Category: Avatar: Last Airbender
Author: Mrs Pettyfer
Title: The Phoenix Queen
Pairing(s): Multiple pairings that you will just have to wait to see ;)
Rating: T - For some dark themes, violence, and light language. No lemons.
A/N: Welcome to the sequel of The Rise of One and the FINAL installment of The Black Games! I highly encourage you to read both The Black Games and The Rise of One, because this won't make quite as much sense if you haven't. ;) Now, I have not read all of Mockingjay, so I can't really say this will follow a similar plot intentionally. I'm anticipating this story to be between 15-20 chapters, and I'm really excited (and kind of sad) to finish this trilogy. Thanks for sticking with me guys. We made it to the final story, woo woo!
Disclaimer: The Avatar world and characters belong to Mike Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The Hunger Games belongs to Suzanne Collins. Both inspired me to write this story.
I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day - Just For One day, Peter Gabriel
Over a hundred years ago, Sozin seized the four nations and established the Fire Nation. He created 12 provinces to rule from his fiery throne in the Capital. There is no freedom, no peace, and little happiness. We survive because we are human, but we stopped living long ago.
My name is Katara and I am from Province 9. My home is surrounded by icy walls and frigid waters, keeping us isolated from the rest of the world. Many don't make it through the harsh cold winters because they could never afford supplies and medicine. But that's starting to change now that I've won the Black Games and brought some riches to my province.
Many lives were lost in the Games, including my big brother, Sokka. I volunteered for the Games so he didn't have to go alone. I wanted to protect him, and in the end he died protecting me. Life is painfully ironic sometimes.
I killed three people and it still haunts me to this day. I tell myself I had no choice, that it was either me or them, that I was defending myself, but no matter what reasons I come up with, each death tore a little bit of my soul away. I'll never be the same as I was before. I'll never be able to erase that final image of their dead, bloody bodies, of the cannon ringing in my ears signaling their deaths. I can't change what I did, but I can't regret it either. It's the reason I'm here, alive.
The only saving grace I have is that I managed to save one of them. I killed Prince Zuko so he could live, as crazy as that sounds. He was my enemy and my ally, and he was the only person besides my brother that I trusted with my life. I haven't seen hope in a long time, but I see it when I look at him. A hope for a better world than what it is now.
That's why I tried, in the limited ways I could, to keep him alive during the Quarter Duels. I wasn't the only one, either. The White Lotus did whatever they could to make sure he made it to the final round. They even rescued us from the Duels and brought us here. I don't know what they want me to do or what their plan is. I may not be a general or a solider, but I'm a fighter and I'll never give up. I've never been in the position to make a difference, but I think I am now.
When I fled the Capital, I chose to stop surviving.
I chose to live, even if it's just for one day.
Chapter 1 - Province 13
Province 13 isn't supposed to exist. And yet I can't deny that it doesn't, with it staring at me right in the face.
The city is situated along a wide bay, beneath high rising snowcapped mountains. Run-down industrial buildings and shops line the cobblestone streets and are crushed together, some rising high into the sky with dirty glass windows and pointed rooftops. A tall, beautiful golden bridge glimmers to the west. Just looking at the cityscape I can tell it is huge, two to three times the size of the Capital.
And it is entirely abandoned.
There are carts with wheels overturned in the streets, windows covered with dust and some even broken, doors hanging off hinges, papers blowing in the streets. It might have been magnificent once, but now there isn't a single sign of life in this gray and gloom city. The only color comes from the green tint of my mask lenses.
I look to the mountains and think of the sky bison. I have to strain my memory, but I finally remember what Aang had said.
"So why do you have a whistle?"
"Because Appa always comes when he hears it."
Appa. I have to tell Bowen that was his name.
The boat came out to us before we got too close to the city. I don't know all the details, but there is something in the air that requires us to wear these masks. Apparently they don't make one big enough for a sky bison, so they didn't want him getting close enough to contract the disease. Bowen told him to fly high into the mountains and wait for his call. I never saw an animal understand a human before, but the sky bison flew off in that direction like he did.
