Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Avatar: The Last Airbender characters that appear in this story.
This is an AU/canon-divergence so there will be differences between the show and this fanfic.
See Author's notes below
Destiny is shattered and timeless
Closed eyes feel the cold winds embrace
Radiant Eclipse Chapter 1
Royal Palace, Glacier City, Southern Water Kingdom
December 18, 110 AG.
The start of the 2nd annual Glacier Spirits Festival was just a day away. The Glacier Spirits Festival was initially meant to build up the relationship between the North and Southern Water Tribes until negotiations and relationships broke down. The event then turned into something that gave the citizens of the Southern Water Kingdom an event to celebrate and enjoy. With the help of Master Pakku and a contingent of various Northern tribe members, the Southern Water Tribe expanded across the entire southern continent, thus leading to the formation of the Southern Water Kingdom. What used to be a frozen tundra turned into an extravagant nation, a safe haven for anyone that wanted to migrate to the south after the Hundred-Year War. Glacier City was established as the capital city of the Kingdom.
When the Southern Water Kingdom came to be, it also meant the formation of a new governing system, which was eventually decided to be a federal monarchy. There were 20 different states in the Kingdom. Each state was governed by a Chief and two Senators represented the state in the Kingdom's legislative body. And of course, the head of state and government were the King and Queen respectively.
The Southern Water Kingdom's Royal Palace was the initial location for the legislative and judicial bodies until the Imperium Building was constructed last year. Since then, the palace underwent several major renovations and now served as the residence of the Royal Family (and other high-profile members of the government), while hosting meetings between the King and Queen's secretaries on a weekly basis. The palace was so huge that it would take almost four minutes to walk from one side to the other. After all, it was the second-largest palace/compound in the world, behind the Earth Kingdom's Royal Palace.
The Palace had its own royal spa, which was a request that the Queen made prior to becoming a monarch. It was one of the things that were on her conditions list when she left her home nation. While the King and his secretaries did use the royal spa, it was used frequently by the Queen and her secretaries. The Queen used the royal spa to make herself regal in appearance and to prepare herself for her daily duties. The palace was also home to the largest martial arts dojo in the world. The dojo was where the King and Queen trained daily. It was a priority for both to keep their martial arts intact, seeing as they were seen by the Kingdom's citizens as the two most powerful people in the world. The Erītogādo (Elite Guard) also trained in the palace's dojo.
What used to be the original courtroom of the Kingdom now served as the banquet hall/ballroom. The hall hosted many royal events, the notable examples being the birthdays of the monarchs.
The halls of the Royal Palace were coated in various decorations belonging to the other nations. The torches that emitted blue flames illuminated the halls. Two large statues that represented the Erītogādo. Inside the ballroom were many servants setting up the decorations, tables, chairs, and basically everything and anything that will make the ball look majestic. The Southern Water Kingdom's banner hung behind the table where the royal family sits during such events.
The clicking sounds of heels clicking against the marble floor echoed through the long hallway of the East wing as she made her way towards the master bedroom. Several attendants dressed in their formal attire bowed to her when she passed by them. One of them offered her a chocolate mochi, which she took with a warm smile.
Her attire was akin to what her mother wore when she was the Fire Lady during Ozai's reign of terror nearly a decade ago. Her collar was an inch below her chin and was slightly tighter than what she was accustomed to. The multiple shades of blue and white gave her a more regal appearance, along with the light gray trimming. Her pauldrons were smaller, giving her more room and flexibility for her arms. She was thankful that the tiles were sparkling clean or else the skirt of her dress would be covered in filth. Lastly, the bracers on her arms somewhat gave the indication that she was prepared to go to battle but that wasn't the case this time around.
She passed by the royal gallery, stopping a moment to admire the portraits of herself and her husband. While the two paintings were the only ones on one side, there were many more on the other sides. The portraits were of the blood relatives of the first king and queen of the Southern Water Kingdom, which was another request (more like a demand) from the queen herself.
"Queen Azula of the Southern Water Kingdom, right. That's a title I'm still getting used to." Azula said, taking a bite out of her mochi.
Azula was the first Queen of the Southern Water Kingdom. It was something that she never expected, nor it was something that she imagined. Sure, she wanted to rule the Fire Nation by being the Fire Lord at one point in her life. She had the qualifications for it despite being on the other side of the Great War. She was a highly-experienced strategist. She was the one that staged the coup in Ba Sing Se and was the one that stopped the invasion on the day of the Black Sun. Azula had the resume to be a very proficient ruler.
But she had never thought she'd be ruling the snowy tundra.
It wasn't surprising when most of the citizens of the Southern Water Kingdom protested her coronation as Queen, and rightfully so. And the idea of having a firebender ruling over the nation didn't sit well with them either. Glacier City saw large amounts of protests for a week straight that called for her to abdicate, and some of the protests nearly broke out into riots. It took the efforts of former High Chieftain Hakoda, Avatar Aang, and the King himself. What made it worse was the Northern Tribe trying to subjugate the South under its leadership.
