A sand storm formed within the vicinities of the former library's position. Everyone looked into the desert for Appa. Calling his name too. Toph stood around, waiting for signs of Appa's vibrations. The once cheerful atmosphere was gone due to the loss of a friend. Appa.
"How could you let them take Appa?! Why didn't you stop them?!" Aang shouted at Toph.
"I couldn't! The library was sinking! You guys were still inside and-!" Toph said in defense but was cut off.
"You could've come to get us!" Aang shouted.
"I can hardly feel any vibrations out here! The Sandbenders snuck up on me and there wasn't time for–!" Toph argued.
"You just didn't care! You never liked Appa! You wanted him gone!" Aang spat, losing control of his emotions.
Katara came over and put a hand on Aang's shoulder, hoping to reassure him.
"Aang, stop it. You know Toph did all she could. She saved our lives." Katara said.
"Who's going to save our lives now? We'll never make it out of here." Sokka said.
"Dang it!" Deidara griped in annoyance as he checked his clay pouches, "That stupid owl made me waste the majority of the clay I had left! I don't have enough to make enough birds for us to ride out of this desert! I am so happy I stole that book on how to make clay! The scoundrel of an owl deserves it!"
Aang walked away in irritation.
"That's all any of you guys care about, yourselves! You don't care whether Appa is okay or not!" Aang said.
"We're all concerned, but we can't afford to be fighting now." Katara said.
"I'm going after Appa." Aang stated and flew away on his glider.
"Aang, wait!" Katara called out but Aang had already left, "We'd better start walking. We're the only people who know about the solar eclipse. We have to get that information to Ba Sing Se."
Everyone who was left began walking in the direction Aang flew off in.
"You think if we dig out the giant owl, he'll give us a ride?" Sokka asked.
"I doubt it, hm." Deidara said.
A few hours later...
Once more the unforgiving desert was taking it's anger out on Deidara. This time it was on full blast. Without his bird to keep him at higher altitudes, he felt even worse than before. Everyone around him was suffering the same effects. Toph was wobbling a bit, possibly a minor case of heat exhaustion. Sokka was getting a bit irritable as the sun siphoned his cheery tune. Katara was struggling to keep everyone together and keeping everyone from killing each other.
Toph crashed into Sokka. The sweat that was on their clothes stuck them together.
"Can't you watch where you're..." Sokka said then realized who he was talking to.
"No." Toph said blandly.
"Right. Sorry." Sokka said.
Katara turned around, her cheeks pink from the oven like heat.
"Come on guys, we've got to stick together." Katara said.
"If I sweat anymore, I don't think sticking together will be a problem." Sokka griped as he tried to free himself from Toph's sweaty clothes.
Toph knocked Sokka over in irritation, effectively separating them from each other.
"Katara, can I have some more water?" Toph asked.
"Okay, but we've got to try to conserve it." Katara said and grabbed her Waterbending pouch.
Four blobs of water came out of the pouch. Each one entered Toph, Momo, Sokka, and Deidara's mouth.
"We're drinking your bending water." Sokka said.
It didn't take long for Sokka to gripe about the taste and for Deidara to start gagging on the awful taste.
"YOU USED THIS ON THE SWAMP GUYS! UUUURRRRCCCH!" Sokka shouted in disgust.
"GROSS!" Deidara gagged, trying to remove the nasty taste of sweaty swamp men from the tongue in his actual mouth with his shirt.
"It does taste swampy." Toph said as if it didn't really matter.
Momo made a cry of sad protest of the flavor of the water. Katara sadly closed her Waterbending pouch.
"I'm sorry, it's all we have." Katara said sadly.
"Not anymore! LOOK!" Sokka exclaimed.
Sokka had found a cactus and with Momo, rushed straight for it. He hacked off a padded leaf of the cactus plant and began happily slurping the fluids within the cactus with Momo.
"Sokka, wait! You shouldn't be eating strange plants!" Katara exclaimed as she dragged Toph along.
Sokka ignored Katara and grabbed one of the pads and held it out to Katara and Deidara.
"There's water trapped inside these!" Sokka exclaimed as if he hit the jack pot.
"I don't know..." Katara said.
