Somewhere out there.
In Ba Sing Se there is a woman with no name, who is in a recovery centre for former Joo Dees. She knows there is something she is missing. Something important tugs at her mind. She has forgotten something that she had to do. She has forgotten someone who needed her. They were so important to her. She longs for them even when her mind cannot remember them.
She can feel the big holes they have left in her heart.
How did she lose them? How did she lose herself?
She doesn't know who they are. She doesn't know who she herself is.
Ignorance is not always bliss.
Ignorance breaks her heart in to more pieces than she thought her heart contained.
The note had been waiting for Iroh, pressed inside one of his favourite books, a collection of wise proverbs and poems. The note fluttered out one day it early spring. It had been pressed between the quote "We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future" and a poem about a ferry crossing. It had laid over a small passage for years, its ink smudging the words underneath.
The passage underneath the note:
The current rushing so swiftly, and swimming with me far away;
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them;
The certainty of others-the life, love, sight, hearing of others
The note could have never known how it was tie between two people, like all appeals are.
It could not know that contained an important, impossible and yet oh so simple request.
It only knew that it had waited all these years to be found.
Iroh was doing a big clean out of his rooms, trying to de-clutter everything that he had let pile up in there. He had found so many lost treasures. The book was one. He thumbed the volume nostalgically. He used to be zealous about this book – gripped with a kind of religious fervour regarding it. He was convinced that if every single person in the world would read the book, the world would magically become a better place simply because the wisdom contained in the book. He had read it to Lu Ten almost every night as a child.
It had been too painful to even look at the book when he had first returned home.
Everything that reminded him of Lu Ten had felt like a knife in the heart then.
Now, so many years later, he had arrived at a place where the thought of Lu Ten made him want to smile instead of cry.
Now he picked up the book and lovingly ran his finger over the spine. The cover was worn from all the times he had read and reread it. On a whim he flicked it over and read a few passages that had always given him comfort.
The note fluttered down and came to rest against his left foot. It looked so innocuous on the floor. Iroh bent over to pick it up.
It just had one line.
The writing was messy as though it had been written in great haste. Still the handwriting was unmistakeable.
Iroh stared at the words on the page and felt, for the first time in a long time, like he was at a completely loss.
Two paths diverged before him. He didn't know which one to choose.
Zuko would do anything for news of his mother.
This note would just tear him up.
Iroh made his choice. He slipped the note into his pocket and said not a word to his nephew. He pretended that the ache in his chest was heart burn, and not the prick of disloyalty. He hadn't meant to lie. He really hadn't. He only ever wanted to best for his nephew. It was for the best really.
At first he tried to ignore the note. He tried to pretend he had never seen it, to lose it. Normally the task should have been simple. Iroh had lost many things in his life; battles, arguments, pai sho games. He'd lost his son. He'd lost his wife. He'd lost his birthright. He'd lost a mountain of knick knacks, a large fortune in small change, and more white lotus tiles than could be counted.
But for the life of him he couldn't lose the note.
He couldn't un-know what it said. What it meant.
The note said
Please take care of my children.
Iroh was not naïve. He had lived a full life. He had experienced exquisite joy and terrible sorrow. He had come to a very dark point in his life and had chosen to keep going…but he knew that not all people made the same choice.
He knew what happened to some people, when they felt surround by darkness and felt that they had no way forward, when all their bright memories grew dim and when they allowed despair to come and take root in their very being.
People normally only left notes with final requests when they…willingly took their leave.
He read and re-read the poem, which he had always found so life affirming, and found a new dark and sinister meaning.
The current rushing so swiftly, and swimming with me far away…
He thought about the strong currents under the high cliffs, loose ends, early deaths, a callously cruel man, a desperately unhappy princess. He thought about his brother's wife, Zuko's mother. He'd thought he'd known her so well. She hadn't seemed like the type…
But everyone has their breaking points.
There was a now a note in his pocket with a final request.
And the impossible task of telling Zuko ahead of him.
If Iroh had told Zuko as soon as he had found the note, they could have shared its discovery together. Now that he had waited, he found that even after he had made the decision to tell Zuko, there was still waiting to do. Iroh told himself that he was waiting for the right time, he wasn't being a coward. He was simply waiting for the best possible moment to break the worst possible news.
First the country was in far too much of a mess. He didn't want to add extra burdens to Zuko in a difficult time.
Then Katara was away studying, and Iroh wanted to wait until she got back. If Zuko reacted badly, as Iroh had every reason to suspect he would, then his nephew would want his girlfriend around.
Then it was nearly Azula's birthday.
Iroh had come to appreciate his niece more. In the years since the war, they had finally come to a more peaceful détente. Iroh had begun really trying with her. Iroh thought it was probably a sad testament to his character that he only started really trying after he found the note. It indicated that though he thought himself old and wise, there were still qualities that he lacked.
He poured so much energy into creating a wonderful, if low key, celebration for his Neice. She teased him terribly with her acerbic wit, mostly for being a sentimental old fool, but she'd smiled wider that day than he'd ever seen. He'd wanted to see her happy. If he had to make her desperately sad in the coming days, he wanted to at least see her smile first. Now he had.
Then he was out of excuses.
Hello everyone! Much love to my lovely readers. I know it has been a while!
So this is the story of how Ursa is reunited with her family in my head canon. I know its off to a bummer start, but I promise it will get better.
So the poem that got mentioned here is crossing brooklyn ferry by Walt Whitman and it is lovely. The reading by Geoffery Wright is especially brilliant. I'll put that up on my tumblr in a bit. The quote is from F.D Roosevelt.
Next up we will see some of Azula's thoughts on her brother, her uncle and her missing mother.
Til then lovely readers...