Fall of the White Lotus
Chapter 1: Purpose
Music: Autumn Love, Thomas Bergersen
The key made a sharp click in the keyhole when retired General Iroh closed his teashop for the night and went on his way to his home in the upper ring of Ba Sing Se.
It was one of those beautiful evenings in early fall when the large city was bathed in the golden light of the setting sun. This was the tranquil time before the arrival of the great autumn storms, which in ancient times had heralded the arrival of the Air Nomads' trading caravan.
Iroh paused for a moment on one of the Upper Ring's grand boulevards to admire the view over his beloved city. He could see the results of the fine work Toph and her earthbenders were doing on breaching the inner walls, which had divided the city's inhabitants for so long.
The young Lady Beifong was doing good work, he mused. His suggestion to the reinstated Earth King that Toph be selected as the leader for this operation had turned out very well. Not only had she physically breached the walls of Ba Sing Se, but also, with her bold attitude, she'd opened windows in the minds of its inhabitants. Which, quite honestly, was even more important for that project to succeed. The Grandmaster of the Order of the White Lotus was always happy to see a peaceful balance established when needed.
His green robes rustled softly as Iroh turned around and continued on his familiar route through the quiet streets, humming a little song to the sound of his steps.
The autumn sun had already disappeared behind the horizon when the firebender entered his modest home, nestled in the shadow of an old cherry tree. He was welcomed by a peaceful silence, and soon the flickering flames of the candles were casting a golden glow on the precious collection of artefacts in his crowded living room. In a dark corner of the living room, a pair of red rubies gleamed evilly in the dusty face of a sinister monkey statue.
In line with his daily routine, the retired general made himself and his servant some tea before sitting down by his favorite window. From there, he could see the gentle, golden aureole above the darkening city created by the still glowing horizon. A small habit of the Dragon of the West.
The teachings of the Order of the White Lotus had turned out well for the young people who had fought so bravely to defeat Fire Lord Ozai, he contemplated. As a new peace descended on the world, the work of the Order was nearly finished for the younger generation. Nearly finished, save for one small but very important objective. Which, sadly, was a matter of the heart...
Iroh had just finished dinner when he looked up to the soft sound of his manservant quietly entering the living room, carrying a silver platter.
"Two letters have arrived for you today, sir," the Earth Kingdom man informed him with a slight bow. He handed the retired general two neatly sealed scrolls.
A deep crimson ribbon was tied around the first one and bore the impressive seal of the Fire Lord. Iroh's face creased into a bitter smile. He didn't have to open the scroll to know its contents. His nephew's letters always started with matter on which he sought advice from his uncle instead of his councillors. It then usually shifted to his non-existent private life, contained a standard remark on Mai's well being, and ended with the question of when his uncle was going to visit him again.
Iroh received similar letters, although more sporadically, from the ever-traveling Princess Katara. Her letters, tied with ribbons in a lighter shade of blue than those of the Northern Water Tribe, matter-of-factly stated where she and the Avatar had visited, announced Aang's good health, and finished with her wish of being able to see General Iroh again soon.
The retired general wearily shook his head. Neither of the two explored the reasons of why, exactly, they needed to see him. If only allowing the two of them to go off and fight Princess Azula had developed their bond more...
Iroh's gaze was drawn to the other scroll he'd received. His curiosity was piqued when he noticed the unfamiliar Earth Kingdom seal, as well as the white ribbon which designated the sender as a member of the Order of the White Lotus. Cautiously, he broke the seal and put on his glasses. Narrowing his eyes, he began to read.
To the revered Grandmaster of the Order of the White Lotus,
As fortuneteller and member of our beloved Order, I feel it's my duty to inform our grandmaster about an important insight I received concerning two of the Young War Heroes.
It appears that both the Fire Lord and the Avatar intend to propose to their respective girlfriends very soon. The insight held a warning, for neither of those unions represent the great romance that the young people involved are destined for.
When I met the young Water Princess three years ago, I tried to make her understand about the true feelings slumbering inside. But I'm afraid I failed to reach her because of the feelings the Avatar harbors for her. And I still regret not telling the grandmaster's nephew his fortune when I had the opportunity, as he now finds himself obligated towards the Lady Mai.
I believe that the Fire Lord and the Princess of the restored Southern Water Tribe subconsciously feel the connection between them. They are the twin flames of fire depicted in the prophecy, drawn toward each other from the moment they met. But their current alliances are holding back the necessary development of their bond. Somehow, this seems to negatively affect the very purpose of the Order of the White Lotus and I sense a growing unrest with the elemental spirits. Therefore, I will pass on this warning to the grandmaster of our Order. The insight may be used as the grandmaster wishes.
The White Lotus opens wide to those who know her secrets,
Wu of Makapu Village
Iroh took off his glasses, a troubled expression passing over his features as he closed his eyes. The fortuneteller was a remarkable member of the Order of the White Lotus and very trustworthy. Her letter had put into words the foreboding feeling he'd had for some time now.
She was right.
Zuko's and Katara's futures did involve both the purpose and future of the Order and, because of that, the whole world. And apparently time was running out for them to recognize and accept their feelings for one another.
"What would you have me do?" he mumbled to no one in particular, knowing that the grandmaster would have to act.
From his place by the window, the retired general observed Ba Sing Se as it became shrouded in darkness and thousands of lanterns were lit all over the city, mirroring the starry night sky on earth. Then an idea formed in the greatest strategic mind of his time. He rose from his seat and pulled some paper out of a drawer, uncapping an inkwell to begin a letter that would, hopefully, change the course of what Wu had seen.
It was time to allow Zuko to begin the search for his mother.
A/N: In this multi-chapter story General Iroh - in his capacity as Grandmaster of the Order of the White Lotus - sends Katara and Zuko on a quest to find Ursa, to secure the future of that very Order of the White Lotus. The chapter titles may seem random but they're prompted by the Zutara Eternity challenge on deviantArt and various Zutara Weeks and Zutara Months through the years.
Many thanks go to my wonderful beta Crimson Eyed Sakura for proofreading the story even though it has already been published. I'm also grateful to Shrilaraune and Lieta who have proofread parts of the story before.
I hope you'll enjoy reading Fall of the White Lotus and feel free to review!