Tag Archives: Agni Kai

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – Avatar Aang

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Author’s note: In which the fighting is over, there is sequel foreshadowing…again and the author closes on a sweet note to wind down from all the excitement.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***Avatar Aang***

The battle of Ba Sing Se was almost over. Lia had come across Bumi at some point, and together they were cheerfully knocking out the last of the tanks that had been guarding the city. Lia looked at the sky. With the comet moving over them, heading for the west, everything was bathed in a crimson light, casting sinister shadows on the buildings. Contrary to what people might think the comet was neither Agni’s nor her doing. Separated, they had little control over nature’s forces. Allowing herself to contemplate that for a moment, she wondered if her equal and opposite would make an appearance. After all, by stopping the war they would have most certainly ruined his fun. Yes, she decided, he would have to appear. But where? Looking around, she suddenly knew. Agni wouldn’t trifle with the Avatar Spirit, and Ba Sing Se was Earth Kingdom territory and therefore immaterial to him. Pulling herself together she took flight. She had to reach Sozin and she had to reach it fast.

 

Katara had never focused more intently on healing someone before. Even when Aang had been wounded, it had been the Spirit water doing most of the work. Now all her skill and concentration fuelled the glowing water. Zuko winced in pain but the healing began to take effect and he found his body relaxing. Opening her eyes, Katara smiled at him, not bothering to stop the tears from running down her cheeks.

“Thank you, Katara,” Zuko managed to whisper, still weak from the lightning.

“I think I’m the one who should be thanking you,” Katara answered, pulling him into a hug, mindful of his injury. Zuko wrapped an arm around her, pulling her closer, needing to feel for himself that they had both made it alive. They met in a kiss that ended abruptly when something landed with a thud nearby.
Both turned, Zuko much less gracefully than usual, to see Azula unconscious on the ground. Standing over her was a young man who looked at all three of them with an expression torn between amusement and annoyance.

“Now that won’t do,” he said smoothly to the unconscious Azula, as if berating a child. “You can’t go and ruin my fun like that! Now how am I going to amuse myself?” He grinned as he cast his gaze over the destruction caused by the Agni Kai, and satisfaction radiated from his golden eyes. “A battle befitting of my name,” he said, addressing Zuko now, who was staring at him warily. “You have shown exceptional growth prince Zuko. Lia was right to take an interest in you.” He bowed to the firebender gracefully. “You will make a fine Fire Lord.” He took a few steps away from Azula and called over his shoulder. “Don’t judge her too harshly. She was hardly in control of her actions.”

 

Katara wasn’t sure what was going on, but she remembered Lia’s story about hers and Agni’s involvement with the royal family. Wordlessly she helped Zuko to his feet, one hand wrapped around his waist for support and the other close to her water pouch.

“We need to check on Azula,” Zuko told her quietly. Katara nodded and helped him walk over to his sister. A part of her could not help but pity the firebending girl. She didn’t have any more choice over her fate than Zuko had over his banishment.

 

Agni watched their progress towards his latest pawn and shook his head.

“No,” he said making a movement to their direction, “that won’t do. That won’t do at all. I’m afraid I’ll have to stop you.” But before he had the chance to do anything a fireball landed at his feet. Lia landed in front of Zuko, Katara and Azula, glaring coldly at Agni.

“You’re right,” she said as she took in the situation. “That won’t do at all.” Agni smiled and took another step closer, silently daring her. “Katara,” Lia said, never taking her eyes from the Spirit in front of her, “please make sure that all three of you are out of the way and near water. This will be messy.” The waterbender nodded and with Zuko’s help carried Azula off to where she had been initially standing, by a fountain.

 

The two Fire Spirits took their places at opposite sides of the courtyard, neither saying a word, though their expressions spoke volumes. Lia’s face showed only cold fury, Agni’s barely contained excitement. Wordlessly they attacked at the same time, Agni with small, sharp blasts and Lia with a steady current that swallowed up his flames. It twirled around Agni without actually touching him and for a few moments it was sent back and forth between them before Lia grew tired of the game and banished the flames with a move of her hand. Running towards her opponent, she continued blasting him with fireballs which he dodged, leading her around the courtyard and occasionally sending a blast or two of his own in her direction. The more time passed, the more of Lia’s control was drained and her attacks grew in speed and force. She was aiming to kill, balance be damned.

 

A pained moan distracted Zuko and Katara from the deadly fight and they both turned back to Azula, just as she opened her eyes. For a moment it seemed as though she didn’t recognise them. Then her memory came back and she sat up with a gasp. Katara made a move to keep Azula from straining too much. They had no way of knowing if she was hurt or not and besides, Katara was still slightly suspicious of the princess. Azula looked around, taking in the situation. The waterbender watched her with a mix of suspicion and concern, while her brother’s face showed only worry for her. Azula found herself wondering what was this all about. She expected to be left in the middle of the courtyard.

“Azula,” Zuko started hesitantly. His sister had made his life a nightmare for the last few years but now he knew that that hadn’t been explicitly her fault. His thoughts on the matter were not clear but for now he allowed his worry to override everything else. “Are you all right?” he asked softly.

