it at first, and that seemed to make the journey more enjoyable, at least until they broke for lunch, and there wasn't nearly as good of an excuse to send Jet off again. Still, Zuko did his best to try to find menial little tasks for Jet to do that took him away from Katara, all the while making sure that Jet knew that these were only the sorts of things that he could do. He didn't think that it would last forever, but it was at the very least a little that he could do in order to keep Katara away from him. And so it went, each thing he asked Katara to do he would ask Jet to do the opposite task that would keep the two of them seperated.

By the time they set up camp the first night though, clearly Jet was exasperated by his lack of progress throughout the day as well. Zuko wasn't sure why it was that Katara seemed to enamour him so, usually Jet and challenge didn't exactly go hand in hand, but there was something about the water bender that Jet just wouldn't let go of, to potentially everyone's frustration. Once the tents were set up, and dinner fixed, Zuko bid everyone a good night as he started to set up shop for first watch, when he noticed Jet eyeing the tent that Katara had ducked into. This was really the last thing that he needed at this point, and as he watched the fighter start to go up to her tent he sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

"Jet, I was hoping you could take first watch tonight..." Zuko started.

"But you always take first watch." Jet countered, somewhat suspiciously.

"I'm just... a little more tired today than normal. Wake me up for second-" Zuko started to lie, only to get Jet's finger shoved against his chest.

"No." Jet said simply, "You've been doing this all day. Don't think I haven't noticed, Commander," Jet spat the last word violently, and Zuko wondered if he had forgotten that Katara could almost definitely hear everything that was going on with their conversation. From the look of rage in Jet's eyes, he had. Zuko noticed that the rest of the group was still up and within earshot as well... he really didn't want this to turn into a thing, but it seemed like it already was...

"I'm tired of you getting in my way," Jet continued.

"We're done here. You've got first watch, Jet..." Zuko said, turning around, only to blink as Jet whirled him back around.

"Don't walk away from me, and don't get in my way again." Jet growled, "Just because YOUR love-"

Zuko's hand slammed against Jet's mouth at that point with such a speed and force that the fighter blinked in surprise and horror at it. Zuko's eyes, even his bad one now were wide, and the look cast on his face by the firelight spoke of a darker side of himself than he let people see typically. "Another word." Zuko growled. "If you even say another word about her..." His hand trembled. It would be so easy to heat his fingertips, give Jet a scar to match his own, but he wasn't actually worth it. "Now get to your damned watch." He said, shoving Jet back as he growled, and made his way into his own tent to sleep.

"That was pretty fucking out of line, even for you, Jet..." Gui commented, prompting the poofy haired youth to storm off to keep first watch.

Zuko sighed as he stared up at his tent, groaning. It was only the first night and it already felt like... forever.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:58 am

Katara frowned as Zuko turned his back toward her as he had the other evening. She didn’t know his thoughts, his face having been unreadable beyond his contempt of her, but her thoughts weren’t anywhere near the realm of his being a freak. She had her own scars, and so did Sokka, burns that hadn’t been healed in time the blemishes to be avoided. However, hers weren’t born in places that would be obvious to any onlookers, so of course she seemed perfectly normal physically. Someone like Zuko would never suspect that she bore angry, deformed scars on her flesh much like his own.

They were ready to go and about to leave when a light slap to her shoulder caused her to tense and turn toward the perpetrator. Her fingers had twitched toward her water skin stoppers, but she quickly composed herself. The entire thing had been just the lightest of movements, and it was likely none would notice her jitters with the exception of her brother who had taken a couple of steps toward her when she’d tensed, but she shook her head to keep him back. As Lu Ten leaned toward her conspiratorially, she watched toss Jet a wink and a thumbs up, as if she wasn’t standing right there, watching him do it.

Katara’s brows furrowed as he began telling her of Jet’s true colours, giving Jet signs of positivity all the way through it. She realized what he was doing, and as he gave her permission to knock some sense into him, she began to giggle. It wasn’t lost on her that her amusement may be as misread by Jet as the thumbs up from the Captain were, but she didn’t care. This whole situation was hilarious, especially since Sokka had already given her the “talk” about the guy. Her hand moved to cover her lips as her shoulders shook. “No problem. Thanks for the information.” She replied through her dark fingers.

Then they were off, and Jet wouldn’t leave her side. He stood near enough to her to cast her in shadow, for though he was slender, he was the tallest of the group. “So, the Northern Water Tribe… What’s it like growing up there?” He asked her eventually.

“I don’t know. I grew up in the Southern Water Tribe.” Katara responded blandly, as if it wasn’t anything special. That drew silence from him for a while, but not for too long.

“I was sorry to hear what happened to it.” He looked at her intensely, seeming genuinely concerned for a moment. “Were you there four years ago?”

Katara’s jaw clenched tightly, her eyes stared ahead, unseeing, and her fingers strayed to her mother’s necklace, the only token left of her home. She’d had to replace the leather holding the pendant after that day, but the carving was still completely intact. She didn’t want to answer or even to think about that terrible day. The waterbender never even really discussed it with her brother, it was too terrible to remember the battle that had waged and the death of their father and great-grandmother – not to mention the only home they’d ever known with the only people about whom they’d ever cared. However, she didn’t have to speak, for Zuko’s voice rose above the silence. He commanded Jet to go scout ahead with the archer, and her blue eyes stared with surprise at the Commander’s kindness of the moment. Had he overheard the conversation? It’s not like he was far ahead of them, so it was entirely possible.

Jet looked irritated, but Zuko smoothed things over by appealing to the non-bender’s ego. As Jet left her side, brushing gently against her arm as he passed, Katara silently mouthed the words ‘thank you’ to Fire Prince.

Through the rest of the day, Katara stayed busy with tasks that were usually assigned by Zuko. She did them gratefully because they kept her busy and because they were generally assigned to be in the opposing area to wherever Jet was assigned to be. Finally, they made camp, and after eating, Katara set up her own, small tent, unrolling her sleeping bag inside and slipping into it. She took down her hair and undressed to her underclothes which consisted of two pieces: wrappings that encircled her pelvis and thighs with a skirt with slits up both sides to cover her personal areas and wrappings that encircled her shoulders and breasts.

As she settled into her sleeping bag, she heard Zuko ask Jet to take first watch only to have the latter begin to yell at the former. She slipped a little from the warmth of her bag and parted the flap just enough to peak outside at the commotion. They were fighting about her, about how the Commander was keeping Jet away from her. While it had been fine by her, it clearly hadn’t been acceptable to him, and now he was furious. Finally, he said something that sent Zuko over the edge, and he attacked the taller of the two. They were fighting about someone else now, and when Zuko stormed away, it was clear that the other three men were in on the secret, but Katara wasn’t.

”And for it, his father tortured him again… But no one should talk about that. Do yourself a favor and avoid the topic of Mai if it ever comes up… Lu Ten’s words swam in her mind.

If you even say another word about her… That had come from Zuko after Jet had said something about his “love.” Was the firebender’s love and Mai one in the same? What had happened that made Lu Ten warn her away and could cause such a look of agony on the Commander’s face at the mere mention of her?

Katara lay awake in her pelt, staring through the blackness at the top of her tent. This was none of her business, but she had to know. This was just like when Sokka had been sneaking around with Princess Yue despite her being married to that jerk warrior guy, Hahn. She’d steadily pried it out of him that he was involved with her, that she often tried to break things off only for him to woo her again. The waterbender had insisted he stop his affair, even going so far as to make him realize that his affair was probably why Hanu thought he could have an affair with her. If one sibling was willing to do it, why wouldn’t the other? Still, Sokka wouldn’t cease his actions because he genuinely loved the Princess. The point was that she hated secrets, hated being left out of the loop where people close to her were involved, and she had gotten the secret from him.

With a sigh, the waterbender got dressed, leaving her hair loose and snuck out of her tent toward the way where Jet had stalked off. This was a terrible idea, but the moon wasn’t at its brightest, and she was able to sneak away quietly and unseen, for the others had gone to their tents by then. Her bright eyes peered into the gloom, searching even as her ears perked at any sounds. Her stance was battle-ready, for she wasn’t stupid enough to leave without her water skins just in case. A gleam of silver speeding toward her at the corner of her eye had water streaming from their containers. She whipped the blade away from her just in time to see, “Jet?”

“Katara? I thought you were a spy. You need to be more careful!” He hissed at her though his face quickly formed into a relaxed smile as he realized she’d come out here to see him.

“I’m sorry. I just…” She trailed off. This was stupid, and she knew it. She shouldn’t be doing this, seeing Jet in the dark, but she couldn’t sleep.

“You came to see me?” He finished. “I knew Zuko couldn’t keep us apart.” His fingers moved through her chocolate hair, and in the darkness, he could see her jaw clenching despite her allowing it. He smoothly sat upon a smooth boulder and patted beside himself. She sat next to him, even though it was too small for her to not have her shoulder touching his, her knee against his thigh. She shivered, and he pressed closer, misreading the action.

“I was just… curious.” She said unsteadily. “I wanted to know how you got involved with these guys, these rebels?”

His body seemed to stiffen a little, but he didn’t remain silent for long. “When I was little, my fishing village was attacked by the Fire Nation, probably because they wanted the port to better attack the Water Tribes. My parents were killed, and I was an orphan. I created a group I called the Freedom Fighters, and we attacked the soldiers whenever we could to help liberate the Earth Kingdom and maybe even help the Water Tribes as a result, but we made our home in the trees of a forest, and the Fire Nation swarmed it and started burning down our home. We lost people then. Lu Ten's rebels saved some of us from the flames. I would have gotten out okay, but they wouldn't have made it.”

Katara looked at him, eyes wide. “You just trusted them, just like that, even knowing that they’re firebenders?”

“Well, no, not at first, but I couldn't deny that they'd used their firebending to actually help the people I cared about, even if not all of them could be saved. At least, Lu Ten is all right. He's a good leader and a good guy, but his second-in-command, Zuko, is just a dick."

Katara leaned against Jet's arm, her hand rest over his. "What do you mean?" She asked.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:19 am

"In what way is he NOT a dick? That pompous little jackass runs around here like he owns us all, like he's somehow better than the rest of us just because he's related to Lu Ten. I guarantee you that if I threw down with him on the field of battlefield for real, I'd sure as hell take him down a notch..." Jet said with a smile, reaching back to rest his hand on one of his hookswords as if expecting Zuko might materialize like some boogeyman in the night and be vanquished with a single slash of his sword like he was some sort of hero. He looked at Katara, and she actually looked suitably impressed by his show of bravado. Something had told him that the whole day she'd secretly been flirting with him. Fucking Zuko keeping them apart just because he was jealous of what the two of them had. Zuko just didn't want anyone to be happy.

"He's such a fucking hypocrite too..." Jet said, growling. "Acts like he's better than the rest of us, but take away his firebending and he's just some scarred freak who's pratically a traitor as it is." Jet glanced over his shoulder, half expecting Zuko to be there the way that he often was, glaring at him. Luckily for Zuko, the night was empty. True, the little prima donna had firebending, but take that away and he was just a man like the rest of them. Of course, there was the last... well, sort of every time that Zuko had beaten him in just sword fighting, but that was because Zuko cheated, and because Jet had been holding back. It was little well known that going out full force against him would have been dangerous, and Jet had just figured that, well, kicking Zuko's ass would have caused Lu Ten to get up on his back or something... yeah.

When Katara pressed him about Zuko's hypocrisy, Jet snorted lightly. "People around here think that he's some sort of big hero for fighting the Fire Nation, they try to coddle him for that whole Southern Water Tribe thing, but they forgot about all the people that went with him. Think the high and mighty prince could detonate all of those ships by himself? Not a chance... instead it was my friends that went out there and laid down their lives while Zuko came floating back in some water tribe boat. He probably turned tail and ran halfway through the mission knowing him." Jet was incensed, and the fact that Katara was both hot, and willing to let him blow off some steam after him getting the runaround today was more than welcome. Maybe if he played his cards right she'd be willing to blow some things as well...

She seemed genuinely intrigued by his story, and her eyes were on him, hanging off of his every word. He didn't really know why he was surprised by it, she had acted a little cold to him before, but now that they were alone, she could really let her true feelings show. He could see she was moved by his feelings for his friends, and she totally agreed with him about what a giant ass Zuko happened to be as well. "Zuko... well, Lu Ten really, but they like to make it out like he was the one who did it all. All he did was come up with the stupid idea and find a group of people to go with him. Any idiot would have known that it wouldn't have made a difference. We'd fought their airships in the past, he should have known that it was a lost-" Jet bit his tongue as Katara looked at him. Probably best not to outright say her home village had been a lost cause, even if it was. Women got all pms-y about that sort of thing.

"What I mean is that he should have known what he was going after. Should have found a way to go after the airships instead, not focus on that weak shit." Jet said. True, none of them had any idea where the Fire Nation Air Force would go that day, and there had been intel on just the ships, but really Zuko should have known about it, or found a way. "I mean, hell, Zuko even asked me to go on that mission, and if I had I would be dead. I told him too that there was no way in hell I was going to follow him on some stupid suicide mission when the chances of it working were next to nothing. But instead he convinced a group of ten benders, four of which I was friends with, to go with him on it. He came back, they didn't, and honestly he's got no one to fucking blame but himself, traitorous asshole..."

Jet didn't say anything else until Katara pressed him on why it was that he thought that Zuko was a traitor. He didn't really know if he should tell this part, it was the part that people got all bent out of shape over. But when he thought about it he thought about the fact that the little traitor had managed to lay a hand on him, and how funny it would be to wipe that smirk off his face. Maybe if he told Katara about it she'd have a good laugh with him over it tomorrow. Zuko could try to start shit with Jet himself, but not both of them. Katara would have his back if fire boy decided that he wanted to throw down, and once they beat the tar out of him maybe this party could have a real leader instead of the one that moped all the time.

"I shouldn't but... fuck it." Jet said grimly, thinking about the friends that he'd lost there. They deserved to have their side of things told too. "What Lu Ten conveniently leaves out of his little stories is the 'love of Zuko's life', Mai..." Each of his last words dripped with sarcasm. Things like eternal love was just bullshit that people who wanted to be unhappy forever or lovers who were delusional told themselves about. Jet certainly didn't need to be tied down with any of that crazy shit. "So out of the blue this girl shows up, claiming that she defected too, and tells us all that she's a childhood friend of Zuko's. I call bullshit on the whole thing but Zuko vouches for her, lets her share his rations, his tent, and the two of them cozy up pretty tight for kids that haven't seen each other in years."

"Next thing I know the pair are kissing constantly, which, given that this Mai chick was a total ice princess and didn't have any personality whatsoever was pretty gross, I gotta say." he chewed on his piece of straw thoughtfully, and looked at Katara again. God she was hot, he should really try to give her a kiss. Just when he had started to consider it though she asked him to go on and Jet sighed, shaking his head. "So anyway, Miss Kissypants stayed with us for about a year, I guess... snuggling up to Zuko. I don't know if he actually got anywhere with her, but given how frigid she was, I doubt it got anywhere past kissing. Didn't matter though, Zuko trusted her completely, pulled her into our little planning sessions, including the ones about how he was planning on taking out the ships when Sozin's comet decided to roll on through..."

"Way Zuko tells it, she was a plant sent by his father and sister... personally, I don't know that it's true. Seems like she was a scapegoat to me, and that he was just using her to pass info. So when they blow the boats, Princess Azula's there, and starts mopping up the resistance that she can. Zuko tells it like he made some great escape after wounding her, and that's why she wears that claw on her left arm now, but I think it's a load of bullshit. Something seems pretty funny that the Fire Lord sends some girl and he winds up liking her, she betrays him and yet he still manages to live? That kind of stuff just doesn't usually happen, y'know?" Jet said, shaking his head.

"So to cover his tracks, Zuko makes a big show of kicking her out of camp. She apologizes, complains that they had her family or some sort of bullshit like that and pleads for Zuko's help. I gotta give him this if he's not lying, he sure knew how to treat a traitor. Kicked her out on her ass and told her to go find another sucker. Probably the only really manly thing I've ever seen him do..." Jet reflected. "I thought about tracking down that Mai chick myself and getting the truth out of her, but it only took a weeks from the time Zuko set her loose for the Fire Nation spies to pick her up. Traitorous little bitch got what she deserved to. Turns out that failing Fire Lord Ozai is a pretty stupid fucking idea."

"Ozai must have believed that Zuko loved her though, because he made a royal declaration that Zuko turn himself over for terrorism against the Fire Nation, and saying that Mai was his accomplice. Offered her a full pardon too if Zuko turned himself in before she died." Jet snorted, no pity in his voice for Mai's fate, "Then he made a contest of her torture. She wasn't a bender, so he just shackled her in the main square, and let his soldiers have at her. Told them that she was a traitor, and therefore they could do what they wanted with her. Also put up a couple of prizes of 500 gold pieces a pop to the person who had the most inventive torture for her, and the soldier that could make her scream the loudest."

Jet chuckled a little at that. "Saved us a lot of trouble giving that bitch what she had coming. Probably the only good thing the Fire Nation has ever done..." he said with a laugh. "She held out for a week or two, or so I hear. But according to Lu Ten by the time Zuko showed up she was already gone, and Ozai had left her there in the square hanging off something so that Zuko would see her when he eventually got there..." Jet said, shaking his head. "Just kind of a shame he didn't catch Zuko to give him the same treatment huh?"

Jet could see that Katara was captivated by his story and leaned in a little closer. "But, given that it's just you and me now, let's stop talking about the chump, and start talking about our future together..." he said as he started to lean in for a kiss.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Sat Jun 02, 2012 12:08 am

Two children threw snowballs at one another, a little girl managing to throw one right in her brother’s face. Indignant, he began to build a small boulder-sized ball of snow to chuck at his sibling, but as he lifted it over his head, black snow began to fall. The large snowball fell to his feet as they gazed above their heads at the sky, and it was only a few minutes before the ships came into view.

“I’m going to find Mom.” She said to the other, and he rushed in the opposite direction to find their father. The little girl rushed toward the center of the village because her mother was supposed to be there, visiting with some friends in the communal hut. No one was there in any of the rooms, and she began to panic as she could hear the crashing of swords and the angry bursts of flames with the splashing of water and the crackling of ice.

The girl ran to her home, and threw herself through the entrance only to find a man hovering over her mother who had a welt on her cheek and a cut across her brow. “You will tell me where the Avatar is.” The man growled, sending a large burst of fire at the middle aged woman across the hard enough to send her to her knees with a cry of pain. The smell of singed hair permeated the hut.

“Mom!” Her daughter whimpered. The soldier and the woman turned toward her, her mother’s eyes widening with fear for a split second before her face calmed, and she looked at the stranger. “Just let her go, and I’ll give you the information you want.”

His glare moved from the woman to her daughter. “You heard your mother; Get out of here!”

The little girl didn’t move. Her eyes were filled with fear, and her small body trembled in terror beneath her tiny parka. “Mom, I’m scared.” She said weakly, her saucer-like eyes darting between her mother and the man.

“Go find your dad, Sweetie. I’ll handle this.” The woman’s voice was calm, but even so, the little girl hesitated. She looked from her mother to the soldier, his brown eyes glaring fiercely at her. With one last look at her beloved mother, she ran away to find her father.

It wasn’t easy to get to him. She tried yelling to him over the din of battle, but he couldn’t hear her as he fought, so she carefully made her way through the fighting, using her minimal waterbending skills to try to freeze the enemy or their weapons in place. Most of the time she missed, but occasionally she got one. She was afraid, and tears streamed from her eyes when she finally got to her father.

“Dad! Dad, please! I think Mom’s in trouble! There’s a man in our house!”

“Kya!” He shouted his wife’s name, grabbing his daughter in his arms to get her safely away from the battle. He set her down and they began running together toward their home, but as they rushed through the doorway, a terrible sight and smell greeted their entrance. Upon the floor, lay a charred body, burned nearly unrecognizable, but it was obviously the little girl’s mother. The man’s scream of rage and pain permeated the room, echoing outside as well. The little girl’s tears flowed freely, sobs sounding loudly from her throat.

The slap resonated through the night. It must have sounded like it felt because Katara’s hand stung from the impact, and she knew that even if Jet’s face didn’t bruise from how hard she’d hit him, there would be a nice welt in the shape of her palm for at least half an hour. He sat there, stunned, for this clearly hadn’t been what he’d thought would happen when he’d leaned in to kiss her.

“How dare you!” Katara hissed at him. “You’re a monster! No one ever deserves a fate like that. I don’t care if they’re an ally, a traitor, or an enemy. If someone is going to be killed, it should never be in a way like that. How could you be okay with that?”

Jet glared at her, beginning to overcome his shock. “You’re one to talk. You killed all of those soldiers, torturing them with fear before ending their lives. You and I are one in the same; you’re just as much a monster as I am, Water Witch.”

“I am nothing like you, Jet. I don’t applaud acts of torture, and not a day goes by that I don’t hate myself for what I did that night, and nothing you say will change that. Nothing you do will ever make me want anything to do with you.” Katara began to walk away, but he grasped her arm, tightly.

“Katara, you’re stuck with me. I don’t care how you fight it, but you’ll come over to my side; you’ll understand your true nature and realize that it’s my destiny to help you unleash it.” He squeezed her arm, causing her limb to ache.

“Get off of me!” Her other arm shot forward with such force that she didn’t even have to manually remove the stoppers of two of her water skins. The streams shot into the man with such force that his grip was relinquished and he fell backwards, onto the ground, soaking wet. “I’m not a wild animal you can break and bend to your will, Jet. I don’t want anything to do with you.”

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Sat Jun 02, 2012 8:18 pm

Zuko woke up on a boat with oars at sea. He had no idea where he was, but there was a water skin there with him, a final gift from the Avatar, he supposed. From the distance of where the smoke happened to be he could see that he was a great ways from where the fighting had taken place, the Avatar must have shoved him out to sea alone, knowing or perhaps taking a gamble that he would actually manage to survive. Zuko groaned a little, considering the distance that he was away. It would take too long to paddle back there, but already he could feel the power of the comet leaving him, and somehow, he could feel something else as well. The Avatar was dead... somehow he knew it, he could feel it in his bones.

