Thanks for the reviews! I really appreciate hearing the feedback from you guys!

I'm sorry for the long wait. Things just weren't turning out how I wanted, so I had to rewrite quite a bit. I hope this chapter makes up for it. There was a question I thought I'd address.

Aang was able to master flight when he mastered his sixth chakra, overcoming his misconceptions. It's pretty much how Zaheer did it in LoK except Aang is far more of a natural than Zaheer ever could be. As for soundbending, when Aang, through the Tree of Time, visited the past, Gyatso used energybending to give Aang all of the Air Nomad knowledge that Gyatso had. That included soundbending, so Aang mastered soundbending after that, having all the knowledge necessary to master it.

Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar the Last Airbender


Aang opened his eyes when he felt himself conveyed to the Spirit World. It was a darkened, shadowy realm; it was decaying and he wondered how he hadn't felt the atmosphere when he had been in the Spirit World looking for Vaatu after Samir and Ursa had been taken, but he presumed that it was because he had been preoccupied.

Azula suddenly appeared next to him and when she punched her fist forward, she woefully sighed when no flames appeared before she nodded; her face was set in determination. "Where will we find Wan Shi Tong?"

"At his library." He gestured for her to follow him and a path of light appeared before them, guiding them. "We'll follow this."

"Did you do that?"


"I was not aware that you could."

"My will can shape the Spirit World, remember? I'm willing a path of light that leads to Wan Shi Tong's library." Aang took her hand and pulled her into his arms as he flew down the path. "It shouldn't take too long. I hope that it's not in flames as my vision showed."

"Do you think that Dark will be there?"

"If he is, there's nothing that will stop me from putting him in the Tree of Time and rescuing Samir and Ursa. I hope that he is, but knowing how fickle the winds of fate have been, I doubt it."

"Why do you think that the ubiquitous winds of fate have decreed these things to happen?" Azula looked up at him as they continued flying quickly but she was easily heard. "Are they on Dark's side? Are they allied with him?"

"I don't know." He sighed in displeasure. "If I could, I'd have words with them but nobody - including myself, all of my past lives, and Raava - knows how the winds of fate work, if they're even sentient. I doubt that Wan Shi Tong even knows. It seems that the winds of fate are as ancient as the Tree of Time and belong solely to their own desires. They are their own entity, untethered to mortal or immortal wishes and concerns. Perhaps they're part of the Tree of Time. I honestly don't know."

"Why are they called the winds of fate? It implies mortal."

"That's not their true name or title. Humans and spirits have named them that because of how the wind cannot be stopped in its path. It is ever-changing - just as what we call the winds of fate because things change so quickly and without warning."

"You know a lot about them when you just said that you do not know how they work."

"I'm The Avatar, Azula. I don't know why they do the things that they do, deem the realities that they wish, but I know more about them than nearly anyone else."

"Is that something you want to ask Wan Shi Tong?"

"No. We have more pressing concerns."

"I agree. What is your plan to rescind Jet's plague?"

"I spoke with Raava about it and she gave me an idea. For so long, we've focused on how the plague is weakening Agni, but the key to reversing it is through Agni himself. It will help restore firebending to those who aren't Masters. Agni's the key."

"What do you mean?"

"All Firebenders are affected by Agni just as Agni is affected by the infected Firebenders - it's a relationship of balance. Raava recommended that I- " he cut himself off as Wan Shi Tong's library finally became visible and to his utmost relief, it was in perfect condition; there were no fires.

"Your vision will not come to- "

"Shh!" Aang hissed out and craned his head forward. "Did you hear that? Can't you feel the darkness?"

Azula absorbed his question and frowned, peering forward. "I hear nothing except my voice and your breathing. My senses are not nearly as enhanced as yours, particularly for feeling energies."

"I heard something else. I know I did." He slowly moved his hands and manipulated the air so that he could use soundbending. Immediately, howls of pain screeched at them. "It's in the library!" Aang cried out and blurred forward. "Come on! We might be too late!"

Dashing into the library, Aang paled at the sight of a horde of dark spirits; they were the darkness that he felt! The fallen Wan Shi Tong was in the middle and the dark spirits were attacking him viciously, colluding to destroy him.

"Where is Indra?" the familiar voice of Devi screeched and Aang found the corrupted Earth Spirit looming over the beaten Wan Shi Tong. "Tell us! Where is our sister? Where has she stayed hidden for so long?"

"Look at Agni," Azula whispered from beside him. "Look at him; he looks ill."

Aang followed his wife's gaze and next to Devi, Agni stood but the Fire Spirit was plainly weak; he was dreadful and his bearing was half-slumped as if he were in pain. Agni leaned heavily against one of the many bookshelves near Devi, his flames flickering lightly, nowhere near the potent inferno that he was the last time when Aang had seen him.

Suddenly, Agni's two heads turned to look at Aang and he weakly shoved himself towards Devi. "It's him! The Avatar! He's here!"

Devi snapped her gaze; her purple eyes blazed with Vaatu's darkness. "No! Stop him! Attack!"

The horde of spirits whirled around and they snarled all at once before bolting forward. Aang punched his fist forward and bright flames surged towards the swarm and those who were burned howled in pain. Wan Shi Tong's wing snapped forward, and while Devi avoided it, the sudden movement swept the weakened Agni off of his feet.

Wan Shi Tong slowly rose to his towering height, owl-face contorted. "I am familiar with every fighting style in the history of the Realms." The spirit dove forward and brushed aside part of the dark spirit hoard like they were matchsticks. "Now you shall feel my prowess with them."

"We can hold them off!" Azula cried out, golden eyes burning as she fired her spiritual lightning; she had gotten a lot better at energybending. Wan Shi Tong suddenly snatched one of the dark spirits in his beak. "Get Agni and Devi!"

Aang turned and flew at Agni and Devi, punching through the sudden walls of earth that rose in his path. "Where is my daughter?" he screamed, evading sudden pillars and boulders thrown at him before he smashed into Devi, sending her flying into one of the numerous bookshelves; it toppled and countless tomes and manuscripts landed on the ground. "Where is she? Tell me!"

"Vaatu has plans for her, Avatar!" Devi crawled out from the remnants of the bookshelf, features contorted into a sneer. "You aren't going to ruin this for us! We will find Indra, not you!"

He sent an explosive wind blast at Devi and when she was safely away, just before he could respond to her words and expand on those 'plans,' he was forced to jump out of the way from a weak, tepid fireball that Agni threw at him.

It was time to implement his own plan.

Immediately, Aang dashed at the Fire Spirit and entered The Avatar State; his mind filled with countless other thoughts and memories but with Raava's words echoing in his mind, he knew what to do. His glowing hands reached into Agni and when he pulled away, his hands held some of Agni's own flames.

"What are you doing?" Agni gasped out from both heads, falling to his knees, hands clawing at The Avatar's chest but it was useless. "Why?"

"Creating the solution," he intoned before he stepped away as The Avatar State faded away. Aang looked down at Agni's flames and felt their warmth and live-giving qualities but then he felt their destructive potential, their death-bringing aspect; it was fire in its purest, raw form. It was beyond any other fire that he had ever felt and he contained it with all of his might to keep it from escaping to return to Agni.

Holding the flames in his hands, he did nothing as Agni stumbled towards Devi and he noticed that there seemed to be patches of his flames missing from where Aang had reached in; the Fire Spirit's legs hardly seemed to respond and Aang only watched as Devi snared the Fire Spirit's arm before they disappeared into the earth.

While he could have continued the fight to try to get answers, he inherently knew that both Agni and Devi would never tell him the truth; they only would if he healed them and he had more important tasks to fulfill. He had won a critical battle since he had acquired some of Agni's flames and it was the key to reverse Lee's plague, to weaken Vaatu's power. Aang didn't dare try to put out the flames, either, and he would have needed to during a battle with Agni and Devi, to heal them; this was the best outcome for now.

Aang turned around while still holding the flames and he watched as Wan Shi Tong purified the only remaining dark spirit using energybending. For some reason, it didn't surprise him that He-Who-Knows-10,000-Things knew energybending.

"Are those Agni's flames?" Azula asked in an awed whisper, reaching out a hand. "How did you…?"

"The Avatar State," he replied while still holding the flames. "I let them go because I couldn't fight and heal them both and keep the flames all at once."

Wan Shi Tong leaned down and his head peered at him; his eyes were ancient. "If you had battled both Devi and Agni and then used energybending to heal them, then you could have taken Agni's flames without trial."

Aang blinked and sucked in air through his teeth in frustration. "I… I should have done that. It didn't occur to me."

"Of course, it did not. You are still a child in spite of your position. I possess the strength and knowledge of ten-thousand things."

"You still continue to be as arrogant as I remember," he muttered. "I had hoped that you would change."

"And you still continue to stand in the company of bold deceivers."

"Are you still angry about that?" Aang asked in disbelief. "We were children! We didn't know what else to do! And you weren't any help!"

"You tried to steal from me!" Wan Shi Tong hissed out, wings flapping in aggravation, producing small bursts of wind. "You thought that you could deceive me!"

"What are you talking about?" Azula cut in. "What happened between you two?"

Aang glared at Wan Shi Tong. "During the Great War, we were desperate for any advantage that we could have over the Fire Nation. We found his library in the Si Wong Desert and we entered only to- "

"To lie to me. They abused my knowledge."

"We wanted to end the Great War!"

"Humans always have wars to fight. Hidden deep within the unconscious of mortals lies an insatiable desire for conflict. It is why wars are so prevalent among your insular kind."

Aang shook his head. "I don't care for your illogical logic. We needed to end it! So many were killed - millions!"

"Sentiment clouds your judgment. The celestial laws of mechanics dictate that when two objects collide, there is always damage of a collateral nature. With the insatiable desire for war, there would always be millions dead. It is inevitable. You mortals think so highly of yourselves, but you are only deceivers just as all mortals are and always will be. I am above them all; no one is as knowledgeable as me." Wan Shi Tong turned to stare down at Azula. "You hail from the Fire Nation. The last Child of Fire whom I permitted in my study destroyed all of my Fire Nation knowledge."

"Leave her out of this," he snapped before Azula could speak. "She has done nothing to you- "

"She is mortal and all mortals are the same; they exist only because of the Lion Turtles and Face Stealer's whims."

Azula spoke, "You hate mortals- "

"A mortal killed Tui, the Moon Spirit. That is unspeakable arrogance and that same emotion lies within each human, just as the insatiable desire for conflict. You are all deceived deceivers."

"- but was it not your knowledge that Zhao used to kill Tui?" Azula questioned evenly, raising an eyebrow, and Aang was filled with pride. "You blame humans for something that, ultimately, you provided."

Wan Shi Tong's owl-face twisted. "My knowledge was abused! That mortal should rot for daring to exploit my knowledge."

"He is suffering La's wrath," he cut in. "But it's your fault, Wan Shi Tong, that you failed to create ways to prohibit humans from abusing your knowledge, such as when Zhao burned down the Fire Nations section in your library to keep the Fire Nation superior and shrouded in secrecy. If you had wanted to, you could have ripped the knowledge out of Zhao and recreated the entire Fire Nation section. You've memorized every book and scroll that has ever entered your library; you could effortlessly copy that knowledge onto new parchment, but you chose not to."

"Pilfering knowledge is against my nature."

"Maybe, but while you don't want your knowledge used for war and thus abused, you allowed it to happen anyway."

Wan Shi Tong bristled. "You are not wrong, Avatar. Yet, the only reason why you are here is to obtain knowledge for this new war against Vaatu."

"Something which you've done nothing about," he pointed out. "Yes, I need the knowledge to win this war so no more people die. Vaatu took my daughter and mother-in-law and- "

"That is not my concern, Avatar. Mortals always die."

Azula inhaled sharply beside him, but he paid it no attention, focused on Wan Shi Tong, eyes turning to slits. "You will make it your concern!"

Wan Shi Tong looked affronted. "Are you threatening me?"

"Yes!" Aang roared. "I am raw, furious, and quick to attack; my emotions are in chaos. I am more powerful than you, no matter your knowledge. You will help me. You claim that mortals always die, but you will die if you don't help me! Vaatu cares for no one but himself and he will destroy you or corrupt you - and that includes your knowledge. I've seen it happen. You may think of yourself above it, but you're not. Help me, and I can ensure that neither you nor your knowledge is destroyed by Vaatu… Unless, of course, you believe that you can fight Vaatu on your own, or wish to ally with him."

"I would rather face the Void of Eternity than ally with Vaatu."

"A wise decision," Azula commented. "Show that same wisdom now."

Aang nodded. "Help me, and I will make sure that you won't need to face the Void of Eternity."

Wan Shi Tong was silent for several tense moments before humming. "Very well, Avatar."

He sighed in relief. "Good. After I entered the Spirit World to find Vaatu- "

"It was impossible not to feel; we all felt your power during those moments."

"- I wasn't able to feel him, not at all. How is that possible? He can't just disappear!"

"No one disappears, Avatar, not even a spirit as strong as him. It cannot be done."

