attackfish: Jet and Zuko fighting in the teashop, text "Obviously this is the place to come if you want to get murdered by lunatics" (Jet Juko TDL quote)
[personal profile] attackfish
Disclaimer: If I owned Avatar the Last Airbender, we would have gotten to see Ty Lee's sisters.

Summary: The Fire Nation might have destroyed the Air Nomads and scattered their ashes to the winds, but their descendants still remain.

Warning: Death, genocide, the death of children, captivity, and non-graphic rape by coercion with the coercion and captivity detailed

Author's Note: Written for [ profile] dungeonwriter. It was originally meant to be a Hanukkah present, but now it's for Yom Hashoah, which is not a holiday anyone should get presents for.

Only Truly Dead


The Fire Nation army mustered on the horizon.  Ziyou gazed down at them under the glare of the comet.  A great cloud of dust and snow swirled around them.  He turned to his class of children, his voice thin and shaky.  “Help me get the other children.”  They nodded.  Their eyes were wide, every one of them.

“They aren’t going to be able to get up here,”  one of the boys at the back whispered.  “Are they?  I mean, we’re safe.”

Ziyou didn’t answer right away.  The Fire Nation army came closer and closer to the temple mountain, like specks of dirt against the early summer snow.  “Help me get the other children,” he repeated.  They shuffled down the hall and into the toddler nursery.  His twelve-year-olds talked as they picked up the babies.  They chattered shrilly, or muttered, but all of them talked.

“What are you doing?”

Ziyou glanced up, hitching the boy he was holding higher up in his arms.  “You see that army outside?”

Shuanglang’s eyes grew wide and then narrowed.  “They’re not going to get up here, Ziyou!  They don’t have Sky Bisons.  Put him down!”

All around Ziyou, his students were putting the babies back in their playpens, with their toys, and they were screaming in confusion.  “I’m not taking that chance!  You heard the stories about the last time the comet came!  They broke the Northern Water Tribe’s blockade in an hour.”

“The elders said-”

“I don’t care.” he snapped, almost incoherent with frustration and fear.  “We’re getting the children out.  Are you going yo help me,” he wasn’t really asking at all.  “Or are you going to stand in my way?”  His voice shook.  His frail, fleshless arms shook around the fat little baby.

Shuanglang glanced out the window at the orange sky.  “Where are you going to take them?”

His students were quiet.  Some of them held children, suspended in the air, halfway between picking them up and putting them down.  Some held their hands, some just watched, but they were quiet as their master spoke.  A room full or silent twelve-year-olds.  He wished he could replicate that when he wasn’t so afraid of them.  And he wished the toddlers would be quiet too.  “There are caves, under the temple.  I’m going to hide them there.  The Fire Nation won’t find them.”

“And what are you going to do with them after that?”  Shuanglang yelled.  He was so young.  His beard was still mostly black.  “There isn’t any food, any water-”

“And if the Fire Nation doesn’t get up here, that won’t matter!” he snapped, wheezing.  “I’ll just come back out with them.”

And if they did, the boys would be better off in the caves.

Shuanglang lifted one of the boys into his arms and grasped the hands of one of the boys who walked the best.  “They aren’t going to get up here, and the elders are going to be so angry.”

Ziyou smiled a very small smile at his former student.  “I hope so.”


The classroom doors opened with soft swishes.  It was after that each time that the shouting started.  The children didn’t want to come.  Their teachers didn’t want them to go.  Everyone shouted.  Everyone called Ziyou crazy and told him the Fire Nation wasn’t going to reach the temple, and Ziyou kept saying the same thing over and over again.  “I’m not taking that chance!”

The teachers ran out of their classrooms behind him and ran to the elders, and the strong young men.  Ziyou had gone crazy.  He was kidnapping the children.  If he got them out of the temple, they were never going to see them again.

“I can’t do this.”

Ziyou glanced back at his former student.  “Hush.”

Shuanglang shook his head convulsively.  “No, no, we’re going be so much trouble when this is over.”

“Are you still twelve?” Ziyou rasped.  His old lungs didn’t pull enough air into his body, and they hissed like with through the tree branches and the empty temple courtyards.  “Should you still be in my class?”