 

To his surprise the princess’s eyes watered. He didn’t remember ever seeing her cry before. Azula threw her arms around her brother as she broke down.

“I’m sorry Zuzu,” she sobbed, desperate to explain about the voice. “I didn’t want to, I swear but he said I had to. That it was my destiny.” Zuko hissed in pain, his injury deciding to remind him of its presence, but he ignored it in favour of exchanging a look with his girlfriend. Tentatively, he wrapped his arms around his sister in an awkward hug.

“It’s okay Zula,” he said. “It will be all right.” That was a promise he intended to keep. Katara also placed a comforting arm around the princess’ shoulders, silently offering her support as all three of them turned to watch the battle once more.

 

Lia sent another current of fire at her opponent who had to bend to an uncomfortable angle to avoid being hit. Agni smiled at her. Whatever enjoyment he might find in manipulating mortals for generations, it was his fights with Lia that made him feel the most alive.

“Missed me,” he taunted. “Now you have to kiss me.” Lia narrowed her eyes.

“Kiss this!” she screamed before shooting lightning. Zuko gasped and tightened the protective embrace around his sister. He felt Katara scooting near him as Lia’s blood-red lightning crackled, and although her equal, Agni had to jump out of the way, lest the hit connected.

 

Rising again, the playfulness vanished from his eyes; he looked at her with an unreadable expression.

“So you are serious about this,” he finally said gravely.

“Took you long enough to get it,” the red-haired Spirit snapped under her breath before falling into a stance Katara recognised to her surprise as waterbending. A wave of magma reared up before Lia, growing in size and power as it raced towards her opponent. Agni raised an eyebrow and tried to redirect it back to its creator. When he failed to do so, he dropped his stance and bowed to Lia. She halted her attack, waiting for his next move, her eyes searching his. He straightened from the bow and took a step back.

“You have won,” he said with a small smile. “I will take a break from interfering with the mortals for a few years.”

“A hundred years,” Lia demanded coldly. Agni opened his mouth to protest but thought better of it. The wave was still looming over him.

“Very well,” he finally said. “A hundred years.” He took another step back. “Until we meet again Fire Lily.” Then he disappeared.

 

Lia waited warily for a few moments before returning the melted stones to their original place on the ground and rushing to her brother’s side. After taking a few deep breaths she offered him a bright smile.

“Do you get now why I hate being called Agni?” she asked casually, a tinge of humour barely audible in her voice. It must be the comet, she decided, because her fight with Agni had made her feel more alive than she had felt in a long time. Closing her eyes she made the fire that still burned at the courtyard go out. The comet was almost gone and now they could only wait for news of the battle between the Fire Lord and the Avatar.

 

Azula watched the red-head warily, and she tried to stay as close to her brother as possible without worsening his injury. Both he and the waterbender – she really needed to learn the girl’s name – had treated her kindly, disregarding the fact that she had aimed to kill during their fights. But what of the Spirit? Lia ended any thoughts the princess had on the matter by rising fluidly and helping the girl to her feet as well, supporting most of her weight.

“Shaking off Agni’s influence must have taking its toll on you. We should probably get you and Zuko to a bed before you collapse again.” Azula only nodded, not fully understanding what the Spirit was talking about. Katara helped Zuko to his feet and slowly, the four of them made their way to the palace. The four Sages, snake-like as they might be, could recognise a Spirit when they saw one and a glare from Lia was all they needed to return to their temple, no questions asked.

 

Inside, Zuko and Katara took the lead, the prince guiding them to his room. He had never been gladder to see a bed in his life. Katara’s healing had saved his life, but the wound still burned with every move he made. The waterbender helped him lie down with tender touches, before sitting next to him and holding his hand, her expression anxious. She too knew that the healing she had done earlier was simply not enough. Her eyes strayed to the two girls that stood nearby, both Zuko’s sisters. Lia’s expression was a carefully constructed mask of calm, but Katara could read the worry for her brother as well as relief at finding him alive. Azula’s guilt-ridden expression, less artfully hidden thanks to the shock and exhaustion pulled at the waterbender’s heartstrings.

“Do you want to stay with Zuko Azula?” she asked the girl kindly. “You’re not looking so good yourself and I’d rather watch over both of you until we know for sure what is going on. Neither of you are in any condition to fight.” Azula’s surprise must have shown more than she expected because even Zuko managed to crack a smile and, using his free hand, he patted the space on the bed next to him.

“Come here Zula,” he said softly. Without waiting for an answer, Lia led the girl to the bed and helped her out of her armour and between the sheets. Both of the royal siblings were out like candles the moment their heads touched their pillows. Lia turned to Katara.

“Will you be all right on your own with them?” she asked the girl. “I have one final thing to do before this is all over.” Katara nodded and then turned her attention to her two patients, tucking the blanket around their form as Lia disappeared once more. Standing over Azula, Katara brushed a few strands of hair from the girl’s face and watched in surprise as the Fire princess’ face melted to a soft smile.

“Mother…” she whispered in her sleep before edging closer to her brother.

