TLA2: The Battle for Ba Sing See (A Fanfic Sequel Treatment)

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This labor of love is my ode to the live-action adaptation of the Nickelodeon animated series, Avatar: The Last Airbender... TLA2: The Battle For Ba Sing Se (A FanFic Sequel).

Submitted: May 29, 2018

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Submitted: May 29, 2018

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OMM ENTERTAINMENT

 

 

 

“THE LAST AIRBENDER 2: THE BATTLE FOR BA SING SE”

 

A Cinematic Treatment by
AKIMA A. BROWN

 

Inspired by the film “The Last Airbender”
Written, Directed and Produced by
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN

 

Based on the series "Avatar: The Last Airbender"
Created by
MICHAEL DANTE DIMARTINO

and

BRYAN KONIETZKO

 

 

 

Contact:
Akima A. Brown
abrownbelleinks [at] gmail [dot] com

 

 

 

Back story:

In a futuristic world where people have learned to commune with nature, there are some who possess the power to manipulate, or bend, the four elements (earth, fire, air, and water). Societies are comprised primarily of people with ties to a specific element – Earth Kingdom, Water Tribes, Fire Nation and Air Nomads. Most benders can only bend one element. Typically, they use their bending to protect their respective nations, though for the most part, all four nations live together in peace. At least they did until the Fire Nation attacked.

In every generation, there is born an Avatar, one with the power to bend all four elements. In something called “The Avatar State,” s/he can even bend all four elements at the same time. When the Avatar dies, s/he is reborn to the next nation in the cycle. After the death of Avatar Roku (a firebender), Fire Lord Sozin – ruler of the Fire Nation – seeks the opportunity to seize control of the other nations. Knowing the Avatar is the only one with the power to stop him, and that the next Avatar will be an Air Nomad, Fire Lord Sozin orders the execution of the entire Air Nomad population. When Sozin’s troops attack the other nations and the Avatar does not rise up to stop them, the Fire Nation – and the rest of the world – believes it is because the Avatar is dead.

100 years pass before two teenagers – Katara, a young waterbender from the South Pole’s Southern Water Tribe and her warrior brother, Sokka – find a young boy named Aang and his air bison, Appa, trapped in an iceberg. They discover that Aang is indeed the Avatar. He must learn to bend all four elements before he can reach his full potential. Because Aang is an Air Nomad and already possesses the gift of airbending, he must learn his new skills in accordance with his relationship in the elemental cycle; first waterbending, then earth-, and fire-.

Our Story:

The first sequence of the proposed sequel to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender – a live-action adaptation of the Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender, begins much like the opening sequence on the cartoon. Screens with red backgrounds appear, as Katara narrates, “Water; earth; fire; air,” and so forth, as a bender demonstrates his or her mastery of the particular element mentioned. Next, Katara provides a little background on Avatar Aang and the 100-year war with the Fire Nation.

In the previous film, Aang has already traveled to the North Pole to study waterbending under the direction of Master Pakku. In this film, we begin with Aang leaving the North Pole. Content that Aang is a bona fide waterbender, Master Pakku sends Aang to the City of Omashu to study earthbending with King Bumi. Upon learning that the Southern Water Tribe – Sokka and Katara’s Tribe – is practically defenseless with all the men off to war, and Sokka and Katara (the last line of defense) having left to help the Avatar, Pakku decides to travel to the Southern Water Tribe with some of his Northern Tribe Waterbenders to offer protection. (Of course, it does not hurt that Katara and Sokka’s grandmother is Pakku’s “one that got away”). Sokka, Aang and Katara travel out of the North Pole with Master Pakku. Before they leave, Master Pakku gives Katara a vile of water from the North Pole’s Spirit Well that has majestic properties.

