The moon hung low and quarter in the sky, washing the gently shifting waves
in a pale silver glow.
The journey to the periphery of the mountainous island of the Eastern Air
Temple had taken most of the day; by evening, the exhausted travellers had
agreed to make camp for the night and let themselves and Appa rest before
proceeding onward to the temple. Aang, over Katara's protests, had elected
to take first watch; even though none of their pursuers had air mobility,
they felt it safer to keep on guard just in case.
Truthfully, Aang, though weary, simply couldn't sleep. For most of the past
several weeks, getting Appa back had taken priority over everything else in
his mind; after that, he once again focused on the pressing matter of
defeating the Fire Nation, but after the horrible way they had been treated
in Ba Sing Se, they were practically back to square one. All they had to
work with was the date the comet would arrive, and the date of the eclipse
which would leave the Fire Nation vulnerable.
And Aang still had to master Earthbending, and find another Firebender who
would be willing to teach him.
Looking up at the moon, he allowed himself to lapse into a meditative state.
As he cleared his mind of these distracting thoughts, his arrow tattoos
began to glow softly...
Aang. It is good to see you again.
Yes. Your mind is troubled. You have
entered meditation. Through your
meditation, you are able to speak to
your past incarnations. You should
be aware of this.
Of course...I've done this before.
It's just with so much happening
lately, sometimes...I kinda forget.
Understandable. Recent times have
placed a great deal of strain on
you for one so young, so unprepared.
...can you teach me Firebending?
Alas, I wish it were that simple. I
can impart upon you information and
wisdom, but some knowledge can only
be sought from without, not from
...yeah, I kinda figured that.
However, if there is anything you
wish to know, anything I can tell
you, I will always be here to help
Thank you, Avatar Roku. ...actually?
There is something. I've been kinda
wondering...I never thought too hard
about it, but...
...why DID the Fire Nation start the
...aaah. This is perhaps the most
important question you could have
possibly asked me, Aang. This will
take some time to explain.
I'm not going anywhere.
Very well. The war... First, it is
important that you understand the
Fire Nation. Would it surprise you
to know that the original purpose
of this war was not malicious or
It wasn't? But...
The Fire Nation, Aang, is not the
most ideal place to live. It is a
small, hot, inhospitable country,
plagued with active volcanos. You
are used to cooler, greener places.
The people of the Fire Nation know
soot, steam, and the fear of every
tremor of the earth potentially
heralding an eruption that could
destroy all they hold dear.
Indeed. But as a people, the Fire
Nation managed, somehow, to thrive
in such a hellish environment. We
were a proud people, Aang. We still
are. I watch my people, Aang, from
the spirit world, and I see much
that has not changed from my time.
And, alas, much that is far, far
different than the world I knew.
So what happened? That started the
Quite simply, we had too many people,
too little land, and what little land
we did have was arid and unsuitable
for farming. Trade with other nations
was running our limited resources into
the ground, and we were beginning to
suffer as a nation.
The old Fire Lord saw the plight of his
people, and began listening in earnest
to a plan his advisors had conceived.
They wanted to invade the western Earth
Kingdom and sieze one third of the
continent for the Fire Nation. You see,
the Earth Kingdom controls more of the
useable land in the world than anyone
else, and some didn't believe that to
be very fair.
But...couldn't they just ask for land?
It would be nice if the world worked
that way, Aang, but no. However, at
the time, I was the Avatar, and I was
opposed to the idea of a war. I felt
the misery of my people, and I longed
to find a way to help them, but I had
an obligation, and I refused to allow
something so brutal and uncivilised
But then...you died.
Yes, I died, Aang. Shortly after the
old Fire Lord's son, Sozin, took the
throne, I died. Sozin had a keen mind
for military strategy, and he saw my
passing as an opportunity. He began
ordering changes in military training
and recruiting. He began ordering the
shipbuilders to construct warships.
It took fifteen years to prepare his
forces for what was to come. The war
preparations did not go unnoticed.
...yeah, I kinda figured that out.
