Avatar – The last airbender

Image by Shane Sandulak

“Water. Earth. Fire. Air.

Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them, but when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang, and although his airbending skills are great, he has a lot to learn before he’s ready to save anyone. But I believe Aang can save the world.”

Book 2 – Alternative episode 9. 

Aang is having his first training with Toph today. He can finally start! After all this searching they found him the perfect teacher. He cannot wait! But his enthusiasm crumbles fast. Already in the first attempts reality hits him like a ton of bricks. Earthbending turns out to be really difficult! It is so hard suppressing his natural airbending reflexes, and after a youth filled with patient monks, a screaming and insulting teacher is not making the process any easier.

Halfway the planned training Aang gets overwhelmed. That last rage of Toph was enough. Can’t she see how difficult this is? He gives up. He storms off to today’s camp, where Sokka sits quietly against a rock wall, sitting quietly. What a relieve he is not saying anything, I really don’t want to talk right now. Aang drops himself next to him, with a big complaining sigh. He crosses his arms.

Not even a little reaction from Sokka, he just stares with blanc eyes in the distant. He has been quiet for days now. Especially for him more than an hour of silence is strange. It started after the attack on the Nan Shan River, where they were surprised by Azula, Ty Lee and Mai. The already exhausted team avatar was taken by surprise, but after some good night’s sleep the rest lived up again. Exepct voor Sokka, he still looks tired worried. Aang sighs another time, this time a bit more theatrical. Still nothing from Sokka.

“All you okay Sokka?”
“…” “I guess.. Not feeling too great after the attacks in the woods..”
“How is your body doing, are you still feeling sore after the chi blocking?”
“Yeah.. Well that’s the thing.. Katara talked about feeling her strength flowing back in a short matter of time. My numbness went away as well, but it feels.. strange. It’s not the same..”

While trying to explain what is going on, Sokka is avoiding eyecontact and starts to mumble a bit. It is hard to follow what he wants to say. While talking he is moving one feet, rolling a little round stone back and forth. Aang looks at Sokka closely and tilts his head a bit.

“What is going on Sokka?”
“.. I don’t know. It is just that.. Well, I was thinking that uuhm..”
“You thought what, Sokka? What is going on?”
Aang asks a bit worried.
“Well, the way Katara talked about her bending being blocked.. She uuhm.. I guess I recognize a lot of these symptoms.. Almost like.. I don’t know, like I have been blocked for years now..

Aang looks up. He closes his mouth and unconsciously moves a little away from Sokka. He looks away while he is scratching his head. As soon he starts talking again, his pace is slower and and he is using his words carefully:

“Uhm.. I don’t know Sokka.. I never heard of somebody being blocked so lon…”
Sokka interrupts him quickly and speaks even faster than normal.
“Yeah you’re right, this probably makes no sense at all!”
“Uhm yeah.. I mean, maybe it could be, but I think I would have noticed some…

Again Sokka interrupts him directly.
“Yeah you’re right, this makes no sense, just forget what I said.”

Sokka turns his head around and wants to get up. This all goes a bit too fast for the airbender thinking everything over and a rush of panic overcomes him. Immediately he grabs Sokka’s arm and blurs out: “But we can always try!” After this he quickly let Sokka go and looks like he regretted saying this. Sokka does not notice this while he processes Aangs words. After a few seconds he nods subtly and then looks at Aang with a serious face. “You’re right, we can always try.”

Sokka stands up partly, staying down on one knee. Aang hesitatingly gets up as well. He puts his thumbs on Sokka his forehead and heart. He closes his eyes and take a deep breath in. On a big sigh you see tension flowing out of his body. His shoulders lower and his face relaxes. His tiptoe stands lowers as he fully grounds on the rocky surface. A small frown of focus is visible. Besides a little gust of wind, nothing seems to happen for a while. Katara is standing a bit up ahead. She was too far to overhear the conversation, but she stops what she is doing and looks up at the two with confused curiosity. All of a sudden Aang’s eyes open wide while his head tilts backward. For an instant his eyes and tattoos shine a blinding bright white. After the intense flash, the light dims slowly. Nothing noticeable seems to be changed. Just a little gust of wind, blowing a bit of dust around.

