I actually got this idea while listening to the Fruits Basket soundtrack, of all things. Anyway, this is my second Avatar fic, and I hope to make more progress on it than I did on the first (the second chapter of which is still being worked on). Like the other one, this is post-war. Most of the important information is contained in the story itself. Despite the title, this has nothing to do with the Jane Austen novel. The chapter titles are songs from the musical "Camelot", mostly because they fit. Enjoy!
I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Sense and Sensibility
---Chapter One: I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight---
Balance is everything. That simple sentence was now ingrained into Zuko's very soul, and it was foremost in his mind as he practiced his firebending. It had been four years since the end of the war, and in that time Fire Lord Zuko had worked with the other nations to restore peace and the horribly upset balance. It was not an easy job, and while Zuko was grateful to have his uncle as his guide and mentor, the twenty year-old wished he had someone else- someone closer to his age- to help him.
Iroh watched his nephew in silence. The young Fire Lord was now a master firebender, and though he had no need of it, could easily produce the lightning that had eluded him nearly five years ago. Iroh found it difficult to believe that so much time had passed, and on occasion still thought of Zuko as the boy he'd been back then. He frequently had to remind himself that his nephew was not only Fire Lord, but, with his taller, slightly larger frame and shoulder-length hair worn once more in a ponytail, was very much a man.
A guard entered the training room and stood at the doorway, patiently waiting to be acknowledged. Zuko, lost in his thoughts and his movements, didn't notice him, but Iroh did. The old general cleared his throat loudly. Zuko paused and glanced at his uncle, who looked pointedly at the door. Zuko turned calmly, his face betraying no embarrassment but his mind screaming at his own stupidity. "What is it?"
The guard seemed nervous. He bowed before speaking, as custom dictated. "Fire Lord, the Royal, um… matchmaker… is here to see you."
Zuko stared at the guard. "The what?" he blurted.
"The Royal Matchmaker, your majesty," the guard repeated hesitantly.
Zuko took a deep breath to regain his composure. "We have no use for a matchmaker. Fire her. Immediately." Iroh cleared his throat again, capturing his nephew's attention. "Yes, Uncle?"
Iroh's eyes were on the floor, a move of respect that he knew annoyed Zuko. His tone was calm and completely reasonable. "I take it, Prince- excuse me, Fire Lord Zuko, that you are capable of finding a wife on your own?"
The young Fire Lord rolled his eyes. "I don't need a wife, Uncle."
Still Iroh had no real reaction. "As Fire Lord, you need an heir. In order to produce an heir, you need a wife." Only now did he look up and meet his nephew's eyes. "Are you capable of finding her on your own?"
Zuko was silent for a moment. "Guard," he said quietly.
"Yes, Fire Lord?" squeaked the guard, who had no idea what had just happened between the Fire Lord and his uncle.
"Tell…" Zuko sighed deeply. "Tell the Royal Matchmaker that we will speak with her in the receiving room in an hour." Iroh allowed himself a tiny smile.
The guard bowed again. "As you wish, your majesty." He spun on his heel and exited quickly.
"A wise decision, nephew," Iroh said. Zuko gave the old man a dirty look.
By the time the Royal Matchmaker made her way into the receiving room, the first room of the Fire Lord's suite, Zuko had changed out of his training clothes and resigned himself to the meeting. He did, however, have every intention of refusing to marry any girl the matchmaker suggested. Iroh, knowing exactly what his nephew was planning, insisted on also attending, dashing Zuko's hopes.
The Royal Matchmaker was an ancient lady by the name of Junbi. She was the same matchmaker, in fact, that had arranged the marriage of Zuko's parents, Ozai and Ursa. Iroh felt that that particular fact was best kept from the Fire Lord. Junbi did not wait for Zuko to give her permission to sit, as she should have, but settled herself into the chair across the small table from the young man as soon as she reached it. Iroh, standing behind Zuko to emphasize his role as advisor (another of his more recent habits that annoyed Zuko, who would have preferred that his uncle sit down like an equal), frowned slightly. Zuko raised an eyebrow.
The Royal Matchmaker studied the Fire Lord for several minutes, making him very uncomfortable, before she spoke. "I am Lady Junbi. I have been a matchmaker for nearly forty years. There is little point in pretending, your majesty, that we are here because you want to be. So why don't I just get straight to business?" Zuko's eyebrow rose higher, but he said nothing. Lady Junbi smiled. "Good. Now, I feel that in the interest of the peace you are so determined to maintain among the nations, it would be best if your bride came from outside of our beloved Fire Nation." She pulled out a very thick scroll. "I have compiled a list of suitable young ladies. Admittedly, they are mostly from the Earth Kingdom, but it is the largest country in the world."
