« Hey, Roku, you ready? » Prince Sozin inquired his best friend.
"Yeah, as ready as I'll ever be. How about you?"
"I'm ready." Grinning, the heir to the throne pushed back the curtains dividing his friend and himself from the public, grabbed onto Roku, and started down the steps.
Roku started after him, turning a furious red when he caught the eye of Ta Min… and tripped, almost falling headlong down the stairs. A strong hand grasped the back of his robes: Sozin had caught him. His face a perfect crimson, Roku mentally groaned. This was not a good start to his and Sozin's joint birthday party. Grinning sheepishly, he was just about to blurt out an excuse, when the doors flew open, and five fire sages walked in, each wearing identical outfits of Fire Nation red. The leader had a long white beard and enormous eyebrows of the same color.
Sozin hurried down the steps, demanding, "What is it? Has something happened to my father?" The sage's expression didn't change, but he replied "No, Prince Sozin, we are not here for you. We are here to announce the identity of the new avatar." The old man unexpectedly turned to the prince's companion. "It is an honor to serve you, Avatar Roku."
As soon as the first sage's words left his mouth, the sages all bowed, closely followed by the entire hallway, stooping before the newly assigned avatar, their foreheads touching the ground. Sozin hesitated, gawking at his friend, but he, too got down on one knee, and all out of respect for Roku.
Roku didn't think twice. He turned and ran. Back through the curtains, back along the hallway… Roku lived at the royal palace, and if he could just make it to his room, he could…
He yanked open the door, just to find a crowd of people standing there, chanting, "Roku, Roku, Avatar Roku!" Said avatar slammed the door and took off once more down the hallway, to the next safest place: Prince Sozin's bedroom. It was only a few doorways down, and as soon as he reached, he opened the door quickly but cautiously: finding it empty, he rushed in and closed the door behind him, and dove under the large bed, so that he might have time to think.
Sozin went down on one knee to his friend, but he didn't stay there for long: Roku had fled the room, and the prince was the first to notice. He stood up abruptly, and ran after his friend. He didn't notice two other figured leaving the room by the back entrance, or he might have slowed. He might have been a good athlete, but Roku was faster than him by a long shot. He paused, hearing a door slam down the hallway, and knowing where Roku would go next: His own bedroom. He tore down the hallway, opened the door as quietly as he could, and glanced around. Roku was not in sight. Groaning, he sat down on his bed. Thinking aloud, he said to himself, "You know, I'm pretty sure he would have taken that better if someone had just walked up to him and said, 'Hey man! You're the avatar'"
"You're right, I probably would have." Sozin jumped up and yanked up the bedspread, where, wonder of wonders, his friend was hiding like a small child playing hid and seek. The prince could only speak through choked laughter, as he looked at his friend's face. "You know what? You almost gave me a heart attack when you answered me like that! By Agni! I'm serious man, do you hear me?"
Roku's face was probably going to be permanently either bright red or deathly pale after his little experience was over, if it's current condition was anything to speak of. Crawling half out from under the bed, he tried to smile, but it couldn't have come out faker to the heir to the fire nation throne, he knew Roku all too well.
The prince opened his mouth to speak, but a knock on the door silenced him. Roku ducked back under the bed, and Sozin dropped the bedspread so that it covered his friend, before yelling "come in!"
The door was opened hurriedly, and Ta Min and Illah walked in, all flustered and hot; by the look of things, they had been running.
"Have you found Roku yet?" The taller girl enquired.
"That all depends on why you're looking for him." Was all Sozin replied.
"He looked like he was about to faint- although being an almighty powerful bender must have been pretty cool." Illah threw in.
"Hey, we 'almighty powerful benders' have ears, you know." Roku grumbled, pulling himself out from under the bed for the second time in the last two minutes.
"Roku! Are you all right?" Ta Min immediately exclaimed, grabbing onto his arm to help pull him out from the red sheets. Sozin grabbed the other arm, and they pulled.
"I've been better. A lot better, now that I think about it." Roku replied, struggling to keep his voice calm.
"Though you've got to admit, it's got to be pretty cool, begin able to bend all four elements like that!" Illah brought up again.
"If you want to take my place, go on ahead and do it! Honestly!" He turned around, grabbed the sheets of Sozin's bed, swung them over his shoulder like a cape, threw the pillow on his head, and grabbed Sozin's white comb and stuffed it under his nose so that it vaguely resembled a moustache. As soon as the prince caught on, he joined in, substituting different object that would make him recognizable as a sage.
Roku whirled around to face the two
girls, and cried "It is an honor to serve you, avatar Ta Min!"
Bowing to the taller girl. Sozin echoed his movements. Then, "It is
an honor to serve you, avatar Illah!"
With both boys bowed on the floor, the makeshift beards and moustaches and all, the two girls burst out laughing in a very un-noble way, it was too much. Then Sozin's 'beard' fell off his face, and Ta Min, through smothered laughter, ordered the boys to look at each other. They did so, and it was impossible not to laugh, and a heavy weight seemed to disappear from Roku's shoulders, as he realized that to hi friends, he would always be Roku, and nothing had changed between them.
It was that moment the Fire Lord chose to enter the room, the Fire Sages following close behind.
"Sozin, please-" He stopped short as he saw his son and the avatar, sprawled out on the floor, dressed in what he supposed was supposed to be fire sage outfits, and even the Fire Lord, with all his years of court practice and politics, could not keep a straight face when he saw the boys, but joined in wit the girls' laughter, turning his son and the boy whom of which he had come to think of as his nephew a completely brilliant shaded of red.
Sozin's father turned to the fire sages, who were seemingly torn between laughter and anger at the boys for mocking them.
"Perhaps we could continue tomorrow, if that's all right with you." He stated, his eyes twinkling with laughter.
The fire sages bowed out, leaving the four youths and the firelord alone in the room. The eldest groaned. "Boys…"