Thanks for reading The Ho'Wan Island Carnival. Hope you liked reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
I like to dissect my own writing and spell out for everyone what I was trying to accomplish. And since people have been so good about reviewing, I'd love to hear about whether or not my ideas got through. The mark of a good author is one who doesn't need explain every damn thing he/she writes – it should be obvious without being too hit-you-in-the-head-with-a-fish kind of obvious. So please, if you've gotten this far, write me back! If something went right over your head and you still don't get it, I'd be happy to try and work it out so I can hone my skills a little more. So without further ado…
1. On the bracelets:
The gold bracelets are indeed for birthdays, but the red bracelets are for "VIPs" – people Pipi know will be trouble. This way, the Ho'Wan guerillas (notice only Iroh calls them that) know exactly who to keep their eyes on. How did Pipi pick out Zuko's troops, you ask? Simple. Pipi has fantastic insight into people's minds, and with the help of Madam Façade, he can weed out the bad ones from the rest. Also, for some stupid reason, people from the Fire Nation only wear red and black (you'd think they'd change it up a little now and then, but no. Fire can be blue too, you know!)
2. On Madam Façade's "True Face" spell (i.e. "Eye of the Beholder" Spell):
The glamour enchantment Madam Façade casts on Zuko is used to cloak him in "his true face" – the face people see through their own eyes. She says,
"Your scar is not really a part of you…No matter how much you think it is. Your… father… he does not see that scar. Your friends, they do not see your scar. And as long as you don't point it out, no one else will either."
People who know Zuko, such as his Uncle or his crew, can see beyond his scar, and see the determined young man the Fire prince is growing up to be.
Strangers, most of whom try to see the best in people, don't automatically see a person's faults, so Zuko can go unnoticed as long as he doesn't point to his face and scream, "Look! Scar!" (That's really the enchantment part. Like really good make up.)
Katara literally sees a knight in shining armour. Once Zuko saves her from the goons in the alley, she looks into "Kimji's" beautiful face as he flashes "a smile that altogether blinded Katara."
She ceases to see Kimji when Zuko lets pride overrule him ("I – I'm not interested in you!") as he often does throughout the series. Right up to that point, he was acting like a regular teenage boy would – awkward, shy, perhaps more heroic than the average teen, but otherwise normal. So that's what Katara saw.
She only recognizes Zuko when she's hurt by his stinging words (I mean, ouch!) and sees him for what he really is:
"Her knight in shiny black armour was no hero, she scolded herself. He was a jerk. A deceitful player who had latched onto her to get free food with her special status. A wolf in sheep's clothing."
Think about it like this: have you ever had a crush on someone who was really good looking until he or she said something totally off-putting or despicable? You cease to see him/her in that perfect light after that. So it was with Katara.
Zuko doesn't see the effect of the spell because he sees himself as flawed, his scar being the mark that he is a failure to his father. As Iroh points out in the series, capturing the Avatar is the only chance Zuko has of things returning to normal. Only when Zuko redeems himself will he be whole in the eyes of both his father and himself.
Which brings us to the final scene:
"And Zuko stood there, silently staring at his sun-drenched reflection, until the last sliver of the fiery sun slipped blissfully into the loving embrace of the wide, blue ocean, bringing the cool, peaceful twilight."
I was trying to imply here that Zuko could finally see the determined, unblemished young man others could see. (Hope that got through to everyone – the sun can be setting, but it hasn't set until it disappears over the horizon. The spell hadn't worn off when Katara first identified him.) Once he'd admitted to himself that he was in love with Katara, he made himself more whole. Instead of denying that essential part of himself - love - he accepted in and a whole new world opened up to him. As Madam Façade said:
"There is more to your life than how you appear to others... But I think you've already figured that out."
Those things: honour, hope, faith, and love, that last one being the doozy.
In the end, Façade's spell really has changed everything for Zuko. He has caught a glimpse of himself as he is truly meant to be, what he truly is inside, and it will change everything he does from here on in…
In my universe, that is… stay tuned…
3. On Zutara in general
Undeniably, the Fire Prince and the Water Tribe peasant are the hottest couple slated to get together for this series. (Sorry Nickelodeon, I know you're trying to keep it a kids show, but it's so obviously meant to be.) Obvious hints include the following:
"No wonder she ran away, she's way too pretty for you." – Jun
"You will marry a very powerful bender…" – Aunt Woo
"Oh, that's so sweet of Zuko. Would you give him a kiss for me when you see him?" – Katara
Zuko's relatively kind treatment of Katara in "The Waterbending Scroll."
My predictions are that by the second season, or whenever Aang finishes learning Earthbending, we'll start to see more mature themes as the two adversaries keep clashing.
I know some of my readers were disappointed that there wasn't any hot and heavy action going on in Ho'Wan. I'm from the "Mulder and Scully" school of "don't-let-them-be-together-it-makes-for-a-better-story." There's way more tension and the payoff's better when they aren't constantly macking. But rest assured, in response to a number of requests (pleas, really, for more fluff), my next "episode" will feature Katara spying on Zuko.
While he's taking a bath.
Wow! You got this far! I'm impressed. So to reward you, please accept my own piece of randomness. I'm stealing this idea from Elenea Galad, whose fantastic story, Brotherly Love, includes hilarious randomness in the form of "outtakes" as the Avatar cast "films" on set. Read it, they'll put a smile on your face.
Chapter Six, Scene Three:
Pipi smiled widely. He pulled a lever.
And Zuko watched the ground rush away from him, and then he was flying, soaring into the heart of the orange sun, a ball of flame caressing the ocean's cool blue horizon…
(Zuko screams girlishly as he's launched over the wall)
Façade: "That boy is our last hope."
Pipi: "No… there is another…"
(They glance at each other and break down into laughter.)
Well, that's enough from me! Please review and let me in on your insights into the show.
Stay tuned, folks! Bent will be out in December!