Summary: I lean against the bars of my narrow window and stare out at my last night. I am to be executed at dawn
Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Pairings: None
Warnings: Implied torture and rape
Disclaimer: I own nil, nada, zilch, zip, NOTHING. Do we all understand the ownership situation?
Author's Note: Yep, more Avatar Angst from the author of Pyrophobia (Read it – I command thee!)

In case it isn't obvious, the whole thing is in Zuko's POV. I just love torturing the poor guy, don't I?

Behind the hills to the west, the sunset paints a vibrant picture of reds and purples on the starry canvas of the night sky. I stare with a sense of awe at the sun as it slides behind the horizon in all its fiery glory, more and more stars becoming visible as the sun's light fades. I stare up at the glittering stars against their backdrop of midnight blue as the moon's cold light bathes the land in eerie luminescence. I lean against the bars of my narrow window and stare out at my last night. I am to be executed at dawn.

My mother told me once that the souls of the dead went to the stars. Is she up there, I wonder? Will I be joining her? I close my eyes, feeling the cold metal of the bars against my cheek; feeling the pain from a hundred injuries where the guards refused to believe that I held no worthwhile information. Or maybe they were just bored – certainly casual brutality seems to be a staple here. Broken ribs form a band of fire around my chest, and I know without looking that there will be a pool of semi-dried blood on the floor where I lay unconscious for hours after they first threw me in here. I am bleeding from countless places, predominantly from the stinging whiplashes on my back. I also feel the insistent nagging throb of the hideous burn marks on my chest…the guards seemed to find that one particularly funny.

Their sense of humour has little to recommend it, and it was their jeers and mocking laughter that first lead me to suspect they wanted no more than some brief amusement from me. I struggled of course - as is my nature - but there were too many of them, and my hands and feet were bound. So by the end I could do little else but close my eyes and pretend all the pain and humiliation was happening to someone else, cringing away from the painful touch of coarse hands as their cruel laughter rang in my ears…

But no - I refuse to dwell on that.

Metal bands encircle my hands. I examined them carefully when I first regained consciousness – having no chain to join them as shackles do they at first glance appeared to serve no useful purpose. Despite myself, I was impressed by the ingenuity of their design: two different types of metal, one inside the other. The inner is exponentially more sensitive to heat, and since it is confined by the outer layer, it will expand quickly inwards when heated. They are already uncomfortably tight – if I attempt to firebend, they will crush my hands.

I have been over every inch of the cell several times – I am certain that there is no weakness. The bars of the window are solid steel, the mortar around them fresh and strong. The door is six inches of tough oak, reinforced with iron bracers, and the lock is a brilliant monstrosity of engineering requiring three keys to open, incorporating two bars and four deadbolts. I have no hope of escaping. I will die here.

Strangely, I am not afraid. Intellectually I accept that I should be - that I have every reason to dissolve into a terrified heap on the floor. But I don't, for several reasons. My pride, though battered and shaken, would still never allow it. And after the torture and interrogation and the other amusements of the guards, I feel that I have nothing left to lose. I have not yet reached the point where death would be a release, but I feel a curious detachment. I am resigned to my fate.

Dawn is staining the sky delicate pastel shades of yellow and pink…how quickly the time passes when you have so little left. I hear booted footsteps approaching my cell, echoing in the empty stone corridors. I close my eyes, entering an almost meditative state. When I open them again another person stands in my place, someone unaffected by the suffering he has endured. I watch through his eyes as the cell door swings open.

Four guards escort me to the courtyard where my execution is to take place. The air is cold and crisp; with that odd sharp quality the early morning air often has. Heavy footsteps echo my own on the flagstones as I am led to the headman's block. I raise my chin proudly, defiantly, not deigning to acknowledge the jeering crowd at my feet.

As I look upon my last sunrise, it is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.


Good? Bad? Awful? Take a moment to tell me!