|and The Ultimate Waterbender||Drama||PG||None||No update page|
July 29, 2012
Her eyes locked on the girl who stood merely a few feet away. Behind her the fire of Sozin's Comet ignited the sky. Exhaustion weighed down on her like a heavy cloak worn on a hot day, but she pushed on, her hatred fueling her forward. The girl, she shouldn't be standing there, clad in blue, chains in hand for a reason that was beyond her. She should be splayed out on the ground, shot down, dead. But she had been saved – and by the disgrace that was her brother, no less.
"There you are, filthy peasant!" she spat out.
Through the thick locks of hair that hung in her face, she could see the waterbender's face tighten. The look of challenge on the girl's face infuriated her. You'll be sorry... She envisioned the end, the girl's blue dress dyed a deep red, and the corners of her mouth curled into a cruel smile.
Her thoughts were broken, however, as streams of water suddenly whipped towards her like tentacles wanting to snatch her up. The waterbender rat had dealt the first strike. But she would not get the best of her. She rolled forward, so quick and nimble, and found herself face-to-face with the girl, their bodies now just inches apart. Her hand was poised, two fingers extended, ready to spark to life with lightning, one last blow, the final seal of death.
The waterbender shifted slightly and raised her arms. Was it a sign of surrender? Did she know it was over for her? I knew she was too weak...
But instead the sound of rushing water filled her ears. And... she couldn't move. Not one inch. Her body was frozen, encased from head to toe in ice. The lightning bolt had not sparked from her fingertips – she had become like a statue on display; only her glassy eyes could shift about.
No, no... It's not supposed to be this way...
The world stood still. It was now tinged with blue.
I'm not supposed to be the helpless one...
She couldn't even breathe and her lungs screamed for air.
How is this happening?
This can't be happening... Things like this didn't happen to the Crown Princess.
It can't be real.
Something jolted forward and the mess of a princess shot up, nearly hitting her head against a wall. She was no longer in the courtyard –it had been a horrible dream, replayed in her mind. But it had seemed so real, so tangible, as if she were actually reliving the duel again. The beginning of her end.
Beads of sweat rolled down her face and her temples throbbed painfully as though something inside her head was hammering away, trying to escape. She drew in a number of deep breaths, trying to remember where she was.
It took her several moments to piece everything together. Darkness would have completely swallowed her up had it not been for the dull slivers of light that peeked in through a barred window. Her knees dug into a cold, hard floor and metal chains bound her wrists and ankles. She felt trapped, like an abused circus animal.
Only this time, it wasn't a prison of ice. It was a metal box.
She vaguely remembered being dragged away, firm hands gripping her as she writhed hysterically. And then she had been shoved into something, this metal box she now understood, and suddenly everything had faded to dark...
Outside now she could hear the soft patter of rain as it dripped from the clouds and spilled onto the earth. The hooves of a dragon moose clomped on the ground and wheels groaned as they turned slowly. She was being taken somewhere... but where?
Out. She needed to get out, now.
"Let me out of here!" she shrieked, throwing herself against the wall with the single window, the one that had to open up, be unlocked to let in the light – and let her out. "Whoever is out there, you better let me go! You can't treat me like this! I'm royalty! You can't treat your princess this way!"
There came no response. The looming silence shrouded around her like a thick fog and she only grew more unnerved.
"Let me out, stupid fools!" Her entire body shook in pure rage. She dug her long fingernails into the palms of her hands so hard it hurt. Her mind was a hot mess, thoughts swarming like a colony of angry buzzard wasps and colliding together. "Let me out or you'll all be banished! I'll see to it that you never see daylight again! You'll be in a prison cell where I'll never have to see your faces again and you can just rot!"
Her throat was growing hoarse and her body was sore from throwing herself against the unforgiving metal walls. Rage coursed through her veins and only intensified the pounding in her head. Her stomach clenched and she felt dizzy and sick. And still her shouts were only greeted by silence.
"Please, let me out!" she cried, the fury in her voice having whittled down to nothing more than aching desperation. "You can't treat me this way! I'm the Crown Princess. I... I'm not some filthy peasant!"
Filthy peasant... The girl, the waterbender. The wretched, worthless thing that had outsmarted her. She saw the Water Tribe girl standing in the courtyard, her eyes narrowed, challenging her, tempting her. She felt the weight of the metal shackles that now bound her, her arms chained behind her back, and suddenly she felt as though she were back at that courtyard, sopping wet and tied down to the grate, seeing her brother stand up, alive, triumphant.
Hot tears rushed to her eyes and began rolling down her cheeks in a never-ending stream. She pressed her pounding forehead to the cold metal wall in defeat. Her shoulders heaved and shook violently as she continued to sob, knowing that she hadn't won.
That she could never win.
The man loosened his grip on the reins. Raindrops caught in his eyelashes and the carriage rocked as it hit a bump. Inside, the banging and muffled shouts had stopped.
"Crazy woman..." he muttered.
A creaking noise could be heard and the fourteen year-old lifted her head slowly. Light stabbed the inside of the metal cage. The drab, gray skies of earlier had given way to a canvas splattered with yellow, orange and pink, a sunset more beautiful than one could have dared to imagine. She looked on in awe – in that moment, the dark thoughts haunting her mind were forgotten and there was only the light, the glorious light the prison walls had denied her.
