Giving Up (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

almostinsane

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 20, 2019
Reaction score
507
You chose to post this here when Zuko met the Order of the White Lotus.

“Welcome, brother. The Sietch opens wide to those who know her secrets."

This is an excellent story but the way. I wonder if Roku will find the need to mention his wayward great-grandfather to Aang.
 

Fulcon

Active member
Joined
Oct 16, 2019
Reaction score
95

Bacle

When the venture is no longer profitable...
Founder
Joined
Aug 12, 2019
Reaction score
1,013
So I just binged this yesterday evening and this morning. It is an interesting and thoughtful take on how things could have gone. I very much like your take on Zuko and Iroh, they seem very in-character and the changes seem like a natural progression.

Definitely looking forward to more.
 

Urabrask Revealed

Let them go.
Founder
Joined
Aug 11, 2019
Reaction score
796
The interactions between Zuko and Aang are going to be amusing, especially if Iroh insists that Zuko should teach him Firebending. This said, I'm curious what Iroh and Zuko could actually learn from Water- and Earth-bending. While Lighting redirection is quite useful, it is limited in its usage solely at Lightning-benders. There must be more the benders can learn from each other.
 

Fulcon

Active member
Joined
Oct 16, 2019
Reaction score
95
So I just binged this yesterday evening and this morning. It is an interesting and thoughtful take on how things could have gone. I very much like your take on Zuko and Iroh, they seem very in-character and the changes seem like a natural progression.

Definitely looking forward to more.
Well thank you, I'm glad you're enjoying it. Have a cookie.

The interactions between Zuko and Aang are going to be amusing, especially if Iroh insists that Zuko should teach him Firebending. This said, I'm curious what Iroh and Zuko could actually learn from Water- and Earth-bending. While Lighting redirection is quite useful, it is limited in its usage solely at Lightning-benders. There must be more the benders can learn from each other.
Yes, much humor inbound when they actually do meet.

As for what they can learn...well, I hope you're pleasantly surprised. :)
 
Complications

Fulcon

Active member
Joined
Oct 16, 2019
Reaction score
95
The following is a fanbased work of fiction. Avatar the Last Airbender is the property of Viacom, Nickelodeon, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Koniezko. Please support the official release.

---

“So the wind’s looking pretty good,” Sokka said, pulling a line and putting the sail in a better position. “I think we might even make Kyoshi ahead of schedule!”

It was a beautiful day to sail. The wind was strong but not overbearing, there was not a cloud in the sky and above them the sun shined with a warmth that made the two siblings feel like it was smiling upon them.

“That’s a relief,” Katara replied, letting out a sigh and looking out across the water. She stretched out her hands and started trying to focus, moving her hands.

A stream of water sprung from the ocean, flowing in between her hands and coursing around her fingers as Katara practiced.

“Well, while you’re playing with magic water, I’m going to check our maps,” Sokka said, heading inside the cabin.

The water dropped from Katara’s hands. “It’s not magic it’s-!”

But he was inside and out of earshot, so she simply growled in frustration and started again.

She was going to need to be her best so that she could help Aang when they found him again.

---

“There it is!” Aang said, pointing down at the village made of igloos and snow.

During his time at the temple, the pair had accidentally taken an unexpected visitor. On their first day back in the air, a Lemur who had stowed away in one of the bags on Appa’s saddle had woken up and accidentally flew off of Appa before frantically flying back to the bison.

Aang adored the little guy immediately, naming him Momo and allowing him to stick around. Of course that did mean the supplies that Aang had hurriedly tucked away were being eaten a little faster than he’d like. Hopefully, that wouldn’t matter so much since they were now in sight of civilization.

Appa rumbled as his rider took him down for a landing outside the village walls.

As he expected, there was a line of grown adults at the gates, wearing less than pleased faces. At the front, was Gran-gran, who looked livid. And shocked. “What are you doing here?”

“Look, I know I’m not supposed to be here,” Aang let out like a machine gun for words. “I shouldn’t have gone on that ship after Katara told me it was forbidden. I didn’t listen. It was bad and I am bad and I’m really, really, really sorry. I just need to talk to Sokka and Katara and you’ll never see me again, I promise.”

Gran-gran blinked, her mouth turning from a shocked anger to an annoyed frown. “Answer me this one question. Are you the Avatar?”

Aang’s eyes nearly bugged out of their sockets at that question. He gulped and sharply inhaled. “Yes, I’m the Avatar. I left the nomads when they told me because they wanted to send me to another temple. I got caught in a storm and that’s how I got frozen in that iceberg.”

“For some reason, I believe you,” Gran-gran grunted. “But, I am afraid you have wasted your time. Sokka and Katara have left the village.”

“What?” Aang asked with a thunderstruck expression. “Why, where did they go?”

“They left for the North Pole the day after the Shrine to Avatar Kuruk became active,” Gran-gran replied. “Their first stop was going to be Kyoshi Island where they’d purchase additional supplies and then hopefully they’d meet you at the North Pole while you were learning to Waterbend.”

Aang blinked. “They were coming to help me?”

Gran-gran nodded. “They were. Now get out of here and go find them!”

“Can I have some supplies first?” Aang asked with a sheepish look. “A flying lemur snuck into mine and ate some of them.”

“A lemur,” Gran-gran deadpanned.

On cue, the flying Lemur flew out of the saddle and landed on Aang’s head.

The old woman started massaging her eyes. “All we have is some jerky, but you can have some, alright.”

“Oh, never mind then,” Aang said, hopping twenty feet in the air and landing on Appa’s head. “I’m a vegetarian. I’ll find something on the way. Come on, Appa! Yip-yip!”

---

Zuko and Iroh were sitting in their newly constructed hideout that had been walled off from the rest of the crew. In the center was a table that Uncle had procured from the markets of the pier that had a Pai-Sho board carved into the top. On the wall was a board with a map and communications ostensibly about the Avatar pinned to it.

All they said was that there had been no sightings of him at all since the shrines had lit up and the communications between the army and navy were getting more frantic with every passing day.

But they weren’t talking about the Avatar, they were talking about the Prince’s real goal.

“The week of Winter Solstice?” Zuko asked with a frown. “That’s the closest date they can get me in?”

“It will be a while before we can get everyone we need in place,” Iroh replied with a shrug. “The white lotus has a few captains they can get stationed in the blockade that will let you in.”

“Alright, I guess I can wait,” Zuko said with a frown. “I just need something to do in the meantime.”

“Well, if you decide to join the order, I imagine we’ll have things for you to do,” Iroh pointed out. “Though I understand why you’ve decided to take a step back and think it through.”

“It just seems like a bad idea to tie my loyalties down until I absolutely have too,” Zuko replied with a shrug. “Sure, they can help me...disappear, I don’t see why I need to right this second.”

Iroh gave a sage-like nod. “Perhaps we can begin by looking for Waterbending scrolls?”

“That’s a good idea,” Zuko nodded. “A trade hub like this has to have a few around. But there’s not really a point unless those scrolls also talk about the philosophy behind the bending. Is there?”

“I suppose not,” Iroh answered. “There’s not really a way we can judge our performance otherwise, is there? Tell me, Zuko, what do you think a firebender can learn from Waterbending?”

Zuko blinked. “Well, you developed that lightning redirection form you told me about by watching Waterbenders, right? So maybe a better way of bending lightning?”

Iroh hummed. “Maybe, but I’m wondering if that’s not a shallow way of looking at it.”

He only got a shrug in response. “Probably.”

---

“Land!” Sokka called, pointing straight ahead at the island in front of them.

Katara, who had just woken up, walked out of the cabin rubbing her eyes and yawning. “We finally made it!”

“Yes!” Sokka shouted enthusiastically. “I hope they take Water Tribe money because I am starving!

