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|Sons of the Comet: Lizen|
April 19, 2014
Harsh incense and soft uncertainty lay before Princess Jaya as she entered into her father's quarters, the visitor's chambers at the royal palace. Most of the time, they dwelled in an enclave immediately outside the Fire Nation capital. Tonight they remained in the palace as guests, being only the second night after the rally that they had attended, organized and thrown by their cousin Prince Iroh. Prince Lizen had been elusive and keeping to himself ever since the night of the ball, and Jaya's mind was swirling with curiosity about that. Being the people person that she was, she knew that there had to be a reason for his distance and silence.
Lizen, of course, was no fool either. He fully expected his only child to wonder about what was going on in his mind. The answer, of course, was many things. They consisted of things that had transpired recently and also of things that had been transpiring for quite some time. Lingering, one might say. Or lurking.
"Good evening, Father," Jaya uttered a cordial, courtesy greeting. "You wanted to see me." Unlike many others would, she did not say the statement as though it were a question, but as precisely what it was.
"Yes," confirmed Lizen, a mock cheeriness in his voice that stood out a weak shadow of what it could be. "It's about the upcoming plans."
"I assume that you mean the attack on Ba Sing Se and our participation in it."
"That's only the beginning," he said, his sinister lips curling. "As you should know. You've always been smart. Surely you already have an idea. I took notice of the way you charmed Lu Ten when you were with him at the ball. You conversed for a while and spent a lot of time together. And you danced well. That's all good."
"I never reckoned you to be a matchmaker," Jaya crossed her arms at her dad.
"I must take on any role that is necessary for me at any one time," stated Lizen. "You'll soon realize the same as time goes on, I'm sure."
"You hold some kind of envy, don't you?"
"It's about what is rightfully ours," said Lizen. "If you think that I'm exaggerating, I'm not."
"This sounds scandalous," Jaya commented. "It's not something to be taken lightly."
Lizen chuckled as much to himself as to his daughter. There was humor behind his laugh, for he was too composed to sink so low as to laugh without any humor whatsoever, but it was a humor he did not crave for. "How much do you really know about our family?"
"What do you mean?"
"While you were with Lu Ten, I was with his father," said Prince Lizen. "The leader of our invasion force, the famed Dragon of the West, who many seem to believe literally dances among the spirits. They think the time he comes to the throne finally will mark a great new age."
"He appointed you Grand Sima, did he not?" inquired Princess Jaya, ignoring the rest of her father's remarks.
"Yes, and I know you have ambitions as I have," Lizen lectured frankly The fact is, there's no way that I can ever rule even if circumstances fit it and I have forced myself to accept that. Our nation is not prepared to accept a nonbender as its leader. But there is hope for you, as you ended up a firebender, which your grandfather and I were not. Things haven't been fair to our line, or nonbenders in general who vie for power in our nation. Most of the army are nonbenders, but almost none of the highest-ranking officers are. With our war to spread our prosperity to other nations, I'd hope we could spread better treatment of nonbenders. After all, we treat our women better than the Northern Water Tribe does."
"The position of nonbenders may be a relatively lost cause, but there is hope for our family," said Lizen.
"Everyone often desires more than what they have," said Jaya. "It's human nature. Whether they can achieve it is another nature. How can you possibly rule when you're not next in line or the one after that?"
"It won't be mine," said Lizen regretfully. "It must be yours."
Jaya raised a curious eyebrow. "Mine?"
"Years ago, when I was recovering from your mother's untimely passing, your grandfather the first Prince Lizen confided in me a little family history. In the time of Sozin, the current Fire Lord, Uncle Azulon, failed in his attempt to capture his first area of Hu Xin territory."
"Didn't he succeed the second time?" asked Jaya.
"He only got a second chance because he was the only acceptable heir," explained Lizen. "Sozin had said that if Lizen the Elder had been a firebender, Sozin would've disowned Azulon and made Lizen his successor. As it was, because of the way they were born, Azulon got his second chance, and marveled the world with his hunting of a dragon. But now, there is hope for you, my child. It's a plot that I have been coming up with for years, actually. The Siege of Ba Sing Se will prove to be the best time for it."
"While Iroh is focusing on his invasion, we will set our eyes on setting you and Lu Ten up for marriage," explained Lizen. "With all his attention and energy diverted elsewhere, we will secure the Fire Lord's approval and with the nation's throne backing the union, nothing can stand in its way."