The Queen continued to make her way towards the balcony. Azula looked out of a window, looking at the large that was of the last High Chief of the South, Hakoda. It was crafted in his honor after he helped the South win the civil war against the minacious North. That, in turn, helped the South earn its autonomous
Azula stepped out onto the balcony, closing her eyes, letting the cold winds embrace her. The balcony gave her a perfect view of Glacier City. She smiled as she opened her eyes to look at the city. She still wasn't used to how different Glacier City looked compared to the Fire Nation Capital. While both cities were similar in size and the most popular structure was were the Royal Palaces, the two cities were different in their own rights.
The Queen stretched out a finger and released a small burst of blue fire out. She watched the flames fly a few feet outward before disappearing. She found it satisfying that her body adapted to the cold climate of the Southern Water Kingdom, which in turn also helped her firebending adapt as well. During the first two weeks of her presence in the south, her bending was weak to the point where she struggled to maintain an ember in her hands.
Well, that wasn't the truth.
"Queen Azula." Genji, the captain of the Erītogādo, called for her attention
"Yes?" She responded, turning around.
"Fire Lord Zuko has arrived."
"Okay. I'll be down there in a moment. Please let Zuzu know."
Genji nodded, retreating back into the palace along with three other Erītogādos.
Azula turned back around, watching the fireworks fly into the night sky, which indicated that the festival was just a day away. It wasn't as spectacular as the one planned to signal the end of the festival, but it was still magnificent in its own right.
Content with the fireworks she watched, Azula turned around and headed back inside. The same servant that handed her the chocolate mochi offered the Queen another, which she took without hesitation.
"Thank you." Azula smiled, taking a bite out of her mochi.
"It is my duty to serve the Queen." The servant bowed again.
"Really Uncle?" Zuko sighed as he and Iroh walked into the kitchen.
"Yes nephew. I do find the leaves the folks here use to make their tea quite exquisite so I suggest that you should try the tea here." Iroh chuckled.
Uncle Iroh was arguably one of the most prominent people in the Southern Water Kingdom, arguably the most popular in the South, contending with the monarchs. After the Great War, Iroh opted to re-open the Jasmine Dragon in Ba Sing Se but after hearing the news of his niece getting married with the King of the Southern Water Kingdom, the idea of him manifesting the shop in Glacier City became his main goal. As a result, Glacier City was nicknamed "The Tea Capital of the World".
Zuko, on the other hand, continued to rule the Fire Nation as the Fire Lord. While he did find it satisfying to rule over the nation, he did find it cumbersome at times. Sure, his advisors and secretaries made it easier for him in a way but none of them had the experience or knowledge that Uncle Iroh or Queen Azula had.
"I should be waiting for Azula at the lobby." Zuko said.
"Sit nephew." Iroh smiled, patting the stool.
Zuko nodded, sitting on the stool and scooting it closer to the high table. Iroh poured the hot tea into two cups.
"When did Azula want everything to be fancy?" Zuko asked, observing the cup in front of him.
"She wanted everything fancy since the day she was born." Iroh joked as he sipped his tea.
Zuko wouldn't admit it but he missed having Azula around. Sure, he had his mother (who he still mistakens for Azula from time to time) and Kiyi to keep him company but it wasn't the same. While he and Azula butted heads as young kids a decade ago, their relationship has healed and grown, forming a strong bond, which was something that he had hoped that happened sooner rather than later. It was fun having her around the palace, he mentally admitted. Zuko enjoyed watching Azula bossing around the servants and messing with guards that were eyeing her from head to toe. Perhaps it was sort of a good thing that she wasn't around either as Azula would constantly avoid Ursa, and would often burn the wardrobes of the Imperial Firebenders that would mistaken her for her mother. He didn't understand the random mood-swings that his younger sister would have but nonetheless, he missed her.
"Can I ask you a question Uncle?" Zuko spoke.
"Of course." Iroh looked up at Zuko.
"How has Azula been?" He asked.
"You don't know how she has been doing? I thought you wrote letters to your sister?" Iron raised an eyebrow before sipping his tea.
"I still write letters to her but I wanted to know from your point of view."
Iroh chuckled, taking a chocolate mochi from the tray.
"She has been doing quite excellent as the Queen of the Southern Water Kingdom, Fire Lord Zuko. Her popularity has been growing steadily for the past few months. While there's a good amount of people that want to see her gone and out of the Kingdom, the majority of the commoners support her. She was the one that established Glacier City Academy, which had over three-thousand students in its first year of operation. She also has the second Pro-Bending arena in the world, which is just two blocks away from the Academy. Prior to her being crowned as the Queen, the Southern Water Kingdom's homeless population was at 10.7%. Within three months since her coronation, the homeless percentage dropped to 1.3%. The military is quite strong too. I'd argue that the Kingdom's Royal Navy could best the Fire Nation Navy in a battle." Iroh chuckled.