"You don't even know if there's hallucinogens in the cactus juice, hm!" Deidara said, "Heck, it could have even been fermented by the heat!"
"Suit yourself. It's very thirst quenching though." Sokka said.
Sokka's eyes then dilated. He shook a bit and began to drool. Deidara backed away, wanting to keep his distance from the now drunk Sokka.
"Drink cactus juice! It'll quench ya! Nothing's quenchier!" Sokka said and begun to crawl all over the ground like a caterpillar and jumping into everyone's faces with a big stupid grin, "It's the quenchiest!"
Katara and Deidara gave him a look. Deidara's was more of a 'I told you so'.
"Okay, I think you had enough." Katara said taking Sokka's cactus juice and dumping it out.
"Who lit Toph on fire and why is Deidara a lady?" Sokka asked.
Deidara's eyebrows knitted together in annoyance, causing the sweat on his face to cascade a bit more.
'Great... Now he's stone drunk.' Deidara thought.
Sokka looked to the sky like he was in a catatonic state. Momo flew in rapid circles in the sky. He made a nose dive right into Deidara's head. He caught Momo and sighed.
"I'm gonna have to deal with this now, hm?" Deidara asked.
"Can I get some of that cactus juice?" Toph asked.
Katara placed a hand on Toph's shoulders as she grabbed Sokka and dragged him along.
"I don't think that's a good idea. Come on, we need to find Aang." Katara said.
Everyone began to walk. Sokka continued to look at the sky.
"How did we get in the middle of the ocean?" Sokka asked causing Deidara to groan and Katara to sigh.
Just before they had reached a kilometer from the cactus that Sokka and Momo had, a mushroom cloud formed in the far off distance. The wind from the mushroom cloud was immense. Everyone was lucky they weren't blown away.
"What is that?" Katara asked.
"What is what?" Toph asked.
Sokka stared at the mushroom cloud in awe. He staggered a few steps towards it. Momo leaped out of Deidara's arms and landed on Sokka's shoulder.
"It's a... Giant... Mushroom... MAYBE IT'S FRIENDLY!" Sokka said raising his arms into the air before lowering them.
Deidara face palmed. He muttered some incoherent words in annoyance to the idiotic phrase.
"Let's just keep moving. I hope Aang's okay..." Katara said.
Katara, Toph, and Deidara continued forward. Sokka raised his arms into the air, and with Momo hanging on for dear life, began waving his arms back and forth and side to side like a complete lunatic.
"FRIENDLY MUSHROOM! MUSHY GIANT FRIEND!" Sokka shouted in a deranged tone.
Deidara didn't need to be right next to Sokka to hear those words. He tried to restrain himself from blowing up the drunk idiot. Mainly because he barely had any clay left.
Aang flew over head of the weary group. He landed with a thud into the sand. Sokka, Katara, Toph, and Deidara stopped. Katara ran over to Aang.
"I'm sorry, Aang. I know it's hard for you right now, but... We need to focus on getting out of here." Katara said as she got closer to Aang and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"What's the difference? We won't survive without Appa. We all know it." Aang said.
"We may if we can keep from killing each other, hm..." Deidara said as he glared at Sokka and Momo.
"Katara, the sexy lady is staring at me!" Sokka said, "SHE MUST LOVE ME!"
Deidara's eye winced. He hated being mistaken for a girl.
'Don't kill him... Don't kill him...' Deidara chanted in his head.
Sokka came up to Deidara on one knee. He grasped the bomber's hand and looked Deidara into the eyes.
"Sexy lady... WILL YOU MARRY ME?!" Sokka slurred in his drunken state.
Deidara's face lost all color as his jaw dropped in shock and horror. After a short moment, his face then scrunched up darkly. That was it... The last straw...
"Sokka..." Deidara groaned in anger.
Sokka's face lit up like a light bulb. He smiled a big goofy grin.
"Yes, honey bun?" Sokka slurred.
"YOU'RE DEAD!" Deidara shouted.
"How?" Sokka questioned dumbly, "By kisses, beautiful?"
Deidara jumped into the air, landed on Sokka, and began strangling him.
