The Fire Lord and his family were sitting around the palace dining table on the evening of the Fire Festival. The Avatar and his friends also gathered around the table, engaging in cheerful discussion. One woman at the table was particularly quiet. Ursa, the Fire Lord’s mother sat quietly as she drew her food around her plate. The Fire Festival was her favorite holiday but no amount of dragon candles and mochi would distract her from the fact that something was missing.
Speaking of mochi, her youngest daughter mashed hers into her plate as she listened to the stories of the older children around the table. Avatar Aang was telling the story of the battle of Wulong Forest and how he took down the previous Fire Lord, Ursa’s ex husband. Her current husband listened intently, asking questions at all the right times. Maybe it was a means of reparations for him.
“It’s truly a sight to behold, isn’t it?” A cheerful and clear voice whispered into Ursa’s ear. She turned to her ex brother-in-law, who had traveled all the way from Ba Sing Se just to spend the holiday with his nephew.
“The lights?” she said shakily, knowing that wasn’t what he was talking about.
“I meant a cheerful scene in the palace. It’s been a long time since the whole family gathered at this table and had a grand time,” he said, smiling.
“Iroh,” she said, looking him in the eye, “the whole family isn’t here.”
“My brother will never be free,” he said bitterly, “from himself nor the prison. And my son has perished. We should be with those we can.”
“You forget my daughter,” Ursa said sternly.
“We have no idea her whereabouts and she is somewhere out there needing her mother.” Iroh frowned and looked at her with pity in his eyes.
“I do not know my niece well but I know this,” he said, “Azula has a way of getting what she needs. What she wants too.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Zuko, Ursa’s son asked light heartedly.
The heads at the table all turned their way.
“Family things,” Iroh said calmly, with his charming smile.
“Azula,” Ursa said, no trace of humor in her voice. An uncomfortable silence drifted across the table. Katara, the water bender, turned her nose to the air as her brother scratched the back of his head.
Fire Lord Zuko cleared his throat.
“Oh,” he said, now picking at his own food. His girlfriend, Mai, squeezed his hand underneath the table.
“What about her?” she asked in her usual monotone voice.
“I don’t know,” Ursa said, looking cautiously around the table. An annoyed looking girl with chestnut hair glared her way. “I wish she was here is all. This is her favorite holiday.”
“She should of thought of that before throwing people in jail,” the glaring girl said, gritting her teeth. Mai snorted.
“Suki,” Zuko said warily.
Alas, Ursa put her hands up to surrender.
“Just a thought,” she said. “You asked anyway.”
The table eventually moved on and more discussion came and went underway. Sokka and Zuko had a long discussion regarding Master Piandao’s teaching skills. That was when a handmaiden burst into the room and pushed past the guards over to the Fire Lord.
“Sakura, what is it?” he asked, irritation leaking through his voice. She bent down to ear level with him and said something in hushed whispers.
“I was readjusting the lanterns in Illah hall when I heard a thud out the door. Princess Azula’s body is in there right now.”
Fire Lord Zuko said nothing to his guests as he excused himself from the table.
There were only three people in the room when Zuko burst through the grand doors of Illah hall: the royal family physician, the royal family pharmacist, and his sister.
“Get my mother,” he said to Sakura in a steady tone. The handmaiden returned shortly after with Ursa following behind.
Ursa gasped in horror at the condition of her daughter. Azula laid on the ground, dark hair fanning around her face, dried blood stains from her nose to the top of her swollen lip. Bruises riddled her body and her legs contorted in a disturbing position. Obviously broken.
“My lord, I’m sure you’d like this handled quietly so we can quickly move from here to the-“
Ursa didn’t let the physician finish before letting out a blood curdling scream. Everyone left at the dining table obviously followed the scream to the dance hall. Zuko and the pharmacist did their best to hide Azula’s body from view. Only the water tribe siblings were able to get a good look.
“She looks like she got run over by an ox-mule,” Sokka joked. His sister gave him a disapproving look.
“I can heal her,” Katara said.
Zuko sighed in relief, remembering his friend's powerful abilities.
“Let’s get her to the clinic first,” he said grabbing Azula’s upper body.
“I never said I would,” Katara said with a biting tone. “I really shouldn’t.”
“Katara, she needs you,” Zuko pleaded.
“Just like how you needed me. Aang too. All because of her.” The young Fire Lord took a look at his mother, an emotional wreck being awkwardly consoled by her husband. Ikem’s last encounter with his step daughter had been deadly, and he didn’t know anything about her really.
“Katara, I’ll give you anything,” Zuko said, gesturing to Ursa. The water bender breathed a heavy sigh.
“I’ll do it for you and Lady Ursa,” she muttered. “I’m not carrying her to the clinic, so someone better grab her body.” Iroh and his nephew grabbed Azula by her arms and legs and carried her to the other room.
“What do you think happened to her?” Sokka asked. The Fire Lord and his friends surrounded Azula and Katara in the clinic. The former’s body was responding well to the healing. Though she would need to be in casts for several weeks.
“Looking at the trauma,” the physician answered, “somebody deliberately broke her legs and she may have had a seizure.”
“No,” a soft voice muttered. All attention in the room turned to the girl in the hospital bed. “I won’t do it...you can’t have me.” Everyone watched as she shifted uncomfortably in the bed.
“Azula,” Ursa said, walking over to the bed.
“Open your eyes, it’s me.” She gently nudged her body.
“Please don’t do that,” Katara said, readjusting Azula’s body.
“It’s fine. The body should be positioned perfectly for healing to do its best is all,” Katara explained. One particular readjustment on Azula’s left leg made a sound.
“I’ve done everything I can.She’s clearly still alive, so I’ll let the doctor do what he needs to.”
The Fire Lord and his mother sat by the princess’ bed all throughout the night, but eventually sleep caught up to them and they fell into a deep slumber.
If they were awake, they would have noticed Azula watching the both of them.