Some of his students rolled their eyes, and others narrowed them.  All his former students whispered that he shouldn’t be teaching anymore.  He always said things like that, and talked about his students as if they were babies, or stupid.  But he had taught them.  He had taught almost everyone.  No one quite dared to tell him to his face that he should stop.

He opened the temple door, ignoring the gazes of his students, and the crying of the younger children.  The Fire Nation army clustered around the temple mountain.  The sky was a dark bloody red, and it tainted the temple stones with its tint.  “Stay,” he said, “Or follow me.  Your choice.  I can’t make you.  But you better make it soon, because we’re leaving.”

The young monks would reach them soon.  And the Fire Nation army might reach the young monks after that.  Shuanglang stepped back into the temple hall, and Ziyou’s lip curled.  Shuanglang looked down.  “I won’t tell them which way you went.”

Ziyou heaved a soft, shallow sigh.  “You’re a coward, Shuanglang.”

“You’re the one who is going to hide,” came the soft, bitter reply.  Ziyou’s fingers snapped into fists before he forced himself to uncurl them.  He waved the children out the door, and his students followed, cowed.


Ziyou crouched in the back of the cave with babies tucked into his lap, whining and moaning, one of the oldest boys stood at the entrance and watched.  Fire arced across the sky in sheets instead of lines, and Ziyou felt that poisonous little voice reminding him that he had been right.  He always listened to that poisonous little voice.


The fires had left the sky more than a day ago.  The children screamed with hunger.  They screamed with it, but Ziyou couldn’t make himself leave the cave yet.  They couldn’t.  What if the army were still out there?  What if...

He hadn’t thought they’d really make it up to the temple.  This was just supposed to be a precaution, a just in case.

He swallowed.  “You said the army left?”

The boy at the entrance dropped to the ground and folded himself around his legs.  “I think so.”

Ziyou nodded.  “Let’s find the other boys.”  He put the children in his lap down and picked his way to the cave mouth.  The boy started to follow.  Ziyou whipped around.  “Are you crazy?  You stay here.  Watch them.”

The boy, fifteen years old, and still an idiot, still a child, grimaced.  “Alright.”

Ziyou gritted his teeth and poked his head out.  The air was cold, and clear, blue, not hot and red like it had been under the light of the comet.  The temple was a shell, with burned walls.  Ziyou didn’t look.  The other cave stood lower down on the mountain, and plunged further down into the rock.  He peaked into it, and saw all of them sleeping.  He suppressed a grateful sigh that they hadn’t run out and gotten killed.  “Alright, come out, it’s safe.”

None of them moved.  Ziyou climbed down, knees protesting, back aching, and he decided he was going to kill them once he got something to eat.  He prodded the shoulder of the closest one with his foot, but he didn’t wake.  Bending low, Ziyou pressed his fingers to the boy’s neck.  No pulse fluttered just under his skin.  No air moved out of his mouth.  Ziyou stared around at the boys on the cave floor.  All his students.  The other monks would have told each other that they didn’t think he would care.  He felt sick, and he had thought after seeing the temple, nothing could make him feel sicker, but he felt so sick the cramping hunger in his stomach vanished.  All of them.

His head spun and his vision dimmed.  He scrambled up the rock cave wall to the mouth and out onto the grassy ground.


There were still the youngest children, the babies, the toddlers, the ones too young to even understand something like this.  A horde of children.  A mob of little boys.  He shuffled back to the cave, back to them, and felt very very old.


“You tell me where he is now!”  The Avatar brought his staff down, hurling sand away from the ground on the wind.  Si Wong was the belly of the Earth Kingdom, where outsiders saw the tribes bend air and never...

Ghashiun’s father’s voice was quiet.  “What did you do?”

“It wasn’t me!”  The lie hung in the air.  They didn’t have to be monks.  His father should know that.

The blind girl’s eyelids flickered.  “You said to put a muzzle on him.”

The tribesmen turned.  Ghashiun had gone from theft to sacrilege.

“You muzzled Appa?”  The Avatar’s eyes glowed white.



Smoke floated out of the temple windows and dispersed on the wind.  Ji Ren pulled the packet of letters out of his pocket and whistled to himself, without looking up.  His little sailboat rode the winds and jumped over the waves, and when it crashed into the valleys between, his teeth rattled in his head.  He gripped the letters tightly just to keep them in his hand, and didn’t look up yet.  He didn’t need to.  Neixin’s letter was in his hand, and he wished he were back in the Eastern Air Temple, and the time he was away from home was always too short anyway.

