Blue Mask, Two Swords, and Sozin's Comet
By Pat Squared
My muse gives thanks to all who took the time to give her some food.
To those who did not,
Hurry up and do so,
Before it's too late,
Or she might go on strike,
When it's your turn to write!
Aang looked at the fallen prince with shame.
It was the Avatar's task to risk his life to defeat the mad Fire Lord. Avatar Roku told him that it was his task to master the four elements and restore order to this world gone mad. However, it was a dying prince who on his deathbed and despite repeated defeats, simply kept on fighting until he won.
Aang remembered the first time he truly spoke to Zuko.
Aang now knew that Zuko was driven by desperation to regain his honor. To do so, Zuko became the Blue Spirit and rescued him from a Fire Nation base commanded by Zhao. He remembered how the prince wordlessly defeated a battalion of Fire Nation troops to rescue him from captivity. He remembered the arrow striking the Blue Spirit in the mask. Aang remembered summoning a cyclone so they could disappear into the forest.
Aang remembered directing his words toward the Blue Spirit's unconscious form.
"You know what the worst part about being born over a hundred years ago is? I miss all the friends I used to hang out with. Before the war started, I used to always my friend Kozun. The two of us, we'd get in and out of so much trouble together. He was one of the best friends I ever had, and he was from the Fire Nation, just like you. If we knew each other back then, do you think we could have been friends too?"
He remembered Sokka later asking him if he made any new friends that evening. He remembered saying, "No, I didn't think I did."
That moment karma or fate twined Zuko's and Aang's spirit together in something more than the traditional fugitive-hunter relationship. They were rivals. Without Zuko, Aang none of the gang would have grown up to become the people they had to become. The members of the gang and Zuko were bound by a perverted thread of fate to be both rivals and allies.
Now Aang knew the real answer to Sokka question.
Aang had made the best friend in the world – One that gave up everything so that others might live in peace. Zuko had given Aang a chance to live without fear.
Aang silently looked on as Azula and Katara tried to save the real hero of this war.
"Stop blaming yourself, Aang. Zuko did what he believed that he had to do. Don't waste his sacrifice in self-pity. He would rise up in disgust if you wasted the future he gave us. Angry Boy...He would erupt like a volcano if you got all soft and girly now."
Aang looked at his wife. He would not waste Zuko's sacrifice. He still had a job to do and he was going to do it. Zuko have spent his life to save the world from a mad tyrant. Now Aang was going to use Zuko's sacrifice to buy the world something that it had not seen in a century – Peace.
The Fire Sage who was in charge of the duel limped up to the new Fire Lady with several acolytes carrying a chest. Today, he had to bury the defeated Fire Lord and coronate the new Fire Lady.
"My lady, Fire Lord Ozai is dead. By tradition, the title passes on to the older living child. With your older brother, Zuko, dead, you are the last remaining heir. It is my task to anoint you Fire Lady Azula and to share with you the dark secret that started this war."
Azula merely shook her head.
"My brother is still alive. The dais is rightfully his."
"Where is he?"
Azula merely nodded towards the unconscious form laying on the hard packed earth of the Agni Kai arena.
"Jian Li, the Blue Spirit, they were just names Zuko took to hide from the world so he could defeat his demons."
The Fire Sage's looked on in shock as he started to compare the fallen fighter's feature and compared it to the forgotten boy that no one saw since the disastrous Agni Kai four years ago. A weak ruler on the throne spelled disaster and especially so in time of war. The old sage father was but a child when Azula's and Zuko's legendary great-grandparents were wed. As a young acolyte the old man remembered the scarred soul of Kozun the Slayer. He looked at soul of the young prince and saw the similar network of pain and determination.
The old priest wondered for a moment if Zuko was not just another reincarnation of Kuzon. Both radiated the same fierce aura. Both bore the soul marks of one who traveled into the spirit realm. Both carried the same lines of guilt and duty within their souls. However, the old man's duties required him to set aside the contemplation for a more peaceful time.
The old sage hobbled to the fallen prince. He placed his hand over the young man's heart. There was a beat, but the young man's inner fire was a dying flicker. The prince who saved the nation and perhaps the world would soon die. Nothing would stop death, but only deny it for a while.
"He will soon travel to be with his mother and his honorable ancestors in the Blazing Halls before returning back to this world as all souls do. His soul is an old soul, mortally tired, who is cursed to be the catalyst of change. I can lend him some of my inner fire, but it will not last forever, only long enough to ensure a smooth transition of power from him to you if the gods are generous."
The old sage took in a deep breath and channeled some of his qi into the dying young man. The sage gave what he could without following the young man to the next life.
The young man coughed violently. The young water bender quickly bended out some of the fluid trapped in the young man's lungs.
"Lord Zuko, I am Fire Sage Chin, the First among the Three Sages of the Prime Circle. Your sire is dead and it is right and proper that I anoint you Fire Lord."
However the young man shook his head.
