"You look troubled," Saburo observed, after Xing closed the morning ceremonies.

"Yes," Xing looked out at the sea. "My dreams still haunt me."

"The Fire Lord?"

Xing put his hand on the young man's shoulder. "Nevermind. We have a full day ahead; the solstice is nearly upon us."

Saburo shook his head. "So many public appearances. I'd rather clean out our hog-chicken pen at home."

"Monk Ping kept some hog-chickens when he was my master."

"Did he?" Saburo smiled.

Xing glanced at his reflection in a smooth black glass. "I wonder if I should change before the blessing of children. The other sages would never forgive me if I let anything happen to this robe."

The acolyte chuckled and shook his head.

The Avatar smiled, although it did not quite reach his eyes. "Dreams. Costumes. You would think I learned nothing."

The bride and groom kissed enthusiastically, and cameras flashed all around. Most of them weren't pointed at the happy couple, but on their attendants. Bolin looked appropriately proud and somber; Rie exuded a quiet warmth. Then, to their surprise, the cameras turned to Opal and Li, Rie's husband.

Varrick said a few words; Bolin was now so tired he was channeling all of his acting ability into his facial muscles and understood none of it. Then he ushered the bride and groom through the doors of the theater. He and Zhu-Li followed them.

Permitted to walk with their own partners now, Rie and Bolin stepped apart and walked inside, followed by the rest of the wedding party, and finally the ticket-holders.

"Wake me before I get killed," Bolin whispered to Opal as they took their seats. "I don't want you to see it by yourself."


Xing removed his miter and rubbed his tattoo.

"Your speech was powerful," Saburo complimented him, taking the hat.

The High Sage/Avatar appeared not to hear him. "Go to bed, now, Saburo. I want to meditate one more time; I'll put out the lights myself."

The acolyte looked slightly hurt as he bowed and left the inner chamber of the temple.

Xing looked at his reflection in the dark glass once more and settled down on the floor and began meditative breathing.

Moments later, four men in armor burst into the room, hands still sparking from unlocking the room with Fire-bending.

Not quite in a meditative state, Xing got to his feet.

"Peace," he said, approaching them, arms outstretched, as if for an embrace. "This is a temple."

"Peace is what we seek for Lady Akoko," the head guard replied, throwing a short spear.

The other guards released either their weapons or blasts of fire.

The Avatar stumbled, the train of his ceremonial robe spreading out behind him on the floor like a trail of blood as he fell.