Disclaimer: I own no part of Avatar.

Author's Note: Here is Avatar Book 4: Air. I updated a lot of the content in here from the original story. Look for improved dialogue, new scenes, etc.

So sit back, and enjoy the beginning of the fourth season of Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Avatar Book 4: Air

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Chapter 1: New Beginnings

***

Boiling Rock – Night

Boris the guard sighed. He was bored. Nothing exciting ever happened here at Boiling Rock – well, unless you count the breakout a few months back. Boris had not been on duty at that time, so he had seen no action. His shift was the graveyard shift in the maximum security wing, along with about ten other guards. He was forced to stand guard all night long. His feet ached, and his stomach growled. For the past few hours, he had taken to counting the number of waves he could hear of the nearby lake lapping up on the shore. Yup, this was what his life had amounted to – counting waves.

***

If Boris had been paying attention instead of amusing himself with the waves, he probably would have noticed several dark, shadowy figures cloaked in black darting through the shadows. There were only a handful of them, maybe five or six. The figures, quickly, but stealthily, moved through the countless corridors of the prison. While Boris was enjoying his waves, one of the guards nudged him.

"Did you just see that?"

Boris was shaken out of his stupor. He looked towards where the other guard had pointed. Several of the other guards had taken notice by now. Boris just shrugged. His comrade headed towards the corner that he had seen the shape dart around.

"I'm gonna go check it out," he said.

Boris nodded. "You do that."

The man turned the corridor, while Boris waited anxiously. Maybe, just maybe, something interesting might happen. He doubted it. But still, one can hope right? Boris and the other guards waited. And waited. The rest of the guards began to head around the corner to see what was taking so long.

"Stay here," they told Boris.

So the rest of the guards went to investigate where the other one had gone. So Boris was now completely alone. He waited. And he waited.

Now Boris was no coward by any definition of the word. But as he stood there, waiting for what seemed like an eternity for his friends to come back from investigating an unseen threat, he began to feel an unsettling sense of dread. Suddenly he heard a soft pitter-patter. He whirled around.

"Who's there?" No response.

"It was only the wind," he told himself. "Only the wind." Somehow he wasn't doing a good job of convincing himself.

Suddenly, a dark figure dropped from behind him. Boris never sensed it coming. In an instant the figure had slit his throat with a knife, and Boris crumpled to the ground in a heap. The figure put his knife away, and turned as several other dark figures came around the corner, having done away with the other guards.

The figure who had killed Boris pointed down one end of the corridor and three of the figures hurried that way. The lead figure then turned and headed down the other end, with the rest of his comrades in tow. They came to the end and found a large, metal door. In the door was a window. Looking through the window, the lead figure could see a barred cell.

In the barred cell, sitting ragged and weakened, was former Fire Lord Ozai.

Southern Water Tribe – Morning

Katara awoke with a start. She was in her tent back home. The memories of the past year swept through her mind. She looked around her tent, and enjoyed these few minutes of peace. Peace. It had seemed like an eternity since she had felt really at peace.

A year ago, the world was at war. The Fire Nation had been waging a campaign of complete conquest for the past 100 years, and up until just a year ago, they had been all but invincible. A year ago was when she had met him. The boy in the iceberg. Aang, the Avatar. The Last Airbender. The world's last hope. Along with her goofball brother, Sokka, a blind Earthbender named Toph, and their former enemy turned friend, Prince Zuko, Aang had been able to defeat Fire Lord Ozai. Zuko, Ozai's son, who had been their arch nemesis during the war, redeemed himself by teaching Aang Firebending, and by defeating his evil sister, Azula. Aang had stripped Ozai of his Firebending and he and Azula were placed in maximum security prisons at the Boiling Rock. Zuko had taken his place as the new Fire Lord.

Katara quickly got dressed and hurried out of her tent, looking for Aang. After the war, the two had become engaged to be married. It was a bit of a shock to both her father, Chief Hakoda and Sokka, but who were they to complain? Hakoda had married Katara's mother when she was her age, and Sokka was off living with his new girlfriend, Suki at Kyoshi Island.

Not surprisingly, Aang was playing with the children of the Tribe. He was busy showing off some impressive Airbending skills. When Katara approached, the two kissed, eliciting many "eeeews" from the children.

"Your father wants to see you," Aang said.

Katara frowned. "If he wants to grumble about our engagement again - ."

Aang cut her off. "Well, I have been thinking. If your father is uncomfortable with the marriage, maybe we should put it off for a while."

Katara rounded on him. "WHAT?"