A set of rough hands suddenly gripped her shoulders and yanked her forward, out of her cage and out of her trance. Her feet hit the gravelly road with a thud and she slumped forward. Her temples still pounded furiously.
"Stand up," barked a gruff voice.
She craned her neck upward in the direction of the voice, but all she could make out was a hazy black shadow, a blot of ink on the otherwise radiant canvas. Facial features eluded her. She willed herself to stand on two feet that had long grown numb. The aching that had ravaged through her body before had been overcome by a feeling of deadness, as though she were a corpse. Funny, she almost wished it were pain again...
"That's how it's going to be, eh?" the voice now said, thick with contempt.
A sharp whistle rang through the air and before she knew it, she was being hefted up, not by one but by two men now. Their meaty hands felt like prickly claws. Slowly, she was dragged along, like a prop for a play that needed come out of the basement to be set on the stage. Her feet, still unable to move on their own accord, trailed along the ground.
She blinked rapidly, her vision slowly becoming focused, and where a fiery evening sky had once filled her eyes was now a massive stone structure. The building seemed to touch the clouds, it was so high. An iron-wrought fence, ten feet tall, slinked its way around the perimeter. The atmosphere seemed to dim as though someone were slowly putting out a campfire. No other buildings were in sight. Everything about the place spoke of being alone.
Where is this place?
And then she saw it. The finely engraved strokes of each character above the entrance to the institution. The Correctional Facility for the Emotionally Challenged. She felt ready to collapse.
Lining the pathway to the building were guards who stood so dignified in their red and brown uniforms. All eyes locked on her as she was towed along pathetically. Their stares seemed to mock the bedraggled princess, laugh at her even though the expressions on their faces were unmoving.
And suddenly they seemed familiar.
No... that's impossible... There's no way they can be here...
Flickers of her past burst from the dark crevices of her mind and the face of a stranger was suddenly one that was not.
A captain whose tongue had faltered on "home" now gave her a small wink.
An earthbender glowered at her with power-hungry hatred.
And her... The rebel who had dared to look her in the eye and refuse her – she smirked from the very end of the long line of guards.
I won, her smile said. She meant it – she rarely smiled.
These people, each and every one of them, had slowly hammered away at her life, each blow splintering the cracks wider and wider until it had all shattered, one irreparable mess.
"No... Y-you can't all be here," she said, twisting her head from side to side. "H-how are you all here?"
Someone stepped out of the line and headed towards her. The servant who had left a pit in her cherry.
Anger and paranoia flared up inside her and as the woman came within a few steps of her, hands outstretched menacingly, she opened her mouth, unleashing a stream of fire. The servant raised her arms to shield her face but a second too slow and the flames still seared her skin.
The princess watched the woman fall back, her body slamming against the ground. Only when she looked closer, she saw it was just that – a woman. She lay stunned, one hand hovering over her cheek, the skin glowing red from where it had felt the brunt of the attack.
"Guard down, guard down!" someone hollered from the sidelines.
Two guards rushed forward and they were just that, mere guards. She caught a glimpse of them hoisting the woman to her feet just as a hand clamped down on her neck and shoved her head downward. The muscles in her neck strained and her jaw now dug into her collarbone. The fourteen year-old didn't move one inch, didn't even try to wriggle free from the hand's grasp. She felt rattled up inside.
The servant. She's not here... None of them are...
The betrayal had not left her. Even her eyes had deceived her, making her see what was never truly there. And she had hurt an innocent person because of it.
She felt the men quicken their pace, knew they were desperate to hand her over to someone else, anyone other than themselves. After all, who would want to be in the presence of such a horrible monster?
A door groaned open and her vision dimmed as sunlight surrendered to the weak light of the lanterns inside. The air was hazy and stale, the stone floor of the building smooth and cool. She was dragged several more feet before being forced to her knees. Her thoughts were murky, as though they had been slogged in mud, and she felt as if she were drifting between the planes of reality and dream. From a few feet away, two men began conversing. She was only half-listening.
"Former Crown Princess... a breakdown... cause is unknown..." It was the man with the gruff voice speaking.
Tragic. That's how they would all describe it. "Oh, Princess Azula's fall from grace. It's simply tragic."
"A shame... preparations were made... Cell Forty-Eight..." a different voice stated.
Her ears perked up at the mention of the word "cell" and she looked up to see the two men who had been discussing and now bowed to one another. Two guards stood ramrod straight a short distance away. The taller of the two, fairly young and with an imperial air about him, then said, "Thank you for escorting the patient in here. We'll handle it from here."
Her escort, the one who had helped to haul her in like he would a heavy bag of animal feed, turned on his heels and marched away. The second man raised his hand and before she could do so much as blink, the two guards were towering over her. They swept her off the ground, ready to carry her off. But the former princess would not allow herself to be so helplessly whisked away.
Instead, summoning all her strength, she slowly but surely planted her feet on the ground and stepped forward. And she walked out with the two guards on either side of her, guiding her along.
It felt good to be in control of something. Even if it was something as simple as walking.
This chapter isn't terribly long, but nonetheless, I hope you all enjoy reading it.