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|"How dare you speak to me like this? Insubordination! I wield the power of the Eternal Conflagration! My will is law! I am the Lord of Fire! The Scion of the Sun!"|
"You're a maniac...and you're no longer my brother."
|— Sozin and Kuzon|
Scars is the tenth chapter of the AU fanfiction story .
Kuzon decides to do what Aang cannot do and save Aang's people. He sneaks out at night and releases the airbenders from their cells. Fighting breaks out again as the guards try to contain the escapees. Sozin discovers Kuzon and they fight. Meanwhile, Afiko explains to Taro what he did and offers Taro a chance to live and rebuild a stronger race of airbenders. Taro, too, is disgusted by his mentor's actions and rebukes him. Taro takes his and Afiko's bison, the only free one left, and rescues as many of his friends as he can. Sozin is about to kill Kuzon, and Kuzon has no recourse but to jump from one of the temple's terraces. Taro sees him from a distance and thinks he is an airbender, so he catches Kuzon on the bison as he falls.
"Do the crash-thing!"
"Aang, we'll always be friends, right?"
Kuzon tossed and turned on the bed he was using that night. He got no sleep. All his dreams were half-memories of Aang and his childhood. He stared straight up at the ceiling. What have I done? His brother was a psychotic despot, and Kuzon had helped him conquer innocent people. Kuzon lay there for a long time.
Suddenly, he could take no more. He decided he had to make things right. If Aang were here he would have challenged Sozin and defended his people. And the destruction of the Airbenders would wreak havoc on the balance of the world. It might be the last thing he would ever do, but he knew someone had to do it, and since his old friend wasn't here, he would act in place of Aang.
He got up, and two fire daggers sprouted from the bottoms of his fists. He needed them for light. He donned his armor. Quietly, he left his chambers and made his way across the courtyard to the prison cells. Guards were on patrol. Kuzon kept to the shadows, waiting to catch a guard alone. Concealing himself as one walked by, he knocked out the guard and removed his ring of keys. He entered the cells and opened the first one, in which Taro, Jangbu, and Kunchen happened to be. They were chained to the wall.
"If you're here to kill us, I won't go without a fight!" Taro threatened, rattling his chains. Kuzon said nothing, but proceeded to unlock his shackles.
As soon as his hand was free, Taro chopped it at Kuzon's neck. Kuzon caught his arm and twisted it into a hold. "I'm freeing you, moron," he said. He unlocked the chains of the other monks in the cell.
"Why? There are no bison. We can't get away."
"Get to the gliders and go due east. You won't make it across the sea, but maybe I can steal a boat and pick you up. Get out of here and tell the others."
"It's that or nothing."
Taro looked at him, then rushed out. Kuzon moved on to each successive cell as monks poured out of the prison tower. Taro spread the plan to some other monks before he left. As he was sprinting across the courtyard, someone called out to him from behind a wall. He turned to see Afiko. He embraced his old mentor. "I was so worried! I hadn't seen you since you left for the meeting in the Fire Nation!"
Afiko hugged him back. "Taro, you have to come with me right now. There's no time to explain. Grab some of your friends and come with me."
"Come with you where? There's a blockade around the islands. We can't get anywhere."
"I have our bison. We can escape."
"How did you get Pema?"
"I made a deal with Sozin. He's going to keep us safe."
Taro's smile melted away. He felt like something had struck his heart. He didn't believe it. "You did this?"
Afiko grabbed his hand. "Just come with me, Taro."
Taro looked utterly disgusted. "You did this! You stole the bison! You betrayed us!" He blasted Afiko with air.
Afiko slid back a little but knocked away most of the blast. "Look around, Taro! Obviously I made the right choice. I'm your only chance at life. We can take a few more pupils, go back to the Fire Nation and live in safety. The Air Nomads will live on through us, and we can rebuild the order as we please. We can remake the Airbenders to be a strong, unconquerable people, not cowing weaklings like these monks! You and I will be powerful, the patriarchs of an entire nation! Come with me...I didn't spend all that time training you so you could die here." Taro said nothing. "It's your only choice."
Taro just looked at him sadly. "No."
