Saturday, March 28, 2015

(Belated) Fanfic Friday: Switched Powers, Chapter 3

Mai hated her. Katara just knew it. She disliked the fact that Katara was in the palace to begin with. When she found out that her boyfriend had gotten hit with lightning trying to protect Katara, she'd upgraded that dislike to mild fury. Then, when she found out that Zuko's precious firebending skills were temporarily on loan to Katara, her expression read only one thing: ready to kill. And Katara couldn't think of a thing to say to make things any better. For now, she just watched her back whenever Mai was in the room.

"You're still stumbling," she heard Mai say in a scolding sort of voice.

Outside, the moon was high and all around the palace, crowds of people had gathered to watch Prince Zuko's coronation. The tension in the waiting room was unbearable. Zuko leaned on Mai's outstretched arm with both hands, taking one clumsy step after another. The idea was supposed to be that he and Mai would walk arm-in-arm down the coronation hall. To all the guests, it would probably look regal. Maybe even a little romantic. Only the six of them would know the real reason. After Azula's attack, Zuko's newfound bloodbending skills remained the sole reason he could get his body to move. And, unfortunately, he wasn't terribly good even at that.

"You think I'm trying to screw this up?" he asked. "This is supposed to be the most momentous occasion of my life. You think I want to spend it tripping over myself?"

Mai sighed. "Well, want to or not, you're going to look like a fool if you don't get it together."

Katara watched the two of them from across the room. Mai's words were harsh, but Katara didn't blame her. Both she and Zuko were exhausted and completely stressed out. They'd been practicing all with hardly any rest for two days straight and still Zuko's steps were clumsy and faltering at best. It was almost like he got worse the longer they tried.

"Um, if it helps," Katara said quietly. Mai shot her a look of pure hatred, but she didn't care. Mai couldn't offer advice, and she could. "Waterbending… it's a very freeflowing sort of thing. When I concentrate too hard, the water's movements get all jagged and less controlled." She stood and walked up to the royal couple. "I know it's a huge day for you and this is hard, but I think if you relax, the bloodbending will come easier to you."

Zuko nodded. Even smiled at her. "Thank you, I'll try that."

"We should head out soon," Aang said, after peeking out behind the curtain for about the fifteenth time. "Now, you're totally sure that there's no coronation rule where you have to give some sort of grand firebending display or anything like that?"

Zuko rolled his eyes. "For the final time, no," he replied as Mai pinned his hair. "And will you please stop checking out there? People have probably thought it's starting five times over already."

Aang lowered his head and walked a safe distance away from the curtain. "Sorry," he said. "I'm just excited. I've never even seen a coronation before, never mind being a part of one."

"Congratulations," Zuko muttered. Katara tried to smile at Aang enthusiasm, but still found herself nervously smoothing the red silk dress that hugged her waist. Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe they should've waited longer to have the coronation. But the quicker Zuko was established on the throne, the quicker the Fire Nation could start pulling itself back together. She had to keep that in mind.

Mai cleared her throat, looking sharply in Katara's direction. At first, she pretended not to notice. Mai coughed loudly, and finally Katara looked up. Mai nodded off to the side, motioning away from Zuko's earshot. Katara cocked her head in confusion, but followed along behind her nonetheless.

"Is everything okay?" she asked.

"Fine," Mai said. "But I've been wondering. What exactly is your... relationship with Zuko?"

Katara blushed. "Relationship? None! What makes you think we've got a relationship?"

Mai raised her eyebrows like she didn't quite believe it. "Nothing," she said calmly. "I was just curious, is all."

Outside, they could hear a blast of instruments silencing the crowd. "Okay, people, let's move it!" Sokka yelled. "We've got a coronation to start!" Mai immediately broke off the awkward conversation with Katara and hurried to Zuko's side. Katara went and stood next to Aang, who had his hand ready on the curtain.

"It's time," he said to Zuko. "Are you ready?"

Zuko nodded and straightened up. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Then he put one arm to the side and gripped Mai's arm with the other. Gently, he placed one foot in front of the other. His steps were better, but they weren't good either. People are going to notice, Katara thought. There's no way no one sees that. Still, she couldn't do anything more than she had, so she stood to the side, ready to let the coronation proceed as it would. The moment Mai came past her, though, Katara felt an elbow jab into her side.

"Take his other arm," Mai hissed. Katara blinked, not sure if she heard right. Maybe Mai just wanted Katara in a good position to stab her.

