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|"Aang, we'll always be friends, right?"|
|— Kuzon, to Aang|
"Brothers" is the first proper chapter of the AU fanfiction story.
"The Civil War began because Genzai was a weak Firelord. He left issues on tariffs and trade routes unresolved for decades, creating unrest and division among the populous. Kai Hin, resentful that his status as second child prevented him from ever gaining the throne, sided with the dissenters and led them in revolt. In this way he lent some legitimacy to their rebellion. Lady Izuma ascended the throne after the death of Genzai, at about the same time that her brother defected, and she led the loyalists. Prince Kai Hin proved to be a despot though. He killed civilians and salted the earth of any captured territory that supplied loyalists with food. Avatar Roku believed this was a violation of universal balance, so he and the Fire Sages sided with mo—I mean, Lady Izuma. Kai Hin now realized that, with the Avatar against him, his cause was lost. Many rebels tried to defect, but Kai Hin executed any who did so publicly. He attempted to cut his losses and launched an all-out attack on Izuma's forces on the Crescent Island. With the help of the Avatar, he was soundly defeated. However, our Nation's economy has yet to recover." Sozin finished reciting but remained standing. He was not to sit until his tutor allowed him.
"And how could the war have been prevented?" His tutor asked in a tone that sounded disinterested.
"Genzai should have acted quickly on the economic issues and enforced his rulings strictly. Then there would have been no time for dissent to breed. Kai Hin repeatedly requested the throne be passed to him, so Genzai should also have known his designs. Instead Genzai expanded the size of Kai Hin's duchy hoping to compromise. Genzai should have taken more drastic action against Kai Hin, possibly imprisonment or exile. Genzai also should have made more efforts to keep his people unified, but as a weak, vacillating ruler neither side could rally around his policies, and as his chosen successor, Lady Izuma had to overcome that stigma." He was not to call her "mother" during lessons.
"Very good, Prince Sozin." His tutor looked out the window. "That will be all for today. You are dismissed." As a nineteen-year-old, Sozin realized that was one of the last history lessons of his formal education. He happily made his way to the courtyard, hoping to perhaps meet his brother there. Kuzon had probably cut classes again. Kuzon's absence from the courtyard confirmed Sozin's suspicions. That probably meant he wouldn't be at combat training either.
Sozin rubbed a bruise on his left eye he had gotten in the last session. He hated training. And it would be even worse without Kuzon, since the trainer would have to work on Sozin for the entire time. Sozin sat down under the shade of the tree by the turtle-duck pond, hoping to thoroughly enjoy the brief interval between history lessons and combat training. He just hoped his mom wouldn't be there today.
After half an hour, Sozin took his sword and reported to the agni kai arena. Kuzon always said it was weird having a combat arena at their house. It was mostly so the royal family could have private lessons, but Sozin always told him, "You'd be surprised how often people in mom's court get their honor insulted over tax rates for fertilizer." Kuzon would laugh at that.
Sozin's trainer was his stepfather, Gizu, a famous general from the Civil War. His and Kuzon's real father had been killed fighting a cell of Kai Hin loyalists a year or two after the war officially ended, soon after Kuzon was born. Izuma had married the general for two reasons: he was a noble with military service, so politically it was a good match. She also felt he would make good father for her sons, because he was strict and did not believe in leniency. She valued love, compassion, and intelligence in a mate, but she cared more about how the future Firelord was brought up. She refused to let him be an impotent paper tiger who let his country fall into ruin, as her father was. So she had married an oaf.
Simply warming up for practice was an ordeal with the general as a teacher. Sozin had just finished warming up when he heard his mother. "I believe it's time we test the prince's abilities." She walked into the agni kai arena and took a seat next to the floor. Sozin felt cold. He was afraid.
The general nodded at her in affirmation. He approached imposingly, and without ever changing his stride he took a practice naginata, with bamboo in place of a blade, from the weapons case at the side of the arena and stepped onto the agni kai floor. Sozin tried to focus, but he was frightened. The general's tests were difficult.
Sozin tried to call up a list of the advantages and disadvantages a single sword had over a two-handed polearm like that, but even as he thought, the general swung the rigid bamboo at his legs. Sozin jumped just in time. He remembered that a low sweep was a common opening move for the naginata. But Sozin could not regain his footing from the awkward leap, and the general brought the weapon back in a higher sweep, smashing it into Sozin's shoulder and leaving a welt. That was his sword-arm. Sozin's mind started to panic and all he could do was back away from the advancing weapon. He took his dao in the other hand and made a couple wild swings, forcing the general to retreat slightly. Gizu made a long thrust with her polearm, hoping to regain some ground. Sozin dodged and painfully grabbed the shaft of the naginata with his free hand and swung towards the general with his sword, hoping stop the blade at his neck and force him to yield. Before the sword got anywhere near the general, Gizu stepped in with his back foot and kicked the side of Sozin's knee. Sozin fell to his knees and released the naginata as he felt his whole leg give out. The general spun around in front of Sozin and whirled the bamboo into his back. Sozin's torso fell forward under the force and the wind was knocked out of him.
Sozin slowly picked himself up, coughing roughly. The general marched up, grabbed the back of his collar and jerked him into an "at-attention" stance. "All right, Sozin. For one thing, you should be proficient using a sword in either arm. You've practiced it enough, so why are you STILL unable to do it?" the general barked.
"I don't know, sir."
"And if you know you're not proficient with both arms, don't you think you should guard your good side more carefully?" the general yelled again, slapping the welt on Sozin's shoulder with the back of his hand.
