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Heart of the Wounded - Chapter 13

“Oh, come on. Why won’t you let us have one?” Wolf shouted. They had left Ba Sing Sei with a decent threat to the gate watcher’s life and made it to the place Wolf’s friend owned. The shipwright was having a fit.

“What did you do with the last one I lent you?” Wolf opened his mouth to answer, but the shipwright over rode him. “You probably crashed it, knowing you.”

“Actually, I left it on shore about ten miles down that way.”

“How irresponsible of you! You said you would take care of it and return it to me when you got back. You lied to me.”

“Well, stuff happened, and it just didn’t work out that way.”

“You could have hauled it here.”

“Yeah, that would work,” Wolf replied sarcastically, rolling his eyes. This conversation was putting him in a bad mood, and he was close to just pummeling his long time acquaintance. “Look, you know big men. Just send some of those sailor types. It’s their job to do things like that.”

“You know how much I have to pay them to do that?”

“Nothing? If they want to rent your ships, they better do a little work for it. How many other shipwrights work around here?”

“I would have to pay them…nothing?” The man had stopped, Wolf’s words finally sinking in. He turned to face Wolf. “You are a sneaky one.”

“I have my moments.”

“How big of a ship are we talking about?”

“Big enough for the four of us to go a long way.”

“How far are you planning on going?”

“Out to the Northern Water Tribe.”

“You had better make it worth my while.”

“I’ll see what I can dredge up.”

“Yeah, yeah. You always say that,” the shipwright complained, motioning Wolf to follow.

Wolf obeyed the command, the other three close behind. “Some day, I will. I have a feeling about it.”

“I don’t like those feelings you have.” The shipwright led the group to his docks. There were three ships in the harbor, all looking in pretty bad shape. “I’m working on two of those. I was thinking about scrapping the last one, but it is the only one that’ll float out at sea. It should be about what you are looking for.”

Wolf and his group looked at the ship warily. “You sure it’ll float?”

“Yes.”

Wolf gave the boat a skeptical look.

“Who’s the shipwright here?”

“You are.”

“I say it will float.”

“If it sinks, I’ll kill you.”

“If it sinks, you will probably drown. I don’t think you could kill me then.”

“I will haunt you as a ghost, then. I’ll drive you to die the same way I do.”

“If you drown. The ship won’t sink! If you have such qualms about taking it, wait till the end of this week. I have two ships scheduled to come in at that time, and you can pay me fifty gold pieces to take one of those out.”

The two glared at each other for a minute. Finally, they turned away. Wolf grumbled, “Fine, we’ll take that one.”

“Excellent choice. You have plenty of provisions, I presume.”

“Presume is just a fancy way of assume. You know what they say about assuming things?”

“Yes, and I will assume that means you have nothing.”

“We left in a hurry. It happens. I think we might be able to pay for the supplies.”

“We have twenty pieces left,” Jin inputted.

“It’ll be tough, but you can make it to the Tribes if you ration for that much.”

“We’ll make it. I just hope they won’t turn us away.”

“Why would they want to do that?” Iroh asked.

“Uh, no reason. It’s just…you know, a couple of Firebenders aren’t easily trusted and all…”

“I’ll go get your supplies. You guys can go check out the boat if you want,” the Shipwright broke through the argument that was sure to surface and went back inside.

“Shall we?” Wolf gestured to the rickety boat.

“If we must,” Iroh sighed.

The preparations were soon under way. In half an hour, the four refugees were ready to set sail for the Northern Water Tribe.

……………

The trip across the ocean was very boring. A day out at sea, they were unable to see any land on any side. The sun rose and set on a flat surface. Jin found herself seasick and spent her time at the bow of the boat, puking up anything she ate. Wolf discovered another disadvantage to his handicap, it was hard to walk on a rocking boat. He spent his time below decks. Iroh and Zuko were the only ones able to do much, but there was little to be done, except get meals ready.

Zuko was leaning on the rail with Jin, trying to make her feel a little better. They had been sailing for four days, and were probably half way to their destination. Iroh came up from below and walked up behind the two.

