Title: Arranging Marriages
Disclaimer: As always, I own zip.
Rating: T/PG-13. Possibly will go higher.
Summary: A contracted marriage to seal a treaty brings about a few changes for a few important people. Zutara. AU.
Notes: So, first, this Avatar fic will have no avatar in it. Aang's not here, simply because there is no reason for anyone to find him in his iceberg. Second, this is very much Zutara 'shipping, just so anyone who's here for anything else is warned. Last, the title is subject to change if someone comes up with something better.
She could remember it like yesterday the day her mother died. The attack, the screaming, the sight of her mother, chest blackened and staring sightlessly up. That day had changed something in her father, and he'd made a decision that changed her life forever.
Hakoda, terrified that the Fire Nation would return in search of the last waterbender of the South, terrified of losing his children and seeing his people attacked, led them all north. Following the path her grandmother had taken decades before, the whole of the Southern Water Tribe made its way to the Northern, petitioning to be allowed in. They were, and Hakoda was even given a powerful measure of autonomy over his own people, particularly his warriors.
Katara had been eager to learn bending, and at first, learning healing had satisfied her need to learn how to use and control her abilities. But she wanted more, and when none of the male bending masters would teach her, she begged, bribed and blackmailed their students into passing along the techniques they were learning. Waterbending Master "Poophead" Pakku had been very unhappy when it was discovered that Katara was learning bending from his own students.
If there was one thing Katara and her brother agreed on, it was that they never wanted to see their gran seducing anyone ever again. That night had been both very educational and very gross as very gross noises had escaped from Gran-gran's room at the end of the hall.
But Pakku had caved and Katara had learned the bending. She had in fact become his best student, and soon was assigned as Princess Yue's personal maid and secret bodyguard.
Then the Fire Nation attacked. They needed every trained fighter on the walls and Katara wound up on the front lines. She was the one who found the old woman waterbender who had escaped the Fire Nation and brought her within the walls. She was the one who learned old Hama's bloodbending trick, and it was Katara who used every bit of bending from the South Pole, the North Pole, Hama's discovery and every bit of healing and improvisation to become the greatest weapon in the defence of the North Pole.
She didn't know it, but the white uniform she wore had prompted a name for her, spoken of in whispers among the Fire Nation's armies. The White Terror.
Lu Ten was brought home to the palace in a coma. Uncle Iroh had been distracted and somewhat grief-stricken over the near-loss of his son. Zuko didn't really understand, but he was nine and maybe it was a grown-up thing.
Not long after that terrible return, he woke to the sound of a fight in the corridor. He poked his head out of his room and saw his father and uncle fighting. Bending at each other. It wasn't like when the soldiers sparred in the courtyards, this was somehow different. "Ozai, please! Think of what you are doing!" his uncle said.
"I'm removing two weak people from the line to the throne," his father said, and lunged forward at Iroh.
His uncle shook his head, blocking the flame fists sent his way, and replied, "You are making a mistake. Power is not worth what you will lose. He's a child!"
Ozai merely snarled at his brother and they clashed again. Zuko watched, horrified, as he realised his father and uncle were fighting for real. He didn't understand why, but they had to stop. They had to. "Stop!" he shouted, trying to get between them, to make them stop trying to hurt each other.
"Zuko!" his mother shouted from somewhere behind him. She sounded frightened.
It was too late. He walked into a flame fist meant for his uncle. The pain was incredible and the nine-year-old went flying. As he hit the wall and everything went dark, he heard an angered roar from his uncle. It would take years for him to gain a clear understanding of what had happened that night.
Iroh, despondently wandering the palace, had discovered the Fire Lord's deal with Ozai. Murder Zuko and he would get the throne. He had rushed to stop his brother, to try to make the man understand the horror and grief that would come with the loss of a child and had been stunned to discover the monster in his brother's skin. The man wouldn't have felt anything at the loss, and Iroh knew that he had to stop Ozai. For his nephew's life, for Ursa so that she would never feel anything like what Iroh was feeling about Lu Ten and for the Fire Nation so that it would never have a horrifying despot like that on the Fire Throne.
Ozai's gloating face as he maimed his son permanently with the comet-shaped burn scar that would cover almost half the boy's face had thrown Iroh into a rage and he had killed his younger brother.
In despair, both over Lu Ten's continuing coma and over the way he had been forced to kill his own brother, Iroh had lost himself in hunting the Spirit World for Lu Ten's soul, hoping that finding his son and bringing him back to the world of the living would make him feel better. Eventually he did return, having found a sort of calm and centre for himself. Lu Ten woke and gradually recovered and even managed to get himself deployed out in one of the repeated attacks on the Northern Water Tribe, coming back with a tale of a waterbender in white that had nearly killed him.
The reason she hadn't was that a truce had been called in the midst of the battle. More than a decade had passed and Fire Lord Azulon had died, leaving the Fire Throne to Iroh. Iroh had immediately put a unilateral stop to the war, one of his messengers getting to the Northern Tribe just in time to bring the fighting to a stop before Lu Ten died for real this time.
With the Fire Nation pulling out of the fighting, negotiations for treaties and reparations began.