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – Into the Inferno

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Author’s note: In which there are epic battles all over the place but the author focuses on the epic-est (and no, it’s not Aang’s) and the chapter ends on a cliffhanger just because.

Previous chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***Into the Inferno***

Zuko and Katara flew Appa in tense silence. The prince was staring straight at the horizon, which had turned a bloody red, signalling the comet’s arrival. Next to him, Katara searched his face worriedly as his frown deepened.

“Zuko, don’t worry. We can take Azula,” she said soothingly. Her boyfriend shook his head.

“I’m not worried about her, I’m worried about Aang. What if he doesn’t have the guts to take out my father? ‌ What if he loses‌?” he asked pessimistically.

“Aang won’t lose. He’s gonna come back. He has to.” The last part was said more to herself than to the firebender next to her. Katara couldn’t help feeling a little doubtful herself.

 

Back in Ba Sing Se, Lia felt the arrival of the comet like a gasp of fresh air. She gave the men lined up next to her a quick once-over and saw the two firebenders standing a little straighter despite their age.

“Ba Sing Se, the Order of the White Lotus is here,” Bumi said, unusually serious.

“Here to set you free,” Pakku added solemnly. Iroh took a step forward.

“Only once every hundred years can a firebender experience this kind of power,” he mused, taking a deep breath. He took several more deep breaths, a ring of fire surrounding them, the flames dancing in tune with his heartbeat. Abruptly he gathered them in an enormous ball of fire and thrust it in the direction of the city. The blast demolished part of the wall and the five Masters, plus the Spirit, charged forward. The rest of the Order quickly followed its leaders.

 

Pakku was the first to attack, pulling water from a nearby stream, with Piandao following closely behind, taking care of any soldiers that the master waterbnder’s tidal wave missed. Jeong Jeong had positioned himself on a crossroad in a different section of the city and created his signature walls of fire, melting the tanks that came against him. The rest of the Order was fighting soldiers spread all over the city. From Lia the only thing that could be seen was a blur and a faint smell of smoke that seemed to linger wherever she passed as she raced through the city, knocking soldiers out, melting tanks and generally having the time of her life.

 

Compared to the chaos that reigned in Ba Sing Se, Sozin was draped in an almost oppressive silence. At the ceremonial staircase in front of the palace Azula was kneeling, preparing for her coronation. She was dressed in the heavy robe tradition dictated but her usually impeccable topknot was a tangled mess. Pale faced and tense she was far cry from her usual perfect self. The head Sage took the Fire Lord diadem and stood behind her.

“By decree of Phoenix King Ozai, I now crown you Fire Lord…” he paused when he heard a strange noise and looked up. Azula turned to him annoyed.

“What are you waiting for? ‌ Do it!” But then she heard it to, the groan of an air bison. Snapping her head forward she saw Appa landing at the side of the courtyard and her brother and the Water Tribe girl jumping down.

“Sorry, but you’re not going to become Fire Lord today. I am.” Zuko took a step forward confidently. Azula couldn’t mute the slightly crazed edge to her laughter.

“You’re hilarious,” she said. Katara walked next to Zuko and glared at the princess.

“And you’re going down,” said the waterbender. The Sage made a motion to crown Azula but she stopped him. Standing up, she smiled maliciously at her brother.

“Wait. You want to be Fire Lord? ‌ Fine. Let’s settle this. Just you and me, brother. The showdown that was always meant to be. Agni Kai!” Zuko’s eyes narrowed at her words but she didn’t notice, not any more than she noticed the soft voice that had been whispering to her since her grandfather had died.

“You’re on,” came the answer.

 

Katara’s eyes widened in alarm when she heard the dare and Zuko’s answer.

“What are you doing‌?” she hissed concerned. “She’s playing you. She knows she can’t take us both so she is trying to separate us.” Zuko nodded in agreement.

“I know. But I can take her this time.”

“But even you admitted to your uncle that you would need help facing Azula.”

“There’s something off about her, I can’t explain it but she’s slipping. Remember what Lia told us? Perhaps she’s fighting against his influence.” He looked at her with a softer look. “And this way, no one else has to get hurt.” Katara tightened her lips but nodded in resignation. She should have known that Zuko wouldn’t risk her safety. She would have done the same.
The Fire Sages retreated and the two siblings took their positions at opposite sides of the courtyard. Azula turned and shrugged the Fire Lord’s robes off her shoulders.

“I’m sorry it has to end this way, brother,” she said the last word venomously. Zuko slid into his stance.

“No, you’re not,” he answered simply. Azula’s smile was chilling as she attacked him first. With the comet over them they were both at their most powerful. Zuko brought his arms up and blocked, using his own scarlet fire to block Azula’s blue flames. Before the fire had a chance to die Azula attacked again, propelling herself forward and shooting another jet of fire. Zuko blocked again, never attacking himself, intent on tiring his sister out.

