fate. noun. the universal principle or ultimate agency by which the order of things is presumably prescribed; destiny
Where am I?
Korra opens her eyes. Stars wash over her naked body, tiny flakes of cosmic powder. She's floating, suspended in some kind of space. Tiny whispers sing lullabies in her ears. It's a calming melody that dances through her flowing hair before spinning into her soul. Korra giggles, a small uncharacteristic noise that starts in her stomach and somehow eases its way into her head, as the whispers slide along the length of her arms.
There's a bright red string attached to her little finger, it feels heavy, heavy enough to sink her down into the sable night just beyond the stars. Korra pulls at the string, once, then two times again after that. She moves her finger to her mouth and tries biting it. No use. The string weaves into an intricate path ahead of her, a roller coaster that's taken one too many loops around the track.
"Follow it," They whisper into her ear. "Follow your fate."
She walks forward tentatively, one foot in front of the other. Her body feels impossibly heavy in this plane and at the same time incredibly weightless. Her hair is constantly flowing around her face, a large strand obscures her vision. But when it passes she sees him. Or she's sure it's him.
It's fuzzy and she can't all together make it out. There's long sinewy limbs, Korra squints her eyes willing them to focus. She's close enough to reach out and touch, but she can't see him. If he would just turn around.
When she jumps up shaking off the remnants of a dream desperately gripping to regain her consciousness from its grasp, her head collides into something, hard.
Korra blinks the stars out of her eyes, placing a hand on her forehead. She lifts her head slowly, to stop the room from spinning again, taking in her surroundings. Orange sunlight filters in from her corner window, casting a warm glow into the room.
Mako groans when he sits up from his place on the floor, the honey glow outside casting a shadow over his head. He gives her a small smile, dropping his hands on his thighs and pushing himself up to stand next to her bed.
Korra tries, and fails, not to smile back at him. She's never had a talent for hiding her emotions, especially not towards Mako, who's become adept at reading her as well as Tenzin does. With just one look. "What are you doing in here?" She asks, pulling her blankets closer around her.
"Oh. Um-." Mako coughs into his fist, scratching behind his neck and dropping his head, sheepish embarrassment polluting his face. "Katara sent me to wake you. For - well you know."
She did know. Korra sighs, throwing back her comforter and hanging her legs off of her bedside, revealing her sheer tank top and cotton underwear. Mako coughs again, the tips of his ears dipped in red as his embarrassment flushes across his face.
"You can go now." Korra says curtly, placing her palms beside her legs, hair shifting to the side as she regards him.
"Uh-. Yeah. Right." Mako blurts out, turning to leave, his face misses the door frame by a few centimeters and this time Korra doesn't try to push down her laughter.
She stops suddenly, running a hand through her hair, pushing herself off of the bed; stretching out her nighttime kinks. When had it gotten so awkward between them?
Korra tries to think back to a time before Republic City, a wasted war and Amon's burning touch on her forehead. It's hard to pinpoint the rush of emotions, the moment when things had gotten so utterly messed up. It's fuzzy and all she can remember is longing glances, kisses that should have never happened and a whirlwind of pure feeling rushes through her.
I love you, Korra.
Korra cards her fingers through her hair. She needs to focus. But, it's hard when all she wants to do is fall into his arms and forget the world within his warm embrace, to bury herself into his soul, her secret garden.
She pulls on her pants with care. She just felt so empty. The world was so silent around her. She couldn't hear the water sing to her from the depth of the bay. She couldn't feel the earth underneath her feet, steady and strong. The candle of her fire had been blown out, only a small sliver of smoke remained. Korra opens her palm, turning it over to observe the skin there before closing her fingers into a fist.
She wants to rip it away and become the elements. Discard the excess, human, parts of her being and be the wind, the water, the fire and the earth. To be.
Korra is only sure of one thing these days; that she's not quite sure of anything.
Mako is leaning across the hall when she opens the door. His eyes are closed; only the deep V set into his brow gives away his distress.
"You didn't have to wait for me." Korra says, closing the door behind her when she steps out into the corridor.
Mako opens one eye and pushes himself off of the wood lined wall panels, "I know." he says, "I wanted to."
