Katara’s sapphire eyes roamed the kingdom of Omashu, drinking in the view atop the central mountain peak. It was the first time she had stepped foot on land outside her own. The journey was a bit of a stretch, but she enjoyed it none the less. Her father had promised this was the best way to find a husband. A part of her felt as though she was being paraded. She knew her father had good intentions, but was searching for a husband all that significant?
The waterbender sighed, turning on her heels when a servant entered her room to escort her. She was led through the corridors of King Bumi’s palace, dressed in an elegant gown the king himself had given her. Even after a week of being the great earthbender’s guest, she still wasn’t use to the grand building or the land’s temperature. Though, that bothered her little, her stay was quite lonely. Her father was often pulled away by both her Uncle Arnook and King Bumi. She wanted Sokka there, but he was required to man the tribe in Hakoda’s absence.
The grand doors to the throne room opened gradually, revealing an extravagant display of colorful crystals and a green rug leading to the stone seat of the king’s throne. The place always had Katara in a state of awe, no matter how many times she’s entered.
“Ah, Princess Katara!” Bumi announced with a large, toothy grin. “You’ve finally arrived.”
Katara bowed, “Sorry for the delay.”
“It is not a problem, princess.” Arnook chimed in. “We are sure it was only in an effort to look your best for your potential suitors.”
Sure. Yeah, that’s it.
“Well, then, come here, dear! They will arrive shortly.” Bumi laughed, releasing an array of random snorts.
Katara took a seat next to her father. She could see the sheer joy on his face. A pang of guilt tugged at her heart at the thought of disappointing him if she turned out not to like any of these men. Her father had worked hard to find her a betrothed. Their home being previously small and unappealing, had currently unattracted possible suitors. Hakoda had gone out of his way to present his daughter to marriage market. When everything failed, he had turned to his old friend and ally, Arnook, Chieftain of the Northern Water Tribe, once he got news of Yue’s engagement to a foreign diplomat. Arnook had been so kind as to gift Katara with treasures to build her dowry. Even going as far as to send invitations to the other four nations to attract various amounts of suitors.
Arnook stood by Bumi’s throne, confidence radiating from his broad smile. Turning to the door, he gestured for the guards to allow the first set of suitors to step in. “May I present, from the Earth Kingdom, Nobleman Masaru, Nobleman Hiresh, Captain Chu, General Gopan and nephew of the Earth King Kuei himself, Prince Satish.”
The men entered in a group, stopping in front of the throne. Hakoda was seated to the right of the king and his daughter next to him. The men stood in a line side by side, simultaneously conducting a traditional Earth Kingdom bow. Katara was taken aback by their entrance. This was something she was not used to.
The first one to step out of the line was a short and sturdy built young man. He wore Earth Kingdom armor, his hair in a high topknot. He had a thin mustache, his beard reaching his chest. He may have been considered handsome in this foreign land but all Katara could see was an overbearing authorize figure and La help her if she had to be married to one.
“Princess,” his voice boomed. “I am General Gopan! As a man of great importance, I offer protection and security to both you and your people! I come from generations of high ranking military men! Therefore, choose me as your loyal husband!”
She smiled reluctantly at Gopan. How exactly dies she respond to that?
Each suitor had taken the turn to announce his name and occupation, explaining what all they had to offer her and her people. Except Prince Satish.
“As you can see, Princess,” The way he said it struck her nerve. What a conceited- “I am the best choice. Considering…” The scrawny man brushed imaginary dust off his royal emerald robe. “As Prince of this great kingdom, I offer so much more than my…opponents. I assure you, Princess, you will be treated like royalty befitting that of someone with such beauty and grace.” He grinned, brows moving up and down.
Ew, Katara mouthed, face contorted.
After all the men took their turn, the room grew silent. Hakoda turned to his daughter and nudged her arm with his elbow when he noticed her eyes fluttering closed.
