This is the Sequel to "The Concubine Princess" if you have not read this, then please, I urge you to go back and read the prequel before reading this, it's sequel. It will be difficult for you to read this story, without first understanding the last. There will be many refrences from the previous to this one, flashbacks that occur that better depict all that is happening in this story.
If you have read, "The Concubine Princess" welcome, please be my guest and begin reading the first chapter...well the prologue and then the first chapter. Your reviews are what I live off of, as you remember from the last story and I cannot wait to hear what it is you have to say! So, please, enjoy.
The winds were gentle, the crusted autumn leaves crumbled from their confinements to the branches, billowing downwards towards the brown earth below. Fall had come earlier than expected, the trees turned shades of red, brow, orange and yellow, some were bare from their leaves falling too early, others were completely shrouded in leaves still not ready to detach themselves.
Fall was once the greatest time of year for many, but only recently did it become a terrible reminder of what a nation had come to loose, of what the world had come to mourn.
It was in the early months of fall when it happened, the wedding for the newly crowned Fire Lord Zuko and his beloved fiancée, Princess Katara of the Joined Water Tribes. The world was celebrating the union between the two youthful war heroes' as well as the coming of a new era. But not everyone was as joyful as others, some who lurked in the shadows hoped for a different ending to the war.
There was no real issue with discrimination against the Fire Lord's bride, but the fact that things didn't go according to the master idea, the overall plan that some had desired. One person in particular had a very different idea of the end.
The nightmare began the eve of Fire Lord Zuko and Princess Katara's wedding. The young lord had just left his beloved, kissing her tenderly before leaving her to her rooms and to walk his mother's gardens to think.
Tomorrow was his wedding day, he had dreamt of tomorrow so many times, it felt as though it had already occurred and this was nothing more than a dream…but he had always hoped that his mother would be able to see him, that she would be able to be there watching him make tomorrow one of the happiest memories during his lifetime. And yet, she wouldn't be there.
His dark robes brushed against the cold earth, the night sky was bare, the moon was full and luminous and the wind had a brisk chill to it. It seemed eerie but then again, it was just the fall weather vastly approaching.
With a deep sigh the young Fire Lord pressed onward through the gardens, coming across a small pond, a family of turtle ducks swimming freely round the surface. It had been a long time since he had come here…at times he couldn't bear to think of this place, let alone stand in it for more than a mere second. But now he seemed to be content, at peace with everything. The only thing reeling through his mind was making a better world for him, his wife, his friends, his people and someday, his children.
It was at this very moment, fate had cast the dice of devastation upon the world.
Screams echoed loudly in his ears, flames pierced his sight, rising high above the palace rooftops, scorching everything in sight. The one person that came to mind was Katara.
Not a single thought urged him to run; his feet just carried him as quickly as they could. He had to get to Katara, he had to protect her, but someone else had a different plan for the young Fire Lord.
From the rooftops several black clothed figures dropped down before him, blocking his exit and his only route to Katara. In their hands they wielded weapons of many kinds; all prepared to do whatever it took to bring the young man down. Their faces were shrouded in the darkness of their masks, their golden eyes shone brightly in the night and he knew right away that he was dealing with his own kind.
It didn't take him long to put the assassins to shame, defeating them was like child's play, but perhaps they weren't the true threat, they seemed far too weak, to unskilled…like they were mere pawns, luring him away…or worse, keeping him distracted.
Making his way through the palace halls, he found himself condoned in silence as he crept down the halls in which Katara's rooms were. Fear gripped his heart as he came to see that her door had been ripped apart, blood coating the ground and Katara, nowhere to be found.
"Katara!" her name ripped from his throat as he ran down past her doors towards the courtyard. Nothing.
As he rounded the corner he was suddenly frozen by a familiar voice, the mere sound of it and how strained and weak it sounded sent chills throughout his body.
His name, "Zuko," escaped her lips in the form of a frightened whisper. She called to him from the shadows, beckoning him to come to her, and come to her he did.
Crumbled up into a ball at the base of the corner was where he found her. Her robes swayed with the sudden breeze, her long dark locks danced about her face and it was then their eyes met. It was then that he saw her fear. Seeing her, this way pulled heavily at his heart, this woman was always so strong, so courageous and now…now she was nothing more than a frightened child.