"I don't know if I should…"

"Don't be an idiot. I can't do this alone. He needs you."

Katara nodded and without another word, she came up to Zuko's free arm and wrapped it around her own. He didn't object. In fact, she could've sworn she heard him breathe a sigh of relief. His pace became smooth, and the curtain parted before them. Katara tried her best to look as serious and regal as Mai did, but in truth, her heart pounded. Walking out in front of all those people, she never felt more nervous in her life. Still, she would be here for Zuko, whatever he needed. She felt sure of it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fanfic Friday: Switched Powers, Chapter 2

It's Fanfic Friday again! Continuing with my ATLA fanfic...

If you missed last week, you can read the first chapter here.

Aang's eyes fluttered open. He tried to remember what what happened in the past few moments. It felt like Appa had run headlong into him. He stared around him to try and orient himself, figure out what was going on. Zuko was lying on his back on the ground. That looked familiar enough. But now Katara was laying unconscious next to him.

"Aang, are you okay?" That was Sokka's voice. Dizzy and blurry-eyed, Aang turned in the direction of his friend's call and saw a fuzzy blue figure moving quickly his direction. "Are you okay?" the figure asked again.

"I-I think so," Aang answered slowly.

In response, something hit him sharply across the face. It felt like an open palm. "You said you weren't going to try it if you couldn't do it safely!" he yelled. "What did you do my sister, Aang?"

"I..." Aang's vision finally started coming into focus. It was Sokka, all right. But Aang had never seen him so angry. His eyes were wet, his body shaking, his face red with anger.

"If you hurt her just to try and help Zuko-"

"Water boy, relax," Toph said calmly. She was kneeling on the ground, her her fingers scraping the dirt. "I can feel their bodies moving. They're both okay. Or at least, they're both alive."

Sokka rushed to Katara's side. Delicately he lifted her head. "Katara!" he called "Katara!'" He looked helplessly in Aang's direction. "Why won't she wake up?"

Before Aang could respond, Sokka suddenly recoiled. "Ow," she said. Then, putting a hand to Katara's forehead, his eyes widened with fear.

"Aang, she's burning with a fever. What do we do?"

Next to them, Zuko began to stir, though he did not open his eyes. "What's happened?" he muttered.

"Aang was an idiot and tried to switch your powers," Sokka snapped at him. "And now my sister's got a fever like I've never felt before."

Before Zuko could reply, Katara's body jolted. Her eyes flew open for just a split second before closing again. They were a brilliant shade of amber.

"No... way..." Sokka whispered. "You actually did it?"

Zuko muttered something again. Sokka was tempted to ignore him, but then again, it might be important. "What's that?"

"Fire," he repeated. "There's too much fire in her system. It can happen to a bender who's just discovered their powers. She needs to get it out."

Aang held Katara's shoulders. "Katara, listen to me," he said firmly. "I need you to firebend. Do you understand me?"

Her body continued to shake and her skin was still wickedly hot.

"I-I can't...." she said. "It's too cold, I can't..."

"It's your fever," Aang said. "Come on, Katara. Try it." He held his hand forward, flexing his fingers, showing her how to do it.

Her eyes fluttered open again and slowly she reached her hand forward in the same motion. Her shaking fingers bent inward, and at first, nothing seemed to happen. Just as Aang thought she'd misunderstood and started to demonstrate again, a blast of fire flew from her hand. Sokka and Toph tumbled out of the way, and Aang nearly got his clothes singed.

Katara closed her eyes again, sweating and taking heavy breaths. Sokka reached over and felt her forehead again. "She's still warm," he said. "But it feels much better."

Next to her, Zuko coughed. Everyone turned around to notice for the first time that his eyes were open, and like Katara's, they had changed color as well.

"That was... some impressive bending," Zuko said.

"Well, yeah, it's your powers," Sokka retorted. He took a closer look at Zuko's face. "Okay, blue eyes on you look creepy."

"Interesting," Aang muttered. So it seemed that he had not only exchanged Zuko and Katara's bending abilities, he had transferred all their memories of moves and techniques as well. Which meant...

"Zuko, can you use bloodbending now?"

Zuko laughed, which caused him to cough again. "Of course, why didn't I think of that? Now that you've used your magic avatar powers, executing an advanced waterbending technique should be no trouble at all for me."

Aang sighed, not exactly in the mood for Zuko's sarcasm. "Come on, just try it," he said. "I might not be as good as Katara, but I know a little bit. Your body is full of water. Concentrate on it and move it to your will."

