Avatar – The other side of light.
Chapter one "Waiting to be reborn"
Two year after the world changed.
Two year of rebuilding and moving on.
Unless you lost, then you spent it in the dark.
Three and a half miles outside the Firenation capital. Inside an 8 x 10 room, pitch-black, windowless, and colder than it should. Echo's sound in the dark waking eye's long use to blackness.
"You shouldn't go in there, It's been a bad week. "
"Thank you Colonel Mongke, but I'll be fine."
The second voice, something alien, only dimly remembered and understood. Was it only because it was softer?
Something lit the blackness, something else familiar, this was hot and bright, and dancing! Something she knew all to well, fire.
"Azula, it's your mother, I'm coming in."
Azuka spoke though her drug induced haze.
The door closed tightly behind her, she walked to her daughter's bed carrying a candle holder with a very small candle and sat down. Ursa retrieved the blanket and covered her daughter.
"Cover up dear, its cold in here. You hurt another one of your guards, we talked about that last time do you remember?"
Azula turned her head sharply away from her mother as she spoke like an angry child that didn't want to admit she was wrong.
"They are trying to poison me again. . .all of them!"
"Azula, that's the opium, and your right it is not good for you. They give it to you to keep you from hurting people. Now I've made them start to ween you off it, but you need to promise me they won't have a reason to give you anymore."
Ursa couldn't tell if her daughter was fighting against her drug induced haze or giving into it.
"You're beautiful Mother, you kept more dignity in your exile then I have in mine. "
"Don't talk like you've given up, please. Trust me when I tell you you've only just stared living."
Ursa shivered just a bit when Azula next spoke.
"What have they done with Father now that the war is over?"
Ursa picked her words very carefully.
"He was . . defeated by the Avatar, he put in prison in the capital. I do visit him, sometimes. . ."
Something inside Azula sparked . Something born out a life of reading people to find just that spot to stab, and twist. She found it in the word "defeated". . .
"Defe. . ."
But she lacked the strength to strike.
". . .Does ZuZu visit him?"
She cursed herself inside for that weakness.
"No sweetheart, I don't think he does."
Two and a half hours later, her hair cut, and nails trimmed mother was gone. It was silent enough to hear a pin drop.
"Must be night, time to misbehave."
The fact that she couldn't recall when she'd started talking to herself sometimes worried her. Though that was something she would deal with once she was out of here.
"Three miles or so to the capital two and a half to the main dock. Get out of the room, use whats on hand. . . come back for ZuZu later. ."
Azula slipped into the cold floor and into her breathing exercises. She began to focus through the drugs, and built her chi. One complete breath ever three heart beats, every three breaths she pushed her chi outward magnifying her own body heat. Her breathing technique was flawless and has been since the start of her formal training. The instructor had told the class about how the strongest benders could live for centuries because of their mighty chi supplies. It was an easy logical leap to make that if something was perfect it should last, not forever mind you that was just arrogant, but no reason not to aim for perfection.
"Time to go."
Azula stood careful not to step outside of the area she'd been sitting in because of the heat now stored in the flooring. She moved into her being pose, and redirected the heat into the door, and watched it steam just a bit. With bated breath she stepped to the door, and tapped it. It was barely even warm.
The Princess raged out of control, trying in vain to send a cascade of flame at the door that held her. The result was a few flicks of dim orange fire, a pale shadow of the brilliant blue fire she was once controlled. Dropping to her knees her mind flooded with images of a cackling crying fire spiting broken wretch chained to the floor.
"Damn you Zuko, and your little water peasant!"
The images kept coming in waves. Zudo, Mother, Mai, Ty Lee, the Avatar, and of course her Father.
"Did the monk kill you Father, or did they take your dignity too? Dogs I am their Princess their . . .Fire . . lord. . ."
Her tantrum subsided when she realized something profound, she had been wrong.
"No . .not Firelord, I lost. . .to little ZuZu . . .hahahahah! Zuko, I'll get you and your little water-rat too. . . ."
Azula was starting to doubt that she would, when something broke the endless monotony for the first time since Mother started to visit. It was a faint green glow, and without comprehending that it might be dangerous she crawled to it across the not frosty floor. She found it poking out of the vent she'd spent long hours obsessing over, as the probable origin of the ether they used to knock her out when anyone but Mother entered the cell. Or at least it had since she'd bit that guards jugular, but she was certain that was a long time ago. The source of the light was a small green glowing crystal wrapped in white paper. Azula unwrapped it, and glared around her cell, and its bare walls for a moment.
"What a hole."
The crystal was pencil sized, and much to her glee, sharp on both sides.
". . . an eye I think . . . or a nice gut wound. . . ooh a note!"
She read by crystal light.
My lord would ask an audience. In exchange for such, he offers your freedom. I come with the rising of the moon to receive your answer.
Her head spun with the idea of rescue at last, and then her heart sank . . . at the idea of needing a RESCUE.
"The presumption! As if I would ever need a . . . savior."
