The world seemed to be falling apart. Because it was. Huge pieces of land rose and fell like waves while the oceans seemed to stop still before violently exploding outwards. Fire rained from into the sky, falling upon the world in a torrential downpour, consuming everything it touched in smoke and flame. And amidst this all the armies continued to fight, not caring for the storms around them. All elements were clashing in this battle. Airbenders sent out razer sharp winds to slice apart their opponents, while earthbenders buried their foes in pitfalls which were then set alight by firebenders. Waterbenders summoned up mighty typhoons to destroy the camps and supplies of their enemies, as well as anything that got in their way. Even as they died, whether by earth or by fire or by blade, those who lay dying cursed their foes and continued to fight on, stabbing one last time with a broken spear or attempting to use their bending one last time in a desperate attempt to kill again. There was no quarter asked and none given. The desire to survive and the desire to see one’s other suffer was all that was keeping the soldiers alive. And in the centre for those who had been labeled as “hero”, wielding mighty weapons forged from the spirits of the world itself. When their blades clashed, volcanoes erupted. A single shot from a spirit bow leveled mountains. A single strike from a hurled javelin annihilated whole cities. When one such weapon was destroyed, the force wiped out everyone in the area in a blast of pure energy. To Aang, watching this from atop a mountain, it seemed like the end of the world. He looked down and although he could not fully see faces, he could feel the hate and the suffering around him. He could hear the curses of the dying and the cries of the living as war consumed all under heaven.
“What is this?” He asked, tears streaming down his face. He wanted to run down and help. He wanted to bring an end to this. But he could not. Every time he tried to move, he was pulled back and blocked by an unseen force.
“Hey! Let go!” He cried out in desperation. “People are dying. I need to help them! The world is ending and it's my job to save them!”
“I am afraid it is impossible.” A warm yet sad voice said. Aang turned around and saw a middle aged Air Nomad monk, dressed in traditional yellow and orange robes.
“Who are you?”
“I am Avatar Jamyang and all that you see happened thousands of years ago.”
“What? What happened? Why did no one tell me about this?”
“This is the end of the Great Ghirahua War. The Three Kingdoms of Dharma had long been enemies of one another, but it was in this conflict that those enmities exploded with the fury of a thousand suns. I tried to reason with them. Warned them that war would only lead to their destruction. That this was pointless and cruel. To think of their people. But they would not listen. Hate had taken over their minds. For weeks they battled, with such force that whole islands were sunk by the rage of war. They had long ago harnessed the power of the spirits into a physical form and were using them to forge mighty weapons of war. Beautiful creations with terrifying uses. I tried to stop this every way I could, but no one would listen to me. And so, I decided to take matters into my own hands.”
The two Air Nomads looked out once again to the battlefield, only this time, it appeared Avatar Jamyang was now standing in the middle. Raising his hands and entering the Avatar State, he called upon the power of all four elements and the spirit world. Lightning roared in the sky. The oceans became a sea of torrents and tsunamis. Winds howled like packs of wolves. Looking down, Aang noticed that the ground beneath him was gone and he was falling, before Jamyang pulled him back up. When the storms cleared, all was tranquil and at peace. The only sounds were the cries of birds over heard, the smooth crashing of waves on rocks, and the faint groans of the wounded and dying. Heaps of corpses rose to the sky like mountains, some burned beyond recognition and others waterlogged to the point of bursting. Where they had once been lush forests there now were barren deserts. Where once mighty mountains climbed to the heavens, now lakes began to pool in vast craters. In fields that had once been filled with flowers, now there were jagged rock formations, the shrapnel of a damaged world. Cities that had been teeming with life were now merely plains of grass and earth, only their faint ruins speaking to their former glory. The armies, or what was left of them, were all but gone. Of those who survived put down their weapons and walked away. Others, still driven by their hatred and battlelust continued to fight on, even after it was clear that all around them were dead until they too had joined the fallen. The last hero cried to the heavens in anguish and stuck the last spirit blade into the side of a mountain before collapsing to the ground. The world that was once in ruins was now in a state of something resembling peace. Aang felt himself being drawn down to the edge of the valley, where Avatar Jamyang was now standing. The glow of the Avatar State had gone and he was talking to two animals- a lion-wolf cub and a small snake. Touching both of their heads, he placed two lights on them. As the two animals left, Jamyang collapsed on the ground, dead.
