“Dad’s going to kill you! No, really, he is.”
Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation goes to sleep that night muttering under her breath, “ Azula always lies, Azula always lies .”
Azula didn’t lie. Mother didn’t overhear.
Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation goes to sleep that night. He doesn’t wake up the next morning.
Princess Ursa mourns the loss of her eleven-year-old son to brutal assassins. Prince Ozai ‘mourns’ the loss of his eleven-year-old son to brutal ‘assassins’. The next day, Fire Lord Azulon is dead in the morning. Fire Lord Ozai is crowned by nightfall, Crown Princess Azula as his heir, Fire Lady Ursa at his side, Prince Zuko burning at the pyre by his grandfather’s side.
Agni looks down on this turn of events.
Agni finds himself unhappy by these developments.
- - -
“I hate humans.”
Down on Earth, people sweat under the burning sun. A heatwave that day, to be sure.
Agni was angry.
“My champion, my champion, killed by his own father at age eleven? ”
Agni fumed and the temperature increased a bit more.
“No… It can’t end like this. I can’t let this happen like this.”
Agni paced a bit. A pond evaporated.
“That’s it! A spirit quest! ” He paused. “But who to send him down to…”
Raava’s champion was out of commission and also out of the question. No one had spoken to her since Kyoshi was her champion. And before that? At least twelve more Avatars.
(What could he say? Kyoshi was a badass. Agni couldn’t not have talked to her).
So… no Avatar Aang.
Oma’s champion was also out of the question. First off, the girl was seven (and already crawling into caves with badgermoles), and, secondly, the girl was a bit much .
Shu’s champion was a bad idea, too. The girl was a nonbender, only a year younger than Agni’s own champion, but she was already a warrior, and he had a feeling she might not be in the best position to help Agni’s champion fulfill the spirit quest.
La’s champion wouldn’t be much help, either. Besides the fact that the girl was an untrained waterbender who was completely against the Fire Nation after they killed her mother, she was also in the debilitated South Pole.
Athe’s champion was in a similar situation as La’s (which made since, considering they were siblings on Earth). Athe, the spirit of strategy and wisdom, just happened to have his champion be the brother of La’s (except Athe’s champion wasn’t a waterbender). So that was a no.
Speaking of La, though…
Now there was a champion that Agni could work with!
Tui’s champion would be perfect. An amazing role model. Plus, Agni’s champion could help steer her on a different fate …
Agni just had to get Tui’s permission. And then wait until Raava’s champion was reawakened ( that was when there would be enough spirit energy released at once for Agni to reach in and send his champion’s soul down to go on his quest).
Agni located Tui’s essence in the Beyond and transported himself to her location, a small cove made of ice.
“Agni,” she said when he appeared, her voice soft and airy. She had glowing white hair and pitch black eyes with a ring of blue around the edge of them. “What brings you here?”
“My champion is dead.”
She didn’t falter. “I’m sorry.” She didn’t sound very sorry.
“He was killed. By his own father. He was eleven.”
The black pits of her eyes softened. “I’m sorry.” This time, she did sound a bit sorry. “What brings you here? I’m guessing you’re not just looking for comfort .”
“I want to send him on a spirit quest.”
She nodded. “You want to send him to my champion.”
She smoothed out the silver moonbeams that she had draped over her humanlike form. “Very well. I give you my permission. My champion could use some fun in her life, anyhow.”
“It’ll have to wait until Raava’s champion is freed.”
Tui nodded. “Of course. Spirit energy.”
“Indeed,” Agni nodded.
Tui sighed and blinked. Her eyes were terrifying sometimes, but not now. The empty black pits were… warm, somehow…
“Maybe your champion can save mine,” Tui said after a moment. “I don’t want her to become like me. She’s too amazing of a human. One of the good ones. She doesn’t deserve this kind of eternity.”
Agni nodded. “Of course.”
“Let me know when you send your champion down, please,” Tui said. “Other than that, you have my permission.”
“Tui, why are you here? Why aren’t you on Earth with La.”
She smiled at him. Her lips were as black as her eyes were. “I sensed you needed me.” With that, she stepped back into a pool of water behind her and disappeared into it. Her light faded from the cove and Agni was alone. Now the ice glowed orange from his flames rather than blue-white from Tui’s moonbeams. He waited for a moment before flashing home.
- - -
Princess Yue was fifteen when the Avatar returned.
She didn’t know it happened, of course. She was on the other side of the world when it did. But that didn’t matter, because the spirits saw all .
Agni wasn’t paying attention the moment it happened (because of course he wasn’t). Thankfully, Tui was.
"Agni,” she said urgently, appearing into his domain in the Beyond in a ray of moonlight.
“Raava’s champion has awakened. You must send yours now .”
Agni had flashed off the moment the words left her lips. He reached out, grabbed his champion, and reached into the physical world. He felt the spirit energy vibrating through the world as the Avatar woke. He took the boy’s spirit, lying in limbo, and sent it down with the quick chant, “ Redire ignis pugnator .”
He returned to his domain a moment later. Tui was still there.
“Thank you,” he said.