She bolted upright, darting her head around the room before landing on all the men. “Uh, yes, um…” she stood up hesitantly, making her way to stand in front of the keen faces. “Thank you all for your wonderful…introductions. I do look forward to-“
She was interrupted when a figure appeared out of nowhere, her breath caught in her throat. A stranger clad in black and wearing a mask of a demon, landed gracefully next to the princess. His tall figure approached Katara like a cunning predator, his stare blank and unmoving as he examined her from head to toe. He then faced the men who stared dumbfoundedly at the intruder.
Seeing him reach a hand towards the princess, the men gasped, taking a defensive stance, as well as Katara. “Who are you?” She demanded. Her father, King Bumi, and Arnook observing the situation from a distance.
Instead of receiving an answer, the intruder quickly grabbed her wrist and spun her into his arms. She gasped, back colliding with the intruder’s strong chest.
“Hey!” She cried, swinging her left foot back to kick his shin. He avoided it gracefully, stepping to the side, wrapping an arm across her chest and spinning her around once again to face him. He bound her wrists before she could comprehend what he was doing, then swung her over his shoulder like a potato sack and sent a burst of smoke through the room, provoking a fit of coughs.
“What are you waiting for, you fools?” Hakoda yelled in between coughs. “Retrieve my daughter!”
“Put me down!” Katara beat her fists into the stranger’s backside. He breezed through every corner of the palace halls with ease, her weight doing little to hinder his reflexes. From a distance she heard cries, and she couldn’t hold back the groan boiling in her chest. Her suitors were on their tail, Gopan leading the group. Seriously, this is who they send? Katara thought sarcastically.
The demon masked figure halted, unsheathing a broad sword from his back, and swung it skillfully. He demolished a boulder with his weapon, dodged a set of disks and knocked Gopan in the head with the butt of his sword handle. The General fell backwards, crossed-eyed.
The others jumped back cautiously when Gopan landed hard on the ground. Masaru went in for an attack by withdrawing a spiked mallet. He swung heavily at the masked figure’s head, whom had ducked. Then his shoulder, only for his arm to get caught between the masked figure’s bicep and forearm. He squeezed, causing Masaru to cry out and release his weapon, in which he was then kicked in the abdomen.
The intruder defeated his opponents with ease until he was left with no one but Prince Satish, who cowered over with shaken knees as the stranger’s mask came inches within distance of his face. The figure growled. Satish turned white, immediately high tailing it out of there, leaving a trail of dust behind him.
He then sheathed his broad sword, adjusting Katara’s body on his shoulder before proceeding to exit the palace.
They reached the forested area miles from the mountain city of Omashu by early evening. Katara kicked and squirmed as the Blue Spirit carried her in his arms, screaming a string of curses and insults at her kidnapper.
He dumped her carelessly on the ground, grunting in irritation.
Katara landed with a ‘hmpft’. She stood up abruptly, wiping her disarrayed hair from her face. “You!” She pointed. “Who do you think you are?”
He crossed his arms, silent.
“Take me back.” She demanded, her labored breathing finally receding.
The Blue Spirit cocked his head before stepping around her and headed deeper into the forest. Katara looked back at Omashu, unsure of what was going on. Panicked, she chased after him.
“Wait!” She called out. “Wait for me.”
The Blue Spirit stopped. He held his hand up and pointed back at the city behind him.
“You-You’re letting me go?”
He smacked a hand to the mask’s forehead and nodded.
“But why? What was the point in kidnapping me?”
The groan he released echoed in his mask and he grasped Katara’s elbow. She allowed him to lead her away, hoping he’d finally give her an answer for his actions. Instead, he pulled out a dagger and sliced the rope that bound her wrists. He pointed to the city more aggressively and turned on his heels to strode away.
Katara watched as he disappeared in the forest, her mind straining to comprehend what the hell just took place.
