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Azula the Sacrificed(Avatar the Last Airbender)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Akumakami64, Sep 25, 2020.

  1. Threadmarks: Chapter 1

    Akumakami64 Experienced.

    Feb 14, 2018
    Likes Received:
    "You dare suggest I betray Iroh? My first born?! Directly after the demise of his only beloved son?!"

    The roar of the flames imitated their lord's mighty rage, proving that the man commanded great power even in his waning years. Power that led him and his country for almost a century of war and power that had been provoked by the overreaching ambitions of his second born son.

    Azula would give her grandfather this much, he certainly knew how to maintain an image. Watching in secret, she could only imagine what her father was planning. True, his request backfired, but she knew that would never hinder him. Her father was too cunning, too ruthless to be denied his goal. But how to appease an angry Firelord?

    "I think Iroh has suffered enough! But you ... your punishment has scarcely begun!"

    The roar of the flames might as well been in her ear, smirking as she heard her brother run away in fear. Zuzu was such a scared little weakling. Or perhaps he was smarter than she thought? There was a logical jump to make, thinking that their father's punishment would involve him; Punishment for trying to claim the throne from the first born son, who had just lost his own first born son? There was a poetic nature to it, she supposed.

    "If you ever desire a chance to sit upon my throne, you must know the pain of losing a precious child. By sacrificing your own!"

    And there it was, the ultimatum request, the impossible sacrifice. So, Zuko would die? Such a pity. But there was nothing she could do. Father hardly cared for Zuko, he wouldn't be willing to risk disinheritance over sparing the weakling in the family.

    "Father, you expect me to sacrifice my son, your own grandchild?" Ozai asked with a scowl in his voice.

    Azula expected that. A token resistance to the act, lest Ozai seem too willing to do the deed.

    The young princess narrowed her eyes as the flames dimmed and she swore she could see the smallest smirk upon her grandfather's face.

    Wait, why did he say child instead of son-

    "No, my foolish son, I do not," Azulon informed as the room grew heavy. "I am not blind, boy. I know your son lacks your favor. You proved it in this very room, allowing her to make him look like a fool. Is that your revenge, Ozai? You detest your first born brother, so you neglect your own eldest for the younger?"

    Azula felt some tightness and chill around her chest, as if Agni had stripped her of her inner flame. What was grandfather saying?

    "Father, what are you saying?" Ozai asked from his kneeling position, genuine disbelief on his voice.

    "I am saying you will sacrifice the child you care for," Azulon informed harshly. "You will sacrifice your daughter."



    Not her. Why her?!

    "Father, you can't be serious!" Ozai declared in shock. "Azula is a prodigy seen once in a generation…once in a century!"

    And she was smart! She wasn't weak like Zuko or sensitive like other girls her age! Azula's mind raced through all the many reasons she could think to justify her NOT being the one to die.

    "Interesting how much outrage she garners from you, Son, over your other child," Azulon noted pointedly, as if reminding Ozai what the entire point of this punishment was.

    "Father, she has been able to produce BLUE FIRE for Agni's sake! She could be the most powerful Firebender in the world within twenty years! Throwing her away isn't the same as discarding a few gallons of royal blood! She will one day be a powerful weapon of the Fire Nation!" Ozai defended.

    Yes, yes, she would be powerful, and useful! Very useful! She'd train harder, study more. Anything, just-

    "ENOUGH!" Azulon declared, like a dragon of old, the flames surging for an instant. "Make your choice, Ozai. Your daughter or your throne."

    Azula stared at her father's back from far away, her eyes numb and pleading. Not him, not Father too. He couldn't-

    "Very well, Father," Ozai stated in acceptance. "The deed will be done."

    Azula ran. It was instinctual, not logical. A need to go, to get away, to get out. She had to get away, she had to-

    Accept reality.

    She was going to die. Her own father was going to kill her. The intellectual part of her mind admitted it was the right thing for her father to do. One child's death for the throne? It was the smart choice. And he could sire more children if Zuzu couldn't shape up into anything talented. Maybe Mother would like the next one.

    But...who would remember her? What would she be remembered as?

    Father wouldn't consider her beyond being a stepping stone now, and wasted potential.

    Mother...thought she was a monster. She might even be relieved she was gone.

    Her teachers might recall her talents fondly, but what did they matter?

    Her friends...would Mai miss her? Would Ty Lee? Was...was she a friend worth missing? They both liked Zuko, especially Mai, so they just wouldn't have her around to push them around. They...they might be happier without her.

    And Zuko. Zuzu. Her brother hated her. He thought she always lied. She lied too much, probably. He'd...

    Azula bit back tears as she imagined Zuko smiling when she died. She didn't want that. She wanted...she needed someone, anyone to miss her. She deserved it, she treated him horribly sometimes, but he didn't really hate her, right? He'd be sad she was gone, right?

    He'd visit her grave, her ashes, right?

    She came out of her labyrinth of thoughts as she realized where she was, what door she was standing outside.

    Zuko's room.

    There was no point in coming here. But if she was going to die very soon, there was no point in being logical anymore. Just abandon reason for whatever felt right.

    Because everything was wrong now.

    "Azula?" Zuko's groggy voice came from the bed as she opened the door. "What are you doing here?" he asked in a sleepy, accusing voice.

    He probably couldn't see the fear in her eyes yet.

    Without a word, she came over to his bed and sat beside him. "Zuzu? Can...Can I ask you something?" Azula asked, refusing to look at him; refusing to let him see the terrified, screaming, bawling child underneath the surface. At least no sooner than she had to.

    "Um, sure?" Zuko asked, rubbing his eye in confusion. Azula didn't usually ask him for anything. She just did it or told him to do it. "Why this late?" he asked through a yawn.

    "Zuko, do you love me?"

    Her brother stayed there, half propped up on his elbow, a look of complete incomprehension on his face. Then the words registered and he was sitting up properly. "What did you just say?" he asked in shock.

    "Please, brother, do you love me?" Azula asked, gripping the bed sheet tightly. "I-I just really need to know. I know I'm horrible, I know I've never given you any reason to, but I just really ne-"

    "I love you, Azula."

    It wasn't overly warm or affectionate or any mushy emotion. It was a statement of fact that he made without hesitation. She...she could take that.

    She looked at him and knew it was a mistake. His eyes were wide now, as if he could see through her, see the desperation clawing within her. "Azula, wh-?"

    "Why?" she asked suddenly, eyes wide. "Why do you love me? What about me is worth loving!? I...I torment you every day, I constantly make you look like a fool, and I hurt almost everything you care about! Why, why wou-"

    He silenced her with a hug.

    She hated how effective it was.

    She loved that he did it.

    "You're my annoyingly amazing little sister," Zuko said into her hair. "How could I not love you?"

    Azula said nothing. She slowly wrapped her arms around him to return the embrace, her mouth trembling as she choked back her sobs. And finally she cried. It was a silent thing, twin waterfalls of salty tears leaking down her face. Zuko loved her. He'd remember her fondly. That was...good. That would have to be enough.

    Eventually, Zuko pulled her back and gently wiped away her tears. "What happened?"

    She loved how adorably serious, protective, and authoritative he tried to look when he asked that. "Zuko? You know how the Avatar gets reincarnated?" she asked out of the blue. Zuko blinked, not responding to that, so she carried on. "Do you think we all get that? That maybe, in another life, I can be a better little sister?"

    "Azula, what are you talking about?" Zuko asked with a scowl.

    "Dad's going to kill me, Zuko."

    Azula wasn't even aware she said it out loud. It didn't sound like her voice anymore, like she was a stranger in her own body.

    "What? Azula, you shouldn't joke ab-" Zuko stopped as Azula gave a hiccup, a single sob breaching her control. "You're not joking," he realized with dread and horror, his throat going dry.

    Why? Why was he scared? He wouldn't die. Nothing would happen to him. Father needed a bloodline after all; Zuko wouldn't be in danger from anything. But it was clear that the idea of her dying scared her brother.

    She felt an ache in her chest. Was this what it felt like, to know she was loved?

    "Azula, what happened?" Zuko questioned with a sense of urgency.

    "Grandfather said it's Father's punishment, that if he ever wants the throne, he'll sacrifice me to know Uncle Iroh's pain," Azula answered hollowly as she sat on the bed, feeling and looking the part of a puppet whose strings were coming loose.

    "And...And Dad agreed to that!?" Zuko all but yelled in disbelief.

    "Of course he did," Azula answered, her tone saying it was heartbreakingly obvious to her. "Dad won't give up the throne, and now I'm in the way of that."

    Zuko's eyes scrambled before hardening. "What do you need me to do?" he asked with determination.

    "For what?" Azula asked with a small frown.

    "To get you out of here! Isn't that why you came to me, so I can help you hide or run away?" he asked fiercely.

    Azula stared at him in shock for a moment before smiling.

