Thank you so much for staying with me on this journey. Over the two years that I wrote this, I have grown as a person and as a writer and it is all because of you. May good luck be on all of you for allowing to take this journey with you. For all your reviews, for all your PMs and support, my gratitude is forever. I wish you the great luck and joy for all the kindness you have shown me!
I can't believe I am done with this, I'm so sad but this also fills me with hope, to start my original novels!
So to finish this message, I need to explain. I had intended to write a very different epilogue but some things (good ones) changed in my life and I think I'll be doing more professional writing and with law school, babysitting and work next semester, I will be having less time to write fanfic and therefore I need to rethink of how I want to finish this story. So I decided that I will end with this chapter and then do a series of drabbles in another story so that it will be more manageable for me and you all can still get your fill.
So look forward to the next drabble series, dealing with the next generation, as well as the older generation of characters. So the adventures will continue, just in shorter chapter forms. Come December, will be the first chapter of "I'm In over My Head." Hope to see you there!
And I think I picked the perfect goodbye song.
There's a calm surrender to the rush of day
When the heat of the rolling world can be turned away
An enchanted moment, and it sees me through
It's enough for this restless warrior just to be with you
And can you feel the love tonight
It is where we are
It's enough for this wide-eyed wanderer
That we got this far
And can you feel the love tonight
How it's laid to rest
It's enough to make kings and vagabonds
Believe the very best
There's a time for everyone if they only learn
That the twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn
There's a rhyme and reason to the wild outdoors
When the heart of this star-crossed voyager beats in time with yours
It had been a long and wonderful day, and it was coming to a good close. I had been so busy with a thousand matters, but finally the night had come and I could spend time with my family.
Sitting in the nursery, my nightgown clad eldest children waited for me. They all looked freshly scrubbed and adorable, like little rhino pups. "Good evening, Dad," they chorused, trying to seem like well behaved children. If I didn't know them too well, I would have said that they had convinced me. They seemed far too quiet.
"Good evening," I said, hating the winter months when dark came so early in Ba Sing Se and I barely had time to see my children. I much preferred the Fire Nation where the days were longer, but I was visiting my in laws and had to obey the laws of nature here. "I have strict orders from your mother that you are to go to bed in twenty minutes and you are only to get one story. So…what one would you like to hear tonight?" I asked.
"Tell us the story of the great prince Kuzon," my eldest daughter Zahira begged me, the fire from the wall lanterns shimmering on her dark hair. It was a favorite story and I had finally limited them to hearing it once a month in order to spare my sanity.
"That old one again," I said with a smile, wondering why they liked that one so much. It seemed spooky but I supposed it was a good thing. "Don't you want a new one?" I had read a few good ones lately and was eager to tell them before my brain forgot them.
"We'll get two new ones, tomorrow," my eldest son Isa said. At sixteen, he was too old for stories, but he still enjoyed hearing them. Considering how often he was away in the army, it was wonderful to treat him like the little baby I had held in my arms. "I wouldn't mind hearing it as well."
"Me too," chorused Azraen and Hakhan who were eager to agree with their older brother, even if they hated agreeing with each other. My two younger sons were going to be trouble for me in the future. I looked forward to the challenge.
"Oh, all right." I sat down on the comfortable arm chair and motioned for silence. "Once upon a time, there was a prince named Kuzon that had a strange family. He had a stern and angry grandpa named Zalon, an angry father named Zayo, a wonderful uncle named Iyar, a loving cousin Lu-Dai, a kind mother and an evil sister," I began. I had to shorten the story somewhat, it was getting late.
"And everything was all right," piped in Azraen. He always liked that part to add to the mix. I wish it had been as all right, but I supposed it had been rather peaceful.
"That's right. But then the loving cousin died and the kind mother ran away, and the stern grandfather died, leaving the evil father king. So the prince lived with his evil father and sister for many years, all alone. He thought he could finally win his father's love, but his pure heart was unable to endure the cruelty of his father's orders. Then he was sent away with his uncle on a quest. There, he met with much suffering and he almost lost hope," I explained. They had no idea how much suffering the poor prince had to endure. "He lost his title, his lands, his ship and everything he owned. He even thought that he had lost his honor."
"And the prince thought he would never come home," my younger daughter reminded me. Though I actually didn't need any reminders to how desperate the prince had become. It was painful just to think about.
"But then he met Taya," Hakhan assisted. Everyone loved that part of the story. My wife stepped into the room and smiled at us. Her long black hair coiled down her back, reminding me of the pleasures I would have later tonight.
"You remember perfectly. So then he met the beautiful warrior Taya, who taught him the ways of the Mountain. Although she was young, she was filled with much wisdom and goodness. Prince Kuzon and Taya and Uncle Iyar traveled the world, fighting great battles and righting wrongs," I continued. "They learned the ancient arts of battle and saved maids from terrible punishment."
"But the world was at war," Azraen reminded. "And they had to do something. The
evil Zayo was going to destroy the entire world. And the Great Master of the Spirits had disappeared again, leaving the world in chaos."
