Here is the third and final short chapter. The chapter that follows this will be of more normal length, so it won't be ready quite as quickly. But it's good to be back, folks.
The prisoner was on his knees before the burning throne, heavy iron shackles binding his ankles and iron manacles chaining his arms behind his back. He wore coarse wool pants and a ragged, torn shirt. His hair was matted, his beard frayed. His eyes were fixed on the wooden floor.
"Guards," came a voice from behind the curtain of flames, "leave us." The royal guard beneath the stage filed out of the throne room, leaving the prisoner alone before seat of the one who held his life in their hands.
The gleaming blue fire rising up from the stage shrank down, exposing the canopied dais and its occupant. Her rich red robes were made of the finest silk. Her shoulders were trimmed in elegant gold epaulets. Her long brown hair was woven into an elaborate braid crested by a tall topknot, upon which was fixed her crown of golden flames framed by lines of red enamel. Her ruby red lips twisted in a sneer as her fierce golden eyes took full stock of the prisoner.
"Ozai," said Fire Lord Azula, her voice swelling through the throne room's empty space, "you are charged with ordering the murder of a member of the royal family, and endangering the life and limb of the crown. Both crimes carry the penalty of death." The words were so sweet on her tongue. "Your royal blood grants you right to a single audience with the crown with which to sue for clemency. You may commence begging for your life at this time." Azula smiled wickedly. She gazed expectantly down at her father, wondering if his desire to live would be enough to overcome his pride, and how long he would wrestle before he started to plead.
"I am very disappointed in you, Azula."
The walls of the throne room shook. The blue fire burning in the dais flared high up, flickering briefly to orange as it rolled like waves on the sea. Azula willed it to calm down, and after a few moments it drew back to its previous height. When she could see him again she glared down at Ozai. "What did you say?"
Ozai raised his head, and instead of looking pitiful he was smirking menacingly up at her. "I am very disappointed in you, Azula."
The flames on the stage exploded into the air, red-orange torrents of fire shooting up almost to the ceiling. The throne room shook again, and it continued to tremble faintly around Azula as she rose to her feet, grabbing one of the dais' posts to steady herself. Fear raced up her spine.
"Silence!" she yelled. "Guards! Take him away!" No one appeared. "Guards?!"
"I am very disappointed in you, Azula."
The wall of fire surged all the way to the ceiling and spread rapidly across it. Azula's eyes bulged as a burning chunk of the ceiling broke off right above her. She leapt from the dais seconds before it was crushed.
"I am VERY disappointed in you, Azula."
"Shut up!" she screamed.
The floor below the stage began to burn. Fire raced up the pillars in the room, melting the gold and sending hot marble smashing to the ground. Ozai continued to leer up at her from what seemed to be a lake of fire. He looked like a burning dragon, his long beard smoking as his golden eyes gleamed.
Azula recoiled from his gaze, cringing as the flames from below rushed towards the stage. "No! No! I'm sorry!" she screeched. She tripped on her robes and curled helplessly into a ball. The fire crested the stage and raced towards her. "I'm sorry, father!"
"I am VERY disappointed in you, Azula!"
"No!" Azula shot bolt upright, her nails scraping the leather of Appa's saddle. She was halfway to standing before she made herself stop, one leg extended and one knee bent. She stared numbly at saddle beneath her, her heart beating fast and hard.
"What now?" Sokka griped, glancing in her direction. "Did you need an extra pillow, prin- whoa," he stopped short as she looked across the saddle at him. Her eyes were wide, and wild. "Hey, what's up with you?" Katara and Toph turned their heads her way.
Azula forced herself to breathe normally. She slumped back against the lip of the saddle, clutching her brow painfully tight in her nails. When she looked up again, even Aang was looking back at her. She waved a hand dismissively. "Nothing," she said, her voice flat. "I'm fine." They still stared at her. "I'm fine!" she snapped.