Honey dew tea has magical properties. It has a varying flavour of sweet fruit and herbal leaves and the combination creates a toffee and clear aroma that eases the senses into a passive state allowing for optimum relaxation. The taste and aroma with its relaxing properties is sure to send you drifting through the clouds on a journey to inner tranquillity. One cup of Iroh's special tea and you'll be sleeping like the ancestors…
Either Uncle's tea is going to cause me to sleep like the ancestor's when I finally die-which could be very soon or this too sweet water is meant to tire me with my endless runs to the toilet. I have had my fifth cup and my mind is teaming with thoughts and voices.
I have moved bed chambers; opting for Ozai's old master room with its large balcony and windows as well as optimum security. The doors to the balcony are open, curtains drawn away from the windows and servants fanning the room but I still feel like I am in the heart of the volcano.
My thin shirt sticks to my skin like a second skin, hair is damp and stuck to the side of my face and nape and my feet leave moist foot prints on the polished floor. Iroh sent the tea to me after one of the servants alerted him to the Fire Lord's fifth day of no sleep or bathing. This is after I made it clear that my privacy was of the utmost importance… then they look at me as though I have turned into Ozai when I discipline them for such indiscretions…
No one is to utter a word about my activities or whereabouts. Food is to be sent with care and privacy and no one is to disturb me…
Simple instructions, simple tasks and by Agni simple bloody idiots!
"Do not look at me" I hiss to the young girl fanning in the far corner. Her eyes had been following my insistent pacing. I had seen the gleam of humour; her internal chuckling was so loud- the Fire Lord can't seem to get some sleep…
There is a knock on the door, it is soft and timid. I halt my pacing and listen intently to the little raps behind the giant door. It is either a female or a spineless scoundrel….
"Master Katara…"I hear a male voice begging. "He has instructed not to be disturbed!"
"You will have us fired or worse…!" another voice says anxiously. The door knob moves and twists downwards before a soft nudge to open it follows. It doesn't budge. She bangs on the door this time and I imagine her with her small water bending fist pounding away in her stubborn fury were she thinks I owe her something. She is probably muttering how spoilt I am. Yes, Zuko the spoilt Fire Lord Brat.
"Open the damn door Zuko" she shrieks.
"Unlock it" I say softly to the guard and he jumps, looking at the door and back at me. "But don't open it for Her Supreme Nosiness"
He pulls the lever and the sound of the links unlocking resonates in a smooth metallic 'click'. I hear her huff and wait; expecting the door to open and then she swears and opens it her self.
"You are being unreasonable" she hisses, squinting her eyes at the darkness of my chamber. "Aang is waiting for your…"
"I opened the damn door Katara" I sigh. "Now you can very well close it as you get the hell out"
"We need to know what you're planning on doing…" she moves a step closer. "With regards with your father and Azula"
"They were burnt to cinders" I laugh. "Get out Katara"
"Zuko…" she whispers. "Iroh thinks…"
"Get the hell out, Katara!" I scream, turning away from the orange view of the rising sun and rounding on her-revealing myself to her. Wide blue eyes shine momentarily in the poor light and a face filled with shock and disbelief faces me. She splutters something unintelligible before rushing out-and forgetting to close my door like I had told her too.
"I want six guards added to the corridor" I whisper to the perplexed man holding the door handle unsurely. "No one… not the Avatar or Mai is to come in here… or someone gets burnt"
"Yes Fire Lord" he stammers. "Yes… Fire Lord Zuko"
My ears still ring from the triple blasts that erupted from within the palace as Aang and I rushed to meet with the chief officer… the shaking of the walls and ceiling… Chaos and confusion rebounding through out the estate. Their quiet questioning looks at me; how will I react to such an open display of rebellion. Such an obvious sign of disrespect…
"You can not Enter!" the guard shouts. "The Fire Lord forbids…"
I hear smashing and rumbling and soft whimpers. I shift my feet, readying myself for the predicted day, the predicted attack…
I wait for the knock on the door but it does not come. There is a muffled cry followed by two subsequent slumping sounds and then silence. The door shakes momentarily before flying of its hinges, across the massive expanse that is my bed chamber, crashing through the stained glass sliding doors in a kaleidoscope of gleaming shards, through the balcony and into the sea.