When Aang, Katara, and Sokka leave Master Pakku to head for the Earth Kingdom, they fly on Appa most of the way. When Appa gets tired, they land to walk, rest, or make camp. While on-ground, Aang and his friends encounter a group of young women calling themselves the Kyoshi Warriors. Their leader, Suki, explains that the Kyoshi Warriors were the protectors of Kyoshi Island, but were inspired to leave Kyoshi Island and help end the war once they heard of the Avatar’s return. They really want to help Aang because Kyoshi is a previous Avatar – one of Aang’s past lives.  The two groups decide to travel together to Omashu. During their time together, Suki and Sokka establish camaraderie, chocked with sparring, jarring and lots of flirting. When the group reaches Omashu, a huge Fire Nation banner hangs over the city gates. The Fire Nation has claimed Omashu as their colony.

Meanwhile, Fire Nation prince, Zuko, who has been banished by his father - the current Fire Lord – Ozai, for speaking out of turn during his father’s security briefing, has been charged with the seemingly impossible task of capturing the Avatar to restore his honor (seemingly impossible because everyone thinks the Avatar is dead).

In the previous film, Zuko travels to the North Pole and catches the Avatar, but cannot keep hold of him. In this film, knowing Aang must master earthbending next, Zuko and his uncle travel toward the Earth Kingdom. Zuko’s uncle, and Ozai’s older brother, Iroh, is a great Fire Nation general and firebending master. He volunteers to travel with Zuko, serving as a teacher, mentor and protector. They travel the world in search of the Avatar; much to Iroh’s dismay. Iroh, though a great general, always seems more interested in making peace (and jokes) whenever possible.

Fire Lord Ozai learns of Zuko’s failure to retain the Avatar at the North Pole and sends Azula, Zuko’s younger sister and a deadly firebending prodigy (who would be a Type A personality if she’d loosen up a little), to capture her brother. Ozai demands that Zuko is brought home as a prisoner of war before he can cause the family and the Fire Nation any greater shame.

Azula, knowing her brother is tracking the Avatar – and that as a Fire Nation outcast will want to remain discreet - heads toward the outskirts of the Earth Kingdom. Azula finds Zuko and she tricks him into believing that Ozai has requested his son home under honorable pretenses. Iroh thinks it is a trap, but Zuko thinks Iroh is jealous, so he ditches his uncle and goes with Azula. Following his instincts, Iroh goes to Azula’s ship. He reaches just as Zuko is about to board and one of the soldiers lets it slip that the two men are prisoners. Azula shoves the indiscreet soldier overboard.

Enraged at Azula, Zuko attacks her. Iroh fights off the guards trying to detain him and intercepts Azula just as she is about to shoot lightning at Zuko. Iroh redirects the lightening and kicks Azula overboard giving him and Zuko time to escape. Once back onboard, Azula’s advisers consider that she needs a smaller team if she wants to effectively track and capture her brother. She speaks to two of her men in secret then sends them off. She orders the rest to make preparations to head for Omashu.

Back at Omashu, Aang, Sokka, Katara and the Kyoshi Warriors sneak into the city without the Fire Nation soldiers spotting them. Once inside they learn of a small band of Earth Kingdom rebels. Their leader is Dojin, former Chief of Security for King Bumi. He explains to the group that King Bumi simply surrendered. Aang asks Dojin to take him to King Bumi. That night they sneak into Bumi’s prison – a large metal fortress. Unable to use his earthbending inside, Dojin sends Aang in alone. Inside, Bumi explains to Aang that in battle there are multiple jinns or ways to channel your energy. He chose neutral jinn – doing nothing. He recommends that Aang find an earthbending teacher who has mastered this technique and can teach him to do the same.

Somewhere else, in a field, under the cover of darkness, a man in a blue mask tumbles and crawls, trying to stay low. He reaches a clothesline, steals some items from it and heads back into the cover of the reeds. Someone comes to the door and looks around, but goes back inside when they see no one is there. The figure resurfaces and heads into the woods. He stops just before a campfire, covering his outfit with some of the new clothes and takes off his mask. The man in the mask is Zuko. He gives the rest of the clothing to his uncle. They cannot go into the Earth Kingdom wearing Fire Nation attire.

