My Name and Oath
"Name is a fence and within it you are nameless."
Most stories begin with a polite introduction that custom dictates. Usually with a name but I have two choices to go by. People usually keep the name that was given to them by their parents.
I had one of those once.
It would probably be best if I didn't write it down, lest if eyes read this that should not. It would be dangerous for me only mostly.
I think I'll begin with a story that will eventually lead to where I am now. Agni forbid that anyone should read this. I hope I am dead by now if you are. This is for me. Not for you or anyone in particular. Perhaps it is a pathetic attempt at some way to express myself or merely a way to leave some trace of myself.
The Fire Nation is the most powerful nation in the whole world and is beginning to bring a close to the hundred year war. As a child of the Fire Nation, one is raised to accept and not to question, especially the war. We believed that it would make the world a better place.
I was born into a minor noble family of no outwardly great importance. For certain clear reasons I will disclose from writing the family name. My father is a firebender. My mother is a firebender. My older sister and younger brother are. Father is of minor rank in the military. Mother was the perfect wife from I remember as my sister Narimi was a promising firebender and Koun was the heir.
That is why I was chosen.
It's a long a dreary history but in the simplest terms my mother came from a family of bodyguards. There is an obscure society of them who are the most elite and trained from childhood. Mother's family was apart from it except for a child from every generation. This child is forgotten but they will follow the greatest honor that the family has had for generations. Protecting the Fire Lord himself.
Or his heir. Any direct male heir in general really, the Royal family has never been very large. One child is picked and will guard him for the rest of their lives. The ultimate privilege among the Society, (that is what they call it anyways for it doesn't really have a name.) The child is raised in training and between the ages of inanition they are rewarded their full status by the Guardian, the leader of the Society. Well, there is that background, but wait, I get to bore myself by writing more! Not that there is much else to do around here and my stomach still bothers me after all this time….
My name is Nira.
That is the name I was given when I entered the Society. My memory is rather blurred and fragmented but I can recall it being dark…
A warm hand held my own as we walked down a silent corridor. We entered a shadowed room lit by one single dying fire. A hooded man stood in front of it. Frightened, I huddled against the person who held my hand. The larger hand squeezed mine comfortingly.
"Is this her?" a masculine voice asked jadedly from the hooded figure.
"Yes," a feminine voice responded. I strained my head to look up at the strained face of my mother.
"Where is the father?" the man asked sharply.
"Asleep. He doesn't know yet."
I was exhausted and tried in vain to pay attention. My eyelids were heavy and my confusion at their peculiar dialogue distant. The hooded man still scared me.
Mother gave me a gentle nudge forward and my sleepy eyes widened at the dark eyes that analyzed my own. The face was mid-aged with heavy lines, a longer nose, and a tight mouth. His face was one that you could pass by one the streets and never think twice about. It was his eyes that were alive, unlike his face, shrewd with a keen intelligence. Dark, grey streaked hair was pulled back tightly from his scalp. A callused hand grabbed my chin as he tilted my head from side to side. "We should have taken her when she was younger," he stated bluntly, "but she will do."
For what? I wondered, what was going on?
"How old is she exactly?" he asked as if I were a product for sale and he the buyer.
"Five," my mother replied in a heavy voice.
"She's small for her age," he remarked, "I was informed she cannot bend…?"
"How unfortunate," he murmured, more to himself then to my mother. "A pity but she will only have to be stronger."
I attempted to turn my head to look at my mother's as I heard her speak but the man's hand kept my head still. "Her name is-"
"Not important," the man cut her off harshly. "She is not going to be your child anymore. You know this. She died and you will forget her." The man raised himself to his feet and took my hand in his own. He started to leave for the door and tried to pull away.
"Mom!" I cried looking at the defeated face of my mother. …what...
The man dragged me out of the room as I screamed and tried to fight. The last glimpse I had of my mother was of head turned away with her dark curtain of hair hiding her eyes.
Strong arms picked me up and a hand clamped down over my mouth. I kicked and struggled and that hand covered my nose. The lack of oxygen made my head spin as I went limp with defeat. The man carried me in his arms as he walked with quick strides. "Are you going to stay silent now?" he asked irritated.
