Random thought lightning struck me in the middle of plotting things out for another story, and I kept getting distracted by that idea. So, I had to write it out... And then I started plotting things out for this story, and everything is going crazy.
I don't own Avatar: The Last Airbender. I'm just a fan.
The Sparks Between Us
The sky was dark, with only pinpricks of stars to light it.
They seemed even brighter and bolder than before, anxious to move in.
To claim what the moon's protection had abandoned.
Across the fortress of ice and snow, flashes of fire lit up the night.
Orange and red glinting against spears and structures of ice, the desperate eyes of men
Two men dueled across platforms of frozen water, heat flashing from their hands with anger and righteous fury. They traded hateful words, honor, pride, loyalty.
The spirits watched with keen eyes, guiding the hand of their enraged brother, whispering which people to favor. The Ocean Spirit was beyond thought, so furious with the death of its lover.
In the sea beyond collapsed walls, luminescent claws sliced effortlessly through steel and iron, the bodies of marines tumbling to the icy waters below. They are pushed aside by the massive spirit, ignored or swept under. There was no hope for the children of fire, sucked into the Northern Ocean's ice-laden grasp.
The sound of metal grinding and falling helpless to the ocean was audible even in the Oasis, though the group were doing all they could to restore life to a fallen spirit.
A pale-haired young woman sacrificed herself.
The world was again alight with silver beams. Agni's reflected power.
One spirit, however, cared little for balance. Blue light streaked through channels, lighting up the undersides of bridges.
There was the human who had done what was forbidden.
A human who dared harm a spirit. Who had tried to kill the moon.
That human... no, both humans, the children of Agni who had fought against Tui and La's own chosen ones.
They were guilty.
They were both guilty.
Zuko's eyes widened when he saw a bright hand lift from the water, wrapping itself around his enemy.
He reached out to help the man, but swiftly rolled to the side, avoiding the grasp of a second hand sweeping after him.
Zhao was being drawn down into the canal, kicking and struggling for all he was worth. His hair was in disarray, flames muted by spirit-tainted waters.
Another wave whipped out, catching his ankles. A huff of breath forced out in a billow of steam, icy water curling around his form. Zuko tried to regain his footing, but the ocean dragged at his legs, lifting him from the earth and sweeping the young prince into its grasp.
Freezing shards seem to strike down into his very bones. The swirl of water and wind rushing past his ears.
He blacks out in the silence of an ocean s rage.
He woke up to whispers.
His body ached, head pounding a merciless beat.
Tepid water embraced one side of his body, an arm and part of his torso propped up on wet earth.
He felt gritty and disgusting, sticky in some places and crusted with dried saltwater on others.
Hesitant to reveal his awakened state, Zuko listened carefully in the only ear that was not pressed against muck. He couldn t make out the words of the whispers, though the voices grow slightly louder as time passes. His muscles ached, and even his good eye struggled to open.
The entire world seemed darker than normal, tinted an odd green-brown color. A marshland spread out in front of him, with tall roots and taller trees, murky water and odd plants. Somehow, impossibly, there was a wolf prowling in the distance, larger than even the trees. It ducked behind a mountain, but that did not stop his mind from racing.
What... What was going on?
Am I dreaming?
A flicker of light danced across his peripherals.
Finally gathering up the strength, he pushed himself into a sitting position, sliding further up the wet earth and out of that strange lukewarm water.
What had happened?
He had been in the North Pole... fighting Zhao.
Memories of the man inspired a flurry of anger and frustration, another round of traitor hissing in his mind. He was the prince, temporarily banished or not. It was one thing if he was unfortunately captured by the Earth Kingdom, or killed in a Water Tribe raid, but to be killed by his own countrymen...
The light was back. It hovered, wiggling back and forth in the air in front of his nose. He eyed it warily, raising one hand to swat at it.
He whipped his hand back, hissing, and pushed himself further from the little glow.
It bit him! There were tiny pinpricks on the heel of his palm, oozing blood.
That little! He raised his eyes to whatever-it-was, only to find it already a few trees away, departing fast.
Huh. Maybe he had scared it off.
Pushing onto his feet, he surveyed the area, trying to get a better hold on his location.
