All characters belong to Nick/respective creators, you all know the deal
Prologue-100 years earlier
History is a funny thing…
Aang tiptoed along the hallways of the Temple. Reaching an intersection, he peaked around the corners.
Something seems so inevitable that even the gods struggle helplessly
Yesterday had been the worst day of his life. Not only had he found out he was the Avatar, but now the older monks wanted to send him away and he was supposed to fight a war. He wasn't ready for that.
And sometimes the tiniest movement can change everything
Aang froze as he turned his head to the table he had brushed. The sound was barely louder than a whisper, but to Aang it seemed to echo across the halls, alerting everyone to his presence. He looked around, expecting to be grabbed at any minute, before finally relaxing.
Aang bent down, picking up the fallen Pai Sho piece. After examining it for a moment, he put it in the pack he was carrying, and continued walking.
Finally, he arrived outside "C'mon Appa, it's time for us to leave" he said sadly.
And a single act of kindness can change the destiny of an entire people
"Are you so eager to go you can't even spare a good-bye for a poor old monk?"
"Gyatso!" Aang gasped, turning around with a look of surprise on his face. "What are you doing here?"
"I've long since grown used to the sound of fallen Pai Sho tiles, and the prospect of a game always wakes me up. When I got to my board I found one was gone."Gyatso walked closer to Aang, bending down to look him in the eyes. "Now tell me, why do you feel the need to leave in the middle of the night, and with such a storm brewing?"
Aang looked away from Gyatso's gaze. "Because the other monks are sending me away, I don't want to leave here!"
Gyatso laughed, seemingly unperturbed by Aang's worry. "So you're leaving anyways? My, how the young mind works."
"I'm not ready to be the avatar, I can't do it, I wish I had never been born the avatar!" Aang shouted, forgetting his earlier attempts to be quiet.
"Don't decry the gifts you are given. Now come here," Gyatso put his arm around Aang. "I know you're scared, and I know you're not ready, but running away won't solve it. Problems have a way of chasing people down."
Aang looked up at Gyatso, finally meeting his eyes. "So what should I do? I don't want to leave my friends and… I don't want to leave you."
"First, let me say that the western air temple is not some military base, whatever the other monks in this temple want it to be. It is run by the female Nuns there and I personally know them, and they are all very nice." Gyatso smiled slightly longer than strictly necessary before continuing.
"Secondly, I promise you will make new friends. You are one of the most sociable people I know, and I'm sure you'll be the talk of the temple with your wonderful airscooter. Finally, it is not forever. I will make sure you can visit the southern temple, and once you're fully grown, even the other monks will have no authority to tell you where you can and cannot go."
"But I'm still not ready to be the Avatar. I can't face the Fire Nation." Aang looked down at the floor, avoiding Gyatso's eyes once again.
"All the legends say the Avatar must face any threats to the balance, and that's true, but no one said you have to face them alone."
"You'll be with me?"
"I will support whatever action you take. I know you will make the right choice."
"And you'll visit?"
"At least once every season, and you can come visit us at least once a year."
Aang looked Gyatso straight in the eyes. "Promise?"
Gyatso raised his hand in the Air Nomad symbol of promise. "I Promise. Now you should go back to bed, it's late and you've got a big day tomorrow."
Aang and Gyatso began walking back to the temple "Hey Gyatso, here's your Pai Sho piece back."
Gyastso chuckled. "You can keep it Aang. I think you will find plenty of people to play with in the Western Air temple, and it's always good to have a Lotus Tile."
Avatar: The Last Firebender
Book 1: Water
Chapter 1: The Exiled Princess, part 1
The Fire Nation capital was burning. There was a certain irony in those words, but nevertheless it was true. The siege of the capital had finally ended with the airbenders finally pushing through in the dead of night. The Fire Lord was dead. Her brother and father were most likely captured or killed as well. As far as she knew, she was the last member of the royal family.
Which is why she had to escape, rather than stay and fight.
"You, halt!" Two airbenders approached her, raising their staves.
"No thanks" without breaking her stride Azula thrust out her hands and let loose twin streams of blue flame. Azula continued to run through the burning city, attempting to avoid the fights between the air nomads and the few remaining pockets of Fire Nation resistance.
"Over there! It's the Princess!" Azula cursed the air gliders as several airbenders swooped down and surrounded her.
"Give it up princess, there's nowhere to run- AGGH" the lead airbender screamed as a throwing knife imbedded itself in his hand, causing him to drop his staff.
