"I suppose I should start with a story." Wan took a gulp of his tea. "It happened centuries ago. The deceased ones were starting to flood the Spirit World in a sense. A good number of them unruly and even more—epically those that had died tragically—unaccepting of their passing. These are the spirits that would try to worm their way back into the Physical World. For the longest time, none of them could find means to do so. However, there came a particularly nasty spirit. This spirit wasn't human, nor was he one of our own—he was something else, a demon, crafted by the dark and corrupt thoughts of man. He called himself Shade."
"And what did Shade look like?" Azula interrupted.
"I was getting to that." Wan declared. "He looked as wretched and rotten as he was on the inside. A skull for a face, with not enough flesh to contain it. Clad in dark scrappy robes…no one has seen the body that lies beneath. No one actually wants to. They say that those who encounter him gain an heir of darkness about them. And the one who bares his mark inherits great power…the one who bares his mark is the one who will be his bride." He paused and then added, "willingly or not."
Azula's stomach churned as she swallowed the lump in her throat.
"Don't fret, the markings on you, those are the marks of the Spirit Beacon. Each of the Beacons before you had at least one—you bare each of their marks, and will eventually form one of your own. When you come to pass, your mark will find its place on you successor."
Relief spread warmly through Azula's body. "When will I get my own?" Just to confirm.
"Once you close the gate." Wan answered.
The relief washed away once again. Her eyes fixed on her wrist—even through the ribbon was still tied around it, she could see the mark burning though. "Is it possible to get one before that?"
"No. Not one of your own anyways. The mark is made by closing the gate. Which is why some Spirit Beacons have more marks than one."
Azula shuddered again, a cold sense of dread working its way over her body. At this point she resorted to repeating; it's just one of the other Beacon's marks, over and over in her head.
"Anyhow," Wan started back on his story "there came a night when Shade found something strange and foreign. Through ritual and sacrifice, the humans unknowingly crated a door—much like the way they created Shade himself. This door became known as the gate." Wan let it sink it.
"Shade became the first to access the human world. And shortly after spirits, both good and evil in nature, followed in his wake. The 4th Avatar was the only thing keeping them in check. He did his best to contain them, but found that he needed assistance. So he sought out a human to lend him a hand. To the human he found, he gave the The Sight." Wan paused again.
"It was a troublesome task. You see, the 4th had to find someone with a mind capable of processing the sight. He tried kings and queens, scholars and the working class. None of which could handle the gift, their minds were too closed off. However, as a last resort, the 4th paid a trip to the asylum. He found that those not in their right state of mind had a particular openness to The Sight. In the asylum he found Sae-Yang. She became the first Beacon."
"So I'm still crazy then?" Azula frowned.
"Well…yes. But not crazy enough to hear and see things that aren't there. I can't tell you where the instability lies, but it's not as bad as you may have thought." Wan replied.
"I'm not crazy." Azula mumbled to herself as she thought back on all the people she banished.
"Anyhow, the 4th Avatar and Sae-Yang struck a deal; she would help him, if he promised to take her away from a world that had written her off. And so it was, that the Avatar would keep the spirits contained from the Physical World, and the Beacon would do so from the Spirit world." Wan took a breath. "There are two gate, one in this world and the other in yours. The Avatar in charge of one, and you, the other."
"Are you saying that I have to live in the Spirit World now?" Azula questioned.
"I am not." Wan smiled. "The 3rd Spirit Beacon longed to see her family again so the 6th Avatar created and perfected a way for her to enter a sort of pseudo Avatar state. A state that allowed her to enter the Spirit World when the time came to re-close the gate, and then return to her life when the task was complete."
"So, let me get this straight…" Azula started. "I have to work with the Avatar to do all of this?"
"Essentially yes." Wan replied.
"Why hasn't Aang ever mentioned this?"
"He is just as oblivious to this job as you were. No offense Princess, but your nation has thrown off a lot more than just the other nations. A hundred years is plenty of time for spirits to run rampant with the Avatar around. And with him missing for so long…let's just say you and Aang have a lot of work to do."
"Oh joy, I can't wait." Azula muttered.
"Xin wasn't exaggerating when he told me of your sarcasm."
"What can I say, firebending isn't the only thing I'm good at."
"I'll say." Xin cut in.
"So, why don't you take me to this gate so I can close it and be done with this?"
"It's not that easy." Wan replied.
Azula walked over to Wan's front door, opened it, and closed it once more. "See. Effortless." Azula remarked.
Xin burst out laughing. "If I wasn't dead already, she'd be killing me." He turned to Ursa. "So did she get her sense of humor from you?"
"Unfortunately not." Ursa sighed.
"Princess Azula." Wan drew her attention back. "Not only do you have to close the gate, but you have to guide the spirits back here. And Shade defiantly won't give you an easy time. He plans on over taking the Physical world. You and your team have to learn to fight him. And, the gate in the Physical World must be closed at the exact same time as the one here."
Azula groaned. This job was becoming an even bigger burden than she initially thought. "What team?"
"The by the 8th Spirit Beacon's request, she acquired a team—a banisher and a listener." Wan answered. "She split some of her power with two people of her choosing"
"Why is it that all the other Beacons seemed to know exactly what they were doing…and I don't?"
"You can thank your Father's father's father for that one. Back when the previous Avatar was around, we had the current Beacon seek out a successor. And once that successor was found, the current Beacon would teach him or her everything he or she needed to know." Wan explained.
"You see, when the Avatar disappeared, so did the Beacon. He was an airbender just like the Avatar. Though he didn't make it out alive. His power dispersed into the air and found its own master. And because that new Beacon didn't know or his or her power, he or she couldn't pass it down so the cycle repeated. Since that moment—up until now—we hadn't been able to track the Spirit Beacon down. Eventually, your kind was completely forgotten, save for folklore."
When Azula made no comment he continued.
"You will be restoring the balance in more than one way." Wan finished. "Just by being here now, you've completed something very important."
"You're welcome." Xin called from across the table.
"Great. What am I supposed to do now?" Azula inquired.
"Go tell the Avatar to talk to Wan. Let your team know what they are in for." Wan answered.
"Sure thing, after you tell me how to get out of here."
"It's actually really simple. All you have to do is sit down and focus on returning to your body."