This took a truly ridiculous amount of time, but here we go:
title: Ten Facts About Tarrlok
verse: canon-compliant. ;_; (Also, not Korrlok. I enjoy the ship as much as any Tarrlok fan, but I wanted to try a different interpretation.)
Tarrlok left home at seventeen. Although he missed his mother, he was glad to leave his dead-end village behind, and head to his tribe’s great city.
When he arrived, he was still more the boy who had begged his brother to stay than the man he would become. Even then, though, he took care to obscure his origins. He invented a completely different obscure village to call home, enough like his real one that any accidental slip would not reveal the truth. He invented completely different parents, but said, truthfully, that his father was a non-bender and his mother a healer.
Tarrlok never thought of himself as a liar, but he was accustomed to surviving in a position of vulnerability. His long years with Yakone and Noatak, learning to talk his away around more dangerous and volatile personalities than his own, had left him more than equipped to manage ordinary people. He knew exactly what to say, and when to say it, and the skill never left him.
The city was renowned as the pinnacle of Water Tribe achievement and culture. Tarrlok loved it; he loved the soaring beauty of the city, the arts, the masses of people. He didn’t know how his mother could ever have left for that tiny village.
Even while Tarrlok studied law, he searched for a waterbending master. He had quickly learned that, while waterbending hardly promised success, or was necessary to it, powerful benders found their paths smoothed before them. It was an advantage, and he would need all the advantages he could get. Few of them, however, were interested in taking on the education of a man nearly grown, with no formal training.
The teacher who finally accepted him as a student only did so grudgingly; he was an old curmudgeon, not even very gifted, but he knew every teacher in the city. Tarrlok so quickly outstripped him that he recommended the young waterbender to every master he knew.
That was the first time Tarrlok realized that he was, in fact, an immensely powerful waterbender in his own right. He became their Noatak—an attractive, brilliant prodigy, the rising star on whom old men pinned their hopes. The doors he’d hoped waterbending would push ajar were flung open for him.
Tarrlok did not consider himself superstitious in the slightest, but he always felt a deep reverence for the spirits, especially the moon and ocean spirits. Once he was in a position to do so, he begged leave of Chief Unalaq to visit Tui and La in the spirit oasis.
The gesture won him the regard of the deeply spiritual chief, as he’d hoped it would, but it was rather more sincere than was usual for him. Every full moon, his power rose to its height, and his fellow creatures seemed less people than water bagged in flesh. Plants, animals, humans, it made no difference; they all felt like his natural prey. He loathed it as much as he loved waterbending, but it didn’t matter; nothing he tried made any difference. Bloodbending had rooted itself so deeply within him that it had become part of who he was, part of every moment of his life. It was always with him—half the time, a vague, passive sense that he used unconsciously and unwillingly, and the other half an escalating temptation.
Tui and La presented no temptation. He gratefully locked himself away with them, paid his respects, and desperately begged forgiveness of the Moon Spirit.
He never thought to ask for healing.
Tarrlok was barely thirty-one when Unalaq appointed him to represent their tribe on Republic City’s council. The minimum age was thirty.
It felt like destiny. Tarrlok insisted to himself that it was a rejection of destiny. He would not avenge the punishment justly meted out to his father; he would sit on the very council that had condemned him. He would protect the people his father would have exploited, and fight those who followed in Yakone’s footsteps. Weakling echoed in his ears, his father’s deep voice and his brother’s lighter one blurring together. But they were wrong. Here in Republic City, he would be a pillar of strength, of power.
A blushing reporter asked if he felt that his youth would impact the city’s faith in him. Tarrlok said that he looked forward to proving his worth, and swore that he would do everything in his power to bring order to Republic City, and stamp out the dangerous elements that threatened the peace.
(In a dingy apartment in one of the more obscure districts, a poor waterbender pored over the article. When any of his neighbours asked, the waterbender described his age as thirty-odd and his background as Northern Water Tribe-ish; he was well-travelled, seemed well-educated, but in recent years had shown no interest in employment. He would have sworn that he had no interest in the new councilman, either, and at first repeated the lie to himself a few times. Then, unable to resist the temptation, he circled the words youngest council member in history, sent a tasteful, anonymous gift, and clipped out the article. He sneered at himself, then hid it away with a number of other clippings he was most definitely not collecting, all related to Councilman Tarrlok’s career.)
Tarrlok had planned to remain on friendly terms with the Avatar’s son, but Tenzin made it quite impossible. He seemed to take an instant dislike to him, and was then unprofessional enough to extend that dislike to Tarrlok’s policies.
Tarrlok didn’t mind, terribly; he hated Tenzin on sight, too. The more he learned about Tenzin’s history, the more he disliked him; the man had been raised by exemplary parents, was close to his waterbending sister, had married a young, attractive woman, then produced two bright, talented daughters.