Her slender hand reached out for him, her eyes were glazed over, misty and cloudy. No longer was he able to see the brilliant shades and hues they once beheld.
Again she called to him, "Zuko," like a weight falling through the air, her hand slammed against the alabaster floor, blood plainly visible on the flesh of her palm, revealing itself for the first time since he had found her.
"Agni," he breathed as he dropped his weapons, dipping downwards and scooping her trembling form in his arms.
Parting her robes gently, his eyes were torn from her face to the brilliant red stain that seeped through her white gown. His hand guided up her dress, running along her tenderly wounded flesh, searching for the external damage.
His voice trembled, matching the shaking of his hand as he felt a warmth engulf his hand, "Oh spirits," it was just above the abdomen and from the amount of blood he could sense, she didn't have much longer. His eyes tore away violently from her stomach and rested gently, yet painfully on her paling face. She was going to die.
Silent tears gathered at the base of his eyes, ready to spill over at any given moment. He tried to find the words, he tried to vocalize his fear, he tried to tell her that this was it, that she was going on a journey that he wouldn't be able to join her on. But something in her eyes told him she already knew and that she was content in the end.
"Hold me," again she called to him, "until it's over," her face was calming and accepting, her voice was like that of an angel, but Zuko knew better. He knew that underneath the face she was showing, she was just as frightened and heartbroken as he was.
His hold tightened as he pulled her to his chest, "I will stay by your side until the end," he cooed gently, brushing away the few stray strands of hair that invaded her face, "I promise," a smile gentle crept across her lips as she relaxed in his arms.
The battle raged onward, the entire palace city was overrun with enemies unknown.
"Where's Katara!" Sokka yelled, pulling his sword from a freshly made carcass. His eyes screaming for Toph.
Pounding her fist into the ground, Toph searched frantically for Katara, trying to find her friend's pulse, her heartbeat…her footsteps, but something was wrong. She couldn't 'see' Katara anywhere.
"I can't see her!" she yelled, her thoughts railing to the inevitable. The only two ways that she would be unable to see Katara would be either Katara was on a wooden surface or…she was dead.
Screaming over the raging roars, Aang tried to understand and comprehend what Toph had just said, "What do you mean you can't see her?!"
Toph sent another assassin flying over the walls before turning rigidly towards the group, "I mean, she's gone!" was all she said, she allowed the others to come to their own conclusions as she came to hers.
Katara, gone? As in dead?
Those were the two questions that whirled in everyone's mind as they pressed onward; fighting madly towards the last place they knew Katara had been.
"Find Zuko!" demanded Nikko as he made a deadly blow to an assassin in the gut before grabbing him by the face, burning his flesh as he slammed him down into the earth.
Toph nodded, again pounding her fists into the ground, 'Oh please…don't be,' she thought as she found Zuko and by the way his heart was rapidly thrashing, she knew something drastic had happened, "Follow me!" she yelled, running down the corridor with the others trailing after her.
She died in his arms that night, slipped through his fingers like water. When she had taken her last breath, Zuko's tears finally fell, trickling down onto her paling face. There was nothing he could do to save her and because of that, Zuko felt helpless and lost.
"I'm sorry," his voice quivered as he guided his pale fingers over her eyes, shutting her lids for the last time. In a moment's notice his face was buried into the groove of her neck and shoulder, his tears seeping into her deadened flesh, his shoulders trembling violently. She was gone, forever.
Being completely consumed by his grief, the young Fire Lord did not realize her hand moving slowly up towards his back, a blade concealed underneath her sleeve. But by the time he realized that he had been tricked, the moment he tried pulling away was the moment the blade struck him from behind, piercing him through the back of the ribcage, the tip reaching his heart, delivering the deathly blow.
Her eyes slowly opened, they still had their glazy coat to them as she looked up at Zuko whose eyes were widened in fear and confusion as well as anger and betrayal.
"Why?" was all he managed to whisper out before blood seeped from the corners of his lips, trickling down his face before his eyes shot open, death had abruptly taken him.
With a small sniffle, she rose from underneath him, pulling the knife from his back concealing it in her sleeve, "I'm sorry Zuko," she whispered as she pulled him upward, her hand covering his heart cavity. Gently she placed him in the corner that she had made her greatest betrayal, "but it was for the best, I promise," she cooed, running her hand through his hair before rising, disappearing into the night.
