Avatar The Last Airbender Fan Fiction ❯ The Way it Was Meant to Be ❯ Chapter 3 ( Chapter 3 )
[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
“”Liar! I heard of you. You're not a prince, you're an outcast! His own father burned and disowned him.” Old Man “Zuko Alone”, Season 2, Episode 7
The night was rough for Zuko as he fought through his fever. Uncontrollable chills caused him to shake violently and yet he felt like his body was on fire. He was vaguely aware of the water that was now available to him and when the dryness in his mouth became too unbearable he would clumsily reach over to scoop up a cup of water. He often spilled it all over himself, which actually felt rather nice against his his burning skin.
As he lay there in the dark cell he felt himself drift in and out of sleep. He knew where he was and what condition he was in and yet he felt as if he was miles away. He could feel the scratchy wooden bed against his skin but he was also in the luxuries silken sheets of his childhood bed. He felt the iron chain against his leg but he was also free as ran around in the palace gardens. The room was dark and gloomy cell and yet he was in bright sun kissed garden or the richly decorated halls of the palace. Flashes of his past, of the life he had before the Agni Kai, kept invading his fevered dreams. Memories he had fought so long to keep buried in his mind bubbled up to the surface and demanded to be known.
A woman filled his vision with long and black silky hair, bright eyes and kind smile. She radiated love and made him feel safe and secure. She was his mother, strong willed and yet soft hearted. His happiest memories always included his mother's visage.
“Zuko, that's what mom's are like. If you mess with their babies they'll bite you back.”
“Mother,” Zuko whispered in his sleep, as he tossed and turned ever so slightly.
The vision faded and now he was lying on silken sheets in a bed way to big for a ten year old boy. He heard someone enter, was it his mother? No, she had his mother's face but it was not her, it was too young. The eyes burned gold but were as cold as ice, her mouth twisted into a sneer. The words she spoke turned his blood to ice, filled the pit of his stomach with unyielding dread.
“Dad's going to kill you. Really, he is.”
“No!” Zuko twisted a little more violently.
She was gone, replaced by the kind gentle face of his mother and yet something was horribly wrong. The dread had not left, if anything it was worse. His mother's reassuring tone was urgent and hushed. Confusion filled his mind as he tried to concentrate on those precious words.
“Everything I've done, I've done to protect you. Remember this Zuko. No matter how things may seem to change, never forget who you are.”
“Don't go!” Zuko cried as a single tear tricked from his undamaged eye.
Panic filled his heart; the comforting presence of his mother had gone away and no matter how hard he searched he could not find her. He ran through the palace searching every hallway, every room. Only he wasn't a ten year old boy anymore, he was sixteen and his face already ruined by the cruelty of his father. And yet still he did not have the answer his heart secretly yearned for, a question he buried down deep in the painful years proceeding that dreadful night.
“Where is she?”
He could see his father, untouched by the tragedy of losing his wife. His countenance was completely unconcerned by the mystery of her disappearance. And then it suddenly became older and more weary as his face contorted into a violent rage.
“You will learn respect, and suffering will be your teacher.”
Zuko's eyes opened with a start. For a moment he barely knew where he was as he shook with an uncontrollable surge of emotion. Never had a he experience a nightmare so vivid, so heart wrenching as the one that was lingering in his mind, and he had many nightmares since his imprisonment. “Mother,” he croaked in despair as his hand went to rub his face and he found it wet with tears.
Slowly Zuko sat himself up and looked around the cell, reminding himself of where he was and the situation he was in. More unwelcome tears found their way down his cheek. He pulled his legs up to his chest and buried his face in his knees as he cried. Why did he have to dream about the worst moments of his life? Why did he have to relive those horrible emotions?
Suddenly he felt an intense desire to die, to just have this misery go away. The feeling washed over him as his sobs quieted and he contemplated what it would be like to not have to deal with the reality of the prison and turmoil of his painful emotions. Why couldn't he have just died? Instead he could feel that his fever had greatly receded, the worst of it was over for his body, but not for his mind.
Panic swelled in Zuko's gut as he silently railed against his surroundings. Was this horrible nightmare ever going to end? Day in an day out he existed in a haze of boredom, trapped in solitary confinement with nothing to do and nothing to look forward to. He didn't even know what day it was or how long he had been there. His life was marked by beatings and disgusting meals twice daily. The rest of the time he spent in a dreary haze either sleeping fitfully or pretending to be anywhere but where he was at that moment. He began to breathe faster than normal as he looked at has hands; they felt so numb. Why did he feel so numb? It was as if all the blood was leaving his arms, causing a strange numbness to spread.
Zuko reacted the only way he knew how and began scratching at his arms with his nails. Feel, Damnit! He had to feel something, because his heart was about to explode. It didn't matter if it was physical pain it just couldn't be this terrible ache that was making it so hard to breathe. Soon his nail scratches drew blood and that's when he finally stopped. He stared at the damaged he had cause. His skin was puffed up, angry, red, and bleeding. What was a he doing? Was he crazy? How could he do this too himself?
Surprisingly, though, he felt better. His arms stung but somehow the incredibly agony he felt in his heart subsided and the numbness he had felt in his arms spread to his heart and calmed his breathing. Slowly he laid back down on his bed and stared at the ceiling as his tears dried on his cheek. He stayed like that for some time, still as could be until sleep finally claimed him. And this time he had no dreams.
Hakoda was worried, but he guessed in this situation no news was good news. He was concerned for the young prince that he had tried to help the other day and anxiously wanted to make sure he was alright. However, gossip ran wild in this place and had the prince been removed from his cell due to dying in the night he probably would have heard about it.
Hakoda sighed as he sat in his dark cell. Why was he worrying about the Fire Nation prince? He had more important things to worry about, like the escape he was trying to plan. Hakoda was not one for sitting around idly and just accepting his situation. His children needed him and so did his people. He accepted being captured for the sake of allowing his children to escape but now here he was, separated from his men in a Fire Nation prison full of Fire Nation prisoners. He needed to get out, he needed to find his soldiers and get them out. And he certainly could not do it in here.
Yet try as he might, any escape plan he could think of required more than just himself. In his time in the prison he had studied the guards, studied the surroundings, and asked Chit Sang and his buddies about the prison. The more he learned the more the task of escaping daunted him. He found out the warden was very proud of the record this prison had of no one ever escaping, and given that it sat on an island in the middle of a boiling lake permitted him to very confident in it's security.
Hakoda sighed as he continued debating various escape plans in his head. There was just no getting around it, he had to have help. That lead to another problem. Who could he trust? Chit Sang had obviously taken a liking to him, but would he be reliable?
Hakoda's thoughts were interrupted when the cell door screeched open signaling it was cleaning duty. Hakoda reached for a small cloth wrapped item laying on his cot and stuffed it in his shirt. A few moments later the guard stood in the doorway. “Let's go.”
Without a word Hakoda stood up and followed the guard.