Kiss of Fire
Chapter One – She Walks in Beauty
Disclaimer – Avatar is in no way property of mine, it belongs to DiMartino and Koneitzko. However, the plotline and story belong to me.
If you are new to this story – which is the second part of a duology – keep in mind that this is set in the future, about 20 years after the TV show ended. You may want to read this story's companion/prequel story, 'Slow Heat'. It is not absolutely required, but it is very recommended.
This story is set almost two decades after the final facedown between Aang and the Fire Lord/the end of the TV series/end of Book 3. Hence, the ASC you see means 'After Sozin's Comet' (referring to the second coming of the Comet, not the first) ASC also refers to the end of the War, since it ended the day the comet came around the second time. This is merely a time reference point, to make the timeline of this story clear, but I am also using the Gregorian calendar (the calendar we use) In this, the year 1000 was when Sozin started his war, so using that, Aang was awoken from the iceberg in the year 1100, and the war ended in 1101..
Notes: If you're wondering, Enki is Sumerian for 'lord of the earth', I figured that Bumi's grandson should be named after earth as well. Sinaaq means 'edge of the sea ice' in Inuit and I wanted to pick a name that did not simply mean 'water' or something obvious. Sinaaq is Yue's younger brother – he was born after she died, and I figured that Arnook would need a new heir since his only child had died. He would be about fifteen or sixteen now, though this does not matter too much as he's a minor character.
Miumi means 'Beautiful Sea' which I felt would be a good name for Katara. Miumi is Katara's reincarnation, they're the same person albeit Katara has no memories of her past life, at least for the time being. Please keep that in mind – this is a Zutara story, all the way!
Read, enjoy, and let me know how you liked it! - Spleefmistress/CultofStrawberry
18 Years After Sozin's Comet
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express How pure,
how dear their dwelling place.
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
-Lord Byron, 'She Walks in Beauty'
Fire Lord Zuko
About a year after the War, the Avatar brought to me a fortuneteller when I was traveling through the Earth Kingdoms; one who was renown for her unusually accurate clairvoyance. Her name was Auntie Wu and I saw little point in the Avatar bringing her to me. What was there for me in my future besides working on keeping peace and ensuring the safety and future of my Nation? It was all I had, all that was left for me.
When Wu made her prediction I thought she was only half right. She had told me that I felt that I had lost two things. The first one, she said I had never lost.
I knew what she was talking about – my honor. When my father banished me I felt that I had lost it. But I came to realize that I never did, and that was why I joined the Avatar against my sire.
The fortuneteller told me about the second thing. Her words were, and I remember them exactly, were, 'It may be lost right now, but it shall come back to you.'
I also knew what this meant. She was wrong, I told myself, and I also voiced that for her. She simply shrugged and told me that it was what she saw. But how could it ever come back to me? Once Death took something from you, that was it.
The woman I loved was dead, brought down in a dishonorable manner by my sister. I was the one who had my men prepare her for burial before I handed her over to her brother so she could be taken back to the Southern Tribe so she could be sent off by her people.
I ruled the Fire Nation with a firm yet fair hand and helped it to restore its honor. My uncle was there for me always until he died. I had the Avatar vouch for me whenever anyone expressed doubts about my honor. I knew I was a good ruler.
But I had no one at my side. I thought that I had lost her forever. Even when I believed that, I continued to long for her. None of the women that were brought to me pleased me. My dreams were haunted of her and what could have been for us. What I had thought would never be.
But Agni answered my fervent prayers. She came back.
When I was a little girl, I had never really dreamed of being a princess, much less a Fire Lady. Other girls my age often dreamed of being one. They wanted to be rich and have people wait on them. They wanted to be beautiful and adored. Another thing that came with being a Princess was catching the eye of a handsome Prince.
For me, being a Princess did not matter to me. What I cared more about was being strong. I wanted to do things on my own instead of needing others to help. I was proud of that fact, proud of the fact that I was not given to the fantasies and dreams that my peers usually gave themselves to as they approached and entered maidenhood.
Fantasies and dreams to me was a waste of time. I preferred to work on improving and strengthening myself. I know that as a woman I was not expected to be a fighter or warrior or a leader. I did not care. I was determined to carve out my own path, and it was not until I finally remembered who I truly was that I figured out why I had a different passion than other girls.
I never expected my life to turn out the way it would. I had attained a dream that other women would fight each other for, a dream that I had never wanted. I was swept off my feet – or more accurately, dragged off my feet by the man I would marry. I was no princess but he desired me nonetheless.
But he was no Prince. He was a Lord – the Lord of the entire Fire Nation.
And I would learn that it was indeed possible for two souls to be intertwined for eternity.
