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Story [Avatar: The Last Airbender]Brave Soldier Boy (Lu Ten Decathlon for the Fanfiction Winter Olympics)

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by devilinthedetails , Feb 28, 2022.

  1. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    Title: Brave Soldier Boy

    Author: devilinthedetails

    Genre: A variety of genres.

    Characters: Lu Ten; Iroh; Azulon; Ozai; Zuko; OC's; Ursa; King Kuei; Long Feng.

    Summary: A compilation of stories written for my Lu Ten Decathlon for the 2022 Fanfiction Winter Olympics.

    Index of Entries:

    The Walls of Ba Sing Se. Single Sentence Ski Jumping. Lu Ten; Iroh. General; Drama; Angst. Post #2.

    Trapped beneath the Earth. Scary Skeleton. Lu Ten; Iroh. Family; Hurt/Comfort; Horror; Drama; General. Post #4.

    Most Underhanded Tactic. Laughing Luge. Lu Ten; Iroh. Humor; Family; Fluff. Post #6.

    Fall of the Toy Soldier. Short Program Song-Fic. Lu Ten; Iroh; OC. Song-Fic; Angst; Drama. Post #8.

    Red Wish Lantern. Hockey Hug. Lu Ten; Iroh. Fluff; Family. Post #10.

    Birthday Incense. Kiss and Cry. Lu Ten; Iroh; Azulon; Ozai; Iroh's wife. Hurt/Comfort; Drama; Angst; Family; General. Post #13.

    Snow Day. Snowboarding Adventure. Lu Ten; Iroh; Zuko; OC's; Ursa. Adventure; Action; Family; Friendship; Drama. Post #16.

    Fifteenth Birthday. 500 Word Speed Skate. Lu Ten; Iroh; Azulon; Ozai. Family; Drama; General. Post #19.

    After the Victory. AU Alpine Skiing. Lu Ten; Iroh; King Kuei; Long Feng. AU; Drama; Angst; Action/Adventure. Post #23.

    Absolution. Fantastical Free Skate. Lu Ten; Iroh; Ozai; Zuko; Azulon. Fantastical; Spiritual; Drama; Angst; Family; Hurt/Comfort. Post #26.

    Decathlon finished 5/28/2022. Thread always open for reading and commenting!
    Last edited: May 28, 2022
  2. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    Title: The Walls of Ba Sing Se

    Genre: General; Drama; Angst.

    Characters: Lu Ten; Iroh.

    Event: Single Sentence Ski Jumping

    Summary: Lu Ten stands before the walls of Ba Sing Se.

    The Walls of Ba Sing Se

    Lu Ten stared up at the walls of Ba Sing Se and didn’t think about death or defeat–only victory for the Fire Nation and the father he loved.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2022
  3. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    a great introduction to your character
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  4. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @earlybird-obi-wan Thank you so much for reading and commenting:D I'm so glad that you found this to be an excellent introduction to Lu Ten, and I hope you will enjoy the next chapter just as much, where we will see Lu Ten as a small boy needing comfort from his father after a nightmare!

    Title: Trapped beneath the Earth

    Genre: Family; Drama; Hurt/Comfort; Horror; General.

    Characters: Lu Ten; Iroh.

    Event: Scary Skeleton

    Summary: A young Lu Ten has a nightmare of being trapped beneath the earth.

    Trapped beneath the Earth

    Six-year-old Lu Ten woke up, panting and screaming. Heart beating frantically–as if it were about to burst in a bloody explosion–in his chest. Sweat soaking his back and beading his forehead. In the darkness, his nightmare clung like a vengeful spirit to his skin.

    Not so much as a candle burned in his bedroom. Making him feel as if he were blind. Blind as the badger moles that had chased him in his sleep. His blankets felt as if they were suffocating him. Trapping him the way he had been trapped–unable to dig out fast enough to escape the hungry badger moles–beneath the earth in his nightmare.

    Craving comfort, he shoved his imprisoning blankets off him and raced–quickly enough to outpace any badger mole–down the candlelit corridor to his father’s room.

    “Father!” He knocked on the locked door.

    Only the sound of snoring–proof Father was in a deep, peaceful sleep blissfully free of attacking badger moles–answered through the wood.

    “Please wake up, Father!” He pounded more fiercely on the door. As if his tiny, panicked fists could smash it down in order to reach his father’s soothing embrace.

    “What is it, son?” Father opened the door. Eyes groggy with sleep. Tone gentle with affection and mild amusement. “You’re screaming loud enough to wake the dead.”

    “I had a nightmare.” Lu Ten flung himself at his father. Wrapping his slender arms around his father’s board waist that testified to a love of mochi cakes enjoyed every afternoon with jasmine and ginseng tea imported from the Earth Kingdom Colonies. “I was trapped beneath the earth. Lost in winding, dark tunnels. I couldn’t see anything. Badger moles were chasing me, and they wanted to eat me alive.”

    “Shh.” Father patted him on his heaving back as his stream of babble came to an end. “You’re awake, and you’re with me. No badger mole can catch you now.”

    Lu Ten drank in the comforting warmth of his father’s hug as if it were honeyed tea (the only kind of tea he liked). Finding solace in the strength of Father’s arms pulling him close. Promising shelter and protection from all dangers. Even imagined ones.

    “I’m sorry for disturbing you,” he mumbled. Once he had recovered enough to be embarrassed by his own fear. Ashamed by his tears and the weakness they suggested in a nation that valued strength above all.

    Most of his friends, he knew, would have been beaten as weaklings if they dared to interrupt their fathers’ slumber for something as inconsequential as a nightmare. Given something to really cry about as a sharp, painful lesson.

    Father wasn’t like that. He didn’t beat and rarely shouted at Lu Ten. Lu Ten didn’t know if that was because his mother had died giving birth to him, and Father felt the need to be both a mother and a father to him or if it was just because Father had a soft spot for children. His own and everyone else’s. There was a reason that all of Lu Ten’s friends wanted to play tag and wrestle with his father instead of their own.

    “Don’t apologize.” Father ruffled Lu Ten’s sleep-mussed hair. “You did the right thing. You were frightened, and you came to me for comfort. For protection. Now, why don’t you spend the rest of the night with me, and I will scare away any more nightmares?”

    That was exactly what Lu Ten had wanted to hear. Had needed to hear. Relieved, feeling safe because he was with his father, the mighty Dragon of the West who could breathe fire from his mouth, he slipped into the room.

