I didn't intend to write this, but Avocado love and Authorofthedark pressed so nicely, that I had to try and please them. Hope you enjoy it, not sure if I'll do more, but it's a gift for you both for any holiday you guys celebrate. So, what happened to our favorite princess? You are about to find out!

Into the Fire

Come on, come on
Put your hands into the fire
Explain, explain
As I turn and meet the power


by 13 Senses

As she walked down the road, carrying a basket of wheat from the market, Azula had this overwhelming feeling of despair. Not only was the basket especially heavy today, but Azula shouldn't have been forced to drudge about.

No one would believe it, if they looked at her, but she had once been a princess. She remembered a palace with gold floors and servants in richly clad uniforms leaping to do her bidding. She remembered wearing a crown and watching people kneel before her. She remembered being a prodigy with a bright future.

Remembering those things made her angry. It had been six years since the day she and Mom had been packed off to a horrible island estate, with only three servants. There was no more fire bending lessons. There was no more nice clothing. And worst of all, she wasn't a royal princess anymore.

She didn't even look like one. Azula no longer wore a royal top knot but wore her down in boring braids like any village girl. Her nails weren't perfectly manicured, but roughened and cracked. Her tunic had plenty of stains on it and Mother said money for a new one would have to wait. "At least we'll be getting a letter from Zuko soon."

Azula grimaced at the name of her hated brother. While she slaved away as a laundry girl, her brother was the crown prince of the nation. Uncle had adopted him and now Zuko would be the future Fire Lord, while she would be cleaning the floors till she was gray and old. She, who had been quicker and smarter than him, reduced to being a peasant girl. There was no justice.

Reading his letters was the worst torture. I have conquered…Uncle has said I am a master…he would blather on, talking about honors that should have been hers. She had almost forgotten how to bend by now, fire needed constant practice and repeating the sets she had learned as a child wouldn't help if Zuko was being trained by the best.

So this would be her life. Trudging up and down the same roads, eating the same food and washing clothing for the same people. She would never command an army, she would never destroy her enemies, she would die some servant, forgotten by everyone. She, the direct descendant of Sozin himself.

Worst of all, today was her twelfth Zu-Zu's birthday, Uncle had showered that unworthy idiot with presents and a seven day party. Azula would be lucky if she got a nice cake. Her mother had no money for much more.

"Zula, you still haven't cleaned out the stables," Yoon called from down the window as Azula walked back into the house. "And next time, you should wash the silks more carefully. My husband is leaving in the morning for the Capital and he must look his best."

Yoon was the wife of Captain Zhao and the wealthiest woman in town. Grandfather had refused to send money to them and instead of demanding support from his royal tea loving kookiness, Mum had decided they would work for their keep and become serving women. "We are strong women, Azula. We don't need anyone's support." Mother had refused to even mention they were royalty. So instead, they were drudges, going by Ussa and Zula.

"Yes Madam," Azula called back. She wanted to shout back curses, but then they would have no money at all.

"There you are, my love," Mom said, looking up from her mending as Azula entered the back rooms of the house. Having Mom all to herself had been nice for a while. Without Zuko around, there was no competition for her attention. They had been talking a lot more and if they hadn't been living in abject squalor, life would have been good. "I need some help with some of the heavy loads."

Today was the day that she was going to finally know the truth. "Mom, can you be honest with me?" she asked, grabbing the soap from the shelf. "I want to know something."

"Of course, dear. It's your birthday," Mom said, as she began tossing Yoon's dirty clothing into the buckets.

"What happened?" Azula whispered. 'Why did everything change? I'm twelve years old, I deserve to know. And if you keep it from me, I will run away and find out he truth myself. Then it will hurt me. But you will be able to break it to me so it doesn't hurt. So you are all I have for the truth." It was open manipulation and she knew it.

Mom's jaw tightened. "Your father died and Grandfather said seeing us made him sad. He sent Zuko to live with Uncle Iroh and you with me here. I've told you this a hundred times." The hands holding the laundry was shaking. "And don't you dare tell me you'll run away. You're a poor girl with no money. You don't have ships at your command. You leave and you will have no food or place to stay."