It wasn’t a bad place, the Southern Air Temple.  And they’d be happy to see the letters.

But as he rubbed Neixin’s letter between his thumb and his finger, her note that was supposed to tide him over through the long months until he saw her again, his eyes on the ocean and the harbor drawing nearer, he didn’t want to look up and see the temple.

The sharp, dirty smell of coal smoke fluttered on the wind.  Ji Ren circled his arm in front of his face reflexively to bend it away.  The black specks clung to his hand, and his breath sucked them deep into his nose.  His eyes rose to the sky and the smoke like a smudge against the clouds.  And the smoke rising from the empty windows of the temple.  He could feel the bottom of the boat drop out from under him and sink away into the sea, but it didn’t the wood was still under his feet.  He just couldn’t feel it.

The winds rose high and whistled around his head.  He barely moved his arms and they hurled themselves into his sails.  His hands whirled them higher, and they drove him before themselves, deep into the harbor.  It twisted hard in his hands, spinning his little boat around and around in the water, and he brought his arms down, desperate to quell them before they smashed him against the shore.  The letters dropped out of his numb fingers and drifted down into the water.  Ji Ren grabbed his staff.  It opened under the winds, and he grasped it as it leapt into the sky.

He knew he was bending the winds that carried him to the temple.  He knew that.  But it felt like something had plucked him out of the air and dragged him along.  He didn’t want to go and find out that people had actually died, that the fire had destroyed more than just the temple.

But a little bit of him was hoping that the temple was uninhabitable, and they would all have to go live in the Eastern Air Temple until it was repaired, which was stupid, and he knew it.

His feet touched down on one of the temple balconies, and his glider collapsed back into a staff in his hand.  He ran down the corridor, his breath puffing out of his mouth.  “Gyatso?  Elder Pei?  Anyone?”

But no one answered.  The corridor was empty.  Small fires smoldered in piles of rubble dotting the floor, but they were only the remnants of whatever monster blaze had left ash all over the walls.  He wondered what had started it, and if anyone had gotten caught inside.

His foot caught on something, and he fell sprawling on the floor.  As he fell, his teeth clicked shut on his tongue, and he yelped.  He tucked his legs under himself and looked around for what he had tripped over.  The Fire Nation army helmet sat lopsided and half crushed on the stone floor.  He rolled it to himself with his foot, and picked it up, but it was heavy, and made a wet sound as it moved.  The face plate slipped out of place, and air hissed into his lungs, past his teeth.  The head was still inside, staring out at him.  His fingers grew numb around it, and it slipped out, back to the floor.  It clanged dully in the quiet.  His eyes slid off the helmet, and through the doorway branching off the corridor.  On the floor lay the body the head inside the helmet had once been attached to.  And it wasn’t alone.  Armored bodies lat strewn over the floor, crushed and collapsed against the wall like grain sacks with all the grain spilled away.

A knot ob bodies lay together in the middle of the room, still smoldering, their yellow and orange saffron robes curling with the heat.  He could smell the coal smoke, and the wood smoke, and the strange, foreign smell of smoke rising off cooking meat.


Ji Ren clenched the wooden rail behind him and pulled his legs in close, shaking.  The little sailboat bobbed in the harbor, the faint guttering glow from the fires in the temple still visible above him, if he could have made himself look.  He swore he could feel them, though.  The cold temple silence loomed above him.  He couldn’t-

He couldn’t stay there, not even to put out the fires and lay the bodies out like they should be.  They were just bodies.  He was a coward.  He was a coward and they deserved-

They deserved to be alive.  They deserved...

The monks’ bodies had been on fire, but the Fire Nation soldiers had been blown so hard into walls that they oozed out of their armor, oozed out of their own skin, their bones sharp shattered shards inside them.  The Fire Nation soldiers had been blown so hard into the walls that the edges of doorways and windows cut them in half.  The monks hadn’t just sat and waited to die.  They had killed and killed and- but there were so many soldier bodies, and it made him proud, and sick, ashamed, and alone all at once, until he couldn’t move and his fingers dug harder into the soft railing wood.

