This is a little story I did a few years ago. It concerns an OC named Zazi who is a fire bending prodigy and warrior of such skill that even as a 15 year old he is arguably the most dangerous fire bender alive. (please note that I've added three years to the ages of several characters as I think all our younger characters really ought to be considerably older for the canon's story line to play out the way it does)
“Halt!” yells the guard at the gray-clad figure striding up to the gate of the Fire Nation royal palace. The figure pauses, his broad conical hat shading his eyes as he looks up and calls, “Are there fire benders here?” The guard raises an eyebrow, puzzled, “Are you joking?! This is the royal palace! Of course there are fire-benders here!” “Are they any good?” The guard blinks, “Um…”
“Never mind! I’ll find out for myself!” The guard shouts, “Wait! You can’t come in here!” The mysterious figure strides up to the gate and knocks on it politely. When there is no answer except for the guard shouting at him to go away or be arrested, the figure takes a step back, once, twice, three times, and then charges the gate.
The guard stares, thinking the poor man must be mad as he is about to crash into the three-meter thick gate. The guard looks away expecting to hear a thud. Instead, the rapid footsteps just continue as if the man had run right through the gate and kept going. The guard looks down over the battlement, just in time for a foot to step on his face.
The guard staggers back as the figure spins, his gray cloak awhirl and perches precariously on the battlement, looking around quizzically. The guard regains his balance and stares. “This guy can’t be more than fifteen,” he thinks. The boy looks at him, “So, which way were those fire-benders?” The guard blinks and then quickly throws a fireball at the boy while he scrabbles for his horn to sound the alarm.
He grabs his horn, but doesn’t blow it because the boy just knocked the flames back at him. The guard staggers back as the fireball crashes against his faceplate. The boy steps forward, relieves the guard of his horn, and snaps a hand into a chink in the guard’s armor. The guard’s eyes widen as he collapses, paralyzed. The boy crouches next to him, “Don’t worry. It’ll wear off in a few hours.” Then he stands up, puts the horn to his lips and vents an enormous sound that echoes through the entire city. The guard can only watch helplessly as the boy grins at the guards rushing into the square, “fun-time.”
The boy leaps from the wall and extends his cloak, which suddenly flares out like wings. The guards stop in surprise, and a bit of fear. The boy takes advantage of their confusion and flies past overhead towards the inner palace, which is now erupting with alarms. The boy flies over the central courtyard and sees armed figures rushing out into the courtyard. The boy lands and cracks his knuckles, “So, I hear you guys are fire-benders.” Then he flies forward and decimates the guards before him without using any fire bending except to keep the flames off him. Then as more guards rush out to confront him, he grins and raises his hands.
Suddenly his hands are full of knives, which are a split second later buried in the front line of guards, who collapse and trip the guards behind them. The boy grins wickedly and spins to deliver a flat-handed strike that jettisons the guard charging him from behind into three of his fellows.
The boy turns and catches a fireball, and then he spins and launches it back at its owner as a condensed bolt of white flames. The guard goes down in flames. By this time there are numerous Royal Fire Benders preparing to attack. The boy looks around and counts his opponents, “Hmm…looks about even. All right, whatcha got?”
The Royal Fire Benders launch a simultaneous attack, a coordinated assault such as hadn’t been seen since the early days of the war. The fire engulfs the boy and the Royal Fire Benders pat themselves on the back, thinking that nothing could possibly have survived that. Then their confidence vanishes as a voice laughs from the center of the inferno, “Is that all you’ve got?”
Suddenly the flames blaze white and explode outward.
The boy looks around at the carnage, then mutters irritably as he pushes his hat back, revealing a shock of wild reddish-brown hair, “Good job Zazi. That’ll really endear you to a new fire bending teacher won’t it? Bah!” He puts a finger in his mouth, holds it up to test the nonexistent wind, and then points to a door, “Let’s see if there are any good fire benders in there.” He strolls through the door and wanders through the palace.
He passes a sad looking man with a gray and black beard sipping tea, who looks like his world has collapsed around his ears. Zazi stops and looks at the old man, “Are you a fire bender?” The man looks up, “Yes.” “Are you a good fire bender?” The old man sighs sadly and looks at his tea, “Not good enough to save my son from that swordsman.” Zazi thinks about saying something, then closes his mouth, thinks for a moment and said, “Then may the spirits help you save that which is not beyond saving.”