I turned my head away and nodded weakly. Tears crept down my cheeks in my devastation. Why hadn't mom stopped him? Would father come save me?
We exited out into the cool air of the night. I was lifted into the air and set down carefully on the back of a Komodo Rhinoceros. The man pulled himself up behind me and arms went around me to grab the reins. Strong muscles began to move underneath the leather saddle as the Komodo Rhinoceros began to move quickly. I looked up at the sky and wanted to wail for my mother. The stars were dark.
"You should sleep," the man said abruptly, "We have many hours ahead of us."
"Where are we going? I want to go home!" I cried with all the power a five year old can.
"Silence!" he barked, his voice became calmer, and "We are going to the center of the Society."
"You will learn soon enough," he interrupted me, "My name is Keitaro, but you will address me as Master Keitaro.
"When can I go home?" I wailed.
Keitaro sighed. "You can't," he said slowly, "You must forget everything, your kin and even who you were."
That day occurred over eleven years ago. I still remember the boat that carried us away from my home. The Fire Nation is a chain of islands and we left the one I had always dwelled on for another. I was homesick for the longest time and I stubbornly refused to go by my new name. Eventually I fell in with the novices I trained with and began to forget my old life.
Novices are trained in their age group till they are nine years of age. From then on they are traditionally trained by one master till they gain their as a full bodyguard. The center is hidden and safe from the outside world. The Society is led by the Guardian and there are the masters who train. The rest go out and serve whoever they are assigned to by the Society.
A bodyguard is to master their arts, usually firebending, hand-to-hand combat, other forms of combat, stealth, to read lips and memorize things to the minute detail, and such. In my case learning about having a network of information was critical for I would one day serve in the Royal Court itself. Master Keitaro stressed my fighting education to the max since I was not a firebender for most bodyguards are. "You're greatest weakness," he said to me once with humorless, "You would have been a great firebender with your stubbornness."
As a bodyguard the center is the closest thing you have to a home and the Society is the closest resemblance to a family. You can't have these things though for they are only a distraction. All energy and thought must be dedicated to the protection of your charge. No attachments, not even your charge. Their welfare, physically and mentally is your concern, so they may be close to you, but not you to them.
Training was difficult and Master Keitaro was my teacher. He was a hard man to train under but it was worth for he is one of the best teachers in the Society. The first time I met my charge was when I was six years old, only a year after I had come to the Society. It was merely a ceremonial meeting to swear an oath of fealty, which I would swear again when I would truly enter his service.
We had traveled by boat for hours making my stomach still tremble even after being on land for an hour. Much to my master's distaste I had proven myself to get seasick quite easily which he had discovered on our first boat trip together. One thing that even made him more furious was my claustrophobia, however minor, which he did try to cure and would try to do so any more times.
My clothes were stiff and a dark maroon color that reminded me of rotten apples. Master Keitaro walked beside me as I looked up at him with impatient six-year old eyes. My small legs walked three paces to his every step. The corridor was long and tall with gleaming red paint. Fire burned from hanging burners every few meters.
"This way Nira," Keitaro ordered suddenly, pushing my body shoulder through a forbidding door. Sunlight greeted my eyes as I walked into a small courtyard. One massive and breathtaking tree that was crooked with age and blooming red leaves stood at its center. I could
see patches of the burning sky above and I breathed more easily as I felt more open space. I had nearly panicked inside the palace for we had traveled mostly through servant routes. The courtyard's stone was designed in the shape of a flame surrounding the tree in many hues of red and gold. On a low bench in front of the tree a beautiful women sat in grand attire. When she looked at us a warm smile decorated her face.
"Zuko, come here," she called fondly. A young boy not much older than me jumped down from the tree's branches. I knew Keitaro would later berate me at not noticing his presence there. I was supposed to notice things like that.
I took in a quick breath with my small chest. It was him. My charge.
