Finally, the moment she had waited for. She would be crowned Fire Lord. This is what Azula had wanted her entire life, right? ‘Of course it was!’ She assured herself. It was her destiny to rule, not her foolish brother, certainly not that rabble he ran around with. Avatar or no, they were little more than peasants. ‘No matter, father will take care of them’ she thought darkly, smiling to herself.
Around her, the council stood ready to accept their new ruler. The only reason she did not already wear the crown was because those old fools felt the need to have this ceremony; despite no one being here to watch. That irked her somewhat, that no one would be here when she finally ascended to the throne. ‘They aren’t worthy of witnessing this moment. None of them are!’ she told herself. She closed her eyes as she waited for the crown.
“By decree of Phoenix King Ozai,” the council’s leader began, “I now crown you, Firelord-” the councilman hesitated.
Azula shot a glare over her shoulder, “What are you waiting for? Do it!” she demanded. Then she heard it, a roar that she knew could only belong to the beast the Avatar always flew around on. Azula whipped her head around, her face flashing with fear for a moment, before she regained some semblance of control. ‘Firelord Azula fears no one!’ she proclaimed to herself alone. Her doubts were buried by her anger when she saw who sat atop the infernal creature. Her brother; and that peasant from the water tribe. The second she barely noticed, as all of her attention centered on Zuko as the beast landed in front of her.
“Sorry, but you’re not going to become Firelord today.” he said, “I am.”
‘Ridiculous, impossible, never’ the words raced through her head, ‘the throne is mine and you can’t take that away from me! I deserve it, not you!’ But all she could do was laugh. “You’re hilarious.”
The peasant stepped up beside her brother, “And you’re going down!” she proclaimed.
‘Ignorant, insolent, foolish’ Azula’s mind was racing faster; faster than she could keep up with for much longer. The councilman made to place the crown on her head, as if he sought to ignore this challenge. She would not be so weak. “Wait!” she commanded, raising her hand to stop him, “You want to be Firelord?” she asked as she stood, “Fine. Let’s settle this, just you and me, brother, the showdown that was always meant to be; Agni Kai!” There was no way he would be foolish enough to accept, and if he did, she would crush him and capture the water tribe peasant for later.
Zuko appeared calm as he glared back at her. “You’re on.” he said defiantly.
The peasant looked at him incredulously; Azula simply smiled. “What are you doing?!” she asked him, “She’s playing you! She knows she can’t take us both so she’s trying to separate us!”
Azula’s grin faded as she concealed her outrage at the peasant’s remark.
“I know,” Zuko responded without looking away from Azula, “but I can take her this time.”
His confidence unnerved her, though she could not show it. It infuriated her as well.
“But even you admitted to your uncle that you would need help facing Azula.”
“There’s something off about her, I can’t explain it, but she’s slipping.” he explained, “And this way, no one else has to get hurt.”
Azula barely registered what was being said as she tried to prepare herself for the coming fight.
As they sat facing away from each other, Katara couldn’t help but noticed the contrast between the two siblings. Zuko was still, calm and collected; Azula fidgeted, and looked entirely disheveled, unhinged even. Abruptly, they both stood. Zuko took up a fighting stance, while Azula stood upright, arrogantly pulling off her cloak.
“I’m sorry it has to end this way brother.” she stated as she dropped her cloak.
“No you’re not.” he responded simply.
Azula’s mad grin did not fade, but Katara could see her eyes grow more sinister. She took up a loose fighting stance before launching the first attack. The battle quickly became an impressive display of power, with Zuko’s control matching Azula’s untamed fury. Blue and orange fire clashed again and again, as Azula simply tried to overpower Zuko. It soon became apparent that Azula was beginning to tire, and Zuko seemed to have the upper hand as he knocked her off of the jet of flame she had been riding.
“No lightning today? What’s the matter, afraid I’ll redirect it?!” Zuko taunted as Azula stood.
“Oh, I’ll show you lightning!” Azula cried; her madness becoming more and more obvious as the fight went on.
Katara felt pity for her, despite the how much pain the princess had caused her and her friends; to see someone, even Azula, like this just seemed so sad to her. Her musing was halted as she watched Azula carelessly gather as much energy as she could muster, before pointing it… directly at Katara!
