Long ago, in the early days of the Chun Tai era, Avatar Korra helped the six nations of our world find a new balance among themselves. The world of Dìqiú entered a peaceful age of invention and discovery... but then everything changed once more when we discovered the world beyond the Veil.
Now, in the new galactic age, it has become the Avatar's duty to seek balance between her homeworld and the universe beyond... and it is in her nature to seek out new friends along the way.
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited
Magnetic Terrapin Studios
Undocumented Features Future Imperfect
The Legacy of Korra, Book 6: Galaxy
Three Views of Dìqiú
Benjamin D. Hutchins
Legacy devised by
Philip Jeremy Moyer
© 2013, 2014 Eyrie Productions, Unlimited
I: The Great Sky Bison Hijack of 2397
Xinqiyi, Siyue 15, 278 ASC
Monday, April 14, 2397
Corwin's Age: 5
13 years before his wedding to Utena Tenjou
Air Temple Island, Republic City, Dìqiú
Corwin Ravenhair loved the infrequent occasions when he and Nall got to visit the curious otherworld called Dìqiú. Everything about going there was terrific as far as he was concerned. Visiting Saikyo, the bustling and cheerfully retro capital of Zipang, would've been a grand day out all on its own, but then there was a long ride on the luxurious, wonderfully old-fashioned sleeper train that ran across the Veil from Zipang to Dìqiú, and thence across the vast and scenic expanse of the Earth Kingdom to Republic City. There was Republic City itself, Corwin's second or third favorite city depending on his mood when asked. There was the Air Temple, on whose precincts he and his boon companion had already made several firm friends in their two previous visits. And of course there was the Avatar, who was - just possibly - the awesomest grown-up in the history of ever.
Sure, his parents and Korra always seemed to have important stuff to do whenever the former came here, usually involving the vaguely scary old lady who seemed to run the Air Temple; but on the previous two occasions, there had been fun to have while they were otherwise engaged. If nothing else, watching Lhakpa pursue Nall around the island was always fun for Corwin, anyway. He wasn't sure about Nall.
This time, though, most of the Air Nomads appeared to be out... nomading? Was that a word? It was now, he decided. The only people around seemed to be Acolytes, and they were already firmly established in Corwin's mind as not very much fun. Too serious. Too busy doing incomprehensible things like sweeping rock gardens with brooms. Why would a person sweep gravel? To what conceivable purpose?
"This bites," Nall remarked from his shoulder as Corwin wandered the island, looking for something, anything, to do, and/or anyone to do it with.
"No kidding," Corwin agreed. "We should've asked Dad to bring Len or Kate along. Then we'd at least have enough people for - " He paused, tilting his head. "What was that?"
"Search me," Nall replied.
"It came from that cave," said Corwin, pointing. "Let's check it out."
"It looks dark in there," said Nall dubiously. "We might be eaten by a grue."
"Don't be dumb. They don't have grues on Air Temple Island," Corwin scoffed. As they entered the cave, their day-adjusted eyes (for it was a bright and sunny day in Yue Bay) momentarily saw nothing but darkness. Somewhere in the gloom, something snuffled, then growled.
"Oh, man, I told you there were grues," said Nall. "Let's get outta - "
Another growl, nearer this time, cut him off, and before Corwin could react further, a huge shape loomed out of the shadows, standing over him.
"Grormph," it said, and then licked him with an enormous tongue, knocking him to the ground.
"I don't think this is a grue," Corwin mused, wiping at his face with a sleeve. Getting to his feet, he backed toward the cave entrance and out into the daylight. The shape followed, and as it emerged from the cave, he and Nall saw that it was a sky bison, one of the giant flying animals the Air Nomads used for transportation.
"Oh hey," said Nall. "He's got his reins on and everything."
Corwin looked closer, and sure enough, the bison had a leather strap attached to his two horns, with enough slack in it for a rider sitting on the beast's head to use it as a set of reins. Corwin had seen it done on his last visit, when one of the fun old airbenders (as opposed to the scary one) had given them a ride on one - possibly this very one. Corwin wasn't sure about that. They all had the same markings, some brown stripes on cream fur and a big brown arrow on their heads like the tattoos the airbenders had, and he had so far not figured out any way of telling them apart.
