Gruesome death ahead. Not overly graphic, but consider yourself warned.
In the last moments of his life, Admiral Zhao, the Moonslayer – if only for a few minutes – commanding officer of an invasion force that would have been spectacularly successful if not for massive spiritual interference, decided not to drown an overeager child. To rid himself of a royal nuisance, or to win a fight by any means necessary, was one thing; to drag the soft-headed, way too soft-hearted boy into a watery grave for trying to save him – idiotic and futile as the gesture might have been – was quite another.
His uncle on the other hand… he would have gladly taken the meddling old fool down with him.
oo oo oo oo oo
When the icy water closed over his head, the admiral found himself not in the shallow canals of the North Pole capital, but in icy darkness and tremendous pressure. His lungs were crushed before he could inhale any water, his head imploded and his body was squashed into unrecognizable pulp. His death was swift but agonizing.
The next moment, he found himself surfacing in the middle of a pod of rather surprised looking orca-wolves. They got over the shock quickly enough.
All kinds of ocean creatures devoured him alive. Some in groups, some in repeated attacks, some in one great swallow. A gigantic, tentacled thing tore him to pieces, using suckers the size of a soup bowl.
He drowned in raging storm waves, the signal fires on the nearby shore visible on every crest. He drowned in a sea as smooth as a mirror, stretching empty towards the horizon in every direction. He drowned in water so cold, it felt like red-hot needles on the skin. He drowned right above a submerged volcano, in water so hot, it would have been more precise to state that he managed to inhale some liquid before he was boiled to death.
Strong currents dragged him across a coral reef, cutting him to ribbons. Foaming breakers pounded him against a massive cliff until there was nothing left but pulped flesh and bone splinters.
He spent half a day on an isolated beach, watching the tide come in. Six hours of lying in the sand, of warm, gentle air, much needed sunshine and inexorably approaching water. There was almost no swell at this place and at high tide the water reached barely five inches over his head. He stopped fighting after that.
He still noted it as particularly nasty, though, when the next time he surfaced, he found himself directly under the high, curved prow of a Fire Nation cruiser running full speed ahead. The sharp steel keel ploughed him under, but he was still conscious when the propeller sucked him in.
oo oo oo oo oo
He died and revived, died and revived, caught in an endless loop that started to rival the avatar circle for its sheer number of repetitions. It did no longer matter what was killing him, nor why. Death was the certain outcome, but never a release.
Never a release.
It did no longer matter…
AN: I wrote this some time ago, when I was stressed out at work and the weather outside was frightful. Seemed a bit dark, afterwards. Today, however, I read the following in Vathara's superb AU story Embers (Chapter 27):
"...the Ocean Spirit took him." [Zuko] shuddered. "I hope he's dead."
Which was not, Sokka realized uneasily, I hope he's dead as in, I don't want him trying to kill me again. More like, I can think of a thousand nasty things the Ocean Spirit could be doing to the guy that killed his wife, and I'd rather be dead."
So it wasn't just my black mood, that identified the implications.