"Vaatu does! I've seen it! How does he do it?"

Wan Shi Tong remained quiet.

Azula sighed. "You do not know but refuse to admit it."

Aang closed his eyes and inhaled slowly to quell his rising temper, knowing that it was the truth; he moved to a different topic. "Devi and Agni were asking you about Indra, the Air Spirit. Do you know where she is? I need to find her before Vaatu does."

"I do know where she is. Indra has remained in the Mortal Realm at the first Air Temple since the Great War."

"She gave up her immortality?"


Aang thought quickly. "Which Air Temple was built first?"

"You are asking the wrong question, Avatar."

"What question must we ask, then?" Azula demanded. "Your willingness to indulge in vague pursuits of conversation is not helping us, Wan Shi Tong. It would behoove you to be candid."

"You are becoming increasingly bold, mortal."

"She has free leave," he cut in harshly. "She can say what she wants and to whom she wants."

"You allow a mortal to possess such power? That is irrational."

"You're being irrational by not telling us where Indra is at."

"I already told you but you failed to listen."

"What question must we ask?" Aang echoed Azula's earlier words, trying to remain patient. "Where is Indra?"

"She is at the first Air Temple, where she has stayed- "

"Since the beginning of the Great War," he finished, irritated. "Yes, we already know that, but what is her actual location? Which Temple was built first? Which one?"

"The one in which no mortal has set foot for thousands of years."

Aang blinked. "What? What are you saying? The Air Nomad Genocide happened just over a century ago! Did you… misspeak?"

"I never misspeak, Avatar," Wan Shi Tong hissed out. "To presume such a thing angers me."

"And your vagueness angers me!"

"Wan Shi Tong," Azula calmly cut in; she would have looked serene if it weren't for the deadly light in her eyes. "You may not care for mortals, but you care all the same for your knowledge. We are trying to save the lives of many, but your indistinct answers leave much to be desired. Your reaction to the loss and abuses of your knowledge is telling; it reveals much. You do feel emotions, so picture our motivations as your own. What if you needed to save all of your knowledge? You would do anything to succeed. That is what we are doing. Tell us what you know in a concise manner. About which Air Temple are you speaking? All of the four Air Temples have been occupied in the past centuries."

"Your mistaken assumption is that there are four Air Temples." Wan Shi Tong walked past them to the middle of the library, where he had been contained prior to Aang and Azula's arrival. "There are five."


"There can't be another Air Temple," he protested after overcoming his shock. "I would know about it!"

"It is forgotten by mortals, including your slain people." The spirit's wing swept over one of the fallen bookshelves and turned back to Aang; he opened his wing and a scroll was visible. "The information that you seek is in this manuscript."

"Thank you." He almost reached forward but remembered that he had Agni's flames; he looked at Azula and she nodded, understanding. She reached forward for the scroll but Wan Shi Tong jerked back.

"I have done much for you, Avatar. Because of the Face Stealer's sly words, I ordered my servants to copy all of my Air Nomad knowledge as a gift for your Air Temples, and that includes the ability of true flight that I learned from Laghima, the ability which you now utilize. While stealing knowledge is against my nature, gifting it is not. "

"What do you want?"

"In repayment for the priceless knowledge that I have given you, and for the location of Indra, I require a knowledge that is similarly priceless. The same rules apply, Avatar. What can you offer me? What is it that the mortals say? You must give to get."

Aang grit his teeth. "I thought that you were going to help me!"

"Rules are rules. I require- "

"I know what you require," he hissed out and closed his eyes, feeling the pressure behind his forehead build; he inhaled slowly, coming to a decision. "I still have more questions, and after you answer them, I'll give you that priceless knowledge."

"Why should I wait? I should turn you away."

"You are more foolish than you are knowledgeable!" Azula snapped angrily, fuming. "Aang, instead ask Avatar Kirku about it. Remember that Kirku said he helped the Air Nomads by building their Air Temples? It was why he was unable to stop the Children of Earth and Water from going to war, how his people were almost slaughtered to extinction. He should know."

"That's right," he murmured, staring at Wan Shi Tong. "I don't need that knowledge because I already have it."

Wan Shi Tong bristled. "Perhaps, but I still require compensation for my role in giving you- "

Azula hissed between her teeth. "I hope that your collection is destroyed by- "

"You insolent mortal!" Wan Shi Tong's neck extended but before anything happened, Aang stepped between them.

"Enough! You want priceless knowledge? How about The Avatar State?"


Both Azula and Wan Shi Tong froze at his words; his wife's face was carved with horror and astonishment, whereas Wan Shi Tong's face showed awed delight.

"Interesting… Elaborate on your proposal."

Aang breathed deeply, feeling Agni's flames surge with the movement but he held onto them tightly. "I'm not going to ask Kirku because it would take too long. I want that scroll. In exchange for the scroll that details the location of the first Air Temple where Indra is staying, your knowledge about questions that I have, your forthcoming assistance, and most importantly, the erasure of my debt to you for all of the Air Nomad knowledge, I'll allow you to see some of the amassed knowledge of The Avatar State."

Wan Shi Tong stared down at him. "We have an accord, Avatar."

"Good. Now give Azula the scroll."

"Will you keep your word, unlike last time?"

Aang stared back at the spirit. "Yes, I will."

"What are you doing?" Azula hissed out, glaring at him. "You did not think this through!"

"I'm doing what I have to. Do it." He watched as she held out her hand and Wan Shi Tong dropped the scroll into it. "I want to know everything. Why else were you attacked besides your knowledge of Indra's location? Was that the only reason?"

"No. Vaatu seeks to eliminate those who would oppose him, such as myself."

"How long have there been dark spirits?"

"Their total is increasing steadily. You need to focus your attention on the Spirit World, Avatar, for the moment."

"Why?" Azula demanded. "What's happening?"

"These dark spirits are becoming more common and their existence is strengthening Vaatu. You must deal with them and heal them. I cannot do it, only you can. Your power is above all but The Tree of Time."

"And the winds of fate," he muttered darkly.

"Not even the Face Stealer or Elementals, as you observed earlier, would ever be bold enough to outright challenge you if they are in their correct mind."

"Koh challenged Avatar Kuruk, though," his wife pointed out. "He stole his wife's face."

"Through mere trickery and you, Avatar, are as strong as Kuruk at his peak, for you have mastered more bending arts than any Avatar to exist - and with centuries less experience."

"After we finish speaking with you, and after I complete The Phoenix, we will do that." Aang ignored Azula's questioning glance. "When a spirit is created, how long does it take to form? Raava gave me an estimate but I want to hear your judgment."

"Why do you ask? What need is there for you to know such knowledge?"

Aang held up Agni's flames. "Because that's how I'm going to restore firebending. With Raava's help, I'm going to create a new spirit: The Phoenix."

"Why?" Azula narrowed her eyes. "How could that possibly do anything?"

"This will be a spirit of calm and peace, a creature that is pure and light. Raava and I spoke about it for hours; she gave me the idea. I'm going to shape The Phoenix's core responsibilities to purify each chi that has been infected and mend the souls if they were damaged. It will help those who feel hatred and rage to let go. Those with firebending blood and the correct core of spirit will also be gifted firebending by The Phoenix."

Azula's eyes widened. "It's literal purpose is to weaken you-know-who's hold on the hearts of humans." His wife smirked up at him, impressed. "You intentionally name and shape it as a phoenix to slight Ozai by creating a spirit of your choosing that is pure and light. It will not be like my father's persona as the Phoenix King, seen as a manifestation of evil and menacing power."

He nodded. "Yes. That is why I need to know how long it takes to form a spirit."

"A clever solution, Avatar." Wan Shi Tong's voice carried new respect. "A wise course of action from a tactical standpoint."

"How long does it take to form a spirit?"

"In the measure of time that you can comprehend, over a week in the Mortal Realm. Then The Phoenix will be ready for its ascendancy."

"That's what Raava said."

"It will also need a place of shelter to have the time to form; it needs to be protected from Vaatu."

"I know just the spirit who will help with that." He glanced at Azula before looking back at Wan Shi Tong. "Do you know where our daughter and- "

"My mother are?" Azula finished. "Have you any idea?"

"They are with Vaatu."

"Yes, but do you know where Vaatu is?"


"Do you know what Vaatu is doing to them? What will he do next?"

"No." Wan Shi Tong's expression darkened, owl-face elongating slightly. "Even my knowledge has limits."

Aang sighed heavily, not feeling surprised, but it still hurt to hear. "Vaatu broke the Laws of Balance; he brought a spirit out of the Gardens of the Dead using, I think, energybending and put the spirit in a new body. Have you ever read of something like that happening before?"

"Fascinating. That is an intriguing concept of which there is no known occurrence of such an event, Avatar. What a paradox: The deceased walking among the living."

"You don't know anything about it?"

"No. I must admit that not knowing things… it feels enjoyable; it feels good to still learn."

"Well, congratulations." He turned away, hiding his anger. "That's all that I want to know. Since you did your part, I'll hold my end of our agreement." The Avatar's eyes and tattoos glowed white and he turned back. "Here is part of my knowledge."

He floated upward and his glowing hands gripped the sides of Wan Shi Tong's massive head. Using energybending, he allowed memories and knowledge that some of his past lives had amassed and experienced to flow into Wan Shi Tong.

It only took a few moments before The Avatar removed his hands and the glow of The Avatar State faded. Aang floated back to the ground and stared up at Wan Shi Tong, curious at what the reaction would be.

Wan Shi Tong staggered back and he looked appeased. "I was right. It does still feel good to learn - and to learn such incredible things from The Avatar State. While you hold almighty power, you still experience so much. This has been valuable, Avatar. Thank you."

"Thank you for giving me all of the Air Nomad knowledge and for your assistance today."

Azula didn't look happy. "We must depart, now. We need to find these dark spirits, heal them, and then return to the Material World."

"With one more stop," Aang said, bowing his head to Wan Shi Tong. "Until next time, Wan Shi Tong."

"With the knowledge that you possess, Avatar, there will be a next time."


No matter how long she stared, Katara couldn't look away from the horrible sight; there was no Palace, only rubble remaining, and the entire Upper Ring had been burned away. Bringing a shaking hand to her mouth, the fear and horror brimmed inside. Were her friends dead? Had Chin V succeeded with everyone? And what about Sokka? He could have already run into Ozai!

Beside her, Zuko stood, features that were once shocked now pinched with worry. Druk was laid on some of the scorched earth, breathing deeply and Appa laid behind Katara, his steady exhales of air a relief during this chaotic time. They had already been notified of the situation by a man who had been burying bodies. Two Kings had been violently killed and one of them had been Bumi. Katara could still feel the tears on her cheeks; she had no idea how Aang would react, but she knew that it would devastate him. There had been no news or sign of her friends but she still felt terrified that they had been killed - just as Bumi was!

"I had never imagined that the attack would succeed," Zuko whispered, turning to her, sadness in his golden eyes. "We learned of the attack, but I thought… that everything would be fine."

"But it's not," she croaked and when Zuko pulled her into his chest, she gratefully closed her eyes and sunk into him. "Everyone… they all could be dead except us."

Zuko tensed, but his arms were reassuring; she squeezed him desperately. "We know that… King Bumi's body was found along with whom they suspected to be his killer, but there was nothing to suggest that Toph, Suki, and- "

"Oh, Suki!" Katara cried out. "She's pregnant! They could have- the baby!"

"Their bodies weren't found," he whispered gently, soothing her teeming mind. "Toph and Bor are two of the strongest Earthbenders in the world; they're resourceful and they would make sure that Suki's okay. Nothing is going to happen to her or your… nephew or niece."

Katara swallowed and she desperately believed Zuko's words; she could do nothing else. "But where are they? Where would they go?"

"I don't know, but we'll find them." He pulled back to stare down into her eyes; she was transfixed by the honesty and seriousness in his beautiful golden orbs. "We're going to find all of them."

"I believe you," she whispered.

"Good." Zuko's gaze drifted upward and past her; he stiffened. "Azula's spirit is still in the Spirit World; it's been too long. Something must be wrong."

Katara stepped back and wiped away her tears. "Time works differently in the Spirit World, remember? Aang is with her and he won't ever let something happen to her."

Zuko frowned and she suspected that he was thinking of his mother and Samir. "She's vulnerable out here; there could be more Children of Chin somewhere."

"Then we'll protect her body."

"We can do nothing else until she and Aang get back," he muttered.

After they both jumped on Appa's saddle, keeping an eye on Azula's lifeless-looking body, Katara turned to him. "Please talk about something. I need a distraction from… this."

He sighed tiredly but nodded. "Well, Toph and Bor are going to have a lot of work to do when all of this is over because they'll be King and Queen of Ba Sing Se. The entire Upper Ring will need to be rebuilt and new Nobles will take the places of the old ones."

"Is that what's going to happen in the Fire Nation?" Katara asked softly, eyeing him after she swallowed to keep herself from thinking too much of Bumi. "Almost all of your Nobles betrayed you- "

"And are now dead because of their treachery, but yes, new Nobles will take the place of the old ones."

