Dear Avatar Mi-Sook,
I am sending you my most heartfelt congratulations on your sixteenth birthday and official identification as Avatar. I hope that such a sophisticated young woman like yourself will forgive such an old fashioned present. I am a bit of an old fashioned woman.
It might come as no surprise that my fondness for books was practically a birthright. My uncle told me that storytelling is a craft, and every single thing turned by a master’s hands always carries some embellishment.
My mother, for all her sternness, used metaphors like smoke bombs and made myths of her secrets.
My father told stories in the way of his people and relied on the printed word. To him, it didn’t matter what happened, the story that was published would be the one everyone remembered. Stories were preserved and unchanging, so much like tradition.
As I am all parts of them, I similarly tried to pave that middle ground here.
I’m certain you have learned about the Great War in your classrooms. You might actually know what really happened.
But you don’t know the story.
I worked on this book for all of my life. I collected the scraps my mother told me when I asked, and I found the parts my father wrote before his passing. You will note I added them to this collection, so you can see how neatly he wrote even at the end of his life.
This book is the most precious thing in my life, outside of my children.
I collected these pages at the request of your predecessor. If you have spoken to Thuy, you will know she loved my parents dearly. And it is because of that love I am sending this book to you. I hope you will keep it, though I know Thuy will want you to publish it.
This book tells the story of the Great War by two people who fought in it. Other family members fill in as needed; you will see the places where my uncle told a story my mother had buried. But they are all about them, the two of them, and their love for each other.
Thuy was always a romantic. She believed that love saved the world.
I don’t know if this story will help you as you start your journey. At the very least, I hope it will allow you to connect with my beloved aunt. I miss her more than words can encompass, and I hope you will tell her so.
Please do not mistake this aching for depression. Death is a part of our living existence, it’s just the waiting I mind.
I hope I get to meet you in person. I have gone away to Hira’a as I recover from surgery. I probably won’t leave here, so you can find me when you’re ready.
Thank you for receiving these words. The thought that my parents’ love continues on brings me great joy.
Happy birthday, dear Avatar.
Eldest Child of High Queen Katara and Fire Lord Zuko, Keeper of Their Legacy