He pried his hand away and pulled it against his chest.  For centuries and centuries, war had skirted the Air islands.  They had nothing worth conquering, an were never anyone’s enemies.  He had never thought, they had never, none of them had thought the Fire Nation would change that again.

He had heard before he left that one of the little boys had been found to be the Avatar, and that he had run away.  He hoped the kid didn’t come back. Ji Ren was never going to be able to go back up there and move the bodies, and there was no one else to do it.  No kid should see that.


The island stood against the horizon, flat and snow-covered, too far south for trees.  Ji Ren’s arms whirled, and the wind dove into his sail to push him faster to it, away from the empty sea with no food, and nothing to drink, and only the boat and his glider left of his temple.  Funny how now that he was sailing to the east forever, he wanted his home back.  They had gliders, sailboats, and mountains at the eastern temple too.

It wasn’t like home didn’t still have those things.  It was just empty.  He wondered if anybody else had been away from the temple when it happened, if there was anyone else alive he knew from home.

Why did the Avatar have to be born with them, and how had the Fire Nation known?

He splashed out into the surf and dragged his little boat up onto the beach, between the rocks.  Patches of grass peeked up around the snowdrifts and ice, and Ji Ren wrapped his winter robe tighter around himself as his fingers worked the ropes to pin his boat to the shore.

Maybe there were other refugees on the island.  Maybe other people had gotten away from the temple.  Maybe they could go east together, then north, or maybe they could go home and rebuild.  Maybe they were on different islands, or already at the other temples.  Maybe things would be a little bit alright.

He stepped between the dunes, his feet sinking deep into the sand and snow, but the sky was clear and cold above him.  Clear and cold, and empty.  He walked, unsure of even how to look for people, and he figured he would find a river and follow it inland, because rivers usually had people living near them, right? but he couldn’t remember the temple maps, and if this island was even inhabited at all.  He walked until his feet ached, and he wished he had just sailed around the island, and he was about to give up and head for his boat when he spotted a boy further up the beach, checking lobster-cricket traps, hauling them up out of the water one at a time and dumping the catch in a pair of buckets on a pole slung across his shoulders.  “Hey!” he yelled. “Are you-”  Then, the kid turned around, and Ji Ren’s throat closed off at the sight of his tattoos.

They weren’t airbender tattoos.  They didn’t even look like airbender tattoos, running down his nose and over his cheeks.  The blue was too dark and too green, and the lines curved.  But it didn’t matter.

“Yeah?” the kid called back to him.  “What d’you want?”


Fires flickered and crackled in the tents, releasing smoke that curled up through the rounds gap in the middle of the roofs.  He could smell cooking meat and the scent of things just burning, and it made him sick.  The woman across from him picked up the spoon resting in her pot and stirred another lump of snow and ice into the melting water.  She dipped a clay cup into the water and passed it to him.  “Would you like me to get you something to eat?”

He shook his head, trying to calm the twisting in his stomach.

“I’m sorry.”

“But how do you know?” he burst out, hands trembling around the cup.  “How do you know they got to all the temples.”  They couldn’t have gotten to all of them.  They couldn’t all be gone.  Neixin...

The tribe headwoman put her hand over his, and he couldn’t stop staring at the gnarled fingers and the whirls of blue ink between the folds of her skin.  “Fire Nation soldiers landed a few days ago to tell us that if anyone else were hiding the Avatar, they could expect to get the same as the Air Nomads.”

Ji Ren swallowed.  Water welled up in his eyes and ran down his face.  “But...”

She rubbed his hand with the pad of her thumb.  “Come on, let me get you something to eat.  My son will set up a bed for you.”

He shook his head.  “No, I have to go, I have to-” he choked.  “I need to leave, I need to find someone, I...”

“They will be looking for you,” she told him, masking the pity on her face carefully.  “The Fire Nation.  They’ll see those tattoos and kill anyone with them.  Stay here long enough for us to cover them.”

He pressed his hand to his forehead and the arrow just under the skin, and shuddered, fighting to stop crying, but it wasn’t working, it wasn’t-  “I can’t, I...”  It would be like saying he wasn’t an Air Nomad anymore.

“You can stay with me in my ger,” she murmured.  “Just until it’s over.  You won’t be any good to your people dead.  If you’re alive, hiding yes, but alive, you can remember them.”

