...I swear I didn't mean for it to take so long to get this out...
I do not own Avatar: The Last Airbender or the concept of personified Nations. Please enjoy my headcanon views of what the Sun Warriors is like. For those who want to know, her human name is Yumi.
She was the oldest surviving Nation, and none of the others even knew. Standing on the ancient stones of her greatest temple, black hair pulled back into a ponytail, golden eyes scanning the ruins for any reminder of the bustling metropolis it had once been, she could only cling to her life and pray her people endured even longer for her.
The world had been so much simpler when she was young. Her people built their temples and palaces and homes in the midst of vast jungles, crawling with dangerous creatures. Children laughed and played in the streets while men farmed or hunted and women cooked and cleaned and sewed.
In those days, she had the appearance of an adolescent, a girl not yet a woman but no longer a child. Her arms were covered in golden jewelry, and a cape of red feathers was slung over her back. When she ran, arms spread and hands clutching her cloak, her people would joke that she looked like she had wings.
Sun Warriors…that was her name. That was her people's name. They were the chosen children of the sun, gifted by the dragons with the fire that warmed their homes. Across a great sea, they knew there resided many tribes of primitive people, bickering and squabbling over land when there was more than enough to go around. But that didn't matter. Because the Sun Warriors, who lived on the volcanic Dragon Isles, were left to live in peace.
It hadn't always been just her on those Isles, though. Others had once been there, their names forgotten with time. She was the last of the ancient Nations, the only one to survive the tests of time. Like the Eternal Flame her people kept burning in their greatest temple, the Temple of Agni, so too would the Sun Warriors survive, fueled by the love of her citizens, until the very end of time.
Such warm, bright days she had lived through! Laughter echoed amongst her people, and you could taste their happiness in the air. Sun Warriors could run through her forests freely, playing with the wild komodo rhinos and teasing the falcon hawks by mimicking their calls. Her people received the greatest gift of all: the ability to create the life-giving fire, passed to them by the dragons. With such a wonderful gift, they could cook their food and warm their bodies even when they were in the midst of the jungle! Though not everyone possessed the gift, enough that life was made simpler.
Where had those days gone?
Time, inescapable time, was all she could blame. Her youth spanned centuries, but nobody could stay a child forever. Almost without her noticing, Sun Warriors began to change, grow, developing new features that frightened her with their implications. What did this mean, that she was no longer a carefree child? These lumps of flesh that sat upon her chest, this slender waist, those broad hips…was she becoming a woman?
And when had men begun to see her differently, to look more at her body than her face? It was a simple fact that no Nation could be ugly, because the earth that formed them was not ugly. The Sun Warriors was no exception, the breathtaking landscape of the Dragon Isles reflected in the shapely form of their personification.
She herself was beginning to see men differently as well. Powerful warriors were no longer merely men to be respected…her eyes lingered on them for longer than was necessary, their attributes suddenly holding greater appeal for her. Why hadn't she seen how shapely this one's muscles were before, or how fine the face was on this one? Was she really the one changing, or was it them?
Her first kiss was with a priest's son, a young Firebender who had expressed an interest in her before. She never forgot the feeling of his lips pressing against hers, the smell of leather and sun-oil and musky spice, the warmth of his hands on her waist. That was when she finally accepted it: she was a young woman.
Years passed, letting her get used to the changes in her body. She supposed it was the prosperity of her people that allowed her to grow up, to learn of new delights as the old ones from her childhood faded away. Her feet no longer yearned for the hard pound of jungle dirt, her hair no longer tangled itself with the speed of her running. More "womanly" delights occupied her, gardening and pottery and mixing herbs for remedies. An old bow gathered dust on the stone wall of her rooms, while aged spears propped in a dark corner slowly lost their sinew bindings.
It was worth it, though, this turn from her wild and free childhood. Stone cities grew around her, the greatest in the spot where she had been born—her capital. Huge ziggurats to the honor of Pele and Agni, the Volcano Queen and Fire God, were erected to house her priest-rulers and their families. The largest temple of all was dedicated to the dragons, the marvelous beasts who gave her people the gift of fire. Inside she hid the Sunstone, a golden egg that would one day hatch into the greatest dragon of all.
Life was good. Sun Warriors could walk down her streets, her veins, and feel the joy of her people, her blood. Every part of her rejoiced to have such a beautiful home, a peaceful life, wonderful things.
She was in her garden when they came—the others who were like her. Young boys, all of them, they brought a group of diplomats and soldiers into her capital city and ordered her to ally herself with one of them. Sun Warriors was astonished at their rudeness, and quickly set them straight: she was a peaceful Nation, with no desire to involve herself in war.
One of the boys—she could no longer recall his name easily, but thought it may have been "Ba Sing Se"—had seen her privately and tried to persuade her otherwise. "I have to live underground because of my brothers' cruelty!" He cried to her, clutching her hand. "Please, send your warriors to my aid! With the fire your people create, my brothers' Earthbenders will be no match! We can burn away their walls and expand both of our homes!"