Afiko chuckled. "Oh, Taro, you don't know what you're saying. Come with me." Taro didn't move. "I'm your mentor; doesn't that mean anything to you?"
Taro was silent. "Please," Afiko pleaded, as close to crying as he had been since his own mentor had died. "I don't want you to die," he said, offering a hand.
Taro just stared at him, then shook his head profusely, trying to make it all go away. Then he sadly took a fighting stance.
"I'll take you forcibly if I have to!" Afiko shouted at the boy, hardening himself again. Afiko easily blocked Taro's first blast and leapt forward with anAairbending slice. Taro pushed the air away. They circled each other, trading blasts and slices. Taro would step forward and strike. Afiko would dodge, then step in with a strike of his own, most of which Taro was able to dodge. Taro was sick with sorrow at the actions of his mentor, and after a few minutes, Afiko was able to simply make him physically tired from the effort of fighting. Afiko chopped both his hands in toward Taro and the air around him mimicked the motion. Taro was too exhausted to move in time and fell down under the barrage.
A gong sounded, and Fire Nation soldiers began streaming into the courtyard to recapture the fleeing Airbenders. The same battle of a few days ago began again. The temple erupted in chaos.
Afiko approached Taro, but before he could grab the boy and escape, Taro surprised him, spinning his legs and tripping his old mentor with a blast of air. In one motion, Taro was up before Afiko even hit the ground. He lifted his mentor with a cyclone of air, spun him around, and launched him off to the side somewhere.
Taro didn't look back or pause. He suspected he knew where Afiko was keeping Pema. He needed to get to her to evacuate the others.
Meanwhile, Kuzon had opened the last cell in the prison tower. As he emerged holding the keys, he saw Sozin approaching angrily with some of the secret police. He caught sight of Kuzon and their eyes locked. For a moment, Kuzon's chest felt like an empty hole. His body went cold. He felt vaguely like he had when Izuma had caught him standing over a smashed antique vase with a ball in his hand, but a thousand times worse. They both just looked at each other for a while, gaping in disbelief.
"YOU!" Sozin cried. He sent a fireball at Kuzon. Kuzon drew his sword and used Firebending to slash away the flame. Sozin drew his sword as well. "Traitor!" Kuzon backed away, around the prison tower to the little plaza outside the south wall.
Sozin approached him with his sword drawn. "Why, Kuzon? Why did you do this?" He sounded genuinely disappointed. "The Fire Nation was on its way to being the most powerful nation in the world. Don't you care about your people?"
"You said you would keep the Airbenders alive! Now you're going to execute them all. Don't you realize that what you're talking about is genocide?"
"I'm making the Fire Nation strong again. I will—"
"You don't care about the Fire Nation! You're doing this because you want to make yourself strong! If you really cared about the Fire Nation you wouldn't send its people to die in a war. You wouldn't taint its honor with the blood of innocents!"
"How dare you speak to me like this? Insubordination! I wield the power of the Eternal Conflagration! My will is law! I am the Lord of Fire! The Scion of the Sun!"
"You're a maniac..." Kuzon breathed, closing his eyes, "and you're no longer my brother."
Sozin placed his other hand on the hilt of his sword for a more powerful grip. He had run out of patience for the last time. "You were always the troublemaker, weren't you, Kuzon?" he said. "Well, now I will make you learn respect!" With that, the fight was met.
The swords given by the Avatar, the swords that represented the universal harmony of yin and yang, the swords which were intended to be used in perfect unison now locked together in struggle. "You shouldn't have skipped all those training sessions," Sozin said. He brought his leg around and in, kicking Kuzon behind his kneecap. Kuzon fell onto his knee, but he swept with his other leg, unleashing a low arc of flame before Sozin could react. Sozin stumbled back. Turning around, Kuzon shifted his balance to the other knee and painfully shot a fireball out of his hurt leg. Sozin dodged, but was forced back a bit. Kuzon rolled away from Sozin, chased back by sparks from Sozin's saber as it hacked the courtyard's stone where Kuzon had just been. "You were always mom's favorite, weren't you? She let you get away with anything! But look at you now!" Sozin cried. "You're worse than Kai Hin!" Kuzon jumped up just in time to parry a mid-level blow from Sozin. Kuzon parried more blows. The swords crashed together. The clacking of the tangs inside the hilts was audible. But no blows landed. Sozin was more aggressive. His sweeping slashes and blasts of fire left virtually no openings. Kuzon backed away, but dodged one swipe of the sword too slowly. As he rolled his head away, the tip of Sozin's blade grazed his face, cutting a gash from his sideburn down his cheekbone to the corner of his mouth. "I should have known this would happen! You always were unable to think of the consequences for what you did!" Sozin shouted. He forced Kuzon back against the wall. There was a gap a few feet wide in the stonework that stood at the edge of the precipice.