Sozin couldn't bear the angry gaze of his stepfather any more, so he dropped his eyes and muttered "Yes, sir."
The general backhanded Sozin across the face. "And you NEVER look away from an opponent!" the general angrily reminded him. "Ever! What's wrong with you?"
Tears quivered in Sozin's eyes. "Can I have...a break...now?" he panted. He looked at his mother, sitting there with an indifferent look, as though watching her son's ordeal was as natural as watching a leopard-weasel devouring a rabbit. Perhaps to her it was natural. It happened regularly enough. "Sozin, this is for your own good," she said. She truly wished she didn't have to put her son through all this, but it was for his own good. "You will be the head military official of the Fire Nation one day. If you are not strong, the Fire Nation will not be strong." She paused, then spoke to her husband. "Now, please teach my son to use the sword in his other arm."
"Looks like I'll have to, now," Sozin's stepfather chuckled as his mother left the arena.
"Sorry!" Aang called back to the occupant of the house whose windows and paper room partitions he and Kuzon had just glided through. Kuzon was just laughing and laughing.
He held on to Aang's legs as Aang tried to force his glider to mount another building. "Let go when I tell you," Aang said. "It'll be fun." They made it a few feet above the arch in the pagoda-style roof, and just as the glider started to lose altitude Aang called out "Now!" Kuzon let go and sprinted down the roof, unable to stop because of the momentum. Aang did the same, spinning his glider to close it. They ran clear off the roof just as Aang opened his glider and Kuzan grabbed his calves. The glider began climbing again.
The two friends made for the beach down by the edge of the capital city, where the wharves stop. As they came over the sand Kuzon called to Aang "Do the crash-thing!"
"Alright, buddy!" Aang said, wobbling the glider violently. "Oh no, I'm too tired to airbend anymore!" Aang joked in a funny, theatrical voice. "Looks like we're going to...to..."
"Crash!" they yelled in unison, as Aang put the glider into a nosedive. Kuzon laughed as he watched the ground rush up to meet them. Just at the last second, Aang created a huge air cushion, and he and Kuzon landed softly on the fine sand. They lay on their backs, laughing.
"You never get tired of that, do you?" Aang sighed.
Kuzon squeezed out a "no" between his hysterical laughs.
After a time they stopped laughing. Aang sat up. "What do you want to do now?"
"I don't know. What do you want to do?"
"I don't know...Are there any good animals to ride around here?"
Kuzon thought. "Well, if we go a little down the coast, we can ride the pentapi."
"You can't ride pentapi. They're only about this big," Aang said, curling his thumb and index finger to indicate their size.
"No, see, you're thinking of purple pentapi. There's all kinds of pentapi. We have red pentapi in the Fire Nation. They're about twelve feet long. And they hate being ridden," Kuzon added with a mischievous smile.
"That's what makes it fun!" Aang exclaimed. That seemed to decide the question, and the two boys got up and walked down the beach together.
They were silent for a while. Kuzon looked out at the water as he walked. He was twelve and Aang was ten. "Aang, we'll always be friends, right?"
"Sure," Aang said.
"Like, no matter what? Even I grew up to be Firelord?"
"Yeah, of course. Would we still be friends if I grew up to be the abbot of a whole Air Temple?" Aang put his own spin on the question. He sometimes received special training or learned advanced techniques from the monks. They told him he was being groomed to become abbot of the Southern Temple.
"Yeah. Would we still be friends if I grew up to be a cabbage vendor?"
Aang laughed. "Would we still be friends if I grew up to be a world-famous fruit pie baker?"
"If you let me eat the cake. Would we still be friends if I grew up to be a...umm, a pirate?" Kuzon joked.
"Yeah! That would be so cool! Are you kidding? A pirate friend...Well, okay, would we still be friends if...I grew up to be the Avatar?" Aang paused. What had made him say that? Sure, the next Avatar would be an Air Nomad, but...it couldn't be him...
Kuzon began laughing so hard he had to stop walking. "You? Ha-ha-ha! Avatar? You're just a goofy kid! Ha-ha! Okay, we'll still be friends, but you realize the Avatar has to worry about the whole world and stop disasters and stuff? It would really cut into our goofing-around time. I'm gonna come ask you if you want to go take your glider down the river or something and you'll have to say"—he broke into a deep, sad-sounding voice to imitate a disappointed adult Aang—" 'No, I gotta go put out a raging forest fire. Maybe later."
Aang laughed. "Yeah, we sure aren't looking for any responsibility like that, are we Kuzon?"
"Hey, I'm pretty responsible," Kuzon told him.
"Aren't you cutting lessons right now?" Aang shot his argument down.
Kuzon laughed. "I don't see what that has to do with anything," he joked. He started to walk closer to the water. "And anyway, I am the Avatar," he declared.
"Really?" Aang played along.
"Yep, I already know waterbending."
"You do not know waterbending!"
"Yeah?" Kuzon replied. He scooped up some water from a receding wave and flung it at Aang's face. Aang sputtered and shook his head. "Then what was that?" Aang caught a glimpse of the devilish smile on Kuzon's face before Kuzon turned and ran down the beach, with Aang chasing him.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Enemies and Traitors chapters|
|Prologues - Brothers - Responsibilities - Necessities - Resources - The Avatar - Opportunities - Preparations - Betrayals - Changing Plans - Scars - Counting Losses - Exiles - Ghosts - Homecoming - The Traitor and the Firelord - Escapes - The Last Chance - Legacies|