    Father lit a nightstand candle so Lu Ten wouldn’t have to drift off to sleep in the dark, fearing that he was blind as a badger mole again, and Lu Ten allowed his father to tuck him snugly beneath the blankets, where he no longer felt trapped, but secure beside a man who would never let anything hurt him.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2022
  5. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    scary for a young child but he has a loving father who will do all to protect and comfort him
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  6. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @earlybird-obi-wan As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting! :) Yes, nightmares can always be so vivid and terrifying for a little child, but luckily for Lu Ten he has his loving father there to comfort him and make him feel safe, and that makes a huge difference, especially at such a formative age. This story was as much about love as it was about fear, and I'm so happy the idea of a father's love shown through so much in this piece. Thank you for the kind words, and I hope you will enjoy the next entry as much, which focuses on some shared laughter and mischief between father and son!

    Title: Most Underhanded Tactic

    Genre: Family; Humor; Fluff.

    Characters: Lu Ten; Iroh.

    Event: Laughing Luge

    Summary: A game of pai sho ends in laughter for Lu Ten and his father.

    Most Underhanded Tactic

    On a lazy afternoon, eight-year-old Lu Ten and his father sat in a pavilion of a sun-dappled courtyard playing a game of pai sho. The two of them had wildly divergent beliefs about how pai sho ought to be played.

    To Lu Ten, it was meant to be a fast-paced, edge-of-his-seat game of chance with the uncertainty and speed creating all the excitement. From Father’s perspective, however, the game was intended to be something far more measured. A test of tactics and strategy in which fun was found by cleverly outsmarting an impulsive opponent.

    Given those different philosophies and visions of how the game ought to be played, it was really no wonder that Lu Ten hovered on the brink of defeat. Outfoxed by his sneaky father again unless he could quickly devise a burst of his own cunning to escape his present predicament.

    Grinning from ear to ear as inspiration lanced through him like lightning through a tree, he declared, “Time for me to use my most underhanded tactic.”

    With no other warning than that, he snatched up the white lotus tile and clutched it between his fist. When Father reached for it, he twisted away, grin growing into a smug smile.

    “I’m not giving it up until you surrender,” he announced. “It’s a spoil of war.”

    “Hmm.” Father stroked at his chin, lulling Lu Ten into a false sense of security before his arm snaked out and his fingers began mercilessly tickling Lu Ten’s stomach. “Then I have no choice but to resort to a father’s most terrible weapon.”

    Lu Ten squealed and squirmed.

    “Should I take that as a surrender?” Laughter gleamed in Father’s eyes and rose from his lips.

    “Never!” It was hard for Lu Ten to maintain some pretense of pride when he was being tickled. When his laughter echoed his father’s. “A brave son of the Fire Nation never surrenders no matter the odds!”

    Lu Ten laughed until his ribs hurt. Until tears of mirth flooded his eyes.

    Only then did Father stop tickling him, and, chuckling, proclaim both of them the victors in the afternoon’s game of pai sho.
    Kahara and Nehru_Amidala like this.
  7. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    sneaky tactics but they work for both. Funny story
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  8. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @earlybird-obi-wan Thank you so much for continuing to read and comment on my Lu Ten Decathlon![:D]I got a laugh out of writing the sneaky tactics both sides used so I'm happy to hear that you felt the sneaky tactics worked and that the story was funny. I was trying to capture that sense of mischievous play between father and son with the pai sho tile stealing and the tickling. A very fun and sweet fic for me to write, which will be followed by something heavier and darker in this next piece as balance and contrast.

    Title: Fall of the Toy Soldier

    Genre: Song-Fic; Angst; Drama.

    Characters: Lu Ten; Iroh; OC.

    Event: Short Program Song-Fic

    Summary: Lu Ten and his friend are trained to be toy soldiers of the Fire Nation.

    Author's Note: This story is inspired by Martika's Toy Soldiers. I do recommend listening to the whole song to experience the complete mood behind my creation of this piece. To me, it has a very Fire Nation vibe to it.

    Fall of the Toy Soldier

    “Step by step. Heart to heart. Left, right, left. We all fall down like toy soldiers. Bit by bit, torn apart. We never win, but the battle wages on for toy soldiers.”-- Toy Soldiers, Martika.

    Like most boys raised in the Fire Nation, Lu Ten grew up collecting toy soldiers made from tin. With his best friend Koji, he competed to see who could acquire the most extensive variety of ranks, uniforms, and weaponry in their toy soldier armies.

    Together, they would play. Marching their troops into battle against each other. Using formations they studied in school, where they were taught how to become future officers. Issuing commands to tin soldiers and deploying strategies from Fire Nation victories whose tactics they had been made to memorize. Turning dull lessons into something exciting. Knocking their soldiers down. Symbolizing death and not counting the casualties because no real blood was shed, and toy soldiers felt no pain.

    Boys weren’t so lucky. Their muscles ached when they marched in formation in the school yard. They bruised and bled when training weapons struck them or cut into skin. They broke bones when they fell onto the dusty ground.

    That suffering with its bitter sweat and salty tears was only a foreshadowing of the pain they experienced as young men on the front. Lu Ten would never forget how Koji screamed and then fell dreadfully silent forever when an earthbender’s hurled boulder crushed him on the day the Fire Nation conquered the outer ring of Ba Sing Se. He watched his father accept the proud Earth Kingdom commander’s surrender and tried not to wonder if Koji’s sacrifice was worth it.
    Kahara, Nehru_Amidala and Dark Ferus like this.
  9. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    fighting brings only losses. Poor Lu Ten
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  10. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @earlybird-obi-wan As always, thank you so much for commenting![:D]I agree that fighting and violence does have a horrible habit of bringing only more death and destruction. With the Fire Nation of this era in particular, it is a case where their violence and imperialism is not only killing other cultures and people but killing their own children as well. The Fire Nation is not only destroying the rest of the world but also themselves in the process, and I wanted to touch on the tragedy and grief of that in this song fic and in this Lu Ten Decathlon as a whole because Lu Ten really is a prime example of the Fire Nation sacrificing their own young people in the name of violent conquest. And there is just something really heartbreaking about that to me. Like what the Fire Nation did to its own people and children is very devastating to think about.

    Title: Red Wish Lantern

    Genre: Fluff; Family

    Characters: Lu Ten; Iroh

    Event: Hockey Hug

    Summary: At the new year, a young Lu Ten releases a red wish lantern into the sky.

    Red Wish Lantern

    At the new year, Lu Ten perched on his father’s shoulders. Father’s hands wrapped around his ankles to prevent him from falling. His own plump little fingers, sticky with the remnants of crunchy honey-rice cakes, clutched around a red paper lantern with the characters for prosperity and good fortune painted in gold characters on the sides and a matching yellow candle burning within.

    A red wish lantern that he released with his own whispered wish into the dark night sky arching above the capital. Sending his yearning–bright as a candle–to the heavens like a thousand generations of Fire Nation citizens before him had done. Feeling connected to an ancient, timeless past through the unchanging rituals and traditions of his people, because what were rituals and traditions worth if they changed?

    Knowing his wish was one in a million–he could see the other lanterns glowing with their own carried hopes, dreams, and ambitions in the night–and comforted by that fact. Feeling very much not alone but part of something larger and more transcendent, more enduring, than himself.

