Fall of the White Lotus
Chapter 51: South
Music: Peace, The Track Team (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
The elderly lady aboard the small Fire Nation vessel pulled her warm red cloak closer around her and looked up smilingly at the screaming seagulls that guided the steel scout ship further south. Her wrinkled eyes sparkled as she watched them tumble through the clear blue sky, the crisp air leaving her old skin tingly fresh.
Underneath her cloak, she clenched and unclenched her hands to ward off the stiffness having progressively claimed her body over the years, but her former beauty still lingered in the high cheekbones, her grey curls, and her straight posture.
It wouldn't be long now, she knew, as her gaze rested upon the icebergs looming on the horizon.
The sound of footsteps made her look up and she stiffly turned around to see the ship's captain appear next to her, his red and gold uniform bright against the steel grey of the bridge.
He bowed. "Your Majesty, we will reach the Southern Water Tribe within the hour," he informed her respectfully, and she nodded kindly.
He looked up. "Is there something the Fire Lady-Mother needs? It's getting rather cold…"
But she shook her head, a smile still on her features. "No, thank you, Captain. I'm quite alright. I'm used to these kind of temperatures."
The man actually colored slightly at the small reminder as he bowed again. "As the Fire Lady-Mother Katara wishes."
Then she was once again left to her thoughts.
A melancholic smile played around her lips as Katara put a hand to the railing, enjoying the feeling of the cold wind that made her robes billow. Having completed so many tasks together with her husband during their life, she felt relieved at the knowledge her upcoming task would be her final one in this world.
He was the reason that she was undertaking the long journey south, accepting of the fact that she would probably never see her husband's homeland again. The land she'd come to love as her own.
Old age had finally caught up with the Avatar and he'd passed away. All across the world people had joined together to commemorate the bubbly Avatar and his legacy of harmony and peace. Most of their years, he and Toph had lived in Republic City, which they had helped grow into the magnificent city it was nowadays. They had raised their three children there, while Toph headed the Metalbending Police Force and Aang monitored the balance between the nations. But he crossed over to the Spirit World in his bed in the Northern Air Temple with the view of his beloved mountains, in the presence of his family. The Air Nomads he had discovered living in hiding in the Fire Nation decades ago had reclaimed the abandoned Air Temples and had restored them to their original splendor. Now, their son Tenzin lived there with his family, leading the nation of the Air Nomads as part of the Council of Elders, while Lin had taken over her mother's position as Head of Police and Bumi had become the Air Nomad representative in the United Republic Council.
Six years had gone by since Aang's passing, and then one day the Order of the White Lotus had recognized the new Avatar born amongst the waterbenders of the Southern Water Tribe. Now, the Black Lotus Council sent Katara, closest friend and waterbending teacher of the previous Avatar, to the Southern Water Tribe for her last but most important task as Grandmistress of the Order of the White Lotus - to become the new Avatar's guardian and be her guide until she was ready to face her own challenges.
Katara was the third member of Team Avatar to enter the Black Lotus Council, joining as its waterbending representative following Master Pakku's passing. She was greeted by Toph, who had already succeeded King Bumi for the earthbenders, and Aang, who had taken Monk Gyatso's place in the council. She knew Zuko had been infinitely grateful that he himself hadn't been called upon for many years after that, cherishing the time his uncle had remained among them to watch his grandchildren grow up. And when he'd finally decided that he'd trained them enough in the art of tea making, Zuko had been at peace with the idea that his uncle would be reunited with his son in the Spirit World. The day after his uncle's funeral, he'd started to grow a beard similar to Iroh's.
Katara's thoughts drifted to the children and grandchildren she had left behind and she smiled. She would miss them, but they didn't need her anymore, and she also knew from the prophecy Aunt Wu had told her so long ago, that she would see them again at the South Pole, for she would die surrounded by her grandchildren.
A quiet smile passed over her features when a pair of hands landed on her shoulders, radiating some warmth through the layers of fine wool.
"The captain doesn't believe you're not cold," a husky voice, having turned a bit more fragile with the passage of time, said.
Katara closed her eyes and put her hand over his in a loving touch. "Of course he doesn't."
Like hers, the skin of his hand had become tender with age and felt vulnerable under her touch, but his grip was still strong. It was actually pretty funny when she thought about it, that almost the entire Black Lotus Council now followed the grandmistress south, because Zuko would never leave her side, and Toph would soon be joining them, bringing Zuko's dragon Druk with her. Only Tenzin, the airbending representative since his father had passed away, had stayed with his family.
