Fanfic: The Fire Chapters
An Season 3 AU Avatar: The Last Airbender
fanfic series by Wren Sharpbeak
. It essentially starts out with the question of what Zuko would have done if he had discovered that Azula's promise of him regaining his honor and the love of his father turned out to be a complete farce BEFORE leaving Ba Sing Se for the Fire Nation.
Surprisingly (or not), he does nothing, realizing all too late what a idiot he is to have turned his back on Iroh and potentially have a part in the Avatar's demise. As he's "escorted" along with Iroh back to the Fire Nation and having resigned himself to his true eventual fate, the Gaang (along with Aang, who recovered quickly in this version) break into the ship they're on to rescue Iroh so he can teach Aang firebending, not expecting Zuko to be a prisoner alongside him. With much coaxing from Iroh, they take Zuko along as well, and the series starts off from there, with Iroh and Zuko in the group now.
This fanfic series provides exapmles of:
- Alternate Continuity: The series branches off from a point where Zuko overhears Azula's plan to fool him into betraying Iroh under the false pretense of "regaining Father's love." Eventually, it leads to Zuko joining the Gaang much earlier than in the actual series, but with Iroh along for the journey rather than in prison. We then see how interactions between Zuko and the Gaang would've turned out if Iroh had been along to soothe tensions among the teens.
- The Abridged Series / Real Life Writes the Plot: Done on a more serious note in Chapters 13-18, as Wren explains that the extensive plots, details, and diaologue she had mapped out for each "episode" would have taken more hours than she could afford to with other commitments. She mostly makes up for this by summarizing scenes which help set up the parts she DOES write about, and reasons that the parts she has written provide more intimate moments between the characters. Chapter 19 comes out in full once she has more time to devote to the series.
- Berserk Button: For Zuko, anything that comes between him and Iroh. General How learns this the hard way in "The Trial". Through a bad case of Poor Communication Kills, Zuko believes Iroh's trial for his attack on Ba Sing Se is being rigged against rather than for him. Zuko flips his shit, attacks How in a murderous rage, and is an inch away from burning How's neck until Kuei steps in and explains the situation.
- Conflict Ball: Aang drops and picks this up a few times throughout the series. By "The Herbalist", he seems to have suppressed his physical attraction for Katara and his devotion to her whims. After his run-in with Tanha in "The Shallows", though, he seems to have picked up the ball in resentment of Katara and Zuko's growing fondness for one another and Aang himself being denied that same sort of sentiment with Katara. He drops it in "The White Lotus", only to pick it up again in Chapter 14 with Katara pleading with him to use to eclipse to contact Roku, something he'd been explicitly against before. He only decided to do it because it'd be "for her", which means he's gone right back to abiding by Katara's wishes above all else.
- Deal with the Devil:
- Invoked in "The Shallows" with the malevolent spirit Tanha, "The Thirst Giver", who tempts mortals with their innermost longings, ones people may not be even be fully aware of. The price of accepting her "offer" is that she possesses your body and can only be driven out by destroying the object of desire, which can have disturbing complications if it's a person. She tempts Sokka with the notion of having the ability to bend. She thinks he'll be easy to tempt with wanting to be powerful like the others. However, he refuses, asking why she would give someone from the Water Tribe firebending. Tanha lampshades the annoyance of trying to tempt a Idiot Hero with something as simple as power.
- Toph is tempted with the ability to see. She's elated at first, but then realizes that being to able to see would mean losing out on her earthbending-sight, what made her special and one of the best earthbenders around. She emphatically refuses.
- Katara doesn't initially have any desires for herself, devoting her time to waterbending and helping her friends, but Tanha realizes that she still harbors a seed of distrust for Zuko, and the spirit attempts to drive a wedge between the two, holding Katara's trust for Zuko up against the safety of her friends. Katara does attack and fight Zuko, but only so she can free him from Tanha's control.
- Aang is teased by Tanha that even though he gave up his earthly affections for Katara, he's ended up cut off from the Avatar State, which in Aang's eyes has made the gesture pointless as he's denied the love he feels he and Katara deserve. Tanha subsequently tempts him with the notion of "protecting" and fulfilling the desires of his loved ones while he goes fight the Fire Lord alone, but he sees through that rather handily. Having to admit he still desires Katara's love though...that doesn't go away so easily.