Back inside Omashu, Azula arrives at the governor’s palace – formerly King Bumi’s castle. The governor extends numerous pleasantries Azula is not humble enough to appreciate. His teenage daughter Mei, however, seems much less enthused about Azula’s presence – or anything for that matter. Azula dismisses the governor so she and his daughter can talk. While they are talking a third girl arrives. She is the bubbly, cutesy antithesis of her two melancholy counterparts. As they talk, we learn the three are old friends and classmates, having studied together at the Fire Nation Academy for Girls – Azula, Mei, and Ty Lee. Azula propositions Mei and Ty Lee to join her on her quest to capture Zuko. Mei is concerned her parents will not let her go. When Azula leaves the room to inform the governor of Mei’s departure, Ty Lee asks Mei if capturing Zuko will be hard for her since it is clear Mei still obliviously has feelings for him.

Back at the rebel camp, Aang shares Bumi’s advice with the others. Dojin believes Aang will find an earthbending master at “The Boulder Brawl,” a secret joust where earthbenders can hone their skills without fear of persecution from the Fire Nation soldiers. There are many brawny men fighting, but the young girl beating them all seems most interesting to Aang. The announcer introduces her as The Blind Bandit. She uses neutral jinn like Bumi recommended. Aang asks her about teaching him, but she doesn’t believe he’s an airbender or the Avatar. She disappears into the earth before he can convince her otherwise. Aang inquires from others where he can find The Blind Bandit, but no one knows.

Somewhere just outside a beautifully decorated, pristine room, a woman calls out, “Sweetheart?” The Blind Bandit changes her clothes, cleans her face and calls back, “Coming Mother.” Her mother enters the room. We do not see the mother’s face, but we see her arms wrap around The Blind Bandit and the kiss she places on her forehead. As Mom pulls back, she notices a smudge on her daughter’s face. She cleans it off, lets out a sigh, and pulls The Blind Bandit in for another embrace.

The next morning, Azula visits King Bumi. She wants to meet the earth king who defied everything the world knows about Earth Kingdom strength and immediately surrendered to the Fire Nation. Inside his cell, she sees where one of the metal vents (the one leading outside) is bent. “No one can bend metal… can they old man?” She orders to have Bumi executed. “Just to be sure he can’t escape…drown him,” she adds before leaving. Outside, a soldier requests Azula’s presence back at the governor’s palace. When she arrives, three men wearing Fire Nation uniforms and riding giant, horned komodo dragons stop beside her. She calls them the “Rhino Riders.” They are there to retrieve a document from the Fire Nation Ambassador and return it to Fire Lord Ozai. Inside, the Fire Nation ambassador is wearing Earth Kingdom attire. His wife and blind daughter accompany him. He refers to them as “Poppy” and “Toph” when he asks them to leave him to his duties.

Inside the rebel camp, Aang is anxious to find The Blind Bandit. He is certain she is his earthbending master. Aang, Dojin, Katara, and Sokka head out, leaving the Kyoshi Warriors behind at the rebel camp. Aboveground Aang and the others near the governor’s palace.

Inside the palace, Toph can hear her father’s discussion in the other room about the scroll he is turning over to the Fire Lord and the execution of King Bumi. Azula, deciding that Ambassador Lao has fulfilled his purpose, orders the Fire Nation soldiers to execute him and his family. Poppy seems oblivious to this as she sits and waits. Toph, unsure what to do, follows her mother’s lead. When soldiers come into the room where Poppy and Toph sit, with Lao restrained, he begs them to leave his wife and daughter alone since they are helpless and know nothing of what he has done. Toph proceeds to repeat verbatim what she heard. A soldier tries to grab hold of her but she earthbends and sends him through a nearby wall courtesy of a massive boulder.

On the street – hearing the crashing sound of the boulder - Aang, Dojin, Katara, and Sokka duck just in time to miss being hit. The ruckus draws the attention of several citizens and Fire Nation soldiers. Upon hearing further clashes inside the palace, several Fire Nation soldiers start up the steps, but Katara waterbends, slicking the steps with ice and sending them sliding back down again. Dojin sounds the rebel. The revolution to reclaim Omashu has now begun. When the alarm reaches King Bumi, he metal bends his prison door, tossing it aside like a scrap of paper. The earthbenders below ground, head up. Those already above ground get into the fight. Citizens flee for cover, some run into the woods and away from Omashu.