"BY SUFFOCATION, HM!" Deidara shouted.
Katara quickly split the two apart. She restrained Deidara from killing her brother. Sokka merely fell over into the sand.
"COME ON! LET ME ROUGH HIM UP A BIT!" Deidara shouted as he fought Katara's tight grip.
"Enough you two! Stop it right now!" Katara said sternly as she let go of Deidara and pointed to a spot on the sand.
"Fine, hm..." Deidara mumbled and sat in that spot.
Katara returned her attention to Aang now that the fire was smothered.
"Come on, Aang. We can do this if we work together. Right Toph?" Katara said.
"As far as I can feel, we're trapped in a giant bowl of sand pudding. I got nothin'." Toph said kicking the sand.
"Sokka? Any ideas how to find Ba Sing Se?" Katara asked.
"Why don't we ask the circle birds?" Sokka asked pointing to the sky.
Deidara looked up, it was the giant wasps again. They were once more waiting for them to drop down dead. Katara also saw them. She observed everyone. Aang was sulking, Sokka was unable to function properly due to the cactus juice, the sand messed with Toph's seismic sense, and Deidara looked ready to kill anyone who dared to set off his temper. The desert was turning everyone against each other. Katara held her head in annoyance.
"Ugh... We're getting out of this desert, and we're going to do it together! Aang, get up. Everybody, hold hands. We can do this. We have to." Katara said.
She plucked Aang and Deidara off the ground. Aang latched on to Katara and Deidara's hands, Toph latched onto Deidara's other hand, and Sokka was being dragged along by Toph. Sokka, in a goofy manner, grasped Momo's tail as Momo lazily flew in the wrong direction. They all began walking once more, single filed holding hands.
This continued for a few hours. Dusk turned into night. The unforgiving heat eased out, leaving behind crisp and cool air. It was a sudden shift, but was welcomed by everyone with open arms. Everyone was exhausted from the consent moving and the energy stolen by the heat of the day.
"I think we should stop here for the night." Katara said as everyone slowed down.
"Katara, is there anymore water?" Toph asked.
"This is the last of it. Everyone can have a little drink." Katara said and bended out some water.
Momo took a face dive into the water, splashing the water everywhere. Deidara glared at the high lemur as the water splashed into the sand. Sokka fell to his knees.
"Momo, no! You've killed us all!" Sokka wailed theatrically.
"No, he didn't." Katara sighed and began to bend the water out of the sand and into her pouch.
"Oh right. Bending..." Sokka said.
Katara handed the pouch to Toph, who accepted the water.
'At least Shinobi were trained to be able to survive with little to no water and sleep.' Deidara thought sarcastically.
"Sokka, let me see the things you got from the library." Katara said.
Sokka in haste grabbed his bag and hugged it with an offended look.
"What?! I didn't steal anything! Who told you that?" Sokka shouted in defense before pointing an accusing finger at Momo, "It was you! You ratted me out!"
"Sokka. I was there.", Katara said and took the bag.
Katara rummaged through the bag. Indeed it was a gold mine of information. Stolen information. She eventually found what she was looking for. A star chart.
"It doesn't matter. None of those will tell us where Appa is." Aang said.
"No, but we can find out which way Ba Sing Se is. We can use the stars to guide us. That way we can travel at night when it's cool and rest during the day." Katara said and examined everyone, "Just try to get some sleep. We'll start again in a few hours."
Everyone complied to that and laid down in the sand. They all, minus Aang, drifted into dreamless sleep.
A few hours later, Katara got up. She walked to Sokka and began to nudge him awake.
"Come on, get up. We need to go." Katara said.
Toph sat up and smacks her lips.
"Yesterday my mouth tasted like mud. Now it just tastes like sand. I never thought I'd miss the taste of mud so much." Toph said.
Deidara got up, and rubbed his right eye to free it from the sand that traveled there. He removed the eye scope from his left eye to rub it as well. He put the eye scope back in it's spot once he was done rubbing.
Katara approached Aang to shake him awake. But that was not what happened.
"I'm awake. I couldn't sleep." Aang said.
"Well, we need to get moving if we want to get out of this sand pit." Katara said.