- Iroh, having read up on Tanha's background in his spare time, isn't at all swayed by Tanha's temptations, his lust for power and desire to see his wife and son having long since passed, and that Zuko is his own person. He assures her that she will have no better luck tempting the children with taking her "offer." Tanha, however, leaves with these chilling words: "Zuko already has."
- Zuko, at first, faces off with the form of "The Blue Spirit", but after defeating it, unmasks the form to reveal that it has his face, pure and unmarred, Tanha tempting him all the while that it could be his if he wanted it. The form then re-figures into a porcelain mask of his unmarred face. Zuko picks it up...and puts it on, losing himself to Tanha's dominant spirit until Karara forcibly removes it while fighting his possessed form. Before that, Katara witnesses him eying the mask, Lampshading the simple, but tragic notion that all Zuko desires out of anything is an unmarred face.
- Defector from Decadence: Lieutenant Jee and Commander Huo. It's subverted at first as, despite Jee's previous praise of Zuko as his ship's former captain, they still try to capture him and bring him to Azula, ever loyal to the Fire Nation. Despite doing so (and catching Sokka in a botched rescue attempt as well), Huo lets both boys go. Jee, relieved but curious, asks why:
"Do you have any children, Lieutenant?" asked Huo abstractedly.
"Uh…no, Sir" stammered Jee with mild surprise at the unexpected question, "I never took the time for a family."
Huo nodded as if he felt that had been a wise choice. Taking a deep breath, he went on with the same vague sense of distracted thought.
"I have a son, just about Prince Zuko's age." He paused and frowned before adding, "Last week he received his conscription notice."
"Conscription?" asked Jee dubiously, "I thought the age for that was-"
- Later on in the series, Huo, Jee, and an entire fleet outright desert, declaring their loyalties to Zuko.
- Disguisedin Drag: Aang, Zuko, and Sokka have to dress up as women to travel through the Fire Nation. Exactly as funny as it sounds.
- Dressing as the Enemy: Enforced in "Casualties of War", when Sokka is unexpectedly drafted into the Fire Nation Army. Turns out to produce some major Chekhov's News when Sokka later explains that the contingent of soldiers he "joined" were part of a trap for Aang and the invasion on the Day of Black Sun.
- Genre Savvy: A crowning example in "The Solstice Festival" for Sokka, who capitalizes on Azula's Genre Blindness about Earth Kingdom lore, using a written note to trick her, Mai, and Ty Lee into "pursuing the Avatar" through the tunnels near Omashu.
The people in the streets scattered in panic as Azula and her cohorts raced toward the gate on their mongoose-dragons, obviously not concerned with whether or not anyone bowed at her passing. From the balcony of the governor's house, Aang and the others watched her leave.
"Well that sure got rid of her in a hurry," Aang observed, and then he turned to Sokka with a puzzled look. "What did you write in that message?"
Sokka arched his back in a dramatic attempt at seeming nonchalant.
"Oh it was just a little note about the Avatar being spotted entering the tunnels near Omashu," he replied offhandedly.
"The tunnels?" asked Katara, her brow furrowed in confusion. Suddenly her eyes widened.
"Wait," interjected Aang before she could speak, "you don't mean…"
"You didn't," Katara finally said in disbelief.
The crafty warrior grinned hugely for a moment, before breaking into an off-key song.
"Through the mountains!" chimed in Aang with a similarly cheesy smile as he draped an arm across Sokka's shoulder. Katara did the same as she joined in as well.
"Secret, secret, secret, TUNNEL!" They ended the song with a flourish of upraised arms.
"Sokka, you're a genius!" exclaimed Aang brightly while Katara laughed.
"Yeah…I am," he agreed with mock humility.
Iroh and Zuko merely stood there staring at the trio as if they had each sprouted a second set of ears, while Toph crossed her arms and shook her head.
- Gone Horribly Right: Played for Laughs in Chapter 18:3 "New Techniques" when Zuko gives Toph a cane to help her find her way around wooden floors and she quickly discovers its capabilities as a weapon. Played straight soon after when Zuko realizes that, following a earlier training session, encouraging Katara to bend the flow of his blood back to normal, a very pervasive form of water-bending, may have opened up a can of worms for both him and the young water maiden.
- Green-Eyed Monster: More on Toph's end than Ty Lee, but neither girl seems particularly thrilled at the idea of Sokka having a girlfriend.
