Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Firelord Ozai, had proven himself incompetent, and had been defeated by the Avatar. Immediately after that news was received, Firelord Azula had gone insane. The royal palace was in a state of lockdown, and everyone was stepping around glass, and Azula’s temper. The oldest heir, the former prince Zuko, was locked away, and kept in prison on his father’s orders. No one really knew why he was truly imprisoned, but there were rumors.
“I heard that he was sweet on an earth nation girl,” Yuhan, was a younger guard, and still fresh faced. He had yet to face Azula’s wrath, and he hadn’t lived through Ozai. Zuko liked him in his own way. He was slightly annoying, and a little exuberant, but he was still kind. While he wasn’t allowed to talk to Zuko, he still talked at him.
“Can’t be. I heard that he tried to challenge Azula for the throne,” Xiang was older, and a bit wiser, but a lot quieter. Her kindness came quieter too. Sometimes it was an extra bowl of rice, or a warmer cup of tea. Or sometimes, rarely she would leave the door open just a little long and Zuko could feel the warmth of the sun.
“Dontcha meen Firelord Azula?” Yuhan giggles slightly. Zuko knew people didn’t respect her anymore. People were fearful, sure, but it takes more than fear to rule.
“Both of you are wrong,” Ming slides Zuko’s meal into his cell. He reaches forward and takes it with a grateful nod. In the earlier days, he had simply refused to eat. If he could waste away enough, the doctors would come and maybe just maybe he could escape. It didn’t work. It never worked. So far he had several attempts to escape in just the few short months of his imprisonment.
“Oh right cause I’m sure you know what happened Ming,”
“I sure do Yuhan. Heard it from someone who was there myself!” Zuko snorts into his rice. The rumors surrounding his imprisonment were insane. He had even heard one where he was secretly an earthbender, and Ozai’s accused him of treason to his shame.
Naturally, Zuko supposed he was here because of Ozai’s shame. The firelord couldn’t bear to think of someone thinking that total domination and erasure of culture was a bad thing. Zuko hated that he was here. He could do so much better, he could be so much better. It was his destiny. But, instead here he is, stuck in a jail cell listening to guards about the daily gossip in the palace.
The guards snap to attention and Zuko looks up. Warden Poon enters the room, followed closely by one of the fire nations generals. Zuko didn’t really recognize him. To be fair the last time he was in a war council, he was a bit horrified at his- no. The Firelord’s plan. “Nothing we say leaves this room. Technically this is treason. And it’s treason for even thinking this. The current Firelord is incompetent. She’s locked herself in a wing and hasn’t left for almost a week now.,” He pauses and gives them time to catch up. “The only person that we have left of the royal families line, is sitting in front of us.”
Zuko drops his bowl. How can they think about putting me on the throne? I’m- I’m not right for the job. The general kneels on the ground, his head rested gently on his hands.
“Please Prince Zuko. You are all we have left. The Fire Nation needs you”
The day before his coronation, Firelord Zuko, had been sleeping in a jail cell, barely surviving. He was thin, and the full force of the sun had blinded him when he walked towards the palace. No longer was he the disgraced exile prince, accused of treason. Now he was the Firelord, and with the weight of his crown on his freshly washed hair, he now had the weight of thousands on his shoulders. He had to be better than his father. He had to be better than his sister. It was slightly strange, no longer being a prisoner. He had the freedom to go anywhere in the palace, except for Azula’s locked wing. He could call for meals whenever he wanted, he no longer had to live in his own filth. People looked up to him, people looked to him for answers.
Before long I’ll have to look into the release of some of the war prisoners at Boiling Rock. Zuko sighs as he walks from the council room. But, then again. No one is responding to any of my letters…
Zuko was exhausted. He had to contend with generals who were stuck in the past. Why aren’t you continuing the war Your Majesty? Why aren’t you assisting in the genocide of thousands Your Majesty? Honestly he didn’t think they could get any worse. It's much easier to deal in contracts and treaties than war. He sighs. Not only that. Azula… He was worried. She never came out, and anyone who entered her domain came out traumatized. Zuko had yet to go visit her at all, though he did want to. He was scared. How would she react? Would she blame him? Would she even believe him?
“YOUR MAJESTY!” Zuko barely had any time to realize who was sprinting towards him, before Ming had slid to a stop in front of him. Zuko honestly couldn't do this without her. She was funny, and loyal to a fault. Every night she would stand outside his room. The first assassination attempt was rough. He barely managed to survive, but Ming was there instantly.
“Calm down Ming, take a breath,” She pauses and holds up her hand as she breathes. Zuko stands watching her. What could get her so worked up?
“The Avatar is here!”
Zuko had never run faster in his life. Though this behavior was unbecoming of a Firelord, this was not something that he could pass up. Why was the Avatar here? Was the capital under attack? Was he attacking somewhere? He didn’t think he was. Most of his troops had withdrawn to the colonies.
He slides to a stop in front of the audience chamber, barely managing to stop and almost hitting a wall. Suko hadn’t really been using it, mostly for meetings, and even then. His throne was always empty. I’m not going to become my father. I'm not going to become Azula. I won’t rule with fear.