After a short silence, Sokka opens one eye, looks around and then quickly jumps up. When landing back on the ground his feet are wide apart in a powerful posture. His eyes are wide open and his eyebrows raised. He spreads his arms fully to the sides and hopefully looks from his left hand to his right, in a manically pace like he is trying to see them both at the same time. He then makes strong fists and stomps hard on the ground. Nothing happens. He looks with unchanged high energy towards Aang but meets a blanc expression. All he sees is a young boy making himself even smaller than he already is.

Immediately Sokka his face plunges as well. He looks at the ground and his big posture deflates while his arms slowly lower towards the ground. There is a silence for a bit until Sokka looks up again. He is forcing a fake smile while he thanks Aang for trying, with a tremble in his voice. His eyecontact is very brief. He turns away his face and walks away with big steps.

Aang looks to his right and see Katara looking at his brother with confusion and worry. As soon as she makes eye contact with Aang, he winks at her with a big smile and raises one hand. A small stream of water flows out of Katara her hip bottles and forms a ball. Seemingly effortless the ball shoots away straight in one line towards the small ponytail.

On the last moment, Aang warns Sokka to duck. Sokka turns his head, but realises his body cannot turn around fast enough. Because of that he raises his hands in front of his head and turns his head away again. He squeezes his eyes shut. The biggest part of the water splashes right in his face. But after this unasked shower, three little blobs of water are floating in front of his hands. Sokka opens his eyes right away and freezes in shock. He stands there frozen like a statue with eyes almost popping out. In contrast with this stillness the blobs of water are moving uncontrolled and seemingly random. Then the water balls fall to the ground while Sokka stands upright again. With a shock in his face he starts to stutter.

“Did.. Did I just…Was that really because of my.. Did this really..Unbelievable!!” He starts talking so fast that all his sentences start to blur. His voice regularly breaks in his enthusiasm.  

“I could just feel the water.. it was so strange.. this means.. O wow! But.. this changes EVERYTHING! Katara, did you just sa..”

When he makes eye contact with his sister, he abruptly stops talking. Katara is looking at him with a hand on her chest and tears in her eyes. Without saying one more word the siblings run towards each other and end up in a big hug. Katara loudly shed tears of happiness. Sokka is silent with his face turned away from the rest, but you can see his back shocking every now and then.

After the hug Sokka straightens his posture and clears his throat. He inhales to clear his runny nose and then looks at Aang. Aang is looking at him with the biggest grin on his face. With a voice full of disbelieve Sokka continues.

“Can you believe this Aang?! Who would have thought that I was a bender all along? I really am a waterbender!”

A bit uphill on the angled mountain wall Toph is looking down on the group. The place where she stands is unnaturally straight and levelled, like she is standing on a pedestal. She stands there with her hands in her side and looks even grumpier than normal. Completely in contrast with the ecstatic group energy, she reacts in an underwhelmed voice.

“Well who would have thought that? The boy from the Southern Water Tribe turns out to be a waterbender. What a shocking result!”

After saying this three tiny balls of water fly though the air in the direction of Toph. Uncontrolled, all three balls end in a different direction, not one even remotely close to the small earthbender. Without reacting at all she keeps her stands, with a big grin on her face.


Six weeks later


A beautiful river slowly flows through a remote and calm forest. It is a sunny morning. There is only the sound of birds, complemented by the constant flow of the river and an occasional bigger splash of water. In an open place between the trees a sky bison lays comfortably in the first rays of sun. Appa lays there with his eyes closed and breaths slowly. His snoring is not loud, but so deep that the grass around him shakes with every breath out.