“No,” she said, her voice as breathy and mystical as ever. “Thank you .”
She disappeared a moment later.
- - -
Princess Yue, heir to the Northern Water Tribe, was barely ever able to get away from her handmaidens. The only time she could was when she was in her room and when she was in the Spirit Oasis.
So, she was in the Spirit Oasis.
She stripped off her parka and sat under the arch, breathing in the warm air as she watched the koi fish go round and round in the water in a perfect balance. Dark and light, together as they should be.
Suddenly, the pool of water glowed.
Yue watched it with fascination. The fish never stopped their turns. Never sped up, never slowed down. Just continued. So, it couldn’t be bad .
A moment later, the pool glowed brighter and Yue covered her eyes (not that she needed to… she was of the moon ).
When the light faded and Yue uncovered her eyes, there was a boy laying on the other side of the pool.
Yue felt the sun’s rays flare for a moment.
She stood up and was about to approach the boy when he suddenly shot awake.
The boy blinked and rubbed his eyes. He looked incredibly young.
“Mom?” He muttered, glancing around the Oasis. His voice was heavy, his eyes clouded. He turned his head and met Yue’s eyes. “You’re not Mom.”
She shook her head. “I’m not.”
“Who are you? Where am I? Where’s Mom? Where’s Dad? Where’s Azula? Where’s Mom? Why are you here? Why am I here? Where am I? Where’s Mom? ”
“Okay, okay, just… calm down.”
Yue rounded the pool and dipped down to him where he was sitting on the grass. She placed a delicate hand on his shoulder. “Breathe.”
“Where am I? Where did you take me?”
“You’re in the Northern Water Tribe,” she said. “I’m Princess Yue, daughter of Chief Arnook.”
His eyes widened and he scrambled backward.
“The Northern Water Tribe? How am I here ?” His eyes widened more before he glared at her. “ You savages kidnapped me .”
She took a step back in her shock. “What?”
“You uncivilized Northern savages kidnapped me? How dare you! My father… My father will get all of you when he comes to get me, you’ll see!”
She blinked and lowered the hand that she had left extended even after he had backed away. “Who are you?’
He glared. “Like you don’t know.”
She stared at him, folding her knees underneath herself. “Assume I don’t.”
“Well,” he puffed himself up a bit, “I’m Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation, eldest son of Ursa and Prince Ozai, second son to Fire Lord Azulon.”
Yue blinked. She knew those names. Well, maybe not this kid’s name, but she knew the other two, except… not with those titles.
“You mean… Fire Lord Ozai and Fire Lady Ursa?”
Zuko shook his head. “No, Prince Ozai and Princess Ursa.”
Yue opened her mouth to respond, but the set look on the kid’s face made her think it wouldn’t do very much good.
“Well…” She pursed her lips, thinking over her options, before bowing her head to the kid. “Well met, Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation.”
He stared at her for a moment before bowing his own head at her (albeit begrudgingly). “Well met, Princess Yue of the Northern Water Tribe.”
She smiled at him, but she knew that it didn’t reach her eyes. “Word of advice, don’t go around calling people savages around here. Might not go over well.”
He crossed his arms and shrugged. “Just calling it as I see it.”
She sighed and stood up before taking a few steps forward and reaching a hand out to him. “Come on. Let’s go see what my father has to say about this.”
He eyed her hand before meeting her gaze. “Your father… the Chief?”
Zuko scrunched his face up. “No thanks. I never passed war prisoner training class.”
She couldn’t tell if he was joking or not, but she said, “I’ll protect you.”
The kid hesitated before taking Yue’s hand. She pulled him to his feet (he was abnormally light) and placed a hand on his shoulder. She dropped it as she pulled on her parka before guiding him out of the Spirit Oasis, the koi fish still swimming in the pond as if nothing had happened.
They walked for a bit before Yue asked, “Do you know how you got here?”
“I told you, no,” Zuko said, grumbling. “Your people clearly kidnapped me. Like my grandfather will give in that easily.”
Yue pursed her lips. “Well-”
“Princess Yue?” The voice of one of her handmaidens, Loire, interrupted Yue’s words. “Who are you talking to?”
Yue blinked as Loire looked right at her, completely ignoring Zuko’s presence as if he wasn’t even there.
“What are you talking about, Loire?” Yue asked hesitantly. “Can you not see the boy right beside me?”
Loire smiled, but it was filled with confusion and concern as she said, “Your grace, we’re the only two here.”
Zuko sucked in a breath beside her and Yue glanced over to see that he was staring intently at his hand, his eyes wide.
His hand was ever-so-slightly transparent.
Loire walked forward to Yue and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Come, Princess. Let’s get you inside. You must be tired.”
Yue shook her head. “I’ll be fine. Could you excuse me for a moment? My parka feels a bit off.”
Loire nodded and stepped away and back around the corner where Yue could hear her begin to chatter animatedly with the other handmaidens.
Yue turned her attention, then, not to her parka, but to the young boy beside her who looked about ready to faint, his fingers grazing carefully over his shoulder where Loire just thrust her hand through his body as if he was nothing but air.