Korra is discovered by the Order of the White Lotus at the age of four, and finds her life inexorably changed.Warnings:
Nothing particularly objectionable so far, apart from a rather uncomfortable failure of empathy on the part of the Order. Future chapters will focus heavily on seriously problematic (non-romantic) power dynamics and the psychological consequences of the same, though the K+ rating still ought to suffice.Obvious Disclaimer:
I don't own Legend of Korra; Nickelodeon does.Feedback/Reviews?:
Yes, please! Tumblr Link:
In case anyone wants to read it on there instead, here's the story on Tumblr.
“I’m the Avatar, and you gotta deal with it!”
Korra jumped through the stone wall as she’d practiced for the last few days, shooting fire, throwing rocks, and slinging water to prove to the men and women in blue and white clothing that she really was the girl they were looking for. Mom had suggested earlier that she ought to impress the strangers who had just shown up. Dad had told her to “knock ‘em dead.” Korra really didn’t want to disappoint either of them.
The three who had shown up, unfortunately, didn’t look all too impressed by Korra. They looked shocked and maybe a bit worried, but their faces certainly didn’t light up proudly like Mom and Dad’s did when she showed them new bending tricks. Once Korra’s demonstration was over and they’d stopped backing away from her, they looked down at her with stern expressions that made Korra feel like she’d somehow done something wrong.
“I suppose that display is sufficient to call our search to an end,” said a pudgy man of Water Tribe descent who Korra assumed to be the leader of the group. He glared down at the smoke that rose from his cloak where Korra’s firebending had set it alight. “She clearly needs to begin training as soon as possible.”
Korra looked up at him and pouted. She hated it when grown-ups talked about her like she wasn’t there, particularly grown-ups who looked at her like some sort of over-sized polar rat.
“I’m right over here!” she said as she crossed her arms over her chest and tried to make herself more noticeable.
“I’m well aware of that,” the man told her, then immediately turned back to Korra’s parents. “Perhaps we should take this conversation into another room.”
“But she’s –” Senna said. She looked over at Korra, her face creasing with worry.
“A child. I know,” said the tall woman who stood to the right of the group’s leader. “Which is why we should speak elsewhere.”
Senna looked at the ground momentarily before walking over to Korra and catching her in a hug. “Don’t worry, sweetie, it won’t be long.”
Tonraq knelt down besides Korra and patted her on the head. “We’ll take care of these White Lotus guys for you. It’ll only be a minute.”
Korra pouted again as her parents walked off, laying down on her stomach in the middle of the polar leopard rug on the floor and crossing her arms in front of her face. Mom and Dad had said those Lotus guys were coming to see her,
but all they wanted to do was talk to them.
She decided she didn’t like them very much, and hoped they would just go away after they were done talking to her parents.
A few minutes later, when it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen, she picked herself back up off the floor. She wasn’t supposed to go in the other room, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t listen. She moved over to the door and pressed her ear up against it in hopes that she could hear what was going on.
Moments later, she caught the sound of Tonraq’s voice raised in anger. “Absolutely not. Korra is our daughter, and we’re perfectly capable of protecting her here, in her own village.”
Another male voice responded, most likely the taller man from the White Lotus who hadn’t spoken earlier. He didn’t seem angry, but there was a patronizing tone to his voice that Korra didn’t like. “I believe you have the best intentions and, under normal circumstances, would be entirely capable of protecting your daughter by yourselves.” Korra thought she heard a scuffling sound like a chair moving in the other room and she imagined her father had risen from his chair to give the man a piece of his mind.
The man paused for a moment before continuing. “Your daughter, unfortunately, is the Avatar, and as she is already capable of bending three elements, her status will quickly become impossible to hide. Avatar Aang was no stranger to assassination threats, even during peacetime, and as an untrained child, your daughter would be a perfect target for those who wish to remove the Avatar from the world. Failing to place your daughter under the Order’s protection needlessly endangers both the world and your daughter herself.”
“Can’t the Order provide guards for her here?” Senna asked, a hint of desperation in her voice. “Korra’s our daughter. She has friends in this village. Even if she’s the Avatar, she’s still a child.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s too big of a risk,” the Order’s leader said. “This village is too large to defend properly. A compound will be constructed nearby for the Avatar’s training and protection, and she will be moved there as soon as it is completed.”
“Then can we stay in the compound, too?” Senna’s voice raised, nearly pleading. “We won’t get in the Order’s way, and Korra needs us.”
“The Avatar’s life must be free of distractions,” the other woman said evenly. “You will be allowed several visits per week, but the Avatar herself must be raised by the Order.”
Tonraq’s voice lowered dangerously. “How can you expect us to agree to this?”
“Your daughter is the Avatar. We have been tasked with protecting her by Avatar Aang himself. Your personal desire to retain custody of your daughter cannot take priority over the needs of the world,” the Order’s leader said, still frustratingly calm. “Besides, legally speaking, your daughter and Avatar Aang are considered to be one and the same. The Order does not require your consent to train her.”
Korra sat backwards hard and stopped listening, her heart pounding in her chest. She wasn’t quite sure what that guy was saying half the time, but she’d caught enough. Those Order people wanted to take her away from Mom and Dad.They can’t do that,
she thought. There’s no way Mom and Dad will let them do that. There’s no way I’ll ever go with them!
* * *
Several weeks passed before Korra heard from the Order of the White Lotus again. They’d left the house the last time without saying much to her besides “farewell, young Avatar” and thanking her parents for their understanding. Korra herself didn’t think Mom and Dad looked all too understanding. They just looked like they’d given up.
On the Order’s second visit, they explained that they had just completed the training compound for the Avatar and insisted that Korra return to it with them that same night.
“I’m not going with them,” Korra said with a pout, her arms crossed. “They’re bad people. I don’t like them.”
Senna knelt down and wrapped her arms around Korra as if she were afraid she’d disappear if she let go. Korra thought her mom might have been crying earlier. “I know, Korra,” she said, not quite able hide the shaking in her voice. “But they’re not bad people. They want to protect you, and they can teach you more bending than Dad and I can.” She sounded like she was trying to convince herself as much as Korra, robbing her words of whatever comfort they were intended to provide.
“I’m not going,” Korra repeated stubbornly. “I’m the Avatar. I can protect myself.” She aimed a glare at the people from the White Lotus that might have been impressive if she wasn’t four years old.
“Mom and I will go with you,” Tonraq said, placing his hand on Korra’s shoulder to comfort her. “Who knows, you might even like it there. They’re going to train you to be the Avatar.”
“They can train me to be the Avatar?” Korra repeated, her eyes widening as she considered that. Korra didn’t like the White Lotus, but she liked being the Avatar.
“Yes they can, sweetie,” Senna said, doing her best to sound reassuring. “They’ll make sure you become the best Avatar the world’s ever seen. Everything’s going to be okay.” She hugged Korra even tighter.
“Do I have to go?” Korra asked, squirming in her mother’s arms. Avatar training or not, she thought, she’d rather not leave, especially when Mom and Dad looked so sad about letting her go.
“We really do need to be on our way,” the White Lotus leader told her parents in reply. “It will be dark soon, and your guards for the trip are waiting for you on the outskirts of town.”
Senna released her hold on Korra, accepting that it was time to leave. Korra crossed her arms and pouted again. “I’m not going. Make them go away!”
* * *
No matter how many times Korra said she wasn’t going, it turned out, she couldn’t do much to stop it. Even with bending, a four-year-old wasn’t much of a match for fully-trained adults, and whatever the Order had told her parents had managed to convince them to support their efforts to take her to the compound no matter how obvious it was that it upset them.
Korra finally gave up her half-hearted attempts to slow everyone down by dragging her feet in the snow when Tonraq offered to carry her on his shoulders. Before the White Lotus came, she always loved doing that, since it made her feel like she was on top of the world. Now, all it could do was keep her from bursting into angry tears at the unfairness of it all.
“Good. We’ll get there faster this way,” Grand Lotus Ataneq said. He’d only introduced himself to Korra minutes earlier, after she’d insisted that Mom would never let her leave with someone she didn’t know.
Korra gave him the sort of glare that would have set his beard on fire if firebending worked that way. Tonraq seemed to have recognized his daughter’s annoyance, because he drew her in closer to himself and whispered, “You know, I bet you know enough waterbending to throw snowballs from all the way up here.”
She caught on immediately, motioned as if she were picking up and throwing a snowball, and mean old Ataneq found himself brushing snow off of the back of his head. Korra’s pout turned into a smirk, and she threw one at each of the other White Lotus members.
“Your daughter really needs to learn some discipline,” Ataneq said as he turned his head backwards towards Korra’s parents, frustration evident in his voice.
Senna glanced at Tonraq as if asking a question and Tonraq nodded. Korra could feel her father trying to restrain his own amusement.
“With all due respect,” Senna said, “Korra’s only four years old, and she doesn’t normally act this way. I can’t imagine what might have set her off.”
The Grand Lotus turned back around with a “Hmph,” and said no more. Korra moved to pick up another snowball, but this time Tonraq stopped her.
“Once is enough, champ,” he said, and she dropped her arm with a pout. “We’re almost out of the village, anyway.”
Moments later, the three high-ranking Order of the White Lotus members traded positions with a detachment of identically-attired guards. “We’ll take care of you from here,” one of them aid.
The remainder of the journey was uneventful. Korra couldn’t bring herself to care all too much about any of the guards, who remained silent unless spoken to, and the snowbanks and hills all started to blend into each other before long.
Once Korra started to yawn, Tonraq moved her to a more comfortable carrying position, and she fell asleep within minutes.
« Last Edit: Jan 11, 2013 01:14 am by Ikkin »
(Continued due to post length limitations)
“We have arrived,” the White Lotus guard at the front of the group announced.
Korra awoke to find herself outside of the tallest walls of ice she’d ever seen. She stared with amazement as the massive gates in front of her opened, the misery of the night before all but forgotten. The compound itself reminded her of nothing so much as the stories her parents told her about the castles of the Earth King and the Fire Lord, from the enormous stone and wood building set right in front of a mountain to the watchtowers set on either side of the gates.
Even more exciting were the various configurations of ropes that were hung in various places in the middle of the compound, offering dozens of possibilities for an active child like Korra to have fun.
“I want to go play on that,” she said, pointing to a set of gates with a rope net hung between them.
Not yet, Korra,” Senna replied. “We should get settled in first.”
Korra crossed her arms, sat on the ground, and pouted. She hated waiting, especially when she didn’t know how long it would take.
Just at that moment, Grand Lotus Ataneq emerged from a nearby building, reminding Korra suddenly of every bad memory she had about the first time the Order had shown up. As Senna and Tonraq bowed in greeting, Korra scrambled to her feet and hid behind her parents, clutching onto Senna’s leg tightly. “Not him
again. I don’t like him. Make him go away.”
“That’s not a very nice thing to say, Korra,” Senna said, more out of habit than anything else. Korra suspected that her mom didn’t like the Grand Lotus very much either.
not nice!” Korra retorted, peeking out from around Senna’s leg to glare at the man in question. “He won’t even talk to me!”
“Actually, I was just about to introduce you to your new waterbending teacher,” Ataneq said, doing his best to avoid sounding frustrated at Korra’s outburst.
“But Mom and Dad teach me waterbending. I don’t want to learn from some mean old guy like you!” Korra could easily imagine the sort of teacher the Order of the White Lotus would have chosen for her, and she didn’t like it at all.
“Korra, you can’t…” Senna started, but then cut herself off. Korra had been through so much already that she couldn’t bring herself to discipline her.
“Don’t worry,” the man said, “Master Katara’s no mean old man, and she’s the most skilled waterbending master in the world.”
This caught Korra’s attention. “Master Katara?” she asked, her eyes twinkling excitedly. She’d heard all about Master Katara from the stories her parents had told her about the last Avatar, and now she was going to be her new teacher… Maybe the Order of the White Lotus wasn’t that bad after all. “Wasn’t she Aang’s teacher?”
“Yes, I was, Korra,” Master Katara said as she stepped through the doorway of a nearby building and walked down the stairs. “And now I’ll be your teacher, too.” She bowed politely and gave a bright smile that made Korra forget everything that she’d been annoyed and angry about. Being around Katara just felt right,
as if she’d known her for an entire lifetime.
Within seconds, Korra let go of her hold on Senna’s leg and ran right over to Katara, an expectant look on her face. “Can we start right now?” Master Katara was an amazing waterbender, and Korra couldn’t wait to see for herself what someone like could do.
“It’s not quite time for that yet, unfortunately,” Katara said. “Wouldn’t you like to see your new home first?” Korra really would have preferred waterbending training, but she felt no inclination to try to convince her otherwise. It couldn’t have been more clear that Master Katara cared about her, and wouldn’t have kept her waiting if she didn’t have to.
“I guess…” she said, trying her hardest to hide her disappointment and not succeeding particularly well. Master Katara took it in stride, though, and nodded to Grand Lotus Ataneq to let him know that everyone was ready.
* * *
“And this is our infirmary,” Ataneq said, clearly intending to show off every inch of the facilities to impress the Avatar’s parents. “We have a trained healer on call constantly, and Master Katara herself is the most skilled healer in the world, so your daughter will be in good hands.”
Senna and Tonraq looked at each other, clearly concerned. “Do you think she’s likely to be hurt?” Senna asked softly.
“Not necessarily,” the man said, “but it’s always best to be prepared for training accidents when children are being taught to use bending.”
Korra really was getting sick of this tour thing. Most of the buildings being shown didn’t have anything to do with her – infirmaries, equipment garages, and barracks for the Order of the White Lotus guards – and her “guide” seemed intent on pretending she didn’t exist and directing his attention towards her parents at all times. She turned to Katara and asked, “Isn’t there anything else I can do? This is boring!”
At that, Katara got a mischievous look in her eye that Korra rarely saw on any adult other than her father. “I could probably find a guard willing to take you up one of the watchtowers, if you want,” she said in a conspiratorial whisper.
Korra instantly perked up at the suggestion. “You can?” she asked excitedly.
“Of course I can. I had a lot of practice sneaking around in my time.”
It wasn’t hard to leave without being spotted. Since everyone was safely inside the compound, the only member of the White Lotus who was concerned with the group was the Grand Lotus himself, and he was still too busy expounding the virtues of the compound that had been built for the Avatar to notice Korra and her teacher sneak off.
The White Lotus guards themselves, fortunately, saw little point in hindering the two, and one guard even offered to take Korra up the tower himself. Katara thanked him, mentioning that she’d love to go up as well but she just wasn’t as young as she used to be, and sent Korra up one of the two watchtowers next to the gate with him.
“It’s nice to meet you, Avatar Korra,” the guard said, giving her a slight bow even as he walked. “My name is Howl.”
“That’s a weird name,” Korra said bluntly. She’d never heard of anyone called “Howl” before. It sounded like the kind of noise a dog would make.
“Actually, it’s a nickname,” Howl admitted, rubbing a hand against the back of his helmet sheepishly.
“What’s that?” Korra asked.
“Don’t your parents have a special name for you?”
Korra thought for a minute. “Mom calls me ‘sweetie’ and Dad calls me ‘champ…’ It’s kind of annoying.”
“Well, it’s something like that.”
“Oh,” Korra said, and the pair fell silent as they reached the top of the tower. Korra immediately ran over to the side and looked around in amazement. She was so high up that she felt like she could see the whole world.
“Is that where I’m going to stay?” she asked, pointing at the largest building in sight, the castle-like structure of wood and stone that was set in front of a mountain at the back of the compound.
“Yeah, it is,” Howl said eagerly. “You see that tower in the middle with the blue lanterns hanging around it? You’re staying right up there, in the highest room of the tallest tower, almost like a princess.”
“I don’t want to be a princess!” Korra whined, sticking her tongue out childishly. “I’m the Avatar! I can take care of myself!”
Howl looked surprised for a moment, then smiled. “I can see that. But we really should get going, before Grand Lotus Ataneq finds out you’re up here.”
* * *
Moving in was a fairly simple experience, because Korra hadn’t really taken all too much with her when she left for the compound. Her family had led a fairly traditional life, which meant she had only a few possessions to begin with, and the Order of the White Lotus had suggested rather strongly that she’d be better off leaving those behind anyway. She really didn’t have much to take outside of clothes and a few furs to use as extra blankets, wall hangings, and floor coverings.
She spent much of the rest of the day amusing herself on the ropes outside and trying rather unsuccessfully to draw Master Katara away from the White Lotus leader to ask for bending demonstrations.
Before long, however, night fell, and it was time for her to get some rest. As exhausted as she was after the long day, she waited until she could drag her parents upstairs with her before considering sleep. Her room was nice and decorated in such a way as to feel as much like home as possible, but it was still unfamiliar and empty, and Korra didn’t think she could fall asleep by herself there.
“You’re staying, right?” she asked her parents. “I don’t want you to leave.”
“We are, sweetie,” Senna said, wrapping her arms around her daughter comfortingly. “They’re not going to make us leave tonight.”
“We’d never leave you alone on your first night in a new place, Korra,” Tonraq said, enclosing his entire family in a group hug. “Even the White Lotus can’t make us do that.”
Korra’s bed was comfortable and large enough for a full-sized adult, but it certainly wouldn’t fit three people. Instead, Tonraq took the blankets and the extra furs they’d taken with them and laid them out on the floor, as if they were camping out.
At four years old, Korra was still in the habit of sleeping in her parents’ room, so the arrangement made her feel more like she was back at home instead of in some strange room she’d never been in before. She quickly curled up in between Senna and Tonraq, comforted by her parents’ warmth, and quickly fell asleep.
My goal with this story is to create a backstory for Korra consistent with her issues as displayed in the show.
The details of Korra’s life with the Order are pretty ambiguous in the show itself, but it’s not all that hard to come to the conclusion that the Water Tribe guy with the beard is both in charge of Korra’s arrangements and not particularly fond of her, hence Grand Lotus Ataneq.
As for the Order’s manipulativeness… there has to be some reason why Korra’s parents would allow her to be taken so young. This is only the tip of the iceberg, unfortunately.
I like what you're going for here. Your writing style draws me in to korra's pov quite well. I imagine writing from a four years old girls pov is tricky. It might help if you were one at one point, but it's a fine line between between making her behave too young (risk of her coming off as annoying or even mentally impaired) and too old (too big words, social concepts a child that age really wouldn't concern herself with yet). Korra presented herself as quite a bit ahead of her age in the show, and I imagine her stay with the OWL makes her have to grow up fast, but in a conflicting, sheltered way. Quite a challenge.
So far, you're doing fine ^_^ keep it up and I might add it to my headcanon
Also, points for your correct spelling and grammar
sig by me.
keeper of: the Screaming bird's horrible shreak; The Bendig Mark.
Adjusting to the harsh and unforgiving rules created by the Order of the White Lotus is difficult for a child who has only ever known life with a warm and loving family. Korra and Katara grow closer as the four-year-old Avatar is forced to cope with unwanted change.Warnings:
Callousness and emotional neglectfulness towards a young child. Future chapters will focus more heavily on seriously problematic power dynamics and the psychological consequences of the same.Tumblr Link:
In case anyone wants to read it on there instead, here's this chapter on Tumblr.
————————————————————————————————————————Chapter 1 - Child of Change
Korra’s first night of sleep in the compound passed rather uneventfully. Outside of a particularly odd dream in which she and Master Katara went to fight the Fire Lord only to find that he looked exactly like Grand Lotus Ataneq, she slept well, and before she knew it, she awoke to the sound of her mother’s voice.
“Wake up, Korra,” Senna said, patting her lightly on the shoulder.
“Don’t want to,” Korra murmured unintelligibly as she tried to snuggle back under the fur covers. “The morning is evil.” Tonraq shifted slightly, but said nothing. Apparently, he was still asleep, which Korra thought was entirely unfair.
“But Korra,” Senna said, “Master Katara wants to see you for waterbending practice. You were looking forward to that, weren’t you?”
That caught her attention. “Really?” Korra said, kicking the covers off and bolting upright. “I can’t miss that!” She made an attempt to bolt for the door, but Senna caught her by the shoulder before she could get too far.
“Now, Korra, I know you’re excited, but you still need to get ready. You can’t go off to train in the cold all day before getting something warm to eat, and you need to sit still for a minute and let me do your hair. It’s a mess!”
“Mo-om,” Korra whined, but she sat down in front of her mother anyway. She kept her arms crossed over her chest and pouted as Senna fixed her wolf-tail. “Do you have to?”
“Of course I do, sweetie. That’s what moms are for.”
* * *
A half-hour later, Korra finally managed to convince Senna that she really was ready this time, I promise,
and sprinted all the way to the compound’s courtyard, where Katara stood waiting for her. She rested her hands on her knees and tried to catch her breath.
“Do you need a minute, Korra?” Katara asked, smiling kindly.
“No, I’ll be fine,” Korra said between gasps. “I wanna start now.”
“Okay, then,” Katara said. “Why don’t you show me what you know, to start.”
“Just give me a second.” Korra took a few deep breaths before standing up straight, taking a bending stance, and grinning. “Watch this!” With a sweep of her arm, she picked some of the snow up off the ground and turned it into liquid water. She immediately formed it into a globe and held between her hands momentarily before throwing it at a leg of a nearby guard tower. After finishing, she let her hands fall to her side and looked at Katara expectantly.
“Very good, Korra.” Master Katara smiled at her proudly. “You’re a natural at waterbending, just like Aang was.”
“Did he figure out how to waterbend by himself, too?” Korra asked, her eyes glittering enthusiastically. There were few things she loved to hear about more than Aang, so being compared to him made her feel as happy as she’d ever been.
Katara shook her head. “Not quite. He couldn’t waterbend until I showed him how, but it didn’t take long for him to copy everything I’d taught myself. I actually found it kind of frustrating,” she admitted with a laugh. “Once we finally found a master, though, I practiced a lot more than he did, so I ended up being his teacher. After that, I was always the best waterbender.” She winked at Korra, then drew a much larger globe of water from the snow into her hands and threw it at the watchtower, using the correct traditional form. The guard in the tower peeked out over the side to see what was causing the commotion, then sighed as he realized what was happening.
“I want to be the best waterbender too!” Korra said, doing her best to copy the movements she’d seen Master Katara make.
Katara smiled. “That’s exactly why I’m here,” she said. “So, then, what can you tell me about waterbending?”
Korra thought for a moment, wanting to impress Katara. “Waterbending is strongest at night during the full moon. The moon is what gives us power,” she said proudly.
“Very good,” Katara said. “And how do you bend water?”
Korra paused. “Um, I just tell the water what to do and it does it.”
“Hm,” Katara said, frowning slightly. “That doesn’t sound quite right. Don’t you feel the push and pull of energy and let the water flow through you?”
“No, I just make it do what I want,” Korra said, crossing her arms defensively.
Katara’s eyes widened in surprise. “In that case, it might be best if we focus on the basics,” she said. “Let me show you a drill that will help you understand what you’re doing a bit better.” She picked up a globe of water again and placed it between Korra’s hands. A little bit of the water splashed out before Korra stabilized it.
“What’s this for?” Korra asked.
“When I give the signal, I want you to throw this at me, and I’ll show you what you need to do,” Katara said, moving back a few steps and taking a stance. “Okay, I’m ready.”