At that second, the boat was rocked by a massive wave, the boat nearly capsizing as it was shoved out of the way. A massive shadow fell across the boat as a twenty-foot tall dorsal fin poked out of the water and blocked the sun. Sokka’s heart stopped while Katara’s blood had frozen in their veins.

The two siblings looked at each other and then around them as other dorsal fins stretched out of the water for a brief second before sinking beneath the water.

“Let’s get ashore,” Sokka said quickly.

“Yes. Let’s.”

They took the ship into the shallows, starting to work on circling the island, looking for a port. The massive cove they had come to looked like it should have had a dock or something built out from the shore, but there was nothing.

As they orbited the island on the sea, they only saw more of the same. No docks, ports or anywhere to bring their ship into for a resupply.

“Maybe their village is hidden?” Katara suggested with an uncertain expression.

“Probably. We’ll bring the boat back into the cove,” Sokka replied, turning the sail with a push of the lever. “And go looking.”

So they did. Sokka took extra care to avoid the massive fins that periodically sprung out from under the water, each time making the hairs on the back of their neck stand up at attention like they were in an army. When the boat finally ran ashore, both of the water tribe siblings let out the tense breath that they didn’t know they were holding.

“You know, if we had a bigger boat, we could probably catch one of those,” Sokka pointed out, licking his lips.

“Come on, Sokka,” Katara replied, rolling her eyes. “Let’s see if we can find a village or something.”

“Yeah, just give me a second to grab Boomerang and my club.”

---

“There really aren’t any water bending scrolls in the Pier?” Zuko asked with shock.

“No, Prince Zuko,” Lieutenant Jee replied with a shake of his head. “This isn’t the Poles, and they aren’t exactly going to be keen on just handing scrolls out like candy.”

Zuko let out a disappointed sigh. “Figures. Alright, perhaps we could put the word out that there’s a buyer interested in obtaining these scrolls.”

“If I may, your highness,” Jee began. “Last night when the crew when I was off duty, I heard some rumors shared between some of the traders. Apparently, there’s a tribe of water benders that lives independently of the poles.”

Zuko blinked. “Really? Where did these traders say they were?”

“A place called the Foggy Swamp,” Lieutenant Jee replied, pointing toward it’s spot on the map that Zuko had been sitting at. “I did some research and the swamp does exist, though it’s reportedly infested with hostile spirits. As for the benders, there’s more than one account of them I was able to find. They’re real, alright.”

Zuko’s eyes narrowed. “That would take weeks to get too. Alright, lets make plans to head over there following the Winter Solstice. If we don’t find information on the Avatar by then, obviously we’ll need to try a different track. Thank you, Lieutenant.”

“Thank you, your highness.” Jee bowed.

“Will that be all?” Zuko asked.

“Yes,” Jee replied. “By your leave.”

Zuko nodded and Jee left Zuko’s private war room, just as Iroh entered. “Did he tell you about the swamp benders?”

“Have you met them before, Uncle?” Zuko asked with an analytical expression.

“No, but I had heard whispers about them during my march to the wall of Ba Sing Se,” Iroh responded, sitting down. “Though I had also heard that they were not just water benders, but plant benders.”

Plant benders?” Zuko asked with an intrigued and delighted smile. “Okay, that I got to see. After Winter Solstice.”

Iroh hummed. “Don’t want to miss the window, do we?”

“We do not,” Zuko replied with the smallest frown. “Uncle, if the White Lotus were to help me disappear, where would they send me?”

“Well to be honest, Zuko, they would likely send you to Ba Sing Se,” Iroh replied. “We haven’t had agents there in decades, as I’ve been told.”

“What would I be doing there?” Zuko asked.

“You would be trying to find out why Ba Sing Se has not done anything to formally join the war,” Iroh responded. The conversation halted when a Yeoman knocked on the door and walked in with lunch. After the Yeoman left, they continued. “It would be up to you to find out why.”

“They’d want me to to get involved in the war?” Zuko asked, looking decidedly unimpressed.

“No,” Iroh shook his head. “You’d only be an initiate. They’d just want to know why the Earth King has not responded to the Fire Nation’s repeated incursions on it’s massive wall. I got through and they still have not responded. Your job would be to find out and report back. Easy.”

“And that’s it?” Zuko asked, sounding a little confused.

“That would be it,” Iroh nodded. “Of course, if you progressed beyond the rank of initiate, you might be asked to do more...”

“No, no,” Zuko hurriedly shut him down, shaking his head. “Initiate is good.”

Iroh suppressed his frown. “It’s your choice, Prince Zuko.”

---

“Appa, there it is!” Aang shouted, pointing down at their island destination. With a rumble, Appa descended down upon the cove, right next to a wooden sail-boat that was very clearly Water Tribe. “They’re definitely here alright!”

Aang hopped aboard the boat and saw the blue sleeping bags on the floor, which just added to Aang’s enthusiasm. I’ll get to see Katara again! It’s going to be so awesome.

His attention was pulled when a rumble sounded, followed by something heavy hitting the ground. Appa was laying on the ground.

“Alright, you rest boy,” Aang said, twirling his airbending staff and snapping the wings open. “I’ll go and look for them.”

He jumped into the air and hooked his ankles around the bottom, flying forward on bent gusts of air. Sometimes he wished he could fly without his glider; much like Appa did. But he wasn’t entirely sure how he could pull that off whenever he thought about it. Maybe he could ask his old buddy one day how he did it and try to figure out the answer.

But until then, he had to find Sokka and Katara and pick them up.

He glided through the trees, turning and dodging around the tree branches as they came. If he remembered right from what he saw above, the main village was near the center of the island, so he’d probably run into them over there.

“Wait, who are you?” Aang heard loudly to his left. “Where are the men who ambushed us?”

“Sokka!” Aang cheered, making a sharp turn toward the sound of the voice.

“There were no men, we ambushed you!” Rebuffed a female voice as Aang took a perch in a tree among the leaves. “Now tell us, who are you and what are you doing here?”

Sokka and Katara were tied straight to a large wooden post apparently at the entrance to their village. The two looked unharmed for the most part, but clearly annoyed.

“Don’t mind him,” Katara said diplomatically, but quickly. “We’re just travelers from the Southern Water Tribe, we came here to replenish our supplies for our trip to the North Pole.”

“And how do we know you’re not Fire Nation spies?” This came from an old man that was standing among the female warriors. “Kyoshi Island has stayed out of the war and we intend to keep it that way!”

“Why would we spy for the Fire Nation?” Sokka asked sounding both confused and insulted. “They’ve attacked us a bunch of times! We even have a ship trapped in the ice back home to prove it!”

“That doesn’t prove anything,” The first girl pointed out. “They could just be Fire Nation colonials dressed in blue.”

“Hey no,” Sokka started trying to sound as stern and authoritative as possible. “No! Would a Fire Nation Colonial, whatever that is, have a Water Tribe club and boomerang?”

“Yes,” The old man replied, hefting said club in one of his hands. “Best we feed them to the Unagi. We can’t be too careful.”

Not good! Aang thought, jumping into action immediately. He landed between the warriors dressed in green and his friends, blasting the opposing force with enough wind to knock them off their feat and send them flying.

“Aang!” Katara shouted, sounding relieved. “You’re here!”

“Glad I found you,” Aang said, before turning his attention back to the Kyoshi Warriors. He blasted them with another gust of wind, forcing them against the trees of the forest before leaping forward and grabbing Sokka’s club and boomerang.

With a single leap, Aang jumped back and cut the siblings free with Sokka’s boomerang. “Come on! Appa’s on the shore by your ship, let’s get out of here!”

The trio, now reunited, bolted down the path laid for them, running past the warrior women who were struggling to get up.

“Wait, how did you find us?” Sokka asked, hoofing it as quickly as his legs could carry him.

