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Love Runs Deeper than Blood

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The young women scurried around him like spider-rats, dashing in and out of the room at the end of the hall, exchanging bloodied towels for fresh ones and refilling empty water pitchers as they went. His father had already gone to bed for the night, and his brother was in his own apartments, watching over his child as he slept. It was the solstice—the longest night of the year, and with a new moon to boot. A bad omen for any in the fire nation welcoming a child in the world.

 

Ozai stood still, staring at the door, waiting for news of his wife and child. He tried to ignore the memories of his childhood, filled with the voice of his older brother taunting him with spirit tales in the middle of the night. Ozai never believed in bad omens, and thought the stories about spirits were nothing more than babble to pacify the lower classes, but he did know that there was such a thing as luck. Considering the darkening expressions of the servants who passed him, Ozai had a feeling that his child would need as much of it as possible to even come into the world.

 

After moments or hours—the passage of time was endless on the longest night—the commotion stopped. Everyone stilled, and Ozai held his breath.

 

A small cry pierced the silence, and Ozai relaxed, letting the breath slowly leave his body. The doctor exited the room and bowed to Ozai, indicating his wife was decent and ready to receive him. Ozai moved into the room, barely nodding to the man as he made his way to Ursa.

 

She leaned back against a wall of pillows, her long dark hair covering them. Her skin was more pale than usual, and she was covered in sweat. Her amber eyes were focused on the tiny clothe bundle that was in her arms. A small, sweet smile adorned her face as she waggled a finger at it, cooing to the child within.

 

“Ozai,” she said, glancing up at him. “Would you like to meet your son?” Ozai reached down and gently took the child from her, moving the blankets from his face so he could see. The baby wrinkled his face and half-opened his eyes—a dull gold.

 

There was no spark there.

 

Ozai’s breath left him in a rush as he shoved the child back to his wife. “This is a disgrace,” he growled.

 

“Ozai?” Ursa asked, pulling the child close to her breast.

 

“You give me an heir that has no spark! He will never bend!” Ozai shouted, his hand now wreathed with flames. Ursa cried out, but he paid her no mind. “He is useless to me. I will not have this pathetic excuse for a child waste any more air!”

 

“NO!” Ursa screamed, shielding her child with her body.

 

“Move out of the way, Ursa,” he snarled.

 

“Ozai, please,” she begged, curling even tighter over the babe. “Please I beg of you, do not deprive me of this child. I am certain a child of your esteemed lineage will have fire. Give him a chance. Do not take him, please.”

 

Ozai stood over them, flames sparking and jumping from his hand. Ursa remained hunched over the child, sobbing. The babe suddenly wailed. Perhaps he knew his mother’s distress, or he had been jostled too much. The sound was loud and strong, and startled Ozai. The prince shook himself and put out his flame, examining his wife and child. Ursa uncurled slightly, trying to shush the boy. He huffed, stepping away from her.

 

“Very well,” he said. “Perhaps he will not disgrace me.” Ursa sighed and relaxed slightly. Ozai turned away, shaking his head, certain that his words would prove false. His wife had a difficult birth on the worst night of the year. Ozai huffed, settling in a chair near his wife and trying to keep a frown from forming on his face.

 

He was lucky to be born.