Both Aang and Katara looked to the sky. Something big and fluffy caught their attention.
"APPA!" Aang cried out happily just for the idea to become crushed.
"Appa? But why would Princess Yue need him? She's the moon!" Sokka said and grabbed Momo's tail to rub against his face, "She flies by herself!"
"That has to be the most senseless thing you have said since you got high on that cactus." Deidara stated dryly.
"It's just a cloud. Wait! A cloud!" Katara said and handed Aang her Waterbending pouch, "Here, fly up and bend the water from that cloud into my pouch."
Aang took the pouch with a mildly angry look. He opened his glider and took off towards the cloud. The cloud however was not giving him what Katara needed, thus only passed through it two times before it dissipated. He landed on the ground and gave the Waterbending pouch to Katara. She took a look in there to see how little was in there.
"Wow... There's hardly any in here." Katara said sadly.
"I'm sorry, okay! It's a desert cloud; I did all I could! What's anyone else doing?!" Aang lashed out and pointed his staff at Katara, shocking her, "What are you doing?!"
"Trying to keep everyone together." Katara said, "Let's just get moving. We need to head this direction."
Everyone began to travel once more. Before they knew it, Toph's foot struck something.
"Ow! Crud! I am so sick of not feeling where I'm going!" Toph shouted as she rubbed her foot and gestured to the offending object, "And what idiot buried a boat in the middle of the desert?"
"A boat?" Katara asked.
"You have to be kidding." Deidara said rubbing his temples.
"Believe me, I kicked it hard enough to feel plenty of vibrations." Toph groaned in irritation as Katara began to examine what Toph found.
Sokka swung himself like a string bean to see what Katara was doing. Katara rubbed the object in curiosity. It was made of wood. With a swing of his staff, Aang airbended the sand off the 'boat' to reveal a desert glider.
"It's one of the gliders the Sandbenders use! And look! It's got some kind of compass on it! I bet it can point us out of here! Aang, you can bend a breeze so we can sail it. We're going to make it!" Katara said.
No one failed to notice Sokka trying to bury Momo in the sand with a childish laugh. Deidara rolled his eyes at the stupidity.
"I think I lost a few intelligence points." Deidara muttered under his breath.
After sailing a few kilometers in the desert. Katara noticed something off about the compass.
"The needle on this compass doesn't seem to be pointing north according to my charts." Katara said.
"You're right. It seems to be pointing at something else instead of north." Deidara said examining it.
Sokka, who was on the edge of the sailer, held on to Momo's tail once more as the crazed lemur tried to fly away.
"Take it easy little ladies. I'm sure the sand folks who built this baby know how to get around here." Sokka said in a dreamy voice, annoying both Katara and Deidara.
"Sokka, even the most patient of mankind lose their patience. One more word and there will be no doubt about me kicking you off this glider." Deidara warned, trying to keep his head.
That got the drunken Sokka to shut up for once. Well sorta...
"Okay my friend!" Sokka said in a dreamy voice, "Let us fly to the land of milk and cookies, Sir Momo!"
Deidara turned around, scanning the desert with his eye scope. He blinked a bit when he saw something to make sure it wasn't a mirage. It was real.
"Katara, I see something up ahead." Deidara said.
Katara looked up to see what Deidara was talking about.
"That's what the compass is pointing to! That giant rock! It must be the magnetic center of the desert." Katara said.
Toph perked up in glee.
"A rock?! YES! LET'S GO!" Toph said excitedly, glad she would be able to see once more.
"Maybe we can find some water there!" Katara said with hope.
"Or maybe we can find some Sandbenders..." Aang said darkly.
The sun began to rise as they parked the glider at the base of the giant rock. Everyone climbed to the top on the natural walk way. Once at the top, Toph fell backwards and began making a rock angel.
"Ahhhh! Finally! Solid ground!" Toph said happily.
After that, everyone entered the cave that was at the rock. The walls of the cave were coated in a thick, yellow, slimy liquid. It dripped and oozed from the walls as if it were sweat. Sokka took a deep breath.
"I think my head is starting to clear out the cactus juice. And look!" Sokka said as he grabbed the yellow slime from the walls and munched on it, disgusting Deidara.