"Mako." Korra trails off, her protest remains unsaid. The weight of his name on her tongue is enough. She's trapped and can't turn away; not when he's looking at her with such intent and want in his eyes. How he looks at her and only her. She thinks she can feel the tips of his fingers brush against her own, small butterfly-moths pricking at her skin. She leans into him against her better judgment.
A door opens down the hall startling them apart. Asami walks out, dappled in the sunlight filtering in from her room, illuminating the shadow of a halo behind her head. She turns to them wordlessly, staring daggers into their chests, digging and twisting it when she narrows her eyes.
Mako has the decency to look away and turn from Korra slightly, and Korra is still acutely aware of his fingers at her elbow, but Korra can't seem to tear her gaze. Asami frowns and Korra can't decide if she feels guilty or not yet. She's waiting for it, but it hasn't quite made its appearance yet. Yet still, she knows it's prepping for the big show.
Asami swipes at them with one last fleeting look before she walks away from the room. Korra hears Mako sigh beside her and wonders what could be going through his head. Then she surprises herself with how much she doesn't care. Not when she still feels so empty.
Korra hears Bolin around the corner before she can see him. "Rise and shine Avatar Princess." Bolin yells. If she still had her earthbending she would be able to feel his heavy footsteps under her feet and see his misstep before he fell into the hall. All she can do now is feel the air leave him when he hits the ground. It doesn't feel like it's enough.
"Oww. Fuck that hurts." Bolin says rubbing his head as he moves into a sitting position.
"Bolin." Mako doesn't anything else and she knows Bolin can hear the reprimand in his brother's voice from the way he scratches behind his head in sheepish guilt.
"Ohh, you're already up. Great. Master Katara -" Bolin starts
"Yeah I know. Mako already told me." Korra interrupts. Bolin didn't deserve the rude tone, but she wasn't in the mood and mornings are already evil.
Korra can feel Mako's fingers at her elbow again. "Korra." He's testing, his voice light, unsure if she wants to be curt with him too.
"I have to go." Korra pulls away from his touch, a chill running through her at the lack of warmth. She steps over Bolin and turns the corner, it physically pains her not to look back at him. But, she doesn't, not once.
It was calming, well, almost. If she forgets that she still can't bend, (except for air, right of course, but she doesn't want that. she wants water in her veins, earth steady in her heart and familiar fire in her palms) and somehow during the course of a few months she's succeeded in entirely fucking up everything. It's a lot even for her.
Korra dips her head back into the water, that's glowing in a way that she can only liken to the aurora lights that shone during the winter solstice. Korra can feel Katara's healing hands on her body even though she wasn't touching her. Felt the warmth flowing through her, trying to find her block.
Three weeks. Three weeks and five days to be exact. (Not that she was keeping count) That's how long it's been since the first day she returned to the compound. Since Katara has tried to use her legendary healing hands to heal the Avatar once more. Korra sighs, in and out. A deep breath she can feel in her bones before she can see it wafting in frostbitten air around her.
Korra stares ahead at the small corner window trying to immere herself with the number of snowflakes floating down the window rather than Katara's daily failures. Korra has learned not to get her hopes up.
"Sit up straight and we will try it again." Katara sighs, the blue disappearing from the water. The cold starts to settle around her body, flexing its fingers around her arms, Korra shivers.
"No." Korra says softly, lifting her head up. She's shaking her head. "No." she repeats.
"Korra." Katara's voice is sympathetic, laced with pity and it makes Korra feel even worse.
"No." There force behind her words; her eyes are glistening with frustration and fury. "I won't do this anymore. What the use? Day after day of getting my hopes up for nothing. Nothing I do will bring it back, so I'm done trying."
"Korra." She keeps her mouth shut after that because Katara has her no nonsense voice on and Korra has learned not to cross her mentor when she reaches that point. Only bad things happen. Her mind flits to a vague memory of Pakak, at the familiar tone, a waterbending boy she trained with once.
Katara presses a finger to her creasing brow. "I know you are frustrated." Korra snorts. That was an understatement. "But, the Korra that I helped escape from the compound all those months ago would never think like that. She would fight tooth and nail until her dying breath. So, do you still have some fight left in you?"