Aang backed down. "On second thought, the wedding's fine as is." Fighting vicious Fire Benders and saving the world from annihilation seemed like a stroll in the park compared to the terror his future wife could unleash. As Aang continued his Airbending demonstrations, Katara headed for her father's tent.

As Katara entered the tent, she almost bowled over poor little Gran Gran, and her new husband, Master Pakku. She was carrying out a bowl of half eaten soup.

"It seems your father has caught a nasty bug," Gran Gran explained. "He was standing guard all last night in the cold." She shook her head. "That man is going to wear himself thin!"

"Why does he still do that," Katara wondered. "I mean, the war's over! It's not like the Fire Nation's going to be sending any more raids. Things are peaceful now!"

Pakku regarded her with a frown. "There's no such thing as true peace. There will always be threats to our way of life. That's why your father's visiting the Fire Nation again later this week."

After the war, Chief Hakoda had been made an ambassador for the Northern Water Tribe. Katara knew that her father would be a busy man now, but she just wasn't expecting him to leave them again so soon.

"This week?! But the war's just ended! We all just came home. Why can't he just -."

"The affairs of the world far outweigh your trivial family matters," Pakku snapped.

Katara felt a vein pulse in her forehead. "Trivial?"

Sensing her granddaughter was on the brink of a meltdown, Kanna moved quickly to ameliorate the conversation. "Well, your father's not going anywhere, now is he? Like I said, he's fallen ill." Her face brightened as she had a sudden memory. "Oh, it reminds me of the old days when he was just a little boy, and I used to care for him." She put her arm around Pakku. "But now I get to care for this old goat!"

Pakku blinked, annoyed.

Bowing respectfully to her grandmother and new grandfather, the young woman shifted aside the flap to a particularly large tent. As Katara entered the room, she saw her father heaving into a makeshift barf bag. He lay back down in his bed, his head covered in sweat.

"How you feeling, dad," she asked.

"Miserable. My temperature's at an all time high and I can't keep any food down." He looked at her. "I need you to do something for me."

She nodded, dabbing his sweating forehead with a warm cloth and he continued on. "I'm scheduled to go to the Fire Nation later this week. Important meeting … but I'm just too sick to go."

Katara wrung the cloth out of water, before she motioned for him to go on.

He took a deep breath; just talking was a labor for him. "Would you and Aang … would you two go to the Fire Nation in my place?"

Katara brightened at the news. She and Aang would get to see Zuko and all of their friends back in the Fire Nation.

She put on as adult a tone as she could muster. "Of course, dad."

"And please, don't do anything to make the Water Tribe look bad."

She shrugged. "Don't worry, I'll have Aang with me!"

As she left, he muttered to himself.

"That's what I'm afraid of…"

***

Fire Nation Palace – Afternoon

The war room was packed full of representatives and dignitaries. They had come to discuss the full terms of the Fire Nation's surrender. The new Fire Lord had had very few requests. All he asked was for the Earth Kingdom to free their prisoners of war and to reopen it's old trade routes.

Unlike the Fire Nation, the Earth Kingdom had many requests.

Fire Lord Zuko sat at the head of a long table, surrounded by generals and other officials. War Minister Qin sat at his side. At the other end were Earth Kingdom dignitaries and war leaders.

General How leaned forward, pushing several pieces of parchment towards the Fire Lord. "Here are our demands."

Zuko took the paper, and thumbed through it. He nodded his head in agreement at first, but then finally his eyes widened and his mouth hung agape. He looked up at the Earth Kingdom representatives.

"These demands are ridiculous! I mean, I can see returning your conquered territories … and releasing all your POWs. But … you are not going to divide up my nation. Out of the question!"

How smirked. "Fire Lord, all we ask for are several of the Fire Nation's outlying islands. Ember Island and a few others. It's a small price to pay for peace, wouldn't you agree? Especially considering all the bloodshed your kingdom is responsible for."

Zuko tightened his fists. "The amount of land given to each nation was partitioned out long ago … before even the Avatar existed! You can't come here and expect to chop away pieces of our nation!"

The General snorted. "Oh, but when your nation was winning, it was okay for you to conquer and divide our lands, is that it?!"

"I had nothing to do with that," Zuko replied. "That was my father…"

Another Earth Kingdom official leaned back in his chair. "The apple never falls far from the tree!"

How nodded. "I must agree, with all due respect, Fire Lord. So far, you haven't done anything to show us that you're any different from Fire Lord Ozai."

"I ended this war!"

"No, the Avatar ended this war. With the decimation of your forces over the Wu Long forest, and the defeat of your father, you had no choice but to surrender!"

"I helped the Avatar! I gave him the skills he needed to stop my father!"

