The Prince from Lordaeron @lord22
The Boy in the Iceberg

Chapter Five: The Boy in the Iceberg

Katara woke up and really wished she hadn't.

Her entire body was aching, and she could smell blood all around her. As her vision cleared, she realized she was in a tent with many injured men around her. Arthas was standing over her, his long hair falling over her chest. His hands were over her body and radiating a warm light that somehow didn't match him.

"Oh, Katara, you're awake," said Arthas. "Thank the Light."

"Arthas, what happened?" asked Katara.

"I can't stay long to go into details. Just remember that we won," said Arthas. Then he stood up. "I'll be back, I have other people to heal."

Katara waited, feeling very achy, and watched Arthas moving around the injured. He healed each one, in turn, speaking prayers as he did. On the other hand, the Fire Nation didn't seem to have the same quality of healers.

"Light bless you," Arthas would say as he laid on hands.

Waiting, Arthas eventually came back to her. "I'm sorry you had to wait. I had to go through people with critical injuries first. My priests are also handling things."

"You can heal with the Light?" asked Katara. "Can you heal frostbite?" It would be really useful.

"The Light can heal anything," said Arthas. "Though some people can't channel is enough. Are you feeling any better?"

"Yes," said Katara, sitting up. "So what um... why the prayers?"

"I've just been trying to spread the worship of the light without seeming like I'm doing it," said Arthas. "The Fire Nation got most of the worst casualties, these men are considered expendable. Most of them haven't seen war at all and aren't fully trained.

"I think some of them were sent here because they had opinions the Firelord didn't like.

"So I mention the Light now and then without pressing my beliefs on them. Hopefully, some will be interested enough to ask the priest I'll send through after this."

"What happened out there, Arthas?" asked Katara. "Did... was anyone killed?"

"Some people were," said Arthas. "You blacked out right as we started winning. After that undead got on you, Falric killed it. You'd hit your head pretty hard, though, so you were out for hours.

"Either way, that was the farthest the undead made it.

"We kept on fighting them there, and little by little, they began to fall off. Finally, someone, or something, called a retreat, and the undead made a run for it. They sprinted off en masse toward the south.

"Admiral Zhao ordered a pursuit, and the cavalry followed after them. Prince Zuko and the Dragon of the West went with them."

"And what about us?" asked Katara.

Arthas shrugged. "I have no mounted infantry, so I remained behind with the garrison. That left Falric and me more or less in command. Zhao didn't have a lot of experienced soldiers with him.

"You did very well, Katara. Better than I did."

"I..." Katara sat up and got out of her bedroll. "I've heard from Dad that when you kill someone, it hurts. But I don't feel anything."

"Undead aren't alive, Katara," said Arthas quickly. "If there was anything that could think in those things, we did it a favor by putting it out of its misery.

"It's nothing compared to killing an animal, or even a troll."

"What was it like for you?" asked Katara.

Arthas shifted uneasily, and then he walked out, motioning for her to follow him. "Well, the first thing I ever killed was my horse."

Katara blinked. "Your horse?"

"Yes, his name was Invincible," said Arthas. "I saw him when he was born and watched him grow up. I loved that horse, and when I rode him, I... well, I felt like he and I were one being. Then, one day, we went out riding and got trapped in a blizzard. Invincible slipped on the ice and broke his leg.

"I was far from help, and Invincible wasn't going to survive.

"So, I did what I had to do.

"I killed him to spare him an agonizing death. It was...

"It was like killing a part of myself. I still remember his eyes before I did it. And after I killed him... it became a lot easier. Death doesn't bother me anymore.

"On a separate note, we have work to do."

"What kind of work?" asked Katara.

"We'll need to find Falric first," said Arthas, looking around. "Ah, there he is." He strode toward where Falric was speaking to a fellow officer. "Captain Falric, how are things going?"

Falric turned and saluted. "Well, sir.

"Our priests have tended to the wounded, with your help. And they feel confident that some of these men might well convert."

"Good work," said Arthas.

A cold wind blew past them, sending Katara's hair flowing around her. She shuddered before Arthas drew off his cloak and put it over her. Katara went still, feeling his warmth and feeling a blush come to her face.