Korra threw the globe of water at her master as hard as she could. Katara received the attack gracefully and reversed the water back towards Korra in one smooth motion. The water would have flown past Korra harmlessly, but she caught it in midair almost by instinct and threw it right back at Katara. Not quite prepared for such a direct attack from the four-year-old Avatar, the waterbending master blinked in surprise as she found herself dripping wet.
She quickly bent all of the water off herself and back into a globe. “Korra, you need to learn to move with your opponent’s energy,” she said. “Did you do that?”
“No,” Korra admitted, “but it worked, didn’t it? The way I did it is easier!”
“Try it again, then,” Katara said, passing the globe of water to Korra again. This time, Korra decided to try pushing it back towards Katara earlier, trying to catch her teacher off-guard. Instead of scoring another hit, however, she found herself easily overpowered as Katara fought back, and she wound up soaked and shivering, though otherwise unharmed.
Katara bent the water off of her immediately. “See, Korra? It’s only easier if you’re stronger than your opponent. You can’t always rely on that.”
“But I’m the Avatar!” Korra said, pouting.
“You may be the Avatar, but you’re still four years old. You’re not going to be able to overpower a waterbending master.” Katara paused as Korra pouted and looked away, then continued. “Of course, if you do what I did, power isn’t all that important. Do you want to try it again?”
“I guess,” Korra said reluctantly, taking the stance she’d seen Katara take. This time, when Katara passed the water to her, she copied the movements she’d seen her master make and passed it back to her.
“Think fast!” Katara said as she redirected the water back around, and Korra quickly followed suit. “Very good, Korra,” Katara said, passing the globe of water back to Korra, who reversed its motion in turn. “You learn quickly.” The pair quickly turned the movements into a pattern and they continued the drill until Korra was thoroughly exhausted.
As lunch was rapidly approaching, Katara decided against having Korra try any new techniques until later. “Now, Korra, would you like to see what advanced waterbending looks like?”
“Of course!” Korra said, grinning.
“This is called the octopus form,” Katara explained as she brought up eight tentacles of water around her.
* * *
“Mom, Dad, you’ll never guess what Katara taught me! She showed me this awesome attack that looks like an octopus!”
Neither of Korra’s parents looked as excited as Korra felt, but Senna tried her best to smile anyway. “It’s great to see you’re happy here, Korra,” she said, not quite convincingly.
“What’s wrong?” Korra asked, her face falling immediately. If Mom and Dad were sad, something bad must have happened while she was training.
“We can only stay until you finish lunch,” Tonraq explained. “The Order of the White Lotus doesn’t want us to stay any longer.”
“But you can’t leave!” Korra cried out, feeling as if her stomach had just dropped down to her toes. “I don’t want to be here alone!” Mom and Dad were always around. They couldn’t just leave!
“I don’t want to leave either, sweetie,” Senna said, her voice threatening to crack, “We’ll make sure to come back every day for either lunch or dinner, though, so you’ll still get to see us.”
“That’s not fair.” Korra crossed her arms on the table, pressed her chin into her wrists and pouted.
“I know, sweetie. If there was any way we could stay, we would, but you’re the Avatar now, and you need to learn to be the best Avatar you can be.”
“You sound just like that old Order guy!” Korra clenched her fists until they hurt, trying her hardest not to cry. Senna and Tonraq clearly weren’t happy about leaving. Why were they trying to convince her everything was going to be okay? “Tell them you’re not going! I don’t want to be alone with them! I can be the Avatar without them! I hate them!”
“You shouldn’t hate anyone, Korra,” Senna said shakily, holding her daughter close to comfort her. “Things are just a bit complicated right now.”
“I hate complicated.”
* * *
Separating Korra from her parents turned out to be a much larger ordeal than the Order of the White Lotus could have possibly planned for. As soon as Grand Lotus Ataneq announced that lunch was over, she grabbed onto Senna’s leg, insisting between loud sobs that she needed her Mom and wouldn’t ever let her go. She screamed and yelled at anyone who got too close, set Ataneq’s beard and several White Lotus guards’ cloaks on fire with bursts of temper-driven firebending, cracked the stone floor in several places, and threw water and lychee juice from pitchers on each table at random, soaking everything nearby, including her own parents.
Even offering to let her parents stay for the rest of the day did nothing to calm her. “I don’t care!” she yelled. “You’re just going to make them leave when I go to sleep! They do whatever you tell them to anyway!”
Finally, Katara managed to make her way through the confusion and caught hold of Korra’s hand. It felt incredibly familiar somehow, and Korra was so surprised that she stopped right where she was.
“Come on, Korra,” Katara said. “I know you’re upset, and I know how hard this is… but I’ll always be here for you, no matter what.”
Korra wasn’t really sure why this was so reassuring. She’d only known Katara for one day, and yet she couldn’t help but accept her promise immediately, like she’d done it dozens of times before. She let go of her mother’s leg and squeezed Katara’s hand forcefully, wiping the tears from her cheeks with her free hand.
“You’re really coming back?” Korra asked her parents shakily. “You promise?”
“Of course, champ,” Tonraq said, kneeling down and putting his hand on Korra’s shoulder. “We’ll make sure to be back for dinner tomorrow. We wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“We both love you so much, Korra,” Senna said, hugging her daughter tightly. “Train hard for us, okay, sweetie?”
Korra’s fury might have worn itself out, but Senna and Tonraq weren’t ready to go either, and made sure their goodbyes stretched out as long as possible. Finally, Katara suggested that she knew just the thing to cheer Korra up and offered to teach her how to bend ice, and Korra agreed that she might actually enjoy that. Waterbending was soft and fluid, but ice was hard and sharp, and that seemed perfect given the state of her mind at the moment.
Even so, her limited ability to accept the situation gave out as soon as Katara had finished her demonstration.
“Why would the Order tell Mom and Dad they can’t stay?” she asked with a pout, angrily throwing a chunk of ice at the target Katara had set up. “It’s not fair!”
Katara’s expression fell. “The Order is very traditional, and doesn’t know much about children,” she said. “You’re the Avatar to them, and they think the Avatar needs to think about the whole world instead of getting too close to people.”
Korra wasn’t sure what that meant, but she didn’t like it. “That’s stupid.” She threw another chunk of ice at the target, imagining it was Grand Lotus Ataneq’s face. It hit dead center.
“That’s what I told them,” Katara said with a sigh. “Not that they ever listen to me. Aang loved his friends more than anything and he was a great Avatar, but the Order can’t seem to understand that.”
“Will you be my friend then?” Korra looked up at Katara sadly. “I don’t think I’m going to see any of my other friends anymore.”
“Of course I will, Korra.” Katara tried to smile for her student, but she couldn’t quite hide the deep sadness written into the lines of her face. “Now let’s try that last ice form one more time.”
Without hesitation, Korra picked up some snow from the ground, transformed it into ice in midair and chucked it as hard as she could at the target. This time, the ice struck deep and remained lodged in the very center. That’ll serve old Ataneq right,
“Very good. You really are a natural at this.”
Korra wondered whether Katara would be mad if she knew what she was thinking, and quickly decided that she didn’t really care. It made her feel better, and that was all that mattered.
* * *
By the time she had finished dinner, this time with only Katara by her side, Korra was far more exhausted than she’d ever been in her whole life. She’d always been particularly active, but nothing she’d done had prepared her for an entire day of intense training, and she wanted nothing more than to crash in a nice, comfortable bed right alongside her parents.
As soon as she reached her room, she remembered that her parents weren’t going to come for her. She almost cried again, then stopped herself, not wanting to seem like too
much of a baby. It’s not like it would do much good anyway,
she thought miserably, crawling under her covers and wishing she had anything to hold onto. She’d just have to get used to sleeping like this anyway. Somehow.
It quickly became apparent that, no matter how exhausted she was, she was never going to get any sleep the way she was. The wind howled outside her window, the floorboards creaked noisily, and she imagined orange-eyed spirits under her bed waiting for her to fall asleep to drag her down through cracks in the floor whenever she closed her eyes.“I’ll always be here for you, no matter what,”
Katara had said. Maybe she would let Korra stay with her until she was more used to her new home.
Korra pulled her boots on and left her room as quietly as she could, only to run into a guard standing right outside her door. She glared up at him, annoyed by the fact that her escape had been cut off only to find Howl smiling down at her.
“Oh, hey, you’re still awake?” he asked.
“I can’t fall asleep,” she admitted. “Where’s Katara’s room? I want to stay with her.”
“I’m not sure you’re allowed –” Howl started, not sounding entirely convinced about those orders himself.
“I want to see Katara!” Korra insisted, crossing her arms and pouting. “You were nice to me before!” she said accusingly.
Howl looked a bit taken aback at that and looked away, apparently feeling guilty about what he’d intended to do. “Okay, I’ll take you to see her. She has her own house, though, so you’ll need your coat.”
“Thanks!” Korra called over her shoulder as she darted into her room to grab her coat. Before long, they were on their way to Katara. Howl looked around nervously every once in a while to make sure that they didn’t run into any guards who would be less easily convinced to help an unhappy four-year-old, but they both managed to reach the igloo right near the door of the main building without any problems.
“Master Katara?” Korra called, knocking on the door as loudly as she could with her tiny gloved fists. After a moment, Howl gave the door a second, louder knock, and Katara opened it.
“Korra?” Katara asked, looking surprised. “I thought you were sleeping. Is something wrong?”
“I can’t fall asleep,” Korra said, grabbing hold of Katara. “Can I stay with you?”
“Of course,” Katara said with a smile. “I’d never make you stay by yourself if you’re having trouble sleeping.”
“Do you think I should stand guard outside?” Howl asked, seeming rather unsure about what he should do now that Korra was in the hands of someone entirely capable of protecting her on her own.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of her,” Katara said. “If you want, you can pretend she snuck out the window so you don’t get in trouble.”
Howl gave a short bow and left. Katara showed Korra to her room and they both quickly fell asleep, the old master’s presence easily chasing away the fears that had plagued Korra when she’d been left on her own.
« Last Edit: Nov 21, 2012 01:54 am by Ikkin »
(Continued due to post length limitations)
“It’s time to get up, Korra,” Katara said, gently placing a hand on the younger waterbender’s shoulder.
Korra rolled over and covered her face with her arms, doing everything she could to ignore the wake-up call. “I just wanna sleep. I hate mornings,” she said, the pillows muffling most of the sound.
Katara was persistent, however. “You don’t hate tiger seal stew, do you? There’s nothing like waking up to a nice warm meal before a long day of training.”
“You have tiger seal stew?” Korra sat up in bed, suddenly interested. Her last few meals had been less than satisfying, as the Order of the White Lotus wasn’t exactly big on traditional Water Tribe food. “I thought the Order was supposed to feed us.” Her tone of voice made her distaste for the Order’s food clear.
“I know how difficult it is to adjust to a new place, and I thought some nice familiar food might help make it feel more like home.” Katara smiled half-heartedly as she helped Korra out of bed and showed her to the kitchen.
A few seconds passed before Korra spoke. “I miss home.”
“That’s only natural. It will take some time to get used to living here.” As she spoke, Katara ladled out some stew into a pair of bowls, then placed them both on a small table in the middle of the floor.
“I miss Mom and Dad.” Korra sat down next to the table and pulled her knees in towards her chest with her arms, making herself as small as possible.
“Don’t worry, Korra. They’re both coming back to see you at dinner, remember?” She put Korra’s bowl in front of her and motioned for her to eat.
“I want to see them now.” Korra pushed her bowl away, not really hungry.
“I know, Korra. You’ve always had your parents with you, so this is a big change. It can’t be easy for you.”
Korra’s only response was to draw even further into herself. Master Katara was right, of course, but she wasn’t sure how that was supposed to make her feel any better.
Katara put one hand on Korra’s shoulder and picked up her bowl with the other, offering it to her one more time. “I just want you to know that I’ll always be here for you,” she said. “And you should probably eat, even if you’re not hungry. It really helps keep the cold away.”
Korra shifted to a more natural kneeling position and started playing with her stew, taking a tentative sip. It warmed her from the inside and tasted delicious, just like when her mother made it, and that thought somehow made her homesickness even worse. She put the bowl back down on the table, turned around, and grabbed onto Katara as if she were afraid she’d disappear. “Promise they’re not going to take you away too.”
“I promise, Korra. I’m your waterbending master. They won’t take me away. I’ll never leave you alone.”
“You’re the only one, then.” Korra was on the verge of tears. “Mom and Dad can’t stay, and no one else even likes me.”
“That’s not true, Korra. You just haven’t gotten to know anyone else yet.”
“I don’t want to know anyone else.” Korra clenched her fists, trying not to cry. “They won’t let me see Mom and Dad. I don’t like them.”
“The Order’s decisions are frustrating, I admit, but not everyone agrees about keeping you isolated. You seem to have a friend in the guard, at least.”
Korra wasn’t sure what Katara meant at first, and then remembered how Howl helped her find Katara in the first place. “I guess,” she said, wiping the corners of her eyes with the back of her hands before picking her stew back up. “But I still want to see Mom and Dad.”
“And you will. But allowing yourself to get caught up in those thoughts won’t help anyone.”
Korra pouted, but quickly went back to her stew. Before Katara could say anything else, there was a knock on the door, and a White Lotus guard let himself in. Korra tried to look and see if it was Howl, only to realize that it was someone she didn’t recognize.
“Master Katara,” the guard said formally, “Grand Lotus Ataneq would like to see you.” As soon as he finished speaking, the man in question appeared through the doorway in person.
Korra looked between the guard and the Grand Lotus in confusion. “But she’s supposed to teach me waterbending!” she cried out, growing more and more desperate as her words failed to have the desired effect. “You said she’d help me be the Avatar! You can’t take her away!”
“Avatar Korra,” Ataneq said, “you are to begin your practice on your own, immediately.”
The atmosphere in the room suddenly turned chilly. Korra slammed her almost-empty bowl down, a few drops of stew flying out and staining the front of her shirt. “I can’t practice if Master Katara isn’t there! She’s my teacher!”
The Grand Lotus sighed in frustration. “For now, just practice what she taught you yesterday. I’m sure the Avatar can manage that, right?” Katara shot him a dirty look, but he remained entirely nonplussed.
“Okay, fine,” Korra snapped as she realized her teacher wasn’t going to convince him to let her stay. She stomped out of the room without looking back, but Katara caught up to her just as she reached the door. She pulled Korra’s outer coat over her and reminded her to keep warm, but Korra was too angry to thank her, her imagination offering the image of Ataneq with his cloak on fire. That would serve him right, she thought. He can’t take Katara away from me like this. I won’t let him.
And suddenly, Korra thought twice about storming off and breaking the targets to pieces with her waterbending. She didn’t have to let him take Katara away, if she was sneaky enough. All she needed to do was keep her distance and hide from her guard in the snow, and she’d be able to run back and see what the Grand Lotus wanted with Katara.
It was surprisingly easy for Korra to hide from the Order’s sight. The only guard who knew where she was supposed to be, it seemed, was the guard who had appeared at the door before Ataneq arrived, who had taken it upon himself to escort her to the courtyard to make sure she started training like she was supposed to. He walked in front of her, however, which gave her plenty of time to hide herself in the snow with her waterbending before either of them had gotten too far away from the house, and it took a few moments after that for him to realize that he couldn’t see her anymore.
Korra held back a laugh as he looked around for her, shocked that he’d managed to lose the Avatar so quickly. As she’d expected, he quickly returned back to Katara’s igloo to see if she’d tried to sneak back inside while his back was turned. A few minutes later, he came back outside, apparently having decided that he’d looked thoroughly enough that she had to be outside. He looked around desperately even as he passed her, and Korra quickly made her way back inside just as he called out to the other guards to help him find her.
She crawled on the floor, trying to remain as silent as she could until she could find a good place to hide and listen to her master talk to the Grand Lotus. They were both sitting at the table where she’d left them, so she couldn’t go in the kitchen, but they seemed far too involved in their conversation to pay much attention to her, so she settled in amongst the coats near the door and tried to make herself as invisible as possible.
“You must stop allowing the Avatar to grow so close to you,” Ataneq said, doing his best to sound composed even as he seemed angrier than Korra had ever heard him. “Her attachment to you will interfere with her duties to the world.”
“Really?” Katara asked sarcastically. “My attachment to the last Avatar certainly didn’t cause any serious problems, and I was married to him. Aang himself never would have wanted this for Korra.”
“Avatar Aang was a great man, but even he admitted to having difficulty in putting the needs of the world first whenever his friends were involved. His successor would be better off without such concerns.” It took every bit of restraint in Korra’s four-year-old body to keep from screaming out that he was wrong. Around the corner in the kitchen, Katara seemed to be having the same difficulty.
“I don’t know who you think you are, but the Order was never meant to make such decisions.” The packed snow that formed the bricks of the igloo rattled menacingly as Katara grew more and more upset, and a layer of frost grew over the walls from where she stood. “Aang charged you with protecting her while she mastered the elements, not raising her into some sort of perfect Avatar!”
“The Order was charged with protecting the Avatar however we saw fit.” Ataneq’s voice was infuriatingly patronizing. “She will be far safer without these sorts of distractions.”
“I can’t imagine Aang would have given you that much power,” Katara said, her voice low. “I have access to his last request to the Order and can easily have it reviewed, if that’s what it will take to put a stop to this.”
Ataneq paused for a good half of a minute, considering his options before speaking. “Be my guest,” he said finally. “Just remember, you are not the only waterbending master capable of training the Avatar.”
Korra wanted nothing more than to jump around the corner and freeze the Grand Lotus’ mouth closed, but she couldn’t let herself be seen. Katara looked to be on the verge of physical violence herself, and she took a moment to compose herself before continuing, the threat still implicit in her voice. “If I can’t treat Korra well, I might as well not even be here. And you know as well as I do that if I’m forced to leave, I have every reason in the world to put an end to all of this.”
Ataneq looked taken aback at this, and it took him a few seconds to respond. “In that case, I suppose we can grant you some leeway in your treatment of the young Avatar.”
“And her parents?” Katara asked, trying to press her advantage.
“Are lucky that we’re allowing them to visit her every day. She’s too dependent on them.”
Katara scoffed incredulously. “She’s a four year old girl!”
“She’s the Avatar,” Ataneq said, walking towards the door. “And you would do well to remember that, Master Katara,” he finished, turning to look over his shoulder before leaving. Korra tried to hide herself better as he grabbed his coat from the rack right above her head, but he didn’t notice the little girl hidden in the furs on the floor.
Katara herself remained in the room, deep in thought. She wasn’t looking at the door, which Korra took as a signal to leave. As soon as she got outside, she sprinted all the way to the area of the courtyard where the training targets had been set up. Hopefully, Katara would think she’d just been practicing the whole time.
When her master appeared a minute later, however, dismissing a White Lotus guard just before reaching her, it became clear that she knew exactly where she’d been. “How much did you hear?” Katara asked, looking rather uncomfortable.
“All of it,” Korra admitted. If Katara knew she’d been spying anyway, there wasn’t really any reason to lie about how much she’d heard.
“I’m so sorry, Korra,” Katara said, surprising Korra. “I did everything I could.”
Korra wanted more than anything to say it wasn’t good enough, that she needed her parents and her home and to be anywhere but here, but she couldn’t bring herself to say that when Katara looked so defeated. Katara cared about her, she reassured herself. This was all mean old Ataneq’s fault. “Thanks,” Korra said dully. “At least I still have you.”
Katara pulled Korra into a tight hug, and Korra held on even tighter. They stayed like that for almost a minute before Katara let go, putting a hand on each of Korra’s shoulders. “Come on. I know it’s hard right now, but they’ll notice if we go without training for too long.”
Korra sniffled once, then said, “Okay,” pulled back away from her teacher, and took a waterbending stance. “Are we going to train with ice again?”
“Whatever you want to do, Korra,” Katara said with a sad smile.
Korra responded by throwing a spear of ice right into the center of the nearest target so hard that she almost knocked it over. That one was for trying to take Master Katara away, she thought angrily.
* * *
As desperate as she had been to see her parents earlier that day, eating dinner with them served only to make Korra more miserable. All she could think of was Ataneq telling Katara that they were lucky to even be allowed to visit, especially since the White Lotus guards nearby seemed to be breathing down her neck, looking for any opportunity to declare dinner over and separate her from Senna and Tonraq.
In response, she ate every bit of food she could stuff in her mouth and glared at the guards in defiance. With her mouth completely filled and her cheeks puffed out, she looked something like a jealous squirrelmunk guarding its cache of nuts.
“Korra, sweetie, you really ought to swallow your food before eating more,” Senna said, trying rather unsuccessfully to hide her amusement at her daughter’s antics.
“Don’t want to,” Korra said, barely intelligible through a mouthful of the seaweed rolls the Order of the White Lotus had provided as a way of making their Water Tribe guests seem at home.
“You don’t want to choke, do you?” Tonraq asked jokingly, trying to help raise the mood.
“Don’t care.” She tried to swallow a bit of the extra food to make it easier to talk, but it didn’t really help all that much.
Senna looked at Tonraq, clearly concerned for her daughter. “You shouldn’t say things like that, sweetie.”
Korra just looked down at her plate and tried to swallow again. She didn’t want Mom to be upset, but she didn’t want Mom to leave either. “I don’t want to,” she admitted, enough of the food gone to allow her to talk more freely, “but they might let you stay if I did.”
Tonraq put his hand on Korra’s shoulder to comfort her and tried to get her mind off of her situation one more time. “Or maybe they’d decide it was too dangerous to let you eat dinner.”
Unfortunately, Korra didn’t quite realize that he was only joking and nearly fell off her chair in horror, her eyes wide. “They can do that?”
“Not while we’re around, Korra,” Tonraq said, moving swiftly around the table and catching Korra in a massive hug to try to undo his mistake. Senna quickly followed suit, and Korra quickly found herself at the center of her parents’ undivided attention.
With everything that had happened before, however, Tonraq’s assurances didn’t really help matters. “But you’re not around. You leave when they tell you to.”
Neither of her parents had any sort of response to this except to hold her even tighter, and she thought she felt her mother’s warm tears landing on the fur collar of her coat.
Before the nearest White Lotus guard could interfere, Tonraq called over to Katara and asked her if she could help distract Korra before he and Senna were forced to leave, fearing a repeat of the temper tantrum from the previous day. With Katara around, Korra was far less inclined to make a mess of the dining hall. Instead, she held onto her as tightly as she could, trying to hide her tears in the older waterbender’s coat but not doing a particularly good job of it.
As Korra’s parents were escorted out of the dining hall by a White Lotus guard, she peered around to get one final look at them. The last she saw of her parents was Tonraq trying to comfort Senna, who looked as distraught as Korra felt. This only served to make her feel worse, and she buried her face in Katara’s coat again.
If the Order had their way, Korra would have been taken outside for one last practice before bedtime. Katara would have none of that, however, and insisted on taking Korra to her igloo immediately and letting her rest. She’d already had a hard enough day already without being forced into more unwanted training, and she was exhausted enough that when Katara set her down in her bed, she fell asleep almost immediately.
