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The Stowaway and the General [1/3]

by Magebird


Warning! This fanfiction contains spoilers for most of Book 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. If you haven't seen that far and don't want any major spoilers, please don't read this fic.

The Stowaway and the General

If Iroh hadn’t found Zuko after their ship was blown up by pirates.

[ Part 1/3 ]

Zuko always tried to follow in his father's footsteps. He couldn't do it as well as Azula could; it was obvious to everyone which of Fire Lord Ozai's children took after him the most. But Zuko tried his best to think of what would make his father the most proud of him, even after he was banished and told to search for the Avatar.

Usually, that meant keeping order on his ship. It meant steadily going forward - and sometimes rushing - towards where the Avatar had to be lurking. It meant firebending against a boy who thankfully only had mastery over a single element, even when a little voice in the back of his mind kept reminding him that he'd never be as good as his sister.

(A voice that, notably, sounded a lot like his father.)

Zuko felt like his father even less now. No one would dare to go against his father; the scar on Zuko's face was a reminder of that. The fire lord would have never let Zhao take his men. And even if someone had taken his men, his father wouldn't be laying on his bed with a pillow on his face.

Zuko had been angry, at first. He always was. He knew some of his temper was his father's; that was the one thing he had in common with him. But the anger had faded, especially after his uncle had left him to go for a walk. Maybe he should have gone with him. It just felt depressing laying on his bed in his cabin, waiting for some magical change in his fate. He was supposed to be restoring his honor, not mourning something that, in retrospect, should have probably been expected.

Then he heard a noise.

Zuko sat up.

"Uncle?" he asked. That was strange. His uncle always announced when he returned to the ship, and he couldn't have been gone for that long, either. It was hard keeping track of time while laying in his room, but it hadn't felt all that long.

He got to his feet.

The halls were silent as he climbed up to the highest peak of the ship.

Something felt off. Wrong, even. His body was screaming at him like it had right before he turned and saw his father in the Agni Kai. Right before his face was set alight. Right before those Water Tribe siblings showed up and rescued the Avatar what felt like an eternity ago. It was the feeling he got every time something was about to go horribly, terribly wrong, and that alone made him wary.

Then he saw the green bird flit in front of the window.

A bird, he realized, that had belonged to the pirates who had stolen his little boat.

His eyes widened in horror.

Zuko barely had any time to react before the explosions went off.

The last things he remembered were fire, pain, and water pulling him into its icy depths.

X

Iroh was thinking.

He always was, to some extent. People had a tendency to think he was lazy for the way he took his breaks and time, but they always underestimated the power of a good walk or a nice, relaxing bath. And now, more than ever, he needed to think.

Trying to break through the walls of Ba Sing Se felt easier than the task ahead of him. Admiral Zhao had taken their crew. He knew his nephew would want to keep chasing after the Avatar; he would man the ship himself if he had to. As it was, Zuko was probably planning on heading straight after Zhao's fleet - even if that meant facing the consequences of defying someone so high up in Ozai's ranks.

Iroh let out a quiet sigh.

It was hard, picking up the pieces of what his brother had done a little less than three years ago. His brother hadn't just burned Zuko's heart. He had burned his heart, too - his very spirit. Zuko was the one who had decided to chase after the Avatar, but Iroh had encouraged it. His nephew had only been twelve at the time; what else was he supposed to do? Even though the Avatar hadn't been seen for a hundred years, he was Zuko's hope. He inspired him to get out of bed each morning.

Maybe Zuko knew, somewhere, that his father wouldn't take him back if he really did capture the Avatar. That Ozai had never seen his son and daughter as anything other than means to an end. Iroh didn't dare broach the subject, especially now that the Avatar was a tangbile person and not an intangible ideal.

But in a single night, the Avatar had become just as out of reach as before - the admiral had taken his nephew's hope from him.

And Iroh didn't know how he would ever return it.

He studied the ground underneath his feet.

That was when he smelled the smoke.

The muffled blast came just a handful of seconds later, but by then a dark, heavy ball had settled in the depths of Iroh's stomach. He felt like he had back at Ba Sing Se when his son's commanding officer came to tell him the news of his death - he just knew that something horrible had happened.

Iroh turned.

The flames leaping off of the entirety of his nephew's ship lit up the dark night sky.