    That smile nearly killed Zuko.

    It was far too peaceful, too defeated for his prideful little sister.

    "No, Zuko. I just came here to tell you everything. That I'm sorry, for everything. For not being a better sister. And-" Azula's speech was brought to an end by a knock on the open door.

    The royal siblings had terrified eyes at the sight of the royal guards. "Pardon us, Prince, Princess, but Prince Ozai and Fire Lord Azulon have summoned you, Princess Azula," they informed professionally.

    They didn't know. Azula could tell, they were completely at ease and not prepared for her to make a bolt for it. They wanted to keep this quiet. A vindictive part of her thought about attacking the guards, but...

    It all felt pointless now…her cunning, her firebending, all her manipulations. It all meant nothing in the end.

    "I love you, Zuzu," Azula whispered, as she stood off the bed, and proceeded to walk out of the room.

    Zuko could only stare in disbelief, numbness setting over him. Was this the last time he'd see his sister? Would he never hear her voice, her laugh? Never see that scheming twinkle in her eyes? Never see her flames again?

    No, he refused to accept that!

    For Azula, the walk to the throne room was nonexistent. She was not aware of the distance she walked or the time it took. All she could think of was Zuko. Even for all her faults, they had fun times. Mutual fun, not just fun at his expense. Chasing each other, playing pretend, even sneaking snacks from the kitchen a few times. She couldn't help wondering, if she had another chance at all, could she be a better sister?

    Who was she kidding, she was a little monster. Zuko...Zuko probably just loved her because he was too dumb to hate her. Yeah, that had to be it.

    But she was happy he wasn't smart enough to stop loving her. She could hold onto that hug they shared, the words he said, to not let the mortal terror overflow her young veins.

    The red guards let her in, but did not follow. This was a private, family conversation for the royals.

    Azula looked across the vastness of the throne room, feeling so tiny and insignificant as her father and grandfather met her gaze.

    She was smart, she caught the tells; The furrowing of Azulon's brow and tensing of his old bones, while her father's eyes widened ever so minutely as his frown deepened. They knew that she knew what this was about.

    Even walking to her supposed death, Azula kept herself dignified and controlled. No ten year old should be facing her own end so fearlessly.

    But she was not fearless. She was beyond terrified. It was the sheer hopelessness and despair of the situation that allowed her mind to keep herself in check, solely due to the firm and accurate conclusion that there was no way to escape, to survive.

    As she drew closer, both men could see it plainly…the vacant eyes of the girl that had deemed herself already a walking corpse. "I..." she started, swallowing the emotions that tried to seize control of her tongue. "I-I have come as ordered. F-father, Gr-grandfather," she greeted as she stood next to her father, her executioner, and before her grandfather, her judge.

    "Well, Ozai?" Azulon prompted coldly, glaring at his second born. "What are you waiting for? Agni himself will not do the deed for you."

    Ozai grimaced as he stared down at his daughter, his pride, his would-be legacy. She didn't look back; she just turned away from him...and bowed her head, baring her neck to him.

    Only Azulon could see it from his vantage point, how his granddaughter began to cry silently as she awaited death's embrace, her eyes trembling with horror.

    Her face screamed only one message: I don't want to die!

    The old Firelord's gaze shifted to his younger son. As if sensing his gaze, Ozai ignited a fire dagger in one hand. The narrow flame condensed, sharpened, and brightened. It would be an efficient quick stab, a mercifully quick death.

    Azula trembled at the sound of the flames screeching in her ear, her shaking hands slowly reaching up to grasp her arms. She wasn't suicidal, she didn't want to die, and so every instinct told her to run, fight back, do something. But her mind told her the truth: it was useless.

    Ozai made his move.

    And all hell broke loose.

    "Boy, don't-!"

    Azula had no idea what happened at first, just that her grandfather called out to somebody. The next thing she knew, something barreled into her and the world went spinning, a pained scream in her ears.

    It wasn't her scream.

    She shot up, sitting on the floor, sound and physical feeling numb to her right now. She was...alive. Her father was standing there, struggling against two men. Archers. Yuyan Archers? Her grandfather was off his throne, looking at her with a look she had never seen on his face. Distress? Regret? Pain?

    It took her a moment to realize that he wasn't looking at her.

    Her uncomprehending eyes looked to see a familiar figure. It was her brother. He...saved her? He came for her?

    He was clutching his face.

    He was crying in pain.

    She was suddenly very aware of the smell of burnt flesh.

    "Zuko? Zuko!?" she cried out, grasping onto him with desperation to help him and hopeless to know how to.

    "GUARDS" Azulon bellowed, the royal procession already half way to the throne from the screaming. "Bring the royal physicians here immediately! Prince Zuko has been injured!"

    With quick affirmatives of respect, they left, leaving the room once again. "What is the meaning of this, Father?!" Ozai all but snarled. "I was about to give you what you demanded, before the boy interfered."

    "Interfered? Interfered!? Is that what you call saving his sister?" Azulon demanded sharply. "You still haven't realized it, Ozai?"

    "Realized what?" Ozai asked, looking ready to attack his father if the Yuyan Archers weren't holding him back.

    "I told you that you must suffer the same pain as Iroh," Azulon stated with a disappointed headshake. "This confirmed what I feared. That you are INCAPABLE of understanding such grief! You would toss aside anything and everything to secure the power you covet! And in doing so, you proven yourself unfit to be Firelord! Unfit to even be called my son!" he declared, Ozai's eyes widening at the proclamation. "A man like you would not just burn down our enemies, but burnout the Fire Nation itself with your ruthless ambition."

    Ozai glared with silent, bloodthirsty rage. "You tricked me."

    "No, Ozai, I only confirmed your true nature," Azulon stated with a heavy breath. "As far as I am concerned, the royal family has indeed lost someone today. Not another of my grandchildren, but rather my own son."

    "You intend to kill me, Father?" Ozai demanded.

    "No, Ozai. You are hereby striped of everything you ever were. For all intents and purposes, the man you were is dead, never to return. And you will be banished from all lands that belong to the Fire Nation," Azulon decreed.

    "You old fool, you can't-!"

    "Do Not Declare What I Can And Cannot Do, Ozai the Nameless!"

    Ozai roared, fire leaping from his mouth as he threw the archers off with a sudden, violent show of strength.

    Azulon narrowed his eyes as the flames leapt from Ozai's fist. The Firelord waved both hands before him, one silencing Ozai's fire and the other batting Ozai's fist away.

    Azulon was the Son of Sozin. The Son of the Comet. The Firelord of what was approaching to be a Hundred Year War. Old age could not rob him of his strength so easily or completely.

    Ozai gasped as his father's hand grabbed his throat. Before he could even try to pry the deceptively frail looking limb from his windpipe, the Yuyan archers made their recovery known, one holding both his arms while the other pointed an arrow at him, very close to his head. Even if he could attack the man, the arrow would likely mortally wound him anyway.

    He grit his teeth as he felt Azulon's grasp become scalding hot, "As your son was scarred by his father, you shall be by me, Ozai. Let everyone know by that mark that I was merciful enough to spare the creature my son had become," Azulon declared, father and son sharing a mutual death glare as he seared Ozai's neck.

    Meanwhile, Azula was having an out of body experience. Not literally as the stories went in the cases with spirits, but that her body was frantically holding onto Zuko, pleading to know how to help, while her true awareness was listening to the conversation. And yet, the only thing she took from this twisted turns of events was this:

    Someone hurt Zuko.

    Someone Hurt Zuko.


    Something...snapped into place as her two selves resettled; a moment of perfect, ultimate clarity.

    It didn't matter that it was her father that hurt Zuko. It didn't matter that she stood no chance. It didn't even matter that she didn't know how to do this.

    All that mattered was making Ozai pay.

    Perfect clarity was a beautiful, terrible thing.

    All four men became shocked as every flame in the throne room turned to a blue azure. They turned to see the princess raise her right arm, her eyes distant yet clear. Like she was nothing more than a savage beast now.

    Upon her arm danced lightning cackling for a target.

    It was a shame Azula had no idea how to aim lightning yet.

    Azulon growled to himself as the lightning bolts flew out in all directions, far less potent than they would be yet striking at anything and everything. Like the archer pointing an arrow at Ozai.

    Jerking out of Azulon's grasp and throwing the other man off him once more, Ozai slammed his elbow to his captor. He was very grateful Azula's attack had caused the archer to gain a painful death grip on his arrow rather than release it. Taking the other one by the leg, Ozai literally threw him at the shocked archer before either could recover.

    He gritted his teeth as two, three of Azula's scattered lightning bolts slammed into him. They were weak and unfocused, but they were not harmless.

    Ozai was keenly aware that his daughter collapsed onto her brother after that, passed out from the exertion as the flames faded back to their norma colors. In another lifetime, Ozai would have been extremely proud of her for generating lightning at such a young age. Now all was rage, wrath, and ruin.