"Falric..." said Arthas, not shuddering.

"Yes?" asked Falric.

"Who would you say, for all intents and purposes, is the commanding officer of this fort?" asked Arthas.

"You are, of course, Prince Arthas," said Falric.

"Right. With that kind of responsibility, I imagine I'll need to know about these undead," said Arthas. "Everything the Fire Nation knows, certainly."

"Of course," said Falric.

"Well, for the sake of our allies, I believe you ought to enter Admiral Zhao's office. Find any information you have on the undead," said Arthas. "The information could be very important."

Falric nodded obediently with a smile. "Certainly, we must look after our allies' best interests."

"If we saw any information regarding war plans, it would be understandeable," said Arthas.

Falric agreed. "Of course. I'll check for information on the undead at once."

And he walked off.

Arthas turned. "Falric..."

Falric glanced up. "Yes?"

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do," said Arthas with a smile.

"You can trust me, of course, Prince Arthas," said Falric.

Katara watched as Falric moved off toward the office, flanked on both sides.

So that was what they were doing. Arthas wanted Falric to use his alliance with Zhao as an excuse to raid his information for plans. He knew the Fire Nation was up to no good and was taking precautions. All without breaking their alliance.

"...You uh..." Katara paused. "You're very good at this, aren't you?"

Arthas smiled. "I don't know what you're talking about.

"We have other plans to make. You see, I've learned that the Fire Nation has dominion over a race called the Tuskarr. Given that Falric is in charge here, I want to go there at once and learn what I can. They may be able to tell us a bit about what is going on here.

"And I'd like you to come with me."

"The Tuskarr?" asked Katara. "Sokka and I met a group of them. They're largely peaceful, but you've got to bring fish to them, and you've got to get them yourself. They'll expect you to tell them the tale of the catch, and bringing fish someone else caught is a major insult.

"Sokka, and they got on great. Sometimes Tuskarr merchants come to visit us."

"Why would they pay fealty to the Fire Nation?" asked Arthas.

Katara paused. "They could have been threatened."

"Any other reasons?" asked Arthas.

"Well, the Tuskarr have always gotten on badly with the Ice Trolls," said Katara. "They might have turned to the Fire Nation for protection if things were going badly."

Arthas nodded. "Well then, why don't we go fishing? You'll have to be my guide."

Katara looked at him strangely. "What if the Fire Nation comes back?"

"Then we'll have to improvise," said Arthas. "I trust Falric to finish quickly, however.

"And we can easily request to speak with the Tuskarr. I doubt they'll refuse."

Katara felt a bit uneasy about this but knew not to question him. He was in charge, after all. "Alright, but fishing isn't easy. And boating isn't easy either."

"I yield to your superior knowledge, of course," said Arthas, bowing dramatically.

Katara laughed.

And so it was that Katara and Arthas took a small boat out to some of the icebergs. It was not the kind of ship Katara was used to, being larger and more stable. Arthas did most of the rowing, while she held a spear in hand. This ended up making her feel rather foolish since her bending was a far better technique.

So instead, Katara used her bending to speed their progress.

"Alright, this should be close enough, here," said Katara, pushing the waves against the boat. It slowed them down pretty quick.

Arthas, meanwhile, used the spear. To little effect.

Either way, Katara spent her time using her bending.

She soon found that she was able to send within the water and draw fish out from far deeper. One after another, she pulled fish in. Soon their boat had them flopping around.

"That's ten now!" said Katara. "The water bending scroll has really done wonders!"

"I wish I could say the same," mused Arthas. "Are you sure it's necessary to use a spear?"

"That's how it's done," said Katara. "Why, how do they do it where you're from?"

"A fishing rod with bait," said Arthas. "Muradin, show me how to do it." Then he stabbed at the water at one of the fish Katara missed. "And I missed it again."

"Try again," said Katara, pushing a fish into place and slowing it down. Arthas stabbed it and brought it out.

"There, you got one," said Katara.

Arthas, however, looked a little miffed at the spear. Like Sokka, he seemed to have wanted to do it himself. But he was also more polite than Sokka. "...So I did? Thank you.

"Waterbending seems like cheating."

"I don't know what you're talking about," said Katara with a smile.

