Disclaimer: I own neither the Avatar characters nor the Batman elements that will eventually be used in this story. To assume I own either is a folly.
Rise of the Wolfbat
By: Known Unknown
The Fire Nation capital's most heavily guarded asylum for the dangerously insane was home to many patients, a number growing steadily after the close of the war. The decades of fighting took its toll on many, leaving behind almost as many broken wills and minds as it did broken lives and bodies. There were soldiers who could not leave the violence of the war behind, everyday people splintered into pieces by oppression, or those done in by shock and despair and lashing out.
In the past, the Fire Nation would show such people no mercy – sending them out to the front lines to die or sweeping them under the rug entirely. Only the children of powerful noble families were given anything resembling care, which mostly boiled down to being quietly tucked away somewhere comfortable and stricken from record. Anyone else was left to rot.
One of the many things Zuko did after peace was called and he ascended to the throne was reach out to the people, not only those who were harmed physically by the conflict, but mentally. He provided care for these people even if they were too dangerous to live normal lives, and ensured that this care would affect as many as possible – not just the richest and most powerful. This earned him more than a few dirty looks from the nobles of court, but it was far from the most contentious thing he had done since ousting his father – he was used to being disliked by those who supported the old regime, and he had long decided that such opinions would no longer keep him from doing the right thing.
The reforms went on unabated. So far the Capital's was the only major facility – a refurbished prison – but it was a start. Even in such a small change, the people smiled at the signs that their new leader cared so much for their welfare.
But however good as Zuko's intentions were, they weren't entirely unselfish. For deep in the facility there stood a solitary wing, installed at the behest of the Fire Lord himself. Inside that wing was but one solitary cell, meant for a single, important inmate. This inmate was guarded around the clock with no visitors, except for those vouched for by the highest authority. Only the most skilled guards and healers were allowed anywhere near this prisoner, whose confinement and care was among the chief of the facility's responsibilities.
It was difficult to recognize her, so long after her fall – even her closest friends, when visiting, could barely believe it was the same person. She was unkempt and disheveled, her clothing ragged and her expression blank but twisted and feral. It was difficult to believe that this broken young woman was once ruler of a kingdom.
But as her brother would often tell the staff, Azula's present state is just a sign of how far she had fallen and how warped she had become. She was still as dangerous today as the day she lost power, even imprisoned, and it was his order that she be monitored around the clock until the day she could – hopefully - be cured and reformed.
So far the constant observation seemed unnecessary. From the moment she arrived, the former Fire Lady Azula remained completely unresponsive. She denied all contact or encouragement from others: none, not mind-healer or guard, nor friend or foe could break her from her catatonic state. She still had her Firebending, as in the state she was in removing it was deemed liable to break her completely, but she never used it. Nor did she ever try to escape. All she ever did was sit in the center of her cell with her knees to her chest, staring blankly at the walls. Visitors expected her to rave or declare vengeance – her brother, now Fire Lord in her place, once even tried to goad her into attacking him just to make her react to something.
In its own way her silence was more unnerving than a thousand death threats. With it came a total uncertainty, of whether there was a darkness hiding behind her blank eyes… or nothing at all. Despite her unresponsive behavior she tended to unnerve the entire staff, especially given the strict orders her brother had left stating that she should not under any circumstances be underestimated. It seemed he especially did not trust her enough to completely believe in her broken state. Or, at least, he didn't believe that she would stay broken for long.
No healers could help her, anyway. From time to time, the Fire Lord would bring in experts from around to world to tend to his sister, but none were able to bring her out of her state – or even reach her in the slightest way. Either this was a very thorough act (not outside of Azula's skillset, admittedly), or her condition was not only genuine but very serious.
Ultimately, even Zuko was forced to accept that the only mind capable of bringing Azula back to reality was her own. And unbeknownst to him, that mind really was far too cracked to make sense of anything beyond its pain, let alone fix itself…
Alone. Always alone. As always, the former princess' face did nothing to betray the thoughts that tore through her. The only sign was a mild twitching of her hateful eyes.
I never had any friends. Just simpering fools waiting to turn on me at the first opportunity. They didn't care… perhaps I gave them no choice except to not care, but it never mattered matter. To keep them with me, I hadto keep them controlled – compassion is an illusion, but fear and control are real. That's always been the Fire Nation way. That's what Father taught me. They cared nothing for me. Why else would they walk free, enjoying the luxuries that should be mine – accursed Mai – while I remain imprisoned in this hellhole? TRAITORS… traitors, every last one.
A guard walking past the room might have heard tiny sniff come from inside, but if he had he didn't think it worth investigating.
There is no one who hasn't betrayed me. My father's army now serves my weakling of a brother. My so-called friends now leap behind our enemies like cowards. The glorious rule of my father, and his father, and me… unceremoniously dragged through the mud. How could my brother do this to me? How could he take my destiny from me?!
