I wanted to write an alternate reality where Aang failed to defeat Ozai. The gist of what happens, is that the Fire Nation takes over the world, the next Avatar reincarnations are killed or assassi...
To my closest and lost friend Ty Lee, to Master Piandao, to Master Katara, and most importantly of all, to my son Kuzo,
Enclosed in this letter is a small memoire and my confessions. I can only hope that you find it in your heart to forgive me. If that is not possible, then I wish that you do not bare any hatred towards my son whom I am entrusting in your care. I have hid many things from him. But it is time that these things come to light.
Kuzo. You’ve asked me many things before. About the Last Agni Kai, the Fall of the Northern Water Tribe, and why I have never taken a personal role in your teachings. All I could do was look away in shame. I am sorry for all of this. The only thing I know that I did right by you was give you your name. Kuzo. I named you after my honorable brother, your uncle, Zuko in hopes that you will become as great a man as he was. No. You will have to become even greater. For you are the Avatar. The one to save them all.
I will now explain everything that has happened up to this point, and what I believe must be done.
On the day of Sozin’s Comet, I fought Zuko in what would become the Last Agni Kai. Back then, I was a monster. A hopeless fool that burned everything and everyone I held most dear. Zuko and Katara had come to stop me at the palace coronation. We fought, and Zuko gained the advantage.
I remember his skill even now. Straightforward and full of life. My Firebending was fueled by hatred and destruction. It was the only way I knew, which was why I never taught you Firebending, Kuzo. Your uncle’s was the right way. In Firebending, and in life. I see that now.
I was going to lose so I did the only thing I could think of. I attacked Katara in the middle of the duel. He selflessly moved to intercept my lightning bolt. It struck him in the heart and the face he had will haunt me forever. That was how your Uncle Zuko died. A protector and a true friend. Not like the fake history portrayed him by the Fire Nation.
I felt grief tear whatever was left of my soul. I wasn’t strong enough to bare it. So I did what I always did, I directed all my pain at other people. I fought Katara who didn’t really put up a fight at all, and captured her. Over the next few years, I would torture Katara endlessly in our jails. I blamed her for the death of Zuko. I wish I could take it all back. Thankfully she escaped from our jails a while back, though I’m not sure if she still lives.
After the Last Agni Kai, it was confirmed that your grandfather, the Phoenix King Ozai, had brought the world down to its knees. The Avatar Aang tried to stop him but failed and lost his life. What remained of the Avatar’s group and the White Lotus, scattered to the winds. I have an idea where Sokka might be and if my hunch is correct, Master Piandao should be able to help you. I entrust you in his care. I’m sure he will guide you well.
Once the events of Sozin’s Comet ended, my father knew we had to kill the next Avatar. After an Airbender, it was supposed to be a Waterbender. It was in accordance with our plans. The only strongholds left that stood against the Fire Nation was the Northern Water Tribe and the Southern Water Tribe after.
I lead the attack personally. The blame I placed on Katara for Zuko’s death transformed into a hatred I felt for all Waterbenders.
I have nightmares of that day. Ten water tribesmen surrounded a single child’s bed. I slaughtered the guards with ease and came face to face with the child they were protecting. For a second, I may have thought everything could yet be salvageable. That I could stop this madness. But fear and contempt won out in the end. I ended the innocent child’s life. That was the breaking point for me.
Many years after the Fall of the Northern Water Tribe, the hallucinations and trauma I suffered from were at their worst. The guilt had finally hit me. I sank into a deep depression. I stayed in my room for weeks and months on end. Tormented by apparitions of my mother and Zuko. During that time, father arranged a political marriage for me. Love took no part in the relationship. Its purpose was only to conceive the next Fire Lord. And then what I feared most came to pass. They found the next Avatar.