"So instead, I get to live like a slave for the rest of my life, or until Grandpa croaks and Zuko can order us to return home so we can bask in his power and wait for coins to dribble from his fingers?" Azula demanded, as she heated the water with her bending. It was the only trick she still could perform.

"That is the decree. You have to accept it," Mom said coldly. "So let's hear no more of this." She turned away and began gently separating the colored silks.

Azula gritted her teeth. "There must be more. Look at us, mother. You're the mother of the Future Fire Lord and we're cleaning a captain's underwear. What happened? Father killed himself rather than kill Zuko, I get that. But why am I being punished?" she demanded.

"Not another word, young lady, or you'll go without dinner." And that would have been the end of the matter, if Azula hadn't been so serious about finding the answers, one way or another.

It hadn't been hard to leave the Island. Zhao's ship had barely noticed a single small girl sitting in the cargo hold, only coming out at night to steal food. It had been boring and smelly, but it had not been difficult. That was the most important thing.

It had been ever easier to get caught as soon as they had reached the capital. Knocking over the lantern had gotten the crew's attention to her, which had gotten her arrested. "And who are you?"

"My name is Azula. Son of Princess Ursa and Prince Ozai. Princess of the Fire Nation and heir to the throne," she said primly, taking out the royal medallion she had stolen from her mother, the last symbol of their identity. "Take me to my grandfather."

Azula remembered the Fire nation palace very well. She remembered every single tapestry, every carpet, every single servant's face. Little had changed since this had once been her home. And soon, it would be again.

Walking into the inner chamber had been thrilling. "Grandfather, I have returned home," Azula said, falling to her knees. Surely, he would forgive and love his prodigy granddaughter, his namesake. She could feel the familiar cool tiled floors beneath her forehead. It was like being home again.

"How dare you come here?" a creaky voice demanded. Azula looked up to see her grandfather, aged horribly but still looking as terrifying as ever.

"But you're my family," Azula whispered. Blood was stronger than anything and she was the blood of the dragon.

"You and your mother were banished. By coming here, you forfeit your life," Grandfather thundered. "I said I never wanted to see your faces again."

That wasn't true, Azula knew her mother would never do that, but if he believed it, she would play along. "My mother sinned. I was an innocent victim. I demand the chance to prove myself. I'm still your granddaughter. I am your name sake. You must still feel affection for me." Azula stood her ground. As long as she could still argue, she could not be executed. She had to be brave.

"How dare you?" Grandfather thundered. "You are as impertinent as you are foolish. You are a child, you have no business demanding anything." Still, he hadn't' ordered the guards to take her away.

"I'm twelve years old, Grandfather. I'm strong. Give me a chance to prove myself worthy," Azula whispered, pressing her forehead into the floor. "For my father's sake."

There was a long pause. Azula's heart beat in her ears. Either he would kill her or she would have a chance. "You are my granddaughter. My second born's second born. So I must temper justice with mercy," Grandfather finally said.

"I am your majesty's most humble servant," Azula whispered. She had done it, she would her honor back. She would have her people's love. She would have everything she ever wanted.

"You will seek the Avatar. When you return with such a prize, you will be reinstated as Princess of the Fire nation," Grandfather said. "If you are the prodigy you once wore, you will not fail me. Do not return to this nation without him."

"Thank you, Grandfather. Thank you," Azula whispered. A most appropriate mission, the task of all princes of the throne. She had won her freedom. She would win back her mother's place as a princess.

And then, Zuko would be in rightful places in the shadow.

It was two years later, when Azula finally admitted to herself the truth. This was no imperial cruiser, she was on some rickety ship with a poor crew and few supplies. She had lost the last member of her family and would never see her again. She missed her terribly and could do nothing to help her.

This was a wild turtle-duck chase, since there had been no sign of the Avatar.

"You were born lucky. He was lucky to be born," her father used to say. Not anymore, the former princess thought.

As she sailed through the world, missing her mother, losing hope, Azula was haunted by one more thought. Zuko had won again.

"Set sail to the South pole. Perhaps we can plunder some defenseless villagers for supplies," Azula commanded, still commanding what she could.

AN-I figure Ursa wouldn't beg and therefore, would find work and try and hide her identity to spare herself the pain. And Azulon is so mean, no? So which characters do you want to see next?