Kuebiko

BY : Death_Rattle
Category: Avatar - The Last Airbender > AU/AR - Alternate Universe/Alternate Reality
Dragon prints: 5256
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Avatar: the Last Airbender or any of the characters. I do not profit from my writing.

The Fire Lord- No! The Phoenix Queen! She was a queen now, and no one would dare tell her otherwise! The Phoenix Queen awoke, bleary-eyed and sore, feeling as though she had not slept at all - even despite the fact that it was nearly midday. His side of the bed is cold and unoccupied, and she could sulk about it but she won't. Instead, she rose, smiling from ear to ear, feeling as if she could take on the world... well, figuratively speaking, of course - for she and her king had already done so!

Maidservants attended to the little queen's every whim, as per usual - drew her a scented bath, dressed her, doused her in perfumes and oils, combed and styled her hair (as well as could be expected) and then finally, obscured her cold visage with a mask of meticulously painted cosmetics - white powder upon her face... black kohl around those smoldering, sunlit eyes in great contrast... and of course, a smear of crimson staining her lips.

Absentmindedly, a servant reached for her neck, moving to cover the grotesque array of colors that had blossomed there. Azula snatched her wrist, quickly, before the stupid girl could mar her with any chalky, white paste- as if she had something to hide! As if she should be ashamed that Father had claimed her, marked her as his. Never! It was this stupid serving wench who ought to be ashamed of herself!

"I feel no shame! Begone from my sight, miserable little wench. I shall deal with you later" she hissed.

Truthfully, the girl (no matter how moronic) was painfully insignificant and therefore, not worth her time. Not today, at least. There was someone, however, who was...

⁂⁂⁂

It had been three days and nights since she saw Zuko fall on the day of red sun. Four since she had last seen her brother. Five since she had last seen Aang (he was coming back, right? ). Five days since she had last felt contentment and safety, four days since she had felt community and kinship, three since she had felt freedom and purpose. Day by day, the Fire Nation had taken everything from Katara.

Not that she had actually been able to keep up with any sort of consistent sleep. Oh no, only the waning and waxing of her power with the passing of the moon told Katara the time, a fact that was certainly not lost on her guards, who seemed to have forgotten that every human on earth needs water, whether they can bend it or not. On the first day she had been granted a pittance. The door hadn't opened since. Azula's doing, Katara preferred to think. That was easier than believing that the average man in the Fire Nation could be so discompassionate... only their leaders were capable of such callousness, surely.

He was coming back... right? Just because Zuko had been unable to defeat his sister didn't mean Aang couldn't defeat the Firelord. He had just been delayed, for one reason or another. After all, Azula would be waiting, and needed to be dealt with. But how long could it take for an Avatar to end a war against a leaderless nation? A question to which Katara had no answer. A question she didn't want to answer. Aang was going to walk through that door, she knew it. He had to.

Her eyes perked up, it was as if the spirits had answered her prayers! The door...

A smile had never so quickly turned into a scowl.

"Happy to see me, snow savage?" The Phoenix Queen taunted, a most sardonic smirk livening her pretty face as she approached. "Oh dear, has no one told you? How unfortunate," she continued, feigning ignorance. "...Well, as much as I just hate to have to be the bearer of bad news," Azula sighed with complete and utter disinterest, examining her freshly manicured fingernails.

"The Avatar is dead."

"Liar" Katara shot back, almost instinctually. But somewhere within Katara's swirling emotions, between the blurs in her eyes, a pang of doubt told her that Azula wasn't lying. "What... what do you want?" she asked, doing her best to look the Phoenix Queen over. Her hair was still a mess, that she could tell. And the marks on her neck...? Yet unlike during the day of red sky, her confidence was present as ever.

The sound of Azula's laughter resonated, piercing and shrill, though still with some degree of control - a sound most unsettling. "Liar?" she snorted, derisively. "No, not this time." The other girl's recent misfortunes were simply the funniest thing, it seemed...

"Perhaps Father shall see to it that the precious, bald head of your sanctimonious, little monk be mounted on a spike and paraded through the streets," Azula offered and then, with an appropriate degree of smugness and vitriol, added "As a wedding gift to me... his beloved daughter, his queen."

The waterbender's eyes widened. Spirits. I mean, it's not as if she had thought Zuko was kidding when he said 'she's crazy and needs to go down', but she had never imagined... this! Was that what was going on here? 100 years of war caused by a royal family of crazy, incestuous- Ugh!, she almost vocalized. Were she not so starved for water, she may have cried.

