Ficathon Story for birdsarecalling
The Snow Princess [Part II due to posting limit]
illegal, brocade, walls
action-adventure, drama, humor. Adding romantic elements is great but I don't want a purely romantic story.
Toph gen, Iroh/The Ladies, Iroh+Zuko (platonic - I cannot stress that enough!), Mai/Blue Spirit
At the end
one recognized him. That had been something he feared—that he
would be recognized and forced back, or that he would be recognized
and delayed. But it wasn’t surprising—his father had never been
proud of him; he had never taken him out, nor had he ever made an
anticipated public appearance. Quite unlike his sister, who appeared
alongside her father at every opportunity she had, so much that much
of the general public believed that Lord Ozai had only one child, and
that that child was a girl.
gazed out the window. The rolling countryside had long since passed,
and the scenery was beginning to change as small houses dotted the
green fields, gradually changing into larger and larger buildings
until they reached the heavily fortified city of Omashu. He tipped
his head back and let it fall against the smooth glass. Trains
always went more slowly through the big cities—there were more
stops, more people, more delays. He closed his eyes and tried to
fall asleep. It would be hours before he reached the end of this
attempt at sleeping, however, was interrupted when he heard a light
voice close to him say, “Is this seat taken?”
eyes snapped open, and he looked up into the face of a young girl,
whose dark hair was obscuring her features. He glanced quickly at
the seat beside him, then shook his head.
he replied, and the girl sat down. Zuko sighed and closed his eyes,
trying to fall asleep again. There had been something strange about
her, he realized, but he couldn’t quite figure out what it was.
Something about her face… Her hair had been covering most of it,
true, but there had been something about her eyes… He
opened his eyes again and glanced furtively at her, trying to get a
better look at her face without having her notice that he was staring
turned to face him, and, in an instant, he realized what it was.
I’m blind,” she said, as if talking about the weather.
I—” he said, taken aback. She waved him off.
not like being blind doesn’t mean you can’t see,” she
said. “People don’t understand that. You don’t have to see
with your eyes. You can see with your ears—you can hear what’s
going on around you, and you can see through sounds. Or, you can see
with your nose—it’s just that people who rely on their eyes to
see the surfaces of things tend to forget that the world is filled
with other senses.” She shrugged. “But what would you
know about it?”
frowned, slightly irritated by her insolent tone. “That’s
something we have in common,” he murmured, then added, “except
for the fact that I’m blind in only one eye.”
rolled her eyes, which were milky-white. “That’s not the same.
You can still see; it doesn’t bother you at all. And don’t tell
me your tragic sob story about how you were blinded, either, ‘cause
I don’t want to hear it. Go do something to change it rather than
sob about it, thank you very much.”
frown deepened as his entire body went tense; it took most of his
power to keep himself from lashing out at her. Who was she to be so
insolent and rude? What were her parents teaching her? Even without
Ozai’s input, Zuko still knew that he had to be polite and
courteous to others.
ahead and hit me,” the girl said, as if reading his thoughts. She
grinned sardonically. “I can take you, right here, right now. I
may not look like it, but I’m a black belt. In fact, I’m off to
a martial arts tournament right now, at this very instant.” Her
grin turned into a smug smirk. “So go ahead and hit me. I dare
let out a long, hissing sigh as the girl laughed. She stood as the
train rolled to a stop on the outskirts of Omashu.
should’ve hit me; I would’ve had fun,” she said, then shrugged.
“You’re blind not in your eyes, you know—you’re blind in
your heart, I can tell.” Her smug expression quickly gave way to a
more serious one. “Don’t run—turn and face it. The walls and
limits are only there if you imagine them to be.”
doors slid open and she stepped out onto the platform, mingling with
the crowd and disappearing from view. Zuko unclenched his fists and
grimaced as his fingernails parted from the flesh of his palm. The
thin crescents that they left behind welled up with blood, blood that
dripped down the lines of his hands and traced out its paths.
later, he finally arrived in Piaoyi, the capital of the Northern Xue
Kingdom. From within the train, the city was beautiful—the drifts
of snow on the streets were soft and inviting like pillows, piling up
even further as more flakes fell from the gray, overcast sky. The
streetlamps cast a warm, orange glow over the white roofs of the
houses; more lights were on inside, and the candles within cast
flickering silhouettes on the drapes drawn over the windows.