“Your gran-gran said you were heading to the North Pole,” Aang explained as they ran. “She told me your first stop was Kyoshi Island, so here I am!”

“Wait!” The voice of the warrior from before sounded from behind him.

Aang, not particularly in the mood to potentially lose the only friends he had in the world right now, stopped and sent yet another severe blast of air directly at the pursuing warriors, sending them scrambling as they made to dodge the wave.

They came to the shore and when Appa saw them, he stood up with a rumble.

“Get on the saddle, get on the saddle!” Aang shouted, helping both Sokka and Katara up onto the saddle. He hopped onto Appa’s head and grabbed the reins. “Quick, Appa! We gotta get out of here! Yip-yip!”

Right as Appa started to lift off, the Kyoshi Warrior broke the clearing. Their leader, a girl with short brown hair outstretched her hands in an attempt to call them back. “Wait! We-”

---

“...didn’t know...you were friends of the Avatar,” Suki found her volume decreasing as the flying Bison took off, leaving her and her warriors in the dust. With a groan of annoyed embarrassment, she rubbed her eyes with her fingers and thumb.

“Well,” One of her other warriors began. “At least we didn’t feed them to the Unagi.”

That just made Suki groan even louder.

---

“We’re flying, we’re flying!” Sokka shouted enthusiastically. “So long, you crazy-!”

He was stopped when he caught sight of Katara’s somewhat smug expression.

“Yeah, I mean...we’re flying,” Sokka amended, adopting a cool and calm exterior.

“It’s okay, Sokka,” Aang beamed with the largest smile either of them had ever seen on a person. “Flying is awesome!”

“Thank you so much,” Katara said, wrapping Aang up in a hug and kissing his cheek, making him turn pink. “I thought we were done for!”

“It was nothing, really,” Aang downplayed with a bashful expression. “Really, it was fine. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I didn’t know you guys had left the Tribe.”

“Well, it was Katara’s idea,” Sokka replied, pointing the finger of blame at his sister. “She figured out you were the Avatar and decided she wanted to help. I couldn’t let her go on alone, so here we are.”

“How did you figure out I was the Avatar?” Aang asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Call it a gut feeling,” Katara answered. “But the fact that the Iceberg was glowing when we broke you out of it like how the shrine of Avatar Kuruk was glowing kind of clinched it for me.”

“Oh. The shrines all lit up?” Aang asked.

“Like a sun,” Sokka replied. “What happened?”

Aang looked down at the saddle. “I went to the Southern Air Temple and...I found my old Mentor. Gyatso. He...”

Katara found herself, again, wrapping an arm around the young Avatar’s shoulder in support. “I’m sorry, Aang.”

“It was my fault,” Aang replied, taking a deep breath. “So, I need to make it right; and in order to do that, I need to master the four elements and I can’t do this alone.”

“Look, we were pretty much ready to sail across the world to help you out,” Sokka replied with a shrug. “So don’t worry, we’re here. First stop is the North Pole, right?”

“Right.” Aang nodded. “I need to learn Water, then Earth, then Fire.”

“So you’ve pretty much already mastered air, then?” Sokka asked, his eyes narrowing.

“Got my tattoos a few months before I wound up in that Iceberg,” Aang replied with a bright grin.

“Oh so that’s what those mean,” Katara said with a nod. “I was wondering...but Aang? What do you mean when you say it’s your fault?”

Aang took a deep breath. “I don’t really want to talk about it. Lets just say that I never wanted to be the Avatar and leave it at that, okay?”

Katara nodded. “Okay.”

It was then that Sokka’s stomach grumbled. “Aw, man? Do you have any food on this Bison?”

“Barely. Check that bag,” Aang replied, pointing at one of the saddle bags. “It should be enough until we get to Whaletail island where we could gather some more supplies.”

“Do they have meat there?” Sokka asked quickly.

“Uh,” Aang began, remembering that the siblings were indeed not vegetarians like he was. “Yes, there should be some edible creatures there.”

“Yes!”

---

Author’s Notes: Well, that was over kind of quickly. Personally, I don’t want to go over every single possible thing that could happen in this fic since I don’t want it to take too long, so I hope you guys can forgive me if we skip past a few things or get them over with quickly.

In this chapter, I actually wanted Sokka and Katara to get captured by a passing Fire Nation patrol boat but that idea died pretty quick when I figured out that I couldn’t get it to play out the way I wanted it too. So, I decided to shelve the idea, possibly forever. But then I remembered that they were going to run into complications on Kyoshi Island anyway and went with a more condensed version than what I had planned.

Shout out too
Melden V, Anders Kronquist, Ray Tony Song, Volkogluk, Aaron Bjornson, iolande, Martin Auguado, Julio, Jiopaba, Hackerham, Tim Collins-Squire, Maben00, Sultan Saltlick, Ventari, PbookR, Seij, ChristobalAlvarez, Aenor Knight, Apperatus, EPiCJB19, Seeking Raven and Handwran. You guys are the best. Thank you for your continued support.

Until the next time!

~Fulcon
 

Urabrask Revealed

Let them go.
Founder
Joined
Aug 11, 2019
Reaction score
796
Right as Appa started to lift off, the Kyoshi Warrior broke the clearing. Their leader, a girl with short brown hair outstretched her hands in an attempt to call them back. “Wait! We-”

---

“...didn’t know...you were friends of the Avatar,” Suki found her volume decreasing as the flying Bison took off, leaving her and her warriors in the dust. With a groan of annoyed embarrassment, she rubbed her eyes with her fingers and thumb.
Well, that certainly is going to change things. I really need to rewatch the series again, Suki had a big impact on Sokka, I just can't remember exactly what.
 

Fulcon

Active member
Joined
Oct 16, 2019
Reaction score
95
Well, that certainly is going to change things. I really need to rewatch the series again, Suki had a big impact on Sokka, I just can't remember exactly what.
Cured him of his sexist attitude toward women.

And was his girlfriend.
 
Letters

Fulcon

Active member
Joined
Oct 16, 2019
Reaction score
95
The following is a fanbased work of fiction. Avatar the Last Airbender is the property of Viacom, Nickelodeon, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Koniezko. Please support the official release.

---

Commander Zhao was irritated.

He was standing on a rig that had been built up out of the ocean for the sole purpose of holding Earth Benders. Of course, this rig was now nearly empty, a jail whose only occupants were the ghosts of those prisoners who had died in their cells.

“Commander!” Zhao turned to face one of his captains, who commanded the battleship he had arrived to the prison. “We were able to retrieve the surviving crew of the Prison.”

“And the Warden?” Zhao asked.

“Drowned, sir,” the Captain replied. “He didn’t know how to swim.”

Zhao grumbled in annoyance.

The Warden was appointed to his post for political reasons, obviously. One of the requirements to even be stationed on one of these platforms was that you were a strong swimmer. Sadly, these political reasons were that he was hated and whoever placed him here was hoping he’d die. It gave Zhao an in to deal with the man; he would tell the Commander if something interesting happened and in return he would get him off the deathtrap that was called a prison.

One such interesting thing had occurred and brought Zhao here: the forced occupying a nearby mining village had managed to capture a Water Tribal. Obviously it was a water tribal, from the hue of her skin to the ocean-colored clothes that she wore. He had sent a message to Zhao immediately after the guards saw her conversing with a pair of passengers aboard a Flying Bison. Zhao had told him not to touch her and to await his arrival.

Zhao looked out over the water.

“Get the Prison crew medical attention and ensure that they’re given warm meals,” Zhao ordered. “Once that is taken care of, I want to know exactly what happened here.”

“Yes, sir,” the Captain bowed and marched off.

For his part, Zhao continued to march across the deck.

It wasn’t hard to guess generally what had happened, but the spirits were in the details. The girl was obviously one of the Avatar’s companions and they had broke out the Earth Benders that had been held captive. That he was traveling with a pair of tribals indicated that he was found or released from whatever prison he was held in near the South Pole. From both the spies within Omashu and the report from the Warden of this prison, the Avatar was still a child.