Desperately looking for that much-needed distraction, she pounced. "How would that work?"

"I would decide. I don't know since the plague, but there are always people in-line to become a Noble who have a claim." Zuko smiled slightly, but the echoes of sadness corrupted the smile. "In fact, I think that I want your help in choosing who gets to be a Noble. You're a better judge of character than I am."

Katara was taken aback. "You want me to help you?"

"Yes. You'll be my Fire Lady."

"How would your people feel about a… Waterbender being wed to their Fire Lord, being the mother to your heirs?"

"They will abide by my decision. If they don't, I won't feel very forgiving."

"But I don't have a history of being a good judge of character. Look at Jet."

"That's when you were just a girl. You're now a beautiful woman who understands people better. You'll be fine."

Feeling flattered, his words chasing away some of her grief, she smiled in relief, still trying to find reprieve from the news of Bumi's death - and the possible deaths of her friends and brother! "And what else would I do as Fire Lady?"

"I was thinking that while I would handle the military and economy, you would handle the people; it's what my grandparents did. You're nicer than me; you're good with people, something that I've always admired."

"Thank you." She felt pleased by his words before a thought occurred to her. "What if there is no one with a claim? Many have been killed."

"There's always someone."

"But what if there isn't?"

"Then I would raise someone to become a Noble based on their achievements and loyalty."

"Why doesn't it work like that already?" Katara leaned forward, "I know that this is a dumb question, but I don't care because I don't want to think about…"

"It's okay." His golden eyes were understanding. "I want you to ask it. I need a distraction, too."

"I've always wondered why blood has to be more important than deeds. Shouldn't someone's deeds be measured… higher than their blood?"

Zuko fully turned to face her. "It seems like a good idea, but without blood-based inheritance, whether to be Fire Lord or a Noble, all of the viable contenders through deeds would turn it into a blood-soaked free-for-all until someone won. That's the nature of men when they yearn for power, Katara."

"But… but doesn't blood eventually fail?"

"Yes." His answer surprised her but he continued before she could speak. "A single sterile father, or one who somehow doesn't sire sons - and if he has sisters who do not produce nephews - or one who sires sons too late in life, or whose son is killed, can bring an end to one's line. That was one of the many reasons why I've been so pressured to sire an heir after the Great War because, after me, there is no one left of Sozin's line. I am the last true heir because Uncle Iroh refuses to re-marry and Azula would never be accepted even though she is currently my heir; her deeds will never be forgotten and the memory of the last true Fire Lady is still known. Plus, something tells me that Azula is done with the Fire Nation; she's The Avatar's wife and will be the mother of an entire nation. Her home is no longer in the Fire Nation. It's beside Aang as he revives his culture and people through her; her home is now in the Air Temples. While it's possible that she could bear Aang a firebending son, which my people would undoubtedly accept- "

"Why? I thought you said that nobody would accept Azula."

"They wouldn't accept Azula, but they would accept her son, my nephew. Especially one with the strength of Sozin and two Avatars surging through his blood. In fact, they'd probably accept this fictitious nephew over me if they were given the choice. Remember, Fire embodies power, which my people worship, and a Firebender with all of that mighty blood in his veins would more than qualify for the Dragon's Throne."

That thought disturbed her, so she returned to her previous point. "But blood fails, right?"

"Blood inheritance leads to the extinction of the main bloodlines, yes, but there will always be an heir who can be found. By going back up the family trees and then down different branches, you will inevitably find a living descendant, legitimate or illegitimate, who has a claim, however weak it may be."

"I don't like it," she murmured, frowning. "I think someone's character and deeds should be measured higher than blood."

Zuko tilted his head. "You should support a blood-based inheritance."

"What? Why?"

"You will be my Fire Lady. Inheritance by deeds would render your power worthless because while a woman would still be necessary for children, it would no longer matter which woman. Also, if a Fire Lord could choose his successor from a group of men through their deeds, he wouldn't need to think about blood at all - something insane." Katara looked around, trying to make sense of it all; she took in the desecrated grounds of what was once the Upper Ring of Ba Sing Se and she found that she preferred the strangeness of the revelations that Zuko was sharing. "Blood lineage would be irrelevant and however the ideal of blood lineage survives, so too do the women in the Fire Nation. A system of deeds would only breed violence and hostility as each man tries to triumph over one another; it would result in a massacre. It's the same for all of the nations - well, except for the Air Nomads, I guess."

Katara swallowed. "You've thought about this before."

"I was forced to study these scenarios when I was a child."

"So, I should want the blood-based inheritance?"

"Yes. Your interest would lie in that system because only through it, is a majority of your power able to be wielded as Fire Lady. That's how it works. That's how it's always worked."

"I know… I know that I need to give you a firebending son, but… how is that important for my position as Fire Lady?"

Zuko raised his only eyebrow. "I am the first Fire Lord in the history of my nation who has chosen to marry someone of a different nation - someone from the Water Tribes. A Princess, no less. Fire Lord Houka only sired his heir through the Air Nomad woman centuries ago and you remember the reaction, right?

Katara swallowed. "He was killed in a mob by accident."

"Yes, but our fate will be different. Our marriage would be seen as a sign of peace for the Four Nations, of my willingness not to be my father and grandfathers before me. For any of the other nations to feel comfortable, there must be a son who has Water Tribe blood in-line to sit on the Dragon's Throne."

"Our son would personify the possibility of peace," she whispered. "Couldn't they be content with daughters, though?"

"No, but you know that already."


"Men make their agreements with each other permanent through their children; it's the only way. As I was taught, the body of a living child, specifically a son, can't be divided into the two halves of his parents. So, as long as the child lives, the peace between men and nations does, too, because they embody both sides equally."

"But what if… the child dies?"

"The peace is broken and anything can happen - and usually nothing good. It's why your position as Fire Lady is so important because only blood inheritance can preserve peace." Zuko scooted closer and his eyes were soft, understanding. "You will produce heirs of my body and the only way that peace can be reached, that your people and mine could be content, is if heirs are created through our union. Before you become fluent in the language of Nobles, you must- "

"Language of Nobles?"

"The language Nobles use to communicate." His voice was patient. "They speak a certain way and will never take someone seriously who doesn't conform to their language or thinking."

"What's something that they think?"

Zuko sighed. "I don't know what they think now, but the traitors who are now dead believed that Kai, the first lone Fire Lord, founded a community that spawned an empire under Sozin's glorious rule, and that it is the Fire Lord's duty to continue Sozin's great conquest."

Katara reeled back in disgust and horror. "That's a lie!"

"I know, and I've done my best to dissuade that belief." His eyes closed briefly. "I clearly failed since so many betrayed me."

She placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "You don't have to worry about them anymore."

"You're right. That belief will die, and hopefully, when I die, there will be none who believe it."

"That's one way of looking at it." Katara nodded slowly. "So, as Fire Lady, I'll need to learn to speak to the Nobles, to learn their language and thinking?"

He gripped her hands. "Yes. It would be unbecoming of a Fire Lady to ignore the Nobles; it would breed resentment. But as I tried to say earlier, before you become fluent in the language of Nobles, you must first produce sons; it will appease them and secure your position. That's the way alliances work. It's the only way to secure peace. I understand if you… you don't want that pressure and wish to- "

"No!" Katara exclaimed and shook her head. "It's just… I had never truly thought of what it means to be Fire Lady… We'll be fine, Zuko, and we'll secure that peace. We will have firebending sons and daughters with maybe a Waterbender or two," she said with determination before perking up. "It shouldn't be too hard to learn their 'language' since I've been around you, Azula, your uncle and mo- … mother."

Zuko tensed and she immediately felt guilty and fearful; Ursa was in Ozai's grasp - and Samir, too! "I try not to think about her right now. I'll go insane if I do."

"This is horrifying," she whispered, distraction gone, trying to keep back her tears. "Samir and your mother were taken by Ozai. Sokka, Mai, Ty Lee, and the Kyoshi Warriors might be… dead because of Ozai. Bumi was killed and Toph, Bor, and Suki are nowhere to be found!"

He pulled her closer and she gratefully sunk into his warmth. "Everything will be okay. We'll be okay."

Katara closed her eyes and controlled her breathing, calming herself. "I'm just like that actress in that play," she sniffed out. "I keep crying."

A huff of laughter rustled her hair, "What a perfect time to repeat the theme of your character in the play: We can only hope that our friends are okay because hope is all that we have."

A smile stretched across her lips and she felt better; he knew just what to say. "Careful, or I'll use my tearbending on you."

Zuko tilted her head up; his eyes locked onto her own. "But you would fail. You're not crying anymore."

"Thanks to you."


For some reason, Azula had expected Koh's lair to be different in a subtle way, but it wasn't; it looked exactly the same. The realization was striking; she was mortal and she continued to think in a mortal's perspective. She couldn't afford to do that, not now. She was in the Spirit World, the land of immortals, and she would fail in her endeavors if she continued her mindset; she needed to change, to transform her perception.

"Avatar," the Face Stealer hissed and the haunting sound of talons scraping against the stone in an unholy rhythm reached her ears; it was the same as last time, too. "You come to visit after such a short time since your last. Consider me touched. Have you missed me?"

"Hello, Koh." Her husband's voice was calm. "We need to talk."

"What about? Those warm, power-touched flames in your hands? I can feel the heat, a rare novelty."

Aang looked completely at ease beside her and Azula was reminded that Koh wouldn't dare attempt to harm her; she, too, felt the great warmth of Agni's flames. It even strengthened her, fire coursing through her chi and blood.

"We need your help."

The chitinous-shaped Koh appeared before them; his face was that of the fanged baboon Azula remembered from last time. "My help? With what would the almighty Avatar need help? Mountains crumble at your bidding, and if I'm not mistaken, those are Agni's flames."

"You are correct," she cut in, easily staring into the fanged baboon's pinched, snarling face. "We need you to protect The Phoenix Spirit that Aang is going to create."

Koh's face seamlessly changed into a face that she hadn't seen before; it looked like a Child of Earth's face, features flat. "Creating a new spirit, Avatar? That is a tall task. You seek to add a new immortal to this Realm?"

"Balance has been broken and this will help mend it." Aang held the flames towards Koh and Azula was curious at the subtle hiss that escaped Koh. "The Phoenix will need- "

"I am aware of what this new spirit will need. Why would I help you? This… is not my problem."

Azula sighed in annoyance but listened as Aang responded, "Stop testing me; it's pointless. You agree with balance and it must be torturous for you, just as it is for me, to feel and watch what has happened because of Vaatu."

"Indeed." The Face Stealer shifted and turned his attention to Agni's flames; his innumerable toes cracked ominously as they flexed. "Agni's Children are in chaos; the entropy of the Mortal Realm is irritating, even to one such as me."

"Then help us." She stepped forward, gesturing to the flames. "Watch over your new sibling and keep him safe."

Koh seemed to purr. "You would entrust me to such an important task, a spirit whom The Avatar's very hands will have given life? Oh, this pleases me."

"Will you do it?" Aang's words were flat, face carved with a subtle anxiety.

"Yes… It would be my pleasure."

Azula didn't know if this would haunt them in the future but she didn't care; she only cared about rescuing Samir and her mother and then stopping her father and Vaatu.

Aang's eyes and tattoos glowed after he let go of the flames; they fluttered in the air but didn't dissipate or move. His glowing hands caressed the edges of the flames and slowly, Azula watched in awe as energy flowed from whom she suspected to be Raava into Agni's flames and a golden glow pierced through the darkness in Koh's lair.

Her lips curled in triumph; their advantage over Vaatu and her father would soon be apparent.


"We need to stop." The words were breathless and Bor turned his head back, stopping in his tracks as he saw Suki bracing herself against a tree. Jin was next to her, gentle hands on her shoulders.

"Are you okay?" He adjusted his hold on Toph and cursed silently; he hadn't even noticed. "What's wrong?"

"What's happening?" Toph demanded, fingers digging into his neck. "Is it Suki?"

"Yeah." He walked back towards them. "Do you- "

"I need to rest." Suki closed her eyes and slowly slid to the ground. "I don't know how much more I can do this."

Bor sat down across from her and Toph gingerly slid off his shoulders; he gripped her knees and lowered her to the ground, ensuring no contact between her feet and the ground. "We'll stay here for the night. I'll get a fire started."

"How much longer?" Suki whispered. "We don't know if Aang and the others are still at the Sun Warrior Ruins. It's been so long since we've been in contact with them, with anyone. All the towns we pass through, we can't even stay because we have no money. While you stole the balm for Toph's feet, two shirts, and all the food we need, we can't keep- "

"I know," he cut in, feeling overwhelmed. "But what else can we do?"

"I'm traveling for three. I have to think of them. I'm tired, Bor, and I fear what will happen if we keep this up." Suki's hand shook from where it rested in her pregnant stomach. "I- I can't lose them. Sokka and I have waited so- "

Jin placed a sympathetic hand on Suki's shoulder. "As King Bor said, we will rest here for the night. You and your babies can rest. Toph can- "

"It's me," Toph suddenly whispered and Bor turned to her in shock; her arms were wrapped around herself tightly. "I'm the problem."