He couldn’t say anything to that.  He couldn’t even think anything about that.  On the boat, the crying just hadn’t stopped, ans when it did, because he ran out of tears, or his body was just too tired, his thoughts wouldn’t stop, useless, unfathomable, staying swirling and unformed.  “Your what?” he whispered, without realizing it until the words were out.  They were better then talking about what he was really thinking about, even if he was thinking it without words.

She waved her hand around.  “This.  My ger.”

“Oh,” he said almost soundlessly.  “We... called them yurts.  Back when...”

Back when the Air Nomads had been true nomads, before they found spiritual enlightenment and stopped eating meat, before they built the temples.

She raised one eyebrow and narrowed the other eye at him.  “It’s a ger here.  If you want me to, I will do the tattoos.  I used to do them for the tribe before I became headwoman.”

He couldn’t nod, and he couldn’t shake his head.


She laid out the pots of ink and the needle-tipped combs.  He lay down on the grass and watched the shirshus tied to pegs to keep them out of the goat-chickens and the sheep-pigs pacing back and forth to the ends of their tethers between the carts they pulled when the tribe was on the move.

The needles pierced his scalp and he clenched his fists against the pain, and the pain he knew was about to come.  “So there aren’t any benders in your tribe at all?” he asked to distract himself.

“In none of the tribes on the three islands.  Never have been.”

“The elders say- said that bending comes from spiritual awareness.”

She struck her mallet against the comb, driving the ink into his flesh.  “So they didn’t think people like us are as spiritual as benders?  Hmmm.”

He remembered gaining his mastery tattoos and tried not to cry again.  It was weak to cry at the tattooing.  But that wasn’t what he would be crying at.

Maybe- maybe if this was how the Air Nomads had once been, it could happen again.  They ate meat and milk, and no fruits, no grains, but that could change.  He could stay there.  One day they could-


June throttles the goose-hen and holds it up in the air.  “Hey Nyla...” she coos.

The Fire Nation soldiers watch, trying to keep their faces impassive as she pulls out the helmet their captain gave her.  Nyla sticks his nose into it and snuffled at it moistly.

“Can it-”  The captain gazes at the animal distrustfully.

June bares her teeth.  “Don’t worry, captain.  Just get my money ready.”  As the shirshu bucks, she swings herself high up into the saddle.  “You don’t mind if your deserter boy’s too ruffed up do you?  Nyla gets a little, you know, enthusiastic sometimes.”



Sometimes the world just divided itself in two.  Time came in befores and afters, and Yan wanted to be sick, to scream, something, because the befores were when everybody was alive, and the temples were home, and the afters were when there were just the four of them together in the jungle.

Before, the four of them used to climb down the mountains after classes and down to the ocean to play in the surf and the bright yellow sand.  Before, they used to slip back in after dark and get into trouble for it.  Yu used to get in trouble for sneaking down to the archives to see the weapons their ancestors had used before they had taken to the temples.  Once, she even took one of the bows out of its chest and strung it.  She said it had felt like her ribs had split apart when she drew it.

Now that bow sat in front of Yan, and she watched the thin strips of wood that made it coming apart as the damp jungle air turned the glue that held them together for a thousand years into a sticky, gooey mess.

Caomi landed next to her and flipped her glider closed.  She had her shirt off, and it dangled from her other hand, the sleeves and neck tied closed to carry the fruits and nuts she had brought down from the treetops.  Yan filched one of the knobbly, thick skinned fruits and cut into the peel with her teeth, wishing for just a second that Caomi were Yu instead, who would let Yan look all she wanted at her bare breasts, and from whom she wouldn’t have to turn her head away as she dumped the harvest onto the ground and dropped her shirt back over her head.  “Is that thing finally caput?”  Yan nodded.  “Oh, thank the spirits!  I have no idea why Yu even brought the thing.”

“Don’t get too excited,” Yan warned.  “She’s got all those scrolls that say how to make more, and you know she wants to.”

Caomi snorted, smoothing the wrinkles out of her dirt-streaked shirt. It was a wasted effort, and she knew it, but she couldn’t make her hands not do it as she walked away.  Yan tucked the bow back up in its silk wrapping, wincing as she imagined all that glue soaking into the cloth and sealing it forever to the wood and bone.