The records that Tarrlok surreptitiously unearthed made it clear that nobody, least of all the Avatar, had taken any great interest in Yakone after the removal of his bending. His escape had earned scarcely a paragraph on the third page. Tenzin, irritating enough in his own right, had been earning airbending tattoos under his doting father’s eye when Noatak and Tarrlok were screaming themselves awake.
After that, Tarrlok made a point of avoiding Tenzin on full moons.
Until the revolution, the only time Tenzin regarded Tarrlok with anything other than suspicion and dislike was in the middle of a heated debate in Tarrlok’s office.
“Tenzin, I realize that practical concerns are entirely foreign to your way of thinking, but—” Tarrlok’s brows snapped together when his page interrupted them. “What is it?”
“It says it’s urgent, sir,” squeaked the page, handing over a folded note and running away.
Tenzin opened his mouth; before he could speak, Tarrlok held up a hand to silence him and opened the note. Fuming, Tenzin thought he really should be able to bill Tarrlok for his dental expenses.
Almost as soon as Tarrlok began to read, however, his face transformed—eyes widening, mouth tightening, his skin acquiring a distinctly sickly tone. Tenzin felt, somehow, as if he were witness to something he had no business seeing.
“Tarrlok, I can go—”
Tarrlok didn’t seem to be listening. “I trust, Tenzin, that you can lead the council for a week,” he said, folding and unfolding the note. “I have urgent business at home.”
Home, with Tarrlok, always meant the Northern Water Tribe. It was one of the many things Tenzin disliked about him. But he really did look terrible.
“Certainly,” he said. “I hope your errand goes well.”
Tarrlok gave an unusually harsh laugh. His eyes, though directed in the vicinity of Tenzin’s face, were blank and unseeing. Tarrlok crumpled the note in one fist and tossed it towards the trash; he missed, but didn’t seem to notice.
“My mother is dying,” he said, and walked out.
Tarrlok liked Korra from the first, but he never saw her as Korra, or even as the Avatar. Though he quickly discarded his first, wild assumption—that she was in some way a reincarnation of his brother—he saw Noatak every time he looked at her. It didn’t help that she seemed, in many ways, a brighter, happier version of Noatak: a bending prodigy, fierce, bold, determined, daring, crushing any obstacle that lay in her path. He had an inescapable sense that he knew her by knowing Noatak.
His fascination with her won some dark glances from Tenzin, but he never thought of her in any other way. Occasionally, he supposed that Noatak might have survived, somehow, and fathered this girl who was so very like him. She was just the right age to be his daughter. Impossible, of course, or at least improbable. Still, he had no difficulty imagining her as a sort of troublesome niece.
It was really that sense of affinity that led him to arrest her friends. She had taken the Sato girl under her protection, as well as the pro-benders she ran around with. Even at his most detached, Noatak would have flown into a rage had anyone done the same to Tarrlok, as would Tarrlok, had it been … well, if he’d had anyone to care about in that way. An actual niece, perhaps. He trusted that the resemblance to them both ran as deep as he expected.
In the end, when she rushed forward to burn him alive, he realized he’d rather underestimated it.
The loss of his bending was a relief and an agony. He loved his waterbending, he’d always loved it, had rarely been able to restrain his exhilaration when he used it. Bloodbending, though, had tormented him without cessation for thirty years, twisted him, driven him to the brink of madness—perhaps beyond. For the first time since he’d been a small boy, his mind was clear.
Tarrlok felt maimed and he felt cleansed.
All, he thought, at the hands of his brother.
He remembered Amon—Noatak, Noatak, freezing under his grip for a moment, before simply overpowering him. In the end, he had bloodbent his brother, just as his father had ordered him. He had literally done everything his father wanted. They both had, hadn’t they? Together separately.
He’d already screamed himself hoarse at Noatak. His brother listened to him with a face as expressionless as his mask, then handed him a waterskin, and said it would help his throat. Tarrlok never saw anyone else; he still didn’t know if Noatak were keeping others away from Tarrlok, or Tarrlok away from them, or some combination of both. He could believe any of the three of Noatak, who seemed nothing if not sincere. He might very well mean to protect Tarrlok, in his own twisted way.
All these years, they’d struggled to define themselves against their father, but in the end—in the end, there was no point to it. There’d never been any point. I made you what you are! Yakone had screamed, all those years ago, and it was true. No matter what they’d tried, they were what Yakone had made of them. Nothing could ever change that.
Tarrlok dropped his head into his arms, and laughed until he cried.
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- lunarblue21 said: Oh, this is lovely angraine. <3 Have you seen my fic Strong on the Surface? It includes both brothers again this time. Your writing style for this was lovely and I liked how you showed the different moments :)
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