Nava leaned against a wall, casually surveying the passersby. She kept a trained eye out for any unguarded pouch, remaining as nonchalant as possible. As she scanned the area, an unfamiliar face caught her eye: a pretty girl in blue being followed a bald boy in bright clothing. Behind them was another boy with an undercut; he was also dressed in blue. She watched as the trio passed, the girl briefly making eye contact with her before looking away, hugging her arms around her torso. Losing interest, Nava looked elsewhere, biting back a yawn.
Less than a minute later, a shout came the distance and Nava whipped her head around to follow the source of the noise.
"Hey, you, get back here!" a pirate yelled from their ship.
"Told you they'd come to their senses! Look like the haggling paid off!" the bald boy said proudly.
"Aang, I don't think these pirates are here to trade..." the girl said, taking him by the sleeve and taking off down the street.
The pirates followed them, rounding the corner and disappearing from view. Nava shook her head. Even she knew better than to mess with pirates.
More shouting caught her attention. Nava looked over, seeing a foul looking boy and a plump old man approaching a Fire Nation warship. She rose her eyebrow interestedly, watching the exchange.
"It's good to know this trip was a complete waste of time!" the boy said heatedly to the older man.
"Quite the contrary, Prince Zuko! The only thing better than finding what you were looking for is finding something you weren't looking for... at a great bargain!"
At his words, a line of Fire Nation soldiers paraded past them, their arms towering with all sorts of items.
"You bought a sumki horn?" the boy, Prince Zuko apparently, asked in disbelief.
"For music night on the ship! Now all we need are some woodwinds..."
The older man passed Nava, coming to a stop in front of the pirate ship.
"Oh, this looks promising!" he said excitedly, scurrying up the ramp.
Prince Zuko followed him, scowling all the way.
Nava watched as another pirate, a man she knew as Sho, descended the ramp and approached her.
"You see where those three kids ran off to? The Water Tribe ones and the monk? They stole a waterbending scroll." he asked.
"Maybe. My memory might be a little foggy."
Sho held out three gold pieces, looking at her expectantly.
"I can definitely find where they went." She said happily, taking the coins from him. "Give me an hour or so."
She pushed herself off the building and went in the direction the trio ran off in. They wouldn't have stuck around if they were being chased by pirates... and they took a waterbending scroll, so they'd be by the water.
When she couldn't make enough money thieving, Nava often took odd jobs around towns – the kinds that nobody else wanted to do. She'd stick around for a day or two, long enough to finish her job, and then she'd move on. She'd been in the port for about two weeks now, the shadiness of it all making her feel welcome. She had formed an understanding with the pirates, they'd get her to track people down for their merchandise and she'd get a cut of the profits in turn. She even became friends with some of them; occasionally spending weekends on the ship, drinking and gambling.
By now Nava was on the outskirts of the town. She walked along the riverbank, noticing the occasional sets of footprints that assured her she was on the right track. She kept a sharp ear out, listening for the sounds of talking and splashing.
She found them about twenty minutes out of town. She observed them for a minute or so, watching as the girl yelled at the monk for something she didn't really care about. After confirming they were the right people, and memorizing the location of their camp, took an arrow out of her quiver and carved a large X into the bark of the tree closest to the riverbank. Then she took off the way she came.
Nava made it back as the sun was beginning to set. Sho met her at the front gate and filled her in on Prince Zuko and how he was looking for the bald monk that was with the group. He led her on to the pirate ship, where the Prince and the Pirate Captain were in conversation. They both looked at Nava as she approached.
"I've found where those kids are hiding," she said. "They're about half an hour down the riverbank. Their camp is a little ways into the trees, with a pond and a small waterfall."
The Captain looked at Prince Zuko expectantly.
"Let's set sail then, shall we? Nava, you go with the boy on to his ship, so you can navigate, and we'll follow behind."
Nava nodded, and the Prince scoffed.
"I don't need directions from a petty thief," he said dismissively.
"Show our guide some respect, Prince Zuko," the old man said. "She has saved us a lot of time by finding our targets for us," he turned to Nava, bowing deeply. "Please excuse my nephew, he has had a long day."
Nava gave a tight-lipped smile, and at that, Zuko led them off the pirate ship and on to the cutter craft, where they set sail a few minutes later.
The moon was high in the sky by the time they came to the spot Nava had indicated. As silently as possible, they docked the ships and exited the ship, a few of the pirates sneaking into the trees while Prince Zuko, the older man whom Nava learned to be his Uncle Iroh, and the Captain moved silently along the riverbank, being led by Nava.
She stopped them when she heard the girl speak,
"Okay, Katara, shift your weight though the stances..."
There was the sound of water splashing and Katara swore.
"Now!" the Captain called, and a large man came from the bush, grabbing her by the shoulders.
"No, let go of me!" Katara said and bent a water whip, which smacked the pirate in the face.
He released her, and she turned to run, but Zuko was there, holding her wrists.
"I'll save you from the pirates," he hissed. He nodded to the Captain. "Take that rope and tie her to that tree. She'll know where the monk and the scroll are."
A few minutes later, the girl was bound to a large tree, her hands tied behind the trunk. Nava stood off to the side as they worked, and Katara noticed her when they stepped back.
"You're that girl from the port! You didn't look like a pirate when I saw you."
"I'm not," Nava said shortly. "They offered me money to find you and find you I did."
Katara glared at her, about to say more, but Zuko cut her off, circling the tree.