Somehow. That’d be an interesting story to learn.

The fact that he was going north instead of stopping at an Earth Kingdom city for long or making a direct line for the Fire Nation meant that the boy still had to learn the other three elements, if he had even mastered Airbending.

Starting with Water.

Which meant that he was going to the North Pole.

Zhao did not like that at all.

The soon-to-be Admiral had plans for the North Pole. Those plans did not include the Avatar, who could act as such an effective spanner in the works that he might as well call the whole thing off right now. Unless he could capture the boy and his friends.

He felt something clatter against his boot.

It was a Water Tribe betrothal necklace.

Zhao’s eyebrow raised at that. As far as those things went, it was exquisitely crafted. Obviously, it had come from the girl. But why would a girl who wore a betrothal necklace be traveling the world with the Avatar instead of remaining at home with the tribe? Perhaps the savages had given her to the Avatar as a welcoming present?

He snorted. It was irrelevant to him what the savages did with themselves. What did matter was stopping the Avatar before he arrived at the North Pole and ruined his plans.

He brought his heel up and crushed the necklace beneath his boot.

---

“The crew has shore-leave while I’m gone,” Zuko said, giving out last minute orders as he finished packed. He wore a robe with a hood pulled over his head. “Keep them out of trouble, Uncle.”

“I will, Zuko,” Iroh replied with a slow nod. “You be safe on your journey. Remember. You can only afford a week in the Fire Nation before the ship has to begin it’s return trip.”

It was the big day. Zuko had been preparing for this day for weeks, studying maps, learning routes, trying to figure out if there was any military presence at all within the small town. He picked out an assumed name, Lee, to travel while there. The pieces were in place, the routes had been calculated and all that was left was to leave.

“I know, Uncle,” Zuko replied, wringing his hands with nervous energy.

Uncle Iroh grabbed a teapot and poured Zuko a cup. “For your nerves.”

Zuko smoothly drank the entire cup in one single swig. “Thank you, Uncle.”

“If you miss the return window,” Iroh started. “You can find the White Lotus in the nearest city. Travel within the City limits only at night. Join them formally and ask for relocation. Say each code phrase in order.”

Zuko recited each phrase slowly and carefully, using them as a mantra to soothe his nervousness.

“Good,” Iroh nodded. “Good.”

The Prince took a deep breath. He had very, very good reason to be nervous. If he was discovered violating or trying to violate his exile, he would likely be killed. Or at least, they would try to kill him and he’d wind up in open rebellion against his Father.

As opposed to the subtle rebellion of seeing the world and adventuring on his Father’s coin.

Zuko shouldered his pack. “Third dock on the Fire Nation Cargo ship?”

“Yes. Ask for Captain Kuzon and tell him that there’s a shipment of Lotus Petals,” Iroh replied. “Good luck, Prince Zuko.”

“Thank you, Uncle.”

They embraced, long and hard, before Zuko slipped out and through the secret exit out of the warehouse and into the night.

---

Uncle Iroh,

I’m writing this to you from Hira’a. I made it across the blockade without any problems; though I have never felt anything quite as terrifying as the feeling of someone’s footsteps across the smugglers compartment I was being hid inside.

And I’ve got news. Good and bad.

The good is that I found Mother. I found her. She’s been living here in her home village the entire time. Married to her old boyfriend, the one she had before she was forced to marry Father. The bad news is, well, that Mother doesn’t remember me.

Uncle, you know there’s a spirit that gives people faces, memories, identities? She can change them. Mold them. Shape them. Just a snap of her fingers and you’re a completely different person. Scary. Naturally, I went and sought it out since obviously mother had gone to see this spirit if she had been exiled as I suspected.

This spirit actually started to give me a new face, all the while huffing like I had forced her to clean a chamber pot. I couldn’t have that, I love my face! The look on her face when I told her to stop was priceless though. Turns out, she hates changing peoples identities but that’s all people see her for.

When I told her I was looking for Mother, she was very forthcoming with information. Told me who she changed Mother into, who her boyfriend was and explained why Mother didn’t recognize me when I first introduced myself to her; this spirit had changed her memories as well.

But now I have a choice to make.

My stepfather Her new husband is on board with returning her memories. Putting her face back is out of the question until after Father is out of power, but her memories. If I put them back, I have mother back. Essentially.

But do I even want too?

Uncle, there is ‘not having anything to do with the Fire Nation’. I am the undisputed king of that idea. I understand it. I applaud anyone who makes a jump like that. The Fire Nation nobility are the most self-absorbed grew of feces-chewing moose lions this entire planet has ever seen.

But there’s ‘blaze the Fire Nation’ then there’s what Mother did.

She didn’t just decide to tell the royal courts to eat coal, she changed her name, face and identity to get away from them. Bluntly, I’m in awe. I almost want to leave her memories the way they are out of respect, both for her choice and her audacity.

Though if we give her her memories back, what does that do to her? Yes, I get mother back, but she still has to live in Hira’a. Perhaps she might want that, but if she even wants to keep speaking to me? I mean, I’d be shattering the illusion she’s built, ruining the life that she chose. Even if she doesn’t mind, she can’t just send me letters whenever she wants. The messenger hawk carrying this letter was trained by the White Lotus to avoid interception. Mother won’t have that luxury.

I’d essentially be reminding her that she has two other children that she has no way of talking to. Maybe she wouldn’t mind that, maybe she would. I’m just now realizing how little I know about my own Mother.

Uncle, by the time you get this letter, it will be too late for you to offer advice. My window for extraction will be up and I’ll be on my way back to the Merchant’s Pier, one way or the other. I just wanted you to know that I’m safe and that I made progress, dilemma aside.

I’ll see you soon.

~Zuko.

---

The Fire Nation palace was the same as it always was. Grand in it’s majesty, holy in its dedication to the Flame and most importantly, boring.

Princess Azula looked across the pond from her position in the royal gardens. Those irritating turtle ducks, thankfully, knew enough to stay away from her and disrupt her meditations. They were loud and the gardens were meant to be peaceful. Thus, whenever they came to close, she’d throw a rock or two and hit their mother on the shell.

Accurately tossed with enough force to rattle the adult into taking her ducklings with her and leave the Princess with peace and quiet.

It would be easier if they were smart enough to follow orders, but since even the most forceful royal decree would be ignored by these peaceful, dimwitted animals, you had to use a medium which they understood. Force, thankfully, was understood by everyone.

Her meditations, just like everything else about her, were perfect. Her back a perfect straight line, her breathing smooth and even. The princess had already done her training for the day, trying to increase the speed of her lightning bending and maintain her cool, sapphire colored flames, so there was very little for her to do besides meditate, get a manicure, perhaps get a snack from the kitchens if she were feeling peckish.

She was hoping that one day, Father would finally have enough of her...brothers bumbling about the world trying to capture the Avatar and send her instead. He would be recalled, a disgrace still, but he’d be home and then she’d made quick work of the hunt for this boy.

The princess could go out, see the world, fight in the war, perhaps meet someone…

She shook her head.

No. If she was to have a husband, her father would pick the perfect candidate for her. It would be best if she stuck to the variables she knew and what she could control. Such as the hunt for the Avatar.

He was a boy, roughly two years younger than she was. Bald monk, blue tattoos. According to the path she had been able to chart, he sometimes made detours to tourist locations suggesting that discipline was not his strong suit. His age being what it was, that was a given. From the lack of Fire Nation casualties from battles with the young man, he was also quite squeamish.

When you combined all of this with the fact that he had only used Airbending in all but the most desperate circumstances, it was clear that he only mastered Airbending. Which meant that he was on his way to the North Pole and from there would need to learn Earth Bending, then Fire Bending.

