In moments like this Zoe missed her old life, her time at the circus, her time with friends. At peace, but with a feeling nostalgia settling in her stomach, she looked out toward the misty mountains before her in the sweet warmth of the rising sun. They weren't the same white peaked mountains that she was surrounded by for some time during her life with the circus, but their rocky crevices and jagged shapes along the horizon were enough to throw her down memory lane.
Far from the Fire Nation, she was now on the outskirts of the scattered Earth Kingdom Islands, and truthfully not sure what to do with herself. She hadn't wanted to leave the circus; she had great friends there and she was an excellent trapeze artist. When she swung off that swing she would fly through the air, truly fly. No one could fathom how she could do it. Ty lee was ever so jealous, but then she, Zoe, was always extremely envious of Ty lee's acrobatic skills! Ty lee tried to teach her, but really; her legs just don't twist like that. However, after some time people started to realise that Zoe's unrealistic and impossible trapeze skills could mean something else, something very useful to the Fire Nation.
Ty lee had guessed of course, although she thought it was great. She begged Zoe to run before it was too late, before she was caught. So that brought her here, on the run, alone and downright miserable. But, she was not one to dwell on self pity: live in the present was her opinion.
Which brings us back to this moment here right now and she knew exactly what she wanted to do. It's what she always does when in need of an exhilarating adrenaline rush. She grabbed her makeshift glider (made of sticks and old cloth), and ran to the cliff face near her small camp.
Exhilarating was an understatement. It was marvellous. The air blew passed her face making her hair billow out behind her; she laughed a silly, joyful laugh and did some loopy loops and continued to stream through the air, well until a rather rude interruption: an interruption in the form of a fire ball.
She screamed and veered upwards. The heat was so harsh she thought she might melt. Another fireball! She twisted through the air, spiralling to the ground; she couldn't control her flight path. She was too scared to scream, going to fast to even make a sound, then before she knew it –
She tumbled through a collection of enormous, prickly bushes and straight out onto the (thankfully) soft sand that coated the ground; she had landed on the beach below. An obviously Fire Nation ship was docked at the shore.
"Who the hell are you?" demanded a furious voice that sounded like that of a teenage boy; a very uptight teenage boy.
"Why in the world did you shoot fireballs at me?" Zoe cried furiously, "You could have killed me!"
"I wasn't shooting to kill!" replied the boy with a snarl, "I was just trying to knock you out of the sky! I thought you were the Avatar!" Zoe took in the form of the boy. He was average height, probably 16 or 17, he wore fire nation armour which she could swear were of royal origin and his head was shaven except for a top knot where he had a diamond of jet black hair topped with a long pony tail. But, then she noticed his eyes, they were stunning. Pure gold irises shone out of slanted and beautiful almond shaped eyes. Then she realised that both eyes weren't the same. She wasn't sure why she didn't notice the painful looking scar across his left eye, reducing it to a narrow slit, before. She didn't look at it; it wasn't that it made him ugly, far from it. She just didn't want to stare. She looked him in the eyes.
"The Avatar?" she repeated in embarrassed fury. She had heard a little about the Avatar being back and from what she knew he was a bald little boy! "The Avatar is a boy!"
The scowling boy before her moved closer and so did the guards that she had not previously noticed behind him. It was his turn to look her over. He saw a petite frame, olive skin, soft but pleasant features, grey-blue eyes and currently a twiggy, ruffled mess of caramel coloured hair with tints of gold. She was glaring at him and in spite of his sensible self one part of him thought she looked quite cute. He tossed this part aside. "Yes, but he is also supposed to be the last airbender!" hissed the Fire Nation boy, "So unless you have some other means of flying, you have some explaining to do."
She huffed. Damn it; this was exactly what she was trying to avoid. She picked herself up and dusted the sand and some of the leaves off her clothes. "I was sky diving."
Silence. "You were what?" snapped the boy after a moment. Zoe noticed a short, tubby man with a grey top knot and beard leaving the ship to her right and coming over to join their little group.
"Sky diving." She repeated, "It's a dare devils game, but it's really great for your senses; really clears them out. You just have to land in the water unless you have a parachute."
"I see," said the boy thoughtfully, but she could hear the cloaked sarcasm. "So that was how you did the flips and loops up there then is it?"
The man had reached them now; he looked like he had just woken up from a nap. His face was very friendly and made you want to smile.