The only place that would even vaguely resemble this description was Foggy Swamp. That didn t even make sense. He couldn t have traveled across half the world, he would have remembered something about being drugged. It wasn t that easy to kidnap a prince. Honestly. Zuko frowned. Maybe he was on the southern edge of the swamp. Still, that didn t explain the fanged flying orb of light. Nasty bugger.
The confusion of his situation and lingering anger from Zhao built up, and he turned to release his tension into the air with a snap of his hand. Fire would lash out, leaving behind a bitter smell and a faint tug on his inner core. He froze. Nothing... happened.
He punched forward.
High kick, still nothing.
Rage and sudden fear enveloped his mind and he spun around in a devastating axe kick against a nearby root. It snapped easily under his foot, but no flames appeared. Not even a whuff of smoke or sparks.
His pupils dilated.
What was going ON!
His knuckles harshly met the coarse bark of his broken tree, forehead gently placed afterward.
This was a nightmare. Please let it just be a dream. A horrible dream. He reached inward intently, trying to find that inner flame, the warmth that he pulled from whenever he bent his element. There was...
He noticed that his shadow was flickering strangely.
Lifting his head from the tree trunk, Zuko turned around to see what had changed this time.
He nearly wished he hadn't. The glow was back.
It brought friends.
All of them wobbled back and forth, moving in a strange pattern.
They were of different sizes and, if he looked closely, slightly different tints. The first one was a bit creamy, and he could tell a couple were a bit blue. Still. There had to be at least a few dozen of the fist-sized lights, and that was far too many teeth for his liking, especially with his bending temporarily TEMPORARILY out of commission. The young prince edged to the side, testing the water.
Perhaps they weren t looking for him in particular?
That theory was squashed when the horde spread out in a semi-circle, surrounding him and the tree. Apparently they could strategize. An uncomfortable image of armadillo-wolves sprang to mind, their pack-hunting tendencies especially unsettling. Being eaten alive was definitely not on his list of goals.
One of the lights darted forward, shooting over his shoulder so close that he could feel the warmth on his cheek. He whipped around to face it, belatedly realizing he had stupidly exposed his back to the entire pack.
The light had vanished.
With bright gold scales contrasting against the dark tree behind it, a thick serpent was coiled, poised and staring at him. Its head was adorned by a greenish mane, matching eyes meeting his own golden ones solidly.
Realization struck him just as he stumbled backwards into the tepid water, mind set back to panic mode.
Wings spreading wide, a dragon leapt into the air, undulating toward the others. Zuko splashed around, the whites of his eyes clearly showing.
All of them. Each light had transformed while he had been looking away, and now a group... a fleet? A pack?
What do you call a group of dragons? He couldn't remember.
A blue and bronze dragon suddenly leapt forward, wings snapping down. Its teeth clicked together loudly, just in front of his nose. He hadn t even realized he had been dodging until his back was pressed against the tree. What was... What was going on. This was way too crazy. He lunged to the side, trying to somehow get out of this. His attempt met snarls and flashing scales, barricading the way. Teeth and claws were the main incentive.
They were... trying to trap him?
If he had taken the time to consider it, he may have thought it a bit ironic that the grandson of Sozin, who had ordered the slaughter of dragons, was about to be killed by the last remaining pack. Flock?
Zuko had no time to consider the irony, as he was much more concerned about avoiding claws and teeth to escape this sudden trap.
The thrashing creatures were throwing up water, could he slip under them? Was there a deeper spot in the water?
What about from above... if he could get a boost somehow, he could jump from the root over their circle.
His head whipped back and forth, mind churning furiously in a way to escape certain death. He could feel anger practically radiating off their faces, despite the fact he had never before seen a dragon head that hadn t been stuffed.
His great-grandfather... even his grandfather had a long list of achievements. Dragon slaying was certainly among them.
Suddenly, the pieces fell together. His uncle... His uncle had killed the last of the dragons. His grandfather had slaughtered them. There was no way a group like this would have escaped notice. They were supposed to be solitary creatures, anyway. No dragon from legend had the ability to turn into a little glowing light.
The bizarre environment, his lack of bending. It all made sense.