"...what, do you want?" Katara repeated.

"I have a proposition for you," Azula offered, looming over as though the filthy peasant were a meadow vole and she, a hungry rat-viper having cornered its next meal.

"Serve me, pledge your loyalty to the great and powerful Phoenix Queen, in exchange for your freedom."

"You're... you're joking" she wheezed, looking up into the Phoenix Queen's menacing golden eyes. "Just because your dad... husband," Katara grimaced, her gaze shifting toward the marks upon Azula's neck. "...may have beaten Aang, doesn't mean I'm going to help you finish off the rest of the world," she said determinedly, thinking of Gran-Gran and her friends in the south. Yugoda in the North, Pakku - who had pledged to rebuild her home. And of course Sokka, whom she refused to believe was dead. Suki, Toph...

No.

"Fuck off."

"Stupid, stupid peasant..." Azula snarled, jaw tightening, fingernails digging into her palms. "Hmm, do you know what I'd much rather have as a wedding gift..? what I'll ask my dad-husband for tonight?"

"What, you'll ask him to give it to you harder this time?"

"Well, perhaps... jealous?" The Phoenix Queen sneered. "Though, that's really beside the point. You peasants and your filthy minds! Just where is it that you're from again... the Northern- no! The Southern Water Tribe! Yes, that's right..."

Katara scoffed at the former remark. "The Southern. Your friends did a real good job of ruining our little part of the world, too."

Azula, with a positively devious smirk, leaned forward and looked Katara straight in the eye. "Daddy... that evil water-wench attacked me, her and Zuzu tried to kill me," she whimpered, feigning distress. "Kill her! Kill them all! Raze their miserable, stinking tribe to the ground! I want every last man, woman, and child dead!"

"...that's your threat?" Katara almost laughed, her ears ringing from the stakes of the situation, as her mind struggled to prevent itself from picturing her home burning. "You're not going to do anything? You're going to cry to daddy?"

She stopped gloating. "You can do what you want with me," she relented, her voice sounding dull under the buzz of her ears. "Just make sure to tell your daddy to stay away from my home, since it's obvious he has all the real power here."

What? How- Azula was dumbfounded, if only for an instant. Did this stupid peasant not believe her!? She could and she would have her home, everyone she knew and loved, reduced to a pile of smoldering ash! All she had to do was-

Cry to Daddy- repeated that stupid, stupid, worthless, ignorant, filthy peasant's mocking voice.

"How dare you!" the Phoenix Queen shrieked, hurling forth a burst of blue flame, and delighting in the waterbender's subsequent cry of pain. "I will melt the flesh from your bones!" she declared, wild-eyed, indignant and enraged- visibly shaking with anger, her palms set ablaze. Then, through the chaos of her emotion and white-hot, cerulean fire, there came a moment of clarity...

"No," she growled, still positively seething. "Better yet... Why don't I start with little Zuzu? Would you like that? You can watch him die first! As punishment for your insolence!"

Katara bit her tongue as azure flame seared dark skin, her breathing becoming shallow as she inhaled her own seared flesh, her wrists responding with their own burning agony as she struggled against the chains that held her hands from drawing any water out of the air. She sat there for a while, staring down at the blackened stone floor of her prison, feeling the ebb and flow of her pain just as she felt Tui and La, the push and pull of the moon. Except of course the spirits gave life; Azula took it.

"I'll do what you want" she said because she had to say it.

"I'll do what you want?" Azula mocked, cruelly and (half) jokingly imitating the other girl. "You're going to have to do better than that, water-whore!" she then clarified, tossing fire with uncharacteristic recklessness and once more, receiving far too much enjoyment from the reaction that it caused.

The waterbender turned her head, for what good it did, considering her position was rendered almost still by the bonds. What does she want now?- she barely managed to think over the barely dulling pain and incessant ringing in her ears. It didn't matter what Katara thought, the crazy look in the Phoenix Queen's eyes wasn't going away no matter how much she wished it would.

"I-I..." she struggled to find the words, her mind a blur from the pain, the images of her home- burning... the thought of Aang dead... and the thought that Zuko's very life rested upon a razor's edge of whatever placating words she would muster. "...I pledge my loyalty to you, your highness" she barely managed, gritting her teeth at every word, clenching her beaten fists at having to kowtow to the fire bitch.



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