    “What did you wish for, my son?” Father asked as they watched Lu Ten’s lantern rise in the sky, becoming lost among a million like it.

    “To become just like you.” Lu Ten hugged his father’s neck. “To become a brave and clever general who will achieve great victories for the Fire Nation. To honor you and make you proud.”

    “Oh, but I am proud of you already.” Father patted Lu Ten’s feet. A gentle touch he could feel even through his silk shoes embroidered with dragons and phoenixes. Symbols of fire and power often worn by the royal family. A display of honor and majesty. “My clever and brave boy.”
  11. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    a beautiful tradition but his wish; to become a general, what will that bring?
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  12. Nehru_Amidala

    Nehru_Amidala Force Ghost star 7

    Oct 3, 2016
    I love this, all of it! Iroh and Lu Ten's relationship, so sweet!
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  13. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @earlybird-obi-wan As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting on my Lu Ten Decathlon![:D] I am so glad that you liked that beautiful tradition of the red wish lantern because I wanted to show some of the more positive aspects of the Fire Nation culture alongside their violent militarism because Fire Nation, even at its worst, isn't all evil. I do think that Lu Ten's wish to become a general like his father will, tragically, lead to sorrow for both Lu Ten and Iroh, since Lu Ten's wish to be a general will cause him to fight at the siege of Ba Sing Se. Lu Ten loves his father very much and wants to follow in his father's footsteps. I think that Iroh's deep grief and sense that he failed his son is rooted in that feeling that he was the reason that Lu Ten went to war. That Lu Ten was copying his example. So I imagine a moment like this becoming a bittersweet memory for Iroh once his beloved Lu Ten is dead. Sweet because of the love and joy he shared with Lu Ten, but also bitter because he will remember how much Lu Ten wanted to be a general like him and how that desire got Lu Ten killed. This next entry will also feature some more bittersweetness with Lu Ten and Iroh because it is the Kiss and Cry event.

    @Nehru_Amidala Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I am so happy to hear that you love this because Iroh and Lu Ten have a special spot in my heart as being a non-abusive and non-toxic father and son relationship in an era when that was not easy to have in the Fire Nation or the Fire Nation royal family[face_love]So it has been a great treat for me to be able to explore the love and sweetness between them in this series and I am so overjoyed that you chose to share that sweetness with me by reading this Decathlon. I hope that you will enjoy the love in this next entry as well!

    Title: Birthday Incense

    Genre: Hurt/Comfort; Family; Angst; Drama; General.

    Characters: Lu Ten; Iroh; Azulon; Ozai; Iroh's wife.

    Event: Kiss and Cry

    Summary: On his birthday, Lu Ten and his father burn incense in honor of his mother's memory.

    Birthday Incense (Kiss and Cry)

    Lu Ten celebrated his birthday at the peak of cherryblossom season. A time when all the gardens and parks in the Fire Nation were filled with the soft pink and white petals. When parties were held to admire the short-lived beauty of their blooms. When haikus were composed to the honor and glory of these seemingly frail flowers.

    Seemingly frail flowers that for centuries had symbolized the brief, heroic life of a courageous warrior slain in battle. Dying for duty. For family honor. For the glory of the Fire Nation. A million haikus, Lu Ten knew, used this traditional imagery to praise both the beauty of the tender cherryblossom and the self-sacrificing strength of a proud warrior. A fusion and link between two of the greatest loves–for war and for cherryblossoms–that defined the Fire Nation.

    Ever since he was old enough to begin to understand what it had meant for his mother to die in childbirth (that he had killed her), Lu Ten had supposed it was fitting that he was a cherryblossom season baby. Her mother bravely sacrificing her life to give breath to him.

    “Father.” Lu Ten glanced at his father as they sat beneath the shade of an orange tree at sunset on his seventh birthday. A day on which his father had showered him with hugs, kisses, treats, and toys as he always did to commemorate Lu Ten’s birth. Hugs, treats, kisses, and toys that should have made his hesitant question unnecessary. Rendered it ungrateful. He was still scared to hear the answer when he asked, quiet as a breeze whispering through cherryblossom petals, “Do you hate me?”

    “You are my beloved son.” Father captured Lu Ten in his arms. Gathered him against his chest. “No matter what you do, I could never hate you. I will always love you because you are my son.”

    Lu Ten did not know how to respond to his father’s declaration of unconditional love. Struggled to wrap his mind around it. That he could be loved that much. Forever. No matter what he did in the future or had done in the past.

    “Why–” Father’s fingers tenderly tilted Lu Ten’s chin up until their eyes met– “would you think I hate you?”

    “Because my mother died when I was born.” Guilty tears flamed in Lu Ten’s eyes. Began to burn down his cheeks. “Because I killed her.”

    “You did not kill her. Her death was nobody’s fault.” Father’s thumbs brushed the tears away from Lu Ten’s face. “Babies are not to blame when their mothers die in childbirth.”

    Lu Ten bit his lip. Reluctant to argue with his father but still having a sufficiently pervasive awareness of the politics and drama of his extended family to compel him to do so. To point out through sniffles, “Your father blames your brother for killing your mother in childbirth. That’s why the Fire Lord hates your brother.”

    “Hate is a strong word.” Father tapped Lu Ten’s nose. A gentle admonishment. “I wish you would use it less, Lu Ten.”

    “Yes, Father.” Lu Ten ducked his head. Accepting the mild reprimand.

    “And I am not my father,” Father went on. Kissing Lu Ten’s forehead. “Nor are you my brother. We are our own people. You are your mother’s last, loving gift to me. How could I not treasure you after that?”

    “I will try to be someone worth treasing,” Lu Ten said solemnly. Striving to be the perfect, filial son that was the Fire Nation ideal. He was his father’s only child, after all. Wanted to be perfect, therefore. To return and reciprocate the love and favor shown to him by his father.

    “You already are.” Father’s chuckle rumbled through his chest like an earthquake as he squeezed Lu Ten’s shoulder. “All children are.”

    When his laughter ceased, Father continued more soberly, “Every year on your birthday, I visit your mother. Tell her what you have done in the past year…”

    “What mischief I have gotten into, you mean.” Lu Ten couldn’t resist a quip. A cheeky interruption.

    “I tell her about your mischief and your good deeds too.” Father ruffled Lu Ten’s hair. “About how you are growing. What you are learning. What makes you smile and brings you joy. So she will know and love you as I do. So she will be as proud of you as I am.”

    “May I visit her with you this year?” Lu Ten’s throat clogged suddenly. “Tell her how I am doing myself. How much I love her and honor her sacrifice.”

    “It would be a pleasure to have you join me, son.” Father patted Lu Ten’s knee. “We will visit her together tonight. Right now if you wish.”

    “Thank you, Father.” Lu Ten flung his arms about his father’s neck. Kissed him on the cheek.

