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|The Death of a Fire Lord|
March 18, 2013
The Death of a Fire Lord is the fourth chapter of the fanon series, by .
After a single soft mochi bun and a hot, hastily-made cup of caffeinated tea, Chen, the royal caterer, was now prepared for the day, and it was a busy day indeed that he had ahead of him. His occupation was in charge of organizing scheduled events for the royal family of his nation. Many of these functions were more or less routine: stately dinners, gatherings of nobles and members of court, informal meetings with generals and advisors and receptions following a special ceremony.
A humble hall-boy in his youth, Chen had endured the long climb of the ladder to reach where he was today. Now with had several busying persons working underneath him, Chen held everything to high standards, and was not shy about making it known. Whether it was a formal occasion or a leisurely party, Chen worked hard behind the scenes to keep up the royalty's life of excess and make certain that everything went according to plan. Although he was not as visible as the Fire Lord and the others whom he served, he took great pride in his work behind the scenes to meet their expectations. It was he who would be held responsible should anything go poorly, spirits forbid.
Marching down one of the many spiral stone staircases to the servant's quarters underneath the Fire Nation Royal Palace, Chen twitched his mouth in an effort to quell that taste of the dark tea he hated so much. It was only when there was an especially important occasion at hand, such as a funeral or a wedding, that Chen would resort to replacing sleep with caffeine. Today, it was a funeral. A royal funeral.
Flowers? Check. Program? Check. Invitations? Check. Ushers in place? Check. The royal caterer went through the list in his mind as he went down to inspect that all was in order and to go over last minute details. Chen had a reputation of being thorough. In fact, he had been so busy with his work that he had not even had time to check who the funeral was for yet. Chuckling to himself and smacking his palm to his forehead, Chen told himself he'd better check now. It would be quite embarrassing for him if he slipped up talking to someone about it later. Chen casually strode over to the mantle where the body currently lay, blissfully garbed in finer clothing than most living souls ever dreamed of. Suddenly, Chen froze in his tracks. The body was none other than that of the Fire Lord himself.
It took a few seconds for this horrible truth to sink in for him. Chen had not only been meant to plan a royal funeral, but also a coronation! Since it was seven decades since the last Fire Lord ascended the throne, this was a once-in-a-lifetime event for almost all. Not only was this the last day of Azulon's reign, but it was the first of Iroh's. If Chen was held responsible for bungling the preparation for this, none of what he had accomplished before would have mattered. It would be the end of life as he knew it. The new Fire Lord and those who followed him would see to that.
Chen's breathless panic came in stages in the hour before the ceremony was to commence. With so much to do and nearly no time to do it, he didn't even know where to start. No sooner had he decided that pulling it together in time was a hopeless endeavor than he shifted gears to thinking who he could blame if the event was not up to standard. The itinerary had merely said "funeral," not "coronation." But of course, the funeral of a Fire Lord so obviously meant a coronation that it shouldn't have to be said! Chen shook his head at himself in shame. Only a fool would have to be told that...and a fool was what he would be.
At the very least, he needed the Fire Lord's headpiece, so he could give it to the Fire Sages. Chen promptly dropped all the papers in his arms and sprinted up the spiral staircase, two to three steps at a time, toward the royal chambers. He was only barely able to stop himself from colliding with another person at the top of the stairwell.
The skinny man with short, top-knotted dark gray hair covering his head and hanging from his chin leaned back and raised both eyebrows. "Chen, I see you're in a mad hurry this morning," Qin, the stern Deputy War Minister commented with dry pompousness. "Is everything in order?"
"Y-yes, your excellency, of course it is." Exasperated, Chen extended a proper bow to the esteemed member of the government. "I-I just..."
"You just what?"
The timid air washed over the sighing Chen's backside. There was nothing else for it. "Where's the Fire Lord's headpiece?"
Qin raised an eyebrow. "I don't know...I suspect that the Fire Lord might be wearing it."
"He wears that headpiece no more! I'm afraid he never will again. I need to find it so they can put it on Iroh's head within the hour!"
"What do you mean?" asked Qin in alarm.
So, Qin apparently did not know either. "Come, I'll show you!" Chen was somewhat relieved not to be the only one, though it made little difference as Qin was not responsible for today like he was. "Fire Lord Azulon lies dead, Sir," Chen said, pointing, as they reached the bottom of the stairs once again. "Look!"
The Deputy Minister of War bent his head over the long body his frantic comrade had gestured to. "That's not the Fire Lord, you idiot," Qin sneered.
The lower government official batted his eyes in relief, but also in confusion. "Then...who is it?"
"Prince Lizen the Elder."