"What?" Bor asked incredulously but he noticed that neither Jin nor Suki looked at him or Toph. "What are you talking about?"

Toph stiffened before her head turned towards him; she looked pale and resigned. "It's me, Bor. I'm why we're traveling."

"No. The Butcher's men are- "

"They're not going to find us. We've been out of their reach for over a week now - probably longer. We're trying to get to the Sun Warrior Ruins because of me. Because of my- my feet."

"Of course! Avatar Aang can heal your feet. We have to get to the Sun Warrior Ruins, so he- "

"We don't even know where the Sun Warrior Ruins are. I have an idea but it… it's pointless."

"How can you say that? We need Avatar Aang to heal your feet. We need to tell him what happened!"

"It's been weeks, Bor. I'm causing this. They've been thinking it." Toph nodded solemnly at Suki and Jin. "I'm saying it."

Bor slowly moved his gaze away from Toph to the others. They didn't need to speak and he didn't need to question; the answers were on their faces.

With a sudden burst of rage, Bor jumped to his feet. "What the fuck is wrong with you? How can you- "

"Because it's the truth." Jin stared up at him warily, but her Noble upbringing ensured their eyes remained locked. "This is a relentless pace that cannot continue. At the risk of sounding callous, Toph is not the priority. We all must come to a collective consensus about our course of action. We three agree that we cannot continue, but you do not."

Bor turned to stare at Toph in disbelief. "An- and you want this? You're okay with it?"

Toph didn't look okay, but she powered through. "I'll get over it. I always do."

"No! You shouldn't have to get over it! We're going to find Avatar Aang! Even if he's not at the Sun Warrior Ruins! We'll find him!"

"How?" Toph cries out, angry tears swimming in her milky eyes. "We don't know where Twinkletoes is! Or Sugar Queen! We- we need to stop. I will not be the cause of a miscarriage, Bor! Suki's tired, Jin's tired, and I'm tired. You should be tired from carrying me- "

Bor rapidly shook his head. "But I'm not tired! I can keep going!"

"But we can't! Weren't you listening?" Toph stared at him desperately. "All of us, we can't keep fighting. You can, but we can't. Suki's pregnant, and my feet are- I can't even walk, and Jin's tired."

"But- "

"Ultimately, how you feel is irrelevant, Bor." Suki suddenly spoke; she met his stare sadly. "Only our feelings matter. Yours do not."

"What?" Bor hissed and whirled around, trying to keep his temper at bay; it was a losing battle. "We're in this whole fucking position because of you! If you hadn't been captured by that- "

"Stop it!" Toph snapped, milky eyes gray with intensity. "You're not going to blame Suki for this."

Bor inhaled heavily, rapidly, eyes narrow; reality was crashing around him. "Because her feelings matter and mine don't, right?"

"About this… yes," Jin responded hesitantly. "Toph has decided and- "

"It's the wrong decision! I'll fix this! The Butcher won't take that from me like he did everything else."

Suki swallowed and she wiped away stray tears. "That's what this is, isn't it? You feel you can redeem your past failures with the Butcher, avenge the murders he inflicted on those you loved, by finding Aang or Katara to heal Toph's feet - something else he took from you. You're… trying to heal your heart from your grandfather and father's demises."

Bor stared, wide-eyed, before he snarled, "Don't turn this on me."

"Bor, it's okay." Toph's features softened and she somehow knew where he was; she blindly but accurately grabbed hold of his shaking fist. "It's okay. We've already talked about this. What happened, none of it's your fault."

"Yes, it was," he hissed out, slowly sitting back down. "If I had been stronger, Grandfather would still be here. We wouldn't be in this position!"

"Blame the Butcher!" Toph cried out. "None of us blame you for what happened. We blame him. Bumi doesn't blame you, either."

"Grandfather's too dead to blame anyone," he whispered, all of his rage leaving him; he felt hollow. "I… I wish he was still here. He should be."

"We all do," Suki said gently, truthfully; their eyes locked and he was relieved that she wasn't angry from his prior words. "He was an amazing man, and it's our duty, as the ones who knew him best, to carry on his legacy and memory."

Bor stared at the ground, the words resonating in his heart and he thought of his cousin, Anju, Queen of Omashu. He had no idea if the news of Ba Sing Se's attack had spread, but he dreaded seeing her again. The last time they had spoken, he had promised her to look after Grandfather, but he had failed, and his hands were stained with the blood of that failure.

"I've made my peace with this," Toph murmured and Bor looked at her wrapped-up feet. "Can't you?"

He swallowed and squeezed his eyes shut. "I can."

"Then we must discuss what to do," Suki commented quietly. "We do need to figure out where Aang and everyone else is, and message them what happened and our location."

"We'll go back to that town we passed earlier today," he said tonelessly as he opened his eyes; he ignored Toph's startled look. "We'll stay here for the night since it's getting dark. Tomorrow will be the… last day of travel. We'll figure something out for money."


The dark spirit hissed, snarling in a rage that was worsened by Vaatu's darkness; it tried to escape but Aang trapped it with the earth. Azula fired a spiritual lightning attack into the other dark spirit, paralyzing it for a moment; she then leaped forward and her own spirit began to glow with intense energy. He watched with pride as she wrapped her glowing hands around the dark spirit's head and slowly, the corrupted spirit stopped struggling as Azula's energybending purified it.

"You truly are a prodigy," he murmured before turning to the dark spirit that he had trapped; he quickly used his energybending to purify it.

The two spirits returned to their true forms and they bowed before him.

"Thank you, Avatar."

He forced a small smile. "You're welcome. Stay away from Vaatu."

They nodded before they dashed away.

Azula slowly walked towards him, features pinched. "That is an arduous process."

"I know, but you'll get used to it."

"Will you do the nest?" She pointed at the large nest before them; he could feel the dark energy inside of it, but thankfully, all of the dark spirits were hidden beneath the stretch of crackling, darkness-tainted earth.

They were feeding on spiritual energy, absorbing it to grow stronger - and in turn, strengthen Vaatu that much more.

"Yes." His outstretched hands rested on the nest and he closed his eyes, centering his mind and chi before attacking the horde of dark spirits. It was his will against many but slowly, he continued to work and his endurance won.

When the nest opened, no dark spirits rushed him; they had returned to their original states and Aang sighed in relief.

All the spirits floated into the air, staring at him, bowing their heads as their gratefulness became tangible, for they all sang in unison:

"Hail to The Avatar, last of Air's blood,
Who raises storms to inspire a flood!
He who walks the clouds and waters with care,
And to Indra's nation you are the heir!
The power of the Realms lies in your hands,
And the elements answer your commands!
When you breathe, a tempest disturbs the sea!
At your gaze, Agni's rays of rich light flee!
When you speak, the sky responds with thunder!
When you walk, quakes rend the worlds asunder!
Beneath your holy feet, volcanoes rise,
And lightning screeches through the teeming skies!
With a glowing hand, you control the path,
And the Realms turn to ashes at your wrath!"

Aang quickly found his tongue after having momentarily lost it. "Thank you. And you're welcome. Avoid Vaatu and his allies at all costs, okay?"

"I married wisely," Azula commented, smirking as the spirits departed peacefully. "Perhaps we should get a scribe to capture your brilliance as they just did."

He glared at her half-heartedly. "We're not talking about that."

"Are you embarrassed?"

"A little."

"Very well. We will return to that topic another time, but for now, a new one will take its place. Do you know how many spirits that Dark has corrupted?"

"No, I don't. That's another failure I need to make sure that never happens again."

"You must remember that Dark has had eons to think this through." His wife gazed at him, trapping him. "The fact that we know more of what he has planned to accomplish attests to your willpower and resilience. This is the greatest enemy that anyone in existence has ever faced, and in spite of the severity, we are still standing."

"I… I feel so tired," he admitted softly. "I've hardly slept since Samir and your mother were taken."

"I am aware. I have missed your warmth beside me."

"Sorry… but every time I close my eyes, all I see is Ozai looming over our daughter and your mother. They are trapped in his presence. I'm so scared because I know… I know what he might be doing to them."

"I do, as well, but you cannot allow that to stop you, Aang. I lived under him for years and I know more than you about his depravity but we must keep marching on; they are depending on us to rescue them - and we will. This is not permanent; this will all end one way or another." Azula stared up into his eyes and he was mesmerized. "We will never be here again."

A tenseness in his frame lessened at her words and he slumped. "To hear you say that, it gives me hope."

"I used to believe that hope was foolish, and that only the foolish believed in it. You showed me that my belief was false, among so many other things. Now it is my turn to help you. As we have already concluded, Samir and my mother are valuable to Ozai and Dark. They will not be killed and we will find them before serious harm befalls them. I believe that, and you should, as well."

"You're remarkable," he breathed out. "I needed to hear that. Zuko had already mentioned some things and while he did help, hearing your words help even more."

"Of course, they do. I am a prodigy in all things. Unlike Zuzu, who takes years, I take weeks."

"Zuko's powerful now," Aang reminded. "He rivals you."

"Yes. He will make a worthy Fire Lord," she murmured. "May the Four Nations see it after this war. The hatred of the Fire Nation has turned so many Children of Earth against you."

"And after I killed Kuei, it made it so much worse." Aang felt his anger rise and it was difficult to ward it off. "They hate me. For not allowing them to gain vengeance on the Fire Nation and the death of Kuei at my hands, they allied with Vaatu or were easily corrupted into joining him. The thought makes me angry, that they didn't trust me. Their choices led to Samir's kidnapping! And Ursa's! Because of them, I was occupied when I should have been stopping Ozai and Vaatu at the Northern Water Tribe!"

Azula nodded in agreement. "I know. And I wish them all dead, but if you want to understand, look no further than the fact that they fear you. I feared The Avatar as a child. Everyone in the Fire Nation did; we heard the legends filled with barbarous woe. How you can throw lightning at those who rebel against your authority that is absolute."

Aang shook his head at her words. "Those legends are wrong."

"They came from somewhere, and all legends contain truth, no matter how small."

"It was probably Kyoshi," he muttered. "I'm above kings and Fire Lords, but I'm not a god. I'm human, too. I wish they knew that, but that's how they always treat me. I mean, during the Great War, everyone looked to me for hope, guidance. Even when I was just a kid without a clue."

"But now that you are an adult, a man in more possession of power than they can fathom, they fear you. Accept it, Aang." Azula's eyes locked onto his own. "Maybe it was Kyoshi, maybe it was not. But the actions of previous Avatars define you, and maybe that is your burden."

"I'm sick of having burdens. All of this and having to bring back my people."

Azula's eyes were hypnotic. "But you can handle it. Out of anyone alive, only you can cope with such unimaginable pressure. You were born with supreme power; only your shoulders can bear it."

"Maybe, but I'm still human."

"Yes, but they do not see a mortal; they see The Avatar. They do not understand you, only the legends that may or may not have been inspired by Kyoshi. And they fear the legends. Stories of The Avatar State, though they do not call it that, are surely told. Why else is my lineage besmirched with men who fear you? Sozin, Azulon, Ozai? To challenge a fully-realized Avatar is to pursue death. That is what I was taught as a child. I believe the other nations must have similar teachings."

Aang swallowed. "Yes… When I enter The Avatar State in anger, people die… So many… I'm as bad as Ozai."

"Stop it!" Azula snapped, glaring at him. "You are not my father, not at all. Yes, you have killed people, those who are deserving and those who are not, but my father feels pleasure every time when he ends one's life. You feel regret and guilt regardless of whom you killed. The only ways in which you are similar to Ozai are that you are both men of great power, authority, and a desire to see the Four Nations how you visualize them."

He sighed and nodded. "You're right, you're right. I'm sorry. I feel so stressed and all of these thoughts are… they're brimming inside."

"Understandable," she sympathized. "You must keep these thoughts from drowning you. There are more important matters."

"I know. It's just- " Aang abruptly stiffened, feeling darkness enter the Spirit World. "Vaatu's here," he hissed out, whirling around, stretching his senses before he paled. "He's leading another horde - a massive one! They're attacking Koh's lair! And some are coming this way! The Phoenix!"

Azula's eyes filled with determination and quiet fury. "Then let us greet the kidnapper of our daughter and my mother."


Sokka sighed and yearned for his wife's touch but Suki was back at Ba Sing Se; he missed her a lot. To keep his mind from wandering to her during their trip to Yu Dao, he had heartily trained his chi-blocking skills until he was certain that he would be able to accomplish it in the heat of battle in instinctive response.

"What if I miss the pathways?"

Ty Lee hummed. "You can hit them twice if you're fast enough."

"Twice," he suddenly reminisced with a deep sigh; his thoughts turned to his wife. "Just like the number of times Suki and I had sex our last night together."

Koko stiffened and shook her head, staring at him incredulously. "Really?"