“I broke the world.” The spirit of Jamyang said gravely. “And for that my body was broken. But I still saved it.”
“Why are you showing me this?” Aang asked, still in shock.
“Because our world is not just the Four Nations. There are other nations. The descendants and survivors of the Three Kingdoms of Dharma. They still struggle and are utterly without balance.”
Time seemed to speed up around the past and present Avatar. Where they once were standing was now a lush and dense jungle by the beach. Aang turned in shock as he heard a roar behind him. The little lion-wolf club he had seen earlier was now even bigger than Appa, its grey mane thick and stance strong. From the water, he heard an ear-piercing shriek and now saw a sea-serpent bigger than the guard of the Serpent’s Pass rising from the water before diving back in. Jamyang looked downwards and began to speak again.
“I was afraid that conflict between the successors of Dharma and the Four Nations would destroy the world. So I gave my two companions, Bhediya and Vishvsaamp, the last of my powers before I died and charged them to keep the worlds separate.”
“We've been neglecting a whole other land?”
“I’m afraid so. The Four Nations were always more balanced and powerful than the petty and fragile nations of this land. And yet, these nations have their own balance. They exist in cycles. Rising, then falling, then rising again. It is like balance, but different. ”
“Then I have to go there. I need to bring balance and peace to them as well! I do not want to fail people again.”
“I am glad to hear this.” He said, his voice still sad, “Because trouble is brewing in these lands once more. An old foe of yours has travelled here and soon that chaos you saw will spread to the Four Nations if you do not go to these lands unknown.”
“But how can I find them if they are lands unknown?”
“Go from the end and continue till you arrive at the start.”
“What's that supposed to mean!”
“You will know, Aang, you will know. But now, you must awaken.”
With a sudden jolt, Aang awoke, covered in sweat and breathing heavily.
“Aang, are you okay?” Katara asked groggily, as she rose beside him.
“I’m okay,” he replied, slightly stammering. “It was just a nightmare.”
“Aang, you always say this whenever you are troubled by something.” Saying this, Katara reached out and put her hand on his shoulder. “Please. Trust me.”
“Okay.” Aang breathed deeply. “One of my past lives visited me in a dream. It was terrifying. I think the world is in danger again. But more to the point, I think we are not alone in this world.”
“We should call the others together tomorrow. We’re all here for you, Aang, no matter what.”
Katara and Aang smiled at each other, leaning in to embrace, and then returned to sleep.
The next day, Team Avatar met up at the Jasmine Dragon. Sokka and Toph were the first to arrive, as they were both already in Ba Sing Se on business. Zuko and Suki were a bit later and in common clothing, to avoid being recognized. Not that the dozen or so Fire Nation guards stationed outside the tea shop helped. All met up in the guest room where they had last celebrated the end of the war. Two paintings now stood on the wall. One, created by Iroh, depicting Team Avatar fighting bravely, done in beautiful water colours and filled with such detail it almost looked lifelike. The other was painted by Sokka. The best compliment anyone could give that picture was that it was certainly unique and inventive. Uncle Iroh served them all his latest concoction, Chrysanthemum mixed with oolong. As they drank, Aang explained his dream. The description of the war which he had seen left the others feeling horrified. All had seen and fought in wars before, but a conflict of this scale and brutality was beyond the pale.
“ And then He told me to go from the end and I will find these lands. And then I woke up.” Aang finished.
“So there is are new nations, and nobody bothered to tell us about it!” Sokka said, his voice filled with both excitement and a dash of resentment. “This is the coolest thing ever!”
“Did you miss the part about them nearly tearing each other part in an earth-shattering war?” Katara said, slightly frustrated with her brother. “Who knows how barbaric they are!”
“Don’t get your hopes too high,” Toph snarked. “For all we know they all could be really lame. Besides, what’s the big deal? Not like I am going to see them anymore than I have any of these nations.”
“This talk about someone from our past being responsible for this new chaos is making me concerned.” Zuko said, “There have been no sightings of Azula in over two years now. And frankly, I am more worried whenever she is not around than if she is. Not only that, but we have also lost track of hundreds of Ozai loyalists. I am worried that our past is going to cause more harm now.”