he stepped out, however, he suddenly understood why it was nicknamed
the Bitter Kingdom. The sub-zero temperatures bit relentlessly into
his exposed flesh as the howling winds lashed at his face, stinging
him with feathery snowflakes that had turned into daggers. He
retreated inside, slipping into the nearest bathroom and breathing a
sigh of relief upon seeing that it was almost deserted—it would be
hard to explain why he was wearing what he was about to change into.
quickly slipped out of his clothing and put on the dark, heavy
clothing that he had brought with him. Immediately he could feel
them begin to shield him from the cold, which had penetrated even
into the building. He shoved his previous outfit into his bag.
taking a breath, he carefully pulled the mask on over his face.
didn’t want to be here.
there was free food, but that was about it. He didn’t have any
friends here; there were no games; everyone talked in a stiff, boring
it was cold.
pulled his robes closer to himself, teeth chattering, and looked
around. The princess looked bored, too, and he couldn’t blame her.
He had tried to start a conversation with some of these people, but
even people that looked to be around his own age weren’t receptive
and frowned upon his childish behavior.
couldn’t really understand what was so fun about dancing around,
anyway. The music wasn’t that great, and the only person who truly
seemed to be enjoying it was an old geezer in the corner. And the
dancing was boring, too; all they did was go around in circles. He
could do that on his own time, and he didn’t understand why he had
to waste a perfectly good day (and a couple weeks traveling to and
from this place) just for, well, this.
sighed. Father Gyatso had said something about “diplomatic skills”
and “interrelation” and “globalization” and “unity and
peace”, but all those terms and phrases had flown over his head.
(Then again, he hadn’t been paying much attention, anyway, as they
had been setting up a practical joke while discussing it.) In any
case, he had no idea why he was here; all he knew was that he was
bored out of his mind.
frowned and looked at the long banquet table. Laid out on the most
likely very expensive silk tablecloth were various bowls and
platters. He tilted his head. They were placed in agreeable
positions—supposing that the ladle in the bowl of punch fell just
right into the platter beside it, and supposing that the cakes
flew just right and hit the bottles at the exact right
grin spread over his face.
could work,” he murmured, then laughed.
snow crunched beneath his feet as he ran through the forest. It was
exhilarating—the cold wind flew past his body, beating against him,
but he had long since gone numb. Every breath he took filled his
lungs with a burning fire, but he welcomed the pain.
had never felt more alive than now, basking under the silver
moonlight, the ice dangling from the barren tree branches glittering
like diamonds. Above him, through the lacework of the canopy,
twinkled the stars in the infinite expanse of the night sky. They
were so close—so bright—that if he reached up, reached high
enough, he might be able to pluck one out of its nest and cradle it
back down to earth; he might be able to hold it for a moment, one
ephemeral moment, before it burst into stardust that would coat the
dark tree trunks with the brightest silver.
him, on the snow-covered summit, gleamed the castle—the largest
diamond of all. It flickered in and out of sight, and he could
barely see the lanterns littering the gardens of snow-flowers, their
candlelight wavering orange and illuminating the blue-white castle
with a warm, yet eerie, glow. He could almost imagine what was
inside: Light. Laughter. Music; warmth.
was almost there. He drew his swords from their scabbard and held
them firmly in both hands, dashing up the crest and reaching the low,
outer wall, once made of stone, but coated with ice that had
accumulated over the years. Without a word, he leapt over it, then
blended into the shadows.
peered into the nearest window. It was difficult to see through the
frost, but he could make out distinct figures. He saw Azula—no
doubt it was her; no one else stood in that kind of smug
stance—talking with a taller figure, unfamiliar to him; he couldn’t
make out his face, but he noticed that the figure’s hair was in a
long braid that trailed almost to his waist.
slipped around to the back, noticing that the back gardens were
almost empty. He breathed a sigh of relief. With this kind of
weather, no one would want to be outside for even a moment—that he
had to his advantage, at least. He leaned into the shadow beneath a
snow-covered tree, crossing his arms and swords as he paused to
was he supposed to find the boy in this crowd? Provided that he’d
brought his formal clothes with him (which he did not), Azula would
recognize him straight away. And provided that he snuck in… Well,
the walls looked to be dark, but the ballroom was highly illuminated,
and its walls had been decorated with white pine trees, and the walls
were draped in white, gold, and crimson. A black spot would be all
the more noticeable, even if there were shadows.
closed his eyes, shutting himself out from the cold breeze that was
beginning to pick up again. Iroh had always said that he rushed off
too quickly to do things… He frowned. He had to do this—he
couldn’t return home empty-handed.
he… No, that was too conspicuous. Assuming that—no, he couldn’t
assume anything; he had done that before, and it had led him into a
deep pitfall. Or if he—
are you doing here?”
jumped, then whirled around and held his swords out in front of him.