* * *
The rest of the week progressed in much the same way. When she was able to lose herself in training with Katara, Korra was quick and clever, if overly-aggressive and inclined towards imagining the faces of her White Lotus captors on her targets as she pummeled them with more force than was necessary. When faced with the imminent departure of her parents, however, her moods spiraled wildly between violent rage and sobbing fits, to the point that Grand Lotus Ataneq himself suggested that if meals with her parents caused that kind of behavior, the Order would have very little reason to allow the visits to continue.
This, of course, was entirely unhelpful. Katara spent half the afternoon trying to convince Korra that she’d never let anything like that happen, and that Ataneq really didn’t intend to do that to her, and even then, Korra only relented in her attempts to sit on the ground doing nothing for the rest of the day in protest because she couldn’t stand to sit still any longer. No matter what Katara said, that awful old man could make her parents go away for good, and that terrified her.
She closed her eyes momentarily, then whipped a stream of water towards her target, freezing it solid as it impacted. She imagined she’d frozen the Grand Lotus’ head solid, and snickered at the mental image. “How was that, Master Katara?” she asked.
“Very good, Korra,” Katara said with a smile. If she could tell what Korra was thinking, she certainly didn’t show it. “I believe you are ready for the assessment tomorrow.”
“A-ssess-ment?” Korra asked, confused. “What’s that?”
“The Order wants you to show off what you learned for them at the end of every week, to see how you’re doing in training.”
“I don’t want to show them anything.” Korra picked up more water and flung it haphazardly at the target. “They’re mean.”
“Korra, I know you don’t like the Order, but there’s no way around this. If they don’t see you learning enough, they’ll try to take more control of your training.” Katara sounded worried, which Korra found very disconcerting. Katara was supposed to be the one to keep the Order from doing stuff like that!
“I don’t want them to do that. I want them to leave me alone!” She crossed her arms over her chest and glared.
“In that case, it’s important that you impress them tomorrow.”
“Like that will help,” Korra said with a sigh, then glared down at the ground. “This isn’t fair.”
“No, it isn’t,” Katara agreed. “For now, though, it’s all we can do.”
A/N: I’ve always thought that allowing the Order to raise Korra in isolation seemed out of character for Katara, especially since she didn’t take much convincing to allow Korra to run away in the end. From that was born the idea of blackmail. At least in this telling, there’s something rotten in the Order of the White Lotus.
Korra’s tendency for violence also starts to make itself more apparent here. Her outbursts in the series itself often seem like the temper tantrums of an overgrown child, even when they’re deadly serious, so it would seem to make quite a bit of sense for them to have been around for quite a while.
Nice work, Ikkin, it is not usual to find a fanfiction (well)written with such in-character and realistic approach - I guess Brychael would like reading it!
« Last Edit: Nov 21, 2012 09:52 am by Molra »
"Some see a hopeless end, while others see an endless hope."
Excellent work with this so far, I'm really enjoying the Korra/Katara interactions.
I have to agree with the others, everyone is acting very in-character and your writing is easy to follow, it flows well.
Keep it up!
For a child used to getting what she wants through sheer force of personality, sudden and unexpected losses in agency are unbearably painful. For Korra, violence begins to seem like the only way to feel in control of her life.Warnings:
Capriciousness and inappropriately harsh criticism towards a young child. Focuses heavily on angry and violent thoughts and actions. Blood (non-graphic).Tumblr Link:
In case anyone wants to read it on there instead, here's this chapter on Tumblr.
Korra wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when she was told that the Order was going to assess her skills, but she tried her best to pretend that she knew what she was doing and hoped things would work out. She and Katara demonstrated the drill that Katara had taught her on her first day in the compound first before moving on to the waterbending forms that she’d learned in her first week. Grand Lotus Ataneq and the other two high-ranking members of the Order who had initially sought her out took notes and made comments to each other under their breath, but Korra couldn’t hear anything they said no matter how hard she tried.
Showing everything she’d learned in one week took less than half an hour from start to finish, since Katara had focused more on making sure she understood the forms that she learned rather than teaching her all too many things at once. After her final form sliced through the ice target she’d been aiming at, she bowed towards the three Order members sitting under the pagoda, thanked them all for their consideration, and turned to walk off before they realized how uncomfortable she found the whole ordeal.
“Avatar Korra, you are not finished yet,” Ataneq said before she’d taken a second step. “We wish to see one final test of your skills.”
Korra turned around slowly, grimacing. What could the Order want with her now?
“Master Katara, if you would help the Avatar into her sparring gear?”
Katara, who had been watching her student from the sidelines, pulled a set of child-sized training armor from a box that had been placed next to her while Korra was too busy showing off her waterbending and brought it over to her. “They’re going to want you to show your skills against a partner,” she explained as she pulled the chest-piece of the armor over Korra’s head. “It shouldn’t be that hard.”
“They’re going to have me fight someone?” Korra asked, half excited and half scared. She loved roughhousing with her dad, but she hadn’t learned anything about fighting in her first week of practice and had no idea what the Order expected of her. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wasn’t told until you’d already started your assessment.” Katara sighed, pulling the straps on Korra’s arm-pieces tight. “You’ll do fine, though. They’re probably not expecting much.”
Korra glared over at the Order members in the pagoda. She’d show them what they could expect from her.
As soon as Katara finished putting the armor on Korra, a man in similar training gear walked from the opposite side of the ring. Korra thought she recognized him as one of the White Lotus guards, but she didn’t really know him beyond that. “Good luck, young Avatar,” he said, bowing. Korra bowed back, trying not to look nervous as Katara walked back to her position at the sidelines. Once she was safely out of the ring, Ataneq motioned for the practice match to begin.
Korra might have found the idea of sparring initially appealing, but it became quickly apparent that the Order didn’t really want her to fight after all. Her partner had clearly been told to advance on Korra and use weak attacks that seemed to be nothing more than openings for Korra to counter with what she’d been taught.
Korra frowned in annoyance as she realized that she wasn’t going to get to do much besides stand in one place and demonstrate forms with a partner in place of a target, but did it anyway, channeling her frustration into her waterbending. The three members of the Order who were watching her said nothing, which was somewhat worrying, and she found herself stealing glances over at them every chance she had to see what was going on.
Finally, after she’d managed to show the desired response to several dozen attacks in a row, Ataneq called an end to the session. Korra bowed to her partner, and waited for the gathered Order members to tell her how she did.
“The Avatar certainly picks up physical forms quickly,” said the Grand Lotus, looking straight past Korra and speaking to Katara. Being ignored made hot anger bubble up within Korra, and she had half a mind to splash water in his face for that it. She quickly reminded herself that she couldn’t do that. Katara had warned her that, whatever else she did, she had to be on her best behavior during assessments, and Korra didn’t want to disappoint her.
“For only having trained for one week, her skills are sufficient,” the taller man who sat at Ataneq’s left hand said.
“She certainly seems to have a great deal of fighting spirit,” the woman sitting to the far right said.
“Unfortunately, she fails to properly understand the spirit of waterbending,” said the Grand Lotus. “She’s far too dependent on physical force. She clearly needs more practice.”
Korra brushed her gloves against the corners of her eyes, trying not to let the Order see her tears even though she felt like a complete failure. She’d tried as hard as she could to impress the Order, but they still didn’t think she was any good, and she didn’t know how to change that. Katara tried to defend her, insisting that it was absurd for a four year old to be expected to understand the true nature of bending after a single week of training, but it didn’t make her feel any better. She’d messed up. She just wasn’t good enough.
“Don’t worry,” her partner said, “I’m sure you’ll do better next time.”
Even though he was just trying to comfort her, though, it only made her angry. I don’t want to do better next time,
she thought. I want to do better now!
Just as her partner started to walk off, she made up her mind. “Hey,” she called over to the three Order members, trying to keep her voice steady, “I want to show you something!” She knew she wasn’t supposed to talk to them like that, but she really didn’t care.
“You do?” Ataneq said, his eyes narrowing in irritation at the Avatar’s lack of manners. “Go on, then.”
“Um, mister?” she said, running to catch up to her partner and tugging on his sleeve. “Can we fight again?” She bowed quickly before running back into the center of the ring.
“Sure thing, young Avatar,” he said, returning the bow. He threw a stream of water at her in slow motion to give her something to work with, and she redirected the attack back at him. Instead of letting the water splash harmlessly off of his padded armor like she was supposed to, though, she sprayed it right in his face before freezing his whole head in a block of ice.How’s that for next time?
she thought, letting her mouth form into a smirk.
The mood of every single adult in the vicinity froze over immediately. The three Order members looked on in shock as Korra’s training partner stumbled around, unable to move properly with his head covered in ice. Somehow, that just made the whole thing even more satisfying as far as Korra was concerned, even if Master Katara seemed rather disappointed about it.
“Thank you for your consideration,” she said, bowing half-heartedly and walking out of the ring without waiting to be excused.
* * *
“Korra, disobeying the Order right in front of them isn’t going to help anything.”
“I don’t care.” Korra sat on the ground pouting, her arms crossed over her chest. “They don’t like me anyway.”
“They’d like you more if you didn’t hurt people, Korra. All they want is for you to show them that you’re learning.”
Korra looked away, refusing to meet Katara’s eyes. “Nuh-uh,” she said. “They don’t think I’m a good Avatar. I’ve gotta show them that I am.” At the last bit, she fixed her teacher in a glare so fierce that Katara’s own eyes widened in surprise.
“Hurting other people isn’t the way to do that,” her teacher said, as patiently as possible.
Korra shook her head, wondering why Master Katara couldn’t understand. “It shows that I’m better,” she said forcefully.
Katara looked worried, but tried a different tack. “Waterbending isn’t about hurting people, Korra.”
That just reminded Korra of what the Order said, and she felt like she’d failed all over again. “Why not?” she asked miserably. “That’s all I’m good at.”
“That’s not true, Korra.” She put a hand on her student’s shoulder to try to comfort her, but she pushed it away. She paused for a second before continuing. “You know what? Maybe we should try the push-and-pull drill again. You’ll learn more by practice than by sitting around.”
Korra sighed, not really wanting to move, but stood up and took the proper stance anyway. “Okay, I’m ready.” She really didn’t feel ready, but bending usually made her feel better, and it wasn’t like there was anything else she could do.
* * *
By the time Korra faced her second weekly assessment, she had finally started to come to terms with the limited access she had to her parents. It still hurt when they had to leave, of course, but she no longer felt the need to lash out physically or sabotage her own enjoyment of the time they did have together, which was an improvement for everyone.
Unfortunately, this only managed to convince the Order that Korra no longer needed to see her parents every day, and a few days later, she found herself unexpectedly facing dinner with neither Senna nor Tonraq in sight.
The shock of the realization that they hadn’t come hit Korra harder than anything had since her initial separation from her parents. Senna and Tonraq were supposed to be there.
They’d promised they’d be there, and they weren’t, and it felt like her entire world had shattered all over again.
When a White Lotus guard came over to tell her dinner was over, she earthbent the floor to trip her and said in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t going anywhere until she saw her parents. Katara tried to help cool her down like she had on her second day in the compound, but she was completely inconsolable. After nearly setting the entire dining hall on fire, she wore herself out and collapsed onto the floor, clutching her knees to her chest and sobbing into the sleeves of her coat.
This display was somewhat successful in convincing the Order to put their plans to separate Korra from her parents on hold, but in the long run it did little to keep those plans from being enacted. Over the next few months, they cut out lunches and dinners with no prior warning until what had started as daily visits dwindled down to two visits per week.
Korra did her best to put it out of mind by training constantly and to the point of exhaustion. Her love of bending provided a certain degree of comfort, allowing her to focus entirely on memorizing physical forms and lose herself in waterbending drills with Katara so she wouldn’t have time to worry about whether or not she’d lose yet another visit that week. There was only so much she could take before her anger and frustration became too much to take, though, and the final unexpected reduction crossed that line.
“If this keeps happening, I won’t get to see them at all!” Furiously, Korra slashed across a target with a high-pressure waterbending form. It fell to the ground in two neat pieces.
“They’re not going to take away any more of your parents’ visits,” Katara reassured her. “The Order has always accepted that you would be able to see them several times a week.”
“But they’re only there for lunch anyway.” Korra pouted, wishing that Katara could do something to convince the Order to let her see them longer even though she knew she didn’t really have that power. “I don’t have time to show them anything.”
“Well, the New Moon Festival is next week. You’ll have the whole day off to see them then.” Katara smiled, knowing that would cheer her up.
Korra’s breath hitched in her throat, hardly able to believe it. “Are they going to let me go home for the week?” she asked hopefully.
“Not yet…” Katara said, her smile faltering, “but you’ll be able to go to the festival, and your parents will definitely be there. My brother Sokka will be there, too, as well as the rest of my family. I’m sure you’ll want to meet Bumi, Kya, and Tenzin.” Katara’s mood improved greatly when talking about her family, and Korra couldn’t help but share her enthusiasm for meeting them. Katara hadn’t mentioned them much, but they were all Aang’s family too, and Korra couldn’t help but feel some kind of special connection to them.
“Will the Order really let me go?” she asked, her eyes wide.
“They’ll want to send guards with you,” Katara said, “but yes, they’re planning on letting you go.”
Korra frowned at that. “I’m so sick of having guards follow me everywhere.”
“I know, but you’re…” Katara started.
“The Avatar, I know,” Korra finished. “I still don’t like them being around all the time… but at least I won’t be stuck here.”
“Well,” Katara said, her tone lighthearted, “if you don’t practice your waterbending, I might make you stay behind myself!” She winked, then moved into a waterbending stance. “Think fast!”
(Continued due to post length limitations)
Knowing that she was going to get to see her parents for a whole day made waiting another week nearly unbearable for Korra, but even so, she was still far more excited than she had been since the first time she met Katara. As soon as the day of the festival arrived and the White Lotus guards showed her to the festival grounds, she wasted no time whatsoever darting over to Senna and Tonraq and dragging them outside to show off everything she’d learned for them.
Korra grinned widely as she swept the snow from the ground around her as water, then smoothly transformed it into ice and launched it into a nearby snowbank. The impressed looks on her parents’ faces were worth more than anything. Apart from Katara, whose encouragement was such a constant that she almost took it for granted, no one at the compound had much to say about Korra’s skills other than criticism and suggestions for improvement.
Tonraq let Korra finish her routine, then walked over to her. “You’ve turned into quite the young Avatar, Korra.” He smiled as he mussed up her hair, and she feigned annoyance even as she laughed.
“But you’re still our little girl,” Senna added, putting her hand on Korra’s shoulder.
“Mo-om,” Korra said, resisting her mother’s babying more out of habit than actual annoyance. She’d never quite realized how much she could miss something like that.
The next few hours passed as if Korra’s time with the White Lotus was nothing but a bad dream. All of the months she’d spent away from them faded in her memory as she lost herself in the sights and sounds of the festival and her parents did everything they could to make her day as fun as possible. Senna bought Korra all kinds of tasty festival foods, from seal kebabs to seaweed noodles to some sort of sugary treat that might have been made from sea prunes. Tonraq won a massive polar bear dog plushie nearly half Korra’s size from a contest, and she carried it around in her arms happily, much to the amusement of everyone around.
Unfortunately, this sort of merriment was too good to last, and a severe-looking man who Korra vaguely remembered from last year’s festival at the North Pole appeared to talk to her father.
Before she knew it, she heard Senna say, “Your father and I need to talk to Uncle Unalaq, sweetie. Why don’t you go find some friends to play with for a little bit?”
Korra looked up at her, feeling almost betrayed, until Tonraq knelt down in front of her. He played with her hair again as he spoke. “It won’t be long, champ,” he said, “and then we’ll spend the rest of the festival together. I promise.”
That was enough to reassure her that she’d see them both again before the end of the day, so she quickly ran off. Howl, who had been talking to some waterbenders a few stalls away, headed her off. “Leaving without your guard?” he asked lightly.
“I don’t need a guard,” Korra insisted. Howl was probably the nicest to her of the guards, but it’d be awkward having him around if she was going to go talk to any of her friends.
“I know you don’t, but we’ve got to make the Order happy. Besides, there are a few benefits to having a guard.”
“Like what?” Korra asked, looking unconvinced.
“Guards tend to know what’s going on and can let you in on some secrets,” he said. “Did you know Councilman Sokka traveled all the way from Republic City for the festival? He should be telling stories about Avatar Aang’s part in the Hundred Years War right now.”
“Really?” Korra said, gasping in excitement. “Where?”
“Follow me,” Howl said with a smile, leading his charge through rows of stalls. It wasn’t long before the pair found the group of kids that was forming near the center of the festival grounds at the storytelling pavilion.
“Next up is my favorite story,” she heard a voice say as she reached the edges of the crowd and started to push her way through, pressing her plushie into Howl’s hands to make it easier to slip through the crowd before leaving him behind completely. “It took place during the Siege of the North, when I single-handedly saved the Northern Water Tribe.” As she drew within sight of the speaker, she saw that he was an older man with his grey hair up in a warrior’s wolf-tail, wearing traditional Water Tribe blues. He knelt on a large white fur on a raised platform, as was traditional for storytellers.
Katara stood right by his side. “Sokka…” she said, shaking her head and chuckling. Korra gasped in amazement. This man was Master Katara’s brother Sokka, who had helped Aang save the world from the Fire Nation. There was no way she was going to miss his story!
Sokka himself, however, had apparently decided it wasn’t worth it to take all the credit. “Okay, okay,” he admitted, “I helped.” He looked over to Katara, who was still shaking her head, bemused. “I was there.”
“Better,” Katara said. “Avatar Aang and Princess Yue were the ones who saved the Northern Water Tribe. We just made sure they were safe while they did it.”
“Hey, is this my story or not?” Sokka asked, feigning offense. “Get your own story!” Sokka glared petulantly at Katara, who only laughed. “Anyway, it all started when I fell in love with the moon…”
Korra hung on every word he said, listening with amazement. Sokka told of black snow falling from the sky that heralded the arrival of the Fire Nation fleet. He described the sky going red as the koi-shaped Moon Spirit was caught in a bag and the color draining out of the world after it died. He explained how, when waterbending had been extinguished and all seemed lost, Avatar Aang “glowed it up,” channeled the Ocean Spirit and was transformed into something Sokka called “Koizilla” that was so massive and powerful that it destroyed every last ship in the fleet. And he claimed, so earnestly that he almost seemed to be holding back tears even more than half a century later, that the woman who he loved, Princess Yue, had given her own life to restore the moon.
The whole thing sounded like some sort of bizarre fairy tale, but it still rang all too true, and Korra couldn’t get enough of it.
“You really kissed the moon?” she asked bluntly, after he’d finished.
“As a matter of fact, I did,” Sokka said proudly.
“That’s kind of weird,” she said suspiciously. “Do you have any more stories about Aang ‘glowing it up?’”
“Sorry kid,” Sokka said, clearly amused by her reaction. “Katara says I can’t spoil all of you too much.”
“But I want another Aang story!” Korra crossed her arms and pouted, not in much of a mood to wait.
“You’ll hear more at the festival next year, don’t worry,” Sokka said. “The Southern Tribe will be hosting again, so I’m sure I’ll see you there.”
The crowd quickly broke apart, and Korra was in the middle of making her way back towards Howl so he could take her to her parents when she overheard a few older boys talking a few feet away.
“Hey, it’s that Avatar girl,” one of them said. From his clothes, she guessed that he was from the Northern Water Tribe.
“Yeah, I’m the Avatar,” she said, turning towards him and putting her hands on her hips. “So?”
The boy looked rather shocked that she’d noticed him, but tried to pretend he was ignoring her. “My dad says it’s unlucky for a girl to be the Avatar,” he told his friends in a loud whisper. “Girls are supposed to be healers, not fighters.”
Korra gave him the sort of look that seemed like it could bore holes through him. “Well, I’m the Avatar, and he’s gotta deal with it!” she called out loudly, sticking out her tongue at his back.
That got his attention, and he rounded on her, trying to save face. “I bet you can barely even waterbend!” he said, towering over her. He must have been eight or nine, and a good head taller than Korra.
Korra glared up at him with the fiercest look that she could muster as she stepped back into one of the stances Master Katara had shown her. There was no way she’d let him get away with saying things like that about her! Before he realized what she was doing, she drew some snow off the roof of a nearby stall, then swiftly launched it at him, turning it into a spray of water and then shards of ice in midair. “Still think I can’t waterbend?” Korra mocked as he fell backwards in shock, landing in an ungainly heap on the snowy ground.
Her satisfaction at his misfortune quickly melted away as he clutched at his arm and cried out in pain, the arm of his coat and the glove he was using to cover it slowly staining red. “You’re no Avatar! You’re just a horrible bully!” he yelled. He turned to run for help, still holding his arm, and screamed out, “the Avatar tried to kill me!” to anyone who was listening.
Korra backed up, her eyes widening in shock. She had no idea what to do. All she knew is that she had hurt someone badly without meaning to, and she felt awful about it. “Uh… stop!” she called out desperately, terrified of what would happen if everyone thought she was trying to kill him. “I’ll get Master Katara! She’s a healer. She can help!” She turned to run back towards the storytelling pavilion, and ran right into Master Katara.
“Who can I help?” she asked, the serious tone of her voice making it entirely clear that she already knew what was going on.
Korra’s mind stopped in its tracks, and she ended up blurting out everything that happened all at once. “I threw some ice at a boy who said I couldn’t be the Avatar, and it cut him. He just ran that way.”
“Oh, Korra,” Katara said, sounding more disappointed than Korra had ever heard her sound before, “you need to control your temper. You can’t just bend ice at everyone who makes you mad.”
Korra glared down at the ground, thinking the whole situation was entirely unfair. She already felt bad enough on her own. She didn’t need Master Katara thinking she was bad too. “But he said I couldn’t be the Avatar,” she said defensively. “And I didn’t mean to hurt him.”
“Whether you meant it or not, you still hurt him badly. If you can’t keep your temper under control, it might be better if you go back to the compound.”
“But I won’t get to see anyone from the village for another year!” Korra said, more horrified by that than by what she’d done. “I can’t go back yet!”
“You hurt someone, Korra,” Katara explained, sounding somewhat exasperated at Korra’s lack of empathy. “That’s not something I can just ignore.” She drew some of the snow down from the roofs of the nearby stalls, and looked around for the boy who Korra had attacked. “Come on, Korra,” she said as her student sulked. “You should probably come with me and apologize.”
* * *
The consequences of Korra’s actions at the festival became clear the next day. First, the Order of the White Lotus had decided that, given how interested Korra was in hearing stories about Avatar Aang, it might be beneficial if some of her training time was reassigned to indoor study time in order to teach her how to read. As Grand Lotus Ataneq said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt for her to learn of her past lives in peace instead of spending all her time training outside.
Second, and more immediately important, Katara decided that Korra ought to be trained in healing before learning any more potentially-dangerous waterbending techniques.
For the first time ever, Korra was actually less unhappy about the Order’s request than she was with Katara’s. Spending time inside sounded boring, but she was usually too exhausted to train for the entire day anyway, and she was willing to put up with it if it meant she didn’t have to wait a whole year to find out more about Avatar Aang’s exploits.
Healing, on the other hand, was something she absolutely did not want to do. All she could think about was how that awful boy had said that girls were supposed to stick with healing. She was the Avatar, and Avatars were supposed to sink fleets of battleships and save entire nations, not waste time dealing with other people’s injuries.
