Peter Rabid: I love you! Hehe! It is a gorgeous song. Actually though, Sister Fatima is the name of another song by Don McLean, on his American Pie album. Thanks so much! I love hearing that I'm doing well, and I'm glad I've got you stumped. Thanks again for enjoying and reviewing!
Fireflower13: Quite possibly! grin, wink
A/N: Yes, it's late. And short. I'm so sorry! First I had an eye appointment, then I couldn't see because of the drops they put in my eyes… and then I had to struggle to get caught up in school, because writing this fic got me behind! It's worth it though. I'll be able to update a normal-sized chapter this weekend, promise! …assuming I get enough reviews, that is.
Zuko slept well in the strange world, much to his surprise when he woke up. The very walls seemed to emanate comfort, caressing him in a motherly fashion, which he thought rather ironic to the current situation. After he had woken peacefully, he fell into deep thought, thinking everything over: there were a lot of unanswered questions and he wasn't getting much closer. One thing, however, became quite clear to him the moment it came to mind: the beach his mother was on in the painting (or stained glass art, whatever) seemed to be Ember Island.
But somehow that didn't fit right. Surely he would have seen her when he was there; after all, he had been there with Azula, Mai and Ty Lee, and then again with the Avatar and co. Besides, why would she choose to hide in such an obvious place? It was a place that anyone would guess: it was well known that she loved it there.
He smiled at the thought of those summers they had spent on Ember Island, playing in the sand and water, and having a good time just being together. Him, Mom, Uncle, Lu Ten… the perfect family, he thought sadly. It hadn't lasted, but it was such a sweet time to remember. It made him feel happy and peaceful.
"Young Fire Lord," said Sister Fatima, seemingly coming out of nowhere. "We have found your friends." True to her word, Toph and Katara came from behind her (also out of thin air). Jumping up, Zuko ran forward and then stopped awkwardly a foot away. Rolling her eyes, Katara reached up and hugged him, and Toph leaned into the embrace soon after.
"So cute," a male voice said sarcastically, causing them all to look up. A very plain-looking man stood there; his was the kind of face that you forget as soon as you look away. "Can we get on with our business, please? We really haven't got all century."
"Yes, I suppose we ought to move on," Sister Fatima said. "But first: children, I would like to introduce you to Brother Finley. Brother Finley, this is Katara, Toph, and Fire Lord Zuko." He nodded curtly to each of them as their names were called, but he did not smile in greeting or show any emotion at all besides annoyance.
"We can move on now?" he asked impatiently.
"Yes," she said, frowning disapprovingly at him. "We shall continue on. Everyone, grab a pillow and sit down – I will answer as many questions as I can, and then you may be on your way." They all sat down in a slapdash way, Toph not bothering to get a pillow. "You may ask anything you like," Sister Fatima said, her sharp eyes watching each of them like a hawk.
"What is this place?" Katara asked immediately, her face lighting up with curiosity.
"This is a world apart from your own," she said. "There are many different worlds in the universe, children. Your world, The Spirit World, The Real World, and this one are just a few of the thousands – maybe millions – of worlds out there. This is The Remission World – we offer help to those in other worlds who need it the most. Generally, those who have done shiningly bright goodness and have received nothing in return; more often, the ones have may be going slightly mad. We right them when we can."
"How did we get here?" Katara persisted. "Could we have gotten here at any time?"
"This may be a long story," Sister Fatima said, frowning. "Very well. Your mother, Young Fire Lord, was in desperate need of our help: she was alone, she had given up everything to save you, she was scared and angry, and she was going slightly insane from the need to see you and your sister. We knew immediately that she was a deserving soul who needed our help most grievously. When she landed on Roku's Island, we were watching: we saw her come into the volcano and begin to paint on the wall. She poured her heart and soul into that painting, which is the spiritual connection we had been waiting for – we were keeping tabs on her for months, you see. We need spiritual connection from the person to an object we have access to in order to bring them here."
"But –" Zuko began, but Katara shushed him and nodded eagerly for Sister Fatima to continue.
"When we got her here, I spoke with her. She released all of her pent-up emotions and explained everything to me that she had been unable to tell anyone in her own world; she was here for many of your days (which is a rather long time in this world), for it took her a good deal of time to heal. I counseled her and gave her hope. When it was time for her to leave, I promised her that I would try to assist you if you were to make it this far, and to deter anyone that she wouldn't want following her clues."