    He fought through the pain, forced his limbs to keep moving as he sent a fireball kick to Azulon. The Firelord blocked it, but it gave Ozai the chance he needed to run to the door.

    The forsaken prince heard the mighty fire whip rushing towards him and lost a good chunk of his beard in dodging it. Without hesitation or consideration, he sent a stream of fire back.

    At his children.

    Flames leapt from Azulon's feet as he stood before the two young royals, parting the flames harmlessly down the middle. His glare grew worried as the flames cleared, seeing Ozai channeling lightning.

    Luckily, the stunned Yuyan archer had recovered and drawn his bow and arrow. His vision was unsteady, and so he could not guarantee a lethal shot. And as such, the arrow was aimed at a larger target than Ozai's head.

    The son of Azulon gritted his teeth as the arrow buried into his shoulder, the sudden pain enough to fire his attack, the force of the projectile sending the strike of cold-fire crashing into the dais instead. Ozai knew not to chance this anymore, fleeing to the doors. They opened, the imperial firebender barreling in with the doctors and physicians. The sight of the prince running with an arrow through his shoulder was enough to shock and confuse them, giving Ozai all the chance he needed to leap over the group, fleeing down the hall.

    "Guards! Capture Ozai! Secure the palace immediately! The rest of you, come! My grandchildren have need of your skills," Azulon ordered sternly.

    The groups sprang into action as well disciplined members of the royal palace staff. Questions and official explanations would have to wait for another time.

    The Yuyan archer who had wounded Ozai helped up his fellow bowman before turning to the Firelord, who sagged and stroked his head, the years appearing to fall on him for an instant. "My Lord, are you alright?" he asked with a concerned frown.

    Azulon looked at his now-fatherless grandchildren. Zuko would be scarred for life, no healer in the Fire Nation could undo that kind of damage. And the girl, that look in her eye when she channeled the lightning. There was damage there, in the mind, and he was uncertain if it wasn't older than this event.

    "No. No I am not," he answered after a lengthy pause as the medical experts tended to the children, preparing to take them out on a stretcher. A singular stretcher, for Azula was clutching onto Zuko's arm like a lifeline, even while sleeping. It would be best to handle that in the medical wing. He turned to regard the archers. "One of you, go and find Princess Ursa, bring her here. It's unlikely, but Ozai may try to get to her before attempting to escape," he instructed.

    The archer nodded dutifully before speeding off, far faster than most men ever could hope to run.

    Azulon took a deep breath as the adrenaline left his old body, the flames of the room dimming with him.

    Explaining this to Ursa would not be easy. That woman might just try to kill him when she found out her precious children had been through so much on his account.

    Iroh might just help her do it too when he returned.

    End of Chapter

    And there's chapter 1. So, yeah, I went the route of Azulon not really going to kill his grandchild- because I'll acknowledge the comics when I won't and flip them off otherwise because this is my AU. Azula, meanwhile, has had a (relatively) smaller version of her breakdown in the finale due to her father being willing to throw her aside. And, of course, Zuko gets his scar trying to save his sister this time.

    Now, someone of you are wondering, why didn't Ursa find out as in canon? Random timing; Azula showed up at Zuko's room at a slightly different time, thus Ursa didn't stumbled across them. And traumatized or not, Little Azula got a badass moment in creating lightning for the first time.

    Still, yeah, canon is effective off the rails and long gone already. Hope you all enjoyed this.

    Next up we have Ursa's reaction...and a reminder that her name means Bear.
  2. Lorokay

    Lorokay Just her to read smut

    Jun 21, 2019
    Likes Received:
  3. RichardWhereat

    RichardWhereat Aia airëa Fëanáro.

    Oct 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    That is a pretty amazing start. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this story.
    RazielofSecrets and Relyt33 like this.
  4. Gigant

    Gigant The Jackal Of Tsagualsa

    Aug 2, 2019
    Likes Received:
    Looking forward on seeing the tides change from this pivotal moment

    Anyways enough fancy talk

    I like this idea and I want to see where this goes.

    This is watched
    Hypervane and Relyt33 like this.
  5. Felius

    Felius Experienced.

    Feb 20, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Really looking forward this one. I really like fics with Azula in a prominent role that don't treat like her some irredeemable monster.
    Eryk, Gigant, Hypervane and 3 others like this.
  6. Mr. Rogers

    Mr. Rogers A Friendly Medic-Guard.

    Mar 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    This is really good. I quite like the fact that Azula acts very much like an actually child in the middle scared and confusedly running to what may be her only family member that actually loves her.
    Venyr4434, Hypervane and Relyt33 like this.
  7. Radek

    Radek Promethean

    Jul 22, 2017
    Likes Received:
    "Ozai the Nameless"? I can't think of a single culture that went there with a living person. Deceased ones yes, usually when the new King felt like not dealing with memories of his predecessor, but not someone still alive.
    "Ozai the Fatherless" fits much better IMO. Such total disowing was rare but happened, basically rendering someone worse than orphan.
  8. Diraniola

    Diraniola I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Dec 2, 2016
    Likes Received:
    I agree, especially when Toph is the only character in the main series with a last name. Calling somebody "Name the nameless" is just a bit silly.
    Relyt33, Prince Charon and EddyQ like this.
  9. R.A.G.

    R.A.G. Well worn.

    Feb 26, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Huh, that's a hell of an AU. Not sure how Ursa is going to take it though, since she's kind of a shit parent herself.

    Is Zuko rocking his canon scar, or just outright missing an eye?
    Eryk, Relyt33, Prince Chrom and 2 others like this.
  10. Mattamars

    Mattamars Making the rounds.

    Aug 24, 2019
    Likes Received:
    Ok now hear is a story I will be watching.
    Will the fire siblings be more dependent on each other or just less antagonistic I wonder
    TheKingOfHeroes and Relyt33 like this.
  11. mannan

    mannan Versed in the lewd.

    May 28, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Well this Azula just experienced her father willing to kill her for his own desire for power and Zuko getting in the way of the attack in order to save Azula despite Azula knowing full well that she regularly bullies Zuko.
  12. ezok

    ezok Well worn.

    Jan 23, 2015
    Likes Received:
    This story is great. Keep up the good work.
    Relyt33 likes this.
  13. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

    Feb 20, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Well, this went quite AU, quite fast. Vast hordes of butterflies are flapping.
    TheKingOfHeroes and Relyt33 like this.
  14. Threadmarks: Chapter 2

    Akumakami64 Experienced.

    Feb 14, 2018
    Likes Received:
    Azula was dead. At least, she was pretty sure she was. She had never actually died before, so it was hard to be sure.

    But it was the only thing that made sense.

    She had been summoned by Father.

    Grandfather had ordered her death.

    She couldn't remember what happened after that.

    So, she must be dead, right?

    After all, why else would she be staring at her own corpse?

    It was a rather numb experience, seeing her body clothed in ceremonial robes and lying upon the altar as the Fire Sages said their prayers. She couldn't hear them, not really, but she got the jist: Daughter of Ozai and Ursa, Fourth in line to the throne, stolen too early from their lives, may Agni guide her soul, etc.

    This...also made sense, she guessed? This was why they burned their bodies, so the souls could go free and be guided by Agni's grace into the afterlife. Her body wasn't burned yet, so of course she was still here.

    She didn't want to die, she had been very scared about that. But now that she was dead, it all just felt kind of...empty. She was here, and there was nothing that could change that.

    Still, she wished the stories had told her what to do, exactly, while waiting for her body to be purified in the flames.

    The sages lit her pyre and she was surprised that she didn't feel the need to wince. Maybe the empty feeling was a blessing, allowing her to not be so mortified over watching her former vessel burn away into ash.

    She examined the mourners while her body burned. There was an assembly here to pay their respects, but none of them knew her. To the side of the altar was her family.

    Her father looking as grim as ever. She expected nothing else...even if she hoped there might have been some regret in his eyes, some sign that her loss meant something to him.

    Her grandfather was here. She supposed it would be improper for the Firelord to miss the funeral of his own granddaughter and namesake. Even if he ordered it. He looked as impassive as ever, as if it were a waste of his time.

    Her uncle wasn't there. He was still probably marching home from Ba Sing Se. Maybe...maybe she'd say hello to Lu Ten for him, when she was done here.

    Her mother...Azula glared pleadingly, mouth upturned into a scowl as her eyes burned. Her mother's head was bowed with a maternal look of sorrow. But that was it. No tears for her? Did...did her mother really think it was good that she was dead, under that mask, that the monster was dead? Or was she containing grief for a state event, no matter how personal? She didn't know and she didn't care which it was, she just...she just wanted to know for sure if her mother ever truly loved her!