He had died.
This was the Spirit world.
Those were the souls of dragons, and his bending didn t work because there was no sun here.
His memory clicked and he could recall the icy grip of water surrounding him, glowing bright from the Ocean Spirit's energy.
Dread coiled in his belly, and Zuko s muscles were trembling slightly from the tension singing through them.
No firebending. Surrounded.
Spirits that were furious at him.
The Ocean Spirit had brought him here. To face justice for stealing away the Avatar?
For being near Zhao, who had killed the Moon Spirit?
And now, he would be hunted in the Spirit world, his soul unable to be at rest because of the death his great-grandfather had sanctioned!
This was so wrong.
He was meant to capture the Avatar. He knew his duty, his purpose in life! He was a prince! To protect his people, he had to do anything within his power to stop his sister from taking up the throne. To protect his nation from his psychopath of a sibling.
He... had failed?
One of the dragons surged forward and Zuko dodged again, this time slipping in the water in his distraction.
Mud slipped through splayed fingers, body twisting to face his doom. He would not die like a dove-rabbit, whimpering and hiding.
He could hear the thick breaths of the dragon behind him.
Is this really how it ends?
It loomed above him, growling.
Bright yellow eyes matched his own golden orbs, long horns curling up into the sky. Its nose crept closer, and Zuko bared his own teeth in an angry snarl.
The restless air became silent.
Whispers began, louder than before.
The dragons seemed frozen, each face angled with him as a center point.
Like elegant carved statues, not even the wind dared ruffle their manes.
He ducked down when he sensed movement, but was unable to avoid the long whiskers snaking through the air toward him.
There was a moment where he stared up at the dragon's golden eyes, so like his own before the whiskers touched his forehead.
Pain split through his brain as an onslaught of images poured into his brain.
His body was frozen, mouth still braced in an angry snarl.
A volcano spewing its innards, Fire citizens fleeing. Betrayal. Pain. Regret. Screams of anger and agony, scales parting beneath sword and spear, blood arching into the air.
Confusion. Wrath. The bonds of family, broken. Trust shattered.
Responsibility and grief smothering the inner Fire. GreenGoldRedBlue Orange eyes closing, lungs gasping one last time. The fury of spirits, slain by brothers, rising up to curse those who took their lives.
Zuko could do nothing but gasp and twitch his fingers as powerful emotions flooded through him, his own gut clenching, his own eyes crying.
The dragon spirits still circled around the human form, watching him.
Information leapt through synapses, feelings and histories and the wisdom of dragons, forcing its way into his brain.
The face of a young man, optimistic and inspired. The face of a Lord, betrayed The face of an old man, bitter and spiteful. The blood of great serpents dripping from his fingertips. The children of that man, reaching forth into the world and continuing his wrathful destruction of their kind.
Their eyes were gold, shining. The children of those men, brothers.
One glowed briefly, and walked away from the bloody trail. Zuko felt a thrum of PeaceAcceptanceTrust move through his entire body, but the image was short-lived.
The impressions were not chronological after that, and he could feel wind touching his face with gentle fingers, mountains and oceans spread out below him like a living map. The stars shining brightly, changing, frost clinging to bright scales. He could feel his knees becoming weak, breath growing short. In his ears, the rushing of wind and water became louder, until a crisp image snapped into place.
A tiny dragon, barely larger than a Fire Ferret, thinner than his index finger, reaching out with tiny tendrils, toward a boy who wore an ancient traditional kimono. The air was heavy with intent.
The structure of mountains stretched behind him were familiar to the prince, yet they bore no signs of human inhabitants.
He turned his gaze back to the pair. The air between them sparked.
A bond was formed.
A whirlwind of images swept him away once again, pounding against his eyes and head until darkness pushed up and swallowed him.
Your kin was our kin.
Your blood broke bonds.
Your blood doomed us all.
Your blood must redeem itself.
Your blood were once kin to the dragons.
Your blood will restore bonds.
You will restore Us.
His sudden heartbeat broke the quiet. He hadn t realized that it had ever stopped.
This idea has been plaguing my mind. =_=
I almost have the next chapter of Masks done.