Her words echoed into his head. Expecting him to kill a dragon, but dragons were extinct, there was no way that he could try to hunt one down. And yet she seemed to have thought that his Uncle would just know where one was, and be able to tell him as easily as he corrected his firebending forms. But more importantly she could have come with him. She could have escaped the destruction that laid waste to the Southern Water the tribe. What had been so important that she had sacrificed herself to protect it? Zuko stared out at black smoke, imagining the carnage that had taken the Southern Water tribe by now, in a way wishing that he could see it with his own eyes, so he could stare at his own failure and burn it into his own memory.

"Hsin. Ji. Liang. Quon. Tung. Yu. Zhong. Shen. Wen." Zuko listed off the names of the men that he had lost in the mission, trying to tatoo their names onto his brain, already knowing that he would never truly be able to forget them. He closed his eyes as he swallowed a lump in his throat and whispered the last name. "Min." Not a man that had joined them, but a girl, barely 15. She had been beautiful enough that even if she hadn't been one of the only females that had joined the resistence, all eyes would have been on her. All of the ones except the ones that she had wanted, anyway. Zuko's eyes were more on Mai, despite the fact that in many ways Min was more alluring sexually. Min had been from the Earth Kingdoms, she had grown up hating the fire nation, and despite her attraction Zuko could see the look of conflict there when he talked about his childhood growing up.

Mai, on the other hand, had grown up in a wealthy family in the Fire Nation. She understood what was expected of them, the unreasonable pressures, the parents who were never seemingly happy. She liked the same things that he liked, and he found her biting droll sarcasm actually cute in a way that he didn't think that anyone other than him appreciated. And like him, she knew what it was like to defy her parents, to leave the Fire Nation for something more, to turn traitor against everyone that she had loved because she didn't believe in what they were doing. Her parents had disowned her when they had found out that she was helping a friend smuggle out Water Tribe prisoners. It was almost as if she had been perfect.

Zuko feared that Min had volunteered on this mission because Mai wouldn't. She seemed so eager to train with him, to be close to him, and to prove herself as something greater than Mai was. Even as Zuko let her name fall from his lips he was afraid that she had been right, that she HAD been a better person than Mai, even though everything in him wrenched inside at that possible thought. It wasn't true though, it couldn't be. He loved her, and the fragile glass that was his world would shatter if he discovered such a crack in it. There had to be some sort of explanation, there had to be something that was... different. He knew there just had to be... something.

By the time he had paddled to shore he had been exhausted, his arms feeling like jelly. Climbing up a tree to avoid scouts and taking off his shirt to tie himself to a thick branch, he had slept there fitfully against the bark, dreaming of Azula waiting for him at his camp, the charred bodies of Lu Ten and the other members of the resistence there decorating the landscape, Mai standing beside her, cackling violently. The nightmare caused him to jolt awake, disoriented but quickly getting his bearings as he pulled himself from the tree, traveling in the dark towards his base. Sleep wouldn't come that night, and he needed to get back to where they were stationed more than he needed rest.

It was mid day before he got back to their base, a large grouping of caves that had been likely hollowed out for living in by Earth benders long ago before they thought to erect huts within moments using their abilities. A heavy rain had set over the camp and had soaked Zuko an hour before he saw the lights of his camp. He felt his heart surge with joy and relief that they were alright. But the sensation of ease and happiness dropped when the first scout came up to him, looking at him and then behind him questioningly. Looking for the others. Zuko could see their face fall in horror as they realized that there were no more people coming, running instead to the camp.

Before Zuko could take a dozen more steps Lu Ten had emerged, seeing the news. "What happened?" His cousin asked him, gripping his shoulder to force Zuko to look him in the eyes.

"They knew..." Zuko said, the words sounding hollow, empty. It sounded as if another person was speaking them, the vibrations that they should have left in the air being eaten by the violent background hiss of the rain hitting the ground.

"Pack up your things. We leave in less than an hour." Lu Ten said.

"But..." Zuko started, but Lu Ten gripped his shoulder then, frowning at him as he shook his head lightly. Zuko clenched his eyes tight as he knew that his cousin was right, and knew what that meant.

Zuko watched as Lu Ten rushed away, barking orders, closing his eyes as he took the steps he knew too well, even in the mud, to the cave that he called his own. His dark hair hung over his face then as he stood at the entryway of it, feeling the fire that was in the entrance of the cave providing next to no comfort, even though it had a warmth to it. Mai stood there at the back of the place. All of her things were packed already. There was no way that Lu Ten had come here to tell her first that they needed to be. Zuko's golden eyes stared at her through the mess of black hair hanging across his face.

"I'll believe you... if you tell me it wasn't you." He said finally in a graveled voice after 3 minutes of silence or so.

"No, you won't." Mai said softly. "You're smarter than that, that's why I like you..." Mai had never once told him that she loved him, despite his proclamations of love for her. Zuko had thought that it was something that would come with enough time. Recent events had made all of it clearer, even if he didn't really want to think about it.

"Why?" Zuko whispered softly over the crackle of the fire.

"Why? Because of YOU!" Mai growled, standing up and walking over to him. "Because you defied your father, your whole country, and because 'he' wants to make an example of you, that's why!"

Zuko grabbed her by her collar and jerked her off of her feet, moving the distance to press her to the side of the cave, seeing the fear in her eyes at his actions. He was not a violent person, but after the past few days he was to the point of breaking. "Because I defied my father? You let me lead my friends to their deaths, because I DEFIED MY FUCKING FATHER?!" Zuko bellowed loudly.

"NO!" The fear turned to hatred there in Mai's eyes as she sneered at him, slamming her hands into his wrists to force him to break his grasp on her, and then made a first with her hand and punched him in the chest. It was hard, but not hard enough that Zuko felt it as Mai pummeled him. "They have my father, Zuko, my mother and my siblings. And not all of us have the fucking luxury of hating everyone that we're related to like you do!" she spat out at him. "I can't even kill you for them, or I would have... just to get them back... they're all I have. All... I had." She looked at him. "Zuko, I lov-"

Zuko's hand clamped over her mouth at that point and he growled darkly at her. "Don't even say that word to me now... Don't even let it out of your fucking mouth. You don't even know what that word means..." Zuko growled as he shoved her back, seeing a look of dark hatred cross her face before it crumbled, all of her strength faltering her as she fell to her knees.

"I'm sorry." she whispered.

"I would have tried to rescue them. We could have used those men you killed in order to save them!" Zuko bellowed.

Mai shook her head. "You would have tried, and maybe they would have survived... but I couldn't risk their lives on that chance."

"Just mine." Zuko said to her, watching her cringe at his words. "Get out."

"Zuko... please, if I go now, I can't go back as a failure... please just let me go with you..." Mai pleaded.

"That's not really my problem." Zuko growled, "Get out."

Mai looked at him there, and for the first time he saw past the could exterior of her face, the mask of cool detachment gone and instead something vulnerable, something wretched and scared there as she looked at him, before she rose to her feet, grabbing her bag of things and dashed out into the rain. It was coming down so heavily that Zuko lost sight of her after a hundred yards, the tears in his eyes indistinguishable from the rivers of water streaming down from drenched strands of hair hanging across his face.

Zuko had been lying awake, staring at the darkness of his tent, lost in memories of the past. Jet pratically spitting it in his face brought it all screaming back to his memories. Things he had been trying to forget, the screams of his allies as Azula's forces cut them down like wheat before them. How Mai had looked when he'd found her there, after what his father had done to her. Zuko closed his eyes tight at that mental image, and prayed for dreamless sleep, just to get rid of the image that was burned into his brain forever, along with a list of 10 names he couldn't ever forget. "Min. Hsin. Ji. Liang. Quon. Tung. Yu. Zhong. Shen. Wen." he repeated over again as he did every night, to remind himself about the lives that had been lost directly due to his carelessness. Not bothering to say Mai's name aloud. He would never forget it anyway.

The sound of skin on skin was faint as he was far away, but not so faint that Zuko didn't notice it. His first thought was that Katara had gone out for a walk without telling someone, Jet had caught her and gotten slapped for his trouble. But it could have meant any number of things as well. Katara or Jet could be getting attacked by someone, possibly fire nation. Zuko emerged from his tent ready to go, dashing out, glancing behind at the others who were still asleep. They could stay asleep in case it was just Jet screwing off somewhere, and if it wasn't Zuko aimed to make enough noise that they would be on their feet at a moment's notice, as they usually were.

The sound of waterbending made him pick up his pace as he ran towards the noise, stopping a ways away as he saw Jet, drenched, with Katara standing there in a water bending pose. It appeared that his first intuition had been correct after all. He was more than willing to let the water bender handle Jet's punishment herself when he saw the look on Jet's face as his hands started to go back towards his hook swords. Jet wasn't willing to take this blow to the ego without clearly giving Katara a blow of his own, and frankly Zuko was tired and annoyed at the events of the night. This was just too much, and he was sick and tired of dealing with Jet's cocky bullshit for one night.

With a breath and a kick towards them a line of fire raced across the ground, so that as Jet started to lunge it blazed to life between the two of them, causing him to stop midstep and faulter backwards, landing on his ass as the scarred firebender walked up the line, the fire extinguishing at his feet with each step, though the line of flames between the two of them didn't go out. "What the hell is going on here?" Zuko's gravelly voice snarled at them both.

Jet picked himself up, dusting himself off as he smirked at Zuko, then winked at Katara over the flames that seperated them both. "Katara here was just asking me about Mai..." he said with a shrug. "I didn't want to tell her, but she wouldn't let it go until I did... I figured she deserved to know." Jet shrugged lightly. "Not sure where she heard about your girl troubles, but, clearly she knows a little more than she-"

"Go on your patrol. You're taking two shifts at it tonight." Zuko growled. "If I catch you harassing Katara again you're going to either go back to the Captain solo, or get tied to a tree and left there."

Jet snorted, but walked away, running his hands through his wet hair to get the moisture out of it. After he had gone Zuko glanced at Katara with that same look of distrust and loathing that he had when she had bloodbended him, but instead of saying something, he just turned from her and started to head back towards her tent, leaving her there in silence.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Sun Jun 03, 2012 1:08 am

Katara could see the anger clouding Jet’s face in the moonlight, but she remained in shadow, her stance still battle ready though her right palm and her left forearm ached. Her stance relaxed, and she was about to turn away from him when she saw him reach for his hook swords. Her brows furrowed, and she quickly resumed her stance, ready to defend herself should he attempt to attack her. However, as soon as he started to lunge toward her after having drawn his weapons, flames came to life, searing a line between the waterbender and the non-bender.

Fear filled her as the fire lit the night. They were under attack! She turned toward the source of the attack, her stance ready for a true battle and not just the pettiness for which she’d been ready earlier. Jet fell backwards onto his rump again, and a figure began to move forward, the fire disappearing with his every step. However, she relaxed her stance, recognizing the scars features of Commander Zuko. Relief flooded through her at the realization that they weren’t under attack, that he’d been helping her.

Katara said nothing when he demanded what was happening between the two of them. The flames where he hadn’t stepped continued to flicker brightly. What could she say? He didn’t trust her, and he didn’t like Jet, so whatever words were spoken could easily have been lies from both. It was better to allow the scene to speak for her as it painted a better picture than the truth. However, Jet wouldn’t let her off that easily, and he greatly exaggerated the truth in order to make himself seem like the better person. In her mind, it just made him the greater ass, so she tried to keep her face blank to make sure Zuko couldn’t read any admissions of guilt into it.

The Commander cut him off before he could finish, ordering him to walk away from the scene and to leave Katara alone. Jet obeyed with a scoff, and as he left – still soaked to the skin – Zuko looked at her with a look that chilled her. It was the same one he’d given her when she’d used her bloodbending on him, but the situations were different. When she’d thought he was the enemy, it hadn’t mattered, but now he was supposed to be her ally. How was she supposed to trust any of these people to watch her back when three of them feared her, one was a complete jerk toward her while simultaneously trying to get into her robes, and the leader of all of them loathed her so much? She wished Sokka was here.

As Zuko headed back to camp, she stayed where she was. He hadn’t said a word to her, allowing his facial expression in the firelight tell her all she needed to know. Any help he’d given her with Jet had absolutely nothing to do with her. He was simply trying to keep the peace in the group because that’s what a good leader did. He led his men, and she was just an inconvenience with her half-crazed mission to go to the Earth King. None of them except for her believed in the mission, and she didn’t believe any of them would try too hard to protect her if things got too rough. They would watch each out for one another above watching out for her. Katara was alone, and she had to make sure she looked out for herself if she wanted to survive. After waiting a few minutes, she went back to camp and settled into her tent to sleep.

“Ping, take Katara and scout ahead.” Zuko commanded. Ever since last night, Katara was beginning to realize that whenever he gave her an order, it was rarely actually spoken to her if he could help it. He’d done it all day yesterday, too, but she hadn’t noticed because she was too busy feeling grateful that his commands kept Jet away from her. However, now that she knew he wasn’t showing kindness for her sake, she was beginning to recognize the signs of his disdain more clearly, and she resented it.

Still, she obeyed the order and traveled with Ping, hurrying ahead of the others in a stealthy manner to see if any enemies lurked nearby. They were thorough and precise, but they were also efficient. He was well trained in the art of stealth, better than she was though she wasn’t necessarily incompetent about it, and he seemed to appreciate it. However, they didn’t say anything to each other as they scouted, but when they headed back toward their group, he finally spoke.

“I saw that bruise on the side of Jet’s face. Is it related to the one on your arm?” His voice was soft and was drastically different to the gravel of their leader’s. Katara looked at the bruise that showed just above her glove and clearly extended down into it in the shape of a hand. She’d hoped no one would notice it since it wasn’t very dark and it was mostly hidden by her apparel. However, Jet hadn’t been so lucky. While her hand didn’t really sting and the redness had gone down, the light soreness in parts of her palm let her know that a welt was not going to be all the non-bender showed the next day. The left side of his face sported a nice-sized bruise, darker where the bonier parts of her hand had made contact with his skin; he seemed to be in a very sour mood that day, and he was intelligent enough to avoid being too near to the waterbender.

“Yes.” She admitted sheepishly.

“Good. He uses women, and I’m glad someone showed him his place.” Ping said firmly, his eyes darting around the area, for even though they were heading back, he kept his senses alert to anything that may have changed or been missed. Katara looked at him, surprised. She was the “Water Witch” to all of them, so she was shocked that he would grant her any praise. Didn’t he fear her or hate her?

Silence fell over them again because Katara didn’t want to mistake his praise as his being completely okay with her and end up overstepping the boundaries between them. However, he was the one to break the silence again. “Did you learn to control bodies because of what happened to your people?”

That was a very bold question, and Katara nearly stumbled over a rock in her shock, and Ping seemed to get it. “I’m sorry. I overheard you yesterday talking to Jet about how you grew up in the Southern Water Tribe. It seemed like the only explanation for why you would be okay with what you did.”

Her face coloured and she turned her head away from him. “I’m not okay with what I did, but no one cares about that. Actions speak louder than words, though, so I understand why everyone is afraid of me. I didn’t even want to learn it in the beginning, but my teacher convinced me that I had to be just as ruthless as the Fire Nation had been when they attacked the South Pole. I was there that day, and I almost didn’t make it out alive. Away from battle, it seemed like the next logical step, but after having actually used it to such a great potential, I realize how wrong it is. I took away any chance of survival they may have had. Sure, it saved the lives of my allies, but soldiers obey orders, and I bet a lot of those men had families who loved them just like I had a family who loved me. I know what it’s like to lose the people I love to the war, and I can’t forgive or forget what I’ve done. It will stay with me forever as a reminder of why I should never use bloodbending. I’m just glad that the woman who taught it to me refused to teach anyone else. She wanted it to stay in the Southern Water Tribe, and she and I are the only two waterbenders left from there.” Her jaw clenched; she’d spoken a lot more than she’d intended, and Ping’s silence was clear. It was several minutes before anyone spoke again.

“It isn’t right what this war has driven people to do, but everyone deserves a chance at redemption.” His words ended any other forms of conversation, but it left Katara feeling hopeful for the first time in days, and she appreciated it.

When they returned to the group, Katara allowed Ping to deliver the news that their way was clear. She didn’t want to face the hatred in Zuko’s gaze that would be there if she was the one to speak. It was enough that one person in the group seemed almost okay with her. She hoped he would try to convince the others that she wasn’t so bad, but she wouldn’t push it. These things took time, and it would be a while before they made it to Ba Sing Se, so time was really all she had.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Sun Jun 03, 2012 10:42 pm

He didn't bother to look back to see her staring at his back. He might have stopped had she had something to say to him, but he didn't have any clue what it was that she could have said to him at that point. Katara was more than starting to get on his nerves. He had managed to protect her all day from Jet being a skeeze and yet when it came to it, he found her out there talking to him. He had wondered if Jet had been lying in that moment when the poofy haired fighter had outed her, but when he glanced at her eyes he could see it there, the look of surprise, but not of confusion. She knew exactly what it was that Jet had been talking about. She had gone to him to talk about Mai. He wasn't sure which one of them he was more angry at. Katara for trying to ask about something like that, or himself for believing that there was anything about her that would keep her out of something that was none of her damned business. He just wondered how it was she knew about Mai at all. Something told him that she wasn't so stupid that she had just stumbled on the conversation.

Sleep had been uneasy the previous night. The Fire Nation was a hot and steamy place, but despite the fact that Zuko had more than gotten used to the weather that the Earth Kingdom had, there was something about that particular night that seemed cold enough to make certain that he woke up several times, which meant remembering most of his dreams in clarity. Most of them had been about Mai, and other things that he didn't want to think about. By the time Jet woke him up by stomping over to his tent like an elephant, Zuko was in a foul mood. He emerged silently and stared down the fighter for a moment, though Jet seemed to lack that particular drive with which he had earlier in the night. Perhaps his encounter with Katara had at least been enlightening enough that the water bender wanted nothing to do with him, at least it came to getting information out of them.

Before the water bender awoke, Zuko quietly woke up each member of his own group and pulled them out of earshot, asking them exactly what it was they thought about the water bender, and whether or not she had asked them any questions that seemed off, or about their past. None of them mentioned anything, which was even more curious. Then again, if she was trying to collect information, it made sense to start with the leader of the group. There was no doubt about it though, she was a water bender, which meant that her enemy was the Fire Nation. After they had destroyed the Southern Water tribe, not a single water bender alive would have sided with them, regardless of how much of an outcast they had been. It was something that was just intolerable to the whole tribe. So what was the point in her pumping for info about him?

Zuko had another problem as well. He noticed that on today's journey, Jet was starting to hang around the two Earth Benders and Ping more than he was hanging around the waterbender. That and he was being surprisingly helpful today. A less pessimistic leader might have assumed that it was because Jet was turning over a new leaf. Of course that leader would have to not know Jet very well either. Zuko knew him well enough to know that there was something that Jet was hatching up. It didn't exactly take a lot to see it either. He was trying to marshall his support in the group. Be friends to everyone, and if the choice came between him and the water bender then it would be him that they would want to pick. Jet seemed to think that might sway Zuko's opinion on the matter, but it wouldn't. However, if something happened to him on the way to Ba Sing Se, the last thing he wanted was for Jet to be running the damned group.

Ping seemed the most impartial, so Zuko ordered Katara and the archer off to scout ahead. It would give them some time to bond, talk. The others though, they would be tougher nuts to crack. Ping was particularly open minded, but finding open minded earth benders was like finding pacifistic members of the Fire Nation, not something you saw every day. Part of it was a stereotype of course, but then again, as Lu Ten reminded him often, stereotypes were there for a reason. The trick to dealing with them was like fear. To take note of it, but not let it make the complete decision for you... Still, Gui and Shen seemed to be wanting to avoid the water bender at all costs.

As he watched them quietly, he could see it there on their faces. They were worried that the Water Bender was going to flip out on them in the heart of battle. Lu Ten's group had been formed mainly of ex Fire Nation and those who had been displaced by the colonization of the Earth Kingdom. It was true that the Fire Nation had mainly focused on the Water Tribe during the battle because the Avatar after the Air Nomads would be born amongst them, but given the distance between the Fire Nation and the Northern and Southern Water tribes, not colonizing in part the Earth Kingdom would have been a fatal mistake. Supplies would have been violently hard to come by, and there would have been no staging ground for a massive assault on the tribal lands.

With that the case, coming by Earth Kingdom refugees wasn't that difficult, and made up the bulk of the resistance. To complicate matters, it seemed as if the Earth King seemed perfectly content to turn a blind eye to the fact that there were border skirmishes between the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom, taking the Fire Lord's word that it was merely caused by discontent elements within the Fire Nation looking to cause some sort of bad relations between the two of them. The fact that Earth Nation hadn't actively gone to war after the destruction of the Southern Water tribe, even four years after it had happened, meant that this quest that they were on was likely pointless. But it also meant that winning the hearts and minds of the members of the Earth Kingdom that were actually serving under himself.

Zuko paused as he thought of how Lu Ten would solve this situation. It would probably involve getting them all drunk and throwing a massive party. Given that probably no one other than perhaps Jet had packed any sort of alcohol, that seemed like an unlikely scenario. Pondering it most of the day, Zuko started to think about what it was that seemed to drive his troops when he lead them. Anyone new was usually shunned, hazed, or otherwise teased until it was that they got your back. But if Zuko waited for a real attack the results could be deadly. No, they needed to know somehow that they could trust that Katara wouldn't flip out as soon as she started using her powers... and therein lie the answer. Zuko nodded a little as he signaled for them to stop earlier on in the night than they normally might have to set up camp, a couple of hours before it was time for dark.

With the afternoon sun in the sky it was a bit hotter than normal, and Zuko smirked a little, realizing that with his skills, it was likely about to get quite a bit hotter. "Let's have some practice today." he said, noting the confused looks that crossed their faces as they tried to figure out who was going to pair up with whom. Zuko's golden eyes shot to Katara. "Katara, you're with me." he said, turning his back to her as he reached down to pull his top up and off of his head, revealing his muscled back. The lack of anything but a few faint scars was a sign of how good he was in combat. He glanced over his shoulder at her from his left side for a moment before tossing his shirt to the side as he turned around.

Zuko was lean, but muscular. Katara would get an eyeful of a set of abs that she could easily scrub her laundry on, as well as muscles that flexed into place as he took a classic fire bending stance with her, giving her a little bit of a smirk to bruise her ego. "If you're scared, I can have you go a round with one of the Earth benders instead." Given her nosiness last night, Zuko could tell already he was going to have to struggle not to enjoy this.