 

As the flames weakened he was vaguely aware of some of the buildings around them catching fire but he was focused solely on Azula’s blue flames. They collided with his own red ones for a moment before rushing towards him. Zuko used one hand to guard himself while he sent his own stream of fire at his sister. The battle came to a standstill, until Azula noticed the damage done on her side of the courtyard and charged at her brother furiously. Zuko surrounded himself in flames, drawing on the tricks he learned from his lessons with Lia and forcing Azula to back down. She was breathing hard now and looked at her older brother, scared for the first time. Gritting her teeth she stood up again to face the two fireballs that came in her direction. Azula was sent flying to the ground.

 

She forced herself to her feet, her hair falling unevenly across her face as she glared at her brother, who stood straight-backed, barely ruffled.

“No lightning today‌?” Zuko taunted. “What’s the matter‌? Afraid I’ll re-direct it‌?” Azula jumped to her feet.

“Oh, I’LL SHOW YOU LIGHTNING!” she yelled, beginning the familiar movements she’d taught herself. Lightning crackled around her and her eyes narrowed at her brother before a movement caught her attention. Katara had stepped away from the protection of the pillars and stood wide open for an attack. Azula found herself knowing that this would hurt her brother more than anything she could do to him personally. With a smirk, she let the lightening loose in the waterbender’s direction.

 

Zuko followed its graceful arc, his eyes widening in horror. Katara’s face was frozen in fear as she watched her death come to her. Without thinking, Zuko threw himself between the blast and the waterbender. His arms struggled to redirect the electricity out of his body but he wasn’t focused enough and some of it passed through his heart. He fell to the ground twitching in pain as the last bit of lightening left his body. Katara seemed to be brought back to life by his pained cry.

“Zuko!” she cried, coating her hands in water, her only thought to heal him before it was too late. Nobody noticed Azula freeze when her lightning connected with her brother, nor when she fell to the ground, clutching her head in an attempt to make the voice quiet down as the reality of what she had just done hit her.

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Storm

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Author’s Note: In which there is exposition and the author is not feeling at her best so she will leave you to it.

Last chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Storm***

It truly seemed like a perfect day: the sky was clear, there was a light breeze, and most importantly the sea was as calm as a mirror. Still, Lia could feel something nagging at her senses. Such good weather so late in the year was just not normal. She took a few deep breaths, tasting the wind, trying to figure out what was wrong and opened her eyes horrified. A storm was coming, straight from the North Pole. She had seen something like this happen only once. An entire Water Tribe fleet had sunk, caught as it had been in the open sea. She looked around, trying to locate Zuko’s ship. Lia was on her way back after two weeks she had spent on the mainland, searching. She hovered higher and finally saw a dark spot on the horizon. It didn’t look like she’d reach them before midday.

 

On deck Zuko was also searching the horizon, feeling rather grateful for the clear sky. It would allow him to spot either the Avatar’s bison or his Spirit friend easier. He hadn’t had an encounter with the airbender’s group since the pirate fiasco. The prince wondered where the boy was planning to go next. He hadn’t forgotten Lia’s comments about “sightseeing”. Speaking of Lia… he hadn’t seen her in a while either. He knew that she was probably looking for his mother, just like she had promised, but he sometimes missed her company. His uncle commented suddenly:

“There’s a storm coming. A big one…”

Zuko snorted.

“You’re out of your mind uncle. The weather’s perfect. There’s not a cloud in sight.”

“A storm is approaching from the North.” Iroh insisted. “I suggest we alter our course and head southwest.”

“We know the Avatar is traveling northward.” We still have to figure whether he decided to begin mastering the elements. “So we will do the same.”

“Prince Zuko, consider the safety of the crew!” Iroh insisted him worriedly.

“The safety of the crew doesn’t matter!” The teen saw his Uncle looking over his shoulder. One of the soldiers, lieutenant Jee had been standing quite close and clearly heard him. “Finding the Avatar is far more important than any individual’s safety.” Zuko insisted before storming to his room.

 

Iroh was probably right and Zuko knew it. He paced nervously, not knowing what to do. On the one hand he didn’t want to endanger his crew, not after they had stuck with his through thick and thin. On the other hand there was the Avatar. He was indeed far too important to take safety into account when he was after him. Not only that, but he had to maintain control on his ship. He couldn’t be seen doing everything his uncle told him. It would be presumed a weakness. He sighed. Lia would know what to do, but she was not here. It was in times like this when he wished he had someone to talk to.

 

It was midday when Zuko came out on deck again, to be greeted by threatening clouds and his own guilty conscience. His uncle had been right and now they would be all in danger because of his stubbornness. Just to reassure his thoughts Lieutenant Jee said,

“Looks like your uncle was right about the storm after all.”

“Lucky guess” Iroh said shrugging.

“Lieutenant! You’d better learn some respect, or I’ll teach it to you,” Zuko snapped and turned to leave, planning to tell the helmsman to change course.

“What do you know about respect?” Jee said incredulously. “The way you talk to everyone around here from your hard-working crew to your esteemed uncle shows you know nothing about respect.”

Iroh winced. Respect was a delicate subject for Zuko and even if the man was right in his accusations, he would definitely get nowhere good in this manner.