"Let Zuko remain dead. It's better that way for the Fire Nation. Azula, you are in charge, do what is best for the citizens of our homeland. Give them peace. All I ask is that when I die, to please bury my ashes where our mother's ashes lie, by the turtle-duck pond and don't let the weeds overgrow mom's memorial marker."
The former crown prince of the Fire Nation laid back down on the earth after giving his only command as Fire Lord.
"I am tired. I need to rest now. Don't wake me up until sunrise."
With that the mortally exhausted Fire Lord Zuko abdicated his throne.
The moment Aang read the bloody hanzi on the stones, he instantly knew that his task was not over. Tonight the return of Sozin's comet only heralded the return of the plague. Aang knew that the plague was extremely virulent for only the most desperate of sane men engaged on the road of mass murder.
For the first time, the Avatar understood his mission. Restoring the balance would take generations of avatars, but he had to start. He thought back to the lessons of his youth. Aang feel asleep during the study of history, but even the most brain-dead student recalled that more than once the avatar forced the leaders of the nations to come to counsel.
Aang looked towards the guards that Azula assigned to be his guides through the Fire Nation palace complex.
"Lieutenant Zhu, please call your mistress and my companions over. We have much to do and no time to do it in."
The young lieutenant clicked his heels and trotted off.
Now Aang had to figure out who to call in the Earth Kingdom.
Madam Chi, Iroh, and the girls were fussing over Ty Lee's newborn daughter, Li Juan, when a messenger breathlessly raced up with a package. It was sealed with three wax seals. One was unknown but had the markings of all four elements. One was marked with the insignia of the Fire Nation. The last bore the stamp of the seal of the Master of Clan Kozun.
Iroh took in a deep breath, "Girls, please take Lijuan to the next room. If this is a fire trap, I will be the only one who won't get incinerated when this package is open. You too, my love, I am not yet strong enough to protect two."
Iroh took a knife and walked outside with the package. He closed his eyes and focused his qi. With a quick flick of his wrist, Iroh opened the package.
Half an hour later, the girls spotted a weeping Iroh.
"Damn him. That damn nephew of mine had to throw his life away. The war is over, but the price is too dear. Mai sit down before you read this."
Iroh handed the letter to Mai. Two minutes later the girls were in tears. The villagers knew better than to interfere in the Li family's moment of grief, but waited for one of them to share the news.
The war was over, but the village of Kami no Tsuyu looked on as a family had to pay the price to end the war. Now it was time to mourn and win the peace. The Outcast Clan would send a delegation to the negotiation tables.
During the Elemental War, among the Lords of the Fire Nation there was a secret passed down on the evening of their ascension to the dais. The power of Sozin's comet lay not in the comet itself, but the pestilence trapped in its icy tail.
Unlike the healing practices of the other nations, the medicine of the Fire Nation relied on isolating and letting one's inner and the healer's outer fire burn out the impurities. As a merchant people who regularly encountered new diseases, they had developed brutally effective ways to deal with contagious diseases that horrified the other nations. Cull out the infection and amputate if necessary to prevent it from spreading to the rest of the body.
It was the same for plagues.
Lord Ozai the Mad had planned on letting the pestilence kill the other nations and would only preserve the loyal fire benders among his people. Then the children of Agni would then conquer a weakened and dying world. So obsessed with protecting this plan, he did not bother to prepare even his own subjects for the plague to come. Ozai believed that losing most of the Fire Nation would be worth it if he gained the world.
Only when the Blue Spirit Jian Li defeated the mad Lord and restored Fire Lady Azula the Seer to her dais did the Avatar and his companions read the last words to ever be uttered by an Avatar's Handmaiden. Only then did the terrible reason for a century of warfare come to light.
Avatar Aang summoned the leaders of the Northern and Southern Water Tribes, the various leaders of the fracturing Earth Kingdom, and with Fire Lady Azula serving as hostess coordinated the efforts to combat the plague. The plague killed many in the Eastern Earth Kingdom especially in Ba Sing Sie for the bureaucrats that ran the city refused to heed the Avatar's warnings. There were severe outbreaks in the other nations, but in most cases, most of the outbreaks were quickly dealt with before they could spread. Yet the death toil was one in twenty or thirty in the West. In the east, the death toil was one in three or four, with entire cities and villages wiped out.
The Blue Spirit had sacrificed his life to summon the white flame that destroyed the mad tyrant. His death came slowly only eighteen months later. However, death was certain as he sacrificed his inner fire to destroy the Mad Fire Lord. Not once more did the legendary magician-assassin exercise his birthright and dominion over the flames. Upon his death, he was buried a hero, not of one nation, but of most of the world. A shire was erected over the spot his pyre burned, and later a temple was erected over the shire to pay homage to the unbreakable spirit that was his.
House Sozin died with the mad Fire Lord.