The old man looks up at him, “What?” Zazi bows, “Something my grandpa used to say before he died. It means honor those past by not joining them until you have to, protect those you can, and good luck. Enjoy your tea sir.” Then Zazi strides off down the corridor. The old man calls after him, “Wait boy! What is your name?” “Zazi!” General Iroh blinks and shakes his head, “You’re losing it Iroh. Seeing things.”
Zazi turns through a door and finds himself in a garden. He walks amongst the foliage following the sound of quiet conversation. He pushes through some bushes and finds himself on the banks of a duck pond. There are two pretty girls roughly Zazi’s age sitting up a tree. Zazi looks up at them, “What are you doing?” The one on the right, with black hair, brown eyes and a bored expression tells him in a flat voice that they’re hiding as she sharpens a throwing knife.
Then the other one, with braided brown hair and pretty gray eyes, looks at him while standing on one hand, “Your aura’s all crazy.” Zazi looks at her, “Just like its owner.” The bored one smiles briefly and the other one giggles. Zazi raises an eyebrow, “Are either of you fire benders?” The bored girl frowns, “No.”
The giggly one suddenly back-flips to the ground and draws disarmingly close, “What’s your name?” “Zazi.” “Why are you looking for a fire bender?” “I need a good teacher. Mine died.” She drew back a little, “Oh.” then she smiled “Maybe we can help! Mei do you know any good fire bending teachers?”
Bored face, who Zazi now knew to be Mei, looks at her, “No. Azula’s the fire bender. Maybe she can help you after the alert’s over. You might want to find someone else though.” “Why?” Smiley grins uneasily, “We-ell…Azula’s the princess, and if she doesn’t like you…” “You’ll have half the Royal Fire Benders chasing you,” Mei finishes. Zazi shrugs good-naturedly, “Well I’ve got that already, so what can it hurt?” Twin looks of alarm flash across the girls’ faces, “Why?”
Zazi shrugs, “’cause the other half are laid out in the courtyard by the front gate.” There’s no answer that time, but Smiley snaps a hand into a pressure point in Zazi's neck. Zazi smiles at her, completely unaffected, “You’re a Chi-blocker?” Mei yells from the tree, “Ty Lee run!” Before she can even turn to run, Zazi quickly touches two fingers to her neck, knocking Ty Lee to her knees and temporarily paralyzing her.
Zazi smiles down at her sympathetically, “Don’t worry, you executed that strike perfectly. Anyone else would be down for the rest of the day, but chi-blocking doesn’t work on me.” Ty Lee looks up at him fearfully, wondering what he’s planning to do with her. Zazi smiles at her, “Don’t worry, it wears off.”
Then he looks up at Mei, just in time to dodge the knife that comes whistling towards him. He spins and throws a volley of sharp stakes which pin Mei’s sleeves to the tree so that she can’t move. He smiles up at her, “So Azula can recommend a good fire-bending teacher?” Mei shoots a vicious glare at him, “I hope she roasts you alive.” Zazi shrugs, “If she’s as pretty as you two, she just might succeed where hundreds have failed.” Then he puts the horn to his lips and blasts it again, “Someone should be along in a minute.”
Then he strolls off through the bushes leaving Mei and Ty Lee for the guards to find. He jumps up to the roof and looks around, “Now if I were protecting a princess, where would I hide her?” He closes his eyes to prevent the interference of his natural sight.
His eyes rove about the palace, seeing masses of heat rushing about, obviously the guards and palace personnel. Then the blindingly obvious answer comes to him and he laughs as he spots the mass of heat in the throne room, lined with figures that can only be guards, “I’d hide her with the best fire benders in the city and an army of guards!” Then he looks again, “And I’d hide her as far from the obvious place as possible.” His gaze continues to rove about, searching intently.
A Few Moments LaterEdit
Azula paced around the royal spa impatiently. She hated not knowing what was going on. She glared at the dozen guards sent to protect her, who flinched. “What’s the alert about?” she asked for the third time. For the third time, the answer from the guards was, “We don’t know.” For the third time, Azula growled and started pacing again.
