Landscape at sunrise

I lit the air with a show of Fireworks

Fire Duel
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The Forgotten Warrior





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I walked down the to the dining area that Iroh said we would be having dinner. I had been here a total of three days and me and Zuko had already butted heads more times that you can count. He argued with me at every open opportunity, always questioning my authority on the ship, which I can say isn't much. The torments never ended.

Now Iroh insists that we have dinner together. At one point I believe he gave me a reason, but what it was currently escapes me.

I walked through the door to see a small table with two occupants, Iroh and Zuko. I considered giving Zuko a sign of my disgust, but quickly discarded the idea, giving Zuko dirty looks wouldn't help my case.

Dinner was eaten in silence, all that was heard was the clanks and tinkles of the dishes. Dinner was noodle soup with a type of meat that I couldn't name, but what ever it was it was delicious.

After a while Iroh attempted to make conversation, "we should arrive at the harbor by tomorrow morning."

This interested me, "where is it?"

"It is located in the Southern Earth Kingdom, but as for it's name I don't know."

Zuko's spoon clanged against his bowl, "who really cares?" he inquired irritated.

"What's your problem?" I said asking my own question.

"What direction have we been traveling the past three days?" he asked sarcastically.

"Northeast." I consented.

"What country is in that direction?"

"The Earth Kingdom," Zuko gave me a smirk that told me I had just played in to his hands, "Well sorry for trying to make conversation!!"

I grabbed my bowl and spoon, and briskly left the room.

The birds that I had been watching continued to slowly circle one another. The small flock was the largest source of life I had seen in a long time. The birds were a few miles away, but with so few lifeforms, my solar vision had expanded considerably the past few days. I didn't have much to do on Zuko's ship, so Firebreathing became a great pastime.

I heard the creak of the metal door leading to the high deck. I didn't turn around, but I did open my eyes, and judging by the size of the shadow, it was Zuko.

"What do you want, Zuko?" I asked agitated.

"Iroh wanted me to formally apologize for my behavior these past couple of days," he replied as if he was doing me a favor.

Zuko had been extremely irritating since my arrival. Whenever he wasn't arguing with me, he simply didn't acknowledge my existence. I had tried several times to befriend Zuko, instead of making him my nemesis ally, but he never responded to my attempts. Once and a while I could make him talk, but he was always curt and superior, and that had irked me greater than Zuko could fathom.

"I guess I'm not used to accepting help from others," he continued, but a note in his voice told me it was implied to mean, I'm not used to dealing with a girl younger than me, but ten times more lethal.

"Don't worry," I assured him casually, "you're not exactly what I bargained for when I accepted this mission, either."

I still wasn't looking at Zuko, but I could almost feel his anger turn to puzzlement. "What are you doing?"

I took a deep breath, "Firebreathing."

There was silence as I held my breath, he was waiting for an explanation. I exhaled, "Firebreathing is a technique Regis taught me to help my Firebending." I gestured for Zuko to take a seat next to me.

I closed my eyes and tilted my head slightly to the Sun, "Close your eyes and focus on the Sun's power, it will let you see the heat of the lifeforms around you."

Zuko nodded and tried Firebreathing. My attention was drawn back to the circling birds a few miles off. A couple a minutes passed before Zuko exclaimed in frustration, "this is impossible!"

I sighed in exasperation, "try this, I'm going to do a slow Firebending drill, focus on my InnerFlame, try to see the Flames."

I began to slowly form Flames with perfect form and deep breaths. I glanced at Zuko, who's brow was knitted with concentration. Just when I thought he'd finally figured it out, Zuko jumped to his feet, fists Flamed in fury. He angrily stalked off the deck muttering furiously to himself.

I rolled my eyes and watched the fading hues of the now setting Sun.

I awoke early the next morning, and left the ship to head off to the harbors. I bought a few sizzling fish that I couldn't resist; I ate them for breakfast. After wandering around a few stands I made my way back to the ship.

I weaved in and out of the chains anchoring the boats to the docks. I paused; a cool sea breeze slithered through my hair and across my skin. I looked for Zuko's crumpled ship, but found Zuko instead. He and Iroh seemed to be conversing with Captain Zhao. I had seen Zhao only once; he had been belittling a seller of some moon peaches. They were a little bruised, but Zhao insisted that she be arrested for selling rotten fruit.

Zuko was faced toward me, and his shoulders were slouched like a disappointed child. I caught his eye; I snickered at his pose. Zuko immediately straightened up and glared at me.