I wonder why he listens. Does he know Aang is gone, even if his whistle is still here? I have a horrible feeling the Capital didn't let him go home with Aang's body and that's how Bowen was able to find him. The scars I saw on his side show a struggle of some kind, the kind that usually comes from a fight with a Firebender or two. When all this is over, I'll be sure to free him.
I look away and focus on the three individuals in front of me. They look every bit like an image taken from a wanted poster with their matching uniforms and masks that hide their identity. I recognize them immediately as the same people who blew up the arena. The Games have taught me caution and I was hesitant to get on their boat, but a quick flash of a white lotus tile convinced me pretty quick. That and I don't really have any other option.
I follow the White Lotus members through the city. Beside me and clutching Bowen's arm is a tiny woman wrapped tightly in a cloak. His mother. Somehow he managed to get her out of the Capital. That was the other deciding factor for me to get on the boat. If Bowen trusts them with his mother, then I can trust them too. She hasn't spoken much, but I think she's terrified. I can't blame her. This place is too dead to feel any warmth or comfort.
We pass large factories and overturned cargo carts that are so large I can't help but question it. "What did this province do?" I ask.
"Specialized in weapons of mass destruction," says the girl in the middle, leading the group. "It was kept quiet."
Quiet? That's an understatement.
"Nobody had any clue it existed," I say.
"The Fire Lord made sure of that," she says bitterly.
"What do you mean?"
"Survivors had their tongues cut out."
My stomach lurches and I actually stop walking. Mica, Bowen's mother, lunges out and grabs my wrist, dragging me forward. I trip but quickly gather myself. I am so blinded by the horror of having my tongue cut out that it takes me a second to comprehend the word "survivors."
Survivors of what?
Before I can ask, we're approaching a section of the road that's built lower into the ground, like an empty moat. I jog down, letting my momentum carry me forward. I notice to my right the path ends at a tall metal gate. It looks like a tunnel that leads to the factory above. This must be an underground entrance.
One of the members takes a stance and shoves his hands up. The gate automatically rises, allowing us to enter. An Earthbender, then.
Inside is a long, dark and chilly tunnel. The metal gate closes and we start making our way down. Mica shivers next to Bowen, and thankfully the other member lights a fire in his palm to give us light. I catch glimpses of pipes and stone, but not much else. We finally enter a large cavern with flickering torches that illuminate the damp and cold looking facility. On the other side of the cavern are two separate tunnel entrances.
"Everyone into the mine cart," says the Firebender.
The mine cart, I realize, is a metal looking cart that's attached to something on the tunnel ceiling. It reminds me a little of what I saw in Five, but at least we won't be dangling hundreds of feet in the air. These just hover a few feet above the ground. It seems to be the transportation out of this cavern and into the next tunnel.
I follow Bowen and his mother to the front of the cart. The girl and Earthbender hop on, but the Firebender stays behind, keeping his back to us. He must be on watch, then.
"Hang on," says the girl, taking her spot in the middle of the cart. "I don't want anyone falling out." Then she shoves a lever down and we're lurching forward.
The mine cart is faster than I expect and I feel my hair whip around my face. A bright light flashes in and out at the front of the cart, like a flickering flame. Behind me, Bowen murmurs words of comfort in his mother's ear. I wonder what he's telling her so she remains calm. Maybe she's so terrified she can't even panic or react.
If I'm being honest, I'd admit I'm close to screaming myself and my head is still throbbing, but I can't afford to do that. I keep my hands gripped tightly against the railing and try not to think of the past few hours of my life. It's all painted with tears and blood and fire.
The ride ends quickly and we stop in an empty cavern. The girl motions for us to exit the cart. I reach up to take off my mask, but she holds out a hand to stop me.
"Wait until we're in the airlock chamber," she says.
She leads us across the cavern to a single metal door. Once we're all inside the narrow room, the Earthbender shuts the door and locks it tight. I look around, but all I see is a metal cabinet and a lot of pipes. He nods at the girl and she pushes down a lever on the wall. A sound like rushing water fills my ears and then it's over.
The girl takes off her mask and shakes her hair free. It's long, thick and wavy, the color of midnight. I can't help but feel an ounce of jealousy when she blinks at me with wide, green eyes and a pearly white smile. She's the kind of beautiful that you can't help but stare at a few seconds.