Before the airbenders knew what was happening two figures dropped from the rooftops, the first flinging knifes and shuriken so fast that the airbenders were struck before they could bend, and the second seeming to dance around the blasts of air, paralyzing the airbenders with quick jabs.
"'Zula, I'm so glad to see you, I was worried you'd been taken." Ty Lee ran up to give the princess a hug.
"Nice to see you too, Ty Lee" said Azula as she pried her off.
"You have a plan?" Mai asked, and Azula would almost swear she heard worry underneath the deadpan.
"Escape the city, there's no point in staying here."
"That's a great plan Azula, I'm so glad you thought of it." If it had been anyone else Azula would have suspected that was sarcasm. If it had been Mai she would have known it was sarcasm, but given it was Ty Lee…
"Follow me." Azula turned and headed down one of the royal city's streets, to a row of houses, each one either abandoned or heavily locked, depending on the owners.
"Um Azula, isn't the harbor the other way?"
"Yes, now be quiet... here we go." Azula opened the door to one of the abandoned houses and motioned for the other two to follow.
"I assume this has a point?"
Azula ignored Mai's question, and continued though the house before stopping in front of a carpet with a phoenix on it. She dragged the carpet away and bent down. "Mai, hand me a knife." Grasping the proffered knife she slid the blade between a barely noticeable cut in the floor boards, using it to wedge open a hidden door.
"Ohhh a secret passage!" Ty Lee exclaimed, as they headed down the stairs, into an unlit tunnel.
Summoning blue flame from her hand to light the way, Azula began to explain. "It was originally supposed to be part of a larger system throughout the volcano, but the war was so expensive only a few could be built. This one will lead us all the way to harbor. Once we get there we can head to the boat prepared in case the fire lord needed to evacuate."
"But Azula, the Fire Lord isn't with us."
"Given the current state of affairs the Fire Lord is almost certainly dead, the ship's orders are to take any surviving member of the royal family, and I'm probably the only one."
"Zuko's dead?" Azula could definitely hear the note of worry in Mai's voice that time.
Azula shifted uncomfortably "Well…. Maybe not, he could have been captured as a hostage."
The rest of the trip passed in silence. "This tunnel ends at one of the smaller armories. Hopefully it hasn't been destroyed, but we need to be prepared. It's not far to the cave, so we shouldn't be out in the open too long." Azula informed them.
The armory was mercifully both intact and empty. Azula opened the door, and quickly looked around, "looks like the coast is clear. Follow me." The walk was nerve-racking. Several times they had to duck into a nearby building as the air gliders or the occasional bison flew overhead. By luck or some miracle of the spirits they managed to arrive at the cave without incident.
"Captain, I'm glad to see you're still at your post."
The captain bowed "Our duty is to stay for any member of the royal family. We would have remained even if the armies of the Air Empire had worn away this very cave." He tried to hide it, but the shock and relief in his voice at Azula's arrival was easy to hear.
"Captain!" Yelled a guard, pointing up at the silhouettes of several air bender gliders heading toward them, illuminated by the orange light of many fires.
"Dammit, looks like we're going to have to fight." Azula shifted into a firebending stance.
Mai turned around to face her. "No princess, we are. You aren't."
"You're the only surviving member of the royal family. You're far too valuable to let them take."
"What are you talking about? No one's going to get captured."
"You're a good liar, but it doesn't work when we can see the evidence in front of our faces. There are at least thirty of them, and even if we won they would know you were here."
"You have no right to give me orders, and ARGHHH" Azula felt a sharp pain in her side followed by numbness.
"Sorry 'Zula…" Ty Lee apologized.
"Get her to the ship; we'll keep them away from the cave." Mai ordered as she and Ty Lee leapt away.
The crew bent to pick Azula up as she screamed "GET YOUR HANDS OF ME, and get back here you two, GET BACK HERE-!"
The bunk she was laid in was empty, the door open, and the Princess was gone.
The search was swift and efficient. The launches and lifeboats were all intact and in place, which was the first worry. There were no... surprises in the weapons locker. The helmsmen had not seen her at all.
She was found at the rail. No tears or emotion on her face as she looked to the horizon.
"Zhao's fleet was last reported in Southern waters," she said without preamble. "We should intercept them, then make for the Northern Water Tribe with all due speed. Set a course."
"Princess, I am sorry for your l-"
"Set. A. Course."
The railing's molten steel oozed between her fingers, and white hot drops splattered on the deck.
"Yes, your highness."
Ever since the first day Azula had had almost no contact with either the Captain or the crew. Which is not to say she locked herself in her room, rather the opposite, as she only went in only to eat her meals and get a few hours of sleep.
