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Winterscape is a fanon one-shot written for Round 15 of the Fanonbender's Fanontastic Fanon Contest. It stars Zuko and comes across four winds and three scoundrels based on Sozin, Azulon and Ozai who ultimately fail in their quest for power and riches. It is a fairy tale like story, and it is a romance.as a girl who sets out to find a missing . She is guided by
Once upon a time...
It was a kingdom that knew snow for much of the year. Situated far in the north, it had a long winter, thus its spring and fall were quite short, caught between the winter and summer.
As such, they loved the snow there. They lived by the changing of the seasons, and when the snow fell, it was the signal of a season of joy. The people celebrated daily, dancing like the snowflakes and singing like the cold winds. The most joyous day of all for them was the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.
In that kingdom lived a girl named Mihoshi. She lived and worked with her parents and younger sister. Like all in the land, she too was anticipating the solstice with great delight.
During the season, people worked with smiles on their faces, trading goods, decorating their homes, singing with the wind...until three days before the solstice.
On that day, the town crier screamed in sorrow four words that changed everything.
"Princess Elsi is missing!"
A hush fell over the kingdom. The princess had a kind of warmth about her that seemed to shield the land from the chill of winter. Her smile and compassion made her beloved. And now, she had disappeared, and no one wished to revel for the solstice until she was returned.
Now, Mihoshi had seen the princess from afar. She had seen the royal girl, decked in furs of red and gold, hand out coats to those without and re-light torches that had gone dark. Mihoshi had seen love in her eyes, golden as the sun. And she had never told a soul that those were the eyes she felt love for.
So that night, Mihoshi decided to seek the missing princess and bring her back home.
She set out from the village in her green coat, with a green hat atop her head, and made her way to the woods. Everyone avoided the woods in winter, for there were legends about the north wind deceiving travelers, and of a mysterious lad who carried an ever-burning flame.
Indeed, the woods looked very scary, with the dark, clouded winter sky above the girl and the hibernating trees without their leaves, covered in ever-falling snow. It was very cold; the winds seemed to bite any piece of exposed skin, but she pressed on, determined to find the princess and save the solstice celebration.
It was when she had walked so deeply into the woods that she was sure she was lost that she saw him.
A lad carrying a flame that never went out. Just as the legend had said.
Mihoshi bravely walked up to the man.
"Hello?" she said. "What are you doing out in the snow?"
The young man paused and smiled at Mihoshi.
"My home is in the sky," he said. "But, every winter it is covered by clouds, and so I wander here until they depart and I can return in the summer."
He raised the torch he held, and she saw that his eyes were golden, like the sun. And she gasped when she saw the flame-like scar covering the left side of his face.
"Do not fear," he said to her gently. "I got this fighting a terrible lightning storm. The storm threatened to flood your kingdom and set the land aflame with its lightning bolts. I fought the storm for the sake of all of you."
Mihoshi opened her mouth in awe. She knew that legend.
"You're Fire Lord Zuko," she said softly. "The spirit of the sun."
The young lad smiled.
"Yes, Mihoshi of the winter land, it is I. You are looking for someone, are you not?"
And Mihoshi told him the tale of how the Princess Elsi had disappeared the night before the solstice, and how she had always loved the princess but never told a soul, and how she was now determined to find her beloved.
"Even if she doesn't return my love, if she is happy and safe, that is all that matters to my heart," the girl concluded.
"The woods are dangerous," said Fire Lord Zuko, "especially in winter, which is part of the reason I leave the sky during this season. Will you let me guide you, Mihoshi?"
As she followed him and his torch, whose warmth sheltered her from the bitter winter, she listened as he told her of the four winds.
"They all live here," he said. "The south, east and west winds will be happy to help you on your quest. But beware the north wind. She will lead you astray with promises of great fortune and power, but will only guide you to get lost in these woods forever."
Upon seeing Mihoshi shiver in fear, he added, "But yours is a noble goal. The north wind is drawn naturally to the hearts of the greedy. I think you have little to fear."
As they walked forward, a sudden wind blew in from the west. Mihoshi turned, and a young girl dressed in blue faded into sight.
"I am Ket-Ket, the west wind," she said. "What is it you seek?"