"I seriously doubt that uncle." Zuko laughed.
The two continued to laugh for a few more seconds. Iroh filled up the cups of tea once more, using his index finger to heat up the liquid.
"You know, your sister does miss you too." Iroh said.
"Really now? I didn't take her to be the one to miss someone that's not her husband." Zuko replied.
"Neither have I but she has mentioned several times how she enjoyed teasing and humiliating you." Iroh laughed again.
"Yeah, I don't miss that at all. Anyways, how's life been for you here Uncle?"
"I've been doing quite well. My tea shops are the best in the city and I've been looking towards opening more shops in the other sections of the South. Maybe I should open a Jasmine Dragon in the Fire Nation?" Iroh raised an eyebrow.
"Perhaps you should uncle." Zuko jokes.
"My bending is still strong but I still need more time to adapt to the climate before I could be at full strength, as I am old. Queen Azula's firebending is fantastic as usual but there's something different about it. I mean, her fire is still blue but there's something about it that makes it different when compared to her past selves." Iroh stroked his beard.
"How would you describe it?" Zuko asked.
"Do you remember how you lost your bending?"
"Yeah, I lost my firebending initially because I no longer used rage as my source of power." The Fire Lord said.
Iroh hummed for a moment before finishing the rest of his tea. He then gestured to Zuko to follow him. The Fire Lord pondered about following his uncle, seeing as he wanted to meet his sister in the lobby but knowing her, she's probably off doing something else to stall.
The two exited the kitchen, being flanked by the Imperial Firebenders. The two exited the back of the palace and entered The Battleground. Its usage was similar to the dojo that was inside the Palace but there were two major differences between the two. One, The Battleground was an open area, the ground covered in marble tiles and two, The Battleground was to be cleaned after use.
But of course, Azula didn't follow the second part of The Battleground.
There she was, standing in the middle of The Battleground. She was out of her formal attire and was now dressed in her battle attire. It was akin to the one she wore when she led the Fire Nation assault on the Western Air Temple a few years ago but with some major differences. First, her entire attire was in Southern Water Kingdom colors as usual. Second, the shoulder pads were smaller but more flexible, giving the Queen more room to use her arms. And third, the tip of her boots were no longer pointed upwards. Rather, they were normal looking.
Azula inhaled deep before exhaling. With such precision and tenacity, she began to perform her moves. She stood on one leg, raising her knees and arms with her palms open facing up to the sky. The move was then followed up by her stretching out her left leg and planting her foot to the floor, her right arm up to the sky with her left in the opposite direction.
The movements that Azula were performing looked familiar to Zuko but he couldn't point his finger to what it exactly looked like.
"Do the movements look familiar to you Fire Lord Zuko?" Iroh asked
"...They look familiar Uncle." Zuko said.
It took a little longer than usual for Zuko to realize that the movements that Azula were performing were the same ones that he and Aang did when the two visited the ancient city of the Sun Warriors when the former realized that his firebending was weak and futile. All of Azula's movements were sharp, fast, and precise.
Then, the realization hit the Fire Lord's face.
All of the movements that were being performed in front of him belonged to the ancient Firebending form, Dancing Dragon.
Azula saw her uncle and brother watching her from a distance. She then decided to end her "ritual" by striking the air with a jab, following it up by letting a burst of blue flame fly past Zuko's head by an inch, much to his irritation and her uncle's amusement.
"You looked scared for a moment there Zuzu." Azula smirked, fixing her hairpiece.
"I am not scared!" Zuko scoffed, making his uncle chuckle.
Azula smirked, flicking her index on Zuko's forehead. He then hugged her sister, which shocked her for a moment before returning the hug.
The teenage Azula would've burned her brother on the spot for just simply being in her presence, along with her uncle. Of course time has passed and both siblings have matured into responsible adults but the thought of Zuko hugging her was still surprising to say the least. Maybe perhaps it was due to never having a proper sibling relationship with him while growing up. Maybe it was because of her father manipulating her into being a psychotic war machine. Maybe because it was because of her mother never showing the love and care she gave to Zuko.
Maybe it was because Azula never had the proper care and support.
The Queen was the one to break the hug. She dusted off her attire, pretending that Zuko dirtied it. She looked at her brother, giving him a warm, genuine smile that she reserved for the ones she cared about the most.
"How are you Fire Lord Zuko? It's been a while since we've last seen each other." Azula said.
"I've seen better days but I've been doing well. Running the Fire Nation has been tiresome if I must admit. Not having you around has made it hard for me but War Minister Qin has been able to ease some of the pressure recently." Zuko chuckled.