"Zuko," he managed to get out.

X

By the time he reached the ship, it no longer looked like the majestic vessel it had been before. Flames had crushed seemingly impenetrable steel. To an onlooker, the only hint that it had once been a Fire Nation ship was the burning flag that had landed on the dock - but even that was a pale imitation of what it had once been.

Iroh fell to his knees.

For the first moment, he didn't say anything. He didn't do anything. His mind could barely accept the sight before him - and its implications. The grief was the same, overwhelming grief he had felt when he lost Lu Ten. Because, Iroh had realized a long time ago, Zuko was like a son to him.

...Had been like a son to him.

He wasn't sure how long he sat there on the edge of the dock. He wasn't sure how long he cried when the tears finally started to fall, either. But when he saw the same bird his nephew - though he didn't know it - had seen moments before the ship exploded flying off towards a boat filled with people, he knew exactly who had destroyed his nephew's ship and life.

For a moment, Iroh wanted the pirates to pay the price. He was too far away, but he wanted to wrap their ship in a fiery inferno - just like the inferno his unlucky, poor nephew had seen in his last moments.

But Iroh knew it would be pointless.

The pirates gained nothing from killing Zuko; there were so many other ways someone could take revenge. As Iroh wiped his tears with his sleeve and stared into the deep, dark depths of the water, he tried to think of who would gain the most from this. Not Zuko's father; banishment was enough for that. And it certainly wasn't something the Avatar or his companions would do - those children were Zuko's age and even younger. They could never do something horrible like this.

He took a deep breath and slowly let it out.

Then he rose to his feet.

There was one man responsible for this. One man who desperately wanted Iroh by his side as an advisor, even though Iroh knew fully well that he would never listen to a word Iroh suggested. And if Zuko was out of the way - that man had surely thought in his cruel, ambitious mind - then Iroh would only have one duty left to perform for the Fire Nation.

To join Admiral Zhao in raiding the Northern Water Tribe.

Lu Ten's death had made him passive.

But Zuko's death would hone that passiveness into a sharply cut blade.


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17 Reviews


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Mon Jun 15, 2020 10:29 pm
Stormblessed242 wrote a review...



This is so well written! I myself had wondered what would've happened if Iroh hadn't known Zuko was alive, and I was comparing it to Anakin Skywalker burning in Revenge of the Sith, minus Obi-wan. I. Ant wait to read the rest!
-------‐------

"His brother hadn't just burned Zuko's heart. He had burned his heart, too - his very spirit."

I agree with Gravitem that you should italicize the his. I originally thought that the first "heart" was a typo and you were still talking about Zuko.

But other than that I think you portrayed the characters perfectly and I can't wait to read the rest!🔥💧🌬🗿




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Wed Jun 10, 2020 5:57 am
EditorAndPerks wrote a review...



Hello there! I realized I had read this chapter a while back, but I never reviewed it, and so since I'm only two reviews away from my first blue review star, I figured I would read over these two parts again.

Zuko's opening section was a curious one, as I think your characterization of him paints a teenager that is quiet to others but has rather loud thoughts about not being good enough, about having to fight the Avatar, and y'know, living with his uncle-who-is-totally-your-dad, and I like this a lot. He's relatable, even in the scheme of a fictional animated show, and I can even view him as someone who would be quite happy in a totally different scenario than this one, and that cracks me up entirely.

One bit on this portion is that I would recommend that the reader is given some kind of description of the ship this story takes place on - either from Zuko, or Iroh's view pre-fire view, so that the reader can really picture how large of a ship/decorated on the inside/simply viewed from an outside's view, so that they get a comparison between how it looks with the total destruction.

With Iroh's view, we get a nice combination of a loving uncle (more like dad but whatever), and someone who was/is quite a fierce warrior, and that's a really interesting view to get because he seems like a calm, introspective, wise old guy, and he is that, but he's also a lot more. And outside characters might not get that glimpse into Iroh's total personality, so the reader getting this insight is a great touch.

More, I like that Iroh can view over his possible past mistakes, especially when dealing with Zuko, as I'm sure it couldn't be easy to see the absolute abuse/harm his nephew had dealt with, and then see how obsessed he became with the Avatar. Some well-rounded characters can think of their previous actions and go over them with a very small sense of bias, and Iroh does a great job thinking over things.