She was actually really enjoying this. Leaning back in the boat, she looked out at a nearby iceberg. Then she noticed something. The iceberg was circular in nature, like a huge globe of crystal. And as they drew near it, she saw something, a figure with the emblem of an arrow on his head.

Instantly, she pushed the boat toward it and beached by it. Arthas seemed to have detected it as well and drew his sword. "What is that?"

"A boy..." said Katara. "Arthas, there's a boy in the iceberg. We've got to help."

"Hold on a moment-" said Arthas.

Grabbing a club from the boat, Katara rushed forward and smashed at the ice. As she did, she channeled her bending. The result was obvious, and the ice cracked before her. Suddenly, there was an explosion of light that emanated upwards into the sky. Katara felt the power, a raw and primal power like nothing else.

Then the boy fell forward, clad in orange and yellow. He fell, unconscious by them. Katara kneeled down and looked at him. "He's alive."

Arthas kneeled on the other side. "No signs of frostbite, or hunger. But he's clad in the garb of an Airbender. I've seen pictures of them. The staff..." Katara saw that the boy did have a staff, and something about it put Arthas on edge.

"There's something... I need to tell you..." said the boy suddenly, eyes opening.

"What is it?" asked Katara.

"Come closer..." murmured the boy.

Katara did so. "Will you go penguin sledding with me?"

"No," said Arthas instantly.

"Sure, I guess," said Katara at the same time.

The boy sat up, and Arthas stared at Katara, seeming to be somewhat offended. Then he looked back at the boy. "I'm sorry, who are you?"

"I'm Aang, an Airbender," said the boy, standing up.

"I gathered that much from your outfit," said Arthas. "Is there a community of your people in these parts?"

"No, we're mostly focused in Alterac and on Kalimdor," said Aang. "Though we go all over the place on our flying bison."

There was a flash of something in Arthas' eye, and it seemed to be vengeful amusement. "Not any-"

"Hang on a sec, how did you end up in that iceburg," said Katara, cutting him off.

"Oh, see, I was flying on a journey from Stonetalon Peak all the way to Northrend," said Aang. "I'd never been to Northrend before, and I was hoping to see what it was all like. I hung out with a bunch of Tuskarr for a while. But then I got caught in a storm and that iceburg." Then he turned and ran over the ridge that was leftover from the iceberg and slipped over the edge. "Hey, Appa, Appa, buddy, you awake."

Arthas looked to Katara, then scaled up after him and saw Appa. Appa, as it turned out, was an eight-legged, extremely furry creature with a huge mouth of flat teeth. It was pretty amazing. "And that would be a flying bison, then?"

"Yeah, he's my... well, he's my friend," said Aang. "So who are you guys?"

"My name is Prince Arthas Menethil of Lordaeron," said Arthas.

Aang looked up in surprise. "Lordaeron, where's that?"

"It used to be central Arathor," said Arthas/

"Really?" asked Aang. "Wait, what happened to Arathor?"

"Too much to go into here," said Arthas. "This is Katara, a Princess of the Southern Water Tribe."

"You're a Princess? And... hang on, Southern Water Tribe?" asked Aang.

"The two sides broke apart some sixty years ago," said Katara. "When my Gran Gran was still young. You see, we lost our mainland colonies. So it became incredibly difficult to make the voyage between us. When the Fire Nation attacked-"

"Wait, the Fire Nation attacked? When?" asked Aang, surprised.

Katara was surprised at this. How long had he been in that iceberg? "A hundred years ago.

"I... well, a lot has changed. The Fire Nation invaded the Earth Kingdom, spreading out their colonies. We've had a hundred years of war now. And they also attacked us, raiding out the coast. In the chaos of the war, our mainland settlements came under attack.

"Once we were driven off the mainland, it became impossible to make the voyage between North and South. The Fire Nation attacked us again and again and were worn down. The Northern Tribe withdrew. They focused only on defending themselves; they couldn't come to help us."

Aang looked away like he felt personally responsible. "...I'm sorry to hear that."

"We have no time for this," said Arthas suddenly. "Katara, we have fish. We need to head back to the base now, and prepare for the next stage of our operation."

Why was he acting this way? "What's gotten into you?"

