Title: Shadows in the Mind
Summary: Five years after the war is over, the world is finally settling into an uneasy peace. When the Avatar and his companions disappear into a swamp in the southwest Earth Kingdom, they find themselves fighting not only for their lives but to prevent another war from breaking out.
Rating: K, right now. Goes up to T in later chapters.
Author's Note: Well… this is the first chapter. This basically sprung from rewatching The Swamp on Nick and realizing that it really could have been a lot darker. So I decided to write that. Also, I felt a general desire to write what some of the politicking may be like once the war is over, though that doesn't take precedence in the fic.
The main focus of the fic is Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph and Zuko, but there's going to be a lot of appearances from different characters. Azula, Mai and Ty Lee are in here. So are General Iroh and King Bumi. I also made up the backstory and futures for a whole slew of minor characters, and have also created two OCs with minor roles.
Shadows is in canon up through The Library and The Desert - so basically about halfway through Season 2. I had assumed when I started writing that Zuko and Iroh would join the Gaang to teach Aang firebending and builds from there.
This fic does feature a relationship between Aang and Katara. There may be another pairing or two thrown in later, but that will be in the author's note for that chapter. There will also be angst. The rating does go up in later chapters due to some violence, but for now it's pretty mild – as in, nonexistent here in the first chapter.
Disclaimer: Do I really have to mention that I don't own it? Cause I don't.
Massive love to my beta, JoJoDancer. Because she is awesome and calm, while I am flaily and prone to freaking out.
Chapter 1 - Totidem Verbis
Toph lay, casually stretched over the small green couch in the receiving room. Anyone who glanced at her might think she was relaxing. Anyone who thought she was relaxing would be wrong. Powerful repetitive vibrations were interrupting any possible chance she might have had of slipping into a peaceful nap before the organized chaos of the evening started. She reached the end of her rope quickly.
"Will you stop pacing?" she snapped. The vibrations stopped momentarily.
"How are you not pacing?" Katara snapped right back. "We don't know what's going on! We should be in there with them!"
Toph sighed. Aang had explained this to Katara hundreds of times, and if Aang couldn't get through to her Toph didn't entertain a single thought of trying to make her understand. "You're not a leader. You're not a representative for a leader. And most importantly, you're not a guy. Neither am I. Therefore, we stay out here."
"I could be a leader, if they weren't being so sexist!" Katara was getting herself worked up again. Toph hoped she calmed down before the men came out of the meeting; Aang was stressed enough without Katara nagging at him.
The two were patiently waiting in a receiving room outside the conference room in the great palace at Ba Sing Se. Leaders from all over the world had gathered to discuss terms for a peace treaty that was to be signed by representatives from all four nations. The location of Ba Sing Se was symbolic: it was the one place the Fire Nation had never broken into; therefore it was the one place the Fire Nation would first step into peacefully. Not to mention that the difficulty traveling there meant that those who did attend were truly sincere in their intentions.
Zuko, now the official Fire Lord, had left his unstable nation in the hands of his Uncle Iroh. The fact that the Fire Lord himself had come out to the conference and had not sent a representative had impressed other leaders, which both irritated and pleased Aang. They would be more willing to listen to Zuko's concerns and not dismiss them as the Fire Nation trying to stay ahead; however, Aang had a hard time believing that anyone who had met the formerly exiled leader even in passing could ever doubt his sincerity.
Master Pakku and Hahn had traveled from the North Pole to represent the northern water tribe. Sokka had been selected to represent the concerns of the southern water tribe – much to Katara's resentment. King Bumi had been asked to attend for the western Earth Kingdom, but had declined due to his "growing frailty" and offered to send his heir, Bao.
He then showed up anyway, to everyone's surprise but Aang's. The caravan, pulled by two of Flopsie's pups, had pulled up in front of the palace and Aang was there, with a room prepared and ready to greet the king. "Found some strength in those old bones, Bumi?" Aang had asked wryly as he'd held out an arm to help the king from his carriage. Bumi had offered no excuse, only a typical snort.
Toph was there because Aang had specifically gone out of his way to ask her to join them. He had appeared at her earthbending academy about two weeks before and asked if she would accompany him, Katara, and Sokka out to Ba Sing Se. Aang had carefully explained that he felt that if there was trouble with negotiations, a "feminine touch" might be needed. "So you want me to trap them in a rock coffin until they agree?" she'd asked. Aang had winced.
