Dark Puck - Fic: The Library
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Fic: The Library|
Title: The Library
Author: Dark Puck
Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Characters: Haru and Sokka; Kouji (OC), Aang, and Katara
Prompt: Dagaz from Verve Challenge's Runes: Eldar Futhark Table.
Notes: Written partly as a birthday gift for Bex. Happy birthday, my dear!
This is a rune of harmonious unexpected success.
Haru wasn't entirely certain he liked this library.
It felt... dead, almost. Oppressive. Like the walls were closing in.
The giant owl of a librarian didn't exactly help matters.
Still, Kouji had managed to talk their way past Wan Shi Tong, even if the knowledge spirit had insisted Nori and Yuriko remain outside. Given that it'd been a hair's breadth from outright killing them...
He sighed and looked over where his young charge was happily browsing through a scroll. Peeking over the boy's shoulder, Haru noticed numbers and sighed. "Kouji," he said, "we're looking for earthbending scrolls, not math."
Kouji sighed and put the scroll back where he found it. "Fine," he said, pouting. He got to his feet and stretched, then wandered off down an aisle. Haru followed him, keeping an eye out for Wan Shi Tong. He'd prefer not to deal with the cranky spirit again.
The boy stopped without warning, and Haru barely managed to keep from running him down. "Kouji, what--?" he began, and then realised why Kouji had stopped.
"--Uh," said the Water Tribe boy in their path. He was a few inches shorter than Haru, blue-eyed and dusky-skinned, with the build of a fighter and a green bag hanging from his shoulder. He also looked very surprised, and somewhat wary.
Haru blinked, covering his sudden panic -- had the Water Tribe boy met Ichiro somehow? "Do we know you?"
"Don't think so," the stranger replied, recovering quickly. "Name's Sokka."
"I'm Haru," the earthbender offered. "This is Jiro." Offering Kouji's real name might cause more problems than Haru really wanted at the moment.
Sokka looked them over, and Haru returned the favour.
"Sokka, what are you--" began a girl, appearing out of another aisle of books. She stopped as well. "Oh. Hello."
A vague hope that the girl was Sokka's sister drifted across Haru's mind, and he smiled at her. Kouji was not as pleased as his teacher, however, and ducked behind him. At the girl's startled look, he grinned at her and explained, "Don't mind Jiro. He's shy around pretty girls."
To his delight, the girl flushed; her brother looked annoyed.
"Oh, hey!" added a new voice. "Other people!" The speaker joined Sokka and the Water girl, and Haru nearly had a heart attack. Orange and yellow clothing, blue arrow tattoos. The Avatar. Of course. If the Avatar and his friends figured out who Kouji was, they were in deep shit.
Haru would shed no tears if the Fire Nation lost Sozin's War; his time in the country serving as Kouji's earthbending teacher hadn't changed that. But the young prince was ten years old, and innocent of his family's sins.
Of course, if he could help the Avatar, and keep Kouji safe at the same time...
"I could say the same," Haru replied dryly, watching some of Wan Shi Tong's knowledge-seekers, some kind of coyote-foxes, approach. Was the knowledge spirit aware they'd met and trying to head off a fight so close to his books?
He felt Kouji peeking out from behind him, probably trying to get a good look at the Avatar.
"So...," Sokka said slowly. "We're looking for a map."
One of the knowledge-seekers looked positively eager at that, and pranced around Sokka, who ignored it.
You'd think a friend of the Avatar would be more observant. "The knowledge-seekers know the place better than I do," Haru said, gesturing toward the animal. "Just don't piss off the owl, yeah? It was hard enough getting him to let us in."
"Why do you need a map?" Kouji piped up. "Y-you can go buy one."
"He almost didn't let us in either," Sokka said, "Did you see the Fire Nation wing?"
The Water girl -- what had the reports said her name was? Katala? Katara! -- ignored her brother to smile at Haru, who smiled back. She seemed to be the antithesis of Princess Azula, a trait he couldn't help but appreciate.
"No," Kouji answered Sokka. "You didn't answer my question."
"Well," the Avatar explained, "none of the shops have maps of the Fire Nation."
"Did you try the colonies?" the boy wanted to know. Haru hid his amusement. Apparently the young prince hadn't realised who they were dealing with.
"Um...," said the Avatar.
"We would," Sokka added, "except someone can't keep his head down."
The Avatar shifted uncomfortably and eyed the ceiling.
"Avoid New Sozin," Kouji advised.
"Why?" Katara asked curiously.
Haru looked down in time to see the boy turn bright red and stammer, "It's a port/resupply colony. There's sailors in and out all the time. And the head farmer is a xenophobe."