It's hard walking around, a shell of her former self. An Avatar that can't bend. There was nothing worse than that. But, Korra knows she's right. Katara's always right.
Korra nods once, and Katara smiles. "Good. Now come have a cup of tea with me. I have a story to tell you."
Korra steps out of the healing water, thanking her mentor as she hands her a towel.
Katara lowers the cup of tea, watching the contents swirl around pensively. "There is one way. It's not something I advise but it seems we have run out of options."
"What is it?" Korra asks, mirroring Katara's movements and lowering her cup back to the tray adjacent to her.
"Have you ever heard the story of the Golden Keys?" Korra shakes her head. "I didn't expect so. It's an ancient tale. Few people know of their existence. Aang told me the story many years ago.
"The Golden Keys hold the most powerful magic in the universe. No one knows how they came to be, only their potential for destruction. The first Avatar hid them away, scattered across different dimensions."
"Dimensions?" Korra asks. "What do you mean dimensions?"
"Korra, there are worlds that exist parallel to our own that we may never know. Only the Avatar holds the power to cross the lines. It just needs to be awakened." Katara pokes her finger into the center of Korra's chest.
"So what happens if I collect all of them?"
"Everything and anything. You are granted one wish. Nothing is too great for the keys' power. They are even able to resurrect the dead."
"So - they can give me my bending back?"
Katara nods. "But this is not a journey for the light hearted. The last Avatar who sought out the Keys was Kuruk and there was no happy end to that story."
"How can I cross dimensions?" Korra asks eagerly. It almost seems too good to be true. Why wasn't she told of this before? There had to be some sort of catch.
"You must go the the Spirt World and ask for a blessing."
"The Spirit World?"
"Yes." Katara nods again. "The winter solstice is tonight. Go to the Avatar Temple and cross into the Spirit World. Open your mind and there you will find the knowledge you seek."
"But, Master Katara, I'm no good at all that spiritual stuff." Korra sighs dejectedly.
"If you have the will, you will find a way Korra." Katara places a hand on Korra's shoulder and squeezes. "You have never been more open to your spirituality than you are right now. Just be, Korra. Everything else will fall into place."
Korra hopes she can find the same confidence in herself.
Tenzin once told her to enter the spirit world your body must be light. So she decides to fast through dinner, too bad her appetite didn't seem to agree with her decision. There is an anguished curling sound when her stomach growls again, gnawing at the skin of her abdomen. Korra lifts her head when she can smell it. Pema's lycee bread. It smells so good. No, no. Light as the wind, Korra.
The knock on her door jolts her out of her thoughts.
"Come in." Korra calls, turning over to face the archway.
Asami walks through the door. She crosses her arms. Korra scrambles at her presence and sits up fully now.
"Pema asked me to tell you that dinner is ready." She says, her voice laced in something that's not quite civil and not quite harsh.
"Oh, I'm not that hungry." Korra can feel the tension in the room suffocating her, she takes a breath testing the air around her. She's so much more aware of it. It constantly haunts her. Korra stops there, she shouldn't think like that lest Tenzin poke, prod Tenzin is too regal to poke, his head into her room and find some way to read her mind. "Asami." She calls when the other girl makes a move to exit.
"You're sorry?" Asami sounds surprised.
"Yeah." Korra nods, "About what happened with your dad and stuff."
"Oh." Asami starts. "Right."
She turns and walks out; and Korra still waits for the guilt, wondering if people assume that she's as naive as she pretends to be.
Korra adjusts the thick headdress, shifting the thick fur out of her eyes. High moonlight trickles in through the celling window. She steps into the Avatar Temple. It seemed empty since the last time she was here and it was brimming with hopeful faces. All praying that, no it wasn't true. The Avatar could bend. Only to be disappointed in her yet again.
The pity was the worst. They all felt sorry for her. She hates it, more vehemently than she's ever hated anything before.
Korra sits in the center of the temple, headdress sprawled out behind her. She closes her eyes, pressing her fists together. Breathe in and out, just as Tenzin taught her. She thinks of Mako - because if she's to be honest with herself like Tenzin wants, there isn't a moment when he doesn't hold her thoughts captive.
I love you, Korra.
