Note to anyone just discovering this fic: it was started and entirely plotted after episode 5 aired, with only the trailer cap as a spoiler for Tahno’s fate. Officially AR now, not canon compliant, etc. I hope you will still enjoy it!
For the second time in two games, the Fire Ferrets had won the tiebreaker toss.
Mako, Bolin and Korra looked at each other uneasily. Mako was just about to say fire when Korra said, “I got this.”
“What, no,” Mako said. “Their waterbender is the most dangerous member of their team.”
“So am I,” Korra said, a dark look in her eyes. “And I’ve been waiting for my chance to hit that pretty face.” Across from them, Tahno was smirking ear to ear.
Mako appraised her, and glanced at Tahno. “All right. Give him hell, okay? Water.”
Korra and Tahno stepped onto the platform, and it rose under them. As soon as the match started, Korra went on the offensive, trying to knock Tahno out with sheer force of volume. Tahno bent her attacks to the side and dodged almost lazily.
“This would be over if you weren’t such a skinny target,” Korra taunted. “And slippery like a frog.”
Tahno laughed. “You fight like a firebender, Avatar. You’ve been wasting your time training in other bending disciplines. Want to learn how a real waterbender moves?” He dragged his fingers through one of her attacks, drawing them out with talons made of ice and striking at her in one smooth motion. His talons grazed her helmet, scratching the glass. Korra glanced back up at the infuriatingly silent ref. Just figures.
Taking advantage of unseating her for a moment, Tahno unleashed his own attacks, aiming for her legs and trying to unroot her. Korra staggered backward, and made a blob of water around her feet to steady herself. The ref had better not give her any problems for this, she thought. It didn’t break the one second rule since it wasn’t against an opponent.
“That was a mistake,” Tahno said, now unleashing a flurry of attacks on the partially immobilized Korra.
Korra could barely keep up with defending herself, and saw no opportunities to strike back. She realized, with dread, that she was losing. Focus, Korra, focus. You can’t lose this. Not to him. She pulled the water off her feet and made a desperate lunge forward with it. Tahno swiped at her arm, slicing through her uniform on her inner forearm and drawing blood, but Korra ignored the pain, making a water whip with the other hand that snaked around Tahno’s waist and dragged him nearly to the edge of the platform, until she had to break it to comply with the one second rule. Almost.
“No snide remarks now, Tahno?”
“You’re out of breath, Avatar.”
“So are you.”
Suddenly, the whole arena went pitch black. Both Tahno and Korra saw their chance, lunging at each other. There were a few quick strikes in the dark, then through the dull roar of the surprised crowd, Korra heard Bolin cry out in surprise and pain. She wasn’t sure exactly how she knew Tahno knew the match was over then too, but something shifted in the close, dark air, and when some of the lights came back on, Korra and Tahno were standing back to back against whatever was out there.
“Chi-blockers,” Korra said.
Under the scent of Tahno’s perfume and sweat, she could smell his adrenaline, heady in the thick air. His shoulder quivered slightly against hers, in excitement or fear, she wasn’t sure. She just hoped he couldn’t tell how afraid she was.
A chi-blocker tried to run up the side of the platform, but Tahno struck her down with a jet of water, freezing her to the ground. “We have the high ground, Avatar,” he said. “Let’s not lose it.”
But Korra could see Amon bearing down on Mako, the plumes of flame flashing in the low light. In an instant she was off to help him. A chi-blocker sprang from the shadows and had blocked her right arm before suddenly a wave of water forced him back. Korra glanced back to see Tahno standing not far behind her. Another cry rang out behind them, and she saw that the Wolfbats were in trouble too. Tahno turned towards them to help, and Korra turned her attention back to Mako’s plight.
Amon seemed to lose interest in the fight the moment Korra joined it, but with a wave of his hand they were both faced against about two dozen chi-blockers. This was no tournament match, and Korra fought with every element she had, admittedly somewhat poorly, without the use of her right arm. She saw Mako go down, and before she could react her left arm was blocked too. Korra spat fire and kicked for all she was worth. But she knew it was over. Soon she was tossed aside with Mako, Bolin, and two of the Wolfbats, all nursing their bruises.
