AN: Ok so this is without a doubt the smallest chapter in the story...but it's important. It's one of those that informs and moves the story along. So enjoy and let me know what you think! And thanks for all the wonderful reviews thus far! You guys are great and you all ROCK!
She had been cleaned up and prepared for her meeting with Prince Iroh or better yet, Dragon of the West. Yue sighed, her reflection in the mirror did not hide any truth from her, her eyes were bloodshot, dark bags above her high cheekbones and her lips one so smooth and perfect, now chapped and dry. There was only so much they could do to make her look as if she were not falling apart and for that she was thankful. There were so many reasons to be thankful, she was given a nice warm bath, she was cleaned up, and she was alive which meant she would find her way back to Sokka as quickly as she could.
But something else troubled her already shattered heart. Where was Katara? They had been separated from the rest of the group and were both captured the same night by the same men, but after they had made it to the ship she never saw Katara. Little did she know that she wouldn't see Katara after she had come to this place.
"You come with me," a guard ordered her, grabbing her roughly by the shoulder. She was escorted down the long corridors etched in silence, their massive walls licked by the flames of the torches and she could feel her heart pounding. The walls reminded her of blood and she instantly began to feel an aching pain in her stomach, there was something coming, something she could not quite place but she knew that after she entered the double doors before her, things would never be the same.
Sighing she waited as the guard knocked, then reported who he was and who he had brought with him, her heart stilled as the doors were wrenched open.
Dark midnight blue eyes met dull golden pools, her breath hitched as she bowed her head then entered slowly, "Thank you for coming Princess," Iroh stated as he seated her in a cushioned chair by the fireplace, "I know this is difficult being separated from your loved ones and forced into our world, but I must talk with you about a certain matter."
Yue nodded for him to continue, she was a quiet girl much unlike her husband's sister, "What do you know of Princess Katara's disappearance?" he asked.
Her heart stopped completely, Katara? What did he know of Katara and why was this matter being brought up?
Straightening her back she answered him, "Katara and I were traveling from the Earth Kingdom when we were ambushed and taken prisoner. I do not remember much of what happened, all I know is that we went onto the ship together, but were separated and that was the last I saw of her," she raised a brow, "what do you know of her disappearance General?"
General Iroh raised his head, inclined to answer but first he would have some tea, "Would you care for some tea Yue?" a smile slid across his lips as did hers and she nodded with a polite thank you.
"Princess Katara came to us by means of a slave trader; she mentioned that she was the sister of Prince Sokka and that you had married her brother. This much I knew was true, but I did not know that Sokka had a sister," his eyes scanned the room as he leaned forward whispering in her ear, "I never saw her at the society meetings."
Yue nodded, "That's because Katara was never initiated into the society like Sokka and I were. We were both young when it occurred but none the less. Hakoda mentioned that Katara was never initiated because he did not wish for his daughter to be a part of this massacre but alas she is anyways. She and two other members of our group know nothing of the Order and it shall remain as such until it is time," she whispered back.
"So Katara knows nothing?" he whispered.
Yue giggled, "She knows of the plans we have made, but she knows nothing about the order, nor does she know that we have inside help here," she smiled, placing a hand upon the general's, "thank you general Iroh. I know this must be difficult betraying your nation for the better good of the world—"
He cut her off, "No, I am not betraying my nation; I am taking action that should have been taken long ago. This war is nothing but a horrid scene driven for power and I refuse to allow anyone else to suffer," he finished.
Yue knew what he meant. When she had met the general when she was younger she had learned of his son's death and her heart ached for him. Ever since that fateful day at Ba Sing Se he has done nothing but try and put an end to this war. The Order was thankful for his support and was fortunate enough to have him.
Her attention was caught when it sounded like someone or something coughed, Iroh held his cup to his lips and it did not come from her. Both their eyes widened in fear that someone had heard their conversation.
"Come," Iroh stated, "we must get you out of here immediately," he warned, grabbing her hand and pulling her up.
The rest of their vacation passed by rather quickly and before they knew it they were back on the ship, watching the island shrink slowly until it was nothing more than a dot on the horizon.
Katara had enjoyed her time there and wished to go back one day, preferably after the war was over and she could be with her friends. She sighed as she watched the water ripple at the boats movements and noticed seal turtles swimming right up behind the ship. She smiled, she hadn't seen one since she left the poles and did not think they were this west, nor did she think they liked the hot climates.
As Katara leaned over the railings of the ship, Zuko and Azula were preoccupied with a messenger hawk that made its way towards them at daring speeds.
'What could this be about?' Zuko thought as he held out his arm, allowing the bird to land on his gloved hand.
Azula reached up, pulled out the message with a red ribbon and they both knew what that meant. An execution. Azula was always the one to perform executions, not Zuko. He did not have the desire to massacre people who could not defend themselves and so it was left up to Azula.
"What does it say?" he asked softly, knowing that this was meant for his and his sisters eyes only.
Azula's eyes looked as if they were to fall from her skull as they quickly darted over to Katara's form then back at the parchment, "There must be some mistake," she muttered in disbelief as she handed her brother the message written to them solely from the Fire Lord.
The message read:
Preparations for the execution of the Princess of the Joined Water Tribes are being made. Execution will take place tonight at dusk.
Fire Lord Ozai
Zuko felt his heart tighten as if someone took hold of it and began to wring it out. What had changed since they had left? What had Katara done to make his father so upset that he had planned out her death? Closing his eyes his hands crumbled the parchment roughly, teeth clenched he opened them once more, only to have them narrowed in dangerous slits. He knew what had to be done.
"Guards," he called two over to him, the spoke softly, "escort Princess Katara to the prison hold below. Do whatever is necessary to restrain her and have the hands below deck prepare her for her execution," at first they stood there utterly confused. What was going on, but instead of asking those questions they nodded, their features hidden under their masks as they approached Katara.
"HEY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! LET ME GO!" she demanded as she struggled in their grasp, "WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!"
The guards did not reply instead drug her past Prince Zuko and Princess Azula who spoke, "Princess Katara of the Joined Water Tribes, you have been sentenced to death upon our arrival at the capital. The execution will begin at dusk," Zuko stated in a flat tone, but she could sense his anxiety and away from her, Zuko made his way towards the railing of the ship, the parchment slipping from his fingers and into the ocean, floating freely and carelessly away from the ship. Her screams echoed until she was no longer above deck, his heart ached at the current events. Looking up at the sun that hung above him he sighed, his mind racing with so many different thoughts and so many different concerns. But the one that was ever present was obvious.
What had Katara done?