Yu sat propped up against a tree root in the moldy leaves carpeting the ground.  The children played tag between the trees in front of her, and every few minutes, she had to shout at them to go slower or to stop pelting each other with sticks and bits of leaves.  Yan leaned against the tree trunk and passed her the bow, wordlessly, her mind turning over and over with the effort of trying to watch the kids play and not remembering hiding with them in the cisterns, each hand clamped over someone’s mouth, muffling the sounds of their breath and irrepressible groans.

The boys had just been supposed to be at the temple to pick out sky bison cubs.  They were just supposed to stay until they were old enough to travel back down south with them.  And the squeals of dying baby sky bison was another thing she needed to forget.

They had been watching the children play when the Fire Nation soldiers came, too, watching them turn cartwheels and leap at each other from around the temple statues.  It had been real play, happy play, not like the desperate distracting game she was watching now, the game designed to run themselves too tired to be heartsick and afraid.

Yu had the flint and obsidian chunks she had gathered, and her granite hammer, and as her eyes flicked up to the kids, and to Yan, she chipped away at the stones, making tiny, razor-sharp shards break away.  There were sticks sharpened to a point and hardened in the fire, fletched with feathers from the first birds they had ever eaten, just the night before.  Yan wanted to say that the meat had tasted like death, like rot, like something foul and hideously frighteningly wrong, but it had tasted alright, and seeing the feathers on the new arrows made her taste it again.  “What are those?” Yan asked tentatively, pointing to the funny, lopsided stone points Yu was struggling to make.

Yu glared at them.  “They’re supposed to be arrowheads.”  She picked up one of the finished arrows and tapped her finger against the wooden point.  “The scroll says our ancestors used to use them sometimes.”

Yan wanted to smirk, and tell her not to bother, that she had done just fine with the pointed wood ones the night before, that Yan had done perfectly well with them the night before, because it might be Yu who loved the bow and dragged it along with her, whose hand rubbed against it at night, but it was Yan whose arrows never failed to find their mark.

The meat tasted warm in her mouth, under the bitter taste of the fruit peel.  They didn’t have a bow anymore. And the rain had poured down on them the night before.  She collapsed against the tree roots and pulled her legs up to her chest.  The skin of her shins was still scabbed over and bruised where the ink lay just under the surface, her mastery tattoos earned, and slowly creeping from the tops of her feet up her legs.  But they would never go any further than her knees.  They hurt, fresh and new, and she had known that this was the way it was going to feel for weeks, months maybe, until they were done, the pain slowly traveling up her body.  But not anymore, and she had a sudden sharp pang of need to rush up the mountains, back to the temple, where the air had been cool and balmy, high above the steamy jungle, until she remembered all of the bodies, turning the whole temple into one giant sky burial, just waiting for the jackal-vultures to feed on them and carry them away.

She tried not to imagine that they were the last of their people anywhere in the world, tried to pretend she didn’t know that if the Fire Nation came to them, they went to the other temples too.  She tried not to plan ways for them to live, just the twelve of them, five little boys, three little girls, and four girls-women, she supposed there was no one to tell them they weren’t women.  She tried not to contemplate the fact that the only master bender they had was her, with her tattoos not even finished.  There was Yu, who should have gotten her arrows a year ago, but Yan had overheard the elders talking about how she was never going to get them until she stopped looking at the tools of death like they were something to be proud of, something beautiful.  There had been times Yan was afraid Yu was never going to get her tattoos.  And she was right.

She tried not to think about what it meant that last night she had killed something, five somethings, and that they, possibly the last airbenders, had eaten their bodies.  She could teach Caomi and Nu Hao what they had left to learn, and together, they could teach the rest.  They could tell each other the stories about they way it used to be in the temples, but no matter what, if they were killing things, they would never carry on the legacy.

She was trying not to think about a lot of things lately.  At night, she fell asleep not thinking about all of those things, her mind spinning and spinning, and the only thing she could think was that they couldn’t stay there forever.  And they couldn’t go back to the temples.

She put her hand on Yu’s shoulder and kissed her lips, just for a second, bracing herself.  “I’m going to go up to the temple for a little while.”

Yu’s hand grabbed at Yan's shoulder and slid down her arm.  “Don’t go,” she groused softly.  Her eyes were red and puffy.  “Hey!”  Her head snapped back to the kids flitting through the trees.  "What is it with you people and the throwing things?”


