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|Endings and Beginnings|
27 August 2011
Endings and Beginnings is chapter three, and the series finale of Reunion.
The Report from Ba Sing Se
Fire Sages' Headquarters
It had now been four mornings since Sozin's Comet had come and gone, and the fate of the Earth Kingdom Capital was decided. Thing of it was, no one in the Fire Nation Capital knew.
At the Fire Sages' headquarters, newly-appointed Great Sage Mozin was looking to summon the remainder of the Sages, expecting news from Ba Sing Se to reach them today. Mozin had taken over after the previous Head Sage was convicted of treason for his acts at Roku's Temple. With the Phoenix King and Princess already defeated, he knew that if they lost Ba Sing Se, the War would be over, and a new Fire Lord would be needed.
Fire Sage Canis arrived about two minutes later.
"Good morning, Sir," Canis bowed to Mozin.
"Good morning, Canis. Have you heard anything about the battle at Ba Sing Se between our forces and the White Lotus?" Mozin looked at him with wonder.
"I'm afraid not, Mozin. A messenger hawk should be en route, though."
"It's been four days since Sozin's Comet passed through the atmosphere. You would think we could land something official by now. We need this information before we can move forward with the future of this nation!" Mozin barked at Canis.
"Sir, I can't control how news flows. Plus, I have to be honest, I'm not hopeful, considering that we lost the two other major battles. Even if we hold Ba Sing Se, we have no Fire Lord, as Ozai and Azula are imprisoned! We would need a new one!" Canis yelled.
As he finished this, a messenger hawk arrived at the Fire Sages' headquarters. Canis took hold of the hawk and opened the tube in which the message was contained.
"Black ribbon. Vital importance."
Fire Nation Royal Palace
One by one, the Gaang members rose from their slumber. Up first that morning was Zuko, who remained concerned about his Uncle, Mai, and his position in the Fire Nation.
Over the next hour, all the other members woke up, starting with Aang, followed by the Water Tribe siblings, then Toph, and Suki rounded out the list. They all welcomed each other with good mornings, some hugs, wondering about one another's sleep, and others.
Aang and Katara made their way outside. Katara dropped her head onto Aang's shoulder, wrapped her arms around him, and looked up at him with a loving look, the two with a new found relationship. Zuko joined them moments later.
"Hey Zuko," Aang turned to him.
"Hi, you two," Zuko saw Katara and Aang locked in their romantic looks. "Am I...interrupting something?"
"Kind of..." Katara smiled at Aang.
"Well, I don't mean to butt in on you two being...together...but I'm just wondering. Do you think we'll find out what happened in Ba Sing Se today? It's been four days now, so something has to be coming soon," Zuko said.
"Ummm, speaking of that..." Aang looked ahead and saw two incoming Fire Sages. The sages approached the three.
"Prince Zuko," Fire Sage Canis began as he bowed to him. "A thousand pardons for interrupting, but we request your presence as soon as possible."
"What's going on?" Zuko turned curious.
"It's a matter of critical importance, I assure you. We have to tell you first, however, because it centers around you, Sir. Come with me, please," Touzek said, speaking in a calm voice.
"Very well." Zuko nodded and followed them back to the Fire Sages' headquarters. "I'll be back later. Tell everyone where I went," he turned back to Aang and Katara.
"We will, don't worry," Aang assured him.
The Prince and Fire Sages took their leave.
Fire Sages' Headquarters
The Fire Sages led Prince Zuko into the main building. This was followed by a quick look around before they made their way to the central room, where the other three sages, headed by Mozin, were gathered.
"Good morning, Prince Zuko," the head sage bowed to the exiled Firebender, who no longer appeared to be as such.
"Good morning, Sir," Zuko returned the bow. "What's going on?"
"There's a lot we need to discuss, Zuko. That's why we have called you here...because we just recieved word from Ba Sing Se."
Zuko started to sweat a little, as anxiety and fear entered his mind, wondering about his Uncle, the man who treated him like his own son. "Did...did...Uncle survive?"
"Well, it's pretty simple," Mozin began. "The Order of the White Lotus...led by your Uncle..."