Soon Zhao led Iroh and Zuko away, I didn't know where exactly, but I was confident that they wouldn't be gone long. I boarded the ship to find Zhao's soldiers questioning the crew. One of them approached me and asked if I knew anything about Zuko capturing the Avatar.

Of course I knew Zuko had had the Avatar in custody, but I couldn't just betray Zuko like that, especially if it meant jeopardizing my mission as well.

So I replied, "I don't know I only joined the crew a few days ago." That seemed to satisfy the soldiers, because they left soon after.

I wandered the ship for a while expecting to see Zuko or Iroh pass by, but neither made an appearance. Anxious I set out in search for the two. It didn't take long to locate Zhao's temporary strategy tent.

Two guards barred my way and I began to explain, but soon Iroh heard the commotion and insisted I come inside. I entered the tent, but not before giving the guards a quick smirk.

Zhao was not present, but Zuko descended upon me quick enough, "You told them didn't you?!?!?!" he spat in fury.

I took a quick breath and convinced myself I would not let my temper get the best of me, "I simply told them that I knew nothing, I had just arrived on deck a few days ago."

"You lie!!"

"Zuko, what would I gain by telling Zhao you had found the Avatar?" Anger was rising inside my chest.

"By keeping me banished, you already hate me!!"

"We share the same mission, Zuko!" my voice was rising, "You're not seeing sense! We have the same enemy now! Zhao! He's the one who's going to steal the Avatar from you!!"

I watched as Zuko's rage turned from me to Zhao. "I need to keep Zhao occupied until my ship is repaired."

He sat down and spent the next few minutes exchanging ideas, with Iroh, to keep Zhao busy. Me, not being involved, retreated to the shadow of the tent, becoming hidden in the folds.

"That means I'll have to challenge him to a n Agni Kai..." This caught my attention.

"You can't challenge Zhao to an Agni Kai, you'll never win," I said matter-of-factually, I glanced over to Iroh, his face told me that he was uneasy about letting his nephew duel Zhao, as well.

Zuko's eyes flitted around the tent searching for me, unaware of my disappearance. Unable to spot me, Zuko continued his plan, "it'll be easy, you can teach me more Firebreathing to strengthen my bending and it'll be a breeze."

"No," I answered from the shadows, "I will not help you jeopardize our miss—" but Zhao walked in an I stopped mid-sentence.

I quickly examined Zhao; he hadn't changed a bit. "My search party is ready. Once I'm out to sea, my guards will escort you back to your ship and you'll be free to go." He looked pleased; as if crushing a sixteen-year-old's dream of returning home was an accomplishment.

Zuko looked up angrily at Zhao and spat, "Why? Are you worried I'm going to try and stop you?"

Zhao laughed, amused by the notion, "You? Stop me? Impossible."

Zuko leaped to his feet, "Don't underestimate me Zhao! I will capture the Avatar before you!" He thundered. He was a good actor, Zhao was just eating it up, but I knew from a strange calm in his eyes, that he had everything under control.

"Prince Zuko, that's enough," Iroh warned. Iroh knew very well that there were great horrors that Zhao could do to Zuko if he didn't tread carefully.

"You can't compete with me," Zhao stated smugly, confidence flooding his words, "I have hundreds of war ships under my command and you? You're just a banished prince. No home, no allies. Your own father doesn't even want you."

That struck deep inside Zuko. I hadn't been told why Zuko had been banished, but I could sense that this had something to do with it. "You're wrong!" Zuko fumed, "Once I deliver the Avatar to my father he will welcome me home with honor, and restore my rightful place on the throne!"

"If your father really wanted you home, he would have let you return by now, Avatar or no Avatar," Zhao said bitterly, "But in his eyes you are a failure and a disgrace to the Fire Nation."

"That's not true," Zuko growled.

"You have the scar to prove it." Zhao's cruelty never ends.

With a cry of frustration, Zuko sprang forward and stopped just inches from Zhao's face. "Maybe you would like one to match!" I watched from the shadows, as the two glared at each other in anger.

"Is that a challenge?" Zhao mocked Zuko's exclamation.

"An Agni Kai. At sunset." I caught a quick note of satisfaction in Zuko's voice as he got just what he wanted.

Zhao "Very well," Zhao accepted, "It's a shame your father won't be here to watch me humiliate you." Zhao turned to the tent opening, "I guess your uncle will do." Zhao left.