"Sorry I didn't introduce myself earlier, but I wanted to get here as soon as possible. I'm Asami," she says, and reaches forward to shake my hand. I shake it and then take off my own mask. She looks at Bowen and reaches out to him next. "We've spoken before—well, through letters. It's nice to meet you both."
"Wait," Bowen hesitates, "you're the Mechanic?"
"You sound surprised."
"You're a woman," he says, sounding so much like Sokka that I don't know whether to slap him or hug him.
"Wow, is that how you won, with your perception and cleverness?" Asami rolls her eyes and moves toward the other side of the chamber.
Bowen's lips slowly turn up into a half smile. "You flatter me."
She ignores him and opens the door. "Welcome to our refuge."
We step through to a huge space that looks like a war camp, rather than a factory. Conveyer belts and work stations have been ripped from the floor to make room for make-shift homes out of tents and fabrics, tables and chairs made from cargo boxes, and a few crackling fires. I don't see many people, but the ones I do are wearing the same uniforms. They all stop to stare at us.
"It's so…quaint," Bowen says with some effort.
"It's all we have," says Asami. "This is where we sleep. It's not very private, but it's safer if we're all in the same place." She turns the Earthbender. "Shai, please show our guests around and get them something to eat."
"This is not my house," says Mica in a crackling, hoarse voice. "How are we here? Who are you?" she demands. I can hear the panic, the starting of another meltdown. She starts to pull away from Bowen, backing away like a scared animal. I knew it was only a matter of time.
He must have warned the White Lotus about her, but I can tell they are uneasy and I don't like how Shai's hands are reaching for his belts.
Do something, Katara!
"I need you," I blurt out suddenly. Mica looks at me with wide, blinking eyes. Everyone else stares at me in surprise.
"You…you need me?" she squeaks.
"Yes. In the kitchen," I say, praying they have one. "We could really use your help preparing the meals. It's…very important and I wouldn't trust just anyone."
Her hands drop, no longer struggling. She takes a tiny step toward me, curling her fingers into her cloak. "Do I know how?" she asks innocently, sounding like a timid child. Bowen looks as if he stopped breathing and my heart breaks for them both.
"Of course," I say softly. "And the others will help you—you'll help each other. I think you're going to do a great job."
Mica gapes at me in surprise, and slowly her lips turn up into a hesitant smile. "Is this your house?" she asks quietly.
"It is now," I say, giving the only answer I really have. "So will you help me serve my…guests? Help in the kitchen?"
She seems to be struggling with a decision, working it over in her mind. Finally she says, "I think, I think I can try." Bowen's shoulders drop in relief. She steps forward and pats my cheek. "Pretty girl."
"Katara," I tell her. "My name is Katara."
"Pretty girl," she says again.
Shai agrees to take Mica and Bowen to the kitchen, which thankfully does exist. Bowen keeps a hand around her shoulders as they move away, but before he's out of sight, he glances back at me and mouths, Thank you. I've never seen him look so desperate and relieved that I don't know what to do with that. So I just nod to him in response and watch them go in silence.
"He told us he was bringing someone who was sick," says Asami, once they're out of earshot. "I didn't realize she might be dangerous."
"We're all dangerous when we want to be."
Asami pauses thoughtfully and then nods. "Is that his mother?"
I shrug, because it's his business if he wants to tell or not. "Ask him," I say.
"How did you know what to do with her?"
"I didn't," I say honestly. I guess she reminds me of Rox a little. Rox seems to function better whenever her mind is set to a task. Maybe it won't work with Mica, but it's worth a shot. "They need to have patience with her in the kitchen."
"Oh, Cookie is a huge sweetheart," says Asami, smiling. "You have nothing to worry about."
"Your cook's name is Cookie?"
"He said it fits better than his real name."
"What's his real name?"
"No idea. Come on," Asami waves. "You need some medical attention."
"Where is Amun Ra?" The shock of the escape, of seeing 13, is slowly starting to pass and all my questions I've kept locked away are about to spew out. "I saw him on a criminal poster and I saw him take Zuko. Is he the Grand Master of the White Lotus? Where are Zuko and Pakku?"