"I was that good- "

"No!" Koko glared at him. "I mean, why would you share that?"

"What?" Sokka pointed at Ty Lee. "She's the one who brought it up."

Ty Lee giggled. "I think that it's nice that he and Suki had one last romantic night together. It's sweet."

"I still don't need to hear it," Koko muttered. "Just go back to training."

Sokka reluctantly turned back to Ty Lee. "Like this?" He exaggeratedly displayed his movements with rapid speed, mimicking hitting the chi-pathways up her arm.

"Yes!" Ty Lee beamed at him. "That's perfect! You will be a very skilled chi-blocker. Soon, once your muscles remember the movements, you will be able to execute it with double the speed."

"I do like having things twice." He remembered Suki again. "The moment when I see Suki again, I'm going to repeat that performa- "

Koko groaned. "Would you stop talking about you and Suki having sex? I still want to think of her as a smart woman."

"What can I say? I have amazing endurance. Any smart woman would recognize that - and Suki definitely does."

"That's good," Mai intoned flatly in front of them, "because your 'amazing endurance' will soon be tested. I think that we're close to Piandao's location. I see a lot of men up on that hill, but where's Yu Dao?"

Sokka's grin faded and he peaked at the sight and his face turned pale; he stared in horror at the sight of the decimated city and atop the ruins were where Ozai's men had made their camp. "Fuck! Yu Dao! It's been destroyed!"

"Why would they do that?" Koko whispered. "They weren't possibly a threat."

"For the kick of it." Sokka shook his head in disgust. "Those who were strong-bodied have probably already been corrupted and joined Dark. That monster would kill a baby just to amuse himself."

"What do you want to do?" Mai turned to him, features showing slight wariness. "We can't fight all of those Earthbenders up there. Not to mention wherever Ozai is at; we could be fried with lightning before we even know what's happening if we're not careful."

"And that's not including Dark," he muttered, peering up at the camp. "So we're outnumbered and could be surrounded at a moment's notice. This is just like Sozin's Comet all over again; those airships were a similar situation. We need to avoid Ozai at all costs."

"As far as I can tell, our only option to rescue Piandao is by stealth." Koko's eyes were serious, features pinched. "That's it."

Sokka nodded, "Nearly all of us are non-benders and if we're being honest, and we must be for battles and wars, a bender can fuck us up in many ways. It's why I wanted to learn chi-blocking."

"But even that won't be enough, not even if all of us knew chi-blocking." Ty Lee rubbed her hands nervously, "There are too many, and some people's chi 'heal' from the chi-block a lot faster than others'; it's how strong their chi is, to begin with. I don't even know if Avatar Aang would feel a chi-block now that he's a fully-realized Avatar."

"Not to mention The Avatar State."

"The only way to know is to try to get close enough to use chi-blocking on him."

"Good luck doing that," he muttered.

"The point is, we're at a severe disadvantage," Koko cut in. "I don't know if this was thought through because there is no way to beat them, not even with Haru on our side."

"I'm not a true Master Earthbender." The words were bitter and Ty Lee rubbed Haru's shoulder. "I could maybe take five or six of them at once but that's it."

"Exactly. We can't hope to fight them."

"We're not here to fight them," Sokka reminded, staring at each of them. "We're here to rescue Piandao and sabotage them in any way that we can. So yes, it will be a stealth mission. If possible, maybe we can learn what they're planning and take that information back to Aang in Ba Sing Se."

"I thought that they went to the Sun Warriors to get the Dragons." Koko frowned. "That doesn't even include the Northern Water Tribe. That man we killed said- "

"Not we," Sokka interrupted. "It was Mai who killed him."

Mai rolled her eyes but Koko continued, "- that Piandao had secured the power of water for Ozai; that's what it sounded like. Aang might know and be in the North."

Sokka waved her off. "He'll be back in Ba Sing Se when we get back with Piandao."

"You are aware that Piandao won't leave willingly, correct?" Mai asked flatly. "If he's as Ty Lee and I were, the sight of your face won't magically cure him. We'll need rope to tie him up and either you or Haru will need to most likely carry him."

"Shit," he cursed. "Why didn't I think of that?"

"Because you never think of anything?" Koko's words were sweet and the other Kyoshi Warriors snickered. "That's the only answer."

Haru cut in before Sokka could respond. "You guys told me what the Dai Li used to do, how they had those rock-gloves. I could do something similar to cover Piandao's mouth to keep him from making a sound; he'd still breathe through his nose. I could trap his arms in place with stone and then carry him, I guess."

"You amazing man." Sokka sighed in relief. "But we must remember that Piandao is now a Firebender. Agni gifted him firebending."

Ty Lee perked up. "I'll block his chi or you could. It would be good practice."

Sokka nodded. "Do we have a plan?"

"I believe so," Koko answered. "We're going to somehow get Piandao, do whatever we can to sabotage their mission while learning about their mission, and then go back to Ba Sing Se."

"Awesome. Haru, create a hole."

"Why a hole?"

"Well… why not? We can tunnel under the camp and find Piandao. Plus, without a hole, where would any of us be?" Sokka looked at their unamused faces and groaned. "Oh, come on. Don't play dumb, you guys. That's a game you can't win."

Haru blinked. "Are you talking about our parents having sex?"

"Yes! If our fathers hadn't slept with our moth- "

"We get it!" Koko hissed out, rolling her eyes. "That's not even a hole! I have no idea how Suki loves you."

Sokka puffed out his chest. "It's obviously because of my incredible stopping-in-your-tracks looks and unsurpassable charm."

"It's obviously not. I don't know if she should still be the leader of the Kyoshi Warriors if her judgment failed her so spectacularly in choosing you."

"Hey! That's just being cruel. Why shouldn't I just- "

Haru shook his shoulder urgently and Sokka cut himself off, turning to see what had happened. Two men who looked similar to the man who Mai had killed were descending down the hill, voices loud. Listening from their hiding position in the bushes, Sokka craned his head forward.

"I hate how demanding he is," one of the men whined, a stark contrast compared to the permanent fury etched into his ravaged features. "I mean, you'd think that he was a King or something. Whenever Vaatu leaves, that guy's head inflates like one of those damned war balloons we saw in the Great War. Matter of fact, it's even inflated when Vaatu's here!"

"I don't know, Mizin. Piandao ain't a man we want to be questioning. Don't you remember when Chin V challenged him?"

"Yes. How could I forget the sight of such humiliation, Toro? And now Piandao orders us to go fishing! Can you believe that? That bitch of his could easily get the fish for us, but no. He wants us to get them instead."

"He wants you to get them."


"Piandao told me to make sure you actually go to get the fish; he wants enough to feed everyone. You did something to piss him off. Knowing him, it could have been anything."

"That fu- "

"This is where I'll be leaving you. I'll be waiting right here until you get back."

"You bastard."

"You forgot 'lucky,' Mizin."

"Fuck you!"

Mizin stomped off and Sokka watched with keen eyes; he felt an idea flood his mind. They all remained silent, observing Toro, who had remained in his spot. Time seemed to fade and Sokka didn't know how long they remained watching but eventually, Toro pushed down his hand and a slab of earth rose behind him. Slowly, he reclined on it, head staring up at the sky. The sound of snores soon followed.

"Perfect," he muttered and turned to face everyone else. "I have a plan. It's better than the hole."

"Anything would have been better than that hole-plan," Koko muttered. "Earthbenders would have felt us, anyway. And by the way, that part of a woman's body is not a hole."

He ignored her. "Just follow my lead. It's been long enough that it will work. Trust me." Sokka slowly stepped out of the bushes, the others following behind him. Thankfully, Toro had remained asleep, so he confidently walked up. "Hey!"

Toro jumped to his feet within a second, fists outstretched, feet sloped into an earthbending stance. "Hey! Who the fuck are you?"

"Are you Toro?"


"Mizin sent us." Sokka remained calm and continually reminded himself that he was so close to rescuing his Master. "He said that we were people with hearts like the Children of Chin. We ran into him while he was um… fishing."

"You're a Water Tribesman. And you others loo- " Toro cut off when he pointed at Haru. "That one there's an Earthbender but the rest of you are non-benders, right?"

"We want to join Piandao to destroy The Avatar."

"Really? You'd have been better off coming earlier. We're about to get many new guys thanks to Vaatu. Plus, we already got the Earthbenders from Yu Dao - and their Firebenders, too," he said in distaste. "The fuckin' camp's about to be tight - like asshole-tight. In fact, we're probably gonna have to climb asses just to get around. We don't need you guys."

Sokka kept as much of a straight face as he could. "I don't know. We want The Avatar destroyed and you need all of the help that you can get, right? You're going to reject some extra hands? I mean, The Avatar is powerful, right?"

Toro sighed. "Then we'll take the Earthbender only."

"We all want to join."

"Why the fuck do we want non-benders who can't fuckin' bend?"

Sokka floundered, not expecting that question. "We… um… we're all pretty good at what we do… Look, we can help. Mizin sent us. That's all we know."

"Mizin's actually doin' some recruiting? That's new. Like, actually new."

"Um… I don't- "

"I know, I know! Mizin sent you." Toro waved them away, the gesture final. "Well, go ask Mizin."

"I can't." Sokka tried to quickly think of something feasible. "He said that the fish… they aren't playing nice. He left to go to a new spot and um… I don't know where. And he doesn't think that he'll be back until tomorrow."

"Oh, that's just great!" Toro threw his arms into the air in outrage. "He gets to go fishing and leaves me with this shit." The arms suddenly lowered in suspicion and Sokka stiffened. "You're a Water Tribesman. Why didn't you help him catch those fish? That's all your people do, right?"

"Um… I… I never learned." Sokka ignored the incredulous look Koko was shooting at him. Everyone else looked nervous out of the corner of his eye. "No one taught me."

"What? That don't make sense."

"You're telling me," he said, desperately trying to keep the situation from slipping out of his hands. "I never knew my father, and… I was raised in Ba Sing Se. There were no Water Tribesmen there. No fish to catch."

Toro's eyebrows rose. "That makes sense."

"I know." He tried to keep the relief out of his voice. "Look, can't we just come- "

The eyebrows fell and Toro groaned. "Now Mizin's the lucky bastard. All we need are more people - and non-benders wouldn't be that much of a help. Soon enough, we'll all have to sleep together to save space!"

Sokka shrugged. "We want The Avatar destroyed. Don't you?"

"Yes! But I'd prefer to be able to do it while preserving my innocence."

"So can we meet Piandao?" he tried. "If not, we came a long way for nothing?"

"Why? Why would you need or even want to talk to him?"

"We have information about The Avatar. Um… we know where he's going."

"And how would you know that?"

Sokka did his best not to twitch. "He took my sister."

"Ahh, I see." Toro nodded and looked at him with sympathy. "I heard that The Avatar's fucking Fire Lord Zuko's sister. The bastard must have a thing for taking people's sisters."

He nearly gagged and shivered at the thought, but when he saw Mai subtly pull out a shuriken, he thankfully regained control. "Look, before my sister was taken, I heard The Avatar talking about where he's going. I want to tell Piandao 'cause I want The Avatar destroyed." He pumped his fist for effect and saw the others nodding eagerly. "So can I see Piandao? Tell him what I know?"

"Eh… Might as well tell him." Toro turned around and Sokka and the others followed him - the plan was working! "If he accepts you, be prepared to do a lot of work. We're trying to move out the Yu Dao shit. He'll want you to start immediately, carrying as much of the shit as you can since you're not a bender. Carry as heavy as you can; that's what he always says. Don't give him no 'That's unfair' Badgermole shit; he hates that."

Sokka nodded and glanced at the others; they seemed amazed that they were now walking in the middle of the enemy camp - there were a lot of enemies! - and no one gave them a second glance. "So um… where's Piandao?"

"Where the fuck do you think? Probably sittin' on that throne of his or fucking his two women; that's all he does besides train." Sokka shared a horrified glance with Koko but he continued to march on; he couldn't become distracted by how far his Master had fallen because of Vaatu's darkness. "It gets worse when Vaatu's gone, just like now."

Sokka nearly tripped. "Da- Vaatu's gone?" he asked, astonished. "Gone where?"

"To the Spirit World or something. We don't know when he's getting back."

Narrowly concealing his triumphant grin, Sokka deliberately slung his arm around Toro's shoulder in what he hoped was an understanding manner. If Vaatu was gone, it meant that Ozai was probably gone, too!

"And Piandao… takes advantage?"

"Yeah," Toro growled out. "He gets to fuck the whore and bitch and then do nothing. He ain't gonna lift anything heavier than the whore and bitch in the middle of his sessions with 'em. He's the vessel, so he can do whatever the fuck he wants."

Sokka looked at Toro strangely, thinking that was a weird way to describe a messenger and recruiter, but before he could comment, they stopped in front of the biggest tent and Toro nodded at the two men who were guarding it. He slipped out from under Sokka's arm, stepped past them into the tent while Sokka and the others awkwardly remained outside. Within moments, Toro exited with a sour look on his face.