Zuko sighed, but nevertheless, closed his eyes and began to concentrate. Katara's healing seemed to have at least given him some control over his hands. Aang watched anxiously as his fingers quivered and pinched together, like someone picking blades of grass. Then slowly, very slowly, he began to raise his arm a few inches off the ground.

"That's it, you're doing it!" Aang said excitedly. Zuko gritted his teeth and his arm fell down again.

"It's less difficult when you're quiet."

Aang lowered his head in a silent apology. He got overexcited, he couldn't help it. Zuko sighed, seeming to understand. "It feels like I'm trying to lift a lead weight," he said. "It's not like moving my muscles at all. It's completely foreign."

"Like learning how to see through earthbending," Toph said. "It took me a while, but once I got the hang of it, it's not even something I think about anymore. Like hearing or smelling; it just comes to me."

"Good for you," Zuko muttered. "That only took you how many years of practice? I've got to master this as soon as possible."

Toph grunted, blowing her bangs out of her face. They immediately fell back down again. "Well, when's the next full moon? You'll probably be a lot better then."

"Tomorrow night," Aang said. "In the meantime, we've got to make sure the palace is secure."  

"Easy enough," Katara said.

"Says the person who can walk," Zuko muttered.

"Well," Aang said thoughtfully. "One of us can stay here with you while the rest go in."

The group paused and all eyes fell to one person. Sokka scowled.

"Me? Seriously? Why am I the one who always gets stuck with these things?"

Friday, March 13, 2015

Switched Powers: An ATLA Fanfic, Chapter 1

Aang rushed back to the Fire Nation palace, excitement burning in his veins, as Toph and Sokka hurried behind him. He couldn't believe he'd managed to defeat Ozai, and not by killing him as everyone had insisted, but by bending his powers themselves. When Aang arrived at the front steps, however, his eyes widened in shock at the sight before him. Azula was chained up, but Zuko lay sprawled out on the ground. His body didn't move. Only his eyes fluttering open and a low murmur indicated he was still conscious.

Katara ran over to him, eyes burning, shaking his side.

"Zuko! Zuko, are you okay?"

He gasped and coughed. "I... I don't know," he said. "My body feels numb."

"That's because you got struck by lightening, you idiot!" Katara yelled. "What were you thinking? You can't redirect something that wasn't aimed at you!"

"I think I just saved your life," he said. "Azula would've burnt you to a crisp if I hadn't stepped in!"

"I could've defended myself just fine!"

Aang sighed and shook his head. Even with Zuko flat on his back, those two still fought like crazy.

"Enough, we've all been through a lot," he said. Always the peacemaker. "We should make sure the palace is secure. Can you stand, Zuko?"

Katara bent down and slung his right arm over her shoulder. Zuko grunted angrily at the assistance, but the rest of his body leaned against her like a rag doll.

"Hey, I need some help," she said.

Zuko winced. "I-I don't think I can move."

Katara gasped. "What are you talking about? You told me you just felt felt numb."

"Yeah, as in I can't move!"

"Both of you, please!" Aang begged. "Lay him back down, Katara. If he's injured, we're just going to make him worse by moving him around."

"I know that," she said defensively.

She removed the sash around her waist, folding it up to make a pillow before letting Zuko lay down again. Then, she called forth the water from her side, letting it gather around her former enemy's neck, and back, and chest.

"Nothing broken," she said. "The lightening must've messed with your nerves, somehow."

She concentrated her power, willing the water to mend what was broken. But after sitting in her trance for several minutes, nothing seemed to change, and Katara's hands began to tremble with frustration.

Aang finally stopped her. "Katara, it's enough," he said. "You're going to hurt yourself doing that much. And I don't think the water is going to heal anymore."

Katara's eyes started to well up with tears. "But.... he got injured because of me. I have to do something."

"You can stop crying all over me," Zuko muttered. No one listened to him.

"You did everything you could," Aang told her. "And besides, it'll heal on its own in a bit right?" Katara didn't answer. That worried him. "Right?"

Katara shook her head. "I don't know," she said. "I've never dealt with this kind of injury before."

From her hunched over position in the corner, Azula began to giggle maniacally.

"Oh, this is a riot," she said. "Some ruler you'll be, big brother. Can't even sit up on the throne, let alone firebend."

Zuko gritted his teeth. Apparently he could still firebend, at least a little bit, as sparks began to fly from his hand.

"Zuko, you've got to calm down," Aang said. "You'll injure yourself more."