Zuko lightly placed his head alongside hers and she felt his white beard tickle her cheek. It reminded her of the first time, more than sixty years ago, they'd been standing like this on deck of a Water Tribe vessel heading for the South Pole.
So many times they'd gone down this route together since then, and Katara felt infinitely grateful for having him here with her on this final trip to the South Pole, where they would stay until it was time for them to be brought to their final resting place at the Dragonbone Catacombs.
Three years ago, the most unconventional Fire Lord the Fire Nation had ever seen had taken a last remarkable step by abdicating the Dragon Throne to become Peace Ambassador in the Avatar's memory. This way, he and Katara gained a few years in which they could do the things they wanted to do before fate would inevitably call the Grandmistress of the Order of the White Lotus to the Southern Water Tribe, a journey on which he would naturally follow. He'd relinquished his title to his son Lu Ten, and the Fire Nation had gained a blue-eyed, mild-mannered Fire Lord who represented the balance between the nations within himself. Intelligent and well-educated, having attended Ba Sing Se University after completing his military training, and showing experience from years of learning from his father, he quickly earned recognition both at home and abroad for his administrative skills and engagement. Aided by his lovely wife and their only son Iroh, as well as his sister Kya, who now lived in Republic City with her family and was the Southern Water Tribe representative in the United Republic Council, he had continued in his legendary father's footsteps. The Fire Nation people adored him almost as much as they did Lord Zuko, as was his title after his abdication, whom they considered to be the pater patriae.
As the icebergs in the ocean grew bigger, the Fire Nation ship bravely continued its course. Katara's eyes eagerly swept over the scenery before her, hoping to see a glimpse of the Southern Water Tribe city she knew was hidden behind the icebergs. A sigh escaped her and Zuko squeezed her shoulders in silent understanding when the icebergs gave way to a magnificent view on the Southern Water Tribe, glistening in the last rays of the sun.
The Fire Nation ship sailed past the proud polar wolves' heads flanking the harbor's entrance. And, despite it being sixty years ago, it suddenly felt like yesterday that they had been standing like this at the railing, waiting for the ship to dock. Katara half expected to see her father, Sokka, Gran Gran, and Master Pakku waiting for her at the quay. Despite her age, she felt tears prick behind her eyes.
As always, her husband correctly guessed her train of thoughts and pressed a light kiss to her temple as he straightened up.
"There's Senna," Zuko then noticed. Even in old age, he had still retained his sharp eyesight.
The Chiefess of the Southern Water Tribe was standing at the quay, lifting her hand with a warm smile on her kind features.
"And there's Suki, too," Katara added, pleasantly surprised. Despite her advanced age and the cold, the former Kyoshi Warrior had wanted to come along to welcome her family to the South Pole.
When her husband Chief Sokka had passed away a year ago, their only daughter Senna had assumed the Southern Water Tribe Throne. She and her husband Tonraq, former general and Crown Prince of the Northern Water Tribe, now resided at the palace with their only daughter and Chiefess-Mother Suki.
As the ship docked, Suki stepped aside to reveal a much younger man in a dark blue parka who looked up at the stately ship carrying the Grandmistress of the Order of the White Lotus. His bearing betrayed a military background and his regular features resembled those of his younger brother's, the Chief of the Northern Water Tribe.
He was holding the hand of a vivid little girl with playful brown bangs framing her tan face. When the ship engine stopped, she wriggled herself through the adults and ran toward the gangway.
Expectantly, she turned up her little face toward the grandmotherly lady emerging on the gangplank, followed by a reserved elderly gentleman.
"Gran-Aunt Katara! Gran-Uncle Zuko!"
Korra. The new Avatar.
They had come full circle.
- THE END -
A/N: And it's done. This epilogue concludes Fall of the White Lotus, which ultimately has become a 300k plus story and took me about 18 months to write.
The music references in this story have not only become a homage to The Track Team who wrote the beautiful soundtrack of A:TLA but Two Steps From Hell as well as their music perfectly fits the atmosphere of the Avatarverse.
I conclude these last author's notes for this story with expressing my gratitude to you, my dear, dear readers for being so supportive and providing me with such encouraging, inspiring and often beautiful reviews, which made me want to complete this story in the best possible way. This I could only do with help from my beta Crimson Eyed Sakura who agreed to beta an already finished story. Her valuable comments made the story what it is today.
I hope you've enjoyed reading Fall of the White Lotus. I wish you all the best and hope to see you back sometime soon.