Flame of the Heart

Summary

Before he was burnt... before he became the beast that everyone thought him to be, Zuko had a friend... a flame... a love for someone so special that after a disastrous accident that ended in Zuko's burnt face and the loss of his soulmate, he was never the same again.

Genre:
Romance / Adventure
Author:
Jadecross4ever
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
10
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Chapter 1

“ZUKO!” Azula screeched from beyond the doorway.

Zuko looked up from the book he was reading as his sister tore into the room, a gleaming evil grin plastered on her face.

“You’ll never guess!” Azula chuckled, “Father just captured another village and he brought back all the villagers!”
“What for?” Zuko asked, rising to his feet, suddenly intrigued.

“For slaves duh!” Azula replied, rolling her eyes, “How thick are you?”
Zuko frowned, “What bending nation are they from?” Zuko inquired.

Azula shrugged, “I don’t think they are a nation, just a random village.”
Zuko’s frown deepened and before he knew it, he was following Azula out the room and to the terrace, overlooking the courtyard.

Looking down, Zuko saw that about thirty people or so had been brought in and were shuffled over in a corner, several fire bending guards keeping them caged like animals with their spears. Zuko noticed that none of them wore blue like water bending tribe, golden like air bending or green like earth bending… but grey and white? That was a new one. Almost every one of the people Zuko saw had jet black hair and fairly dark toned skin. The palest of the adults was as tan as Zuko and the darkest was about four shades darker.

“They look so weird,” Azula cackled. “Look at their clothes! And their skin!”

Zuko had to admit in his mind that their skin tone was unusual, but he found their clothes unique and rather pretty. The men all wore grey pants tucked into knee high black boots, white long sleeve shirts underneath dark grey jackets with tassels on the chest, shoulders and sleeves. They each wore a white band around their forehead, and each had different stones stitched to the band, all different shades of blue, green, red and orange. The women wore snug grey leggings and black leather boots that seemed a little more feminine than the men. Their dresses had short sleeves but underneath their knee length grey dresses them wore long sleeve white shirts. The skirts of the dresses were V shaped in the front in back (like Indians) and the hems had white tassels.

Zuko and Azula found their way down to the courtyard where their parents and Uncle Iroh had come to inspect the people. Iroh and Zuko’s mother were standing off to the side, giving the villagers sad looks and Zuko felt the same as his uncle and mother.

The Fire Lord approached the villagers and the three guards guarding them stepped out of the way. Almost immediately, a toddler child ran forward, giggling and trying to get at a chicken that had wandered by.

The child ran right into the path of the Fire Lord and Zuko felt a deep fear grip his gut. His father was going to get mad… when suddenly.

“Marcus! Come back!” a young voice called.

Out of the crowd of people rushed a young girl who looked like she could be about Zuko’s age and scooped the toddler up before he got under the Fire Lord’s feet. The girl held the child to her chest but kept her head down as she slowly backed up from the Fire Lord.

“Halt!” Zuko’s father called.

Zuko bit his lip. Oh no!

“Come forward,” the Fire Lord insisted in a commanding voice.

The girl slowly took a few steps forward, still holding the child to her chest.

“Put the child down.” The Fire Lord demanded.

The girl did as he instructed, and the toddler rushed back to his mother who scooped him up fearfully. Zuko and Azula crept forward towards their mother and Uncle Iroh to get a better look. Zuko saw that the girl’s outfit was different than the other women’s and she wore a hood over her head which shielded her hair and her face.

The girl’s outfit was the same design as the other women’s but instead of it being all grey, it was all white and the tassels on her dress hems, sleeves and chest were a pale blue and around her waist she wore a deep burgundy belt. Around her neck hung a silver chain from which hung a blue crystal and amber crystal. Zuko could tell by seeing her hands that she was much paler than the rest of the villagers, even paler than Zuko… almost fair toned!

Fire Lord Ozai approached the girl who was still bowing and reaching over, pushed her hood back. Everyone around took a step back and gasped. Her hair, if it was down and not braided, would have reached her waist but it was pulled back into a long thick plait down her back with feathery bangs framing her forehead and the side of her face… and it was golden! Zuko had seen people with fair hair… but nothing like this! It was like she was carrying the sun on her head… it was a pure honey, sunny golden.