"Of course. And Kuzon would never allow that to happen. Even though he was just one man, he vowed to set the world right. And then he and the uncle and the warrior fought the evil king and defeated him in a great battle. Kuzon battled his father for hours, before Zayo surrendered and gave up his throne," I continued, changing the details as I have always had. Protecting my children from the truth had become an art form.
"Then the prince became a great king and took the wonderful Taya as his wife. And they lived happily ever after," the children chorused together, finishing the story. They had really heard this story far too many times.
"Yes, they did. Now go to sleep and dream of happy things," I said softly, as I walked out of the room to my own work. There was a meeting of the council and I had to attend it. I would have preferred to tell stories to my children, but at least I would have dinner with Uncle and Mother. "You are my lights."
"Good night, kids," my wife said, blowing them all a kiss. "Sleep well, little loves, and try and be up bright and early in the morning. You have training to do," she reminded them, to a symphony of good natured groans.
"Come on, we have work to do," I said, taking my beloved's hands. "And I thought we were letting them lie in tomorrow."
"Yeah, but then they wouldn't be able to start my new training method," my wife said with a laugh. She looked so beautiful in the new styles that she had made popular, tunics and pants that emphasized her magnificent figure. But she looked so much more beautiful without anything on.
"You are always too hard on them," I teased, tapping her on the nose. "We have eight children, I'm sure one of them will turn out all right." At least, I hoped so. The odds were good, weren't they?
I did a good job training you," my wife retorted, standing on her toes to kiss me. "I'm sure I can whip them into shape. They need me to. I mean, look at the children. Isa is becoming a man, but he's acting more like a child every day and he's sixteen. Azraen needs to be toughened up. He can't be constantly stuck in his books. Hakhan is as headstrong as both of us combined and he's only two years younger. Zahira is as spoiled like ten day old fruit, Adi and Asalya seem eager to cause mischief. They outnumber us. We need to maintain discipline or we'll never be able to keep control. I had to send them to bed early again for misbehaving." No wonder they had been so quiet.
"Look on the bright side. Marduck is two and he's too young to cause mischief and the new one, Nasrin is just a baby." That didn't' cheer me up, they would be older and wilder soon enough. "Still I didn't think having eight kids would be this much work," I mumbled. I loved my kids, but I yearned for the days when I didn't have so much stress on me. Between running a kingdom and keeping my family together, I was sure I would collapse from exhaustion. Even though the kingdom was finally becoming peaceful, there was still so much work to do every day. Taxes had to collected, disputes mediated and all sort of things.
"Well, we could just have separate beds. You're the one who keeps coming after me and wanting to get your bed warmed a bit more," Toph reminded me, making me redden a bit. My wife and I had a very active romantic life and that had some downsides. Like lots of pregnancies and Toph's rigorous workout routine to keep her figure. "But I don't want that either. And herbs don't work."
"Whatever happens, we can deal with it," I said, petting my wife's hair. "We've saved the world, we can save our family." I had never thought that my biggest problems would be family and power. I had assumed I'd live out my entire life in exile. Living in a palace surrounded by loved ones was a pleasure. I had to keep reminding myself of it.
"Sparky, I'm only thirty and I've had six pregnancies in fourteen years of marriage. Earth kingdom women are fertile for another fifteen years. We could have a round dozen easily. I am not sure I can do that," my bride said, giving me chilling news. "We better get used to raising children."
"A round dozen of spoiled, demanding, angry children?" I gulped, wondering if I could grab her and just sail off into the horizon for a few weeks of quiet. "I'm not sure I can handle that. Can't we just be nicer to the kids we have and pray we have no more? "
"Sparky, come on. Don't you want to give our kids a good conditioning? Keep them tough and keep them strong. I grew up wealthy and I had to run away in order to grow up," my bride reminded me. "I remember how rough and undisciplined you were when I found you." She stood on her toes and kissed my mouth. She had already found hers elf un-doing her tunic and throwing herself into my arms.
"We just discussed not having more children," I whispered, trying to push her away. I wanted her so badly but I didn't want to deal with nine months of morning sickness and swelling ankles and another kid who was misbehaving and taking away precious hours of sleep.
"Well…we could go take a nice hot bath together. I hear that prevents pregnancy and allows us…a lot of pleasurable activities," she whispered. Toph had recently gotten over a fear of swimming and had discovered a whole new world of interesting ideas in spending time in hot water. This had made me a very happy husband indeed.
"I like the way you are thinking," I whispered, as I stroked her soft hair. "Let's skip the meeting and go back to our rooms. Uncle and Mom will understand. I'll make sure it's nice and hot for you."
"I can't wait…" Toph whispered, threading her fingers through my own as my head filled with naughty thoughts.
As we past by the guards, we were smartly saluted. "Their imperial majesties, Emperor Zuko and Empress Toph of the Fire Nation, the living Gods Agni and Kishar, Lord and Lady of Two Lands," called the announcer as we walked. I had to admit, I liked that name a lot better than Prince Kuzon and Taya.
And despite the craziness, we had our happy ending.
AN-Thank you. *bows* Thank you so much. This journey has just begun!