"He seems like he wants something," Corwin said as the bison lumbered out of the cave toward him, whuffling amiably.
"Maybe he's as bored as we are and wants to go for a ride," said Nall.
Corwin glanced at him. "I think we'd probably get in trouble for that."
"Who's gonna know?" Nall wondered. "Everybody's either gone or talking to Scary Lady. We could just go for a couple of laps around the island and come right back."
"You can fly," Corwin said. "You could do that anytime you want."
"Sure, but you usually can't come with," Nall reasoned. "You get a chance to see the world from my point of view, I get to stretch my wings a little, our friend here gets out of the cave for a while... everybody wins!"
Corwin considered this. Nall had a point, and operating the bison had looked easy. All you had to do, as far as he could tell, was say the special word and steer like you were on a horse. The bison did the rest.
"... OK," he said. Approaching the bison with empty hands open at his sides, he said, "Are you cool with that? I mean, 'cause if you're not, you're huge and we don't have to go... "
"Hraaumph," the bison replied, licking him again.
"I guess I'll take that as a yes," Corwin said, climbing to his feet once more. He considered his route for a moment, then took hold of a handful of the bison's dense fur and began to climb. It made no attempt to discourage him from this course of action, so he made his way up to the spot on the back of its great head where Master Ikki had sat last time, took hold of the reins, gave them a little shake, and said,
"Uh... yip yip?"
"Ghromph," the bison replied, then took two or three loping six-legged strides and lunged into the air.
"Woo hoo!" Corwin cried as they cleared the island and soared out over the bay.
"Yeah!" said Nall. Springing from Corwin's shoulder, he unfurled his wings and leaned into the slipstream, keeping station alongside with lazy wingbeats. "Now that's what I'm talkin' about!"
Corwin tried an experimental turn, being very gentle with the reins; he had no idea how sensitive a sky bison's horns were. The answer turned out to be "not very", and only by leaning into it a bit could he apply enough pressure to interest their mount in changing course. Before long, he got the hang of it, he and the creature falling into a rapport, and they were describing leisurely figure eights above the bay, first heading upward to chase the fluffy springtime clouds, then cruising low over the wavetops.
This was easy, and it was also quite good fun. Good enough that Corwin rather lost track of time, and indeed everything else, until he suddenly caught motion out of the corner of his eye, turned his head, and saw Korra pacing them on one of those kite-like gliders the airbenders used.
"Hey, kiddo," she said pleasantly. "I see you guys found a way to kill some time."
"Uh we that is it was Nall's idea," Corwin blurted, his face incandescent.
"Oi!" Nall objected, then peeled off and headed back to base.
"You seem to have flying pretty well figured out," Korra went on, still smiling, "but Master Jinora asked me to tell you that she thinks the herd's had enough exercise for today."
Corwin blinked at her, confused. As much as she could without disrupting the delicate balance of her glider, Korra gestured back behind them with her head. Corwin looked, banking the bison slightly to the left in the process so that he could see back past its bulky shoulder - and saw, to his simultaneous horror and delight, that they were being pursued by a V of six smaller, riderless bison, all doggedly keeping formation through their various maneuvers.
"Aw jeez," he muttered, turning the bison for home.
On the ground, he found his parents and the two elderly airbender ladies - the scary one and the fun one - all waiting for him. He vaguely wondered if it was actually possible to die of getting caught doing something you should've known better than to do - not by being killed by the grown-ups, just spontaneously. If it was, he figured he was about to.
"I can't take you anywhere," Skuld remarked, arms folded.
"It's not my fault," Corwin protested as Korra landed next to his father, collapsing her glider staff with a whirling flourish that he would normally have found distractingly neat.
"How do you figure?" asked Gryphon, sounding actually curious rather than sarcastic.