"Where's Piandao?" Sokka demanded anxiously. "What's wrong?"

"He's training," Toro responded with a grunt. "That bitch must be with him. The prisoners are alone."

Sokka tensed at the thought of prisoners under his Master's hands, and while he was still astounded at how Vaatu could corrupt someone so thoroughly, he reminded himself to somehow come back for the prisoners.

He shrugged in what he hoped was a cool manner. "Let's go get him. The information's important. It's about The Avatar, after all."

Toro looked exasperated but nodded sullenly. "Fine, but if we walk in on them fucking, don't say that I didn't warn you. By the way, what do I call you? You haven't said. Piandao likes to know people's names."

"The name's Wang Fire."

"That's an odd name for a Water Tribesman."

"Don't think I don't know it," he said slowly, thinking quickly. "My mother was Water Tribe and um… she was on her way to Ba Sing Se during the Great War when a Fire Nation soldier attacked her… I was born nine months later."

Toro stiffened and looked at him with thinly-hidden loathing. "You have Fire Nation blood?"

"Yes, but I was raised by my mother." Sokka was lying through his teeth and he was thankful that none of these Earthbenders were like Toph and could tell that he was lying. "Like I said, I never knew my father."

Toro nodded. "Aren't the Fire Nation evil fucks? Piandao has promised us that he'll wipe out the Fire Nation. He promised that once they're no longer needed, we'll be able to kill the Firebenders from Yu Dao."

Sokka nodded in horror. "They deserve it, right? I'd gladly kill my… my unknown father."

Toro relaxed and nodded in understanding as he began to lead them to wherever Piandao was. "Come on. Piandao's not far and his bitch is probably with him; they're either fucking or training. You can never tell until it's too late. Look out for her; she'll crush your heart with a smile on her face."

"I've met those types before," he said, smiling tightly as he remembered Azula during the Great War. "I'll watch out for her."

Toro tensed in front of him after several moments, his words short. "Speaking of that bitch, here she comes now."

Sokka stared at the woman that walked towards them; she was obviously Water Tribe.

"You didn't say that she was from the Water Tribes," he hissed out, staring at her, still unable to make out her face; the distance was still too great. "What the fuck?"

"Why would I? I don't think she's even human," Toro replied, voice soft, on the verge of terrified. "Maybe a spirit, but whatever she is, she's a bitch - the bitch. Just stay calm and don't look her in the eye. Your blood stops when she looks at you."

Watching as his kin approached, Sokka narrowed his eyes slightly; he didn't recognize her, but… something about her was familiar. It was a woman who looked around Zuko's mother's age, around how old Sokka's own mother would be if she were still alive, and as she stepped even closer towards them, he saw her hesitate in her stride when she saw him, glimpsed the sudden widening of her eyes before she smirked coldly; her blue eyes were like the ice in the Water Tribes. Sokka felt a chill crawl up his spine and he knew that there would be no rescue for this woman; she was working with Vaatu of her own free will.

She was the woman Haru had mentioned at that village.

The woman passed by and Sokka shivered; he remembered a different, older Water Tribe woman like that. "You weren't kidding," he muttered.

"Don't I know it?" Toro waved them forward. "Come on. Piandao's down here… You know, your friends don't talk much."

"Um… they don't have much to say." He forced himself to chuckle. "They're practically mute."

Koko glared at him but remained quiet as Toro glanced back at him as they continued walking. "Piandao will like 'em, then. I doubt that he'll like you. You talk too much."

Sokka shook his head adamantly. "Oh, Piandao will like me. I think that deep down, he'll be happy to see me."

"Whatever you say, Wang Fire… Ahh, here we are." They passed by two thick trees and a man stood in the sand, gazing at the water; he was shirtless, broad, powerful-looking.

"He's put on a lot of muscle," he whispered, feeling anxious all of a sudden. Although it had been years since he had seen him, he would have sworn that his Master had a darker skin tone, rivaling his own. "That's Piandao?"

Toro nodded before raising his voice, stepping forward while Sokka and the others stayed back. "Piandao! This guy says that he knows where The Avatar's going!"

His Master's words reached him. "This should be interesting."

While the voice sounded different, Sokka felt a smile form on his face as Piandao slowly turned around but then his smile froze; he stared unblinkingly at the man who was not Piandao - an imposter! Within seconds, his grin faded as explosions erupted behind his eyes and he cringed, horror the only emotion inside him. Mai and Ty Lee gasped behind him and he wavered on his feet, feeling faint, swallowing thickly; he had never forgotten that face, how it lacked empathy, and anything that resembled sanity.

It was Fire Lord Ozai.


Ever since the sinewy Earthbender had entered the tent, but only to look around and then exit with a disgruntled look on his long, oval face, Ursa had inherently known that something was different; she could feel it. It was a tangible sensation that spread through her mind, causing fire to flash through her limbs, granting her strength and more importantly, hope.

Her feelings were augmented as she and Samir remained alone; it was systematic of her husband to enter every hour. Ursa knew him better than anyone; she always had. It was easy to discern the reason for his visits; his face was decipherable. Either he was there to enjoy her body or to talk. He spoke of the future and past, how he was to bond them together in harmony when the time was right. He offered promises of their future children who would reign the Four Nations after him; he swore that he would be nothing but gracious to her while ushering in his supremacy. In some rare moments, he looked loving; he almost seemed as the Ozai who had courted her during Azulon's reign, but it was all a depraved illusion. It summoned terrible grief, for she knew of the monster that had erased the man she married in love.

Ursa closed her eyes, shaking away those thoughts; it would bring her nothing but sorrow to dwell on them. An opportunity would arise like Agni's dim light at dawn; she would be ready to grasp it with all of her might.

"I want Mommy," Samir whispered, the yearning words floating in the air.

"I know," Ursa soothed. "Someone will find us and free us. Okay?"

Samir didn't answer and Ursa hoped that her daughter and Avatar Aang were close.


Sokka stood frozen, unable to move; he felt reality crash around him as Fire Lord Ozai took a step forward, a suspicious look on his depraved face. "Why so shy? Is there something- …I remember you. Your leg was broken. You were there after The Avatar defeated me!" Fire Lord Ozai's face spasmed with unholy loathing and then his golden eyes - they were just like Zuko's! - moved past him and he smiled; the sight almost caused him to fall to his knees. "Mai and Ty Lee… You have grown- "

Finally coming to his senses, Sokka immediately flung his boomerang at Ozai and it curved through the air; it thinly sliced the side of the monster's cheek, eliciting a hiss. "Get him!" he screamed hysterically. "Kill him! It's Ozai!"

Mai flung her knives at Fire Lord Ozai and they narrowly missed him as he flung himself to the side; he leaped back to his feet with incredible speed and Sokka swallowed.

"'Ozai'?" Toro demanded, still standing off to the side. "Piandao, what the fuck's goin' on?"

"Silence, you fool!" Fire Lord Ozai roared. "Kill them! They're assassins working for The Avatar sent to kill me! Assassins! You led them right to me!"

Toro blinked before he pivoted and jumped toward them; his fist smashed into the ground and Sokka stumbled before narrowly avoiding a sudden boulder that had been thrown at him. He quickly rushed forward and swiped his sword at Toro, but he lurched backward because his feet were trapped.

Thankfully, Ty Lee bounced forward while Sokka desperately hacked at the stone and punched her nimble fingers into Toro's robust body; he seized up, and fear swept through his features.

"What did you do, you bitch?" Toro screamed before Sokka finally freed himself; he didn't look to see what Ty Lee was doing or hear what she said.

He was too focused on Fire Lord Ozai.

Mai continued to throw knives from her endless supply and Koko and the Kyoshi Warriors were attacking Fire Lord Ozai hand-to-hand, but it was terrifyingly obvious that Fire Lord Ozai was much more skilled than Sokka had ever given the monster credit for. But why wasn't firebending being used? Had Vaatu taken it away for training? With that thought, he felt more confident, and he itched for his chance and he saw that Haru was the same; his friend was poised, back near the forest where he could bend, waiting for his opening so that he wouldn't accidentally hit Mai or the Kyoshi Warriors.

Ty Lee bounced away from Toro's paralyzed body, but he held out an arm to keep her from attacking. "Wait. We need to time it just right. I'll go and then when you see an opening, do your thing."

"Okay." Ty Lee's normal chipperness had been replaced with determination. "You can chi-block now, remember? If you see an opening yourself, don't wait for me."

Sokka nodded, and just as he was about to try to attack, enter the fray, he saw the gleaming shine of his boomerang finally returning; it whizzed through the air until it landed in the sand. Sokka dove for it and when he wrapped his fingers around the cool, reassuring metal, he looked back up just in time to see Koko smack Fire Lord Ozai's hand with her fan and he hissed in pain, taking several steps back instinctively.

"Now!" Sokka cried out but Haru and Ty Lee were already ahead of him.

Haru leaped forward and stomped his foot; he then punched his fist forward and a boulder shot out at the vulnerable Fire Lord Ozai, and bounding behind it was Ty Lee, prepared to chi-block the unprepared Fire Lord Ozai.

Instead of a blazing fireball consuming the boulder as Sokka was prepared for even if he was sure that Vaatu had taken the monster's firebending, a half-constructed wave of water smashed into it. Before his stunned eyes, several large, shaking, dripping tendrils wrapped around it and weakly tossed it back at his friend. Ty Lee was forced to jump out of the way, and Haru effortlessly punched through the boulder but the entire scene was silent, frozen at the impossibility of what had just happened.

Fire Lord Ozai had shifted his feet into a waterbending stance - a waterbending stance! - and now, water sloppily swirled around his body as he stared odiously at them. The sight was so foreign that Sokka paused instinctively, still kneeling in the sand, boomerang in one hand and his sword in the other; he finally understood how foolish he had been - and it might be the death of them all!

"The Avatar has sent you here?" A snarl graced Fire Lord Ozai's malignant features and Sokka felt true terror for the first time since the Great War. "I had expected it, but not so soon! It matters not; he endorsed your deaths by sending you here. I will accommodate his request! It will be a brief reprieve to sate my yearning for his blood!"

"Fuck you!" Sokka shouted and rushed forward, diving to the side to avoid a sloppy tendril of water; it was apparent immediately that they were at a great advantage! Fire Lord Ozai wasn't a Master in waterbending and it was the only element that he had! "He only has water! We can get him!"

Ty Lee gracefully hopped forward, Mai threw more knives, and Koko and the other Kyoshi Warriors rushed forward with a battle cry, fans held in defense while Haru jumped forward into a sprint after shoving a sudden wall of immovable earth at Fire Lord Ozai that surged across the sand. Sokka saw the monster's eyes go wide before he leaped back into the water, disappearing from sight.

All was silent and they were tensed in preparation, standing in the sand, prepared for anything.

A pillar of water shot into the air and atop it was the imposter; the water was barely staying afloat, quivering, wavering, barely holding him, but it was enough. "I am above you all, and now you will die!"

Immediately recognizing that they were at a disadvantage, Sokka braced himself. "If we get him here, we can end this! No one else has to die!"

A wave of water surged forward, hurtling across the shore and they all leaped back but the tides were slowly growing stronger.

Mai hurled shurikens up at Fire Lord Ozai, but the monster's reflexes were astounding; he simply moved his head and even caught one of them in his hand.

"I can't bend sand!" Haru hissed frantically, eyes in panic. "He has an endless supply and we can't beat him here!"

Sokka saw Koko swallow. "We need to get out of here! Change the battlefield! We need him to follow us!"

"Shouldn't be too hard," he cried out before he turned around. "Run!"

They dashed back to the camp and Sokka had barely an idea of what to do - they were trapped!

"GET THEM!" Fire Lord Ozai roared from behind them and the echo reverberated in his soul and through the camp, causing terror. "KILL THEM!"

"Watch out!" Koko screamed as several Earthbenders leaped at them; Sokka reacted on instinct, diving to the side and lashing out with his sword. A choked gasp echoed and green eyes stared at him in shock and he numbly yanked his blade out of the man's chest.

"Come on!" Ty Lee chirped frantically, gliding across the ground towards the tents. "We can hide and think of something!"

Sokka's eyes widened in realization. "The prisoners! They can help us! If Ozai has prisoners, they must be powerful and dangerous. We need to free them! They'll help us!"

"Let's go!" Haru shouted and punched a boulder at an approaching Earthbender; the earth rumbled violently. "We're about to be surrounded!"

"This way," he hollered and bolted back in the direction the prisoner's tent had been, dimly recognizing the area. During the brief journey, they tried to stay silent, stealthily traveling back to avoid any of the Earthbenders and Fire Lord Ozai. To the few Earthbenders who saw them, Mai buried knives in their throats before they could alert everyone else of their presence; they didn't care about people seeing the bodies.

"It's this one," Koko hissed out and drew the unguarded tent's opening; they burst into the tent, heaving in gulps of air, the flap of the tent closing behind them.