Zuko smiled a little a Katara's consent to the match, noting without increasing his smile that rather than really pairing off, the others were watching him and Katara fight. He wanted an audience for this, even if the Water Bender kicked his ass. He watched her take a familiar pose, and his eyes narrowed sharply as he waited, letting the moment hang there. Then he paused slightly, addressing Katara, but making it loud enough that all of them could make a lesson of it. Well, with the exception of Jet, who seemed happy just because he was fairly certain that one of them was going to be going down soon enough. Zuko paused then, looking at Katara.

"Since this is a learning exercise, Katara, I'm sure you could lecture us all day long on what it means to bend water... but what do you think it is to bend fire? What is fire? What does it represent?" He waited for her answer, not attacking her off guard, before taking in a deep breath to announce his movements before attacking her. It wasn't anything spectacular, in fact it was a flurry of fireballs, easily blockable, that any firebending footsoldier might have thrown at her during the heat of battle, easily blockable and pathetically readable in their movements.

Join date : 2009-10-03

Posts : 144
Age : 1516
Location : On a mountain somewhere

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Fri Jun 08, 2012 2:05 pm

If Katara had known that Zuko suspected her of being a spy, she would have said something when he turned his back on her that night. It made sense that he would be cautious considering his past, but this was different. His love had been from the Fire Nation. Katara was from a tribe of people who had been wiped out by his people, by Mai’s people. After something like that, she could never defect to the enemy.

However, the waterbender was completely clueless that he was reading too much into her talking to Jet, and it was probably for the best. Not knowing meant she merely had to spend the day being irate than suffering a confrontation or trying to defend herself.

Besides, her talk with Ping, however brief and speckled with long stretches of silence, had really encouraged her to be a little less hostile and less untrusting. Well, she was at least more trusting toward Ping if not the rest. Jet had already made his intentions clear, Zuko’s feelings about her were written all over his face whenever his molten gaze passed over her, and Gui and Shen continued to maintain an overly cautious distance from her. Ping was the only one who was seeming to give her a real chance, no strings attached. It was nice, and it was a relief. Katara wasn’t sure how long she could travel with these people if they continued to ostracize her when they were supposed to be a team, but it seemed like baby steps were being taken to help with that.

That night, they made camp earlier than usual which was strange. They’d been making good time, and she was still okay to travel, but maybe the Commander knew more about these things than her. After all, she’d really only traveled a very lengthy distance once, four years ago, when she’d gone from the Southern Water Tribe to the Northern one. Zuko and his rebels were a lot more used to traveling frequently, and they better accustomed to this continent than she was, so she’d just have to trust his judgment. It just seemed a little strange that they’d traveled for a longer amount of time yesterday but wouldn’t do so today. However, she wasn’t going to dispute his choice, especially when she was the loner of the group.

As they just finished setting up their camp, Zuko decided they needed to practice. Katara approved because it wouldn’t do to be rusty in battle if they ended up having to fight in a week or even sooner. She would not be caught off guard by the Fire Nation again. Her mission was too important to be delayed for so long, and she would not allow herself to be turned over to Admiral Zhao to have information tortured out of her – provided Captain Lu Ten, his men, and her brother weren’t successful in their mission, anyway. She couldn’t afford to think like that, so she simply watched, the Zuko look around the group, realizing that no one would want to practice with her after her ferocious display a few nights ago against the soldiers who had captured her original party.

Her arms crossed over her chest. Really, she shouldn’t be too disappointed. She’d already gotten two hits on Jet, and while she wouldn’t mind teaching him a more brutal lesson, she doubted Zuko would trust them to spar after last night. At least she would be able to see the rest of them duke it out. It would give her valuable information about how well they did and what they could do, so she would know who the weakest links were and protect them.

Her sapphire eyes were moving from Jet to Gui to Shen to Ping when she heard Zuko call out her name. Katara’s body jerked into alertness, her surprise unsuppressed when he challenged her. Her gaze followed his movements as he removed his shirt. After hearing about his fighting for her tribe four years ago, she expected terrible scars, but there were hardly any on his body. Then again, one needed to be pretty well bundled against the cold in the South Pole, so maybe that had been a form of protection.

For that same reason, she didn’t remove anything she wore. Her things pack and supplies were already in her tent, and she never traveled without her water skins strapped securely to her sides. They were filled with water for fighting, for if they ever got low, it could mean terrible things for her if she was in places that weren’t abundant with plant life or humidity. Right now, she was warm, and if she battled against a firebender, she would be likely become uncomfortably hot, but as the sole woman among a group of men she hardly knew, she didn’t exactly want to strip down to her underwear. Those in the Water Tribe weren’t prudes despite how well covered they were, but she’d heard that people in many parts of the Earth Kingdom were especially conscious of and disturbed by displays of womanly flesh. With the potential for getting burned and the potential for Jet and the others to ogle and/or be offended by her, she decided she would take her chances with the heat.

Zuko’s muscles gleamed in the afternoon sunlight. She sized him up, not fully surprised at how toned he was. After all, he traveled and battled all of the time, right? One couldn’t exactly be squishy if they wanted to accomplish that on a regular basis. She just hadn’t expected even the remotest sense of attraction to creep into her, but she quickly shoved it to the back of her mind. “Are you sure you want to do this?” She asked him. It wasn’t like she was going to use bloodbending on him – she actually couldn’t since the moon was no longer full, but she’d been careful not to let any of them know that fact, just in case – but she was a very powerful bender even without it.

Her great grandmother Inoa had expressed the idea that Katara was a prodigy, picking up waterbending even more quickly and more efficiently than she had; coming from the Avatar, that would have meant a lot, but she hadn’t taken it to heart. After all, just because she was the Avatar, it hadn’t meant she wouldn’t just say something to help a little girl’s ego. However, when she’d gone to the Northern Water Tribe, both Master Pakku and Master Hama had expressed the same idea. It hadn’t gone to her head or anything, but she was not one to dismiss the hard fact that she had been a Master Waterbender long before the destruction of her tribe when she’d been only fourteen.

Zuko merely smirked at her and took a stance. “If you’re scared, I can have you go a round with one of the earthbenders instead.” Brows knitting together, her eyes flickered to the earthbenders who looked horrified by that idea. No, that would never do. It was better to fight their leader first, to show them they need not fear her. Maybe that was his plan all along, and if it was, it was incredibly smart.

“I’m just fine sparring with you.” She took her own stance, waiting. It was a rare and foolish waterbender who attacked first in a one-on-one battle because waterbending was about turning one’s own force against them, making defense become offense. Despite this, she wished she’d paid more attention to him when she’d battled with him against the soldiers rather than being so consumed by the power of the full moon that she’d forgotten anyone existed except for her enemies.

Her muscles were tense, ready, but he didn’t attack. This was a stand-off of sorts, but then he began to speak. He asked her what it meant to bend fire, what it meant, and what it represented. At first, she thought the question was rhetorical, but after a few seconds of silence, she realized he expected an answer. “The only thing firebending has ever represented for me is destruction and death.”

Zuko launched his attack, rather pathetically in her mind, shooting fire balls at her. She’d seen him move into the position to attack this way, and she was ready. Water shot from her skins with a forward thrusting of her upper limbs. Her arms waved gracefully in front of her, the water forming a barrier that extinguished the fire balls on impact. “Oh, Commander… You’re not going easy on me just because I’m a girl are you?” She taunted.

Zuko snorted a little at the explanation that she gave him, shaking his head lightly, not seeming surprised in the slightest that she simply blocked his attacks. "You block like an excellent Water Bending Master, but your words are spoken like a novice on the field. You know your own element as if it were a second nature to you, because it is, but because it is what you rely on, it's also something that makes your movements predictable." Zuko said flatly, looking at her calmly. "Water and Fire are conflicting elements, opposites, and yet like all of the elements they share similarities. You claimed that firebending is simply death and destruction, but a master waterbender can easily conjure a flood to wipe out a village or drag someone out to sea to their death. It is either a very modest or dishonest water bending master that claims that her ability cannot be used to kill..." he said, leaving out for a moment her blood bending. Yes, it was part of the point, but the whole point of this exercise was for them to see her as a member of the team and not as an adversary any longer.

"Fire is the element of Power." he said as he lobbed another fireball at her, watching it fizzle against her shield. "It represents the drive inside of people, and what makes them live. Without it we would be devoid of our purpose in life, we would die off for not eating, not caring about what happened to us. It is also the power that comes from the sun, what makes the plants that we eat grow, what melts the ice at winter's end. Fire gives as much life as water does, but whereas water benders move conservatively, seeking to use their opponent's energy against them, a Fire Bender draws their power from Passion, Drive, a goal, and often times in the case of your average Fire Nation trooper, anger. It is unsustainable, but like an emotional outburst, can produce great amounts of power, quickly."

He smirked a little when Katara asked him if he was going to go easy on her because she was a girl, and shook his head. "I'm going easy on you because you're uneducated..." he said as he took in a deep breath and then drew his hands back at his side before thrusting them forward palm outward, sending a stream of heavy fire at her the same way a blowtorch might have. It was a practical fire bending strategy. She only had so much water, whereas firebenders drew their energy from within themselves, which meant that he could produce more than enough fire to evaporate her supply of water, if she let him...

Katara listened patiently as Zuko spoke, his words seeming to insult her even as he taught his lesson. He acted as if she’d said that she’d known for a fact that fire was the element of death and destruction, as if it was the only element that could cause any sort of real harm, but she hadn’t. She’d simply said that those two things were all the element meant to her because it was all she’d really seen of it. She’d never seen anyone use their firebending for good deeds the way that the other elements could be used. It wasn’t because it couldn’t possibly be used that way but because those she’d seen wield it had only used it for the two purposes she’d mentioned. The waterbender said nothing, allowing him to think she was naïve and stupid because that seemed to be exactly what he wanted to believe about her. Who was she to make him think any differently? Sometimes, words were not the right way to go.

“Fire is the element of power.” He said, emphasizing his point with a blast of fire. She swiveled her compressed water-shield in front of herself again, almost lazily, but it wasn’t because she was trying to be pompous but because she was interested in what he had to say about his element, and she wouldn’t direct too much energy into something when his attacks weren’t even serious.

A small half smile formed on her lips when he told her he was going easy on her because she was uneducated. When it came to firebending, she was uneducated, but not because she wasn’t open to learning about it so much as because the only lessons offered to her had been dire. Katara resented the idea that he thought she was so closed-minded and ignorant, but again, she said nothing. Actions would speak louder than her words. However, from his words, it was obvious that he wasn’t as educated as he could be, either.

It was clear that whoever had taught him about the basis of waterbending didn’t take into account the fact that there was more than one style. Yes, for the most part, waterbending was about conserving one’s energy, using their opponents’ own forces against them, but that philosophy was even stronger in the Northern Water Tribe than it had been in the Southern Tribe. In the south, there was a greater emphasis on offensive attacks than in the North. Her training with Master Pakku in the North Pole after having been raised in the Southern style often made her wonder if this was because the Fire Nation had been so frequently at the doorstep of the Southern Tribe; if firebending hadn’t somehow influenced waterbending in her homeland. After all, while it had been fairly well protected with the Avatar, the defenses of the Southern Water Tribe had been considerably weaker than their sister tribe, so the tribesmen had experience more frequent battles featuring closer contact with the Fire Nation soldiers. It had been too late to ask Great-Gran Inoa by the time she’d made the connection, and if she’d asked Master Hama, the old woman likely would have been furious at any connection being made between her art and the art of their enemies.

However, there was no time to really think about this, for he was attacking again. She recognized the stance as one that had been used a lot during Sozin’s Comet, and she knew better than to just stand there with her water shield. As the flames hurtled toward her, never truly detaching from the beginning point at Zuko’s hands, she ducked and rolled out of the way, landing on her feet with the water from her pouches covering her arms to form tentacles of water. Without hesitating, she shot a limb of water toward him, quickly curling the tentacle around his ankle with the intent to break his form.

Forward force. It was the Fire Bending that Katara was clearly used to. And Zuko went for a direct attack again, pushing all of himself into it, she did what any water bender would have done, she sidestepped his force. Despite appearances, it was balanced to his attack, as was the basic philosophy of water bending. Force needed to be balanced, and when an enemy extended his force violently in a particular direction it needed to either be redirected to a particular purpose or avoided altogether. Since she couldn't redirect flames, she chose simply to step away from his blast as he had expected her to. What was not expected were the water tentacles that she assumed. Zuko blinked as it suddenly occurred to him that he was basing his attack on Northern styles, but the style she was using was usually meant for a quick and unseen attack usually around...

The tentacle wrapped itself around his foot viciously and jerked itself towards the water bender so quickly that he almost didn't have time to react to it. As he landed on his back and the tentacle began to move him, both feet shot flames out of them suddenly like bottle rockets flaring to life, dissipating the tentacle wrapped around his leg. As the water evaporated, Zuko planted his hands on the ground, arching his back so the boost from his feet shot them into the air and flipped him away from Katara, landing in a skid on his feet as he took a deep breath, watching the water bender as he seemed to repeat the exact same attack as he had used the previous time before, throwing a stream of fire at her.

Only, this time as she would move to dodge yet again he balanced the flow of fire outward, his arms breaking apart as the steam of fire split into twin fire whips which he twisted to spin around and send the tip of the whips arching at Katara's high and midsection points. It was a technique he had created in part based off of watching water benders with their craft, he was curious to see how Katara would manage to deal with it...

Katara allowed a very small smile to turn up the corners of her lips when she used her waterbending to knock him onto his back, the surprise on his face evident. It pleased her to knock him off his guard in a fair way, a way he could respect. It also pleased her to know that “Sifu Zuko” didn’t know everything about her art, and that predictability he’d thought he’d seen in her wasn’t as obvious as he’d imagined. Still, she would continue to go easy on him. She loved to win, but this was a spar, and she would put forth as much effort into battling him as he did to her. Why waste herself on someone who wasn’t even going to try?

The waterbender began to drag him with the clear liquid still compressed around his leg. The action was almost lazy, as if she hadn’t quite decided what to do with him. Should she lift him up and drop him? Should she drag him all through the dirt? Either one could be amusing, but dropping him seemed too dangerous. What if she dropped him on his head and badly wounded him? She didn’t know that she’d forgive herself if she harmed the person who had lead those who had saved her life four years ago.

Just as she decided she would drag him wildly about the clearing, he removed the choice from her hands by slicing through the tentacle holding him, cutting off the flow of energy from her side and the side gripping him. The water at his ankle soaked into his clothes and the dirt, but the rest she drew back toward herself in case he decided to evaporate even more water than where the severing had occurred. He proceeded to flip himself away from her, the soft grass and dirt slowing his skid. She waited, again, for him to attack.

She nearly scoffed as he shot flames toward her once more, but the sound died in her throat. Once she’d dodged the initial blast, the stream separated into two, and he commanded two whips of fire, almost a mirror to the way she wielded her water with a few key differences. Still, the likeness was eerie, and her surprise nearly allowed him to catch her off guard. She ducked beneath the lowest whip, rolling in the opposite direction of its travel beneath it, but she’d been just a little too slow, and the sizzling of singed hair greeted her ears.

She was used to fighting other waterbenders because in the North Pole, that was pretty much the only type of bender with whom to spar. She was also accustomed to sparring with the non-benders who were considered warriors. However, she was not used to sparring with a firebender with waterbender tricks up his sleeve, and that worried her. As a waterbender against another waterbender, it was easy enough to take control of any form of water that was tossed her way, and it was easy enough for her to overpower her opponent in such a way. However, she couldn’t touch fire, for it would burn her, and she certainly could not take command of the element. This would have to be an intricate dance of avoid-and-attack, more intricate than any such maneuver she’d had to do with other firebenders. If only Great Gran Inoa had prepared her for this, but they’d never truly sparred, so how could she have done so?

Quickly, Katara transferred most of the water from her right arm to her left, thrusting her right arm forward so that it separated into various pieces, forming blunt-ended cylinders aimed at various locations on Zuko’s body, for the point wasn’t to kill or to maim. Meanwhile, the left tentacle swept forward to grip his arm to drag him to the ground.

Zuko smirked a little at the look on Katara's face when the fire whips went out. More than striking her or any sparring match, this was what he had wanted from this sparring match with Katara. To prove to her that she didn't have the first clue what real firebending was about or how very related their two bending arts were, even though from the perspective of an outsider they seemed vastly different. As he watched her flip away from the fire whips he let them dissipate as they passed her. By the time that he could bring them around to bear against her again she already would have pummeled him with another water whip if he wasn't careful. As he prepared to toss a fireball to keep her on her toes, she did the same to him. The hail of ice that suddenly and violently fired at him was however unexpected in its intensity and speed.

Rather than a throwing a fireball Zuko's fist slammed into the first one, shattering it even as a second slammed into his side, the exiled Prince growling as he brought his arms nearly slamming in front of him as his normal red flames turned a bright blue before Katara's eyes as he erected a head to toe wall of fire in between himself and her, gritting his teeth a little as he intensified the flames, feeling his fire getting battered by her assault on him even as he saw a water whip try to claim his arm, the water getting evaporated by the fire as it tried to pass the wall of flames. She was clever, he had to give her that, and was utilizing waterbending better than anyone he had ever seen, taking one of its primary concepts, the ability to attack from several areas at once into a dance to an extreme.

Gritting his teeth Zuko violently shoved his wall outward towards her suddenly, taking his defense and making it an offense as well, causing it to explode in front of her but not so close that it would burn her. She had brought up a good point without knowing it, he needed to keep her on her toes as well. Even after the wall was away and before it exploded Zuko leaned forward as bright fire shot from his hands and feet, leaning into it as he used it to rocket himself forward. If Katara didn't see him coming quick enough he could use it as a way to end the match by pinning her to the ground and thereby keeping her from bending, and if she countered he could throw the flames behind him forward to repulse her assault...

Katara was shocked that he was able to shatter one of the ice projectiles with his fist alone. She would have broken a bone trying. However, if the projectile had been sharp on the end, he would have a hole in his hand if he’d punched it head-on like that. She was glad she hadn’t allowed the tips to be sharp. Then she heard his growl and a wall of blue flame, beautiful in its intensity, but terrifying in its meaning rose up. The rest of the ice cylinders were incinerated by the heat, and her water tentacle was partially evaporated before she could react quickly enough to withdraw it to slip the liquid back into one of her water skins.

As the wall headed toward her, she didn’t wait to see how far he would allow it to get. Katara thrust her arms upward, and the grass at her feet withered and died in a wide circle about her body as its life’s water rose into the air. That water combined with the tentacle she’d born on her arm, and she sent it forward, around the vicinity of the wall, putting forth her energy into freezing it even as she leapt upon the wave of ice and skidded along it rather gracefully. As she traveled along it, she pulled the water from the beginning of her ice bank and applied it to the front of it so she wouldn’t waste as much. Just as the wall of flames dissipated, she saw Zuko shoot toward her, flames propelling him forward with a speed she could only match if she had a large body of water at her disposal.

As he neared, she ripped more water from the grass and shot it toward him as she slipped just in front of him. As soon as the water was on its way toward him, she changed her ice slide into more of a ramp, and she abruptly changed her trajectory to make her actions less predictable. At the same instance, Zuko thrust the jet propelling flames toward her. There was so much fire that it was a surprise it only caught the back of her ramp, but it still broke her stride, and she went sailing forward off it. Ducking and rolling as she hit the ground, with no time to allow the sharp pain that coursed through her knee, hands, and arm make an impact on her judgment, she pulled water from the other two water skins at her sides, keeping the streams separate and sending them forward and around to grip Zuko’s knees and break his form once more. If she succeeded, she would quickly cover him in ice, sealing him to the ground.

She pulled water from the grass. Zuko couldn't pause to reflect on that more than a heartbeat, but the implications of it were staggering to say the least. It was of course, one of those moments where things seemed to suddenly click into place. Plants needed water to grow, but the fact that Katara could simply tear the water from them like that was awe inspiring and yet frightening. As she had proven earlier it was a simple enough task to blood bend, which also involved water. Did that mean that, under the right circumstances she could simply use humans around her as walking water bags? Would it be so easy as to just tug the right way and tear her element from them? And more importantly, would it be possible for other benders to do the same? Could an earth bender tear the very elements of earth from a person if they so desired it? It was a frightening thought, and one Zuko would entertain in greater detail when he was alone to be able to do it. For now though, distraction was the enemy, and Katara wasn't attempting to be lethal yet.

She was, of course, the best water bender he had ever faced off against. If the entire Northern water tribe was like this, then they had little to fear from Zhao's ships. But Zuko knew that wasn't the case, he had seen the way they reacted to her abilities; clearly she had gone deeper and further than any of them had with water bending. If Zuko met another like her, he didn't know that he would be able to take them out without killing them. It was a chilling concept to think that if war ever turned Katara against him he would have to resort to the cold blooded fire to take her down, the one thing that her ice and water couldn't block, in fact, would only help the electricity seek out her heart. In a sparring match like this though, such a thing couldn't be used...

Zuko threw his flames forward as he saw the water rise up to strike him and watched as it blazed across the ground. Katara's removing of the water from the grass made it easy kindling for his flames, and Zuko watched as a line from where his flames extended blazed across the dry grass as Katara dodged out of the way, but her ice slide came crumbling downward. As she readied her water to shoot at him, Zuko dropped to the ground and spun around, sending an arc of flame at Katara's feet, followed by another as his other foot swept across, rising up then to start pelting at her with fireballs, ignoring, perhaps at his peril, the water bender's water tendrils shooting for his legs...

On the other hand she would have to figure out a way to handle his attacks, and given that she seemed to have taken the fall pretty roughly, simply leaping out of the way seemed like less and less of an option for her.

Katara was overheated. In her layers of clothing, surrounded by flames and air that was still warm though the sun was setting, she felt the sweat bead on her skin. Her breathing was quick and deep as her hair clung uncomfortably to her. That fall had hurt, and even while she tried to ignore it, she couldn’t completely discount it. Still, beating Zuko was a matter of pride. She was a master waterbender, and while he was clearly a master of his own element, she couldn’t lose to a firebender. She’d lost to firebenders before, and she was marked for life because of it; she couldn’t fail again, even if this one wasn’t like the others. She had to win!