“Normally I would say you were being paranoid,” Katara commented, “but she has been completely unchecked ever since the Kemurikage incident.”
A cold chill came over the room. No one wanted to believe this, but there was a chance that the war they had so desperately worked to stop would soon be beginning again and even worse than before.
“Now that you mention it,” Iroh said, casually pouring more tea for everyone, “I used to have a book about a journey to a new world. It was written by a Fire Nation sailor during the reign of Fire Lord Sozin. It was during an expedition that went so badly, of the 700 people who set out, only four returned. The loss embarrassed Sozin and he had the survivors executed but seems to have kept onto their logs and frantically studied them before his death. As a young man, I would sneak into the restricted Royal Libraries to read them.”
“Where is this book now?” Suki asked. “And did it say where this new world was?”
“I must have left it behind when I left with Zuko. And now I fear Azula found it and discovered the truths within it. As for how to get there. If I remember correctly, they just sailed on and on until they hit it.”
“That is the worst navigational advice I have ever heard.” Sokka said.
“Can you think of anything better?” Toph asked with a smirk.
“Yes.” Sokka replied, clearly flustered. “Anything but that!”
“Iroh is right.” Aang said, “In my dream Avatar Jamyang told me to start from the end until I arrive at the beginning. This is where we all came to celebrate after we ended the War. So, if we just go from here, we should arrive in the new world!”
“And how are we going to get there?” Sokka asked. “Are we going to fly Appa everywhere again like old times?”
“Yeah!” Aang said excitedly. “It will be just like old times! Except Zuko is travelling with us, rather than chasing us.”
Zuko smiled sheepishly.
“Appa won’t be able to fly all that time without rest,” Katara said, “We will also need to get a boat where we can put supplies and find rest when Appa gets tired.”
“Alright!” Toph shouted, “We are going back to its roots! Aimless travel and kicking evil’s butt!”
“If you are going on an adventure,” Iroh said, “you will need lots of supplies. Now tell me, what is everyone’s tea order to go?”
Hundreds of miles away, on a wave-struck and rocky coast, a figure in a suit of shining plate armour and fur-lined purple cloak looked out over the waves and smirked, thinking of her home. All in a matter of time, she thought, but soon they will have the ruler they truly deserve. The people of this land are stronger than those fools in the Fire Nation ever were. Why, if I ordered them to jump off this cliff, they would do so without me ever having to ask twice. There is not a chance of betrayal this time. Do you see now, Zuzu? Friends merely get in the way of schemes. I have no friends here. Only loyal subjects. And that is why I will win. And what is more. I am chosen. The gods love me. I cannot lose. I am beloved of the gods. I will not fail. I will show that I am better than Father. Stronger and mightier than our Great Grandfather! I am Archon Azula of the Fierce Warcry, Ruler of All, and the favourite of the gods! Her train of thought were soon interrupted when by a voice familiar to her.
“Archon Azula,” the voice called out, “the council waits for you. Every general and prince have gathered. All are in support of your intentions.”
“Of course those sycophants would say so. It’s not like I would hear otherwise from them.” She spat into the roaring waves. “What of the augerers? I am not leaving to attend any assembly until they give me some good news. Have they performed the rituals? Will there be no interference with my plans? Are the gods with me?”
“They have preformed the rituals and upon opening up a hefer-lope, they found two hearts inside. It signifies success and conquest, or so they say.”
“I hope they are right, for your sake and theirs, War Minister Qin, or should I now say, Epistates Qin. Were it not for your inventions and engineering skills, I would have left you to rot in that prison. But here we are. Tell those meatheads and old fusspots I will be joining them shortly. And then, we shall plan the greatest war this pathetic world has ever known. And if the augerers are wrong...well, I will just have to use their entrails to talk to the gods myself. Slowly. And with my bare hands.”
And so, with her smirk now contorted into a most wicked smile, Deinops Azula, Chief Archon of the Stone Empire, Ruler of All, Unifier of the 100 Tribes and Principalities, Queen of Flames, and Destroyer of Cities, turned her back on her old homeland and walked up the small mountain pass to where her generals and advisers awaited.