    The two of them rose. Walked along pebbled paths beneath a darkening sky and cherryblossoms in their prime. Lu Ten’s tiny hand tucked in his father’s larger one. Crossed an arched bridge to an island surrounded by a peaceful pond where the ashes of Lu Ten’s mother were buried below a shiny black tablet carved with the characters of her name. How beloved she had been by his father, Iroh, who had eloped with her. How she had died giving birth to her only son, Lu Ten.

    Lu Ten felt the joy and the burden of that. The life his mother had given him. He knelt before her memorial. Bowing his head against tickling blades of grass. Burned sticks of incense alongside his father.

    Lit a candle in her memory and sent it sailing into the pond. Watched the yellow-orange flame float across the water. Thinking of the mother he loved and honored but had never known. The mother who had died giving birth to him. Who knew him because of the stories his father told about him and because he had visited her on his birthday. Remembered that he only breathed because of her.

    He would, he swore to his mother and the candle he had lit to honor her, prove worthy of that love. That sacrifice. He would be a brave, strong son. Loyal to the Fire Nation and his father. A boy to make any mother proud.
    Kahara and Dark Ferus like this.
  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    @devilinthedetails -- Every time I want a warm fuzzy and lovely scene I only have to venture into one of your threads! I got a large chuckle at Most Underhanded Tactics and the game of pai sho. ;) Red Wish Lantern, what a lovely lantern and celebration ritual. Birthday Incense -- I adore cherry blossoms and how heart-wrenching that Lu Ten would have those fears. :( But oh! Throughout these, his father's loving warmth has been so SWEET! [face_love]
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  15. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    I love the cherry blossoms detail and the meaning of it for his birth. And a loving father guiding him and bringing him to her grave with the candle ceremony
  16. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you so much for reading and for the always kind and supportive words[:D] Writing about Lu Ten and Iroh gave me so many warm and fuzzy feelings, and it has been such a lovely and moving experience to write about their father and son bond. I had the biggest smile on my face as I wrote Most Underhanded Tactics, and the game of pai sho so I am so happy you got a chuckle out of it as well[face_laugh]I've always loved the concept of releasing wish lanterns, so I couldn't resist adapting that custom to the Fire Nation and having Lu Ten and Iroh engage in it together in a sweet moment of fluff. Like you, I adore cherry blossoms (I think they are such beautiful trees and I only wished they bloomed longer). And my heart did break for Lu Ten having to deal with the questions of if his father hated or blamed him for his mother's death, but it was so touching, too, to have Iroh be able to allay those fears with his deep love and affection for Lu Ten and have them honor Lu Ten's mother together. I absolutely head canon Iroh as a very loving and warm father (especially by Fire Nation standards), and I'm so glad that shone through for you in this collection of stories!

    @earlybird-obi-wan As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting on my work!:D I'm so glad that you loved the cherry blossom detail, because cherry blossoms are some of my favorite trees, and I couldn't resist drawing some inspiration from Japanese imagery regarding cherry blossoms as it seemed to fit Lu Ten and the Fire Nation so well. My heart did warm and break as Iroh took Lu Ten to his mother's grave and they could mourn and honor her together.

    Title: Snow Day

    Genre: Adventure; Action; Family; Friendship; Drama.

    Characters: Lu Ten; Iroh; Zuko; OC’s.

    Event: Snowboarding Adventure

    Summary: Lu Ten on a rare snow day in the Fire Nation.

    Snow Day

    Lu Ten woke to a world blanketed in white. A rare morning when the caldera of the capital city was covered with snow. When the red roofs were hidden beneath a cold mantle. Icicles the color of glistening crystals dripped from gutters. Uncleared roads were devoid of traffic and trade. Fountains froze in their gardens and squares.

    Lu Ten saw all that as he raced to his window. Gazing down at the city and the palace. His breath misting the glass.

    He dressed in his warmest clothing and joined his father–on a month’s leave from the front lines of the unending war in the Earth Kingdom–in the dining room for breakfast. Steaming bowls of rice porridge speckled with sesame seeds and pickled plums perched on a low wooden tabl accompanied by piping hot platters of tamagoyaki rolled omelettes.

    Lu Ten slipped onto the cushions across from his father. Waited to pick up his chopsticks until his father had done so as was respectful. Began pecking at his porridge. Savoring the sensation of the smooth rice contrasted against the crunch of the sesame seeds. Appreciating the mingled tanginess and sweetness of the pickled plums. Food always tasted better when he ate it with Father, he thought.

    “You will be happy to hear,” Father remarked. A twinkling in his amber eyes. “That school is canceled for today.”

    A snow day. An unscheduled holiday. He was at liberty. Unbound by the obligations and duties that ruled his life. Ruled the lives of all children–all people–in the Fire Nation. Tied them together in that rigid, unbending way.

    He celebrated his freedom with a whoop. An indulgence to the youthful excesses of his enthusiasm and exuberance. A wild, undisciplined noise that would have earned him a sharp rap on the knuckles from his teacher’s rod if he had dared to emit it in the classroom. Fire Nation schools not being places where whooping and other sounds of jocularity were permitted.

    “I can play with my friends all day then?” Lu Ten bounced eagerly on his cushions.

    “Of course.” The twinkle in Father’s eyes was a full-fledged smile now.

    “We’ll build snow forts!” Excitedly, Lu Ten elaborated on his visions for his day off school. Gobbling down his tamagoyki without pausing to chew or swallow between his words. “And we’ll have a great snowball fight! It’ll be epic as any battle you or Grandfather ever fought against the Earth Kingdom!”

    “I have no doubt it will be.” Father chuckled. His amusement too benign to register as condescension.

    When his breakfast was finished, Lu Ten pulled thick gloves over his fingers and a knitted hat over his head. Hat and gloves to contain his body heat when he went outside to wage a childish imitation of warfare in the snow.

    He ran down the corridors filled with servants and courtiers. Lit and warmed by extra braziers to combat the wintry weather. A knock and shouted invitation at a door he often visited were enough to summon a bundled Koji from the quarters where his best friend’s family resided while at court.

    Further knocks and shouts at chosen doors were all that was necessary to summon four of his other friends–Hikaru, Ichiro, Taiki, and Yosuke–from their rooms. Their group claimed a courtyard laden with snow. Its paths still unshoveled by servants.

    They divided themselves into two teams. Built their white ramparts. Rolled their snowballs. Piled them as ammunition for the impending fight. Declared war on each other. Started flinging their stockpiled missiles at one another across the courtyard.

    Ducking behind the walls of their forts for protection. Not always managing to do so in time to dodge snowballs smashing across their ears and noses. Dampening their eyelashes.

    Valiantly emerging from behind the ramparts to launch their own attacks. Hurling their snowballs across the courtyard at their appointed enemy. Cheering in triumph whenever a wet thump and a yelp announced the successful hitting of a human target.