She enters in a furious pace, hair swinging wildly around her face and hiding her eyes. Her fists are balled into pale delicate weapons of mass destruction and she is in a despicable beige shirt and pants clashing furiously with her milk skin. I stand still, eyes wide and mouth hanging open, confounded…
"Get your shit together Sparky" she says softly. "I'm giving you fifteen minutes to clean your royal ass and get down to the second dining room"
"I am not…"
She slides her bare foot over the marble and I feel distinct vibrations rumble from where she stands to my own soles. "Your talking privileges have been stripped, now undress… get your butt in the grand bath tub to your left…"
I look to my left, to the two pale brown doors hiding the grand bath tub in question….
"Bathe your stinking skin and get your ass down to the last relative you have in Sozin's blood line"
"No" I say softly.
"It wasn't a request" she whispers, closing her eyes before looking up at me-in my direction and smirking. "I still owe you a beating for burning my feet…"
"I'm going to wait right here…" she says, cocking her head to the bed. "And you and I can go down together"
She sat on the bed the whole time, head turned towards me and grinning widely at my discomfort. Did she have to be here, in the room with me while I dressed? Surely Mai would not be pleased-I think. Would she be bothered and did it even matter? Toph is blind… but that had not stopped my skin from heating up and steaming the water right of off it…
"Zuko" Uncle cries, hefting his weight out of the chair and wobbling towards me. His face is etched with hopeless despair and eyes are puffy in their wrinkled encasing. I let him mourn… alone…
"Uncle" I rasp my throat dry and constricted.
"Did you get my tea" he whispers into my shoulder, holding me tightly as though he would never let go. "I asked Mi to set it on your table… she told me you where ehm, pleased and gave her a… vacation"
"I told her not to worry, you are not yourself" he adds, finally releasing me and studying my face. "A beard… it is fitting… for the… service"
Katara and Aang look up to me in mild sadness and intense anxiety. I shake my head once to them and they look away quietly and busy them selves with the many tea pots laid out on the table.
"Zuko" Sokka murmurs. "I've been liaisoning with the chief officer while you were…well, dealing with…in your…."
"He had him sift through the ashes… for the remains" Suki whispers, holding Sokka's hand.
"Oh" I say, turning to Mai who is standing still and cold by the mantle piece. "Master Katara and Avatar Aang, I would like to speak to you privately"
"Now you want to speak" Katara snaps, startling everyone.
"If now is a good time for Fire Lord Zuko…"Aang says softly, looking at Katara with a pointed gaze "Then now, shall it be"
"If you would Aang…" I say softly, looking at the door. "Announce that a private memorial service is being held"
"Zuko…"Katara shushes. "This is all unnecessary! Your Uncle…"
"My Uncle needs to be away from here soon" I hiss, shocking her again with my anger. She takes a step back towards Aang. "He needs to be safe… their cells were bombed. It was an attack on the royal family… I am trying…"
"Zuko" Aang whispers, his face dark and pained. "We will help you… we will do it your way, like we promised"
"Katara?" I ask her and she frowns, folding her arms over her chest.
"Fine" she sighs. "But this is wrong… it is wrong and poor Iroh…"
"Poor Iroh will be alive at the end of all this" I breathe, thinking of the words 'accelerant' and 'technical barbed bombing device'.
Sozin's blood line rests with my Uncle and I but that does not mean the foyer is empty of mourning relatives. Mourning power hungry relatives who smell an opportunity to snuff out the turbulent line of Sozin's children and bring forth a new royal Fire Nation family. I recognise two out of the thirty relatives of second cousins, uncles and aunts. My mother's family is not here… why would they be…. Unless to celebrate Ozai's final judgment day.
No words are said to describe the Fire Lord and one time self proclaimed Phoenix King and his Fire Princess daughter. I have had the ashes stored in gold urns with black and red ornamental engravings that described them; that tells the story of the good they may have held but was lost between the blood and glory.