She barely listened at all as Master Katara moved her hands over a human-shaped practice dummy and explained about how waterbenders could influence the flow of chi in the body and use that to promote healing in specific areas. The way the chi paths in the dummy lit up as her hands moved over it was sort of neat, Korra thought, but she was much less interested in making lights move than she was in throwing ice and whipping water at targets.
“Why don’t you try it, Korra?” Katara asked. “Try to heal his shoulder.” Korra walked over to the dummy, then quickly realized that she wasn’t sure what she was actually supposed to do. It had something to do with chi, and adding more to the injured area, maybe?
Korra pulled some water off of the ground and held it over the dummy, feeling rather silly. Was she supposed to feel the dummy’s chi? She could feel a sort of humming in her hands where the water touched them, but she wasn’t sure what that meant.
“Uh,” she said, looking at Katara and considering asking for another explanation, then quickly decided against it. She didn’t want her to know she wasn’t paying attention. So, instead, she imagined herself waterbending the chi inside the dummy, forcing the chi up its arm and down its neck into its shoulder.
The chi paths on the dummy lit up as she moved over them, but they quickly reddened instead of glowing white like they had when Katara did it. Korra looked at Katara, and Katara frowned.
“Was it supposed to do that?” Korra asked.
“No, Korra. You can’t try to force healing, or else you’ll hurt the person you’re trying to help.”
“So it glowed red because I was hurting it?”
“Right. And you don’t want to do that when you’re trying to heal someone, right?”
“I don’t want to heal anyone,” Korra said, letting the water fall to the ground with a splash and folding her arms over her chest. “It’s not like there’s anyone around who I’d even want to heal.” She glared down at the dummy angrily.
“Oh, Korra,” Katara said, wrapping an arm around the younger waterbender’s shoulders. “That’s not true. You’d want to help me if I was hurt, right?”
“You wouldn’t get hurt.” Korra frowned. “You’re the most powerful waterbender in the world.”
“Well, just pretend the dummy is me anyway,” Katara said kindly, and Korra pushed her arm away. She didn’t feel like healing Katara right now. Katara was the one who had taken away her normal bending lessons to force her to learn stupid healing.
“Okay,” Korra said, picking the water back up off the ground and holding it over the dummy again with a look of determination. She tried to imagine it as Katara, but that just made her even more angry. She didn’t know what Katara wanted her to do in any case, besides use less force so she wouldn’t hurt anyone.
Well, she kind of felt like hurting someone right now. Instead of trying to be more gentle, she just latched onto every bit of the dummy’s chi that she could, and forced it all right into its shoulder. This time, every chi path in its body glowed an ominous red, and Katara’s eyes widened.
“I think you would have killed me with that,” she said quietly, her gaze softening from shock into a look of disappointment. “Was that what you were trying to do?”
“No,” Korra said, glaring at her teacher. “I just don’t want to learn healing.”
Katara considered Korra for a moment before speaking again. “Maybe you’re still a bit too young to understand healing.”
“Does that mean I get to learn waterbending again?” Korra asked, relieved.
“Not right now, Korra. Your reading lessons are going to start in a half hour, and you need some time to think about what you’ve done.”
Korra pouted and sat down in the snow. She didn’t feel like going inside, and she definitely didn’t feel like being bored for the next half hour.
“Come on,” Katara said, “let’s get you ready.”
(Continued due to post length limitations)
Korra’s reading lessons went much better than her healing lessons. As much as she hated being stuck inside, she picked up the various characters that her instructors taught her so quickly that she always had time left over at the end of class to choose what she wanted to read. Before long, she’d read every picture book that the White Lotus had in the compound.
Unfortunately, her rapid progression meant that she spent a lot of time bored, which was quickly remedied once they started giving her books about the lives and achievements of past Avatars. She might have preferred being outdoors, but she had an active imagination and reading about Avatar Kyoshi separating her home peninsula from the mainland and turning it into an island or Avatar Roku destroying the throne room of the Fire Nation palace was more fun than some of the more repetitious parts of her training. She acted out scenes from those stories for Katara whenever she had the chance.
Korra’s obvious interest in violence clearly continued to worry Katara, who made a point of restricting her to the least forceful forms of waterbending until she learned that she needed to stop hurting people. Grand Lotus Ataneq and the White Lotus guards, meanwhile, seemed to have reduced their interference in her life. Her interest in the lives of the past Avatars clearly pleased the Order, and while they constantly criticized her over-dependence on force in her assessments, they mostly left the correction of that up to Katara, even when it was fairly obvious that she was taking her frustrations with her stalled training out on her sparring partners.
Things continued in much the same way for the next two and a half years. Korra trained every day with the exception of the annual New Moon Festival, which she was allowed to attend as long as it took place at the South Pole. Even when it was hosted by the Northern Water Tribe, she was given it as a vacation day with her parents and Master Katara to keep her happy.
Every few months, Katara would make another attempt to teach Korra healing, which inevitably ended in frustration and failure. After each failed attempt, the Grand Lotus called Katara in for a private meeting, which left her notably drained. She would always assure Korra afterwards that she wouldn’t let the Order make any major changes to her life on her watch, but Korra knew better. If the Order really wanted to mess with Korra’s routine, they would, and they wouldn’t even bother warning her first.
By her seventh birthday, Korra was capable of comfortably performing every basic practice form, including the more combative ones that Katara had attempted to put off for as long as possible.
“I know how much you would like to move onto the more advanced forms,” Grand Lotus Ataneq said at her next assessment, “and it’s hard to criticize your physical skills. However, it is difficult to recommend more advanced training when you fail to understand the proper application of force.”
Korra crossed her arms and pouted. “But I’m bored! I’m just doing the same things over and over, and even sparring practice is way too easy to be interesting. I might as well not even be here.”
Ataneq looked down his nose at Korra, then turned to face Katara. “What do you think, Master Katara? You’ve been restricting her training in hopes that she’d learn restraint for years now. Do you think she’s ready to move on?”
“I think that holding her back is likely to do more harm than good at this point,” Katara said, measuring her words as she spoke. “Korra is nearly impossible to reason with when she’s frustrated, and I’ve caught her teaching herself from advanced scrolls more than once.”
“If you believe she should continue with the advanced forms, then, I see no reason to insist otherwise,” Ataneq said.
“Woo-hoo!” Korra said, jumping for joy and raising a fist into the air. She’d long since stopped caring what the Order or even Katara said about her anymore, as long as she got the chance to learn the more interesting waterbending forms.
“However,” Ataneq continued, turning to Korra, “there are a few conditions that I believe must be met in order for you to learn these techniques. You must actively attempt to learn healing alongside your advanced waterbending lessons, and you must sleep in your own room like a normal seven-year-old.”
Korra’s stomach fell at the last part. She’d been almost expecting him to insist on more healing lessons, and she wasn’t entirely unwilling to comply if it meant learning advanced waterbending. As much as she’d been frustrated with Katara over the healing thing, however, her presence was still very much a comfort in an otherwise lonely and unwelcoming compound, and she’d never stopped sneaking out of her room to sleep at her teacher’s side. She couldn’t really imagine going to sleep without Katara there anymore.
She wasn’t about to let Ataneq know that, though, so she just thanked him for his consideration and left quietly. Katara offered support by placing an arm around her shoulder, but she pushed it away and walked off.
* * *
Korra’s capacity to pretend she wasn’t upset over her impending separation from Katara gave out just as dinner finished and the two of them were alone together.
“I don’t care what Ataneq says, I’m not staying by myself!” she said, crossing her arms. “I barely see Mom and Dad. I’m not letting him take you away too!”
“He’s not going to take me away, Korra,” Katara explained, trying to stay calm. “I’ll still be here every day for practice.”
“If he can make you stop letting me stay with you, he can make you leave, too.” Korra sniffled angrily. The corners of her eyes were damp.
“He’s not making me do anything, Korra. I actually agree with him. You’re old enough now that you ought to start sleeping in your own bed.”
“You’re lying!” Korra said, desperately trying to convince herself more than anything. “You said you’d be here for me!”
“I am here for you, Korra, but you’re seven years old. You don’t need me by your side constantly.”
As much as Katara tried to reason with her, all Korra could hear was betrayal. “Maybe I don’t need you at all! You’re just as bad as them!” she yelled as she stomped off, a White Lotus guard quickly appearing at her side to escort her to her room. If Katara wasn’t going to keep the Order from interfering in her life, what good was she anyway?
Korra spent a restless few hours trying her best to fall asleep, clutching the polar bear dog plushie Tonraq had won for her almost three years ago tightly to try to convince herself she wasn’t really alone. All she could think of, though, was how badly she wanted to be with Katara. With a look of determination, she climbed back out of bed, then went out onto the balcony surrounding her room.
It only took a few seconds for her to figure out how to get down. At the South Pole, snow was everywhere, and it could easily be turned into water to break her fall. She jumped right off the balcony, and within a few seconds had safely lowered herself to the ground using a pillar of water.
Somehow, she managed not to be seen doing that, and avoiding the White Lotus guards’ attention wasn’t all too difficult afterwards. She remained close to the building, trying to be as quiet as possible, and before long had made it to her waterbending instructor’s door.
Korra paused for a moment before knocking on the door, not really wanting to admit that she was wrong, but quickly decided to do it anyway. Katara appeared at the door within seconds.
“Korra? I thought you had gone to sleep.”
“I can’t sleep,” Korra admitted. “Can I stay with you?”
“Korra, you know I can’t let you stay,” Katara said.
“Will you stay with me, then? I don’t like being alone.”
Katara frowned. “If I keep staying with you, you’ll never get used to staying by yourself. I can take you back up to your room and help you get to sleep, but that’s all.”
“You can’t do that!” Korra said. “You can’t leave me alone like that!”
“Korra, I…” Katara started, but Korra had already turned on her.
“Leave me alone! You’re more interested in listening to the Order than you are in me!” Korra yelled over her shoulder as she ran back towards the main building. “I never should have trusted you!”
(Continued due to post length limitations)
Korra woke the next morning after a fitful night of mostly-failed attempts to sleep, utterly exhausted. She shoved her pillow over her head and tried to pretend it was still night-time. She had healing lessons first thing, she knew, and she really had no interest in going down to see Master Katara after her teacher’s betrayal last night.
Before she could even attempt to get back to sleep, though, she heard a knock on the door. Probably just a White Lotus guard, she thought, and pressed the pillow over her ears to try to ignore it.
“Korra, you need to get up. It’s time for your healing lessons.” Korra blinked as her pillow disappeared and she found her hands suddenly empty. Apparently, Master Katara herself had come up to get her, and she had let herself into the room on her own.
“I’m not going,” Korra muttered into her bedsheets. “Leave me alone. I want to sleep.”
“Korra, you know you can’t stay up here all day. If you don’t come down now, the Order will put all the food away until lunch.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Well, if you’re not hungry, then there’s no reason not to start your lessons immediately, is there?”
Korra rolled over with a groan, then sat up, rubbing her eyes sleepily. “Do I have to?”
“Yes, Korra,” Katara said with a sigh. “Though why don’t you come over here so I can fix your hair first? Half of it’s out of its ties.”
As irritated as Korra was at the wakeup call, she found herself drawn over to her teacher anyway. At least this sort of thing still felt familiar.
The pair of them made their way down to the dining hall, where Korra spent as much time as she could fussing over her jook to put off the healing lesson for as long as possible. Katara looked somewhat disappointed at Korra’s behavior, but couldn’t bring herself to force her charge to leave before finishing. The Order, however, had no such qualms, and before long had warned Korra that she had to be out in ten minutes whether she was finished or not.
And so, ten minutes later, Korra found herself outside in the courtyard, standing over the training dummy once more.
Katara went through the several minutes of explanation that she’d given every time she’d attempted to teach Korra bending over the last two and a half years, and Korra half-listened just as she’d always done. Even paying little attention, though, she’d picked up enough through sheer repetition that she knew what she needed to do, as little good as that did to help her to carry it out successfully.
“Are you ready, Korra?” Katara asked. Korra wanted to say no, she wasn’t, she’d never be, and she really wished Katara would stop asking, but she’d done that a dozen times before and it had never actually helped. So, instead, she just walked over to the dummy, picked up some snow off the ground and turned it into water, and allowed it to surround her hands as she held them over the dummy.
You can do this, Korra reassured herself. It’s not hard. Just feel the flow of energy and move with it, and then she’ll let you practice proper waterbending. She focused on the humming in her hands, trying to feel the dummy’s chi, but as usual, it felt indistinct and she had trouble finding the direction of the flow.
She stood there for nearly a minute, feeling vaguely stupid, before deciding that she might as well just make a guess and see if it worked out. Her hands moved over the dummy slowly, trying to be more gentle, as Katara had always told her, but it was no use, and the dummy’s chi paths lit up in red anyway.
“That was better, Korra, but you’re still not quite there yet. Pay more attention to the natural flow of chi, and work with it instead of against it.”
“I’m trying!” Korra said, glaring down at the dummy, and tried again. By far the worst part of this whole healing thing was the fact that she was terrible at it, which she found incredibly frustrating and disheartening.
She tried one more time, only to meet with the ominous red glow from the dummy again. She gritted her teeth in frustration and almost walked away, but caught sight of Katara shaking her head and turned back around.
“Korra, don’t worry if you can’t get it to work right away. Learning how to heal is hard work, and it takes time.”
“I don’t want it to take time!” Korra said, balling her fists by her side. “I just want to learn real waterbending! This is boring!”
“This is real waterbending, Korra. The theory behind it is the same, and it will help you better understand what you’re doing with the traditional forms.”
Korra glared down at the dummy again. She had no idea what healing could possibly have in common with fighting, but she clearly wasn’t going to be allowed to do the latter unless she demonstrated some success at the former, so she had to keep trying.
Ten minutes and several dozen failed attempts later, and Korra decided that she was done with this whole healing thing. After a particularly egregious failure, she stood over the dummy with her hands extended one more time, then wrenched them both upward, imagining that she was pulling all of the chi out of its body as she moved.
She blinked incredulously as she found herself, her master, and all the snow in a ten foot radius soaked in bright red. The entire front of the dummy had been torn apart by the force of her bending, the clear tubes that comprised its veins were broken and empty, and the liquid that had been inside it had splattered over everything nearby.
Korra slowly drew some of it off of her fur collar. It was sticky and thick, and she bent it all off of her immediately in disgust. “Blood?” she asked, her mind slow and sluggish. “Why would there be blood in that thing? I thought healing affected chi.”
“Why do you think healing is related to waterbending, Korra?” Katara asked, trying to keep her voice calm after Korra’s rather shocking display. She quickly bent the rest of it off of herself and Korra before continuing. “Chi derives from the blood, which is why waterbenders can manipulate it.”
Korra paused for a moment as things started to come together in her head. “Right, blood acts kind of like water…” she said, trailing off. She looked at the mess that had been the dummy and felt vaguely sick. “Does that mean I could do that to a person?”
The look Katara gave her student was difficult to read. “No, Korra. Thankfully, living creatures don’t break so easily. Their chi does whatever it can to keep their blood inside of them, where it belongs.”
Korra thought about that for a few seconds before speaking again. “If it stays inside no matter what,” she said quietly, “does that mean you can use waterbending to bend a person?”
Katara could no longer conceal her shock at her student’s thinking. “We have to have a talk, Korra.”
Korra’s face fell. It was entirely obvious that Katara wasn’t happy with her, but she wasn’t entirely sure why. Stopping an enemy in his tracks from the inside out certainly seemed useful, in any case, and if there’s one thing she knew for sure about being the Avatar, it was that she’d end up dealing with a lot of powerful enemies.
“Why don’t you come inside and sit down?” Katara asked. “This might take a while, and it’s not good to stand out in the cold for so long.”
Korra followed, looking rather much like a wolf-puppy who’d just been caught chewing up a fur rug, though she was inwardly glad not to have to stand around in the mess that she’d made in the courtyard. Before long, she and Katara were both settled on a couch in a nearby building.
“I have a story to tell you,” Katara said.
“Is it a story about Aang?” Korra asked, thinking that maybe something good might have come out of this whole thing after all.
“Not really, though he does play a part. It’s a story about myself and an old waterbender named Hama.”
Korra listened with rapt attention as Katara explained about how she and her friends had come to a quiet village in the Fire Nation, not long before their invasion during the Day of Black Sun, and had been taken in by a mysterious inn-keeper who turned out to be from the Southern Water Tribe. Her eyes grew wide in wonder as her teacher told her of the lessons Hama had taught, of pulling water from plants and even from thin air.
“And then,” Katara said, looking down at the floor in regret, “she taught me one more lesson. She told me how she had escaped from the terrible prison that the Fire Nation had kept her in by bending the guards themselves, and insisted that I learn to do the same.”
“Did you?” Korra asked, already guessing that she had by the way Katara’s voice had gone quiet.
“But I thought…” Korra said, confused. That really wasn’t the way she thought the story was supposed to go.
“I told her I wouldn’t use bloodbending, and she used it to force me to the ground. It was one of the most painful and uncomfortable things I’d ever felt, like my own body was being used against me.”
Korra gasped. “What did you do?”
“Well, I was the more powerful waterbender, so I was able to break free. But then, Aang and Sokka showed up, and she bloodbent them instead.”
“And you saved them, right?” Korra said, excited. As much as she knew Katara intended this as a cautionary tale, she couldn’t help but get into the story.
“I did… but I had to use bloodbending to do it.” Katara almost seemed to look past Korra as she spoke, which she found rather disconcerting.
A few moments passed before anyone said anything else. “I don’t get it,” Korra said. “I thought you were trying to show me how bad it is to use bloodbending, not tell me that you’ve done it. I don’t see how it isn’t useful.”
“That’s the thing, Korra,” Katara said, fixing her gaze on her student. “I know what it’s like to use it. It feels sick and wrong, and it changes you. It’s always there when you’re upset with someone, reminding you that they’re nothing but a sack of water that can be made into a puppet as long as the moon is full. It’s a terrible burden to bear, and it’s certainly not something that should be forced on a child. Whether it could be useful or not is irrelevant, and that is why you would be better off never trying to learn it.”
Korra could barely manage to keep her eyes from drifting away from her teacher and towards the floor, but she couldn’t help asking one last question anyway. “But what if I have to fight a bloodbender? How else am I supposed to deal with someone like that?”
Katara paused for so long that Korra started to wonder whether she was going to answer at all. “You don’t have to worry about that, Korra. Hama died a long time ago, no one else knows how to use it, and I made sure it was declared illegal as soon as I had the chance. By the time you finish your Avatar training, you should be quite capable of dealing with whatever threats the world may face without it.”
Korra looked down at the ground, feeling a bit guilty over what she’d been thinking and not really wanting to talk about bloodbending anymore. “Uh, Master Katara?” she asked. “Does this mean I get to learn more waterbending instead of just healing?”
“Yes, I believe it would be best if we postponed the healing lessons, for now. I will speak to Grand Lotus Ataneq about that at lunch-time. But for now, why don’t we start with some of those advanced forms you’ve been waiting to try?”
A/N: This chapter and the next share themes, so I decided to use the same title for them, split into two parts. It’s far too long to be a single chapter, but I couldn’t find any way to satisfactorily split up “Blood” and “Healing” between the two. The Earth arc (“Child of Substance”) will likewise be split into two parts due to size.
...this really is an exceedingly long chapter anyway, isn't it? >_>
I’m sure you’ll have noticed plenty of parallels between Korra and the Bloodbending Brothers here. She certainly doesn’t have it nearly as bad as they did, but it’s not hard to imagine there might have been some similarities.
What a fantastic addition! I love how you incorporate little things from ATLA and LOK into the story; the stuffed Polar Bear Dog, the training dummy, even the way Korra escapes her room is reminiscent of her escaping Air Temple Island. I loved Sokka's appearance too, very in-character.
I'm excited to see where this goes next, the ending especially has left me wanting more!
Oh, and I wouldn't worry about the length too much, it seemed fine to me.
wow, long. good job though!
Summary: After a few years of non-interference, the reassertion of control comes as something of a shock. Korra is forced once again to confront the reality that her closest relationships are held at the mercy of the Order. This time, however, there might be a way to fight back, and she might even find a new friend.
Warnings: Violence against both animals and humans, including not-particularly-graphic descriptions of blood, hunting, and mistreatment of pets. Potentially disturbing and uncomfortable power dynamics involving forced medical treatment.
Tumblr Link: In case anyone wants to read it on there instead, here's this chapter on Tumblr.
After the disaster that was Korra’s last attempt to learn healing, Master Katara kept her word and dropped those lessons indefinitely. Korra’s training became far more regular in the aftermath, and she learned more in the next year and a half than she had learned during her first two and a half years in the compound. Part of that was natural, as Korra’s ability to remember and execute forms had increased along with her age, but the rest of it could only be attributed to sheer enthusiasm. She found the advanced techniques that she was shown fascinating and threw herself wholeheartedly into her practice because of it.
Even without the obvious need to learn to utilize a soft touch in her bending that healing provided, Katara still insisted that Korra had to learn the underlying concept and stop relying so much on brute force. She made sure to provide at least one drill aimed at demonstrating the proper flow of energy during every practice in an attempt to fulfill the Order’s request that Korra be brought to some sort of understanding of the spiritual aspect of waterbending. No matter how Katara tried to explain it, though, Korra simply couldn’t accept the idea of waterbending as anything other than pure control over the water, and, over the years, her skill and power had grown to the point that it was difficult to prove her wrong.
As soon as the daily reminder of the true nature of waterbending was completed, though, Katara moved on to advanced waterbending forms, and so the vast majority of Korra’s time was spent practicing the kind of bending she’d always dreamed she’d be doing. She loved her training sessions with Master Katara so much and her interaction with the Order outside of her assessments was so limited that she almost forgot how heavily controlled her life really was.
This illusion came crashing down, however, when Korra was a few months short of nine years old and she learned that the New Moon Festival for the year would be held in the Northern Water Tribe. This in and of itself was nothing new. She was six years old the last time that had happened, and she still remembered how Katara, Howl, and a few other White Lotus guards had taken her to the village instead. Her parents had stayed behind, choosing to take part in a smaller celebration that had been put together by families who couldn’t afford the long trip to the North Pole so they could stay with Korra. Since most of the tribe had left, it was a lot quieter than the festival would have been, but she was still out of the compound, she still had a chance to see kids her own age for the first time in a year, and that was enough.
Korra had expected the same sort of thing to happen again ever since she found out about the upcoming festival’s location at the end of the last one. Unfortunately, only a couple weeks before that was set to happen, Grand Lotus Ataneq warned her that this year would be different. Master Katara had an obligation to attend the festival at the North Pole, he said, and without her there, sending Korra to the village was out of the question. She would have to remain in the compound, and to be trained by Ataneq himself over the course of the two weeks it would take for Katara to leave and return.