    Into this chaos and wintery whirlwind entered Lu Ten’s cousin Zuko. Narrowly evading the snowballs each side lobbed over his head, Zuko darted across the no man’s land between the forts to crouch beside Lu Ten. To ask with wide, pleading eyes. Eyes that sought to melt snow and ice. “Can I play with you, Lu Ten?”

    There were plenty of times Lu Ten didn’t mind playing with his little cousin. His mind held a hundred memories of climbing peach trees with Zuko. Swimming in white-capped waves on long summer days when it felt as if the sun would never set. Constructing sand castles on the black beaches of Ember Island while seagulls cawed overhead and his father stood nearby. Offering gentle engineering and architectural advice as required.

    There was, however, a huge difference–only a child could comprehend how truly vast it was–between playing with his cousin when only family was around to see and playing with Zuko when all his friends were present to witness this stooping to acknowledge someone so much younger and weaker than himself.

    His pride and honor could not allow him to be kind to Zuko now. It would be a shame to him–render him a laughingstock among his friends—to allow Zuko to join their snowball fight. To partake in their battle as if he were equal to them.

    So he shook his head. Snapped at Zuko to go play with someone his own age. Speeded Zuko away with a shove when his small cousin hesitated too long.

    Zuko sniffled. Swiped a gloved hand under his snotty nose. Beat a hasty, sniveling retreat across the courtyard. Back into the palace to seek out more hospitable company.

    “Crybaby.” Ichiro sneered from beside Lu Ten as he tossed another snowball across the courtyard that was their battleground. “Probably gone running to his mother for comfort.”

    “And he wanted to play with us.” Yosuke chimed in with a scathing snort. “As if he were a warrior.”

    “He’s no warrior.” Ichiro laughed. Laughter could harden like rock. Freeze like ice. “Even his little sister is stronger than him. She’s the true warrior. Not him. He’s too weak to be a fighter. That’s what my father says.”

    Lu Ten wanted to order his friends to shut up. To stop mocking Zuko. But somehow he didn’t have the courage to do that. So, he remained silent. His mouth suddenly dry as an Earth Kingdom desert. His joy ebbing from him so that it was almost a relief when both sides called a truce in their snowball fight. Agreeing to a ceasefire while they took lunch in their quarters. Hostilities to resume only after proper nourishment had been obtained to bolster their strength and spirits.

    He did feel guilty about being cruel to his cousin, and it was with considerably heavier feet than he had possessed at departing that Lu Ten returned to share lunch with his father.

    His conscience might have been troubling him, but he still did not welcome it when his father greeted him in a stern voice he did not often hear. “Lu Ten. Come here.”

    Father was standing, arms folded over his chest, by the window. Staring out over a snow-covered garden.

    Lu Ten approached. Not about to disobey when Father spoke in that particular tone. Bowed formally. Humbly. Almost contritely. “Here I am, Father.”

    As Lu Ten rose from his bow, Father uncrossed his arms. Rested his palms on Lu Ten’s shoulders. “Son, is it true that you told Zuko to play with someone his own age when he asked to join you and your friends? That you shoved him?”

    “Did Zuko tell you that?” Lu Ten felt a flare of resentment toward his small cousin for being such a tattletale.

    “No. Your aunt Ursa did.” Father arched an eyebrow. Making Lu Ten’s cheeks flame and flush. “I assume from your guilty reaction this is true.”

    “He’s such a crybaby.” Frustration and shame exploded from Lu Ten. “Running to his mother for comfort.”

    “He would not have needed to run to his mother for comfort if you weren’t cruel to him.” Father sighed. Shook his head. “I want you to apologize to him after lunch.”

    At the mention of lunch, Lu Ten noticed that servants had laid the low table with a pot of honey-sweetened green tea, bowls of miso soup studded with bright orange fire squash, and two plates mountained with plump ginger pork dumplings.

    His ravenous stomach rumbled at the sight. He ducked his head. “Yes, Father.”

    Still, after he had plopped onto his cushions and taken several fortifying bites of ginger pork dumpling, he couldn’t resist offering what feeble defense of his actions that he could. “Zuko asked me to play with him in front of all my friends. I couldn’t do that. It would’ve been too humiliating.”

    “Too humiliating to be kind to your cousin in front of your friends?” Father sipped serenely at his soup. “Perhaps you should get better friends who don’t make you feel ashamed for being kind to your cousin?”

    “There’s nothing wrong with my friends, Father.” Lu Ten struggled to scowl around a mouthful of dumpling. “It’s my crybaby cousin who’s the problem.”

    “Zuko is not a crybaby.” Father poured a cup of tea. “He is a brave soldier boy. Just like you. I want you to be kind to him, son.”

    “I don’t know why I have to be nice to him all the time. It’s not as if you always get along with his father.” Lu Ten, distantly, was aware of the unfairness and pettiness of his petulant argument.

    After all, Father and Uncle Ozai might have quaralled like dogs and cats sometimes–a rivalry Lu Ten had come to suspect was shrewdly fueled on by Fire Lord Azulon who would never want the two princes to ally together to overthrow him–but that was largely because Uncle Ozai was a snake. And Zuko wasn’t a snake. At least not yet.

    “That’s enough.” Father finally seemed to be on the cusp of losing his patience with Lu Ten. Something that rarely happened. “If you can’t eat without arguing with me, you can eat in silence.”

    Lu Ten fiddled with his chopsticks. Decided, on a balance, that changing the subject and still being able to speak was preferable to eating in stubborn, stony silence. The Fire Lord wasn’t the only one who could be cunning, after all. Shrewdness ran in Lu Ten’s blood. Flowed through his family. Forcing his demeanor back to polite, pleasant curiosity, he asked, “What did you do all morning, Father?”

    “I took advantage of the snow day to read exquisite haikus.” Father lifted his teacup to his lips. His calm restored by the green tea. “There was a lovely one about the untouched purity of snow-blanketed branches. Such beautiful imagery.”

    Father loved poetry the way he did music and song. Lacking that same affection for haikus, Lu Ten determined that another topic switch was in order. Hoping to please his father and assuage his own nagging conscience, he promised, “When I apologize to Zuko, I’ll ask if he wants to play outside with me in the snow this afternoon.”

    “That’s an excellent idea.” Father nodded his approval. Reached across the low table. Patted Lu Ten’s hand with his own. “Good boy.”

    When lunch was over, Lu Ten went searching for Zuko. Ended up finding Zuko in his bedroom. Playing with squads of toy soldiers as Lu Ten had often done with Koji. Only Zuko was playing by himself.

    “Zuko.” Lu Ten squatted on the crimson carpeted floor beside his cousin. “I’m sorry I shoved you and told you to go play with someone your own age. That was cruel, and I shouldn’t have been cruel to you.”