"Yes, but that was at the very end, Fire Lord. Wasn't it you yourself that hunted him down for three long years?"

Zuko looked down at the table. He was ashamed of himself, of how he used to be.

"You were nothing but a banished prince," How continued on. He was enjoying this, watching the Fire Lord squirm. After everything his nation put his people through, this was the least amount of satisfaction he could receive. "And you wanted to destroy the Avatar, for no other purpose but to restore your 'honor.' And you still carry the mark of your humiliation …"

Zuko gently touched his scarred eye, before standing up. He was fuming. Every fiber of his being wanted to teach this man a lesson, but he had to restrain himself. It wouldn't look good if the Fire Lord went nuts on an Earth Kingdom general.

He tossed the piece of parchment towards the general. "The Fire Nation agrees with your terms on pages one through three – but everything after that is out of the question!" He bowed as respectfully as he could, before he stormed out of the room, his generals and war ministers following.

How looked at the parchment and crumpled it.

That boy has a fiery passion; I'll give him that…

***

Zuko stood on a balcony with his girlfriend Mai. He was tired. Hour after hour of signing treaties and laws, discussing plans with his generals, making public speeches. And that was only half of it. He had to deal with the intense hatred the other nations had towards the Fire Nation. So far, several convoys of Fire Nation troops returning home had been ambushed by Earth Kingdom soldiers. It seemed that the rest of the nations had it in for them. Of course, who could blame them? His people almost wiped the rest of the nations off the map.

But come on! How could they expect him to just give away pieces of his nation?

Zuko was in an awful dilemma. He could appease the Earth Kingdom with its heavy reparations and look like a weak leader. Already public opinion was against him.

Added to that was the fact that several Fire Nation generals had formed an underground resistance to his rule. They called themselves the "Brotherhood of Ozai." He sighed. Some people just couldn't fathom the fact that Ozai's reign was over.

Mai rubbed his shoulder gently. "You're so tense…"

"You have no idea what I'm going through. Who knew that being ruler of a nation would be so exhausting?!"

"What did you thin? That it would be a cakewalk?"

"No, it's just … I never thought the other nations would harbor such … venom towards us. I don't understand! Why don't they trust me? I helped the Avatar save the world! I-."

"Oh, shut up," Mai scolded. "I'm fed up with your crying! I didn't come up here to listen to your griping. I came here to have a date with my boyfriend, not a whiny little kid! For Agni's sake …"

Zuko smiled. Mai was always so blunt and callous. That's what he loved about her. "You know, you're really pretty when you trample over someone's emotions!"

Mai raised an eyebrow, then playfully shoved him. "Shut up, Fire Lord!" The two leaned forward to share a kiss.

They were interrupted when a general rushed up to them.

Great, Zuko thought. The one hour a day I get to spend with my girlfriend! What do I have to sign now?

"Urgent news from Boiling Rock sir," the soldier announced. Zuko noticed he was sweating.

"What's going on," Zuko asked. He seems really on edge.

"A breakout! Your father and sister have escaped!"

***

Hidden Lair – Night

Former Fire Lord Ozai was led in cuffs down a torched hallway by several men dressed from head to toe in black. They lead him to a massive doorway, which parted open at their touch.

Inside was a large chamber, illuminated with red torches, giving the room an eerie blood red glow. At the end of the chamber, seated on a throne of rock, sat a figure. Like the other figures in the room, he was dressed all in black; however, his clothes seemed far more elaborate, embroidered with black fur. He had a hood raised over his head, concealing his face.

Ozai breathed in deep. "Shin Xao."

The hooded figure leaned forward. "Fire Lord Ozai. It has been a while my friend. However, it appears that time has not been kind to you, now has it? Stripped of everything – your kingdom, your powers, and your honor. How ironic. You banish your son and strip him of everything, and now you are in his exact situation."

Ozai's face turned blood red. "How dare you?! You know very well that …"

"SILENCE!" Shin Xao's booming voice echoed throughout the room. Ozai flinched as though he had a whip cracked at him.

Shin Xao continued. "I gave you a simple task, and you screwed it all up. You are a failure, like your father and grandfather before you. Not one of you could complete the simplest of all errands! I gave you everything you needed. I gave you money, I enhanced your soldier's Firebending abilities. I built your family an invincible army with which you could conquer the world. And all I asked for in return was that you bring me the Avatar. A simple job that three generations of your family failed to accomplish!"

"It was not a simple job," Ozai retorted. "The Avatar disappeared from the Air Temples! Our men scoured the entire area – even the entire world! For a hundred years, he was gone from all existence! Nobody, no matter how skilled, could have found him!"