Father ordered that I lead the attack on an Earthbender rebellion group. Dai Li intelligence revealed that they were made up of Earth Kingdom soldiers and remnants of the Kiyoshi Warriors. Their leaders were none other than Toph Beifong and Suki, Avatar Aang’s previous companions. Most importantly of all, they had the next child Avatar with them. I refused to take part in the battle. I couldn’t bring myself to fight, much less kill another innocent child. I was able to avoid taking part because I was pregnant.
Father and my husband led the attack and mercilessly wiped out the Earthbender rebellion group. I do not know what happened to Toph Beifong but Suki was said to have stood between the Fire Nation’s forces and the child Avatar. She had fought valiantly but lost to their overwhelming numbers. Even in that battle, she did not take a single person’s life.
When the battle ended, my husband took the life of the child Avatar himself. I never had any feelings towards him, not even when we were married. But after that day, I felt hatred and disgust for him. It was like despising who I once was. A soulless monster that took the lives of innocent children. I wanted to end his life. I was overcome by so much grief and guilt back then, that I would have done anything for even the smallest piece of repentance. But I never went on with my pitiful act. Because you, my little Kuzo, were born.
I didn’t know what to do with you. There was no doubt in my mind that I was unfit to raise you. I was still unbalanced back then. But there was one thing I was sure of. I could not let you be taught by the Fire Nation. So when it came time for your education, I asserted my right to educate you myself. I didn’t want you to be tainted by the cruel teachings of the Fire Nation, or myself. So I took you to the only one that could teach you properly. Your great uncle Iroh.
He was captured in the events of Sozin’s Comet and imprisoned. But you know the story from here Kuzo. I snuck you into the prisons to learn from him.
A few years passed, and you grew into the bright young boy I always hoped you would be. You reminded me and Uncle Iroh of Zuko when he was younger. But you couldn’t be more different when it came to talent. You were a prodigy. Father couldn’t help but be impressed, praising you as a greater prodigy than myself. And then he recommended you to become the next in line to become Phoenix King.
My husband, your father, hated that idea. It was he who was supposed to be the next Phoenix King after he passed. I feared for your life. I begged my father to rethink it and when that failed, warned him about my husband’s ill intent. He then ordered that I place you under his care. I felt trapped. Either I would give you to my father and see you corrupted, or try to keep you and put you in danger from my husband.
And then things took a turn for the worse. During one of your education sessions with Iroh, you began Earthbending. I had my suspicions before. Your more than exceptional Firebending even for a prodigy and your birth near the time the Earthbender Avatar lost his life. My husband now had the perfect excuse to kill you and claim the Phoenix King throne.
Kuzo. At Iroh’s advisement, I am sending you away from the Fire Nation. Do not look for me or Iroh. As soon as the palace knows of your escape, the order for our deaths will come swiftly after. You are to master the four elements and become the Avatar. I’m sorry Kuzo. I wish I could have given you a better life. A life far away from all this. Unburdened with a family that could properly take care of you. You are more than anything I could ever deserve. I’m proud to call you my son. I know you’ll live a happy and proud life. I will always love you.
Ty Lee. You owe me nothing but I beg you to help my son escape. You are the only one I can trust to do what is right. And if you are willing, please teach him the Art of Qi Blocking. It will no doubt be immensely helpful to him.
Master Katara. I do not know if you live, but if so, I pray that you teach Kuzo Waterbending. I cannot even begin to ask for your forgiveness. Not after everything I’ve done. I only ask you do not hold anything against my son for the sins of his mother.
Master Piandao. I ask that you teach my son swordsmanship and if my hunch is correct, you are able to get him into contact with a particular Earthbending teacher. This is also again if my hunch is correct, but in regards to your loved one, I am sorry for your loss.
After Kuzo, there is no Airbender that the Avatar can reincarnate as. The line will end with him. He is the last chance. The Last Avatar.
The sword master Piandao rereads a certain part of the letter as his eyes begin to gloss over again.
“I see,” he whispers.
Piandao pinches the bridge of his nose as he tries to keep the excess moisture in his eyes from falling. He looks up from his desk at Ty Lee and Kuzo who stand attentively. Kuzo wears a look of apprehension while Ty Lee looks relieved and energetic. Piandao takes a deep breath and puts his hands together, still observing the young man.
