A clashing sound from the room behind, and the sigh of a guard standing by the bared door. The flickering torch light cast shadows across his face, and a slight clank of metal on glimmering metal sounded as he shifted his weight. To one that had been here before, that was all that was needed to tell them the situation: the former princess was acting up today.
The Fire Lord shook his head and mirrored the guards sigh as he pushed some loose bangs out of his eyes. These meetings were something that he would rather avoid, but there were a pair of women in his life that wouldn't let that be a possibility, and one of them was his wife. Fire Lord or no, there were certain ultimatums one's wife could present them that couldn't be ignored.
Back down the hall, his sigh reached the guard near the door, who snapped to attention quickly while doing his best not to appear indignant. A crash echoed from the room behind him, and his postured became straighter, glancing towards the Fire Lord with concern. "Fire Lord Zuko, I don't know if now would be the best time for you to go in. She didn't appreciate todays...treatment."
Zuko shook his head somewhat dismissively and patted the guard on the shoulder. "The chains are secure, right?" The question was for the guards comfort, rather than his own. Secure or not, his sister was no longer any danger to himself...or anyone else but herself.
"Yes sire, of course." The guard tapped his spear on the ground, and after a moment the door opened up. There were still those in the nation loyal to the fallen princess, and remote control over her cell door was the only way to ensure the wrong rotation of guards didn't see her free.
The room was, as one would expect, gloomy on the inside, only the light of the hall spilling through the bars providing illumination. No windows were present in the small cell, and the only real adornment was the cage in the back. Five feet in all directions, it was only because the occupant was shackled and on her knees that the room was sufficient.
If the situation wasn't as serious as it was, Zuko would have had a laugh at the irony. Azula had once been a terror to behold, a lithe form perfectly sculpted for the bending that she had spent her life mastering. Her form, attitude and relentlessness had ensured that those she perused gave her proper respect, and most of the world feared her.
But now, here she was, bound and helpless. Her once lithe, muscled body had slowly decayed, leaving her as little more than skin and bones. Blood dripped from her chained wrists from where she fought against them. Her once perfectly kept hair was a tangled mess dangling in all directions, and her head always held high was now hung towards the floor. His eyes drifted over her body, noticing several fresh bruises.
"Come to gloat, dear brother?" The voice was whispered, as though half said to herself. But the fact she was talking today indicated that she was more lucid than usual. From what he had heard, most of the time she was lucky to be coherent of the world around her.
Zuko stood tall and gazed at her hung head. "No Azula." He retorted sternly. She was trying to bait him, get a reaction out of him. That was how Azula worked. Resisting jumping through her hoops caused her more pain than any words could.
"How merciful the great Firelord Zuzu is." She started to laugh, but any false mirth was cut short as a series of harsh coughs racked her body. It took her a few moments to compose herself, and then came her voice, full of bitterness. "Using his right to have his sister beaten, but being gracious enough to not hold it over her head."
Zuko's composure remained strong, and his voice remained steady. "You know, I wouldn't have to have you punished if you didn't try to escape." It was unfortunate for both of them. There were days when she was docile, and days when she was incoherent enough not to realize what was going on. But there was also the rare day when her mind was entirely together and she attempted to mount a resistance. There were few guards in the correctional force that didn't have scars from her nails and teeth, earned in moment of false security.
It wasn't as though she could actually escape. Even if she got out the door, there were several more checkpoints just to get into the correctional facility proper. The wing of the building had been specifically built to keep her locked away.
"Your right Zuzu. I should be content with this little cell of mine, and the slop that I'm lucky to be fed once a day. I'm such a terrible and dangerous person, dear Zuzu." He saw her inhale sharply. It was a game she was good at playing, a role she had much practice with. Calm and collected, entirely in control of the situation. But he could see the torrent raging inside of her.
"You are and always will be, Azula," came the straight and simple response. Mentally he chided himself for it a moment after though, realizing that he had taken her bait this time, and told her something that she wanted to hear.
Her head rose, eyes darting to find his. Mentally, it actually took him aback, for despite what the rest of her looked like, in this moment her eyes were the same as they always were in the past. Confident and secure, but with that same fire clear behind them. "You are afraid of me, Zuzu. Thats why you have me chained in here away from everyone. Thats why you had the avatar take away my Firebending. Thats why you're just going to leave me here until I die and I'm no longer a thorn in your side."
Zuko's body tensed and he drew himself up as large as he could, voice raising to a bark. "I'm not afraid of you Azula, and never have been. I faced you head on during Sozin's comet and earned the right to rule the Fire Nation. The world is safe from people like you!"
The fire faded from her eyes and all that remained was a cool, knowing gaze and smile. "Oh Zuzu. Is that your famous diplomacy I occasionally hear word of? Tell me, how are the diplomatic meetings going?"
He bit his tongue and didn't respond, realizing that he had fallen far enough into the trap that she had laid for him. He considered a retort but decided against it, knowing better than to play her game. She had gained control of this discussion, continuing down the road would just feed her feeling of power. Instead he turned without a word and headed for the door.
"Oh Zuzu, leaving already? Unable to hold your own in a little battle of verbal wit and claiming victory by displaying you can leave and I can't?" Her tone of her voice was like ice, almost giving him a chill, and trailed off as though she was thinking. "I wonder if you've bothered mentioning that little tidbit to anyone? Knowing how your mind works, you've probably blocked it out."
He paused, and knowing he would regret it, turned his head to look back over his shoulder. "Oh, and what would that be, Azula?"
"That you didn't win that little duel, dear brother. Our Agni Kai to determine the right to the throne... no, that was the Avatar's little water bender that won that one. If anyone won my right to the throne, it was her, not you, older brother." Her voice was like acid.
In spite of himself, he spun around and lashed out, the only thing sparing Azula from the fire that he threw being the door closing to seal her back in. He breathed heavily for a moment, raging eyes glaring into her icy ones. He took a moment to calm himself and relax his breathing.
"Get used to your cell Azula, and if you try to escape again, you'll be sorry." And with that, he stormed off, the sound of laughter chasing down the hall after him.