"And yet he, a mere child, brought down the greatest nation of earth. Your were defeated by a child Ozai. You – one of the most powerful Firebenders in history."

"He may have only been a child but…"

"No. I've had enough of your excuses. You have failed me for the last time. And you know the penalty for failure…"

"Wait! What about the plan," Ozai protested. His voice was desperate. He knew that psychopath too well to know what failure meant. "You need me for the plan!"

"Needed you," Shin Xao said simply. "However, you have proven yourself inept and therefore, unsuitable for my purposes. However, your daughter shows promise. She can easily replace you." Shin Xao raised his hand and several of the dark figures grabbed Ozai.

"You can't do this," Ozai shouted. "I am the Phoenix King! I am .." One of the figures placed a gag in Ozai's mouth and prepared to lead him away. The former Fire Lord struggled in their grasp, wrenching his arms out. Even though he lost his Firebending, he was still a formidable warrior, easily snatching a broadsword from one of his captors. With a quick attack, one of his captors was dead in an instant.

Other black clad warriors began surrounding him. Shin Xao raised his hand, and they backed down. The hooded figure rose from his throne and casually strolled towards the Fire Lord. "You think you're deserving of another chance?"

Ozai watched the approaching man, the broadsword raised in his hand. He pulled the gag from his mouth. "I'm sure as hell not gonna let you do away with me, that's for sure! I'm getting out of here – and I'm taking back my throne!"

Shin Xao cocked his shrouded head, before he snapped his fingers, and more black warriors appeared out of the shadows. Ozai moved to defend himself, bringing down two more warriors.

He was outnumbered. They swarmed him like a flood, grabbing his arms and legs, restricting him from movement. Ozai didn't give up. He continued struggling, but more black clad warriors grabbed him, finally restraining him.

Ozai looked over at Shin Xao. If he could see his face, he was sure the man would be smiling.

Then the hooded man reached over and retrieved a jagged spear from one of his men. He wafted over to the former Fire Lord, and stood until they were practically face to face. "The Fire Nation used to revere the phoenix," Shin Xao said, idly. "It was worshiped as a sun god – along with the ancient dragons. It was revered for its ability to revive after death – just as the sun rises after it sets."

Ozai continued struggling.

Shin Xao's voice took on a deadly edge. "A funny thing about the sun …" He forced Ozai to look at him with his hand. "The sun will eventually burn out, never to rise again."

The Phoenix King let out a gasp as his stomach was punctured with Shin Xao's spear. He stood there, held up by Shin Xao's guards, blood leaking from the hole in his stomach. His vision swam … and the Phoenix King breathed his last.

Shin Xao headed back towards his throne. "Dispose of the body." His men carried the limp form of the now dead Ozai out of the room.

The dark maniac sat there, contemplating for a moment. He raised his hand again, and his men brought in a young girl. She was screeching and hissing, struggling like her father before her. Azula had become almost feral in her time in prison. Her clothes were ragged, her hair unkempt, her face covered in dirt and grime. She regarded Shin Xao with a fierce look, teeth bared like a wild animal.

"Azula, daughter of Phoenix King Ozai and the rightful heir to the Fire Nation throne," Shin Xao said sweetly.

"Get to the point," Azula snarled, and spit flecked out of her mouth. "What do you want with me and my father?"

"Why, I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this," said Shin Xao. His lie was simple, but it would win the girl over to his cause. "Your father is dead. We tried to get him here from prison, but the group that was escorting him was unexpectedly ambushed. He was murdered in cold blood."

Azula looked like she was about to faint. The only person she had ever had any emotions towards – gone. So she handled it the only way she knew how. She went into a rage. Fire poured out of her mouth, and she unleashed it in all directions. One of the guards was suddenly ignited. He futilely tried to roll around on the ground, and was left a smoldering corpse. The rest of Shin Xao's men began to back away for fear of getting burned.

"WHO?!! WHO DID IT?"

Shin Xao leaned forward. "It was the Avatar. He came back to finish what he started. He looked deep in your father's eyes as he breathed his last."

"The Avatar … killed … Father?!"

Azula continued on in her rampage. It lasted for several minutes, before she began to calm down. For a moment, she looked as if she were about to cry. Then, just as suddenly, her face regained its calm composure.

"I'll kill him! I swear, even if it costs me my life – I will make the Avatar pay!"

"Are you ready Azula," Shin Xao asked. "Are you ready for revenge?"

Azula looked at the cloaked figure. Her eyes glowed with fire. Her answer was simple.

"Yes."

***

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