From what Azula could tell, it would be easiest to capture him while he was on his way to an Earth Bending Instructor; according to the spies, the Avatar was an old friend of the Earth King Bumi and would journey to him to learn Earth Bending. Lay a trap, spring it and take home the prize.

Ensure Zuko’s removal from the line of succession and his safe return home while allowing her to ascend to the throne unopposed. It was a perfect plan.

Except that her Father would have to approve her request and to press him on this would be a poor idea. He would know when it was time for her to leave the palace walls, finally, and make her journey across the sea.

The disturbance of grass broke Azula out of her meditation and caused her head to snap in the direction it came from. Standing on the grass was one of Azula’s servants, a clearly nervous girl that couldn’t be more than a few years older than the princess herself.

Azula frowned slightly. She knew people had reason to be afraid of her, that’s the way it should be, but couldn’t they do a better job of hiding it? “What is it?”

“A letter for you, Princess.” The servant held out a folded letter, the back colored in crimson and bearing the royal seal. “From the Prince himself.”

Azula schooled her expression and stood up. She took the letter and looked over both sides of it dispassionately. “Hm, I see. You may go.”

Wordlessly, the servant bowed and left as quickly as she could without looking like she was running for her life.

The Princess regarded the letter with a small sneer. Her brother, bumbling and stupid as he was, had probably realized that he stood no chance of ever catching the Avatar now. The entirety of the Fire Nation war machine was mobilizing to hunt the boy down and assuredly, they’d catch him before Zuko could even lay eyes on him. So, he undoubtedly had turned to her for help. Finally.

She might’ve helped if he had asked sooner and grovelled sufficiently. Perhaps he was hoping she’d be able to entreat Father to rescind his banishment, but on that front there was very little she could do; she was a Princess, not a Lion-Turtle.

If nothing else, the letter would be an entertaining diversion.

Azula took it to her room and shut the door behind her. She sat at her vanity and took a moment to inspect her reflection. Not a hair out of place, as was expected.

She took a breath and heated the seal, allowing her to peel the letter open with little difficulty.

Azula, it began.

Azula’s smirk grew. He wasn’t exactly helping his case by forgetting her royal title.

I’m writing this letter to congratulate you on being next in line to the throne. I’m sure your rule will be long, effective and bring glory to the Fire Nation.

She blinked; that was not what she was expecting out of a letter from her brother.

You might have been expecting me to ask you for help, or at least to ask Father to end my banishment. But we both know that’s not happening. The only way I’m going to be allowed back is by capturing the Avatar and with the entire Nation chasing at his heels, there is no way I’ll be able to catch him.

Azula’s head turned in place. Perhaps he was being realistic, but she had at least hoped he wouldn’t have given up entirely.

Though, given how unsuited I was to the life of nobility I was, I think that’s for the best. To be honest, it might behoove all of us if I simply disappeared. That way Father doesn’t have to worry about me causing problems and you don’t have to worry about anyone challenging your legitimacy.

“That’s...not untrue,” Azula muttered, feeling a frown growing on her lips. There was an odd tightness in her chest. Sure, he was bumbling and stupid, but she had wanted him to return home, didn’t she?

But that’s not really why I’m writing this letter. I’m writing this because while I have no chance of catching the Avatar, I found Mother. It was a wild ride, but she wanted me to pass a message onto you.

Azula stopped reading, and then read that paragraph again. He had found their mother? Of course he did. There wasn’t a day that went by that he wasn’t thinking about her. The days where Azula didn’t think about her, however, were days that she could call good ones. No matter what her mother thought, she wasn’t a failure, even if she didn’t understand where she went wrong or why she and Father seemed to hate each other.

She told me to tell you that she’s sorry.

Azula scoffed, but found herself unable to tear her eyes away from the paper in her hands.

That she’s sorry she didn’t love you enough. That she’s sorry for being a terrible mother to you. For not protecting you from Father and hopes that you can forgive her.

“But...but...” Azula muttered, her eyes wider than dinner plates.

We talked a lot, about you, about the family, about how things went so wrong. She told me a few things about you, and she helped me realize something.

And what might that be, Zuzu? How terrible she was?

You are not a monster.

Azula felt her heart stop.

Of course she was. That was the whole reason mother hated her! She was a monster, cruel by nature and vindictive by choice. She used people for fun and lied when it was convenient. That was the one thing Azula and Ursa had ever agreed upon!

And I’m sorry for ever thinking you were. I never realized how you and Mother never got along. I never realized how much you wanted her to love you. I never saw how you would dislike how close Mother and I were.

So, I apologize for being a bad brother. I hope you can forgive me.

The princess was starting to have trouble breathing, trying to open her mouth and force air into her lungs but finding herself only able to gasp.

This letter is probably the last time I’ll be able to speak to you. You have no cause to leave the palace and I have no reason to return. So I wanted to clear the air and leave nothing bad between us.

I doubt we’ll ever meet again. But if we do, no matter what circumstances that would be, I was wondering.

Azula felt something drip into her eyes. She wiped it away, ruining her perfect eyeliner.

Can we start over? Just be brother and sister without all the baggage? I’d like to try again.

~Zuko

P.S: Do
not ask Father to rescind my banishment.

Azula sniffed and froze as she saw drops of something stain the paper. In a panic, she got the letter out of the way, placing it on her vanity and reached for a handkerchief to blow into.

Tears.

She was crying.

Why was she crying?

It wasn’t because of some stupid letter, so transparently written by Zuko and Mother to rip at her heartstrings to try to persuade Father to let them come back. Yes, that’s all it was. It was not, at all, an honest apology from two people that hated manipulation because they were incompetent at it and...and…

She buried her hands in her face, trying to get her emotions back under control. She succeeded with deep breathing, bringing herself to a calm meditation.

It may very well be a precisely written letter designed to throw her off. It certainly succeeded if that was the case.

Or it could be the most sincere thing she had read in her life.

Either way, there was only one thing to do.

Call the bluff. If this was a lie, she could lord how they tried to manipulate her, Azula, emotionally, to get what they wanted. If they weren’t lying...then...they were lying. They had to be lying.

But if they weren’t?

That thought stopped her from reaching for the brush and paper.

If they were being honest?

Did she want to start over?

She stood up and paced around her room, feeling a nervous energy coursing through her limbs as she looked back toward the letter again and again.

Could she even start over?

Azula sat back down at the vanity and read over the letter again.

And again.

And again.

At the edges where she gripped it tightly, her claw-like nails had pierced through the parchment.

She took a breath.

And another.

Azula grabbed a brush and paper, and started to write her response.

It was terrible, so she shredded it and grabbed another paper.

This one was crumpled up in a ball and thrown over her shoulder.

The next one became ash all over the priceless wood of her vanity.

So she gently took another one.

---

Zuko,

What kind of fool

---

Zuzu,

I am impressed by your resourcefulness! You’ve been at sea for two years and found the wrong target

---

Zuko,

I would absolutely love it if you

---

Zuko,

Your letter was illuminating and...I’m glad Mother is safe, if nothing else.

But I also don’t think you’re entirely telling the truth. After all, you’ve been away from home for two years and you don’t want me to ask Father to end your banishment?

If you’re lying? Well, then you can stay out at sea forever.

But if you’re telling the truth?

...

Please capture the Avatar.

Please come home.

I want to start over.

~Azula

---

This was terrible.

Azula fumed at her letter, bouts of hot steam exiting her nostrils with every exhale.

This wasn’t the sort of thing she wrote. Her father would kill her if she caught her writing anything of the sort. She wasn’t even truly exaggerating about that.

But this was short! It was neither eloquent nor powerful, as all things from the Princess were supposed to be. It was simple. Plain. Weakness in writing.

Azula let out a sad, depressed sigh.

It was the best that she had.