The words appeared to be slowly thumping out of Mozin's mouth to Zuko. His heartbeat picked up as he began to ponder all that could have happened to Iroh while he was in the Earth Kingdom Capital. Just let it out! Is he okay? Did they win!?
"Your highness...your Uncle and the Order claimed an overwhelming victory over the stationed Army. The soldiers described Iroh's skill as extraordinary, despite his advanced age. The White Lotus stunned them, they never really had a good chance. Ba Sing Se is now back in Earth Kingdom hands, effectively ending this War. The Dragon of the West made it through un-harmed, as did the rest of the Order. They are on their way back to the Capital and will be here in two days."
Zuko was overcome quickly. Uncle...he did it. He showed great relief and even a small tear of joy dripping down his cheek. He had become tough enough to stop it all from flowing, but he was ecstatic for his Uncle, and he knew that total peace was now established. Destiny was fulfilled.
The Official Decision
"With that said, Zuko. Let us move on to the second reason why we have called you here."
The Prince broke out of his emotion and sat down. "Okay...I'm sorry. I'm just so happy that Uncle is okay, and that he won..."
"We understand, Sir," Canis directed his attention to him. "However, this matter is about the nation, and it concerns you."
Mozin cut in before Zuko could ask what it was. "We were considering restoring General Iroh's birth right, but we were told he does not want the position. He said he feels like you have deserved the right to become Fire Lord, Prince Zuko, and from what he has told us about your change and new personality, we feel as though he may be right. Therefore, Prince Zuko, as present Great Fire Sage, I hereby offer you the throne of Fire Lord. Will you accept?"
Zuko bowed his head and smiled, recalling that he had told the Gaang the previous night he would take the position. "I accept."
"Then we shall now hold a vote," Mozin explained. "Sages, do you agree that Prince Zuko should not only be amnestied, but accepted as Fire Lord?"
All the sages voted in favor of Zuko's appointment as the new Fire Lord.
"It is confirmed then. We shall hold a coronation ceremony next week. Congratulations...although it is not official, I shall be the first to say it...Fire Lord Zuko," Mozin and the other sages bowed in respect to him.
Just as his Uncle desired.
Just as fate intended.
He would be the other piece in restoring balance once and for all.
Fire Lord Zuko.
Return to the Palace
The soon-to-be Fire Lord returned to his friends. He saw Katara and Aang talking with one another, her arms still wrapped around his.
"Katara, Aang...could you guys gather everyone up, please?" he asked.
"Uhhh...of course, Zuko. We can," Aang spoke, releasing himself from Katara's embrace, to her slight disappointment. The two then walked back into the Royal Palace and gathered the remainder of the Gaang. They all walked outside, facing Zuko once more, who had made his decision.
"What's going on here, Zuko?" Sokka asked, being supported by a crutch and Suki.
"Well...I have something important to tell all of you," Zuko declared. "I just met with the Fire Sages...they told me what happened in Ba Sing Se, for one thing..." he began to smile. "The city's been liberated by my Uncle and the Order of the White Lotus, and they'll be home in a couple of days!"
"So...does this mean..." Katara said excitedly.
"Yeah...the War's officially over. We've done it."
The Gaang cheered loudly, celebrating their now-official victory in the War. Hugs were exchanged, a few tears of joy were shed. Aang and Katara had another tight hug, being careful in the presence of Sokka, though. Even Zuko earned a couple of hugs. Truly they were now at peace.
"I've got more news, guys," Zuko said, breaking the celebration for the moment. "I have officially accepted the throne, to become Fire Lord next week. The Fire Sages will hold a coronation ceremony and I will take take over then."
The Gaang turned and smiled at him. No one could have been happier at his new-found friend than Aang. "Zuko...I know you're ready."
"We all do...Fire Lord," Sokka smiled at him. He then held out his arm to Zuko, and the two locked their arms, a symbol of great respect in the Water Tribes. It had shown just how far Zuko had come not just with him, but with the whole Gaang. He was well-accepted and now ready to help re-build the world. It was a great turn-around that was nearing completion. Zuko could not have been more content.