Timed seemed to slow. Katara could only watch, eyes wide, as Zuko dove in front of her. Somehow he still redirected it, as it streaked up into the sky; but something was wrong, that much was clear to her as he lay twitching, unable to rise. “Zuko!” she cried, as she moved to help him. Before she could get close, lightning struck in front of her, forcing her to dive away. She tried to run to him again, as she could see him trying to get up, but Azula shot a wave of fire at her from the side, forcing her to protect herself. Azula laughed maniacally as she shot another bolt of lightning at Katara, her accuracy seemingly hindered by her utter lunacy as she finally lost control completely. Katara could only desperately dive away from each blast to avoid the heat that each bolt gave off.
“I’d really rather our family physician look after Zuzu if you don’t mind.” Azula said mockingly, before sending another streak of lightning at Katara.
She pulled water from the ditch that bordered the courtyard to block it, before retreating behind a pillar as Azula threw more fire down at her. She caught her breath behind the pillar as she desperately sought a way to defeat Azula.
“Zuzu, you don’t look so good!” Azula yelled across the courtyard.
Katara looked around the pillar to make sure he was alright. She saw him lying where he had fallen, across the burning courtyard. As she did so, Azula grunted as she charge more lightning, which gave Katara enough warning to dodge, moving to another pillar as she searched her surroundings for something to fight back with. She pulled water from the ditch again and directed it at the spot Azula had been standing; a spot that was now vacant. Suddenly, Azula flew at her from behind, riding a jet of blue fire. Katara sprinted back towards the courtyard, using more water to help her dodge the blasts of fire Azula launched at her as she charged recklessly.
A particularly strong blast forced her out of the courtyard once again, and as she stumbled behind another pillar, she saw that a grate nearby was covering a large stream of water flowing beneath the courtyard. She moved to stand above the grate as she started to think of a plan.
“There you are filthy peasant!” the princess called, as she flew at Katara from behind a pillar, fire streaking behind her.
Katara, taken completely by surprise, reacted on instinct; drawing water from beneath her, she directed it towards Azula’s voice even as she froze it. She heard a surprised gasp from beside her, and she turned to see Azula impaled on multiple shards of ice; the momentum of her careless charge had rendered her unable to dodge. She stared in horror as the princess struggled to breath; one of the spike went right through her chest. Azula glared at her, eyes full of hate.
“Of all the people to kill me, you are the only one worse than Zuko…” she stated, “I hope my father kills you all!” The princess coughed, blood splattering on the ice as she drew her last, laborious breath. “And if he doesn’t, just know that I will haunt you in particular until the day you die… mark my words, this is not the last you will hear from me peasant. You will not find peace, my shadow will dog you every step until the day you die! This… I… promise…”
With those words, the crown princess died. Katara could not hold back tears as she unfroze the ice and lowered her to the ground. She cried as she closed her eyes, and as she made her way to where Zuko still lay. She cried as she healed him, and as she told Zuko what had happened. She never told him about Azula's last words, however, and it wasn’t until after they met up with Aang once more that the gravity of the princess’ final words truly hit her.
--53 years later--
-Southern Air Temple-
By the time of Aang’s death, Katara had not thought about Azula’s words in many years. As she sat alone in the hours following his passing, she could not help but reflect on the events of their life together. It was while reminiscing that she recalled the end of the war and the words that had haunted her for so long. She wondered if Azula ever had the opportunity to follow through on her promise. If so, which of the many trials they had experienced could have been her doing? Since Katara still lived, perhaps she was still waiting for her opportunity. Katara quickly dismissed these thoughts, as there was little to gain in speculating. She could only hope that Azula had somehow found peace.
-Somewhere in the Spirit World-
Azula had waited patiently for this moment. The first decade after her death had been agonizing. Watching the Avatar and his friends grow up to find love and happiness, to see what the world became without her in it. It had nearly destroyed her when Zuko was reunited with their mother. The only thing that allowed her to persist was the knowing her mother had loved her through everything. With renewed fervor, she had overcome her sorrow, her regret, even her own mind with all of its devices and doubts that had built up over the years she spent trying to please her father. With a new direction, and a new plan, she waited for her opportunity to show the world, and of course that lowly peasant, that she was not yet finished. Now, the time to wait was over. A new Avatar would be born, and she would be the vessel for Azula’s revenge.