“You don’t care about anyone but yourself!” the lieutenant finished. “Then again what should I expect from a spoiled prince.” He added venomously.

 

Zuko felt ready to burst. Worry about the crew, hurt from Jee’s words, anger at his uncle being right, anguish for whether or not he’d ever succeed on his quest, the feelings he refused to name for Katara; everything had been bottling up for too long. He didn’t answer with words; he merely crouched into a fighting position, silently challenging the older man. The lieutenant fell into a similar one immediately.

“Easy now” Iroh said. When they ignored him he stood between them, pushing them backwards. “Enough!” the Dragon of the West ordered. “We are all a little bit tired from being at sea for so long. I’m sure, after a bowl of noodles, everyone will feel much better.”

“I don’t need your help keeping order on my ship.” Zuko said angrily. Iroh placed a hand on his shoulder but the teen shrugged it off and walked away. Standing at a safe distance the prince took out the necklace he had secured around his wrist and started to trace the carvings absentmindedly. A betrothal necklace…

***

Rain was falling heavily, making flying or even seeing more and more difficult. Lia was soaked to the bone but kept all her focus concentrated on the ship that was becoming steadily larger before her. She had a really bad feeling about all of this. She had to reach Zuko before the storm really broke out.

***

Inside the ship Iroh stood unseen, listening to the crew talk. He was worried that all the earlier aggressiveness hadn’t left the air yet. It was dangerous with the storm raging over them. And the men didn’t know what his nephew had been through.

“I’m sick of taking his orders, I’m tired of chasing his Avatar,” lieutenant Jee was saying. “I mean, who does Zuko think he is?”

“Do you really want to know?” Iroh asked them in a sad voice. The men sprung to their feet worried.

“General Iroh” one of the soldiers said nervously. “We were just…”

“It’s okay.” He reassured them. “May I join you?”

“Of course sir” an uneasy chorus of voices replied.

“Try to understand,” Iroh implores. “My nephew is a troubled young man with a complicated past. He’s been through much. When he was thirteen, he tried to attend a war council, insisting saying that it would only help him learn how to rule a nation. Finally I consented to have him accompany me on the condition that he would not speak.

 

During the council, it was recommended to use the 41st division, one consisted only by new recruits, to be used against a much more seasoned Earth Kingdom power as bait. Zuko stood up against the idea, enraged that they would even propose such a thing. He was right, you see, but it was not his place to speak out and there were… dire consequences. After Zuko’s outburst in the meeting, the Fire Lord became very angry. He said prince Zuko’s challenge of the general was an act of complete disrespect. And there was only one way to resolve this.”

“Agni Kai, a fire duel,” lieutenant Jee whispered gravely.

“That’s right.” Iroh continued. “Zuko looked upon the old general he had insulted and declared that he was not afraid. But Zuko misunderstood. When he turned around to meet his opponent, Zuko was surprised not to see the general. He had spoken out against the general’s plan, but by doing so in the Fire Lord’s war council, it was the Fire Lord who he had disrespected. Zuko would have to duel his own father.

 

When prince Zuko saw that it was his father who had come to duel him, he begged for mercy. He refused to fight, apologizing again and again. His actions enraged his father. He declared that Zuko would have to learn respect and that suffering would be his teacher. I looked away.”

“I always thought that prince Zuko was in a training accident.” Jee admitted guiltily.

“It was no accident.” Iroh replied harshly. “After the duel the Fire Lord said that by refusing to fight Zuko had shown shameful weakness. As punishment he was banished and sent to capture the Avatar. Only then could he return with his honor.”

“So that’s why he is so obsessed. Capturing the Avatar is his only chance of things returning to normal.”

“Things will never return to normal. But the important thing is the Avatar gives Zuko hope.”

 

A thunderclap was heard overhead accompanied by a loud crash. Everyone rushed on deck.

“Where were we hit?” Zuko asked.

“I don’t know,” lieutenant Jee answered.

Iroh pointed at the helmsman’s post. “Look!” he exclaimed. A flash of lightning revealed the man clinging from a beam.

“The helmsman!” Zuko shouted. He ran to the nearest ladder and started climbing, with Jee on his heels. A bolt lightning nearly hit the metal ship. Iroh caught it instinctively, and redirected it to the water. Realizing what he had done he looked at his hands astonished. Another wave hit the ship and the helmsman lost his grip. Zuko caught him mid-air and passed him down to Jee.

***

Lia ignored the lightning that was erupting all around her. She was almost at the ship now. She watched two men climb up a ladder and Zuko catch the helmsman, saving his life. Her charm burnt under her tunic and she put one last burst of speed to her flying.

***

Zuko looked down to make sure his two men had made it to the deck safely. The waves were hitting the ship with more force now as the wind picked up, and he was straining to keep his balance. The metal was so wet it was slippery. Another wave hit the ship just as he was turning to climb down. Zuko lost his hold and hovered for a moment motionless, before gravity kicked in.      