    “Did Uncle tell you to say you were sorry?” Zuko’s question was unexpected. Strange. He could be an odd boy. Perhaps why he had never made friends as easily as Lu Ten.

    “He did,” Lu Ten admitted. Added with awkward honesty. Wanting to prove he was sincere in his repentance. “But it doesn’t matter. Not really. I would’ve apologized even if he hadn’t told me to. Eventually. Once my guilty conscience had nagged at me enough.”

    “I didn’t mean to get you into trouble with Unce.” Zuko was earnest. Gnawing on his lip. “I went to Mother because I didn’t know who else to go to, but I didn’t think she would run to Uncle.”

    “Don’t worry about it. You didn’t get me into much trouble at all.” Not the sort of trouble Zuko and Azula could get into with Ozai, but Lu Ten didn’t like to think about that. The purple and black bruises he sometimes saw on his cousins’ skin. The beatings from which he couldn’t save them. Father had never beaten him. Never even threatened to do so. “Father barely even scolded.”

    “Then you don’t hate me?” A hint of wobbly hope infused Zuko’s voice.

    “Of course I don’t hate you. You’re my cousin. I could never hate you.” Lu Ten gave Zuko a lopsided grin even though they both knew that bonds of blood could create hatred as much as love. Anyone born and reared in the Fire Nation Royal family would learn that painful truth.

    “Good. I don’t hate you either.” Relief radiated from Zuko like heat and light from the sun. “I look up to you actually. I want to be like you when I’m older.”

    Lu Ten knew that. Had seen the wide-eyed, eager admiration with which his cousin gazed at him when he trained with weapons or firebending. Zuko strove to emulate him. That reminder made his earlier words to Zuko ring all the crueler in his own ears.

    “Do you want to play in the snow together?” Lu Ten offered what atonement he could. “I thought we might build a snowman or something.”

    They did indeed build that snowman by a frozen fountain, and a family to stand beside him so he wouldn’t be lonely when night fell. As the sun started to set, Zuko and Lu Ten went back inside.

    When Lu Ten described the family of snowmen he had made with Zuko, Father hugged him tightly to his chest. So Lu Ten could hear his heartbeat as he whispered into Lu Ten’s topknot, “I’m so proud of you, Lu Ten. You did the right thing and were kind to your cousin.”

    Keenly aware that he didn’t deserve the praise, Lu Ten gave an abashed shake of his head. Mumbled, “I only was kind after I’d been cruel, and I only did the right thing after doing the wrong thing.”

    “Ah, but you were kind and did the right thing in the end.” Father kissed Lu Ten’s forehead. “That is all that matters. That we apologize when we fail to do the right, kind thing, and that we do the right, kind thing in the end.”

    That was what Father would think, Lu Ten realized. That only kindness mattered in the end. An odd attitude for a Fire Nation father, but one Lu Ten would never complain about him having. Especially since it made him so lenient and loving with Lu Ten.
  17. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Lu Ten and his loving father, giving him the advice he needs to play with Zuko in the snow.
    A great way to respond to the Snowboarding adventure
  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    I adored the descriptions of breakfast and lunch, full of things I love eating: pickled plums and tamagoyaki =P~ and then ginger pork dumplings with green tea. :) [face_sigh]

    Lu Ten's feelings were very realistic, about being humiliated over playing with his younger cousin in front of his friends... Kids his age often draw a line between playing with you is fine when it's just family :p

    I do wholeheartedly agree with this wise quote, and I feel that Lu Ten is learning lessons that will stand him in good stead all his life:
    “you were kind and did the right thing in the end.” Father kissed Lu Ten’s forehead. “That is all that matters. That we apologize when we fail to do the right, kind thing, and that we do the right, kind thing in the end.”


    Last edited: May 22, 2022
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  19. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @earlybird-obi-wan As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting on my Lu Ten Decathlon (that I am so happy my muse is giving me the inspiration to write again!). I really wanted to showcase Iroh giving Lu Ten that little nudge and advice that he needed to do the right thing and not only apologize to Zuko but play with Zuko in the snow. My heart warmed so much as I wrote about precious young Lu Ten and Zuko building a family of snow men together. And I am so thrilled that you thought this was a great response to the Snowboarding Adventure prompt because I really believe to energetic kids like Lu Ten almost nothing is more exciting and adventurous than a Snow Day:D

    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Once again, thank you so much for reading and commenting on my work:D I'm so happy that you adored the descriptions of the breakfast and lunch foods. I am a big foodie who just loves to think about and write detailed descriptions of food. Which can be fun, but can also have the downside of making me crave Asian food after I write about things like pickled plums and ginger pork dumplings that just make my stomach growl with envy for my characters who get to enjoy such delicious things. Yummy=P~

    I'm so glad that you found Lu Ten's feelings to be realistic because I had my fingers crossed that my readers wouldn't think I was being too hard on little Lu Ten. I imagine that Lu Ten was a good kid and very close to his father, but I also didn't want to portray him as completely perfect all the time (because no kid is totally perfect). So I wanted to show him wrestling with that common child problem of being humiliated about playing with a younger relative in front of friends and so lashing out at that younger relative. And then feeling bad about that and dealing with the consequences of that. Basically, I wanted to show Lu Ten being a little bit naughty and needing to get set back on the right track by his father but still being a good kid at heart who wants to do the right, kind thing, and feels bad when he falls short of doing that. Which means you feeling I depicted Lu Ten in a realistic way means the world to me.

    I really loved Iroh's gentle wisdom to Lu Ten at the end, and I am so pleased to hear that was a highlight for you as well! One thing I always loved about Iroh's relationship with Zuko was how quick he was to forgive Zuko and praise Zuko for doing the right thing and not dwell on anything Zuko did wrong once Zuko apologized and committed to doing the right thing. It just to me really demonstrated how much Iroh believes him redemption and doesn't hold grudges. So I wanted to have him displaying that same attitude with Lu Ten and passing that wisdom on to his son. And I think you are one hundred percent correct to say that such lessons will stand Lu Ten in good stead all his life. Which is just another reason why Iroh is a phenomenal father[face_love]

    Thank you again for your always thoughtful comments on my stories[:D]

    Title: Fifteenth Birthday

    Genre: General; Family; Drama.

    Characters: Lu Ten; Iroh; Azulon; Ozai.

    Event: 500 Word Speed Skate

    Summary: On his fifteenth birthday, Lu Ten has a request for the Fire Lord.

    Fifteenth Birthday

    In a sunlit palace pavilion, Lu Ten’s fifteenth birthday celebration was drawing to a close. Servants cleared away the heaping platters of roast duck, komodo chicken, and spicy noodles studded with scallions and onsen egg. Replacing them with decadent dessert dishes to satisfy even the most discerning palate. Fruit tarts decorated with fragrant red rose petals. Spicy ginger hotcakes in rich sweet cream. Mochi balls flavored with matcha.