The gang had arrived just after she had fled, their eyes revealing a horrific picture that their minds couldn't completely comprehend.
Tears ran down Toph's eyes, "I lost him," she whispered softly, "I lost Zuko."
Aang encompassed her, his arms securing tightly around her, pulling her into his chest as she wept.
Ozai, Iroh and Azula had pushed their way through, their hearts completely shutting down at seeing their beloved Zuko slumped in a corner, dead.
"NO!" Azula cried, her knees buckling sending her crumbling down to the floor, "ZUKO! NO!" she screamed as Jet knelt down, pulling her to him, trying to comfort and calm her down.
Ozai quietly approached his son's body, "My son," he whispered softly as he knelt, his hand gently caressing his cool pale face. Tears flowed freely down his alabaster skin, his golden eyes blurred by the tears as he pulled he son into his lap, his hand running over Zuko's hair, "MY BOY!" he yelled out harshly as he pressed his forehead against Zuko's.
Iroh couldn't even begin to unleash the feelings that engulfed him. Instead he buried his hand deep within the palm of his hand, his mind reeling on the event.
From the shadows Seiran and Ensi bowed their heads, both crying and raging madly inside, but externally they were quiet and angered. At that moment, they made a silent vow, just like everyone else to find whoever committed this heinous crime, would die by their hand and their hand alone.
From deep within the palace the sound of rushing footsteps echoed in the silence, the ever present panting and struggling followed. Whoever it was…they were being followed.
Turning the corner Katara found herself in the throne room, the ominous look about it when the flaming wall wasn't present sent chills through her body…but it was the perfect place to hide and wait. She slid into the room, her hands gripping hold of one of the pillars trying to keep her body from slumping to the ground. Her wound inflicted more pain with each passing moment but she knew that she had to remain silent and if found she had to run or fight. With all the strength that was in her, she pulled herself upright, sliding round the pillar so that her back was to the door, so she would be unseen to her enemy.
Her dark curls fell from the confinement of her bun, dangling in her face, swaying back and forth rigidly as her breathing staggered harshly. The sweat that gathered at her brow caused some of her hair to stick to her face, but she didn't mind. With a flick of her wrist, Katara pulled the sweat from her body, forming it around her hand, gloving it so that she could begin to heal herself.
When the glowing water made contact with her ribs, she hissed in pain, she hissed just loud enough that the noise echoed throughout the throne room, catching the ears of the enemy as they began to pass by.
"Wait! I think I hear something!" she heard a dark voice call out, it seemed somewhat muffled by the mask that he and his men were wearing. When she was first attacked, she had seen the faces of the men, more so the horrendous masks they wore to conceal their identity. They wore the masks of the demons, terrors of the night, and slayers of all that is glorious and beautiful…they were monsters.
The door creaked open, Katara slapped a hand over her mouth as she slid upward again, pressing her body into the pillar as hard as she possibly could. The water that gloved her hand, now rested firmly between her fisting hand, an ice dagger ready to penetrate the heart of anything that neared her.
But the wait seemed too long…the arrival of other footsteps sounded alerting her. She could feel her heart pounding violently within her chest and she felt as if it would betray her in this dead silence.
Then footsteps echoed in her ears, they were coming…they were getting closer and closer and closer and, "It's done!" someone yelled, "The Fire Lord has fallen!"
Her eyes widened, 'Zuko?' she thought, her hand gripping tighter against her lips, clenching dangerously round the ice dagger.
"Then we shall take our leave."
Tears rapidly formed along the inner lining of her lower lid, her lip trembled beneath her quivering hand and her body wracked violently against the news. Her beloved was dead? How can this be? With all that she had, Katara pushed herself from the pillar, bolting from the throne room and rushing towards the agonizing screams of those she so lovingly knew.
Pushing her way through everyone, she was greeted by, 'Katara!' or 'Katara your alright!' but none hurt the most more than, 'Katara, Katara I'm so sorry, I'm so so sorry Katara, there was nothing we could do.'
That one struck her home as she fell to her knees, her arms wrapping round Zuko's limp form, pulling his head to her chest. Her hand ran through his hair, her lips caressed the cool flesh of his forehead, her body quivered in anger. Tears flowed violently down her face as she rocked back and forth, back and forth.