***

Lia felt her heart stop. Zuko was right beneath her and she had just enough time to see his terrified expression before he plunged towards the sea. Zuko had time to think, I’m going to die, before someone caught his wrist. He felt a wave of burning energy surging through him and he looked up to see Lia’s pale face looking down at him in horror. She motioned for him to go down quickly. He nodded, still not over how close he came to death.

Being on deck again, he had barely time to breathe before a flash of lightning revealed…

“The Avatar!”

“What do you want to do sir?” Lieutenant Jee asked him.

“Let him go” the prince told him gravely. He wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. “We need to get the ship to safety.”

“Then we must head directly to the eye of the storm.” Iroh remarked raising an eyebrow.

 

It wasn’t hard to find it. Amidst all the chaos they could still see the clear sky over the clouds there. As the ship sailed safely once again Zuko turned to his uncle.

“Uncle, I’m sorry.” He said.

“Your apology is accepted.” Iroh smiled, putting a hand on his shoulder before turning to leave. A bright light shined from underwater and the Avatar’s bison appeared. Zuko strained his eyes for Katara, but only managed to see Aang’s curious glance before they flew away.

 

Zuko remained on deck until they had left the storm well behind them. Only then did he excuse himself to his room. Once he was inside he was met with a furious hug from Lia. She was still dripping wet and her face was ashen. Zuko hugged her back, not caring about the fact that now he was soaked again. Finally Lia pulled away.

“Don’t you dare scare me like that again!” she told him still trembling.

“I won’t.” the boy assured her tiredly. Then a thought crossed his mind. “What did you do out there?” he asked her studying the slight burn where she had caught him.

“I just gave you an energy burst. I’m not quite sure how I managed it either.”

“You know, there’s no point in killing yourself for my sake.”

“If I could be killed so easily, trust me, I’d be long dead. I’m just a little tired.”

“Then,” Zuko hesitated. “Why don’t you sleep here? You can leave in the morning.”

Lia studied his face. “You won’t have a problem with it?” she asked. Her friend just shrugged. “Very well then.” Zuko bended warm air around them. Once dry again they curled next to each other and let exhaustion take them.

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – Agni Kai

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Author’s Note: In which we meet Series 1’s resident douchebag, Lia can’t keep grudges and Zuko learns to apologise. There is also tea. Always a good thing to have tea!

Last chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***Agni Kai***

It took the crew nearly a week to free the ship from the ice. Lia had at first contemplated helping them, but decided against it. Zuko’s words had hurt her more than she had allowed him to see and so she decided she wouldn’t appear to him again until he was truly in danger or ready to apologise. She suspected that the first would probably happen quicker… The prince’s pride and stubbornness got in the way a lot more than they should. That being said, she had to grudgingly admit that her own temper had not helped her case either. Now they were leaving the South Pole behind– something that would take weeks – and so far Zuko hadn’t even lit a single candle for meditation, much less do anything that could be taken as a request for her presence. Fine, she decided. If he wanted to show her he didn’t care he could be stubborn on his own.

The problem however was that he did care. He had missed Lia, her kind words and her lessons. Zuko knew he should apologise but how could he? If someone had treated him the way he had treated the Spirit they wouldn’t get away with it without a few burns. And there she was: the Spirit of Fire herself, and she was just giving him the silent treatment. He had been aware of her constant presence before. It was his anger and disappointment with himself that had once again taken over and talked instead of him. It was a terrifying feeling. But who was he kidding? He was simply a coward. The same day she had saved his life he had lashed out at her as if it had been her fault, to begin with, that the Avatar had escaped.

 

Lia saw his struggle. Her presence was kept securely hidden by her magic, but still it was hard. Her sisterly instincts were screaming at her to comfort him even when she understood that there are things everyone has to learn alone. So she divided her time instead between the ship and shadowing the Avatar. She was curious after all…

 

The next turning point came on a day like any other one. The ship had been moving slower than it should, but with half the right side of it damaged, they didn’t have much of a choice. They would be arriving at a Fire Nation camp soon, as Lia had gathered from the troops’ gossip. Indeed a few days later they were docking. She had woken up earlier than normal and out of habit took out the twin pedant to check on Zuko. It said something for both their characters really that even when he had told her – more or less – not to bother him again they had both kept their charms. Still smiling she looked at the symbols. Immediately they started to glow a deep red.

 

In theory, Lia knew how the charm was supposed to work; she had never actually seen the colours change. Alarmed she left the ship and hovered over the camp, stretching out her senses, searching for a threat. There was a vague air of foreboding, but couldn’t place it. Lia frowned. It wasn’t as if the soldiers hated Zuko. Most of them hadn’t even seen him before. It had to be a single person. Whoever this person was, she decided, he’d better not try anything. Suddenly another wave of hatred hit her. Telepathy had never been Lia’s strong point and she landed (more like crash-landed) feeling dizzy and weak. She took a few deep breaths, trying to ground herself, as the feeling rose to its zenith and then disappeared completely.

 

Lia blinked away a few tears, thankful that her cover was still up, and rose unsteadily to her feet. She thought that for a moment Zuko’s eyes drifted to her direction, as if he knew she was there, but it was probably just her imagination. An officer was approaching Zuko and General Iroh, so she turned to face the reason behind her troubles. He was a middle–aged man with long sideburns and an expression way too arrogant for her taste. She liked his voice even less.