Try as she might, she couldn’t bring herself to destroy it.

Her shoulders slumped as she looked at the most meager words that she had ever put to paper. They were pathetic. Wholly insufficient, far beneath the bare minimum of what was expected of Princess Azula of the Fire Nation.

Even her stupid brother would laugh at this.

She didn’t want to send it.

It wasn’t what she wanted it to be.

But it was what she had.

So, Azula, Princess of the Fire Nation, folded the letter and stamped it with the royal seal. After marking Zuko as the intended recipient She personally carried it to the palace post office and deposited it there without a word.

---

“I need to talk to Roku and I think I found a way to do it,” Aang said matter-of-factly.

They were standing at the gate of a village whose forest had been burnt to twigs. They had perhaps spent a little bit more time in Omashu than perhaps was wise, but they needed rest. Sadly, that led to them getting to the forest after it had been burnt, with the spirit Hei Bai blaming the local villagers for his home being destroyed.

“That’s great!” Katara said.

“There’s a temple on a crescent shaped island and if I go there on the Solstice,” Aang began with a frown. “I’ll be able to speak with him.”

“Speaking with your past life?” Sokka asked, shaking his head. “That’s creepy. Good, but creepy.”

Katara looked shocked. “The Solstice is tomorrow!”

“Yeah, and there’s one more problem,” Aang said with a deep frown. “The temple is in the Fire Nation.”

---

Author’s Notes: I can explain.

See, originally I had intended to write out Zuko’s trip to find his mother. I did. I really, really did. But there’s a problem and that problem is Zuko making this trip by himself, without Aang and more importantly, without Azula. I hadn’t read the comic and didn’t know enough about the situations specifics to make it interesting, so I found myself just skimming over everything. Then I had the idea to make this chapter about letters! So here we are.

I know perhaps a lot of you were looking forward to reading Zuko finding his mother in detail, but I...just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t write it without it being interesting and I figured that it would be better if I stuck to what I could write well and knew what was going on. So I apologize for not being writer enough for this and I hope you can forgive me.

As for Azula, I always believed that Azula, deep down, cared for both her brother and her mother. But due to being hurt one too many times and having her less than ethical behavior rewarded by Ozai, wound up shutting herself away, thinking that she was a monster. So in my opinion, she needed to hear what she heard (well, read) from Zuko’s letter for a long time. Specifically, the words ‘you are not a monster’.

I hope you guys don’t feel like I rushed it and did a poor job. The ramifications of Zuko getting a more objective look at life in the Royal Palace for his sister was one of the goals of this fic, I would hate to have done a disservice to the redemption of Azula...that’s not to say she’s redeemed. But rather, she’s been started on the road. She’s got a long way to go, still. Zuko too.

Shout out too
Melden V, Anders Kronquist, Ray Tony Song, Volkogluk, Aaron Bjornson, iolande, Martin Auguado, Julio, Jiopaba, Hackerham, Tim Collins-Squire, Maben00, Sultan Saltlick, Ventari, PbookR, Seij, ChristobalAlvarez, Aenor Knight, Apperatus, EPiCJB19, Seeking Raven and Handwran.

Your continued support makes this possible!

Until the next time!

~Fulcon
 
Last edited:

Spartan303

In Captain America We Trust.
Administrator
Staff Member
Founder
Sotnik
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Reaction score
396
Ouch. Loving Sincerity doing to Azula what plots and schemes never could. This is so very touching. The Feels are strong with this one.
 

prinCZess

Warrior, Writer, Performer, Perv
Joined
Aug 11, 2019
Reaction score
992
Location
Off the Rez, on the Warpath
I’d essentially be reminding her that she has two other children that she has no way of talking to. Maybe she wouldn’t mind that, maybe she would. I’m just now realizing how little I know about my own Mother.
As someone who never read the bit that expanded on Zuko's mother, I approve of this whole section and particularly the mere fact that Zuko recognizes things enough to even ask this manner of question--and it feels like a completely natural result of him investigating air-bending and the 'free yourself' philosophy. You can tell he's muddling with concepts he sees, but doesn't know how to apply to the world because things are messy--kind of a slightly more wordly reflection of Aang, maybe? Dunnow how to put it.

Wordlessly, the servant bowed and left as quickly as she could without looking like she was running for her life.
Can tell a lot about a person by how the 'help' behaves towards them and how they behaves towards the help.
Combined with the turtle-ducks is also a nice peek into Azula's reasoning and view on things while establishing some setting detail. I like it a lot.
Most of all in Azula's section, I have to say her scheming and pragmatic planning getting brought to an absolute crashing halt by something as simple as sincerity feels right. Even more the immediate flailing-about and trying to latch back onto it she does--trying to get back that cynicism and coldness she was knocked out of and failing.
I've got a weakness for 'justified' villains who 'commit to the bit' like Azula and recognize themselves for what they 'are', but I'd be curious to see how/if that particular character type can recover or reform into something better...Or if they'd falter and fail in the same style Zuko did in the series without something further to keep them going.

Or, for that matter, if Azula can get convinced to better herself based off of the shiny trinket/promise of becoming the fire-lord? Becoming a better person because she's power-hungry seems like a somewhat hilarious irony to me. :LOL:
 

Fulcon

Active member
Joined
Oct 16, 2019
Reaction score
95
Dunnow how to put it.
I mean, Zuko was a mirror of Aang in canon so I'm glad I'm continuing the dynamic.

Combined with the turtle-ducks is also a nice peek into Azula's reasoning and view on things while establishing some setting detail. I like it a lot.
I'm glad you do. :)

In my view, Azula isn't pointlessly cruel, she's just selfish in that way that only a choice lack of empathy can inspire. She doesn't want to hurt the turtle-ducks, they're just bothering her and thus are guilty of the first offense.

Most of all in Azula's section, I have to say her scheming and pragmatic planning getting brought to an absolute crashing halt by something as simple as sincerity feels right. Even more the immediate flailing-about and trying to latch back onto it she does--trying to get back that cynicism and coldness she was knocked out of and failing.
Thank you.

Azula, in my opinion, was always a girl who didn't get enough sincere affection in her life and thus, when it shows up, she has no idea how to handle it. She desperately needed that honest reassurance that she was loved, even if it was screwed up by the human mistakes of the two people who gave it to her, those being Ursa and Zuko.

Or, for that matter, if Azula can get convinced to better herself based off of the shiny trinket/promise of becoming the fire-lord? Becoming a better person because she's power-hungry seems like a somewhat hilarious irony to me. :LOL:
Agreed!

Have a cookie.
 
Returns

Fulcon

Active member
Joined
Oct 16, 2019
Reaction score
95
The following is a fanbased work of fiction. Avatar the Last Airbender is the property of Viacom, Nickelodeon, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Koniezko. Please support the official release.

---

Zuko was leaning against the railing, watching the waves of the sea as they gently rocked the ship. They were approaching the blockade, so Zuko would need to be hidden away soon, in the coffin built into one of the halls inside the ship.

But that was far from the Prince’s mind.

His mind stayed on the conversation with his Mother. The very fact that his mother had poisoned his Grandfather to protect him had thrown the prince for a loop. She was Mother! Mother was incapable of such harsh acts as murder.

Zuko shook his head.

Azula probably got his letter right after he left. Before his meeting with mother, Zuko would’ve said that Azula would’ve laughed at the letter or simply thrown it away as foolishness. But now?

He wasn’t sure.

If he were being realistic, she probably did both of those things still, simply because that’s how she responded to sentimentality. But there was a hope that maybe, just maybe, he got through to her; He did want to try getting to know his sister without the competition for the throne getting in the way.

That wasn’t really what was bothering him.

But he didn’t know what it was, though.

Zuko stopped as he heard a rumble above him. He looked straight up and saw, following the same path that the ship had tread but in the opposite direction, was the underside of a giant flying beaver.