“Lift your head,” Fire Lord Ozai ordered.

The girl slowly lifted her head to look up at the Fire Lord and everyone was met with a pair of huge crystal blue eyes, a petite round nose sprinkled with soft freckles, an adorable chin, pink lips with a dented upper lip and if the girl was smiling, she would have dimbles.

“What is your name?” Ozai insisted

“Shira my Lord,” the girl whispered.

“Hm,” Ozai hummed, “And who are your parents?”
When the girl didn’t reply, Ozai lifted his hand, prepared to strike the girl and Zuko found himself moving to rush forward but his mother gripped his shoulder to stop him. However, Iroh beat him to it.

“Hold on brother,” Iroh said gently, “Let me take care of this.”
Iroh knelt in front of the girl and lifted her chin gently. As he did, everyone saw that there were tears appearing in the girl’s eyes.

“Are you afraid child?” he asked gently.

The girl slowly shook her head which made Iroh’s eyes widen and a smile appear on his face, “Well that’s good! Why are you crying then?”

The girl slowly tried to look away from Iroh and her eyes landed on Zuko. Zuko’s amber eyes widened in shock when amber met blue. She was beautiful! At least in Zuko’s eyes and the tears appearing in her eyes, the pinkness of crying appearing on her cheeks and her nose made her look even more beautiful. Zuko had never found a girl beautiful before. He had found Mei pretty… but not beautiful.

The girl slowly looked back at Iroh and whispered something that only Iroh heard.

“What is taking so long?” Ozai groaned.

Iroh rose to his feet and placed his arm around the child’s shoulders, “The girl is an orphan brother. Her parents are dead.”
A hush fell over all present while this was taken in.

Zuko couldn’t seem to tear his eyes from the girl. She was standing next to Iroh, feeling slightly out of place but occasionally she would glance out of the corner of her eye at Zuko with a shy but intrigued look on her face.

Suddenly he was brought out of his daze when he heard his father begin to order his guards to send the villagers to the stocks to work. Zuko tensed beneath his mother’s comforting hand and his mother noticed this.

“Excuse me my lord,” the woman said, stepping forward. “Would it be alright if I took the girl in as a handmaiden? She is too young for stock work.”

Iroh smiled and was about to agree when Ozai spoke up, “Absolutely not! Have you no sense woman? Can’t you tell from the blue eyes and fair skin that she is water tribe?”

At this, Zuko saw the girl look at Ozai, puzzled and he knew that Ozai’s guess was wrong.

“Father!” Azula shouted, getting everyone’s attention. “Allow me to take the girl… as a slave girl! The position of a handmaiden is too high for scum such as her. Slavery is best.”
Zuko felt the deepest urge to fire bend at his sister but he knew he shouldn’t. Ozai nodded and Zuko felt his mouth go dry.

“Good idea daughter. You shall have the girl as a slave. Take them away.”
Zuko turned his eyes back on the young girl and as the villagers were pushed away to be taken to their quarters, the girl lifted her blue eyes and met Zuko’s gaze… and smiled.

******************

Zuko peered around the corner. Good, no sign of any guards. Azula had gone out to play with Mei and Ty-lee. She wouldn’t be back for a while and she was always loud when coming into her room so Zuko would know when to scram. Carefully he approached his sister’s room and pushed the door open. He closed it behind him and locked it. He knew there was a key to open it from the outside, but it was in their mother’s room. So, if Azula returned and found it locked, she would have to go get the key.

Zuko scanned the room and almost let out a gasp when he saw what was tied to the girl’s bed. Around one of the large bed posts of Azula’s bed was a long black rope…. Tied securely, it was about three feet long before it tied around the wrists of the young girl! The girl was on her knees, her arms tied behind her. From the look of it, she was asleep for she was leaning forward, but it looked so uncomfortable and painful that Zuko bit his lip.

Crossing the room in three strides, the boy grabbed the knot around the girl’s wrists and untied them. The girl slowly lifted her blue eyes to look at Zuko before they grew wide in shock.