Yes, the elders of the Air Temple were
wise to urge an advancement in your
Avatar training. I am not blaming you
for what happened--you were, and still
are, very young, far too young to have
that kind of burden placed on you and
be expected to carry it. Nevertheless,
Sozin was prepared to eradicate the Air
Nomads entirely to prevent the rebirth
of the Avatar.
...but you said it took fifteen years?
The reincarnation of the Avatar is not
an instantaneous thing, Aang. Sometimes,
it takes many years. Sometimes, it takes
few years. In our case, it took three.
Three years after I died, you were born.
Twelve years after you were born, Sozin
Was a lucky coincidence. Sozin's forces
were in the right place at the right time.
Nothing more, nothing less. It was, alas,
enough. They would not learn until much
later how to predict its return.
So...I get why they attacked my people.
What I don't get is how everything else
got the way it is.
Eliminating the Avatar was only the first
step in the war strategy. This removed
the single greatest obstacle to the Fire
Nation's goals. In order to take the land
they desired and keep it, they knew they
would need to cripple the power of the
Water Tribes as well. The Waterbenders,
of course, are the single most dangerous
enemies to the Fire Nation after you.
Okay, I can see that. But...they just
wanted a piece of the Earth Kingdom,
right? And they've got at least that
much. So why--
Why did they not end the war there? It
is seldom that simple. First of all,
do you really think the Earth Kingdom
would simply roll over and let the Fire
Nation occupy land taken from them by
...no, I guess not.
Exactly. Plus, there was retribution for
the war itself, from all affected parties.
That alone would have kept the war going
for at least a generation. But then, the
worst thing that could happen came to be:
Azulon succeeded his father as the Fire
The war which Sozin began was, at its
core, still the war his father wished
to fight. The purpose was the same. The
execution was merciless, brutal, and
calculating, but Sozin still had the
interests of his people in mind.
Not so with Azulon. Azulon was mad with
the power of ruling the deadliest armies
in the world. He commanded his forces to
press further into the Earth Kingdom, to
conquer and destroy and savage. He did
not understand what his father had been
fighting for, nor did he care. He simply
wanted to take everything he could get
his hands on.
And his son--Fire Lord Ozai--is the same.
That's right, Aang. Ozai has the same
dangerous ambition and greed as Azulon.
He has no honor, no pride in his nation.
He grinds his own people beneath his heel
even as he does the same to his enemies.
And if he is not stopped before the comet
returns at the solstice...
I understand. I just...wish I knew what
to do about mastering Firebending. I
already lost the one teacher I had...
there really aren't many Firebenders
I could go to without ending up locked
away in the Fire Lord's palace.
There is one, Aang.
Yes. And you know who it is.
...you don't mean...
He still carries the honor and pride of
the Fire Nation. His actions in the past
have not been out of hatred or greed or
ambition. They have been out of pride
and shame and a desire to regain the love
of a father who has no love to give.
He...HAS helped me. A lot. I always
He has had his own reasons in the past.
However, he has recently gone through
a personal crisis of faith. A spiritual
transcendence, if you will. I cannot
say it is absolutely certain that this
will come to pass, but...I believe,
with every fiber of my being, that when
you return from the Eastern Air Temple,
the next time you encounter Prince Zuko,
you will be meeting a very important new
...thank you, Avatar Roku. You've given
me a whole lot to think about.
Thinking is the first part of achieving
wisdom, Avatar Aang. Become wise, and
all around you will benefit from your
The next morning found the island shrouded in mist, and Aang sprawled atop a
rock, drooling onto the ground.
Toph nudged him with a toe. "Hey. Get up, drippy."
"Let him sleep a bit more, Toph," Katara admonished. "I think he deserves
all the rest he can get while he can get it, don't you?"
"I guess," the blind girl said, shrugging. "Just as long as he doesn't
sleep-bend his drool."
Katara giggled. "You're horrible, Toph."
And Aang slept on, dreaming about healing scars that ran far deeper than any
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property of Viacom International, Inc., and are used here without
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The Eternal Lost Lurker
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