Her apparent kidnapping did not hinder the search. Her father had insisted she continue for the sake of finding a suitable husband. The men from the previous day were disqualified for their lack of rescuing the Water Tribe princess.
A week after the incident took place, another group of men, Fire Nation, had arrived. This group of three was led to the palace garden’s where they were to join the princess for tea. They were a lot less assertive than the last group and Katara found herself easing into conversation with the men. Nobleman Katsu, Luitinant Kenji and Master Ryuu were all very kind men but were also dull. They’re well mannerisms, though refreshing, put a damper on Katara’s already horrid week.
She held up the best she could, nodding politely and smiling forcefully when one of them would say something she thought was probably humorous.
The men suddenly grew silent, staring past Katara on the other side of the table.
“Is he one of your body guards?” Kenji asked.
“Who?” Katara arched a brow and glanced over her shoulder. Her jaw dropped. The Blue Spirit had returned yet again, his dao swords drawn as he approached the group.
The men jumped to their feet. The Blue Spirit pulled Katara behind him and took a stance. Ryuu blasted fire from his fists, Kenji coming from behind him to swing his sword while the intruder was distracted by Ryuu’s firebending. The Blue Spirit sliced through Ryuu’s attack before blocking Kenji’s. Kenji used his upper body strength to dispel the block, but the Spirit had the sword trapped in place between his. With a growl Kenji pushed into him, only to be flung hard to the ground.
Katsu ran toward’s the Spirit with a cry, swinging a fist at him. The Blue Spirit quickly sheathed his swords and snatched Katsu’s hand before snapping it back. The man fell to the ground in a huddle, nursing his sprained fingers.
Ryuu frowned, taking a wide stance, he kicked his foot in the air, sending a flare towards the intruder. To his surprise, his flame evaporated. While he was stunned, The Blue Spirit grasped the curve where his neck met his shoulder and pinched roughly. The young man passed out.
The Blue Spirit picked Katara up bridal style and escaped before the guards arrived to investigate the situation.
The events occurred like a constant tune, and The Blue Spirits would sweep the Water Tribe Princess away. It was like a ritual. Her suitors would make an attempt at her hand and the Spirit would show up once again, humiliating every one his opponents. The strength in guard did not prevent him from sneaking in almost every time.
There were even a few occasions when Katara thought he was done for, only for him to strike back ten folds. It soon became obvious that the waterbender expected him. A smile would break out on her lips and she would giddily take his hand when they ran from the city.
As time went by, his eagerness to disappear began diminishing. He soon stuck around longer, listening to Katara’s complaints about marriage, the suitors and even her father. The more he kidnapped her, the more open she became. She had even gone as far as telling him about her mother. It was then, for the first time since their encounters, he had wrapped his arms around her, Katara accepting the warm hug in return.
They gradually grew closer. Too close for comfort and the waterbender began to muse weather she had fallen for the strange man or not. He didn’t have to say a word for her understand him, his company was comforting. Their time spent together was the very highlight of her days.
His aptitude and skills intrigued her. His gentleness in consoling her eased her. His repeated kidnappings excited her to the point she even joined in on his sparrings. This was the most fun she’s had since childhood. Because who wouldn’t enjoy seeing Sokka get smacked in the face with a snowball multiple times?
After a group of Northern Water Tribesman had been deterred, Katara figured it was time to be bold. Once they arrived at the edge of the forest, the waterbender swung her arms around The Blue Spirit’s neck and planted a kiss near the lips of the mask. He stilled, muscled tensed. She did again, a little more firmly.
“Is there no motive behind your constant kidnappings?” She asked, her forehead resting on his chest, looking down at her feet.
“Is that of importance?” He responded clearly.
Katara gazed at him, eyes narrowed. So he can speak. “Given the circumstances, yeah, that’s pretty damn important.”
The Blue Spirit looked away from her, staring in the city’s direction. “Is being with a vigilante your idea of romantic? You are naive to think something good could bloom from this match.”