"Well... if they don't want people to be able to do that," Corwin observed after a few moments' thought, "then 'yip yip' is unforgivably weak encryption."
All five adults stared at him for a second. Skuld was the first to crack, her severe expression fracturing along familiar faultlines as her eyes twinkled and she began failing to suppress giggles. Korra went next, leaning against Gryphon's shoulder and not bothering to suppress hers. Master Ikki burst out with a great rolling laugh that seemed like it should've come from a much younger, somewhat larger woman. Gryphon snorted, chuckled, then gave up and laughed, head back, one arm around Korra, the other Skuld. Even scary old Master Jinora produced a faint smile, the first Corwin had ever seen on her usually frowny face.
Then the bison came up behind him and knocked him down with a lick again, causing a fresh spasm of laughter from all the adults (even Jinora, a little).
"Maja, you shameless hussy," Ikki chided the bison, rubbing the middle of the creature's arrow briskly.
"Well, sport, looks like you've made a friend," said Skuld, offering a hand to help her son get to his feet. He had just enough time to get used to being back upright when he was promptly bowled over again, this time by one of the juvenile sky bison whom he'd unwittingly led on an aerial parade. "Or two," Skuld added.
Nall darted past, pursued by a couple of the island's flying lemurs. "Hellllllp!"
II: The Holiday Spirit
Xinqiliu, Shieryue 29, 282 ASC
Saturday, December 29, 2401
Corwin's Age: 10
9 years before his wedding
The South Pole, Dìqiú
There was, Corwin reflected, no justice in the universe. If there was, there would be no way, no way at all, that he would spend the entire year in perfect, robust, even rude good health, log a terrific Christmas in Republic City, score an invitation to come back with Korra to her place at the South Pole (the South Pole!) for a few days thereafter... and come down with the Antarean death flu on the way down.
All right, it probably wasn't the Antarean death flu, it was most likely just the regular kind. And it wasn't even really that bad a case. He felt achey and run down, but the epic sore throat had lasted only for the first couple of hours and the cough wasn't bad at all. He didn't think he was sick enough that he'd even have stayed home from school, and between her ancestral mastery of the waterbender's healing arts and her mother's chickenshark soup recipe, Korra was confident that she'd be able to set him entirely right in a day or so.
That was still a day, an entire precious day - one out of only five available! - stuck inside when he should've been out exploring. He liked Korra's little house, which she'd inherited from her parents and which was the only home she claimed as her own, but not so much that he was pleased about being cooped up in it for a full 20 percent of his time at the South Pole. Who goes to a place like that and then stays indoors?
He'd tried not to whine about that out loud too much - he'd recently come to the conclusion that he was too old for such activities to be compatible with his dignity - but by Grand-dad, it was a trial at times like this.
Worse, now Korra was on the Lens with his father, conducting her end of the conversation out loud so that Corwin would know she was doing it, and she was promising Gryphon on her honor as the Avatar, a Lensman, and a member of the Grave Feminine Conspiracy that she would not allow his son to leave the building while he remained ill. There was no way he was going to talk her around a promise that carefully worded. Pointless to even try. Even Nall, the greatest rules lawyer in the world, wouldn't have tried the seams of that one, and besides, he was back in Alfheim doing the Family Obligations thing.
Corwin sighed, which turned into a cough, as Korra finished up her conversation with Gryphon, assuring him once more, "It's fine, really. Not a problem at all. We'll find something fun to do inside until he's well. Don't worry about a thing. OK. Yeah. You too. Later." Then she lowered her wrist (though it wasn't as if the Lens was a comlink you had to talk into), turned, and smiled at Corwin, ignoring his accusing expression.
"There. That's your dad placated," she said, then sat down on the edge of his bed (actually her bed, she only had the one), patted one of his hands atop the bedspread, and said cheerfully, "What do you say we get out of here and do something fun?"
Corwin raised an eyebrow at her. "You told Dad we wouldn't go outside."
Korra's smile became a little bit sly. "And we won't."
"Uh... " said Corwin.
