Book 3: Fire

Summary: Series Three, according to the warped insanity of TheSummoningDark…

Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Pairings: As yet undecided, but be prepared for yaoi

Warnings: Character death, violence

Disclaimer: You know the drill – blah blah blah not mine, blah blah blah no legal action please, etcetera, etcetera

Author's Note::waves homemade pitchfork:: Death to Azula!

Chapter 1 - Requiem

How did it come to this?

Zuko fell to his knees beside the corpse, mud and blood staining his partially-burnt clothing as the smell of burning flesh and Azula's cruel laughter filled the air. No last words. No goodbye. Just a lance of roaring fiery death before the horrible, endless moment in which his uncle fell, dead before he hit the ground.

Sokka had finally passed out from blood loss, and Toph had been unconscious for quite some time. But Aang looked horrified, Katara was crying silently…Ty Lee was shaking and even Mai looked a little shocked. It was utterly, dead quiet, save for Azula's laughter echoing from ruined stone walls.

And Zuko could only stare, guilt searing like poison in his veins as the only constant in his life was torn away…

XxXxXxX

Coming into the village was their first mistake

Actually, Zuko was pretty sure that his first mistake had to do with not ensuring that his sister was strangled at birth. But the first mistake of that day had definitely been coming into the village. He silently cursed the world in general and Azula in particular.

On one side of the wrecked town square had stood Azula, flanked by her minions. And on the other, the Avatar and his irritating little entourage. Zuko and Iroh had ended up more or less in the middle – it had turned into the sort of fight where no-one was entirely clear on who exactly they were meant to be attacking, so had decided to attack everyone else equally and without bias.

It hadn't gone well. Now…to put it simply, Azula had won. The blind earthbender girl was unconscious, lying in a heap on the ground. The Water Tribe boy was struggling to stand, one of Mai's knives buried to the hilt in his shoulder, and the owner of said knife was pressing yet another against his sister's throat.

"So as you can see," Azula told the Avatar pleasantly; "It's really quite simple. Either you come without a fight, or Mai will bleed your friend dry. Won't you, Mai?"

"With pleasure," Mai murmured, right in Katara's ear. Aang went white.

"No, don't!" Katara cried, only to whimper and fall silent as Mai pressed the knife tighter against her throat.

"All right," Aang said, barely audible. Azula smirked, and Ty Lee appeared seemingly from nowhere to tie his hands behind his back.

"Azula…" Zuko growled, stepping forward. He was not going to abandon the chance to regain his honour without a fight.

"Ah, my dear brother, I'd forgotten about you," Azula gave a truly evil smile. She sighed in mock sympathy; "It must be hard, watching your only chance to go home slip away-" she neatly sidestepped a sooty orange fireball that roared towards her, and continued as if it hadn't happened; "-And so, Zuzu, the question remains…what but your miserable life is there left for me to take from you?"

Zuko gave a feral snarl. A cruel smile spread across Azula's features as her eyes slid sideways; "Of course, there's always…"

There was no warning. Nothing but a sudden absence of sound as the world slowed to a crawl and Zuko felt his heart freeze in sudden cold terror. Not for himself – no, her lightning-fast strike was aimed just a little to his left…

XxXxXxX

He should have been faster; he should have seen it coming, these and a thousand other razor-sharp fragments of horrible guilt tore through his soul. He closed his eyes, the pain and anger and hatred giving way to a terrible empty blankness.

Azula fell silent, and for a moment the world was still

Zuko rose slowly to his feet, turning to face his sister

And opened his eyes

Somehow, in the middle of the deadly torrent of guilt and sorrow and the lust for revenge, he had come to the eye of the storm. And in his own eyes was the eerie serenity of someone who has nothing left to lose.

For the first time in her life, Azula was scared.

It would have been better if he'd been angry. If he had screamed or shouted or cried she could have laughed it off and attacked like she always did. But this…for the first time, for just a moment, she looked afraid. She raised her hands to defend herself as he struck, but it was already too late. The flame that blossomed from his palms was not the billowing, sooty orange flame from before – it was a stab of almost invisible blue fire with a core of pure, blinding white.

She didn't even have time to scream.

The fire tore though her like the wrath of scorned gods, and right through the other side to blast apart a small house. There was no gore. There was nothing but ashes, drifting and tumbling through the terrifyingly calm emptiness of the silence. It was finally broken when Mai, who was no fool, released her grip on Katara and bolted for the relative safety of the treeline. Ty Lee simply vanished with all of an acrobat's skill.

Zuko stared at the filthy cobblestones where his sister had stood moment before, head spinning at the sheer enormity of what had just happened. He swayed, staggered – the attack had left him with barely enough energy to remain alive, let alone conscious. With a soft sigh he surrendered to the darkness as oblivion took him into its comforting embrace.

XxXxXxX

Hours had passed and it was now night. A small fire burned, dwarfed by the destruction the earlier pyrotechnics had caused. Katara hugged her knees and looked around at their sorry little group.

They had explained to Toph what had happened once she finally regained consciousness, and now she was sitting on her own some distance away. Katara suspected the proud little earthbender was trying not to cry – she had rather liked Iroh. Sokka was asleep, still weak from blood loss although Katara had done her best to heal his wounds. So was Aang, but he was obviously having a nightmare. Zuko was sitting alone, staring at nothing with haunted eyes. He had refused all offers of healing.

They had buried Iroh. It seemed like the right thing to do.

"What are you going to do?" Katara asked carefully. Zuko didn't even glance at her, or give any indication that he had heard her.

"I don't know," he said eventually, his voice hoarse.

"I suppose…you could probably come with us," she hazarded, wary in case she caused an explosion.

"Help the Avatar kill my last surviving relative?" he laughed bitterly; "Why not?"

TO BE CONTINUED

Poor Iroh…I've made myself sad now…

I'm not sure where this came from. I suspect I was bitten my a rabid plot bunny.