“Getting in the way of what, Prince Zuko?”

 

The great Fire Spirit face-palmed, listening to the hasty explanation that uncle and nephew cooked up and served to this ‘Commander’ Zhao to explain the damages on their ship. It was obvious that the guy didn’t believe them. An Earth Kingdom ship so south? Please! Zuko seemed to understand that such a weak story would not hold for long, so when Zhao invited them for a drink he immediately declined. Lia was celebrating in relief, but then Iroh popped in accepting the offer. The Spirit, as aggravated as the prince, had time to whisper on his ear “I agree with you”, before the boy stormed ahead without hearing her. “Stupid covering spell” she muttered following them.

 

Inside the Commander’s tent Lia stifled one yawn after another as Zhao outlined his ‘genius’ plan for subduing the Earth Kingdom. Zuko was not impressed either, commenting impassively that whoever thought that the Earth Kingdom would fall easily was simply a fool. The Commander didn’t seem to take him seriously and proceeded to mock-ask him about his search for the Avatar. Lia flew to her feet and gave a rough shove on Iroh’s arm. The weapons the old man carried fell down, effectively drawing Zhao’s attention, giving Zuko time to collect himself and answer that it was a failure.

 

Zhao continued to press him, insisting that if he had “an ounce of loyalty left”, Zuko would tell him whatever he knew. The remark hurt, it was a low blow and the temperature on the tent rose imperceptibly before Lia realised what was happening and reigned her temper in. She hated seeing Zuko hurt, and a glance at the pedant told her that he was navigating in treacherous waters. They have to get out of here soon, she thought urgently. The same thought crossed Zuko’s mind as he rose from his chair and called his uncle to leave. However, when they reached the exit, the soldiers blocked the way and Lia seriously thought of interfering then and there.

 

A third soldier came in and informed Zhao that Zuko’s crew had been interrogated and admitted the presence of the Avatar on their ship. Zhao, wearing an even more self-satisfied smile asked the teenager: “Now remind me; how exactly was your ship damaged?”

 

Hours later, Zhao continued questioning Zuko. Lia might have still been angry with the prince but Zhao’s attitude was making her question her non-interference decision. The Commander was practically glowing as he remarked:

“So a twelve-year-old boy bested you and your firebenders. You are more pathetic than I thought.”

“I underestimated him once but it won’t happen again.” Zuko shot back, clenching his fists in an effort to control himself.

“No, it will not, because you will not have a second chance.”

WHAT? Lia screamed in her head. Did the man know by any chance what he was talking about?

Once more she seemed to mirror Zuko’s sentiments.

“Commander Zhao, I’ve been hunting the Avatar for two years and I…”

“You failed! Capturing the Avatar is far too important to leave in a teenager’s hand. He’s mine now,” Zhao sneered.

 

Zuko lunged at him angrily and was restrained by two soldiers.

“Keep them here.” Zhao ordered.

Zuko kicked the table frustrated. Lia rolled her eyes when Iroh asked calmly for more tea. This was going to be a long night indeed.

Very soon Iroh was asleep, leaving Zuko to his restless pacing. Finding the Avatar was his only chance of ever returning home and now Zhao had robbed him of it. He had never liked the man, even before his banishment. He always moved around with the idea that everyone, including the prince, was inferior to him. Zuko found himself wishing that Lia was here now. Maybe…

 

Shooting a nervous look to his sleeping uncle, Zuko lit one of the torches leaning against the walls of the tent. He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing, falling back to the pattern he had used when he had first started this ritual.

“I’m sorry Lia.” The words fell unbidden from his lips and his eyes snapped open when a soft hand landed on his shoulder.

“Apology accepted my friend.” Lia materialised on his side with a smile.

Zuko’s eyes widened in surprise. He had expected that it would take hours, maybe even days to see his Spirit guardian again. But there she appeared immediately. “Lia?”

“Who did you expect? The Face Stealer? And don’t get your hopes up. I’m still angry with you.”

“Then why did you come?” Zuko frowned. The redhead had been smiling, but she held herself as tensely as a coiled spring.

“Well”, she took a seat, shooting an amused look at the now-snoring Iroh, “an apology is always a good way to begin…. And I need to discuss a few things with you.”

“What kind of things?” he asked carefully.

“First of all, do you still want me around or not?” Lia asked facing directly in front of her, refusing to meet his eyes.

“Y…yes. I thought that you wouldn’t want to be around me!” Zuko exclaimed confused.

She turned sharply, surprised. “Why wouldn’t I? There are so many things you could still learn.”

“Like?” he asked interested.

“More on fire to begin with. And there is also water and earth. Oh, and I’ve seen these swords you have on your room. Do you know how to use them?” Now that they were back on the familiar ground of training both of them were relaxing.

“No.” Zuko shook his head. “They are antiques. I was afraid they would break if put pressure on them.”

Lia smiled mischievously and said “I’ll take care of that. Now tell me. How has your firebending been lately?”