As the Gaang settled down throughout the afternoon, however, Aang couldn't help but be a little upset. Katara approached him in the hallway, looking out a window. She put a hand out onto his shoulder. "Are you okay, Aang?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, Katara. It's just that...although we won the War, it's still hard to accept that nothing remains of the Air Nomads. All our artifacts, it's all gone. We have a victory, but it doesn't eliminate what Sozin did to our culture 100 years ago. It's still hard knowing that me, Appa, and Momo are still out on our own. My remaining Air Nomad clothing got destroyed in the battle with Ozai...and this staff was made by the Mechanist...I have basically nothing left," Aang somberly capped his words.
Katara wrapped Aang into an embrace. "I'm so sorry, Aang..."
"I wouldn't be so sure of that, Aang," Zuko's voice could be heard from nearby as he approached the lovers.
"What, that Katara's sorry?" Aang asked, appearing confused.
"No, about the Air Nomad artifacts," Zuko corrected him. "When my great-grandfather found about the success of the Army's attacks on the Air Nomads, he told them to return home with anything they could find. Sozin then told workers to build a room below the palace to keep them safe...I am pretty sure there's stuff down there from your culture. It's called the Room of Artifacts. Only highly trusted people here in the Palace can enter. If you'd like, I could lead you down there."
"Aang, how about that? Your stuff may have survived after all..." Katara cupped her hand in the Avatar's cheek and smiled at him.
"Are you sure, Zuko?" Aang asked.
"Positive," Zuko replied with an assuring look. "Katara, if you want, you can come as well."
"I will," she said as she took Aang's hand.
"Follow me, then," Zuko walked away from them, leading the way. Aang and Katara followed, hand-in-hand.
The Room of Artifacts
Zuko led the couple down to just outside the throne room. With a small Firebending move, he opened a door that lead to a spiraling stairwell, which consequently led to what they were looking for. They made their way down the stairs.
"Zuko, how do you know this place may not be guarded or anything?" Aang asked with a look of worry.
"Don't worry, Aang, the guards know of the battle results. They'll let us in," Zuko re-assured him.
They made their way to the end of the stairway, then walked towards the door that separated them from all the artifacts. Two guards stood on either side of it.
"Halt! Identify you--" one of the guards demanded, however, he quickly recognized who he was dealing with. He bowed to the party of three. "Prince Zuko...the Avatar, and his girlfriend, good day to you all. What brings you to the room of artifacts?"
"You guys know that Fire Lord Sozin stored stuff he confiscated from the Air Nomads, yes?" Zuko asked him calmly.
"Of course, Sir," the guard said.
"Well, that's what we're looking for. I brought Avatar Aang here so he could have a look at it, being he is the last Air Nomad. Please...let him have some of it. The War is over, I think it would only be right if the Avatar was allowed to have the relics of his people."
The guard bowed respectfully to him and Aang. "Very well, Prince Zuko. Avatar Aang, you are allowed anything you want."
Aang just bowed to the guard and smiled, first at him, then to Zuko. He turned to see Katara showing a look of great joy in her eyes, directed straight to him. The two embraced as the second guard took out a series of keys. He isolated the one for the room of artifacts, and then opened the door. "Follow me. I'll take you to all the stuff we confiscated from the Air Nomads."
The three, led by the guard, entered the magnificent hallway. They saw many old valuables, treasures, and artifacts. Everything that had belonged to previous Fire Lords, Fire Ladies, Crown Princes and Princess, all of it was there. "We preserved all of these from our royalty after their deaths, so bandits would not get any ideas. We had various items stolen from the Royal Palace in the days before Sozin, which was part of the reason why he commissioned this," the guard explained. "With that said, on our left here, this is where Sozin stored all the treasures taken from the invasions throughout the world in his time."
"This is it, Aang, are you ready?" Zuko turned to him.
Aang smiled, thinking off all the stuff he might very well see. "Let's do it."
The escorting guard pulled out his keys again, this time isolating the key to that particular door. It was marked with an inscription that translated as "The spoils of War". As to the victors of war went the spoils, today, it was Aang's turn to have these.
