Pakku limped back up to the wall. It had been torn into five sections, with gaping holes between them. But that would change, soon. The soldiers on the ground, realizing that their ships were scuttled and on their way to the deeps, finally laid down arms and surrendered. He watched as his people stood victorious. The cost had been high, but for the Fire Nation, it was higher.
"What have I done?" the young Avatar asked, staring across the waves.
"What needed to be done," Pakku said. "I didn't expect that from you; targeting their transports. You stranded a lot of soldiers on this shore, and they knew it. We'll start bringing in the survivors anon."
"So... I didn't kill anybody?"
"I can't say," Pakku said. "Perhaps not, perhaps so. But you will endure it. Because you have that piece of the Water Tribe in you; perhaps you always had it. You will survive whatever comes, because you have to. Because nobody else can."
The boy curled up and stared across the seas. Pakku turned and spotted something else, though. A tiny ship, quite unlike the metal behemoths that the Fire Nation used. This was one of their own, but not one which would be sailing in conditions like this. He looked out, and he saw a man with grey hair and Fire Nation armor at the tiller. The man stared back. He rose one hand, and the other, making a circle above his head. Pakku smirked, and returned the signal. The White Lotus was everywhere. He limped off of the walls, leaving his fellow Lotus to exit the field. He had messages to send. He had people to talk to. He had a successor to choose. He had a love to rekindle.
Iroh smiled lightly as the ship bobbed and dipped on the waves. Zuko was passed out from exhaustion, under the cool sun. Iroh was never more proud of him. "When I was your age, I was a different person," he said. Zuko was in no condition to hear him, but it didn't matter. Iroh just needed to say it. "I bartered with Wan Shi Tong, the Spirit Which Knows 10,000 Things, for visions of my future. In exchange, he wanted the happiest day of my life. I didn't think much of it at the time, because I gained so much. But when I lost my wife... when I lost my only son... I know now what it truly cost me."
Iroh shifted in his seat. "I had visions. I saw myself conquering Ba Singh Se. I saw Zhao destroying the Moon. But I also saw that I would be father to my brother's son, and that my brother would be father to mine. I didn't understand that. But Ozai was long childless, and he... influenced Lu Ten. He turned my sweet, innocent little boy into his tool for the 'greatness of the Fire Nation'. I may have sired Lu Ten, but when he died, he was no longer my son: He was Ozai's."
Iroh hung his head. "Then there was you. You were so angry, so desperate. You needed so much, and were despised. Only Ursa, sweet Ursa ever gave you hope and a loving shoulder. When she was banished... I thought you would fall into despair. I feared. Especially when Azula's star began to rise. But when you were banished also, I finally understood that vision. As Lu Ten raised my son when I was away, I could raise you. I could be the father you needed. And you are, you know? When I saw you run to Zhao, despite everything, trying to help that man... I've never been more proud."
Iroh smiled, looking to the south. "Sleep, my Dark Prince. Our journey has only just begun."
Spymaster, assassin, and bodyguard, all wrapped up into one young woman. Mai couldn't fight what she was. She clambered up the scaffolding which lay atop Omashu, surrounding the half-finished structure. She knew she had seen it. It was unlike anything she'd ever encountered before. More, she needed a distraction. The news had destroyed her.
A pigeon. Not a pigeon-rat, not a pigeon-snake. Just a pigeon. Stranger things had seldom happened. She reached the top level, where the strange little bird stood, eyeing the sleeping King of Omashu. It cooed softly. Somebody wanted to deliver a message to Bumi, but he was in no condition to get it. She slowly, ever so slowly crept up to the bird, before snatching it off the beam. It struggled briefly, but she didn't need it long. She just unfurled the case from its breast and let it fly away. Seating herself on the scaffolding, so high above the city that the world stretched around her in every direction in the night, she just stared. The night of the red-moon had come and passed. She didn't know what it meant. She didn't really care. Then the news came.
The news which destroyed her.
She shook her head. She had to keep moving. Had to keep doing. It wasn't like she could just sit down on the floor like Ty Lee and bawl her eyes out. How long had it been since Mai actually cried? She didn't know. Not recently. She finally got the case open, and a small roll of paper fell into her hand. It was signed with a flower-like shape. She scowled. Somebody was trying to be clever. She read its contents, pausing briefly to try to remember her lessons in Yqanuac. Her eyes widened.
"The Dark Prince lives. There is hope for the Fire Nation yet."
He was alive. Zuko was alive.
End of Book 1: Children of Water.
That's the end of part one. It practically wrote itself, but then again, since it stuck close to Canon for much of its length, that makes a lot of sense. When it continues, It'll be Season 2, and we'll see what happens when implied foe-yay between Sokka and Ty Lee blossoms into something a bit more dangerous, or everybody involved. Oh, the fun I will have. It's just a matter of gettin over a fricken month's worth of illness and writing it. It's hard to believe that I got this done in twenty days.