The announcement that Prince Ozai and Princess Ursa were expecting their first child was met with general good will throughout the Fire Nation. Crown Prince Iroh had only the one son, and his wife was not in good health, so another heir was not expected from him. Ozai’s child would provide security to the royal line, and security for the royal line was security for the nation as a whole.
So Prince Zuko’s birth was an occasion of joy for the people. Still, it was widely expected that Iroh and Lu Ten would succeed to the throne in due course, and Zuko’s role would only be that of an understudy, like his father.
Two years later, when news came that Prince Ozai and Princess Ursa were expecting again, this was met with similar feelings. How nice for the little Prince Zuko, to have a younger brother or sister. How fortunate for Fire Lord Azulon, to have yet another heir - fifth in line, but one never did know.
When word came some months later of the birth of Princess Azula, the people’s rejoicing was somewhat tempered with melancholy, for they could not forget how all of Fire Lord Azulon’s daughters had died so young. What a tragedy. But now there was hope for this new princess.
It was the third announcement that first raised a few eyebrows, coming so soon on the heels of Princess Azula’s arrival. Peasant women might give birth twice in one year, but was such a thing really fitting of Princess Ursa’s royal dignity? The cold-hearted disapproved, while the more impish tongues began wagging with speculation about the royal marriage, and whether it was Ozai or Ursa who was the more insatiable of the two.
Prince Azar was born three weeks shy of Princess Azula’s first birthday, and the people dutifully rejoiced again, though there was a wry cant to the celebrations this time, a wink and a nudge that made an inside joke of the whole thing.
There was a three year respite before the fourth announcement, a fact which could not help but be remarked upon now. And even more eyebrows were raised this time. “Really? Another one?” seemed to be the general sentiment. There was scarcely any pretense of the need for more heirs at this point - Prince Lu Ten was a young man coming of age in good health, expected to marry in a few years’ time, and already had three younger cousins.
So if the celebrations for the birth of Prince Shinzo were less enthusiastic than those for his older siblings, it was not out of any lack of patriotism, but merely the feeling that it was all a bit redundant. Still, a holiday was a holiday, and among the common people no one really complained.
The fifth announcement, two years later, came with an official statement from Fire Lord Azulon that Prince Ozai and Princess Ursa had gone above and beyond the call of duty in providing the Fire Nation with sons and a daughter who would one day aid in her continuing mission to spread her greatness throughout the world. It was a rebuke to anyone among the people who might speak ill of the royal couple’s fecundity, of course, and some of the nobles who had deliberately contented themselves with one or two children took it as a slight against them as well. But others saw it as a backhanded compliment to Prince Ozai himself, officially a commendation but in reality a stern warning from his father - enough already.
Naturally, this time Princess Ursa gave birth to twins - Prince Raizu and Prince Denzu.
The twin princes were two years old, and speculation had begun as to whether there would be another happy announcement soon, or whether Ozai had heeded his father’s warning. It did in fact turn out to be an eventful year for the royal family, but of a rather different sort.
First there was the shock of the untimely death of Prince Lu Ten, followed closely by the blow of Prince Iroh’s retreat from Ba Sing Se, the bitter failure of a campaign for which so many families had sacrificed their sons and daughters. It was not long after that double loss that Fire Lord Azulon himself was taken from them - and Prince Ozai unexpectedly took the throne in his stead.
Amidst all this upheaval, the quiet disappearance of Princess Ursa could almost have gone unnoticed, except that in the years that followed, there were no more happy announcements after all.