I was born almost a year after the then-prince Zuko and Avatar Aang defeated Ozai and brought about the long-awaited end to Sozin's War.
I was an avid student with a thirst for knowledge, and I knew more about the War than any of my peers. I liked reading the accounts and stories of the War, and what had happened after. Not because of entertainment value, of course.
Simply because Fire Lord Zuko and Avatar Aang had helped bring about the end to Ozai's tyranny did not mean that the fighting had really ended. There was too much damage dealt from and to all sides, and for a long time things were unwieldy as peace was sought and groups sought reparations. There were fights between the nations and within themselves. For the better part of the first decade humankind struggled with itself and with Avatar Aang to regain the balance.
But after that, things calmed down for the most part and aside a small conflict here and there, things were very much the way they had been before Sozin came to power, aside the changing of borders which could be easily seen when one compared a map today to one from twenty years ago.
In my new life, I was born in the Northern Water Tribe. My father was a clever negotiator and came to become a well-respected businessman. He negotiated business between all of the nations and rose in power and wealth. After my mother died, he moved both of us around for a bit before we settled in Omashu where his network expanded. As his daughter, I enjoyed many privileges as well as a new mother, a pleasant woman named An Mei who was a good companion for him and a good friend to me.
My father gave me an education as if I was a son and I will always be glad for that. He was even more delighted when he found that I was a Waterbender. He encouraged me to practice and hone my talent.
I was determined to follow my own path, spurred on by memories I did not remember yet at this point in my life. But one day my path took a unexpected bend.
When I was seventeen, there was a summit to be held in Omashu. Delegates from all the groups were to come. Even though a stable peace had been held for about a decade, we all wanted to maintain that peace, and summits were held here and there every few years in a different location. It was a way to touch base, to cement alliances and strengthen them and to maintain openness and familiarity.
Naturally, my father was to be at the summit. The first night was an informal affair, a way for all to relax before they got down to business. As such, my father invited my stepmother and me to come along. I did not really want to go, for I did not like large events such as these but I obliged his wishes.
I chose to dress simply as I always had. I had no patience for the elaborate hairstyles that I felt my peers wasted time on, nor did I have any real fondness for the baubles that seemed to please most if not all the members of my sex.
The robes I had chosen for this evening was one that I had recently purchased. The silk dyed in various hues of blue ranging from clear sky blue and almost-white to a deep blue that made me think of the depths of the ocean.
I was not the kind of girl who insisted on keeping up with the latest styles or having a new set of clothes for every occasion that came into her life. But when I saw this robe I just had to have it. I tried it on and I admired my reflection in the mirror. When I saw how it complimented my blue eyes, right then and there I was sold. My father smiled when he saw me in it and told me I was the prettiest young woman in all of the world.
My hair was pulled back into a simple and loose bun. When my stepmother An Mei saw it, she insisted on adding an extra touch. She took one of the lilies from our garden, one that had a blue center that slowly faded to white at the end of the petals and put it in my hair.
An Mei herself had put herself in dark green robes that flattered the green of her eyes and she had put several emerald-tipped gold pins in her dark brown hair. When Father saw us, he declared loudly enough for the servants to hear that he was so lucky to have the two most beautiful women in Omashu for company.
The music was pleasant. It could almost be described raucous, as servants milled about with trays of finger foods and drinks. As I looked around, I realized all I could see were Earth and Water people. Not one Fire Nation representative was to be seen. I wondered if they had chosen not to attend the summit at all. I felt that was odd, considering that after the War, things had settled down considerably. Not right away of course, but at this point the world was pretty much at peace. Most men of power, especially Fire Lord Zuko and Avatar Aang, had worked hard to end the fighting and maintain the peace that so many had sought.
"You don't have to stay at my side all night, Miumi." my father teased good-naturedly, "Go on and enjoy the party, I am sure there are plenty of nice young men here who would appreciate your company."
I disappeared into the crowd even though I felt alone. I felt more at ease in a natural setting, such as the marketplace or the public gardens, rather than at any formal event or gathering. A soft chuckle met my ears as a hand found my shoulder.
"And seeing you here is the highlight of the evening, my lady." a deep and familiar voice whispered into my ear. I smiled and turned around.
"Greetings, your Highness." I said, bowing my head to Enki, the King of Omashu. He flashed me a grin and took my hand, placing a deep kiss on the back of it. I blushed and waved my fan in front of my face, playing the appropriate role of a demure maiden. It was not something I really enjoyed doing but I knew that appearances were important sometimes. I was also modestly dressed to many of the other women in comparison. I wore no jewelry at all and the only ornamentation I had was my fan and the flowers in my hair.