This pacing would have gone on for several more minutes if there hadn’t been a sizzling sound from the steel reinforced door. Azula looked at the door wide eyed, “What is that?” She took a step back and prepared a fireball in each hand as the guards leveled pikes and lit torches in the direction of the door as a white jet of flame melted its way through the door and then proceeded to slowly advance around the perimeter of the doors.
Even though she was expecting it, she still jumped a little when the doors collapsed inward and steam billowed into the room through the still glowing edges of the doorframe. The non-fire bender guards advanced cautiously. Azula cranked up the fire in her hands, preparing for an even stronger strike than she had anticipated needing. Suddenly a guard was catapulted backwards out of the steam cloud, smashing a table to splinters as he sailed through it and landing with a thud on the other side of the room.
The rest of the non-fire bender guards were right behind him, landing next to him on the far side of the room. The royal fire benders fell back into a tight ring around Azula, completely obscuring her view. Just as the thought entered her mind to tell them to move so she could see, the guards on either side of her collapsed. Then the two between her and the door went down with cries of pain. She stepped back and unleashed a blast of fire in the direction of the door, flooding that half of the room with flames.
As the flames cleared, she searched for charred remains, but couldn’t see anything obvious. She motioned for the two remaining guards to go look. They responded by falling past her face first, landing hard on their compatriots. Azula started to scream and a hand clamped itself over her mouth, “SHHHHH!!! Are you Azula?”
She responded by hurling the fireballs in her hands over her shoulder at the person holding her. The gray clad figure looked at her unscathed as she leapt away, “Is that a yes?” Azula responded by unleashing a torrent of flames. The boy brushed the flames aside like dust in a breeze, “Well, I suppose there is always the hard way. Do you wish to fight an Agni Kai, or would you rather I be friendly?”
Azula launched an arc of fire and the boy laughed, “Agni Kai it is then.” With a move that Azula thought looked nothing like proper fire Bending, the boy smashed her fire arc into the ground and then threw it back over her head in a blaze of white flames. She laughed as she punched out a volley of fireballs, “You missed!” The boy twiddled his fingers and the fireballs became a white hot rod of fire twirling between his fingers, “Who said I intended to harm you?”
He hurled the rod like a javelin and Azula dove to the side, noticing that the fire-bolt would have missed even if she had remained stationary. Is he aiming to miss? she thought. “You know you don’t fight like a fire bender!” she called as she dealt a jump fire kick. “Of course not,” the boy called back as he guided the flames off course, “This is water style!” Azula was sure she had misheard, “There is no water style!” She launched a narrow jet of fire, which the boy dodged easily. The boy chuckled, “Sure there is. My grandfather watched how water-benders fought and translated their techniques into fire bending!”
Azula found this claim of water technique ironic since the boy was clearly a very skilled fire bender, “What would a fire bender need with water-bending?” The boy grinned as he stopped her fire blast in its tracks, “Oh not much. Just very useful defensive techniques. What I can’t absorb, or just plain stop, I redirect or dodge. Something you might wish to try.” Azula launched a double arc of fire, “Why would I want to do that?”
The boy answered by plucking the twin arcs out of the air, spinning and launching a stream of those weird white flames at her feet. Azula jumped and narrowly managed to avoid being crippled. Then she landed and realized from the red hot stone that the boy had warped the flames around where she had been standing. “See! You’re learning already!”
She exhaled angrily as she realized that the boy was just toying with her and vented the biggest fire blast she had at him. She grinned in triumph, then her smile sank into an expression of horror as the boy smiled at her, once again untouched, and apparently having not moved.
The boy smiled at her, “You are very fierce, and obviously a perfectionist judging from the pristine state of your clothes and appearance. The eyes scream of intelligence and the expression just wants to scream at me.” Azula promptly gave in to that last one and screamed, unleashing a torrent of flames like the breath of a dragon.