Korra had run out the door of the main building seething, slamming the door as hard as she could on the way out, and knocked on Katara’s door so hard that she almost thought she might break it down. She demanded her waterbending master tell her it wasn’t true, begged her to stay, and told her she’d do whatever Katara wanted if she’d change her mind, but it was no good. Katara assured her that she didn’t want to leave, but she was expected to attend the festival and there wasn’t anything she could do to avoid it. This did nothing to soothe Korra, whose anger compromised her control over her waterbending so badly that she left deep cracks in the ice foundation of the igloo before she even realized what she was doing. Finally, Katara promised that she’d talk to the Grand Lotus to see what could be done about allowing Korra to see her parents, and Korra’s rage subsided, leaving her exhausted.
As it turned out, whatever Katara had said was effective. The Order had granted both Tonraq and Senna a full day each to spend with their daughter while Katara was away. Rather shockingly, they had even given Tonraq permission to take Korra out on her own for her first hunting trip, accepting his argument that such a trip was traditional for all children in the Southern Water Tribe in spite of their obvious lack of interest in following Water Tribe traditions in their own treatment of Korra.
As the date of the festival and, more importantly, her free time with her parents grew nearer, Korra’s enthusiasm was palpable. She threw herself into her training to an even greater degree than she’d ever done before, mastering several of the most complicated techniques so completely that even the Order could hardly fault her technique, doing all of her schoolwork without complaint, and sneaking scrolls out of the library to teach herself the non-water bending forms that the Order denied her every time she had a chance. When Tonraq finally showed up on the day of the hunt, she threw herself into his arms, and he caught her effortlessly, twirled her around, and told her how much he loved her.
The Grand Lotus and the two high-ranking Order members who assisted him in Korra’s assessments looked rather irritated that Korra would be out of their protection even though they’d agreed to let her go, but they’d made their promises and there was nothing they could do about it. Korra stuck her tongue out at their backs as she left. Her father shook his head in faux disapproval, but the smile that passed over his lips suggested that he didn’t really care about her lack of respect. Apparently, while Tonraq won out in the end, whatever had passed between him and the White Lotus hadn’t been entirely amicable.
Just outside of the main gates of the compound sat a large sled filled with everything the pair would need for the trip. Normally, it was intended to be pulled by two people, but Tonraq was so large that having Korra help would just make things harder. He offered to let her sit on the sled while he pulled so they could get to the best hunting grounds faster, and she readily agreed.
Before long, the pair found their way out on the ice. Korra jumped off the sled and immediately ran over to her father, and Tonraq immediately began instructing her in all of the important hunting skills she’d missed by being locked away in the White Lotus compound for so long. Using a spear came just as naturally to her as her bending forms did, and within a few hours, she’d not only memorized everything Tonraq thought she needed to know but also managed to land a fully-grown tiger seal of her own.
“I’m so proud of you, Korra,” Tonraq said as he helped her haul the seal, which was several times larger than her, up out of its hole and onto the ice. “You’d make just as good a hunter as you do an Avatar.”
“Really?” she said, her eyes glittering with excitement. It had been far too long since she’d heard that kind of praise from anyone but Master Katara. No matter how well she did, the Order tended to call even her most perfect performances merely sufficient, and usually found something to criticize on top of it.
“I’m sure of it,” he replied, ruffling her hair. “Of course, a good hunter needs know how to do more than just be good at hunting. They need to know how to honor their kill, too.”
“What do you mean?” Korra asked, somewhat confused. The dying tiger seal didn’t look much like the various sorts of food her mother and Katara made out of its meat, and she kind of felt a bit bad for it, but it was still food, and she thought honoring food seemed a bit weird.
Tonraq looked a bit disappointed for a moment, but he quickly changed his expression to one of neutral consideration. “I suppose the Order of the White Lotus wouldn’t have taught you something like this,” he said, bending some water out of a water-skin attached to his back and holding it out in front of him. “It’s a tradition amongst hunters from the Water Tribe to offer each tiger seal they kill a drink of water as a sign of respect. The seals provide the food we need to survive, so it’s the least we can do for them.”
“Oh,” Korra said softly, bending the water into her own hands and kneeling down to offer it to the seal as carefully as she could, her father’s words impressing on her the gravity of what she was doing. “The Order never told me anything like that.”
“I shouldn’t have expected them to, really,” Tonraq said as Korra finished the ritual and turned to face him. “They’d rather you grow up as the Avatar instead of a member of the Southern Water Tribe.”
“But I’m both!” Korra said, rising to her feet in protest. “Being part of the tribe can’t make me any less of an Avatar!”
“I know, champ,” Tonraq said, giving her a sad smile. “So why don’t we teach you more about Water Tribe traditions now, when they’re not here to stop us? Let me show you how you prepare a tiger seal…”
* * *
After Tonraq finished loading Korra’s catch onto their sled, he suggested they go visit the village and drop it off with Senna before heading back to the compound. Korra sat on the sled again, using some extra furs to stand up as high as she could to try to catch a glimpse of the village as quickly as possible. She’d just managed to point out the guard tower of the village and had turned her attention to the snow banks at the side of the sled when disaster struck.
“Dad, move!” she yelled, and he immediately ducked as a massive polar bear dog leapt out at him from its hiding spot in the snow. It missed him by mere inches, landing several feet away and turning to rush in for a second attack. Tonraq let go of the ropes he’d been using to drag the sled, caught his spear as Korra tossed it to him, and swung it across the beast’s eyes as soon as it was in range. He dove off to the side to gain some space and keep its attention off of Korra as a gash opened up on its face and it roared in pain.
“Get away and keep your distance, Korra!” Tonraq warned, holding his spear in a stance that looked like some kind of waterbending form. “I can take care of this guy, but I don’t want you to get involved!”
Korra jumped off of the sled and ran off behind a snowbank to give her father and his prey some space. “Go get ‘im, Dad!” she called out, more excited than scared. Under normal circumstances, she’d never have passed up a chance at a fight, but singlehandedly taking down a polar bear dog was a feat that had challenged even the great Avatar Kuruk, and she wasn’t going to pass up the chance to see her own father show her how it was done.
Unfortunately, it turned out that there was a good reason why victories over polar bear dogs were so rare. As soon as Tonraq moved in to strike, it shattered his spear and tore a gash across his right arm with a single swipe of its massive paw. He fell hard on his back half a dozen feet away and let out a groan of pain as he landed hard on his other arm.
Korra stood in shock, utterly confused by what she’d seen happen. It wasn’t possible! Dad was really, really strong. There was no way he could lose!
No matter how much she tried to convince herself that Tonraq could handle himself, though, there was no question that her father was in trouble. He lashed out with waterbending to buy himself some space, but it proved startlingly ineffective, and his attempt to regain his footing only managed to leave him on his knees looking straight up into the polar bear dog’s eyes.
As the monstrous beast loomed menacingly over her father, Korra leapt into action, ignoring his warnings and attempting to distract it long enough for him to get away. She darted over into bending range as fast as she could and blasted the polar bear dog in the face with the biggest fireball she could muster just as it reared up to attack her father again. It shook its head and growled as smoke rose from its fur, but it didn’t seem to help, and it rammed its head forcefully into the snow to try to stop the burning.
“I’m not going to let you get hurt!” she declared fearlessly, running over to help her father up. “I can help!”
Tonraq looked more horrified than relieved as he rose to his feet on his own before she reached him, seeming a bit unsteady on his feet. “Korra, you have to get out of here! You’re just going to make it more upset!”
“I’m not leaving without you,” she said, her eyes narrowed in determination. She threw two punches, launching more fire at the polar bear dog’s side to buy her father enough time to get away from it.
Even the Avatar’s fire did little to stop it once it set its mind to something, however. Angry and in pain, it ignored Tonraq and rounded on Korra. As it charged through the flames she shot out to defend herself, she staggered backwards, somehow twisting her ankle on a patch of ice and landing in an ungainly heap on the ground even though she’d thrown an arm out to break her fall. When she tried to push herself back to her feet, her ankle gave out underneath her and she closed her eyes against the pain. She kept them squeezed shut, fully expecting to be crushed under the weight of a thousand pounds of angry polar bear dog on top of her before she could react. Seconds passed and she realized she was somehow still alive, even if there was something uncomfortably warm and sticky dripping down on her.
She peered out with one eye, terrified of what she’d find, but instead of a hungry polar bear dog salivating over its next meal, she saw nothing but a puddle of blood at the base of a massive pillar of ice. She looked up slowly and found the giant creature impaled on several ice spears at the top, moving its legs feebly as its stomach dripped red. Tonraq stood nearby in a waterbending stance, almost in shock at what he’d managed to do. Korra hobbled over to him as well as she could with her compromised ankle, her heart threatening to beat out of her chest from fear and excitement, and he moved to meet her halfway.
As soon as she grabbed hold of him, he let the stance drop in relief. The ice he’d bent to save her turned to water on the spot, dropping the polar bear dog heavily to the ground and allowing it to limp off to somewhere else to lick its wounds. Korra could feel someone shaking, and she wasn’t sure whether it was herself or her father or both.
After a moment, Tonraq composed himself. “I shouldn’t leave it to die like that,” he said bitterly, looking down at the trail of red the injured polar bear dog had left in the snow as it escaped. “It deserves better than that.” He sighed, then looked over to Korra. “But right now, you’re more important. We need to get you back to the compound and get you healed up.”
“I don’t want to go back right now,” Korra said, feeling utterly exhausted now that the danger had passed. “The Order will be mad if they find out about this.”
“Korra, this isn’t something we can hide. They’re going to find out.”
“But why?” Korra asked, frustrated. “We don’t have to –” she started, then cut off as her ankle gave out on her and deposited her on the ground with all the grace of a particularly clumsy penguin. She suddenly wished she’d put more effort into learning healing. “Can’t we just see Mom? She’s a lot closer! She could heal us up, and then…”
“Do you really want Mom to see you like this?” Tonraq asked, his blue eyes looking right through her.
As much as the idea of letting Senna see her in her current state made her feel intensely uncomfortable, Korra couldn’t help but think it might still be better than letting the Order see her. “No, but…”
“No buts, Korra. We’re going to have to let the Order know what happened either way.” He helped her to her feet and gave her a hand up to get her onto the sled. “Let’s get going before anything else happens.”
* * *
(Continued due to post length limitations)
As soon as the two of them passed back through the gates of the compound, a pair of White Lotus guards immediately took Tonraq aside, leaving Korra alone to be interrogated by the Grand Lotus. Having no desire to let him know just how badly things had gone wrong, she hid her injuries as best as she could, insisting that she’d only gotten scratched. Even though her injury still made it difficult to walk, she somehow managed to avoid the indignity of being carried by a White Lotus guard and stumbled off towards the infirmary on her own while Ataneq turned his attention to her father.
Tonraq’s injuries were more obvious, if a bit less disabling, and he found himself practically forced into the infirmary by a pair of guards, Ataneq following close behind. Korra tried to keep up with them, but found it difficult to walk too quickly without landing too heavily on her injured ankle and wincing in pain. By the time she managed to get inside, assuring the guards that she was fine to walk the whole time, Tonraq had already been taken through the curtain into the next room and it was clear that she wouldn’t be allowed to follow.
She sat down on a couch and rested her head up against the wall, keeping her expression as neutral as possible as she tried to ignore the continuous throbbing pain in her ankle. The previous year, she’d noticed some earthbending guards putting their ears to walls they ought not have been able to listen through, and quickly worked out their method of using earthbending to amplify the sound. She had to be discreet about doing it, though, or the Order would probably catch on.
It wasn’t difficult at all for her to pick up Ataneq’s voice from the other room, deep as he was in the process of lecturing Tonraq. Korra couldn’t help but find it familiar, since it was basically the same lecture she’d received that time when she convinced Howl and a few of the younger guards to let her fight them for real instead of the heavily-controlled “sparring” that she had to do in her assessments. Ataneq berated her father, asking him “do you know how dangerous that was?” and “how could you risk your daughter’s life like that?” and “why should I ever let you take her anywhere when this is what happens when you do?” He left no time whatsoever for Tonraq to speak in his own defense and made sure to cut him off any time he tried. Korra couldn’t help but narrow her eyes, as much as she tried to avoid letting her anger show. She couldn’t stand hearing the Grand Lotus talk to her father like that, especially when he was still hurt, and she wanted nothing more than to slap the Grand Lotus in his face with a water whip for it.
Howl and another guard followed her inside a few moments later to make sure she was waiting for her own turn in the infirmary like she was supposed to be doing. They both visibly relaxed when they saw she was just sitting on the couch instead of making trouble for Ataneq. “Oh, there you are, Korra” Howl said. “I thought they’d have taken you in to be healed already.” The other guard gave a disapproving look at him for being so informal with their charge, but he ignored it.
“I wasn’t hurt bad, so I guess I’m not that important.” Korra raised her head from the wall and glared at the floor by Howl’s feet. “I think His Honorable Grumpiness just wants to yell at my dad without me around.”
“I know,” Howl agreed, “but that’s the Grand Lotus for you. He’s impossible to convince once he’s made up his mind. It’s easier to just go with the flow.”
“But I don’t want to!” Korra said, unable to hide how much that suggestion upset her. “I had more fun today than I’ve had since I got here, but that horrible old man is mad at my dad and probably won’t ever let me see him again.”
“I’m sure Grand Lotus Ataneq isn’t that unreasonable. He just wants to keep you safe.”
“Maybe I don’t want to be safe!” Korra said, crossing her arms and pouting. “Not if it means I don’t get to see Dad!”
“I don’t think he’ll do that,” Howl said, shifting uncomfortably. Korra didn’t believe him.
At that moment, however, Ataneq and Tonraq walked back into the room, and both the Avatar and her guard fell silent. Tonraq’s movements seemed less awkward than they had been when he walked into the room, so he appeared to have been at least partially healed. He didn’t seem too upset, which Korra hoped was a good sign.
“It has become obvious,” Ataneq started ominously, “that things need to change around here.”
“No,” Korra said, trying to keep her voice from shaking as she glared up at him. “You’re not taking Dad away!”
“Will you let me finish?” the Grand Lotus said with a sigh. “You will still be allowed to see your parents one day a week…”
“One?” Korra clenched her fists, trying as hard as she could to avoid resorting to violence as much as the idea appealed to her at the moment. “You promised I’d have two!”
“This was actually your father’s idea,” Ataneq said. Korra turned to face her father with a look of utter shock and betrayal.
Tonraq shot the Grand Lotus a dirty look. “I suggested that we both might enjoy it more if Mom and I were allowed a full day’s visit instead of two lunches.”
Korra’s expression softened as she realized what that meant. This might actually be a good thing. She’d always hated the way her parents were forced to leave before she could actually do anything with them, and now it looked like she’d finally have a chance to see them for a whole day more than once a year.
“What’s the catch?” she asked, suspicious of the timing. “I don’t get to go hunting ever again?”
“That is correct. In fact, you will no longer be allowed outside of the compound without a full retinue of guards.” Korra’s face fell as Ataneq spoke. “It is clearly far too unsafe out there for you to be allowed to leave the Order’s protection for even a single day until you have finished your training.”
Korra paused for a second as a sudden realization dawned on her. “So I can’t go home to see Mom this week?” she asked, rather horrified at the loss of her expected visit.
“No. She will be allowed to see you here, inside the compound, and at the New Moon Festival. The Order cannot afford to spare the guards necessary to allow you out of the compound for random visits. You are far too close to your parents anyway.”
Korra tried to stand up to argue the point, fueled by a sense of righteous fury bubbling up inside her, but her injured ankle twisted again when she put her weight on it and she fell back into the couch hard. “I hate this.”
* * *
After a bit more argument on Korra’s part that she really didn’t actually need to be healed and that she’d be just fine on her own, Tonraq finally managed to convince her to at least see the healer instead of just insisting that she wasn’t hurt.
Her father looked worried at her refusal of any extra help as she awkwardly made her way into the other room, but he didn’t comment further as he followed after her. She made her way up onto a tall bed covered with a paper sheet and sat down, crossing her arms over her chest in defiance.
The healer, a nondescript middle-aged man dressed in the style of the White Lotus guards, walked over to the side of the bed and set a large jug of water down on a nearby table. Korra had only seen him once before, when she’d accidentally broken a sparring partner’s arm during an assessment after a particularly frustrating week of training and Ataneq decided that she needed an object lesson in the cost of hurting people. Normally, though, if Korra herself was hurt, Master Katara would heal her before the Order even noticed.
“Are you hurt, young Avatar?” he asked rather clinically as he looked her over for injuries. “You’ve been through a lot today.”
Korra was on the verge of denying it again, but her ankle kept throbbing and she thought that maybe if she told him about that, the adults would all stop bothering her. “I fell on my ankle,” she said, removing her boots with her feet and pulling the leg of her pants halfway up her calf. “It’s not that bad, though.”
The healer made the sort of sound that implied that he thought otherwise and quickly set about healing her ankle. Within minutes, the pain was gone and she was on her feet again like nothing had happened.
“Okay, I’m fine,” Korra said as she walked back and forth barefoot on the floor to test her newly-healed ankle. “Can I go now? Dad’s only going to be here for a few more hours.”
“Actually,” the healer said, “Grand Lotus Ataneq was clear that he wished you to be fully examined.”
Korra clenched her fists. “I’m fine!” she insisted. “There’s nothing wrong with me!”
“If there’s nothing wrong with you, then this shouldn’t take long at all,” the healer reassured her. “It’s a simple physical examination. As soon as I check you for further injuries and run a few tests to check your general health, you’ll be free to go.”
Korra started to roll her sleeves up to her elbows, keeping the scrape further up her arm carefully covered, but the healer shook his head. “I can’t do my job if you’re still half covered.”
“I’m not taking my clothes off!” Korra folded her arms over her chest and shook her head furiously, horrified at the suggestion. “You’re a guy!”
“Korra, it’s okay,” Tonraq explained. “He’s a healer. This is part of his job.”
“No,” Korra said firmly. “I don’t want to. He can’t make me.”
The healer seemed somewhat irritated by her lack of cooperation, but he accepted Korra’s resistance anyway. “Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to make a patient uncomfortable,” he said. “I’ll just have to tell the Grand Lotus that…”
He cut off just as the Grand Lotus himself pushed open the curtain. “That you are refusing to do your job?” Ataneq asked. “The Avatar is clearly attempting to cover up the extent of her injuries.” He pulled the sleeve of Korra’s injured arm up the rest of the way over her protestations, uncovering the nasty scrape she’d been trying to hide. Korra grabbed the sleeve out of his hands and glared up at him as she pulled it back down, but the harm had already been done.
“My daughter,” Tonraq said, “is eight years old and doesn’t want to be examined by a man who she doesn’t even know. Any injuries she still has can easily be dealt with by my wife when she comes for her visit.”
“Your wife’s visit is still very much in question,” Ataneq said, his voice low. “Using her as an excuse not to allow the Avatar to be healed will do nothing but give the Order reason to refuse her visit altogether.”
“You’re not going to let Mom come?” Korra asked, raising her voice and clenching her fists as she fought back her violent impulses. “You can’t do that!”
“You know very well that your parents are only allowed visits at the Order’s discretion,” Ataneq said. “If your parents prove detrimental to your well-being, those visits will be suspended.”
“I hate you,” Korra said furiously, kicking the side of the hospital bed for emphasis. “This isn’t fair at all.” Tonraq’s narrowed eyes made it clear he felt the exact same way.
“The Order only wants what’s best for you, young Avatar. I’m sure you’ll realize that sooner or later.”
The only thing Korra realized was that she wouldn’t be able to see her mother if she didn’t do what the Grand Lotus wanted. “Get out!” she just about shouted at Ataneq. “I’ll do your stupid ‘physical examination,’ but I don’t want you anywhere near me when I do.”
“I knew you would come to your senses.”
Korra was just about to bend the healer’s entire jug of water into the back of his head as hard as she could when Tonraq put his hand on her shoulder and shook his head. Nothing good could come from hurting the Grand Lotus, given the circumstances. Her hands dropped to her side in defeat as he left the room. “Just make it quick,” she said, her voice shaking with barely-disguised fury as she climbed back up onto the hospital bed.
* * *
Amazingly, the day only managed to get worse after that. Tonraq was forced to leave as soon as she was released from the infirmary, probably as punishment for putting Korra in danger, and Ataneq himself insisted that Korra needed to start her training with him immediately.
Outside of a few isolated healing lessons and her first few weeks at the compound, which were miserable in general, Korra had always loved waterbending practice. Master Katara had quickly figured out that Korra was happiest when she was learning new things and made sure to throw in plenty of new techniques and new uses of techniques she’d already learned to keep her attention, no matter what other sorts of restrictions she’d placed on Korra’s training. Even when the Order insisted that she spend more time trying to teach her student the spiritual side of waterbending after the failure of her healing lessons, she refused to let Korra’s apparent block get in the way of her practice, finding different ways to demonstrate the principles in ways that her student better understood.
Practice with Grand Lotus Ataneq was just about as different from practice with Master Katara as possible given that they were both trying to teach her waterbending. In spite of his insistence that Korra herself didn’t understand what it meant to be a waterbender, he was rigid and traditional where Katara was fluid and willing to accept change, and he refused to teach the Avatar any new techniques until she understood the basic principles to his own satisfaction.
After what felt like the hundredth repetition of the drill that she’d learned on her first day with Katara led to nothing but more criticism for her over-reliance on force, Korra completely abandoned the idea of making the Grand Lotus happy and threw everything she had into showing just how useful overwhelming force could be. Instead of returning the globe of water the way she was supposed to, allowing it to flow around her and back towards him, she stopped it in midair and pushed it back towards him as hard as she could, knocking him over backwards onto his rear before he could react.
Ataneq glared over at her as he bent the water out of his clothes, trying to look unruffled and not entirely succeeding. Korra just laughed. “Say what you want about using too much force,” she said, looking rather smug, “but it certainly seems to work!”
“When will you ever learn to act like a waterbender?” Ataneq asked as he stood up to his full height, putting a hand to his forehead and trying his hardest to regain his composure.
“I’m not just a waterbender. I’m the Avatar!” Korra said. “I’m supposed to learn all four elements and use what works.”
“You are the Avatar, but that’s why you need to understand the spiritual basis of each element you use. Focusing on the physical side too much will cause problems later on.”
“Well, it’s working just fine right now,” Korra said, finding the whole “spiritual” thing to be really confusing and kind of pointless. “Or it would, if you’d actually teach me!”
“I’m trying to teach you, Avatar.” He sighed in frustration.
Korra glared up at him. “Well, you’re a terrible teacher!”
“If that’s what you think, perhaps it might be better to postpone further lessons until tomorrow morning. You clearly do not have the proper mindset to learn anything at the moment.”
“Fine!” she yelled, then turned to walk off to the main building without looking back. She didn’t want to learn from him anyway.
When she reached her room, however, she realized that there really wasn’t all too much that she could do inside. She grabbed the polar bear dog plushie her father had won for her and sat on the fur rug next to her bed, holding it out at arms’ length and glaring at it. As much comfort as it had provided her over the last few years, she couldn’t help but think of the all-too-real beast that had attacked her and her father earlier. Thinking of how that awful polar bear dog had ruined what was supposed to be the happiest day she’d had in a long time, part of her just wanted to throw its plush doppelganger at a wall.