    Her desperate eyes looked to Zuko. Ty Lee and Mai were not here, that she could see. All her soul's pleading fell on her brother, but she couldn't see his face. He was looking away. He loved her, right? He was sad she was gone, right? He...he hadn't been just saying that to get her out of his hair, right? Zuko wasn't like that! He wasn't like-

    He wasn't like her.

    He wouldn't...he wouldn't smile at the death of a sibling, like she had when she thought her death sentence had been his instead. Even if he had every reason to. He wasn't her. He wasn't

    She stopped trying to see his face and bowed her head. She didn't deserve to see whatever her brother felt now.

    She let out a scream of surprise as she felt herself tumbling and twirling as her world grew darker.

    She groaned as she picked herself back up. She didn't feel numb or empty anymore. She felt whole in fact. Sadness, disbelief, pain, discomfort, all of it.

    Had she passed on? Was this Panasloka, the eternal realm of Agni's favored children?

    Why was there so much sand though? She knew deserts could get hot, but she never heard the stories saying anything about san-

    Her eyes widened as she gasped before instantly regretting it. She coughed as she crawled back, trying futilely to get away from the grey substance that was coating her clothes and hands, that choked at her throat. She crawled until her back hit a wall, curved and smoothed. She looked up as terror began to overtake her, seeing she was in something almost oval shaped made of a very polished and fine material.

    She shakily looked down at the greyness that threatened to swallow her whole and knew what this was.

    This was the stuff of nightmares, the story parents told foolish children so that they might...behave. Be good children.

    The Penance of Ash.

    The legends say, that if Agni found a soul unworthy, he would ban their souls from his domain- and from reincarnation, for those of the faith that believed that extended beyond the Avatar. Instead of passing on, a soul was bound to their ashes until Agni might deem their penance served. For those of the upper classes, this meant being trapped within one's own urn.

    To never feel the sun. To never know anything but the taste of thier own ashes and to remain in a darkness illuminated only by their own pitiful soul. To only hear what was spoke to them, if they were ever visited.

    Azula panted with tears in her eyes. She couldn't catch her breath. She was dead, she shouldn't need to breath, but Agni's judgement meant she still felt like she did. So that she would always taste her own ashes. Agni had declared it, she was unworthy. If reincarnation, second chances really existed, even those were stripped from her now.

    "I'm sorry!" Azula cried out to the lid, knowing none could hear her. That no one would want to. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" she wailed out helplessly, rocking herself in a pit of her own remains.

    She thought back, racked her head around for what she could have done to offend Agni himself so greatly, but what did she know about goodness? Of being worthy and unworthy? After all, even her mother knew she was a monster.

    Maybe...maybe that was it? Maybe Agni had seen it too, whatever vile thing inside her that made her like she was. Maybe it was because she was so horrid in spite of the gift of blue fire and great potential He blessed her with. Perhaps her wickedness was a personal affront to Him for tainting His blessings?

    Her cries turned quiet as she contemplated this. Perhaps it was better this way. There were many tales of monsters being sealed away, in jars and in caves, left to rot where they could trouble no one ever again. That seemed fitting for her, the little monster that was slain before she could grow too dangerous, her soul sealed with her ashes, deep in the Dragonbone Catacombs.

    She'd just stay here then. Forever.

    Maybe Zuko would visit her.

    Just once.


    End of Dream

    Her eyes shot open as she instantly sat upright,

    She was alive? Yes, yes, she was. This was the infirmary. She was sitting on a bed. And after a quick inspection, there wasn't a corpse of herself in the bed, so she wasn't a ghost. She could feel the blood pumping through her heart, the fire in her veins that surged with life, and the delicious air moving in and out of her lungs.

    She was alive, she was okay, she was- not injured in the slightest?

    Why was she here?


    The slurred call of her name brought her attention to the only other person in the room right now: Zuko. Why was Zuko here? Why was his head covered in bandages on one side? Why was he sweating and rolling around in his sleep in pain? Why did he sound so delirious? Why was he calling out to her like that?

    Why Was She Alive And Zuko Injured!?

    Memories flooded back to her. Zuko. Zuko had saved her from Father. Or tried to, since Grandfather didn't really want her dead? That part was fuzzy and, frankly, unimportant.

    "Azoola," Zuko sniffled in his sleep, looking like he was ready to cry as he slurred the name more and more.

    She was scarcely aware of her own legs as they flung her out of bed, moving to his bedside before she even realized she had crossed the distance. She hesitated, staring at his distressed form. What now? What should she do? What would help?

    She didn't know. She didn't know how to help. But as he groaned again, she knew she had to do something.

    Careful and uncertain, she reached her hands out towards his. She hesitated for a moment before grasping his hand in both of hers, fingers curling around the palm in what she hoped was a comforting squeeze. "I'm here, Zuko, I'm here," she whispered softly.

    Zuko stilled, his one uncovered eye trembling, weakly opening. His eye was glazed, but he was looking right at her. "Az...Azula?" he asked, eyebrow scrunching, face twisting as he forced himself to not fall back to sleep.

    Azula nodded before giving him a trembling smile. "Y-yes, it's me, Brother. It's-" she stopped in midsentence. Things wouldn't be fine. Their father was gone after trying to kill her, Zuko's eye must be hurt bad, and Agni only knew what else would go wrong.

    "Are you...alright?" Zuko asked, concern bleeding through.

    No, she was not alright. She would never be alright. There had never been anything alright about her. But that wasn't what he meant. "I'm fine," she assured, and told herself it wasn't a lie. She wasn't physically hurt.

    She almost broke as she saw him smile in relief, releasing whatever hold he had over himself that kept him conscious, falling back into some slumbering realm.

    Azula felt tears swell in her eyes. Zuko woke up, just to find out if she was okay. Her, after everything, after he might have lost an eye saving her. He didn't deserve that. Why couldn't it have been her that was hurt and scarred? Why Zuko?

    She stood there long after her legs grew tired, but she ignored them and stayed right where she was.

    "I promise, Zuzu, I'll be a better sister."

    Elsewhere, Azulon was having a conversation he had been steeling himself for. Or he had been, before Zuko had got involved. He didn't need to guess how they knew, but of all nights for little princes and princesses to be spying on the throne room, it had to be this one?

    That did nothing to lessen the blow he had received. It was not one of the flesh or words, but of the soul.

    Such was the look in Ursa's eyes. How her face could be a carving of fragility and sorrow, but her eyes screeched with a rage like a mother armadillo-bear. If he were anyone else, he might be truly intimidated. But all he felt was regret.

    "Father, what has happened?" she asked, her voice soft but her words carrying the weight of thunder. "My husband is missing, I hear my children are injured and the guards will not explain what has happened."

    To anyone else, this would look like a lost and confused woman, a wife desperate for answers and a distraught mother. She wasn't. She was a jackal-lioness, sniffing for blood. And so he did not treat her like a fragile woman, but a beast to be appeased. "Ursa, my dear. Do you know why I married you to Ozai?" he asked in a calm, stern voice.

    Ursa's mask cracked and she looked at him with confused impatience. "What does that have to do with this?" she asked, barely keeping her tone in check. "Is Ozai claiming some failing on my part?"

    "Humor me, my Honored Daughter," Azulon requested simply, not backing down. Technically speaking, she was no match for him. But that implied that Azulon would raise a hand to the mother of his grandchildren.

    "We both know why, My Lord," she answered, letting the lack of familial titles be her own warning. "We know who my grandfather was."

    Azulon nodded in acknowledgement. "Yes, but did you ever wonder, why Ozai instead of Iroh?"

    Ursa paused, and he believed she had an inkling of what this meant. "I presumed it was out of respect for Iroh's beloved wife. And because your second born still lacked one."

    Azulon hummed his acceptance. "All these are true, but not the true reason. I considered that marriage to Iroh would have been kinder to you both. You a companion, and he one who might cherish you, if not so romantically," Azulon confessed, taking a breath. "We both know very well what Ozai is like, Ursa. I believed that one such as you in his life would temper him, and his ruthlessness. That having his own family would rid him of his rashest and most irresponsible traits."

    "I apologize to have failed on that front, Father," Ursa said, and he knew she meant it. At least somewhat. They both knew that nothing could change Ozai now, but neither of them had been devoid of wishful thinking. "What did my husband do?" she asked, and he could almost believe she was acting as a dutiful wife and not a mother ready to forsake everything, even her husband, for her children.

    Azulon didn't answer for a moment, looking off instead toward the Fire Throne. Unlit, but he could distinctly see where the damage had been done. "He requested I make him the Crown Prince."

    The words didn't process in Ursa for a moment, but when they did, it was like a blow of lightning. "No, he- so soon? Now?" Ursa muttered in disbelief, her mask in shambles at the revelations. "The fool."

    "Indeed," Azulon agreed, glancing back to her.

    Ursa looked to him again, and when their eyes met, he wasn't sure what was in her gaze anymore. Was that hatred or fear she was hiding? "What did you do?"