He relaxed slightly when he saw that the person was just a girl
dressed in elaborate clothing with slightly smudged makeup on her
face. He remained silent, his swords glinting in the moonlight.
asked you why you’re here.” Her eyes narrowed, glinting coldly
and menacingly. He took a step back and felt the cool bark of the
tree press against him. Before she could react, he leapt up into the
tree, hiding himself among the branches for a moment before leaping
off and darting back into the forest.
they say that, when a she falls, she falls fast and hard, and she
won’t be able to pull herself up again—never again.
heart was thumping loudly against her chest as she watched the snow
fall off the tree branches, watched as the light reassembled the
fragmented pieces of warmth left in the wake of his shadow.
voice drifted out from the castle, shaking her from her thoughts.
The faint blush that had coiled across her cheeks vanished almost
instantly as she turned to glare at the arched doorway.
waved a hand frantically, gesturing for Mai to come inside. “It’s
cold out; you’re not wearing enough! You’re going to get sick,
Princess Mai. Come on, all the boys are waiting for you!”
shook her head, chapped lips parting and cheeks warming again,
melting the frost that cradled her. She turned her back on those
infernal, frigid walls, planting herself in the snow.
was breathing heavily, perched lightly on a barren branch. His heart
was fluttering in his ribcage, threatening to tear out of him.
had been something utterly dangerous about her, something that he
couldn’t place. She had to be the princess; there was no one else
that could have commanded such an icy air, no one else that could
have been worthy of commanding this region. He, of course, knew
about the peculiar traditions of the Northern Xue Kingdom—they
hadn’t had a king in centuries, maybe even millennia. The kingdom
was ruled by only the Queen, and by no one else.
had considered betrothing his father to Queen Xuezhu. But what use
would it have served? Two dying nations, separated by hundreds of
miles, united through the flimsy alliance of marriage… They would
have gained nothing except an icy wasteland, and they would have
wouldn’t have been long before Ozai was the victim of a tragic,
looked down through the branches, his breath coming up in puffs
before him. She was still standing there. If he didn’t know that
she was there, he would have mistaken her for just another tree in
the courtyard; she stood stock-still, rapt, seemingly unaffected by
if he could get her to cooperate…
adjusted his grip on his swords.
didn’t know why she was waiting. It was starting to get cold, and
colder than the usual night cold. She sighed and took a few steps
toward the nearest tree, gingerly placing a hand on its freezing
trunk and leaning against it.
the purpose of living?” she murmured, gazing at the castle. A
light peal of laughter floated over the air, dulled and filtered by
the glass that shut her out. She could faintly hear the sound of
violins, could faintly hear the rain of notes dropping from a single
didn’t know when he arrived again. The shadows had just seemed to
accumulate around her, and before she knew it, she could feel the
fine edges of precisely sharpened swords pressed against her throat.
They drew no blood, but she knew that one sudden move would force
those blades deep into her neck.
me…” murmured a voice from behind her, sending a chill up her
spine; at the same time, she felt an unfamiliar heat blossom
throughout her body. “Where is His Holiness Aang?”
frowned. “And I should tell you because…?”
rattled his blades against her skin, and she winced. One of the
blades drew a thin line across the skin of her neck; blood welled up
along the cut.
will tell me,” hissed the voice, “because you want to tell
me. And because you need to tell me.”
smirked sardonically, and, ignoring the mixed messages her body was
sending her, said, “I need to do nothing, and there is no reason
why I should want anything. Face me like the man you are, coward. I
don’t take lightly to threats.”
pressed the blades harder to her throat, still taking care not to
break the skin. She sighed, then, before he could blink, she pushed
his arms apart, ducked when the swords came clanging back together,
and drew out from within the folds of her robe a small but sharp
knife that she threw in his direction. She smirked, satisfied, when
she heard the fabric of his clothing tear and the knife puncture him
in the gut; he fell to his knees.
want to demand anything from me?” she said, standing over him.