The waterbender flung her arms in the air. “Can’t you just answer the question? All you’ve done is sidestep me at every turn. I pour my heart out to you, a complete stranger, finally get you to speak to me, and you want to talk about what makes me happy? Do you honestly think me that shallow?” She crossed her arms over her chest. Katara could feel the tears surface.
The Blue Spirit kept his distance when all the princess wanted was for him to hold her in his arms again. An ache pierced her heart. He was right. Nothing good could come from developing a relationship with her kidnapper. But La, the thought of never seeing him tore at her. Tomorrow would be the last day she would be introduced to more suitors. What excuse will she have to continue their affiliation?
Wiping the tears from her eyes and cheeks, Katara blinked several times to clear her vision. The Blue Spirit vanished.
Hakoda felt as though something was off. Katara had been distant since the previous day. He had noted her puffy cheeks and red eyes when she returned from her last kidnapping and dismissed his concerns when he questioned her, claiming it was only homesickness. He knew that was not the case, but he could not put a finger on what was truly bothering her.
It was the last day and Katara had thus far, not chosen a husband. The thought of going home unengaged didn’t bother her in the least. The day ended with no luck. She had already chosen her beloved and he didn’t even want her. Her father, Bumi and Arnook sat in utter silence at the table of the palace’s grand dining table. The food appeared unappetizing to the princess. She prodded her food in a state of blankness.
Swallowing hard, Katara excused herself from the table. She kissed her father’s cheek and thanked Arnook and King Bumi for everything they’ve done for her since her stay. How disappointed they must feel, she thought. But she couldn’t choose just anyone. Not when these feelings still lingered.
Entering her guest chambers, Katara quietly closed the door behind her, leaning her back against it with a heavy sigh. A stir in her room made her heart clench and she looked to the balcony where a dark figure casually leaned their arm against the doorway.
“Would you honestly give this all up for the sake of some kidnapper?” A raspy voice asked, she could see the silhouette of him removing his mask and flung it to the floor at her feet. “Danger could lie ahead. You would be on the move at all times, and I cannot guarantee that you will live a comfortable life.”
He ignited a flame in his palm, the light illuminating a glow across his muscular torso his attire did little to hide, and slowly moved to his face where it revealed striking gold eyes and a large scar on the left side of his face.
Katara did not react to his features. Instead, she was drawn in by them. Placing her hand to his scarred cheek, the man’s eyes closing contently, she whispered. “Then it looks like I’ll just have to keep up with you.”
“What is the meaning of this?” The Chieftain from the Southern Water Tribe snatched the blue mask lying on his daughter’s nightstand, Arnook and Bumi observing from behind. “Arnook,” Hakoda turned to his friend. “You had told me this man could be trusted. You told me this would guarantee my daughter a husband!”
The Northerner chuckled, to his friend’s confusion. “Yes, Hakoda, that I did.”
Hakoda arched a brow, watching Bumi and Arnook exchange a look. “Am I missing something?”
Arnook patted the man’s shoulder, pride painted on his face. “You recall the formerly known general and Dragon of the West, Iroh? Well…”
Days later, aboard a metal ship heading for the Fire Nation, Katara and her newfound lover embraced one another as the sun peeked over the horizon. The sea breeze filled the waterbender’s nostrils, a sense of fulfillment warming every part of her soul. Her kidnapper turned Fire Lord caressed her back, leaning his head against hers as they stood atop his ship’s deck.
They had spent days without sleep and little food before making it to a small chapel not far from where his ship was docked. The officiator was shocked to find a couple clad in black and pleading he marry them in the middle of the night. No crowd, no fancy attire, no amount of elegance or entertainment could compare to this moment. They exchanged braided bracelets instead of rings. Their first kiss breathtaking, sparking a sweet moan of gratification as they relished the palate of each other’s lips.
It didn’t matter that they hardly knew each other. It would be a long journey back to their new home together. They had plenty of time to become acquainted.