Over the last year I had been raised to understand who my charge was. One day he could rule the Fire Nation, assuming nothing happened to the other heirs. Golden eyes looked directly at me curiously before they moved on to Keitaro. His face was angular but still round with childhood. His dark hair was bound in a top knot and his royal garb showed wear from recent play. He stood beside his now standing mother.
My knees shook.
"Keitaro, what a pleasure it is to meet you again," the princess said sincerely. She looked down at me. "Is this her?"
"Yes, Your Highness," Keitaro replied with a reverent bow which I copied. "I am glad to find you looking well."
A flash of humor entered the princess's eyes. "Well, shall we get it over with then?" she asked simply. A calm hand touched her son's shoulder as she leaned down to whisper in his ear.
I couldn't read lips yet.
The young prince frowned as he looked at me again.
"Go over to him Nira," Keitaro ordered quietly, "Just as I taught you, alright?"
Feeling as if I would let the food from my stomach come up and shame myself I hesitantly walked over to the prince. I kneeled down on the warm stone and kept my head down.
I could feel his eyes on me.
With perfect recitation I swore my oath. Keitaro had drilled me for months and I knew it by heart, though many of the large words I didn't understand. I raised my eyes.
And held my breath.
The prince was looking at his mother who gave him a waiting glace. "Err…I thank you for your service and I know that…." He paused but his voice became stronger as he remembered, "You will serve me well." His eyes looked at mine. "Rise…"
It hit me as quick as lightening.
He didn't know my name!
I felt like laughing but I imagined Keitaro's lectures afterwards and getting punished. Las time I had broken conduct I had stood out in the rain for hours…I decided against it. "Nira," I whispered.
His eyes thanked me. "Nira," he finished loudly.
I stood up and bowed low. I kept my eyes down. Keitaro came next to me and bowed. "Till next year then, Your Highness?" he asked the princess.
"Yes, I think it is a good idea," her musical voice answered, "It was nice to meet you Nira."I almost smiled but was too nervous to look at her. "Zuko?"
"It was good to meet you," he said quickly.
"Goodbye Keitaro," the Princess announced formally.
"Best of health to you and your family," he responded respectfully with another low bow. As before I did the same. He touched me shoulder and I followed him out of the courtyard without looking back.
After that meeting I would go once a year to spend several days at the Royal Palace. The idea was for me to learn their surroundings and to familiarize myself with my charge. At first the prince tried to befriend me but I was too distant and formal as I should be. Needless to say he eventually gave up his futile efforts.
I had the distinct honor of meeting his younger sister and her closest companions. The young princess was different from her brother, more like her father what I had learned about him. She was a potential threat to my charge. She was brilliant; a prodigy of a firebender, but at the same time there was a certain air of ruthlessness about her.
I kept my distance and she ignored me.
My charge came to ignore me too, finding there was not much talking or playing with me at all. The only one who never gave up was the princess's close companion Ty Lee. She was energetic, friendly, and rather annoying at times. She always tried to socialize with me. Her acrobatic skills did impress me though now that I recall. The princess's other companion was a quiet girl named me. She kept to herself like I did.
I liked her.
Princess Ursa, my charge's mother, I only saw briefly till she disappeared. I don't know how or why it happened but it left my charge changed somehow. I guessed he missed her. She had reminded me of my own mother...
I never met his uncle until later which is another story for another time.
In brief, the age of initiation is from fourteen to usually sixteen years of age. I waited for the day when I would at last take my place as a bodyguard. I would honor what I had been trained for. I dreamed of being the best in history of the Society. Childish hopes that are so easily fractured and destroyed, especially the ones that you clung to secretly that gave you hope.
As the prince's bodyguard I would dwell at the Royal Court when he did. My family was nobility, however minor, they could come there. When they did, I would be there. That single flame burned inside of me ever since it's realization in my early years of training.
I would get to see my mother again.
But dreams are easily taken away by reality, which I would eventually discover before my initiation.
Everything would change.
Disclaimer: I do not own Avatar or any of its creations. This is merely a fanwork with come characters of my own creation.
Thanks for reading! I hope everyone enjoyed it and reviews would be amazing, especially any pointers to fix the story so far!