After a while of the Dai Li agents holding me in some sort of underground base they had, Azula came waltzing in.
“It’s almost time, get her ready,” she said to the men. Then she looked to me.
I glared at her and fought as they pulled me up to my feet.
“Such fire you have in you, I’d think you were fire nation. Don’t worry, you are the perfect persuasion my pitiful brother needs to rejoin my side. That is, if he truly cares about you.”
“You think that you can do whatever you want. But trust me when I say that all the evil you have been doing will catch up with you sooner or later and there will be nowhere to run,” I said through gritted teeth. I wasn’t afraid of her, and she needed to know that.
She narrowed her eyes at me and then turned and started to walk out, “We’ll see about that, bring her.”
The men started to push me forward, making me stumble. One of them kept their hand on my arm the entire time, probably because he saw what went down between Azula and I. They brought me into a bigger area that seemed to be a cavern. It had greenish-blue crystals coming out of the rock, a waterfall on one of the walls, and streams of water running through the entire place.
I heard footsteps coming down a tunnel to the right, and then all of a sudden more hands grabbed me.
“Let go of me!” I yelled, “Ugh!” I grunted as they forced me down onto the ground. “Let go!” I yelled again, squirming as they attached my bound hands to the ground with rock behind me. I was on my knees, now with my hands behind me in between my legs.
“Shut up!” one of the men growled at me, and sent a rock into my stomach.
I cried out in pain, and leaned forward, breathing heavily. When I looked back up, they were gone. I looked around, they had erected more of that crystal in front of me so that whoever came out of the tunnel didn’t immediately see me. I could see through the crystal though, why was that?
I struggled against the rock binding my hands together, when all of a sudden it tightened, causing me to cry out in pain once more.
I heard footsteps coming out from the tunnel, and then two people emerged, running. It was the avatar! I struggled more against the bindings and was about to say something, call out for help, when a blue fire went rushing towards them. The avatar heard it coming and brought up a short wall of rocks to block it.
I looked back to the opening of the tunnel, it was Azula.
The other person that was with the Avatar came running out from around the charred rock, and drug water up with her from a part of the stream. It was the water tribe girl from the abandoned village. Where were the other ones? I watched in awe as Azula blocked the first blow of the water, but then the girl swirled the water immediately back around at her.
All of a sudden, the crystal in front of me disappeared, pulling my attention from the fight. When I looked back, Azula was jumping high out of a cloud of smoke, and punching fire blasts at the avatar and his friend. They both brought out a large stream of water from beside them to block the blue fire. Azula landed on a large column of rock that reached from the ceiling to the floor. With two sharp movements, the avatar brought the column crumbling down, which made Azula jump off and land in between them. She held up her hands both in either direction towards them.
I took a breath, when movement in front of me caught my eye. I looked quickly to what it was. I gasped silently to see Zuko emerge from the tunnel. He looked at me, and I could see in his eyes that something was wrong. He looked away, and sent a large blast of fire towards the group, and it landed in between Azula and the avatar. He kept his arms up in the same position, and walked forward, closing the distance to the group.
I held my breath, what was he going to do? I could tell that everyone else was wondering the same, because they were all looking at him, waiting. Then, he made his choice. He threw a very large fire blast at the Avatar, who jumped back with a burst of air.
I felt something in my heart sink. There had to be a reason why he made that decision. But, I made a promise to him that I would support him in every decision he made, so I shook off the feeling.
Azula quickly turned to the water girl with a blue fire blast, which she blocked with water. I looked back to Zuko, I could hear him grunting with every attack. He punched continuously at the avatar, sending blast after blast at him. I struggled more against the bindings. But what good would it do? Even if I was able to get free, I had no idea what I would do. Join the avatar? Help Zuko and risk getting punched out by Azula?
Zuko getting thrown back and landing hard on the ground snapped me out of my thoughts. He immediately had to roll to the side to avoid the Avatar who had jumped right next to him.
I yelled in frustration, and in response, the bindings tightened yet again. That meant that the Dai Li were still here, watching. At least the two that had brought me in here. I could tell Zuko heard me, because he growled loudly in response and sent the biggest blast of fire I had ever seen at the Avatar. He then made some kind of continuous ropes of fire from his hands, swinging them at the Avatar.
Zuko was wearing some kind of sleeveless tunic tucked into his pants, showing the muscles in his arms that rippled with every movement.
I saw the Avatar jump up to a large stalactite hanging from the ceiling and slice through it with ease. It dropped rapidly, and he caught up to it and punched it, making it collide with the ground with a huge amount of force. The second it hit the ground, Zuko went flying backwards, bounced on the ground, and then hit a crystal formation.
I gasped and shouted, “Zuko!” My voice echoed through the cavern, eventually reaching his ears through the fighting sounds of Azula and the water girl. We locked eyes, and it was almost as if he was apologizing to me through them. I tilted my eyebrows upward with concern, and then heard Azula cry out, almost in fear. We both looked over to see the water girl had Azula’s opposite hand and foot encased in water, and had lifted her off the ground.
Zuko jumped up and ran towards them, and then with a loud grunt he jumped up and brought his foot around in a flip, sending a wave of fire in between them, slicing through the water and releasing Azula.
Azula ran off to fight the Avatar, and Zuko and the water girl faced each other. There was a stream of water between them, but that didn’t stop Zuko.
“I thought you had changed!” the girl yelled from the other side, while blocking the ropes of fire Zuko was swinging at her.