"Prince Zuko?" Iroh questioned voice full of concern, "have you forgotten what happened last time you dueled a master?"

"I will never forget."

I was sick of this nonsense, I reappeared from the shadows, "Are you crazy?! Why would you jeopardizing our mission, by challenging that monster to a Fire duel?!?!"

I stalked out of tent before either could stop me.

I strode back to the ship, but instead of boarding, I watched the repairs on the ship from an alleyway. The shadows lengthened, time, now my enemy. In little more than an hour Zuko would be fighting for his life, and there would be nothing I could do to stop him.

"You could help him," a voice sounded behind me. Calm, coaxing.

"What if I help him and he still dies, failing my mission for me?" I hung my head, my eyes staring at my shoes.

"What would do if he dies and you didn't do anything to help him succeed?"

I sighed; I knew I would fail either way so why not try to keep him alive. I turned to face Iroh, "fine, I'll help." I consented, but as the words left my lips an idea blossomed, a way to keep Zuko alive. "But I will not let him die." I added.

My statement confused Iroh, but I didn't stay around long enough for him to question, I was already headed back to the tent.

Zuko sat cross-legged in front of me. Several candles were lined before him. This was one of the simplest forms of Firebreathing that I could think of. I lit the wicks.

Addressing Zuko I explained the exercise, "feel the power of the candles, how the Flames flicker in the breeze. Breathe; when you inhale, make the Flames grow. When you exhale, let the Flames diminish to their original size."

Zuko obediently closed his eyes; I watched him attempt to make the Flames grow. His breaths slowed, but grew in length. After about five minutes Zuko opened his eyes, "it's not working."

Both Iroh and I gave him a look that could kill. Zuko rolled his eyes, but returned to the Firebreathing. A few more minutes passed with no success.

"Get up!" I snapped.

Zuko jumped to his feet at the sharpness of my command. I took his place, cross-legged behind the candles.

The Sun was still up, so I could see the Flames, something Zuko was still incapable of. I began to take deep breaths, the Flames rose above my head. I exhaled sharply and the Flames receded. I smiled; I loved Fire.

Accompanied by different patterns of exhaling and inhaling, I lit the air with a show of Fireworks. Flames danced through the air, they licked close to my small audience, but never touched them.

Sure I used several different techniques of Firebreathing, but that was beside the point. My point was to show Zuko the wonders of Firebreathing.

Soon I let the Flames dwindle back to their small flickers in the breeze. I opened my eyes to find both Iroh and Zuko gaping at me in awe.

I had to suppress a smile at their stares, "the would of Firebending is in the breath." I said seriously, "not in the muscles or the movement. Breathe," I commanded Zuko.

He resumed his position and within the next few minutes he was Firebreathing. I released my clenched fists, I didn't realize how worried I was. I glanced over at Iroh who looked relieved as well.

A gong sounded from the Training Field. I gazed at the Sun through squinted eyes, it was beginning to sink below the fiery ocean.

It was time, "Zuko, don't attack first, it is easier to fight a defensive battle. Let him do all the hard work, you just evade and find an opening in his defenses, okay?" I hoped Zuko understood how crucial this next battle was.

"Kyza, thanks for the Firebreathing, but I don't feel any different, I'll fight Zhao with all I've got, but I don't think the Firebreathing worked," Zuko replied ignoring my advice. Zuko turned and began walking toward the sound of the reverberating gong.

"Zuko!" I called after him frustrated, "you have to look deep inside yourself to find the power of the Sun!"

Zuko just nodded and dismissed my final words with a wave of his hand.

My shoulders slumped and I huffed angrily, Zuko's dismissal of the Sun's power would be his downfall.

I felt Iroh's reassuring hand on my shoulder, "I'll try to help him as best as I can."

"What if it's not enough?" I asked, "Zuko and I don't always see eye to eye, but that doesn't mean I want him throwing away his last chance."

"I know," he replied softly, "I know."

Surrounding the Training Field, what the Agni Kai was being held, was a thin wall. It was made mostly of wood, with a flimsy rail. I had gone back to the ship to retrieve my bow and arrows. Then, I climbed a ladder to the top of the wall, where I stood now.

I planned to, if needed, shoot Zhao before he had the change to harm Zuko. Zuko, of course, would hate me for saving him, and I would have dozens of Fire Nation soldiers after me. But I didn't intend for anyone to see me actually shoot Zhao.