The door was opened, and a torch was lit, illuminating the room full of various items from the Air Nomads. Aang looked around with great delight. "We're allowed any of it?" He asked, the excitement apparent in his tone. "It's all yours," the guard told him, "If you so please. With the War over, we may as well let the last Airbender have his relics."
Aang's eyes lit up in amazement as he looked at all the various crafts and whatnot that were all reminders of his culture. Gliders, pendants, clothing, scrolls, a lot was there. The reminders of his culture even made the young Avatar tear up a little bit in a mix of joy and sadness, knowing that they still existed, but at the same time, a reminder of all that was gone, and his status as the lone Air Nomad and Airbender.
"Aang, are you okay?" Katara looked into his gray eyes, bringing her hand up to his face to wipe away some of the tears that had developed and were running down his face.
"I'm alright, Katara," he choked out amidst the tears. "It's just...my culture...it's so great to see it, but the circumstances..."
"I understand," Katara cupped her hand in his cheek.
"Well, Aang, you heard what the guards said, whatever you want, you may have," Zuko turned to him, showing him all the relics of a nation passed on.
Aang looked around the room. He saw, before him, a traditional monk's outfit, yellow pants and shirt, decorated with a yellow-orange robe. It was aligned with a red belt, and a matching pair of shoes. Aang looked at the clothes he had borrowed from Zhito, and knew quickly this was not what he needed. He needed the true reminder of his people. The guard came up to him. "These clothes were confiscated from the monks at the Northern Air Temple. I understand you're from the Southern Temple, however, the Army did not confiscate clothing from there."
"It's okay. I don't mind, as long as I have something to remind me of my people," Aang said.
The guard removed the protective casing around the clothes, allowing Aang to possess them. Within was also a small pendant, made of wood. On the centerpiece was the Airbending symbol, three magnificent swirls of wind. "That's almost exactly what Gyatso wore!" Aang exclaimed. He was right; the only difference being that there were three tassels hanging off the center, as opposed to two on the sides from Gyatso's.
"It's almost like a perfect reminder of home for you," Katara approached Aang and smiled at him.
"Why don't you try it all on?" Zuko asked. "If they're the wrong size, I can have the workers here help you get fitted."
"Thanks, Zuko," Aang nodded. With that, he made his way to a small area to try on the clothing.
After a few moments, the Avatar appeared again. The robes fit him magnifcently, no worries whatsoever. The pendant was draped well over his neck. He now perfectly looked like an Airbender monk, a lot like his former guardian.
"Aang!" Katara remarked in amazement. "You look like....a man now," she chuckled, blushing at the sight of the young man she found a year ago, when he was still more like a little kid. Aang's new look confirmed the change she had seen in him over the past year, from that little boy who only wanted to goof off to a vastly mature Avatar who was duty-driven. She couldn't resist running up to him and throwing her arms around him, silently thinking about his great change over and over again.
"Is there anything else you would like, Avatar?" The guard inquired.
Aang's eyes ran about the entire room, looking for anything he might want. He came up on an old Airbending scroll. "You know, in the future, we might just very well have more Airbenders," he looked at Katara, thinking about what might come for them in the years ahead. "The scroll...may very well help them learn again. It's a very sacred art..."
With no hesitation, the guard unlocked the casing that surrounded the scroll, and then he placed it into Aang's hands. The monk opened it, seeing all the old Airbending techniques, something he could now keep forever, to teach the future generation.
Aang was not a greedy person who sought spoils, thus he only acquired what he had just gotten. Besides, There is peace...I love her...she loves me...I have redeemed myself...all is well.
The White Lotus Returns
With that, two more days passed by. Over that time, all the members of the Gaang worked together to try to repair the capital. Reconstruction was going well, however, some damage from the result of Zuko and Katara's duel with Azula was still un-repaired.
Zuko woke up in high spirits. He gathered Team Avatar outside the palace. "Today, the Order of the White Lotus is coming back, everyone."
"The Order of the what?" Aang appeared visibly confused.
"Don't you remember, Aang? I told you about them on the airship," Sokka reminded the Avatar.
