Desert Winds of Change
By Anonymous, Rockville, MD
Author's note: I posted this first on fanfiction.net, where it was inspired by NaNoWriMo and the idea of, what... Show full author's note »
Prologue: The Birth of GaaraTemari was almost two years old when her first brother, Kankurou, was born. Being the precocious child she was, she was resentful of her little brother for taking attention away from her. That was, until she realized having a little brother made her the eldest, and gave her more authority.
With the logic only a near two year old could follow, little Temari decided she would protect her brother at any cost to keep her status as the oldest – after all, if there was no younger sibling, she couldn’t be the oldest, right?
So for the next two years, Temari doted on her little brother. She made sure he was clean, always had someone to play with, and almost never cried. Sure, she smacked him around a little bit, but it was all sisterly love. And she had begun shinobi training, what did you expect?
Temari couldn’t wait till her brother began training as well. It would be so fun to spar with him! Of course, it would all be play sparring, just like their play fights, but it would be so fun!
She enjoyed her little brother so much, that when she found out she would have a new little brother from her mother, she was very excited. Temari did everything she could to help prepare for another child in the household, from painting rooms – more herself than the walls – to setting up furniture.
She didn’t notice that her father wasn’t around as much, or that her mother grew more and more serious as time passed. All she knew was she was going to be a big sister again, and she was going to protect this new little brother just as much as Kankurou.
When her mother went into labor, her uncle Yashamaru took both her and Kankurou to their wing of the house, despite Temari’s many protests she wanted to see her little brother being born.
“Yashamaru-oji,” Temari pleaded, dragging on Yashamaru’s hand. “Can’t I please please please go see? I promise I’ll be good!”
Yashamaru smiled gently down at the pouting three year old. “No, Temari-chan. Your father’s orders were that you not be let into the room. You can see your mother and brother later.”
Temari frowned, not willing to wait that long to see her new little brother. “Fine,” she finally said, beginning to plan how to escape Yashamaru. “I’ll stay here.”
Her uncle patted her on her head, making her flinch slightly. She hated it when adults did that, treated her as a child. She was learning to be a shinobi! She wasn’t some little kid who had to be coddled! That was Kankurou. He was only three.
Her father had begun teaching her planning skills as part of her training. The first thing to do was to check for guards. Yashamaru had left the two children alone in the playroom, and was sitting outside the door, so that escape route was out.
There were a few windows in the playroom, but her father hadn’t taught her how to control her chakra to make her feet stick to walls yet, so those were out as well. Temari frowned, a cute expression on her face as her eyebrows drew together and her nose wrinkled. How was she to escape then?
Her eyes wandered across the walls and the ceiling. As they brushed past the lamp, she remembered something she had overheard once. ‘The ceilings are riddled with paths so the servants can get around and fix things without disturbing Kazekage-sama.’ There has to be a way into those paths around here!
Quickly checking Kankurou to make sure he was occupied and wouldn’t come looking for her, Temari began to systematically check the walls for any indication of a hidden entrance. She didn’t find any hidden latches, knobs, wires, or holes in the main room, and so moved into the smaller and less used nursery that had been attached for when she and Kankurou had been smaller.
The nursery was littered with toys and stuffed animals that had entertained her and Kankurou. Temari regarded them now with distaste, finding them to be childish and beneath her. After all, she was training to be a shinobi, and shinobi didn’t play with stuffed animals. Or so her father told her.
There was a huge toy chest in the corner of the nursery, taller than the average man. A door could definitely be behind that, Temari thought, regarding the wooden structure. Now I just have to move it.
She still didn’t know how to focus chakra into her muscles to enhance her strength, but she knew about leverage points. The wooden chest could be moved just far enough away from the wall if she put pressure on just the right spot…there. With a broomstick handle left over from when she had decided to play a witch, Temari levered the chest away from the wall. She slipped in the crack, and lo and behold, there was a secret door.
The door had no knob, only a slight indentation where one would normally be. Temari frowned at it, contemplating what could fit in there. Something pointed…a key? No. A kunai? No reason for the servants to be carrying those around. She growled in frustration. There was no use finding the door if she couldn’t get in it! And she was running out of time. Every second she wasted was another second 'til her little brother was born.
She examined the indentation once more. Maybe if she fit her fingers just so…she pushed her hand into the hole, and was rewarded by a slight click and the door swinging inwards.
The three year old quickly went through the doorway, and up the steps hidden behind it. She had to get to the room in time. Keeping the layout of their mansion firmly in her mind, Temari followed the twists and turns of the wooden pathway that led through the ceiling. She saw branches going off of the main path, to other stairways and other rooms, each branch bordered by handrails. Temari saw no need for those railings. As if I would fall off, she scoffed mentally. Anyone who did shouldn’t have been up here anyway.