When an airbender dies, traditionally his or her body is placed on the edge of one of the temple terraces in a seated, meditating position. The other benders push, or rather, use Airbending to throw the body over the edge, through a gap in the wall. They give the person back to the wind. They believe that in freefall the Divine Wind will carry the soul to the Spirit World. From the vantage of the mourners, the body appears as though it will fall forever, free from any attachment to this world.
Kuzon backed away from his brother, stepping into the funerary gap, holding the corner of the stonework with his free hand. He wore a grim look, but trembled as tears crept down his face. The wind whipped loose strands of his long black hair against his face. It did the same to Sozin. Just for a flash, a shock of hair concealed that wild, demonic look in Sozin's eyes. Kuzon could picture the brother he had grown up with, just for that one moment. It was the last image of the Sozin who had been his brother that Kuzon would ever know.
"Get away from the ledge, Kuzon! I won't kill you if you surrender!" Sozin's eyes seemed to water. He was genuinely sad for the first time in years. Kuzon took a last look at his brother, then threw himself over the ledge.
Kuzon heard the fluttering of his robes where the armor exposed them. He saw drops of blood from his wound float up before his eyes. The wind pressed on his back, howling upwards toward the life he had just given up. He closed his eyes.
Taro was piloting Pema around the temple. He had gotten some of his friends and the very young children out of the battle. He tried to save more Airbenders, but he didn't know how many more Pema could carry safely, and Firebenders were launching fireballs and flaming grapeshot from catapults at them. He couldn't land anywhere. Just a few days ago Taro had been reluctant to even talk to these boys, and now he somehow found himself their de facto leader. But Taro knew that if his friend Aang were here, this is what he would do. Taro decided he would act in Aang's place.
Kunchen knelt over Jangbu, who had been gravely burned on his head and chest trying to escape. He was fading in and out of consciousness. "We have to take him to the healers at the South Pole!" Kunchen called over the din. "He's not going to make it if we don't get him there soon." Taro had no choice. He had to leave the temple now, or he would endanger the people he had taken onto Pema.
As he flew past the South Wall he noticed fire blasts, which lit up a dim image of some kind of battle. One figure was forced back against the wall. Suddenly, the fight seemed to stop. Then the figure fell through the funerary gap in the wall. "Hold on!" Taro called. He piloted Pema into a dive. Perhaps he could save one more Airbender tonight. The monks held the saddle and grabbed the younger children to keep them from being thrown off. Pema just made it next to the falling figure as Kunchen Airbent the man and his sword onto the bison. Taro pulled up on the reins just in time to miss a rocky mountain outcropping hidden just under the cloudline.
Sozin saw the bison catch his brother just before it dove into a cloud. The significance of everything that had just happened finally hit him. "Shoot them down!" He ordered, not checking or caring whether there were any Firebenders within earshot. "SHOOT THEM DOWN!" Sozin stepped back, and let out an incredible cry of rage as he made an extravagant motion and fired a huge column of flame at the escaping bison. Sozin missed, too distraught to aim well, but the blast was huge.
Firebending is fueled by emotion.
Legend has it the blast could be seen as far away as Kyoshi Island.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Enemies and Traitors chapters|
|Prologues - Brothers - Responsibilities - Necessities - Resources - The Avatar - Opportunities - Preparations - Betrayals - Changing Plans - Scars - Counting Losses - Exiles - Ghosts - Homecoming - The Traitor and the Firelord - Escapes - The Last Chance - Legacies|