Back in the square, Toph comes to the hole in the palace wall. Aang recognizes her eyes: The Blind Bandit!

Mei and Ty Lee, hearing the commotion, join Azula downstairs. When Azula sees Aang airbending, she yells, “The Avatar! He’s mine.” She jumps feet-first down into the chaos. When Toph hears and “sees” this – using the vibrations from the ground as images – she comes to Aang’s aid.

The Earth Kingdom’s fighters are beating back the Fire Nation soldiers. In a final attempt to get the upper hand, Ty Lee tumbles into the center and hits Katara and Toph, taking their bending powers. Bumi demonstrates his phenomenal bending skill and traps both Azula and Ty Lee in a block of earth. Poppy, who has been a quiet detainee until that moment, hits the guard holding her with several acupressure jabs – much like Ty Lee – which leaves him limp, like a puddle of putty on the floor. She repeats this several times on other guards as she makes her way to Toph. Mei manages to hit Poppy with a dart hidden inside her sleeve, but Bumi immediately sends her up and over into the block with her two friends.

One of the Rhino Riders takes his sledgehammer and blasts the rock. He rides around and blasts again, freeing Mei, Azula and Ty Lee. Another Rider emerges from the castle with the scroll, ordering the group to ride out. Those Fire Nation soldiers, not already captured, also flee.

With the ruckus settling down, Toph goes to see about her mother. Poppy is fine just mildly injured. Bumi reclaims the city and arrests Toph’s father, Lao, for treason. When Lao tries to attack Bumi with a knife, Bumi grabs it and rolls it into a ball. Bumi, seeing that Toph is impressed with this skill, and knowing she has incredible bending talents, decides to share his secret, “Metals are simply earth, refined and purified.”

When Aang asks Toph to come with them, Poppy gives her blessing. But Toph is useless without her bending. “That girl took it away,” she informs them. But Poppy professes otherwise, reminding her daughter how special she is. Toph’s bending is not gone, Poppy tells her, her chi is merely blocked. An elder explains that when Toph calms down and has had time to rest, her chi will open up again and her bending will return. Poppy turns her daughter’s palms up, pressing various points on her wrists and forearms. “Breathe,” she tells her child. “Now try,” Poppy urges. “Or you can do that, too,” the elder quips when Toph bends. Poppy does the same for Katara. Bumi recommends that Aang and his friends travel to Ba Sing Se and speak with Earth King Kuei. “Omashu is in ruins and is no place for learning right now. Kuei can provide a safe learning space and more suitable living accommodations.” Bumi thanks them and sends them on their way.

In the woods, also on their way to Ba Sing Se, Zuko and Iroh have stopped to rest. As they are packing up camp, the Rhino Riders approach. Unbeknownst to the Riders, the Kyoshi Warriors trailed them out of Omashu. The Rhino Riders taunt Zuko and Iroh about the Fire Nation bounty on their heads. Suki and the other Kyoshi Warriors cannot hear anything, so they assume the two men are earth nation refugees being harassed by the Rhino Riders and jump in to help. The Kyoshi Warriors beat the Rhino Riders back into retreat and steal the scroll before Zuko or Iroh has the chance to firebend; thus, their identities remain concealed. They call themselves Lee and Mushi. The Kyoshi Warriors agree to escort their new friends to Ba Sing Se.

During their trip, Zuko tries to steal the scroll from the Kyoshi Warriors, but his uncle stops him. Their stirring wakes Suki and another Kyoshi Warrior. Iroh/Mushi tells them the stories of the original benders: badger moles taught the first earthbenders, air bison taught the first airbenders, and the waterbenders learned by watching the Moon Spirit push and pull the ocean’s tide. “Firebenders, however,” Iroh explains, “are the learned to bend from dragons. This is why they are the only ones who can bend directly from their Chi. Hmph. Only true firebenders do this. A very select few,” he continues, “who are connected to their Chi, can bend fire from nothing.”

 “You seem to know a lot about firebending, Mr. Mushi,” Suki notes.

“I know a lot about a lot of things.”

“And just, how did you get to be so wise…about these things,” Zuko asks snappily.