"Could we speed things up?" Brother Finley asked, his voice monotonous. "This is boring, and I have better things to do."
"Shut up and be patient," the Sister replied snappishly. "Anyway, I promised to help her… I placed a long-term portal from that painting to here. It should have transported all of you right here, but obviously it didn't turn out very well in that respect; nonetheless, we managed to gather you all." She smiled softly as she looked around the group.
Thinking of his time wandering through the marble caves brought up a question from Zuko, who asked, "What was that orb that had the note in it?"
"Ah," she said, looking suddenly mischievous. "The note was hers, but the idea was mine. Few people in their right mind would jump into a dark trapdoor without proper incentive. I think of everything when I plan something – I have those things all over the place. But yes, I enchanted the orb so that you would hate it and want to destroy it… and I made sure the note was flame proof. Next question?"
There was silence throughout the room as they all poked around in their minds for something they might want to ask her.
"That reminds me," Sister Fatima said, "your mother left you a short letter if you were ever to arrive." Zuko looked up hopefully, his golden eyes lighting up like beacons. "Here it is," she said, pulling a piece of paper from her robe and holding it up for everyone to read.
我可以只希望你使它此远，我的儿子。 姐妹将帮助你，和她从这里一样多能。 小心地请听她的忠告。 我祈祷我们很快将团聚。
"Umm… what is that?" Zuko asked, tilting his head to the side.
The Sister turned the paper over to look at it, and then chuckled and said, "Ah, it must have switched languages when I entered The Real World last week. It's called English."
"Weird," Katara said, raising a skeptical eyebrow at it like she had done to Sokka many a time.
"Can people actually read that?" Zuko asked, frowning at it.
"You'd be surprised what people can achieve when they want to," Sister Fatima replied, smiling. "Mmm, there we go: all fixed."
I can only hope that you have made it this far. The Sister will help you as much as she can from here. Please listen carefully to her advice. I pray that we will be reunited soon.
Zuko smiled warmly at the note now that he could read it, his heart fluttering pleasantly. So close, he thought happily, not for the first time. I'm so close to being reunited with her… I can almost smell her. He had only a moment to think about how weird that sounded before the Sister began talking again.
"Now, very soon I shall send you all on your way… but first, are there any more questions?" The children thought for a few minutes, and then they shook their heads.
"Alright then," she said, looking around them. "I think it's about time to send you all on your way. I promised to help you, and help you I shall. I'll send you back inside of the volcano, and then you can head off from there… however, I believe that you might run into a spot of trouble before you reach your destination. I will assist you with that if I am able – what the danger is, I am not sure. But it should be quite a challenge." The children nodded gravely, for they knew what danger was.
"Oh, wait!" Zuko suddenly exclaimed, his eyes lighting up from behind his hair. "I have a question now."
"Alright, go ahead and ask," she replied patiently, nodding for him to continue.
"What does the 'T.M.' mean on the painting my mother drew?"
"Ah…" Sister Fatima said, closing her eyes for a moment. "Let me try to find out." She sat down and meditated, humming softly. Around her, a faint green glow glittered merrily. Her hair fluttered in a breeze felt only by her, and her face was that of one who has seen the world for what it is, in all aspects. After a while, she opened her eyes, frowning lightly. "A relative," she said finally. "The 'T.M.' in the painting stands for a relative of hers, and that is all I can discover through my magicks."
"A relative...? I can't think of any whose initials would be 'T.M.'"
"Well, you can think of that while you make your way toward your destination," Sister Fatima said firmly, standing up. "Come, it is time you go. I feel that the danger ahead is only growing stronger as we speak; hold hands, children, and step closer. I will take you back to the original source of the painting."
They all gathered, holding hands in a sort-of circle of three. Sister Fatima closed her eyes and chanted softly. The chanting grew louder and louder, until she was yelling it into the air, forcing the magick to do as she bid it. A sudden wind swept around then and Zuko instinctively cried out when he found that he could neither move nor open his eyes. He was just opening his mouth to yell when it all stopped. He flung his eyes open and then relaxed, startled to find that he and his friends were staring at a painting on the wall of a volcano.
I guess she really knows what she's doing, Zuko thought with a half-smile.