"I seek the princess of the winter kingdom," Mihoshi replied.
Ket-Ket pointed to the east. "Go," she said. "If you come upon my sisters, heed them, except for the north wind. She has a heart of ice, be warned."
At another part of the wood, three men had teamed up together to also find someone. They were from another land and had heard tell of a "Snow Queen" who sat on a throne of crystal and kept jewels and silver abound. The three were greedy, and each wanted the legendary riches for himself. Each had a pair of golden eyes like the princess and the sun spirit, but none of their eyes held the same warmth. For these three wanted for nothing but power and glory.
As the three scoundrels entered more deeply into the forest, they heard a voice on the wind from the north.
"Oh, you with fire in your heart, come to me, I will lead you to your desire..."
The men's eyes all lit up. They ran towards the voice, pushing each other back along the way, each wanting to be the one to reach the voice first.
"Come this way, this way..."
Mihoshi and the Fire Lord continued on their path, walking east, as the west wind had pointed. Suddenly, Mihoshi heard a voice calling to someone.
"This way, oh fire of glory, this way! I will grant you what you desire..."
It drifted on the wind coming from the north.
Remembering the warnings given by Fire Lord Zuko and Ket-Ket, Mihoshi followed the sun spirit eastward, while not so far away, the three rogues ignored the light entirely, walking with fortitude to the voice that promised them satisfaction of their greedy hearts.
After a few more steps, another wind hit Mihoshi, this one coming from the very direction she was walking in – the east. She looked up, and noticed that three paths stood before her, and Fire Lord Zuko had disappeared.
"Don't fret, he has only walked on," said a young voice.
Mihoshi looked down. A little girl was fading into sight.
"My name is Maya-Ar," said the girl. "I am the east wind."
"Where did the sun spirit go?" Mihoshi asked her.
"He carries the eternal flame," Maya-Ar replied. "So do you."
Mihoshi was bewildered, for she held no torch.
"It is inside your heart," said the east wind. "That flame is what led you to wander into these woods, and is the reason you have come this far."
Mihoshi thought hard. She thought of the times she had seen Princess Elsi and how she could never tell her she loved her, for not only was she, like all of us, afraid to confess her love, but Elsi was a princess, and Mihoshi was but a common pauper. And as it was, royalty did not marry common folk.
"Oh, come to me, wanderer, and I can give you what you desire."
The voice came from the path on the right, whispering on a cold gale.
Mihoshi peered down the path, and she could hear three more voices – very faint, but clear. They were the voices of greedy men who all wanted the same thing.
Mihoshi stared down the center path. There was nothing there, just the cold wind and snow.
But when she looked down the left path, she felt warmth. It didn't come from the sun spirit's flame, but from her own heart. And in that moment her mind filled with her love for Princess Elsi, and she walked down the path to the left. It was only a few steps before she found Fire Lord Zuko awaiting her, smiling.
"I knew you would trust in the fire of love to guide you here," he said to her.
~sorrows of envy~
The north wind laughed coldly and whisked herself away through the trees. Where she was leading those three fools, she did not know, but she did not care. What fun it was for her, sending them on a quest for riches they would never find if they kept following her.
"Come to me," she called. "Come to me, and I will grant you your desire."
Another heard the voice of the north wind. She was looking out of an icy window, over the treetops.
"Poor fools," said the maiden. "Even if they could catch me, I would never give them their heart's desire. I keep that for a greater purpose."
"Are we nearly there?" Mihoshi asked the sun spirit.
"You need only meet with one more wind, and she and I will help you reach the princess of the winter kingdom."
Indeed, only a half hour of traveling later, she came upon a young woman, about her age, dressed in queenly robes. She was icy blue and looked to be that cold, but her eyes and smile were warm.
"You are the south wind?" Mihoshi asked.
"I am Aira," the woman replied. "Yes, I am the south wind."
Suddenly, another voice rang out.
"I am the south wind!" the voice proclaimed.
The woman came from the north. Unlike the other three winds, her gaze was cold and her mouth was in a permanent sneer.
"No," Mihoshi said. "You are the north wind. I heard you before."
The north wind smiled in a mean way.