Almost imperceptibly, her expression changed. Where there was mostly hate came a sudden glimmer of sorrow and regret, if so briefly that it could barely be noticed.
But I have betrayed myself most of all. In my rage, I paid the final blow to my destiny. I lost all I am, and all I could be. Now, I am nothing. But Isn't now the time to start anew? Maybe I could just leave this all behind. There is nothing for me here but hatred and loss, and… all I want is to be free again. I want to be able to live like I used to. I'll do anything…
Her eyes bulged, and she gritted her teeth – a sudden turn of emotion upon her. When she was done, the regret was gone – replaced by renewed fury.
NO! What am I saying? I am no sycophant. I am exalted royalty! Freedom? There is no freedom while inferior minds control me, restrain me. While the vengeance of my father – and myself – is unfulfilled.
A slow smirk inched across her face as she thought of her vendettas, the only things that kept her focused in these dark times. Thoughts drifted to the father who had made her who she was today, and her smile grew.
Father… he is the only one who hasn't betrayed me. If he were not right now imprisoned, just like me, he would come for me. I know he would. Then I could join him and show myself to be deserving of his love and respect. We could show the world how undeserving Zuko is! We still can!
Father will come for me soon. He will. And then Zuko will fall, and they'll all see…
In her mind she laughed – cold and loathing, echoing off the walls and filling the cell with a maniacal mirth. But in reality she did nothing but stare. If one were looking closely they might have seen a single tear slide down her cheek, but not even she would have been aware of it.
This is what the once proud Azula was reduced to: a maelstrom of the vestiges of her ego and her growing self-loathing. She was broken by her defeat, lost in her own hatred with nowhere to go and no way to escape. She could be helped around the clock, but despite her brother's hopes there was little that could ever help her. She could only change if she wants to, and at this rate she may never want to - if nothing changed, she would likely stay in her solitary cell for a long time yet.
How fortunate for Azula, then, that a change was indeed coming…
- On The Other Side Of The City -
Across the capital in an even more heavily guarded dungeon, the second most impregnable prison in the Nation behind the Boiling Rock, there laid a similar cell in a similarly solitary wing with a similarly regal occupant. The ex-Fire Lord, once the most powerful man in the world, was now yet another of the old regime broken by defeat at the hands of the Avatar and his friends, cast into a lonely cell and left to rot for the rest of his life.
And yet despite how similar his situation was to his daughter, his state of mind was almost the exact opposite. Yes, he was just as straggly and gaunt. His demeanor was just as cold and unresponsive. His gaze was just as unnerving, but instead of confused fury his eyes only betrayed a cold, calculated determination. There was no inner musing or despair to be found in the mind of Ozai. Though he too spent his days merely staring at he wall, it was not because he was out of touch with reality. Even in chains, he would never deign to look upon those lesser than him – neither guard nor traitorous family deserved his respect, and so he gave them nothing but his cold indifference. It was a learned reaction from years of rule, one that he would rather die than let go of.
But today found him in a different mood. For today, he was waiting. He had spent all day listening to the slightest sound outside his cell – it didn't seem dangerous, so the guards never paid much attention to it. Yet like his daughter, it was in his silence that he was the most dangerous. Grandiose and uncomplicated as he was when poised to rule the world, in his degradation he had become cunning and shrewd. The guards on the other side of his door had no idea, but the breadth of his plotting was soon to reach a head – even without power, he refused to be reduced to nothing.
Overlooking their most important prisoner in his disgrace would be the worst mistake the guards ever made, and Ozai knew it – for at this point there was no stopping him. Exactly at sunset all he had to do was whistle outside his window…
He was soon answered by a screaming explosion just out of sight. The Pheonix Lord smirked. It was time.
Author's Note: Finally got around to redoing these prologues a bit - as some of my earliest stuff they have always bugged me. In the case of this chapter, I redid the beginning to work a bit better and redid Azula's monologue to be less incoherent and silly. I'm probably not going to also redo the earliest "episodes," since though those have their problems they're not as bad.
Anyway… this is a story inspired by a series of fanarts and crossovers images I came across years ago, showing a cross-universe between Avatar and Batman involving Sokka as The Caped Crusader – it's still up on deviantart iirc. It seemed like an amazing concept, and I was disappointed to find that there wasn't a solid attempt at making a story out of it – eventually, I decided to make my own.
The original stuff was a full AU, with an entirely different history, but this story is more of an alternate future: it takes place after the events of the original series and details a future that ultimately differs from the one we see in Korra. Naturally, because of this there will be differences between this and the original Wolfbatman stuff, mostly with decisions on how to use characters.
Though if anyone asks why this isn't labeled a crossover, it's because it isn't one. It's not a cross between Batman and Avatar as much as an Avatar story that affectionately implements Batman elements.