"Ah," uttered Jaya, twirling her hair. "I thought that you were referring to betrothal. I guess there's no doubt about it now."
"It's important that we move quickly in this," Lizen continued, his dark beard sagging. "Ozai grows ambitious and we must move quickly in order to stay one step ahead of him. He's been making plans of his own for some time."
"So after I'm married to Lu Ten, what then?" asked Jaya. "Or is that the full extent of your scheme?"
"The wedding will be extravagant," said Lizen. "Then will come the honeymoon. You must get to intimate work with him as soon as possible."
"Dad!" exclaimed a shocked Princess Jaya. "He's my second cousin!"
"Yes, and you're marrying him, so you'd better get used to the idea," Lizen retorted back impatiently.
"This is all very disturbing to me," said Jaya, persing her lips.
"Look, if all goes according to plan, you won't have to be married to Prince Lu Ten for more than a year," Lizen continued, calming down somewhat. "It's vital that you produce an heir before we dispose of him. Ba Sing Se being the mighty city that it is, no one will shake their heads in disbelief if their beloved Dragon of the West falls to the enemy under circumstances we can arrange. Same goes for Lu Ten, but after him, the next in line in the succession would be Prince Ozai, and then his offspring. Only if you and Prince Lu Ten have an heir can you rule as the child's regent afterwards."
"This sounds like thinking farther ahead than you make it out to be. Great Uncle Azulon seems like he could live forever."
"Nah, his time's bound to be up soon," Lizen countered. "With Iroh and Lu Ten so close to the battle, no one will question it if anything happens to them, either. The attack on Ba Sing Se will be vast and we have many tools we can make use of. Han Shui, the Dragon of Water has a vendetta with our beloved crown prince."
"Yes, I noticed his resentment at the ball following the rally, too," Princess Jaya agreed. "What do you suppose his vendetta is?"
"I don't care. Whatever reason he has to loathe the Dragon of West, he may prove a useful pawn if the time comes."
"Do you even like him?"
"You have a lot to learn, my Jaya. Trivial matters like whether you like your allies matter very little in politics. By the time you're regent, I'll have opened your eyes more to these things."
"That's assuming that I'm selected as regent," Jaya countered with a trace of dismissiveness in her tone. It was not that she was not tempted by her father's plot, but she found holes in it. "You're making a black widowfly out of me."
"Don't be silly," Lizen scoffed at his daughter. "As the fresh new bride and the princess that you are, you will be beyond suspicion. Whether through slipping a poison into his teacup or by some more violent means - and there will be many opportunities for that coming up - no one will suspect you."
"Hah! Are you serious, Dad? Everyone will suspect me. Have you seen the histories of what goes on behind the scenes in royal families? This would merely be the latest of many gruesome chapters."
"Never you worry about that," Lizen reassured. "If matters grow ugly and dismal for us, I will draw suspicion to myself and take the fall."
Jaya batted her eyes, surprised. "You would do that for me?"
"Of course I would," said Lizen. "I'm your father and I love you. I want only the best for you."
"Says the dad who wants to pair his daughter up with her cousin." Jaya pondered this for a minute. "What will you do if the blame comes down on you? You'd be detained and arrested for sure!"
"No, I'd draw enough suspicion to keep their eyes on me and leave you blameless," said Lizen. "As the regent, you could arrange my exile rather than trial, as we won't be leaving enough evidence behind. We're careful, after all. Just give me a province in the Earth Kingdom to govern and I can make myself comfortable there where I can spend the rest of my days. Once you're in charge and Lu Ten is out of the way, you'll be free to live your life and marry whomever you wish when you decide the time is right."
Thoughts were darting back and forth in the princess' mind. Naturally, she wanted to go through with the plan and she wanted her father's Black Widowfly Coup to work, but she felt conflicted. After all, she liked Lu Ten, maybe not as a potential husband, but she wished there were a way to proceed without disposing of his life. "I am on board with your plan, Father."
Lizen clapped his hands together. "Excellent!"
Smirking, Jaya reached over and shook her father's hand, bowing slightly. "You know Dad, as just as you make it sound, this is still treason we're talking about."
"It's only an act of treason until it is carried out. Then it becomes an act of succession."
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