Fire Lady Azula surrendered the Sozin name to history and took the Li family name in honor of the man who saved the world. Eight months later, she gave birth to Jian's Li's son, Huo Jin 'The Builder', himself a later Fire Lord. Azula instituted reforms that saved the Fire Nation from dissolving into a civil war like the Earth Kingdom. By her side was Sui, Clan Master of Clan Kozun, and Azula's shield bearer. Later in life, Azula married Sui after Sui's wife died of a lingering illness and bore him two children in her old age.
Lady Mai, cousin to Jian Li, First Mistress of the Outcast Clan's All-Knowing Web, mother to Tom-Tom and later Zuzu, accompanied General, Storyteller Li, Jian's uncle, and Ty Li, Jian's first wife, mother to Fire Mistress, later General Li Juan to the halls of the Fire Nation. There did the Fire Nation make peace with the Outcast Clans and the seeds of the later Western Ocean's Alliance was born.
Ason (Divine Princess) Katara bore Jian Li a daughter Lian. In due time, Ason Lian followed her mother as leader of the Southern Water Tribe and became one of the world's most powerful water benders.
Sokka the Skull-Splitter soon left to stop the Eastern Earth Kingdom's campaign of ethno-purification of the lands over which it held iron-clad control. There he made a legend only second to the Blue Spirit.
Not blessed by any of the gods with the ability to bend any of the elements, Sokka defeated many Earth Bending champions with nothing more than his wits and his habit of going berserk in battle. Even today, parents in the Eastern Earth Kingdom threaten to summon the oni Sokka Skull Splitter as a warning to their children to behave. A few years later, Sokka settled on the Island of Kyoshii, where he married Lady Suki, a high ranking Kyoshii warrior, founded the Kyoshii Island Naval Forces, served as chieftain, and sired fifteen children.
When his wife pasted away, Sokka surrendered his position and axes to his eldest son, before wandering the earth seeking to commune with the spirit world. In his honor, do aging warriors of Kyoshii drink naught but the sacred cactus juice when on their final spirit quest.
Avatar Aang and his Lady Toph retired to Southern Air Temple. Twenty two children and over two hundred grandchildren came out of the union. By the return of Sozin's comet, there were over a thousand air benders and they have started spreading out to the other Air Temples.
One by one, those that witnessed these events pasted into the underworld and the cycle of death and rebirth. Avatar Aang and his Lady Toph were the last to leave this world, both passing in the same night, seventy six years to the day after the defeat of the mad lord. Twenty-two years later, Avatar Sakura, a water bender, descendant of Sokka the Skull Splitter and Lady Suki of Kyoshii Island took up the Avatar's duties in time to face the return of the plague comet.
Personally written by Fire Nation Crown Prince Ding Xiang, 4th day, 7th moon, 48th year of the rein of Fire Lord Bing Wen, son of former Fire Lord Huo Jin, grandson of Jian Li and Fire Lady Azula.
Eight year-old Princess Li Ling hated being forced to recopy the old scrolls, especially ones that covered well known stories and legends such as the Blue Spirit. It was not her fault that her little brother, Han, decided to copy her fire bending drills and accidentally burn some of the old scrolls.
It was grandma's fault for dozing off again when watching the baby. What use were those old things?
The old scrolls on the Blue Spirit were brittle and falling apart. They were already they were in book form in just about every library and bookshop in the western side of the world. She hated the old things and being force to copy the ancient calligraphy only made things worse.
Fire bending was like calligraphy, something that only the old folks do. Traditional calligraphy went the away with the invention of the printing press. Now everyone used the simplified characters that the printers pioneered two centuries ago to reduce the need for thousands to only a few dozen. Muzzle loading pistols and muskets had reduced the importance of being able to throw flames or rocks around. However, her father was deaf to her carefully reasoned arguments.
Now Li Ling had to write everything just so in the old style. Worst her father was looking over her shoulder making sure she followed the traditional stroke order.
A square is a square for gods' sake. So what if I write the hanzi for one right to left instead of left to right? It's just a single line.
That stuff happened three centuries ago and just about every kid in the world heard this story.
The young Fire Nation princess dreamt of growing up and convincing her older brother, Crown Prince Iroh, to let her burn those damn old scrolls. Today, lighting a candle is pretty much all the fire bending talent in the world was useful for - That and pulling off planks.
Maybe this time, I can hot foot Sedna.
Li Ling still owed the Southern Water Tribe's ambassador to the Fire Nation's daughter, a water bender some pain and suffering for the time that Sedna had deliberately iced one of the steps and sent Li Ling flying down the stairs into one of the servants messing up the evening meal and ensuring that the Fire Nation went to bed without supper. Tonight Sedna is going to get a nice set of heat blisters on the bottom of her feet.
If I ever get out of here? Stoopid scrolls! The only thing I hate more than copying those old, smelly things is having to endure another one of father's tea tasting rituals.
Li Ling did not know why she was the only one in the family who hated the vile stuff.
Author's Note: Thank you all for the wonderful reviews. I hope that you enjoyed this tale as much as I have writing it. I am currently writting Li Ling's story. It's call Pheonix of the West and can easily be found by clicking on my profile and then clicking the appropiate link.