However, the fireballs were coming fast and fiercely, and after that fall, she wasn’t in any condition to leap around and around to avoid them. Her knees ached, and she knew that when this was over, she’d need to go over them with some healing. What had begun simply and easily enough had been a lot more intense.

The trees surrounding the clearing were closer to her now, filled with water. She hated pulling from plants, but her life was more important to her than a few trees that would eventually grow back. At this point, she really wasn’t sure how far Zuko was going to go, and she had no intentions of getting burned. She thrust her arms above her head and forward before pulling them down. The tree made terrible groaning noises before exploding into dry dust and bark. The large amount of water confiscated from it spun around her vertically like a wheel, extinguishing the fireballs hurtling toward her. The tree had given her enough water that the flames didn’t evaporate a lot of it, and she blasted the entirety toward Zuko as soon as there was the smallest opening. It moved faster than most of her attacks had, and it would pack quite the punch if it reached him.

About this time, she realized that she probably shouldn’t even bother winning this. She was hot and tired, and she’d already proven she could hold her own. Wouldn’t it be better if she threw the fight? If she made it look good enough, it would look exactly as if Zuko had legitimately beaten her. Wouldn’t that raise morale with the others? If she won, they may continue to fear her, but if she lost, it was proof that their leader could take her down in case she lost control as they seemed to think she would. No… She’d already proven she could maintain control even in a battle where she was starting to lose the upper hand. That would be enough for them, she hoped. Winning would be far more satisfying. It would wipe that stupid smirk right off Zuko’s pompous face if he realized he’d been wrong to think her so naïve and stupid. Just because she hadn’t been taught about firebending beyond the basics Great Gran Inoa had told her, it didn’t mean she was ignorant and worthless when it came to a battle against a firebender who was actually skilled in his art.

She needed to get closer while still maintaining enough distance that he couldn’t easily grab her. She didn’t know what sort of skill he had in hand-to-hand, but she knew that she had very little. Any time she’d sparred with a non-bender who was a warrior, if they got close enough to grab her, she would lose because while she was fit, she was physically no match for most men.

Katara rushed forward, behind her blast of water, ignoring the screaming in her bruised knees as she pulled a thin stream of water from her water bullet, neither slowing nor weakening the blast meant to take down Zuko. As the bullet was about to make contact, she was only three arms lengths away from him, and she split the stream into two, sending one to puddle about his feet and freeze into a slick surface upon which he would slip if he moved too quickly. The other was to lasso about his ankles just as the water bullet would either make contact or he would be distracted enough by it to leap away and possibly slip on the puddle.

The more she bent, the more Zuko realized he was at something of a disadvantage sparring with the water bender. She could easily use her best against him without fear of being lethal unless she intended it, but if he coated her in fire she would likely be severely injured or worse. Maybe it would be better just to let her win their little match, though he had to admit for how much he had invested in it already it wasn't the best idea he had ever had. He was covered in sweat at this point, and even though he wanted this lesson to have taught Katara something, that bending could be used in ways she hadn't ever considered, she seemed more convinced with pounding him with ice than admitting that he had surprised her. At this rate she likely was going to probably win just because of him running out of steam more than anything else.

Still, he had thought he would get her with the fireballs to put her down, but her shield prevented it. When the counter attack came Zuko took in a deep breath in order to deal with the water that was coming after him, but as he watched her starting to rush him out of the corner of his eye, he got another idea. Slowly the air around him wavered as he started to superheat it, just in time to feel the water splash towards his feet as a lasso came to wrap around him, but he was already dedicated in motion at this point, and as it came to wrap about him, he heated the air even further as he pulled down and shot his arms upwards, a globe of fire surrounding him completely, evaporating the water around him before he released a massive fireball that launched into the air.

With any luck it would distract Katara, and by the time she noticed what he was doing, he would be within distance to plant a kick into her stomach. It made sense after all, he couldn't bend at her for fear of hurting her, but all bending was still in some ways based upon raw martial arts, and Zuko knew hand to hand combat well enough as well as his bending arts...

Katara felt her water evaporating into nothingness. While she could create steam from her water, she could only control it in large quantities. There was no way for her – which she knew – to skillfully and quickly gather up the evaporated water. Hama had once taught her the movements for how to pull water from the air, but she’d never been able to try it in the North Pole where there was little to no water vapor in the air. She would be damned if she tried something that difficult for the first time during a fight. She wouldn’t make the same mistake that Ipo had made during their battle against the Fire Nation soldiers.

However, she was too close to the heat that Zuko was creating, and the flames that suddenly appeared would incinerate the area if she pulled the water from the grass around her, and the trees were now too far away for her to quickly pull the liquid from them. Furthermore, the water remaining in her water skin was not enough to counteract what he was doing. She stumbled backward as he sent the fire around his body into the air where it couldn’t hurt her. Before she knew it, he was too close, and she tried to dodge his kick, but the pain and weakness in her limbs made her too slow, and fell back from the impact of his boot to her torso.

Part of her air was expelled from her lungs, and as he tried to regain it, he was on top of her, his hands pinning her wrists to the ground and his ankles crossing over hers so she couldn’t use them, either. It was smart; she had to admit it. Most waterbenders preferred to just use their arms for bending, and while Katara wasn’t really an exception to that, she had been taught how to use her legs if the need arose. The waterbender didn’t even struggle under him, knowing the match had been lost.

She’d regained her breath, but they were both still breathing heavily. His body heat seemed hotter than hers though she feel the sweat glistening on her skin and see it beading on his. He was leaning so close to her that, on her face, she could feel the air expelling from his lips with each exhalation. Maybe the match was lost, but not to her… Quickly, she leaned upward, her lips brushing briefly against his. His hands slipped away from her wrists; that was what she’d hoped would happen, and with a quick, powerful movement, she thrust her arms up toward him, the remaining water bursting from the container at her side to force him back, soaking over him. As he fell back, she quickly moved to her knees, letting out a precise breath that fogged in front of her face despite the warmth of the evening. The water coating Zuko’s body and clothing froze, binding him to the ground but leaving his face free so he could breathe. She stood and stepped closer him, leaning over his body with a grin. “I’ll consider this one a tie.”

Last edited by Kathryn Lacey on Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:44 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Fri Jun 08, 2012 7:42 pm

Zuko had gone for the end of the match when he had seen it. It made sense after all. The opening was there, and it had occurred to him that his ability to really win in a match that wasn't to the death was severely hampered. He wondered idly if she practiced with any weapons... that would make things easier in the sparring department than working with open flames that could quite literally cook her if Zuko lost control with them. Something told him though that she was probably not too interested in weapons other than bending. She didn't move like one, after all. Zuko had studied the blades under the tutaledge of a famous but reclusive sword master at his uncle's behest for years to learn to twin Dao blades. Part of it was studying the way a body moved, seeing what muscles were there. To weild a sword effectively required upper body strength that you could see, and from that blossomed into studying a persons body to see the way they held themselves, like a warrior or one who was not. Katara held herself like a bender though, alert, but relaxed, muscles not tensing in the way a brawler might have at a sign of danger.

When he got her hands he knew he had won. Binding a water bender was a well known effective strategy at keeping them imprisoned. And had Katara the ability to free herself with her hands being bound she would have done it when the situation had been dire before Zuko and his friends had ever managed to show up to free her. Once he had her hands it was a simple matter of keeping them pinned down and her with it, holding them there over her head as he looked down at her, his hair hanging down slightly as he stared down at her. He could see the anger on her face at having been beaten by him, and he shook his head lightly as he looked at her and gave her a light smile. "Your hand to hand needs a bit of work, Master Katara..." he mocked her lightly, feeling pretty good about his victory.

"YES!" Called out Shen, and Zuko glanced to the side to see money exchanging hands as Gui reluctantly seemed to be forking over at least some of the contents of his wallet. Good to know that Shen had faith in him, at least, though Zuko really wasn't about to blame either one for betting a particular side of the match. It did tend to make watching such things more entertaining, though Zuko had never actually been foolish enough to bet against Lu Ten when he was in the ring. This would teach Gui a good lesson not to discount a fire bending master. And now they had finally seen that the 'Water Witch' as they had called her before was just another bender, vulnerable as any of them, and more importantly, someone that they could learn from. Zuko doubted any of them, including the earth benders could have stood as long against him.

Zuko paused though as he looked into those blue eyes of hers. They were so intensely blue that they seemed to draw the eye to them, to the point where it was almost hard to look at anything else. Zuko could see her lips starting to part then as if she was going to say something, but nothing came from her mouth. Frowning slightly Zuko leaned closer to hear what it was she was whispering at him, watching her blue eyes widening suddenly as he got closer, and he opened his mouth to reassure her that everything was alright when she suddenly lunged forward up at him and pressed her lips towards hers. Zuko's golden eyes shot open in shock as she kissed him. Her lips were so... soft, and surprisingly warm. He could feel them moving against him slightly and he froze for a heartbeat. Somewhere he could hear the 'oooo!' that came from the audience but it seemed to fade out into the background in this moment.

Unable to balance on her wrists like this his hands slipped to the grass as she shifted underneath him, his yellow eyes starting to close slightly as he let his weight start to bear down on her slightly, letting himself lean into that kiss just slightly, pressing to it. He could feel his heart thudding in his chest as he did it, his head spinning as he started to let himself go. He had never had a woman kiss him first before. Plenty had made it clear that they wanted to be kissed, but never before had another reached up to claim his lips the way Katara had. The feeling was intoxicating and Zuko felt himself pressing further down as her hands began to shift, probably to touch his face...

Reality came crashing back like a tidal wave, slamming into him like a fully armoured soldier, throwing him off of Katara like a jealous lover. Zuko grunted a little as he slammed into the ground, blinking as for a moment he wondered if another water bender had seen what was happening and had sought to save her friend. By the time his golden eyes again though to see the smirk on Katara's face that told the tale. He paused there for a moment as she leaned over him, the chill in the ice around him reminding him of the old suggestion to take a cold shower to turn ones thoughts away from romance. The ice could have taken a lesson from her smirk though, in honesty. Zuko felt his jaw set slightly as he looked at her.

"You should be careful, Firebenders can create pressurized explosions, even when trapped like this. I'm sure if we weren't sparring like this you would have gone for the killing blow." he said softly to her as he took in a deep breath, and exhaled slowly, steam rising from her ice around him as his body seemed almost to glow lightly as it melted around him, and he stood up slowly, and nodded to her, acknowledging her victory. He could see even now Shen throwing his hands up into the air as he handed back the money to Gui along with his additional payment. He made a mental note to ask Shen about it later, find out how much he had lost so that Zuko could compensate him for it at least.

"Good job." Zuko said loud enough for everyone to hear, noting the way that Jet was staring daggers at him. "A good lesson there, never let your guard down." He said, his golden eyes narrowing slightly at Katara. He watched the way the flames flickered ever so slightly from the grass a few feet away. Someone who knew fire benders well enough would likely know that it was due to his intensely conflicted emotions right now. He could feel his own shame at his defeat at Katara's hands rising up and twisting in his gut like a snake, along with the burning question of why it was he had... let himself feel any of it. Closing his eyes for a moment he forced on the mask of leadership, giving a grim smile.

"Alright, let's switch things up. Shen, you and Katara spar, I'll practice with-" Zuko blinked as Jet stalked off, and sighed a little. "I'll go with Gui, Ping, target practice..." he said, moving over to Gui to start practicing. Before he got there though, Ping calmly clasped him on the shoulder and whispered to him so low that none of the others would hear.

"Greater men than you have been felled by the same thing, Zuko. There is no shame in it." Ping said softly.

"I don't know what you're talking about." Zuko muttered back as he pulled from Ping's grip to start sparring with Gui.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Sat Jun 09, 2012 12:52 am

Katara didn’t remove her gaze when Zuko looked into her eyes. His were actually very interesting. In the Water Tribes, people tended to have eyes that were either blue or grey, and she had never seen – even in other Fire Nation people – eyes so golden, like the sun itself. Her eyes passed over his scar, noting that his left eye couldn’t open fully because of it, but it really didn’t detract from his face overall. Her sights didn’t linger too long on it because of how he’d reacted the last time she’d gazed at his scar. However, an idea formed in her mind, and the smallest chance of winning was irresistible.

While the waterbender had hoped that Zuko would at least release her wrists, she hadn’t expected the rest of his reaction. Her lips parted, and he leaned down, enabling her plan to go forward. Katara’s eyes widened as he neared, surprised that she truly planned to go through with this. As soon as his lips parted, she realized it was now or never, so she thrust upward, her lips pressing to his. She felt his body stiffen, his fingers gripping her wrists a little tighter, and she saw his eyes widen with surprise just before she allowed hers to close.

Her heart began to hammer beneath her breast as he leaned into the kiss, his lips responding to hers as his hands released her wrists. Katara’s skin felt flush, her breathing becoming a little deeper, and she leaned a little harder into his lips… until she came back to herself, to her purpose. Her cheeks flushed an even deeper scarlet, and she leaned back just the tiniest amount, feeling him press forward to keep them together, and her hands shifted, thrusting upward to send him reeling backward with her water, freezing it and him to the ground. She only hesitated a split second after that, her breathing calming from its intensity.

Katara had only felt the lips of two other boys in her entire life. The first had been a Northern waterbender when she was fifteen. She’d liked him a lot, and she used to beat him during their sparring matches all of the time. One day, after training, she’d approached him, they’d talked a little, and she’d kissed him, taking what she wanted to make her intentions clear. He’d kissed her back only briefly before pulling away from her and letting her know that he didn’t want to be with her. She wasn’t his type. He wanted a nice, Northern Tribeswoman to be his wife, and she shook things up too much. She was too headstrong, too domineering. The blow had been hard, but she’d respected his wishes, and she’d left him alone.

The second had been Hanu, a married man, two and a half years later. He’d been putting the moves on her for at least a week, and finally, he took the chance and kissed her. She’d responded only by pulling away and slapping him.

Kissing Zuko was altogether different. There was more passion in his kiss than there had been with the one whose lips she’d first stolen, and she wondered if she hadn’t attacked him to win the match if they wouldn’t have continued like that until one of them regained their senses and pulled away. How would they have reacted after that? They were practically strangers. Honestly, she probably knew more details about his life than he did about hers. Still, the way it felt… her heart still beat rapidly, and it had nothing to do with the exercise.

Recovering herself almost instantly, the waterbender got to her feet and leaned over Zuko, affecting a smirk to hide how she really felt and declaring their match a tie. Still, the earthbenders seemed to count it as her having won, and she wouldn’t shake up how they gambled. It’s not like she really knew the first thing about the game.

He told her she should have been careful due to firebenders being able to create pressurized explosions. She hadn’t known about that, but when he said matter-of-factly that she probably would have just gone for the kill in a real fight, his words stung her. Even after that, after showing she could control herself, he still saw her as just a killer, like she couldn’t possibly have the self control to just knock a person out rather than kill them. Really, Katara wasn’t sure she could blame him, but it still hurt a little. She kept it concealed behind her smile. “In the future, you’ll have to tell me more about all that firebenders can do so I can defeat them more easily.”

Then he proceeded to melt her ice instead of allowing her to just remove it for him. It would have been quicker, but it didn’t matter. She moved to offer him her hand, but he either didn’t realize it or didn’t care, so she pretended as if she hadn’t done so. Instead, she waved her arms to recover the water that had coated him and now coated the ground – what hadn’t been evaporated anyway – and she withdrew it into her water skins. She would need more later, but for now, one water skin filled was enough. She didn’t want to take any more from the foliage around them. The clearing looked like a disaster, the flames still lapping at the scars of dead grass where she’d killed it. Bark was scattered around the perimeter as well.

Her jaw clenched. She hated the destruction she’d brought, and she hated the feelings swarming within her. Katara looked at Zuko’s face as he announced she’d done a good job, his voice carrying to their spectators. Her eyes moved away from him to the rest of their party when he announced that it was good to never let one’s guard down. Gui and Shen were smirking at that, with a knowing look on Ping’s face, but Jet had eyes only for Zuko, and the venom in that gaze could have taken down a fully grown saber-tooth moose lion.

Katara felt like an idiot. What if Jet and Zuko went at each other all of the time over girls; Jet was probably just more obvious about his infatuations. What if Zuko hadn’t kissed her back by accident? What if he in the heat of the moment, his hunger for women had simply enabled her to take advantage of the situation? Her gut twisted painfully.

Just because the Commander had been in love once before – not that she was in love with him herself or anything – it had absolutely no reflection on how many women he’d had before and after Mai. He was a pretty good looking guy after all, and he had a scar that could easily be misconceived as one acquired in battle, and he saved lives by taking down the enemy all of the time! What if Lu Ten had only warned her about Jet so that Zuko – his cousin – could win in the game the two likely played together all of the time? It would be no wonder Jet hated him so much if he probably suffered a lot of losses to his scarred superior when it came to playing women.

The waterbender suddenly felt sick. It didn’t seem to matter to her that she’d only initially kissed him so that she could get the upper hand on him. The idea the he had kissed her back just to take advantage of her bothered her to no end, and she couldn’t really explain why it mattered so much to her. No, it was better that she just forget it had ever happened and be on her guard against Jet and Zuko both.

Blue optics moved toward his face. He looked completely calm and collected as he began pairing sparring partners. Jet had disappeared, but the others could battle, and Ping could do some target practice. Her fists clenched, but she quickly unclenched them and turned toward Shen, trying to put what had happened with Zuko from her mind and concentrate.

“I’ve never sparred with an earthbender before, Shen.” She called out to him. “Try not to pound me into dust.” He chuckled and stomped the ground, a boulder shooting into the air at the impact.

By the time night had thoroughly fallen, Katara was wiped out. She’d sparred with the men of her party –excluding Jet who’d stayed away for a couple of hours – and she’d used the remainder of her bending water on healing their bruises and minor cuts. A nice, small meal around the campfire proved to her that the earthbenders and the archer had warmed up to her to some extent. They respected her, and they no longer feared her. Zuko was a good leader to have realized something so simple as a sparring match would aid in such feelings.

Still, her clothes were filthy, and she was coated in a fine layer of dirt. She told Ping that she was going to find water and in what direction she was going. One of the perks of being a waterbender taught by two Masters who had traveled outside of the Poles was that she’d learned how to sense where nearby water was located, and she could feel a stream about half a mile away from where their camp was. Initially, he’d insisted that he go with her, but she made a convincing argument for why she could go alone – namely because she wanted to bathe; plus, he had seen with his own eyes that she could take care of herself even while bruised and tired.

When she reached the stream, she removed her clothing, and slipped into the running water. It felt cool on her hot skin, and she allowed a sigh of pleasure to leave her lips. Ducking her head underwater, a cool glow began to emanate around her body, and she could feel her muscles cease their aching, and her flesh stopped stinging from all of the bruises she’d acquired. She also took the time to heal the bruise Jet had given her the night before. The others had already seen it, so they already knew Jet’s face hadn’t gotten its own bruise due to any insanity on her part, and she didn’t want to bear any marks from him any longer.

When she resurfaced, her body was completely healed, and she began to scrub her skin with the soap stones she’d brought with her from the North Pole. Her hair and skin quickly became clean of dirt and dried sweat, and she allowed herself a moment to simply be one with the water, floating in it, completely relaxed in the darkness with only the moon’s glow for light.

The tips of her fingers passed over her lips, and her heart began to beat more quickly at the memory of what had occurred earlier that day. Her stomach clenched. What if Zuko wasn’t really the player that Jet was? What if, in reality, Katara had hurt Zuko by kissing him? No one ever spoke about any women in Zuko’s life more recent than Mai from four years ago, and he was clearly still affected by her memory. Maybe he’d been with other women, but none of them could hold a candle to his former flame, especially not some Water Witch who only used a kiss to betray him… just like Mai had done.

Her fingers curled so tightly into balls that her nails dug half-moons into her palms and her knuckles turned white. How could she do that to him? How could she turn something as simple as a sparring match into a reminder that the women in his life used sex and romance to backstab him, especially when he had saved her life! “I’m such an idiot.” She whispered to herself, to the darkness, her hands unclenching to cover her face. Winning was not that important.

She quickly dragged her clothes into the stream, washing them and filling her water skins. She pulled the water from her clothing and began to dress, wrapping her undergarments around herself, and then tugging on the rest. Spirits help her… How was she ever going to make up her wrongdoings to this man? First, she used bloodbending against him when he’d tried to save her; then she’d betrayed him with something as simple as a kiss. Maybe Jet was right; maybe she really was a monster. After all, it took real cruelty to mess with someone who was on your side rather than someone who was an enemy, and she really hadn’t been kind at all to her enemies. She was just all around fucked up.

She jogged back to camp. Though she was still tired, she no longer ached physically from the sparring match, so she had enough energy to do so now with the food she’d eaten earlier. She looked at the moon, gauging what time it was. She hadn’t taken very long, so there was a chance that Zuko was still on his watch. One of the perks to being a waterbender was that it made things like bathing and washing clothing a lot faster.

Katara slowed her pace, her breathing quickly recovering due to her level of fitness. With her endurance, running didn’t really affect her for long. The waterbender moved to where the Commander kept his watch, and she stood for a second, behind him, watching his silhouette in the moonlight as she gathered her courage. Apologizing was always a difficult but necessary endeavor. As his head turned toward her, as if he’d sensed her there, she walked toward him and stood beside him.

Her gaze was leveled toward the trees as she spoke. “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry about earlier. I shouldn’t have done what I did. It was a cheap shot, and I wasn’t even sure that it would work, but I took it anyway. I really shouldn’t have done it. I mean, it’s not something I would ever utilize in a real combat situation, so I shouldn’t have done it in a sparring match, either.” Her gaze turned toward his. “Anyway, I just wanted to apologize, and I wanted to thank you for helping your men become more comfortable with me. My actions were really contradictory to my gratitude. I hope you can forgive me, even if it takes some time for that to happen.”

Her voice was soft, and when she’d finished she walked away to head back toward camp.