No.

Not a beaver.

A Flying Bison.

Zuko blinked at the sight of the Avatar’s mount.

He tried to fight it.

Zuko really tried.

He took deep breaths. Tried to force his lips to remain in that impassive expression he had perfected over the past year.

But he failed.

Zuko, Prince of the Fire Nation, started to laugh. It was a hard, braying sound that seemed to echo across the waves, robbing him of his treasured breath, forcing him to clutch at his stomach and bend over to remain on his feet.

He had searched for a year and found nothing. After giving up, the Avatar was just flying over his head.

It was like the Universe was taunting him.

Zuko managed to contain himself after ten minutes of breathless laughter and looked to the side, seeing ships of the blockade having been diverted to chase after the Avatar, so he went inside to find his designated hiding place.

---

Aang found himself looking downward and saw a small, Fire Nation cargo ship.

He felt like there was something really, really important down on that ship.

But he shook his head and pressed onward; speaking to Roku was much more important.

---

The sanctuary of the Fire Temple was exquisitely decorated.

Crimson carpets, which ironically felt like stepping on water, covered the floor and hung from the walls in magnificent tapestries. Directly ahead of him was the statue of Avatar Roku and Winter Solstice was nearly upon them.

A beam of sunlight was crossing the threshold gradually reaching for the forehead of Avatar Roku. When it finally did so, Aang would be taken to the Spirit world.

Any second now.

Hurry up! Aang demanded with a hard clack of his staff on the uncarpeted ground. His friends were counting on him!

That was the worst part.

The fire sages had turned on Aang, save one. But as Aang had dove into the Sanctum, Sokka and Katara had gotten captured. He didn’t know if they were being taken away and if he’d have to go save them the second he was done or if they were being kept right outside the door as hostages.

“Come on,” Aang begged the stream of light. “Just a little further...”

---

Zhao was starting to feel a little better.

It had not taken him long at all to track the Bison down, and he was able to follow it past the Blockade and from there, guess his destination as the Fire Temple. He was right, as usual. The Avatar would naturally be drawn to places of spiritual enlightenment on the Solstice and given that his past life was Fire Nation, it stood to reason.

But these series of deductions were robbed of their earlier satisfaction when they had gotten duped into allowing the Avatar into the Sanctuary. At least Zhao had his friends to ensure that the Avatar stayed in the Temple to try to free them.

Actually, Zhao had a short order of business to take care of.

He walked toward the tribals, clearly siblings. One girl, one boy. They took notice of his approach and adopted brave, defiant expressions on their faces.

“What do you want?” The Boy snapped out.

“I’d show a little more respect if I were you,” Zhao coldly chided with a raised eyebrow. “I could have the sages kill you right now if you prove to be more trouble than you’re worth.”

“If you do, you’ll have to deal with an angry avatar,” The boy rebutted.

“I’m sure we’d have to deal with an angry avatar anyway if we want to catch him,” Zhao pointed out airily. “Perhaps we should just skip to that part and get it over with, hm?”

The boy’s bravado evaporated. “Whoa, whoa, hold on there. Can we talk about this?”

“Sokka, shut up,” The girl hissed with more than a little fear in her eyes.

“Can we talk about this?” Zhao mused openly. “It might be best if we started with introductions. I’m Commander Zhao. And you?”

“Sokka of the Water Tribe,” He said, his bravery returning, if only briefly.

“Of the Southern Water Tribe,” Zhao corrected with a small frown.

“Y-yeah,” Sokka flinched slightly at the correction. Interesting!

“And I’m Katara,” The girl replied, narrowing her eyes in a glare at the Commander. “Now what do you want?”

“I really just want to know how the Avatar was found,” Zhao said with a dismissive wave. “Was it you who found him?”

“We’re not telling you anything,” Katara snapped.

“Is that so?” Zhao asked. He shrugged and turned to the Lieutenant who had taken a position at his flank. “Kill them.”

Both of the tribal savages froze, and looked at the Lieutenant with wide eyes as Zhao turned away. Any second now…

The sages gasped in alarm and the Lieutenant stopped at the sound. Zhao’s head whipped toward the door of the Sanctuary opened and out stepped...an elderly man in Fire Nation robes.

Avatar Roku.

Commander Zhao felt his blood run cold with dread as he joined the defense.

---

“That was close!” Sokka shouted, tightly gripping Appa’s saddle as the flying bison ascended in nearly a straight line, away from the fire temple and firebenders trying to burn him alive. “That Zhao guy tried to have us killed!”

When Appa breached the clouds, he leveled out, allowing his passengers to relax their death grips on the saddle.

“I’m sorry guys,” Aang replied with a frown. “I didn’t mean for that to happen.”

“It’s okay, Aang,” Katara reassured him with a grateful smile. “You saved us before anything could happen. We’re not hurt.”

“Good,” Aang said with an uneasy smile. “That’s good. I’m glad you’re not hurt.”

After a moment, Aang turned to to side, away from them in a gesture Sokka immediately recognized as a signal to give him space. Katara, of course, got the opposite impression and moved in to give Aang a hug from the back.

He moved in to try to pull her away, but Aang wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her closer.

None of them spoke another word for the rest of the flight.

---

“Uncle?” Zuko whispered as he crawled into the base through the secret entrance. “Uncle, are you here?”

The entrance led directly into Zuko’s office and while the table and map were lit by candlelight, it was obvious that Zuko was alone.

He let out a breath. His pack seemed to slip from his shoulders of its own accord, bearing a letter from his Mother to Uncle sitting on the top. With a sharp inhale, the candle’s got brighter, allowing him to see where he could hang his cloak without tripping over it later.

“Zuko?”

The door to the office opened and Iroh stepped inside, holding a candle in one hand.

“Uncle,” Zuko said in a tired voice, though still smiling as they moved to embrace.

“I am glad to see you return safely,” Iroh said with a happy smile of his own. In his other hand, he had held the letter he had received. “What was your choice?”

Zuko’s eyes took on a strange glimmer. “I have my mother back.”

“I’m so happy for you,” Iroh replied, his smile getting wider. “How was she?”

“She’s fine,” Zuko answered. “She and I talked about everything. About Father...you should’ve seen how mad she was after we brought her memories back and she saw the scar.”

“I imagine her rage would send dragons into hiding,” Iroh said with amusement.

“And a few other things, too,” Zuko shook his head with a soft chuckle. “It was amazing.”

---

What did that animal do to your face?

---

“Sozin’s Comet?” Sokka repeated with a frown. “I guess it makes sense.”

Appa had landed back in the Earth Kingdom and the trio had set camp. The fire was roaring, vegetables and meat stew were cooking in separate pots, so the smell of food was thick in the air and making their mouths water.

“That’s what they used too,” Aang began before finding himself swallowing a mouthful of air. “Too...you know.”

“Yeah, I gotcha,” Sokka nodded quickly. “So we have until the comet arrives to get to the North Pole and find you a Waterbending master, then two more masters for Earth and Fire so you can master them too and...”

“Sokka,” Katara cut him off with a glare.

“What?” Sokka asked with a glare of his own. “I’m just listing off everything we need to get done in six months.”

“But we can worry about that later!” Katara barked. “We just got done escaping from the Fire Nation, can’t we have a bit of a break?”

“Guys!” Aang shouted, cutting them both off. “We can’t waste time and energy fighting among ourselves while the fate of the entire planet is resting on our shoulders!”

Both of them felt the rush of air through their clothes that snapped them back to their senses.

“Right.” Sokka quickly nodded. “Sorry. I was just...uh...”

“Let’s eat,” Katara quickly changed the subject, moving to take their meals off of the fire. “It sure smells good, doesn’t it?”

Aang sighed and hung his head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s okay,” Katara replied. “We’re all just a little tense right now. What we need is to just relax, eat dinner and then get some sleep.”

