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|Ursa's Dark Past|
February 7, 2011
In the headquarters of the Order of the White Lotus, Ursa explains the circumstances of her banishment. Meanwhile, in the Spirit World Aang is saved from Azula by an unexpected visitor.
Book 3 Chapter 3: Ursa's Dark Past
The large lock clicked, and with great effort Iroh managed to swing the heavy iron door open. Zuko was the first to enter the room. It was dimly lit by nothing more than a few candles strewn in random places throughout the room. Zuko took off his hood and ruffled his hair as he stared around at the walls covered with maps and various news pastings. Across from him was a single table and chair, at which a shadowed figure sat scribbling furiously on a battered piece of parchment.
The figure laid down her quill and pushed out her chair. Ursa turned around to face her son and for a while after she stood up neither of them said a word. Zuko then took a tentative step forward, followed by another slightly more confident step, and then a third, at which point he was standing directly in front of her.
"I've missed you, Zuko," Ursa said softly. Zuko broke into uncontrollable tears as he dove into his mother's arms like a small child. "And I'm so sorry that it's taken this long for us to see each other again." She closed her eyes and embraced him even closer. Katara felt herself tear up, and looking to her left she could see that Suki was crying just the same.
"I...must...not...cry," said Sokka, holding back tears of his own.
"It is okay," said Iroh in a tone indicating that he was about to give one of his proverbs. "The love between a mother and her child is one of the few things in this life truly worth fighting for. It is one of nature's true marvels how, even after years apart, the bonds between two people can be so strong. The ties of family are sacred, you know." With this he turned back to the scene unfolding before them, tears forming in his own eyes now.
Zuko released his mother and simply stared into her unblinking eyes as he wiped tears from his own. "What happened?" he pleaded. "That night...father never talked about it, and I always had a hunch that Azula knew the story but she would never tell me anything!"
"I think you'd better sit down," Ursa told her son as she pulled up a second chair.
Aang saw the ground and the sky switch places as he fell. He slammed headfirst into the ground, but knew he didn't have time to recover or Azula would catch up to him in an instant. He clawed his way to his feet and kept on running.
The ground at Aang's feet began to quiver and he lost his footing as an earthquake shook him back down onto the ground. In a matter of seconds, Azula was upon him. She leered down at him and raised her crooked forefinger to the sky.
"Earthbending is quite useful," she scoffed, grinning with a slanted smile that sent a chill down Aang's spine. "And now that I've caught up with you, it's time for—AAGH!" Azula's speech was cut short as she was struck brutally from the side. She slammed headfirst into the ground with a squeal of pain, where she lay limp for a couple seconds before she twitched and slowly drew herself back up. She stood back up, her hair frayed in all directions like the contents of her mind. Her appearance finally truly reflected her mental state: absolutely deranged.
"WHO DARES?" she screamed.
"I dare." Long Feng stepped out from behind a tree. His face looked worn, his hands thick with cuts no doubt from the brambles littering the forest floor. "You're insane, Azula of the Fire Nation."
"I belong to no such nation!" Azula shrieked. "The Fire Nation is a failure. A hundred years and they couldn't even defeat the filthy Water Tribe. But I will defeat you all!"
"Your petty aspirations mean nothing to me," Long Feng contested. "I didn't come here to hear you talk. I came here to make you feel the same pain you caused me!" He leapt into the air and tackled Azula, pinning her to the ground.
Aang didn't waste a moment. He bounded back to his feet and dashed away before Azula could do a thing to stop him...
"...and after learning that your father was given the task of killing you, I knew that I had to take drastic measures." Ursa paused, clearly pained by the emotions evoked by recollecting such dark events from her past. Toph shook her head in disbelief while Sokka and Iroh sat speechless on either side of her. Beside Iroh, Katara sat dabbing her eyes with a cloth while Suki consoled her. Zuko sat in front of them all, not saying a word; not showing any emotion whatsoever...
"I knew that, more than anything, your father wanted to become Fire Lord. But that would never happen so long as Iroh was part of the picture, because the throne was rightfully his."
Iroh closed his eyes and turned his head away while Sokka craned his neck for a better view as Ursa continued her story. "I immediately contacted Iroh and explained to him the situation. I explained to him a dark plan; the only plan that I knew could save your life, Zuko." Zuko's face stayed stone solid, refusing to show the slightest hint of emotion.
"We agreed that your life would not be safe," Ursa continued, "unless Fire Lord Azulon was taken out of the picture...permanently. I returned to the Royal Palace while Iroh made arrangements for my future with the Order of the White Lotus. Azulon's death was relatively simple. His body was old and frail; the moment the dagger pierced his heart there was no chance of reversing the damage." At this, Suki and Toph simultaneously gasped in shock and surprise and Ursa shuddered.
"I hurried to your room with haste, Zuko, and said a quick goodbye. By the sound of your father's footsteps in the hall I knew that I had to leave at that moment, because he was on his way to alert the guards of Azulon's 'mysterious' death. By the time the blame was placed on me, I was long gone. In order to preserve his name as he accepted his role as Fire Lord, your father announced that I had been banished. He never knew where I really went. That was the last time I ever saw you, or your father, or any of them. And here I have stayed for the last..."
"Seven years," Iroh finished for her.
"Seven years," she whispered. "Has it really been so long?"
"Indeed," Iroh repeated. "And now, we must recall that time is of the essence today. Can you take us to the necklace?"
"Yes, of course," she affirmed. "All of you. Quickly, follow me."
"A necklace?" Sokka exclaimed. "The fate of the world rests on...a necklace? Please tell me that's code for something!"
"It is a very powerful necklace," Iroh replied. He smiled and followed Ursa and the rest of the group back out of the door with a confused, disgruntled Sokka in tow.
Book 3 is taking a little longer than the first two books to upload, so sorry about that. It's a combination of the fact that I'm really busy and the fact that I want to make sure the series wraps up how it should. I hope each chapter is worth the wait. Book 3 is shaping up to be a few chapters longer than either of the previous two, with around 13 instead of the normal 10 chapters. So...yay!
~Side note: The dagger used to kill Azulon was, in fact, Zuko's knife with the 'never give up without a fight' inscription. This is why Azula was looking at it with that mysterious grin and holding it tauntingly in front of Zuko after his mother's disappearance in 'Zuko Alone.' ;)
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