"War Minister Qin? Wasn't he Ozai's War Minister as well? What made you keep him around?" Azula asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, there weren't many people that had the same expertise as Qin. Besides, the ones that were qualified and had the expertise either are retired or a part of the Southern Water Kingdom." Zuko said, scratching his head.
"Oh really now? Then I suppose that it isn't my fault that I am a better leader than you are and I suppose that I have offered more benefits to the ones you were looking to appoint as War Minister." Azula laughed.
"You have a War Minister too?" Zuko asked.
"Yes but we here don't use the Fire Nation titles and terminologies." Azula raised a finger.
"Whatever. Care to follow me Zuzu?" She asked.
"Where are you heading to?" He said
"The Royal Sports Complex is being opened up in Glacier City. Have you heard of the sport called Basketball?"
"I've heard of it but I never got the gist of it."
"If you want to accompany me and our uncle to Glacier City, I'll happily tell you everything you'd like to know about Zuzu." She smirked.
"Uh….sure." He responded.
A royal escort was waiting at the bottom of the main stairs for the Queen and her relatives. In the middle of the escort was the royal carriage being pulled by four White Ostrich Horses. The White Ostrich Horses are the only subspecies of the Ostrich Horse. They were originally brought over from the Earth Kingdom and were bred in the Southern Water Kingdom in order to create an animal that can withstand the climate while being able to perform at maximum efficiency under duress and in combat.
In the front and the back of the royal carriage were four Imperial Guards and four Erītogādo warriors. Each individual was mounted on their own White Ostrich Horse, decked out in silver and blue armor.
"You take security very seriously here huh?" Zuko asked.
"Of course dum-dum. After the Water Tribe Civil War, there were 12 assassination attempts on my life. Every single attempt has failed miserably thanks to the Erītogādo."
"Would your guards happen to be those ninja-looking people?"
"Yes. While I am more than capable of defending myself against four attackers at once, I do not go anywhere without my guards. You'll never catch me off-guard." Azula raised her finger.
"I see. Well, can I ask you another question?"
"I never took you as the type of person to be asking many questions but since I am in a good mood today, I perhaps shall allow you to ask more questions." She smirked.
"Are you happy?"
Azula sighed, which made Zuko worried for a moment. The queen stared out of the window, taking in the beautiful sight of Glacier City. She was definitely happy no doubt. The marriage was the best thing to ever happen in her life but she didn't know how to explain her feelings to her older brother.
"Do you know the feeling of achieving almost all of your goals at such a young age but end up not being happy at the end? That's me. I'm sure you're already aware of the fact that I wanted to be Firelord instead of you. So what did I have to do? I had to kiss father's ass and I had to pretend to be someone who I wasn't comfortable being. Sure, conquering Ba Sing Se without a single fatality is a big feat on its own. Hell, I managed to kill The Avatar for a brief moment. I felt I did everything in my power to earn the right to be the Firelord. I will admit that I was jealous of you being crowned as the Firelord. I used the time I spent in the asylum to plot out several different ways of escaping and your assassination. I felt like you stole the position of Firelord from me Zuzu, I truly did. All of the goals I accomplished when we were young weren't enough I suppose but now? I am happy for you, truly." She smiled weakly at her brother.
"Oh, so you're no longer jealous that I am Firelord?" He smirked back.
"Perhaps I am not. You becoming Firelord may have damaged my pride and my will but it allowed me to find a new purpose in life. I escaped from the Fire Nation and disappeared for a while after you ordered my early release from the asylum. I decided to travel across the other nations. It was difficult no doubt and to be quite frank, I was scared for my life. I did not stay in one place for more than one day. I was afraid that I was being hunted down, I was petrified that someone was going to assassinate me."
"What was your new purpose in life?" Zuko asked.
"To serve as the queen of the Southern Water Kingdom, that's my new purpose in life. I…..five years ago, I was wandering around Republic City, just to see what the city had to offer and if I wanted to finally settle down in a place I wanted to be in. I…..I was ambushed by a group called the Kemurik…"
"Kemurikage? Aren't they ancient spirits that haunted warlords in the Fire Islands?"
"Yes but it's obvious that it's not the spirits themselves coming after me. They're a group of people that were hellbent on assassinating me. I'll give props because they nearly came close when I got ambushed." Azula gripped the armrest tight.
"You don't have to continue." Iroh gently squeezed his niece's shoulder.
"It's okay uncle." Azula said.
Iron nodded, allowing his niece to continue.
"I've managed to hold my ground for a few minutes but my mental instability at the time caught up to me, which the Kemurikage took advantage of by using their numbers to overwhelm me. I was beaten, bruised, and burned."
"And Sokka saved you?" He teased.
Azula turned to hide her blush from her brother and uncle.
"Yes, yes he did."