"Fire is not meant to be destruction," Sun Warriors had replied coldly. "Fire is light and warmth and life. If you cannot realize that, how can we be allies?"
Ba Sing Se left disappointed. His other brothers begged Sun Warriors to help them, aid them, fight for them, but she still refused. One of them stood out in her mind, a young man with the human body of perhaps fifteen or sixteen. He was called Omashu, city of the Earthbenders, founded by the first woman to bear the gift. Omashu was kind, and strong, and handsome…and he found her beautiful.
It was years before the baby was born, the mixture of Sun Warrior and Earth Continent. Contact with the Continent increased steadily, diluting her culture, making it more like that of the Earth Nations. Sun Warriors waited and waited and waited until she almost couldn't bear it, wanting to see her child at last. Surely this child, this life inside of her, would be more beautiful than the sun itself, right?
At last, he came. Her baby boy, with hair as black as hers and eyes as gold as hers, skin so pale she almost feared the sun would burn him to a crisp the first time she took him outside. Such a blessing it was, to see him, hold him, kiss his face and touch his tiny hand and stroke his cheek. Like all Nations, he grew into a child quickly, nurtured and loved. This little miracle…the Fire Nation.
Factions of her people were splitting from her, settling the area around Caldera Mountain, even thinking of building their homes in the crater of the dormant volcano. She didn't mind—they were what made her child, what made him live, and she would do anything for her precious son, anything! Age assaulted her body, aches starting where none had been before in all her years, wrinkles starting to develop, gray threading her hair. The Earth Nations sent her son support as well, goods and crops to keep his people alive.
Fire Nation was such a sweet child. He played in Sun Warrior's garden, gathering up weeds and presenting his mother with "flowers." An innocent smile graced his face as he played with a toy spear, or a carved komodo rhino, or pretended he was a priest and lectured his toys about the importance of spiritual enlightenment and peace.
Who would have guessed at his future? Could anyone have foreseen that her child would grow into the "monster" of the world?
It was centuries before she realized she was starting to fade. Her son's people and culture grew until it was stronger than Sun Warriors' own, her son himself becoming a child too old to keep beside her at all times. Eventually he insisted he go to Caldera, his capital, and live there with his rulers the Fire Sages. Of course he would come and visit as often as he could: of course he would invite her to visit him whenever she wanted. Contact between them grew less frequent, sometimes strained.
Sun Warriors realized she was beginning to fade, her life sapping away into her son as he became the dominant figure of the Dragon Isles. The thought scared her to death—her, the Sun Warriors, who had endured for millennia before this child came along and threatened her existence! How could she be fading now? She didn't want to die!
But she loved her son. And if she survived, he might not.
For years she agonized over the thought, to save herself or keep her son safe, until finally one of her rulers had a plan. They discussed it, pondered the implications, and agreed it was their last chance.
All of her people moved to a nearby island, with a volcano that seethed with Pele's jealousy. Sun Warriors rarely responded to her son's letters, refused all offers to visit him or receive a visit herself. Her and her people made their preparations, and waited. And waited. And waited.
In the end, it was a typhoon, not a volcano, that did it. The storm hit one day in the afternoon, roaring through the village her people had created and destroying their homes, crops, and goods. But nobody was there, because once they knew the typhoon would cross through their home the Sun Warriors and her people packed up their most precious belongings—little more than a few articles of clothing and some old keepsakes—went to the boats hidden on the other side of the island, and sailed to their capital. Once there, they went into hiding deep within the jungle, taking care to avoid anyone who tried to investigate their home.
Sun Warriors hadn't been able to take a single thing with her. She knew her son would go to her home once he heard of the typhoon, hoping to help her recover. He would find the village empty, homes likely in shambles, without a body in sight. Stories and rumors would abound about what had happened, speculations of spirits and dark forces, but the end conclusion would be the same. The Sun Warriors was dead.
And the "dead" woman was carving a living for herself in the jungle, tending a small garden and missing her son.
More years passed. Her son grew, and those few traders she allowed to visit her brought news of his health. When he declared his Fire Lord absolute sovereign, it was all she could do to keep herself from rushing to his side to see how he fared with the change. The Earth Nations were all conquered by one of their own, who faded away as his newfound sister built the city of Ba Sing Se above the ground. Up north, a barbarian Nation called the Water Tribe split into two, his children carrying on his legacy. A girl who had visited Sun Warriors many times before, a Nation of wandering Airbenders, founded four Air Temples before passing on.
The world changed, but Sun Warriors lived on. She was so scared to die, to fade like everyone else had, that she refused to leave her jungle. When her son's Darkest Day came, she would not stir—when he began a War to rule the rest of the world and killed off all the dragons but the Masters, she would not voice a protest. Saddened at what he did, remembering the laughing child she once held in her arms, Sun Warriors locked herself away.
Standing there on the highest level of her tallest ziggurat, watching the sun set, Sun Warriors wondered when she had stopped truly living.