A/N: This little story takes place in Avatar season 3, after Zuko joins the group, but before the play. BTVS all seasons, possibly including references from the comic book season 8 story lines.
This ficlet will only be a couple of chapters long; it's more of a world building exercise, although if there's enough interest there might be a sequel :).
Disclaimer: All things BTVS belong to Joss & co. All things Avatar belong to Nick.
Pairing: Kataang if you squint.
They had been traveling for days when they felt it. A wave of energy; fierce and at the same time gentle, blew right through them, freezing them in place as it seemed to examine their very souls.
And whatever it was looking for, it at first didn't seem to find, as one by one, they were released and fell to the ground. Sokka first, followed very shortly by Toph and Katara. Zuko was held a few seconds longer, before dropping to the ground and joining them.
Aang, however, was still being held by the strange energy after the rest of them had recovered and returned to their feet.
Katara ran up to him in concern, not knowing what, if anything she could do. She reached towards tried to touch him and was thrown a few feet back by an invisible force that seemed to surrounded him.
Slowly, Aang was lifted into the air. And then the young avatar began to shake.
"Help him!" Katara screamed, frantically pulling at her hair. She felt so completely helpless. It was too much like what happened at Ba Sing Se with Azula. Her stomach tightened into a knot and she pulled the stopper out of her water bottle, pulling a small stream of the precious liquid into her hand before sending it Aang's way. The water seemed to hit an invisible barrier, and then drip off.
"There's... there's something in the way, I can't get to him!" She screamed.
"An invisible barrier!" Zuko exclaimed, astonishment lacing his voice as he used his hand to feel what he could not see.
"Everyone, take a step back!" He called out. He used his firebending to try to break through the barrier, but with no luck.
Toph then tried with earth, and when that failed, Sokka tried to hack at it with his sword, Still the barrier they could not see remained intact, and they could do nothing but watch in an increasing state of horror as the boy they all loved continue to shake.
Blood began to pool at the corners of his mouth, before dripping down to his chin and onto his clothes.
"He bit through his tongue!" Zuko exclaimed, his voice tinged with equal parts anguish and surprise. His words earned a sharp look from both Sokka and Katara. Even Toph turned her sightless eyes towards him in query.
Zuko frowned before continuing.
"He... in the fire nation, there are... well there used to be people afflicted with something referred to as the demon scourge. It looks... looked... a lot like what is happening with Aang right now. Well, without the floating part. But basically, the symptoms are similar. Loss of consciousness, uncontrollable shaking, tongue biting."
The corner of Zuko's mouth pulled back into a grimace.
"You said 'used to be'..." Katara quietly prodded, her eyes locked on Aang. They couldn't help him, couldn't do a thing, it was killing her...
Zuko shut his eyes in disgust.
"Father had them all executed when he became Fire Lord. Along with all the others he considered 'undesirable', like the children of fire born with white hair and blue-pink eyes."
"I was going to change all that," Zuko ended, in almost a whisper.
Sokka softly squeezed his shoulder in sympathy, but said nothing as they helplessly watched Aang convulse just a few feet away, completely unable to reach him.
"How long does it last?"
But Zuko didn't have to answer Sokka's question, because Aang suddenly stopped convulsing; his entire body becoming rigid before falling to the ground.
They rushed to his side. Thankfully, the barrier seemed to be gone, but their friend was completely unconscious and covered in his own blood.
"Katara --" Sokka began, his voice tight.
Gently prying open the Avatar's mouth, Katara winced when she saw the extent of the damage. Both sides of the avatar's tongue were bitten straight through.
"We've got you, Aang, you're safe... please wake up..." she whispered, working a healing stream of water into his mouth. It took longer than usual to heal him. It was almost as if there was some other power resisting her magic; something unfamiliar and strong, and she hesitated to acknowledge it -- dark.
She doubled her efforts then, the effort taking a toll on her own constitution, but at least she was getting results.
It took a fair amount of time, but she was able to heal his tongue. Katara then used her water bending to clean the blood off of his face and tunic. The act used the remainder of the water in her canteen, but he was clean and healed and she just didn't care as she pulled him into her arms and waited.
"He's coming to," Toph said, falling to the ground besides them and gently taking one of Aang's hand. I can hear the differences in his breathing."
Slowly, ever so slowly, Aang's eyes opened. He looked at each of them in turn, as they waited with baited breath.
There were tears on Katara's cheek as Aang's free hand slowly and gently cupped her cheek, his thumb wiping the tears okay.
And then, the young Avatar was smiling.
"I'm okay," he said, slowly getting to his feet with the help of the girls, blushing when he realized that he was leaning into Katara and her arm was firmly wrapped around his side. "Better than okay, in fact..."
Toph rolled her sightless eyes, squeezing Aang's hand once with meaning before dropping it.
"Yep, Twinkle Toes is drooling over Sugar Queen again. The status quo has been restored," she said jokingly, causing the two benders to blush brightly. "Don't you ever scare us again like that," she said, her tone much more serious.
Aang shrugged it off, somewhat reluctantly disengaging himself from the water bender.
"But... it's okay, really. Really, really. She wasn't trying to hurt me. She just wanted me to know."
"Who and what now, Twinkle Toes?"
"The girl with the red hair!" Aang answered emphatically, getting more and more animated as his strength returned to him. He began to bounce on the balls of his feet excitedly.
"I think that the Avatar is still a bit confused," Zuko said with a frown, earning a snort from Sokka and a dirty look from Katara. Aang just brushed the comment off.
"It's Aang, Zuko. And no, you don't understand. It's here, she said it's here... we've got to find it.... we've got to... don't you see?"