She blinked as the flames cleared and the boy was nowhere to be seen. She smiled, “Got him.” “Mmm…not quite.” Then a blast of white flames exploded from a point right next to her face, mimicking her fire breath with a roar that would have put a true dragon to shame. The boy caught her hands before she could turn and whispered in her ear, “I suppose a Agni Kai isn’t over until someone gets burned, and you’re a might too pretty to be burning, so…”
He did something to her hand that made her index finger snap out. Then he ignited a small flame at the tip of her finger and pressed the finger, flame and all, into the palm of his own hand. He hissed, and extinguished the fire before removing her finger, revealing a small burn in the center of his palm. He exhaled heavily, “Are you happy? You got to fight a Agni Kai, and I’m pretty sure this mark means you won.”
Azula leapt away and leveled her hands at the boy in gray, “What do you want with me?” The boy sighed, “Well, if you’re Azula, and I suspect you are, then I’m told you’re a fire bender and can probably recommend a good fire bending teacher. If not, then I’d like to know your name and if you can recommend a good fire bending teacher.”
Azula blinked and then started to laugh, “A fire bending teacher?! You expect me to believe that you broke into the palace, killed my guards, and sought me out just so I could recommend a fire bending teacher? Who are you?” “My name is Zazi, and yes. I rather thought it would be believable that I was looking for a fire bending teacher since that is what I’m doing.”
Azula laughed again and gestured to the door and the guards, “Why on earth would you need a fire bending teacher? Look around you! You burned through a six-inch thick steel door! You just decimated half a dozen fire benders and took a double fireball to the face without being burned! You just fought an Agni Kai with a fire bending prodigy and won without breaking a sweat! (It was obvious from the way her voice cracked that she was rather upset about that one.) Plus whatever you did to start the alert! You’ve got to be one of the most powerful fire benders I’ve ever seen! Why would you need a fire bending teacher?”
Zazi blinked and looked at his hands, then around at the destruction wrought in his wake, and then back at Azula confused, “I am? But I’m just an amateur!” Azula laughed, “Amateur?! You can do all this and you think you’re an amateur? Who were your teachers? Dragons?!” Zazi’s face fell a little, “Um…I can’t tell you. He made me promise two things before he died, that I wouldn’t reveal his name and that I’d find a new teacher.”
Azula looked closer at him in surprise, “You’re actually telling the truth?” Zazi looked at her puzzled, “Yes.” Azula blinked and stepped closer, curiosity overriding caution as she realized that whatever else he was, he was being honest, “So you actually think you’re an amateur?” Zazi looked at his hands and white flames flickered into existence around them, “I thought all fire benders could do what I do.”
He snuffed out the flames and Azula took another step toward him, “No. That’s amazing fire bending.” Then, oddly emboldened by her curiosity, “Can you show me how to do that?” Zazi looked up at her, she was only a step or two away now. A sudden look of resolve settled over his features, “I only know one way. You would have to trust me.”
Azula blinked, “Um, ok?” Zazi stepped forward and wrapped her in a hug, placing one hand on the small of her back and the other behind her heart. “Don’t fight it,” he whispered in her ear as she started to protest. Then he leaned in close and suddenly they were wrapped in a cyclone of white flames.
Azula instinctively wanted to run, but she held on and suddenly felt a burning sensation emanating from Zazi’s hands as he started to hum with energy. Then Azula became aware of something burning inside her. She cried out as it flared in response to the fire around her, then she gasped as it started to sputter and flicker, threatening to go out.
“Don’t fight it!” Zazi yelled over the roar of the flames. Azula calmed herself and gasped as the burning inside her roared back to life, more intense than before. It went from a guttering flame, to the torch it had been before, to a bonfire, to a miniature sun. Then the burn spread and suffused her whole body, no longer painful, but strangely relaxing, better than anything she had ever felt. She shuddered with pleasure and suddenly realized that the cyclone had subsided as the flames began to recede back towards her center.
“That was beautiful,” She told Zazi quietly. “Yes you are,” Zazi told her in an equally quiet voice. Azula felt a little thrill of pleasure; she had already known she was beautiful, but somehow hearing him say so made everything better. Then Zazi kissed her and her mind dissolved into a thousand little bubbles of happiness.
Then the bubbles all popped as an angry voice growled, “Get away from my daughter.” Azula’s head snapped around to see her father, Fire Lord Ozai, standing in the door along with Mei and a platoon of guards. Mei was staring in openmouthed shock, and Fire Lord Ozai looked likely to burst into flames at any minute.