"Yes, child, I am Kaligah, the north wind. However, it is I you must follow, not them. For I have seen your heart, Mihoshi, and I know its true desire."
"What would you know about my heart?" Mihoshi said defiantly.
"I know you seek the love of the Princess Elsi, a love that you do not believe can be realized," Kaligah replied. "But, if you come with me, I can lead you to a great power that will cause her to return your love."
She extended a cold, white hand.
Mihoshi pondered this. She did want to realize a love with Princess Elsi. It would make her heart happier than it had ever been before.
Then she saw Fire Lord Zuko out of the corner of her eye, and remembered the very words she had said to him.
Even if she doesn't return my love, if she is happy and safe, that is all that matters to my heart.
She would never want to betray Elsi by placing an enchantment no better than a curse upon her.
Thus, Mihoshi followed the south wind and the sun spirit. Kaligah pushed after them, but found she could not come within close distance of Fire Lord Zuko's flame, for the north wind is afraid of the sun.
The south wind guided the girl and the sun until she could guide them no more, and soon Mihoshi and Fire Lord Zuko stood before a pair of large, thick icy doors.
Also standing there were the three scoundrels who had followed the north wind all that way.
"Why did a little girl come into the dark forest?" one asked Mihoshi nastily. "There is nothing but danger here."
Mihoshi, gathering courage from the warmth of Fire Lord Zuko's flame, stared the three down.
"I have come here because of love!" she declared.
"Fool!" said another as he guffawed. "Love will get you nowhere in this cruel world. Power and glory are the only means of survival. Gah hah haaa!"
They suddenly turned away from her when they heard the north wind's voice again.
"Come this way, oh carriers of flame..."
And the three rogues, ignoring the doors just before them, raced in the direction of the voice, far away from the castle of the Snow Queen they sought.
Where did they go?
That I cannot say, for none have seen them since.
Mihoshi, paying them no attention, approached the thick icy doors...and she opened them.
There, on a throne of crystal, sitting before her, was Princess Elsi.
"You are the Snow Queen!" Mihoshi said.
Elsi stood and nodded.
"Oh, sweet Mihoshi, thank you for coming here."
Mihoshi's mouth dropped. Could the princess have loved her from afar, just as Mihoshi had loved the princess?
"I have seen you," said Elsi. "I have seen your honesty and compassion and realized that I need no prince studded in gold and jewels to make me happy. You have a truly noble heart, and I wish to share mine with it. And indeed, these many years I have been the Snow Queen, keeping my treasures here and giving them to those in need from other lands, which I could not do from home as my aunt, the queen, has forbidden me to travel from the winter kingdom."
"Please come back," Mihoshi said. "The kingdom is in sorrow with you gone, and the solstice celebration will not happen unless you return."
"I left for good this time, for how can I help the rest of the world if I am locked away in my own castle?"
That was when the princess saw Fire Lord Zuko and his eternal flame of love, warmth...and courage.
It was the night of the solstice, and the people of the kingdom cheered as Mihoshi returned with their princess. During the celebration, Queen Meimu was giving a speech, when her niece indicated that she wished to say something.
And so Elsi told all – of how she had been the Snow Queen these many years and how she had found love in a common girl who had walked across the woods for three days to find her, rejecting the courtship of Hahn, a neighboring prince, who walked away quite grumpy.
Queen Meimu didn't know what to make of it, but she looked over the balcony and saw the sun spirit in the crowd. Fire Lord Zuko held his flame up for her to see, and the answer became clear to her.
"I'm sorry, dear Elsi," she said.
In truth, she had forbidden Elsi from leaving because her parents had been killed in a terrible war, and the queen wanted to lose no one else. But knowing of Elsi's compassion, she decreed that the princess was free to travel about the now peaceful world and deliver kindness and joy to those who needed it. And she blessed the match of Elsi and Mihoshi, who both smiled through tears. Mihoshi had found her princess, and Elsi had found her kind, honest pauper at last.
- This story is inspired by several fairytales and folktakes, including The Sleeping Prince, The Snow Queen, The Raven, The Pardoner's Tale and The North Wind and the Sun.
For the collective works of the author, go here.