This chapter was beta-ed by two people: kitkat1327 and EE's Skysong. Go into my profile under "My Stories Betas Below:" are my whole lists of betas. If you wish to go into their profiles.
Dragons of the West
Summary: Set after episode, the Firebending Masters. There are many secrets that mortals in the past have long forgotten. Ever wondered how the War started? How the mortals in the Avatar world learned to bend the elements from the help of the Gods themselves? And how did the mortals then defended evil that wanted to take over the world? What happened to Aang's friends before the War, after he disappeared? How is Zuko related to Avatar Ruko and Kuzon? Is Ursa still alive or she is dead? How did Iroh became a member of the Order of the White Lotus? What really happened to Iroh's son Lu Ten? What really became the airbenders 100 years before? Ever wondered what became the other characters in the story after we never see them again?
What secrets would be discovered? And what is the cost to know them?
"Yeah, Aang, do you know that dance thing that you and Zuko did the other day? It was like this and that," Sokka mocked; he swirled his body around, poorly copying the Dancing Dragon moves. Sokka grinned as Aang covered his face with his hand, shaking his head.
"Sokka, for the last time, the Dancing Dragon is not a dance! It's just a name! It's been passed down for thousands of years in the Fire Nation, and-"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Whatever."
Aang shook his head again. It was pointless to try and change his friend's mind about it. Even he was a little skeptical at the beginning, but it did kind of save Zuko's and his life when the two Firebending Masters (real-life dragons, not just the spirit one that he met with Avatar Roku), looked into their souls to see if they were worthy enough to live. Hopefully, Sokka wouldn't do that in front of Zuko again. When Sokka mocked him about it, Aang thought he would tear Sokka's head off! …Come to think about it, where was Zuko?
As if reading his mind, Sokka looked up. "Where is Zuko?"
"He said that he needed to meditate. For what reason, I don't know," Katara hissed, stirring a pot over a fire. It hadn't been a week since Zuko had joined them; she was still angry at him from Ba Sing Se.
"He's probably in his room…" Aang guessed, not wanting anyone to fight.
"Well if he's hungry, he'll come out," Haru said, sitting next to Katara. Katara smiled tightly at him.
"You're right," the waterbender muttered.
There was silence.
"How do we know that we can trust him?" Sokka asked suddenly, looking at Aang.
"Honor," Aang responded. "He's bond to his honor. He won't betray us."
"How can honor do that?" the Duke asked.
Unknown to everyone (minus Toph), Zuko walked up to the group. Not wanting to barge in on their conversation, he hid in the shadows near them; he wanted to know what the Avatar believed was honor to his people. Just as he did this, Toph suddenly sat up. He knew that the blind girl knew he was there, but he guessed, as she lay back on the ground and folded her arms, that she was not bothered he was hiding from them. Maybe thinking that he wasn't a threat to them.
"Well…" Aang began. "Of what my friend, Kuzon, said before the war started, honor in the Fire Nation is one of the things that they value the most. To them, without honor there is nothing to live for. Without honor, they don't have respect from the Fire and the Sun Spirits. Without their Spirits' approval, they can't control their fire and their wellbeing. Without honor, their family's name is forever bathed in misfortune. I really don't know how to explain it more, because Kuzon couldn't either… Well he did try, but he confused me."
Zuko was impressed. The Avatar was good at explaining what honor meant to his people. Who was his friend? That name was familiar … where had he heard it from?
The whole group didn't know what to say. Honor must've been very important to the Fire Nation if having no honor could do all that. "No wonder Zuko chased us all over the world. Didn't he say that he had to regain his honor?" Katara asked.
"Yes, he did," Toph said, folding her arms over her chest. "You told me that."
"He must have his honor back if he's with us, doesn't he?"
"No. I think he's regaining it," said Aang thoughtfully. "Helping us, he regains his honor. It also helps that he now knows how to firebend without being angry."
Zuko narrowed his eyes. Was he that obvious?
"I still say that's a load of crap. Zuko's using that for excuses. Honor this and honor that. He makes me sick!" Katara hissed.