"Sit up a little," she said, rising to arrange pillows behind him. He did as instructed, raising himself up so that he could fold his legs. Satisfied, Korra climbed up onto the foot end of the bed so she could sit facing him, then took his hands. "Close your eyes," she said. Puzzled, he did so. "Remember you told me about how Aeryn taught you to clear your mind?" He nodded. "Do that if you can. Just go blank... let what happens next happen."
Corwin did as instructed, to the best of his ability. The slightly spacey feeling caused by his mild fever actually helped, enabling him to detach his thoughts from anything that might normally have anchored them and let them subside to a low, semiconscious susurrus.
After a few moments, he became aware of new sensations. It had gotten cooler in the room, and there was a faint scent of... was that incense? Sandalwood, maybe? It was there and gone in an instant, so that he wasn't sure if he'd really smelled it, or just remembered it. He thought he heard something as well - strange, fleeting impressions of distant voices, as he often "heard" (and knew he was not really hearing) as he was falling asleep.
"OK," said Korra. "Have a look."
Corwin opened his eyes -
- and they weren't in Korra's snug little bedroom any more. It was colder because they were outside, sitting face-to-face in a snowbank. The sky above was a vivid Technicolor arch, the velvet blue-black of night almost completely obscured by the most spectacular aurora Corwin had ever seen; it even topped the nightly color shows in Valhalla. Corwin gasped, his breath forming a visible puff in the space between them.
"We're outside," he said. "How can we be outside? Where'd your house go?" His brow furrowed thoughtfully. "And how can it be nighttime? It's December. It's never nighttime at the South Pole in December."
Smiling, Korra got to her feet and used his hand to lever him upright as well. "The house is right where it's always been, and we're still in it. I promised your father we wouldn't go outside."
"But then - ... " Corwin's eyes went wide. "This is the Spirit World!"
Korra's smile became a grin. "Sure is. What do you think?"
Corwin looked around. They were in a snowy plain, not unlike the one just outside her ancestral village. There was even a cliff off to the... south? Who knew... that looked about the same; but everything was slightly different, slightly more vivid, as though this place were somehow realer than real. And the sky...
"Amazing," he murmured. Then he blinked as another new sensation registered on his consciousness. "I don't feel sick any more," he said.
"That's because your spirit isn't sick - only your body," Korra explained. She held out a hand, and he noticed that she was wearing furry outdoor clothes like the ones he'd seen her in several times in the real world, including those mittens that had separate index fingers. So, he realized as he took her hand, was he. Glancing down at himself, he saw that he was kitted out like a Water Tribe boy, parka and all.
"C'mon," said Korra, "there's someone I want you to meet."
They walked to, then around, the end of a chain of craggy hills that formed a natural wall around the plain where the village stood. Here the snowpacked land planed sharply away, down to a series of rolling hills and, eventually, to a seashore that was only visible as a hazy theoretical possibility on the horizon. Korra looked around, then let go of Corwin's hand to cup her own around her mouth and shout,
For a moment there was no response other than the echo of her voice in the middle distance; then the snow nearby rustled and another figure sat up, blinking owlishly. He sprang to his feet, the snow sloughing away from him as if pushed by some invisible force, and shook the last vestiges of it from his clothes. He was a boy of about Corwin's age, maybe a little older, slim and nimble, dressed in the distinctive garb of an Air Nomad monk - and, Corwin saw, he sported the tattoos of a master airbender, despite his youth.
"You're supposed to look for me, not just yell," the boy monk chided Korra with a grin. "Is this him?"
Korra nodded. "It sure is," she said. "Corwin, I want you to meet an old friend of mine. This is Aang - he's the Avatar before me. Aang: Corwin Ravenhair of Asgard."
"Hi!" said Aang, putting fist against upraised hand and bowing. "Great to finally meet you."
Corwin gave the boy a puzzled look. "Why are you a kid?" he wondered.
