Author's Notes: Hey everyone, thanks for the reviews. Well, here we are at the end, well let's go. As always I don't own the show Nickelodeon does.
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.-Walt Whitman
Another cry of pain echoed through the halls of the Fire Nation palace. Fire Lord Zuko winced and once again was extremely grateful that he was not in the birthing room. This was their second child and he had learned his lesson with their first child. Fire Lady Mai had, in the grip of the birthing pains, attempted to pin him to a wall with a hidden dagger. Though Katara had assured him that she had checked thoroughly for any hidden weapons she had still suggested that it might be better for him to wait outside during the birth. The barraged of curses and insults the normally calm Fire Lady was heaping on him convinced him of the wisdom of this.
To distract himself he looked about the room he was standing in. The room was circular in shape and filled with marble plinths; on each of these was an urn holding the ashes of one of the members of the royal family, more of these were in the birthing room surrounding the bed where the members of the royal family were born. The belief was it was supposed to represent the continuation of the royal line, the new entering the world surrounded by those who had gone before. Personally, Zuko thought the whole thing rather macabre and in his opinion it explained why so many of the family had ended up losing their hold on reality.
He paused when his gaze came upon one of the plinths, it was different than the others in that it was empty. Zuko's gaze paused, as it always did, when he came to this particular plinth. This was the plinth that had been intended to hold the ashes of Zokar but it stood empty, even now ten years after his brother's death. Zuko let his mind drift back to that day and all that had followed.
Zokar's death had marked the end of the battle and by extension the war. It had been a bloody affair, the only defenders who survived had been those who had been incapacitated by their wounds, all the rest had fought to the death. That still pained Zuko whenever he thought of it. They had inflicted thousands of casualties before they had gone done and priority once the fighting had ended had been for the wounded who could still be saved, the dead would have to wait. Once that task was done the victors had turned to caring for the dead. Zuko had personally gone to see to Zokar's body, as a child of the royal line he deserved that much. But the body was gone. For a. while there had been rumors that he had, in fact, survived, a possibility that caused Zuko mixed feelings.
It was not long, however, before the truth was discovered. Men reported seeing an older man and a woman near where Zokar fell and reports from men stationed to watch the gates reported two people who matched their description pushing a cart out of the city. Several days later the man was discovered as he made his way back to the capital. It was Woo, Zokar's chief steward. He was brought to the Fire Lord and his friends; there he admitted that he and Tala, who Zuko had seen a few times before his defection, had taken Zokar's body and smuggled it out of the city. Woo would not say where they had taken the body; he would say why they had done it however. They had learned of his fall and neither believed that Zokar would want Zuko to have his body. It was known that Zokar was extremely popular with many in the Fire Nation, particularly in the colonies and they believed that Zuko would try to win favor with them by giving Zokar an elaborate funeral. They were sure Zokar would see it as a desecration and so had taken his body and smuggled it from the city. He refused to say where they had gone; he would only say that they had ensured that Zokar was forever beyond Zuko's reach. All that remained was Zokar's helmet which he had ripped from his head during the battle and which Zuko had placed in his families' shrine, it always seemed to glare at him in a condemning manner whenever he entered the shrine.
He had conflicted views of his brother and he probably always would. He had seen Zokar's writings, his plans to kill Ozai and his rage at what he saw as Zuko's betrayal. Zuko had felt numb after reading that; he had always known that Zokar had been loyal to the Fire Nation but he had known just how much. He did not regret what he had done, it was the right thing to do, but he regretted that it had cost him the brother he had never truly known. He cringed at the memory of all the times he had tormented Zokar when they were younger, he wished he could go back and be the brother he should have been and he and Zokar could truly have been brothers. He also cringed at his brother's place in history.
Zokar had not been treated well by history. His name was still cursed in the Earth Kingdom and even in the Fire Nation his name was not officially honored. The history taught in school condemned the war and those who prosecuted it, including Zokar. He was painted as a brute who waged war out of bloodlust. Zuko had been dismayed by this but had had little choice; he had been told it was necessary to help appease the representatives of the other nations, who had little cause to love the Ash Lord. It also been deemed necessary for domestic politics. Zuko's hold on the throne, especially in the early days, had not been overly secured and it was deemed by his advisors that Zokar had to be demonize and officially condemned lest he become a martyr and rallying cry for those who opposed Zuko. Zuko had understood and had gone along with it, though in private he burned incense in Zokar's memory and begged forgiveness of the glaring helmet.