“You do look a lot like him. Zuko that is.”
“Doesn’t he?” Ty lee exclaims lightheartedly. “Though he doesn’t have the same doom and gloom.”
“Or the giant scar and burning need for honor.”
They both laugh as Kuzo interrupts.
“Hey! Is someone going to tell me what’s going on?”
“Kuzo! Be respectful to Master Piandao!” Ty Lee yells.
“But he’s… You’re… He can’t be Master Piandao!”
“And why not?”
“Because he’s supposed to be ancient! He looks like he’s the same age as you!”
“Well, yeah. Even I was surprised at first,” Ty Lee replies. She looks at Piandao. “To think that you would succeed his name and title. Looks like the goofy looking ponytail guy grew into someone reliable.”
“It was a warrior’s wolf tail,” Piandao sighed.
Kuzo looks back and forth between them.
“So who is this guy?”
Ty Lee grins and gives a gentle ahem. “Successor to the title of Sword Master and name Piandao… and former companion of Avatar Aang, Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe.”
Kuzo’s eyes widen.
“Hello,” Sokka says while raising his hand.
“But he… wait that can’t be.”
Ty Lee puts a hand in front of Kuzo’s face. “Go. Now. Take a bath or something. Piandao and I have to talk for a little bit.”
A moment of tense silence passes before Kuzo bows.
“Yes Sifu Ty Lee.” Kuzo moves as he is about to leave but freezes. He then faces Sokka and bows. “It is an honor to meet you Master Piandao. Please forgive my earlier rudeness. I am in your care.”
As he exits the room, Sokka lets out a small laugh.
“He’s oddly respectful at times,” Ty Lee says smilingly. But the smile fades as she looks back at Sokka. “I’m sorry about Suki.”
Sokka stands up and looks out the window, his face unreadable.
“I had a feeling that was the case. Toph told me she lost contact with her when the Fire Nation attacked the Earth rebellion group. I didn’t hear from her all this time.” A heavy sigh escapes him.
A long silence passes through the large room. Only the sounds of birds chirping outside are heard.
Sokka turns around. “So. You taught him Qi Blocking?”
The smile returns to Ty Lee. “Yup. He’s a natural. Will you be teaching him swordsmanship?”
“It’s not like I have a choice. Or the world has a choice. That kid is going to need all the tools we can give him.”
“And the Earthbending teacher?”
“I’ll contact Lin Beifong and tell her to be ready to receive him.” Sokka sits down and begins writing a letter.
Ty Lee blinks. “Not Toph?”
Sokka stops writing and sighs. “Toph is gone.” Ty Lee gasps but Sokka continues. “Lin is her daughter. She’s every bit as good an Earthbender as her mother was and more. She’ll be the perfect teacher for Kuzo.”
Ty Lee waits for him to finish writing his letter. “And Katara?”
Sokka sighs heavily. “I don’t know. I met her once when she had just escaped but...” A grim expression comes over Sokka. “She was completely different. Not at all the same person I remember. Even if she is still out there, I don’t know if she would be willing to teach Kuzo.”
“But Kuzo’s not at fault for anything Azula did.”
“I know that. But my sister…” he says as he clenches his teeth. “I’m afraid the torture Azula put her through was too much. In addition, to losing Aang and having Zuko give his life for her. She also told me on the day the Northern Water Tribe fell, Azula visited and paraded the fact that she killed Waterbenders on her behalf.”
“Did Azula really change in the end? Or is she just trying to save her son?”
Ty Lee looks at her feet in contemplation. “I only saw her one time in the jails, and that was the day I got the letter and had to escape that very night. I want to believe it’s true. That she regrets everything.”
The door opens and Kuzo enters. He looks at the two of them awkwardly. “Am I interrupting something?”
Ty Lee laughs and then turns to Sokka. “No. I’m sure her feelings were genuine,” she says as she smiles sadly.