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Fanfic / Salvage

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Zuko bonding with Panuk and Toklo.

An Avatar the Last Airbender fanfiction by Muffin Lance found here.

In the middle of season one canon, Zuko is thrown overboard during a storm and rescued by the Southern Water Tribe Fleet led by Hakoda. Hakoda holds Zuko for ransom and sends missives to Ozai, while trying to A) keep Zuko from escaping, and B) keep his crew from killing the Fire Prince. Over time, Zuko bonds with his captors and Hakoda starts to doubt the idea of returning Zuko to the Fire Nation.

For other examples of their work see Towards The Sun and Cheating At Pai Sho.


Salvage contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Ozai's abuse of Zuko is emphasized throughout the story, though Zuko does not recognize it as such.
  • Adult Fear: Hakoda gets hit with this when he realizes that Zuko has Katara's necklace wrapped around his wrist, meaning that the Fire Prince has been to his home, and possibly hurt his children.
  • Annoying Patient: More like Violent Patient. Zuko has to be held down while recovering from hypothermia, because he keeps thrashing and attacking whoever's holding him. Eventually Kustaa is the only one willing and able, and that's only because Zuko thinks he's Uncle Iroh.
  • Awful Truth: Throughout his exchange of letters with Ozai, Hakoda is increasingly horrified by the Fire Lord's apathy and disdain for his son, culminating in the Fire Lord flat-out stating that he was all right with Hakoda killing Zuko.
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  • Brain Bleach: After a visiting Earth Kingdom contact visits the Akhlut and eats some of Zuko's curry, he leaves trying his best to not think about how the Fire Prince apparently cooks in a manner not too dissimilar to said contact's elder sister.
  • Body Horror: Seal Jerky the isopod-dog molting after Zuko feeds him enough to gain a growth-spurt. Poor Zuko walks in on Seal Jerky with his back split open and the half-molted animal emerging in a gooey mess from the gaping pseudo-wound, and promptly screams loud enough to wake up the entire ship.
  • Close to Home: Zuko has one very clearly for anything to do with his father and relationships mirroring theirs. He loses his temper badly at Hakoda when he discovers Scuttles's other name, Sokka, and believes the man devalues his son the way his own father devalues and abuses him.
  • Companion Cube: Played for laughs when a prototype thermometer is referred to as "Kustaa's Best Apprentice."
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Zuko is not pleased that the men on the ships like to put off washing clothes or cooking or sewing as long as possible, since it's "women's work." Thanks to him, washing and cooking become far more common, because he hates spending literal days doing chores because the number of things to clean or fix is so huge.
  • Delirious Misidentification: While hazy from fever, Zuko mistakes the ship's healer Kustaa for Uncle Iroh. Kustaa plays along, since it's the only way to get him to stay still and take his medicine.
  • Dramatic Irony: Hakoda figures he can ransom Zuko to the Fire Nation, since Ozai would obviously want his son and heir back safely. Spoiler: No. No, he does not.
  • Exasperated Perp: Zuko is very blunt and honest, especially when annoyed, which leads him to reveal vital information to the crew multiple times. Lampshaded when an Earth Kingdom general who has only just met Zuko figures out almost immediately that all he has to do is piss Zuko off to get the boy talking.
  • Finger in the Mail: Hakoda receives ten from Ozai: one for each of the Water Tribe members currently held prisoner by the Fire Nation.
  • Foreshadowing: In chapter 13, when discussing giant isopod-dog aging/size increase mechanics, Panuk rhetorically asks if Zuko has any idea just how big they can grow. In chapter 16, we learn that a proper adult can be bigger than Appa, who is one of the largest creatures in canon.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Zuko is a prince and animals love him. This is demonstrated multiple times with the albatross-pigeons used for delivering messages cooing at him and grooming him. Then the isopod-dog, Scuttles, similarly adopts him in later chapters and follows him around happily. Though it is shown that the animals in question are not above taking advantage of this- several of the albatross-pigeons and Scuttles/Sokka/Seal Jerky learn that by faking being sick or injured, Zuko will sneak them extra food.
  • Gentle Giant: The adult giant isopod-dogs who show up in chapter 16 are predators, but also remember their own days of living amongst humankind fondly, and are incredibly gentle with both the resident isodog puppy and his companion humans.
    The big dogs remembered ships, and humans, and a time when they were small enough to play fetch with the great-grandfathers of the men above. When the pup grew tired, they'd return him to the deck, exhausted and exhilarated and ready for ear scritches. They knew how important it was to spend as much time with humans as they could. Old dogs could learn as many tricks as they wanted, but they could never fit back home.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Hakoda misses or misreads several of Zuko's reactions because the idea of a parent not loving their child simply doesn't occur to a Papa Wolf like him.
  • Good Parents: Hakoda's parenting is set-up in a clear contrast to Ozai. Hakoda shows genuine love, concern, and pride in his children. Hakoda seems to be missing a lot of the signs of Zuko's negative relationship with his father and misconstruing Zuko's reactions because he has not considered the idea of another father not loving their son. The premise of the story largely revolves around Hakoda disagreeing with Ozai's abuse and on Hakoda's good parenting.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Despite showing signs of being a master Firebender, specifically the sparks he breathes and the incredible skill and control he shows off, Zuko considers himself not much of a firebender. This is later explained that he is comparing himself to his father, the Fire Lord, his sister, the Prodigy, and his uncle, the Dragon of the West, and that anyone who isn't them "Doesn't matter" in terms of power or skill.