He did not know if he would ever have his brother's forgiveness but he was determined to learn from him. He had resolved to be more like his brother in the way he ruled; he did not always succeed but he tried. When the nobles tried to pressure him, when foreign ambassadors tried to guilt him into increasing the amount of reparations agreed to or when a decision that was necessary but unpopular decision, he would think about what Zokar would do and tried to draw strength from his memory. Nor was he the only one whose life was impacted by Zokar.
Sokka had been more effected by the duel than he first appeared. While he did not claim to have any great affection for the departed Ash Lord he could not deny his skill. Like Zuko he had read Zokar's writings and had also been fascinated by the strange book Azula had given to him. With Zuko's permission he had taken the book with him when he left for home. He had stayed at the South Pole for several years, helping his tribe to rebuild, and had taken advantage of that time to learn to use Blood Fang, which he now carried in place of his own lost sword. He learned all he could from the book and the strange style it taught. He eventually left the South Pole and traveled the world as a wandering sword master teaching the technique, as well as the anti-bending techniques, to his students. Some of the more traditional sword masters had criticized the style, claiming that the style lacked elegance and was more akin to brawling with weapons than true fencing. Sokka had been supported by Piandao and Suki, whom Sokka had taught the anti-bending moves to and whom had taught them to the Kyoshi Warriors in turn.
Katara had mixed feelings about Zokar. On the one hand she was grateful that he had spared her brother and she had to admit that he had had admirable qualities. On the other hand; he had been her enemy and a threat to the peace and had tried on several occasions tried to kill Aang. So while she was sorry for Zuko she could not deny that she thought it was for the best that he was gone.
Toph was also effected by Zuko's younger brother. While she never out and out said it she was changed by him. She developed a greater sense of responsibility towards others. This contributed to her forming the metalbending police force of Republic City and many believed that the uniform was, at least in part, inspired by Zokar's armor.
Of all the group the most affected was Aang. Like Zuko he read Zokar's writings and was deeply affected by them. He had never thought of the Avatar like that and even though the others urged him to forget what he had read he found that he could not. While he disagreed with much of what Zokar believed he found that it still had an impact on how he performed his duties as Avatar. While he still believed that the Avatar had to take an active role in shaping the world. Instead of just coming and solving problems he sought to show people how to solve them themselves; taking on the role of ambassador and teacher. He also had found his view of energybending changed; while he still felt it was better than killing he always tried to find another way and refused to teach the technique to anyone else.
He also thought a great deal about Zokar the person. While he found many of Zokar's beliefs appalling he found he admired the Fire Nation Prince's core. The way he had wanted humanity to be better, the way he seemed to be completely without fear, his dedication to his own people and comrades, the way he did not allow what others thought of him to affect him and the compassion that he had shown to Tala and Oma and the way that nothing anyone said of him had been able to hurt or otherwise affect him. In a way Zokar had been one of the freest individuals Aang had ever met. In another life Aang thought that Zokar would have made a magnificent air nomad.
Iroh found himself pained whenever he thought of his nephew. While, like Zuko, he believed he had done the right thing he now believed that he had grossly misread his second nephew. While he did not agonize over much about what had happened in the past, seeing no point in such acts, he did regret the way he had viewed Zokar. He wished that Zokar could have seen that the world was not as dark as he had believed. He hoped that Zokar had found peace in the spirit world and had resolved that when his time came he would seek out Zokar and find out.
Then there was Azula. She was found after the battle, badly injured but alive. After being treated for her wounds she was made to publicly surrender her crown to Zuko. Some had called for her to be tried, some had called for her imprisonment, others had demanded that her bending be taken from her and still others had called for her head. In the end Zuko would not kill her and Aang refused to take her bending and Zuko kept to his original plan and sent her into guarded exile.
For a time Azula was devastated by Zokar's death and thoughts of suicide filled her mind. In the end though she did not do it. She came to realize that Zokar would not have approved of either suicide or her wasting her life in grief. Her relationship with Zuko was cool and hostile till three years after the war when she helped him find their mother. This act helped heal their relationship and caused them to draw somewhat closer though she now preferred her home on the island, claiming the palace had too many bad memories. At first she feared that she might be betraying Zokar by doing this but she decided that he would want her to be her own person and not live in his shadow.
