It has been five years since the Fall, when Empress Azula in her pride and madness attempted to destroy us all, and was herself defeated and slain. Shortly afterwards, I took the throne of the Fire Lord myself and proclaimed that our nation would respect the independence of the former rebels of the old Earth Kingdom. The Fire Empire as it was known for a hundred years was ended.
The world has changed much since then. Upon the death of the Empress, many of the lesser nobles on the Earth Kingdom continent- ambitious men and women kept in check only by their fear of Azula's power and influence- declared themselves independent and almost immediately fell on one another. The conflict, however, proved to be less catastrophic than the one the Dragon Empress had envisioned, for at the same time many of the conquered peoples of that region entered revolt against their Fire Nation masters. Queen Chaiy and her Champion, Tong, of the city that is once more called Ba Sing Se, were quick to lend the rebels their support, while the petty kings each stood alone. Most of them were expelled within the year, their territories once more falling to Earth Kingdom control. Those who held on to power learned to be more cautious.
In the Capital itself there has been some unrest- I myself have been the target of assassins several times, unfortunately- but the people of the Fire Nation heartland are too used to following an absolute authority to make large scale trouble for me, even though I know many of them disagree with me. I am fortunate, however, that I was able to take the throne when I did- if I hadn't, I shudder to think at how quickly they would have been at each other's throats without a moderating influence.
The Empress's Chosen were a great concern for me at first, though fortunately my fears have proven largely unfounded. It seems that without Azula, most of them simply don't know what to do with their lives- their education, so extensive in the methods of combat, is apparently quite lacking on the subject of thinking for themselves. A handful, needing some sort of authority, have sworn themselves to me- I don't fully trust them, though I've never witnessed any of them doing anything more or less than what I ask them to. Many more have simply killed themselves, if reports are to be believed. A handful, however, are reported to have fled from their island and allied themselves with the remaining warlords on the Earth Kingdom continent. There are rumors of strange rituals performed there in honor of Azula, who they say has not died, but transcended flesh, becoming a mighty spirit herself. So far, I haven't been able to confirm or deny these stories, but I have to admit, they worry me.
Then there is Shiyan, the Assassin of the Empress. I pity her. Her mind was unable to come to terms with what she'd done, so it turned upon itself. She remains in the palace, not as a prisoner, but not quite a guest either- mostly, for her protection. She came out of the silence that gripped her for months after the Fall, but she has no memories of her life. In most respects she is now a child in an adult's body- how much of her history she's guessed, I can't say, but she does not know, but neither I nor anyone else has had the heart to tell her that it was her blade that felled Azula- partly out of pity, and partly from fear that her former identity might reassert itself. Being in her presence can feel like walking a tightrope over a volcano's crater.
I still see my friend Kanoda frequently, and am in correspondence with him. He travels the world in the company of the Avatar, working to restore the Balance of the world. Much that once was is lost, but they are determined and resourceful- slowly, the Avatar once more is becoming a symbol of peace and justice in the minds of the people. Above all, they search for any knowledge left behind by the last waterbenders, so that the ancient art won't perish from the earth.
My left hand still aches even as a write this; the pain has almost faded now, but is still present. I can move it some, but my physicians tell me that I will never regain full use of it. It is a reminder, however small, that I will carry with me for the rest of my life of the damage that Azula and her father wreaked on this world. Now that they are gone, the future is uncertain, but I will say this- the long tyranny is over. The Avatar has returned. Whatever else may come, for the first time in a century, there is hope.
-Entry in the Royal Logbook, dated Year 5 After Fall
Scribed by Fire Lord Jiazin
AN: It's over, and I can barely believe it! This story, originally just an interesting AU idea to play with, really grew into quite the work, and something I've really been invested in. I've enjoyed writing it, and I hope you've enjoyed reading. Thanks especially to everyone who's reviewed! This probably isn't the end- I've got a mercifully shorter sequel idea I've been toying with that would follow Aang, Kanoda, and some new characters, but I probably won't get to that for a bit (yes, Shiyan would be involved, and no, just because I gave her amnesia doesn't mean she'd be following Azula's storyline from my Azula Trilogy- I have something rather different in mind for her ). Thanks again everyone!