The cold air hit her face like pain and the shock of it left her out of breath when she landed on the temple balcony.  Steam rose from the tops of the trees below, but rot was setting in, and she held the edge of her shirt over her face to smell the musty, healthy smell of the jungle floor.  She couldn’t look at the saffron covered bodies, their eyes plucked out, faces distorted by decomposition.  They had belonged to someone once, each of them to someone she knew.  She leapt back into the air, and she picked her way through the air currents until she splashed into the cistern’s water.  Her knees bent, and she closed her eyes and sat up to her stomach in the water, and breathed.


Her feet squelched on the ground when she landed.  Yu had the broken bow cradled in her arms.  She breathed out hard and dropped the bags of flour, rice, pickled cabbage and garlic, and dried fruit on the ground.  “We can’t stay,” she yelled.  “Come on, we’re getting off the island.  There are still boats in the harbor.”

Caomi stared at her.  “What are you...  We can’t just leave!”

“Yes,” Yu said, coming to stand beside Yan, a miserable, gleeful smile suddenly coming to her face, her eyes glinting.  “We can.”

“And we’re bringing the bow,” Yan whispered, closing her eyes.


The Avatar was back.  Jangshi hears it on everyone’s lips.  He tells them they are idiots, and no one could have survived the Air Nation purge.  They all laugh together.

When the alarm sounds, the Yu Yans glance sideways at each other and string their bows.  They flit through the trees and scan the ground for Air Nation yellow and orange.

Air Nomad yellow and orange.

Jangshi sees him first.  He lets out a low whistle.

Jangshi feels the wind on his face, humming inside him.  They all do.

But they pull their bowstrings back, take aim and fire anyway.



Some of the nuns were beautiful.  Some of them hadn’t achieved their mastery yet, and didn’t shave the front of their heads in the barbaric way the others did.  They had long black hair, round pretty faces and clear gray eyes.

Admiral Tong smiled as one of the benders set one of the old crones’ hair on fire.  She screamed and thrashed, whirling her arms to blow them away.  His lieutenant’s knife flew true, though, and she fell dead on the temple floor.

“That’s the last of them, Admiral,” the lieutenant reported, retrieving his knife.  “None of the children appear to be the Avatar.”

He swore.  “Kill them anyway.”

“Yes sir.”

“And throw the Nomad bodies into the canyon.” he scowled at the piles of Fire Nation corpses that had stacked up with the Air Nomads.  “Our orders are no survivors.”

“Of course sir, right away.”

Tong gazed down at the body of a young nun at his feet that he had felled.  “It’s really a shame,” he shook his head at her as soon as the lieutenant had left.  She was very pretty.

“Nnn-” she groaned.  Her hand scrabbled on the floor weakly until her fingers brushed his boot.  Hauling herself up slowly, she stared at him, eyes wide with terror and fury.  He froze for a moment, just staring back, until her hand grabbed above his boot and sank her nails deep into his leg.  Within seconds, he jabbed hard into her pressure points again and she sank back down.  An idea blossomed in his head, and before any of his subordinates could return, he looped his arm around her neck and pressed hard against the blood vessels in her neck.

He cast his gaze over the temple, searching, until he spotted the body of a soldier the right size.  Her helmet was dented onto her head from where she had been blasted into the pillar behind her, but he managed to jiggle it free.  “Sorry, soldier,” he whispered to her, stripping her down and reclothing her in the nun’s robes.

As he laced the armor onto the unconscious nun, he ran a hand along her hip and thigh.  She really was lovely.  The armor almost didn’t fit over her breasts.

By the time she came to,  the crew of his flagship was cheering him for rescuing a wounded soldier.


The cabin he kept her in had no portholes, and the air never moved inside unless she forced it to.  The Fire Nation clothes pinched and itched in all the wrong places, but she couldn’t make herself wear nothing at all.  Lu Hui bent the air into palm-sized tornadoes and raced them around the room, but the walls were to close together for her to really fight.  When he came in, he had her unable to move and unable to bend before she’d even made it off the futon.

When her belly began to swell, she started to cry, and beg, and refuse to eat.  He started to stroke it and smile when she tried to squirm away.  Sometimes he tried to reassure her.  She wasn’t going to die.  Her child wasn’t going to die.  He was going to keep them safe.

Lu Hui spat in his face when he told her that.