Asami laughs. "I promise to answer all the questions I can, but first we need to examine you and you need to eat something. You're as pale as a sheet."
I know it's still throbbing, but I don't even realize how lightheaded I actually feel until she mentions it. It's like all my adrenaline finally wore off and all I feel now is raw and exhausted, pain throbbing in my temples and behind my eyes. I shake my head, as if clearing myself of all weakness.
"No," I tell her. "I'll let you look at me after I see Zuko."
She hesitates, bites her lip and looks over her shoulder, then back at me. Something in my face must decide for her because she nods and says, "Alright, come on."
We move through the cavern, passing the make-shift homes. Some are propped open and inside I see people tending to the sick. No one pays me any attention and anyone who does stares at me with hollow, empty eyes. There's a strong sense of death and loss here, but I think there's some hope, too. Just enough to keep them fighting to stay alive.
Asami stops at one of the tents and peeks inside. Then she pops back out. "He's sleeping and there are still some—"
I move past her and fling the flap of the tent back. As soon as I'm in, my vision narrows and I see nothing but the pale arm hanging from the cot, the messy dark hair, the even breathing from his bare chest. I move without feeling until my legs bump the cot. I drop to my knees and swipe my hand across Zuko's forehead, pushing back his hair.
He's lying on his back, his head turned ever so slightly on his scar so his hair keeps falling back into his eyes when I push it out of the way. They've done a decent job cleaning him up, but I can tell there aren't any Waterbending healers among us. There are still some burn marks across his chest and neck, a stitched up gash on his cheek, shoulder, and above his heart. He's bruised, banged up, but he's alive. That's all that matters.
Picking up his dangling hand, I place it gently at his side and lace my fingers in his. Then I lean forward, resting my head on his arm. It isn't until I'm almost asleep do I notice my mother's pendant tied around his other wrist.
I wake to someone shaking my shoulder. I sit up so quickly and lash out that my neck screams at me in protest. My hand clenches around a ball of fabric and I yank down, prepared to strike with my other hand. A squeal of surprise catches my attention and it's like the colors and pictures finally come into focus. I blink and let go, horrified, as Asami stumbles and catches her balance. She looks down at me with concern and, after straightening up, backs up another step. Her hair is pulled back and her pale face is streaked with what looks like black paint. What's she been doing? Her hands are pressed together, holding a brown bowl that smells something both foul and mouthwatering.
"Sorry about that," I tell her, still feeling guilty and stupid.
"It's my fault for startling you," she says easily. "Don't worry about it."
At least I didn't have a weapon in my hand.
"What is that?" I ask, swallowing. My throat is scratchy and dry, completely parched.
"How long did I sleep?" I say with a yawn.
"A few hours. Let us look at your head and I'll tell you about Thirteen. You can eat, too."
I look back at Zuko. He's still sleeping, his breathing even. He doesn't look like he's moved at all.
"Alright," I say, mainly because I'm hungry and I'm dying to know more about this place. Asami looks relieved. "Then I want to see Pakku."
She helps me up and leads me to a group of cargo boxes just outside Zuko's tent. Shai the Earthbender and another woman are already waiting with supplies. I take a seat and Asami hands me a bowl of thick and chunky green soup. I don't want to know what's in it, but I'm in no position to be picky.
Shai begins unwrapping the bandage around my head. "No bleeding, just a knot. I'll clean it and wrap fresh bandages after you bathe."
I look down at myself. Well, I do need a bath. My clothes are dirty and torn in places, dirt caked under my nails. I don't even want to know what my face looks like.
"Where have you been?" I ask Asami, eyeing the same dark splotches on her uniform that are also on her face. At least I'm not the only one who looks like a mess.
"Working. I build and fix things. Well," she says slowly, "I try to."
"What kind of things?"
She smiles. "Let's just start with Thirteen first."
"Right. They made weapons of mass destruction for the Capital," I say, and force myself to take a spoonful of soup. It's…not bad. Actually it has very little flavor at all, like mixing water with plants. Shai dabs something that stings on my forehead; the woman, next to him, juggles bottles and bandages.