Zazi took a half step back and turned to face Fire Lord Ozai, “Can I help you?” Fire Lord Ozai’s expression went from livid to incandescent. Suddenly he moved and hurled a bolt of lightning straight into Zazi’s chest. Zazi was knocked backward and spun around, but managed to stay on his feet for an instant before falling to his knees.
Azula squeaked in fear and surprise as the lightning bolt slammed into Zazi. Then she realized what had happened, “Zazi!” she cried. Then she gasped as she heard him grunt with pain. Zazi growled, “That. Won’t. Stop. Me!”
Then Azula realized in shock that he was drawing the lightning out of his chest. It tried to run back up his arm, but only got to his elbow before rebounding. Then he suddenly snapped the arm forward and discharged the lightning bolt into the wall.
Azula was about to shriek with delight when her relief evaporated as Zazi collapsed forward onto his side with a groan.
Mei couldn’t do anything but stare as Azula knelt next to Zazi’s barely breathing form with tears in her eyes. Azula crying was strange enough on its own. Azula never cried. The fact that she was crying for someone else was so out of character that Mei couldn’t even begin to wrap her head around it. She could only watch in shock as Azula cradled Zazi’s head in her lap near the ruins of a table.
“You would have to trust me,” she told him quietly. Mei couldn’t hear his response, but Azula smiled and gently placed a hand on his jaw. Mei couldn’t fathom what Azula was doing until she began to push Zazi’s jaw away from her. Mei put her hands over her mouth to cover the gasp as she realized that Azula was going to-CRACK! Zazi suddenly went limp in Azula’s arms.
Azula set Zazi gently on the floor and closed his eyes before placing his fallen hat on his chest. She kissed her fingers and pressed them to his lips before standing up and looking at the small crowd in the doorway, “This is over.” Then she pushed past them wiping the tears from her eyes and disappeared down the hallway. Everyone looked after her for a moment; then her father ordered the guards to dispose of the bodies and walked off in the other direction.
Mei couldn’t help but notice as the guards dragged Zazi’s corpse past that there was a ghost of a smile on his face. Mei watched the body until it went around the corner, a thought nagging at the back of her mind but refusing to form. Ty Lee suddenly came running around the corner, “ Mei! What happened?” Mei stared down the corridor, “I’ll tell you on the way. I think we need to talk to Azula.”
They spotted her out a window an hour later standing over an open grave in the garden while a guard dropped Zazi’s body in. The guard hurriedly began shoveling dirt in over the body while Azula kept watch, and a few minutes later, the only thing to mark the grave was a freshly upturned patch of earth. Mei blinked, “But…” she slapped the windowsill as Azula and the guard disappeared into the foliage. She looked at Ty Lee, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m going to find out.”
They headed down to the garden to try and find Azula, but by the time they got there, Azula and her helper had disappeared. They searched for the rest of the day to no avail. By the time dusk rolled around and the torches were being lit, Ty Lee was ready to give up, “ Mei, why do you need to talk to Azula so bad about that boy? She killed him.”
Mei looked around to make sure they were alone and whispered, “I’m not sure she did.” “But Mei, we watched her bury him! How could he be alive?” Mei’s impatience suddenly flared and she snapped, “I don’t know! I could just be losing my mind, but I’m certain I saw him smiling while they were dragging him away. And we don’t know that it was him she buried, we just know someone wearing his clothes was buried.”
“You heard his neck snap!” “I heard something crack, it could have just as easily have been Azula breaking a shard of that table behind him and then they could’ve decked a guard and he switched clothes with the guard and…” Mei stopped wide-eyed as the pieces fell into place, “Oh. Come on, I bet I know where Azula is.”
Mei turned and sprinted toward the royal chambers with Ty Lee hot on her heels, “Where are we going? Mei!” They skidded to a halt a few moments later in front of Azula’s door. Mei looked at the guard, “Is Azula in there?” “Hello Ms. Mei. Ms. Ty Lee. Yes, Azula is in, but Fire Lord Ozai requested that they not be dis-” The door opened and Azula’s father stepped out huffing in anger and exasperation.