'My beloved, why have you left me?' she asked to herself, to his spirit that no longer remained on earth, 'why are you so cruel?'
Her hands fisted in his hair, against his clothes as she suddenly cried out, "AHHHHHH!" she couldn't bear the thought of living a moment longer without him by her side, without seeing his warm smile, his passionate and daring eyes…to feel the warmth of his embrace, to have her breath taken away at every moment they locked gazes…she could not be without him!
From where they stood, the rest of the gang mourned together, watching as Katara lay in the mud, rocking Zuko's dead corpse gently to and fro. This wasn't happening, this was merely a nightmare, one in which everyone wished to wake from any moment. But the sad truth was they were never to wake, this wasn't something conjured up in their minds, it was actual truth. Never again would they see Zuko in this world, never again would they argue, spar or even joke around…he was gone, forever.
End of Flashback
Word spread throughout the land, the world began preparations for mourning and the people of the Fire Nation began preparations for the funeral of their deceased lord.
Zuko's body had been taken away, to the Royal Morgue where he would be tended to properly, dressed appropriately and honored in every way a former Fire Lord should. It had taken days for his body to be fully prepared, cleansed of its fluids and fixed of its war fatalities. His would was stitched back up, the blood cleaned from his corpse all that was left now, was the burning of his body so his soul could be free.
The mortician left late the final evening, surveying the body one last time before locking it away from the world, not to be seen until the day of the funeral, tomorrow. With the turn of the key, he sealed the body deep within the dark chamber, a small beam of light from the moon illuminating the room from a circular window at the top, to rid of the stench of death. The moonlight poured into the dark and damp chamber, the stone walls illuminating its glow brilliantly, the light highlighting the features of the deceased.
In the midst of the night, a mist crawled down from the heavens, pouring silently into the chamber, gathering together near Zuko's side. A tan hand reached out, caressing his paled cheek, the white sleeve of her gown brushing against the metal plating of his armor. Long white hair flowed gracefully down her back, her oceanic orbs stared sorrowfully down at the deceased and with a long wait, and she finally released the sigh she had been holding.
"What a mess you have made," she cooed gently, stroking his cheek ever so softly.
Pulling away slowly, her eyes traveled upwards, landing on a pair of gleaming catlike eyes from the shadows, "Agni," his name escaped her lips as she watched him approach from the shadows.
"Tis a shame," a paled hand caressed the dead youth's face, "so young, so ambitious," Agni sighed as he continued to stare down at the dead prodigy, "I had seen such greatness thrive from him."
He pulled his hand away from the young man, his fiery gaze capturing the face of the young goddess before him.
"And your mortal, how does she fare?" his voice softened slightly.
Yue's eyes, once fixated on the youth's peaceful face, slowly raised upward, their soft light oceanic hue turned into a deep, mystic color, darker than the deepest depths of the ocean. She didn't need to speak words to the young god, for her eyes told Agni all he needed to know.
"I'm sorry," he cooed, his hand reaching out for hers, encompassing her small hand comfortingly, "truly I am."
For the first time since their meeting here, Yue spoke to him, "If only there was something that could have been done," her tanned, slim hand, engraved in soft white glowing inscriptions traced over her heart, "My heart, it feels as though someone vastly clenches their hand around it, their grip tightening with my every breath, draining the very life from it. Her pain and suffering," her hold on his hand tightened, "I feel it all just as she," she lowered her head, her hand dropping to her side, "it is most unbearable."
Sighing heavily, Agni came to Yue's side, encompassing her in his arms, comforting her in the only fashion he could.
A single tear graced Yue's face, her hands clenched onto Agni's clothing as she pushed herself deeper into his chest, her sorrows filling his heart, "When the time comes, all shall be as it should," he whispered softly to her, "I swear."
The skies above were clouded and grey, the air was cool, giving signs that the autumn season was slowly creeping in. The atmosphere that should be filled with joy and celebration was instead replaced with a sorrow that saddened even the sprits above. Instead of a wedding promising alliance and happiness, a funeral that mourned the end of an infamous war hero, Fire Lord Zuko.
Thousands gathered in the Fire Nation's capital city, so many that even the ridges of the volcano were crowded with mourners, watching in the distance as the funeral began to take place.
