The Spirit Beacon
"Well you can start telling me now." Zuko demanded.
Azula chuckled. "Oh Zu-zu, I don't have to tell you anything. You've already taken my crown, taken my pride, and locked me up in here. Daddy's been locked away tight and in here I can't use my bending. At this point you have nothing to use against me if I don't tell you."
Zuko's expression tensed. Despite it all, his sister was still good at playing the cards. Even if she had very few of them…the ones she had left, she had mastered in use. "What if I could promise you. I don't know. Freedom."
"Then I would ask you; for how long? Five minutes and then I'm back in here with no way of taking back the secrets I've shared?" Azula gave a lazy flick of her hair. Her voice a lazy sigh, a tone that just said 'I've heard that one before…next.'
"No. I mean I'd tell them to let you leave. For good."
Azula laughed once more. "And you just expect me to buy that lie? I don't even know why we're having this conversation. I'm not telling you anything. Especially if the question you wish to ask is about me."
"Tell me what you know about mother!" Zuko shouted.
"You hear that Shou? Maybe we should lock him up too. For his anger issues. He could stay in my room with me and read me bedtime stories just like when we were kids."
"Azula this is serious!" Zuko yelled.
"I am being serious." Azula shot him her classic wicked smile. "You and I would make for great roommates, I could show you my favorite crack in the wall."
Zuko slapped his palms against his head. She was just so absolutely infuriating, and stubborn, and just like him in more ways than either of them wanted to admit. He had offered her freedom and she threw it back in his face.
"What's the matter Zu-zu? Am I bothering you?" Azula asked. "If I am you could always just leave."
"I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what you know about our mother."
"Shou get him out of here, he's driving me crazy."
"I'm sorry Fire Lord Zuko. I'm going to have to ask you to leave. It's an asylum policy…you know, to ensure the safety of both the patient and those around him, or in this case, her." Shou requested.
"She's not going to have a breakdown! She's just saying that to get me to leave." Zuko huffed.
"We can't take that risk." Shou frowned.
Zuko took a deep breath. "Fine. I'll reschedule." He turned away.
Okay, so she would defiantly be adding Shou to her list of friends. She'd be at the top. She'd be the only person on it. Azula knew rather well that she had to actually be exhibiting actual signs of a breakdown to have her visitor tossed out. She thought about thanking Shou, but that was beneath her so she settled of a "Nice work Shou."
"Any time Azula."
Azula sat up, leaning against the bedpost. It was a little past lights out and she still had a few hours to go before Xin was to show up. And Azula would have a lot to complain about in the morning if he was a no show and she'd stayed up to such an ungodly hour for no reason.
Until then she had to find some way to keep herself awake.
Or she thought she would.
The method of staying awake came to her.
Like always it was subtle. A light scrapping sound to be exact. An irritating scrapping that had put goosebumps on her skin. "Xin?" She called out softly, the last thing she needed was someone to hear her 'talking to herself'.
The scrapping sounded on the other side of the room. "Xin?" Azula hissed. "If you want to talk, start talking." The only response came in the form of more scrapping…this time on the ceiling. With a groan Azula flopped down on her bed and stared at the ceiling.
Azula squinted at the mark on the ceiling. It was darkly colored and seemed to shine in what little light shown through the window. She rolled onto her side—she'd just ignore it, she didn't have time for Xin's crap.
She felt something drip into her ear. It was lukewarm and discomforting as it flowed down her ear canal. She bolted up right and frantically dabbed at her ear with her blanket.
The cloth came away dyed scarlet. The color drained from Azula's face as another drop trickled down between her eyes and down her nose. And then another. Azula scrambled of the bed and sat down on the floor.
The scrapping started again, from beneath the bed. Not bothering to get to her feet Azula dragged herself backwards until her back met the wall. The scrapping grew in volume. "Xin, what the hell are you doing?" Azula asked through clenched teeth.
The voice was raspy and whispered and seemed to come from all over the room.
Azula's breathing grew heavy, her heart thudding uncontrollably. This made Xin's work look like a silly game. This presence was suffocating.
A swirl of negative emotions and a sense of helplessness seemed to wash over Azula. She tried to steady her breathing but to no avail.
The scrapping grew in volume and much like the voice, occupied every nook and cranny of the room. Azula was once again reduced to covering her ears and trembling. She could fight Zuko, Long Feng, all of Team Avatar, and Aang himself. But she had absolutely no way of fighting this.
She was weak.
Both traits of which she tried to shed herself of.
She fixed her eyes on a spot beneath the bed. The scrapping slowed. She released the she'd been holding. But then she came to realize that something still wasn't right. The atmosphere around her didn't seem any less dismal. If anything the strange and sudden silence only served to fill her with even more dread.
It made a move. A skeletal hand black in color slinked out from beneath the bed. The scraps of black silk clinging to its bones flowed about as if they were entities of their own.
At this point Azula must have ceased breathing all together, for her vision grew cloudy. She dared to take a breath, it already saw her anyways. She squeezed her eyes shut hoping that if she did so long enough, the creature would just go away.
She let a minute or two slid by and opened her eyes. Its face was obscured by shadow but what she saw of it was one not to be forgotten; the skin hanging from its rotting, elongated and sharpened teeth, forever burned into her mind like the little flesh it had left.
She squeezed her eyes shut again until she felt its presence fade.
She opened her eyes. Perhaps she would just swallow her pride, call Shou, and tell her she was seeing things again. Anything to get out of that room.
Shou's name was at the tip of her tongue. But she somehow couldn't bring herself to call it. And then the hands, those skeletal hands snaked over her eyes.
And so she screamed.
She couldn't seem to find remember any words at all. She was too scared to actually search her vocabulary so she just continued to scream.
Scream until her throat started to sting.
And then her screams turned into sobs. Bitter sobs that shook her whole body.
"Just make them stop." She finally called out to dark of the room. "Make them go away." She drew her legs up close to her body and buried her face in her knees.
"The unborn are the worst of them." Xin dropped down next to her.
Azula didn't say anything, she simply sat there and cried.
"Would it help if I said things get better?"
"Not at all." Azula brushed the tears away with the back of her sleeve.
"If you're wondering why no one has come yet, I kind of stirred up a bit of ruckus to keep them distracted…and you unheard."
"I figured as much." Azula muttered.
"Of course you did." Xin agreed sarcastically.
"I'm a pretty good liar." Azula sniffed with a short sad laugh.
"Is that supposed to mean something?"
"Inside joke. With myself."
"Still in the mood for our little chat?" Xin asked.
"Well I didn't just stay awake and get attacked for nothing." Azula answered. "Tell me, what is a Spirit Beacon?"
"You are pretty much a human gate into the Spirit World. You are the one who essentially keeps the balance between the Spirit World and the Physical World…my world and your world in check."
"But I apparently, can hardly keep myself in balance. And isn't that the Avatar's job?"
"It can be. But, in this age the Avatar is focused on keeping balance in the Physical World. And because of that the spirits have been escaping into this world. Through you."