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Fan Fic For Your Critique 
26th-Feb-2008 11:55 am
Author: jill_rg
Title: Down to the Wire
Rating: K
Pairing: Sokka/Yue
Word Count: 1,086
Summary: Sokka and Chief Arnook have a discussion that answers my question, What inspired Sokka to turn to who he turned to in Bitter Work?
Notes: Takes Place after the Season 1 Finale and then during Bitter Work; heavily spiritual; written before the announcement that the map of the Avatar world we see in the show opening is the entire world.

“The spirits gave me a vision when Yué was born. I saw a beautiful, brave young woman become the moon spirit.” Chief Arnook of the Northern Water Tribe sighed in resignation, looking up at the realization of his vision at last. “I knew this day would come.”

The boy who had loved his daughter as much as he had looked up at him. “You must be proud.”

“So proud. And sad.” Sokka had no response, but before a depressing silence could set in, the chief spoke again. “Sixteen years ago, I prayed to the great spirits of the moon and ocean, the guardians of my people, the source of our power, to save my daughter…” He did not add, but instead, this… but Sokka heard it loud and clear all the same. He was thinking the same thing.

“The spirit of the moon did save her,” Sokka said next, trailing off. He did not add, But why couldn’t the spirits save her without strings attached? but the chief heard it loud and clear.

She had lived only to die, only to sacrifice herself for a “great” spirit powerless against men. Sokka couldn’t help feeling like Yué and her family and people (and himself) had been cheated. Her fate had never been her own, her life never hers to live. Was this the price everyone paid who turned to the spirits for help? Were all the spirits so vulnerable they needed humans to sacrifice to protect them, too? This was what the Northern Water Tribe worshipped, feared, and revered?

But this wasn’t the time to vent but to mourn, so all Sokka said was, “Why did it have to happen this way?”

Chief Arnook lowered his gaze from the moon and looked straight ahead as he answered, “Even the spirits are not all-powerful.”

Sokka had no reply to that. He had never liked magic or all the mysticism surrounding bending and the spirits. He thought of the Hei Bai that had kidnapped him and the Face Stealer Aang told them about on the way back to the oasis from the tundra last night. The spirits were powerful, all right, but they were hardly invincible. So much for depending on them, then, Sokka thought.

Sokka opened his eyes and looked back up at the moon, trying to think of what to say before Chief Arnook spoke again. “When I was a young boy, my father once took me on a diplomatic mission to the kingdom on the Western side of the world.” Sokka turned toward the chief with involuntary interest as he continued. He had never met or even heard of anyone who had been to the strange lands in the West before. “They believe in a very different sort of being in the West. They do not worship the many spirits of the elements, but the one all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing Creator of the whole world.”

“What do they call it?” Sokka asked.

“This Spirit of the World has no name,” the chief replied. “He needs none, for to them, there is no other.”

“And this being has the power to answer prayer without strings attached?” Sokka wondered out loud, skeptically. “So why hasn’t He done something about this war already?”

“Even our spirits cannot affect free will and how humans will misuse it,” Arnook answered him. That was true, Sokka silently agreed, and in all honesty, the thought of a higher power controlling his free will was less appealing than a higher power who allowed humans free will, even if they didn’t use it in the best way. That didn’t mean he bought the idea.

“I sure wish this ‘Creator’ had been listening sixteen years ago,” Sokka said sarcastically, but the chief answered him seriously.

“Why do you say that?” Now Arnook closed his eyes, almost mournfully. “I never asked for His help.”

Sokka wondered if the chief was saying all this because… he believed the story? “You think He would have saved Yué, really saved her, for good, had you asked him instead?”

“We will never know, will we?” was the only answer. “But if there really is an all-powerful being for whom nothing is impossible, I should like to know more about Him.”

Sokka wondered how the spirits he knew for sure were real would feel about that idea, but if this omnipotent spirit of the West really existed, they would probably be no match for Him. He still didn’t buy it, though.

“How could you get to know someone when you don’t even know their name?” Sokka said, more to himself than Arnook.