"Oh, right," Aang chuckled, somewhat embarrassed about forgetting. He remembered all the names Sokka told him about. "I'm excited to see Bumi again, but I have to admit, a little nervous to see Jeong Jeong. Our last meeting...well, it didn't work out well, Zuko and Toph."
"Oh yeah, Twinkle Toes, didn't you not listen to him at all, and then wind up burning Sugar Queen's hands?" Toph laughed at him.
"Don't remind me..." Aang's head slumped down somewhat. Katara placed a hand on his shoulder reassuringly. "It's all right Aang, you wound up redeeming yourself in the end. We can't change the past," she said.
"I understand what had happened. I talked to Jeong Jeong about it while we were all at the White Lotus camp," Zuko told Aang. "I don't think you'll have much to worry about."
Zuko, of course, had his own emotional connection to the Order, awaiting the return of Uncle Iroh, the last man who believed in for so long, until he joined Team Avatar. Having not seen him in a week, it was hard for Zuko to contain his emotions, smiling brightly. Every member could relate to the main leaders of the Order in a way; Zuko to Iroh, Aang and Toph to Bumi, Katara to Pakku, and Sokka to Piandao. They all awaited the return of their old friends and family. Sokka and Katara were excited to see their "Gran-Pakku" again as well.
About an hour after gathering in the plaza, Aang noticed an airship against the sun. "Look up there..." He could tell rather easily that it was indeed an airship coming. He noticed a small white flag with a lotus on it, signaling that it was indeed the Order of the White Lotus returning to the Capital.
Within a few moments, the lead ship landed. Two other ships with members landed right behind it. Off the lead ship stepped the central members of the Order, all facing Team Avatar, who now again had Aang in tow.
"Nephew..." a familiar voice called out.
"Uncle..." another well-known voice called.
Zuko and Iroh walked up to each other and hugged one another. A few tears trickled down Iroh's face, standing under his nephew.
Aang stood before the other members, standing in awe of all the old masters he had met on his journey all throughout the world. The first one he went to, naturally, was his old friend Bumi. Aang gave the elder King a hug. "Well, there's the hero of the world! It's great to see you again, Aang," Bumi patted his head. "So you whooped some Fire Lord butt, huh?" he snorted and chuckled all the same, just as he was.
"I guess I did," Aang smiled and stepped out of the embrace.
Katara embraced the old Waterbending master, now her step-grandfather. She left no words, so he followed. "Katara, I heard of your great victory over the Princess. You have truly evolved from the day I first saw you. Congratulations!" He smiled at his student, who was now right up there with him in terms of skill.
"Thank you, Master Pakku," she smiled back at her teacher.
Sokka shook hands again with Piandao, his old swordmaster. "How about you, Sokka? Taking over possibly the most dangerous Airship Fleet in the world. That takes a lot of skill. It is clear you have learned a lot about the sword." However, the elder man noticed something was wrong. "Where is your sword?"
"I'm sorry, Master. I lost it in the forest. I threw it at some soldiers because I was in a bit of a desparate situation. I don't know where it is," Sokka's eyes moved around in sadness.
Piandao placed a hand on Sokka's shoulder. "It's all right. If you wish to craft a new one, stop by my castle any time, I'll be glad to let you have the chance, as one of my best students."
Sokka bowed to the swordman and smiled.
"Zuko, I could not be any prouder of you than I am today. You finally have fulfilled your destiny. I always knew you would find your way, now you officially have. My nephew...the next Fire Lord...is that right?" Iroh asked.
All the Gaang nodded their heads, confirming what Iroh was hoping for.
"Uncle, I should have known you always had faith in me, I still can't believe I turned my back on you, leaving you to be captured...and I was mean to you as well..." Zuko looked at his uncle.
"I am just glad you found your way," Iroh smiled at him, as they shared one more embrace.
The other members of the Gaang and White Lotus exchanged words, handshakes, and hugs.
"Avatar Aang, you certainly are not the goofy student who came to me months ago," Pakku chuckled as he shook hands with the young monk. "Katara tells me you have become a master Waterbender."
"Well, I don't know if I would say mastered..."