Sokka spat out the slime. He coughed and gagged as he tried to remove the foreign substance from his mouth.
"It tastes like rotten penguin meat! Awww I feel woozy." Sokka said and slumped over.
"Disgusting! You have no common sense do you, hm?" Deidara gagged.
"You've been hallucinating on cactus juice all day and then you just lick something you find stuck to the wall of a cave?!" Katara asked in extreme irritation.
"I have a natural curiosity." Sokka stated simply.
"Lucky for you that you're not thinking I am a girl who you want to marry, again." Deidara said in irritation.
"Wait... WHAT?! I did WHAT?!" Sokka asked in horror and looked away in disturbance, "Okay! Just, ew! That was the cactus juice talking! Not me!"
Toph felt the wall. A light buzzing vibration flew through the walls.
"I don't think this is a normal cave. This was carved by something." Toph said.
"Yeah... Look at the shape." Aang said noticing the hexagonal shape.
"There's something buzzing in here. Something that's coming for us!" Toph said.
Everyone dashed out of the cave screaming. The cave was really a hive. A hive for those giant wasps. The wasps flew out in large swarms. Aang pulled Toph to the ground as one flew over head. Aang blasted one wasp, sending it flying. Toph did a similar thing by using her Earthbending. She heard another wasp approach and used her Earthbending to launch a large boulder at it. Sokka unfortunetly was a hair away from being crushed by the boulder.
"What are you doing? That rock almost crushed me!" Sokka said.
"Sorry, I can't tell where they are in the air!" Toph said.
Another wasp came closer to them. Sokka pulled out his machete and ran forward without fear holding him back.
"I got this one!" Sokka shouted then unleashed a battle cry, swinging his machete wildly.
"Sokka! There's nothing there!" Katara said.
Sokka looked around. The wasp was only a figment of his imagination.
"I guess my head's not as clear as I thought." Sokka said sheepishly.
Deidara checked his clay pouches. He calculated how to use his clay effectively.
'Not enough clay to make a bird and take out every one of these things, but maybe if I can gather some wasps in one area I could take out several with one blow.' Deidara thought.
Deidara ran close to every single wasp he could, drawing their attention in various ways. He lead them all far from the group and stuck a hand into one of his near empty pouches. He made a misshaped figure out of the clay. The figure grabbed as many wasps as it could from the attracted wasps, trapping them. Deidara made another figure, and the second figure did the same thing as the first. Once all the wasps that Deidara lured were trapped, Deidara made a hand sign.
"Katsu!" Deidara said, blowing up the figures and the wasps.
He looked into his pouch and saw he was now out of clay.
'Dang it!', Deidara thought, 'I have to be careful now.'
"We have to get out of here! I'm completely out of water to bend!" Katara said.
A wasp flew past Deidara. Deidara jumped back. The wasp missed him, however Momo wasn't so lucky. The wasp plucked Momo from the sky and flew off. Aang was furious when he saw Momo being carried away by the wasp.
"Momo! I'm not losing anyone else out here." Aang said and took off after the wasp on his glider.
"Come on, we're going down." Katara said.
Everyone dashed down the ledge. Katara was guiding Toph so Toph could take out the wasps.
"Toph, shoot a rock right there. Fire!" Katara said.
Toph levitated a few boulders and launched them in the direction Katara told her, effectively taking out a wasp. Sokka cheered.
"Yeah! You got it! She got it, right ?" Sokka said.
"Yes, now let's move." Katara said.
One wasp got too close to Deidara. He punched the wasp into the dirt, killing it.
Aang sped after the wasp with Momo. Momo chattered for help. With a blast of air, Aang freed Momo. Momo flew with Aang once he regained altitude. Aang snapped his glider closed and with a swipe of air, sliced the wasp in half with airbending. Momo was startled by this merciless action, but nonetheless, returned to the rock with Aang after the deed had been done.
Katara continued to guide Toph and her Earthbending. The two making a perfect team in this dire situation.
"On your left." Katara said.
