Katara and I walked together to the library; it was the most likely place that the sages would be. It wasn't a very long walk to get there but it was incredibly uncomfortable to walk but not nearly as painful as it had been before. I had almost forgotten what a talented healer Katara was. There were limits to her talents but it was nice having her with me to help me through this. Quickly I glanced at her to see what her expression was, she looked serious and focused. I knew that this was just a mask for what she was feeling underneath the surface. She was probably terrified of what was going to happen. The bi laws must have some loop hole in case a situation like this came about. There just had to be one.
The library doors stood before us. A dragon was etched into each one their claws interlocking across the seam in the doors, symbolizing the protection that must be had for the knowledge behind these doors. As a child I had loathed this place, the seemingly endless hours I spent here with tutors studying seemed like a life time ago. Katara reached out her hand a pushed open one of the doors. Ahead of us stood massive rows a scrolls, the history, knowledge, and culture of the entire Fire Nation sat before us. Our footsteps echoed ominously as we made our way between the rows toward the heart of the library. At the middle was a large circular table which all the rows lead too. Sitting around surrounded by mountains of scrolls where the Sages. Each one was sitting there head bent reading frantically over whichever scroll they held in their hands. I cleared my throat and they all looked up at us. Katara and I moved to take seats opposite the Sages, their eyes flicking nervously back and forth between Katara and myself. Once we were seated I spoke,
"So, what have you discovered?" I asked seriously. The oldest Sage who had spoken last night took a deep breath.
"There is very little written about what is to be done in a situation such as yours." This didn't sound good in the slightest. "But, what we have found has indicated only two ways in which you, Prince Zuko, may become Fire Lord." My heart leaped at these words. Two ways, one would be an Agni Kai for certain. That I would not do. All my hopes rested in the other alternative. "The first is that you two would have to fight an Agni Kai, as you were probably aware of, the other is this," The sage paused thinking carefully for a few moments. It took all my will power not to yell at him to spit it out already. "Prince Zuko, the only other way you could regain your place on the thrown would be for you to marry Miss Katara then and only then may she bequeath her power as Fire Lord to you." My heart stopped for a moment, it was like I was getting struck by lightning all over again. Marriage was not something I had expected and at the same time it made perfect sense on why it had to be that way. It was all I could do to keep my mouth from dropping open; Katara went ridged next to me as the same thoughts flew across her mind as well.
"Well that leaves much for us to discuss." I said curtly and stood up abruptly Katara followed as we marched out of the library both still in slight shock. We walked in silence for what seemed like forever neither of us really paying much attention to where we were going. It was hard to think and hard to not think at the same time it was like my mind was splitting in half. Katara grabbed my arm stopping us dead in our tracks. My wound began to ache as the effect of what we had just been told wore off. I gazed down at her into her big beautiful blue eyes, there was no doubt I had thought about a future with her but now it was being crammed down our throats whether we wanted it or not.
"It seems like we only have one choice." She said in a whisper. "We have to get married." This was our only choice we wouldn't kill each other and she would never be accepted as Fire Lord. Fate it seemed was pushing us down this path and we could do nothing to stop it.
The next few days began to speed past. After Zuko and I had agreed that getting married was the only logical thing to do I had written a letter to Dad. It briefly explained what had happened and what we had to do. The only problem was I had no idea where to send it; he had gone into hiding after Azula had found us at the air temple. So the letter stayed rolled up neatly on the night stand in my room. The white lotus had sent word that Ba Sing Se had been freed and that Aang had defeated Ozai. There also had been a note from Sokka attached to it saying they, Toph, Suki, Aang, and Sokka, would all be headed to the Fire Nation as soon as Appa would fly to them. I had sent Appa to go get them which he seemed all too happy to be reuniting with Aang once again. There was the issue of announcing the engagement. The people of the Fire Nation would want to have their next Fire Lord crowned soon but seeing as the situation was complicated just blurting out the news wasn't what was going to work best either.
It was midafternoon and I was standing in the middle of what were now my chambers with several yard of silk draped around my body. The royal seamstress and her assistance buzzed around me taking measurements and pinning and chattering. I felt more like a dummy then some blushing bride to be. My thoughts kept wandering to how a marriage ceremony happened back home. How the bride dressed in soft white furs and how the ceremony had to take place under a full moon.
"Don't worry about the fabric dear." The seamstress smiled. "This is only to get an idea of how the gown will really look." The yards of silk that covered me where all a similar shade of red and for all I had known I thought this was going to be my wedding dress. "You are going to make such a beautiful bride and those blue eyes. We'll just have to work that color in somehow." She said this more to herself than me. Just then the door opened behind me and in the reflection of the mirror that stood in front of me I saw Dad and Sokka, who was on crutches, walk through the door. Without thinking I leaped off the stool that I had been standing on and rushed to them. Pins pricked my skin as I ran into my father's open arms. He hugged me tight and kissed the top of my head. He then held me out at arm's length to get a better look at me.
"Katara? What's going on?" He asked eyeing the fabric. Sokka also was looking at me oddly.
"Yeah what's up did you defect to the Fire Nation or something." I felt my stomach drop slightly.
"Yeah something." I whispered, I waved my hand to tell the seamstress to go. She and her assistance picked up their things quickly as I pulled the silk off my frame to reveal my normal blue dress. Once they were gone I sat Sokka and Dad down on the couch and took a deep breath. "I have a lot to let you."