Wretches and Kings

Disclaimer: I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender. Sadly enough.

Warnings: Speculation, Spoilers up to Season Three

AN: For AtLA Land's bingo card writing challenge. Prompt was "No One Here to Save."

The air is heavy. Thick with ash and the scent of burning skin. The smell of other things he doesn't even want to contemplate, and he breathes through his mouth to keep from choking.

There is a metallic taste on his tongue as he picks through the temple. The structure itself is mostly intact, but he can see scorch marks and other evidence of a fight. Crumbled stones over here. A stray puddled of dried blood there.

Bodies everywhere.

Many are Air Nomads. He can tell by the remnants of orange cloth clinging to their blackened bones.

Some aren't. Red armor gleaming in the sunlight.

He tries not to think about that, about the slaughter that happened here or who exactly perpetrated it. Tries not to breathe too deeply as he steps into the interior and searches through every room. Finding the same destruction and carnage as he goes.

The corridors narrow and start to tapper the deeper into the mountain he goes, but he refuses to leave until he's looked everywhere. Searched for any stray clue that might tell him what he so desperately wants to know.

The very last room isn't much of anything. Dark and deathly quiet. Tucked away far from everywhere else. He only knows of it because Aang and he have hid here before. He isn't sure how the Fire Nation even found it. Maybe they were just that thorough. Perhaps they followed someone trying to hide. Or maybe, just maybe the occupants weren't quiet enough.

They're just as dead as everyone else, but something about their charred forms makes him pause. Makes him stop and study the skull closest to him.

It's small. Too small for an adult. Not much bigger than the palm of his hand. All of the skeletons in this room are too small. Too little to be from a man.

But just the right size for a boy. For a child.

Fire. Ash. Char. Bodies. Burnt.

Even now, he can hear the echoes of their screams. Of their sobs.

The world wrinkles and blanks out. Kuzon feels his knees give beneath him, hears the crush of bone when it turns to dust as they hit, and bile burns in his throat as he retches.

Ever Hopeful,