This ends on an interesting note - with Iroh not even imagining Zuko could have survived the ship getting attacked - which valid, and then he decides to totally change his plans and join the evil Zhao. Oooh! I imagine since this has three parts, Zuko might appear before a Northern Water Tribe showdown with the Fire Nation, but that could be a very promising fighting scene!

A recommendation for Iroh's view/actions would be to maybe include a little of his body language, so that his thoughts are somewhat projected to the "outside" view. Kind of a personal gimmick, but I love being able to fully picture these characters, both inside and the viewing of how they might give away their current emotions. Even something like Iroh squeezing his fists tightly, or keeping his eyes closed for more seconds than normally needed. I just like reading that and then picturing them completely.

Nicely done for a starting chapter to this fanfic!




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Tue Jun 02, 2020 9:03 am
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soundofmind wrote a review...



Hey mage! :^) I'm here to review!

I don't read a lot of fanfiction, but as someone who really likes ATLA, I really wanted to give your story a read, and I was not disappointed! This a really cool take on a part of the story that we don't get to see much of in the first place. Even in canon, we're not sure how long Iroh went without knowing Zuko was alive after the explosion. It's a really good concept and I'm so glad you explored it. And I agree with Gravitem, you stayed true to a lot of the details from the source material and original lore.

One of the things I really enjoyed how you voiced Iroh and Zuko's thoughts for each part written from their point of view. It was kind of weird for a moment though - not because you did it poorly - but because I realized I've only ever known their story from a third-person point of view, because the way the show tells it, we never know their inner thought processes. So it's really cool to see your take on what they were thinking about the moments these events happened. I felt like, as far as their inner dialogue goes, you stayed true to their characters. Zuko's inner narrative is characteristically dramatic and has that little bit of edgy/emo teenaged flair. I liked how he thinks a lot about his image (like "a prince wouldn't be moping like this") and compares himself to his father.

Also, random time to stop and do a random nitpick, but:

He felt like he had back at Ba Sing Se when his son's commanding officer came to tell him the news of his death - he just knew that something horrible had happened.

This line I really like. I just wanted to share a tip based on stuff I myself am working on and suggest that you take out the "he felt." I think if you just said "It was just like Ba Sing Se..." it would carry just a teeny bit more punch because the "he felt" bit is implied, and explained/described later in the sentence.

ANYWAYS. I like how you described Iroh's thoughts as he pieces together who's responsible. It was only implied, really, in the show, but I like how you showed that he knew what was going on and is smart enough to lay low and "play dumb" to let Zhao think he got away with it.

Lu Ten's death had made him passive.

But Zuko's death would hone that passiveness into a sharply cut blade.

This bit is wonderfully written, but I can't help but wondering if the first part is true. From what we know about Iroh, he was a part of the White Lotus, and we're never really shown all that he might be doing behind the scenes. I know "passive" can maybe have many different interpretations, but I guess what I'm saying is I don't know if Iroh became passive per-se after Lu Ten's death.

BUT THAT'S NOT LIKE, a huge make-or-break thing. It's probably just a difference in how we interpret his character!

Anyways, I really enjoyed this! <3 Big love and take care




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Sun May 31, 2020 7:17 am
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Gravitem wrote a review...



Hey! I'm Grav and I'll be reviewing this little desert today, 'cause man I've got to say that this is a THRILLING little alternative. WOOF!

I never really thought about how possible it was for the story to have gone this way, back when I was stuffing, whatever I was eating while watching The Last Airbender.

One thing that this chapter's done well is; it hasn't strayed from the original lore and concepts on which the original series was based, which is a pretty good, because it just shows the potential this story has to take every single reader to the very heart of this part from the plot you've decided to write about. The ending does make me a little(more curious than test results make me, I'll give you that, and that's actually saying something in my case.) curious because I have a feeling that I'm forgetting a major piece of the lore, or man there's much more to this alternative than I think.

Now, for some things I had issues with. There's just one, and it's pretty silly ^^'

He had burned his heart, too

I mean, what is being said after and before this statement makes it a little clear who is being talked about here, but it still was a bit confusing while reading it, which is why I'd suggest italicizing "his".

Well, that's pretty much it. I hope I helped T-T

Anyways,

KEEP WRITING!!!!

Yours sincerely,
Grav :D





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