Toph launched several rocks to the left, beating the lights out of a wasp. May have been overkill if it weren't for the fact she was blind. Once everyone, including Aang and Momo, were back to the base of the rock, sand pillars formed and blasted the wasps away. Sandbenders. Deidara, Aang, Sokka, Toph, and Katara put up their guard, ready for whatever the Sandbenders might dish out.
One of the Sandbenders came forward. He appeared to be some sort of leader.
"What are you doing in our land with a Sandbender Sailer? From the looks of it, you stole it from the Hami tribe." The leader said.
Katara relaxed a bit, but kept herself on guard. She stepped forward a bit too.
"We found the Sailer abandoned in the desert. We're traveling with the Avatar." Katara said and gestured to Aang, "Our bison was stolen and we have to get to Ba Sing Se."
Another Sandbender came forward. He appeared to be the youngest of the group.
"You dare accuse our people of theft while you ride in on a stolen Sand Sailer?!" The boy snapped.
"How can it be stolen when it was abandoned and completely buried, hm? Explain THAT." Deidara said rather smartly.
"Quiet, Ghashiun. No one accused our people of anything. If what they say is true, we must give them hospitality." The leader said.
"Sorry, father." Ghashiun said in a low voice.
Toph's unseeing eyes widened before narrowing.
"I recognize the son's voice. He's the one who stole Appa." Toph said.
"Are you sure?" Katara asked.
"I never forget a voice." Toph said.
Aang charged forward and pointed the end of his staff at Ghashiun in an enraged manner. His shawl flustered as he moved.
"You stole Appa! Where is he?! What did you do to him?!" Aang demanded.
Ghashiun coward back in fear.
"They're lying! They're the thieves!" Ghashiun said in haste.
Aang in an angry burst of frustration and a smash of his staff, took out one of the Sand Sailers with Airbending. The Sailer flew several meters into the air before crashing down.
"Where is my bison?!" Aang asked in fury, "You tell me where he is now!"
Deidara, backed away slightly, not wanting to be caught up in the next burst of air that was to come.
'And they say my temper's bad.' Deidara thought.
Once more, Aang destroyed another Sand Sailer to justify his anger. The atmosphere was sucking on more lemons now.
"What did you do?" The leader asked.
"It wasn't me!" Ghashiun stuttered.
"You said to put a muzzle on him!" Toph shouted pointing her finger right at Ghashiun.
"You MUZZLED Appa?!" Aang asked in pure rage.
The next thing that Deidara witnessed was Aang's tattoos starting to glow, same with his eyes. The wind picked up around Aang and became a very strong gale force wind sphere around him. Deidara quickly made a hand sign and gathered Chakra to his feet to anchor himself from being blown away by the wind that came from the air sphere.
With a nasty surge of wind, Aang demolished the last Sand Sailer in the Sandbender's possession.
"I'm sorry! I didn't know that it belonged to the Avatar!" Ghashiun shouted in fear.
"Tell me where Appa is!" Aang demanded with his voice mixed with several others.
All of the Sandbenders raised their hands as if they had been caught for stealing and were being arrested.
"I traded him! To some merchants! He's probably in Ba Sing Se by now! They were going to sell him there! Please! We'll escort you out of the desert! We'll help however we can!" Ghashiun said in panic.
This didn't calm down Aang at all. The air sphere gained more power and became a small vortex. Aang rose off the ground, hands and teeth clenched in furious rage, dropping his staff in the process. Sokka rushed to Toph and grabbed her hand and began to get her away from the possible carnage if things didn't stop.
"Just get out of here! Run!" Sokka shouted.
Deidara took a look at Sokka. One look at Sokka's face told the story. Whatever this power was, he had seen it several times before and they weren't pleasant experiences. With Chakra still pumping to his feet, Deidara decided it was best to get out of harm's way before things got worse. He didn't have any clay left, thus making him vulnerable to almost anything.
He then saw something happening in the vortex. Katara was in the vortex and was reaching out to Aang.
'Are you crazy?!' Deidara thought.
Aang looked down to see Katara's saddened face. A face that was pleading for the young Avatar to calm down. The winds slowed down as Aang descended. Deidara watched in surprise as this happened. He was not expecting that.
Once Aang was in Katara's gentle embrace, Aang shed a tear as the light receded from his tattoos.