Zoe nodded at the annoying young man. "It's much easier than you think; if you tried it you'd see." she decided it was time to give him a cheeky grin. He scowled and let out a growl of frustration.
"Uncle!" he shouted, addressing their newest member, the friendly man. "This girl is an airbender! We caught her flying around and mistook her for the Avatar."
"Really? How facsinating." said the man tapping his chin thoughtfully, "Are you sure Prince Zuko?" Prince Zuko? The Prince Zuko, banished from his own Nation?
…Just my luck. Thought Zoe.
"We are taking her aboard. She can help us in our search." stated The Prince, "guards! Take the woman to the prison cell."
She spluttered in indignation, but couldn't do a thing as two guards grabbed her under the arms and escorted her, without her permission, onto the ship.
Well truly, thought Zoe. That was quite unnecessary. For all the Prince knew she may have accepted to help him if he had bothered to ask her. But no, instead he threw her; well had the guards throw her, quite unceremoniously into a cell. It wasn't a bad prison cell, as far as cells go that is. She had a comfy bed and a fair amount of space, not that she had long to spend in there; the Prince wanted to question her immediately, accompanied by his apparently curious Uncle.
Zuko crossed his arms as glared at the girl before him, he signalled to the guards to hand cuff her.
Zoe sighed but didn't protest, "You're being very rude you know." she stated.
"Excuse me?" spluttered Zuko, taken a back.
"If you had just asked for my help instead of forcing it I may have complied."
Zuko snorted derisively, "Don't make me laugh; I am not an idiot."
Zoe shrugged nonchalantly and bit back a feisty reply.
"Are you truly an airbender, miss ah-?"
"Zoe," Answered the prisoner smiling at the Prince's Uncle whom had asked the question, "And no I am not, I don't know why your nephew thinks so."
Zuko growled furiously, "Stop lying! We saw you flying and we have your glider!" He had to admit, he was a little taken aback when she smiled. She was pretty sure, but nothing out of the ordinary, however her smile was beautiful; just simply stunning. It lit up her entire face.
"And how are you planning to prove it?" snapped Zoe, smile disappearing.
"By throwing you off a cliff?" suggested Zuko, spitting the words through his teeth.
Ah, thought Zoe, she hadn't considered that. "What does it matter even if I am?" She demanded, trying to hold some derisive pride in her voice while giving up her façade and Zuko smiled smugly.
"Do you know the Avatar? Have you travelled with him? Helped him?" He reeled the questions out one after the other. She nearly rolled her eyes. His Uncle was studying her with great interest.
"I have never met the kid." She said honestly.
Zuko's scowl deepened, but he seemed to believe her, "How are you here? I thought all the airbenders were extinct?"
"Don't know really, blood finds away?"Why was he so interested anyway? Like that mattered.
"Why don't you have tattoos? Why isn't your head shaven?" The questions just kept coming.
Zoe sighed in frustration. "Seriously, I don't know much history of the Air Nomads, but seen as they have been gone for 100 years, clearly I didn't grow up with their customs. I was raised in the Fire Nation." She raised an eyebrow at the Prince, "Why does it matter?"
"I need to know all the information I can, anything can help me." He snarled, "But apparently you're worthless."
Ouch, she had to admit, that was a bit of a slap in the face.
"Prince Zuko, if you seek help show the prisoner your respect." Reprimanded his Uncle, his voice was coated in wisdom.
"Sir?" Said Zoe tentatively before Zuko could respond in anger. "Could I have a name to call you?"
"I am General Iroh, but feel free to call me Iroh." The General said with a gracious smile and a wink. Zoe was shocked, general Iroh, Dragon of the West. Wow. He seemed a lot less intimidating in person. "It is an honour to meet an airbender in this day."
"An honour?" Spat Zuko, "Air benders are weak, not to mention the Avatar is an air bender. There is no honour in meeting one."
"Weak!" Spat Zoe, standing up furiously, her chains clattering around her wrists. "Only a fool would call an air bender weak, let me out of these chains and I'll show you just ho-"
But Zuko cut her off again. "You can help me." he said quietly, thoughtfully. "You will train with me, so that I can know exactly how an air bender fights with real practice." His voice rose with excitement by the end of his sentence.
"Well," said Zoe airily, "Sure I'd help if you'd ask."
Zuko stomped forward furiously, "Help me." He said.
"Please?" she replied with an innocent pout, mocking him.
