Author's Note: So this will be the last Airbender related story in a long while. I've pretty much done one for all the characters I care to. This time it's the relatively obscure Avatar Yangchen. She gets one scene in the series and practically nothing else, so I've taken plenty of liberties and made tons of guesses. This will probably appeal to a very small group. But here it is anyway. Enjoy. -------- Avatar Yangchen fell to her knees exhausted. To her great surprise, the bandit gang she discovered attacking a small town outside Gaoling had worn her down. She clutched her side where a sword swipe had cut her earlier. It was hard to tell if it was a dire wound, but her orange air robes were slowly turning red with blood. She panted deeply trying to regain some sense of breath. Smoke from the burning houses around her made that hard to do without coughing. “Aaaaah.. I was... careless...” She chided herself. As the Avatar she had expected to restore order in no time at all. But the bandits were not impressed with her declaration and attacked. A small tornado was not enough to scare them away so she had launched into a fight. Little did she know the bandit gang was a large bunch. A small army armed with swords, spears, and arrows. It had occurred to her before she was wounded that it was the rouge Earth Kingdom platoon turned criminals. She could not be sure at the moment. The near relentless fighting that led to the sword slash had exhausted her strength. Even with her considerable power, she was still human. Not to mention as an Airbender, she had swore not to kill unless it was the most serious of circumstances. All life was sacred. “Urngh.” She grunted. Yangchen tried to stand but the pain was too great. The village was still burning down, the smoke was cutting off her fresh air. With a sweep of her hands she called a gust of wind to clear the cinder and smoke. Fresh oxygen returned and she took a deep breath. But at the same time she had also removed the smokescreen hiding her from the bandit soldiers. A trio of them spotted her kneeling on the ground and pointed. “There she is! Rotten airbender!” She used her little remaining strength to send an erupting column of earth to launch the trio of soldiers into the air. They landed somewhere out of her vision, and she was safe again. On her side a red stain was spreading from her wound. “I must withdraw...” The thought of retreat made her bitter. She was the Avatar. Her duty was to protect people who needed it and keep the balance of the world. Falling back from a gang of bandits would not set the right example. The wound at her side and the stinging pain that came with it did not leave her much choice. Once again, she tried to stand only to find her body uncooperative. She fought through it, trying to force herself on her feet. “Aaaaah.... aaaaaaaaah...” She hissed. Again she was denied by the agony of her wound. She settled on crawling, no matter how desperate it seemed. She had learned at a young age to carry herself with the grace and thoughtfulness expected of an airbender nun. If the other sisters could see her now she wouldn’t have been able to bear it. Now she inched her way to safety out of town. Hopefully her intervention had allowed the villagers to escape. “Almost there...” Yangchen noticed a small hill she could take cover behind and call her Sky Bison, Yuura. She was almost there when someone caught hold of her arm and yanked her back. From the smell alone she knew it was the bandits she tried to fight off. They had found her. “Now we have you!” “No!” Yangchen protested. Four bandits wrestled with her as she tried to fight back. They grabbed her arms and kept her from bending until something heavy slammed her in the back of the head. She fell unconsciousness. As unexpected as it was, part of her relished the opportunity for rest even in the hands of criminals. The other part prepared her for the worst as she had been taken captive. And she wasn’t just anyone, she was the Avatar. ---------------- Yangchen woke up to find her body stiff, motionless, and under terrible pressure. She wanted to get back on her feet, but found she could only turn her head. As her senses returned she made the shocking discovery she was bound and tied to a waterwheel. The village under attack had a mill on the river that split the town in two. Ropes crisscrossed her body, pinning her firmly on the wooden wheel. It was not moving at the moment since there was a plank jammed in the spokes. She looked up to find out why. The bandits that attacked the town had taken up position on a nearby dock to watch her. One of them wearing old armor she recognized as the leader, a woman with long black hair known as Mara. She used to be in the Earth Kingdom army until she lost her sight in the defense of Ba Sing Se. Now she was a bandit leader pillaging the countryside. And Yangchen was her helpless prisoner. “Release me... at once...” Yangchen