    As the servants laid the low tables with dessert, Lu Ten gathered his courage. Dropped to his knees before the Fire Lord. Feeling the sun-heatened hardness of scarlet-and-gold tiles as he pressed his forehead to them in a formal, triple obeisance.

    Formality was always the safest course with Fire Lord Azulon, but especially so when he wished to humbly petition for a boon, Lu Ten thought. His voice managed not to shake as he forced himself to ask the question he had recited a thousand times in his head in preparation for this pivotal moment where he couldn’t permit himself to fail. Either by lack of bravery or a clumsy tongue. “Honored Grandfather, I would request a favor of you on this occasion of my fifteenth birthday.”

    “What favor would that be?” The Fire Lord arched an eyebrow. Stroked his gray beard.

    “I would beg leave to do my duty as a son of the Fire Nation and serve beside my father at Ba Sing Se.” Lu Ten lowered his forehead to the tiles again. Thinking of how his grandfather had conquered Earth Kingdom provinces in Sozin’s name at thirteen, and so would be unlikely to refuse Lu Ten’s request as Father had. Insisting that Lu Ten was too young to fight on the front lines even though Lu Ten had spent his life training for war.

    “No!” Father exclaimed. Rising from his cushions. “I forbid you to ask such a thing, Lu Ten!”

    “This is interesting.” Uncle Ozai’s words were silky as a spider’s web. “Is my brother such a coward that he would discourage his valiant son from fighting on behalf of the Fire Nation?”

    Uncle Ozai’s pointed inquiry transformed Lu Ten into a weapon to be deployed against his own father. Lu Ten hated that, because he loved his father. Even when he defied him. Sought to climb over his father’s head by appealing to the Fire Lord.

    “Your brother serves on the front lines, Ozai. You do not.” Fire Lord Azulon’s gaze swept from Uncle Ozai to Father. “The boy has already made his request, Iroh. He cannot retract it. It pleases me as very courageous and filial. He will fight beside you at Ba Sing Se.”

    “Thank you, Grandfather.” Lu Ten bowed his head in gratitude.

    “You will honor and obey your father when you serve under him.” The Fire Lord waved a hand in dismissal.

    That was the last birthday Lu Ten celebrated in the Fire Nation. His sixteenth occurred outside the walls of Ba Sing Se. He did not live long enough for a seventeenth.
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    :_| How heart wrenching the ending was! =D=
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  21. Dark Ferus

    Dark Ferus Chosen One star 8

    Jul 29, 2016
    This is sad, but inevitably so. You do a great job writing Zuko's family @devilinthedetails and Lu Ten is a character very under-explored in canon.
    Iroh is uncharacteristically sharp in the last chapter, but it makes sense when you realize that he must choose between his son's personal safety and the cause that they have both committed to winning. It explain's Iroh's disillusionment from war as a whole when you think about the inherent dilemma between human life and the cause that you're taught to care about.
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  22. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    A sad end for Lu Ten. His wish to fight ended his life
  23. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting![:D] My heart did break for poor Lu Ten when I wrote about him dying before his seventeenth birthday (another victim of the militarism of the Fire Nation!) but this next chapter will feature an AU where Lu Ten doesn't die at Ba Sing Se. So I have made another universe where Iroh does not lose his beloved son, and I hope you will find it interesting to read about it! And the good thing is that these pieces got me thinking about Lu Ten and Iroh so perhaps the inspiration for more stories involving them will come even after the Decathlon is done!

    @Emperor Ferus Thank you so much for reading and reviewing, my friend!:) This story was definitely sad, especially at the end where we discover that Lu Ten doesn't survive to celebrate his seventeenth birthday=((I always knew from the time that I started this Decathlon that it would entail some real grief and tragedy because of Lu Ten dying so young at Ba Sing Se and also some heavy looking at the cost of the militarism and violent imperialism of the Fire Nation. Because without that Fire Nation need to conquer the world, Lu Ten would be very much alive, and that is heartbreaking to think about.

    I'm so happy that you think I did a great job writing Zuko's family, because the complexities, nuances, and range of personalities of the Fire Nation Royal family fascinate me, and I find it really interesting to explore them from various angles in fanfic. Canon didn't focus too much on Lu Ten, so I feel like I do have quite a bit of freedom to create his personality and many of the details of his life when I am writing him, and that is pretty cool.

    With Iroh, I think if what I call his "protective papa" urges get activated, I think he can be sharp. Like the times when he does yell at Zuko in canon, it is because he wants to keep Zuko safe and Zuko has done something dangerous/impulsive for like the millionth time. But even then with Iroh I think that the sharpness comes from a deep love and desire to keep that loved one safe. It's sort of like a defensive fire in a way. At least that is how I picture it in my mind when I write him in that mood.

    I think we will see in this upcoming installment Iroh again sort of confronting that question of his son's life/safety versus the Fire Nation cause that Iroh has been raised since childhood to believe was right. And hopefully it will become clear both to Lu Ten and to readers that Iroh does very much value his son's life above the Fire Nation cause (at least when the Fire Nation cause is militariasm/imperialism). One of the hard things about the Hundred Year War era is that I do believe multiple generations (like Azulon's, Iroh's, and Lu Ten's) would have been raised and basically indoctrinated with militaristic and imperialistic propaganda so they would be conditioned to believe that the Fire Nation's cause was just, and it was essentially their duty to fight and die for the Fire Nation if need be. That they lived for the glory of the Fire Nation in that sense. That sort of propaganda and conditioning can be really difficult to break free from, and I think for Iroh his disillusionment finally allowed him to do that. To appreciate the wisdom of the different nations (instead of remaining enmeshed in Fire Nation beliefs about the superiority/supremacy of the Fire Nation) and to value peace, balance, and calm over warfare and conquest. Iroh ultimately ends up realizing the horrible nature and cost of the war and choosing a different path. But that starts with being disillusioned by the path that the Fire Nation has been treading since Sozin's day. And this next story will have that sort of theme of disillusionment crop up again because I think it is central to Iroh's journey and also is related to Iroh's love of Lu Ten. That love is strong enough to make Iroh see past and through the Fire Nation propaganda and conditioning, which is impressive in its own right.

    @earlybird-obi-wan As always, thank you so much for being a faithful reader and commenter!:) I got tears in my eyes writing about Lu Ten dying before his seventeenth birthday. From the beginning, I knew Lu Ten would meet a tragic end, and that end would be all the more tragic because it would be Lu Ten's desire to fight by his father's side at Ba Sing Se (a desire basically bred and instilled in him from a young age by the Fire Nation education that puts so much focus on discipline, honor, military preparation, and serving the Fire Nation) that leads to his untimely death at such an early age. He was killed in the prime of his life because he chose to go to war but that choose was shaped by a childhood in the Fire Nation where violence was glorified. And I think that is what Iroh is lamenting when he reflects on how he wishes he could have saved Lu Ten, and I think that is what Iroh will feel most guilty about when he remembers Lu Ten. That Lu Ten wanted to follow in his father's footsteps in terms of being a solider for the Fire Nation, and that Iroh couldn't discourage him from being that, or prevent him from being at the Siege of Ba Sing Se where he died. To Iroh, I think the only failure about Ba Sing Se that truly haunts him is the death of his son. Though in this next AU we get to have a glimpse of what it might have been like if Lu Ten survived.