Instead, she settled for holding it close to her body in a vice grip, angry tears threatening to spill from her eyes. She didn’t really want to go to bed at all. As soon as she woke up, she’d be facing lessons from Grand Lotus Ataneq again, and she didn’t really want to think of what kind of threat he’d come up with to actually make her listen to him this time.
In fact, she didn’t really want to be here at all anymore. As much as Tonraq was able to mitigate the damage that the day had caused, it was still all too clear that, at the end of the day, her life was at the mercy of the Order. She’d miss Master Katara, but really, if the Grand Lotus could threaten to take her parents away so easily, she couldn’t quite be sure how long the Order would let her see her anyway. They’d probably just force her to leave as soon as Korra finished her waterbending training.
Besides, for the first time ever, she knew exactly how to find her parents’ village. From the spot she and her father had ended their hunting trip, she’d been able to see the village’s guard tower, and the heavily-loaded sled had made deep tracks that wouldn’t be difficult for her to follow even in the dark if she made use of her firebending.
As soon as night fell, she put on her coat, covered herself in a snow-white fur rug from her room, made a makeshift pack out of a wall hanging, and snuck out the door. By carefully watching the hallways, she was able to locate the food pantry and grab as much seal jerky as she could fit in her pack without being seen. Before long, she had made her way outside, ducking between buildings and blending in with the snow to avoid the guards’ detection as she made her way to the wall. With a bit of effort, she was able to tunnel her way all the way past the wall using waterbending, covering her tracks behind her in case she failed in her escape and had to try again.
Underneath her white furs, no one noticed the little girl hidden amidst the snow, and she quickly picked up her father’s trail, intent on following it all the way to her village. Unfortunately, she hadn’t taken into account how bitterly cold it would be outside of the compound at night. The wind bit at her face even with her hood up, and she was forced to stop for the night before she even made it halfway to the village. She bent a tent out of snow to rest in, using firebending to keep warm, and realized that she probably wasn’t going to be able to get any sleep at all unless she wanted to risk freezing. Her stomach growled miserably, and she started in on the seal jerky in her pack. In her frustration with the Grand Lotus, she’d forgotten to eat earlier, which seemed like a terrible idea on her part once she realized that she’d gone through half of the supplies that she’d brought before stopping to think about it.
(Continued due to post length limitations)
The night passed far slower than any she could remember, every noise transforming in her mind into some sort of beast lurking just outside her makeshift shelter. Her growing exhaustion made her wonder whether she’d fall asleep whether she wanted to or not even though she was terrified that if she did sleep, she wouldn’t wake up. Korra’s eyes had started to droop for what seemed like the thousandth time when the sun rose, and she quickly bent herself out of her hiding place in hopes that moving would make it easier for her to stay awake.
Unfortunately, the wind had made the sled’s tracks more indistinct overnight, and trying to follow the trail was slow going. She had to stop often to try to warm herself up as her fingers and toes started to sting from the cold, she lost the trail more than once and had to find her way back, and an entire pack of arctic wolves had shown up not too far ahead of her and forced her to retreat for a good hour sometime after noon. To make matters worse, almost as soon as she was able to continue forward again, it started to snow. It was nighttime once more when she reached a patch of red snow that she thought must have been the spot where Tonraq had taken down the polar bear dog, she’d eaten almost all of her seal jerky, and the snow flurries from earlier had turned into an all-out blizzard.
Not wanting to risk making a last-ditch run for the village, she fought against the wind to get to a nearby snowbank, intending to tunnel inside with waterbending to keep warm until the storm passed. As she moved into her stance, however, she noticed a large hole had already been dug into the snowbank, and she got down on her hands and knees and crawled over to get a closer look.
The hole itself was massive, large enough to allow entrance to a fully-grown polar bear dog. It must have been the den of the one that had attacked her father, Korra thought. Well, it certainly wasn’t using it anymore, so she crawled inside, figuring it was her best chance to keep warm.
It was dark in the tunnel and Korra didn’t want to use her firebending, so she put her hands out in front of her to feel her way through. She felt her heart stop as one of her hands rubbed against something furry, but a quick burst of fire from her other hand proved it was only a pup. She covered herself with her fur and moved as close to the pup as she dared. It wasn’t big enough to hurt her too badly, it was warm, and maybe it wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between her and its mother if she was covered in fur.
As she drew near, however, the pup let out a miserable whine. Maybe it’s hungry, Korra thought. If the one that had attacked her had been its mother, then it wouldn’t have had anything to eat in a day and a half, which might have been quite a while given how young it was. She offered it the last of her seal jerky, and it finished it off within seconds before whining for more.
“Sorry, girl,” she said, instinctively guessing at its gender. “That’s the last of it. You’ll have to find your own food from now on.”
The pup whined in protest, and Korra decided not to argue. She wrapped an arm around it as if it were her plushie, slowly at first, until it became clear that it wasn’t going to snap or claw at her. Maybe the pup was cold too, she thought.
That night passed much more quickly than the last one. In the dark, Korra was almost able to pretend she was back in her own bed, holding a plushie rather than a particularly small and docile polar bear dog pup. By the morning, she was entirely ready to set off for the last of her journey on her own.
When she tried to leave the pup behind without it noticing, however, it felt her move and followed her up out of the tunnel.
“I’m sorry, girl, but you can’t come with me,” Korra said. “I don’t think Mom and Dad will let me keep you.”
The pup whined miserably, and Korra felt a bit guilty. If its mother really was dead, she knew, it had very little chance of surviving on its own, and she couldn’t help but feel somewhat responsible for it after it had helped keep her alive and warm during her misadventure.
“Okay, fine,” she said. “Maybe they’ll let me keep you, as long as you don’t hurt anyone.”
The pup panted happily and rested its paws on Korra’s legs. She patted its head, and it wagged its tail, seeming almost as tame as a pet koala-otter.
Within a few minutes, Korra found herself standing on a hill overlooking her village. “Hey, I think I see Mom and Dad’s house!” she told the pup breathlessly, bursting with excitement over her successful escape. Her hopes were quickly dashed as she reached the outskirts of the village only to find several White Lotus guards she didn’t recognize waiting for her, one male and one female.
“Hey, isn’t that the Avatar?” the female guard asked. “What’s she doing here?”
“Didn’t you hear? She escaped from the compound, and the Order was looking for her.” the male guard said.
“No way! No one ever tells me anything!” the other guard responded. Korra was just about to make a break for it, but they turned their attention back to her before she could move.
“You’re not going anywhere, young Avatar,” the male guard said, grabbing her by her wrist. She twisted around and bent snow in his face to escape, but the female guard had taken hold of the pup in the meantime and was holding it out at arms’ length as it struggled.
“Let go of her!” Korra yelled, honestly surprised at how upset she was. She’d met the pup less than a few days ago, but seeing her helpless like that somehow made her feel terrible.
“It’s a polar bear dog pup,” the guard said as the pup struggled in her grasp. “It’s far too dangerous to have around.”
“She’s mine! I won’t let you take her away from me!” Korra bent some water into her hands, preparing for a fight. There was no way she was going back to the compound empty-handed after everything she’d been through.
“Polar bear dogs are impossible to tame,” the male guard said, bending the water out of her hands before she could react. “I know she’s cute now, but she’ll be vicious and too big to keep under control within months.”
“I’ll train her!” Korra insisted, racking her mind for anything she could say to convince the guards to allow her to keep the pup. “She’s my animal guide!” she said confidently, remembering how Aang had Appa and Roku had Fang, and both of them were far bigger and just as dangerous as a fully-grown polar bear dog. “Her name’s Naga, and I’m keeping her!” She wasn’t sure how she’d thought of that name so easily, exactly, but it seemed to fit once she’d said it.
Neither of the guards seemed to know how to react to that. “So,” the female guard said finally, “you’ll come back with us if we let you keep your pet?”
Korra paused for a moment, not expecting that at all. She was only a few dozen feet from her parents’ house, so close that she could almost feel them right there, but there were two Order guards here, and she couldn’t run without leaving Naga behind.
Besides, as much as she hated to admit it, her parents would probably just make her leave with the Order anyway even if she did manage to make it inside.
“Okay, fine. I’ll go, but you have to promise me no one is going to take her away when I’m not looking,” Korra said, giving her fiercest glare.
“Cross my heart,” the guard said. “Let’s go, before you worry the Order any more than you already have.”
* * *
Naga’s sudden appearance in the compound caused no end of discussion within the Order, but in the end, no one had any real objections to Korra keeping her if she really was the Avatar’s animal guide. Ataneq himself even seemed to think it was a good sign, since Korra had previously shown no spiritual inclinations whatsoever.
The Order’s feelings quickly turned sour once it became obvious how much of a distraction the polar bear dog pup was. Korra consistently blew off waterbending practice with Ataneq in favor of feeding and playing with her pet, and as soon as the pup regained enough strength to fight back, no one besides the Avatar herself could get within ten feet of it without risking their fingers.
The Grand Lotus attempted to revoke Naga’s continued presence in the compound after that, but it was nearly impossible for any measures to be taken against her that wouldn’t result in either injuries to whoever made the attempt or risking another escape attempt from Korra. Korra quickly recognized and took advantage of this. What the Order considered the result of her refusal to discipline her pet was largely the result of intentional instigation, and by the time Katara returned, Korra’s waterbending practice had been rendered largely impossible by Naga’s tendency to try to bite the seat out of Ataneq’s pants whenever he made an attempt to coerce her into bending practice.
Korra took no end of amusement from her pet’s aggression towards the Grand Lotus, but she started to regret not having taught Naga any sort of restraint the first time she tried to chase Katara off.
“Bad girl!” she yelled. “Don’t hurt Master Katara! Master Katara is nice!”
Naga’s ears drooped and she let out a whine, unhappy with Korra’s disapproval, but as soon as Katara tried to take a step closer, her features twisted in anger and she let out a growl again.
“No, Naga!” Korra shouted. Naga cringed away from the sound, then turned to growl at Korra herself. “Why won’t she listen?” Korra asked miserably, feeling half guilty and half frustrated.
“You have to train her to be kind, Korra,” Katara explained. “She’s still a baby. If you teach her to fight and yell at her when she does something you don’t want, all she’ll know is how to hurt people.” She smiled, then added, “I know you can get through to her, though. The two of you are a lot alike.”
“Okay, so I have to make her be nice. Got it,” Korra said.
“You don’t have to make her, you have to…” Katara started, but Korra had already taken off, Naga trailing at her heels. “I suppose it will take time for her to understand,” she said with a sigh.
Korra quickly proved to be as bad at figuring out reasonable forms of discipline as she was as healing. She tried to be nice about it, but as soon as that failed to produce immediate results, she grew frustrated and her tone drifted from calm but firm to outright yelling.
“No, Naga!” she called out as the polar bear dog stood and growled at a passing White Lotus guard. “Stop that!”
Naga just growled some more, and Korra yelled at her again. The pup rounded on her for that, growling even more.
“Bad girl!” She glared down at her pet, making the ground shake with her earthbending as she stomped towards her.
Startled by the movement, Naga crouched down as if she were going to pounce. “Stop, Naga!” she yelled, feeling her rage boil up unbidden as the polar bear dog refused to listen. When the polar bear dog twitched as if she was about to move, Korra reflexively lashed out with a massive burst of water and caught her in the side, not really caring in the moment whether her pet actually meant to attack or not. Naga was thrown several feet to the side and landed hard, whining pitifully as she failed to drag herself back onto her feet.
Korra’s eyes grew wide and she took a step backwards in horror before running over to the pup. She didn’t mean to hurt Naga, but she had, and she couldn’t do anything to help her on her own. She picked her up in her arms carefully and ran over to Katara as quickly as she could, cringing at the sound of Naga’s continued whines.
“Please,” she said, gasping for air, her eyes wide in horror. “Help Naga! She’s hurt!”
Katara’s own eyes widened as she looked down at the polar bear dog. “What did you do, Korra?”
“I didn’t mean to hurt her!” Korra said frantically. “Just fix her!”
Katara picked some snow up off the ground and turned it into water, which she placed over Naga’s stomach. “She’ll be okay,” she said, moving her hands to guide the water around the affected area. “She has some bruises, but it’s nothing that can’t be healed with waterbending. You’d have been able to help her yourself if you had practiced more, actually.”
“I know, I know,” Korra said, lowering herself to the ground as she tried to come to terms with just how badly she’d messed up. “Maybe I shouldn’t have been so mad at you for trying to make me learn healing. You just didn’t want me to be so useless when someone’s hurt.”
Katara finished her healing and let the water splash to the ground off to one side of her. Naga rested peacefully in her arms, too out of it to notice that she was no longer being held by Korra. “You’re not useless, Korra, you just…”
“I hurt Naga and couldn’t do anything to help her.” Korra said miserably, pulling her legs into her chest and looking down at the ground without really seeing anything. “I don’t want to feel like that ever again.”
“You don’t have to, Korra. I can still teach you, if you’re willing to learn.”
“I am,” Korra said, jumping on the chance to redeem herself for her awful mistake. “For Naga.”
“I have no doubt you’ll be healing with the best of them in no time,” Katara said, giving her student a smile. “That’s what you’ll be learning for the next week.”
Korra sniffled, thinking that a week sounded like a long time to go without her normal bending lessons in spite of herself. “Can’t I –” she started, but Katara cut her off.
“No, Korra, I think it would be best if you took the time to think about how to use your bending properly. You don’t want to hurt anyone again, right?”
“I guess you’re right,” Korra said, looking down guiltily. She still didn’t like it very much, but she didn’t want to see Naga like this again, either.
As Katara predicted, Korra’s change in attitude precipitated a massive change in her willingness and ability to learn. When the healing dummy came out, Korra looked down at it and imagined Naga lying there helpless, and she did her best to do what she needed to fix her. She wasn’t immediately successful, but she had improved so much over all of her prior attempts that she might as well have been for all the encouragement Katara gave her.
By the time Naga had woken up enough to get in between Korra and her waterbending master, Korra had successfully gone over several basic forms of healing and knew enough to heal herself of the few minor scratches that Naga had given her since she took her back to the compound.
Surprisingly, after a week of practicing nothing but healing, Korra’s waterbending started to fall in place faster than ever. She’d already memorized most of the advanced forms, and having realized the downside of relying too much on force firsthand, she finally managed to get into the waterbender mindset instead of just going through the motions. Four months later, not long after her ninth birthday, Katara convinced the Order that Korra was ready to test for waterbending mastery, and she breezed her way through the test, easily proving herself capable of everything that the Order could ask of her. Grand Lotus Ataneq still made noises about Korra’s lack of understanding of spirituality, but even he couldn’t deny that her form was impeccable and she had learned all she could have possibly been expected to learn when she hadn’t even turned nine yet.
Within a few days, Ataneq informed her after admitting that she’d passed her test, her earthbending teacher would arrive. Korra couldn’t have been more excited.
A/N: This is probably the most uncomfortable chapter in the whole piece. The Order’s tendency to see Korra as the Avatar instead of an individual seems like the sort of thing that could end up with awful unconsidered implications, and the degree of control they have over her life certainly seems like it could provide an explanation for her own desperate need to retake control through violence if need be.
At least something good came of it and she has Naga now, right?
Awesome stuff! well worth the triple post!
your ability to write up a world around Korra is superb. Anateq's attitude is going downhill, and i'm exited to see where this is headed. at the start of the show, she and Anateq at least seem to be able to see eye to eye in a professional way. will korra blow up, will Tonraq? Katara? or will something entirely different give this guy a heart?
don't tell, just write!
the last paragraph feels just a little rushed though, and i would have liked a bit more bonding between Korra and Naga. it takes a bit more than seal jerkey to find your animal guide. and if you fight, you have to make right...
sig by me.
keeper of: the Screaming bird's horrible shreak; The Bendig Mark.
This is a good story. It makes sense that Korra has control issues because she never had control over her life. Not only that, the OWL treats her more as an Avatar rather than an individual.
I'm quite curious to see what her earthbending teacher is like (please don''t let it be Toph because if it was, wouldn't Korra know how to sense the earth and metalbend herself?).
Anyway, good story and I hope you make more story like this. Perhaps you should make one about Mako and Bolin next because it's hard to find one without it being over the top angsty.
I was wondering how you were going to work Naga into the story!
Another exciting chapter! I loved the more action-y bits in this one. The way you write Korra's point of view is so interesting, like how Ataneq has good intentions, but he still comes off as a huge jerk in Korra's eyes. I've noticed her maturity subtly growing as she has aged throughout the story too.
I'm curious about the earthbending teacher, and what they will be like. I'm also curious about Katara's role in the story now that Korra is a waterbending master.
I'm so excited to see what happens next!
Emotional stability grows more and more important for Korra to find as the violence and control of her childhood begin to work against her both in earthbending and her attempts to train Naga. Can she learn to cope with this before she does something she regrets?Warnings:
An initially dysfunctional relationship between Korra and Naga that evolves into something less problematic.Tumblr Link:
In case anyone wants to read it on there instead, here's this chapter on Tumblr.
In the days immediately following her successful demonstration of waterbending mastery, Korra found herself with a whole lot more free time than she had ever had in the past. Master Katara still woke her in the morning, took her down to the dining hall several floors below even as she protested that it was far too early to get out of bed, and made sure she had a warm meal in her before taking her out for her first practice of the day, but every bit of training she’d previously had after lunch had been suspended until her earthbending instructor arrived.
When Korra questioned the Order about it, she was informed that her current level of experience was sufficient as to no longer require a full day of waterbending training, though she suspected that they were more intent on separating her from Master Katara than in giving her more of a chance to enjoy herself. Katara’s subdued demeanor certainly did nothing to dispel that line of thinking, and Korra’s attempts to spend time with her ended in failure often enough that the idea that the Order was conspiring against her began to seem like the only logical explanation.
Since Katara was, apparently, off-limits, she often found herself with no one but Naga to play with. The bond between the two, which had been characterized by the sort of intensity that could be expected from an Avatar and her animal guide right from the very beginning, had grown even stronger over the four and a half months they’d been together. Whether out of a sense of natural affinity and or a more pragmatic sense of gratitude for the only equal company either of them had, they both came to rely on each other for comfort and companionship. It wasn’t long before the two had found themselves snuggling and play-fighting enthusiastically whenever they were allowed to simply enjoy themselves. As soon as Korra made any attempt at training the polar bear dog, however, things turned sour quickly. Their ability to interact in that context had only improved marginally since Korra’s catastrophic first attempt at teaching Naga to control herself around other people, if at all.
As careful as she tried to be about not hurting Naga, remembering all too well what had happened the last time she’d allowed her temper to get the better of her, Korra had quickly found herself stuck in a vicious cycle that she had no idea how to escape. Whenever she tried to be firm, even if she wasn’t mean about it, Naga sensed that Korra was upset and reacted with submissive posturing, tucking her tail between her legs and whining miserably. Seeing Naga like that made Korra feel horrible, and she immediately lost all desire to discipline her. It reminded her all too much of the way Naga looked when she was hurt and afraid, and Korra became furious at herself for making Naga feel like that again when she was trying so hard to avoid it.
As soon as she tried to be nicer, though, Naga ignored her, which frustrated and upset Korra even more. She eventually lost her temper, yelling and letting her bending run wild, then immediately regretted it when Naga reacted as if she’d been kicked. She usually ended up running over to Naga to comfort her after that, her attempts at training all but forgotten, desperate to show the pup that she really didn’t mean any harm and she’d make everything all better. Naga was quick to forgive, at least as long as she wasn’t expected to go along with any further training, but the next time Korra was convinced to make another attempt, usually a few days later, it seemed like nothing had changed and the whole cycle started all over again.
Finally, after a particularly disastrous attempt to call Naga off of an unfortunate White Lotus guard, Korra found herself taken aside by Howl, who pointed out that she might be better served by bribery than by negative reinforcement given the problems she’d been having. She’d started swiping packs of seal jerky from the kitchens to give Naga almost as soon as she took her back to the compound, so it wasn’t all too hard for her to switch training methods.
Unfortunately, Korra couldn’t quite manage to pull off the withholding of treats bit. No matter how many times she told herself she’d wait for Naga to listen before giving her the jerky, she always ended up getting mad, yelling, and then handing it over as an apology. Instead of learning to obey Korra’s commands, Naga quickly figured out that whining and making puppy dog eyes when her master tried to discipline her could guilt her into giving her treats without doing any actual work.
As nervous as Naga’s presence made the guards when she had first arrived, her lack of discipline became utterly terrifying as she grew in size and weight, to the point that Korra was forced to keep her chained whenever she wasn’t around. This, of course, did little to improve Naga’s demeanor, and the guards tended to keep a wide radius whenever Korra and her pet were playing in the courtyard.
The pair were doing exactly that when a woman wearing a parka dyed in the green hues of the Earth Kingdom appeared through the gates of the White Lotus compound.
“No, Naga! Stay!” Korra yelled desperately as the polar bear dog broke from her grasp and barreled towards the woman, who was tall and fairly stocky but presumably had no desire to try wrestling a hundred-pound animal regardless. “Get back over here! I have a treat for you!” She waved the piece of seal jerky frantically, hoping to draw Naga’s attention back towards herself, but it had no effect.
The woman waved off the two worried-looking White Lotus guards who had escorted her in, seeming entirely unconcerned about Naga’s sudden attack. Just as the over-sized puppy made to jump at her, she made a simple twisting movement with one of her feet and moved the ground underneath Naga to throw her off-course. Instead of leaping forward, her momentum carried her several feet back towards Korra, and she looked around in confusion to try to figure out what had just happened.
Korra managed to catch up to her pet while she was still distracted and wrapped her arms around her hindquarters, forcing her down to a sitting position. “You need to stay here, Naga!” she said, pointing a finger at the ground beneath her pet accusingly. “You can’t just attack people!”
Naga looked over her shoulder at the woman in green and growled, but stayed where she was.
“Better. Stay, Naga.”
The look the woman gave the two of them suggested she wasn’t a fan of Korra’s teaching methods. “Are you the Avatar?” she asked.
Korra let go of Naga, took a step forward, and gave a bow in greeting. “That’s me,” she said, before moving to put an arm back around Naga before the polar bear dog could try anything. “And you’re my earthbending teacher, right?” Korra didn’t have any real doubts about who she was and asked mainly as a formality. Her skin was nearly as dark as Korra’s own, but she’d used earthbending and skin tone varied widely within the Earth Kingdom anyway.
“That’s the general idea,” the woman said, pausing a moment before continuing for reasons Korra wasn’t quite sure of. “You’re quite a bit younger than I expected. I might need to teach you a few things before you’re ready to focus on proper earthbending form.” She glanced over towards Naga before continuing. “Learning how to train your pet, for instance.”
“Naga’s not just some pet. She’s my best friend,” Korra said, narrowing her eyes. She didn’t like how this woman could just show up out of nowhere and tell her what to do about Naga when even the Order had mostly left the two of them alone.
“Friend or pet, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve been called here to train you, and I can’t do that with a dangerous animal around. I believe you’ve been told to keep her on a chain when you are training, right?”
“Yeah,” Korra said, “but she doesn’t like that.” Normally, she would have been excited about the chance to train in earthbending, but she really didn’t want to chain Naga up again, and she felt rather suspicious of her new teacher’s motives, anyway.