"Chill out, Katara," Haru said, placing his hand on her shoulder to calm her down.
"My father says honor, blood and fire are what the Fire Nation value the most. If I remember right, pride and strength is as closely valued as honor, blood and fire." Teo said, itching closely to the fireplace.
Everyone looked at Teo doubtfully. "That doesn't make any sense. In the Water Tribe, water, family and balance is the most valued in life, and other things. The Fire Nation is made of nothing but selfish, brutal beasts!" Sokka said.
Zuko decided that it was time to make them aware of his presence. "Do you really think that, Sokka?"
Everyone jumped (minus Toph) and turned their heads to see Zuko leaning on a nearby wall. Sokka jumped up onto his feet, reaching for his sword. "What the hell? How long were you standing there?"
"Long enough," Zuko replied flatly. They watched as he walked and sat between Toph and the Duke, furthest from Aang and Katara. "How are your feet doing?" he asked the blind earthbender.
Toph turned her head slightly towards him, her eyes off-center. "Katara says they're healing nicely. I should be able to kick your butt by tomorrow," she grinned at him.
Zuko nodded, unsure how to answer to that. The only other person that ever 'kicked his butt' was his sister, not including his uncle, who was his master. He flinched, remembering what his sister did when they were younger and both learning how to use their firebending skills. He flinched again as he wondered if his uncle would ever forgive him for betraying him….
"Hey, Zuko, you okay?" Toph asked him.
"Wh-what?" Zuko asked.
"So, Zuko, when are you going to teach me firebending?" Aang asked. He knew that Zuko was thinking about his uncle. He himself always thought about the airbenders, but talking to his friends took his mind off thinking about his people.
Zuko sighed, "Tomorrow, the moment the sun rises- when our fire grows stronger."
"Don't worry, Avatar, you'll do fine," the prince told him. Aang nodded in reply.
Katara growled to herself, grabbing some bowls from beside her. She started handing them to everyone in the group. Lastly, she scooped a small portion into the final bowl and handed it to Zuko. Zuko knew that she didn't trust him, yet. He also knew that the others had more food in their bowls than him.
Biting his tongue, he replied, "Thank you, Katara."
Katara would've dropped his bowl if it wasn't for the fact Zuko held the other end of it. Her eyes widened in shock. "How do you know my name?" she snapped.
Taking the bowl, Zuko turned from her. "I know all your names."
"Really?" the Duke asked. Zuko turned at the small figure before him. It was the first time the little tyke had ever spoken to him. "Do you know mine?"
Zuko sighed, rolling his eyes. "You like to call yourself the Duke."
The Duke jumped for joy. It was the first time someone called him 'The Duke' since Pipsqueak and the others were captured by the Fire Nation. "What's his name?" asked the Duke, pointing at Haru.
"Haru, the earthbender." Zuko answered. The Duke pointed at Teo.
"That's Teo, son of that inventor. We met before."
Teo tilted his head to one side. "We have? Where?"
"I was with my uncle when we visited the Northern Air Temple where you and your father lived. I don't think you would remember me. It was the only time we visited. You and I didn't like each other that much."
Something clicked in Teo's head. His eyes widened in realization. "You're that firebender kid that threatened me to fry me to a crisp when I asked you what happened to your face!" he yelled, pointing at Zuko with fearful eyes. He could remember how Zuko's golden eyes had narrowed at him in hatred and his hands fired up in flames, his voice so deadly and cold it was like a venomous snake.
Zuko nodded slowly, not liking how this was going. If he was going to live with these people they should try to trust each other. Did everyone in the world hate him? Didn't he ever do anything good to any of these people, beside the flying bison?
Everyone was now staring at him, including Sokka who, in the first time in his life, wasn't interested in food at the moment. The Duke then pointed at Sokka.
"Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe, son of Chief Hakoda," Zuko answered.
"How in the world did you know that?" Sokka yelled, setting his food beside him before getting up and raising his sword in front of him.
