- This article is about the rescue mission. For the location, see Pohuai Stronghold.
|"The Avatar has escaped! Close all the gates immediately!"|
|— Zhao to the Fire Nation soldiers.|
The Rescue in Pohuai Stronghold was a mission devised by the exiled Prince Zuko in order to rescue Avatar Aang from Admiral Zhao. Zuko was motivated by the necessity to capture Aang himself in order to regain his honor, and was willing to engage in combat against his own people to do so.
Prince Zuko once spoke out against a general's tactics during a war meeting. Because of this, his father had reasoned that speaking out of turn during a war meeting was a grave insult, and forced his son to fight an Agni Kai. When the Agni Kai commenced, Zuko refused to fight and begged his father to cease the duel, as he did not expect his opponent to be his father. Ozai was not merciful and, with a single blast of fire, severely burned his son's face, leaving a permanent and prominent scar. Zuko was subsequently banished and forced to hunt for the Avatar, a task that was considered impossible to accomplish, in order to regain his honor.
Avatar Aang was awakened from his iceberg months prior to the rescue, and the banished Prince Zuko finally saw his chance to redeem himself. However, Aang, journeying with his friends, Katara and Sokka, consistently evaded his attempts at capture.
Zuko and Commander Zhao had been bitter rivals ever since their Agni Kai. The hunt for the Avatar became a brutal competition between the pair. Zhao had more resources at his disposal and thus had a clear strategic advantage over the banished prince.
Zhao journeyed to Pohuai Stronghold to discuss using the Yuyan Archers for capturing Avatar Aang with Colonel Shinu. Shinu refused to grant him the use of his archers as they were needed for security, not "a wild goose chase". However, at that moment, Fire Lord Ozai's messenger hawk arrived to deliver a message promoting Zhao to the rank of Admiral. Shinu was forced to accept his request, as it had now become an order.
Meanwhile, Avatar Aang and his friends were forced to stop in an abandoned city, as Sokka and Katara had both fallen ill from a recent storm. Aang decided to search for medicine for his friends and traveled to an herbalist institute. The herbalist advised Aang to find some frozen frogs in a nearby pond and to have his friends suck on them, as the frogs excreted a substance that could cure them.
While searching for frogs, Aang was ambushed by the Yuyan Archers. Despite his expertise in airbending and basic knowledge of waterbending, he was soon captured. He was subsequently imprisoned in Pohuai Stronghold, where he was harassed by Admiral Zhao. Zhao told him that the situation was hopeless and that no one was coming to rescue him. Aang dared Zhao to fight him, but the admiral refused and left.
Zuko decided to rescue Aang, with the intentions of capturing the Avatar himself and regaining his honor. He decided to incorporate a blue opera mask he had found at a theater into his disguise to execute the rescue. Donning the persona that eventually became known as the "Blue Spirit", he infiltrated the stronghold by hiding under a cart of goods being delivered to the fortress. While the guards were distracted by a speech being given by Admiral Zhao, he crept through the sewers and into the center of the fortress.
Zuko soon reached the hall leading to Aang's cell, and created a disturbance by rolling a Fire Nation helmet down the corridor while hiding around the corner. This lured one of the guards down the hall, whom he proceeded to chain to the ceiling. Two more guards stealthily crept down the hallway, stopping when they saw their fellow soldier chained and gagged. Zuko used their moment of surprise to his advantage, jumping down behind them and quickly chaining and gagging both in the same fashion. The final guard moved to call for help with his horn, but Zuko quickly threw a knife, knocking the horn out of the soldier's hand. The soldier proceeded to firebend, which Zuko counter-attacked with a bucket of water before tripping him.
Entering Aang's cell, Zuko freed him, much to the Avatar's surprise and confusion. The two left the cell. Later on, Admiral Zhao was instructing a scribe write a speech to Fire Lord Ozai concerning his accomplishment when he came across the defeated guards. Upon seeing that Aang's cell was empty, ordered the gates to be closed. Zuko and Aang were soon confronted by guards.
As Aang and Zuko tried to scale down a wall via a rope and quietly escape, the guards spotted them and cut the rope. Aang prevented him and Zuko from falling to their deaths by creating a cushion of air. Zuko and Aang promptly engaged in a skirmish with all of the guards. As the gates closed, Aang tried to run through them, but Zuko was not quick enough, and Aang returned to help him.
Soon, guards began to use ladders to climb up the wall Zuko and Aang were on. Although Aang blasted away many guards with airbending, more emerged, and he and Zuko were forced to flee. Zuko climbed onto Aang's back, and they hopped from one ladder to the next, utilizing them as stilts to traverse the courtyard. They were forced to jump off the last, however, when it was set ablaze.
Battle through the gates
Now on the ground and at the gates, Zuko and Aang were surrounded by guards. The guards fired furiously at Aang, who could do nothing but create an air shield to protect him and Zuko from the flames. Zhao ordered the guards to stop, however, due to the fact that Aang must be captured alive.
Using this to his advantage, Zuko crossed both his swords around Aang's neck, threatening to kill him. Zhao ordered the guards to open the gate, much to Shinu's dismay. Zhao subsequently, however, ordered a Yuyan Archer to fire an arrow at Zuko so he could recover Aang. Zuko was hit, and Zhao sent his soldiers to retrieve the Avatar.
As the soldiers made their way toward Aang and Zuko, Aang removed the Blue Spirit mask hiding Zuko's identity. Bewildered to see who had just saved him, Aang nearly left Zuko behind to be captured or even killed. Instead, however, he fled with Zuko, leaving an angry Zhao to sulk over his loss.
After escaping, Aang retreated to the safety of the forest, where he laid Zuko down to rest. When he regained consciousness, Aang told him about his life before becoming entrapped in the iceberg and his Fire Nation friend Kuzon. After asking him if they could ever be friends like him and Kuzon, Zuko attacked Aang, who dodged out of the way. Aang ran off through the trees, and Zuko walked out of the forest.
Both were quiet upon returning to their designated places. In their mountain hideout, Aang gave Sokka and Katara the frozen frogs and cured them, though Sokka later swore they gave him a wart on his "throatal-flap", and Zuko returned to his ship, requesting "no disturbances".
Prior to the Siege of the North, Zhao, after gathering a large invasion force including Zuko's own crew, entered Zuko's ship and saw his broadswords, immediately confirming his long-held suspicions of the spirit's true identity. He hired pirates to kill Zuko, but the prince faked his death and survived.
A few months later, after the invasion of the Fire Nation, Team Avatar discussed a redeemed Zuko joining their group at the Western Air Temple. In Zuko's defense, Aang mentioned the rescue from Pohuai Stronghold to his group, about which he had previously kept quiet. This did not satisfy the concerns of the group, as Sokka pointed out that Zuko only did so in order to capture Aang for himself.
During the late summer of 100 AG, the Ember Island Players produced a play entitled The Boy in the Iceberg, chronicling the adventures of Team Avatar. Due to the research behind the production comprising word of mouth and unclear sources from witnesses, the play was largely inaccurate. A scene involved the rescue, but the Blue Spirit was portrayed as a man with an immensely large mask that covered most of his body, and Zhao was replaced by Zuko as Aang's captor.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Book One: Water (水)
- 113. "The Blue Spirit"