Last edited by Kathryn Lacey on Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:42 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Sat Jun 09, 2012 8:47 pm

Unlike Katara, Zuko was more than used to sparring with Earth Benders. Given his last sparring match, Zuko had a feeling that this would both be easier and more satisfying than his sparring match. Gui seemed a bit on edge, given that he was going up against the person who he had bet against, and more importantly who knew he had been bet against. It would be a good point to make that he held no grudge against him, but right now all it was that Zuko wanted was a chance to actually be able to destroy something, which was an area where Katara couldn't help him. As the first boulder came towards him, Zuko let out a growling battle cry as he supercharged the air in front him with heat and slammed his forward, causing the boulder to shatter apart in front of him, his golden eyes looking twice as angry has Jet's had when he had stared at him.

Zuko could see Gui swallow visibly as he stared him down, and sent more rocks his way. Zuko destroyed each of them, along with the wall that the earth bender set up to try to block his attacks. Still, Zuko didn't send any actual attacks at the bender himself. After his fight with Katara what he wanted right now was to get out the energy that he had. He desperately wanted to destroy something and a rock aimed at him was easy enough to do. The sparring match went longer than it should have, Gui's projectiles getting more and more in both their number and speed as he began to panic a little at both not being attacked and the fact that Zuko was destroying everything that he had. The Commander made it look effortless, but in truth, after Katara's bending battle with him he was low on energy as well, which just made pushing himself that much harder so satisfying. By the end he could barely stand, but Gui simply surrendered as he ran out of steam before his commander did.

Zuko went over and shook his hand after the match, but his golden eyes were on Katara to see the way that she fared after her match with Shen. Ping, as usual, was more than content to be left to his own devices. After the practice was done, the camps were set up and things prepared for the night. Katara left shortly after supper was served, about the time that Jet came back to camp, still glaring at Zuko but muttering some excuse about wanting to go scout the area. Zuko let him make his excuses, as it was better than a direct confrontation at this point, which the Commander was almost certain was coming sooner or later. Better to do it on their way back from Ba Sing Se though, instead of losing a valuable member of the team on the way there. Even with his attitude problems, Jet was a decent fighter for having been untrained. It was just annoying that his attitude often clouded what little good he seemed to be able to accomplish as a member of the team.

When night fell, Zuko asked Ping about Katara, and got only an impish grin from the man and the promise that he could send Zuko in her direction if the exiled prince wanted to know where she was. Zuko shook his head, determining that knowing her general vicinity was good enough, which he noted caused a frown to form on Ping's face, and made Zuko wonder what his friend was up to. Probably some prank, though Ping didn't really seem the type for such things. Still, it was good to see the rest of the group in good spirits after all that they had been through. Even Jet seemed a little more relaxed, seeming to catch the easy going attitude from the rest of the members of the group who seemed a lot calmer now that they had seen that the so called 'Water Witch' was actually a real person and not some sort of spirit come to plague them all.

Not that it stopped them from giving him a good ribbing in private about the fact that he had been bewitched by her spell and now was probably under her control forever. Zuko just rolled his eyes at comments like that and tried to take them in stride, even though they all seemed tickled by the idea of it. All of them except Jet, that is. The Fighter seemed to take things in a bit better stride though, which made the firebender wonder if perhaps the fighter had managed to find some sort of peace in his searching before. As the night wore on, Zuko laid out who would be doing what in terms of watches, noting that Katara wasn't there for the assignments. He would just have to talk to her later about it once she got back.

When he went on first watch he sat down quietly under a patch of moonlight, grateful for the fact that the moon was close to full, even though it wasn't completely, it gave him enough light to work with without him having to light a fire. Alone in the woods, slowly he unrolled a small leather roll with a few large glass vials in it, along with a stone and a cottons swab on a stick. Then he pulled his swords off of his back and set them down, slowly pulling one of them out as he inspected it. He hadn't used it in a few days, so it was still as sharp as it ever was, but all swords needed regular care, just like a plant or ourselves. Zuko could remember rather clearly the harsh unrelenting lessons that Piandao would give him whenever he forgot to clean his blades, which usually involved cleaning about 30 of them so that he would be able to 'commit it easily to muscle memory'.

It hadn't come without it's benefits, Zuko couldn't imagine going a couple of days without oiling his blades to protect them against regular wear and tear. As he sat down to do it, he began to let himself reflect on the bending dual he had lost to the water bender. The feeling of her lips had finally left his, though he couldn't have articulated exactly when it was that it had left. He could only remember feeling like it would never fade and being frustrated by that fact. Now, even with it actually gone it seemed as if it left an absence there, as if he could remember it like a fuzzy dream without actually knowing truly what it felt like any longer. Zuko sighed a little as he finished cleaning his blades, sliding them back into their sheathes as he let them rest against the tree, looking out amongst the trees. There was something about this night that made him feel... uneasy, but he wasn't sure what it was.

He sensed Katara before she officially announced herself, turning towards her as he raised his good brow slightly at her appearance before him, seeing the look on her face like she had something on her mind. Zuko turned and crossed his arms as he looked at her, waiting for her to get it off of her chest. It was likely something to do with today, the way that she had behaved. At least, he hoped that's what it was and that it wasn't something about Jet harassing her again. Her asking him about today would be easy enough to talk about. It had happened, there wasn't any shame in it. He would just let her know that it wasn't any big deal and let her get back to sleep rather than letting this whole thing drag out longer than it needed to. Why make a big deal about it when he didn't actually think that it was that big of a deal?

When she apologized Zuko only nodded slightly, trying to think of what there was to say. He didn't hold it against her, he didn't think that it had been... awful. She was right though in that she never would have used it in a combat situation. So why would she use it in a sparring match against him? There was something that didn't add up, and Zuko couldn't put his finger on it, but when she started to walk away, he caught her wrist lightly, his fingertips trailing down and seeming to linger just above her palm as he held onto her lightly, golden eyes gleaming in the dim light. "There's something else. Why would you do that?" he said flatly to her, mentally kicking himself even as the words fell from his mouth. This was stupid, he should just let it go and yet he felt himself saying what he didn't intend to anyway. "Against any of the others you wouldn't have done that to win... so why did you with me?" he asked, frowning.

He looked into her blue eyes slowly then, and still feeling a bit embarrassed, glanced away slightly into the night. As he did so, his eyes widened just faintly, and he bit his lip. Catching her in the middle of whatever explanation she chose, his hand gripped her wrist a bit more firmly as he pulled her towards himself, spinning her slightly into the tree behind him as he pressed against her without a word and claimed those lips that had touched his earlier in the day. He felt her arms start to raise in surprise and protest, and his hands found her wrists to pin them above her head against the tree bark, not roughly as Jet might have, just enough to keep them under his control briefly for that long, sensual satisfying kiss.

Zuko broke it after a long moment and kissed against her cheek, starting to trail kisses across it lightly until he found her ear, his breath hot against her skin as he whispered softly to her in a heated tone. "At least three, behind me, don't open your eyes too wide..." he murmered lightly as he kissed her skin again. "I'll make a distraction, others are probably sneaking up on the camp to get the others. Don't look at me when I give the signal, it'll be bright." he whispered as he moved to kiss down her neck, his hands loosening against her wrists as he whispered one last thing to her. "Now, run..." She would feel his body press lightly against hers as he drew in a deep breath and then stepped outward, spinning as both of his hands blazed to life with fire so bright that it seemed almost white, shooting it in three balls where he saw the people, watching them stagger out of the woods blinking. At that Zuko thrust his hands to the side, blasting a wall of fire on either side of him, stepping forward to let it close off, separating himself from Katara as he prayed that she would get to the camp to warn the others in time.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Sun Jun 10, 2012 1:13 am

He wouldn’t say anything to her when she apologized. The only confirmation that he’d even listened to her had been the nod of his head. There was no articulation that he did or at least would forgive her at some point, and she realized then that she’d sort of expected something like that. Then again, she didn’t deserve it with what she’d done, so she wouldn’t argue for it. Sokka was probably the only person on the planet who could pardon her on the spot for something screwed up she’d done. Besides, next to Master Pakku’s unforgiving nature, Zuko was a softy. She was certain that her step-grandfather would never have spoken to her again – let alone traveled with her – if she’d bloodbent him into submission.

Katara’s jaw clenched, but she nodded and started to walk away, her apology concluded. He could take it or leave it because she didn’t have anything left to give other than her loyalty. Trust was earned not bought, and she’d given him more than enough reasons to not trust her. She’d only taken a single step when she felt his hand against her arm, stopping her, gripping it gently and sliding down to her wrist. She hadn’t put her gloves or gauntlets back on after she’d bathed because she had intended to just go to bed after that. They were secured between the straps of one of her water skins. His skin felt hot though the night had cooled already. She would have wondered if he had a fever, but the true cause was probably his elemental art. Fire was hot, and benders of it produced it from within themselves, so it must always course through their blood.

Her eyes moved to his hand on her wrist, up his arm, and eventually to his face. "There's something else. Why would you do that? Against any of the others you wouldn't have done that to win... so why did you with me?" His tone was almost accusing, but he seemed curious, too. Her pulse quickened, and her cheeks flushed though in the dim light of the moon, it would be difficult to make out. Katara never would have thought he’d ask that question of her, and she’d never really questioned it, either. Her lips parted to dispute his theory, but the words died in her throat. Would she have stolen a kiss from any of the others to win a match? She certainly wouldn’t have done so with Ping who had been the first to seem to take the step toward accepting her, and the earthbenders probably would have had heart attacks, thinking she’d been attempting to cast a spell over them. What about Jet? Honestly, he would have been the easiest to manipulate with that trick, right? He’d already made it pretty clear what he wanted from her. No, she didn’t think it would work to her advantage with him. He probably would have kept her limbs bound while he kissed her because he wanted power, and he wanted to control her because of the power he perceived in her.

Still, Zuko was their leader, the most respected among them – except by Jet – and he’d saved her life on more than one occasion though he probably only knew about the second time. Why would she take advantage of him like that when she wouldn’t exploit any of the others in that way? “I… well, I… The truth is… I…” She couldn’t think of what to say because she really didn’t know, herself, what the answer was. Maybe she could pass it off with a joke? No, that wouldn’t do. She’d just apologized, and that meant she couldn’t make things worse by trying to cover it up with bad humor. That was her brother’s area of expertise. Her gaze met his, briefly before they both looked away.

“I really don’t-” Before she could finish her sentence, she was pulled toward him and pressed into a tree by his body, his lips capturing hers. She sucked a deep breath into her lungs, her eyes widening and her hands lifting, but her brain hadn’t truly decided if she meant to push him away or to pull him closer. The decision was stolen from her as his hands gripped her wrists, pinning them to the tree, above her head. Her lids closed over her sapphire optics, her lips submitting to his and her body – seemingly of its own accord – pressing more firmly into his. Her tongue slipped from her mouth to flick over his lips.

The kiss seemed to last both an eternity and only a split second, all at once. When his lips broke from hers, she wanted to reclaim them again, to taste him again, but his lips were trailing over her cheek, her flesh burning intoxicatingly wherever he touched her. Katara was still so heady by his nearness and their kissing that she hardly registered his words, simply giving herself over to the sensation of his husky voice and warm breath curling over her ear. However, in an instant, it all fell away as her mind began to understand. Her muscles tensed, but he’d warned her not to open her eyes too widely. Her pulse never slowed from the excitement of what she’d been doing, but its beat had changed to one of fright, and her breathing slowed just a little.

Katara felt his lips against her skin again, trailing down her throat, and she opened her eyes to slits, still playing the young-lovers card Zuko had dealt her. Instead, she peeped through her eyelashes into the darkness behind the firebender. There, mere shadows silhouetted in the dim moonlight, were people. It took her a moment to find all three, but she pinpointed their directions and calculated the best route back to camp. His hands released her wrists, and she allowed her fingers to briefly and gently stream through his hair on their way to his shoulders.

She felt his chest press against hers as he took a deep breath, and her muscles tensed even more tightly as she realized the battle was about to start.

“Now, run…” His words were firm, a command, and she didn’t hesitate to obey it. He hadn’t told her to warn the others, but she understood it was what she had to do. Even if Zuko had directly ordered her to go in the opposite direction, she would have gone back to camp anyway. The waterbender was not the sort of person to leave her allies to their enemies if she could help it. Her gaze didn’t travel back to him, remembering his warning. Her feet moved quickly against the ground, running toward camp as she heard the flames blaze to life behind her, consuming both the foliage and the darkness. It was so bright that the way before her was almost clearly lit, and when it faded, she had to blink several times to recover her night vision.

She slowed a little as she began to get closer to camp, not wanting to alert anyone lurking in the shadows to her presence. Her stealth was rewarded when she saw a shadow move ahead of her. It hadn’t heard her, and as she crept close, she noted that the person was alone. Where were the others? There had been three back where she and Zuko had been, and now there was only one? Her eyes widened as she realized what was happening. They must not be a huge group like the ones who had overtaken the Water Tribesmen days ago, so they had split off to surround the camp. However, to be confident in doing so, they must at least be skilled or have a great enough number to feel secure in the decision. Her eyes scanned the darkness, looking for more movement, and she spotted it. On either side of the one she’d seen, many yards away, others crept silently forward.

She unstoppered two of her water skins, quickly shooting her water forward and wrapped the compressed streams around the head and torso of the person, tugging back hard so that he or she lost their balance. However, Katara maintained steady control over her water, and the being was unable to fall heavily to the ground, and the other two she’d seen seemed to continue forward, unaware of their fallen comrade. She pulled the person closer, recognizing her as a Fire Nation foot soldier. The woman was taller and stronger looking than the waterbender, but her struggles were futile against the binding water.

The waterbender shoved the other against the tree, removing the liquid from the upper half of the face and her nose so that she could breathe, but her mouth remained covered, and she froze the liquid in place. She then coated the soldier in ice so that she couldn’t free herself from the tree trunk and whipped the side of her head with another stream, causing the woman to lose consciousness. She then proceeded to do the same things with the other two she’d seen, but she didn’t see any others, so she rushed toward camp immediately after.

Katara remained at the edge of the trees, shrouded in shadows, only long enough to confirm that no one was peering into the clearing where they’d made their bivouac. Then she ran forward to the nearest ten. It belonged to Ping, and she rushed into it, unannounced, falling to her knees and shaking him awake. “We’re under attack.” She hissed. “They haven’t gotten here yet, but they’re circling us. The Commander is fighting off three of them as we speak. I don’t know how many there are, but I took out three more of them.” He nodded and grabbed his bow and arrows as Katara left him to warn the others. Jet’s tent was the second nearest, and she flew into it. He was awake, and as soon as he saw her, a smirk passed over his lips. “So, you decided that scarred firebenders don’t cut it for you after all, and you want a real man.”

“What? No! We’re under attack. Be quick and quiet. They haven’t gotten here yet, but they’re circling the camp.” She left his tent more quickly than Ping’s after that comment, and she started toward Gui’s tent until she realized that Shen – who had been roused by Ping – was closer and already on that trajectory.

The five of them were all set to fight, but she was worried. What if the group was larger than she’d realized? All of them – expect for Jet and possibly Ping – were weary from their day of sparring with each other, so what if they lost? She would feel safer if Zuko was with them, but she had no idea if he was still safe or not. He’d seemed really unsteady after his battle with Gui, but a little food had given him more energy, and he hadn’t seemed weakened physically when he’d pinned her between himself and a tree. Would he be okay against three soldiers, though?

Suddenly, three men on komodo rhino mounts burst through the trees on different sides of the clearing, and several foot soldiers appeared at the edges around them. Katara quickly counted the numbers. One, two, three… four, five, six… seven, eight, nine… They seemed to be in groups of threes which would explain why she’d only seen the three she’d taken out, and there was a small hole in their circle where people were missing. Nine people, including the three Zuko battled and the three she’d removed from the equation meant fifteen altogether. The men on the komodo rhinos appeared to be the fiercest. One wore a helmet unlike the standard military issued ones; another wielded a guan dao, and he was large and muscular with thinning hair atop his head but a long, braided beard beneath his chin; the final one was an archer like Ping, and in the flame that lit the tip of his drawn arrow, she could see a strange tattoo that covered the upper half of his face like a mask.

“No fucking way…” She heard a soft whisper from Jet, and her gaze flickered to his face. His skin seemed to have gone pale, and his eyes were wide with recognition, but a moment later, her brows creased, and a look of pure loathing passed over his features as he look upon the mounted men.

“Kill the Earth Kingdom rebels. Capture the Water Tribe girl alive. Colonel Mongke will want to interrogate her.” The voice was gruff, more of a growl, really, and it had come from the bladed-spear wielder. Ping released one of his arrows, and it shot straight toward the man who had spoken. The blade of the guan dao split the projectile in half, throwing it off its course. Suddenly, the foot soldiers and the other three mounted warriors began to close in around the rebels. Katara hated fighting in close quarters, so she whipped her water forward, throwing one and then another foot soldier off their feet to make room for her to pass through. She whipped at them again in their heads, knocking them unconscious. Spinning around, she shot ice daggers at the archer who launched five arrows that shattered the five projectiles they hit; the rest of the ice daggers embedded into the rough flesh of the komodo rhino, causing it to growl in pain and buck its rider off before rushing into the trees.

A small sphere landed two feet away from her, and Katara gasped as she saw the lit fuse. “Katara!” Jet called out to her, rushing forward and smacking the bomb with one of his hook swords so it shot toward the man in the face-concealing helmet. It exploded before it reached him, sending Jet and Katara reeling backwards from the force. “I said she needs to be alive.” The bearded man growled furiously, causing the faceless bomber to focus his attacks on the earthbenders.

“Thanks.” Katara said quickly as she regained her footing and resumed her attacks. Boulders and arrows shot in all directions while water and ice swept at the enemies. Jet went after the bomb specialist, his hook swords glinting in the light of the flames from bombs and fire-tipped arrows. One such arrow shot toward her, but she froze a stream of water in front of her so it embedded into it, cracking the ice and extinguishing the flame. Ping rushed passed her, grabbing the arrow as she melted the ice and knocking it to his bow before shooting it back to its owner who easily rolled away from it.

“Katara, duck!” Shen shouted, and without hesitating, she fell to her knees just as a boulder passed over her head near enough that she could feel the air waves whip passed her hair. A grunt came from behind her as it made impact, and she looked back only a second to see the blood leaking from the crushed nose of an unconscious soldier.

The battle raged on with the foot soldiers being the easiest to defeat while the rest of them mostly just avoided whatever the men who were or had been on mounts threw at them. Jet managed to rip the throat out of the bomber with the curve of his sword, but the specialist’s mount was raging around uncontrolled, stomping at the rebels. They were now five against five, but the remaining five enemies seemed to be filled with energy while the benders were quickly losing strength. An arrow shot past Ping, stabbing through Gui’s arm, but when Katara tried to run to him to heal him, another arrow shot through one of her water skins, slicing through her side in the process. If she tried to get closer to the earthbender, more arrows rained toward her, and it was all Ping could do to keep the other archer from reaching more of the party. Gui ripped out the arrow and waved Katara off, realizing how futile her trying to get to him was, so instead, she focused on trying to take down the archer with Ping with only two water skins of water left since the other two had been punctured by arrows.

Where was Zuko? Was he okay against the others? Would he be there to help them before they lost?

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Sun Jun 10, 2012 3:05 am

Three against one. Zuko didn't really think that these odds even needed to be considered really, he would just need to mop up the three of them and get back to where the rest of the camp was. Raising his hands he caused the wall of flames to raise higher as he looked at the men who had come. Without missing a beat as they tried to get their eyes to adjust to the light Zuko shot a fireball at each of them in rapid succession, hoping to end this in a quick blitz of fire and mayhem. He gritted his teeth though as one spun some sort of chain in front of himself that evaporated the flame while the others two blocked it with firebending moves that seemed to dissolve the fire in front of them. These were firebenders, at least two of them, which would make things a little more complex, to say the least. The way the two of them moved as well didn't seem standard, these people were professionals. But were they mercenaries, assassins, or something else? Zuko's gut nagged at him again that something was wrong.

"You've got spunk, I'll give you that, Prince Zuko." the specialist who was a firebender called out to him. The other one remained silent while his chain whirled around fast enough that it began to whistle lightly with it's speed, betraying it's deadliness. The other firebender by comparison seemed almost insignificant, though cocky, clearly glad to be hanging out with a couple of pros. Zuko glanced at the other two and then blinked as he realized that he didn't hear the whistling of the chain anymore, pulling his head to the side just as it whistled past him in the dark, it's dark metal gleaming in the firelight as it soared past with enough force that it could have easily crushed in his skull right about now. Zuko mentally whispered to the spirits, hoping that there weren't three more of these specialists waiting for Katara back at camp, because that would mean something very dire, and would mean that he should have left with her to try to battle them all as a group rather than letting them get divided.

Gritting his teeth Zuko ignored the other two for the moment and focused a flurry of attacks at the weakest member of the group, spinning now and again to deflect a shot of fire aimed at him by the leader of the group or to duck under the chain that came spinning out at him. It only took a handful of heartbeats before the firebender backed up a few steps only to catch a fireball to the gut, knocking the wind out of him. Zuko spun to look at the others, only to see the chain dart out, only this time not aimed at him. Zuko cried out, but it was too late, the ball end of the chain had met it's intended target, and the firebender that had been gasping for breath's skull cracked with a sickening dull thud, the side of his helmet caved in beyond what a living person could have withstood. Zuko spun to look at the two men in the firelight as their leader spat.

"Worthless grunts, not even worth taking with us anymore." And with that the leader whistled out into the night, causing Zuko to look around as he heard a thundering that made his heart sink as the fact that all of his fears had been realized slowly dawned on him. He started to move forward to get out of the way, but it was already too late as a charging komodo rhino slammed into his side, a pain shooting up his left side in agony as he barely avoided being gored, only to have the thing toss it's head roughly and send him flying to the side, causing him to roll lightly as he started to shoot fireballs towards the heavy creature which were deflected by the leader of the group. Their signature mounts meant that they were only one group that could be responsible for this. The Rough Rhinos.

Zuko had heard of them before, by reputation only. They were merciless killers, the elite of the Fire Nation's forces. Each of them had mastered a particular weapon and together they were feared to be unstoppable. Zuko knew better than that, of course, that was the sort of thing that was whispered at camp fires, but their reputation was good enough that there was more than enough cause to be concerned. Iroh himself had warned Lu Ten about them, and that was more than enough to give Zuko a reason to fear. As he moved to face their leader, drawing fire up his arm, he saw too late as the black chain came around his front, and only had a moment to cry out before it wrapped around his neck and he was jerked off of his feet. Branches snapped against his skin as he struggled to get any form of breath as he was dragged against the ground faster than he could get his footing.