"I'll take care of this."

Aang suddenly realized that Zuko wasn't the only one he had to calm down. Katara practically looked like she was on fire too.

"You," she said through gritted teeth. "You say another word and I'll..."

Azula started to laugh, however her voice was quickly cut off. Her mouth closed seemingly against her will and she fell with her face down in the dirt.

Aang felt his blood run cold. Katara was controlling Azula, without a full moon.

"Katara, stop! You'll hurt her!" Azula gasped for breath, her lips starting to turn blue. Her eyes fluttered as she struggled to maintain consciousness.

"I said that's enough!" A blast of air flew in Katara's face, breaking her concentration. Azula took a huge gaps of air and passed out, the color returning to her lips, her breathing becoming normal.

Katara recoiled, as if unaware of what she'd just done. Her hands shook furiously. "Aang," she said. "I'm sorry. I'm not sure what was happening. I-"

"You wanted to kill her, and your body followed suit," Aang said. "That's obvious enough.

Katara hung her head in shame. "I'm sorry. She just got me so angry, and I- I snapped."

"Clearly," Zuko said. Finally everyone looked at him. "But my sister's got a point. How am I supposed to take over for my father when I'm like this? If there's no heir, the position will fall to one of his generals, and they'll only pick up where his destruction led off."

Toph, who'd been quiet the whole time, suddenly spoke up. "Hey, maybe water sprite over here can fake it for you."


"Y'know. She can use people like puppets anyway, so maybe she can fake that you're not injured until you get better."

"That's not funny, Toph!" Katara snapped.

Zuko seemed to agree. "Come up with a more practical solution, please."

Toph shrugged. She gave no indication she had been joking, but let the matter drop. The suggestion, however, gave Katara an idea of her own.

"Wait a minute. Aang, how did you say you beat Zuko's father, again?"

"I... I took his power away from him," Aang replied. "Why?"

"So you can take away people's powers when you're in the avatar state?"

Aang shrugged. "I don't know. It's not exactly something I've tried before now. Why?"

Katara bit her lip. "Could you switch two people's powers?"

It didn't take a genius to see where she was going. "Are you crazy?" Toph asked.

"It's the only solution that makes sense," Katara said. "If Zuko could bloodbend, he could move on his own until his body heals itself."

"If I could bloodbend, I'd be a waterbender," he said. "Which would be kind of awkward if I'm supposed to running the Fire Nation."

"Plus, I have no idea if I can even exchange powers or not," Aang said. "I agree with Toph and Zuko. It's a really bad idea. We'll find another way to help him."

"We don't have another way," Katara insisted. Aang had never seen her so worked up about something before. She was extremely determined to go through with this.

"It's not permanent anyway," she said, turning to Zuko this time. "Once you're healed, Aang can reverse our powers back again."

"I still don't know if I can actually do that," Aang said. "Why aren't you listening to me?"

"Listen, the Fire Nation needs a strong leader right now, and Zuko is that leader. If he's not established on the throne, everything will go into chaos."

No one could argue with her on that point. Aang sighed and shook his head.

"All right, look. I'll go into the avatar state. And if... if it feels like I can exchange your powers without hurting either of you , I'll give it a try. But if I'm not completely positive I can do it, then it's no, and we're not discussing it anymore, understand?"

Katara nodded.

"Hey, wait a second!" Sokka snapped. "You're not actually thinking of going through with this, are you?"

"Don't I get any say in this?" Zuko yelled.

Katara put her hands on her hips, ignoring her brother completely. "Fine. What's your solution?"

Zuko stuttered. "I... that is... I don't know!" He grunted with frustration. "Fine," he said. "Try it then. Odds are it won't work, anyway."

Aang stretched his arms to try and relax, taking a step forward to Zuko and Katara. Sokka stepped in front of him.

"Aang, may I repeat my opinion that this is possibly the worst idea Katara has ever had and you're humoring it?!"

"It's not the worst idea," Aang said. "There was that time she decided to help flood a river and almost drowned a bunch of villagers because she was in love with Jet."

"Can we please not bring up my past stupidities?" Katara asked.

"Zuko's right too," Aang said. "If the Fire Nation can't put itself back together now, everything we did was pointless. We need to try." With no more discussion on it, Aang took a a deep breath and placed one hand on Katara's forehead and the other on Zuko's.

"No promises," he reminded them.