    Ah, of course; Both. "I gave him one last chance, to prove he wasn't beyond hope of understanding what it meant to be Firelord," Azulon answered solemnly. "I told him he would never have the throne if he did not learn the same pain as Iroh for his transgression."

    Her eyes went wide and they steeled. She said nothing, yet demanded everything with her look.

    "I told him to sacrifice your child."

    A slap echoed throughout the room.

    Azulon rose an eyebrow as Ursa's hand slammed into a pillar, her nails cracking against the polished material. "I wouldn't have begrudged you if you slapped me, Ursa."

    "Father, please tell you did not mean to-" her voice was all but a hiss, like some viper ready to poison his blood.

    "Calm, Daughter. I never desired to trim the royal bloodline. I only wished to see if Ozai truly was capable of it. If I could see that he couldn't be trusted with his own children, I could never trust him with the fate of the Fire Nation," Azulon promised. "He failed, obviously. For that I stripped him of all he was."

    "Everything?" Ursa asked in surprise. "Not just exile, but-"

    "Ozai lives only as a man with no title, family and ally to no one, that is to be considered an enemy in all lands of the Fire Nation," Azulon vowed softly. "You never asked which child I ordered."

    "Does it matter?" Ursa asked with a glare, even as Azulon smiled. That was enough to shock her out of glaring.

    "It did to Ozai," he answered with a disappointed headshake. "He accepted it when he believed it was Zuko, but tried to offer him up when I told him it was Azula's blood to be spilt. And every excuse was of her worth, her potential as an asset and a weapon. Not for an instance did that man ever say anything remotely to mean "You can't ask me to kill my child,"" he said, looking to Ursa with a sorrowful look...and bowed his head. "I apologize, Ursa. For so many things."

    Ursa stared in disbelief at the Firelord before recollecting herself. "I...don't know if I can forgive you, Father...but I am grateful that you are not your son. And that my children are alive," she answered as Azulon raised his head, accepting that offering ."Azula?" she repeated, scowling as he nodded. "The guards said it was Prince Zuko that was injured?"

    Azulon almost smiled again, and it was almost pride. "I had Yuyan Archers standing by to stop Ozai at the last moment. For I know better than most that saying and doing a deed are two different things. But in the surprise, Zuko was struck by Ozai's fire, believing he was saving his sister after he snuck into the throne room," he explained.

    In that moment, Azulon could see that Ursa was being ripped apart by astounding pride in her son's bravery, murderous rage for the danger her children had been in, and unstoppable grief for whatever suffering they both had gone through. "Will he-?"

    "He will live, Ursa," Azulon promised firmly. "The doctors say he will be scarred on one side of his face. His eye...we will only know in time."

    Ursa was silent, even if Azulon swore he could hear something raging within her. "What happened to Ozai? Why are the guards looking for him?" she asked, steel infesting in her voice.

    "Ozai escaped in the chaos," Azulon stated, amending the truth for now. They could address Azula's display of power another time. "He tried to kill them both. As a mere distraction."

    "...How could you let this happen?!" Ursa hissed out in a wrathful whisper, her glare refusing to recede.

    "Because I am an old man, Ursa," Azulon answered in a hard yet remorseful voice. "An old man who is trying, and perhaps failing, to get his affairs in order before Agni extinguishes my worldly flame."

    "May Agni spit on your-!" Ursa bit back the curse, swallowing it. "I'm sorry, My Lord."

    "Don't be, Ursa. Nothing we say leaves this room tonight," Azulon promised, turning away with a pause. "Go, Ursa. Be with your children."

    She was gone before the final word even left his mouth.

    Ursa knew she should be relieved: Her children were alive, Ozai was gone, the Firelord was on the side of her and her children. But all she felt was hate now. The unique, rich hatred only a mother could feel for whatever had threatened her children.

    The guards at the door said nothing to her. They had taken one look at Fire Princess Ursa and deemed it best to not say a word, lest they keep her from her son and daughter for another instant.

    When Ursa entered, the image that greeted her both froze the blood in her veins and warmed the heart in her chest. Zuko laid there, his princely face wrapped in bandages that concealed his left side. He was sleeping so peacefully though, as if this was all a nightmare. And next to him stood Azula, her hands holding one of his, her stare lacking all malice and cunning. Now her eyes contained only sadness and sorrow as she gazed upon her brother's injured form. They were not Princess Azula and Prince Zuko right now, but a terrified sister watching over her injured brother.

    And Ursa was their mother, and their only parent now.

    Azula flinched, going stock-still as she felt it. Two warm arms folding around her into an embrace, pulling her softly against the royal robes clothing another's form. She looked to the side in shock, already knowing who it was, who it only could be that might dare to hug her. "M-mother?" Azula whispered, her voice shaking more than she thought it would.

    Why was she hugging her? Zuko was the one laying in the bed, injured. Because of her.

    "My baby girl," Ursa whispered, her hand rubbing through Azula's hair soothingly. "Are you alright?"

    Azula nodded numbly. "Zuko's the one hurt," she stated, as if to remind her mother that she was hugging the wrong child.

    Ursa pulled back from the embrace, but never let go of Azula. As if she might disappear if she did. She looked to Zuko and to Azula it looked as if her mother might break as she tearfully gazed upon her wounded child. "My brave little boy," Ursa whispered, hand reaching out to stroke his hair. What he still had.

    "I'm...I'm sorry."

    Ursa blinked, almost not believing the words as she looked down at her daughter, head bowed with a great and heavy shame about her. "It's not your fault, Azula," Ursa promised, still stunned by Azula apologizing for anything- let alone something so beyond her control.

    "Yes it is," Azula insisted, hands trembling at her side. "I...I did this. I told Zuko that Firelord Azulon wanted Father to kill me. Grandfather was never going to let him. If...If I hadn't said anything, Zuko wouldn't have been hurt."

    "Azula, that is not your fault," Ursa stated, almost angry as she tilted Azula's chin up. Azula was confused though; How could eyes be so sad on an angered face? "Your Father should have never agreed to sacrifice you, either of you. Your Grandfather should have never drawn that out so far. You have nothing to be ashamed of."

    Azula wondered who she inherited her lying from: Her father or her mother. Because her mother told lies like she believed them. She said nothing though but merely dropped her gaze once more.

    "...Azula? Why didn't you come to me?" Ursa asked softly, sounding almost hurt.

    "You couldn't have done anything," Azula stated without infliction like it was fact. "Nobody could."


    The princess froze at the tone, looking up to see the stern, almost wrathful look about her mother, who placed a hand on each of Azula's shoulders and bent down further to be eye level. "You are my daughter. I would have done anything to protect you or your brother," she vowed, as if it was some sacred prayer to Agni.

    Maybe it was.

    Something caught in Azula's throat, her being trembling under the motherly stare of the woman whose womb she came from. Azula felt her breathing grow labored even though she knew there was nothing wrong with her. So what was wrong with her? "M-mom?"

    Ursa's gaze softened. It had been a while since Azula called her Mom instead of Mother.

    Azula took the look as invitation to continue. "Can...can you teach me so-something?" Azula requested, her voice trembling as she fought back tears and sobs and screams and- what else was swelling in her chest?!

    Ursa looked confused but nodded slowly. "If I can, Azula. What is it you want to know?"

    Little did Ursa know was how the words would break her very soul.

    "Can you teach me how to not be a monster?"

    Ursa stared in dumbfounded disbelief, the world frozen in time for a moment. But her daughter's pleading gaze told her how serious the question was. How much Azula believed it.

    "Oh, Azula!" Ursa cried, truly cried as she wrapped her daughter into a hug and let her own tears fall. "Whoever told you that you were a monster?"

    Azula didn't answer. She just shook in her mother's embrace before she did something Ursa hadn't heard from her daughter in years.

    Her little girl sobbed into her shoulder, little arms wrapping around her larger frame, tiny hand clutching onto her mother as if Azula was the one scared Ursa would vanish.

    End of Chapter

    And there is Chapter 2. Yeah, if you thought I couldn't outdo the feels from the first chapter, you were wrong. Azula has a nightmare/vision of her death- with a very nasty sentence. Not only that, but she finally got the confirmation that Ursa does love and never thought she was a monster.

    And than you have Ursa who, ontop of raging on the inside, can't believe that her daughter ever thought herself a monster. She almost assualted Azulon for very justified and understandable reasons. All in all, I actually had a lot of fun writing Ursa, more than I thought.

    So, I hope you all enjoyed your chapterly quota of feels. Next time will have a...more feels, but also a funny moment to lighten the mood just a bit.

    As always, please consider tipping to my patreon!
  15. Blade4

    Blade4 Versed in the lewd.

    Jun 14, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Ozai the cursed is lost but Azula might yet be saved. This is going to shake up so many things its hard to plot it all out. The family actually being a family and Zuko and Azula a tag team to be feared probable. Iroh should inherit the throne and he just might end the war even before Aang returns with probable Zuko as his heir.
  16. Graeme404

    Graeme404 Know what you're doing yet?

