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The following story is indubitably fanon and should not be considered actual canon.
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LEAVES FROM THE VINE
In an instant, the loud haste of Princess Honora's running drowned out all silence echoing across the walls of the Fire Lord's Chamber. There, he sat alone in the dark...not even the fire was going at the head of the stage---it was simply quiet and lonely.
"Honora," Zuko addressed.
"Father!" she panted, bowing to him before blurting tiredly, "The guards came and got me as soon as they could---when did it happen!?"
"It was earlier this evening..."
She stood and met her father at the throne, her hand clasped around his as she frowned, "Are you alright? I'm worried about you..."
He cleared his throat and kissed her hand, "I'll be alright Honora---it won't be like it was in the past---I have you with me my little lotus."
She sniffed and teared up in an instant, "That was our nickname...I---Father---p-please...tell me---h-how did it happen?"
"Gone through a dream in the night," Zuko replied, a single tear fell from his eye as he struggled to confess the remainder---he held tighter to his daughter's hand and choked out the words... "Just before his morning tea."
Honora started crying and Zuko held her close, shedding a flow of hot tears himself. The Fire Lord looked below and saw his mother standing at the stage of his throne, her eyes were puffy and her cheeks still glistening. Even Azula was leaning in the doorway, frowning in a sulky manner, and lacking that every day devilish humor of hers.
"The Sages are waiting for you now my Lord," Ursa stated calmly, her lip quivering in the slightest.
"Honora..." Zuko rose calmly, "We need to go now, you need to get ready now."
"Y-yes father..." she sobbed, whipping her tears as she jumped down from the throne and followed her grandmother out into the hallway. Azula and Zuko shared one look---a look that for once in his life made Zuko feel like he had an actual, caring sister---then she too turned and left. Alone again, the Fire Lord fell to his knees in tears and he simply sat there and cried---for only a minute, he did nothing else...then he composed himself with the highest of honor, and Zuko walked away from his chambers into the outside world.
It was twilight...a few clouds in the sky carrying a night-time rain, but the pink sun blended together with them so beautifully, one couldn't help but describe the weather, serene. The Fire Lord and the Royal Family entered the stage and stood honorably to the side, wearing clothes of pearl white. The Fire Sages rose to the peak of the balcony and the entire kingdom waited silently for them to speak. Meanwhile, Zuko gazed out into the crowd and saw the fire of every citizens' candle burning dimly. In the crowd, stood the White Lotus, the Avatar's Family, the Beifongs, Sokka, Suki, their children too; then a Shirshu in the back of the crowd meaning June was here somewhere---why, there were even a few familiar faces from the Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se---some familiar to the Fire Lord and some were faces he had never once in his life laid eyes on---all mourning---all with flames---all in tears.
The Fire Sage's voice rang out and swallowed all of the silence; his voice was firm and steady, but loud enough to be heard even at the back gates of the Fire Lord's Palace---he continued, "Iroh...Prince to the Fire Nation, a grand General to our army, and for many years the Greatest Firebender of our generation; you were a Grand Lotus of the original Order of the White Lotus, as well as the humble owner of many Tea Shops throughout this great world---" Zuko smiled for a moment before his frown came back when the Sage added... "Father of Lu Ten, now passed. Brother of Ozai, now passed. Uncle of Azula and Uncle of Fire Lord Zuko. The Great Uncle of Honora..."
There was a pause and the sages surrounded the golden sarcophagus of General Iroh. Zuko longed to speak out---he wished to add all of the information that those sages had forgotten---like: "Iroh was the Greatest Pai Sho player of all time! He saved the last of the dragons---hence his name, the Dragon of the West? He was a father to me all of my life---my reason for being the Fire Lord today..." Zuko's own memories made him smile and a tear escaped, but he continued thinking to himself... "He loved to sing and play the Tsungi Horn---he invented Lightning Redirection...he helped nearly every person that ever crossed his path, most of us here today. Oh, but he always found a time to take a nap and never hesitated to make a pot of tea---Ginseng was his favorite. I tried to make it for him a few times, but I never did make it the right way---and he was too kind to tell me that it was the most disgusting leaf juice on the planet! Uncle Iroh taught my daughter everything he once taught me, and even she can make tea better than I can! And---he always spoke in proverbs---he was a very spiritual, very laid-back spirit himself...He...well, he---" Zuko's tears fell silently, and he looked back as the Sages' mouths moved.