"Let's get to the others before we miss all the rest of the fun!" Zuko could hear their leader call as he desperately tried to claw at the chain that was wrapped like a vice around his neck. Spots formed before his eyes as he felt the ground cutting at his exposed skin, peeling it like an over ripe grape as he was dragged the yards to where the rest of them were fighting. As Katara began to wonder about Zuko she would hear the thudding of heavy beasts as they came stomping through the woods, and she would see as a chain was whipped around and their leader sent slamming onto the ground like a sack of dead meat. His arms were covered in blood and there were gashes on his face. The area where the chain had wrapped around had formed an alarming purple bruise around his neck, but for the most part Zuko was still... alive.

"Looks like we found something of yours..." Colonel Mongke laughed as he hopped off of his Rhino and slammed his boot into Zuko's side hard enough to make him bounce and gurgle, the Commander barely managing to catch himself on his hands and knees. Zuko sucked in a much needed breath at that point, and without any warning at all blew fire out like a dragon, searing the ground around himself in bright flame once again, pulling enough leeway in the chain that his head ducked out of it before it was tugged violently back to try to knock him off of his feet, and in a swift motion Zuko spun around, gathering up all the fire which spun around in his hand like a whirlwind before he shot it at the man wielding the chain, watching as it knocked the man off onto the ground. Zuko didn't even hesitate to make the motion to split the energy as Mongke's eyes shot open, realizing what the firebender was doing but being unable to stop it.

The man with the chain realized it too late as well, and the camp lit up with horrific light as lightning seared it's way through the camp, the chain only acting as a rod as it struck it's intended target, the man's eyes widening in shock as the electricity found his heart and he fell over his body smoking while the rest of the firebenders in the scuffle watched in horror. Not just a run of the mill firebender could do something like that, and it meant that at any time, any one of them could be next, could die with the point of a finger in their direction.

But over the awed silence there came a laughter of Colonel Mongke, and somewhere in the background a growl of pure hatred from Jet as he saw the leader of the men who had burned his village, killed his parents. Zuko would gladly leave the leader of the Rough Rhinos to the fighter, and allow him to get the revenge that he sorely deserved after all of these years. Even as the fight raged on around him, Zuko watched as the enemy leader laughed, and then called out loudly enough that all the men around him could hear: "I wonder, Prince Zuko, if your father is going to give me a prize for what I can do to your little Water Bender slut as well." Zuko blinked at his words and felt the energy that he had started to split again fizzled out into nonexistence as his blood ran cold like ice.

"I'd like to say I had first crack at making her scream, but I didn't. Fortunately for me all the people who went before me were just thugs, out to break ribs and such. They didn't realize what motivation she needed to scream was just a little bit of loving." Mongke gave Zuko a twisted smile as he saw the rage start to form on the outcast Prince's face. "I'll admit it did take me a while to find that perfect balance of pain and pleasure to make her scream as if her insides were on fire, but I found it eventually. I wasn't even halfway done with her before she was screaming so loud that the prize was all but mine, but I think what I'll remember most is how she thanked me when I was done, because she finally had a real man inside of her instead of the tiny shriveled little cock of a traitor."

"Once the others saw what I had done they all lined up for a turn at that knife throwers tight little slit, but none of them managed to make her scream like I could. You could say I brought new meaning to the term 'Rough Rhino' that day." He paused then, almost for dramatic effect as he saw the pain and disbelief on Zuko's face, saying something that would tip the former heir to the throne over the edge. "I'm sure you saw that M on her face when you finally bothered to show up for her... I branded it there after your father gave me the prize, so that you would know that Mongke had been there..." The Colonel said with a self satisfied smirk as Zuko's hands began to shake both from the agony that his arms were in with blood dripping down them, but more with the rage that was filling every corner of his being at that moment. Everything that he had learned from the original Fire Benders, from the dragons seemed to leave him at that moment and he was filled with a hatred that he hadn't felt since the massacre at the southern water tribe.

There was no creating lightning any longer but it didn't matter, Zuko ran up and jumped on the horn of the rhino that was in front of him, dashing up it towards the smirking face of the Colonel who started to bend fire only to have it dissipated as Zuko flat out tackled him off of his mount onto the ground, grabbing the man by the collar and slamming him into the ground roughly. Mongke's hands came up to grab at Zuko's throat but Zuko met them instead interlacing his fingers with Mongke's as he started to bend. The stunned leader of the Rough Rhinos realized too late and started to try to bend back, but Zuko was a superior bender. To the crowd it would look like the two were meerly grappling with one another until Colonel Mongke began to wail above all of the fighting, a haunting sound as steam began to rise off of his arms like evaporating ice, only to burst into outright flame a minute later.

Zuko's face was a twisted mask of pure rage at that point as he held on to the flaming appendages, gripping them tighter and tighter as the smell of burning flesh permeated the air, as Mongke's hands, black and blistered fell from Zuko's fingers onto the ground. The seemingly endless screaming had almost every eye in looking in Zuko's direction and as the Commander's golden eyes looked up like a wolfs from between his strands of hair at the rest of them, filled with a seemingly endless rage, they began to scatter in sheer horror of what he had done.

Zuko looked back down at the screaming Colonel then and slammed his fist into the man's jaw to shut him up, feeling the pain shoot up his arms at the wounds and the first degree burns on his hands from holding on to Mongke while he was burning. None of it seemed to matter as he hit the face of the Rough Rhino's leader again, and again and again until blood began to splatter from it and the man's face began to swell with bruises from the torture he received. It wasn't until Zuko's own men dragged him off that he would stop and even then he leaned against them, trying to get at the man, a rage like none they had ever seen filling his eyes as he strained against their muscles violently.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Sun Jun 10, 2012 2:29 pm

Katara heard and felt the stampings of more of those komodo rhinos, and her blood stomach clenched with fear. If there were more of these specialists, she didn’t know how they could beat them. Even just these five left were giving them a hell of a time, and Jet was having a hard time working over the spear wielder. This archer was too quick for either Ping or Katara, even working together as they were. Ping had amassed a collection of cut from narrowly missed arrows, and blood had soaked through her dress from the cuts made when her water skins had been perforated.

With the stampede of more rhinos, she was beginning to lose hope. She hoped Zuko was okay… As they broke into the clearing, her blood ran cold. “Looks like we found something of yours.” The man’s laugh hardly registered as her eyes happened upon the battered form of Zuko’s wounded body. There was a chain strangling him, and his blood coated his skin. As the man heaved a strong kick into Zuko’s side, Katara screamed his name and ran toward him, only to be greeted with an arrow slicing through her boot and into the earth, pinning her leg in place while her flesh stung where the head had sliced her calf.

She tore the arrow from the ground and her boot, tossing it to Ping. With a heavy growl, she spun around, ripping water from a tree behind the enemy archer and sending a wave of large ice spears into him through his back. He fell to his knees, choking on his own blood. Katara realized she should have been going for killing blows the whole time. The people she cared about got hurt when she was trying to be too careful about how she fought. The foot soldiers left her alone after that.

As she turned back toward Zuko and the other men, a terrible sight met her eyes. It was almost like whatever light had been in the clearing was sucked toward the Commander as the air began to crackle. The hair on Katara’s arms stood on end with the static that formed there, and with a burst of speed and light she’d only seen during Sozin’s Comet, a man was dead, and the tips of Zuko’s fingers were smoking.

Katara felt chilled by the words of the man who had kicked Zuko. No… There were only two of them left now. The six of them could take them down at this point, right? Her gaze moved toward the fight with the one who had led the nine into the camp site. The earthbenders were still going hard against him with Jet trying his best to get at him over the komodo rhino, and Ping had even entered the fray. Katara wouldn’t leave Zuko to fight this guy, the one who seemed to lead them all, alone, especially not with how wounded he was.

At first, she was confused by his words. At one point, he’d been talking about hurting her, and now… it seemed like he was talking about someone else entirely. Then she looked at Zuko’s face, the rage that was burning in his eyes, and she understood. They were talking about the woman he’d loved, the one about whom Jet had told her. The story horrified her far more than Jet’s version of it. This was far more explicit, and the glee in which he spoke far surpassed Jet’s amused tones.

Katara took a step toward the Commander as he began to shake, but before she could do anything, Zuko attacked. The man was knocked off his mount, and it began to buck and run amok until she whipped its hide with her water, sending it reeling into the woods where it couldn’t accidentally stomp any of her allies. At first, it looked like the fight between Zuko and that leader was normal, just a simple grapple where the banished prince’s adrenaline and fury gave him an edge over the other guy, but soon, it became so much more than that.

As the man began to smoke and scream and his arms burst into flame, tears swam in Katara’s eyes. Was this what the others had thought of her after the bloodbending she’d displayed when the rebels had rescued the Water Tribesmen from the Fire Nation soldiers? She was horrified by what she was seeing, but at the same time, she could understand. Zuko was feeling unbelievable pain and rage at what the man had divulged, just like she’d felt so angry and agonized by the loss of her people, her father, her great grandmother, and her entire homeland. When one had the power to really do something about vengeance, it was almost irresistible.

The look in his eyes as he lifted his head to gaze at them was terrifying, and it saddened her that even after taking revenge, he was still locked in his fury. The foot soldiers scattered, but the final mounted warrior moved forward, only to have Jet stab through his neck and shoulder in his time of distraction before slitting the mount’s throat as well.

The man continued to scream, but Zuko, almost like a man possessed, began to beat him into silence. It took Gui, Shen, and Ping to pulled the berserk Zuko from the guy who had been silenced after the first few blows. She hated seeing him like that, not because she was afraid for herself so much because she was afraid for him. Jet delivered the final blow with a loud growl of anger, kicking the man so hard in his head that the snap of his neck rang through the night, but even then, the Commander continued to try to get to him.

Katara kneeled before Zuko, tears streaming down her face at his plight. She pulled water from one of her undamaged water skins, wrapping the water around her hands. It began to glow with a white-blue light, highlighting each wound on Zuko’s body. He still struggled against his men, and his eyes wouldn’t seem to focus. She took each side of his face in her hands, her touch as soft as a sooty copper fritillary’s wings. The cool water glided over his skin as she sent her qi through it, into his flesh to encourage it to heal even while the water cleansed the wounds of dirt. Scrapes knitted themselves together. Her hand passed over his scar which had also received some lacerations. She couldn’t heal the already disfigured flesh, but she could heal the newer wounds upon it.

She allowed the used water to drip away, pulling fresher liquid from her water skin. Then she moved to his throat where the angry, deeply purple bruise circled. She was gentler than ever with her touch because this honestly looked the most painful of all of his wounds. The throat was a sensitive place, and steadily, she was able to make the bruise disappear.

She gently tugged off his shirt, being as careful as she could not to harm him, but she’d seen tears in it, and she could see the blood that seeped through the fabric. After exchanging the used water as she would do once the healing properties in it were used up in each batch, her hands were on his torso, easily healing the deep abrasions over his chest and abdomen.

She signaled for the men to release his arms because he seemed calmer now, and her hands proceeded to trail down his arms where the foliage had wrought havoc on his flesh. She cleaned away the blood, noting that his arms seemed to have gotten the worst of the cuts, likely from his trying to protect the rest of himself with them. Her hands glided over his arms, from top to bottom, carefully healing him until she got to his hands. She pulled fresh water from her pouch and took his hands in hers, looking into his golden optics as she healed the painful burns on his palms. When that was done, the water around her hands dripped away, and she placed her hands on his biceps, willing him to focus on her when she spoke. “Will you let me heal the wounds on your back, too?” She asked him. The men still had a steady grip on the rest of him, worried that he would snap at any moment, and she couldn’t get to his back if they didn’t move, but she also could get to his back if he rushed off to continue beating the dead body of the lead enemy, either. She had no idea if was just biding his time until he could successfully continue his assault or if he was genuinely submissive.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Sun Jun 10, 2012 3:32 pm

He felt nothing anymore.

The blows landed upon Mongke's face until Zuko could feel his hands screaming in agony, felt the blood from the Colonel's face splattering against his arms, his own face. None of it mattered, and yet he couldn't stop, he absolutely couldn't stop until the demon in his veins was expunged from his system. It would never be enough, nothing he could do to Mongke would give him the pain that he had given Mai, and yet his fists still rained down in a hail of blows against the man's face. It would have been a simple enough matter to finish the man, a single blow could have blown his head apart into pieces, and yet it wasn't enough. He had to suffer, he had to pay for what he had done. Zuko wanted to peel every inch of his flesh from his body until he could find out if he could make him scream the way he had described Mai screaming, until he could take every ounce of pain that could be wrung from that body like water from a rag. Zuko could see petrification echoing in those eyes and he felt the heady rush of pleasure flow over him, numbing his pain and filling him with the absolute knowledge that this was right, this was a just thing to do. This was what had to be done.

He wanted to scream as he felt Gui grip one of his arms, his heavily muscled arm flexing against the man. Zuko's other arm moved to swat off the insignificant earth bender to return to his task, but as he moved his other arm, Shen gripped it and pulled him by the blood slicked arm away from Mongke's body. The two of them stepped into the earth to pull him away, and yet even as they did Zuko could hear a bellow rising up in his chest like a demon, his roar filling the night, the fires around the camp suddenly busting bright and multicolored as pure rage flowed into them, the energy that Zuko couldn't expend into beating the flesh from Mongke's body as he suddenly lunged forward, feeling the two Earth benders starting to lose ground against his pure hatred as steam poured from his nose like a snorting dragon as he moved towards his prize, unwilling to be denied it, unwilling to lose the chance for one more blow.

The arm that wrapped around his carotid artery was what stopped him from his prize. He could hear Ping whispering into his ear softly as he was dragged backwards, "He won't feel it, Zuko, there is only so much pain the body is allowed to feel, you are beyond it, and so is he. Hurting him more than you have will not solve anything..." And yet Zuko wanted it. The words meant nothing, the bodies on him meant nothing. Even after Jet had taken the mans life and Zuko saw spots in front of his eyes for the second time tonight as Ping held him, he wanted the man to suffer. He wanted to desecrate his body the way that he had desecrated Mai's. He wanted to carve his name on the man's face and hang him from a tree so that when the Fire Nation found him, bloated and rotting they would know who it was that sent him, sent their best to his grave, know the man that was coming for them. He pulled again and felt the men around him struggling just to keep him in place as his muscles flexed against them all, but felt his body giving out against the strain.

"You're at your limit, Zuko...do not fight this." Ping whispered softly, trying to calm him even as his muscles trembled with exhaustion and he fell to his knees.

When the water bender stood in front of him she would see the hatred in those eyes as he strained against them all. They weren't Zuko's eyes any more, they were the eyes of his father, eyes that understood hatred and rage and were consumed by it. And yet at the same time the longer he was held she would see the life starting to return to them, tears starting to well in his eyes as he seemed to be trying to look past Katara towards the body, as if she weren't there, as if catching the glimpse of Mongke behind her he could somehow force his will to destroy the man. At first he didn't even seem to notice the coolness of the water on his body, the sensation of her healing him. He was still locked away in that other place that even Katara's healing touch couldn't reach him.

Ping glanced at Katara behind the exiled Prince's form, giving her a worried look as he still felt Zuko fighting him, a look that needed no words for it's meaning to be understood. Ping wasn't saying it aloud, but Katara would read it from his face, the question of whether or not Zuko had finally taken leave of his senses permanently, if this had all been too much for him.

When the Water Bender touched his scar though she would feel him flinch though, his eyes snapping to her as if recognizing her for the first time. His head tugged back a little to try to get away from her, but as she persisted she would feel him relax, and see it on the faces of his men that were holding him that for the first time in those long few minutes, they were actually able to relax as well. Ping's hold on his neck loosened so that she could heal it, but he lingered behind his Commander as if he might need to take up his hold again. It wasn't until she signaled for them to let him go that they did, though none of them seemed particularly comfortable with the idea of leaving him completely at this point, which was probably for the best as Zuko's gaze was still heated, conflicted, but it was on Katara's blue eyes now instead of looking past her.

Slowly the fires around the camp died down, and then snuffed out completely as Zuko managed to let everything go in that moment, closing his eyes to let the tears that had built there fall from his face to the ground slowly. Shame salted the wounds that Katara couldn't heal on him as he nodded lightly, feeling a lump in his throat that he wasn't sure that he could speak past, and as she moved to heal his back he let her without argument. He could still see his own men looking at him as if they expected that any minute he might rise up and claim to be the next Fire Lord himself and bathe them in flame. The part that terrified him was that he wasn't sure that he wouldn't.

Out of the corner of his eye he glanced Jet looking at Mongke, seeming to be in a trance of his own. Zuko knew what it was, of course. It was what he was feeling now. Emptiness. Nothing he could do to that corpse would bring back what was lost, nothing he could say to a dead man would take away what had been done. All that he was left with was anger, and nothing to focus it at any longer. Slowly Zuko stood, and Katara would see there were moderate wounds on his legs that looked as if they needed healing as well, but when she tried Zuko waved her off slowly, his voice still a little choked as he said. "There's no time. Heal the others to get them on their feet..."

"We have to break camp and move. The foot soldiers will report us, eventually, we don't want to be here when they do..." he said simply, looking at the others who nodded.

Breaking camp was easy enough, and Zuko relished the pain in his legs as they walked for a few miles away from where they had been, Zuko taking a path to the south rather than straight for their target so that it would potentially avoid them being spotted while they rested. When the men dared to go no further he had them make camp again, Ping and the earth benders volunteering to take the remaining shifts on watch so that the others could get the most sleep. By the time that Zuko laid upon his sleeping roll it felt as if the life had been drained from him, and all he wanted to do was sleep.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:02 am

Healing was arguably more complicated than fighting in the art of waterbending. If one didn’t have the inherent gift of healing like Katara did, one had to have a very good idea of how the body worked and the qi paths that ran through it. Even with someone who was born with the gift rather than having to study it before understand how to utilize it, it wasn’t a cure-all. It could heal lacerations and burns and other wounds, but the worse the wound was, the more energy it took for the healer to do her or his job. Small wounds were easily healed on the first try, but very deep ones or very complex ones took more than one try. Death was not something she could counteract with any amount of time and energy spent trying to use her gift.

As Katara worked her art, her gaze traveled to Ping, and she recognized the worry in his face. She, too, worried that Zuko had left his senses for good, that he wouldn’t recover from this, but having a sliver of worry and giving up were two different things. She shook her head at him, her brows set with determination. I will not give up on him…

When her fingers passed over the red, disfigured flesh of the scar on his face, he looked at her, straight at her, and she knew that her resolution to help him would pay off in the end. Those golden orbs were wide and focused on her face, and he seemed to recognize her through the haze of his fury and agony. He pulled away from her, trying to escape her touch, clearly still not completely whole in his mind, but she wouldn’t give up. One breakthrough didn’t mean a complete success. Held as he was by his men, he couldn’t go far from her, and he finally relaxed a little, allowing her to touch his face, his scar, to heal him.

It had been ten years since the waterbender had seen a grown man cry, and while she didn’t think of tears as a weakness, it still tore into her to see him like this. He was a great leader and a great firebending master, but he knew what it was like to crave revenge so badly that it took over one’s entire being, and he was almost defeated by it. Now, it was time to try to let that go, to let it out of himself. Clearly, it had been building into this moment for four years, and the leader of the mounted warriors had been a fool to try to tear away the door that contained it all.

When she asked him if he would allow her to heal his back, he only nodded, and her fingertips gently caressed the unscarred side of his face, brushing over the tears that streaked his skin. The gesture was meant to be comforting, to let him know that it was okay to feel the way he was feeling. Katara moved around to his back, allowing the healing glow to move over his wounds.

While not every wound was perfectly healed, Katara was, at the very least, able to clean Zuko’s wounds, and while the majority of the cuts were healed, the deepest wounds would still need to be worked on later, most notably the lacerations on his arms and the ones on his legs that he wouldn’t let her deal with, instead directing her to heal the others.

She nodded and moved to Ping, cleaning and healing the cuts and burns he’d acquired, but nothing serious had been done to him. Then she moved onto Gui and Shen who had a few burns from the bombs that had been sent their way but were otherwise unharmed.

Finally, she stopped in front of Jet. There was a strange look upon his face, as if he wasn’t all there. It wasn’t as frightening to behold as Zuko’s lapse in coherency, but it was like… there was an emptiness that couldn’t be filled. She touched his arm, and his head slowly turned toward her, his wheat stalk was nowhere to be seen, but a deep gash marred the right side of his face, and he had other cuts and burns all over his arms. “Thank you for earlier, for getting rid of that bomb, and for taking out the men on their mounts. You fought really well and really bravely tonight.” He hardly seemed to hear her, but when she tried to touch him to heal him, he took a step back from her.

“I’m fine.” His voice sounded hollow, devoid of his usual humor.

“Jet,” Katara said softly, “I don’t want you to get infections in your wounds. At least let me clean them and start the healing.” His dark eyes lifted to her, examining her face, but when she stepped toward him, he didn’t move away again. She started with his arms, those cuts and burns being mostly superficial and easily healed. Then she worked on the mostly vertical gash that extended from his temple to his jaw. It was really deep, and if she hadn’t been a healer, it would need a lot of stitches. She would have to work on it some more tomorrow, but for now, she’d done what she could do.

When she’d finished, he moved away from her, not offering a word of thanks, but she wasn’t perturbed by it. They were all tired, and they needed to pack up and leave. For her lack of energy, she moved fairly speedily to take down her partially burned tent. It was still useable, but she would want to repair it before the weather took a turn for the worst. Thankfully, the rest of her things were still packed away, so she took the time to help the others. Working around the bodies of the dead and the unconscious was a bit of a bear, but she held her stomach at the sight of the blood of the mount and its master in black pools in the ground and the blood that dripped down the melting ice spears she’d forced through the archer’s body. It was a disturbing sight, and she found herself mentally praying to the spirits, thanking them for their aid and asking them to be with her party for the rest of the evening.