demanded. Her voice was weak. It was probably her wound. Her robes were still red from the sword slash. Hopefully she didn’t black out or perish from the blood loss. Right now she needed a good healer more than anything. “Don’t worry,” Mara said. “You’ll survive that little cut. We’re not done with you yet.” “I will only warn one more time. Release me and leave this town.” “I’m not afraid of your Avatar State. You’re far too tired to pull something like that. You underestimated us. Thought we were some random thieves to scare away with a wind storm.” “No.” Yangchen shook her head. “You’re the deserters from the Earth Kingdom Army.” “So you’ve heard of me.” Mara smiled. “I knew you would try to stop us.” “I am the Avatar. I will not allow you to continue this destruc-” “I don’t remember giving the Spirits’ permission to meddle in our affairs.” The blind woman interrupted. “You look like a human but you’re not. Like that lazy Earth King, this is none of your concern. Yangchen was not intimidated. “You think that gives you the right to hurt others as you see fit?” She fired back. Mara laughed. It sounded more like wheezing. “Look at you trying to tell me about life and the way it is. You think because you’re the Avatar you have some kind of divine authority? What do you know about human life anyway? Do you think any of these peasants are worth saving?” That was enough for Yangchen. Mara had to be stopped with her complete disregard for others. But the ropes keeping her stuck on the waterwheel were strong. No matter how hard she struggled, she didn’t budge. “Ha. You act haughty now. We will break you soon.” One of the bandit soldiers kicked out the plank stuck in the wheel. The river took control and Yangchen felt herself begin to turn slowly. “What is the meaning of this?” She tried to keep a brave face. “By the time we’re done, you’ll beg for mercy. That should pull your head out of the clouds.” Yangchen was too caught up in her situation to reply. As she was tied on the outside of the waterwheel, she was going to slowly travel up and back down into the water. They had turned the mill into their torture device. And the river was slow today. By her realization It was too late to take a deep breath as she plunged into the water. It was extremely cold. Despite her wound she fought the rope restraints, pain or no pain. The bandits had tied her up well, not even the medallion around her neck came free. Nothing budged. Slowly, she traveled through the water as the wheel made a rotation. Before her lungs could take no more, she emerged on the other side and was allowed to gasp for air. Her slow dip in the river had nearly drowned her. Every inch of her robes were soaked with water, and her long black hair was clumped together. In her desperation for air, she had taken on water and began to cough as the wheel continued to turn. “What... what are you after?” She choked out. “Beg for mercy.” Mara demanded. She shot the bandits a glare as the wheel took her up and over again. No matter what happened. The Avatar would never do such a thing. She would never humor anyone who endangered the innocent. She would never apologize for doing her duty. But as she steeled her mind, the wheel continued to turn. Another slow dip in the river was coming up. This time she took a few hurried gasps before taking a deep breath and plunging back into the cold water. If her hands were not restrained, she could have made a bubble over her head to breathe for a short while. Even though she was ready this time, the slow turn through the water made her lungs desperate for air again. She shut her eyes and tried to hold on as hard as she could. Her chest felt like it was burning. At any moment she felt like she could open her mouth and take on enough water to drown. In all of her struggles as the Avatar up to this point, this moment had been the most harrowing. I cannot give in! But... but... And just before Yangchen could take no more, she came out on the other side. She could no longer keep her composure and began to gulp down oxygen as fast as she could. The bandits watching from the bridge and the dock laughed as her chest heaved in and out at a rapid pace. The water weighing down her flowing Airbender robes made her feel like a lead weight. The ropes keeping her stuck on the waterwheel felt like unbreakable chains. “Well?” Mara asked as Yangchen went up again. “I will... never... myself...” Her lungs demanded so much air that she could not put a sentence together. The refusal to the bandit leader sounded more desperate than defiant. She felt faint and rallied her feelings within. She would not give into this gang. Even if they killed her, the Avatar would live on in a new life. She had to think of the future. To preserve the confidence the people had in the Avatar to help them keep order. Her mind struggled to come up with more reasons to hang on. Then she descended into the river again. She did not know