“I lost my daughter for the moon spirit today,” said the chief. “Even the moon and ocean alone could not protect my people when it came down to the wire. Perhaps someday, Sokka, if you ever again find yourself in dire circumstances beyond your control, trapped between a rock and a hard place, you may find yourself turning to a higher power for help.”

“I’ve never asked the spirits for help, and if this is the best deal they can give you,” Sokka said, gesturing toward the moon, “well, I’m not impressed.”

He was venting now. Time to go, he decided, but the chief turned to leave first. “Neither are the inhabitants of the West.” The two were facing back to back now. “ ‘Wait until it comes down to the wire. See who you will turn to for help.’ That is what they told my father. That is what I tell you.” With that, the father of the girl he loved walked away and left the young man alone with his thoughts.

“Even if I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place,” Sokka concluded, “Why would I ask some Highest-Power-with-no-name for help?”

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

“Okay, Karma Person, or Thing, or Whoever’s in charge of this stuff, if I can just get out of this situation alive, I will give up meat and sarcasm! Okay?” He wasn’t really sure how this worked. Making some sort of deal was how it worked with the spirits, if he remembered correctly, but calling out to the spirits from his prison in this crevice had never occurred to him.

When it truly came down to the wire, there was only one place he turned to for help…

26th-Feb-2008 10:24 pm (UTC)
This is well-written, but I kind of have an issue with you bending the rules of the world. There is no Western side of the Avatar world. There are just the four nations. I also feel like I've been preached at, that you take issue with the mythos of the Avatar universe, and are trying to bend the rules. Just my personal opinion.
26th-Feb-2008 10:37 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow. Well, I don't, but I did feel sorry for Yue, like she got a bad deal.
27th-Feb-2008 02:11 am (UTC)
would it be too much trouble to ask you to post your story with the correct format? It's in the profile.

Thank you ^_^
27th-Feb-2008 02:48 am (UTC)
Sorry. Done. But for some reason, whenever I try to make my username a "LJ username," it messes up the entire entry (everything bolded, no line spaces, some code visible...).
27th-Feb-2008 03:15 am (UTC)
wow, that's really strange...don't know why that's happening.

thank you for using the format though, as best as you could ^^
28th-Feb-2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
Are you using the correct code? A broken tag might be the cause of that. It should be <*lj username="your name"*> without the asterisks. No closing tag.
28th-Feb-2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
Hm... I agree with kittypryde87. I kind of resent the introduction of Christianity into the Avatar world. The cosmology of Avatar is so set that while it might be possible to bring in differing belief systems without making it heavy-handed and preachy, I think it would be difficult. I would be much more interested, if you really have to bring in the Christian tone at all, to see you blend it more closely with the existing beliefs of the series. I mean, if you really need a Jesus figure, Aang/the Avatar himself works as well as anybody else.

In short, people read fanfiction for a story, not a sermon.

I'm also really questioning the whole idea of Sokka being involved in this philosophical debate. From what we've seen Sokka is a very down-to-earth guy, trusting much more on science and reality than anything else. Thus, he blames himself for his inability to protect Yue; I don't think he'd be inclined to blame the spirits, one way or another, or to try and call on another, unknown spirit for help. For Sokka, the solution to "the spirits did something terrible" is not, I think, "we should've called on a better spirit," but "we should have found a solution that didn't involve spirits at all."

After all, even when he was stuck in Bitter Work, he tried everything possible to find a physical, real solution, before turning to a spirit (and even that was mostly in jest), and in the end it was Toph and no one else who saved him.

Now, on to the nitpicky bits about the writing. There aren't that many of these.
-but Sokka heard it loud and clear all the same. He was thinking the same thing./but the chief heard it loud and clear.
Redundant phrasing here. Try not to ever repeat the same word or phrase too often, and never so close together.

-When it truly came down to the wire, there was only one place he turned to for help…
I think it's rather bad form to end on an ellipse like that. You could do just as well with a period, really.

Overall: a decent fic, but you could've been more subtle than a fic which essentially reads "spirits bad, God good", and I would be more careful about characterization in the future; Sokka's written fairly well, but I'm still not convinced he'd debate this at all.
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