The young Waterbender walked up to her boyfriend and hugged him. "Don't be modest, Aang, I told you, you have the reflexes of a Waterbending master, remember?" She poked his cheek with her finger.
"Well, Katara, you have taken quite an interest to Aang," Pakku remarked.
"Yeah...we're kind of...in love," she chuckled and blushed, as Aang put his arm around her shoulder. He joined in the blushing.
"Well, congratulations to you two. Love is a wonderful thing, but, you can ask Kanna about that," the elder master chuckled, referring to his marriage to Katara's grandmother.
"There's someone I need to see," Aang said nervously. "Have you seen Jeong Jeong?"
"Well, he's over there, talking with another member," Pakku gestured in the direction towards the so-called deserter.
"Thank you, Master Pakku," Aang replied. Katara held his hand for comfort as the Avatar went towards Jeong Jeong, the man he dis-obeyed months ago, resulting in his now-girlfriend's hands being burned. Slowly, the two came up to the Firebender, who turned around to notice the two.
"Master Jeong Jeong?" Aang slightly shook and twitched as he spoke.
The former deserter smiled at his former apprentice. "Avatar Aang...it is nice to see you again, my former pupil. It looks like you have brought your Waterbending friend along with you...and you have become...more?" He noticed their interlocked hands.
Aang appeared perplexed at Jeong Jeong's friendliness towards him. "Wait a minute, you...aren't mad at me?"
"Of course not, Avatar. When you came to me, you were an impatient kid who knew nothing of discipline...but your friends told me all that you became. You mastered the elements in order with hard work, practice, and discipline. In fact, I understand that Zuko actually helped you master Fire...the proper way," Jeong Jeong said. "As I said...it takes discipline...and you mastered it. Congratulations on your defeat of Ozai," he bowed to the Avatar.
Aang returned the bow to his first Firebending master. "Thank you, Jeong Jeong, and yes. Me and Katara...we're...together."
Jeong Jeong turned to the girl. "Katara...I have heard much about you. I would also like to congratulate you on your mastery of Water and your defeat of Azula. Master Pakku told me much about you. You are a great young woman, and you are perfect for the Avatar."
"Thanks, Jeong Jeong. Yes...I would say me and Aang are perfect," she smiled at her boyfriend before turning back to the ex-Admiral.
"It was nice to see you both again...good luck with your future, the both of you," Jeong Jeong finished and respectfully bowed his head to them, which they returned.
Preparing for the Future
An hour after the White Lotus returned, Zuko, who had really taken the lead over the last couple of days, gathered everyone up in front of the Royal Palace.
"All right everyone! We are all back together...and finally, the War has ended. There will be no more fighting soon enough. On the day of my coronation, I will officially declare the War over, and we will move into the rebuilding process. It will take a while...we have one hundred years of war to clean up and have to rebuild the whole world. This is not going to be easy....but with the Avatar on our side, we will get this done. I hope everyone is ready. We will need everyone's help to restore order."
Everyone nodded their heads in agreement, showing their approval of Zuko's incoming plan and their new trust in him. He saw himself happy, finally at inner peace. Everyone he looked at was proud of him, including his Uncle. He had brought himself from the depths of banishment, betrayal, and many other problems he had encountered, all to find this victory. All of his regrets slowly faded as he prepared to rebuild the world, his friends at his side.
Everyone had come a long way. From icebergs, barren Tribes, hiding, you name it, they had all developed into heroes, and soon to be factors in restoring peace. They were now the new leaders of the world. The most recognized masters had come together, young and old.
They shared hugs, tears, words, fought together in battles.
They had come through a long, hard travel to get together.
They shared their reunion.
It was all up to the future now.
Or a new beginning?
Canis is a reference to, who frequently uses this name in IRC.
The Aang/Jeong Jeong talk was troublesome to write for me, mostly trying to decide how Jeong Jeong would act towards Aang.
I was not originally considering an OWL return, however, I decided that with the name of the fanon, I may as well do so, plus, I wish we could have seen Zuko and Iroh re-unite after the Comet (Also -- WHERE WAS IROH AT THE DAANG CORONATION!?).
Two fanons down. One to go.
For the collective works of the author, go here.