When she reached the room she knew her mother to be in, she could hear screams. Her mother’s voice was so distorted by pain Temari could hardly recognize it. It took all her willpower from rushing straight down the stairs and out the secret door to her mother’s side, but Temari knew that her father would be in the room, and he had forbade her from seeing her mother. To disobey her father was to suffer extreme pain.
She quietly crept down the stairs to the door into the room, and cracked it open just a sliver. People were bustling around a bed centered in the middle of the room, and they were carrying cloths, bowls of water and ink, brushes, and even a bowl of something red Temari suspected was blood. She didn’t know what a birth was supposed to be like, so she assumed this was all normal. After all, she had been very young when Kankurou was born.
Her father stood next to the bed, a look of intense concentration on his face as he watched Chiyo, one of the Sand Elders, draw a design on her mother’s swollen stomach using both ink and blood.
Her mother was writhing in pain, little whimpers and gasps coming out of her mouth, punctuated with screams. She had been strapped to the bed, most likely to keep her from marring whatever seal Chiyo was drawing.
A teapot caught Temari’s attention because it seemed so out of place; it rested on a table next to Chiyo, and everyone took care to avoid it, making it an oasis of calm in the chaos surrounding the bed. She could feel a strange chakra emanating off of the teapot, an almost evil aura. She shivered and drew her attention back to her mother.
Chiyo had finished her seal, and was arguing furiously with Temari’s father, the Kazekage. Temari winced. She knew, even at three years old, that to argue with her father was a fruitless endeavor that always ended in either pain or punishment. However, Chiyo seemed to have more clout, as her father was nodding to what Chiyo had to say. But she must have overstepped her bounds, because with a slash of his hand, he rejected what she was arguing and gestured for her to get on with whatever it was he wanted. Chiyo bowed to the Kazekage, and reached over and grabbed the teapot.
Temari watched closely as Chiyo placed the teapot carefully on her mother’s stomach, and began to form hand seals. She could recognize the seals, but Chiyo formed them so fast, she couldn’t keep up with all of them.
Suddenly Karura let out an ear-piercing shriek of complete agony, and the seal on her stomach began to glow an angry pulsing red. The teapot on her stomach began glowing as well, and the evil aura emanating from it thickened.
Chiyo hesitated for a few seconds, before closing her eyes and running through ten more hand seals. Karura’s whole body glowed, as did the teapot. The light from the teapot began to be drawn into the seal, but as it did so, the light around Karura’s body dimmed.
Temari knew something was happening to her mother, but didn’t know that the glow of her body signified her life force. The seal was using her life force to draw whatever inhabited that teapot into its new container, the child within Karura.
As the glows faded, Karura’s body gave a huge heave, and her stomach deflated as the sound of a baby’s wail filled the room. Her energy quickly fading, Karura gasped out a few sentences.
“His name shall be Gaara. Let him be a curse upon Sunagakure, and all of its people! Let him avenge my death, as a sacrifice to this cursed village!”
Temari let out a small gasp, having never heard anger in her mother’s tone, let alone complete hatred and abhorrence for everyone and everything. She let out another gasp as she realized her mother was no longer moving or breathing. Is this why father didn’t want me here? Because he was going to kill mother!?
As the room began to calm down, Temari closed the secret door fully again and ran up the stairs, stopping on the landing to organize her thoughts. She had just seen her mother die – no, be murdered by her father. She had seen Chiyo participate in that act, although it seemed to be unwilling. And she didn’t know the reason why.
Even at age three, Temari didn’t shed a tear for her mother. Her father’s training to never show distress was already beginning to affect her. Yes, Karura was dead. No, Temari would never see her again. That was life.
She ran back along the walkways to the playroom, and slipped inside silently, moving the toy chest back in front of the secret door. Kankurou hadn’t even noticed her absence, engrossed as he was in playing with some puppets that had been created for the children by Chiyo.
It was only when she began playing with Kankurou that she realized she hadn’t even gotten a glimpse of her new baby brother. The one who was supposed to avenge her mother.
A few minutes later Yashamaru came in to check on the two siblings; reassured they were playing nicely, he announced, “Your father is on his way with your brother now.”
Temari simply looked up and nodded, but Kankurou shot up from his position on the floor and started dancing around screaming “Otouto, otouto, otouto,” at the top of his lungs.
Temari reached up and pulled him down sharply with a tug on the hem of his shirt. “Calm down, Kankurou, yelling won’t get him here any faster,” she scolded. And if father hears you, you might get hit again, she added silently. She tried to keep Kankurou from realizing how harsh their father was as much as possible. She knew he would be disillusioned at some point, but for the moment, he didn’t need to know the cruelties of the world.
“Arigatou, Yashamaru-oji,” Temari said politely. She would get to see her baby brother after all.
Ten minutes later, the Kazekage of Sunagakure walked into his children’s playroom, a swathed bundle in his arms.
“Temari, Kankurou,” he said coldly, “this is your younger brother, Gaara.”
