Time is an illusion. The Avatar Spirit has no beginning.
‘You must understand the earth,’ Bo says, shakes her head.
Yangchen bows. ‘Yes, Master Bo.’
‘I’ve told you, don’t call me Master, little airbender.’ It’s their joke: Yangchen is tall and lanky, the earthbender is round and small and wrinkled like the nuts lying next to her on the boulder. She cracks one open. ‘Again.’
Yangchen drops into a bending stance. The wet ground tickles her feet, makes something stir inside her.
She listens to the earth.
Even in this place, the earth speaks to him. Fog hangs from black trees, impossible shapes glide through the mist.
Kuruk ties his polar-leopard cloak tighter and moves on, unafraid. This time, he’s sure, he’ll find it: a spirit old as the world, speaking with a stolen face.
And for a second he wonders if he climbs under the world’s skin every year just looking for this life’s love, or if the spirit inside him longs for home.
‘It wants to return,’ Kyoshi says. Her daughter adjusts the quilt around her. The room smells of smoke.
‘What does?’ Koko asks, eyes lowered. Kyoshi lays her hand on hers. Her daughter stills.
The Avatar Spirit, Kyoshi thinks, but doesn’t say it. I can feel it. Yearning to return to the great wheel of rebirth. She squeezes Koko’s hand. ‘Death is not the end. We’ll meet again.’
When a spark of hers comes back.
‘I’ll be right back,’ Roku says, trying to ignore the knot in his stomach.
‘It’s really easy,’ Sozin says. ‘Not scary or hard or anything.’ As always, he has gone first so he can tell Roku what to expect.
Roku just nods, then walks after one of the Fire Sages through chambers full of flames and silence. The last one is, unexpectedly, full of toys.
A wooden camelephant catches his eye.
He hesitates a moment, then picks it up.
Aang picks up one of the apples from the basket. Appa scarfs it down with a pleased snort, then licks Aang’s face, making the boy laugh.
He hears a rustle and turns around. One of the nuns steps forward, sits by the pool. ‘You have chosen your companion well,’ she says, and pets the sky bison.
‘Yeah,’ Aang says, and leans forward to dip his hand in the pool.
He likes feeling the water move.
Inside the bowl, the water moves from side to side.
‘Look, Ka—Master Katara,’ Korra says. The other children turn from their own bowls to look at her.
A smile crinkles Katara’s mouth. ‘That’s it—push and pull.’
So something inside Korra pushes, and the water rises, falls to the ground with an icy splash. The rest of the class laughs; she joins in. ‘Can you do that again?’ a girl asks.
‘I’ll try,’ Korra says, then looks back at Katara, who blinks, eyes shining.
Time is an illusion. The Avatar Spirit has no beginning, and having no beginning, it can have no end.
Notes: The “it can have no end” line was inspired by a similar line in Clive Barker’s Weaveworld.