I could feel the envious eyes of other women as Enki took me to his side. We had known each other for a long time, almost as long as I had been living in Omashu. We had met one day when I was nine years old and out shopping with my stepmother, when he escaped his servants and guards and went riding on the mail chutes, like his grandfather and Avatar Aang had done, or so the stories said.
I remained at his side for a bit and took another look around.
"Your Highness?" I asked softly as I looked up at him, "Is the Fire Nation not to be part of this summit?" He made a sound of disdain in response before he spoke.
"I got a letter this morning via bird saying that they would be late. They're just doing it to show us that they don't need to follow our times or rules. It's obvious they think they are too good for us, they always have!" he stated with such certainty that I chose not to argue. Omashu had been taken over by the Fire Nation when Enki was very young and he harbored a grudge against them even though the city was now free and had been since the war ended. His own grandfather had been held prisoner by Princess Azula of the Fire Nation, yet when the current Fire Lord came to power, Bumi had been open to working towards peace with him.
Suddenly there was a quiet commotion and I raised my head. My eyes widened as I saw several men in red enter and the crowd parted. Several other important men had arrived after I did and their arrivals had been announced. But I could tell that this was going to be bigger.
They appeared to be monks or sages but not quite, as they also wore armor though they were lacking in helmets. I counted a dozen of them and they split into two groups, forming a line at either side of the entrance as I saw several more figures advance through the grand hall.
"It is our utmost honor to present His Imperial Majesty, the Keeper of the Eternal Flame, Lord of the Dragon Throne, and Agni Incarnate, may he live forever, Fire Lord Zuko!"
Fire Lord Zuko
The summit was not something I really looked forward to. I understood the importance of these events and the good that could be accomplished from them. That did not have to mean I enjoyed it. I knew that the Fire Nation had taken over Omashu two decades ago and I would be stupid to think that the people of that city would so quickly forget all about that.
I knew that arriving late would make a bad impression, but it was not our fault. We had done our best to arrive on time and the tides would not let our ship dock for a few hours. At least I sent them a message to warn them and we had hastened to Omashu. It felt odd to travel across land to get to a city. I was more used to cities along the shore. I could not help but remember my days when I was a wanderer with no home.
We were readily admitted and I waited as my men announced my coming. I usually avoided such formalities but knew that on occasion they were needed.
I could feel all eyes on us when we entered. After being Fire Lord for two decades I was long used to it but even now it was unnerving. But I kept a cool front as I approached the King of Omashu and inclined my head in a polite bow. He returned the favor.
I decided to say nothing about the delay.
"I am honored to have you here, Fire Lord Zuko." Enki said somewhat stiffly. I noticed movement at his side and out of the corner of my eye I saw a Water Tribe woman. She gave the King of Omashu a bow and retreated. As she did her eyes caught mine.
A shiver passed through me even as I maintained my steady posture. Our eyes locked for a moment before she quickly looked away demurely and disappeared into the crowd.
I exchanged a few more formalities with Enki as my men dispersed through the crowd, remaining close.
"Enjoy yourself, Fire Lord Zuko. That's what tonight is for." Enki said with another bow and I nodded. I did not care very much for parties and ignored the platter of treats that passed under my nose at that moment.
He turned to talk with another person, an Earth Kingdom nobleman and I slowly looked around. As was to be expected, most of the people here were Earth Kingdom, from the various provinces and the rest were Water Tribe. My group was the only one of Fire Nation blood.
"Your thoughts?" I murmured to the man at my side. He stole a sidelong glance to me and nodded.
"He does not like you, and it is clear that he is still resentful of what happened a long time ago, even though you were in no way responsible for it."
"I figured as much." I said with a stiff nod. As I glanced around, I caught notice of Sinaaq, the son of the Chief of the Northern Water Tribe. I had seen him about seven or eight years ago when I went to the North although he was merely a chubby-cheeked little boy back then. Talking with him was the woman that had caught my eye.
I glanced over at them with a casual air and watched as they exchanged a few more words before he smiled and they parted company.
No one was really eager to approach me in a casual atmosphere. I did not let it bother me. I came here to talk business, not to make friends. It freed me from the idle talk that went around me.
I went in the same direction as the Water Tribe woman. I did not know why I was so compelled to follow her. When I went to the North it had pained me to see all of these dark-skinned and blue-eyed women. They had all reminded me of the one I had lost. But there was something about this one's eyes that called out to me. Something very familiar, which haunted me.
People parted before me willingly as I made it outside; the large room opened out onto an impressive balcony laden with flowers. The moon was almost full. To my relief, she was the only other one out there. I wondered at her reason for hiding from the festivities.
My feet took slow and measured steps as I came within a respectful distance. I saw her profile and dark skin illuminated in the moonlight, and I froze. It was not the first time I had seen this very sight before me.