"Sounds like you're familiar with the place," Sokka casually said.
Kouji shrugged carelessly. "I'm from the area."
Haru kept one eye on Sokka -- if he realised that Kouji was Fire Nation, there'd be a fight, and the last thing Haru wanted to do was fight the Avatar and his pretty friend.
"Hnh," Sokka decided at last.
Katara, however, looked sad, and Haru asked, "Is something the matter?"
"No!" Sokka and Katara cried as one.
Before Haru could question her further, Katara changed the subject with a smile. "What brings you all the way out here anyway?"
He couldn't help but smile back at her. The less they thought about Kouji being from around New Sozin, the better. "Looking for earthbending scrolls, actually."
"Really?" Katara asked, sounding pleased.
"Why?" Sokka wanted to know, eyeing them suspiciously.
"Hey," interjected Aang, "do you think they have bending scrolls for--"
One of the knowledge-seekers yipped, sounding annoyed.
"Ask them," Haru said, grinning as he gestured to one of them. From the corner of his eye, he saw Kouji kneel to talk quietly to another one. It licked him from chin to forehead, leaving the boy sputtering, then led Kouji down an aisle.
Kouji would stick to the rules Wan Shi Tong had imposed on them, and Haru could talk to these people without him overhearing.
"Can I see the a- earthbending scrolls, too?" Now, why was the Avatar even trying to hide that he was an airbender? The tattoos were kind of a dead giveaway.
Sokka seemed less than enthused by that, but his sister touched his arm. "I'll go with him," she said. "You find the map."
"I'll help," Haru offered.
Sokka hesitated, then nodded. "All right."
Katara and the Avatar headed off after another knowledge-seeker, and Haru and Sokka followed the third.
"So," Haru said on the way. "Map of the Fire Nation."
"Yep," Sokka answered.
"Heading out there sometime soon?"
"Thinking about it."
"Mm. Might not want to mention it to the kid," Haru told him. "Though he may have already inferred it."
Sokka gave him a sidelong glance. "Why?"
Haru lowered his voice. "He's one of Ozai's sons. Also, if you try to capture him, I'll be obliged to stop you, so let's just avoid that unpleasantness, shall we?"
The Water Tribesman was silent for a moment, then said, "Yeah, like I want to have another of Ozai's spawn to deal with. Three is enough, thanks." He paused, then asked, "So what's your deal?"
"I'm his earthbending teacher."
Haru almost heard Sokka's thoughts grind to a halt.
"Kouji, his twin sister, and Ichiro were all colonists," Haru explained. He was enjoying this far too much, really. "The twins were born in the Earth Kingdom, in the spring. Yui's not a bender, but Kouji developed earthbending."
"...okay," said Sokka, accepting this for now. "How are they Ozai's kids?"
"He adopted them after they were mistaken for the Avatar."
Haru grinned. "It actually makes sense -- you know 'Chiro's a firebender, of course. He and Kouji got a little careless when they were practising outside New Sozin, so when signs of fire and earthbending were discovered..."
Sokka nodded slowly. "Yeah, okay. Firebenders think they've got an Avatar learning to firebend after he knows how to earthbend already."
"Bingo," Haru agreed. "So a trap was laid, but -- instead of the Avatar, they've got three kids. A firebender, which was surprise enough at Ichiro's age, and an earthbender. A Fire earthbender, no less."
"Why was the firebending a surprise?" Sokka asked.
Haru had thought everyone knew about the Firebending Law. "Firebenders born in the colonies get sent back home to get training," he explained. "Ichiro managed to hide his bending for eight years."
"All right," Sokka said. "So they find these three kids, and we've got two surprise benders."
"Yep," Haru agreed. "Ichiro was easy enough to take care of -- firebenders everywhere. But Kouji was a problem."
Sokka gave him a strange look. "A problem? Fireborn earthbender sounds like a problem for us, not for them."
"Any untrained bender is a problem, Sokka," Haru said patiently.
"So," Haru went on, "they needed to get him a teacher."
Sokka frowned. "So they grabbed an earthbending kid from an Earth Kingdom village where there won't supposed to be any earthbenders."
"More like all the earthbenders had been rounded up and put on a coal barge," Haru corrected him, more bitterly than he'd intended.
"Yeah," Sokka said quietly, glancing at him. "You're Tyro's son."
Of all the things Haru had anticipated coming from the younger boy, that had not been one of them. "You've met my dad?" When Sokka nodded, several questions tried to issue from Haru's mouth at once. "Wha-- how-- when-- how is he?"
"He's all right," Sokka assured him. "He's free."
Relief flooded Haru, so potent he stumbled. "He's free? The Firelord let him go?"