- Heel-Face Turn: Ty Lee. And she was just as surprised here as she was in the TV series.
- Honor Before Reason: Zig-zagged in "Legacy of The Fire Nation". Jet knew he'd be outmatched and likely killed against Azula, even with Zuko's help, but also knew Zuko would be outmatched trying to protect him. The choice wasn't hard...
- A small, but important example near the end of "The Herbalist", coming after Sokka reveals he knows from Iroh how Zuko ended up with his scar:
: "Don't be mad at him...he did the right thing by telling us. And...there's something else you should know."
: "Just that…well…if that had been me in your place…*sigh* I'd have a scar too."
- Hurting Hero / Iron Woobie: Zuko, full stop.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Zig-zagged. Zuko fears that if his feelings for Katara, reciprocated or not, came out into the open, it would cause Aang to lock off his crown chakra for good, rendering him unable to ever enter the Avatar State and fix the Avatar cycle. Because of this, he keeps them hidden and subtle when Aang's around, but reveals them little by little whenever he and Katara are alone, which actually happens a lot.
- Kick the Dog: In "The Solstice Festival", Azula and co. drop off a flyer that supposedly releases Mai and her father from "previous obligations" to the Fire Lord concerning Zuko, who goes into a Heroic BSOD after reading it. Then we find out the flyer is offering a bounty on Zuko...for his severed head. And that wasn't the worst part. The flyer referred to him as just "Zuko", not "Prince Zuko." This, along with Iroh's explanation that royals were executed with honor and even given a trial, drives the real pained statement home: Ozai disowned Zuko as his son.
- Locked Out of the Loop: In "The Trial", General How decides that the Gaang and Zuko shouldn't be told that Iroh's trial is being rigged for his accquital, resulting in a near-fatal case of Poor Communication Kills when Zuko overhears only that the trial is being rigged and assumes that it's being rigged against him.
- Mood Whiplash: In 17:2, "Learn as You Go", the Gaang has splash wars in the temple pool, Toph learns how to swim, and they laze in the sun discussing favorite foods. How does 17:3, "Division of Loyalty", start out? Aang and Appa in chains, Toph and Ty Lee are wounded, Sokka's in hiding, and Zuko and Katara are supposedly dead. That's as big a mood changer as you can get.
- Not So Invincible After All: Happens to Azula in "Legacy Of The Fire Nation" when Zuko's flaming sword leaves a scar on her cheek, causing the aura of dominance she'd built up over her brother over the years to crumble. Azula never really rebounds throughout the rest of the series.
- Poor Communication Kills: In "The Trial". No one actually dies, but it's a close thing - Zuko has a fire dagger to General How's throat and is one wrong word away from killing him by the time things get sorted out.
- Redemption Equals Death: Jet, shortly after his Heel Realization and finding out he screwed up by leading Azula to Zuko and the Gaang, jumps into the fray between the two fire siblings, redirecting a lightning blast that would've killed Zuko with his hook-sword, electrocuting himself in the process.
- Sadistic Choice: In Chapter 14, Aang is presented with an opportunity to potentially contact Roku in the Spirit World through Roku's crown. Problem is, he needs some sort of celestial event to make the connection, like the solar eclipse. However, it's key to the The Black Sun invasion and Aang taking on Ozai. According to Sokka, though, Ozai has prepared very well for the invasion, including a contingent of Yu Yan Archers with orders to shoot to kill on both Aang and Zuko. Either use your one military advantage to try a spiritual contact that may or may not work, or commence with the invasion that, by this point, would be a suicide run, especially for Aang, as Zuko points out his death means the Avatar Cycle will forever be in disrepair.
- Ship Tease: Taang, Zutara
- Something Completely Different: A meta-example with Chapter 9, "The Shallows," as Wren wanted to try her hand at a psychologically-based thriller episode rather than action-adventure.
- Stupid Sacrifice: Played with. Mai wasn't actually aware that Zuko could redirect the lightning when she takes the blast from Azula, but all it serves to do is rend Zuko's heart in two and sends Azula into a Villainous BSOD, followed by one hell of a mental breakdown.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: Played with. Azula realizes, for the most part, she's hallucinating Mai after having unintentionally killing her with a lightning strike. It's figuring out why she's hallucinating Mai that's driving her up the wall.