The year the never-ending war began, the elderly Fire Lord Sozin and his wife were blessed with what was soon declared a miracle birth. Both were long past child-bearing age, but as the great comet passed through the atmosphere, the Fire Lady bore two healthy, strong young twin boys during the historic battle with army of the Air Nation. The identical pair became known as the Sons of the Comet. Born as their country went to war, the citizens of their homeland knew that they would both grow up to perform great deeds, conquering nations of the world together like bronzed warriors in battle. As they got older, however, a pivotal difference became clear. One was a firebender, and the other one wasn't.
From the day that that was found out, everything was different. It was exceptionally rare to hear of a non-bender being born into the Fire Nation royal family, though that was hard to tell if it was actually a rare event or merely one rarely heard about. Azulon became a firebending master and led this countrymen to glory and victory, garnering may conquests in the Earth Kingdom and making his patriotic nation and his esteemed father proud. Lizen, on the other hand, disappeared from view after that. Even though it was known that he married eventually and had a son of his own, most of public forgot that the Fire Lord even had a brother. Judging from his body, he had met with a quiet death in his sleep. Given his age it was not surprising, but somewhat unexpected. In death, after a lifetime in background, a little of the long-lost attention was given back, albeit only day's worth at his funeral.
The crimson-robed Great Fire Sage stood atop the grand platform and cleared his throat as he spoke up for all to hear. "Lizen, Son of the Comet, Prince of our nation, dedicated soldier. You were father to Lizen, your son and namesake, husband to Yali, now passed. Grandfather to Jaya. Brother to Azulon, Fire Lord of our Nation. We lay you to rest."
Watching the two lesser sages ignite the fire for the cremation of Lizen's body were a modest crowd comprised mainly of members of Lizen's family. Closest to the front were Prince Lizen the Younger, a tall man with slightly-messed night-black hair which he did not bother to form a top knot with, unlike most of those around him, and his daughter Jaya. She was almost as tall as the younger Lizen and wore her long hair down. Unlike her father and grandfather, she was born with ability to bend. Behind them stood Azulon, the Fire Lord, who shared the elder Lizen's appearance. Naturally, every child and grandchild of his was a firebender. Crown Prince Iroh and his own son Lu Ten stood side by side. Not far off were Iroh's brother Ozai, who had come to the funeral with his wife Ursa, and their two young children Zuko and Azula. Despite the fact that Zuko was two years older, Azula had been discovered to be a firebender first.
Azulon's ancient advisors Lo and Li were also present at the funeral. Like him and his brother, they were twins. The rest of those gathered to lay Prince Lizen the Elder to rest were a handful of retired Fire Nation military commanders. Among them were General Shu, who had served in the Earth Kingdom for four and a half decades, and Han Shui, the former commander of the Southern Raiders. Han Shui was credited with destroying all the larger settlements in the Southern Water Tribe and reducing their existing villages to scattered and isolated locales, and more importantly, wiping out all their waterbenders. The Southern Tribe, once a significant threat, had little-to-no serious ability to oppose the Fire Nation any longer. Now retired, the decorated Han Shui had become an avid gambler.
Following the official funeral, Crown Prince Iroh strode over and approached the bereaved Lizen the Younger. "My dear cousin, I am so sorry for your loss. I offer you my heartfelt condolences to you."
"Thank you, Iroh," Lizen returned to him with a sharp nod.
Prince Iroh abruptly turned to Princess Jaya. "You know, your grandfather was quite a pai sho player, if I might say so. I would often play with him when I finished my firebending training. Perhaps one day you and I can play a game."
"Thanks, but no thanks, Cousin Iroh," said Jaya. Hardly ever smiling, the marble-like curves of her features carried themselves. Jaya carried with her a stern kind of beauty, which had drawn hordes of later-disappointed suitors. "Not my thing."
"General Iroh?" The silver-haired Han Shui tapped on the right shoulder of the crown prince, about the same age as he. "I wondered if I might have a word sometime."
"You can have a word now," Iroh chuckled.
"No, it's something I have to talk to you about in private," said Han Shui, narrowing his eyes.
"Well, assuming it's not urgent, you can come to my quarters for tea next week," Iroh told him with a shrug.
"Perfect," Han Shui replied, both ends of his mouth curling. "By the way, happy anniversary."
The jovial, upper middle-aged crown prince paused for a moment. It was well known that Prince Iroh had loved his late wife dearly, and marked the day of their wedding every year in his own way. He was touched by the line, though it sounded too sentimental to be coming from the mouth of the man who spoke it. "Thanks, Han Shui, but it's not for another few months."
For a moment, Han Shui appeared just as confused as Iroh had been, but then he regained himself. "No, no that," he clarified. "Your other anniversary."
Iroh's heart sank. Naturally, Han Shui had not been talking about Lu Ten's late mother at all. "Of course," he said meagerly. "That one's in a couple days." There were some things this old soldier wished would just go away.
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