What it says on the tin.
The young lord eyed his guide with distaste. Lei, a woman of middle age with cunning eyes and a secretive smile that made him wonder if she was silently laughing at him. Uncle had vouched for her loyalty and her discretion, but Zuko still wasn’t sure. When they’d been introduced she’d looked at him as if he was some odd puzzle to figure out. The two day trip to the site she’d explained something of what the ruins looked like from old sketches but nothing could prepare him for this.
The ruins were breathtakingly beautiful. Stone that seemed to glow with an inner light turned into wide arches the sides left open to the elements. Wisteria flowed from the cracked upper wall; blue-purple blossoms cascading like living water from the mural. The work was faded with age but he could make out what looked like a man and women in various movements of what looked like bending, plants rising and falling with each step. The clothing they wore painted in shades of blues, browns, yellows and oranges. The stone underneath had some writing, that neither could read. The script looked familiar though, like seeing it had triggered some very old memory.
The mural felt warm under his hand, and strangely it felt alive. Gathering up some of his energy into his hands and pushed. The eyes of the benders first turning green then white, then the world went black.
He awoke in a room, surrounded by murals of men and women dressed in similar clothing to those of the mural he’d seen earlier. Light from an unseen source cast the murals in flickering shadows. The women’s yellow shawls embroidered with sea animals and weeping willows looking so real he thought he saw it swaying in a muted wind. A man with auburn hair and lilac eyes holding a bending stance, one arm rose in supplication to the sun while poised on the balls of his feet, the other hand holding a sword at a the throat of a women. The women’s face was frozen in fright, blue eyes framed by a halo of hair so black it seemed to radiate a trace of midnight blue.
Zuko began to shake with horror. He didn’t know why, but he felt he should know them. That he had known them. Perhaps in another life he had.
“This is you, Zuko of the House of Sozin” a voice in his head mocked, sounding eerily like Azula.
“You who kept your honor by betraying the women you loved, and brought the world to ruin.” The voice hissed, sounding both unbearably sad and angry.
He wanted the voice to stop. It wasn’t true, it couldn’t be true. The royal lines of the Fire Nation were always kings and princes in their past lives. It was how they knew they had a right to rule. Dawn arrived to find Lei holding Zuko’s unconscious body. The women frantically calling again and again for Zuko to wake up, he refused all of her attempts. Hours passed with Zuko perfectly unresponsive, until the third night it started with a small movements; a twitch here, a small twinge of a finger there. After almost a full day, the young bender returned to the world of the living.
He first ate, ignoring Lei’s attempts to get him to talk. His eyes holding a knowledge that he refused to share, to anyone. He refused to speak to Lei, his Uncle, even master Jeong Jeong. He was as tight lipped and stubborn as an ostrichhorse. He did however develop a ravenous passion for discovering everything about the life bender culture. He seemed particularly interested in the myth of the destruction of the civilization and the turmoil that created the four nations. A bloody and horrible tale that would give nightmares even to the most hardened of warriors.