“When you get to be my age, you learn a lot about a lot. We should get some rest. We have a long day ahead of us.”

The next day, the Kyoshi Warriors lead their new friends to The Secret Pass – an underground Earth Kingdom trolley system. They secure Zuko and Iroh’s travel before heading back to Omashu.

Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph (Team Avatar) are flying on Appa and spot a place to make camp. They land and, shortly afterward, are joined by Suki and the other Kyoshi Warriors. Suki gives Aang the scroll stolen from the Rhino Riders. A metal cylinder with symbols from all four elements encases the scroll. Suki recounts the story Mushi told them about bending. Toph can attest to that since she learned earthbending from badger moles when she was younger. Aang becomes reclusive, realizing that he will have to learn firebending one day. “It doesn’t seem like there are many ‘real’ firebenders left. At least, none who would teach me. Not the Avatar.”

The next morning, the groups part ways again with Team Avatar heading to Ba Sing Se, while Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors return to help rebuild Omashu.

Elsewhere in the forest, Azula, Mei, and Ty Lee are walking along, dusty and frustrated. Azula spots a white clump of hair snagged on a branch. Mei finds it gross, but to Ty Lee “it looks cuddly.” Azula recognizes it as Appa’s fur. She decides to see if they can track the Avatar using Appas’s fur as a lead. As they follow the trail, they encounter the Kyoshi Warriors and a battle ensues.

Now, with he and Zuko within the walls of Ba Sing Se, Iroh searches for something. Zuko doesn’t know what, but Iroh appears to have found it when thehe enters a small tavern with a painting of a white lotus on the door. Inside the tavern is a small table with a Pai Sho board etched into it. Iroh sits and waits, which Zuko thinks is stupid. An elderly man comes in and sits across from Iroh. They play Pai Sho. When the men finish, Iroh is “ winner.” The other player speculates that there are others who might like to meet Iroh. The old man takes Iroh and Zuko to a home in the city where another man graciously ushers them inside. Zuko is instructed to stay in the main sitting room. Iroh and the others go through a, door and lock it. Iroh exits after some time and announces that he and Zuko are now employees at a local tea shop and will live in a small apartment in the city’s outer rim. “What? How”, is all Zuko can manage.

When Aang, Katara, Toph, and Sokka arrive in Ba Sing Se, a young woman named Jet greets them. She says she has been appointed by the city to serve as their guide. Aang explains to her that he has been recommended by King Bumi of Omashu to see Earth King Kuei, but Jet always has an answer for why they cannot. The group is leery of Jet. Though she sets the group up with a place to stay and gives them access to an adequate training space for Aang’s earthbending, there is still something strange about her.

Toph decides to follow Jet for a while, which is how she learns that Jet frequents a local tea shop. She seems fond of the young man, Lee (Zuko) who works there with his older uncle Mushi (Iroh). However, when Jet sneaks into Team Avatar’s home one night and tries to steal the scroll, Aang and the other’s learn that she is more than she seems. (Sokka’s guess is that she’s a ninja, especially with her cool dual hook swords). Jet confesses that she is an agent in a secret order.

“Recruiting a little young aren’t they,” Katara inquires in disbelief.

“Yeah, I liked her better when we thought she was a ninja.”

“If a twelve-year-old can be the Avatar,” Aang interjects.

“112. And besides the point,” Sokka considers.

Jet explains that some of those in The Order study ancient legend and prophecy; like the scroll. Others still – like her – investigate more modern trends, like the mysterious behavior of the Dai Li – the chief security force in Ba Sing Se – and their Commissioner’s sordid past with the Fire Nation.

Jet takes Team Avatar to visit Professor Zei; a member of The Order. Zei tells Aang that opening the scroll requires earth, air, and water. To read it in its entirety, though, requires fire. Aang – with a little goading from Toph – opens the case and pulls out the scroll. It tells of “the darkest day in Fire Nation history.” Aang is confused. There is plenty written on the scroll though it does not clarify much.