Sokka's eyes wildly looked around and they fell on two chained figures; he blinked and felt hysteria sweep through him once again when he recognized them. "Ur- Ursa? Samir? Wha- "

Samir - Samir was a prisoner! - beamed up at him, awe and joy transforming her pale features into something unbelievable. "Sokka! You're here!"

"Thank Agni," Ursa breathed out and Sokka wavered on his feet, not understanding - what were they doing here? "I feared that our liberation would be too late."

"What the fuck?" he demanded in stunned horror. "What- "

"Free us!" The words were urgent, Ursa's golden eyes frantic. "Hurry! Before Ozai returns!"

"You know them?" Haru asked warily, eyes staying locked at the entrance to the tent, body prepared for a fight.

"This… is Avatar Aang's daughter and mother-in-law." Mai's knives began to spin faster between her fingers, aggravation and shock clear in her usually-bland features. "You were taken? Were you the only ones? What about the others?"

"Taken? What happened?" Ty Lee held Samir's face in her hands, eyes full of worry. "Your auras are horrible!"

Sokka stared at Ursa, at the way her body was chained, and a horrifying, sickening feeling enveloped him. "You were- "

"Later!" Ursa hissed out, golden eyes on fire and he swallowed. "Free us, Master Sokka!"

"We don't have much time." Koko used her fan to swipe at the chains trapping Samir, but they wouldn't break. "Haru, can you- "

"I'm not a Metalbender. I haven't learned yet, but hurry!" Haru hissed out, turning towards them, pointing outside the tent. "Do something! I can hear them getting close!"

"Embers!" Ursa's eyes connected with his own again. "'Tis behind you!"

Sokka blinked. "The sword that Sozin- "

"Yes! I shall light it and then you will free us."

Suddenly, Mai plucked the most beautiful but deadly-looking sword he had ever seen from a mount on a chest.

"Do it now!" Koko whispered frantically, eyes darting towards the opening of the tent. "We need to get out of here!"

He grabbed the blade from Mai's hands with numb fingers, noticing the perfect balance, and at Ursa's beckoning, he approached her trapped form. Her fingers were arched towards him from where they were permanently confined and he placed the tip of Embers at those fingertips. Fire surged up the blade and he nearly dropped it on instinct, but he held on, mesmerized by the beautiful flames. For the first time in his life, he saw the beauty of fire, but the observation was overshadowed by the dire need to escape.

"Quickly! The flames are about to vanish!"

Sokka felt powerful with such a mighty weapon in his hands, and with a single swipe of fire, the chains of Ursa and Samir were broken.


"There!" Azula's cry reached his ears and he saw what she was pointing at. "Those must be who you felt!"

"Can you deal with them?" Aang demanded urgently "I need to get to Koh's lair!"

"Keep going!" she yelled back as he flew even faster. "Let go of me! Drop me!"

Aang followed her command and didn't need to watch as she plummeted to the ground; she would be fine. Zooming faster, Aang approached Koh's lair, determination clawing at his sanity.

He would end it now!

Ahead, he could feel Vaatu, and as he got closer, he could see the outline of carnage. Part of Koh's lair was destroyed, and outside of the lair, the chitinous form of Koh battled against Vaatu.

Aang's eyes widened and he dug deeper, flying faster, and when he was close enough to see that Vaatu and Koh were even in strength, he felt his inner flame expand, filling his chi and surge into his forehead, timing it perfectly.

But then Vaatu abruptly disappeared.

Angered, he unleashed the blast from his forehead and it erupted into the ground where Vaatu had just been. Aang smashed into the crater as he landed, immediately leaping towards where Koh was; the Face Stealer was wounded.

"What happened?" he demanded. "You let Vaatu escape!"

"Spare the accusations, Avatar," Koh hissed out. "The Phoenix is being attacked."


Azula landed on the ground but since she was only a spirit, not her flesh and blood body, she didn't feel any pain or break bones from such a fall. She glanced upward and saw Aang continue streaking towards the Face Stealer's lair. She refocused her attention; the snarling dark spirits - there were ten of them - were just ahead, having paused when she landed. For several moments, all was quiet as they stared at her but then they rushed forward in unison, loud roars reaching her ears.

Azula prepared herself and dashed towards them; her steps were light but powerful and when she was close enough to feel the darkness in the air, she ducked under a sudden attack from the leading dark spirit. In a smooth movement, she rolled forward and then sprang up, crashing into one of the other dark spirits.

It felt like hitting the steel doors of the palace in the Caldera.

The dark spirit swiped at her and the malevolent-tipped claws were painful as she was shoved backward. Her legs sunk into the earth somehow and Azula immediately regretted her actions; she couldn't afford to focus solely on one spirit. Her instincts prickled and she jumped forward and whirled around in one fluid movement.

She had narrowly avoided a feral, wrathful, and powerful attack. In response, while not allowing herself to ponder what would happen if she failed to purify them, Azula centered her chi and used energybending to fire a spiritual lightning attack. The energy blasted out of her fingertips and several of the dark spirits were blasted; they howled in pain, stumbling back. Not pausing, she spun around and pivoted her stance, snapping her hand forward; it was pressed firmly against one of the dark spirits that tried to sneak up on her.

Azula grit her teeth as the darkness was intense but while aware of the incoming threat of more dark spirits, gathered her energybending and purified the former dark spirit. Immediately, not pausing to see if it had worked, she jumped to the side and painfully contorted her body in mid-air to evade a strike.

She landed, but before she could react, there was a surge of power; she froze in realization, cursing angrily. She turned around and saw the spirit that she had just purified return to its darkened form. Darkness was thick around them and it grew, augmenting beyond her senses. The feeling was terrifying, a piercing assault that overwhelmed her; she felt dizzy and fell to her knees as she desperately attempted to recover her senses.

Suddenly, she choked as a cloud of stifling black energy expanded before her, rising until it became a tower, a corporeal form of pure darkness. Azula felt the raw power simmer around her - she was being attacked! Like a flame burning against her mind, she gathered her energy and with her mastered chakras, stood strong and didn't succumb.

The intense energy relented and when Azula opened her eyes, Vaatu loomed over her; the dark spirits were nowhere to be seen.

"You!" she hissed out and jumped to her feet, unafraid of the spirit who could kill her. "Where are my daughter and mother?" Azula wound her fingers and fired spiritual lightning. "Where?"

"You would make a worthy ally, Ozai's daughter," Vaatu purred and the lightning connected to his corporeal form but it didn't even seem to register; the spirit had grown in power since Azula had last encountered him. "Such strength… I can feel it. No wonder The Avatar was drawn to you. You are your father's daughter; you would have made an excellent vessel."

"Where are they?" Azula demanded fearlessly, furiously. "The Avatar will- "

"Be preoccupied with the horde of my spirits attacking Koh and his new spirit to rescue you."

Azula froze before she stood tall. "I will never be corrupted by you. I am my own person. Never again will I be controlled by another."

"Which makes this encounter regretful. Your turning to me would break The Avatar but your mastered chakras prevent that. I was suspicious of why he took Agni's flames, but now I have the confirmation needed. There is a way to make sure that he is never motivated to complete the process of that new spirit: Your death."

"No! Even if I die, he will never- "

"How much can The Avatar lose before he ceases to be as whom you know him?" Vaatu floated closer but Azula was frozen in place, the words of his question a physical hold on her mind. "First his entire nation and Master, then his daughter and mother-in-law and friend, and now, as Ozai would say… his whore."

"They're… dead?" She stumbled back, her sense of balance failing her. Her daughter and mother were dead!

"No, but they will forever remain lost to him; they are in my grasp. You will soon be lost to him more so; your spirit will be eradicated from existence."

Azula's relief was all-consuming; her eyes closed briefly before she stared directly up at Vaatu, gazing at the purple swirling lines of energy. "If I die, you will fall, never to rise again. He will never rest until I am avenged; he is not that boy anymore but a fully-realized Avatar and more importantly, a man. That is my prophecy."

Vaatu began to glow. "An empty one, daughter of Ozai."

"'Tis not."

"But you will not exist to see who is correct." Vaatu reared back and Azula tensed before a remarkable calm passed over her.

Her eyes remained open and her perception of time slowed; she observed Vaatu. Slowly, the purple glow spread over the black mass of shadows, consuming every shade of darkness until it became an intense light. In spite of the need to close her eyes, Azula stared at her potential incoming demise with clear golden orbs. She refused to give Vaatu the pleasure of witnessing her to be anything less than poised as he tried to destroy her spirit. Just as the energy seemed to thicken in Vaatu, the spirit froze before he whirled around, the glow swiftly fading.

"Ozai," Vaatu hissed out in alarm before the shadows swarmed around him and Azula was knocked away, flung to the side.

When she looked back up, Vaatu was gone; she was alone and still existing.

Azula took a shuddering breath, panting as she recovered her composure. She hadn't wanted to die, not at all; she hadn't been ready. She still had so much more to accomplish; she still needed to rescue her daughter and mother, defeat her father, and then when the new war was over, she would birth the new nation of Airbenders.

Her destiny had almost been stolen from her - just as Samir and her mother were!

Azula's lips curled into a snarl. "Never again."

A crack exploded from the heavens and her eyes glanced up to glimpse Aang blurring down towards her; he landed with a thunderous crash, but Azula was unaffected. Aang's face was frantic and before she could speak, he pulled her into his chest, body shaking.

"I- I thought…" His breathing was uncontrolled, furious like a darkened storm. "I felt Vaatu. I feared the worst. I- I thought he was going to- "

"He nearly did," she admitted into his chest, hating the sight of his terrible flinch, the horrible guilt shining in his eyes that were, too, thick with sudden tears. "His aim was to… inflict an unhealable wound on you."

"I'm sorry." His lips pressed to her forehead and somehow, even though she was a spirit, she felt the action, the warm love flowing into her. "I'm so sorry. I- "

"Samir and my mother are still alive," Azula interrupted, trying to keep him from dwelling on something that didn't happen; she knew him, how he thought, and she refused to let him drown in his irrational guilt and fear. "It was confirmed. Something happened to my father; it's what sparked his hasty departure. Do you think Ozai was killed?"

Aang's eyes slowly cleared and she basked in the sight and the feeling of relief. "We'll find out soon enough."

"And Koh? The Phoenix?"

"Koh, apparently, was holding off Vaatu, but he was unable to stop the others from attacking the Phoenix. Agni and Devi were there, and Agni was draining The Phoenix of his flames, but I arrived in time to save it. When Vaatu sensed my presence, he vanished- "

"To appear before me," she finished.

"Yes. Koh then dealt with the horde, stealing the faces that he could, while I tried to reverse the damage done to the Phoenix, and I deemed it more important to save The Phoenix than go after the fleeing Agni and Devi."

"A wise decision."

"But… because of Agni's actions, the process will take longer, unfortunately; probably closer to a month or longer now. Without my intervention, The Phoenix would have been destroyed while Koh was distracted. I purified the rest of the horde once I was finished, and Koh promised to guard The Phoenix, bringing in other spirits to aid him. If Vaatu attacks in the hope of destroying The Phoenix again, he said that I'll know it."

"I believe that enough time has been exhausted in the Spirit World," she murmured after a moment's consideration. "We do not know what has been occurring in the Mortal Realm in our absences."

Aang squeezed her. "We're about to."


The earth continued to rumble violently and the smell of death had drifted into her tent; it was a whiff but Hama knew it would become thicker sooner rather than later. Ever since she had laid eyes on the man whom she was certain is Sokka - Katara's brother! - she had eagerly waited for the opportunity that she knew would present itself and it was finally here!

Her vengeance against Fire Lord Ozai and the Fire Nation had arrived!

Hama quickly gathered all her things of importance and stuffed them into a sack, strapping it across her back. While the urge to kill Sokka had been overwhelming when she had first seen him, she was no fool; her chances of survival increased with help. After all, enemies joined together to combat the greater enemy - and the greater enemy was Fire Lord Ozai.

She exited her tent and inhaled deeply. "How quickly a whiff transforms into an aroma," she murmured, the passion for blood enticing her own pulse.

The sounds of battle were loud, jarring in the air, and she felt a deadly calm overtake her; she followed the sounds, and what she saw surprised her.

Fire Lord Ozai's wife and The Avatar's daughter were free, and Hama finally understood why the woman was wed to such a monster. While she had seen Ursa at the North unleash power against her evil husband, it was but a glimpse compared to the flames and lightning springing forth from those rage-powered hands in the fray before her eyes. Ursa led the sparse Avatar-supporters against the ferocious Ozai, Earthbenders and Firebenders from Yu Dao, and surviving Children of Chin, but it was obvious whom the victors would be.

The tide of battle was clear; Fire Lord Ozai's wife wasn't enough and the desperate plumes of fire that were swallowed by unstoppable waves of earth and returned fire proved it. The Earthbender with Katara's brother was doing his best, but while slain bodies surrounded The Avatar-supporters, they were weakening, tiring.

Almost immediately, one of the non-benders dressed in a green garb, similar to that of the other non-benders, lurched forward as her foot was trapped in the earth.

