Avatar: The Children of War

AN: This story is a prequel to the main "Avatar: The Last Airbender" series, exploring an area that I felt the show didn't really touch on much- the formative years and trials of Iroh, Ozai, Ursa, and other key players in the Fire Nation court (while also touching on some other important characters of roughly the same generation(s).) I'm hoping to take a closer look at Ozai and Ursa in particular and explore what makes them tick; the story will primarily focus on them but, again, not completely. Though the prologue is set during Azulon's funeral, the bulk of the story will happen across the years leading up to it.

Prologue: Succession

The Fire Lord was dead.

It had been a sudden death, taking the people of the Fire Nation by surprise. Azulon had been old, but he had still been in good health for a man of his age; none had anticipated that the still-mighty old firebender would simply pass in his sleep one night like an ordinary man. More unexpected still was his choice of successor- it was well known that Azulon had favored Prince Iroh, despite (or perhaps because) he was the less like him of his two sons; Prince Ozai had never been much more than an afterthought. And yet, it was that same prince who had been named as heir. It was a strange coincidence, too strange, some of the nobles said. Far too convenient indeed for the Fire Lord's ambitious younger son. Still, the word of the Fire Lord, living or dead, was sacrosanct unless contradicted by the sitting ruler, and besides, the Nation was in the midst of war and Prince Iroh was far away. A quick, easy transition would be best for all concerned.

And so it was that, as his father's body was ceremonially given to the flames, Prince Ozai became Fire Lord Ozai as the crowds bowed down to him. Only one, who stood near the rear of the crowd, knew the full truth of why this had happened and all the labors that had brought the new ruler to his exalted position; she had played her part in them. His hands were stained with so much blood already, and she had no doubt that he would soon add to it, but much of that same blood stained hers as well. Once the combined funeral and coronation was over, she would have to leave both the Capital and the Fire Nation itself, but she had wanted to see, one last time, the reason she had committed this last, ultimate crime.

There, kneeling behind Ozai as he basked in the crowd's worship, were two small forms, his children and hers. Her gaze went to the older of the two, the boy, for she knew that he was not and never had been favored by his father, and what she had done she did to protect him. "Goodbye, Zuko," she said quietly. "Be safe, my son. I hope that, someday, we may meet again."

As the royal family departed and the crowd rose, she who had once been the Lady Ursa turned and left the courtyard, the palace, and her old life behind. She and so many others had brought this to pass, but for now, her part was ended. Silently, with one final glance back, she bequeathed the future to Zuko and his generation.

She hoped only hoped he wouldn't make her same mistakes.