Korra clenches her eyes shut, desperately trying to push the memories for her last visit to the temple from her mind. Focus. Lift your body.
His heartbroken face still haunts her at night. Mocking her. When will you stop disappointing everyone Korra? The small voice in her head taunts her. You've become so good at it. Everyone probably expects it from you at this point.
"Ugh - I can't do this." Korra drops her head into her palm. "I can't."
No, she thinks, lifting her shoulders. I have to get it back.
If you have the will, you will find a way Korra.
Korra closes her eyes; dropping her shoulders into her meditation stance. Be the wind, the water, the earth and the fire. She feels like she's falling and rising at the same time, dipping through the air like one of Ikki's paper kites. Tingles flow from her toes to the tips of her fingers before it buries itself into her heart, filling her with a warmth.
She opens them when she feels something tickle her face. The light whip of wind feels like it seeps through her pores, as it whips through the leaves that surround her. The clearing of the dense forest behind her gives way to lush rolling hills and azure skies. The brightest greens and blues she could ever remember seeing spread far beyond the horizon, stretching before her like a painting she could remember seeing once, the colors exploding to life before her eyes.
Korra feels the grass beneath her boots as she walks through the sloping meadow hills for what feels like hours. Of just watching and waiting. She watches small animals frolic around her, running through her legs.
She snaps around and then she sees them. Small blue orbs of light that she thinks she remembers but knows she's never seen before. Not really. They form a road before her. Follow us. She walks one foot in front of the other, until she's not quite sure of her surroundings. She doesn't notice the fraying edges of the decomposing plants or the brown tint of the sky or even the thick swamp water at her feet. Only that she needs to follow, to answer the call, she needs to -
"Stop." Korra halts suddenly, turning on her heel to see a panda bear holding out a paw towards her. "You are not welcome in that realm."
Korra thinks that he must see the confusion on her face because he continues, "Water Tribe Avatars have always been a particularly sore spot for Koh throughout the years." He points at the headdress still perched atop Korra's head. Korra nods, understanding.
"I am Hei Bai, a Spirit who dwells in this realm." He lowers his head slightly, "Why have you come here, Avatar Korra?"
Korra is a bit taken back that the animal knows her name. Her uncle has always told her never to underestimate the spirits but she's never listened.
"Uh - well." Korra falters, takes a calming breath then tries again. She could do this. "I want to find the Golden Keys."
Hei Bai narrows his eyes. "How do you know about the keys?"
"Well - you see. Aang told me." Korra lies quickly. She doesn't think the spirit falls for her lie, but he allows it and waves for her to follow after him as he walks through the patch of bright purple flowers.
Korra observes the scenery around her and struggles to keep up. She treads carefully in the dense tangle of the grass that brushes against her knees with every step forward she takes. The blindingly bright sun shines down on them both, the cloudless sky unable to keep it from doing so. And she is in awe, unable to keep her eyes from flitting to every direction, unable to stop herself from drinking in the colors that seem both real and unreal.
"It is not know who created the Keys and gave them their power, only that they can grant anything in the universe. Yes, they can restore your bending." Korra closes her mouth.
"Nanuq, realizing their destructive power, hid them through the dimensions hundreds of years ago."
"Yes," Hei Bai confirms, sighing and shakes his head slowly, as if disappointed by her lack of historic knowledge. "Nanuq was the first Avatar. A Water Tribe girl like yourself. She haled from the Northern tribe."
Korra nods. "How many are there?"
"There are seven in total. You must collect them all to -."
"Okay, so how can I cross dimensions?" Korra interrupts.
"You are an eager one, Avatar Korra. Are you sure you are ready for such a journey. This is not something to run into blindly." Hei Bai stops, turning to face her. "The power of the Golden Keys is not to be taken lightly. Nor is traveling dimensions a light hearted task. Make a wrong move and you may never return to your original realm. You will see people you think you know, but they exist in alternate lives. Do not disturb the balance of the dimensions or there will be consequences to pay."
"I'm sure. I'll do anything to get my bending back." Korra hopes he can see the determination on her face.
"Very well. I will unlock your power. You will need a device to locate the keys. You first stop will be to the dimension witch. She will give you what you seek." Hei Bai explains. "May all the Spirits grant you safe passage. You will surely need it." Hei Bai steps back.