Aang shrugged. "I liked being a kid. It's when I had most of my best adventures," he said. "Met my best friends; got a handle on what it really meant to be Avatar; saved the world. Sometimes I revisit those days. It's like putting on favorite clothes you haven't worn for a long time. When Korra said she wanted me to meet you, I figured, why not?" Then, grinning broadly, he said, "Hey, you wanna go penguin sledding with me?"
"Sure," said Corwin automatically, and then, "What's that?"
"Here," said Aang, tossing him a small fish. "You'll find out. Korra, you coming?"
Korra grinned. "You bet."
III: Welcome to Republic City
Xinqisan, Qiyue 7, 285 ASC
Wednesday, July 7, 2404
Corwin's age: 13
6 years before his wedding
Republic City, Dìqiú
Plus side: At large in Republic City.
Minus side: Least fun chaperone ever.
Those were the conclusions Corwin and Nall had reached by mid-afternoon. They'd done the Pro Bending Hall of Fame and the Republic Art Museum, there were still yuans enough for a good dinner rattling around in Corwin's pocket, and they weren't due back on Air Temple Island until the 7:45 ferry, so there was still time to put a suitable capstone on a great day out, if they could think of one - and if they could shake off their grumpy-faced shadow, because there seemed to be no good way of getting her on side.
His aunts and uncles knew Corwin had tried to make friends with her. She wasn't that much older than he was - no more than a year - and he suspected they'd have plenty of common interests if she'd just talk to him a little, but so far, no dice. She'd been assigned responsibility for his safety by the Avatar herself and that, as far as the youngest field-rated member of the Kyoshi Warriors was concerned, was that. She wouldn't even let him cross the street without she went ahead of him to stop traffic with her golden fans and her fierce painted-face glare, and she seemed to regard attempts at conversation as little more than unwelcome distractions.
"Well, look at it this way," Nall murmured in his ear. "She's not trying to harsh our mellow."
"No, but she's doing a good job of it anyway," Corwin grumbled. "I mean, how am I supposed to enjoy my day out with that hovering in the background? If she'd just talk to us."
"Yeah, it's a shame," Nall agreed. "She's cute. Or she would be if she wanted."
Corwin eyed him. "That wasn't my point, but whatever," he said.
Contrary to many of his friends' beliefs, Corwin was not ignorant of feminine beauty. He'd spent enough of his life surrounded by it that he could recognize it easily, and on some levels he suspected he appreciated it more than many of his contemporaries. It was just that - possibly for the same reason - he didn't find it distracting, or even particularly relevant a lot of the time. He judged girls as potential companions (as opposed to artworks) by the same criteria he applied to boys. Most importantly, they had to be fun. Korra was fun. Lhakpa was fun (even if Nall wasn't always sure he agreed). Heck, old Master Ikki was fun. So far, Maki of the Kyoshi Warriors wasn't, and Corwin didn't really give a damn if she was cute or not.
Suddenly, halfway across a footbridge spanning one of Republic City's main railway lines, Corwin halted as a realization struck him. It was so blindingly obvious he felt stupid for not thinking of it before. Turning, he regarded the green-clad figure, who had stopped as he did and now stood her usual pace or two away, regarding him with a blank expression rendered faintly hostile by her makeup. In the distance, a train whistle howled.
"You've never been to the city before," he said.
Maki blinked at him. "No," she replied before she could stop herself.
"And Nall and I have been dragging you all over it today," he said, "without even taking the time to show you any of it." He looked to his right, making eye contact with the little dragon, then back at her. "I'm sorry. That was unforgivably rude of us."
"You're not expected to entertain me," Maki said flatly. "I'm here to carry out the assignment the Avatar gave me, not enjoy myself."
The train they'd heard a few moments before started passing below them, its wheels clack-clacking rhythmically over a joint in the rails just beneath the bridge.
"That's just it, though," said Corwin. "If Nall and I had been thinking, you could've been doing both this whole time. But," he added cheerfully, "it's not too late. Follow me!"
"What - " Maki began, but then, to her unmitigated horror, the young man turned, put a hand on the stone handrail of the bridge, vaulted it, and dropped out of sight. With a cry, Maki rushed to the rail and looked down.