The rest of the time was either spent looking out to sea or performing firebending katas.
So while the crew was around her the entire time, there was little real contact, and neither side seemed inclined to change that.
It therefore fell upon the Captain to attempt to establish some contact, as unclear orders from your superiors had been the death of far wiser men than him.
Azula didn't bother to turn around, still looking out to sea. "What is it Captain?"
"About our instructions…"
"Are you questioning my orders captain?" Azula turned around, now giving the captain her full attention; it rather reminded him of the way a tiger-hawk had looked at him when he visited the circus.
"No your highness! I just wanted to know more about them…"
"You mean why we're headed to the Northern Water Tribe rather than one of the outposts in the Fire Nation?
"Or why we are headed to Zhao's fleet in the South first, rather than heading directly North?"
Not waiting for an answer, Azula turned around and dismissively waved her hand. "Very well, to answer your first question; heading to the hidden bases is exactly what the Air Nomads would expect of us. With so much of the nobility and army captured I can't be sure which bases are secure."
"On the other hand, though they will be able to find us once we are in the North, they won't be able to simply attack, and if they do it will bring the northern water tribe into the war, either way I can't lose. Secondly Zhao needs to be warned about the loss of the capital, and messenger hawks are too risky. His fleet is now the largest military force the Fire Nation has, and we can't have him wandering at sea waiting for orders that will never come."
"I see, Princess."
It was another five days before Zhao's fleet was sighted.
"Captain! Zhao's fleet off the starboard bow!"
"Excellent, give me a moment to signal them" Azula interjected, sending a blast of blue fire straight upwards.
"They're turning around!"
The Rising Sun was the flagship of Zhao's navy, and the pride of the Fire Nation. Nearly twice as high as most fire nation ships - absolutely dwarfing Azula's craft - it was a floating fortress.
Zhao leaned over the deck of his ship "Azula, good to see you, but may I ask what you are doing here?"
"Not right now. We need to talk, in private."
"Come aboard then," Zhao replied as a rope ladder was quickly lowered.
Once they were in the cabin Azula covered what had happened.
"The capital… has fallen?"
"I know, it sounds almost impossible, but I was there. At this point we need to head to the Northern Water Tribes. They're the only safe port we have."
"Yes the Northern Water Tribes… I see."
"CAWWW" a messenger hawk flew in, carrying a small scroll. Zhao quickly snatched it.
"What is that?"
"Nothing, your highness. It's just a standard report from part of the fleet."
"I thought the fleet was all right here."
"I had a few scouts on patrol."
"Let me see the scroll."
"NO, I…" Zhao moved his hand to prevent Azula from grabbing the scroll, accidentally revealing the seal as he did so.
"That's…. the southern air temple's seal."
"Princess I assure you…. it's not…."
"You're working with them! You're working with the Avatar!"
Zhao's voice abruptly became cold. "Yes, yes I am, and why shouldn't I? I know which side is going to win, and I no longer serve you. Now I suggest you surrender quietly." Zhao's bodyguards moved to cover the door while he spoke.
"This entire ship is full of traitors…. I have only one thing to say to you Zhao."
"You should have paid more attention to your old teacher." With that Azula unleashed a circle of blue flames around herself, burning Zhao's guards and knocking him back.
"Ugh…" Zhao hurried to pull himself up, looking around to find his room trashed and the door blown open "GET HER!"
Azula sprinted across the deck, outrunning most of the crew before they had a chance to react. A few firebenders launched blasts at her, but they were met with Azula's blue flames.
Two sailors attempted to capture her with a weighted net, only to find a net designed for airbenders was ill suited for surviving a blast of fire. With only ten feet to go two guards blocked the way, pikes facing forward. Jumping up and kicking out Azula unleashed twin blasts of fire from her feet, hitting the guards in the head.
While the helmets protected them from the majority of the blast, the distraction was enough for Azula to grab one of the pikes. Sweeping the other guard off his feet with the pike she ran to the edge and used the pike to pole-vault over the railing.
"PRINCESS! What are you doing here!" The Captain exclaimed.
"Zhao's turned traitor, no time to talk, get us out of here!"
"Why not? This is supposed to be the fastest ship the Fire Nation has."
"It is, but the boilers have been turned off while we waited for Zhao's fleet to meet with us. By the time we could reheat them Zhao's men could have netted the entire ship!"
"Not a problem!" Azula shouted as she raced to the lower decks.