"Koko!" Katara's brother, who held Fire Lord Sozin's Embers, roared, but it was too late as a wave of fire killed her.

All the women garbed in green cried out in rage at the sight of their friend's demise, attacks becoming fiercer, but also sloppier. More bodies fell and the airbending child shrieked in terror as one of her green-garbed guardians collapsed, dead.

Her eyes locked onto Katara's brother, who was screaming commands, trying to keep everyone alive, but it was pointless.

Hama didn't enter the fray yet, continuing to observe the fascinating scene; surrounding the group of Avatar-supporters, the surviving Children of Chin, Yu Dao benders, and Fire Lord Ozai attacked fiercely. Fire Lord Ozai only had water, she noted, and his progress with the element terrified her. He was not a Master like he was of fire and earth, but he was strangely capable, hatred strengthening his movements, augmenting the water's potency.

Ursa stumbled away from a boulder and her golden eyes managed to meet Hama's. It wasn't for more than a second, but it was enough. It provoked something inside of her, a brief kinship, a spark of understanding. They had both been brutally used by Fire Lord Ozai. They weren't allies by any means, but maybe during this battle, they could be kindred spirits.

Hama raised her hands, her own blood exalting in praise as she gripped Fire Lord Ozai, the Yu Dao benders, and the Children of Chin's blood, halting their attacks, the entire battle.

The Avatar-supporters sagged in relief and Ursa went to The Avatar's daughter, hugging her tightly. The Earthbender, woman in pink, and woman in black checked on the dead, closing the eyes of all of the unmoving green-garbed women.

Katara's brother looked away from one of the slain green-garbed women and stared at her in horror, eyes wide, Embers shaking as it was pointed at her. "Hama?"

She ignored him, staring at Fire Lord Ozai, triumph beating in her heart.

"You bitch!" Fire Lord Ozai roared, trying to break free but it was pointless. "I'll have your head!"

"Not before I have your life," she replied, crushing her fist. Immediately, all of the Yu Dao benders and Children of Chin perished, hearts incapable of beating; she dropped their bodies unceremoniously, eyes locked onto Fire Lord Ozai.

Fire Lord Ozai's golden eyes pulsed and she gnashed her teeth together, walking closer, ignoring The Avatar-supporters and slain bodies. "Oh, I've waited for this for so long. My retribution! My vengeance! Your line took from me everything, Fire Lord Ozai! And now, I take your life as the price!"

Hama closed her other fist, beginning to slowly - she would enjoy it! - crush Fire Lord Ozai's heart, delighting in his roars of agony, but then darkness immediately exploded behind Fire Lord Ozai, and terror enveloped her as the pressure in the air compounded around everyone; it was suffocating.


She gasped, her grip on Fire Lord Ozai vanishing, and she had just enough time to dive to the side when the corporeal, towering, furious Vaatu reared back and fired a sizzling energy blast at her. The ground erupted near her in a crater, but she hadn't jumped far enough. Some of the energy blast connected to her back and she screamed in pain, feeling her flesh slough off of her back, dripping to the ground in small droplets. Hama's vision wavered, the pain so severe, colors swirling as she tried to stand to her feet, but collapsed back to the ground, yelping in agony as her seared back hit the dirt.

She tried to watch what was happening through pain-filled eyes.

Chaos had erupted once again and Hama saw Vaatu merge with Fire Lord Ozai. The glowing black orbs froze her, the darkness in the air clouding everyone's senses.

"A petty challenge," the merged Fire Lord Ozai and Vaatu ominously declared. "Once we ascend, these challenges to our supremacy will cease. That is our promise!"

Fire Lord Ozai spread his hand, and the earth rumbled, lava spurting upward from the rupturing cracks in the ground. The Avatar's daughter screamed in terror, Ursa and the Earthbender and Sokka jumping back.

"Stop him!" Sokka cried out and Hama stumbled to her feet, stepping in her sloughed-off flesh and blood, the ringing in her ears and pain in her body compromising her strength, barely able to comprehend what was happening as Ursa's flames and lightning were futile, swallowed by the earth, overwhelmed by Fire Lord Ozai's own attacks. The Earthbender fired a boulder at Fire Lord Ozai, but lightning destroyed it, dust and dirt floating in the air.

Just as the haze cleared, the dark-haired woman threw shurikens at Fire Lord Ozai.

Through dazed eyes, Hama watched a wall of earth rise to stop the projectiles, and when it lowered, more lightning sprung forth from those darkness-drenched fingers, streaming through the air into the dark-haired woman, who was blasted into the trees. She laid unmoving and Hama knew she was dead; terror spread through her as a power floated in the air that was second only to The Avatar.

"Mai!" The pink-garbed woman screamed in fury before bounding forward, somehow avoiding all of the lava and fire thrown by Fire Lord Ozai, who snarled, stomping his feet to trap the woman, but incredibly, it didn't matter.

The pink-garbed woman was so light on her feet, so graceful, so agile, and she spun in the air, avoiding plumes of flames, and drifted over Fire Lord Ozai's head before landing behind him.

With lightning-quick speed, Hama watched, stunned, as nimble fingers moved in a deadly pattern, harshly jabbing particular points in Fire Lord Ozai's body.

Fire Lord Ozai swayed and grunted before falling to his knees, hands curled into the earth. "My chi."

He shook and Hama felt foreboding.

The black orbs looked up and then Fire Lord Ozai roared before a wave of darkness erupted outward from his body, and the wave smashed into the pink-garbed woman, sending her flying back into the camp, out of sight. The Avatar-supporters and Hama all fell back, avoiding the wave of darkness.

"Ty Lee!" the Earthbender cried out, devastation and horror on his face as the rage swiftly overwhelmed them; he sent boulder after boulder, wall after wall, at Fire Lord Ozai.

It was futile, for all the Earthbender's attacks were smacked aside and blown apart. When he tried to pull Fire Lord Ozai into the earth, crushing him in the soil, a barely-avoided wave of lava was the response.

Ursa desperately held The Avatar's petrified, screaming daughter behind her, attacks of fire and lightning crackling through the air but nothing worked. Fire Lord Ozai was supreme.

"Conjure an arsenal of weapons, The Avatar himself - nothing will stop me!" Fire Lord Ozai unleashed a torrent of fire that Ursa narrowly managed to stave off, spreading her arms in both directions to combat it. "My Ursa, there is still a chance- "

"I am not yours!" Ursa cried out, glaring up at the form of her husband. "I never was."

"I said nothing will stop me. I meant it." Lightning sparked in Fire Lord Ozai's hands, a brightness hard to look upon. "Not even my wife."

"I am not your wife. I am your past! And there I will remain!"

Fire Lord Ozai's face spasmed. "So be it."

Ursa's show of defiance sparked something inside Hama once more, and she shakily jumped to her feet, the ringing in her ears and pain screaming at her becoming more intense. She shrieked in effort as she seized Fire Lord Ozai's blood just as he was about to unleash the lightning at Ursa and The Avatar-supporters, freezing him.

He was strong.

It was similar to The Avatar, but it wasn't as potent, overwhelming. Yet, because the ringing in her ears was so loud, the pain consuming all her strength, she couldn't hold him for long. Hama fell to her knees and noticed that The Avatar-supporters were beginning to run away, and feeling weak, she tried to crush Fire Lord Ozai's heart but her bloodbending grip was slipping, her vision shaking.

The pain was too much.

Fire Lord Ozai's black orbs grew darker, sucking in all sources of light, and it was all she could see. "A pitiful, infantile display, Hama, but one limned with the truth: Your suffering is just beginning!"

Hama gasped, and with the last of her strength, flung Fire Lord Ozai as far back as she was capable of in her weakened state into the camp.

Her strength vanished, vision blackening. The last thing she saw was the slain Children of Chin and Avatar-supporters, the green-garbed women, all of whom she would soon join.


Sokka paused and looked back at the collapsed Hama - he refused to think how Hama was decades younger! She was unmoving, but from his vantage point, he could discern the barely-perceptible rise and fall of her chest.

"Wait," he called out and saw Samir's face hidden in Ursa's bosom, small body shaking. "I'm getting Hama."

Haru's eyes welled with tears, and he stared back at the camp. "Ty Lee," he whispered, fists clenching. "Can we…?"

Sokka swallowed and shook his head. "You saw how far she went after… Ozai did that wave. You saw how far Ozai went when Hama threw him. I'm sorry, Haru. She's gone."

He blinked back his own tears, controlling his emotions. He couldn't think about Koko and the other Kyoshi Warriors nor Mai and Ty Lee. He had to focus on those still alive and getting back to Suki and their child growing in her womb.

Ursa's hand gently stroked Samir's hair, her golden eyes brilliant. "Hama is responsible for our survival. She was favored by Ozai and Va- Dark. She knows his plans. If we bring her with us, Avatar Aang will have the information he needs to defeat them."

Sokka handed Haru Embers before he ran towards Hama's body, jumping over corpses, and he ignored the sight of Koko's crushed body. He couldn't afford to think about it, think about how badly he failed to see the trickery of Fire Lord Ozai.

Piandao had never been alive, only a stolen identity.

He swallowed and kneeled down over Hama's body, wincing at the sight of her back. He had no idea how she was still alive with that wound. Blood was everywhere and muscles were ruptured; the bone was visible, the white color marred with soil and blood.

Sokka blocked her chi, wary of what she could potentially do even with that wound - she had stopped Fire Lord Ozai and Vaatu when they were merged together! - and picked her up, dashing back towards where the others were outside the camp.

Their faces portrayed their utter exhaustion and while he felt the same, they had to move. "Come on. Ozai could return any moment. We gotta get out of here. We need to get back to Ba Sing Se."

Samir's face was stained with tears, gray eyes flooded. "Where's Daddy and Mommy?"

Ursa looked at him and he tried to smile at Samir but he knew it came out as a grimace. He still had no idea how any of this had happened, how they had been captured. What about Katara? What about Aang? "They're waiting for us at Ba Sing Se."

"We must go," Ursa urged and held Samir closer to her chest as she turned around, body moving in a swift jog. "Come. Hurry."

Sokka began to follow Ursa but then he noticed that Haru had not budged, staring at the camp in defeat, Embers dangling out of his numb hand. "She's gone," he mumbled, face pinched. "I- I didn't tell her that I loved her."

He adjusted Hama in his arms and placed his hand on Haru's shoulder for just a moment before pulling back, centering Hama's weight in his arms once more. "She knew. I'm so sorry. But we have to go. I don't know how far Hama threw him, but he survived it. He'll return any second. We need to be out of here when he does."

Haru wiped away tears and turned around with him. "What are we going to do?"

"Find Aang. Even if he's not at Ba Sing Se, we'll find him. It's all we can do."

With a deep breath, Sokka ran after Ursa and Samir, Haru next to him, fleeing from the possibility of more death and Fire Lord Ozai's wrath.


That's all for this one, everyone. I'm sorry it took so long, but I hope all the action made up for it. I hope that you all enjoyed it and I'd also really appreciate it if you left a review; it would help me out!

**Aang and Azula get to Wan Shi Tong's Library in time to save him from Devi, a weakened Agni, and a horde of dark spirits! I hope that the plan to restore firebending by taking some of Agni's flames and creating a new spirit with them seems realistic. Shoutout to gaara king of the sand, who gave me the idea. Yes, I did use two quotes from Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. If you think that Wan Shi Tong should know how Vaatu disappears, just remember that in Legend of Korra, Wan Shi Tong didn't know how a radio worked. Let that sink in. Wan Shi Tong clearly doesn't know everything, so he wouldn't know about a fact of creation when Raava and Vaatu created the Mortal World.

**Zuko and Katara arrive at Ba Sing Se and learn the truth about Chin V's invasion and Bumi's death! Obviously in grief, they can do nothing else but wait for Aang and Azula to return because Ba Sing Se's no longer burning, which leads to a discussion about the Fire Nation and about philosophies surrounding kinship, inheritance systems, and how a king/Fire Lord is chosen. There has to be a reason why the Fire Nation believes so greatly in bloodlines, so I gave them one, which is absolutely based on real-life history and beliefs.

**Aang and Azula get Koh to agree to protect The Phoenix Spirit and the process begins.

**Bor, Toph, Suki, and Jin argue and Bor realizes some truths. Their blistering pace is unattainable, illogical, and with his own judgment compromised because he's grieving his grandfather's death, Bor needed to hear the truth. While Toph had been playing a strong game, realization has to sit in sooner or later. She knew they had to stop, just like Suki and Jin did, but Bor needed to realize it.

**Aang and Azula purify a nest of dark spirits! The spirits' exalting praise for Aang is based on something in Byron's Manfred.

**Sokka, Haru, Mai, Ty Lee, and Koko and the other Kyoshi Warriors finally reach Ozai's camp, trying to rescue 'Piandao'! They are rudely awakened by the fact that they had been played and so many people on both sides die, and Hama betrays Ozai, turning on him. But then Vaatu appears and saves his future vessel.

I think that was everything so leave a review and tell me what you think of the chapter. I'd really appreciate it!

Stay Safe