This story has been in progress for a while now, and I only just got around to publishing it here. If it looks familiar you probably encountered it on deviantArt or the AvatarSpiritNet forum. Once I get the backlog uploaded chapters will get added here on the same schedule as the other two sites.

To give you a better sense than the really short summary, the following is basically an overgrown plot/characterization exercise exploring some of the possibilities and themes that either weren't addressed in the series, or had to be addressed only briefly or barely hinted at because of the animated medium/age demographic/time constraints. It's basically extrapolating hints from the show to the logical conclusion. And it has more or less taken over my life.

In a more specific sense, most of the timeline is Zuko-centric but the Gaang get screen-time too. I try to be fair to all the characters, but when you focus on one character for the majority of the plot it tends to overshadow the others a bit. I'm not really a "shipper" and initially I refused to include romance of any flavor, but quickly realized that would needlessly limit things and stunt the characters. So you get canon relationships, but romance isn't really the focus. I have nothing against non-canon pairings (I appreciate just about anything if it's well written), I just don't write that myself. As I am also a reader of Fan Fic, if you recognize a plot element it's probably because I saw it somewhere else (or multiple places) and decided to play with it. Because I can.

I have been informed that disclaimers have no legal weight and are redundant on FFNet anyway, but it's traditional. So kudos to Mike and Bryan for creating an amazing world to play in, I won't pretend I own your creative property.

Comments/critiques/reviews always welcome. If you can think of a better "summary" than what I shoved into the little box, please share!

Also, this is actually the prologue, not chapter one. Sigh.

I should be running.

Zuko knew that, but somehow it didn't happen. He wasn't running, he was kneeling on a bridge, staring over the edge at the freezing water below. Water that, minutes ago, had come alive and plucked Admiral Zhao from the bridge. Fool. He deserved it. Yet Zuko had still tried to help him, although he couldn't have said why. He watched Zhao sink from his sight, down into the canal.

The full moon shone in the night sky above him, as though nothing had ever happened. As though nothing had threatened to upset the careful balance the spirits held over the entire world. Zuko had never considered himself an especially spiritual person, but one did not spend years in Uncle's company and not pick up on a few things.

People owed allegiance to the spirits, not the other way around. The Water Tribe might claim the Moon as their patron, but that did not mean she was unimportant to the other nations. Zuko had spent more than enough time at sea to learn that. Sailors all over the world prayed to the Moon, and gave offerings to the Ocean, so that they might return to harbor safely before setting sail on their next voyage. Then again, Zhao had never been much of a sailor. He was arrogant enough to think that the Fire Nation's superior technology had somehow tamed the natural world.

Zuko knew better.

Zhao was a fool. He deserved what he got. Why am I still here? I should be running.

But he wasn't running. It was too late for that, anyway. All the ships had been destroyed, or pushed far out to sea. There was nowhere to run to, no avenue of escape. Even if he could reach a Fire Nation ship, they would not welcome him aboard. Nor Uncle… He didn't even know where Uncle had gone. He just stayed there, frozen to the bridge. His breath steamed in the frosty night air.

He was still staring over the edge, lost in his own thoughts, when they found him.