To honour the moment

Translation of the French fanfiction "En l'honneur de l'instant".

Here is the long overdue rewritten prolog, my first take at it being utterly incomprehensible. I tried to change as possible as possible, though, because I do like a little weirdness. I hope it's all right.

Have a good reading!


Prologue: shattering Time

I'm not here…

The air was fragrant. The sunshine pressed softly against his eyelids. A golden light poured down on his face. It carried the scent of incense and flowers. A soft breeze swelled the crimson curtains of his window, humming and warm, like an incarnation of his own peaceful mind. His fingers traced a light fold on the silk scarlet sheet he was resting on.

He felt so much relief it ached. What a joy, what a delight to be back…

His fingers went up to the arch of his eyebrows. Palm against his lips, his hand rested on the tissue of his skin, pale and smooth. Unburned.

This is a dream.

Zuko knew it. Yet his joy, stained with a strange melancholia, refused to alter. He was home at last… He must have opened his eyes, for the red drapes of his old bed were slowly appearing. They were somewhat blurry, hung higher than they should have, and on them had been embroidered a huge yellow-eyed, open-mouthed salamander. Nevertheless the place remained familiar enough to fool his sleep-clouded mind. He was home again. The sun was just rising. The day was his: he had nothing special to do. His face was intact. Everything was fine. Perhaps today he would even see a glimpse of his father in a corridor, perhaps…

In a way, he was still able to think. Even asleep, blurred thoughts formed, blindly, led by a tortuous logic he probably wouldn't follow once awake. Behind the half-drawn curtains of his bed, he tried to make out his room, rather dark in spite of his homeland's beautiful sun.

He wouldn't have been able to express how much he loved, adored, missed this golden light, the dizzying centre of his dream. So much prettier than this pathetic excuse for…He was smiling, he noticed, a smile that weighed on his heart. But why was he sad?

He wanted to enjoy this moment, he decided: rise up, see his room better, maybe the rest of the palace or the view from his window. In case he wouldn't be able to stay for long. He watched with satisfaction his palm sinking in the silk beside him as he sat up. He was thankful he had enough control over his dream to move. Too thankful to worry about the strange coal marks that furrowed his fingers and ploughed the back of his hand.

The silk on which he had slept was warm. The very air was warm, filling his ancient, beautiful house. He wanted to tip his head back and drink the heat of the equatorial sun: he had missed it for too long. Perhaps that was why he felt so homesick, why he had been having such dreams so frequently, the past few weeks. With this cold

But he didn't want to think about it yet. Why, why did he always have to think?

He was sitting on the edge of the bed, letting his legs swing a few inches above a dark oak floor. Everything was so peaceful. It was relaxing, not to be angry anymore. To be happy, to be sad, without having to dread what other people might think. He still couldn't quite remember why his heart ached so much.

Surely it was normal…

The bed was swinging as well, now, at a soothing and steady rate. It seemed to encourage him to stand up completely. He wanted to see the view from his window. To lean on his elbows and watch, just for a minute, what had been his all his childhood long. Like a farewell he had never been able to bid three years ago, but now, perhaps…

He was standing in the half-light. His fingers closed around the crimson cloth of the curtains. That view…A burning hope made him shiver, slowing him down, almost paralysing him. Like he was afraid. But there was nothing to fear… The velvet felt heavy in his hand. It felt as though a complementary force was drawing it against the window, towards the void outside.

And why was it so dark all of a sudden?

Zuko turned his head. The room, cheerful and warm a moment ago, was now plunged in darkness. He could barely make out the twisted shapes of his furniture, hunched up in the corners, or the ghost of a canopy bed invading the centre of the room. The only source of light seemed to be the glowing eyes of the salamander, a small shadow coiled up in the dark a few feet away from him that had slid down the curtain to the floor and was looking at him intensely.

At first, Zuko didn't dare move. The animal remained silent: it was motionless aside from his slowly undulating tail, spiked with red scales, and the moving glow of his tiny golden eyes. A sardonic smirk was spreading over its mouth, gradually revealing two shiny fangs.

The young prince took an uneasy step towards the newcomer, looking desperately for an excuse that could justify his presence in the palace, when a high-pitched screeching, an awful roar of metal tearing metal to pieces, chilled his blood.

The creature was laughing.

"Be quiet!" he whispered hastily. "If someone finds me here…"

The uneasiness had turned into fright. Banished. Banished. He was not supposed to be in the Fire Nation. They could have him executed; his own family would sentence him to death if…

But the salamander's laugh was amplifying, like a shrill alarm bell; words without meaning were appearing among the noise and echoed against the marble walls.

Do you see lost paths…one hundred glass splinters…

Or have you forgotten…

Scattered foes…the word…

The prince wanted to shout at it to be quiet. He must not be seen here; he had no right to be here. However he couldn't hear his own voice among the high-pitched echoes of the beast, among the wild accusations he could not understand.

Or have you…scattered…the word…remains…

…Remains…

The creature seemed to be mocking him, with its slanted eyes glowing nefariously in the dark. The guards were going to hear them. Zuko tried to rush at it and shut it up, but he was too slow, too heavy. The salamander had already crept through the half-open door and was running away, snickering shrilly, like a drill against a stone wall. What if someone saw that thing…

The young prince was chasing after the red creature. His steps echoed dreadfully in corridors he had absolutely no right to go through. Everything was too bright, suddenly, shattered and dazzling like a maze of mirrors. The salamander's mocking laugh ricocheted off the walls. Someone was going to hear them. He didn't know where to head. He blindly followed the brief undulation of the lizard's tail, constantly disappearing, further and further into the labyrinth…

It remains…the blood on your face…

Will you try to wipe it day and night…

-Shut up… SHUT UP!

Expose the wound to lacerating eyes…?

I shall sense…

…the fear, the name…the tiredness…

…the anger and the line…

Lower and lower, he was sinking into the dark. The corridors were narrower now, sharp and tortuous, glowing red like the inside of his ship. He knew, nevertheless, that they were approaching the palace's very centre. His heart was pounding madly against his temples. He was shivering. He couldn't hear his own screams.

Keep running… If the beast reached the throne room and his father was told…

Suddenly there were no more meanders. He was running down one long metal passageway that led him to a crimson curtain. The fire emblem eaten by rust. The salamander wormed its way in, its triumphant laugh was resounding up to his very bones, too late, too late! He couldn't stop running. The velvet curtain whipped his face and he nearly fell as he entered the enormous hall, peering into the dark, and saw…

Had to scream.

To express the horror his stomach was churning with.

Run. Stay. WAKE UP…

A spasm, and his eyes shot open, finally dragging him out of his nightmare's turbid waters. He was sitting in the dark; he was cold. He was sweating and trembling. The dreadful vision was already evaporating from his mind, like fumes, leaving nothing but a vivid feeling of repulsion, of fright and of sick fascination in the pit of his stomach. Only one fragment lingered before vanishing as well, a high-pitched, chilling echo:

The sea is freezing; yet he keeps on sailing…

To the bottom of his soul… on this pretty long road…

He is heading North…and has no crew…