Ursa was overjoyed to be reunited with her surviving children. Yet still she was grieved to learn of Zokar's death. Though they did not tell her of just how deeply Zokar's rage against Zuko had been at the end she could guess and it broke her heart to think of her children harboring such hatred against one another. Though the pain faded with time and she knew joy again Zuko knew that she still mourned for the child that she had lost without ever truly knowing.
After helping Woo get Zokar's body from the city Tala vanished from the Fire Nation. Zuko later learned that a woman matching her description had been seen at the Southern Water Tribe. She had inquired after Bona and had been told he had died in the war. She had been seeing going to the memorial pillar, a column of ice upon which all the names of those who had died were carved. She had located his name and prayed before it. She had then been seeing burying what appeared to be an engagement necklace. She had then boarded a ship for the Earth Kingdom and had not returned.
Settling in the growing Republic City she had become one of the city's most propionate healers, loved by many for her willingness to heal those who could not repay her. She had used this, and her position as a survivor of Fire Nation internment, to argue for peace and reconciliation between the nations. She had also joined Katara in her campaign to outlaw bloodbending. Of Zokar she said little but Zuko heard that she said prayers for him at a temple near her home every New Year. Zuko had decided that one day he would invite her to the palace and ask her to help him come to know his brother better.
Lady Oriole remained at the palace as the Dowager Fire Lady even though Zuko had had the Sages dissolve her marriage to Ozai. Oma had requested to remain with her as she had no one to go back to and no desire to return to the Earth Kingdom. Oriole had happily agreed and she had remained. They too rarely spoke of Zokar but both seemed to hold his memory dear. Zuko had reflected that for someone as cut off from others as his brother seemed to think he was he had had a gift for inspiring devotion in others.
Zokar was also honored elsewhere. Many in the Fire Nation military remembered him with honor and even though Zokar was officially condemned by the government many of them had made him an ancestor of the nation and said prayers to him before battle. Even in the rest of the world he had those who admired him for his courage and skill. Zuko had even heard disturbing rumors that some saw him as being sent from the spirits to punish benders for their arrogance and for using their abilities to oppress nonbenders.
A final, heart wrenching cry came from the other room and then the sound he had been straining his ears to hear, the sound of a baby crying. After what seemed an eternity his mother came out and placed the screaming baby in his arms. They smiled at one another and then down at the baby, who she informed him was a boy, though from its unusually large size he had already known. After a moment she returned to see to Mai, who was exhausted from the birth. Zuko longed to go with her but there was yet more custom to be honored. Beyond the palace a great crowd had gathered awaiting news of the birth. Zuko had to present the child for them to see and then sponsor a feast for the whole city to celebrate the birth.
He looked down at the child and realized that he still did not know what to name him. He and Mai had talked and talked about it but had been unable to decide upon what to new the child. As he walked towards the balcony he found his mind drifting towards his brother again.
Zokar, he thought; I wish you were here to see this. I wish things had been different between us, I wish you could see that we were both acting for the good of the Fire Nation. I wish you could see how well our nation is and how happy the people are. I wish we could talk just once more, without anger and hate and perhaps forgive one another and truly be brothers. I wish…for so many things.
As he reached the balcony he remembered something Azula had said. Though things were better between them they were not what anyone could call close. Still, they could at least talk to one another without trying to kill each other. On his last visit she had mentioned that she hoped for the sake of his daughter he had a boy. When he had asked why she had replied that even with the peace the world was not always a gentle place and she would need a strong shield. Zuko hoped she was wrong but even as he thought that he realized what to name his son.
He reached the edge and looked down at the crowd. He raised the child up and the crowd cheered. And, so quietly none could hear over the roar of the crowd, Zuko spoke to his son for the first time.
"Welcome to the world…Zokar." He looked beyond the crowd to the rising sun and hoped that wherever he was his brother approved.
Authors Notes: Well, there it is, the last chapter. I must confess I am rather sad for it to be over. Just to clarify, the child is not Zokar being reincarnated or anything like that. I think that Zokar is acting like some people when they miss someone so much they project them onto those around them. Well what did you think? I hope you liked it please let me know and feel free to look at my other stories. Please pray for the Americans held abroad and all who need it. May Jesus bless you and thank you for liking my story and for sticking with Zokar to the bitter end.