"I remembered something, and we need to get back to the base quickly," said Arthas.

"Well, I could give you a lift if you want?" said Aang quickly.

"Could you?" asked Arthas.

"Yeah, Appa can take us anywhere," said Aang. "Just get on board."

Arthas glanced back to the ship. "I'd hate to leave this vessel behind. It's of good workmanship and is in good repair. At the least, we need to bring the fish."

"How about I have Appa carry it, then," said Aang. "You think you can do that, buddy?"

Appa made a noise and then sneezed. Whatever it was, he sneezed out got on Arthas, who moved too late. Wiping himself off, Arthas waited for an apology.

"Sorry about that," said Aang. "Why don't we get moving?"

Getting on top of Appa required climbing up onto his tail and reaching the top. It took a lot more work than expected. Still, Aang managed it easily. Arthas, however, had the most difficulty, owing to the armor he wore.

"I'm used to mounting horses," he explained. "They are somewhat smaller than this."

Appa, fortunately, already had a saddle where multiple people could sit. Katara wondered where he'd gotten it and the creature. It must have been expensive, after all. And loading the fish onto it made it somewhat unpleasant.

"Why do you need all these fish, anyway?" asked Aang.

"We're about to go meet some Tuskarr," said Katara. "And we need them as a gift."

"Wow, that sounds nice," said Aang. "Yip yip!"

And then Appa started flying. Katara looked in amazement as to how small the icebergs below became, and Aang seemed to enjoy it. However, Arthas was gazing firmly at the shore with a calculating gaze.

"Can you take us lower?" asked Arthas.

"Yeah, sure," said Aang. "But why."

"Good," said Arthas, trying to wipe the mucus off him. "Have Appa stay near the water until we get out of sight of the Fire Nation compound. We'll make landfall on the far shore over there. Once done, we'll walk."

"Where's the fun in that?" asked Aang.

"The fun?" asked Arthas. "Well, I'm on fairly good terms with a Prince Zuko. And if he finds out you exist, I'd have to hand you over to him or risk open war with the Fire Nation."

"I thought you were already at war," said Aang.

"The Bending Nations are at war," said Arthas. "Lordaeron has other concerns. And one of them is making sure you don't fall into the Fire Nation's hands."

Aang obeyed without question. "So um, what's Lordaeron like?"

Arthas seemed to defrost for a moment. "Beautiful in the summertime. Sometimes when you walk amid the Silverpine Forest. When the wind is strong, it filters through it like voices. They say that prophecies of greatness come to the world through it.

"That's where I got my name."

And then Katara realized something about Arthas.

He was like a statue of ice. Whenever he spoke to someone, he seemed to become what they wanted him to be. That was why he was so good at maneuvering people; everyone liked him. But now, with Aang, Katara felt like she was seeing more of the real him.

And she badly wanted to change the subject.

"So, have you learned the other three elements yet?" asked Arthas suddenly.

"No, though I was supposed to before-" Aang fell dead silent. And Katara realized he was the Avatar. ""-how did you know?"

"The last Avatar, Aang disappeared after heading to Northrend," said Arthas. "Zuko told me a bit about it. And the Airbenders of Alterac kept meticulous records.

"Why did you leave anyway?"

Aang shifted under Arthas' gaze, and Katara began to think that there was something more than a boy there. "Well, you see...

"I never wanted to be the Avatar. Everyone started treating me differently as soon as I learned about it. The other kids wouldn't spend any time with me. My mentor, Gyatso, was the only person who saw me as a person anymore.

"He was the greatest Airbender the world had ever known.

"But then... then I learned that I'd be taken away from him and I... I decided to run away."

"You ran away when your people were on the brink of war?" asked Arthas, voice cold.

"I didn't know, okay! I didn't know anything like this was happening!" said Aang. "I just...

"I wanted to be myself."

Arthas looked to Katara, then back and halted. Finally, he smiled, and Katara saw that this one was well and truly fake. "Well, I guess we all feel that way sometimes."

"So, why are you going to these Tuskarr anyway?" asked Aang.

"It's a bit complicated," said Katara. "We'll explain on the way."

Katara was beginning to wonder just how much of the facade Arthas put up was real. And if she actually knew him at all.

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