Did you see them
Lying where they died?
Someone used to cradle them
And kiss them when they cried.
Death of Levi’s Squad + “Turning” [Les Miserables]
- Esteemed -
A fan-made exploration of a bender, an officer, a mother…
…a human being.
Artwork for this story project can be viewed at the DeviantArt Gallery.
I will post each chapter to Tumblr, as well, and update this master post as I do so.
Taking maternal leave from such a demanding job only to thrust herself back into the madness had been more difficult than she’d anticipated. Getting into the thick of things again — where Toph preferred to be — should’ve been much easier than it felt if she was the ‘World’s Greatest Earthbender,’ right? It shouldn’t have been a problem. But it was.
And damn, did she just ache all over. Within the hour, she’d be back home, alone with a screaming banshee she barely knew how to deal with yet.
Another night, lacking in sleep, trying to pacify her unexpected baby.
Another morning, dead-tired, trying to pacify the Council.
Another afternoon, sore all over, trying to pacify the City.
No freedom, no fun, no time, no friends, no control.
The good old days seemed like a distant memory.
Long ago, Toph had run away from home to escape the prison her family had locked her up in, where she had been forced to create a fake identity for them to love. Here she was, two decades later, feeling trapped in a different kind of prison, wearing a different kind of mask that she’d made for herself — this one came with a badge.
Art Credits (from selection above): [X] by Marissa-Meza; [X] by Ninjatic; [X] by c-dra; [X] by kiikii-sempai; [X] by DomDozz; [X] [X] by tissine; [X] by punker—rocker; [X] by siquia; [X] by chickenMASK
Esteemed is my next fan project undertaking after What I Learned at SRU (a story that is nearly 900,000 words with over 250 pieces of artwork made). Like that project, it will be a written narrative that is accompanied by artwork and comics created by a variety of talents across the fandom. But while SRU has become its own beast — one I actually plan on converting into an original series — this project will be much more ‘traditional’ fanwork. Going back to the canonical world of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra, Esteemed will be a character study of sorts. Focusing primarily on the over-arcing life of Toph Beifong (along with her daughter, Lin, as a secondary character), Esteemed will travel across various points in Toph’s life, from childhood, through adolescence, and into adult life — including motherhood. It will be about exposing the regrets, achievements, passions, and struggles of my interpretation of Toph Beifong. Her career, her travels, her love life, her relationship with her daughter, and how that relationship left ripples in Lin’s life while inspiring her to follow in Toph’s footsteps as Chief of Police in Republic City.
I would like to tell a story that drills into this character’s psyche, as Toph has consistently proven to be my favorite Avatar character to write — her strengths and flaws round her out into a fascinating, complicated character. I want to explore what makes her tick as a person, what she might strive for in life, what she might run away from, and most important, how becoming a mother would change her, and why. My intention is to tell a story that deals with somewhat complex, real-to-life, morally ambiguous themes and conflicts that maybe aren’t appropriate for a Y-7 rating but can still be enjoyed by a teen-and-up audience (think Fullmetal Alchemist).
Exploring theoretical answers to questions about these characters’ lives, telling a story about a character who is not at all equipped to be a parent growing and learning how to appreciate her child, expressing my love for the surrogate family that is ‘The Gaang,’ and trying my hardest to present them as rounded, flesh-and-blood human beings living in a fantastical world…these are all goals I am aiming for, and will do my best to work toward.
Toph Beifong does not strike me as the sort of person who would want to be a parent, nor someone who would be very good at it. The fact that she seemed to have gone through this difficult process nonetheless, and that Lin grew up into such a stern, strict, no-nonsense individual (unlike Toph) while following in her mother’s legacy…it all seems like the basis of a story I could care a lot about. As someone who wants little more on this earth than to tell stories and to be a parent myself some day, perhaps I can combine these two passions together through this work.
What I Learned at SRU has been an incredible adventure to partake in, and I hope Esteemed proves to be one, as well. Thank you so much to everyone that has expressed their support, everyone who has worked on art for this story, and everyone who has checked the project out and shared it with fellow Avatar fans. I appreciate every single one of you who takes the time to observe the parts of myself I spill out through these fictional characters.
Rivaille Squad - RIP. Shingeki no Kyojin 21
"They call them the world’s greatest heroes, they call them modern day Gods, they call them the Justice League.”