Against Appa his side, Aang is laying peacefully, using the thick fur as a comfortable couch. He has one arm behind his head. His other hand is rhythmically dancing through the air. In front of him seven different coloured balls float through the air. They form a very fluent eight figure mid-air, while crossing each other in the exact middle. They look ancient, but still in great condition. Because they do not rotate while flying, you can see symbols and signs, subtly but gracefully carved in the ornaments. Every now and then, the balls simultaneously make a sprint. They make their round extra fast, but still never touch each other.  

Aang has his undivided attention on this rhythmic dance in front of him. His eyes relaxed, but focused, with a small smile on his face. The sounds of water splashing on the background disappears. Followed by footsteps and the sound of some branches breaking. The airbender his focus does not change when Katara appears from the riverside. 

“Hey Katara, where did Sokka go? Did he drown in his own attacks again?
“No, he wanted to continue training by himself. Do another hour of super-secret-solo water training in private.”
“How is the world’s most stubborn student doing?”

Katara let out a exaggerated sigh while rolling her eyes. Aang is still watching straight in front of him but laughs out loud.

“No he is doing okay, I guess. Still learning in his own pace, I need to be more patient every now and then. But his aim is improving, so that is nice. And in the last half an hour he only hit himself four times while attacking, so I guess that is progress as well.”

Toph, laying on hearing distance in a different ray of sun, starts laughing.

“He never was the bravest of the group, but the fact that he keeps on wetting himself nowadays is not making it better!”

Katara snorts a bit and suppresses a smile. “Ah, he is trying so hard. He really wants this to work. The fact that Aang is learning so fast makes it even more frustrating for him. It’s just that I don’t see the point of all his hours of solo training. This does not seem to have any effect when we practise. I really wonder what he is up to.”

Katara hardly finishes her sentence when the group hears the proud laugh of Sokka.

“Ha-HAH! Oooh this is it! I did it! Guys! You need to see this! GUYS!”

Fast steps are approaching from the river, while the enthusiastic screaming of Sokka becomes louder and louder. Birds nervously fly away in all directions. You can hear the sounds of branches breaking and two feet almost tripping over each other. When Sokka is only slightly in sight, he repeats for the seventh time that everybody really need to come to the river right now. Before the group gets a chance to react, he already turned back around and is running full speed to where he came from. Toph raises her shoulders indifferently and slowly stands up. While Aang gracefully flies up with a push in his back, Appa groans and turn away from the rest. Momo, woken up from the screaming, flies up of the bison’s back and follows the group.

When the group arrives at the river Sokka is standing there facing them in a fighting posture. Frozen like he is waiting there for hours. His posture strong and his chin up. He stands in a small puddle of water with a wet trail revealing his walk to where he is now. Around his head he has a self-made bandana and he is wearing self-made white and blue warrior clothing. It is obviously that the clothing is way too big. Still it fits tightly around his body, since he is absolutely soaking wet. The water trail says otherwise, but he looks like he just came out of the river he is standing next to. He takes a breath in and want to start to talk, but Toph does not give him this chance.

“How is our Wobbly Waterbender doing?”
Katara: “What is it this time Sokka? I thought we weren’t supposed to see this”
“Obviously I don’t want anyone to spoil the big surprises in the process. But after your waiting I want to reward you with witnessing the most brilliant and tactical waterbending move in history, now that it is perfected.”

Toph puts her hands in her side and does not look very impressed. In a sarcastic tone she reacts:

“let me guess.. you improved your frozen frisbee move so that is does not slip out of your hand while throwing it?
“IT IS NOT A FRISBEE! And no, I am still working on that one..
He stops talking for a second. That turns out to be really difficult..” He adds softly. Then he abruptly turns to his sister and straightens his back again:

“No but really! This is amazing. This will change the course of the war. People will forever remember this move as the turning point in history.”

Katara and Aang look at each other without saying a word. Toph is just shaking her head in disbelieve. Sokka takes a deep breath in and lifts his chest. He then points at Aang.

“Come on Aang! I challenge you. I will show you something you will never forget.”