Close friends and family stood together before the massive crowd, an ornate pyre erected for the burning and freeing of Zuko's body and soul. It was made of pure marble; four pillars stood tall and firm from each corner, holding up a small roof, to protect the fire and body from the elements, should they dare interfere. Golden dragons scaled each pillar, wrapping their bodies round and round, reaching for the heavens, their heads rearing upwards, fire spewing from their ajar mouths, towards the sky. Beneath the roof of the structure where the body was to be laid, was a stone slab that once the body was placed upon it, it would lower into a chamber below and the sages would set fire to the body, then from where the roof was a marble cover that would lower down, sealing tightly the opening over the body, protecting the ashes that would remain until the funeral was complete.
The silence that surrounded the capital city that day was deafening, it made the pain that wrenched hold of the hearts closest to the deceased ache even more. Their eyes were glazed over with shed tears. Their faces were emotionless but deep within were storms raging violently. In the distance six sages appeared, carrying Zuko's body into the stadium, the crowd turning to watch as the dead hero passed them by.
The Fire Sages were garbed in pure white robes with golden trim. Their calloused hands gripped tightly round golden handles carrying a beautiful marble slab, the young Fire Lord Zuko was resting gently atop, dressed in his finest armor, the crown of Agni perched into his topknot. His fair skin was paled, far more than his normal complexion, his once rough, calloused hands were now stiff and smooth, like alabaster stone, they overlapped as they folded perfectly over his abdomen and his face, once so lively and filled with raging emotions now was calm and serene, empty of all life.
All eyes were upon the sages and Zuko's body, murmurs and whispers filled the air as he was taken through the crowd. Many could not believe the news when word had spread of his death, it was sudden and it was shocking. After living a life filled with struggle and strife, to be ripped from this world at such a time and age seemed unfair and it was this that captured the hearts of thousands, causing them to travel the world to come and pay their respects to one of the few that helped put an end to the war once and for all. In their eyes he would always live on, through the established peace and the ever brightening future of the world, would his spirit live on.
After what seemed an eternity of probing through the crowd, the sages appeared before the Royal Family, the Avatar and Fire Lord Zuko's most beloved of friends. They bowed gracefully, their lord still in hand before walking to the pyre, lowering the slab that carried his body carefully into place on the pyre.
With a choking back of sobs, Fire Lord Ozai took a deep breath as his eyes never left Zuko's face, "Avatar Aang, if you will do the honors?" he asked, his voice was horse and strained.
Fighting against everything that raged within him, Aang bowed without saying a word to the others and approached Zuko's body. His eyes were filled with sorrow, his nose flared as his lower jaw trembled. With a deep breath he pulled his fist towards his chest, then in a single motion he thrust his fist forward, fire spewing from it like magic.
As the flames licked Zuko's body, the flamed pyre began to lower down into the small chamber, the lid slowly following, with one last look at his friend Aang whispered in the wind, "Soon we shall be reunited my brother," he clenched his fists as the sound of the lid sealing rang through his ears, the slight smell of burning flesh reaching his nostrils. Turning away he walked forward towards the steps, preparing to speak to the crowd.
"Today we do not gather to mourn the death of Fire Lord Zuko, but instead we come here today to celebrate his life, to acknowledge the achievements he made and to thank him from the depths of our hearts for the lives he changed, for the friendships he kindled. I ask, only for this, honor him this day, give him the proper departing that would be worthy of such a man as he and never forget the sacrifice he made for his people and for the world."
Silence rendered at the sound of his voice, every man, woman and child under the sound of his voice stilled as the pyre slowly began to rise up from the chamber below. Nothing was left; all that remained were ash, even the armor, made of metal no longer remained. Together, each member of the family and each beloved of Zuko's stepped forth, gently gathering his ashes in their hands.
Together they lined up before the crowd, their cupped hands opened to the sky, the ashes swirling round gently at the eastern wind that tugged at them, in one fluid movement, the threw the ashes to the wind, allowing them to be carried away and spread across the people, the land that he so openly loved.
"Be free, my Zuko," Katara whispered softly, dried tears being overrun by freshly ones, "be free."
