Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender or anything pertaining to it.

Full Summary: Over 10,000 years ago, we failed to see the darkness arrive, but now we are consumed by it. We are children of darkness, fighting to restore light. But there are those who would stop us, profit off our suffering. I believe I have found the light to lead us back, but I can't be sure. Until that time, I will stay strong and I will fight. My name is Katara; I am the last waterbender from the South Pole, and I will not yield. Eventual Zutara, with Blutara and BluePaint.

A/N: I'm still working on Polar Nights (I'm actually working this time, but I'm taking it slow and trying to do it right, I promise), but for some reason, I got the inspiration to write a little darker story here. This is a fusion of plot elements from the story I planned on releasing named Wild whose name obviously made it into the title, and for those curious it does incorporate canon facts released in the Legend of Korra series released about the background and history of the Avatar. That being said, reading this story is different enough that it shouldn't spoil anything that happens in the series. Rated T; the violence shouldn't be so bad, and I don't expect there to be that much language. And of course, no smut. :)

The Dark and Wild

Chapter 1: Dust to Dust

"Did you hear that?" my brother askes, pointing his flashlight towards a collection of debris in the Chamber of the Last Avatar.

"Hear what?" I reply, pointing my flashlight towards him.

"Will you point that out of my eye?" he growls, shielding his eyes with his hand before growing rigid in posture again, "There, there! Hear... that!"

"I hear ten thousand years of mold spores gathering to contaminate the air supply and effectively poison us, y'know, after we go crazy," I tease.

"Shh, listen," our friend says, pointing at the rock as well. "It's coming from here."

"He is the ultimate protocol... he is the ultimate protocol..." a garbled voice says on some sort of loop, seeming to be trapped behind a wall of static and limestone.

"There, see, I'm not crazy!" my brother insists, pressing his ear to the rubble and trying to find the source of the noise.

"Is it a recorded orb?" I ask hopefully, moving towards my companion and taking his flashlight, scanning the two along the rocks to try and find the point of origin.

He crouches down and points his light into the darkness, "Could be. I doubt it's someone having an old fashioned tea party, though."

"Don't stick your hand in that hole," I protest, trying to shine the light in as I see him examining the outside of the hole with his hand. "You don't know what's in there."

"Looks harmless; only one way to really find out," he says, and I can hear him grinning until he yelps after sticking his hand in.

"Holy f-"

"Just kidding," he laughs, holding up a shining, blue sphere in his palm, no larger than an plump orange.

"You're a mean, spiteful jerk," I scowl, snatching it from him.

The younger boy moves over and wipes his glasses with his shirt before taking a look, "Looks old. Very old, probably from the third cycle, or something."

"Can you get it to play the whole clip? It seems to be stuck on some sort of loop, and half the dialogue is cut out. Plus the visuals are a mess." I inquire.

"I can do my best, but no promises. Looks like it degraded from being triggered on a loop, probably during the Cataclysm, and dust entered the recording device so the video and audio feeds have been degenerated."

"Don't look so disappointed. Teo will figure it out," my brother encourages. "In the meantime, eat some more sea prunes."

"I think I've had enough," I sigh a bit dramatically.

"Enough sea prunes? No such thing," he balks.

"They just don't taste the same anymore," I frown.

He puts a hand on my shoulder reassuringly. "No, they don't, but we had them the other week and you loved them just fine. You're just anxious to know what's on the recording. And you know it. It's only been two days, anyway."

Maybe he had a point. But that orb was found in the ruins of an ancient Air Nomad temple: a spiritual hub and former alter of worship for the great light spirit! If there would be anyway to summon him and restore him, perhaps the light would come back; that's what I want most.

"You guys are gonna wanna see this," Teo shouts, interrupting my train of thought as he jogs over towards the campfire. "I only restored some of it, but I got this brief clip. It's only partial, but it's great."

"Stop talking and play," I can barely contain my shouts.

"And these energy stasis chambers will preserve the live-... inside it for how long?"

"Approximately twenty-... cycles, depending on the.. -nergy sources."

"And how will they be powered then?"

"Crys-... energy; we've built the stasis chambers deep in the heart of the ... below the..., and we should be able to have plenty of energy to susta-... -ability. In the event... failure of energy... all power will ...-eactivate and re-divert to prese... the child; he is the ulti-... protocol."

"So those preserved... -mately die in order to preserve... -ild?"

"Yes, but it is critical-"

"You can't just stop it there!" I all but scream out.

"Sorry, but that's all there is," Teo frowns.

"Great," I grumble.

"But," he continues.

"Always wait for the 'but,'" Sokka looks expectantly at Teo.

"I'm gonna keep working on it to see if I can clean up the audio to find out where this stasis area is. But we have a look at it, and it seems like the stasis chambers were in some sort of underground area with a lot of crystals. I think in the audio the second voice was saying they were somehow harnessing energy from the crystals to preserve the bodies."