What Aang hadn't explained was the second part of her job, which was babysitting Katara. There were strict rules forbidding females into the conference rooms, which naturally infuriated Katara. She had offered to sit as a representative of the Southern Water Tribe – how could they tell her no then? But Sokka had stepped up and explained the he was the actual representative. It was an hour before Aang had found Sokka iced to his bedroom ceiling and got him down.
When all else had failed, Katara had turned to Aang. The complete unexpected had happened: Aang had sided with the Earth Kingdom, and begged Katara not to make too much trouble. "Please, let's just make peace between the nations first. Then we can work on everything else." Katara had then relented, though part of her felt betrayed by Aang's refusal. Toph knew this because Katara had explained it to her over and over as they spent the week of negotiations on the outskirts.
Toph's patience with Katara was nearing an end. Luckily, before she could resort to anything drastic, a door popped open from the wall, and the six figures who had been debating for the last week entered the receiving room.
"Well?" Katara asked loudly, but she was ignored as five of the leaders simply walked through to the hallway and disappeared towards their various rooms, leaving Katara and Toph alone with the last lonely figure: Aang. He collapsed on top of the couch across from Toph. "Well?" Katara repeated her previous question.
"A basic agreement. We have a basic agreement." Aang mumbled into the cushion. Toph sat up, grinning. Katara squealed and dropped to her knees in front of him, pulling him into a hug.
"So what does this mean?" asked Katara.
"It means we party!" a voice from behind them said. Toph turned her head at the sound of the voice: Sokka.
"Our fine host has just announced a feast in honor of the signing of a historic peace agreement. Can you imagine the food?" Sokka wiped a bit of drool from the side of his mouth.
Aang frowned. "Can you imagine the itchy formal clothes we're going to have to wear and all the hands we're going to shake? We'll be lucky if we get to the food."
"That's why I carry this around," said Sokka airily, waving his machete. "If anyone gets in my way…" he mimed the consequences.
Katara just shook her head. "You just signed a peace agreement."
"Please. You would have fought every single one of them if it meant you could have gotten into that room." It was a low blow and everyone knew it. Toph hit her forehead. Katara merely gritted her teeth and Sokka gave her a cheeky grin before leaving the room again.
"Don't be mad at him," Aang said as soon as Sokka was out of sight.
"I'm not mad at him," Katara replied sharply.
"You really are, and you shouldn't be."
"I am not mad at him."
"Katara, look at your hands!" Toph interrupted. Katara looked down and saw that her hands had been replaced with blocks of ice. She blushed and melted the ice away.
"It doesn't matter," she said softly. "The peace agreement has been signed, and now we can all move on."
As Aang had guessed, the leaders were far too busy shaking hands and making modest statements to get to any of the food. Sokka was very disappointed, and Katara made a great show of savoring dessert as he and a diplomat discussed trading with the Earth Kingdom in front of her.
Aang plopped down in the seat next to her. "Cinnamon pudding tarts?" he asked excitedly. Katara handed over her fork without hesitation, crossing her eyes at her brother who nearly broke down in tears in front of her.
"So what's the plan from here Aang?" she asked, reaching out and wiping a smear of pudding from the corner of his lip.
"Well," he started, still chewing the tart. "Specifics need to be hammered out. This was only a tentative agreement. It'll work for the time being, but details are going to have to be worked out between individual nations." He paused before muttering, "Hopefully they won't need me for that."
Katara grinned. She often forgot Aang was only seventeen and shouldering this never-ending burden. He did his duty without fail, but when it came down to it, if he could get away with riding elephant koi fish all day, he would.
This peace treaty was the culmination of five years of tumultuous work. Whether it was getting the Earth Kingdom to trust the Fire Nation enough to meet with them, or coaxing the Water Tribes out of their isolated locations, Aang had been working non-stop.
"Do you think it'll settle down now?" asked Katara.
"All the leaders seem willing to cooperate. They're all in positions to benefit financially from some of the possible agreements that have been discussed a little bit. I think it'll take something big to start the fighting again." He reached out, distracted, and pulled on one of the flowers holding her hair up.
"Don't!" she said, swatting at his hand.
"It's crooked!" he insisted. She smiled and ducked away.
They were interrupted by Bumi and two of his advisors. "Aang, do you think you would have a moment to discuss setting up a safe route with Lord Zuko?"