As is tradition, they will be placed in the royal burial tomb in their own tombs marked with their names.
I send out a letter to the nation detailing all of this:
A series of bombings took place ranging from the court building where the Fall of The Phoenix King ceremony was held-where earth nation rebels caused a disruption too-back to the royal palace. The bombs were small and containable in the outer structures of both buildings and the Fire Lord and Avatar managed to detain any hazardous spread of fire or after shock… the bombs in the underground layers of the palace-where the royal prison chambers where… were distinctly managed and sophisticatedly operated with two targets. There was accelerant involved, causing the fire to rage fiercely and quickly-burning everything to ashes.
Nothing could have survived such an attack, especially if shackled and stripped of fire bending
"I am not leaving" he says, folding his arms carefully over his large expansive chest. "I am not leaving my son"
"You mean nephew" Toph murmurs.
"That's what I said" Uncle huffs.
"What is it with you Royal Fire…"she mutters, moving away from the table to stand behind Mai's chair.
"Uncle… I am okay" my head thrums continuously and their chattering isn't helping.
"You don't sleep and fire people every hour" he says, shaking his head. "Literally too"
"That was one time…" I mumble, looking to Mai. She smiles weakly at me.
"I will stay with him" Toph announces. "Like a body guard…"
"I don't need a body guard, Toph" I hiss.
"Not for you" she chuckles. "For the poor servants who need fire proof suits to work around you!"
"That does make me feel better, Grand Master Lady Toph Bei Fong" Uncle says thoughtfully "I mean…. Lady Grand Master Toph Bei Fong"
Didn't we do this…? An intrusive thought murmurs and the strange room wobbles slightly.
"For a week" I say, shutting my eyes tightly and trying to ignore the odd sensation crawling up my spine at the unfamiliarity of everything and yet I recognize it all…
"A month it is" Uncle says, smiling a little.
"And the Avatar and Water Bending Master were remaining, I understand?" Mai asks, looking at me questioningly. "Zuko…you are swaying?"
"Uh…" it felt like the scene playing out in front of me; Toph standing in the hideous ensemble, Uncle sighing in his seat eyes on me and Mai's indifferent gaze scanning me… it felt like watching a play from high up in a spectator booth…
"Wait, Twinkletoes and Sugar Queen were already staying…" Toph asks walking aggressively over to me. "And I was not invited to stay…"
"You smell like Cherry-Peach blossoms"
"Uh… oh-kay" Toph says uneasily, backing away from me.
"Zuko…?" Uncle asks, eyeing me with concern.
"Did I say that?" I ask, looking around the room at the different shock ridden faces.
"It is best for your Uncle to be here with you" Chief Hakoda murmurs. "We will stay for a week… to see how things pan out"
"I will stay until the Security team finishes their work on the bombings" Aang says. "Until they come up with a perpetrator… and maybe even after that"
"The rest of us will be here for the week" Ty Lee says softly, placing a hand on Mai's shoulder. "For support"
"You need to sleep…"Katara whispers, her motherly tone dripping with a maternal compassion "You need to rest. You look like…"
"A wild porcupine-boar's rear end" Sokka mutters. "Scary like one too"
They have all stayed, after the guest returned literally that evening of the attacks-they stayed. It fills me with some measure of security to know they are here. They are here for now… It fills me with a little more security to know that they haven't preyed on where it is most exposed… yet.
Shall I say it was the Phoenix Kings loyalists who planned the attacks? It does not make any sense to kill the Phoenix King you treasure so much… it makes no sense unless you have a bigger grander plan.
All of this after the announcement of the inquiry and deportation of the soldiers form the Earth Kingdom… All of this… when I am trying to redeem my nation. The poison lies close to the heart.
AUTHORS NOTE: This has got to be my least favourite chapter. It had to be done though, thanks to my little map of how events are to pan out for the next two or so chapters. Tried to wrap my head on how Zuko would react to a rebel movement-insomnia and paranoia came up.