He handed the bundle to Yashamaru and turned and walked out the door without another word. Neither Temari nor Kankurou thought anything of it, it was just how their father was.
Yashamaru lowered the bundle to where the two children could see. A sleeping baby was nestled deep in the blankets, a shock of blood red hair topping his head. Because his eyes were closed, they couldn’t see the color, but Temari was sure they would be some shade of green. Even as they watched, the baby stirred and yawned, his eyes flickering open briefly to observe his surroundings.
Temari’s guess had been right; the baby’s eyes were a pale jade green. She knew babies couldn’t focus their eyes when they were newborns, but she couldn’t shake the feeling he was staring straight at her, examining her face. Then she was pushed out of the way by Kankurou so he could get a better look at his otouto. She didn’t mind, she had too many things to think about.
She didn’t blame Gaara for her mother’s death, from what she had seen, that blame fell squarely on her father’s shoulders. Temari doubted he was even going to tell them how she died or why. It just wasn’t in his nature. She wasn’t going to tell Kankurou what she saw either; he didn’t need to know why or how their mother had died. All he needed to know was that he had a new baby brother.
“Mari! Mari!” Kankurou bounced back over to his sister as their father came back to take Gaara away from Yashamaru and talk to him. “We have an otouto!”
Temari grinned, reaching over to ruffle his short brown hair. “Yeah, we do.” She laughed when Kankurou quickly reached up to cover his head and adjust his hair, wrinkling his nose at her.
“I’m a big boy now, you can’t do that!” he pouted.
“Oh, really?” she teased. “Watch me!” She ruffled his hair again, then sprinted away, giggling. Kankurou giggled as well, chasing after his sister in an attempt to tackle her.
Kankurou chased Temari all around the playroom, never able to catch her, until he ran into something unmoving. He fell backwards onto the floor, looking up at what he had crashed into. When he saw it had been his father’s leg, he quickly scrambled up and hid behind Temari who had come over to fix what he had done.
“Kazekage-sama,” Temari bowed quickly. “I apologize for Kankurou.”
Their father simply stared impassively down at them, then turned on his heel and left. Yashamaru was staring after the Kazekage, a lost expression on his face. Temari noticed it and knew he had been told of her mother’s death.
Kankurou walked over to Yashamaru and tugged on his pants leg to get his attention. “Yashamaru-oji?” he questioned, looking up at his guardian. “Why is Otou-sama so mean?”
Yashamaru glanced down at his nephew, his eyes softening. “That’s how he is, Kankurou,” he told the boy quietly. “Your Otou-sama is not one to express emotion. Try not to take it to heart.”
Kankurou simply looked at him sadly, then turned away and went back to Temari. She gave her little brother a quick hug, and led him off to distract him with more puppets.
She didn’t understand his obsession with them, but Kankurou’s favorite toys were the puppets, and they never failed to cheer him up. From the moment Chiyo had given them to the boy, he never went a day without playing with them. Suna was famous for its puppeteers, and Temari had no doubt Kankurou would be one when he began training.
After playing with Kankurou long enough to make him sleepy, Temari alerted Yashamaru to the fact that Kankurou needed a nap. Her uncle had sat in a corner of the room, staring off at nothing for the entirety of the time after the Kazekage had come to visit.
Kankurou, as expected, put up a fuss about taking a nap, but eventually he dropped off, his body’s needs too much for his mind to withstand at the moment.
With peace reigning in the playroom once more, Temari walked over to her uncle. “Yashamaru-oji, what’s wrong?” she asked, hopping up on the chair next to his. Startled, Yashamaru looked over at the three year old, whose concerned face gazed back.
He sighed. She was old enough to know what had happened – at least part of it. And she would have to bear the heaviest burden, so he supposed it was better for him to break the news to her rather than her cold hearted father. How Karura had ever loved him…
“Temari-chan,” he began, not sure how to put it gently. “Your mother…has passed away.” To his surprise – or maybe not, after all she was training to be a shinobi and they dealt with death on a common basis – she seemed unfazed by the news. Wait, was that a tear in her eye?
“Thanks for telling me, Yashamaru-oji,” Temari responded quietly. She surreptitiously wiped her eye on her sleeve under the pretense of itching her nose. She wouldn’t cry, she wouldn’t…“How did she die?”
Yashamaru cringed inwardly. How was he to explain that his sister had died as a sacrifice to seal a demon in her own son, and had died cursing both him and the village? The Kazekage had spared no details of what had gone on in that room.
“In childbirth, Temari-chan. Sometimes it just happens. Even the best doctors can’t save the mother.” It wasn’t a total lie. His sister had died in childbirth, and even because of the child. But nothing about that birth had been normal. Not when the Kazekage got involved.
Temari just nodded, looking down at her lap where her hands were tightly knotted. He means father had something to do with it. I know he does. I’m going to have to be mother now. I have to protect Kankurou, and now Gaara, from father. As much as I can…