Aang starts to set the scroll down, but as he does, a nearby candle flickers and shows something hidden in the paper. Aang tries holding a candle behind the scroll, but words dance around illegibly. The professor explains the prophecy: “The Avatar’s fire will light the way.” Aang becomes frustrated because he can’t firebend. Considering what Suki told him about firebending and Chi, Aang heads to the waterfront alone to think. Jet, frustrated that they have come so close and are still so far, decides to take a walk into the square near the shop.

After helping his uncle clean up the shop and close for the evening, Zuko decides to enjoy the night sky and fresh air. He bumps into Jet, whom he recognizes from the shop. He interrogates her about following him and coming to the shop all the time, to which her response is to flirt coyly with him. When she asks him out, he flinches.

“Just think about it,” she offers. Jet heads back to the professor’s house with a much more optimistic outlook. Zuko on the other hand, flustered, heads to the waterfront to brood alone. When Zuko sees Aang, he hesitates then charges. Aang, who was trying – ineffectively – to tap into his Chi, is caught off-guard by the attack. When Aang lifts his hands unconsciously to block, he is still holding the scroll. As Zuko shoots flames from his hands – without any fire to manipulate – the paper does not burn, but instead displays a hidden message. Zuko cannot see the message on his side, and becomes increasingly annoyed with the inflammable paper and the Avatar.

After Iroh closes shop, he buys flowers from a nearby cart vendor. Flowers in-hand and a sack on his back, Iroh heads into a nearby orchard. He stoops beneath a tree and builds a small shrine; to honor his son who died in Ba Sing Se three years before. Iroh is paying respects when he notices something in the distance. Iroh follows the commotion and arrives at the waterside to find Zuko and Aang mid-battle. He jumps between them, deflecting Zuko’s fire with the swat of his hand.

Aang, hiding the scroll, abides when Iroh shoos him away. When Aang is gone, Iroh chides Zuko for his actions and possibly blowing their cover. He tells Zuko the time has come to make a choice – to do better and choose the side of good! Iroh, flummoxed, looks around for a moment; only to become more perplexed when he realizes there is no fire in the vicinity. Zuko has bent fire from his Chi. “Tell me, what happened before you saw the Avatar.”

Aang quickly returns to the professor’s house. He tells Jet and the others about Zuko and the scroll. The message read that the darkest day in Fire Nation history is the day of the solar eclipse. Sokka considers for a moment and has an idea. Jet looks to the professor, “I think it’s time we see the Earth King.”

When the group arrives at the Earth King’s palace, Long Feng – head of the Dai Li and the one with the allegedly sordid past – hesitates before approving their audience with the king, but their noisy protests draw King Kuei from his chambers. Kuei personally approves their audience. When they enter the king’s court, Aang and Sokka explain their findings to Earth King Kuei, who asks them to present the information to the five generals heading his military council – the Council of Five – in the morning.

Not long after Team Avatar leaves, Azula, Mei, and Ty Lee arrive dressed in the Kyoshi Warrior uniforms. They introduce themselves to Keui as the Kyoshi Warriors and offer their assistance, but Keui informs them that the Avatar has arrived and has everything under control. The women are then escorted to their rooms. When they disrobe and take off their make-up, one of the ladies in waiting – a refugee from Omashu – recognizes Azula and informs Long Feng that the women are imposters.

Long Feng sends for Azula. When they meet, she does not immediately admit who she is, but he tells her of his past commitments to the Fire Nation and his desire to claim Ba Sing Se as a Fire Nation colony. Azula agrees to “assist” Long Feng. “Here’s what we’ll have to do.”

Jet, skeptical of Long Feng, recommends that she and each member of Team Avatar take a scroll detailing the plan and meet with each of the five generals at his home instead of at the scheduled meeting. They inform the generals that “the darkest day in Fire Nation history” is the solar eclipse when firebenders cannot bend. The eclipse is only 8 minutes, but with the element of surprise, it will be enough time to take out the Fire Nation armies.

When the generals leave their homes for the originally scheduled meeting, the Dai Li arrest them. Per Long Feng, the generals have incited a coup against the government! A Dai Li agent confiscates one of the general’s scrolls. Looking at it, he contacts Long Feng. Sokka, Katara, Aang, and Toph, each witnessing some sign of distress while leaving their respective generals’ homes, head to their emergency rendezvous point: the king’s court. Jet activates The Order.

