This is a mash up of sorts, part Pirates, mostly AU ATLA, with a number of different influences thrown in. I'm happy that it is completed and proud of this little story in the Avatar genre.
Check out my profile for some great artwork associated with this story.
I would love to find a beta to take on editing the entire project. If you're at all interested - please send me a PM.
AN: Don't own em' – that would be Bryke.
"Any minute now, my ship is coming in.
I'll keep checking the horizon
I'll stand on the bow, feel the waves come crashing
Come crashing down down down, on me.
And you say, be still, my love
Open up your heart –
Let the light shine in
But don't you understand?
I already have a plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin."
- My Real Life to Begin, Colin Hey (the acoustic version is best)
Former Prince Zuko looked out at the distant horizon and felt strangely at peace. Since abruptly leaving his family five years ago, there had been ups and downs in his life, but now he had reached a point where he was proud of himself and the lifestyle he led. He could honestly say he wanted for nothing…well, almost nothing…
His reverie was broken by a gruff voice to his left, "Captain?"
"The hawk just arrived with this information, sir."
The crew member bowed and left his Captain at the front of the ship. Zuko instantly recognized the seal on the scroll, Uncle Iroh – Dragon of the West. There were only a select few who knew of his exact whereabouts – loyal friends who literally trusted with his life. He chuckled to himself at the various rumors that had come and gone during his absence and his smile grew even broader when he imagined his father's reaction to them. There wasn't much for the Prince to miss about his life in the Capital, but he had left behind his favorite uncle. The two kept in touch through a series of codes, messages, and a secret network that existed within the dictatorship that was the Fire Nation. In a move of habit, he touched the rough leather patch that covered his left eye, and began reading the scroll.
I hope this finds you well. The precious cargo we spoke of previously is currently headed for friendly waters. What is your action?
Zuko quickly drew a flame in his hand and incinerated the letter. The peace he had felt slipped out of his reach again, as he pondered his next move. If the rumors were true, and legend had turned to fact, then it was entirely possible the destiny of the world was about to come within his reach. However, what would he do with it?
In a nearby port town, hidden behind a secret door, eighteen year old Katara of the Southern water tribe offered a small prayer to whatever gods might be listening. The war between the nations had been going on longer than anyone could possibly imagine – three generations of people affected by an unbreakable rule. It had brought strife, famine, and pain to families across the world and showed no signs of stopping.
"And today we're going to do something about it…"
"What's that, sis?"
"Nothing. I'm nervous, I guess."
"Why? The plan is perfectly safe. We've arranged for everything…"
"I have a bad feeling, that's all." Katara was unsure how to describe her current emotion. It wasn't necessarily nerves, or negative, just the feeling that her life was about to finally begin.
"Do you want to cancel the mission?" Sokka could barely keep the disappointment out of his voice.
Katara considered for a moment. Although Sokka was her older brother, they had worked together for months on the plan which would hopefully bring peace to the war-stricken world. They had made arrangements for every conceivable scenario. The Resistance was as old as the Fire Nation's hold on the world. Both she and her brother would be willing to lay down their lives for the movement…much as their mother had…so many years ago.
The day she and Sokka had discovered the Avatar had been the most important day of her life. Although he was powerful, his naïveté and optimistic outlook at the world could be frustrating. Having been frozen for the better part of a century, the world he had left behind was far in the past, and he hadn't been acquainted yet with the harsh realities that currently existed. For this reason, Katara envied the young man.
In the months since uncovering him, she had taught him everything she knew about the art of waterbending. Now, Aang was ready to travel to the Earth Kingdom and begin his training there – one step closer in a real chance to bring peace to the world. If captured, she knew it would mean instant death for all of them, but they had to take the risk. Somehow, the enemy had found out about the Avatar's existence. Thus far, luck had been on their side, but they were running out of time to safely transport Aang across the border. In order to protect him, they had kept the powerful bender in the dark about the upcoming plans. The less he knew, the better. As far as Katara was concerned, Aang's only worry should be about mastering all four elements.
Firmly crossing her arms, Karata announced, "No. There is no option to fail. We will succeed."