Grinning widely, Corwin gave her a jaunty salute from the roof of the boxcar just emerging from under the bridge.
"What," said Maki disbelievingly.
Don't let him out of your sight, the Avatar had told her.
So she didn't.
She hit the roof of the next boxcar back, rolling with the impact, and came nimbly to her feet, arms out for balance. Still grinning, Corwin made a "c'mon with me" gesture and ran forward, jumping the gap between the car he'd landed on and the previous one in the train.
Teeth gritted, Maki gave chase, leaping from car to car without regard for the hazards (which, in all honesty, were fairly minimal to someone with her training). She caught up with him three cars from the front, seized him by the shoulder that didn't have the dragon on it, spun him around, and shouted into his face,
"What in the name of all the spirits do you think you're doing?!"
"It's called train surfing," Corwin replied cheerfully. Then he faced front again, knees bent, constantly moving a little to counterbalance the motion of the train beneath him.
"This is insane!" Maki protested, her hand still on his shoulder.
Nall grinned, leaning forward into the slipstream with his eyes squeezed blissfully shut. "I think she's catching on!" he quipped.
"Republic City ordinance number 492 subsection 12 paragraph 3A mandates a minimum vertical clearance of 66 inches above standard car height for all surface rail lines," Corwin replied. "I'm five-foot-two and you're no taller. As long as we keep our wits about us, it's perfectly safe!"
"You'll get yourself killed!" Maki insisted. "And I only hope you manage to take me with you, because if my first act as a fully qualified Kyoshi Warrior is to fail so completely at a task given to me personally by the Avatar, I'll have disgraced my entire family!"
Seeing that she was genuinely distressed about this possibility - more so than about possibly getting killed herself - Corwin eased back a step so that he was next to her, reached out, and took her hand. She tugged at it, trying to get it away from him, but his grip was stronger than he looked like it ought to be, and she wouldn't have been able to dislodge him without resorting to maneuvers that would not be advisable on top of a speeding train. She glared at him, the expression exaggerated by her facepaint so that she looked faintly demonic in her fury.
"Relax, Maki," he said, smiling gently. "I'm not gonna let anything happen to you."
In that moment, looking into his ice-blue eyes, Maki felt something change. For no reason she could rationally identify, she believed him, on a level at which she wasn't sure she'd really believed anyone before. She was a strong young woman, a fully (if only newly) qualified warrior who had earned the green and black tactical uniform, the vivid facepaint, and the golden medallion she wore, and she was not accustomed to accepting or even desiring the protection of boys or men... but he wasn't talking about protecting her in that sense. He knew she could keep herself in one piece up here without his patronage. He was just telling her he wasn't going to let her fail in her mission.
This was a young man who would go anywhere, dare anything, to keep a promise. Maki had no idea how she could be so certain of that, but she was. And he'd just made her one. She felt herself relax, release her fear, and glide fully into the moment, enjoying the train's slipstream rushing through her hair, seeing the city unfold around them from a vantage point few ever enjoyed...
... And falling just-ever-so-slightly in love.
"Hey, welcome back, you three," said Korra as Corwin and Maki stepped off the ferry onto the Air Temple Island dock. "How'd your day go? Do anything fun?"
Corwin grinned. "Oh, y'know... just the usual stuff."
"Hall of Fame, Art Museum, noodles at Narook's," Nall put in.
Corwin tilted his head toward Maki. "Mostly we just showed the new girl around town."
"Oh yeah? What'd you think?" Korra asked Maki. "Are they good tour guides?"
Maki smiled slightly. "I couldn't have asked for better, Avatar," she replied.
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited
Magnetic Terrapin Studios
Undocumented Features Future Imperfect
The Legacy of Korra, Book 6: Galaxy
Three Views of Dìqiú
Benjamin D. Hutchins
Legacy devised by
Philip Jeremy Moyer
Korra created by
Michael Dante DiMartino
and Bryan Konietzko
E P U (colour) 2014