Mei and Ty Lee bowed as he swept past, not even noticing them and making the torches flare with anger. He stormed off down the hallway and Mei looked at the guard, “Can we go in now?” The guard smiled, “Of course.”
Mei knocked on the door, “Azula? It’s Mei and Ty Lee.” Azula opened the door smiling, unusually perky, “Hi.” Mei blinked, “Can we come in?” Azula blinked, “Oh um sure! Just a minute.” She closed the door and Mei thought she heard cloth flapping. Then Azula opened the door back, “Come on in. come on in.” As Mei and Ty Lee stepped into the dimly lit room, Azula looked at the guard, “Make sure we aren’t disturbed,” Then she closed the door and slumped against it with a sigh.
Mei looked at her, “Are you alright?” Azula jumped, “What? Oh, yeah, yeah. I’m fine. Why do you ask?” Mei looked at her more closely, Azula, jittery? Something was up; Azula was never jittery, “Are you hiding something?” Azula paled a little, “Why?” “You’re jumpy like a toddler who just got caught with her hand in the cookie jar.” Azula laughed nervously, “Really? Imagine that.”
Mei hmm-ed, “So are you ok? All that business with the intruder earlier, we wanted to check on you. Didn’t we Ty Lee?” Ty Lee blinked, “What? Oh yeah! Yeah we wanted to come check on you! Make sure you were ok. Did you really kiss him?” Azula went even paler and started sweating a little, “Um, it’s getting kind of late,” she forced a yawn, “I’m really tired. Thanks for checking on me, I’m fine. I think I’ll turn in now though. Good night!”
As Azula turned to open the door, Mei said flatly, “He’s alive isn’t he?” Azula froze and Mei knew she was right. Azula sighed, “How did you know?” “Zazi’s not very good at playing dead. He was smiling while they dragged him away. Besides, I’ve met you before.” Azula turned to make a biting retort, but it withered in the face of Mei’s steady gaze and Ty Lee’s stunned expression flitting back and forth between the two of them.
Azula inhaled and exhaled, trying to calm herself, “Alright, yes. We faked Zazi’s death. Please don’t turn him in. Father would kill him or try to and get hurt, and either way one of them would get hurt or killed and I’d be responsible.” Mei’s eyes widened marginally, “You actually care about him don’t you?” Ty Lee gasped, “So you did kiss him?” Azula’s expression of guilty pleasure at the memory was all the answer she needed. Ty Lee shrieked with delight and hugged her, “Oh Azula! Your first kiss!”
Azula smiled, “Yes, it was rather magnificent.” Mei smiled, only Azula. A voice grumbled from the shadows, “Can I come out now?” Mei whirled and noticed the black clad figure standing stock-still by the window, half concealed by the curtains. Azula smiled as Ty Lee jumped back in surprise, “Yes, Zazi, you can come out now.” Zazi stepped out of the shadows into the dim light, revealing the black armor of a palace guard as he pulled off a black mask.
Mei stepped back as she realized how close he had been standing, “How long have you been standing there?” Azula smiled and stepped into his arms, “Since before father came in.” Zazi looked out the window and sighed, “The sun’s down.” Azula sighed, “I guess you have to go now?”
“I think I should, but first…” he kissed Azula again, and Mei couldn’t help but think that they did that a lot. When they finally stopped, Zazi leaned his forehead against hers, “I’ll see you again someday. I promise.” Azula kissed him gently, “I’ll hold you to that.” Zazi chuckled and kissed her again, “I certainly hope so.” Then he turned and launched himself out the window, landing on the roof down below and disappearing away into the night, one more shadow on a moonless night.
Azula looked after him, a wistful expression on her face. She turned to Mei and Ty Lee, “You know of course that we can never tell anyone about any of this?” Mei raised an eyebrow, “Of course not.” Azula smiled suddenly, “Zazi showed me a new kind of firebending. You want to see?” Ty Lee smiled “Sure!” Azula held up a hand and blue flames crackled to life in her hand, illuminating the biggest smile Mei had ever seen Azula wear before flickering out as the flame ran out of air. “Zazi said that with enough focus my fire will eventually turn white like his.” “Wow. Most guys get a girl flowers.” Azula smiled, “He’s not most guys.”