    Nov 6, 2019
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    You asshole, why are my eyes leaking? This is your fault!
  17. StrangerDanger51

    StrangerDanger51 Verified Stalker

    Nov 12, 2015
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    Fire lord Iroh.

    His first proclomation: national tea appreciation day.
  18. Blade4

    Blade4 Versed in the lewd.

    Jun 14, 2016
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    His next would probable be hard consolidation of the Fire Nations gains for a few years and then open diplo contact to end the war as is or at least truce. Sell it has buying time to rebuild or build up strength until Zuko or Azula is ready to take the throne but in truth find a way to end the pointless conflict before any more sons and fathers die pointless deaths.

    Edit: Though it also depends on where he is in his journey of self discovery but i assume by time he comes back and takes throne he should be well on the way.
  19. Diraniola

    Diraniola I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Dec 2, 2016
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    Iroh's timeline has always intrigued me. In what looks like less than a decade, he hires from the general seiging Ba Sing Se to Grandmaster of the White Lotus. I can't imagine the White Lotus was recruiting loyal fire nation generals, so how did Iroh rise to the top spot in such a short time?
  20. Akumakami64

    Akumakami64 Experienced.

    Feb 14, 2018
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    For canon, there's two main possibilities in my head:
    1. Iroh had somewhat been involved, or at least knew of the White Lotus before his Siege. Given the nature of what was going on in Ba Sing Se with Long Feng and the Dai Li, I wouldn't be surprised if parts of the White Lotus were uncertain who was the lesser of two evils between Feng and Iroh. Even in his pre-enlightenment days, I imagine Iroh was more honorable and merciful than most, and was in line for the throne.
    2. Probably more likely is that his journey to the Spirit Realm was helped by the White Lotus, and reaching enlightenment via the Spirit world AND coming back from it automatically gets you in high esteem among the White Lotus.

    Main issue is that between Lu Ten's death and Zuko getting his scar in canon, there is at most a two year time gap that Iroh could have been gone for. I'd say less, just because it doesn't seem like Iroh's return was a recent thing in the flashback to Zuko getting his scar..
  21. Blade4

    Blade4 Versed in the lewd.

    Jun 14, 2016
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    I would bet it was a mixture of the two. The fire nation was winning the war but were also paradoxically losing the war. They did not have the man power to actually hold down the whole world, which really really hated them at this point, and there is a sense that as the war continued, especially under Ozai, that the FN own culture was degrading or deliberately lost in favor of a toxic might makes right fear based totalitarianism. We know Iroh was more iffy about this given things we know so perhaps what started as a mutual alliance became a long game in play. Iroh could not usurp his father or just stop the war but if he could just last long enough to inherit it with a strong martial backing and string of victories he might have been able to start deescalating it and if not stop it his son might have been able to.

    Then his son died and he broke and went on a adventure and by time he came back he found himself usurped and his brother already stacking the court and generals against him with more psychos and at that point he went for another long game of trying to guide Zuko into not being a monster instead of a war the fire nation could only lose then have to face a very angry world.

    The canon ending was the best possible ending they could have got with the rot being cut out of the FN and a avatar backed peace so time could heal the wounds.
  22. aabbcc

    aabbcc Experienced.

    Jan 21, 2015
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    1.- Ozai was not in charge of the nation until after Lu Ten died. Iroh was the one next in line for the throne.
    2.- The degradation of the FN's culture was started long before Ozai. Sozin sealed the records of the Fire Nation's past, started a cult of personality based on the Fire Lord's family, built statues of himself everywhere, changed the nation's education so they'd believe the Air nomads were evil and intending to invade the fire nation, changed how firebending was taught so that they'd power it by hate, and started the hunting of dragons.

    Azulon succeeded him, and ruled for most of the war. He was by all accounts a complete bastard who continued his father's policies, greatly expanded the nation's conquests, and nearly destroyed the southern water tribe (this would also include the torturous inprisonment of the water benders captured, which lead to the evil bloodbending bitch).

    Family-wise, they both played favorites with their heir and treated the spare like crap, which is what led to Ozai's resentment towards his father and brother, and to doing the opposite with his children.

    Ozai had some reeeaally big evil shoes to fill, and only managed to start doing so when canon was well underway.

    Regarding the WL, Iroh, even in his younger years, was far less of an asshole than his predecessors. That probably influenced their decision.
  23. R.A.G.

    R.A.G. Well worn.

    Feb 26, 2013
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    Iroh became WL grandmaster in part from stuff he picked up during the seige itself IIRC, but mostly over the course of the spirit journey he took to try to see Lu Ten and then the three years of roving around the world alongside Zuko.

    Onto other questions though, are Azula and Zuko gonna fuck :V
    TheKingOfHeroes and Relyt33 like this.
  24. Diraniola

    Diraniola I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Dec 2, 2016
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    Considering this is in the sfw side of qq I think not.
  25. verynew

    verynew Versed in the lewd.

    Jul 13, 2017
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    He fit their criteria being a man of culture, wisdom, and tea. It's not like they were against fire nation and their conquest. Actually, it's quite likely that the majority of the order belongs to fire nation. And Iroh himself had wide web of connections (being former crown-prince) and administrative skill (being retired general) so his ascention isn't at all unusual.
  26. JamesEye

    JamesEye Not too sore, are you?

    Jun 2, 2018
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    Man this story has already made me cry and I can only hope it continues to make me feel in the future. Whenever I read a story where Azula is redeemed or at least softened/ not a crazy cruel bitch just a crazy bitch ;) I always long for more. Azula Zuko and Ursa together as a loving family.... I look forward to it.

    Also jeez just indulge in some trimming of the royal bloodline, chop that Ozai off for gods sake. I can’t believe you’d let a rebel royal bloodline go out into the world to cause trouble. Fkn crazy but I guess that’s family feels and honour such as it is.

    Looking forward to when I get a surprise notification update for this, hope your inspiration keeps flowing haha. Whether it’s a week,month or year I’ll be glad to read this story anytime :~)
  27. Threadmarks: Chapter 3

    Akumakami64 Experienced.

    Feb 14, 2018
    Likes Received:
    The first thing Zuko felt was fear. It was something instinctual, a subconscious feeling that something was very different and very wrong.

    He pushed himself up and realize the first part of the "wrongness."

    This wasn't his bed. Which meant that this wasn't his room.

    Where was he!? Where?! How did he get here?

    His head felt strange, heavy as he brought it up, eyes blinking open. Why was everything still fuzzy?

    And why could he only see one side of his nose?

    He started to clutch at the blind side of his head and felt...something there. It was some kind of fabric, and it was held tight on his head.

    Why was it tight?

    "Prince Zuko, you're awake!"

    He cried in alarm at the voice, muffled through one ear, and nearly fell out of the bed in the process.

    "Please, don't move so quickly, My Prince! You'll only worsen your injuries!" the voice called, and he suddenly felt a hand gently yet firmly push him back on the bed before he might slip off.

    He didn't fight it, too busy groaning as his covered-face began to throb beneath the cloth. "Who are you?" he asked, his voice slurred and almost foreign to his own ears as he squinted towards the voice.

    "I am Chazun, Prince Zuko. Your Physician," the man answered patiently, falling silent as Zuko stared at him.

    Zuko 's vision cleared just enough for him to see the brown eyed man, his hair and beard greying yet not showing any white yet. He was wearing white robes, a color reserved for funerals and doctors.

    A doctor. Something about that made Zuko very worried about the bandages on his face.

    Along with the stinging sensation beneath them, growing more intense and spreading slowly.

    "What's wrong with me?" he asked, the words softly echoing in his own good ear.

    "You were injured, Prince Zuko," Chazun explained with a consoling voice. "We've been treating the wound as best we could-"

    "What wound?" he asked suddenly as something, some memory poked at the back of his mind.

    There was a long, heavy silence at that as his mind drifted back to a dark throne room, lit by fire.

    "Prince Zuko, what do you remember?" Chazun asked warily.

    Zuko scowled, then flinched. "I...I was burned," he remembered as his hand shook.

    Right, he had jumped to save...to save...Azula?

    Why would he need to save Azula? Why would she be in danger, and just standing there waiting for it?

    Why would he need to protect her when Grandfather and Father were th-

    "No," he whispered in shock, clutching the side of his face.

    He had to protect her because Grandfather ordered it.

    "No, no, no, no!" he whispered with dread, his body paling.

    He had to protect her because Father was going to kill her.

    "My prince, you must-" Chazun called urgently, only to step back as Zuko swiped out his fist with a weak flame about it.

    "Get back!" Zuko demanded frantically as he became incredibly aware of one thing and one thing only. "Where is she?! Where is my sister!?"