By the time they found a new campsite, a few miles south, Katara was completely beat. She didn’t even bother to set up her tent, opting to merely spread out her sleeping bag. A day of walking and sparring combined with a night of the most confusing kissing followed by a real battle, some healing, and more walking had her completely exhausted. Before Gui, Ping, and Shen left for the remaining watch, Katara tried to help them set up their tents, but they shooed her away, letting her know she’d helped them enough for the evening, that she should rest.

The waterbender curling into her sleeping bag, her eyes gazing at the stars, finding herself unable to sleep despite her weariness. As the three left for their watch and Jet removed himself to his tent to sleep – still sort of in a daze – Katara slipped from her bag and moved to Zuko’s tent. Her stomach buzzed with scorpion bees as she moved closer. It wasn’t like she was going into his tent for a late night adventure under the sleeping furs or anything, but after having lost herself in the taste of his lips earlier, this was bound to be a little tense. Then again, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. After all, his thoughts were probably far from what had happened before the real battle and more focused on what had caused him to go berserk. She relaxed and took a deep breath. “Zuko,” She announced softly, “I’m coming in.” She parted the flaps of his tent and moved inside, lowering herself to her knees before him. His eyes betrayed his confusion at seeing her there, but she only smiled tiredly.

“It’s okay. Just take off your pants and relax.” After a moment, Katara’s eyes widened at the implications of what she’d just said. Her cheeks flamed with heat and she lifted her hands defensively and her words rushed from her throat more quickly than intended. “Wait… No. I just meant that we haven’t done anything about the wounds on your legs, and I don’t want them to get infected, but I can’t get to them if you keep them on.” She took a deep breath, calming herself, trying to ease her embarrassment. “They’re shredded and dirty anyway, and you don’t want your skin to heal them into the cuts.”

Last edited by Kathryn Lacey on Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:49 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:57 am

Zuko felt a sense of sadness and shame wash over him as he looked out at the destruction, and the dead bodies around him. Especially that of Mongke, but there was no point in thinking about it right now. Iroh had told him that the mind could shut out things in the present that were too horrible to deal with, but that they eventually would need to be faced. For now though, what was most important was leaving. The foot soldiers that had escaped would point out where they had been before too long. Zuko could see the weariness in the eyes of the people that he had ordered to pack up their things and go, but though he hated it, there wasn't any thing that they could do. Experience told him that this place would likely be torched at first light, if it even took that long. Hopefully they would take a bit of time in order to be able to track them. Zuko grabbed a branch that he figured would suit their needs rather well as he finished packing up his things, looking around to see that most of the people had packed up... it seemed only Jet was the one who was lagging behind, his movements overly stiff, almost like a machine rather than a man. Time to heal the minds wounds indeed.

Zuko instructed them to go South and took up the position of the vanguard of the group, refusing to let someone sneak up on them again. The fact that it had happened was unforgivable, but Zuko had thanked the spirits quietly that he had been the one on watch. If it had been someone less attentive, they might not have seen anyone until it was too late. But then he wouldn't have had to kiss Katara. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? He didn't actually know any more. In the heat of the moment it looked almost as if she was leaning back in for a second kiss. But all of that had been blurred by Mongke. Zuko's throat still felt halfway caved in from being dragged through the woods by it. He knew better, that the bruises had been erased by Katara, but at the same time, he could still feel it there, dragging him, his lungs starving for air as he nearly suffocated.

His wounds in his legs and arms were almost a blessing as he moved. The pain felt good, it reminded him that they were still there. The rest of him just felt numb. Everything inside of him felt turned inside out, and as they left he glanced back at the campsite, burning the look of the trees into his memory. A part of himself had been left behind there, a piece of himself forever gone, laid to rest there beside Colonel Mongke, but he couldn't figure out if he should rejoice it's passing, that it was his thirst for revenge that had died, or something else instead. Something more basic, something human. Zuko's golden eyes turned away though as he started following behind the group, fanning out the leafy branch behind him as he walked, lightly dusting it against the ground to obscure their footprints as they moved single file South.

Zuko didn't know if the enemy knew where it was that they were going, but the fact that they had sent the Rough Rhinos meant something dire. It meant that they knew what they were after. The Commander didn't know if the water bender or the two earth benders knew, but he could see it in Ping's eyes that he was aware, and Jet, having lost so much to the Rough Rhinos would certainly know that they weren't the sort of band you sent out to scout the countryside. They were what you sent in when you needed something done with no mistakes. And that meant that, in some capacity, they had known that the Water Bender would be in this area. Zuko couldn't dismiss that they knew about her. But was it from the caravan that they had attacked before, and had assumed that the water tribesmen would seek refuge in Ba Sing Se? Or was it an omen of something more dire.

"Lu Ten, please be alright." Zuko muttered soft enough for only himself and the spirits to hear as he walked behind the others. The fear that gripped his heart, the one he dared not voice aloud to the others, because he was worried they would lose all hope, was that Lu Ten and some of the others had failed in their attempt on Zhao's life, had been kidnapped and tortured, and before they had died gave up the other plan, to head to the Earth Capitol. Zuko looked to the East, where if they traveled a few days time they would see the massive walls of Ba Sing Se in the distance, yet he knew that he couldn't go there. If they knew their destination, the Fire Nation would have set up traps to bar their way. If they didn't, then a few hours would be a worthwhile sacrifice on the off chance it might cause some confusion amongst their ranks.

When Zuko noticed the others starting to fall asleep as they walked he signaled them to stop, setting up a bare bones campsite. The troops had set it up often enough that it was only a few minute affair, and Zuko watched with a chuckle as the Earth Benders shooed away Katara's help only to stomp vigorously on the ground, making a tent of stone rather than bother to set up their own tents themselves. Jet seemed usually mechanical in his actions, and Katara seemed to be more than willing to just collapse on the ground altogether. Zuko would have offered her his tent but he was afraid given all that had happened in the past day that she might get the wrong idea by it and think he was trying to seduce her. In truth, he didn't know how he felt about her at all, but this certainly wasn't the night to try to figure it out.

Still, as he lay there, trying to sleep he grimaced a little, feeling the wounds in his legs and arms starting to ache, and his legs themselves being overtired from the day's exertion. Sleep would be hard to come by tonight anyway, with his mind filled with the memories of setting a man's arms on fire and letting him fry. Zuko tossed a few times before he heard Katara softly announce herself, loud enough that the people on watch hopefully wouldn't hear. He wasn't sure that it really would even be noticed by anyone other than Jet tonight though. Everyone had other things on his mind. Chiefly on Zuko's mind was whether or not he should ask Ping to take over leadership of the group. After tonight, was he really fit to lead them all?

When the water bender poked her head in he sat up, not really in his sleeping bag but just sleeping atop it. Katara's first words out of her mouth once she was in his tent caused his brow to shoot skyward however, even his bad eye seeming to fly open wide at what she was suggesting. Wait, lie back and relax? Was that how they did things back in the water tribe? Truth be told sex wasn't one of those things that had really come up when he'd talked to members of the water tribe in the past. Maybe when a girl saw someone she liked down there she just picked the guy and he had no say in the matter. "Uhhhhh...." Zuko started as she looked at him, not sure what to say at this point. "I... we... probably should conserve our energy so we can get up early in the morning...?" Zuko said, cringing a little at his own excuse. What the hell was wrong with him?

"Oh... right, my legs, that's... what I was talking about too." Zuko said, his eyes shifting away from her as he tried to save face. "I'll uhm, yeah, take off... my clothes." Something about it didn't seem right, and Zuko bit his lip as he pulled down his pants, then gritted his teeth a little. She would hear the inhaling of breath as some of the scabbing tore away with his clothing to open up fresh wounds, but Zuko figured that was probably what she actually wanted. With his pants in tatters that only left him with his undershorts, which suddenly felt very breezy, even more so once he stripped away his top. What would he do if she demanded to check elsewhere for injury?

With Katara there at one side of the tent, slowly approaching between his slightly parted legs, staring at him... yeah, this wasn't awkward at all. "Thanks, for healing me back there... and for healing me now. I'm sure you're exhausted..." Zuko offered.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Mon Jun 11, 2012 4:41 pm

Katara’s cheeks burned with embarrassment. She’d been so tired that she had just sort of assumed he’d know what she was talking about when she told him to take off his pants. As soon as his eyes had widened in shock and he’d begun making an excuse to not remove his pants, she’d suddenly realized what he’d thought she’d meant, and the waterbender backtracked, explaining a little too quickly and loudly what she’d actually intended. She recognized his trying to save face, and in the darkness, her lips curved into a small smile at it. After all, despite the awkwardness, it was pretty funny.

However, if she really had come into his tent for sex, his excuse was pretty sound. They were all tired from an overly full day. Truth be told, if Katara didn’t feel it was necessary, she wouldn’t even be in here to heal his legs. After healing the others and the several miles of walking for a new camp, she hadn’t even had the time or energy to heal her own wounds, preferring to look after her party first. She could attend to her cuts and bruises the next day after she resumed her attentions to the mens’ scratches and burns. Zuko’s legs couldn’t wait, though. They were covered in dirt from his being dragged through the forest, and the longer one waited to heal, the harder it was to heal without scarring. Infections were even more complicated to remove.

Katara lifted her hand as he removed his pants, as if to offer a comforting touch as she noted the intake of breath at the pain of removing them. She’d been worried that the fabric had already healed a little into his skin, but it was better that they be reopened so she could clean them easier and redirect his energies to heal the wounds better. However, she was too far away, and after their initial exchange, she didn’t want to make things worse by touching him while he was undressing.

She slowly approached him after he’d undressed, almost tentatively, not wanting to spook him or anything. Katara moved around to the outside of his right leg, pulling some water from her water skin and allowing it to wrap around her hands. In the cool glow, she could see him more clearly than in the darkness. The steady strength in his muscular legs both surprised her and didn’t. She’d noticed that while most firebenders – like waterbenders – favored their arms for bending, they had several moves with leg-work, too. Zuko was strong and well-built all over, but she didn’t allow her eyes to linger on any one place for too long.

Instead, she drew her focus to his legs, starting with his shins and working her way up his leg. His boots must have protected the lower portions of his legs and hit feet really well because the skin there wasn’t harmed at all. "Thanks, for healing me back there... and for healing me now. I'm sure you're exhausted..."

Katara looked up from her work when he spoke and smiled softly at him. “It’s not a big deal. We help each other, as a team. Thank you for helping the guys to accept me. I know after… after we all first met, they weren’t really happy to be traveling with me, and I know you guys don’t see this mission of mine as all that important, but thank you for coming with me and helping me anyway.”

When she got to his thigh, her touch became gentler because the gashes were deeper and longer and looked angrier. As her hands rose higher, she was struck by the surprise that his underwear wasn’t all that different from what the men of the Water Tribes wore. The only big differences were that they were looser and didn’t have the modesty fabric that covered the outline of his… Katara looked away quickly, her cheeks becoming enflamed again, and she focused harder on her work. Her heart raced a little quicker, and she hoped he hadn’t notice her gaze traveling. If he had noticed, she hoped he would just chalk it up to her being tired.

Today had just been one of those days for embarrassment, awkwardness, and… heat… Really, when they’d kissed, even when she’d originally just intended to use it to get back at him, she’d felt… something. Katara simply hadn’t allowed it to take hold of her for long. Then later, when he’d kissed her, it had been even more intense. It was like the world had melted away and all that existed was heat and his body pressed against hers and his lips moving over hers, over her cheek, over her neck.

At the time, there hadn’t really been a moment to think about why he’d done it, but she’d had time to think on the walk to this new campsite. It was clear that he believed those men in the woods had seen them, that his kissing her had been a way to make them think they had them caught off guard, so that he could discreetly tell her that they were being watched. Thinking back on it, he could have informed her in any other way and it would have been just as effective. Was he trying to get back at her, or was there another reason? He’d put her on the spot about why she’d kissed him, and she’d had no idea how to respond. What would he say if she put him on the spot?

Furthermore, what if there hadn’t been an ambush waiting for them? Would he have kissed her anyway? Would it have gone beyond kissing? No, she didn’t think it would go too much further. Katara didn’t know how sex was treated in the rest of the world, but she did know how it was treated in the Water Tribes. The Southern and Northern traditions were completely different, so things could be even stranger in Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation.

In the Northern Water Tribe, sex was merely a way to consummate a marriage, something that was done between two who were already declared husband and wife after the marriage ceremony. In the Southern Water Tribe, consensual sex was marriage; the ceremony was merely a before or after celebration of two people becoming wed.

That was probably why she was so pissed that Sokka and Princess Yue were having their affair. Sokka claimed he was merely adopting Northern culture as his own, but she knew he really loved her and that it tore him apart that he couldn’t have her for himself. At one time, Katara had really like the Princess, but now, she could only see that Yue was using her older brother because the woman was too weak to say no to Sokka and to stay with her own husband. Then again, most marriages in the North were arranged rather than chosen, but the woman was a Princess! If she’d truly wanted it, she could have chosen the waterbender’s brother over the man she’d ended up marrying anyway. Her excuse that she was doing it for her people, for her Tribe, had become pretty weak when she’d started screwing around with Sokka, anyway.

Regardless, Katara refused to adopt the Northern culture for herself, even if it meant that – at the age of eighteen – she was already considered a spinster. There really was only that two year window at the ages of sixteen and seventeen when men and women were in their prime to become betrothed, and the waterbender had passed it both because men were intimidated by her and because she was nothing more than a Southern peasant in their eyes. It didn’t matter that the Avatar had been her great grandmother, or that her father had been the Southern Water Tribe Chief, or even that her Gran Gran had married the most prominent waterbender in the North Pole. Katara was tainted by lower class blood and too much determination to exceed her status.

And Zuko… Well, banished or not, he still had royal blood. She was probably just a peasant in his eyes, just like the Northerners had thought, good enough to lay but not to marry. Besides, even after four years, he was still clearly in love with Mai, and her memory still pained him. How could she compare with someone who he’d known so well, someone he loved, a ghost of the past?

What in the world was wrong with her? Katara hardly even knew Zuko. Two kisses – made for the wrong reasons – really didn’t make a good starting point for a relationship no matter how steamy they’d been, especially when they’d only really known each other for a few days. Sure, he made her heart beat quickly and her skin feel hot, but that was just hormonal, lust and nothing more. What did she know about him beyond the second-hand information of what he’d done and experienced in his past? Sure, he was strong, a great fighter, and he was a good leader, but they hadn’t really talked much. He’d never opened up to her or her to him. Maybe if she’d ever had a boyfriend in her life, she’d have a better idea of how to handle this sort of situation, but as it was, she’d only ever been rejected or had been unsuccessfully sought by a married man, so her relationship experience was pretty lacking.

She quickly finished on his right leg and moved around to his left, starting at the shin and working her way up. As she reached the point just above his knee, she thought about the events of that night, the battle, how enraged he’d become and how numb both he and Jet had become after the fact. They’d known who those people were, and while it made sense that Zuko would know them, she didn’t know how Jet did. Furthermore, they’d known that the small party of six wasn’t just a bunch of Earth Kingdom refugees. With Katara’s attire, it made sense that they’d recognize her as Water Tribe, but the one with the bladed spear had called them rebels, and he had said to kill them and to keep her alive. They knew something, and she didn’t know how, but she wanted to understand. The only problem was that she didn’t want to force the Commander to recall the night or to even talk about it. If it was important, she hoped he would confide in her and probably the rest of the group about it.

Instead, her gaze traveled to Zuko’s face, to his scar. She remembered how he’d squirmed away from her healing touch earlier as soon as she’d reached for it. It could have just been that he didn’t understand what was happening, but she’d already healed the unscarred portion of his face before that. “Does your scar hurt you?” Katara asked him softly. Her own burn scar didn’t even have sensation in it. If someone touched it, she only knew because she’d seen them place their hand on her and because she could still feel sensations around where it was located. However, she wasn’t sure if it was different for him, if his father had damaged some nerves in such a way that his hurt to touch the disfigured flesh or if it just hurt all of the time in general.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:03 pm

Awkward. That's exactly what this happened to be. Yes. Awkward. Extremely awkward. As Zuko's eyes traveled down his clothing, or rather, lack thereof in silence he tried to think of something that would really make it seem like he hadn't expected that Katara just came here to sleep with him. Of course, given that he HAD thought that she had just come here to sleep with him, trying to figure out an excuse for why it was that he hadn't seemed all that much more difficult. He just needed to really think of the appropriate thing to say... and what he came up with was... that he meant that too. The healing thing. God why did he say that? Had he not been leaning back on his hands he would have been tempted to bury them into his hair to tug at it visciously. It seemed like he was always saying the wrong thing around girls that he talked to. Only the ones that seemed to be able to see past it like Jin were actually able to give him a shot. Well, Mai as well, but she... could he really count that given that she had an agenda?

Zuko blinked a little as he saw the amused smile on Katara's face as if she knew that he was lying, and he looked away. Of course it was funny to her, she didn't really have any intentions of doing anything here but healing him, but she now knew that he was thinking of other things. At least he wasn't getting slapped, he supposed, but still he felt his cheeks heat slightly. Luckily his blush wasn't very evident, at least not there in the dim light of the the room. That was, of course, until the soft glow of Katara's healing light filled the tent, and Zuko swallowed a little, forcing himself to calm down slightly as he drew in a breath at the odd tingling sensation of her fingertips and the cool water sewing his wounds shut, it seemed, soothing them away from his body as if she were simply washing something away.

"I'm sorry, about before." He muttered, not really knowing what it was to say when someone was healing you with water bending. Were you supposed to stay quiet? The Avatar didn't seem to mind talking while it was happening, but then, she had been the Avatar. It wasn't as if doing anything with water would be particularly hard for her. Zuko wondered for a moment if that meant that the Avatar could blood bend, but it seemed unlikely that the Avatar would ever have a need to try. Surely one of the Avatars in history would have done it before now, as a show of power if nothing else. Then again, he couldn't remember any Avatar actually halfway lighting someone on fire either. Maybe they could, maybe they had before, and just not told anyone. Maybe it was so horrific that when they had done it, they had not admitted to it, or worse, knew that they would be seen as a monster if they did it. Maybe it was something that at one point firebenders were killed simply for doing, and thusly had faded from memory and history.

"We... need to be more careful going forward." Zuko said softly, biting his lip lightly, feeling her hands starting to creep up his legs, the cool water was oddly warm beneath her touch, the way that she bent energy into it caused his skin to prickle lightly all over, and Zuko swallowed a little as her fingertips reached up past his knee. Thankfully she would probably stop there and move on to the other leg. "The men we fought before, they weren't just some roving band of Fire Nation troops, they were an elite force, one of but a handful in the entire Fire Nation. I don't know why it was they were after us, but the fact that they knew that you were a water bender, that they seemed to be looking for you... it isn't good." Zuko said, looking down for a moment, his face slightly illuminated by the glow of her healing light. He didn't go into his fears about Lu Ten being captured. The last thing she wanted to think about was that her brother might have died along with Zuko's men.

"Hopefully though, in a few days we'll be to Ba Sing Se-" Zuko clamped his mouth shut as he felt her fingertips starting to slide higher. Not stopping at the knee, OK, this was going to be... alright. Zuko felt her start to touch his thighs with her healing as well, soothing them. He had been told once by his Uncle that water bender healing was about the flow of energy and blood to places in order to quickly heal wounds. As wonderful as that would be tomorrow, for the moment it was starting to make blood flow to... other places as well. Zuko blinked a little as he tried to calm his thoughts down from well... where they were going. He took in a slow breath, feeling his skin start to heat a little beneath her touch... no, it was just that his skin was heating a little in general, making the air in the tent a bit warmer.

Zuko was mentally scrambling for things to talk about at this point, feeling a bit of relief as she moved on to his other leg, but realizing that she was just going to keep moving higher and higher... Zuko thought that he caught the water bender's blue eyes flickering down in the glow of the night, but he couldn't be sure. Hopefully she wasn't... not that he really had anything to be embarrassed about but still it was a little... embarrassing. Not the sort of thing you just... whipped out in front of a girl you'd only kissed twice. Of course, in the fire nation it wasn't really as big of a thing as it was in the water tribe of the earth kingdom. The fire nation was filled with people who had both passion and drive. A tryst wasn't uncommon amongst people of lower birth. Even those of the upper caste were known to do it, just not be... open about it, mainly because it was usually with someone from the lower caste.

Still, arranged marriages were uncommon... unless of course you were royalty. Then it was somewhat expected... the exception of course being failures to the Fire Nation like Zuko was. It had shown his father's lack of faith in him that he had never been considered for an arranged marriage. Ozai had never expected anything from him at all other than... Katara's hands snapped him out of his line of thought as he felt them start to go higher, and he swallowed a little as he desperately searched his mind for something to say. Her mentioning of his scar certainly doused some water on the flames, but not nearly enough to negate her hands still traveling higher. He felt ashamed a little that she noticed, but how could she not? he was practically a freak...

"No... it doesn't... it just looks ugly." he said with a soft laugh, trying to make a joke out of it as her hands raised higher still. What once had felt breezy and loose down below was now stiflingly tight. Zuko tried to come up to say that didn't involve the words tight, hard, iron, wood, or straining, but those seemed to be the only things that were floating around in his head. When he looked down his eyes widened just slightly in horror before looking into her blue eyes, trying to capture their gaze on his own, rather than have them trail down to look lower. She would literally have to be blind not to see it in the glow of her healing light right about now, and he had no idea what he was going to say when she did.

Just focus on the scar, how difficult it was to live with, that would take the romance out of the situation, and keep Katara's mind away from what she was only a few inches away from.

"Sometimes it's just... hard."

... FUCK.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Tue Jun 12, 2012 12:43 am

“You don’t have to apologize. It… happens to a lot of people…” Katara said, not really wanting to remind him she was a bloodbender, especially because she’d used that dark art against him. At least he hadn’t used… his ability to superheat a person’s body against her. Then again, she wasn’t sure that anyone could really control that enough to make it not painful whereas she knew for a fact that it just felt weird unless the bloodbender wanted it to hurt.

She continued to heal him, and he explained that they would need to be more careful. Yes, that was very true, and Katara agreed with him. She didn’t know how many more times she could go through battles like that before she was defeated. If they kept sending the best, eventually, they would wear down the party. “Do you think one of the soldiers escaped that night you saved my group?” She asked. It didn’t even occur to her that the men may have learned who she was from the other rebel group, the group that had her brother with them. She hadn’t exactly been at her peak mentally after being chained like an animal and starved of food or water during that time. Just because her bending had been at its most powerful, it didn’t mean some people couldn’t get loose and flee.