“That’s only to be expected,” the woman said. “She’ll have to deal with it, though. Meet me at the main building in five minutes, without your pet. We really do have to make formal introductions.”
* * *
By the time that Korra had grudgingly brought Naga back to her doghouse and put her collar back around her neck, she decided she didn’t like her new earthbending instructor all that much.
Not only was she nowhere near as warm and caring as Katara was, but she’d also been rather rude over the course of their short conversation, launching right into criticism before even mentioning her name or asking for Korra’s own.
Even more unsettling was that weird comment about needing to teach her other things before teaching her how to earthbend. Korra had a really bad feeling that whatever her new instructor wanted to teach her, she wouldn’t like it very much.
Of course, no matter how much she wished she could put off their introductions until later and just stay with Naga, she had to go inside and meet the woman for real this time. So, after apologizing to Naga for forcing her to stay behind, Korra made her way through the compound and up the stairs until she reached the castle-like structure that served as the main building. As soon as she opened the door, she was directed to the dining hall by one of the guards. Even though lunch had only been a few hours earlier, she was told, her new instructor hadn’t had a chance to eat since early that morning and had requested an early dinner.
Korra herself wasn’t really all that hungry, but she grabbed a few seaweed rolls from the table anyway before sitting down next to the woman she’d met in the courtyard. Since she was inside, the earthbending master had taken off her parka, her fairly tight short-sleeved clothing showing off the most impressively-muscular figure Korra had ever seen on a woman.
“Uh, I’m here,” Korra said, feeling rather awkward about the whole thing. No one had bothered to tell her what she was supposed to do beyond “make introductions.”
“I noticed,” the woman said, turning her dark green eyes towards Korra for a second before quickly turning her attention back to her rice.
Korra stopped in place for a second, almost in shock that she’d been pushed aside so easily. “You’re supposed to be my teacher, right?” she said, growing increasingly annoyed as her words failed to have the desired effect. “You haven’t even told me your name.”
“It’s Lian,” the woman said curtly, then immediately went back to eating.
“Aren’t you going to ask me mine?” Korra asked, growing more frustrated at her new teacher’s unwillingness to actually make conversation by the second.
“Oh, I know who you are, Avatar.” Lian didn’t even bother to turn to look at her even as she spoke.
“Then why do you keep calling me ‘Avatar?’” Korra said, tearing a piece off of her seaweed roll with her teeth in annoyance and chewing loudly. “I’m Korra!”
“I’ll make sure to remember that,” Lian replied, and Korra thought she caught a hint of a smirk on the older woman’s face.
“Wait, you said you knew my name! Why would you lie about that?” Korra narrowed her eyes and glared. She was really starting to get sick of whatever game her new teacher was playing.
“I didn’t lie,” Lian pointed out. “I said I knew who you were. I didn’t say I knew your name.” Korra frowned, trying to work that out, and Lian paused for a moment to let her finish. “Sometimes, you can learn more about a person by not asking directly. It’s kind of like earthbending, actually. You can gain more of an advantage by waiting your opponent out.”
“So you were… trying to teach me a lesson?” Korra asked, more confused than annoyed now. “I’m not really sure I get it.”
“That’s not all too surprising. You’re still young. I’m sure you’ll figure it out eventually.”
“Well, why don’t you come out and teach me for real?” Korra’s frustration bubbled up within her at Lian’s dismissiveness, and she channeled it into overly-aggressive eating again, tearing off another piece of her roll with her teeth.
“Your lessons will begin when I say so,” she said. Then, before Korra could complain about that not really telling her anything, she continued, “Which should be… hm, right after I finish eating.”
Even Korra didn’t really have much to say to that, so she just stared down into her own plate and fiddled with the roll that she hadn’t eaten yet, stabbing it with her chopsticks in frustration at her inability to do anything interesting until Lian decided to let her go.
Master Lian took so long to finish her meal that Korra would have thought she was doing it on purpose if she hadn’t scarfed down food for the entire time, eating as much as three normal people in the process. Either way, the end result was that Korra spent a whole lot of time doing nothing but alternately entertaining violent fantasies and wondering what sort of weird lesson her teacher intended her to learn from this whole ordeal, since she wasn’t allowed to leave until her earthbending training started.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, Lian put down her bowl and chopsticks, stood up, walked away from the table, and started to leave the room.
Korra made a little squawk of surprise, expecting that her teacher would have at least let her know what to do next, but followed after her anyway. “Are you going to show me how to earthbend now?” she asked as she half-jogged to match her teacher’s surprisingly long stride.
“As I said before, your earthbending lessons will begin when I say so.”
“But –” Korra started, then cut off as it became obvious that her teacher was intentionally ignoring her. She’d probably just say something about learning more by not asking anyway,
she thought, glaring at her teacher’s feet and wishing the ground underneath it would crumble out from underneath her on its own accord.
It didn’t take long for the pair of them to reach the courtyard, since Master Lian’s size meant that she walked fast by Korra’s standards even if she couldn’t be bothered to move at more than a leisurely pace. Instead of stopping in the open space at the very middle of the compound like Master Katara did, however, she walked a bit further and stopped in front of an assembly of parallel ropes stretched across wooden poles, with a rope net that could be climbed up to reach the top.
Korra had sometimes played on those ropes when she’d been given free time, swinging between the separate rows or trying to see how quickly she could make it from one side to the other, but she had no idea what an earthbending master could possibly want with them. “Master Lian, what am I supposed to do?” she asked.
“What do you need to do to earthbend?” Master Lian asked.
Korra was somewhat caught off-guard, but answered quickly anyway. “You have to be more stubborn than a rock.” She stomped on the ground and created a short pillar of rock to demonstrate.
“Don’t earthbend until I demonstrate the form,” Lian said shortly. Korra looked down, crestfallen, before her teacher added, “But you’re correct. You have to be like a rock if you want to earthbend properly.”
“Right,” Korra said, a bit confused, “but I’m not sure what the ropes have to do with that.”
“Have you been on them before?” Lian asked, resting up against one of the wooden poles that held the ropes up with one arm.
“Yeah. It’s really easy,” Korra said. She walked over to the rope net and started climbing up it to show that she knew what she was doing. “What does it have to do with being stubborn or – woah!” She had just reached the top of the rope net and grabbed for one of the long parallel ropes when the whole assembly shook wildly. Not having expected anything like that to happen, she lost her balance and fell to the ground.
She picked herself up with a groan and glared up at her teacher, who she was sure had been using her earthbending to make the ropes shake like that. “What was that for?” she demanded, brushing snow off of her parka.
“That,” Lian said shortly, “is how you’re going to learn to be like a rock.”
“You want me to cross the ropes while you’re making the ground shake?” Korra asked, incredulous. “That has nothing to do with earthbending!”
“Doesn’t it?” Lian asked. “I would think I ought to know more about these sorts of things, being an earthbending master.”
“Okay, fine,” Korra said, exasperated. “If I make it across the ropes, you’ll teach me real earthbending, right?” She fixed Lian with a glare, but her teacher said nothing in spite of her efforts to stare her down. Korra quickly cut her losses and tried the ropes again, hoping that her teacher might actually start teaching her if she succeeded.
This time, Korra anticipated the shaking. She paused at the top of the net and held on until it stopped, then grabbed onto two of the parallel ropes before Lian had a chance to stomp the ground a second time. Rather pleased with her own success, she tried to gain distance as quickly as she could, not really paying attention to Lian’s movements. When the ropes shook a second time, she only had one hand to hold on with, and, as hard as she tried, she couldn’t keep her grip like that.
“There’s gotta be some kind of trick to this,” Korra said with a groan as she picked herself back up off the ground. She felt incredibly foolish, which twisted into fury at herself for messing up so badly.
“I’m sure you know more about earthbending than that,” Lian said. “Can tricks move a rock?”
“No,” Korra admitted through gritted teeth, though she wasn’t really sure how much moving a rock and crossing shaky ropes had in common. Moving a rock was easy. Crossing those ropes while her teacher did her best to throw her off seemed virtually impossible. “But there’s no way I can hold on!”
“Don’t think so much,” Lian said. “You’re supposed to be a rock, right?”
“Right,” Korra said grudgingly, feeling rather irritated and confused. “And you’re gonna say rocks don’t give up, aren’t you?”
“No, I was going to say rocks don’t think about whether they can do something or not. They just do it. Now, why don’t you try it again?”
(Continued due to post length limitations)
Korra tried it again and again, growing more and more frustrated with each failure. She fell every time, sometimes earlier, sometimes later. She recognized a pattern to it early on, but her inability to match it consistently just fueled her anger, which flared up inside her until she stopped trying to contain it and let it loose as firebending. Before the out-of-control flames could do any real damage, though, she suddenly found herself on the ground with her hands encased in rock, blinking in confusion.
“Let me ask you something,” Master Lian said, fixing her eyes on Korra. “If you destroyed those ropes, do you really think I’d let you move on to something else?”
“Maybe,” Korra said through gritted teeth as she tried tugging her hands free to no avail. “I wasn’t really thinking at all. I was just so angry!” That anger was still there, really, but the sudden shock of being restrained had sapped away much of it and she had no desire to act on it anymore.
“What were you angry at?” Lian asked calmly. “The ropes?”
“No,” Korra admitted, making another ineffectual attempt to tug her hands free from the restraints.
“Then why waste your anger on them? It’s not going to help you.”
“Because it does help,” Korra said quietly. She slumped back against the ground, fully aware of just how powerless she was as her hands still refused to budge from where they’d been restrained. “It makes the anger go away so I won’t hurt you and get in trouble.” She felt kind of ridiculous admitting it, but she couldn’t do anything unless her teacher decided to let her up so she didn’t think she had much of a choice in the matter.
“If you can redirect your anger away from me, you can redirect it away from your training equipment too,” Lian said, her voice firm and steady.
“But –” Korra started, but her teacher cut her off.
“If you destroy a piece of equipment, your lessons will be suspended until it is replaced.” Korra shrunk under her teacher’s gaze, knowing that there wasn’t much she could do except hope that she really could keep her temper in check. “You need to be rock-like to complete this exercise, and that requires a certain degree of emotional stability,” Lian continued. “Anger may be a powerful drive, but it makes your technique sloppy and it burns out fast.”
Korra was starting to feel the truth of that. Being restrained and forced to listen had sapped away all of her fury. When she was finally released and allowed to get back on the ropes, she felt defeated and empty. After what felt like her dozenth attempt, she refused to get up at all.
“This just isn’t possible,” she said, crossing her arms over her legs and pulling them in towards herself, feeling rather awful about how badly she’d done. “I can’t do it! I’ll never be an acrobat, okay? Can’t I try something that’s actually possible now?”
“It’s only impossible if you stop trying,” Lian pointed out. “You’re an earthbender. You’re supposed to be like a rock, and rocks don’t give up.”
“I wouldn’t give up if it wasn’t impossible,” Korra said sulkily. “What’s the use of even trying if I’m going to fail anyway?”
“Because you won’t fail,” Lian said, offering the first honestly reassuring statement she’d given Korra since she’d shown up. “You’ll only fail if you refuse to try.”
“It never seems to matter whether I try or not,” Korra said, looking down at the ground and thinking about the way the Order had shut her down every time she had tried to convince them of anything. “Anything that doesn’t work right away won’t work at all.”
“That’s not true, Korra.” Lian sighed, then offered her student a hand. “Now, come on, get up. You’re not finished with your training yet.”
With her help, Korra managed to drag herself up to try again, but her fatalistic attitude was enough of a distraction that she forgot the pattern and quickly fell to the ground. She tried again and again, the repeated failures having crushed her will so badly that she couldn’t even bother to be properly frustrated about it. About an hour after her training began, though, her frustration grew to be too much to take once again.
“This isn’t working,” she said angrily as she picked herself up off the ground after another failed attempt to cross the ropes. “Let’s just try something else already.”
“You can’t think like that if you want to learn earthbending. There aren’t any alternate angles. You just have to do it.”
“But you’re not even having me do any earthbending! I might as well just find some scrolls and teach myself! I’d probably learn more that way!” Korra stomped off, ignoring her instructor’s commands to come back. Technically, she wasn’t supposed to teach herself from scrolls, since the Order believed it was dangerous for her to practice without an instructor around to correct her mistakes. In this case, however, she couldn’t help but feel that it was preferable to learning nothing useful at all.
* * *
Korra wanted to make a break for the main building, which held the Order’s library of scrolls, but that was too far away to ensure her escape. Besides, she realized, it wasn’t like she’d have much of an opportunity to use an earthbending scroll with Lian around and looking for her even if she got her hands on one. Honestly, what she really wanted was something to make her feel better, and if there was anything that could cheer her up, it was Naga.
And so, before Master Lian realized where she was going, she leapt down the flight of stairs leading to the underground pen that had been built for Naga, let herself through the gate, and closed it behind her, reasonably certain that no one would be able to follow after her. She ran over to Naga and took the collar off of her neck immediately, apologizing for chaining her up as she did so, then caught the young polar bear dog in the biggest hug she could manage.
“Oh, Naga,” she said, “I did terrible at training today. Master Lian won’t teach me anything, and she just keeps making me try the same thing over and over again even though it doesn’t work.”
Naga just nuzzled her head up against Korra’s face, which made her feel a whole lot better. “Thanks, Naga,” she said. “At least you’re here for me, girl.” She scratched behind Naga’s ears and stroked her head and the back of her neck, trying to forget everything that had happened earlier, but her mind just kept reminding her of the complete failure that was her earthbending lesson no matter what she did.
She thought for a moment, then pulled out a piece of seal jerky from a pouch she’d hidden in her parka and waved it in front of Naga, thinking that maybe she could still manage to accomplish something, at least. “Sit, girl,” she said, and Naga obeyed immediately. She broke the piece of jerky in half and gave it to her as a reward. “Good girl.” She’d had some success in the past with this particular trick, at least as long as there weren’t any Order guards in the immediate vicinity, but she figured Naga had earned her treat anyway, and it was nice to have something go right for once after the miserable day she’d had so far.
The next trick was something Naga had a lot more trouble with, but Korra couldn’t help but hope that she might finally manage to get somewhere with it after succeeding so quickly with the last trick. “Stay, girl,” she said, and walked over to the other side of the pen. As she expected, Naga followed after her instead of staying where she was. “No, girl,” Korra said firmly. “Stay.” She tried to walk away again, but Naga just followed a second time. “Come on, girl,” Korra said, getting frustrated. “You’ve done this before. Stay!”
This time, instead of just walking away, she started to back away slowly, fixing her gaze on her pet to make sure she stayed where she was. As expected, as soon as she’d taken a few steps, Naga moved to follow. “No,” Korra said, angrily pointing a finger at the ground below Naga. “Stay!”
Before Korra had a chance to move, Naga let out a miserable whine and glanced over at her with the saddest look she could muster. Korra resisted the urge to cringe. She really hated how hard it was to avoid shouting at Naga, even after she’d made up her mind for the thousandth time not to do it anymore.
She pushed that thought out of her mind, reminding herself that allowing herself to get distracted wouldn’t help anyone. “That’s not going to work this time,” she said unconvincingly, remembering Master Lian’s instructions about being stubborn like a rock and wondering if they might be useful here, too. “Stay,” she repeated, and took another couple of steps backwards.
Instead of following her, Naga just whined again, and Korra felt so bad that she took the rest of the strip of seal jerky out of its pack, considering whether to give it to her or not. Naga had stayed that time, even if Korra hadn’t made it all the way across the pen yet. The polar bear dog wasn’t about to wait for her to make up her mind, though. She darted over and snatched the treat out of her hands before Korra even realized what was happening.
“Naga!” she called out in surprise as she found her hand suddenly empty. “Bad girl! Get back over there!” Korra pointed back at the other side of the pen furiously, but Naga just whined. Korra felt bad again, but more than that, she felt angry, and her temper flared out of control. “Go!” she yelled, stomping on the ground as she took a step closer. The earth shook as she did it, and Naga backed away, her stomach low to the ground, scared of what Korra would do next.
Korra’s eyes widened as she realized what she’d done, and she looked away guiltily. When she did, she caught sight of something in the stairway out of the corner of her eye. She turned to look, then realized that Master Lian was standing there, looking on in disapproval.
“You’re afraid to lash out at me, so you take your anger out on your pet? What is wrong with you?”
“I wasn’t… I didn’t mean to!” Korra said frantically. She tried to move closer to Naga to comfort her, but the polar bear dog just growled, and she backed off. She felt terrible about what she’d done, her teacher was mad at her, and she had no idea what to say or how to fix any of it.
“That doesn’t change what you did, Korra,” Lian said, fixing her eyes on her student. “It would be irresponsible of me to teach you to earthbend if you keep abusing your powers like this.”
“Does that mean you’re going to stop my lessons?” Korra asked miserably.
“No, I’m not. But until you learn to stop misdirecting your anger, you won’t be allowed to bend a single stone, and I suggest you avoid spending too much time with your pet.”
“But I have to –” Korra started, but Master Lian cut her off.
“No buts,” she said. “Anyway, you need to get to dinner before the dining hall closes,” she said. “I know you didn’t eat a lot earlier, so you should probably eat now.”
Korra felt kind of nervous about talking to Master Lian through an entire meal after what she’d done, but she was definitely starting to get hungry. “Are you going to dinner too?” she asked.
“I ate enough earlier,” she said, and Korra sighed in relief. “Your training won’t start again until tomorrow, in case you’re wondering. It wouldn’t make any sense to continue your practice after dark.”
* * *
At dinner, Korra sat at a table by herself. One of the side effects of her reduction in training with Katara was that she didn’t really see her for dinner anymore, which tended to make it a rather quiet and not particularly enjoyable affair. She picked at her main course, not all that hungry after everything that had happened between Naga, Master Lian, and herself. Just as she took her third bite of rice, Korra noticed Grand Lotus Ataneq and the other two Order members who ran her assessments walk into the dining hall and sit down at a nearby table.
Normally, she would have never spoken to any of them. Pretty much every conversation she’d ever had with the higher-ups in the Order led to her life being changed for the worse.
On the other hand, she wasn’t really sure how things could get any worse than they already were. Master Lian had refused to teach her earthbending, she had no idea whether or not Master Katara would be allowed to stay now that she had another full-time teacher around, and Naga probably hated her for what she’d done.
She pushed her rice around in its bowl with her chopsticks, her mind racing. She really didn’t want to end up stuck climbing on ropes for months instead of earthbending, and she couldn’t imagine convincing Master Lian to change her mind on her own. She would much rather have asked Master Katara than the Order, but the Order had been looking for excuses to keep the two of them apart ever since she’d taken her waterbending test, and she was honestly terrified that they’d see any interference on Katara’s part as a good enough reason to separate them permanently.
And so, for the first time ever, Korra found herself drawn over to ask for a favor from the Grand Lotus himself.
“Uh, Honorable Grand Lotus, sir?” Korra asked, feeling faintly ridiculous as she tried to sound as respectful as possible. When Ataneq and the two others whose names and ranks she didn’t know turned around, she switched to addressing all three of them. “Can I talk to the three of you about my earthbending lessons?”
“Certainly, Avatar,” Ataneq said. “The Order is here to ensure that you are being trained to the highest standards. If you have any concerns, we would be glad to look into them.”
That certainly sounded promising, but Korra couldn’t quite bring herself to hope too much yet, given her history with the Order. “I don’t think I’m learning very much,” she said, feeling kind of terrible about admitting it. “Master Lian won’t teach me any real earthbending until I figure out some kind of stupid rope trick.”
“I’m sure Master Lian has her reasons for that,” said the tall man with the glasses to the left of Ataneq. “You’ve only been training for a few hours. It wouldn’t be entirely unusual if her lessons took longer than that to understand.”
“Can’t I practice something I do understand until I figure it out?” Korra asked, growing a bit desperate. “That’s how I learned healing.”
“She does have a point,” said the woman with greying hair to Ataneq’s right. “Quite a bit of time was wasted on healing lessons before the Avatar was ready to learn.”
“Or, possibly,” Ataneq said, “consistently stopping her lessons after a single unsuccessful lesson made it more difficult for her to deal with any tasks that she cannot perform immediately.”
The other man dropped his voice to a whisper, but Korra still managed to hear what he said anyway. “I thought we agreed that continuing those lessons would have been far too dangerous.”
“Dangerous or not, allowing her to have her way set a bad precedent,” Ataneq replied, also trying but failing to avoid being overheard. “She certainly should not be allowed to request changes in her training routine on a whim.”
“Be that as it may, a routine that doesn’t work doesn’t work,” the woman said quietly. “We should at least let Lian know about her student’s concerns. She can decide what to do with them from there.”
None of the three seemed to have any problem with that, and the Grand Lotus turned back to Korra with the answer that she already knew was coming. “We will speak with Master Lian about your concerns, though it is unlikely any changes will be made in the short term. I must warn you, however, that any attempts to bring Master Katara into this unnecessarily are unlikely to end well for either of you.”
Korra would have been disappointed at the obvious failure of her initial request, but she was far too upset by the confirmation of her worst fears to care about that all too much anymore. “So I can’t tell Master Katara anything about my lessons? Why?” She’d been afraid that the Order might be unhappy if she tried to get Katara directly involved, but insisting that she not talk to the only person in the compound she actually trusted about her training at all seemed overly harsh even for them.
“That is correct,” the woman said. “Your daily morning waterbending practice with Master Katara will continue for the foreseeable future in order to keep your skills sharp. You may not, however, discuss any concerns about earthbending with her, as that is not her area of expertise. You should instead talk to either Master Lian or, if that is not possible, one of us.”
Any relief that Korra might have felt at the assurance that she would, at the very least, continue to see Katara was far outweighed by everything else. She glared down at the ground and tried to push that out of her mind so she could fake a properly-respectful farewell.
“I’ll be sure to do that. Thank you for your consideration,” she said stiffly, then turned to go back to her dinner, trying her hardest to think about how she’d get to see Master Katara tomorrow instead of her failure to convince the Order to do anything useful for her. Even so, she couldn’t quite keep from imagining how satisfying it would be to throw ice at them until they changed their minds, no matter how much she knew how dangerous it was for her to keep thinking like that.
(Continued due to post length limitations)
It became quite obvious during Korra’s morning lesson with Katara that keeping her in the dark about the events of the past day would be far more difficult than she thought it would be.
Fueled by concern for what would happen if she told, Korra was determined to keep quiet about her earthbending training and disastrous meeting with the Order while Katara helped get her prepared for the day ahead. Once the lesson started in earnest, however, her lingering frustration became almost impossible to hide.
The drill that Master Katara had chosen was one of Korra’s favorites, but it was also one of the most challenging. Like most of her waterbending drills, it involved a back-and-forth flow of energy, but this one in particular also involved a great deal of improvisation, with each waterbender being allowed to use whichever forms they felt would give them the biggest advantage.
Unfortunately, this difficulty meant a greater possibility for failure, and Korra had no desire whatsoever to fail any more. Master Katara pushed her to her limits, and she was forced to make close save after close save, growing more and more frustrated with herself all the time. Finally, she was caught off-balance by a particularly tricky form and was left without any proper way to return the globe of water.
I’m not going to lose again, she thought angrily, and swept her closest hand toward her teacher, turning the water into ice and throwing it wildly.