Jet knocks on different doors informing members of The Order about the coup. One of the men is the man who welcomed Iroh and Zuko into his home on their first night in B Sing Se. The man later knocks on Iroh’s door.

“Friend, we need you.” When Iroh grabs his things and runs out, Zuko demands to know why. “There’s no time,” Iroh protests as Zuko follows him out the door. When Jet reaches another house, Mei and Ty Lee greet her. She assumes them harmless until she sees the professor bound and gagged. Jet reaches for her hook swords, but Ty Lee applies a few acupressure jabs and renders Jet immobile.

Azula, dressed as a Kyoshi Warrior, runs into the Earth King’s court. She tells Kuei of the coup to dethrone him and that she is there to protect him.

“The Dai Li are here,” Kuei protests.

That’s what I’m afraid of.”

Kuei begins to leave with Azula just as Aang, Sokka, Katara, and Toph run in. Sokka is the first to notice Suki’s uniform sans Suki. The others are about to let down their guard, but Sokka clues them in. Azula, ousted, takes Kuei hostage. Mei and Ty Lee enter in with several members of the Dai Li; they hold Jet and Professor Zei hostage. Azula orders the prisoners thrown into the Crystal Cavern. Outnumbered, Aang recommends they surrender. “Neutral jinn,” he whispers to his friends. “Neutral jinn,” they concede.

Iroh, Zuko and a band of others are fighting off the Dai Li in the town’s square. Zuko and Iroh are careful not to firebend. One of the men orders them to follow, “This way!”

He leads them into a tunnel and orders everyone to hang on. They slide down on a massive boogie-board of rock. Their ally masterfully bends the board and the earth around them, twisting and turning them safely through tunnels. Not far behind, a group of Dai Li agents does the same. They come to a stop in a majestic underground plaza made of crystal – much like the one on the cartoon (Book II: Ep. 18, Part 2).

Jet, Professor Zei, King Keui, and Team Avatar are already in the cavern when Iroh and the others drop in fighting. “Now,” Aang commands. Understanding, Team Avatar immediately assumes defensive positions to help The Order push back the Dai Li. Jet works to get Kuei to safety. Iroh is making the greatest strides when, suddenly, he is trapped in crystal. The Dai Li agents entering from the opposite direction have encased him. Not far behind them are Azula, Mei, and Ty Lee. Toph tries to free Iroh, but another Dai Li agent just traps him again.

Zuko, working alongside Iroh, does not know he is helping members of The Order. He merely is intent on helping Iroh, though – until he sees Aang. Azula convinces Zuko that if he is to restore his honor he must help her. Iroh protests, but someone quickly covers his mouth with crystal, too.

In the midst of fighting, Katara spots Ty Lee and asks Toph for cover. Before Toph can do anything, Katara is leaping over her head, has kicked Mei outright and frozen Ty Lee in a block of ice. “That’s for blocking my Chi,” Katara yells in Ty Lee’s face.

“Yeah, okay. Glad I could help,” Toph feigns as she refocuses on her own fight. Suddenly, Long Feng jumps at Katara just as Jet jumps at Long Feng.

As Mei is getting up from Katara’s kick, she sees Zuko throw a fire punch at Azula. Jet sees this, too. “Lee,” Jet asks just as Mei cries out “Zuko” in disbelief. “Zuko,” Jet asks astonished. “The Fire Nation prince?”

“The one and only,” Mei offers smugly. Zuko looks at Jet apologetically.

Jet, now focused on Mei, charges forward. Mei does the same. Katara fights Long Feng alone. Mei throws knives at Jet, but Jet blocks and attacks with her hook swords. When Jet sees Zuko about to throw a fire kick at Aang she cries out and lets her guard down.

Long Feng, having a hard time with Katara, takes this opportunity to take a shot at Jet. He throws a slew of mini-daggers at her back and her side, close to her lung – too close. When Zuko notices, he gets angry, but he puts his fury into an attack against Aang.