Sokka clapped me on the shoulder. "The light is on our side."

"The light is on our side," I repeat, running my thumb over what's left of the necklace around my throat, staring at the crackling, blue-black flame.

I don't remember when I fell asleep, but it must have been gradual because I do recall Sokka and Teo discussing the distortion pockets in gravitational fields in addition to new areas of dark radiation. To be honest, I don't know much about distortion pockets (something to do with gravity is either stronger or weaker), but the dark radiation is something I'm well-versed in as a healer.

However, none of this is a concern because I have a man with his hand around my throat whispering hoarsely in my ear, "Don't make a sound." A raider.

I try to swallow, but it seems to convince him I'm testing him and he squeezes tighter as I try to claw at his fingers to release me.

"Where are your findings?"

"What findings?" I try to play off innocently.

"Don't play coy, little girl. I know you found an orb, among other things. I came here to do my own investigating,"

"You mean raiding," I choke out.

"As you prefer to call it; regardless, I figured I'd let you do the heavy lifting."

I glare at him angrily, or rather, the shadow of him as I am unable to see anything in this eternal and cursed darkness. I will not let some rogue steal and pawn off what I have found for the sake of a few gold coins to buy booze and women. I go to move my hand so I can summon a jet of water, but he seems to read my mind and grabs my wrist while tightening his grip on my throat.

"You seem incapable of following directions," he snarls, his breath hot on my face. "I will snap your little neck, then go to the next tent and kill your brother and the geek without a second's hesitation. Play it smart. Live to fight another day," he taunted.

"The tent," I manage to gasp out, fighting for every breath of air I can get.

His grip releases some and he rises, only to pull a pistol out of his hip and strike me across the face with it.

I never lose consciousness, but I can't move at first (my head feels excruciating), and I feel disoriented and woozy. It was almost like being trapped between dreaming and being awake. My senses finally come around when I hear a loud bang. Shortly after, Sokka comes rushing to grab me and says, "We have to go, we have to go. Het up!"

"Where's Teo?" I ask, seeing the panic in his eyes.

"He's... he's on the airship, but there was a dark spirit and... we just have to go!" he shouted.

I rise to my feet, trying to grab my things and Sokka pulls me out after him. It is now when I notice that a thick smoke is clouding the already dense air and the gardens of the Air Temple are consumed by a black flame. I turn to see a dark spirit circling the temple and find whatever small amount of energy I have left to follow my brother to the airship. The engines were already rearing and he wasted no time in sealing the bay door and plunging us down through the thick, grey clouds towards the earth.

Or what's left of it. Many of the lands of the earth are scorched by the elements, some even being barren of anything except thick clouds of darkness that no one dares cross. The terrain seems to be perpetually shifting almost so gradually you don't recognize it, and yet also so suddenly. I can remember a time where there were more rivers in the Earth Kingdom, but now most of them are gone, as if the earth came up and swallowed them whole. There are also the gravitational distortion patches and dark radiation hot zones marked on all airship navigational grid maps, or more commonly called NavGrids.

A distorted form of light trickles down and has a purplish tint to it. The only exceptions are the yellow glows of metropolitan areas spread around the globe. But since we're low to ground, I can't see any nearby cities, however, the white light of the airship probably show what the world would look like in normal light... I think. I can't remember the last time I saw true light.

When we land on the ground (a rough landing at that), we're outside a border town in the Earth Kingdom and I sink to the ground, my eyes stinging with tears of anger.

I inhale deeply, then pull my fist back and throw a punch into the metal dashboard of the ship. I know I've damaged my hand more than a metal plate, but I'm just so angry. I start to scream and curse and thrash and Sokka sits there, hands in his lap.

"We were lucky," he sighs.

"Lucky?" I shriek.

"Lucky the dark spirit was more interested in shacking up in the Air Temple and turning the spiritual connection into dark zombie spirit breeding grounds rather than giving us dark radiation poisoning the way he did Teo! Lucky the raider didn't just shoot all of us, or do something even more indecent with you," Sokka snapped back. "We don't have many good things in this life; we barely have anything! Aren't we just feeding into the darkness if we don't sit and be thankful for what we did manage to come away with?"

Maybe he's right, but I don't care. That orb had a hope the Air Nomads believed could rid us of the darkness; that orb had my hope.

"So what now?" Sokka finally asks after letting me stew for a few moments.

"Nothing's changed," I say, my voice hot with anger. "We're going to find the light. We're going to find this kid."

Posted: 11/26/2013

A/N: I hope you all enjoyed the first chapter. Let me know what you think and any thoughts or questions you might have, as well as criticisms! This is a bit shorter than I wanted, but I cut it off here or else it would be awkwardly long for a first chapter.