From where the chi-blockers held her, Korra was amazed to see Tahno still in the fight. True, he hadn’t been attacked in as many numbers as she had. It looked like his left arm was blocked, but he was still putting up a damn good fight. He was in control of most of the reservoir around the arena, and the chi-blockers were being attacked unpredictably from every side. They would have to resume their match sometime. One on one. No way was she being robbed of a duel with such a magnificent bender.
Ignoring that the fight was still going on, Amon stepped into the spotlight, microphone in hand. He started droning on to the crowd about a more public demonstration of his power, and about the bending elite and their cruel, violent bloodsports. She could see that there were chi-blockers in the audience too, some of them in civilian dress, and that they were needed—quite a few benders were in the audience, and didn’t take kindly to his words. Korra was struck by how many chi-blockers there were. She supposed it didn’t take any more training than learning to bend did, and unlike bending, could be taught to anyone with a will to learn. But did that many people hate benders that much?
Now Amon was advancing on Tahno. She heard the words, “bending away permanently” over the roar of the crowd. With a gesture from him, a chi-blocker undid the damage to his arm, giving him his full bending back. Tahno was drenched in water and sweat, his breath coming very hard, but there was still a spark in his eyes at the opportunity he was given, and with both arms, he raised a wall of water from the reservoir.
Korra knew what was coming next. She struggled. She really did. Someone struck her helmet hard enough to make her ears ring, and she still fought. She felt many hands on her, firmly locking her arms behind her back, forcing her to her knees. She was being made to watch.
The wall of water came down towards them, and Amon placed his hand on Tahno’s forehead. The water fell limp and crashed over them, rushing around their legs on its way back into the reservoir. Korra saw the ice talons on Tahno’s hands melt. But she’d never forget the look on his face. He’d as much as had his soul ripped out of him right in front of them. He looked straight at her, the Avatar on her knees, and she knew that his last thought before Amon took everything from him was a desperate hope that she would save him. And she’d never thought that with all her bending she could feel so helpless.
The wail of sirens seemed to get Amon’s attention. His chi-blocker army might be good against six pro-benders and some concerned citizens in the audience, but even he knew they were no match for a full police army, and they’d made more than enough commotion to attract their attention. With some parting words Korra didn’t even try to parse, he was gone.
The police arrived, and took reports from everyone. Lin Beifong was there to remind her how useless she was. And bit by bit, their bending started coming back. Korra herself shot off a few fireblasts and knocked some rocks into the wall to let off tension.
Korra could feel the spot where Tahno was slumped on the floor of the bending arena, as though it forcefully drew her eyes no matter how hard she tried not to look. Everyone just stepped around him. The police tried to talk to him a few times, but he was unresponsive. There were enough reports from all the witnesses, all matching, that the police didn’t really need to hear it from him too. Everyone knew what had happened to him. Someone had draped a blanket over him and left him there, his hair still dripping, staring at the floor.
Finally, when the fuss seemed to have died down, and most people had gone home, Korra went up to him. “Tahno,” she said, putting a hand on his shoulder.
Tahno jumped slightly, and looked up at her. “Avatar,” he said. “It’s not true, is it? It can’t be real.”
Korra was silent. For a moment there was just the sound of Tahno’s breathing, still ragged. She watched whatever desperate, mad hope there was in his eyes fade.
Tahno tried to get to his feet, but was ungainly, whether due to whatever Amon had done to him, injuries from the fight, or the effects of sitting on the floor in cold water for hours, or some combination thereof. He slipped and fell, and Korra caught him. The look in his eyes when she did so wasn’t prideful or grateful of the help, it was just…dead. He took her hand robotically and let her pull him to his feet.
“Do you have someplace to go?” Korra asked him as he walked out, throwing the blanket aside and walking wet into the freezing night.
“Yeah,” Tahno said.
Korra’s stomach knotted as she watched him go.
Read part 2
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