if she could survive another turn. How quickly her resolve melted away under the water. Suddenly she would do anything to be free of the wheel... and was ashamed at herself. If only the Avatar State was not so far away, she would have swept up the entire town to make an example of the rouge Earth Kingdom soldiers. But she was stuck at the end of her rope. Probably the only Airbender in the world desperate for air. Please! Spirits give me the strength to see through this! The wheel felt like it turned slower. Yangchen was on the edge. Her lungs could take no more. She opened her mouth and the cold river water rushed in. The world became black. This is... the end? The Avatar Spirit rushed through her being as her past lives came to the rescue. Her eyes and tattoos glowed as she took control of the water to cut the ropes and rise from the river on a spout. After a graceful flip, she landed safely on dry ground. Before Mara and her soldiers could react she manipulated the river to leap up and wash away half of her men. Then the Avatar Spirit gave out and Yangchen returned to normal. Mara’s soldiers swarmed her in seconds. A bandit soldier with a spear lunged at her. She narrowly dodged it, but the end of her robes were caught by the steel tip. The charging soldier ripped enough of her outfit that her long robes now resembled a skirt, exposing her bare legs and her simple leather shoes. She fought embarrassment as more soldiers attacked and countered them with whirlwinds. Mara lingered from the back directing her men as one soldier quickly described the scene to her. Yangchen made some room with an air blast and knocked them to the ground. Now that the adrenaline was going she found it easier to stand up and went into a fighting stance. Two rushed right at her and she met them with a swirling wall of fire. For the next bandit she used a vortex to throw him clear. But as she was busy with them, one managed to move in close. He grabbed her neck with one hand and lifted her off the ground. She dangled while trying to pry his hand off. But her struggle was ended with a quick punch to her gut. “Ooof!” Her attacker was relentless, causing her to grunt with each hit. “Unnh! Unnh! Ungh! Aagh!” One punch managed to hit her wounded side causing her to wrench back in agonizing pain. “Aaaaaah!!” She screamed. The throbbing made her body go limp and her arms fell to her sides. The soldier then grabbed her neck with both hands and threw her to the ground. Yangchen didn’t have time to recover as someone jumped on her and wrenched her arm and neck back. Pinned on the ground, she felt her body yanked beyond its limit. “No! Arrrrrrrrggh!” “Beg airbender!” It was Mara. The blind woman had her knees on Yangchen’s back while pulling away at her arm and neck with abandon. At any moment her neck could give out and that would be the end. But Yangchen did not surrender. She continued to look for a way to break free. Mara did not let up for a second. “I said beg, Avatar!” Mara demanded. “Never! I.... aaaaaah! You wil.... aaaaah!” Yangchen’s defiance was wasted as the battle finally took its toll on her. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh! Uhhnnnnnn..... Ah...” She fainted from the pain. This time the Avatar Spirit did not come to her rescue. Blissful unconsciousness took her back under. -------------------------------- It was a long time before Yangchen opened her eyes. But she was not in the Spirit World. Instead she was face up on the side of the river wet and miserable. She thought the end had come for her. Then she realized the airbender medallion had disappeared from her neck. She felt it was gone and looked up to find Mara holding it in her hand. The bandit leader held it up high in the air as her men cheered victoriously. “Return that... to me...” Yangchen gasped while making a futile grab to take it back. Mara grinned and shook her head. “You’ve lost. This is proof that we defeated the great Avatar Yangchen. Now everyone will know that you’re not all powerful. You’re no better than anyone. Especially since you begged for mercy.” Yangchen froze. Did she really give in before she blacked out? At the time she was ready to do anything to escape. Her whole spirit felt heavy as the realization washed over her. Despair overcame her confidence and she lowered her head in silent anger at herself. “No...” She muttered, visibly hurt. Mara laughed. “You’re finished.” Yangchen’s wound had stopped bleeding but her strength was sapped, her robes were ruined, she was soaking wet and miserably cold. The waterwheel had also left her short of breath. She could no longer keep herself going and collapsed onto her back. Mara had the means to smear her name from the Earth Kingdom to the Fire Nation. Yangchen realized she could not be a non-violent Airbender and the Avatar at the same time. It would take all her power and concentration to make up for such a defeat... if it was possible at all.