No words came to the Fire Lord's ears, but he made it out as the phrase, "We lay you to rest..." and the sharp fire instantly surrounded the inner part of the coffin. The hot glow from the fire made Zuko jump, but he stood his ground, and bowed along with the rest of his family. Poor, heartbroken Honora's tears could be heard beneath the crackling fire; her sobs and light sniffling drowning out that of Ursa, and even masking that single tear that came from Azula...just one...and it didn't even make it off of her face before she cut it away with her nail.
By now, the sages started stepping off of the stage...Zuko's family were all beginning to rise, as were the solemn members of the crowd...he had to do something---Uncle's earned that much of him---Zuko knew that he had to do something special for him one last time...
"W-Wait!" the Fire Lord called.
Everyone in the entire stadium halted and gasped at the sound of Zuko's voice. Azula and Ursa were frozen in terror at the sheer sight of his speaking out, and Honora watched him with wide, wet eyes, and the Fire Sages simply did not know what to do about this outburst. But, Zuko knew...and he walked in front of the burning, gold casket and looked back at it before announcing to the crowd--- "This man was my Uncle...he means more to me than anything, I need to give him one last thing before we end this..." Zuko caught glances with Aang, and the Avatar only looked back at him in a stern nod as things grew dead silent across the Fire Nation. Under his breath, Zuko mumbled, "One last laugh for you Uncle...I'm sure you'll get a big kick out of it...I know that I will never hear the end of this myself..." then he cleared his throat and Fire Lord Zuko did the UNTHINKABLE! He sang. . .
Leaves from the vine
Falling so slow
Like fragile, tiny shells
Drifting in the foam...
Little, soldier boy
Comes marching home...
Brave soldier boy---"
He stopped and spoke the last of it, "Comes marching home..."
Not a single person laughed, no one snickered, no one said a word, nor even clapped; they simply bowed to their Fire Lord and after minutes enduring one dead, quiet breeze that blew through the stadium, everybody merely went on like nothing ever happened, and the service came to an end.
NOT A MOURNING PERSONOf course, the mourners had to pay their respects... By this time, Azula had vanished from sight; meanwhile, Ursa spoke with a few of the White Lotus Leaders, then of course, Bumi and Honora didn't separate the entire evening---they were snuggled close to one another much to Zuko's grief. The poor Fire Lord had no choice but to sit and hear all of his subjects' sincerest apologies...over...and over...and over again...
"I'm so sorry about your uncle..." a woman expressed; at this point in time, Zuko barely glanced up to see the faces anymore---they were all alike, all sorry---but for some reason, he did look up to see this woman because her voice was just so...familiar?
"Song?" he questioned, "Is that you?"
"It's me, Junior," she smiled. She looked the same, older, a few wrinkles here and there, but still with that sweet, welcoming smile that Zuko remembered.
"It---It's been a while, how are you?" he carried on in a guilty conversation.
"I lost my mother a few months ago," she took his hand, "I know how you must be feeling."
He shut his eyes with disagreement, so Song added, "The kids make it easier to cope---they're young and they always bring a smile back to your mind when you think all joy is forgotten...remember that."
He smiled up at her and she bowed to him, leaving as he called, "I owe you an ostrich horse, Song---don't let me forget it!"
She chuckled and waved her hand before Zuko heard another familiar voice say, "Your Uncle was a very sweet man, Lee...I'm so sorry for your loss."