Azula imagined the silence all around her filled with mocking whispers.
"Flawed pitifully weak creature, trapped in her tower waiting for rescue. Is that all that's left?"
In her mid she pictured a flawless image of a Pai Sho table and a game lost. How did it come to this? Where was that SINGLE ERROR she knew was there that lead to this? Then came the slow painful realization that THAT game was OVER, and she had only the two options of resetting the board or giving up playing the game left to her.
The princess felt her inner energies churning, and whispered.
"If I will even be right again, I need something NOW."
The crystals green glow was for a second matched with the smallest spark of faint orange flame.
"Reduced to this. . . .but not forever. . . embers into flames. . ."
A different world.
The royal palace inner sanctum.
The Fire Lady Ursa walked through gilded halls, past vaulted doors, and into throne room. The ancient heart of the empire deserted and dark. She looked around for a moment haunted by old memories.
"What started here . . ."
Ursa turned and walked out trying to remember better times. After a half hour, she noticed the royal guards standing in odd locations. Remembering they normally formed a ring around the Firelord she made a guess where her son was holding court. The Firelady smiled as she walked into the palace garden, and saw her son talking with an Earth Kingdom diplomat by the Turtle Duck pond.
"So we agree Ambassador, the messenger hawk service will for-fill its promise to deliver all messages unopened, and then totally for convenience of the recipient hand it over to local earth kingdom mail carriers. What happens to it after that is none of our concern. "
The older man nodded his head in agreement.
"I thank you on the Earth Kings behalf. It is not something we like to do often, but some times to prevent rebellion we like to keep our options open. "
She watched her son, now Fire Lord talking over the affairs of diplomacy with only one thought in her mind. The burn on his face was there because no one protected him.
"Of course, now I will be officially opening the system to everyone in three weeks. After that all nations will share a connection by messenger hawks. People dealing in Earth Kingdom coal, Water Tribe whale oil or Fire Nation metals will be able to negotiate for the price of a few coins. Tell your King I look forward to writing him."
The diplomat stood up, and bowed in respect.
"He looks forward to hearing from you. On that note Fire Lord Zuko farewell."
Ursa watched him by the pond for a moment longer before realizing why he was still knelling there. She walked up behind him.
"You can't stand up can you?"
"I lost feeling in my legs an hour ago, how do people do this all day?"
Zuko comically stood up like a child figuring out how, and smiled at his Mother.
"I am going to have a table and some chairs put in the war room I swear."
"Your sister, I went to see her today, and she's not well Zuko."
She watched the boy bite his lower lip, and pause for a moment picking his words carefully.
"Azula hasn't been well for a very long time. "
"Zuko what they are putting in her food is killing her mind. Whale Tail Island would be better than this."
She watched Zuko hang his head at the thought of just how close he had passed by where she was banished to.
"I don't want to be cruel to her, but Azula took the Earth Kingdom with face paint and a stolen wardrobe. Dissidents from the colonies have tried to get to Father twice, if they get to her I'll have rebellion on my hands."
Their eyes met for a second and the boys face softened.
"But I'm supposed to be the good guy. We will get Azula cleaned up enough for me to have a talk with her."
She could feel her own weakness, the sun was down, and dawn so very far away. When the door cracked, and no light came from behind it she knew it was time. She held the green glowing crystal in her hand the only makeshift weapon she could find in two years.
Azula could see it so clear in her mind the door opens and someone peeks in. She stabs her would be saviors eye out and makes her escape on her own. A plan looking brown-haired man came through the door, and she didn't make her move. Something sank inside her just then. He turned to her and bowed like a common servant.
"Honored Princess, my Master would offer you your freedom, for the price of audience. May I have your response?"
The small amount of formal ceremony helped her form a response closer to ice-cold perfection she'd lost.
"And just who is this lord of yours?"
"A scholar my lady . . ."
He cut off his response and turned his head toward the door.
"Princess I came this night, because of your . . .superior guardians only the archer stands watch this night, and he IS come."
She snapped ignoring the danger.
"The Yu Yan Archer? You fool any pair of the others would have been better! Now get me out of here!"
He took a moment to bow again, and lead her out into the hallway she hadn't entirely seen in years. Azula watch her guide turn his head just a hair, before he spoke.
The pair took off like rockets as an arrow stuck in the wall a hair away from both. Rounding a corner Azula couldn't help but think a near miss of two stationary targets was the archers way of saying "surrender please". After so long without real exercise even after such a short run her chest was burning. She comically slammed into her saviors back as he stopped at the end of a hallway the only exit a 4th story window.
"You little fool, couldn't they spare someone competent!"
He heft her on his shoulder like a sack of rice, and crashed though the window. A heart beat later the archer looker out the window, and saw no sign of them. Just above the window standing on the vertical face of the wall like it was a paved road with Azula still over his shoulder. Once the archer was gone for satisfactory amount of time Azula spoke in a whisper.
"What the devil ARE you?"