There was a hint of fanaticism in the young Avatar's eyes that had them all concerned.
"C'mon; we have to find it now, before I forget... wait, what was I supposed to remember? She told me a word... avungle? Apenter?"
Reluctantly, Katara found herself beginning to agree with the fire prince on the Avatar's mental state.
"Aang, why don't you just lie down for a bit. You're in shock --"
"No! I'm not in shock, not crazy, and not seeing things. Guys, you have to believe me! We've got to find it, she said --"
"Find what?" Toph asked. The blind earth bender was a little confused by Aang's behavior, but the kid hadn't ever done a mental freak out on them before. She was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he was connected to all that spirit stuff. Maybe he did have some kind of weird vision.
Aang's tone was grateful as he replied.
"The Council... it's a hidden building. She said that there was something there... something I needed."
"Council? Council of what?" Sokka asked.
Aang only shrugged his shoulders in reponse.
Zuko's one good eye twitched. His hand indicated the barren landscape surrounding them.
"We are in the middle of nowhere, Avatar. I agree with the water bender. You need to lie down."
"I have a name, you jerk, and so does Aang," Katara mumbled, shooting a glare towards Zuko as she gently coaxed Aang into sitting down.
"But she said--"
"Aang, it was a figment of your imagination. Take a deep breath. Relax," Katara smiled softly at him as she spoke, her hand gently grasping his shoulder.
"Aang, look at me. You were shaking very badly and you lost consciousness. Whatever your saw was just your mind playing tricks on you."
Deep blue eyes bored into gray, a whole silent conversation held between the two, before Aang reluctantly conceded by turning his head.
"I... I s'pose...."
Aang still wasn't entirely convinced that he had been hallucinating. It just felt all too real. Yet, when he saw Katara's pleading eyes, he couldn't help but to stand down.
And that is when Toph came between them.
"Do you know how big this building is that you're looking for?"
Katara quickly shot the young earth bender a very dirty look. It took her a whole ten seconds to remember the futility of her act, and she reluctantly settled for yelling.
"Toph! What in the name of the spirits do you think you're doing? I just got him calmed down and --"
"Because, if it's about, say, one hundred and fifty feet tall by one hundred feet wide, then I think it's just over there."
Toph pointed to a very obviously barren plain to the west of them.
"Are you sure it was just Aang who had his brain addled?" Sokka asked, concerned. "I'm not going to start seeing things too, am I? Am I? Unless... hey was that red haired girl you saw good looking?"
Aang blushed as bright as a tomato.
Katara sighed loudly, rolled her eyes at her brother, and turned to the blind girl.
"Toph... there is nothing there. Just a bunch of grass. Maybe you should lie down too."
Toph stomped her foot down on the ground, loudly.
"No, Sugar Queen. I'm feeling just peachy, thank you very much. I'm telling you, Twinkle Toes is onto something. There is a building there. I can feel it."
Excitedly, Aang jumped to his feet, shut his eyes, took a very deep breath and concentrated. After a moment he grinned excitedly and turned to the others.
"I was right! It *is* there. C'mon!"
The whole entourage, including the Avatar's two animal companions, hurriedly followed the young boy as he took off at a sprint only another air bender could match. Catching their breath, they caught up to him at the place where he stopped, and watched him as he stared intensely into what appeared to be empty air.
"There's nothing there, Avatar." Zuko commented irritably.
"Aang, Zuko. Just Aang. And there is something here... just watch.
The young Avatar closed his eyes for a moment. When he re-opened they were nearly entirely black.
The three other benders took an involuntary step back; Katara sucking in a deep breath, born of concern and fear.
"Aang, what are you doing?"
He turned to her and smiled, coal black eyes gleaming almost malevolently.
"I remember, Katara. I remember what she said to do. Just watch."
"Aperio," Aang whispered confidently, the word foreign and mysterious to all of them. The air seemed to shimmer, and then a very large building suddenly appeared right in front of them.
Aang began to fall and Katara quickly caught him; relieved when he met her eyes with the normal gray and white instead of the creepy black.
"Aang... what was *that*?"
He smiled up at her.
"Wow... that's powerful stuff... no wonder she..."
Aang trailed off, and with Katara's help, stood back up.
"Anyway, we have to get inside."
Katara swallowed a lump in her throat as she looked at him. Whatever magic Aang had used to reveal the building... she didn't understand it, and it scared her more than a bit. And by the nervous fidgeting of her friend, she would hazard a guess that it scared him too. She glanced at him, to find him almost pleading with her with his eyes to let it go.
'For now', she thought to herself, as she turned to look at the building in question.
"Wow," Sokka said, and Katara had to agree with that summation.
The structure was huge and ancient; several stories high and made of a type of metal they had never seen, along with marble, stone, and glass. There were tall windows lining every floor, edged in decorative brick. The architecture was far more advanced than anthing they had ever seen. It was a remnant of a people long gone; an artifact belonging to a world which was no more.
The Avatar and his friends could only gape in astonishment.
Next to the doorway, on either side, were a pair of stone effigies; each of them depicting a warrior holding a sword. In and of itself, that was unremarkable -- a lot of Earth Kingdom buildings had such figures standing guard. What made these particular effigies remarkable was that they were both women.
Sokka found himself absently fondling one of the stone breasts of the smaller of the two stone warriors, only to find himself being hit upside the back of his head by his sister.
"Oww. What was that for... err, never mind."
Above the doorway was another effigy; this one in marble depicting a strange looking scythe painted in bright red, surrounded by a circle of gold. The whole place gave off a feeling of foreboding that affected them all.
That is, all except Sokka, who was studying the building appraisingly, his hand cupping his chin.
"I wonder if there's anything to eat in there?"