Without a word, he gripped the handle of the knife and wrenched it
out of his gut, letting it fall onto the snow, staining it red. A
bitterly cold wind blew; the courtyard echoed with the cracking sound
of his blood freezing as it met the air. He looked down at the wound
with more apprehension and curiosity than pain; he brushed the
droplets off his clothing, letting them fall gently onto the drifts
of snow, rubies raining onto the flawless clouds.
pointed a sword toward her. “You’ll tell me, or I’ll have your
laughed. “You speak loudly for a peasant. Where’d you learn
your manners from, the barbarians in the desert?”
stiffened, and she laughed again.
me,” she hissed. “This night has been boring as hell—not my
idea of a perfect birthday party.”
wasn’t sure what was making her taunt him like this. She was
normally more reserved, more cautious—she never fought an enemy
without knowing precisely how strong he was, without first gauging
him and seeing how he fought. This man, however—he just seemed to
charge on, unfettered by failure, not accepting ‘no’ as an
answer. Spontaneous and thoughtless; careless and reckless. But
she—she simply enveloped everything in her cruel embrace, lacking a
definite path; she could just as easily concede as she could fight;
she was calculating and took her time to wreak her havoc.
they say that he was fire, and that she was ice.
threw the next knife harder than she should have. She wanted to
quash the internal demons that were causing that hellish heat to
bloom up within her; she wanted to destroy the hand that had wrapped
itself around her heart, squeezing it and constricting around it; it
was threatening to burst; it was beating uncomfortably and fluttering
and ready to explode.
they say that, in her fury to destroy him, she only drew herself
deeper into the trap.
later, she found herself pressed against the massive tree in the
center of the courtyard, two swords to her neck as she breathed
heavily, chest heaving up and down. Each breath brought her neck
closer to the blade, and she could feel her skin tightening and
tensing every time the blade’s cool edge kissed it.
me lure him out, help me capture him, and I’ll let you live,” he
frowned. “Who are you?”
shoved her up against the tree again, and she winced as she felt the
blades cut into her.
reached up, and she felt him grow tense.
hand touched his mask.
in fairy tales, only in fairy tales—or so they claimed.
shouldn’t have been possible, that a barren tree like that could
bear such beautiful flowers, during the coldest night of winter. It
shouldn’t have been possible that she lived, either; it shouldn’t
have been possible, any of it.
beneath the moon, the twisted, gnarled tree unfurled the blossoms on
its branches. Enormous blossoms, almost like lotus blossoms, filled
with glowing, golden dust that rained down upon the harsh, white
snow. Blue petals that pierced the darkness with their light,
casting a warm, blue glow that drowned out the icy orange fires.
the world around them exploded with an eerie blue light.
he was dazzled by the light, they would later say. Maybe the sight
had stunned him. But, in any case, he had done nothing when she
reached behind his head and pulled off his mask; maybe he had been
blinded by the light. He made no sound, no movement, when the mask
hit the snow.
they say that the cold lines on her face melted away, melted into a
look of surprise. She had expected a rugged man that looked like a
thug, they say, but what she got was a sixteen-year-old boy who
looked just as scared as she felt. And when their eyes met, when she
realized with a jolt that he was blind in his left eye, when he
realized that the wall of antipathy between them had crumbled—he
had lessened the pressure on his swords, released his grip—
heart of ice can be melted, but what can you do with a heart of
he kept one sword at her neck as he reached out and, with one swift
movement, hooked the mask onto the tip of his sword.
passed. The golden rain began to lessen, began to dull. The only
movement in the courtyard was their breaths rising before their
faces, dissipating into the frozen night air.
that frozen night air shattered into a million glittering pieces with
a shriek that rang out and pierced the air. From within the castle
came the sound of platters clattering onto the ground, the tinkling
sound of glass shattering onto the ground; the sound of water
splashing. More screams followed; they heard the sound of the heavy
wooden door banging open and hurried, panicking footsteps crunching
through the snow.
turned to look at the figure that had dashed out from the castle,
then narrowed his eyes.
this is the end, then,” she said, smirking sardonically as she
watched His Holiness Aang draw closer and closer to the courtyard.
leaned in close to her face, marveling again at its cold, perfect
end is the beginning,” he whispered, and disappeared, pulling on
his mask as he melted into the darkness.
they say that he never returned, that he had no more use for her.
what they say and what actually is are two separate things.
Snow Queen Reigneth
Notes: What can I say—school, NaNo, and procrastination bit me
in the butt. :( So the ending’s quite rushed. Once we’re free
to post this wherever we want, I’ll make the necessary edits and
post up a more refined, revised version. (hopes that there are no
hope you enjoyed it! And this is the first time I’ve really
written Mai or Zuko seriously, and in this long of a fic, so I’d
love feedback about their characterization. :)
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