The day the crew spotted land, he sat down next to her on the bed.  “I have leave coming.  I’m going to take it as soon as we get off the boat.”  She tilted her head away from him.  It was the only part of her that moved right.  “You know all the Air Nomads are supposed to be dead.  You’re lucky.”  When she turned back to him, her lips were pulled back in a snarl.  “I’m taking you with me to meet my family.”

“You son of a-”

“No one has to know you’re an Air Nomad.  I’m introducing you as a soldier I saved at the temple, and my fiancee and mother of my child.  You say anything, you die.”

She swallowed.  “I’m ready to die.”

“Our baby would die!”  He stared, slack-jawed.

She glanced at him sideways.  “And I’m the last of the Air Nomads.”

“I don’t know.  Almost certainly.”

She could feel the expressions shifting over her face.  “Fine,” she said without inflection.  “I’ll even pretend to be in love with you, in public anyway.”


“Ji Nian”


“I’m naming him “Ji Nian.”  She lay on the bed, her hair sweat soaked under her while the midwife washed their new son.  She wasn’t even looking at her husband.  Lu Hui kept her eyes on the woman holding her son.

“Are you out of your mind?”

Lu Hui smiled as the midwife laid her child next to her.  “Leave.”

“But My Lady-”

“I would like to speak to my husband alone for a moment; could you please leave?”

The midwife ducked her head and closed the door behind her.

“We’re naming the boy Anjing,” Tong snapped as soon as they were safe.

“You really want to try to take from me the right to name my child?” she hissed, pressing him to her chest.

“Do you really want to fight me?” he snarled.  “I can still tell everyone I saw my new bride airbending last night.  I’m just heartbroken that she lied to me.”

“And if you do, I can tell them all about how you dressed me up in Fire Nation armor and saved my life.”  She put her hand over her heart.    “They’ll execute you as a traitor.”  Her other hand ran through the tufts of hair on their son’s head.  “They’d kill Ji Nian with me.”

“Do you really think they’ll believe you?”

“Do you really think they won’t?”  Her lips turned up, but what was on her face couldn’t be called a smile.

He looked at her, really looked at her, the sunlight from the window washing out her exhaustion grayed face even further and glittering in her eyes.  She was too tired to even sit up, but she stared at him, baring her teeth, safe in the knowledge that she had beaten him.  He looked at her and saw what he had helped make her, a Fire Nation noble.

“His name is Ji Nian.”

He bowed his head.

She smiled like a wolf-bat.


Ty Lee walks.  Her feet touch the ground with each step, and she doesn’t launch herself into the air, even when she stands stands behind the princess and bends over to look down into her face, braid falling in front of the princess’s eyes.

She doesn’t look up.  She doesn’t look like a princess.  She looks like a normal person, and Ty Lee doesn’t know what to think about that.

The princess, finally, looks up at her.  “What do you want?”

She shrugs, upside-down.  “Do you want to come play with me and Mai?”

Azula’s eyes flicker before she nods.

The only truly dead are those who have been forgotten.
    -Jewish Proverb

Date: 2011-07-18 04:19 pm (UTC)
leasspell_dael: Escaflowne's Hitomi with feather (Default)
From: [personal profile] leasspell_dael
Very interesting re-interpretation. I like it. It certainly solves the conundrum of the next Airbender Avatar (just in case Aang doesn't have descendents...). It was very sad, but a good read. Thanks for sharing!

Date: 2011-05-02 07:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Lovely pacing and form, wonderful fic I really enjoyed the connections you made and it was awesome read. I totally love a good air nomad fic :3

Date: 2011-05-02 09:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! It was a hard story to write emotionally, which is why it took so long.

Date: 2011-05-03 07:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What a beautiful fic, I wouldn't comment till I sat down and gave myself an hour of time to slowly and gratefully read it, I don't know what made me so lucky to have a friend like you, but I thank you so much, it was beautiful and brilliant and well written and on the perfect day for it.

I'm not sure what else to say, besides so much gratefulness.

Date: 2011-05-03 07:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! I'm still at the "Oh my God, I just wrote a fic about genocide!" stage to really say anything intelligent at all about this fic.

Oh please. It's months late and depressing, and this is your definition of a good friend? You and I need to find you better friends than I.


attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)

October 2017


Avatar: the Last Airbender

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