"Yeah. Yeah, he did," the other boy said. "And then we helped him free the other earthbenders and kick the Fire Nation out of your village."
"...I didn't hear about that," Haru said quietly. Then again, Ozai wouldn't have let him find out, would he? Not if he wanted to keep him on as a teacher. Sure, Haru liked the kid well enough, but not enough to stay teaching him if he didn't have to. He could finally go home.
....no. No, he couldn't.
If he left Kouji -- especially if he left him now -- Ozai would not only destroy the village, he'd probably hunt him downand have him killed. And gods only knew what he'd do to Mom and Dad...
"Haru? You okay?" Sokka sounded concerned.
Haru forced a smile. "Yeah. I'm fine. Just dreaming."
Sokka eyed him, clearly not buying it. "Right."
Haru sighed. "But, yeah. I've gotta stick with the kid."
"Yeah. Can't imagine it going well if the kid gets hurt."
He was relieved Sokka understood. "It won't. Just... let him be. I can't do much for you in turn, but..."
The Water Tribesman nodded as the knowledge-seeker they were following stopped outside a huge golden circle and pranced in front. "We're not going to do anything to him. Unless, you know, he does something first."
Haru shook his head. "He's not the type. He tends more to strategy. Ichiro's the fighter." He then gestured to the prancing knowledge-seeker. "I think we're here."
Sokka blinked. "What is--"
The knowledge-seeker slipped through a hole near the floor. Haru felt the rumbling before he heard it, and stepped back as the middle of the circle rolled away, revealing the spirit.
The two boys entered the room, and stared. The knowledge seeker moved ahead of them and pushed a lever standing next to a pedastal. The floor rumbled again, and a huge arc travelled from one side of the domed room to the opposite end, turning the painted landscape into a starry sky.
"Fire and rain," breathed Haru. "This is amazing!" Another metal arc travelled, and he noticed that it had a painted sun attached to it. A glance at the first arc before it settled against the floor revealed a similar attachment, this one of the moon.
"Yeah, beautiful," said Sokka. "But how is it helpful?"
The knowledge-seeker yipped at him, but Haru was distracted by the pedestal. "Look -- it's divided into rings. And the outside has the zodiac."
"You're right. Then those rings -- they must be dates!" Sokka was getting excited. "Here, help me with this."
Bemused, Haru turned the dial to the month and year Sokka ordered, while the other boy set the day and zodiac. "Here goes nothing," said the Water Tribesman, and he pushed the lever. The arcs moved, bathing the boys in artificial starlight, then came up into daylight once more -- and then plunged into darkness.
"Hey, what gives?" Haru wondered. They both looked to see the two arcs crossing, with the moon covering the sun.
"A solar eclipse!" Sokka exclaimed. "I get it now!"
"And firebending is connected to the sun," Haru added, "so when one happens..."
"Firebenders lose their bending!" Sokka finished.
The knowledge-seeker whined. "Oh, all right," the Water Tribesman added, digging through his bag. "You've earned it." He tossed a treat to the spirit animal. "We've got to get this information back to the Earth King!"
"...oh, right. Sorry."
Haru shook his head. "No worries. But what good is a solar eclipse going to do the Earth King? You have to know when the next one is to do anything with it."
"Good point," Sokka conceded.
The two boys regarded the pedestal for a moment.
"I'll move the rings, you pull the lever," Haru said, reaching out.
"Start with summer's end," Sokka ordered. "That's when the Comet's coming."
"Why the Comet?" Haru asked, already moving the rings. "Okay."
Sokka pushed the lever, and the arcs moved. "Because that's the deadline Avatar Roku gave Aang. He's gotta stop the Firelord before Sozin's Comet returns."
Haru moved the rings to the date before summer's end, and signalled for Sokka to pull the lever once more. "That makes sense. I know Ozai's planning to end the war then, but I wasn't exactly encouraged to ask about his plans." Together, the two boys worked backwards from the date of the Comet's return, until finally the room darkened once more. "First day of the eighth month," Haru reported, looking at the time he'd put together.
"Great!" exclaimed Sokka. "Now we just have to get this information to Ba Sing Se, and we can invade the Fire Nation on the day of the eclipse when they're totally helpless. The Firelord is going down!"
A dark shadow loomed over the two boys. As one, they turned to see Wan Shi Tong standing behind them. "Mortals are so predictable. And such terrible liars."
"Slag," breathed Haru.
"You betrayed my trust," the spirit went on. "From the beginning you intended to misuse this knowledge for evil purposes."