Ba Sing Se… They had only a few more days until they were there. It was a relief. She would finally get to do what she’d been assigned to do of all of the people in the Northern Water Tribe. They knew it would be dangerous, but they’d sent a woman to do it, a woman who had done a hell of a job convincing even them to change their stubborn ways when she’d only been a girl. Katara wanted so badly to show Chief Arnook and the entire Water Tribe that they’d made the right choice, that she could do some good, and that she wasn’t just the headstrong peasant who was trying to move beyond her station.

She’d never been to the Earth Kingdom Capitol in her lifetime, and she was both nervous and excited to see it. What would it be like? Would it be as big as the rumors said? Would the Earth King be kind and understanding like the Chief of the Northern Tribe or would he be stern and sour like Master Pakku had been before he’d married her Gran Gran? Well, Master Pakku was still stern, but he wasn’t as sour anymore; Gran Gran saw to that.

Katara didn’t feel like she could ask him about that right now, though. Even while she was concentrating on what she was doing, she was having difficulty keeping focused due to both her exhaustion and the fact that every second that outline she’d noticed earlier became clearer and larger.

In the Southern Water Tribe, people weren’t prudes. That was more of a Northern tradition. Maybe because sex was meant to be such a beautiful union between two people, talking about it wasn’t as taboo despite how covered up they had to be to keep out the cold. As a healer, Katara had seen men naked in the past, and it wasn’t a shameful or embarrassing thing. However, this felt… different. She’d never kissed those men, never felt their bodies pressing into hers in a way that was so intoxicating and maybe even a little frightening in its intensity and the way it made her feel despite her hardly knowing him. However, she wasn’t sure if he just reacted this way to any woman or if it was her, so she tried to think of something else to say, to ignore how tight his underclothes seemed to have gotten.

Her hands moved over a particularly nasty laceration on his upper left thigh, the healing process taking longer with more energy expended to guide his where it needed to go. Her eyes looked to his face, and she asked about his scar. A shadow seemed to pass over his face in the glow of the healing water when she mentioned it, but his features recovered, and his response – marked by a soft laugh – had her frowning. The mirth sounded forced, and with that, his words told her more than he’d likely intended.

His scar marked him, it was clear, and he hadn’t always been marked so obviously. He was ashamed of his scar, and it made him self-conscious. Did he think that no one could see passed it, that they were all shallow and vapid? Her eyes moved away from his face and back to the wound. Did he think his scar was ugly because he remembered how he had once looked or because people had insured he felt that way because they did? Would he think the large burn scar along her leg and back were so hideous if he ever saw it? She didn’t ask, not wanting to make him overly self-conscious.

His muscles seemed to tense, and with her energy attempting to align his properly along his qi pathways, there was no way she couldn’t notice it. She looked up, into his eyes, eyes that seemed to bore into hers, wanting her gaze to stay there. There was almost a hint of fear in them, but it seemed to soften as he spoke next. “Sometimes it’s just… hard.”

At that, her sapphire gaze wavered, flickering from his eyes to his… discomfort for only a split second before resuming contact with his golden stare. She swallowed hard, her cheeks flaming almost as hotly as his. She knew what he’d been trying to say; he’d been discussing his scar, but it was like there was a giant, purple elephant mandrill in the tent that they were both trying desperately to ignore. Still, with the way their discussion was headed, she couldn’t exactly flee from the tent right now. This last wound was too deep for her to just leave until tomorrow, and if she left now, he may count it as another mark against his appearance. Katara wasn’t going to sleep with him or anything, but she was going to heal this wound as well as she felt was safe for this night.

“I’m sorry it’s been difficult for you.” Katara didn’t mention that she actually knew exactly how he’d gotten the scar. Lu Ten had sworn Sokka and the waterbender to secrecy, and she wasn’t about to cause Zuko any more grief than he already had in his life. He would tell her if and/or when he was ready to do so. Until then, she would feign ignorance on the subject. She let the water drip away from her hand, allowing the shadows to resume their dominance. The Southern Tribeswoman took his hand and gently squeezed it.

In the darkness, she could just make out the planes of his face and the deeper shadow of his scar, but she couldn’t make out any facial expressions, so she knew he couldn’t make out hers, either. She hadn’t meant to do anything more than prevent infection and maybe ease his pain, but she’d heard from the women of her former tribe that men could end up in some pain if they became… excited without release. Hidden by the shadows, the idea of possibly helping him to alleviate his discomfort didn’t seem so terrible. She didn’t have to have sex with him, either, according to the women of her tribe; Katara could just… touch him.

Her free hand lifted slightly in the darkness, her hand shaking as her blood rushed through her veins, quickening her pulse. The waterbender hesitated only a moment. What if she was terrible at it? What if he was repulsed by her and impatient with her inexperience? Sex was supposed to be a mutual adventure in which both discovered together what was good and what didn’t quite work. Did she really want to start experimenting with someone like that, someone who she hardly knew, and someone with whom she probably had no future anyway? He was technically a Fire Nation Prince after all, and if his father fell, he would likely marry a Fire Nation woman of high birth, and she didn’t want to be that girl from a long time ago with whom he’d played around.

Katara’s fingers clenched into a fist, and she withdrew her hand. She couldn’t do it. Hadn’t Zuko said earlier that they should conserve their energy so they could get up early when he’d thought she’d come into his tent for sex? True, it was before she’d… inadvertently caused his arousal, but he’d been rejecting her all the same. He hadn’t kissed her because he’d wanted to that night, either, as she now reminded herself. He’d kissed her to convince those men that Zuko and Katara hadn’t seen them. While he had been extremely convincing in his “young lovers” act, even going so far as to convince her, that’s all it had been: a show, nothing more.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Misery on Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:12 pm

"No, it doesn't." Zuko said plainly. "I saw the way the foot soldiers looked at me after what I did to Mongke... That isn't the look of people seeing something that just happens to people..." he said, realizing a little too late that Katara probably just meant losing their head. "I shouldn't have done that, the last time I did, I nearly lost my right hand because of it..." and scarred Azula's left for life, he reflected calmly. "If it weren't for the Avatar having been there to heal me, I probably still would have..." he muttered, not really thinking about the fact that Katara could easily connect the dots between himself and the Avatar and Zuko at that point, and divine where he would have been at the time. He was overly tired at this point, and not really thinking things through the way that he should have been. In all honesty he felt half dead, even after Katara's healing. He knew about it, as did some Fire Benders. A wound could be healed, but the exhaustion was still there, healing itself didn't add energy, just soothed injury and pain.

When she asked if one of the soldiers escaped the night that he had rescued her group, his eyes met hers for a moment. "Yeah..." Zuko lied without batting an eyelash at her, then looked down. "We don't even know that they didn't have scouts that weren't even with the group that might have seen us and not gotten involved in the conflict." Zuko said softly. Of course, how said soldiers would have tracked Zuko's party given that they had both gone back to the rebel camp afterwards and then split in different directions... that was a harder thing to swallow. Zuko wasn't about to crush Katara's idea though. Right now she wasn't being a realist about it, but dashing her idea of things with the cold hard truth wouldn't do anything. Even if they turned around and went back now, the men they had sent were either alive or beyond their reach.

Was it just that he wanted to motivate her though? Zuko blinked a little as he realized that he liked it when she smiled. Another rush of tingling set him to close his eyes though and scatter such thoughts from his mind. It was a bit hard to concentrate with her doing what it was that she was doing at this exact particular moment. And to make it worse everything that she did seemed to make it seem... harder. Zuko closed his eyes lightly as he tried desperately to think about something other than the way that her fingertips felt against his skin, the way that she smelled, how it'd felt kissing her. True, it wasn't like he was a prude, he'd kissed other girls before, even considered bedding them, but it didn't feel right, because of Mai, and because it was just that... just bedding them. He didn't care about them, he just wanted to be... normal. And somehow doing it for that reason would be too close to what he watched Jet do time and again.

Zuko blinked a little as he watched her eyes go down slowly to... well, she probably wasn't looking at that. In the darkness it was hard to tell where her eyes were focusing on and, given the proximity of where it was that she was working, she was likely just looking down to see what the hell she was doing. The last thing that Zuko wanted to do right now was to bring up his... well, it wasn't exactly a little problem anymore. He was certain that conversation would likely end with a slap and Katara storming out of the tent angry at him. What was he supposed to say? 'Surprise, that's not a prickle snake down there, I'm just happy to see you!' Zuko wanted to groan at it, as even when he thought it in his head he could hear Lu Ten saying it and not himself. He was never good in these situations, he never knew exactly what to say... he just knew that somehow he was going to stick his foot in his mouth here one of these times and Katara was likely never going to let him live it down no matter what he did.

It was probably his thoughts on that which lead him to do just that. And there it was... well, what he'd known that he would say sooner or later. Zuko half closed his eyes and braced for the slap on the cheek that he was sure was coming when he saw her blue eyes glance down again... at the same spot! She'd been looking at...? Zuko felt his cheeks burn even brighter, and was glad there were no flames around to awkwardly react to how the Water Bender was making him well, feel. He had rolled his eyes when he'd gotten ribbed about being bewitched before... but why did he suddenly feel all... nervous about all of this? Why was it that he was feeling like his mouth was dry and he didn't have anything to say. Putting his fingers to the bridge of his nose Zuko grumbled a little and groaned. "That's not.... what I meant... but... thanks for noticing..." he said, making a point to point out the fact that he'd seen her looking. Of course, that didn't really do anything to make things easier for either one of them at this point...

When Katara changed the subject to his scar it was almost a relief... almost.

"Yeah..." he mumbled a little as she told him that it was hard for him with his scar. Difficult didn't quite begin to cut it. Hard was learning to do an inverted pushup with your uncle putting weight on your feet trying to push you down. Living with his scar was... god awful. Everyone in the Fire Nation knew who he was by his scar, everyone could tell that he was the banished prince, that his Father hated him, and every time Zuko looked into the mirror he saw both a half of himself that could have been, beautiful, desirable, something that the women of the Fire Nation might have swooned at as he passed, and instead saw the horror that he was. Something that was the butt of jokes, the laughing stock of women everywhere. A disgrace, a weak failure that had once had a privileged life, everything at his fingertips including a quarter of the world for the taking, and had let it slip through because he was too weak.

More than that though, he saw his father's hatred for him, as ugly as the flesh that had singed there and far deeper than any scar could be. He knew that if his father ever found him, ever saw him after what he'd done to his sister now, there would be no hesitation. When he had done everything his father ever wanted of him, everything his father asked of him, he was still worthless to the man. Now that he had betrayed the Fire Nation, crippled his sister, he was little better than a traitor to the Fire Lord, a trophy to be paraded about after he was dead, left to rot in the street the way that Mai had been so that everyone in the kingdom could see that no one was above the wrath of the Fire Lord, not even a former Prince. He would be made an example of, and there were still nights when Zuko woke up shaking with fear having dreamnt of being in that agni kai ring yet again, shuddering as the phantom pains of fire burning his skin filled him.

A gentle squeeze of her hand reminded him then that she was there, and he looked up into her eyes and it all seemed easier, farther away. And suddenly the fact that he'd been blushing a moment before suddenly became apparent to him all over again. Zuko didn't take his hand away from hers, but he didn't know what she wanted him to do back. He had never really been close to anyone... his mother had been forced to leave him so young that human contact almost felt... foreign. Mai had robbed him of some of his nervousness, only to destroy him so deeply that it all came back again. He probably should make an excuse then to just... leave the situation, thank her for her healing and tell her that she could go.

And then as his eyes adjusted to the darkness he could see her fingertips there, starting to move out towards... Zuko saw where her eyes were again and swallowed lightly, only to watch her stop, pull back, start to seem to turn away. It was infuriating! What did she want him to do? He could just throw her to his bedroll and claim her, but he half expected that it would wind up with him getting a face full of water again or being blood bent or worse, and despite his threats he couldn't really hate her for defending herself in that situation. But what was he supposed to do... just...

"Why do you DO that?" Zuko said, gritting his teeth a little and grabbed her hand and before she could stop him put it where she'd been looking at, his golden eyes practically gleaming in the darkness as he forced her to touch him, his brow furrowing in half anger and half frustration over it. "If you see something you want you just... have to reach out... and take it..." he murmered at her, feeling his heart start to thud in his chest as he realized the hypocrisy of his words.

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Re: Avatar: The Cycle's End...

Post by Kathryn Lacey on Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:42 am

Katara’s cheeks became fiercely enflamed when he noticed her looking at his crotch. Her jaw clenched, and she had some sort of awkward apology ready to come from her lips, but she found the words choking in her throat. Her skin felt overheated, and was it just her, or had the air itself become warmer since she’d first gotten into the tent?

In an attempt to change the subject, she showed concern for the difficulties he must face with his scar. She had her own, of course. Women in the Northern Tribe didn’t fight, so they didn’t have scars like hers. If she ever got married, a man would be in a nasty shock when he saw her for the first time on their marriage pelts. Scars on men were somewhat normal in the North and not quite repulsive, but women were expected – especially healers – to be blemish-free, to take fantastic care of their skin. While her unscarred skin was great due to this seaweed lotion she’d learned to make, it was that large section covering her upper thigh and extending onto her back that she could never change.

Scars weren’t a big deal to a woman who had grown up in a place where pretty much any adult had at least one burn scar, male or female, so scars didn’t bother her. They were just sort of… there. However, having lived in the North Pole, some insecurity had managed to seep into her mind, no matter how hard she tried to banish it from her thoughts.

Looking at Zuko, she didn’t think his scar did anything to detract from his appearance. In a way, it made him unique, but he was still attractive. He had a strong bone structure with a firm jaw and high cheekbones, and his eyes were both golden like the sun. His skin was fairer than most people she’d known, having only ever lived in the Water Tribes, but it still seemed to have a bit of a glow from being outdoors, and his body was strong and muscular. Katara thought a woman would have to be crazy to see his scar and be repulsed. It didn’t actually look bad so much as it looked like acquiring it had been painful, and it just didn’t look… normal. Who cared about normal? There was a war going on, after all, one that had spanned over a century. What was even considered normal these days?

Upon completion of the healing process, at least for the time being, she squeezed his hand and readied herself to go. However, she paused, worrying about what may happen when she left him. Would he hurt? This was sort of her fault in a way. It wasn’t her fault that she was helping to ease his injuries, but she hadn’t exactly done anything to stop him from becoming aroused. Katara began to reach for him, considering the possibility before withdrawing her hand and gripping her opposite arm with it, making her choice.

The waterbender released his hand from hers and began to turn away, the words forming on her lips that she needed to go, to get some sleep, but they died on her lips when she felt him grip her wrist. As he jerked her toward him, she struggled to keep her balance, her right hand falling to the bedroll to the left of the arm that gripped her while he forced her right hand against him. Her dark curls spilled over her right shoulder, and his face was just inches from hers. Breathing seemed to become more difficult, the heat nearly unbearable, and her heart hammered so quickly beneath her breast she feared it may try to tear its way right through her chest.

Katara felt a disturbing mixture of fear and excitement well inside her when he began to growl his words at her. He’d already proven to her earlier that day that he was physically stronger than her. Right now, she’d placed herself into a predicament where if he wanted to, he could force himself on her right now, and she would never be able to stop him. Would his men if they heard her crying for help, or did their loyalty only extend to their leader and not to her at all? The real question was whether she would try to stop him if he tried or if she would just go with it. The waterbender was near enough that all she would have to do would be to lean down, to kiss his lips, to take what she wanted just like he’d said she should.

No… She couldn’t do that. She wasn’t just some woman who slept around with others which was why she couldn’t do this now, even if her body was currently screaming at her to stay. “I- No. I just- I wasn’t…” She didn’t seem able to form proper sentences. What had she even been trying to tell him?

She began to lean forward a little, and she felt her fingers start to gently curl around him, seemingly of their own volition, but she came back to herself, to her purpose which was not to share a bed with someone she hardly knew. Leaning back, she spoke. “I’m sorry. I can’t. I’ve never… I don’t know how…” Her chest was rising and falling with her breaths coming so quickly and erratically that she was still having trouble speaking, to find the right words. “I’m sorry. I think we’re both tired. We should save our energy… try to get some rest if we want to get up early tomorrow.” Did she seriously just use his lame excuse from earlier? While it was true that she was exhausted, her limbs didn’t seem to be shaking due to weariness.

Katara pulled her wrist from his grip and quickly left his tent, taking a moment to slow her breathing before she actually walked away from it in case someone saw her on her way back to her sleeping roll. What was wrong with her? Had she seriously just considered having sex with Zuko? She didn’t even really know him, right? For at least half the time she’d known him, he’d glared at her or just sort of ignored her. For the other part, he had seemed… nice, but still… that really wasn’t a good enough reason to sleep with a guy. Spirits help her… What was she going to do if she couldn’t control her own body’s reactions to being near Zuko? What was she going to do during this entire trip? Could she even face him after… deserting him like that? Would he be angry with her? Had she just destroyed any respect she may have earned from him? He probably thought she was just a tease who screwed with guys all of the time. Katara put her burning face in her hands, still remembering how it had felt to touch him, to be so close to him.

The waterbender felt like an idiot.

Katara was shaken awake by a strong hand, and she opened her eyes, alert and tense, ready to fight if she had to do so, but it was only Gui. She sat up, feeling a little dizzy. From the shadows, she suspected it was early morning, and she had probably gotten a total of four hours of sleep, if that. The waterbender clenched her knees for a moment until the vertigo passed. The others were packing up their things, so she rolled up her sleeping back and attached it to her already completed pack.

She spied Zuko, his back to her, taking down his tent. Blood rushed to her cheeks at the memory that she silently wished had only been a stupid dream, but the way he stood was tense, and when she moved one way, it almost seemed like he moved to make sure that he wouldn’t have to look at her. Her stomach clenched painfully. So she had ruined whatever feelings of respect she’d earned from him. Why did Katara have to have reacted so stupidly last night. On one hand, she felt like she’d made the proper decision in not sleeping with him or doing anything else, but on the other hand, she shouldn’t have reached for him at all when she’d been considering it. Zuko had seen her, and that’s why he’d made his own move. She was such an idiot…

Her hand moved to her side as a sharp pain dug its way into her. She hadn’t healed herself last night because what energy she’d had was put toward healing the others. Now, she had a little more despite still being tired, and she needed to work on herself before starting with the others.

Jet left his tent and looked to be about to start taking it down when she approached him. That dead look from last night seemed to have left his eyes, but if she looked closely, she could almost see it still lurking there. “Can I use your tent for a minute?” She asked. She really didn’t want to ask him at all, but with Zuko clearly trying his hardest to avoid looking at her, she really couldn’t have asked him.

A smirk passed over his lips. “Sure. Are you going to give me a little one-on-one healing session, too, Katara? I’m sure Zuko loved the one you gave him last night. I’m sure it was really… soothing.” Katara’s face became flushed, and her jaw clenched. Jet’s voice had been loud enough to carry to the others, and she hated that he’d been around to hear. She hadn’t done anything with Zuko, but anything she said would just make this so much worse.

“I meant without you.” She shoved him aside and entered his tent. It was empty of anything and anyone. Hesitating only a moment, worried that he would walk in on her, she untied her dress and pulled it aside, wrapping water around her hands and applying it to the wounds that had been caused by the arrows when they’d pierced two of her skins. Because they were already scabbed over, they were a little more challenging, but it helped that they weren’t very deep wounds. Even the one on her leg wasn’t that bad. However, the blood that stained her robe and her boots would be a bigger challenge to remove, and she didn’t think she’d be able to get to it before Ba Sing Se. Thankfully, she at least had another robe she could wear when she met the Earth King, but her boot would still have the arrow hole in it.

After she rewrapped herself and tied her top shut, she took a moment to straighten her hair, to make sure her bun was tight. Katara told herself it wasn’t because she wanted to look good for anyone. The other men were sporting their own scruffiness, and even Zuko had a shadow along his jaw though it was hard to tell with his head perpetually turned away from her.

Katara left Jet’s tent, and he went ahead and took it down, but she helped. He had let her use it after all, and it would already be packed if not for her. Even if she was still pissed at him for what he’d said moments ago, he was still a part of the team, and he had saved her from that bomb and from getting kidnapped for “interrogation” purposes by those men simply by taking their lives. It didn’t seem quite that simple, but she wasn’t going to ask him about the recognition she’d noted in him last night when he’d seen them. The waterbender found that emptiness in his eyes extremely disturbing, and his sarcasm and misogyny were a lot easier with which to cope in her opinion.

After she helped with his tent, she began going around to each of the men, healing them the rest of the way. Because Jet was the closest, she started with him, with the gash on his face. It didn’t take as long now that she’d had at least a little sleep though her entire body felt sore. However, when she tried to pull her hand away, he gripped her wrist, ignoring the water dripping onto his shirt. Her brows furrowed in anger, but he only leaned forward toward her ear so no one else could hear his words. “I heard you two last night, so I know nothing happened, but I read people really well. I know you’re only after him because he’s the leader of the group, but after last night’s episode, he probably won’t be leading for much longer. Just know that I can be very gentle, and I actually know what I’m doing. You wouldn’t regret it.” His fingers moved through her hair, but she jerked her wrist free shoved his hand away from her.

“I don’t want anything from you, Jet.” She hissed, stalking away toward the earthbenders and when done with them, she healed the rest of Ping’s wounds. Then she moved onto Zuko. He still had some scrapes that she could finish healing on his upper body, and there was that gash on his upper thigh, but she really wasn’t sure what he would do about her healing that considering what had happened the night before. He had on a fresh set of clothing that didn’t have any shredding or holes. He must have brought it with him much like the others had all brought a second set of clothing.

Katara moved to his side, but he wouldn’t turn his face toward her. “You still have some wounds from last night. You should let me finish healing them.” Her voice was soft when she spoke.

“I think you did enough last night.” He muttered the words, softly enough that no one else would hear them, but she got the message, and it stung. For a split second, the hurt passed into her eyes, but she quickly covered it with a passive look.

“Okay.” She said quietly, turning away from him and walking off. They left camp shortly after that.

Kathryn Lacey
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