Katara, pulling water from the cavern’s fountain, draws Long Feng up into a funnel of water and tosses him HARD against a fountain column, knocking him out cold.

Team Avatar and members of The Order are outnumbered and starting to tire. Katara yells to Aang for help, but he does not know what he can do. Katara insists that he is the only one with the power to save them. Aang is just about to try something, but he doesn’t see Azula behind him.

THWACK!

She knocks him out with a blow to the back of the head. We hear several people scream Aang’s name just as he is losing consciousness.

Azula commends Zuko on choosing the right side just as Aang regains consciousness in the Avatar state, floating high into the air. For a brief moment, Azula and Zuko are stunned motionless. Another beat passes and Zuko does nothing, but Azula takes action: shooting lightning and sending Aang crashing down.

Toph beats back the Dai Li enough to free Iroh. He takes a deep breath and shoots fire from his mouth, sending Zuko and Azula reeling backward.

Katara, in a fit of rage and doubt, uses the waterfall to bend a massive wave to crush the remaining members of the Dai Li. She rides the wave, collecting Toph, Sokka, the Earth King and finally Aang.

Near the exit, they see Jet; the professor holds her body. Members of The Order urge Katara to keep going before she even has time to slow down. Iroh agrees with the others, promising to hold off Zuko, Azula and the Dai Li as long as he can.

Katara and the others look on sympathetically but continue out of the cavern. Katara and Toph, water- and earthbend and get the group out safely. Some members of The Order escape back through the tunnels while others, like Iroh, are captured.

Team Avatar manages to get to Appa and escape. As they fly off, Katara takes out the vile Master Pakku gave her, bending the Spirit Water over Aang’s wounds.

Back in the king’s court, Long Feng thanks Azula for her support and politely ushers her along her. “I’m sure a Fire Nation princess has far more important things to do.”

“More important than ruling the most powerful Earth Kingdom city in the world? And the one silo that has withheld our victory in this war?” She thinks about it a moment. “Nope. I’d say this is pretty important. Guard, arrest him.”

The Dai Li accost their former Leader. Not only has he been double-crossed by Azula, but his men have betrayed him, too. “You didn’t really think I would entrust the rule of a city like this to a peasant like you?”

Zuko, alongside his sister, doesn’t seem to be as enthusiastic about their “victory.” He feels conflicted about his uncle’s teachings and his father’s requirements for restoring his honor. Azula assures Zuko that Iroh has failed him as a teacher and their father will be pleased that he has found his way again. As they are talking, one of the Dai Li agents brings in the previously confiscated scroll, which outlines recommendations for an invasion on the day of the solar eclipse. Angrily, Azula rips it to shreds.

Team Avatar – plus one Earth King – flies with a wounded Aang high above the ocean. They spot a ship down below bearing a Southern Water Tribe crest. They board and one of the men recognizes Sokka and Katara. He summons the captain. When Captain Hakoda comes on deck, Sokka and Katara immediately run to him: “Dad!” They hysterically ramble on about Gran Gran, Master Pakku and Aang, who the Fire Lord’s children tried to kill – and who, Toph reminds them, is only getting worse.

Inside the Fire Nation, Fire Lord Ozai reappoints Zuko to his status as Prince and rightful heir to the Fire Nation throne.

After the ceremonies, Zuko robes himself in a nondescript cloak. He visits Iroh in prison. Zuko pays the guard to “forget” he was ever there. Zuko interrogates his uncle, demanding to know why he would betray his lineage and everything it stands for.

“You want to discuss lineage? Okay. Perhaps you should start with your great-grandfather.”

On Hakoda’s ship, Katara heads below deck to give Aang a healing session with the Spirit Water. He talks fitfully in his sleep. “Scroll…Zuko…Avatar fire…how?”

Back in the prison, Zuko – enraged – proclaims to know all there is to know about his great-grandfather.

“Yes, yes. You know about all about Fire Lord Sozin. But you had more than one great-grandfather, did you not?. Tell me, Young Zuko... just what do you know about Avatar Roku?”

[End]


© Copyright 2018 Akima A. Brown. All rights reserved.

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