Sokka nodded, "Then, tonight, we move."
Zuko couldn't sleep. Leaving his opulent Captain's quarters, he strolled the quiet deck of his ship, the Blue Spirit, his leather boots marking time on the wooden deck. A balmy breeze swept through his shaggy black hair, which he absentmindedly pulled back in a queue. There was something that wouldn't let him sleep…
The last time he was on solid ground, many months back, he had met up with a fellow 'rogue trader.' There was not honor among their group…but Jet was the closest thing he called a friend. He respected the young man's sense of adventure, courage, and loyalty to his crew. Their domains rarely crossed, as the Captain of the Painted Lady preferred ranging closer to the Fire Nation waters. It was definitely more dangerous, but with the vendetta he had against the Nation, he lived life every day as if might die the next.
Zuko stayed away from those seas, and strayed closer to the southern Ocean – far away from those who might recognize him. Although, given his current state of dress and general appearance, there were very few who would be able to place him as the former Prince. His clean shaven exterior had given way to long shaggy hair and permanent stubble. The former silk and luxurious textiles he had dressed in were replaced by simple trousers and an open necked, no sleeved black shirt. The royal hairpiece had been long discarded…instead the only adornment he had was the simple leather eye patch which covered the bulk of his scar. Even his skin – pale and white, had long ago been tanned brown by his months at sea. Zuko often wondered if even his uncle would recognize him now…
"What have you heard?" Zuko had asked, over a tankard of beer.
"This, that…the usual."
Zuko's one good eye gleamed as he looked around the dingy bar. Jet's self proclaimed Freedom Fighters had obviously done well for themselves over the past months, as they were spending plenty of money on the 'entertainment' the establishment had to offer.
"What's the word from the Capital?"
Jet twisted the grass stalk in his mouth before answering, "Apparently, we're to believe the Prince is roaming the world somewhere, acting as a 'spy' for his nation."
The two shared a laugh at Zuko's alter personality's expense. Jet continued, "The last time I saw that kid he could barely tie his shoe, let alone infiltrate another nation."
Zuko privately smiled to himself, and queried, "Pick up anything good?"
Jet shrugged, and answered in a bored tone, "I intercepted a scroll last week that made mention of the Avatar – sounded kind of important. Does that make any sense to you?"
Zuko had to catch himself before he showed a reaction. He knew exactly what it meant, but didn't want to betray that information to Jet. Instead, the former Prince answered casually, "Probably just some Fire Nation voodoo, I wouldn't take it seriously. Anything else?"
"Just the same old fugitives from the Resistance. If they raise the rewards much higher, I'm going to have to think about capturing them myself. I think those water tribe sibs have a higher price on their heads than we do!" Jet laughed dangerously.
Zuko nodded. He was aware there were forces against his father, and how they were dealt with. In his time as a pirate, he had struck out at many ships and learned various things about both sides. In the middle of the madness, he had no guilty feelings about his choices. However, when Jet's information about the Avatar was confirmed by his Uncle in a following scroll, Zuko was smart enough to see the way of the world was soon going to change. Sure, he could ride the waves forever, but there was a part of him, deep down, that recognized his ability to lead – not just a ship, but the birthright to change a nation. Zuko's thoughts washed over each other like the waves in the night… He looked out into the sea, half lit by the waning moon, and saw a very odd clump of mist in the distance. He had been through almost every conceivable kind of weather and had never seen anything like this. Grabbing hold of the wheel, he changed the course of his ship – making a direct travel for the mysterious cloud bank.
As Katara and Aang continued manipulating the air and water around them, they looked up to see a large ship bearing down on the small boat that had been taking them to safety. The waterbender could see a terrifying blue and white mask attached to the bow of the ship…
With mahogany hair whipping around her in the rough sea, Katara looked at a concerned Sokka and terrified Aang and asked, "Who could it be?"
It had cost the life of someone in the Resistance, but they had obtained movements of most of the shipping and naval movements across the waters. They had chosen this particular evening because they expected no company.
Sokka's lips pressed together and he replied, "Pirates."
AN: Honest opinions please.