"Tell me where he is, and I won't hurt you or your brother,"
"Go jump in the river!" Katara spat.
"Try to understand; I need to restore something I've lost: my honour. Perhaps in exchange I can restore something you've lost..."
He produced a blue necklace and dangled it in front of her face.
"My mother's necklace! How did you get that?"
"I didn't steal it like you stole that scroll, that's for sure. Tell me where he is, and you can have it back."
"Enough of this necklace garbage," the Captain interjected. "You promised me the scroll!"
Zuko turned towards the pirates, pulling the scroll from his back pocket. He held it out with one hand and produced a flame beneath it with the other.
"I wonder how much money this is worth?"
Nava winced at the sparks that flew up around the paper, hearing the Captain cry out in fear.
"A lot, apparently," Prince Zuko went on. "Now you help me find what I want, and you'll get this back. Then everyone goes home happy. Take the archer and find the boy, then meet back here."
Nava started at the mention of her, but she led a handful of the larger pirates into the woods, stopping just outside of the clearing with the waterfall.
"There," she whispered, pointing to two sleeping forms by a large bison.
The pirates didn't hesitate as they acted, using netting to capture the monk and the Water Tribe boy. One of them even caught what looked like a flying lemur in a sack.
"We've got them, let's go."
When they got back to the riverbank, the bald boy was taken to stand in front of Zuko, who was holding the scroll.
"Give me the boy," he said.
"Give us the scroll," the Captain countered.
The Water Tribe boy piped up from his spot beside Katara.
"You guys are really gonna hand over the Avatar for a stupid piece of parchment?"
"Don't listen to him, he's trying to turn us against each other!" Zuko said quickly.
The Captain looked at Aang in interest.
"Your friend... is the Avatar?"
Nava's eyebrows rose. She shifted her weight from foot to foot, watching the exchange with growing interest.
"Shut your mouth, you filthy Water Tribe peasant," Zuko spat.
"Yeah, Sokka, you really should shut your mouth..." the Avatar warned.
"I'm just saying! Just imagine how much the Fire Lord would pay for the Avatar! You all would be set for life!"
The Captain waved Zuko off.
"Keep the scroll, we can buy hundreds with the reward we'll get for the kid."
Zuko's face contorted into rage.
"You'll regret breaking a deal with me!" he roared.
He unleashed fire towards the ground, forcing the pirates to jump out of the way. That unleashed chaos. The area was quickly turned into a fighting arena as the two groups beat up on each other. There were cries, shouts, and the occasional 'I'm on your side!' being thrown about, and eventually, Nava watched the Avatar and his friends take off towards the pirate ship. She watched as they waterbent the ship off the shore and piled on and shook her head.
Meanwhile, Iroh broke the fight between Prince Zuko and the Captain, pointing into the distance where the pirate ship was quickly becoming a spec in the distance.
"Are you so busy fighting that you cannot see your own ship has set sail?"
"We have no time for your proverbs, Uncle!" Zuko said impatiently.
"It's no proverb, look!"
"Bleeding hog-monkeys!" the Captain gasped, taking off towards Zuko's boat. His men followed him, and they piled on, shoving off into the water.
Iroh tapped Zuko on the shoulder and pointed to the pirates that were passing them.
"Hey that's my boat!" the boy shouted, running along the bank after them. "Come on, Uncle!"
Nava followed them, curious to see how everything would play out. She watched the whole scene unfold from a ways back, deciding not to run after the Prince and choosing to walk instead. She watched the boats fall over the waterfall, and the Avatar taking off into the sky on the bison from earlier.
"My boat!" Zuko was saying as she approached.
"Prince Zuko... you're really going to get a kick out of this..." Iroh said breathlessly, pulling what looked like a pai sho tile from his sleeve. "The lotus tile was in my sleeve the whole time!"
Without a word, the Prince snatched the piece from his uncle and threw it off the cliff, where it landed in the water below.
He turned to Nava.
"What are you still doing here?"
"I'm not sure. Since you've sent my only steady source of income over a waterfall, I'm kind of at a loss of what to do."
"What are you, anyway? A mercenary?"
"You can say that. I like to think of myself as a sharpshooter as well."
"Those bows are very similar to the ones the Yuyan archers use. Where did you find such a well-crafted replica?" Iroh said, examining the bow strapped to Nava's back.
"It's not a replica, it's my bow."
"You are a Yuyan archer?"
"Not officially. I ran away before I could get my tattoo."
Iroh looked at Zuko in interest.
"Nephew, I think it is in your best interest to ask this young lady to join us on your quest. Her sharp eye could aid you in finding the Avatar."
"She's a thief! A petty knife-for-hire who – "
"I'm right here," Nava interrupted, jabbing a finger at him. "I may be a thief, but I've got elite military training and the ability to pin your finger to a tree from miles away. You also forget I tracked the Avatar from town to their camp and got you there in good time!"
Zuko scowled. He knew she was right, but he was never going to admit it.
"Whatever. If you try to rob me or my men, I will see to it that you get the harshest punishment possible," he grumbled, turning on his heel and stomping away.
Nava looked at Iroh in vague confusion. The older man merely shrugged.
"That means yes," he said, trailing after his nephew.
Nava looked over the cliff at the pirates who were still dragging themselves out of the water.
"I will not wait for you!" Zuko called from up ahead.
She followed the moody prince and his uncle, groaning inwardly. What did she just get herself into?