Katara rubbed a gloved finger against her cheek where her student’s ice had grazed her. She looked more disappointed than angry, which made Korra feel even worse. “Korra, you know you’re not supposed to use ice in practice. It’s too easy for someone to get hurt.” She picked up some snow off the ground with a flick of her hand, and quickly healed the scratch on her face.
Korra looked down guiltily. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m just…” She wanted to say she was just mad about what had happened with Master Lian and the Order, but she caught herself. She couldn’t allow herself to say that, because if she did… “I’m just tired.”
Katara gave her a look that suggested she didn’t quite believe it, but let it go. “Maybe practicing against some snow targets would help wake you up.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Korra said, unconvinced. The moving snowmen Master Katara had devised to teach Korra how to prioritize when facing multiple opponents were a lot of fun when she was in a good mood, but she certainly wasn’t in a good mood now.
Katara formed eight separate “enemies” from snow and sent them after Korra. She imagined the first one as Ataneq and speared it through four separate times with ice before knocking it over, then turned to face the second target. She’d wasted far too much time being vindictive, however, and had only barely thrown it to the ground before the third and fourth were on her. She managed to use a sweeping form to dispatch the both of them, but now she was surrounded by the rest and she didn’t have time to go into the octopus form to deal with them properly.
I’m so sick of messing up! she thought angrily, the flames within her threatening to burst out. And then, she remembered she didn’t have to let the snowmen win, and melted all four of them with a massive burst of furious firebending.
She stood there with her arms extended, panting angrily, until what she’d done finally dawned on her. She let her hands fall to her side as she saw Master Katara walking towards her, looking concerned.
“Korra, are you sure there isn’t something wrong?” she asked, taking a hold of Korra’s right hand to help comfort her.
“I…” Korra started, then caught herself again. “I can’t say. I’m not allowed.”
Katara looked rather serious. “By the Order?” she asked. Korra remained silent, but that was enough. “I’ll need to have a word with them. Asking you not to talk to me is not fair to either of us. No matter what they tell you, I want you to remember I’ll be here for you.”
“Thanks, Master Katara,” Korra said, grabbing onto the older waterbender thankfully. Katara hugged her close until she decided that she was ready to start her training again.
* * *
By the end of lunch, it had become obvious that whatever Master Katara had said to the Order hadn’t been effective. Korra quickly recognized the defeated look that her teacher often had after discussions with the Order and forced her way over to her in spite of the White Lotus guards’ interference. Even if she already knew things were bad, she had to know just how bad they were.
“What did they say?” Korra asked frantically, all vestiges of politeness having vanished in the face of impending misery.
“They still want to keep your bending lessons separate,” Master Katara said softly, unable to look Korra in the eyes. “I don’t think I’ll be able to convince them of anything on your behalf now that you’ve mastered waterbending.”
“So I just have to do what they want now?” Korra’s voice raised as she realized just how badly things were falling apart. “They’re gonna make everything worse!”
“It’s not as bad as you think, Korra,” Katara said reassuringly. “They seem to feel that you need to be more independent. If you talk to them on your own, they might be willing to listen.”
“But I already did that!” Korra clenched her fists and glared at the ground. “It didn’t work!”
“That’s true, Korra,” Katara admitted, “but they might be more open to the possibility if they feel you’ve shown improvement. For now, though, they said that it’s important for you not to give up on your earthbending lessons.”
The last bit changed the entire thing from reassuring to threatening, even if Master Katara hadn’t quite intended to imply that much. The Order had never listened to Korra, and she didn’t really expect them to start now. If she didn’t fall in line, it seemed a lot more likely that they’d force the issue than that they’d listen to what she wanted. There wasn’t much she could do about it at the moment, though, especially since her lesson with Master Lian was quickly approaching.
She made her goodbyes quickly after the guards warned her that she had only five minutes to get down to the courtyard, and she found herself in front of Master Lian shortly thereafter.
“The White Lotus has informed me that you believe you cannot learn from my training methods,” Master Lian said as soon as Korra came to a stop. “I’m not sure whether to be disappointed or pleasantly surprised.”
“I’m… sorry?” Korra couldn’t quite tell by her tone of voice whether her teacher was upset at her or not, but she certainly didn’t look overly pleased. Korra braced herself, expecting even more bad news.
“On the one hand, you actually tried to deal with your frustration at the source instead of just lashing out at whatever was convenient. I would be much more impressed if you didn’t get the Order involved, but I can respect that.”
Korra’s defensive attitude fell away as she grew more and more confused. “Okay…?” she started cautiously, wondering where Lian was going with this.
“On the other, you asked the Order to convince me to let you give up. That is something I cannot respect.”
Korra looked down at the ground, feeling rather guilty. She didn’t want to give up. She just hated failing. “So, we’re just going to start where we left off?” she guessed, not looking forward to it in the slightest.
“You catch on quickly,” Master Lian said. “Why don’t you try making it across the ropes again?”
“Can’t you at least explain what I need to do?” Korra asked through gritted teeth as she walked over towards the rope net leading up to the top of the assembly. If Master Lian just told me what she wanted, she thought angrily, this whole thing would be a whole lot easier. And then, I won’t have to worry so much about what might happen if I can’t do it.
“I suspect that you already know what to do,” Lian responded. “I’m sure you paid attention to what happened when you tried this yesterday.”
Her teacher’s willingness to help calmed her down slightly, and she took a deep breath. “Well,” she said, not exactly sure what Master Lian was looking for, “the ropes only shook at certain times, and you stomped the ground before they did.”
“Very perceptive,” Lian said. “You know everything you need to know. All you’ve got to do is try again and again until you make it across.”
“You make it sound so easy,” Korra grumbled as she climbed up the net. Remembering that the ground always shook just as she reached the top, she hung on until the shaking passed before attempting to move on, then progressed onto the parallel ropes.
This time, she made it halfway across before misjudging the length of time she had to move before the ropes shook and falling off. Korra seethed in frustration, her bending threatening to rage out of control, but Master Lian seemed more interested in the progress that she’d made than her barely-controlled temper.
“You’ve definitely improved from yesterday, Korra,” she said with a smile. “I’m sure you’ll get it by the end of this training session.” The training session wouldn’t end for several more hours, so that was cold comfort for Korra. She tried to set that thought aside, though, and climbed right back on the net. Even if it did take her hours, at least she wouldn’t be a quitter.
A half-dozen failed attempts later, her frustration had grown to the point where she was almost on the verge of setting something on fire again. Only the thought of what she stood to lose if she gave in to her anger kept her from doing something stupid. She squeezed her fists tight and took a few deep breaths, trying to calm herself down, but it didn’t help much.
“I hate this,” Korra said, glaring down at the ground. “You said you won’t teach me earthbending until I stop being mad, but this just makes me even more mad!”
Lian sighed. “Korra, I don’t want you to stop being mad. All I want is for you to learn to focus your anger on appropriate targets. You might not be able to make it go away, but you can decide how to use it.”
“What’s an appropriate target, then?” Korra asked, still feeling rather irritated.
“That’s a good question,” Master Lian said, almost smirking for a moment before her expression returned to its original severity. “That is something we’ll discuss later on, I think. For now, let’s just use an actual target. Do you want to help me get it?”
Korra accepted and followed Lian to the equipment garage, glad for the chance to get away from the ropes for a minute. By the time they managed to drag the target all the way over to where they were before, Korra’s frustration had all but vanished, and she decided to try the ropes one more time before doing anything else.
Of course, after a few more failed attempts, that frustration came back in full force. This time, though, instead of letting it grow to the bursting point, she chucked spears of ice into the center of the target until she calmed down and was back at the ropes within minutes.
With a bit of encouragement from Lian and the knowledge that she could cool off with some target practice when needed, she finally managed to rein in her temper enough to focus entirely on the task at hand. Korra could hardly believe what had just happened when she finally managed to make it all the way to the end of the ropes, just before the training session ended.
“Do you understand what it means to be like a rock now, Korra?” Master Lian asked.
“I think so,” Korra said, still somewhat stunned by her success. “I need to be both calm and firm, and wait for the right time to move.”
“Very good. Now, let’s apply that to some actual earthbending,” Lian said with a smile.
“Really?” Korra asked, grinning widely. This was what she’d been looking forward to for the past day and a half! She took a stance that she’d seen in one of the earthbending scrolls to get ready.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Korra.” Korra pouted at that, but Lian just shook her head. “Follow me,” she said. “I’ll show you how it’s done.”
* * *
Korra’s earthbending training continued to follow similar lines. Every day, Master Lian would come up with some sort of bizarre and frustrating exercise in timing and patience using the various mechanisms set up inside the compound, which Korra had to complete before starting to learn any actual earthbending forms. Korra’s willingness to hold her frustration and anger back and focus on her task grew day by day until she barely had to take breaks to cool off anymore.
After about a month of training and several generally-successful assessments, however, she was given a much more complicated assignment.
“You must have noticed by now that I have only been teaching you the most basic forms of earthbending,” Lian said.
“Yeah,” Korra admitted. “They all seem to amount to ‘move a rock.’ I’m starting to get a bit bored with that.”
“Well, you’ll need to get used to it, I’m afraid, because you’ll be doing that for the rest of your life.” When Korra’s only response was a rather horrified expression, she added, “If you break it down, all earthbending comes down to moving rocks. That is why I believe it is more important for you to learn how to do that in whatever circumstance you find yourself in than it is to teach you the more complicated ways in which rocks can be moved.”
Korra wasn’t quite sure she liked where her teacher was going with this, even if she wasn’t really sure what she actually meant. “What are you going to have me do, then?”
“If your polar bear dog was trained, I would have you learn to perform the earthbending forms you already know while riding her,” Master Lian said.
“But why?” Korra asked, her eyes widened in surprise from the strange request.
“Many earthbenders find it more difficult to earthbend when not standing on solid ground. If you learn to do it early enough, it’s not that big of a deal, but trying to teach it to someone who is already proficient can be rather frustrating. I don’t want you to have to worry about that.”
That was certainly a sentiment Korra could understand. “Okay, I guess that makes sense,” she said. “I don’t think the Order would be happy with Naga running loose during my training, though.”
“No, they certainly would not. And that’s exactly why your lessons in earthbending form are postponed until your polar bear dog is trained.”
“What?” Korra asked, frozen in shock. If there was one thing she didn’t want to feel pressured to do, it was try to train Naga. Her disastrous last attempt was still far too recent. “You can’t do that! I need to keep learning earthbending! That’s what you’re here for, right?”
“There is no need for you to learn any new forms at the moment,” Lian said. “The basic forms that you’ve already learned are so important that even I still need to practice them, so holding you back for now certainly won’t do you any harm. Besides, knowing that you’ll be able to learn new forms after your pet is trained should give you incentive to train her faster.”
“That’s not fair at all,” Korra said, her tone starting to edge into a whine as she realized she wasn’t going to change her teacher’s mind. “If I don’t learn anything new, the Order won’t be happy.”
“The Order understands why I am doing this. I won’t let them blame you for a change in your training that I chose to make.”
(Continued due to post length limitations)
In spite of her teacher’s assurances, Korra made a point to confirm with the Grand Lotus at dinner that this was the case before accepting it. As she expected, though, the Order had no desire whatsoever to change Master Lian’s plans, and the next day of training was quite possibly the most boring she’d had since the Grand Lotus himself tried to train her in waterbending. Just about the only useful thing she accomplished that entire day was convincing Master Lian and the Order to let her ask around for help.
After that, Korra sought out both Katara and Howl for advice in training Naga, hoping that one of them could offer some kind of method of training an animal in short order. Unfortunately, neither of them had anything much to tell her apart from reminding her that consistent and fair rewards and discipline were invaluable and warning her that it might take some time.
Time was the one thing Korra didn’t really want to spend any more of than necessary, so she set about trying to train Naga in every extra minute she had. Thankfully, Master Lian shortened her training sessions somewhat now that she wasn’t learning new forms every day, but training Naga was still slow going even though violent frustration and the side effects that it had on her attempts at discipline were no longer quite as much of an issue. Every step forward she thought she made in teaching Naga commands seemed to vanish as soon as anyone else entered the area.
By the end of the week, she was able to convince the young polar bear dog to allow her to ride on her bare back and follow simple commands like “stay,” “go,” and “turn.” If a hapless White Lotus guard happened to be passing by, however, even the “sit” command, which she’d otherwise mastered over a month ago, fell by the wayside as she ran all the way over to the gate and barked furiously until the guard went away.
This frustrated Korra to no end because she had no way of proving she’d made any progress until Naga stopped reacting so badly to other people, and she found herself forced to remove herself from Naga’s pen to cool off more and more because of it. If only Master Lian could see how well she was doing,
she thought one day after her earthbending practice for the day had ended.
It was at that moment that she realized that there might be some benefits to having Master Lian around even if Naga didn’t
behave. Her earthbending teacher was the only person in the compound who wasn’t either terrified of the polar bear dog, like the Grand Lotus and the guards, or intent on avoiding her if at all possible, like Master Katara. Maybe, Korra thought, if there was someone around who wasn’t afraid of Naga, it might be easier to teach her to behave herself.
Even though it had been less than an hour since Korra had been released from her training, she quickly decided that this was the sort of thing that was worth interrupting her instructor for. It took her a bit of time to track her down, since she’d apparently gone inside the main building for a warm cup of tea and a game of Pai Sho while Korra was out of her hair, but Korra wasted no time in trying to convince her of her new idea.
“I need your help to train Naga,” she said bluntly, panting in exertion after running all over the compound to find her.
“You do?” Master Lian said. Her expression was difficult to read.
“Yeah,” Korra said, trying to sound as confident as possible in her own logic. “I’ve taught her to respond to commands, but they only work when I’m alone. I was thinking that it might be hard to train Naga not to attack people if there isn’t anyone there for me to teach her to leave alone. Everyone else is too scared of her to get close, so…”
“So you want me to put myself in danger to help you train your pet?” Lian didn’t sound particularly upset by this, but the wording alone made Korra question whether to keep pushing or not.
“Not exactly,” she said, trying to collect her thoughts before continuing. “You weren’t scared at all when she came after you. I don’t think you’re really afraid that she’d hurt you.”
“Very perceptive,” Master Lian said. “But why should I take that risk?” she asked, still making it more difficult to figure out what she really thought than was strictly necessary.
Korra paused for even longer this time, on the verge of reconsidering, but pressed on anyway. “Because you want Naga around for earthbending practice,” she said, trying to sound more confident in her assessment of her teacher’s intentions than she actually felt. “You’d be the first one besides me to see her out of her pen anyway.”
“Alright, I think you’ve made your case,” the earthbending master said. “You’ve clearly grown both in patience and force of will, and you’re not afraid to stand up to me to get what you want. I think you’ve learned all you can for now.”
“Does that mean you’ll start teaching me more earthbending?” Korra asked, her eyes glittering with revitalized hope.
“Not quite yet. I wasn’t lying when I said I wanted you and your pet to train together.” Korra’s face fell, so her teacher continued, “However, I will be glad to help you train her as often as need be until she is ready.”
* * *
As Korra had hoped, Master Lian’s presence made training Naga to cope with the presence of other people a whole lot easier. It started out simple, with the earthbending master merely standing around outside the pen while Korra slowly convinced the polar bear dog that her pack of seal jerky was more interesting than the stranger who mostly just stood around without doing anything. By the end of the night, however, Korra was able to convince Naga to do tricks and ride around the pen as if she was completely oblivious to Lian’s presence.
Of course, things couldn’t be that simple, and the first time Korra let her earthbending master into the pen went very poorly indeed. A hastily-earthbent wall kept the polar bear dog from doing any real harm, but Lian was forced to leave the area entirely before Korra could calm Naga down.
Over the next week, Korra’s earthbending practice took up less and less time, until it had shrunk down to two hours, with the rest of her time with her instructor spent training Naga. Lian assured her that she was still technically at practice. She was, after all, still attempting to move a rock, albeit in a less literal sense, and the lack of new forms to learn was easily overshadowed by Naga’s rapid improvement in temperament.
Halfway through the week, Korra had convinced her animal guide to follow commands even when Master Lian pretended to run from her, something that would have ordinarily triggered one of Naga’s most deeply-ingrained instincts. The next day, Korra managed to conscript Howl into helping out, and the only unwanted attention Naga gave him was a big sloppy polar bear dog kiss. The morning after, she introduced Naga to Master Katara at the end of her waterbending practice without incident. By her next assessment, Korra felt comfortable requesting Naga to be out of her pen so she could show off the polar bear dog’s improvement to the Order instead of her own bending.
“You are certain she is safe?” Grand Lotus Ataneq asked warily. The last time he’d been in close proximity to Naga, she’d tried to nip at his heels and bite out the seat of his pants, and she’d been small enough that Korra herself was able to carry her away without issue. Now that she had grown to the size of a particularly large polar leopard, any aggression on her part could be a massive risk to everyone nearby, and he seemed to have little desire to risk that.
“Yeah, she is.” Korra glared over at him, incensed at his lack of faith in her efforts.
“I would not have asked my student to demonstrate something that I myself was not entirely confident in,” Master Lian said once it became clear that Korra’s own words couldn’t be left to stand on their own.
“I think Korra herself can be trusted to know what Naga can do,” Master Katara said, sitting to the side of the three Order members.
“Very well,” Ataneq said. “Let us see what she can do. If she proves to be safe, Lian, we will allow her to join in your practice sessions, even if it is hard for us to see what you hope to accomplish by it.”
“I believe it has accomplished a lot already,” Lian replied coolly. “If you will, Korra.”
Korra bowed to the three members of the Order and Master Katara, who sat in the pagoda in front of the sparring arena, then darted off to Naga’s pen to take her off her chain. She came back even faster, riding on the polar bear dog’s back, and called her to stop right in the middle of the arena before dismounting.
“Sit, Naga,” Korra said, and Naga sat right by her side. The three Order members were initially nervous, but calmed down as it became more obvious that she wasn’t going to move until Korra told her to.
Korra showed off each of the commands she had taught Naga, called Master Lian and Howl in one at a time to pet Naga and prove that she wasn’t a danger to either of them, demonstrated her ability to navigate while riding Naga by voice alone, and showed that she could even roughhouse with her pet while others were nearby without any danger.
By the end of it, the two lower-ranked Order members looked entirely impressed, Master Katara looked as proud as she had when Korra had mastered a particularly difficult waterbending form, and even Grand Lotus Ataneq himself seemed pleasantly surprised.
“I believe the Avatar’s animal guide can be considered reasonably safe,” the female Order member said, her voice fairly neutral.
“I see no reason not to allow her to join the Avatar at practice,” said the male Order member wearing glasses.
“You have made your point, Avatar,” Grand Lotus Ataneq admitted. “Your lessons with Master Lian will continue, if she wishes, with your pet at your side.”
Korra smiled brightly. “Great!” she said, her enthusiasm palpable. She caught Naga in a giant hug and earned a big slobbery lick on the face in response. “You won’t be disappointed!”
“Right,” Ataneq said, not sounding overly convinced. “Now, I believe, it is time for your lessons to continue.”
Korra was just about to walk off with Master Lian for her first worthwhile earthbending lesson in a while when she realized that the Order hadn’t bothered to lift any of the other restrictions on Naga. Considering what she’d just done, she couldn’t help but think that now was the best chance she’d ever have to challenge them and see if Master Katara was right about them being more willing to listen.
“Uh, one question,” she said, trying to sound as confident as possible. “Naga really hates to be chained up… I don’t have to do that anymore now that she’s safe, right?”
Thre three Order members looked rather surprised at the request, but Master Lian seemed to be pleased by her student’s forwardness.
“I suppose that would be reasonable,” the taller man said. The woman nodded in agreement.
“Korra managed to train a polar bear dog,” Katara pointed out. “I think the both of them deserve some kind of reward.”
“I must admit that I am not particularly fond of the idea,” Ataneq said. “However, my fellow Order members and Master Katara certainly have a point. I will allow you to keep her unchained.”
Empowered by her success, Korra decided to press her luck a bit further. “May I take her out for walks, too? This compound isn’t really big enough to give her the exercise she needs.”
“You are asking for more than you know, Avatar,” the man with glasses said. “If you leave the compound, we will need to send guards alongside you.”
“I know that,” Korra said, remaining firm in spite of the Order’s resistance. “But Naga needs the exercise.”
“It is something we will keep in mind as she continues to grow,” the woman said. “However, I believe the compound should be sufficient at the moment. Now, it really is time for you to get back to your training, young Avatar.”
Korra’s face fell immediately, but she quickly caught herself and tried to avoid making her disappointment any more obvious than it already was. “Thank you for your consideration,” she said stiffly, giving a quick bow before walking back to Master Lian.
The earthbending master put her hands on Korra’s shoulder, and Korra turned to look at her in surprise. Physical comfort was not something she was used to receiving from Master Lian, but she certainly didn’t mind. The two of them walked off towards the training equipment together, Naga following close behind.
As soon as they reached the nearest device, a wooden structure that looked something like a modified set of hog-monkey bars, Lian stopped and looked directly at Korra. “I’m rather impressed with the way you handled the Order,” she said, giving an uncharacteristically enthusiastic smile. “You remembered the principles I’d been trying to teach you, didn’t you? Wait for your opponent to give you an opportunity to strike, than be as stubborn as a rock in taking it.”
Korra couldn’t help but feel rather confused. Master Lian’s demeanor was completely different from the way it had been when she first arrived, seeming more like she wanted to be Korra’s friend than her usual antagonistic self. Besides, she was part of the Order, wasn’t she? “Yeah, you taught me a lot,” she admitted. “But I kind of thought you’d be mad that I used it like that. Aren’t you supposed to be on their side?”
“I wouldn’t necessarily put it like that,” Lian said, her voice softening to a whisper even though no one from the Order seemed to be within earshot. “Let’s just say that I’d be perfectly happy if you figured out how to take them down a peg or two. You’re an earthbender. You can’t let them push you around.”
“You make it sound easy,” Korra grumbled, annoyed with the implication that she had let the Order walk all over her as if she had any real choice in the matter.
“Well, no,” Lian said. “It all comes down to technique. Just like earthbending, actually. Speaking of which, you have a drill to complete. I hope you and Naga are ready!”
Korra’s relationship with Naga here was interesting to write, because it’s rather messed up in a lot of ways but it’s also the only thing either of them have in some ways. Naga puts up with a lot, but due to a mixture between Avatar spirit magic and a lack of other options, she doesn’t have many other options. Korra really wants to treat Naga well, but she’s still kind of a mess from everything she’s been through.
Lian is the first pure OC that I’ve written in this fandom, since everyone else that has been mentioned so far outside of generic White Lotus guards have at least a canon character design. As you might have guessed by the end of this chapter, there’s a bit more to her than has been revealed so far, so if she seems a bit odd in some ways, there might be a reason for it.
Just wanted to say this is all really good, Ikkin.
Great characterization and I'm truly finding this to be a fascinating take on Korra's early years.
Lian is awesome. Just had to get that out of the way.
It's interesting to see how you manage to tie Korra's bending lessons into what she is going through emotionally. I'm really loving how everything is fitting together, and how Korra is growing. It's also nice to see training a previously un-trainable animal portrayed in a realistic way.
Looking forward to more