There is a bright light coming from Hei Bai's mouth, blinding her. Korra can feel the familiar tingle once more and lets it wash over her.
When she slowly lowers her hands from her face and opens her eyes, she can see the sun starting to rise over the horizon in a blaze of warm colors. . There are two tattoos wrapped around her wrists, one white the other black. They glow faintly.
"I'm going and that's final." Korra stands. Bolin's face is hurt, Asami is impassive and Mako is emotionless. Korra wonders if she will ever acquire the skill of reading him, like Bolin can. She doesn't think it's very likely.
"It too dangerous. You -" Tenzin looks stressed. She can see the effect of it under the dark circles that rim his eyes.
"That's why I'm going alone." Korra stops and looks down, trying to make him understand that she needs to do this. She can't sit around forever waiting for it to come back to her. She's never been the type to be content with remaining stagnant for too long. She had to find it, follow her own path. "I have to do this Tenzin. Aang took his journey. Now it's time for me to take mine."
Tenzin sighs and Pema rests a comforting hand on his shoulder. Korra knows he's given up. "I don't pretend as if I'm able to change your mind when you've made it up. Safe travels." That's all is said before he rises from the table and walks out. She knows it must be done, she must leave and find her own path. Sever ties. But, Korra can't help but feel a bit guilty.
"I'll be back soon girl." Naga whines when Korra pets her fur. Naga licks her face and Korra presses her face into the snowy coat.
"Korra." Korra jumps back. Mako walks into Naga's pen and stands in front of her.
"What are you doing in here?"
"I'm not letting you go off on some dangerous journey by yourself."
Korra scoffs, moving to walk past him. "I'm not Bolin you don't need to baby me."
"I know th-"
"Will you hear me out?" Mako snaps impatiently.
I love you. I can't.
Korra is silent. She shifts to the side, waiting. Always waiting. Korra lifts her hands, fingers seeking purchase on something, anything to bring him closer to her. She wants to touch him, so she does. She touches the skin of his neck. Traces the slope of his collarbone. Brings her palm to rest on his sternum, his breath hitches when she presses in slightly, feeling his pulse under her. Feeling his life under her. It's strange seeing, feeling, him so fragile so she turns away from him.
"I need you to understand that I have to do this alone." She reminds him, in case Mako has forgotten her ability to fend for herself. She didn't need him. She didn't.
"That's fine." He says. "But, I need you to understand that no matter where or how far you go I will follow you to the ends of the earth if I can. I will fight for you until my last breath and you're crazy if you think you're going to get rid of me this easily."
"Because -." Mako falters, dropping his head and staring at the ground. "I - I just do."
I love you. I can't.
"I - we -" Mako runs a hand through his hair. "Look, I know you don't need protecting. I think I know better than anyone. But I want to Korra. I want to be there for you. It would be hell sitting here waiting for you to come back. That's what I'll be doing, waiting for you."
No, I'm worthless and a failure and you'll figure it out soon. Then you'll leave me. She wants to say. But she doesn't. Just nods and let's him put his arms around her. She isn't going to allow him the chance to abandon her. She won't. She can't.
The silence between them is heavy and pulled taut. But, there is a comfort there. One she only finds in the space between his neck and shoulder, where he smells like wood and bon fire, that she's not sure she's ever seen in the south pole. With his arms around her, she can let him tell her he loves her and believe it, like a prayer that he whispers on his knees to her. To his goddess.
"I'm still not sure how I feel yet." Korra pulls away and tugs at her parka, pulling the sleeves down, the air is suddenly too cold around her.
"That's okay I'll wait." Mako counters.
"That's not fair to you."
Mako places a hand on her shoulder, massaging the tension there away with the warmth beneath his fingers.
"I don't care. What kind of friend would I - we - be if we let you go this alone. Plus, Bolin's peeing his pants with excitement and Asami's packed for a whole year."
"They're coming?" Korra blinks in surprise. While Bolin she expects, he would never go anywhere without his brother; the addition of Asami is unexpected
Mako raises an eyebrow as if to say 'of course'. Korra runs outside into the snow to see Bolin and Asami standing on top of a frosty hill. She trips a few times on the knuckled earth, but makes it up.