“We can talk about stuff tomorrow,” Sokka replied. “Katara’s right, we’re in no shape to stress about this right now.”

“Thank you, Sokka,” Katara beamed at the surprising compliment.

“Yeah, well, I mean,” Sokka began, forcing Katara to wonder how her brother was going to ruin her mood. “You are a woman, so you’re better at this emotion and sensitivity stuff.”

Katara’s eyebrow twitched. “Just like how you’re better at being boneheaded and stuffing your foot in your mouth.”

“See, exactly!” Sokka nodded in agreement. He turned to Aang. “See, Katara gets it. I mean, she’s got to put ‘being tough’ and ‘verbally witty’ as negatively as possible because normally when you’re honest about this sort of thing, women just want to hit you.”

This woman’s about too.”

Guys...”

---

Iroh,

If you’re reading this, then Zuko got back to the Pier safely and thank the spirits for that.

I hope you’re doing well and that the past few years have treated you well. I haven’t seen you since you left to siege Ba Sing Se and I haven’t heard from you since...well. I think you remember. I am very sorry for your loss.

After seeing what that beast did to his face, I can only be grateful that you have taken my son under your wing. He has grown into a strong and happy young man, one blooming even in the face of incredible adversity even thriving in his unspeakable exile.

But in spite of all the good things that I have said, Iroh, I am worried for him.

Zuko, for all his grace and even cheer, has become something almost unrecognizable. Perhaps it is the beasts fault, but my son used to care for his nation. Care for his people. That care and devotion is gone, replaced by something else.

My son is now flippant. He is now flighty, though that might have been his limited time-frame speaking, but I don’t think so.

“They made their bed with dragons. It’s not my fault if they get eaten.”

Those were his exact words.

Iroh, I know you’re as concerned as I am about this. So I ask you to try to steer him back on the right path. This aimless wanderer that he has become is not who he is. It will not bring him lasting happiness or fulfillment. A Fire Nation man needs wood in the ground, not just air and want. You know this.

Before I left, I told Zuko to never forget who he is. But he has changed. He has changed a great deal.

Whether it was because the animal succeeded in burning it out of him or if it was instead snuffed out by something else, Zuko really wouldn’t say. Just that being exiled was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

So I ask you, Iroh, to bring Zuko out of this. He needs ground to stand on. Whether that ground is in the Fire Nation nobility or somewhere else entirely, it does not matter. He needs to put roots down somewhere, or on something.

Also, I had something brief to say about my daughter.

My daughter is the animal’s favorite for good reason. She is cold and she is dangerous. A firebending prodigy who sought for power and glory above all else.

Part of it was definitely my fault.

In my years away, I had no memory of Zuko or Azula. Having it restored and then comparing my experience with Azula with my second daughter Kiyi, I saw where I went wrong.

Azula wanted me to love her. She wanted me to appreciate and adore her firebending the way the animal did. She wanted me to congratulate her on her achievements. She wanted me to tell her how smart she was. She needed a love that I did not even recognize as love but that the other parent had in spades and used it to wrap her around his depraved finger.

As her mother, I have failed her spectacularly.

Given how she had always acted cold and antagonistic to you, I can imagine that you might have given up on her. But allow me to say that Azula never forgave you for not avenging Lu Ten’s death. It is not because they were especially close, but that in her eyes, you had a duty, were too weak to fulfill that duty. She thinks a father needs to act like her own, in order to be a good father. If Zuko were to die, for instance, she would expect Ozai to go on a rampage and see to the deaths of Zuko’s killers.

I do not expect this to suddenly get you to love her, but at the very least, I hope this helps you understand her and put her actions into context.

So, Iroh, as a favor. From one parent to another.

Please help my children.

Bring Zuko back to solid ground.

Show Azula what love really is.

Before something terrible happens.

~Ursa

---

“Uncle?” Zuko inquired over a steaming cup of jasmine.

Iroh had entered the office with his letter in hand. “Zuko. I’m glad to see your awake.”

“I slept really well,” Zuko said with a small smile, before looking down at the map with a melancholy expression. “It was good.”

“What is wrong?” Iroh asked.

“Nothing,” Zuko lied. “Can I ask what the letter said?”

Iroh shook his head. “No. At least, not until you tell me what’s wrong.”

Zuko sighed. “Alright, I’m just thinking. About...you know.”

Iroh sat down and took a cup of tea that Zuko had graciously poured ahead of time. He simply sipped and waited.

“I just,” Zuko started, unable to finish his sentence, shaking his head as he looked at a scroll on the wall, the one that had positions and rosters of the fire nation blockade. “I found Mother.”

“You did,” Iroh replied.

“But it wasn’t this epic quest like I thought it was going to be,” Zuko shook his head. “It was just ‘talk to this person. Then talk to this person. Go here. Talk to the spirit. Find Mother.’ And I was done.”

“An uneventful journey is usually the best,” Iroh pointed out.

“I know,” Zuko replied with a frown. “But nothing’s changed. Yes, I know where Mother is. Yes, we talked and it was amazing. But...she’s still not a part of my life. We’re still separated by my own exile and a fleet of warships.”

Iroh hummed and nodded.

“And even if I wasn’t exiled, I still wouldn’t want to live over there,” Zuko continued with a disappointed sigh. “I still don’t want anything to do with the Fire Nation.”

“Really?” Iroh asked in surprise. “Not every single Fire Nation man or woman was at your Agni Kai, Prince Zuko.”

“I know!” Zuko snapped, looking like the old Zuko for the first time in over a year. It faded just as quickly. “I know. The people at the head of this war. They made their bed with dragons...”

“You’ve said that,” Iroh interrupted the vicious metaphor with a glare.

“I did. And I meant it. But the people of Hira’a?” Zuko shook his head. “They had no part of it. They’re just a small town so far on the fringe it’s almost a different nation altogether. But Father makes decisions that directly affect them. If the Fire Nation wins or loses the war, they will be affected.”

Iroh slowly started to nod. “You have started to see the vastness of the role of the Fire Lord.”

“I have, and it scares me,” Zuko replied. “I don’t want to be the one directly responsible for their lives being destroyed if I make a bad decision.”

“Well, you do not need to ascend the throne,” Iroh replied. “With you in exile, Azula is in line and she very much wants that power. As frightening as that thought is, Prince Zuko, it is an option.”

Zuko fell silent, and thus, so did Iroh. They sipped at their tea, until Zuko finally broke the silence.

“I sent her a letter.”

“You did?”

Zuko nodded. “Just asking, if we ever met again, if we could start over. Without the baggage.”

Iroh frowned, the weight of his own letter feeling like a boulder in his hand. “Do you think she’ll want too?”

“No.” Zuko shook his head. “Honestly, I think she’ll laugh at it. But I felt like I had to try.”

“Perhaps she might surprise you,” Iroh replied.

“Maybe,” Zuko said. “But right now, I’m just trying to answer one question.”

“Which is?”

“What now?”

---

Author’s Note: I wasn’t sure I’d get this chapter out this week, but here you go. I hope you all enjoyed it. Not much else to say about it, though.

Shout out to our newest Super Patron,
Russel Beatrous, whose support is helping to make this possible.

Shout out also too Melden V, Anders Kronquist, Ray Tony Song, Volkogluk, Aaron Bjornson, iolande, Martin Auguado, Julio, Hackerham, Tim Collins-Squire, Maben00, Ventari, PbookR, Seij, ChristobalAlvarez, Apperatus, EPiCJB19, Seeking Raven and
Handwran. Thank you guys so much!

Until the next time!

~Fulcon
 

Spartan303

In Captain America We Trust.
Administrator
Staff Member
Founder
Sotnik
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Reaction score
396
Why do I have the feeling that Azulas letter might be the key to spring him to action?
 
Top Bottom