“As it always is. Why?”

Another smile. “Oh no reason. Just try to keep your temper in a tiny little check, at least around me.” With that she vanished.

 

When the sun rose again, Zhao decided to honour his ‘guests’ with another visit.

“My search party is ready.” He announced. “Once I’m out at sea, my guards will escort you out and you’ll be free to go.”

Zuko threw him a side glance. “Why? Are you worried that I’m going to try and stop you?” He asked mockingly.

“You? Stop me? Impossible!” the Commander laughed.

Zuko stood up. “Don’t underestimate me Zhao! I will capture the Avatar before you!”

“Prince Zuko; that’s enough.” Iroh said sternly.

“You can’t compete with me.” Zhao said incredulously. “I have hundreds of ships under my command and you? You’re just a banished Prince; no home, no allies. Your own father didn’t want you.”

Not good… Lia winced when she heard the comment. Zuko would be soon furious.

“You’re wrong!” the teenager said desperately. “Once I deliver the Avatar my father will welcome me with honour and restore my rightful place on the throne.”

Zhao raised an eyebrow. “If your father really wanted you home he would have let you return by now, Avatar or no Avatar. But to his eyes you are a failure and a disgrace to the Fire Nation.”

“That’s not true.”

“You have the scar to prove it.”

Is this guy thinking at all? Lia now refused to believe her ears. She knew that Commander Zhao was a -for lack of better word- creep but this. He would soon have a very angry spirit on his heels.

“Maybe you’d like one to match!” Scratch that. After Zuko finished with him.

“Is that a challenge?” now Zhao was serious.

“An Agni Kai. At sunset.”

“Very well. It’s a shame your father won’t be here to watch me humiliate you. I guess your uncle will do.” With that Zhao left.

“Prince Zuko, have you forgotten what happened last time you duelled a Master?” Iroh asked him worriedly.

“I will never forget,” Zuko answered darkly.

 

The sunset looked magnificent and dramatic from the practice arena at the edge of the camp. No one but a few guards was present. Lia sat on Zuko’s side, visible only to him. She couldn’t speak in front of others, so she contented herself with giving him a reassuring smile. Iroh had put once again the stern face of the General as he looked down to his nephew.

“Remember your firebending basics prince Zuko,” he advised. “They are your greatest weapons.” Lia nodded approvingly.

“I refuse to let him win.” Zuko answered through clenched teeth. The two contestants stood up simultaneously. From the other side of the arena Lia heard Zhao declare,

“This will be over quickly.”

 

The gong rang, signalling the beginning of the duel. Zuko attacked first, remaining at a secure distance, but Zhao dodged all his attacks. Soon the boy’s chest was heaving with exertion. It didn’t seem to do anything to the power of his attacks and Zhao eventually started to use his own fire to put the prince’s off. From the sidelines Iroh advised,

“Basics Zuko. Break his root!”

But now it was Zhao’s turn to attack. Unlike his opponent he didn’t to control his blasts. Zuko was able to dodge two powerful blows, when the third one sent him to the ground. In a second Zhao was above him ready to strike. Oh no, you don’t! Zuko moved quickly to the side, heating the air under him just enough to add spin to his round-house kick.

 

Zhao was forced to retreat as attack after attack barely missed him and soon he was the one on his back looking at the prince towering over him ready to strike.

“Do it!” he commanded, when Zuko hesitated.

The prince struck barely missing the Commander’s head.

“That’s it?” Zhao said incredulously. “Your father raised a coward.”

“Next time you get on my way, I promise I won’t hesitate,” Zuko answered coldly.

As Zuko turned to leave, Zhao stood enraged and tried to attack him, but before it could make contact Iroh and Lia, doing exactly the same moves, blocked it. Zhao went flying back. Zuko turned angrily; ready to pick up the fight. He stopped when Iroh placed a hand on his shoulder.

“No, prince Zuko. Do not taint your victory.” He turned to the fallen man. “So this is how the great Commander Zhao acts in defeat. Disgraceful. Even in exile my nephew is more honourable than you. Thanks again for the tea.” He said turning to leave. “It was delicious!”

Zuko followed him astonished. Once they were out of earshot he asked Iroh quietly: “Did you really mean that uncle?”

“Of course” the General replied. “I told you jasmine tea is my favourite.”

 

A few nights after the duel two shadows were standing on the deck of prince Zuko’s ship, practicing some basic moves with swords. Suddenly one of them lunged forward and disarmed the other one.

“Good job my student.” Lia said picking her sword up.

“It’s so easy,” Zuko said surprised. “It feels almost natural for me to use swords. What does this mean?” he asked her. Lia smiled at the child-like expression on his face. It was endearing and a little sad at the same time that he had a hard time believing he was good at something.

“It means that other than firebending you have also great talent with the Duo swords. Off to bed now. It’s been a long day and you deserve your sleep.”

“As you wish sifu Lia.” Zuko answered with a smile and a small bow.

It was only after he was asleep that she entered his room. Just like so many other nights she tucked him in to his bed properly before blowing the small candle on his desk out.