"Dammit, ATTENTION ALL HANDS, PREPARE TO SAIL, FIRE BENDERS GET UP HERE AND PREPARE TO BE BOARDED! You! Burn the ladders."
Bursting into each of the boiler rooms Azula sent a giant stream of blue flame into the boilers.
"You two, keep that boiler running as if your lives depend on it." Azula shouted as she ran back to the deck.
The Captain sighed as the ship lurched forward. The battle had actually been going rather well. With the enemy's ropes constantly being burned anyone boarding faced a nasty drop and was quickly dispatched.
"Princess! Which way do you want us to go?"
"I don't care, whichever way you think we can get out! Tell your firebenders to watch for incoming nets."
"What about the catapults?"
"Learn to duck."
The ship began to move as quickly as possible from Zhao's flagship while avoiding the surrounding ships. Nets and catapult fire reigned down, with Azula burning through the nets, and most of the catapult fire narrowly missing the ship, or at least not landing a direct hit.
"Captain, up ahead!" Two of Zhao's ships were moving in front of them.
"What are they doing, do they want to get rammed?" one of the firebenders yelled.
"That's exactly what they want! They're big enough they have time to be evacuated, and we'll be stuck, dammit we don't have time to turn!"
"Head to the left ship!" Azula ordered as she fell into a stance never seen by the crew.
To his credit, the captain began steering rather than question her orders.
"Sir, something's coming from the Princess's ship!"
"What?" The Fire Nation captain turned to look, only to be struck by lightning arcing through the ship. He slumped over the steering wheel, turning it as he fell to the ground.
The ship had been running full steam all day, and while it had been hours since Zhao's fleet had been in sight, the Captain had no doubt it was still pursuing them.
"What is it, Captain?"
"We may have a bit of a problem…"
"Of course we do." Azula sighed "What now?"
"When fleeing Zhao's fleet I took the quickest route out of the fleet, however that has us heading south."
"Annnnnd…." Azula's voice dripped with impatience.
"Zhao's fleet is large enough to simply blockade us and move in."
"He can't cover the entire Southern Pole."
"Yes, but we'd have to go into the icy waters of the pole itself to get around the blockade, and the icebergs are far too dangerous."
Azula turned around; her smile setting off every survival instinct the Captain had developed serving the royal family. "You say the icebergs are too dangerous, are the icebergs actively chasing us?"
" No, Princess. "
"Do the icebergs have flaming catapults to fire at us?"
"Well maybe we should head to someplace where we might die. Instead of waiting around for Zhao, who already seems to have made up his mind."
"…. Yes, Princess. Men, cut power down to one-fourth speed; we're heading to the South Pole."
A few hours later Azula was seriously reconsidering her earlier decision.
"What do you mean we're stuck?!"
The captain hesitated, before deciding that facing the storm head on was probably the quickest and least painful solution. "We've become entrapped in the ice, and even if we melt it out I don't think we can turn around."
Azula looked ready to begin tossing flame, but turned around and began to stare out in the distance.
"I said Telescopes. Get as many as you can, and begin looking for smoke or any signs of Southern Water Tribe villages. I've seen the water benders of the north manipulate ice as easily as firebenders can control fire. If we can find one, we may be able to get out of this mess."
"So it's my fault?"
"I knew I should have left you at home. Leave it to a girl to screw things up."
Katara stood up "You are the most sexist, immature, nut brained… I'm embarrassed to be related to you!" As she raged the sea behind her rose and fell with every word, and one of the icebergs began to crack.
Finally taking notice, Sokka began looking around for the source of the cracking ice.
"Ever since mom died I've been doing all the work around here while you've been off playing soldier!"
"Ah Katara," Sokka pointed behind her.
"I even wash all the clothes. Have you ever smelled your dirty socks? Let me tell you, NOT PLEASANT!"
"Katara settle down!"
"No that's it, I'm done helping you! From now on you're on your own!" At the final word a wave washed over the iceberg.
The iceberg split apart, creating a wave that nearly turned over the ice the siblings were on.
"Okay, you've gone from weird, to freakish Katara."
"You mean I did that?"
Azula grinned, turning her telescope from the broken iceberg to the two distant figures. "Captain, I believe something is finally going right for us."
End chapter 1
Thanks to the Soap Operus Board for helping with storyline and conception.
Special thanks to posters chuckg and heretic.
Heretic wrote the "set a course" scene used with permission
Special thanks to my Beta reader, Avocadolove/Voodooweasel, whose patience and thoughtful comments are infinitely appreciated, and without whom this story would probably be barely readable.
Further editing by Ghoul King.