Three Years Later:
The crispy brown autumn leaves slowly peeled from the branches, gliding through the breezeless air, plummeting gracefully to the earth. It was fall, the trees began to change their colors, their leaves withered and wilted away, leaving them bare, ready for winter. Though in the Fire Nation, there never was much snow, only a small blanket would cover the outer ring of the land, but the capital never received even an inch. It was so different from the Water Tribes where it would snow constantly, but this was home just as well.
Three years had passed since the ending of the war and since the fall of the young Fire Lord, but the world had moved on, slowly but surely, though his friends and family did not.
Every year, on the anniversary of his death, his lover, Katara now Ambassador to the Fire Nation, would come to his burial site, baring fire lilies to brighten up the darkened earth. Zuko was never buried, his body was never laid to rest in the earth, instead he was burned, his body turned to ash and released into the eastern winds. A tomb marker, depicting his life and the kind of young man he was, was all that attached him to this world.
On this day three years ago, Zuko, Fire Lord and soon to be husband, fell shortly after his coronation. His untimely and mysterious death caused panic and disorder throughout the world, people fearing another war upon them. But no such thing ever came.
Instead, Ozai was reinstated as Fire Lord and declared that he would work alongside Avatar Aang to bring peace to this world, for his son and his people. He promised that he would do everything in his power to reinstate the Fire Nation's former glory and honorable reputation by doing whatever it took to earn the trust of the remaining nations. He publicly apologized to the nations in which his very own robbed them of father, brothers, sons and uncles, even mothers, sisters, daughters and aunts. He swore that before his death, peace would be absolute and he would make his son proud of him once again.
When Zuko had died, he asked only one person to willingly give themselves to this nation and to the world, to be by his side as a friend and help him make his nation great once more. Without hesitation she accepted. She stated that it was the debt she owed him and his family for the death of their beloved Zuko and hoped that one day they would all be together again.
Katara had been prepared for her journey to Ba Sing Se. It was the third Peace Gathering and due to her ranking and social status, she had been requested by Fire Lord Ozai to accompany him as his Ambassador and his friend. She was not one to simply refuse. But before she left, she went to the massive field of fire lilies that sat on the bluff overlooking the ocean and plucked several beautiful blossoms, taking them to Zuko's tomb marker.
Tan slender fingers slid across the surface of the grave marker, dipping slightly as they came across the fine groves and ridges that depicted the name of the deceased. The autumn leaves wrapped around the base, crunching tenderly beneath her feet as she moved around the stone. With a heavy sigh she gently knelt down, bowing her head whispering soft prayers into the northern winds. Fisting her hands that rested on her knees, she tried to keep her tears at bay, she promised herself that she wouldn't cry, but it was so hard. From the moment he had left her, to even now, her heart was still ripping, as if there was no end to her suffering...it was hard to describe just how miserable she felt. But she had made a promise not only to him, but to the world that she would do everything in her power to find the one responsible and ensure the already made peace in the world.
It seemed too easy, but the burden was far greater than many realized. For her, it wasn't business anymore, for her, it was personal.
In the distance, unnoticed by the weeping maiden, two cloaked figures stood, watching through the thick lush vegetation of the abandoned gardens. They watched as the acclaimed war heroin collapsed to the ground, weeping ever so sweetly over the simple, ornate tombstone. Her long dark locks, freed from their confinements blew gracefully in the wind, her shoulders shook violently as her sobbing grew ever more and they knew that she was slowly unraveling with each passing day.
The younger of the two gazed out with a sorrowful look. Never had he seen a woman so beautiful as she, fall to the will of a single man, that she succumbs to weeping daily. For weeks they had watched her, her routine, her activities, watching and waiting. And every day, just after sunset she came to this small abandoned garden where a single tombstone rose from the earth, depicting the life of a once great and noble man, one whose life was savagely pried from his fingertips and at such a young age.
The fallen lover was former Fire Lord Zuko, acclaimed War Hero, Firebending Master and Teacher of Avatar Aang and beloved fiancé to Princess Katara of the Joined Water Tribes. His life was stolen in the night by a cowardly thief, one who did not dare face him head on, but rather waited for him to lower his guard before making the final and devastating blow.
His death had been a shock to the world, his family had fallen apart at the very moment and his friends couldn't understand why anyone would have wanted to kill such an esteemed young person such as he. But someone wanted him gone; someone wanted him out of the picture. And their reason was still unknown. The killer was never found.