His scowl deepened and Zoe wanted to laugh, he was quite cute really. That thought was immediately dashed with his next words, "You will help me. Whether you like it or not."
She glared at him, her mouth a thin hard line and he left the cell in a huff.
"I am sorry for my nephew," Said Iroh in a slow calming way, "He gets a little uptight sometimes!"
Zoe gave a raw smile, "yeah I can tell."
Iroh Chuckled, "would you like some tea? I feel you are a sencha fan."
Zoe smiled. "That would lovely, thankyou General Iroh."
She really wasn't sure why she was helping the Prince. Well, he wasn't giving her much choice, but she could probably escape if she put her mind to it. Maybe. But, she'd grown up in the Fire Nation, her friends were Fire Nation, as far as she was concerned she was Fire Nation, except that she could bend air. She didn't feel a connection to her real people, except for when she bended. So for now she would see where this path took her.
She was a bit of a big believer in fate and destiny. Whatever life threw at her, she took in her stead, believing it was meant to be.
She did have a longing to meet another air bender however, which was probably why she was remaining with the Prince. She thought if she stuck with him, he would lead her to the Avatar. Then she could join up with him and learn air bending properly! Oh yeah, she hadn't told the Prince that she wasn't a very good air bender. Sure she could glide and do some moves, but she had never learned properly; how could she have? All she had were her natural instincts.
And he was about to find that out.
"Ok, we will warm up first." Said Zuko in that husky voice that Zoe couldn't say she disliked. "I don't want to hurt you."
Zoe scowled now, forgetting his nice voice, "Oh I really don't think there's much chance of that." She snarled. Yeah she had a lot of confidence, stupidity and a big mouth. Not a good mix.
Zuko took a breath in sharply through his nose, "fine," he snarled his voice deadly calm, Zoe gulped, "let's begin."
Without a second thought he shot a tunnel of fire directly at her, though she could tell despite his scowl, that it wasn't his toughest shot. She dodged the shot out of pure reflex action, her eyes wide as she blew herself off the end of the oncoming blast to twirl through the air a metre away from the fire. She didn't get a moment to breathe or feel proud of her move for three more fire balls were shot directly at her one after the other. She jumped up in the air, flying quite high above them, but she singed her toes in the process. More fire when she tried to land, she ducked and dived getting more dishevelled as the fight wore on. The chances of her being able to take a shot at Zuko were laughable.
"Can't I have my glider?" Zoe screamed at him as she rolled away, quite ungracefully from yet another oncoming blast. Iroh was watching to the side and biting his nails furiously. Great, she thought: clearly she was being owned.
Zuko grinned smugly, "Sure, anything to help even out the odds. Though I think you'd need a whole army to do that."
A guard threw the pathetic stick she called a glider to her and she grabbed it and turned to face Zuko, her face mutinous. Suddenly the corner of her mouth curled up into a snarling smile. Within a second she was off. She charged toward Zuko, glider aimed at his…painful area and boy was she fast.
With a hilarious look of shock on his face Zuko cried out in fear and jumped to the side just in time.
"Are you crazy?" He demanded furiously as she cracked up laughing while skidding to a halt at the edge of the ship.
"Don't insult me." She said simply, "Or you'll lose some parts that are most precious to you."
Iroh laughed heartily to the side and Zuko practically exploded, his fists smoking.
"That is enough training with you today." hissed Zuko, refusing to look at Zoe, "Guards! Take the prisoner back to her cell."
This made her angry; she was sick of being treated like a fugitive. It touched a sensitive nerve for reasons she did not like to disclose. "I wish you wouldn't treat me like a prisoner!" She snapped, knowing she must sound childish. "I grew up ion the Fire Nation, I am Fire Nation and I am willing to help you!" Well until you get me to the Avatar, she thought quietly, "Why must I be locked away all the time?"
Zuko turned his glare on her, her eyes looked green today he noticed; perhaps they did that when she was angry. Wait, why was he even noticing the colour of her eyes? "Agh." he said for reasons unknown to anyone other than himself. "I have no reason to trust you; you're an enemy to our state and an ally to the Avatar!"
The guards were walking her back to her prison already, "I am not!" She shouted in reply, cringing at the childish reply. But, she continued on nevertheless. "You're a stubborn, spoiled Prince who won't listen to anyone but himself!" She shouldn't have said that and she knew it. That was why she ducked before the freshest bout of flames could hit her. The guards jumped aside in shock. She kept walking, towards her cell, keeping her head held high.