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|Sons of the Comet: Azulon|
April 19, 2014
Long past his prime, the Fire Lord marched one step after another around the steep slope surrounding the outer rim of the volcano. Nearly two decades prior, when he was then also an old man, Fire Lord Sozin initiated an unprecedented war against all three of the other elemental nations on the planet. With the first powerful sweep of his army, the Fire Nation wiped out the Air Nomads, from the young and tender to the old and feeble, in a genocide which was nearly one hundred percent successful in extermination. He had done this with the aid of the Great Comet, a phenomenon that showed itself to the world every one hundred years which enhanced the firebending power of all firebenders who took on its energy. This comet was hence renamed Sozin's Comet after the Fire Lord's lethal first strike. The Earth Kingdom and the Water Tribes were quick to respond to the aggression, and vowed to protect their lands from the ruthless, destructive army as the leaders of the Air Nomads had been unable to do for their nation.
This white, pointy-bearded man in long, blood-scarlet robes was the one who had done all this. His strength was leaving him and his firebending was not what it used to be, but his resolve for military might and his determination to achieve victory over the other nations at all costs remained unfazed. Unfazed was not an accurate way to describe the late teenager who hustled to keep up with him, however. Even though he was taller and technically stronger than his father, Crown Prince Azulon was forced to jog to keep up with Fire Lord. Sozin was old enough to be the boy's grandfather or great-grandfather, his wife the Fire Lady having given birth at an extremely late age. Like his dad, Azulon was an accomplished firebending master, and despite his youth, he had already done one of the great deeds that his dad was known for. Azulon had slain a dragon: the giant one at Mount Koven, no less. His father Sozin had been much older when he first killed a dragon and began the subsequent tradition of hunting the creatures for sport and for glory.
"We're nearly there," the centenarian warlord announced with a furthor of a man far younger in years than he.
"We're nearly where, exactly?" asked the tiresome prince, his stamina put to shame by the elder before him.
"The temple to our glory," the Fire Lord stated simply. "Your glory, now," he added, his tone implying a degree of respect and acknowledgment, but still lacking in warmth or comfort. "Take your stance, Azulon."
The teenager soon saw that his father was preparing to firebend, and required thus no further instruction to mimic the position, directly in front of the stone dragon head identical to the one before Sozin. When Sozin shot a stream of continuous fire from his fist into the mouth of the dragon, Azulon threw a corresponding burst of flame into the one before him, straining his muscles quickly as he expected the endeavor to be over soon.
It was not. These heads were more stubborn than those that one found on similar doorways one came across in the temples of the Fire Sages. They did not yield as one would expect, and in contrast to Sozin's calm, Azulon gritted his teeth, sweating as he kept the fire flowing through the strength of his chi paths and out the tips of his fingertips as long as possible. Just as he was about to give in and admit defeat to the impossibly stubborn head, the head began to move, as did the one faced by Sozin seconds earlier.
"Enter," commanded the Fire Lord, beckoning to the exhausted teen as he marched inside, as casual as going for a stroll through the courtyard.
Azulon followed, leaping a bit in surprise as the stone doors shut behind him. The hallway before them was lined with candles, a brighter light up ahead which they approached, accompanied by loud noise of chatter.
"What is this place?" Azulon reiterated his earlier question, which he felt the earlier answer not sufficient for.
"The Dragon Chambers," replied Sozin. "Years ago, before you were born and before the Comet, I had this place built. It was not long after I conquered the first dragon in our new era of progress and scarcely a few others had followed me. At this time, tasting the surge of power one gets after proving themself superior to the most superior of creatures, the plans for our invasion were well underway, years in the making, but still several more off. Once the Imperial War of Conquest began, I began bestowing the title of Dragon on each of those who were powerful enough to defeat one of them in combat. There may be many on the list now, but they are a negligible percentage of all the firebenders, let alone all the people in the world. This is a place very few have ever set foot."
"I am honored, Father."
"As you should be," said Sozin, now stern. "Your failure to capture the Hu Xin territory was most regrettable and disgraceful, an embarrassment to your nation and your people!"
"I like to think I have made up for that now."
"But you managed to take it on your next attempt, and it was very fortunate for you to have a second chance to begin with. At last, though, the southernmost of the Hu Xin Provinces is under our thumb, another supposedly great stronghold in the Earth Kingdom fallen. Not only was it a tactical and strategic victory, but even the will of those in that nation must be wavering at this point."
"I'm sure it is," said Azulon. "This war has gone on for my entire life so far, but I'm sure it'll be over within a few more years with the progress we've been making."
"Indeed," agreed Sozin. "After your victory, you killed a dragon and completed your rite of passage. Even I had my doubts at times, but you've evolved into a true soldier, a fighter for our nation's vision. You are now worthy as my eventual successor, something I myself doubted not too long ago would ever be possible."
When they entered the gigantic room, Azulon surveyed the long table filled with rowdy firebenders enjoying a feast together. They were all different ages. The vast majority seemed to be soldiers. Given that most all the best firebenders were fighting in the Fire Nation's war with the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom and the few remaining holdouts of Air Nomads that were rumored to exist, this was not surprising. Every one of them wore a blood-scarlet robe identical to that of the Fire Lord himself.
"Is everyone here a firebending master?" Azulon questioned as he glimpsed several individuals tidying up and waiting on the others, blending into the background in a forced effort to make themselves scarce.
"Naturally," answered Sozin. "No one is allowed in here unless they have slain a dragon, under pain of death or banishment. Some of them fought lesser dragons, not as fierce as those like the one you faced, so their achievement wasn't quite as great."
"Our bloodline will rule the whole of the four nations before too long, and they will have to maintain their dominance and order over it," explained Sozin. "The world is a big place, so there will always be more dragons to hunt after. You would do well to remember that. Every heir of yours, child and grandchild alike, must prove themselves and go through the same trial you have. When the time is right, they must hunt a dragon for themselves, so the royal family are always in abundance among the most gifted, within these Dragon Chambers."
"What if one of them should fall or fail?"
"Then they are not worthy to be of our line!" Sozin retorted. "Royal bloodlines must stay strong if they are to maintain strength."
As soon as they reached the head of the table, the entire loud room instantly fell silent as though somebody had just flipped a switch. All looked to Sozin as he presented them with their newest initiate. "I, Sozin, Dragon of Air, vanquisher of dragons, master of nations, do hereby acknowledge and authenticate the achievement and labor of my son and heir, Crown Prince Azulon, heir to my throne, firebending master, Dragon of Fire!"
One of the servant men whom had been lurking in the background as the Fire Lord spoke walked up behind the Crown Prince and held up a newly-tailored robe the same bloody hue as the rest of those in the room and tucked it around Azulon's arms as he fitted them through the sleeves. The robe was light as air, but weighed mentally upon the prince as tough as flame.
- The Dragon Chambers were previously featured in Chapter 6.
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