Aang has no idea what to expect. He exchanges another look with Katara, she looks back at him puzzled. Then slowly he steps forward and stops right in front of Sokka, standing a bit awkward and clumsy.

“COME ON AANG! In your fighting position. Get ready to fight.”

Sokka is standing with his feet far apart. His elbows are wide and hands close to his small hip bottles of water. His fingers wiggling. He looks at Aang with piercing eyes, slowly squinting them a bit. Aang looks at him with confusion on his face, but makes a light stance, waiting for Sokka to make a move. It takes two and a half seconds before Sokka loses his patience and yells that Aang needs to attack him.

Aang slowly starts to make circles in the air with his hands, a ball of rushing air starts growing in between them. While the ball is taking form, he suddenly feels his hands get wet by two tiny splashes of water. He looks at his hands in confusion, but before he understands what is happening, he hears the new waterbender cheering. Sokka standing in front of him with his indexfingers pointed at Aang and his thumbs up in the air. This gesture rapidly changes in open hands in the air while he is screaming it out.

“YES! Yes, you totally fell for it. You did not have a chance of seeing this coming! I totally took you by surprise!

Aang air ball was continuing undisturbed by the drops of water, but is now slowly shrinking in line with Aang slowly stopping to move while looking at Sokka. The air ball disappears in thin air. Toph takes a step back and shakes her head in disbelieve. She is the first in breaking the silence.

“You made us come all the way here to demonstrate a squirt gun?”
“Oh please! I don’t expect you to understand this profound water master technique. You just witnessed the already legendary.. SUPER SOAKER!

Aang tries to suppress a smile but fails for the biggest part. Katara facepalms so hard you can hear the slap. She then puts her hands in her sides and starts talking in a motherly voice:

“We are preparing for war and you are going to wet the enemy’s hands?!”
“Katara, think for a second! We are fighting firebenders. How can they possible start fire with wet hands?”
“AAAH! You cannot possible think you can stop powerful firemasters with a few drops of water..”

The two starts to scream at each other without listening anymore. The volume of their voices raises faster than their arguments. Meanwhile Momo is standing on a rock next to the river, pointing his little fingers around like what he just saw. Toph is facing towards the verbal fight, unmoved like always. Up to a point where it looks like she is got poked in her back while her blanc eyes turns big. With delight on her face she shouts out: But this is brilliant!

Both siblings abruptly stop and look at Toph, hoping she was talking to them and taking their side. But Toph does not react to both of their arguments.

“Listen. A bit of water obviously doesn’t stop a lot of benders. But it could possibly stop our most dangerous enemy right now!”

She stops talking and there falls a short silence. Apart from the river flowing there is dead silence.

“What do you guys think would happen if a powerful bender collects lightning and get wet hands right before she can steer it away?  

Since Azula her last personal attack was only days ago, Aang lively sees a mental image of her bending lightning in his direction. He can see how the sky gets a bit darker while a stripe of lightning collects around her. Followed by a big bang while she gets blown backwards hitting a wall full force. This image shocks him and he puts his hand in front of his mouth with eyes wide open. Toph does seem to notice or care about this reaction and continues.

“Think about it. Azula never took Sokka as a serious thread. She practically ignores him most of the time.
“HEY! THAT IS NOT TRUE! I definitely shocked her last time I surprised her with my boomerang!”

Again Toph continues without reacting the slightest.

“Think about last time. Sokka was so close and she just ran past him in an attempt to attack Aang. The boy is invisible for her, he can get really close without her caring. What if he pulls this off next time she wants to attack us? Sokka would totally be the hero.

Sokka was listening to the entire story with an angry red face. Up to the point where he hears the word hero. He stares in the distant, trying to understand the story. He needs a bit too long to process and then shouts out proud: “See! I told you my ideas are brilliant!”

Aang and Katara look at each other with doubt on their faces. Toph starts to grin while she makes herself big.

“Why fighting a powerful bender if she can take our herself?”

[to be continued]