"Katara, Sokka's younger sister. Avatar Aang of the Air Nation. Appa, his flying bison. And, I think, Momo?" Zuko finished, before the Duke asked him any more who's who questions.
Aang was impressed. "Wow. How did you know everyone's name?"
Zuko shrugged. "I listened."
"Are you saying that you stood over there long enough to know all of our names?" Sokka challenged him.
Zuko smirked. "Yes and no," he said, finishing his bowl.
"He wasn't standing there that long, Sokka," Toph said.
"Oh, and now you're the Knower of All, huh?"
"I know because I could feel him was standing there, retard!"
"Why didn't you tell us?"
"He wasn't a threat."
"WHAT?! He wasn't a threat?"
"Do I hear an owl-parrot anywhere?" Sokka smacked himself across his face.
There was silence.
"So, where's your uncle?" Toph asked Zuko.
He bit his lip. "I don't know. He escaped during the eclipse. Knowing him, he went to The Others."
"The Others?" Aang asked him.
'Damn, I said too much.' Zuko thought. "The Others are a group of people from the Fire Nation that don't side with my father, or rather don't believe in this war. They love war, yes. But they believe in balance, and therefore they side with the Avatar."
Aang grinned at that. "Really? You mean there are Fire Nation people that would help us defeat your father?"
"Yes, but-" Zuko began. Aang jumped ten feet in the air in joy, cutting him short. Zuko cursed at himself.
"I don't believe you," Sokka declared.
"Believe what you wish," Zuko replied, not caring if the Water Tribe boy believed him.
"So how many are there- The Others, I mean?"
"What kind of a name is 'The Others', anyway?" Sokka interrupted. Zuko ignored him.
"It depends," Zuko told Aang, ignoring Sokka's expression. He looked like he wanted to attack the prince.
"Huh?" Aang said, not knowing what Zuko meant.
Zuko rolled his eyes. "What I mean is it depends if they believe that helping you is the right decision at the moment. If it helps balance life, then they would. Many would take their own life if you ordered them to." At these words, Aang's face turned green. "But I know that you won't, Avatar." Aang calmed himself. "However, most would not help you until it's time."
"Time for what?" Haru asked.
Aang sighed. "You sound like Bumi."
Zuko looked at Aang with a weird expression. "Who?"
"King Bumi of Omashu. He was my friend before the war. When I last saw him, he told me that he surrendered his kingdom because it wasn't time to attack."
"That's insane," Haru said, shaking his head. The others agreed. However, Zuko nodded in understanding.
"He is wise. Surrender now, fight later."
Aang sighed in defeat, flopping himself onto his back. "Not you too!" he yelled, covering his face with his hands.
Zuko shrugged. "What can I say? My uncle got to me."
"You speak highly of your uncle," Teo said. "Who is he?"
"My uncle's name is Iroh, the Dragon of the West."
There was a large, unexpected clatter of utensils dropping onto the stone floors. Haru, Toph, the Duke and Teo stared at Zuko with wide eyes (minus Toph). "You mean THE Dragon of the West? The same one that took over Ba Sing Se for two years?"
Zuko smirked. "The very same. I see you've heard of him, He was also my firebending master."
"Oh my spirits," the Duke whispered to himself, slightly horrorstruck. He suddenly wished that Pipsqueak was with him.
"Are you telling me that fat old man that I met four years ago was actually the Dragon of the West?" Teo asked him.
Teo grinned, "Wait until I tell Dad!"
Then Zuko smiled. He was finally getting some approval from these people.
"Wow, Aang." Toph turned towards the airbender. "Your firebending teacher was taught by an amazing bender, maybe one of the most powerful in the world!"
"My uncle is great," Zuko said. He looked down at the floor. "But I'm not. To my people I am weak."
Aang shook his head. "You're a very powerful bender, Zuko. You almost took me down in Ba Sing Se!"
A pinch of guilt washed over him. Zuko bit his lip. "I thank you for those kind words, Avatar. But I must warn you. I may be powerful, but I'm not a master in firebending. Not yet."
(End of Chapter)