What? Had they had a conversation that I didn’t know about? How did she know that he had changed?
“I have changed,” Zuko let the ropes of fire disappear and assumed a different stance.
Well, he wasn’t lying. He has changed, especially since I first met him. He was more open now, more willing to let go of the past. But also, I didn’t know why he made the decision he did. Maybe it had to do with protecting me? Azula did say that she was going to use me to get him back on her side, and that if he truly cared about me it would work. Does this show that he truly cares about me?
A loud crash brought my attention back to the fight. The water girl had been thrown back against a crystal formation, and both Zuko and Azula were there.
Movement from next to me stole my attention away from them again, and I saw the Dai Li getting ready to strike. This is exactly what they did with me. I could see them line the top of the cavern next to me, there were so many of them. I opened my mouth to yell to the Avatar, and right as I was taking a breath, a collection of rocks came flying towards me and covered my mouth. I tried to yell through it, but it was no use.
One of them jumped down early, in the path of the Avatar who was riding a ball of rock towards Zuko and his sister. With a quick thrust upwards, the Avatar was thrown to the side. Then, the rest of them jumped down from the walls of the cavern; some surrounding the water girl who had gotten up, and the rest forming a square behind Azula.
There was no way they would win this fight, not unless the Avatar went into that one state that I overheard people talking about. Almost immediately after I thought about it, he made a crystal tent around himself. After only a moment, it started to glow. Zuko dropped his fighting stance, and the Dai Li agents behind him started to back away. Then a burst of energy erupted from the tent, and a light shot up, bringing the Avatar into the air. His eyes and arrow tattoo were glowing, was it happening?
I looked down to Zuko to see that he looked nervous, and I realized that he could get seriously hurt in this situation. While I was looking at him, I realized that Azula was no longer next to him. I looked around, searching for her, and realized that she had assumed a position behind the Avatar. As he rose up in the air, I saw Azula start to form lightning in her hands. I recognized it from the many times I watched Zuko try and fail before. I gasped, realizing that no one else saw her. The water girl was too focused on the Avatar to see her. I was the only one.
I screamed through the rocks as hard as I could, feeling the dust get sucked down my throat with every breath I took. I wasn’t loud enough! No one could hear my muffled screams.
I gasped in horror as I watched the last hope we had fall from the air. He was limp, plummeting headfirst to the ground. I screamed again, muffled by the rocks, tears stung against my cheeks. I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest; this was it, this was the end. There will now be no one to stop the fire nation.
The water girl rode a huge wave towards him, which wiped out the Dai Li agents and Zuko, catching the Avatar right before he hit the ground. His body was limp, he had taken a direct hit of lightning to the back. I don’t think anyone could have survived that.
Zuko had gotten back up, he and Azula were stalking towards them. Before they could get close, a wave of fire passed right in front of them, making Zuko flinch backwards. Iroh jumped down from somewhere that I didn’t see, in between the Avatar’s lifeless body and his family. He was facing his family, with a determined look on his face.
“You’ve got to get out of here!” he yelled backwards to the water girl. “I’ll hold them off as long as I can!”
She took the Avatar and ran to the waterfall, which seemed to have a way out, straight up. She used a swirl of water to shoot upwards and out of sight. Once they were gone, Iroh stopped fighting, and was encased in a formation of crystals.
I tried to yell to get his attention through the rocks covering my mouth. He made eye contact with Zuko, but then looked away, ashamed of what his nephew had done. I saw Zuko heading in my direction, but looked back to Iroh. He glanced at me, and acknowledged that I was there, bound on the floor.
I drew my attention back at Zuko as he came closer, and once he saw me, he broke out in a run and kneeled down in front of me.
“Mara, are you alright? What happened?”
I raised my eyebrows at him, trying to swallow through all of the dust and tiny pebbles that had broken off and gone down my throat. His gaze shifted down to the rocks covering my mouth.
He stood up and shouted, “Hey! Someone get over her and release her! Now!” I could hear the anger and frustration in his voice.
Azula nodded to one of the agents and he flicked a hand towards me, making the bindings fly off.
I took a deep breath once the rocks were off of my mouth and coughed, trying to get the dust that I had inhaled out of my throat. Zuko dropped down in front of me and pulled me into his chest, hugging me. I slumped to the side to relieve the pressure off of my knees and brought my hands up to his shoulders. He broke away and searched my face, looking for any scratch or bruise.
“Zuko,” I breathed, my voice raspy.
He locked eyes with me and grabbed my hands, putting them together between us.
“I was so worried about you. I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t, but it was the only way to ensure your safety,” he sounded ashamed and looked down at my hands.
I cleared my throat before responding, “I know, you did what you had to do. It’s okay.”
I felt Zuko turning my hands in his and looked down. My wrists where the rock bindings were, were red, swollen, rubbed raw. He brushed his thumb across one of the marks, making me wince and flinch away from him. I saw a flash of anger in his eyes, and he started to get up. I grabbed a hold of his hands and brought him back to me.
“No, don’t. We don’t know what that would do,” I looked in his eyes.
He let out a breath of frustration and nodded. He then grabbed my forearms and helped me up off of the ground. I stood and then started to fall back to the ground, my legs were numb and my knees gave out on me. But Zuko was right there to catch me. I felt his strong arms lift me up off of the ground, and I let my head rest against his chest.
“It’s going to be alright, I promise,” I heard him say. “I won’t let them hurt you again.”