When the Western Air Temple is first sighted Katara and Sokka fall silent in awe. Unlike the other three Air Temples they’ve seen, this one is under a mountain rather than on top of one. The stone feels warm under their fingers while the ever constant winds make setting up camp difficult.
It’s been a few days and Katara can’t shake the feeling their being watched. She keeps her water container close. She remembers Gran Gran’s stories of spirits turning evil against the living, mostly from suffering some form of violent death. If anyone had the right to hold a grudge it would be the sprits here. She’s scaring herself, shaking her head to clear away her fears, and she almost succeeds.
It’s in the early morning, so early she can only see the wisps of the moon-peach golden sun. She hears a soft shuffling noise followed by a scrapping-scratching sound. Like nails on stone.
She makes her way to the upper section earning a few fresh bruises and a scraped elbow for her trouble. What she finds makes her gasp in surprise. She can’t help but stare in awe, the sight bring tears to her eyes.
Out on a raised platform is a boy, seeming no older than Sokka. He’s turned sideways; his arms raised high, eyes closed in concentration. The boys arms are raised towards the newly morning sun, emblazoned colors of peach, gold, watery indigo, and fiery reds across the entire sky. What’s more amazing than even that spectacle are the giant winged dragons flying around the boy in long sweeps of red, blue, green, yellows, and oranges. They seem to be dancing in enjoyment of the new day, celebrating in the newness of creation.
Her hopes are dashed when neither boy nor dragons are at the upper platform the next dawn. She does find them after some extensive searching. The dragons are in a large inner pool, fishing. The boy is cooking; she thinks it’s a catfish-shark. The boy and dragons splashing water on each other, Katara can’t help but smile as the boy laughs in enjoyment at the game.
The boy does something strange then. He goes over to the soaked fire pit, raising his left arm and suddenly the water evaporates in a puff of steam. A heartbeat later a fire has been started and Katara’s heart freezes. She’s so surprised and angry, that she kicks a nearby stone; it makes a loud plopping-smashing noise as it hits the pool below. The dragons are on her before she has time to even think.
She’s between a rock and a hard place. More correctly her back’s against the wall with a red dragon with yellow stripes to her left, the one to her right is green with yellow and blue stripes. The boy is dead center in front, with a look of puzzled anger on his face. Behind the boy are three more dragons. A silver-white one which seems smaller than the others with faint blue and sea green patches. The other two are green with red and yellow-green splashes. They don’t seem angry, but tense, ready to attack if necessary.
She stands defiant, even if she doesn’t have water, she won’t beg. She strangely begins to feel a peculiar sense inside her mind, before colors explode against her eyelids. Vivid yellows and pulsating oranges beat inside her brain, coupled with the curious sense of weird unnaturalness and why they’re here? All too soon the colors and feelings leave. A strange echo reverberates inside her mind and soul, like the shaking after an earthquake. Tears form in her eyes and she can’t seem to breathe. The boy suddenly seems concerned and she’s filled with a sense of happy in various shades of greens and blues. She feels a bit better and the boy smiles.
Her good feeling stops when she remembers why she was running. The old familiar anger at the Fire Nation and firebenders above all flows over prompting her to start screaming right in his face. A few moments pass and all she sees are yellow-oranges of confusion and annoyance. The dragons looking between Katara and their brother, swiveling their heads between the two as the “argument” goes back and forth. Katara stops when the nearest dragon nips at her parka pulling her backwards.
The morning starts off with a woman screaming; or more precisely, a very terrified Sokka. What she finds is one of the dragons, the red and yellow-green one gulping down a large bag of seal jerky. Sokka is hastily grabbing his last bag of seal jerky when a second dragon, the white one, enters. The little dragonet grabs the seal jerky bag and Sokka tugs and the dragonet tugs until the animal skin casing tears. Aang knocks the nearest dragon over the edge with a great wind blast.
The air suddenly becomes very warm, very quickly. Seconds later a blast of fire aimed at Aang comes from a hidden alcove. A boy dressed in ragged Fire Nation browns and reds, his face a mask of rage. Katara unstops her water skin, and drenches the boy. He stops but the water steams off him; vivid crimsons and blacks showcasing his anger and hate at anything trying to harm his siblings.
They all decide to take a moment to calm down. The dragon have been sent back home while their human brother “introduces” himself. Sokka and Aang are skeptical to say the least.
“Katara, you actually want me to believe that this guy can “talk with his mind”, Sokka air quotes, his voice dripping with disdain and disbelief.
“I’ve heard of dragons, the really old ones, being able to talk by sending pictures into people’s minds” Aang offers, his voice not sounding very convinced.
“Look he can do it.” She turns to their mystery guest; he looks confused and not particularly happy with Sokka being over loud. “You can can’t you?”
The boy stares at her a moment and seems to finally get what it is she wants. Suddenly Sokka and Aang jolt like they’ve been hit by a lightning bolt. Sokka’s face is a picture of shock while Aang is smiling.
“He speaks in colors and……..emotions?” Sokka’s voice is strangely quit. Katara nods.
The boy has a look of smug satisfaction on his face. With his face tilted up that’s when Katara notices. It was too dark to tell before but now in the midmorning dawn she sees it. It’s a scar, a big, ugly, horrific scar that runs from one side of his throat to the other. “No wonder he can’t speak” she thinks absentmindedly.
He can whistle though; a long piercing sound that makes her ears ring. Suddenly the outer Western Air Temple is filled with five dragons. Every dragon as long as three men her father’s height, their heads staring the statues of previous Air Nomads eye to eye. In spite of herself she can’t help but gulp in terror. The white one is only half as big, she notes. It comes over to her nudging for her attention. Katara pets the dragon’s soft white hide, the faint patches of pale blue and sea green fading in and out like ripples. The hide isn’t scaly at all, more like soft leather and the baby dragon sighs in contentment.