Aang gave Bumi his brightest smile. "I wish I could help you there, Bumi, but I'm afraid I have a very important commitment right now that I can't break." He stood up, taking Katara's hand. "I owe my betrothed a dance." And without another word, he swept Katara onto the wide dance floor.
He pulled her close, one arm around her waist, the other traveling up around her neck and playing with the end of the braid wrapped in a tight woven bun.
"Betrothed?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. They had been a couple for several years but nothing had been made official yet.
"Yeah about that," Aang said softly, tapping the pendant at her neck. "What do you think of that?"
She saw that he was holding her mother's necklace. Her hands flew up to her neck, and felt a new necklace there. Suddenly she realized that he hadn't been playing with her hair, he had been tying the new necklace around her neck.
Katara looked at him in disbelief. "Really?"
"I told you," he said, wrapping his arms tightly around her and burying his face in her hair, "it looks like things will settle down a little bit now. Maybe we can settle down a little bit too."
And Katara did what any typical young woman does when she gets engaged: she burst into tears and threw her arms around Aang's neck, drawing him into a kiss.
Behind them they heard Sokka's whine. "Katara, that's inappropriate!"
It was inappropriate. At least, that's what Sokka kept insisting to anyone who came over to give their congratulations and stayed for more than one minute.
He had known this day was coming. He had known even before Aang had approached him, tripping over his words and blushing furiously while clutching the slim piece of blue leather. The kid had been so excited about the necklace that Sokka didn't have the heart to remind him that the Southern Water Tribe didn't bother with betrothal necklaces. Besides, he knew Katara wouldn't care anyway.
And she certainly didn't, judging by her smile and the way she and Aang swept across the dance floor, unaware that there was anyone else in the room.
As soon as he saw Aang pull the little necklace from his pocket, he had abandoned his conversation with the Earth Kingdom diplomat – rather rudely, though he wouldn't realize it until later – and found one of the servants carrying the large wine skins.
Most of the rest of the night passed by in a blur. Vague memories would come to him later that he would squash down into the recesses of his mind with all possible force; swinging Toph out onto the dance floor, before realizing that it wasn't Toph he had grabbed but one of the poor servant girls who'd been attempting to refresh the desert plates; betting Bumi he could jump from the two-story balcony and land on his feet; losing the bet to Bumi when he jumped from the two-story balcony and landed on his head – in the fishpond; his forfeit to Bumi for losing their bet – this memory was probably the vaguest of all. There were flashes – a red faced Zuko, a stinging pain on his cheek, and dirty looks from both Katara and Toph.
He ended up alone on an outside patio, slouched down in one of the cushiony chairs that the king favored.
"Well look at what we have here."
Maybe not so alone. He turned his head and found himself eye to unseeing eye with Toph. He felt a surge of affection towards the girl. He often thought of her as his unofficial younger sister who had the sense not to go off and fall in love with the Avatar. Except this one chucked rocks instead of ice when he ticked her off.
"The party is starting to break up. Aang and Katara are looking for you."
"So?" He was beyond caring at that point. All he wanted was to sit and look at the stars and the moon. Especially the moon.
"So I told them you were sick and went to bed. I didn't want you to wander in there and show them I lied." She paused, before asking; deadly serious "Are you happy for them?"
Sokka was insulted she'd had to ask. "Are you kidding? Look at them!" he gestured sharply, smacking his arm off the back of the chair. Nursing it, he continued, "They're ridic- ri – really really happy. Isn't that what we fought for?"
Toph didn't respond, and Sokka let his mind wander as he stared at the moon again. "I coulda married the moon," he murmured, rubbing his eyes.
Toph knew full well the story of Yue. She stood up, taking Sokka's arm. "You should probably get to bed. You're going to be hurting tomorrow."
He allowed her to pull him up and lead him to his room. Strangely enough, he felt no shame in leaning against her for support as the room spun around him. Sokka knew they had to make a funny picture: the tall warrior leaning against the much shorter blind girl.
"Don't tell Aang," he whispered conspiratorially. Toph didn't say anything, but he saw her ear twitch, indicating she was listening. "But we don't use betrothal necklaces in the south."
That got Toph's attention. Her mouth twitched, an amused smile threatening to break out. "Really? What do you do in the south?"
"Well-" he cut himself off for a moment as he and Toph turned a corner, making the world tilt dangerously. "We prefer an exchange of seal blubber."
Toph let out a genuine laugh and opened his bedroom door.
He had a sensation of falling before his face was buried in a soft pillow. Toph had just pushed him down on the bed.