Zuko smiled at her before crouching in front of her, “I’m not going to hurt you.”
The girl seemed to relax slightly at his words, but he could tell she was still on the alert. Reaching forward, he gently pushed her long golden hair out of her eyes and behind her ears. Then reaching down, he clasped her hands and lifted her to her feet. The girl’s knees buckled and Zuko wrapped his arms around her waist to keep her steady. The girl’s eyes fluttered as nausea overtook her. Without thinking, the prince reached down and scooped the girl up into his arms. Carefully he placed her down on the end of Azula’s bed, so she was laying down. The girl rolled onto her side and her eyes fluttered closed.

Zuko smiled as he sat down next to her and drew his knees up. As the girl slept soundly, Zuko watched her. Her golden hair trickled over her shoulders, around her waist and slightly over her sleeping face. Her mouth was slightly parted as she breathed contentedly. She was wearing traditional fire nation slave attire which was a red top with no sleeves that left most of her stomach bare, a skirt that came to her knees, tight leggings underneath and sandals. Zuko had to admit, she was beautiful… but the red didn’t suit her blue eyes and golden hair. She had looked much better in her white attire.

Slowly he reached over and ran his tanned fingers across the girl’s pale cheek. Compared to her fair skin, his hand looked so dark and almost rough and harsh against her fair skin. The girl stirred slightly, and her eyes propped open.

“I apologize your highness,” the girl said, sitting up. “I shouldn’t have fallen asleep.”
Zuko smiled at her soft, sweet voice but stopped her when she was about to stand up. He gently set her back down on the bed, so she was seated.

“I don’t mind. You must have been exhausted.”
The girl looked down at her hands and began to fidget with her skirt. Zuko smiled. She must be confused as to why he was being so kind to her, considering how Azula treated her.

“I’m sorry about my sister. She isn’t nice to anyone. Not even my mother.”
The girl kept her head bowed so that her hair shielded her face. Sighing, Zuko reached over and grasped her hand with his. At this, the girl looked at him, a startled look in her eyes. Zuko smiled at her.

“I want to help you. I wasn’t able to convince my father to help you so I will try my hardest to protect you from my sister.”
The girl bit her lip and looked down at her lap again, “But why master?”
Zuko reached over and cupped her chin with his hand, lifting her eyes to meet his, “First, don’t call me master. Zuko is just fine. As for why… no one should be treated like this and you are not a servant. You were a free person before your village was captured. You should not be victim to such a life.”
The girl’s eyes pooled with tears and she bit her lip to hold them back, but she couldn’t contain them and they streamed down her cheeks. She buried her face in her hands and let the tears seep through her fingers, her shoulders shaking with sobs.

Zuko gently wrapped his arms around the girl’s shoulders and pulled her against his chest, stroking her hair, “It’s alright. You’re safe now.”
After letting the girl finish crying, Zuko gently lifted her head and looked into her eyes, “I do not believe I know your name.”
The girl wiped her still damp face with her hand before managing a small smile, “Shira, ma…Zuko.”

A huge grin crossed Zuko’s face and he smiled at the girl. Reaching into his robes, he pulled out a handkerchief and offered it to the girl. Shira stared at it as if he had just offered her the key to the world. Slowly she took it but instead of using it, she clutched it in her hands as if afraid to let it go.

Zuko smiled, about to say something else when he heard the all too familiar voice of Azula. “I have to go,” he whispered.

Shira nodded. She got down on her knees next to the post and Zuko tied her hands back to the post. However, he made sure that they looked tight, but were really loose. He helped Shira prop herself against the post so she could sleep easier later. He slipped the handkerchief into her pocket so Azula wouldn’t see it before looking into the girl’s face. The tears were gone but she was looking drowsy.

“I’ll be back tomorrow night,” he whispered.

Shira nodded and smiled, “Thank you…. Zuko.”
Zuko smiled and pushed a strand of hair behind her ear before jumping to his feet and rushing to the door. Peering out, he saw that Azula had left to go locate the key. Slipping out, he made sure the door was closed but unlocked before rushing off. The moment he was a good distance from the room, a huge grin spread across his face.

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