UPDATE ALERT AGAIN! I'm revising and re-posting this whole fic. I encourage you to reread the first 9 chapters, as they have doubled in relative size, and will continue to do so. Thanks again for all the supportive comments!
This is still an AU from the beginning of season 2, but I will gradually incorporate broader elements. You don't have to know every detail to understand that some things in this universe are different:
- Zuko used the Blue Spirit for much worse than just stealing
- Ursa was banished to a tower on the outskirts of the Fire Nation, and Zuko barely learned of her existence from Iroh, before being informed of her death
- Toph joined the war later, still without permission from her parents, and only befriended Aang after fighting in battle together
- Katara, upset over the death of her father, was more ruthless in battle; she feels guilt over her violence and dislikes any reminder of her part in it
- Sokka, never having rejoined with Suki, latches on to Zuko's rulership as a new mission in the absence of a parent to return to
- Aang killed the Fire Lord Ozai before the comet could arrive
The Perishers - "Sway"
"I'm leaving tomorrow."
"Aang told me. He said you just wanted to go home...as soon as possible."
"I haven't been to the South Pole in almost a year. I miss it. And...I'm tired of all of this, Zuko."
"I see. Well, homesickness is something I do understand. Is there anything you want? Your village was so small-is there anything your people need that I could give them?"
"Most of the things we've lost can be rebuilt now that our men have returned, and with the Northern Tribe there to help us. With more hands to hunt and weave we'll grow strong again. We don't need Fire Nation charity."
"Wait, stop. I didn't mean to offend you. Reparations aside, Katara, you and the Water Tribe have helped me regain my throne. You ended the war. ...You've been my friend. I think."
"Of course I'm your friend, don't be dense."
"Well, can I offer you anything? Textiles? Livestock?"
"What is it?"
"I guess there is something. You have records, don't you? Records from centuries before the war, when our people were allies."
"The two libraries of the palace and the temple are huge, and they both sit above the flood lines. I don't think they were damaged in the power struggle, though I haven't actually checked yet. I imagine that's not the case for the South Pole."
"No. We have a primarily oral tradition, but we did have one family who kept the birth records and trade records of my village and at least six of the villages to the east and south. Their house burned down about thirty years ago in a raid, and the family has only one survivor who can treat the scrolls for preservation properly. She's been able to rewrite many of the family histories, though not so far back as we once had, and probably less accurately."
"Your history of commerce is completely lost, isn't it?"
"Yes. Without regular trade in the last century, and with our foundation gone, we'll be on weak footing when we rejoin the post-war economy. That scary Earthbender, Toph, gave me the idea over lunch yesterday. Her family knows all about this stuff. If we had some knowledge of the past to compare with the current trade we've done in the Earth Kingdom, then we could put a fair price on our exports."
"I'll have my scribes begin to copying our texts of the Water Tribe immediately. I'm certain we have some religious and cultural texts as well, I remember reading a book of water spirits when I was a kid. Agni knows how many maps my father hoarded. It should take about, hm, three or four months to deliver the duplicates to your village."
"Thank you, Lord Zuko."
"Zuko. You can have that at least."
"Well, thank you. . .Zuko."