“Wolf wants to have a serious conversation with you, Zuko,” Iroh said.

“Wolf can have a serious conversation? That’s news,” Jin replied sarcastically.

“He can when he wants too. It is rare, but it does happen. He has decided to have one right now, so I would not keep him waiting.”

“That’s true,” Zuko decided. He pushed off the railing and strode across the deck to the hatchway that led down below to the lodging quarter. It was dark, and Zuko had to wait for his eyes to readjust before pressing down the small hall to the door at the end. He knocked twice before entering. “You wanted to talk to me?” Zuko asked quietly.

Wolf stood in the back of the room. A pair of candles, one on either wall between the two, lit the completely dark room enough to see. Wolf smiled slightly. “How are things holding up above deck?”

“Well enough. Jin’s still sick.”

“How are you doing?”

“Fine.”

“Glad to hear.”

Wolf fell into silence. Zuko respected it for a while, thinking. Wolf won’t talk unless I ask. If I don’t ask soon, the mood might pass, the fallen prince finally decided. “Uncle said you wanted to talk to me about something important.”

Wolf looked away. “Yeah, I did.”

“About what?”

“Remember when you asked about the mark your father left on me? Well…I figured that…after the last incident, you’re starting to become a real wolf. So, do you still want to know?”

Zuko nodded his head. “Yes.”

Wolf sighed and turned. He leaned the stick he was still using as support against the wall, then loosened the cloth around his waist and let the top half of his kimono fall down around his waist.

Zuko drew a sharp intake of breath at the sight of the long scars. But those where nothing to the flower with six petals. It held Zuko transfixed, filling with different emotions. He wanted to run, and he wanted to fight.

Wolf glanced over his shoulder at Zuko. “Such a pretty sight, isn’t it?” he asked sarcastically.

Those words drew Zuko out of his thoughts. “Aconite. Beware, a deadly foe is near. That’s what it means, right?”

Wolf slid his kimono back on and turned to face Zuko. “Yes.”

Zuko swallowed. Wolf had told him that before, but he hadn’t really believed it. It seemed impossible that Wolf would be someone like that. “Those other scars…Where did they come from?”

“Another gift from Ozai. Didn’t need to see those, then or now.”

Zuko remembered trying to get a look at them, the first time he had really met Wolf.

“What are your thoughts, Zuko?” Wolf asked quietly.

“I need time to think.”

“That’s all right. You don’t have to tell me. That’s all I wanted to do.”

Zuko walked to the door and stopped with it half-open. “Thanks for trusting me Wolf.” Then, he left. Zuko headed for the deck. He went back to where he had been earlier, right next to Jin.

“So, what was that about?” Jin asked.

Iroh was sitting on the other side of Jin. He decided to keep quiet.

“It’s private,” Zuko mumbled.

Jin glanced at him, then looked skyward. “I saw it once. That mark. I wasn’t supposed to, it was an accident, but I did. Wolf doesn’t know. I thought it would be better if I didn’t say anything. That flower almost made it feel like Wolf’s a different person. I don’t know what it means, but it just felt…weird looking at it. I was…almost scared, but I felt proud too. I think that flower would be a good symbol for the resistance. It could inspire awe and fear in one instant. But again, I haven’t mentioned it to Wolf. I think he hates it. I think it’s embarrassing for him. Maybe he’s ashamed he was ever a fire bender, or something. I don’t know.”

“Maybe you’re thinking too much.”

“Yeah, but I think I feel better. No, never mind.” Jin lowered her head, looking at the horizon.

“How did you know that I saw it?”

Jin smiled slightly. “I saw the emotional confusion in your eyes. I think that’s how mine would have looked.”

“Oh.”

And they fell into silence.

……………

The rest of the trip was uneventful. The group finally started seeing ice bergs. This got Wolf back on deck. A day later, they saw the wall of the Northern Water Tribe. It was a large, wide spread area made entirely of ice. A simple etching of the water element marked a center. The small boat approached the gate.

……………

……………

Chapter 13 – END

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