Nights in Egypt

Chapter 1: Dancers of the Night

Katara gazed into the mirror and dipped her make-up brush into the bowl of blood-red paint before beginning the long process of her dancer's mask. Like a geisha's it highlighted all the features of a dancer's face, but the curled stripes reminded her of the tiger-seals back in her homeland.

As a young girl she was taken from the cold wastelands of the South Pole and brought into the even harsher deserts of Egypt.

Brought to a crowded slave market she had been lucky to be bought by Ursa, Queen of Egypt, but she wasn't taken into the safe confides of the palace. There she would have been a slave and at the mercy of the royal family. Instead Ursa gave her to a friend of hers, Ming, who owned the Midnight Dancers; where she'd work as a maid instead of being raised as a slave.

Ming was nice too. A fair middle aged woman who took care of her well and gave her small jobs to do.

Days and weeks dragged on and Katara one day, while dusting, watched the older girls in the house dance. The movements reminded her of the few Waterbending moves she'd learned from her teacher back in the South Pole, so she decided to try it. Ming had come to yell at Katara for not finishing her chores, but had stumbled across her dancing. Immediately she'd put Katara in classes with the other girls and when she'd done well at her first performance, when she was thirteen, Ming had been so proud she adopted Katara.

The room she was given was larger than most dancer's, but once Suki and Ty Lee joined the house she was more than willing to share and help them through the tearful first nights in the quiet house. And in time they too proved to be skilled dancers as well. Suki told her she came from a land where women were warriors and she had been their leader of a group called the Kyoshi Warriors. Though she was captured on a mission and brought here. Ty Lee had hesitated about her past but after performing at a rich lord's house, and messing the whole routine because she didn't want to be seen, she confessed that her parents had disowned her and she lived on the streets, dancing for money, until Ming found her.

Now as Katara readies herself for her performance at the palace with the others, though she'd be leading –Ming liked to spoil her like that-, for the first time in a long time she felt nervous.

Her face had been finished to complete perfection.

The red paint made a bold outline on her dark skinned face and body in the tiger stripe pattern that followed down arms, shoulders, back and the exposed skin on her legs.

The face was down more simply; with a curled stripe on either cheekbone and at both corners of her scarlet dyed lips, then a single spot above the bridge of her nose. Her blue eyes were surrounded by liner that had to be done with a steady hand with black paint and then her eyelids were powdered red.

Standing from the pillow in front of her make-up table she took her full image in the mirror across the room.

The outfit, she must say, bared too much skin. The top was without straps and tied into place with a silk red bow on the bottom and the skirt was thick with elaborate gold and black designs and had a long cut running up the side to mid-thigh.

Ending the outrageous outfit was a long, red silk fabric that attached to the golden shackles on each of their wrist. It had looked like wings in the rehearsal. It was from an old Egyptian myth that had something to do with wings –she'd been too lazy to read into it, but the observers would known what it symbolized.

Jewelry was overdone as well. The two gold hoops in each ear, the bangles around the ankles, a gold rings on her forearms and the heavy golden necklace with a ruby dangling from it.

Suki stood next and smiled.

"It feels like the Kyoshi war make-up I use to wear." She'd said once, which was why she took as long as she did to put it on, to remember the times when she fought instead of entertained the enemy.

Ty Lee had been ready for the past hour, too bored to do much of anything else around the house.

Ming entered their room and smiled brightly. Her make-up was much lighter than their but she still painted her lips and out lined her eyes. "You all look beautiful, come this way." Turning the three girl followed her, careful not to step on the trails of their 'wings' as they shuffled down the corridor, ignoring the glares given to them by the jealous girls who wished to leave with them.

Piling into a carriage pulled by a rhino-horse Ming was sure to lay down the rules as she did every time they left the house.

"I cannot stress this enough, you are dancers not whores. You will not have any man lure you away to his chambers is that under stood?" Katara gently touched Ming's hand in a comforting gesture.

"Don't worry Madam we'll be on our best behavior. I'll watch them and we'll stay together." Ming smiled, although she was kind to Katara she was harsh to everyone else and most saw it as unfair as others saw a mother-daughter relationship.

"Song has fallen pregnant." She gossiped and the girls leaned in. "With we fear to be the King's bastard child. She won't tell us whom she was with but the King has been known to take woman to his chambers." Ming hung her head and Katara continued to comfort her.

"Isn't he married?" Suki asked, having not grown up in Egypt the politic were still confusing to her. Such as the Kings newly embraced ability to take mistresses if he didn't want the Queen's company.

"Yes, Queen Ursa has given him two children; a son, Prince Zuko, and a daughter, Princess Azula." Ty Lee answered then thought for a moment. "Even if the Queen were to find out about his affairs she'd do nothing to Song, she's too nice. If they were to meet she probably wouldn't even speak to her."

"That doesn't matter now." Ming said. "What's done is done and I'll be speaking to the guards about having men approach you. Song is on her way to a peasant's village where she'll live the rest of her life with her child. I just hope that puts a clear warning in for all the other girls."

Hello! Zutara Fic!
It's two in the morning so I apologize of any spelling mistakes, I will fix them later.

Yes, the Midnight Dancers are a mix of geishas, belly dancers and other cultures but still I think I did a good job and I really wanted a story to take place in Egypt, so I'll be rearranging the backgrounds a bit and I'm thinking the Earth Kingdom should be China.

Zuko's POV next chapter.
Give'me some love!