"Thirteen was the Capital's well-kept secret," says Asami. "And it was meant for the most brilliant and brightest of the world, benders of all elements and non-benders alike. Scientists, astrologists, mechanists, inventors—people like my father."
She nods. "He was sent here about thirty years ago. Most of the weapons are his inventions. He and Professor Zei were kind of the…masterminds so to say. They oversaw everything and built this city to what it is today."
"The plague," she says hollowly. "We call it the Red Death. About eight years ago the Capital evacuated because a toxin spread in the air like wildfire, infecting almost everyone. The Capital only evacuated those who were not infected. They were forced to live weeks at sea and put through vigorous tests to make sure they were clear. Any signs of the Red Death and they were killed. Survivors had their tongues cut out as a warning to not so much as breathe about the existence of Thirteen. And those who were infected were...well we were left to die. There wasn't a cure."
I stare at her in horror, unable to speak. Shai finishes up with some cooling liquid against my skin. He and the woman leaves the two of us. My head still throbs a little, but it's not too bad now.
"I was twelve," says Asami, sounding as if she is somewhere very far away. Her gaze is focused on something just past my shoulder. "My father was cleared so he got to leave. I was left behind. I hear he died two years ago."
She sounds so indifferent that I can't tell if she's angry or sad. I take another spoonful because words are failing me. Finally, I manage to say, "But you don't look sick."
Asami turns to me and a little life comes back in her face. "No, I'm not anymore. Professor Zei's daughter found a cure. Bacui berries, found in the mountains. She was left to die too."
"Do the masks keep us safe?"
"Kind of. I tweaked my father's design," she says. "He was creating them for factory workers to protect against the fumes. So far it's mostly effective outside, but some of us are still contracting the disease. It doesn't seem to be contagious. It's a slow killer and it can take months or even a year or two before someone dies. The problem is that we're running out of bacui berries. We can't risk going too far or staying out too long to find them."
"So you're trapped here."
"We're all trapped somewhere, aren't we?" She smiles sadly. "Life might be tough here, but we're free."
Free. I can't even fathom what that must feel like. I try to imagine what this girl has gone through, having your entire world uprooted when you were twelve years old.
"You were so young," I can't help but say.
She shrugs. "I grew up fast, but we take care of each other around here. Those of us who survived, we did it together."
I nod, knowing the feeling.
"Someday they'll figure out the disease can't spread too far and isn't contagious," says Asami warily. "We're careful to hide our existence above ground. They send devices to capture photos every once in awhile. We can't let them know we're living. They think everyone who was left behind died."
I put my bowl down. "How many have it now?"
Asami shrugs and doesn't give me an answer. More than she'd like to admit, I take it. Suddenly a horrible thought occurs to me.
"Zuko and Pakku—" I choke out, unable to finish the sentence.
"No signs of the Red Death," she assures me. "They even forced the last of our berries down Prince Zuko's throat for good measure."
I sigh in relief. At least he's protected for now. I feel a sudden pang in my chest. Not everyone is protected.
When I left the Capital, I unintentionally left him too. I'll never be allowed back in Province 9. I'll never be able to tell him where I am. Maybe I won't even be able to write him. What if I never see him again? Part of me knew coming here meant there would be consequences. I guess I just didn't consider all of them. It happened so fast.
"Well, it's about time," says a voice from behind. It's so familiar and yet so foreign that it takes me a moment to place it. I whip around so fast that another sharp pain shoots through my neck. Only I don't care because I can't believe it.
"Miss me, Sugar Queen?"
A/N: Thank you so much for reading! I'm VERY excited for this story. It's different from the first two, but I think it's going to be just the right ending. A few things you probably noticed: YES, Province 13 is basically Republic City. Since this is AU and set into a more futuristic ATLA world (which technically is the Legend of Korra world) I sort of meshed the two world's together. So that's why you'll see some similar elements. Don't worry, more on 13, Asami, and other things coming up. This is a short prologue/first chapter to get the story going. Hope you liked it!
I hope to hear from you! I'll edit with review responses in a few days. :)