Untouched by civilization for over 1,000 years since its creation, The Serpent’s Pass has always remained of little to no activity. No animals get near it, no ships sail nearby its waters, and nobody has traversed its rocky and narrow path. While a newcomer might guess its absence of use due to the cliffs, a veteran will know that it is due to the terrible and unstoppable serpent which guards it. Utilizing hundreds of razor sharp teeth and an enormous body that could crush even the Unagi, “The Serpent” is seen as a monstrosity of nature. However, nothing is ever as it seems…
This is the tale of the one hundred and sixty-seventh Avatar, Atl, and like Aang, what he did to change the world forever…
Thousands of years before Aang and Korra… the world was given an earth kingdom avatar named Atl. Born into a peacful village near the eastern lake of the earth kingdom, Atl was a happy child known for his stubborn attitude, but shy nature. Trained by his brother in the ways of earth bending, Atl quickly discovered his gift for earth bending and his unique gift to bend rocks even under water. Considering the village’s main trade was fish and other seafood, this helped his family immensely and got the village through some tough winters.
One day, when Atl was collecting firewood, he got lost in the woods. Unable to find his village, he wandered about until he came across a rocky part of the river he had never seen before. Suddenly, Atl heard a noise he had never heard before; a terrifying roar that sounded like a mix between a sky bison and a platypus bear.
Atl looked to his right and saw two enormous serpents attacking a water tribe trading ship. Normally, water tribe trading ships are big enough to handle most creatures, but against sea serpents of that size, it would only take minutes before the serpent’s jaws would create enough damage to sink it.
Too afraid and stubborn to think of the consequences, Atl jumped into action. Using earth bending, Atl pushed the ship out of the water and beat the serpents with a heavy barrage of moss covered stones. To Atl’s horror though, the serpents would just get up no matter what he did. Frustrated, Atl tried pushing his limits, but instead, he found himself off balance and fell directly into the water.
Unable to swim with the tides pushing him downstream, Atl found himself speeding quickly towards a massive waterfall. With the serpents gaining behind him and the waterfall in front of him, Atl thought this was the end of him. Unable to cope with the stress and fear, Atl blacked out just as he was about to go over the falls.
However, fate was on his side. The next morning, Atl found himself badly injured, but alive at a hut near the falls. A group of earth kingdom fishermen had found him, sprawled on top of a rock and had tried to heal his wounds. Atl thanked the fishermen, but was curious as to how he survived. All he could remember were the two serpents and how he narrowly escaped their wrath.
Remembering stories of Avatar Sokka’s fight with the spirit world and the Spirit War, Atl assumed that the serpents must have been spirits due to their size and power. Known for their grudges and revenge schemes, Atl feared the worst. To displease a spirit was one thing, but to anger one was another matter entirely. Nowhere was safe for him.
For three months, Atl lived under the protection of village, until one day he discovered his ability to fire bend while serving soup to his family. Under constant supervision by the Order of the White lotus, Atl began his training to learn the fire bending, air bending, and water bending.
Atl mastered the other two elements easily, but had a tough time learning water bending. Fearful of water from his encounter with the serpents in the past, his teachers taught him through the use of ice and snow. However, no matter how much he trained, he could never get over his fear.
Ashamed of this, Atl meditated on this issue. He had wanted to meet Avatar Sokka, as he had dealt with spirits before, but instead he met Avatar O’lina. Surprised by her appearance, O’lina explained to him the serpent is not a spirit and that everyone has fears, even the Avatar. Just as everything has a place in the world, so does the feeling of fear, which makes us stronger by conquering it and protects us by making us cautious.
Encouraged by O’lina’s words of wisdom, Atl summoned up his courage and decided to return where it started… his village. When he got there though, he found it deserted and abandoned. Confused by this, Atl asked a nearby traveler what happened. The traveler told Atl that the village was long since abandoned because of the serpent’s occupation in the water. With the fear of being eaten alive, no boat had dared come to the village to trade with the villagers and thus, it was abandoned.
Disappointed and angry, Atl stormed into the forest hoping to contain his rage. Deep in thought, Atl soon realized that while the village is no more, he can now deal with the serpent without anyone getting hurt. Lost again, Atl wandered through the forest until he came across the same rocky river bed he had found as a child.
This time however, he saw a single serpent being attacked by a large water tribe naval fleet. Fighting desperately to survive, the serpent was outmatched and hopeless against the sheer number of water benders trying to hold it in place.
Curious about what was going on and where the other serpent was, Atl air bended himself on to one of the water tribe ships and demanded to know what is going on from a water tribe warrior. Surprised by his appearance, the crew told him that the four nations had put a huge bounty on the serpents head so that ships might travel safely across the rivers again.
Wishing to help them, Atl swiftly defeated the rampaging serpent and helped the fleet tie the serpent to their boats, but was still curious as to where the other serpent was. The crew was also curious about this, as the bounty was for two heads, not one. Joining the ships and their quest, the fleet combed the river in search for the other serpent, until the fleet was attacked by not just one Unagi, but hundreds. Unable to react in time, the Unagi smashed into the fleet and the boat Atl was riding. So great was the collision, that Atl was knocked off the boat and into the water… unconscious.
Slowly floating to the bottom of the river, Atl found himself in front of O’lina once again. Atl was surprised by this and told O’lina that he was no longer afraid, but O’lina was disappointed.
She reminded him what she said earlier about everything in life having a purpose and told him that even the serpent, as terrible as it is, has a purpose. Atl argued against this, but O’lina asked him what happened after the serpent was defeated. Atl remembered the appearance of the Unagi and the search for the other serpent. Then it struck him.
The serpents weren’t try to eat him… they were protecting something. Something that didn’t want the water tribe near… and something that was drawing the Unagi to them…
O’lina looked at him directly and Atl said quietly “They were keeping them away from their nest…”
O’lina smiled and explained to Atl that while the unagi eat everything, the serpents only eat the plankton. The unagi love to eat serpent eggs and follow the serpents who in turn follow plankton. The serpents make their nests near the plankton to ensure an ample food supply, while the unagi dine on the serpent’s offspring that are too weak to defend themselves after the serpents reproduce and leave. The serpents weren’t trying to kill him all, they were trying to scare him away. They had actually saved him from going over the falls.
After Atl had realized his mistake, woke up in the avatar state and used his water bending to free the captured serpent. Together, Atl and the serpent drove back the school of Unagi towards the sea, saving the water tribe fleet.
When the battle was over, Atl followed the serpent down the river and into the water. There, deep beneath the water, Atl found the other serpent stretched out across the entire river and pregnant.
Fearing more possible disturbances, Atl decided to bend a massive rock wall over the serpents body creating a cave underneath the water where the serpent could give birth and a divide above the water to prevent ships from getting close. Afraid no more of the serpents no more, Atl decided to live the rest on the ridge nearby so that he might protect the serpent’s babies from further harm.
After five long years, Atl witnessed the birth of new serpents and was overjoyed at how many were born thanks to him. Unfortunately though, the mother had not survived and died due to wounds she received from the Unagi who swam past Atl while he was unconscious. Atl mourned over her lose, but knew what had to be done.
Proud of his accomplishment and filled with purpose, Avatar Atl protected the new serpents until he died of old age at 176. Legend has it that Avatar Atl’s body was carried by the serpents far out to the spot where the first avatar learned water bending.