Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender

The rain lashed against the window, and a great deafening clap of thunder clanged in Ursa's ears. The toddler in her arms whimpered.

"Shhh…" she cooed, "it's going to be all right, Ping; it's only a storm." She rocked the child back and forth, humming a soft lullaby. It seemed to be an eternity when she had last sung the lullaby to Azula in an attempt to get her to sleep. Yet the melody came easily to her, as fresh in her memory as if she had rocked her precious daughter in her arms just yesterday, even though it had now been twelve long years.

She wondered what Azula looked like now; by now she would be a lovely young lady of fourteen, and surely her father would be looking for potential suitors for her hand. Ursa wondered if Azula would ever be capable of loving someone, or if there would be anyone willing to marry her if she wasn't the Princess of the Fire Nation. She hated to admit it, but her daughter had always shown an unusually cruel streak, taking after her father. She had hoped to soften this streak, but Fate had torn her away when Azula was much too young, and surely, without her gentle influence and only her father to look up to, that cruel streak had only intensified. She had heard unpleasant rumors about her daughter in the colony.

Even more disturbing were the rumors surrounding her son. She remembered starkly the day when she first heard of her son's exile. She had been in the market, gathering vegetables for her evening meal, when she overheard the vendor say to another, "So the Fire Lord has banished the heir to the throne? Who will rule after him then?"

"I suppose his daughter will," the other vendor, a fisherman replied.

"I beg your pardon for intruding," Ursa said quickly, "but what has happened to the Prince Zuko?"

"He has been banished from the Fire Nation, sent to capture the Avatar. Only then will his father allow him to return with honor. It's a futile search; everyone knows that the Avatar disappeared a hundred years ago."

Ursa fought the tears that rose in her throat. "Pray, indulge a stranger's curiosity, but what happened?"

"According to my sources, the Prince showed his father great disrespect, and his father challenged him to an Agni Kai. But the Prince refused to fight him, and so the Fire Lord punished him by burning one of his eyes." Ursa gave a little cry and clapped her hand to her mouth in shock. "Then the Fire Lord said that the Prince Zuko had shown shame in refusing to duel with him, and so he sent him away, saying that the only way he could restore his honor is by capturing the Avatar and bringing him to the Fire Nation."

Ursa pressed her nails into her palm, trying to still the anger now boiling within her. If only I could get my hands on that monster! she mentally raged. I would make him pay! Just as she feared, with her gone, her husband found some excuse to take out some of his anger and cruelty on her beloved son. But she never expected that he would go so far as to banish him, just as he had banished her. All her efforts to protect him had been in vain. But at least he's still alive, she thought ruefully. He may yet return to his rightful place on the throne…

"The General Iroh accompanies him," the vendor added.

Ursa let out a sigh of relief. At least I know that I can trust Iroh to watch over him like his own son. Perhaps his influence will soothe the hurt that my husband has instilled…

And so Ursa waited, waited to see what the future held for her country, what it held for her son, and most of all, what it held for her. She knew that if her daughter were to become the ruler of the Fire Nation, she would never return home again. Yet if her son were to become Fire Lord, then surely he would search for her, and welcome her back with open arms. If he believed that she was still alive. She didn't know how Ozai would explain her absence, and so she couldn't be sure what would happen. What if Zuko believed her dead and never came looking for her? What if he never ascended the throne?

Yet she had to have faith that in the end, everything would turn out as it should. After all, the Avatar has reappeared when the world believed him dead for a hundred years. If that miracle had happened, then perhaps another would happen, and she would be reunited with her son and see her homeland once again.

So Ursa waited, and bided her time. It had now been four years since she had told San-San her story. Now the girl had grown up to be a beautiful girl of eleven years old, and her services were no longer needed. She now looked after Ping, another child of a family that had migrated to the colony from the Fire Nation. They had never suspected her true identity, and she had seen no need to enlighten them.

The next day, she went to the market to gather fresh fruits and vegetables, as usual. As she gathered mangoes, Ping's favorite, and Zuko's too, the vendor greeted her. "A fine day, is it not, Sakura?"

"Yes, it is, Basho," she replied, tilting her head in acknowledgment. "Any news from the Fire Nation?"

"Yes, the Prince and the General Iroh have now been declared traitors, and a great reward has been promised for anyone who captures them and turns them in."

Ursa felt her heart fall. "What have they done?"

"Iroh has committed an act of treason during the failed Siege of the North. The Fire Lord blames him for the failure. And Zuko had captured the Avatar, only to let him go free. In his mind, his failure is also an act of treason."

"Have there been any signs of them?" she anxiously asked, silently praying that they had not been found yet.

"No, but soldiers are searching everywhere as we speak," Basho replied. "I hope that they are captured soon."

Ursa's eyes flashed. "Surely you don't believe the rumors that they are truly traitors? They can't possibly have committed such an act!"

Basho flinched a little at her anger. "Like it or not, they most certainly did. My sources are extremely reliable."

"Well then, you better check your sources. I find it hard to believe that they are truly traitors. They don't deserve to be; otherwise, the definition of 'traitor' has surely changed these days." Secretly, she was glad that the Avatar managed to escape. She didn't approve of her son having to chase after him, and prayed that he would soon see that his task went against the order of all that was right in the world. Although she knew it was foolish, she couldn't help but hope that her son would soon join the Avatar and fight against the Fire Nation, her beloved country which had overstepped its bounds and sought to upset the balance of the Four Nations in the world.

So once again, she had to wait. Wait to see what would happen. She would have to wait to see if her hopes, as feeble as they appeared to be, would come true. She hoped that she would not have to wait much longer.

And so, after two years, I've finally decided to update this one! The last chapter will be out soon! Thanks for reading, and, as always, please leave a review and let me know what you think! :)