Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Characters: Kenzo (OC), Aika (OC), Nanashi (OC; aka Scribe)
Summary: A Fire Nation farmer finds a baby on his lands.
Notes: Written for the Shades of Grey challenge at ATLAland; third-place winner. Go Earth Kingdom!
It had been a long, hot day, but Kenzo was used to those. Compared to summers in the Fire Nation, the current spring weather was quite acceptable. It didn't make toiling in the sun any more pleasant, but Kenzo had known what he was doing when he retired from the Army to work as a farmer instead. He had done his duty to his country as a young man; now in his late forties, he was doing his duty to his daimyo by working the land.
When the sun set, Kenzo sent his assistants home, then went on one last walk around the property leased to him. He was on the furthest side from his home when a soft wailing met his ears. Curious, the man walked that way; he didn't remember any babies being due recently. The cries grew louder as he drew closer, until he spied a small bundle tucked in the shade of a rock.
Carefully, he picked up the small bundle and turned it until he could see the baby's face. He noted immediately that the child was darker-skinned than was common for those of the Fire Nation — not that that indicated parentage. It could have come from the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, or even those descended from the Sun Warriors.
The wailing continued, and Kenzo sighed. Clearly the child needed to be fed and changed. A pity that none of the women in the area were currently nursing. Perhaps they would know what he could feed the baby. Carefully, as if he held an ancient vase, he tucked the baby close to his chest and trudged towards Aika's home — Aika was not one of his assistants, but she was the local midwife.
When Aika answered his knock, she turned a startled look on the babe. "I just found it on the outskirts of the land," Kenzo explained.
Without asking, she took the child from his arms. "He wants food and a change," she said. "There's a bottle of koala-sheep milk in the icebox. Heat some of it up for him. It needs to be warm, not hot. The flint is in the second drawer from the right."
Kenzo bowed his thanks and acknowledgement and went to do as instructed. While he was heating the milk, he heard the wailing stop for a blessed moment, then pick up again with a different tone. Aika must have changed the babe.
He tested the milk by letting a drop fall on the inside of his wrist, where the flesh was more tender. Determining it was warm enough, he moved the pot off the flame and looked for some cheesecloth.
"Is the milk ready, Kenzo?"
"Yes," he replied. "Where's the cheesecloth?"
"Cheesecl— idiot," she said, no hint of reproach to her tone. "Come here with that."
Kenzo joined her, and she took the pot from him. "Wash your hands, and be quick," Aika ordered him. Bemused, he did as he was told. While he was away, the wailing abruptly stopped. When he returned, he blinked to see the baby sucking happily on one of Aika's fingers.
"Dip your finger in the milk and let him suck it off," Aika explained. "We can discuss weaning once he's fed. He is a boy, by the way."
Somewhat nervously, Kenzo did as he was told, and was surprised when the child didn't protest. "When will he be able to be weaned?" he asked, dipping a finger in the milk again.
"You could start him right away," Aika replied. "To my best guess, he's about six months old. You'll be keeping him?"
"I found him," he replied, looking down at the suckling child. "He's my responsibility." He noticed something and looked closer, missing Aika's smile. "His eyes are green," Kenzo said.
"Poor mite." It was all Aika needed to say. Both of them understood the world enough to see why the child had been abandoned. "Will you name him?"
Kenzo thought about it. "I'll call him Nanashi."
Aika sighed. "Men."
"Fire," Nanashi said happily.
Kenzo glanced from his papers to his four-year-old son with a small smile. "Indeed," he replied.
It was a fairly harsh winter day, so Kenzo had built the fire up higher than usual, and pulled Nanashi's pen further from it as a result. His son was growing quite sturdy, and thanks to Aika's efforts, quite intelligent as well. Kenzo was looking forward to teaching the boy to read and write, and to do sums.
"It's pretty," Nanashi continued, gazing intently at it.
"Well, sometimes," Kenzo said. He'd seen the destructive side of fire too often to consider all fire pretty.
"It's pretty, dad!" Nanashi insisted. He extended a hand through the bars of his pen and beckoned, and some of the fire flew to him.
Kenzo didn't even remember moving.
He was across the room with his son in his arms and the hand that had held the flame pressed against his shirt. While Nanashi cried out in protest, Kenzo frantically checked him for burns, and relaxed when he found none. Then he realised what his son had done, and his heart sank. Despite his best efforts, no firebenders had yet chosen to reside in the village forming by the farmlands, and young firebenders had to be taught.
"Dad?" said Nanashi, worry in his tone.
Kenzo smiled for his son. "You should be careful with fire, Nanashi," he said, placing the boy back in his pen. "No more calling it, all right?"
"Daaaaaad," he protested, which Kenzo knew was an agreement.
He didn't allow himself to think about the firebending until after he'd put Nanashi to bed that night.
There were only two options available to young firebenders: unless they were being trained as a sage, they had to do a tour of duty in the military. But what would be the best for Nanashi? As much as Kenzo wanted to keep his son, he knew he could not — there was nobody to train him, and an untrained bender of any element was a danger to himself and those around him.
Nanashi's eyes were green.
Kenzo closed his eyes. No, Nanashi would not do well in the Army at all. He would have to take the boy to the sages.
No matter how much he didn't want to.
Current Location: the apartment couch
Current Mood: calm
Current Music: Wishmaster - Van Canto
Tags: atla land, character: fire nation, character: scribe, fandom: avatar, fanfic, one-shot, story: foundling