    The whole world appeared to freeze to the prince, his own name echoing in his ears. His gaze went to the door and saw the speaker was already approaching his bed; his mother. "Oh, Zuko," she whispered with too many emotions, bringing her son into an embrace without another word.

    "Mom," Zuko said, love and sorrow and tiredness all in his voice. "Mom, Azula! Wher-"

    "She's fine, Zuko," Ursa promised, pulling back to smile. It was a strange smile, so proud yet somehow almost broken in a way. "You have nothing to be afraid of."

    "But Father! Grandfather!" Zuko exclaimed, not sure what else to say. How could any of them be safe after that?

    "Your father is gone, Zuko," Ursa said bluntly, unsure if Zuko would be relieved or heartbroken by this.

    Zuko blinked. Gone, that could mean many things. "You mean he's...?" he swallowed, his meaning clear.

    Ursa shook her head. "Firelord Azulon, was...wrong to do things in that manner, but he did not intend harm to come to you or your sister. He didn't want to believe his own son would do such a thing, but felt he needed to know," she explained carefully, her tone bitter, her fingers trembling with motherly rage.

    Zuko wasn't sure he understood, not really, but he nodded all the same. Azula was safe. Grandfather was...maybe safe to be around? Father was gone. That made sense for the most part. "Mom? What's wrong? Why does my face hurt so much," Zuko asked, cringing as he felt a stabbing sensation in his face if his facial muscles moved too much.

    The Fire Princess looked pointedly to the doctor. "I thought it was time to hear how the prince was feeling before giving him more medicine for the pain, Lady Ursa," Chazun explained carefully.

    Ursa scowled, but understood the need. They had to be sure that the damage wasn't worse than just a scar. As bad as that was, it could be much worse for the young prince. "Zuko, Doctor Chazun will take care of the pain, but he needs to ask you some questions to try and make sure you're getting better. Okay?" she asked in a sweet, encouraging voice.

    Zuko nodded softly, but had a question of his own that remained unanswered. "Where's Azula?"

    "She went for a walk, Sweetie. You've been asleep for a while and I made her get some fresh air," Ursa explained.



    Azula didn't react. Not when she was slammed against the tree, not when she was held there by fists as tiny as her own, not when normally bored eyes glared wrathfully into her own and certainly not when that word left the tongue of a friend.

    "What did you do to Zuko!?" Mai demanded, looking more emotional and more animal than she ever had in the past as she pinned the princess to the tree.

    "Mai, stop it! Can't you see she's upset too!" Ty Lee stated, trying to pull Mai off of Azula, "Her aura-!"

    "I don't want to hear it from you, Ty Lee! I want to hear it from her!" Mai demanded, refusing to be moved.

    Azula's golden eyes met Mai's gaze, and the young princess thought it was kind of funny. There were a hundred ways she could destroy Mai in this exact moment:

    Cruelly lay into her feelings for Zuko, to have caused this sort of reaction.

    Call for guards, who would instantly be upon Mai for harming one of royal blood.

    Or simply overpower her, fight her off. It would be easy, even without Firebending. She was faster and stronger than Mai. She could wrench these hands from her person and dislocate the arms with enough effort.

    But she didn't. Just like she didn't answer Mai. One should only defend what was worth protecting, and Azula couldn't find much worth in herself at all right now. Her mind, her bending and even her royal blood felt wasted on her. So she just stood there, limply against the tree, and let one of her only friends hate her.


    "Am I a monster, Mai?"

    That question made the courtyard go quiet as Mai stared at the princess in shock.

    "Azula," Ty Lee breathed with a shuddering sadness to her voice, cautiously approaching Azula.

    For neither girl had ever seen the young princess cry as she did now, tears flowing freely. "Mo-Mother says I'm not a monster," Azula continued. She didn't sniffle, she fought away all stuttering. Even without the desire to hold up her image, some traits were just too habitual to let go of. "But parents lie, sometimes to be nice. But I don't think you've ever lied to me, Mai. Am I a monster?"

    "I..." Mai's grip slackened, not sure who she was even talking to anymore. This wasn't the Azula she knew. "I didn't mean it, Azula. I, just- What happened?"

    Azula smiled. It wasn't cruel, it wasn't cunning. It was just...empty. "My father was going to kill me, and Zuko saved me," Azula explained, her smile widening to clearly painful degrees, as if it was somehow important for her to smile as wide as she could. "And he didn't even need to. How f-funny is that?"

    Ty Lee gasped, the shock broken, as she leaped forward to embrace Azula. "Oh, Azula! I'm so...I can't believe anybody would be so horrible! Your own father!"

    "I guess it says something about what kind of daughter I am," Azula remarked self-degradingly.

    "What's gotten into you?" Mai asked quietly, placing a hand on Azula's shoulder.

    Azula stared at the ground, almost desperate to ignore the warm embrace of the affectionate acrobat. "I was walking to my death, Mai, and I realized...the world wouldn't be bad without me. Maybe even better."

    "Don't talk like that! You know that's not true!" Ty Lee defended, looking downright afraid of how her friend was talking.

    "Is it?" Azula asked with an empty smirk. "Father would still had Zuko, and could always try for another child. I thought Mother believed I was a monster; she says I'm not, but...maybe she'd have a child easier to love than me. And Zuko wouldn't have me to torment him."

    "Azula, Zuko loves you," Mai stated, squeezing her shoulder.

    "I know. He's too stupid to realize he shouldn't," Azula agreed, almost like it was funny.

    "What about us?" Ty Lee asked with a small voice. "Did you really think we wouldn't miss you?"

    Azula didn't say anything for a moment. She looked so small and empty to the girls, like a puppet whose strings were cut. "I'm a poor choice of friend. You'd both be better off with-"

    Azula stopped. She was prepared for and anticipating Ty Lee's hug. She never planned for Mai giving her one as well. "It's official," Mai said with a sigh. "You're the new DumDum, Azula."

    "W-what?" Azula asked softly, caught off guard by the stoic girl's affection.

    "I don't understand what happened, but I know this, Azula," Mai said as she pulled back with Ty Lee, both smiling at Azula; Ty Lee's wide and warm, Mai's small and accepting. "We love you, Azula. You're our best friend."

    Azula's legs trembled, fingers gripping into the tree. "W-why?"

    It felt like their eyes told a hundred and one answers to her question, answers she was desperate to hear, answers she didn't believe she'd understand.


    But that interruption wasn't entirely unwelcome.

    The trio looked over in alarm as a familiar blur rushed towards them. "Zuko, wh-GAH?!" Azula tried to ask, only for her older brother to literally crash into her. The princess found herself completely bewildered out of her self-pity as she found herself soaked in the pond with Zuko hugging her very tightly. "Umm, what?" This was all she could say as Zuko stood up, still hugging her and essentially holding her now. She looked to her friends, wondering if this was still reality, as they stared in equal bafflement.

    "Zula!" Zuko never called her that. In fact, she wasn't sure he was calling her that now. His voice was just so slurred and groggy that her name came out like that, like he was still half-asleep. "You're okay!"

    "Yyyyes, I am, Zuko," Azula said awkwardly, blushing a bit as her brother continued to hug her like an oversized stuffed animal, both of them still drenched. "What are you doing here?" she asked, really wanting to turn around and get a look at him- because Ty Lee and Mai's expression were melting a bit towards horror, and she had a good idea why.

    "I was worried about you and snuck out," he answered, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "I kept burning through the killerpains."

    "You means painkillers?" Azula corrected automatically, wincing at the implication. A Firebender's inner flame could be their own worse enemy in terms of medicine, mistakenly burning away cures and treatments.

    "Zuko...your face," Ty Lee said softly. "What...did..."

    "My dad did this," Zuko answered before scowling in a stupidly thoughtful way. "Or not-Dad. Dads can't be Dads anymore if they try to kill their kids, right?"

    "Zuko, put me down, you need to return to the doctors," Azula instructed weakly.

    "I will. After my sister stops looking so sad," Zuko stated with a grin.

    "This would be hilarious if it wasn't so depressing," Mai muttered softly, looking at the prince in concern. "Zuko?"

    "Hmm?" Zuko turned to look at her, refusing to release his sibling even slightly.

    "Does it hurt? Right now, I mean?" Mai asked, feeling very stupid for asking an obvious question, but it was a bit concerning between the bandages getting wet and talk of painkillers.

    "Of yeah, it hurts a lot. Like a hundred butterbees on my face," Zuko answered, completely serious as the girls winced. "But I thought something bad might have happened to Azula. And it's not as bad as before."

    No one dared to ask what he meant exactly by "before."

    "But thank you for asking, Pretty One," Zuko said with a grin.

    "P-pretty one?!" Mai asked in alarm, her face turning red.

    Zuko nodded, Azula still in his surprisingly strong grasp. "That's what I used to call you before I knew your name, Mai."

    "Oh, oh, what was I called?" Ty Lee asked eagerly.