There was the slim chance that Zuko would win, but that was extremely unlikely.

Zhao and Zuko stood at either ends of the field, all of the training equipment had been removed for the Agni Kai. Both Zuko and Zhao were shirtless, thus was the custom, and were covered with a thin Fire Nation blanket.

I sat on the wall's walkway. I notched one arrow in my bow so I could quickly retrieve it if things took a turn for the worse. I closed my eyes and began to Firebreathe. It wasn't very often that I had the opportunity to see two Firebenders fight, when I'm not the opponent, so I seized it.

Only once had I Firebreathed during an Agni Kai. Two generals had gotten in an argument and challenged each other to a Fire duel. I was amazed at how the Flames pushed their way through the body to be released as Fire. But still had time to evade their opponent. To see it again was a chance I would not pass up.

Synchronized, both Zhao and Zuko stood and let their blankets fall to the ground behind them. I closed my eyes and gasped at Zuko's InnerFlame. It was so much larger that Zhao's that I was convinced if Zuko had the patience to master Fire quicker Zhao would be facing his doom.

A gong sounded again; I mentally cringed at I waited for Zuko to abide by my advice or discard it. The silence was excruciating, then...

Zuko fired the first Flame; I sighed this was going to get messy. Zuko shot several fireballs that were well aimed, but shot too slow, leaving Zhao with plenty of time to block or evade each shot.

I fell under the beauty of the Fire; I lost track of the shots fired, all I knew was that Zuko was losing. He lost his footing and fell to the ground. My eyes remained closed, but I grabbed by bow and the single arrow from the ground next to me. I stood and aimed for Zhao's InnerFlame; it was the easiest target to see with my eyes closed. I saw the heat being pushed from the InnerFlame; I hesitated, it looked so beautiful, just one more Flame couldn't be that bad, Zuko would survive.

The Flame pushed down Zhao's arm; Zuko's InnerFlame quivered with fear of being smothered. Suddenly, Zuko's InnerFlame grew in strength, gained more power; He swept Zhao's feet out from underneath him. Zuko rapidly emitted Fire from his feet at Zhao; breaking his roots.

I smiled; Zuko had to be doomed and had turned to it as a last defense, but he had found the power of the Sun. With the tables turned, Zhao then found his place on the ground in defeat. My hunger for revenge swelled; had I been Zuko, I would have given Zhao a scar to remember. I would gathered all my anger and frustration that I had ever felt when someone criticized my ability and age.

I saw the Flame pass through Zuko's arm and extent as Fire...I opened my eyes in confusion. Zuko missed; He hit the ground just above and to the right of Zhao's head.

I watched Zuko carefully, he said something to Zhao, but I was too far to hear. Luckily, I caught a couple of words by reading his lips. Get in my way...won't hold back.

Anger swelled inside me; Why couldn't he just Burn Zhao? Take revenge! Bask in his Victory? No, he had to let this foolish commander wander free! Free to further attempt to disgrace other able youth! Seething I jumped from the wall with my bow and quiver.

That evening I lurked in the shadows, hidden from the crew. At one point Zuko passed me, I planned on letting him overlook me, but the question jumped out of my mouth before I could stop it.

"Why?" It was only one word and vague, but Zuko knew exactly what I meant.

Zuko didn't search for me, like he had in the tent, he just stopped, and I didn't go to him either.

"I did what you told me, I looked deep and found the Sun," he said ignoring my previous question, "thanks."

"You defeated him," I continued ignoring his statement as well, "didn't you want to finish him? Or at least give him something to remind him not to mess with you?"

I watched him sigh, "Yes, I wanted to show him that I could defeat him and capture the Avatar. But I couldn't inflict on someone the pain I went through when I was Burned. He deserved it, but Zhao was right. I am a coward. But believe me it won't happen again."

I scrunched my nose in my gloomy cover, "people with weakness get killed by those who lack them."

Rhea told me that one day when I claimed that everyone had a weakness. Since that day Rhea chastised I promised to never be weak, I had expected everyone to do the same.

Later that night I lay in bed feeling a little guilty. Regis would be ashamed at my behavior toward the Crown Prince, I felt my heart feel a pain of loss, but quickly pushed it away. I, instead, thought about how Rhea would react to my audacity. I imagined Rhea punishing me for my outburst, I paused in imagination, then shivered.

No, I thought smiling, Rhea understood my intolerance for weakness.

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