With a grimace, Zuko looked back and saw yet another woman from his past, and in a shamefaced grin he replied, "Hello Jin...it's been a long time? So, how have you been---"
It was like this until Aang came up and gave his "Huu Speech", then Katara gave him a hug and another family/hope sermon, before finally, a sharp hand of steel struck the Fire Lord by surprise and he barely had time to call of the guards before he realized it was only the Chief.
Zuko almost seemed amused as the fallen Fire Lord recomposed himself and snarked, "You shouldn't punch the Fire Lord, Toph---people don't know that this is what you mean by a hug."
"True," she scoffed lightly, "But, the punch was just a punch---I just owed that to you from a few years back..."He chuckled somberly and Toph tiptoed up and kissed him on the cheek, her hand soon after taking its place as she stated, "That was for your Uncle---he cared about you so much---and look, I know I'm not the most sincere around here, but know that I'm always here if you want to talk."
"Thank you..." he sighed with a small smile. Soon after, the esteemed Chief attempted to punch him one more time, but Zuko caught her fists and she just stood there dismayed as he chuckled, "Not this time, Toph."
"N-No one has ever blocked my affection before?" she gasped; thinking quickly, Toph only punched him with the other fist and Zuko groaned waving his hand through the open air to keep the Royal Guards at bay...because frankly, they were inching in closer and closer the longer Toph remained.
She blushed and snickered, "Nice try hothead, but everybody gets their punch---even if it has to come from my foot! So, think about that next time you try to refuse your hug. Oh, by the way, I loved the song, didn't think you to be the musical mushy type?"
Zuko sighed in a blush of embarrassment and waved away his friends and fellow mourners. Soon it was nighttime and he lay alone in his room looking into a portrait of poor old Iroh; he died calmly after retiring to what he loved for his final few years...Ninety-nine years old, and not a day went by that he refused to give up happiness. Now Uncle can be with Lu Ten wherever they may go---he will be truly happy, singing songs through a river made of tea so pure, Iroh would never leave its waters---
A knock at the door caused Zuko to slip out of his imagination and he wiped his eyes once more before calling, "Come in!"Honora walked into the room with a large smile and a tray of freshly brewed tea in her hands. Zuko chuckled and helped her set it on the nightstand before she pulled over a chair and together, she and her father shared a delicious pot of Ginseng Tea---the exact way Uncle taught her to make it (and it surely did taste just like his). The two of them shed a few more tears as they laughed and talked about Iroh, remembering all of the happy memories he had given them. They talked all night long until the tea pot had not one drop remaining...then Honora continued to cheer Zuko up by crucifying him for that outrageous song he sang in front of nearly the ENTIRE WORLD---AND OFF-KEY TOO!
- Everyone in the Royal Family shared a particularly close bond to Iroh, all in their own different ways.
- This is one of the rare occasions where the Royal Family dresses in White.
- This is the first funeral for a Royal member of the Fire Nation shown since the ATLA episode, "Zuko Alone" and the second one mentioned after Ex-Fire Lord Ozai died in .
- "Leaves From the Vine" was a song that Iroh used to play for his son Lu Ten, and one that he sang every year on his birthday.
- Song was last seen in the ATLA episode, "The Cave of Two Lovers". Note: she is a mother herself now, and still as kind hearted as she was as a teenager.
- Jin was last seen (with a major role) in the ATLA episode, "The Tales of Ba Sing Se" and not only enjoyed a romantic date with the Fire Lord, but also got a kiss in return.
- Note: the Fire Nation Royal Guards DO NOT LIKE TOPH!
- The punch Toph owed Zuko was from Mai. when he went all psycho after the death of
- This is one of those rare moments where Chief Beifong is sincere, and one of the only times she ever gives a man (other than her late husband) a kiss.
- No one in the history of EVER, has ever blocked a punch from Toph...and now that record has been shattered.
- Honora is a very skilled Tea Maker, and also very good at getting her grumpy old father to smile.
- Let it be known that Zuko is not the world's greatest singer.
- The last image in the Fanon was taken via Pinterest... to see the part two (that was not posted on the Fanon) click here.
For the collective works of the author, go here.