No fear. No pain. No mercy.
The words echoed in her head. Calming. Clarifying. They helped her keep focus despite the futility of her efforts. She was surrounded. The Avatar was before her, fully powered. And, judging from the effort it took to stand, she was bleeding out.
No fear. No pain. No mercy.
843 focused her energy, leaned out of cover, and tried to shoot another beam in the direction she had last spotted the Firelord but she was deflected by a wind blast from the Avatar. How aggravating. With her body so damaged she could not waste any more energy on the others. She had to concentrate on her primary objective. And in this case, or Master’s orders dictated that eliminating Firelord Izumi was that objective.
Just her bad luck. Bloodbenders were notoriously difficult prey to terminate on their own. Izumi had two body guards and the Avatar. Case in point when she stole a quick glance over her cover she did not see evidence of success. Granted it was hard to get a good view of the battlefield when the Avatar and the fire/lightning bender insisted on throwing fireballs at her head.
Odd. Wasn’t there an earth/lavabender too? She ducked around the mast, dodging a water whip and shot again, seeing only the firebender scatter to find more cover below. The other bender was missing.
Had he fled the battle? Highly unlikely. He was probably guarding the Firelord. Taking her someplace out of her range. It that was true she was going to have to change her strategy. Take out the firebender and Avatar first so she could advance and locate her true target…
She was already shifting her aim when she heard the faintest shifting of rock behind her.
Ambush! She turned, ready to fire.
“Stop Tenna!” the earthbender yelled. Something about him, the look he gave, startled her. She jerked aside, sending her beam sailing far to the left.
“Whoa!” the earthbender exclaimed, covering his head as he scrambled to the right of a fiery explosion.
She had missed him. Why? Delirium from blood loss?
“It’s okay. I know you didn’t mean that,” the earthbender told her, holding up his hands.
Behind her she heard the firebender yell, foolishly giving away his position: “Bolin!”
The earthbender in front of her responded. “It’s okay Mako, I can handle this. Please just trust me, okay?”
His words seemed to echo, and for a second, she thought she saw him standing before her dressed in formalwear.
“Just trust me, okay?” he said as he took her hands.
Just a hallucination. Clearly. She blinked it away and found the earthbender before her, still muttering.
“I know you’re confused… that jerkface… he did something. Messed with your head…”
He was less than two feet away. How had she let him get so close? She tried to back away. One leg skidded out from under her, making her stagger to regain her balance. The motion jarred her injuries, making innumerable wounds bleed harder. At this rate she’d lose consciousness soon.
She refocused on the target before her. Tried to draw a breath to focus her power. The boy reached out. Actually reached for her. She braced for the strike. No way she could move fast enough to avoid it at this range.
He rested a hand on her cheek, making her flinch in surprise. He brushed sweat–soaked hair from her eyes.
“…but I know you’re still in there, Tenna.”
What was this? Why wasn’t he attacking? Why wasn’t she?
“…I know you’re more than a weapon.”
He wrapped his arms around hers, pulling her to him. He had a sort of earthy smell–sweet and musky–with just the faintest hint of fear. Most unusual. At this range, her prey should have been terrified. Why wasn’t he?
No fear. No pain. No mercy.
She drew a breath, focused. The earthbender leaned in even closer touching his forehead directly against her glowing mark. The contact sent a warm shiver down her back. She gasped hard. Tried to regain her breath. Failed.
Her head swam. She couldn’t think. Her eyes were stinging. Burning. And something was blurring her vision. Tears? Impossible. Weapons didn’t cry. Unless…
Her body shook. Pain returned. Innumerable injuries she had been blocking now made themselves known. And there was another pain deep in her head.
A man’s voice, faint as a whisper. “Destroy them,” he ordered. She felt a flash of cold fear. The feeling of four walls closing in with no escape. No light. No air. “Destroy them,” the voice whispered. “…then destroy yourself..”
But he wasn’t here, the whispering one. It was just her and this prey… this boy who didn’t fear her. Who even seemed to–love her?
No… impossible. She was a weapon. And weapons have no need for love.
But no sooner did she finish the thought, another struck without warning, flaring through her aching head like dragon fire. She saw a vision. Her and the boy on a ship, bathed in setting sunlight. Strange. She could still smell the salt air. Feel the warmth of his arms around her. Just like now. And there was more. His kiss burned in her mind, vivid and real. And she realized then… this was no mere vision. It was a memory. Her memory.
She began to remember other things. Images and feelings came over her in a rush. She dug her fingers into the boy’s back, clinging to him as the ground swayed under her feet. He held fast. Her anchor. Her love.
The man in her head was still whispering. Telling her to kill. Only this time, she didn’t feel fear. She felt rage.
No! I will not kill the man I love! Or anyone else!
Tenna’s vision refocused. She saw the source of the whispers. The man who she had once called Master. He was in the doorway of a fleeing airship. Trying to escape like the pathetic coward he was.
“Bolin…” she whispered. Her voice was soft and blood-chilling. “Don’t move.”
She tilted her head aside and drew a breath, as deep as she could. Heat raced to her forehead as she focused past waves of agony and the sweet pull of unconsciousness, She exhaled. Hard. Her combustion beam singed some of Bolin’s hair and just barely missed his ear. It whistled as it flew, further than she had ever dared push herself, but her aim was perfect. The explosion hit one of the airship’s engines blowing it into a thousand pieces of smoking, sizzling metal. The airship lurched to the side, its nose dipping to the ground. The man in the doorway, her former master, howled in rage before being flung inside and out of view.
The sound echoed in her head like a song. Tenna felt herself smile as her eyelids drooped.
“No, Tenna. Stay awake! You hear me?” Bolin was yelling. And she realized she was no longer in his arms but laying on her back. Bolin was draping a jacket over her. Funny, she hadn’t realized until just then how cold she was. And how tired. Flames, she was so tired…
More voices sounded. Getting closer. Korra and Mako and Izumi. She could hear them taking to Bolin but couldn’t seem to understand the words. She could feel something too. Just barely. A strange, invisible pull deep inside numbing her pain.
Raava’s energy left Korra as she landed back on the ship. Tenna lay unconscious under Bolin’s jacket, staining the deck with her blood.
“Well, come on, amazing-healer-who-trained-under-Katara!” Mako snapped. “Help her before she’s too far gone!”
Bolin visibly flinched at the word “gone” but said nothing. Not to Mako, anyway. Korra could hear him whispering something to Tenna, again and again. Korra tried to compose herself as she pulled back the jacket. But the sight she saw only damaged her spirits more.
“I can’t… I’ve never healed injuries this severe before.”
“You’ll try all the same, though,” came Izumi’s voice. Not an encouragement, but a queen’s command. “You will try until either this girl is stabilized or you faint from exhaustion. Am I clear?”
Korra found herself nodding. She tried to call on everything Katara had taught her, pulling in tendrils of water from all around her. Then she noticed Izumi making similar movements. Only Izumi wasn’t manipulating water. She was stopping Tenna’s bleeding.
“I can keep her blood flowing through her veins, rather than escaping out her wounds,” Izumi said, voice quick and breathless, like a sprinter trying to speak during a race. “And I can keep her heart beating and her lungs moving. But I need you to close those wounds.”
“I can do it,” Korra heard herself say. And this time, she believed it.