Zuko gulped. Iroh placed a reassuring hand on his nephew's shoulder. "I think, Lady Junbi, that such a long list is a bit much. Perhaps if the selection was narrowed…"
"I can narrow it to thirty, but it would be difficult," Lady Junbi replied with a slightly feral smile.
Iroh smiled back. "Five. I believe that five would be best. Five maidens invited to the palace, so that the Fire Lord can get to know them better before making a decision."
Lady Junbi's eyes narrowed. "And if he does not choose any of the five, General?"
"Then another five will be selected for consideration."
"Can you discuss the details later?" Zuko asked. "I'm starting to develop a headache."
Lady Junbi stood, clutching her scroll. "Of course, your majesty." She turned to Iroh. "Shall we set a time now, or will you send word of a time that is convenient?"
"We shall speak in a moment, Lady Junbi. If you will wait in my chambers, I must first have a word with his majesty." The matchmaker curtsied to Zuko, who nodded wearily, and then left the royal apartments in a slight huff. Iroh turned to his nephew. "Be glad you are spared from the rest of the discussion. I will take care of everything, nephew."
"Thank you, uncle. I think I'm going to have dinner in here tonight."
"Very well, your majesty. I will inform the servants." Iroh left the room. Zuko slumped in his chair. "Agni, help me. Please."
When Iroh arrived back at his suite of rooms, Lady Junbi was once again seated. One of the servants had even been so thoughtful as to provide her with tea. A second cup waited for him on his side of the small table in front of Lady Junbi's well-cushioned chair. Iroh sat down and poured tea for himself, taking just enough time to slightly annoy the matchmaker. "Now, Lady Junbi. I would like to know which young women you had in mind for the Fire Lord."
Junbi pursed her lips. "My first choice is Lady Ming-Ming, age nineteen. She is the niece of the Earth King."
"A lovely lady, or so I hear. Who else?"
"Vana Bei Fong, age eighteen. She is the daughter of-"
"Ah, yes. The Fire Lord and I are acquainted with her cousin. Equally lovely, by reputation."
Junbi disliked being interrupted, but she continued anyway. "And I've also chosen Lani Mei and Kanai Shin, ages seventeen and sixteen respectively. Both are daughters of the Earth Kingdom's wealthiest merchants. For the fifth girl-"
"There will be no need for you to select a fifth young woman, my lady. I have already chosen her."
Lady Junbi raised an eyebrow. She knew the man was a meddler, but until now she had not known the extent of his intrusions. "And who, may I ask, is to be the fifth prospect, General?"
Iroh smiled. "You were right in choosing from outside the Fire Nation, but there is a very important country you overlooked."
Junbi smiled in return, once again sure she was on solid ground. "My dear General, I can only assume you speak of the Water Tribes."
"But Princess Yue of the Northern Water Tribe died almost five years ago in the siege by Admiral Zhao. There are no princesses or other high-born girls of the correct age there."
"Not at the North Pole, no. However, if I remember correctly, the daughter of the chief of the Southern Water Tribe is eighteen. By virtue of her father's station, she is not only high-born but in fact a princess. Would such a match not be ideal for the Fire Lord?"
"Politically, a princess would be best. However, I cannot agree that a princess of a Water Tribe is the best choice."
Iroh stood up. "It is not her station that makes Princess Katara my choice, Lady Junbi. You are searching for a royal bride, a trophy wife: someone who looks nice at court functions but is otherwise quite useless. I am looking for the future Fire Lady: a woman who can help my nephew with his many difficult decisions and not completely lose her head in a crisis!"
The matchmaker was very surprised by this outburst. "You did not seem to mind when I selected your wife, General."
Iroh sat down again, sipping his tea to calm himself. "My wife and I were a good match, Lady Junbi. Back then you took into account the person as well as their political station."
Junbi stood and gathered her things. "We will see this time who is right, General Iroh. Good night." She turned and left the room. Iroh took another sip of his tea. "Indeed we will, Lady Junbi. Indeed we will."
---End Chapter One---
How's that for a beginning? Chapter Two is already finished, so you shouldn't have to wait too long for that, pending on the response to this. I hope you liked it. Even if you didn't, I'd like to know. Please review!