"I won't tell Aang," she promised.
"Good," he mumbled, face smashed into his pillow. As soon as he closed his eyes, he was asleep.
Miles away, looking at the same stars the Avatar and his betrothed were dancing under, lay a wanted criminal. Azula knew she should try to get some sleep, that she would have to be up early because someone had to make sure Mai and Ty Lee were up and prepared to move on in the morning.
The three of them had been on the run since the Avatar had defeated her father. She had now been living in exile for two years longer than her brother had, and the irony was not lost on her. Azula had not adjusted easily; she had been destroyed after her father's defeat, and unable to cope. They had fled on a merchant's ship – there were still some loyal to her, after all – to the Earth Kingdom.
Ty Lee was the only one with even a slight idea of how to live in the real world. Mai ended up taking charge of caring for the broken Azula. This did not last long.
Azula knew she was not the type to be kept down – she just needed the right opportunity. She still dreamed of the war room with the large throne and the beautiful flames. She still dreamed of people casting their eyes down when she looked at them and bowing low when they approached her. She knew there were those out there who were loyal – who wanted a strong hand ruling the Fire Nation and not the complacent weakling that was her brother. These dreams were what fueled her, what kept her going despite the years and the distance between her and the throne.
She had to submit for a little while, but she always knew it was temporary. It was only a matter of finding the right opportunity. She wasn't willing to risk the lives of Mai and Ty Lee by sneaking back into the Fire Nation - but if Zuko was going to come right to her, then she was going to take advantage.
The first rays peeked over the hill side, and she knew it was time to go. Returning to the small cottage where they had taken refuge, Azula picked up the pillow she should have been sleeping on and threw it at Ty Lee.
"Get up! Both of you! We're leaving today." She prodded Mai with her foot, forcing the girl to wake up.
"Azula, we promised to finish the harvest," Ty Lee said, sitting up and rubbing her eyes.
"The harvest will still be here. My brother will only be stopping in Omashu for a short time." She had only heard the news yesterday. The farmer couldn't understand why Azula's face had turned bright red at the news of Fire Lord Zuko in the Earth Kingdom to sign a peace treaty. Cursing the fact that news traveled so slowly to the southern tip of the kingdom where they were staying, Azula had immediately made plans to travel north. Though there were many small villages dotting the coastline, she knew that the official entourage of the Fire Lord would make a stop in Omashu, to kiss up to King Bumi and replenish supplies. She had missed their entrance; therefore, she would catch them on the way back.
She had to. This was the opportunity she had been waiting for.
"Pack up," she said to them. "We're going north."
Sokka did not feel well. In fact, Sokka felt extremely ill. He woke up in the bed he had been given in Ba Sing Se's palace and immediately wished he hadn't bothered. Pulling the pillow over his head, he lay as still as possible and debated whether his nauseated feeling was from the amount of alcohol he had imbibed the night before or the fact that Katara had officially gotten engaged the night before. It was definitely a toss up, he decided.
A throbbing started in his head, and he groaned out loud before realizing it wasn't just in his head; it was because someone was pounding on his bedroom door. He rolled out of bed and landed on all fours on the floor. The stone door chose that exact moment to be blown inward. Sokka let out a yell and scrambled for blankets to cover his underwear.
Toph yawned. "Please Meathead. Who do you think undressed you last night?"
Sokka growled at her. Toph remained unimpressed. "Get up. We're meeting for breakfast in five minutes. There's been news from the Fire Nation."
He pulled on his tunic and wandered down the hall, trying to find someone he knew. What he found was Aang rushing down the hall holding his pack.
"Hey!" he called, but Aang didn't even hesitate. Luckily Katara wasn't far behind. She was also carrying her pack along with her bedroll.
"Hey Sokka," she greeted him. He fell in step with her.
"What is going on? Where are you going?"
"We received word from the Fire Nation that General Iroh is sick. It doesn't seem life threatening, but he's so old that they wrote and asked for Zuko to return home right away. Aang and I are going to take him back on Appa because it's faster."
"Is Zuko okay?" Sokka asked. Katara responded but Toph, rushing by him also carrying a bedroll, distracted him. "Hey wait – is Toph going with you guys too?"
Katara nodded. "It's not like we can take all his guards with us, so we're all going to go."
We're all going to go. These words clicked with Sokka. "Am I going too?"
Katara grinned at him. "Go pack your boomerang. We're grabbing breakfast and leaving immediately."