Haru groped for Sokka's wrist, looking for some way out. Wan Shi Tong, of course, was blocking the door. "You don't understand!" Sokka cried, jerking free of Haru to raise his fist. "If anyone's evil, it's the Fire Nation! You saw what they did to your library. They're destructive and dangerous. We need this information."
"You're not helping," Haru ground out.
"You think you're the first person to believe their war was justified," sneered the spirit, leaning in close. Haru took another step back, this time grabbing Sokka's belt to pull the other boy with him. "Countless others before you have come here, seeking weapons or weaknesses or battle strategies."
"This isn't our war!" Sokka protested. "The Fire Nation started this, not us! We're just trying to protect the people we love!"
"And now I'm going to protect what I love." The owl reared back, beating its wings, and wind gusted through the room.
"What are you doing?" Haru demanded, bracing himself against the wind.
"I'm taking my knowledge back," the spirit answered. "No one will ever abuse it again."
Something trickled into Haru's hair, and he moved aside before glancing up to see sand falling from a crack. "Oh, shit. Time to go!" He grabbed Sokka's wrist again and yanked the boy after him.
Without warning, the knowledge-spirit's head was in front of them, followed by an incredibly long neck that it hadn't had before. "I'm afraid I can't allow that," it said. "You already know too much."
It snapped at them, but Haru pushed Sokka to one side and slid to the other, landing in an earthbending stance. The owl, which now looked more like a feathered dragon, sneered at him. "Don't think your earthbending will--"
Haru cut it off by tearing a chunk of stone out of the floor and driving it at the creature's face. "Sokka, come on!" he yelled. He bolted for the door, only to be met by a wing driving into his stomach and throwing him across the room. He slammed into the wall and felt something in his side pop before he fell to the floor.
"Haru!" he dimly heard Sokka yell through the ringing in his ears. He felt more than saw Wan Shi Tong's next attack and scrambled to one side, barely managing to get to his feet. He staggered and only then realised he was dizzy.
Fingers closed around his wrist, and then Sokka was dragging him out of the room. Haru followed, trying to think past the fog that had descended on him. They were met quickly by Katara and the Avatar; Haru was relieved to see that Katara had a firm grip on Kouji's hand. "What did you do, Sokka?!" Katara demanded, blue eyes wide.
"Oh, like it's always my fault!" Sokka shot back.
"It is your faul-- whoa." Haru put one hand against the wall to brace himself. At least the fog was going away.
"Haru!" Kouji pulled free of Katara and darted to him. "Haru, are you okay?"
Haru blinked down at him. "I'm fine," he said automatically. He shook his head and instantly regretted it. Ow. "Come on. We've gotta get out of here. I think he's sinking the library."
"He's what!?" the Avatar exclaimed, horrified.
"Sokka, what did you do?" Katara repeated.
"Not now! We have to go!" Haru exclaimed, feeling the library shaking.
"Wait, where's the professor?" the Avatar said.
"Now!" Haru threw Kouji over his shoulder, wincing as his ribs protested the abuse, and grabbed the other boy by the back of the shirt before bolting for the rope they'd used to get in. Sokka and Katara followed, Sokka at some point taking Kouji from Haru.
"Get climbing, Kouji!" Haru ordered as they reached the rope. Sokka started to protest, but Katara silenced him with a glare. Kouji nodded and went up, the Avatar spotting him with his glider. Sokka passed his bag to his sister and sent her up after Kouji, then looked to Haru.
"Go," the earthbender said; without another word Sokka started climbing. As soon as there was room, Haru joined in, ignoring the sharp pain in his ribs.
Something shrieked, and the rope jerked. Haru yelled in surprise and pain and looked down to see Wan Shi Tong with the bottom of the rope in its mouth. "Haru, come on!" yelled Sokka, and the earthbender started climbing again.
The rope jerked even harder, and pain flared hot up and down his side, leaving no feeling in its wake.
He lost his grip on the rope.
Orange and yellow swooped in from the sky, and the Avatar caught Haru by the ankle. "Hang on!" the boy yelled, soaring back up and past Sokka. Haru reached out and caught Sokka by the wrist, pulling the Water Tribesman up with them.
Wan Shi Tong shrieked its fury and flew up after them, but the Avatar was too high up and shot through the window and into blinding sunlight.
Current Location: my bed
Current Mood: cheerful
Current Music: Heavyweights
Tags: au, challenge: runes, character: haru, character: sokka, story: c'est la vie
|Date:||April 29th, 2010 06:47 pm (UTC)|| |
I suck at leaving comments. >_>
Thank you for writing this, Pux! I have a special place in my heart for this 'verse, and it's so much fun to see more of it getting written. Nice use of "The Library", and adding Haru and Kouji into it. Love the running and the screaming at the end. (DEATH OWL.)