    "Poodle-Monkey," Zuko answered instantly.

    "Hey, why don't I get a cute nickname?" Ty Lee asked with a pout.

    "But poodle-monkeys are cute?" Zuko answered with a head tilt.

    "Oh. Okay then!" Ty Lee accepted, doing a complete reverse in her demeanor.

    "Brother," Azula spoke up with a small voice. "Please let me down."

    Something seemed to click in Zuko's compromised brain, releasing his sister with a concerned and curious look.

    Azula shuddered, Mai and Ty Lee watching her with sad eyes as she turned to look up at Zuko for the first time.

    She paled; She had seen him in the hospital bed plenty now, but seeing him standing there somehow made it all the more real. Most of his hair shaven off, the left side of his face practically mummified. But she could still see the edges of the wound peaking out beneath the bandages.

    She fell to her knees and started to wretch, her previous meal spilling onto the ground in a disgusting display of weakness on her part. She didn't care. All she knew was that her brother was scarred for life and it was because of her. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she whispered over and over again.

    She blacked out, she realized. One moment she was heaving in the garden, the next she was being carried through the palace as fast as Zuko's legs could carry them. In a bridal carry no less, Zuko holding her close to his chest as if his sister was some precious artifact that needed protecting.

    The idea would have made Azula laugh days ago. This entire day would have been hilarious to her. Now she could only cry softly.

    "Zuko, there you-!" their mother's voice came in relief, cut short at the sight. "Azula? Is everything okay?...Why are you both all wet?" she asked in concern, kneeling down in front of them.

    "Azula is sick." This was all Zuko said as he adjusted his hold on her. "I'm taking her back to the doctor with me."

    Ursa stared at Zuko for a long moment, processing what she was just told: Zuko snuck out of the medical wing, found his sister, and carried her all the way through the palace while injured and drugged himself. Ursa couldn't help smiling at her little prince. "Well, let your mother help then," Ursa said as she took Azula from Zuko, and laid the princess against her shoulder.

    Azula wanted to protest. To say she was fine, that she could walk just fine, that they didn't...that they shouldn't worry about her. But words failed her right now. All she had left now were two words: "I'm sorry."

    "You have nothing to be sorry for, my dear," Ursa promised softly as she stood up, using her free hand to take one of Zuko's, leading them both back to where very worried doctors would be waiting for them. "I don't know where you got this horrible idea in your head, Azula," Ursa whispered to Azula. "But you are very loved and precious."

    Azula's hands gripped tightly into her mother's clothes, letting those words sooth her mind.

    She wondered, was her mother lying to Azula or herself?

    Still, Azula appreciated it all the same.

    After all, it was a beautiful lie.


    Crown Prince Iroh was a troubled man. As any father should be, having to watch his own son die in battle. His normal exuberance, enough on its own to keep warm many home-sick hearts, was long drained away. His orders were simple and somber, but no less wise. The retreat from Ba Sing Se was a dangerous one; Earth Kingdom forces harassed and raided them, both professional soldiers and guerilla resistance. It was a long journey back to the Hu Xin provinces, and Iroh was determined to minimalize any further lose of life of his countrymen.

    Six hundred days was far, far too long to be away from home.

    But the retreat was met with mixed reactions among his soldiers. He could not fault them. It was why he had not called off the siege sooner; no one wanted to return in defeat. And there was no minor victory with that accursed city, it was all or nothing. And once his army had gotten through the first wall, he had unknowingly trapped himself between the growing cost of life and the common desire to see this through to the end. Because no Fire Nation- No, no force at all had ever penetrated Ba Sing Se as they had. Victory was just out of reach.

    It had taken the death of his beloved son, Lu Ten, to realize that the cost had become too much. It had been too much for a long time, he believed.

    Still, as frustrated or disappointed as some soldiers were, there was an overall sense of relief as well. It was impossible not to feel so, having spent nearly a year within Ba Sing Se, the enemy soldiers and the dreaded Dai Li making life a genuine nightmare for even the veterans of the Fire Nation army. They had to be on their guard still, yes, but that was normal and predictable danger that many soldiers would gladly take over Ba Sing Se.

    In truth though, Iroh was not so certain he was going home with his forces. It wasn't shame or fear that made him waver, but...

    He felt lost, adrift in life with his son gone, his very world. His eyes had often found their ways often to the distant horizons, contemplating a different destination. One where humans normally did not tread.

    Yet he held off. He had to make sure the survivors of his failed siege reached friendly territory alive. That would be at least a week still, likely longer. More than two if the Earth Kingdom forces felt emboldened enough to pursue him further than they normally dared.

    Yet all his plans and uncertainties had been dashed when he received two important messages.

    The first was not to him specifically, but a proclamation sent to all corners of the lands controlled by his country: His brother, Prince Ozai, had been banished and stripped of all he ever was, even his name. He was not to be given refuge or aid by any citizen within the Lands of the Fire Nation, colonies or otherwise. Along with this was a poster of him, depicting a scar upon his neck that Iroh knew his brother had NOT possessed before. However, it was the crimes that were most troubling: Dishonor in the highest, attempted murder of the royal family and one's own children.

    Iroh had paled harshly at that message, but managed to control himself at the key word: Attempted. Whatever this madness was, Ozai had not killed his children. He worried for Ursa, her death might have been covered up, but chose not to dwell on that. What he did dwell on was the second message, which was specifically for him.

    "Crown Prince Iroh,

    My Son. I would wish that this message finds you in pleasant times, but I know this is not possible in your time of grief. Know that I would not call upon you now if it were not a matter of urgency: you are needed at the capital. This is not a matter of war or politics, Iroh, but of family. Your brother has proven himself irredeemable and I believe I may have lapsed in how I decided to test his foolishness.

    Forgive your father's selfishness, my son. I know I have already asked much of you, but I believe Ursa's children need you. And while I cannot pretend to know your feelings, Iroh, perhaps it is you that needs them as well. You are not the only one that grieves for Lu Ten.

    Your Father,

    Firelord Azulon"

    Iroh had scowled long and hard over the meaning of these two messages. He knew his brother was power hungry. He even knew Ozai held Zuko, the man's own firstborn, in contempt for reasons both clear and unknown. But Iroh knew his father well. As much as the old Firelord disfavored and disapproved of Ozai at times, their father had never marked his younger son with any true contempt. At least not the kind that would make Azulon banish and brand Ozai, let alone declaring the man Nameless and his old identity effectively dead in the eyes of their laws.

    Something had happened, obviously. But was it something he could help with? Oh, there was no question it was within Iroh's means to give aid, be it emotional or political or anything else.

    The issue was if he could bring himself to, if he wouldn't collapse inward and cause more harm than good.

    His eyes looked to the dawning sun, the presence of Agni's greatest gift arousing his army in a timely matter all on its own. As the silence of the camp began dying to the cacophony of men preparing to travel once more, his mind flashed to memories of his own beloved son. But unlike before, it was not memories of just him and Lu Ten, but of his seeing his son with Ozai's children. Playing, laughing, teasing. Showing them Firebending to their delighted eyes.

    Lu Ten had been an only child, but it had never seemed so when he was around Zuko and Azula.

    For the first time since the death of his son, Iroh smiled. It was small, but it was there. No one could ever replace Lu Ten, but he could protect and help the family he had left...the family Lu Ten loved.

    When he met with the officers of the army, to plan for the next part of their journey, they all stopped to stare at him. Even those unhappy with abandoning the siege looked relieved to see their great general in a better state of mind.

    The Dragon of the West smiled. It wasn't happy or sad, but patient and wise. "Ladies and Gentlemen, Soldiers of the Fire Nation: Shall we go home?"

    End of Chapter

    And there it is, the third chapter. For the record, I did not plan on Drugged Zuko before I wrote that scene, it just dawned on me. While it brightened the mood a bit, it wasn't like the girls were going to NOt react to his bandages and everything. Still, yeah, Azula had a very back and forth moment with Mai and Ty Lee. Still, yeah, Azula's issues are NOT going away anytime soon.

    And Iroh is coming back. Maybe not going on his Spirit Quest. Which, you know, is a game changer on its own.
  28. Vampire 42

    Vampire 42 Getting sticky.

    Jul 22, 2018
    Likes Received:
    I can just hear Azula thinking, 'if I'm not I a monster, why did you treat me like one?' Oh man I love this.
  29. ioriangel

    ioriangel Mysterious Angel of Incalculable Mayhem

    Apr 26, 2020
    Likes Received:
    This is so compelling.
    Hypervane, Thepiekid, Relyt33 and 2 others like this.
  30. ElegiacCrown

    ElegiacCrown Neither grandly nor intoxicatingly innocent.

    Oct 14, 2019
    Likes Received:
    This is so good, and I can't wait for the next chapter.
    Hypervane, Relyt33 and Prince Charon like this.