Sokka turned on heel and started heading back towards his room. "If Toph had just told me that in the first place…" He stalked back to his room, muttering under his breath.
They were running. They had been running since Azula had forced them from bed at sunrise. The sun was shining directly over them, and as much as Ty Lee loved the feel of the sun on her shoulders, it was currently making her sweat uncomfortably. She forced herself to focus on her steps, on the rhythm, instead of the heat or the shooting pain in her side…
A sound interrupted her reverie. Turning her head slightly, she confirmed her first instinct: Mai was wheezing.
"Azula we should break for some lunch!" Ty Lee called out.
"We don't have time." Azula didn't even look back.
As pleased as Ty Lee was at seeing some fire in her old friend again, she was irritated at her stubbornness.
"Azula, we need to stop. We've been running all morning and I'm hungry."
There were several tricks to being friends with Azula. Rule One was that Azula was always right. Ty Lee was an easy-going soul, and generally did not have a problem with this rule. Rule Two was that Azula was always better than you. This was also not a hard rule to follow. Pull a few punches and you're in. Rule Three was to be good at something Azula had no interest in, and therefore an asset to her. Ty Lee often thanked the spirits that she was flexible and that Azula had no interest in bending that way, so to speak.
But Rule Four was the most important, as it applied only to her and Mai. Rule Four was Azula always hates babies. When they were younger, Ty Lee had engaged Mai in endless debate over which of them was going to end up raising Azula's kid, if she ever had one.
The point of this rule was that if Mai and Ty Lee had been carefully following the previous three rules, Azula would actually cave rather than kill them if they acted, as she put it, like a baby. Ty Lee knew the exact way to pitch her voice, the exact amount of whine to put on "hungry", and it worked. Azula slowed, then stopped and turned to her companions.
"A short break," she agreed. "We cannot sit long. We have to get to Omashu as quickly as possible."
Ty Lee took the pack from her shoulders and started digging through it, looking for the dried meats she had packed earlier. "What do you even plan on doing Azula? He's going to be surrounded by guards."
Azula smiled. "Agni Kai. He won't be able to say no. It's what I would have done if I had gotten to the temple in the first place."
The final battle was something rarely spoken of. Azula had learned that her brother and uncle had taken the Avatar to the temple to fight her father. She hadn't counted on the Avatar's three companions – the Water Tribe siblings and the blind girl – ambushing them as they ran to intercept the traitors.
The three girls ate in silence: Azula lost in her thought, Ty Lee worrying about those thoughts, and Mai polishing her knives in boredom.
"Once I get my brother I'll get the girl," Azula broke the silence. Ty Lee just looked at her.
"The waterbending girl. I don't want the Avatar. I want her. She's the reason I never made it to the temple to stop my brother in the first place." There was a spark in Azula's eye that Ty Lee hadn't seen in a while. It was the devious light that meant Azula was planning and felt confident. It had disappeared the day Ty Lee had shaken the Fire Princess until she had stirred in the middle of the charred field where they had battled. By then the defeat of Ozai was well known, and the three of them had been placed on the list of wanted criminals.
Azula was completely broken. Ty Lee and Mai had called in a favor from a classmate at the Fire Academy and gotten on the first possible ship out of the Fire Nation. The next three months were hellish. Defeat had made Azula physically ill – she spent much of the time in a delirious fever, calling for her father and refusing to eat or sleep.
They had taken refuge in the first village they had come to. Ty Lee had stolen some Earth Kingdom clothes from the first house she could sneak into and the three of them had camped out in an abandoned shop. They had no money or supplies, and the one person who usually took care of them and led them was incapacitated. It was the most shaken up Ty Lee had ever seen Mai, who wasn't sure what to do except to throw herself into taking care of Azula.
Ty Lee, drawing on experiences she had from the circus, went out and found a small job selling fruits. It was a nice job – the older couple who hired her were pleasant, and the stand was by the entrance to the village, which meant that they were busy enough to keep Ty Lee from being bored. She had felt bad when they'd ran away as soon as Azula was well enough to travel.
Discussing the final battle or the three months that followed fell under Rule One. Azula didn't like to talk about it, and Azula was always right.
"They what!" the outraged cry filled the hall where the leaders should have been engaged in dinner.