Katara nodded. "Right," she almost whispered. "No promises." With that, Aang's arrow tattoos began to glow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

New feature... fanfic Friday

I've put a lot of thought into this, and I've decided that for all my talk about writing on this blog, I would like to start posting some actual writing. I've also made the decision that the actual writing I post will be fanfiction.

I've written a couple posts about fanfic on this blog before. I realize it is not everyone's thing, and I respect that. I also understand that even people who enjoy fanfic might not enjoy (or be familiar with) the fandoms I write in. But I am hopeful that people who visit this blog will still find other things to enjoy.

I'm starting with a fanfic that I began a few years ago and decided I would like to pick up once again. It will take me a few weeks to catch up, but once I have, the schedule will be as follows:

Every Friday, a new chapter will go up on this blog. The week after that, said chapter will go up on DeviantArt and, while the next new one is posted here.

The fandom in question for this piece will be Avatar: The Last Airbender. The series has a special place in my heart, as my Clarion West classmates and I spent many hours watching the series when we needed a mental break from all the reading, writing, and critiquing that was going on. (At one point, I got in an argument about whether Appa was a buffalo or a bison. This led to threats that unless I admitted to Appa's bison-ness, I would not be informed when the marathons took place. Naturally, I admitted my wrongdoing right away.) I also love the way the series has evolved with the creation of Korra and I would eventually like to explain some of my stories into that universe as well.

So, without further ado, here's a quick prologue/preview of my fanfic, Power Shift:

Zuko had done a lot of stupid things in his life. He would admit that to anyone. His father and uncle both chalked it up to his compulsive nature whenever he got too emotional. His father called it weakness, while Uncle Iroh called it strength. But whichever it was, Zuko knew one thing. In the middle of an agni kai with Azula was the worst time to get emotional.

He'd kept focused throughout most of the battle. He'd even goaded Azula to prepare a lightning strike against him, despite the fact that he was clearly in a defensive position, ready to direct it back at her. A picture of calm. Then, her gaze shifted. The fear surged through him as he realized that Azula no longer aimed at him. His body had already started to react even before he turned to confirm it was Katara in danger.

The best solution would've been to try to push her out of the way. But she was so far behind him, and his hand was right there. If he reached out and touched the lightning, maybe he could move it away from her. Sure his position wasn't the best, but if he didn't try-

"No!" Zuko cried out. His fingers reached out and touched the white light headed straight for her. He wasn't ready. His stance was completely wrong. The lightning was supposed to feel like a stream of energy, flowing from one hand to the other. The second Azula's attack hit him, however, he felt the heat of it scatter into his body, breaking it like a fragile glass ball. Desperately, he moved his other hand, willing away whatever energy he could. A small amount seemed to obey him. But his arms didn't seem to listen the way he wanted, and rest of the energy wracked his body as he fell to the ground.

What frightened Zuko wasn't the fall, though. It was the fact that he could barely feel it. He rolled over purely from the momentum, and his arms fell uselessly to his sides.

Katara's still in danger, a voice screamed in his head. I have to get up to help her. But no matter how he struggled, he could only lift his head and flex his fingers. The rest of his body refused to obey. Then the fear overpowered him again. This wasn't right. He should've been in terrible pain all over. But though his hands burned and his head felt like it could split it two, he felt nothing else. He should've been able to struggle to his feet, yet couldn't move. The lightning had done something to him. Not killed him. But broken him nonetheless. Zuko heard the clash of Katara and Azula's battle, but struggled to follow it completely. The two warriors kept ducking in and out of sight. Katara had lured Azula over to a storm drain. A source of water. Maybe she could win after all. Please let her do it, Zuko begged. I can't defend her like this. He winced, the fear spreading like a disease through his mind. So help me, what's wrong with my body? I can't do anything! In his moment of panic, he was barely conscious of a voice calling out to him. "Zuko! Zuko, are you okay?"

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Camp NaNoWriMo

Just a quick post to say that I am in full first draft mode right now. This is news, because while I have played around with many new projects, much of my writing time lately has either been general plotting or finishing up old stuff. (Not counting short stories; I have written a few of those from scratch.)

I am setting a goal for the month of 30,000 words, which is pretty doable for me right now. My hope is to make the same goal for Camp NaNoWriMo in April and have a genuine complete draft of this cool new idea in my head by the end of May. I haven't done Camp NaNoWriMo before, so that will be a first for me. If anyone has any words of advice, feel free to drop them on me.

Finally, here's a colorful spring-themed counter:

Because, we need spring. There's only so many crafts and movie nights I can do before the kids rebel. ^_^;;