  • Hypocritical Humor: A visiting Earth Kingdom official is creeped out by the ship's giant isopod-dog because it "has too many legs", and wishes it was something less disturbing... like an Earth Kingdom spider-hound.
  • Important Haircut: When Hakoda tells Zuko the truth about Ozai's response to Zuko's kidnapping, Zuko ceremoniously cuts off his topknot, symbolizing his break from his family and his nation. Hakoda notes that, while he doesn't understand the significance, hair is supremely important to Fire Nationals and that previous prisoners broke completely on having their hair cut.
  • Lima Syndrome: Along with Stockholm Syndrome. Hakoda and the crew eventually recognize that Zuko is a child thrown into war very young and treat him as civilly as their situation permits. By the end of the story, Hakoda (and the rest of the crew) has officially adopted Zuko.
  • Meaningful Name: The name of Hakoda's ship is the Akhlut. This is an actual Inuit mythological monster that is either a half wolf/half orca hybrid or a shapeshifter that can become a wolf, an orca, or a combination thereof at will. In other words, a perfect Water Tribe symbol.
    • The "giant" part of "giant isopod-dog" turns out to be pretty important in chapter 16.
  • The Medic: Kustaa the healer. Zuko eventually becomes Kustaa's apprentice.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: As is common in the author's works, the existing canon use of this trope is expanded with a number of new creatures.
    • The ship's guardian is a giant isopod-dog — that is, a hybrid of a giant isopod (a marine cousin to the common woodlouse) and a dog.
    • Mention is made of the Earth Kingdom having spider-hounds, which are spider/dog fusions.
    • The Water Tribes use albatross-pigeons as messengers, although they're described as looking more or less like giant seagulls with terrible landing skills.
    • The waters of the South Pole are apparently home to newt-squids. We don't learn much about them, except they are apparently "entirely the opposite in construction and size" to the squid-newts in the waters they're currently sailing. Said squid-newts can shed their tentacles to escape danger, and one shed tentacle is literally longer than the Akhlut. The crew are rather disconcerted to learn about this little fact, especially when it comes in the form of Seal Jerky hauling a tentacle aboard and Zuko promptly turning it into giant-size takoyaki.
    • Zuko mentions a Noodle Incident in which his uncle accidentally fished up a manatee-megalodon, which is a combination of a pinniped and an extinct whale-sized shark.
    • A South Tribe story briefly mentions the existence of fox-pythons.
    • Other South Tribe fauna mentioned in the story include seal-gulls, salmon-trout, penguin-peacocks, sword-crabs, leopard-lampreys, shoebill raccoon-storks, and honey-reindeer (bee/reindeer hybrids).
    • Crab-urchins and scallop-shrimp appear during a brief stint on the coast.
    • Mention is made of "jack-gulls", presumably a hybrid of jackdaw (crow) and gull... or else a jackal-gull hybrid.
    • At one point, Hakoda compares Zuko to a "snapping-viper", presumably a snapping turtle/snake hybrid.
    • Orca-wolves are apparently a thing in South Polar waters. Which is fitting, given that the Akhlut is named after an Inuit monster which is literally an orca-wolf.
    • Mention is made of piranha-wasps.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Zuko's brief description of the manatee-megalodon mentions "a circle of teeth" bigger around than a tea chest that Iroh was using a spare anchor on a catapult to try and fish up.
  • Mundane Utility: Zuko's firebending is used to do chores around the ship making laundry easier and more enjoyable and reintroducing warm meals and warm baths to the crew. This does quite a bit to help them warm up to him and shows the innocuous side of the Fire Nation. Zuko meanwhile keeps getting bothered into using his bending by Panuk's whining and puppy dog eyes.
  • Offing the Offspring: Hakoda slowly realizes that Ozai not only doesn't care that Hakoda has Zuko, but Ozai actively wants Zuko dead. It's when Ozai offers "leniency" in the war if Hakoda executes Zuko that Hakoda finally understands the depth of vileness that Ozai will sink.
  • Papa Wolf: Hakoda becomes an instant protective father when he realizes the betrothal necklace tied around Zuko's wrist is his daughter's. He goes from considering how to positively influence Zuko to dragging him out of bed and demanding answers the second he thinks his children have been injured. Hakoda slowly morphs into one of these for Zuko as well as Ozai's abuse and cruelty become more and more obvious.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Along with Lima Syndrome. Zuko slowly bonds with the crew over time, realizing that they are decent people who aren't going to hurt a sixteen year old for no reason. By the end of the story Zuko accepts Hakoda as his father and the crew as his family, while still including Azula, Iroh, and his mother in that category.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Like his canon counterpart, Zuko is desperate to capture the Avatar for his father and to return home. As the story progresses, he develops this attitude towards the Water Tribe crewmen, if only to be useful and to save his life. He also develops this attitude due to his growing attachment to Hakoda and the crew, as they're some of the first—and only—adults in Zuko's entire life to treat him with sincere kindness and respect (excluding Iroh, of course).
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Zuko gives one to Hakoda when it's revealed that Scuttles, the isopod-dog, is called "Sokka" after the Chief's son. The crew were trying to keep Hakoda's son in their hearts (and to make fun of their chief). Zuko sees it that Hakoda thinks his non-bender child is so worthless that he's comparing him to a dog, seeing himself in Sokka's position thanks to his family situation.


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