Zuko dearly missed his uncle. There were so many words he wanted to say, and yet, he could never form the words in his mouth. He had heard that his Uncle had played some part in retaking Ba Sing Se, but other than that, any news regarding him was non-existent. Part of him hoped that he started his tea shop again, and another part of him feared that he didn’t survive the siege, just like his cousin. He knew that was his own form of stupidity, Iroh was too strong to not survive.
Zuko adjusts his robes, trying to make himself slightly presentable, and dusting off the dirt from the garden. Zuko did so love spending time there, and thankfully he could convince his council to meet there as well. It was easier, and more casual, akin to drinking tea with friends than what his father held. He smooths his hair, and places his crown on his head, before nodding to the guards to open the door. He was prepared for attack, but hopefully this worked out peacefully. Attacking the Avatar wouldn’t look good to any of the other nations. The door slowly creaks open and Zuko steps inside, trying his best to present himself as someone who is holding everything together and is totally ruling a nation. The Avatar and his friends look at Zuko when he enters. There’s the two watertribe folk. What are their names? I know this… I think… There’s another girl Zuko had never met in his time spent chasing the Avatar. I really should know their names. What really surprised Zuko though, was how young they were. He himself was young, something he thought about constantly. How can a 16 year old run a nation? But more importantly how can a 12 year old face his father and end a war?
“The Fire Nation is honored to welcome the Avatar into our halls…” Zuko bows slightly, trying very hard not to make a fool of himself. Xiang had already made fun of him enough for falling into the turtleduck pond when she surprised him. He still hasn’t lived that down…
“Woah! The crazy ponytail freak is the Firelord? Not the crazy one?” “Sokka! Don’t say that!”
So the one with the ponytail is Sokka? Maybe?
“I dunno, I think Snoozles hit the mark pretty good,” Snoozles? What kind of nickname was that?
The Avatar still hasn’t spoken. He seems to mostly be looking around the room, and especially the soft flames lighting up the room. Ozai and Azula’s flames had encompassed the entirety of the room, and yet Zuko’s were softer, and warmer.
“Is there a reason for this visit?” Zuko turns away from the group.
“Well, if you hadn’t noticed Your Fireyness, there’s kind of a war that the Fire Nation started,” Whoever this kid was, he was annoying. Zuko knew exactly about the war going on. He was doing his best.
“Yes I’m completely aware about it, however if you haven’t noticed, none of the other nations are answering any of my messengers,” He can hear his Uncle telling him to remain calm.
“Firelord Zuko,” The Avatar finally speaks, “What do you mean messengers? None of the other kingdoms have mentioned anything,”
“I sent several messengers to the Earth Kingdom, none of them have returned. I have yet to hear from the ship I sent to the Northern Water Tribe either. Though… They should still be enroute,”
The Avatar looks towards him. The girl from the water tribe stares Zuko down.
“What did the letters say Zuko? ‘Oh hey I know you just retook your city and you have my dad in jail, anyway submit to the Fire Nation’,” She’s angry. Zuko supposes that’s fair. The Fire Nation has to overcome 100 years of war and hate and anger. Naturally that wouldn’t happen overnight but Zuko was a little frustrated at the lack of at least a little bit of openness. He had to have a little edge.
“I’m trying my best alright? The Earth Kingdom doesn’t respond to my messages. My soldiers keep getting attacked, even though they’re retreating. Firelord Ozai is locked away somewhere, my sister is insane,” Zuko takes a deep breath, the flames slowly growing in the room, “I’m not going to abandon them. I’m all they have.”
Zuko found it hard to be around the Avatar and his friends. It was so awkward, especially after he spent a year trying to hunt them down. Or betrayed them in Ba Sing Se. Thankfully, however, he didn’t really have to deal with them all that much. He set them up with rooms and food, and let them wander anywhere they wanted, aside from Azula’s wing.
Naturally they were suspicious. He wouldn’t expect anything else. I really shouldn’t have stormed out of there yesterday. How am I supposed to bring about peace, and turn away my greatest tool for it. Zuko sighs and looks towards the turtleduck pond. He remembers coming here often with his mother, and after she left, it became neglected. All other gardens did in fact. Many of them weren’t safe from Azula’s wrath.
“How’s it going Lord Sparky?” Zuko quickly stares up at the girl staring down at him. Who was she again?
“Sparky?” The girl sits down next to Zuko with a grin.
“I like giving people nicknames. What’s the Firelord doing out here anyways?”
“Does it really matter? I thought you would hate me like your friends,”
“Eh. I think they’re judging you too hard. It's obvious you aren’t your sister. Or your dad,”
Zuko looks back towards the pond, gently holding out some food for some of the ducklings, “No. I really hope I’m not.”
“Oh speaking of. Where is your sister? It seems odd that you would become Firelord. I mean no offense but weren’t you banished?”
“I was. And in jail too for a while… But Azula… She’s slipping. Somethings wrong and she’s just… Given up,”
The girl stops and seems to be looking into the distance. Zuko didn’t really know what to think about her. She seemed laid back, but at the same time, probably smarter than most people here.
“I guess that makes sense…”
They fall into a comfortable silence. She seems to really not care about Zuko, or what he did in the past. Maybe she didn;t really know. Or she just didn’t care.
“So.. What’s your name? I never caught it,”
“Huh? Oh. I’m Toph. And you’re not so bad I spose Sparky,”
Toph and Zuko friendship is the best friendship. Let me know what you think! Till later all my lovely readers <3