King Bumi sat silently, though he couldn't believe what he was hearing. The Avatar, the Ladies Toph and Katara, and the warrior Sokka, all disappeared along with Fire Lord Zuko? It was unthinkable that the Avatar should abandon the conference he had spent over a year arranging and working on – Bumi knew how high the stakes were and how hopeful Aang was for this to go well. Why put it in danger? And why was Lord Zuko gone too? Was it possible they had left together? The entire hall broke out into whispers. This was a serious scandal.
The murmurs were interrupted by a second advisor slamming through the door, pushing a whimpering servant girl in front of him. He pushed the girl down, and she bowed on all four before the leaders.
"The girl knows where the Avatar and the Fire Lord have gone to."
"Is this true?" the king boomed angrily. The Avatar disappearing from his house was a major insult to his hospitality.
"Fire Lord Zuko received an urgent message this morning," sniffled the girl. "I delivered it to him. He said his uncle was sick."
"Lord Zuko said he received a message saying General Iroh was sick?" Bumi repeated.
"I don't know for sure that's what the message said. He never opened it," the girl told the floor.
"Child, that story makes no sense."
The girl looked up, wide eyed and clearly terrified. "I knocked on the door and handed him the message. He took it, went pale and said that he knew his uncle was sick and that he had to get home. Then he pushed past me. A short time later when I returned to make up the Avatar's bed I found that his room was completely empty."
Bumi looked at the advisor who had brought the girl in. "Did Zuko leave behind this urgent message he received?"
The advisor nodded. "Yes sir. I retrieved it from Lord Zuko's room." He held it out for all to see.
The official Fire Nation seal was unbroken.
"General Iroh?" A voice startled him out of his thoughts.
"Cai." Iroh raised his hand in greeting. "Isn't it awfully late for you to be out of bed?"
The young man simply smiled.
"I was going over some paperwork involved for setting up open trade routes across the nation. I wanted everything to be in order when Lord Zuko returned from his trip."
"You and my nephew will both work yourselves to death. No wonder he favors you of all his advisors."
Cai blushed at Iroh's compliment. "My family will be pleased to hear that, General."
They were quiet for a moment, out on the balcony overlooking the Fire Nation capital.
"General Iroh? Surely you have to be up early for meetings?"
Iroh smiled to himself. The boy was too polite to come out and ask why he was still up.
"Come young man, and sit with me. Do you play Pai Sho?" Iroh gestured to his board, which was set up as if two had been recently playing on it. The basic shape of the pieces formed a sharp arrow facing east.
Cai's face turned bright red. "My father has taught me the basics, but I would be no match for a master such as you."
"The basics are more than my nephew has learned. I cannot convince him to learn the rules. Sit down, Cai. Sometimes, when I have trouble sleeping, I meditate with my Pai Sho board. I will ponder things that are troubling me and play my pieces at random. And I'm always surprised at what I find when I finally look at the whole board."
"Does it work?" asked Cai in awe, looking over the current layout.
"Would you be relieved to learn that the temporary leader of the nation found the answers to his questions in a board game?"
Cai's blush deepened. Iroh was pleased – he had seen that shade of red many times before on his own nephew's face.
"So what does this mean?" Cai asked tentatively, pointing to the tiles' current layout. "What were you thinking about?"
"Lord Zuko and the progress he was making." Iroh fingered his lotus blossom tile. "There is only one piece left to be placed. I would like you to do it, please."
Cai's eyes went wide; this test was unexpected. Iroh smiled encouragingly at him. "Please."
Cai considered the board seriously for a moment, studying the tiles and where they had been laid. He then confidently laid the piece down straight in the middle of the board, and looked up at Iroh hopefully.
Iroh gave him no signal regarding the placement of the tile. There was a tense moment, as Iroh contemplated the tile, where Cai felt a flash of fear that he had done something wrong. It passed as soon as it hit. Iroh looked up and smiled at him.
"I appreciate your help, my boy." Iroh stood and bowed to him. "I cannot keep you awake any longer. You should get some sleep."
Cai stood and bowed back. Iroh was too polite to just ask him to leave.
As soon as he was out of sight, Iroh returned to the Pai Sho board, studying the layout carefully. A sharp arrow pointing east, towards the Earth Kingdom, and the White Lotus right in the middle of it.
"Zuko, my boy," sighed Iroh mournfully. "What have you gotten yourself into?"
Totidem Verbis: In So Many Words
A/N: Eep. Hope you guys enjoyed Chapter One! If you did enjoy this, I always welcome reviews. (If you didn't enjoy this, I welcome your review anyway. I'm pretty easy that way.)