"Thanks." Korra starts sincerely. "I don't kno -."
"I'm not going for you." Asami interrupts shortly. "I'm going to escape the memory of my father."
"Oh. Right." Korra tugs at the thick fur collar of her parka that suddenly seems too constricting around the skin of her neck. "Of course."
Mako comes up behind her, placing a comforting hand at the small of her back. They don't ask any questions as they walk further into the tundra. The sun starts to rise, Korra places a hand over her forehead to shield the light from her face.
"You bet." Korra grins at Bolin's enthusiasm.
The four of them stand in a circle and Korra concentrates searching for the pull. Light and steady. She feels, rather than sees, the magic swirl around them. Engulfing them. The last thing she remembers is seeing them nod before they're gone. Like the wind.
"We have been standing here for three hours." A man says, lowering his umbrella to look upon his companion. "Have you ever considered that maybe your keen senses are dulling with your old age?"
"They're here." A woman, raven hair and a wicked smile, announces stepping forward.
"How convenient." He mutters walking after her.
When the bright light fades, four teenagers are left in its wake.
"I'm Jun," The woman speaks, no nonsense, straight to the point. "I am the dimension witch. I will grant you passage through the realms."
"I'm Avatar Korra an-."
"I know who you are. I've been expecting you." Jun holds up a hand. Her stance suggests an aristocratic bloodline and the arrogance in her tone confirms it. "What do you want?"
"I want something that will assist me in locating the Golden Keys."
"Did you hear that?" She turns to her companion, a laugh in her throat. "They're looking for the keys."
"You must be very brave." His patronizing tone aggravates her. Korra stops her hands from coming up into a fighting stance. Mako throws her a look, so she takes a breath to compose herself.
Korra still doesn't like the way they're smiling at her. "Do you have it or not."
Jun laughs. "Patience little girl." She holds out her hand for something. The man places a small crystal ball into her palm. "This is a Requiem. It will alert you when there are keys in any given world you visit."
"Thank you." Korra steps forward, Jun pulls the device away from her.
"It comes at a high price."
"What kind of price?"
"The thing that means most to you."
"Most to me." Korra looks down and tries to think what means most to her. She can only think of her bending, but that's gone. (Except for air don't forget air.)
"Not to you." Jun points behind her. "To them."
"What?" Korra says, turing to face them. "No."
"To test their loyalties. Normal mortals are not usually privy to such information as this. They must pay. So what will it be." Jun turns to the three. "What will you give up?"
They look at each other. Bolin steps up, sticking one foot out dramatically before placing his hands on his hips.
"Bolin what are you doing?" Mako says under his breath.
"Are you sure? Your bending means a lot to you doesn't it?" Jun asks.
Bolin falters a bit and looks back at Korra, who stares on with wide eyes.
"No, absolutely not." Mako walks forward and grabs Bolin's arm.
"It's fine bro. I'm sure Asami can teach me to be a badass non-bender like her." Bolin smiles back at Asami. Asami cracks her first smile in days.
Mako protests again, Jun raises her hand against him.
"The boy has made his decision." She smiles down at him. It's not one that fills Korra with warmth. It's a curling of her lips that doesn't belie the darkness of her being.
The witch extends her hand to Bolin and he steps forward carefully, the confident flair he previously showed fumbling in the presence of the woman. He closes his eyes as the tips of her fingers ghost along the edges of his face. Her lithe fingers press against his third eye and Korra stiffens. She's reminded of Amon. The fear she felt, the fear she still feels. The feeling that part of herself is missing.
Bolin exhales deeply, his eyes flicker open and it is done. She throws the Requiem into his hands. He fumbles not to drop it.
"Don't misplace it. You will not get another. Unless you want to pay again." Her smile is cruel. Bolin shakes his head, walking backwards to rejoin the three.
"Very well, good luck on your journey Avatar Korra."
They grasps hands. Korra shivers slightly as Mako's hand threads through hers, they lock eyes before Korra turns towards the ground. I love you. I can't.
They disappear in another flash of light. Jun looks up towards the sky.
"Be safe, young travelers."