"Why does she weep so?" finally the young man whispered to his comrade, trying to understand this woman's fury, her pain and suffering...but mainly her reason.
The elder didn't spare him a single look, but instead only responded back softly, "Because there is nothing else she can do."
Both gazed out at the water maiden as her honey coated voice traveling on the winds reached their ears.
It was the faintest sound, but they heard every syllable, every sigh, and every word.
"Every day I long to be with you," her hand reached up, her fingertips grazing the beginning of his name, "every night I pray to be by your side once more…" she trailed off softly, "if only I had followed you into death," her voice fell slowly, the hint of tears filled her air.
From a small distance, standing under the bow of the archway, leaning against the wall for support, Ozai watched as Katara mourned over his beloved son. Every night, just after sunset he would find her here, speaking to his tombstone, begging the spirits to take her soon for the agony of living alone was slowly taking its toll on her. At times he would leave her, allow her to wallow in self pity and misery and at times he would return to find her gone and others he would see her, curled up next to his son's tombstone sleeping soundly with dried tear trails streaking down her cheeks.
His heart melted every time he saw her this way. At times he cursed Zuko for loving her so passionately and then leaving her here to suffer…but then again he was just like his mother when it came to that. He understood Katara's pain and over time he knew that she would heal, somewhat.
Stalking out into the moonlight, Ozai quietly crept towards Katara as she spoke to the small stone, completely unaware of any other being around. But before long, she was surprised by the grazing of her shoulder by Ozai's hand and found herself reaching up, holding it tightly, seeking his fatherly comfort.
She didn't have to tell him how she was feeling, she didn't have to ask him to join her or leave her be because for some reason, Ozai knew what she needed. He knelt there beside her, his eyes grazing over the last small thing this world had attached to his son and decided that perhaps it was time to give her some advice.
With a sigh he gazed down at the tombstone, squeezing her hand as a sudden sadness enveloped him, "When Ursa died, my heart ached with such pain that I didn't think it was possible for a person to continue living. In my prayers I would beg the spirits to take me soon," he smiled faintly, "so that I could hold that woman in my arms again, so I could feel the cool sensation of her breath against my cheek, so I could hear her laughter and tender voice call to me," again he sighed, this time, tears brimmed his eyes as he spoke of his late wife, "when she passed, I considered taking my own life but I knew that it wouldn't be right to leave my children behind and I realize that if I had followed through with what my mind was telling me to do, I wouldn't have been able to meet you," he looked down at her, watching as her dark curls whipped gently about her face and shoulders, "I wouldn't have been able to help put an end to this war and I would have been able to stand here and tell you that things will get better, but with time."
For a moment Katara was silent, for a moment she just stared at Zuko's name engraved in the stone before she rose, facing Ozai, stained tear trails ripping down her delicate face, "How did you do it?" her voice was so weak that it cut Ozai's heart in half just hearing her speak.
"How did I do what?" he asked softly.
Their eyes locked, her voice grew firmer as she wrapped her arms around her torso, "How did you move on?" she asked.
Ozai felt his breath hitch for a split second before he wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her into his chest, his lips grazing her ear, in a soft and gentle whisper he told her, "I didn't," and just before pulling away he kissed her temple. His hand grazed the side of her face as he pulled away from her embrace and a small sympathetic smile graced his own features, "And it doesn't get any easier, but it does get better over time," he assured her.
"How?" she didn't want things to get better, she wanted Zuko back, she wanted to turn back time and find a way to save him, she didn't want to live a life without the man she loved…she felt incomplete.
Ozai told her the same thing his brother had told him, "As long as you live out your life knowing that they have never truly left you," his hand reached up, the tips of his fingers grazing just over her heart cavity in the chest, "then you shall find a way to heal, just enough to survive in this world, just enough to hold off until you are reunited with them in the spirit world."
Katara listened to Ozai's words; she watched his features and knew that he had learned this from experience. Not only had this man lost his wife, but he had lost his son as well…he knew pains of the heart better than anyone and if he was able to keep himself together long enough until he is reunited with them, then so could she. She had to.
Such are the beginnings to "Death's Calling" and I hope, that you shall enjoy this one. It is vastly different from many stories, and it will prove to be worth while. It's compelling and engaging...or so I've been told...anyway, review and I cannot wait to see you all over in my latest story, "Death's Calling"