    Title: After the Victory

    Genre: AU; Drama; Angst; Action/Adventure

    Characters: Lu Ten; Iroh; King Kuei; Long Feng.

    Event: AU Alpine Skiing

    Summary: In an alternate universe, Iroh conquers Ba Sing Se, and Lu Ten doesn't die.

    Author's Note: Warning that this story dealing with militarism, violence, imperialism, and a dawning disillusionment with them. It is not graphic but it does deal with heavy themes. It is not a happily ever after type of story but at the same time not one entirely devoid of hope.

    After the Victory

    Lu Ten was there after the victory. After his father fulfilled the destiny the Fire Sages had long foretold for Iroh, General and Prince of the Fire Nation. After his father’s armies made concrete reality what for years had been ethereal, insubstansial dream.

    After the mighty inner walls of Ba Sing Se–claimed for centuries to be unbreachable—had fallen. After the hard stone of the Earth Kingdom and the rock-solid firmness of its defenders had ultimately proven too weak to withstand the prolonged assault and dedicated siege of the well-trained Fire Nation army. Had been smashed to smithreens by the superior technology of the Fire Nation’s ever-burning industry. Reduced to rubble by its innovation and unwavering ambition. Crushed beneath the combined power of its great war machines and even greater discipline.

    This would be a triumph sang of for generations in the Fire Nation. Lamented for even longer in the Earth Kingdom. The glittering capital of the Earth Kingdom had been captured. Their pride had become their shame. The city they had touted as impenetrable had been entered by a marching red army advancing ring after ring to the palace. The city they had been so convinced could not be taken had been stolen from them inch by bloody inch.

    The city was quiet now. The atmosphere almost eerily subdued after the fighting had abated. After patrolling Fire Nation troops persuaded the native population that it was safest to remain in their homes. To not risk venturing out on any unauthorized business. To keep a low profile until the patterns of the fabric of everyday life could be taken up again.

    Soon the people of Ba Sing Se would come to appreciate the benefits of living under Fire Nation rule, Lu Ten told himself. The Fire Nation would bring unprecedented order and prosperity to not just this city, but the entire world. That was the promise Sozin had made, and his descendents would not rest until they had fulfilled his oath.

    The rest of the world resisted that vision only because they could not–in their ignorant backwardness–could not appreciate the wisdom and benevolence behind it. In time the errors in their thinking would be corrected. Eliminated by the joint blessings of peace and wealth.

    Soon enough of the citizens of Ba Sing Se would be like those of Yu Dao. Grateful and honored to be a Fire Nation Colony. Part of its expanding and flourishing empire. Contributing to that shining glory like a jewel in a crown.

    It would not be long before they realized how much their lives would be improved now that their King Kuei had been deposed. Lu Ten, along with many other of his father’s high-ranking officers, had been present when King Kuei was dethroned. Stripped of all trappings of his power and exalted lineage. Escorted at spear point to the cells where he would await transfer to the Fire Nation capital where he would be judged by Fire Lord Azulon.

    Lu Ten suspected this was all a matter of pomp and circumstance. Of elaborately constructed ceremony and pretense. There was no way, after all, that Grandfather would permit King Kuei to live. As long as King Kuei drew breath, he was a threat. A potential rallying cry for resistance against Fire Nation rule in the conquered Earth Kingdom. He would have to be executed. Publicly as possible. Beneath the grand steps of the Fire Nation Royal Palace. At the beating heart of its city. Its unrivaled might and majesty.

    A death by beheading if the Fire Lord was feeling merciful. By burning if he was not. Fire Lord Azulon, in Lu Ten’s experience, was rarely inclined to bestow mercy. Grant clemency. Softness of any sort was not an accusation that could be leveled against one who had subjugated entire Earth Kingdom provinces at thirteen. Such a life did not often encompass compassion. Nor did it incline one toward it.

    King Kuei would be executed. Probably quite brutally. Despite the fact that he did not appear to have a menacing bone in his body. Had, in fact, seemed flummoxed to discover there was a war going on. A war that had waged for a hundred years. For six hundred of those days, outside the walls of his city that had boasted of being impenetrable.

    His focus not at all on politics, economics, or defense, but on the bear that was his best friend. A bear that Lu Ten supposed might be allowed to live. Surviving as an oddity to entertain Fire Nation courtiers at banquets or a curiosity to delight children at a traveling circus. Certainly there could be no other purpose the ursine creature could be put to in a society where everyone remained in their proper position.

    Lu Ten had been astonished to discover just how out-of-touch and divorced from reality King Kuei had been on his throne. It was unfathomable to him that anyone who was not an infant should neglect to notice that there was a war going on between the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom. In the Fire Nation, every citizen was raised with a keen awareness of that fact. Taught and trained from a young age to do their duty to their nation and Fire Lord. To sacrifice everything–including their lives–as a gift to the Fire Nation’s glory.

    King Kuei’s chief advisor–a snake of a man named Long Feng who reminded Lu Ten of Ozai with unpleasant, oily vividness–did not seem to be entrenched in the same ignorance of the war as the monarch he advised. Long Feng, too, had been dragged off in chains to the dark, dank depths of the dungeons.

    No doubt he would share in the fate of the king he had manipulated. Meeting a violent end on crimson palace steps in the Fire Nation capital before an exultant crowd calling for his blood. Demanding it as a reward and sign of their victory.

    Lu Ten saw no need to dwell on such gory imaginings of the future. Not on a day of triumph for himself and his father. He and his father were alone now. Standing side by side in the green vastness of the otherwise empty throne room. The throne room that echoed with every breath they took. Trembled with every move. Reverberated with and repeated every word like a restless ghost.

    The great victory had come as Lu Ten had assured Father on the last night before the final battle for Ba Sing Se. Writing a short letter by flickering candlelight in his tent after the strategy council between the officers had ended. Promising his father that they would see each other after the victory. A filial comfort and a solemn vow. Signing the note as his father’s faithful son. A formal, respectful farewell, but also the most affectionate one he knew. The one that most accurately encapsulated who he was. The role he filled in the world beneath the circling sun.

    He had accompanied this missive with a self portrait in ink because he had known that would make his father smile. Father had smiled over every piece of artwork Lu Ten had ever painted him. Praised each one as if it were a masterpiece. Preserved it in files and folios for future admiration.

    They had indeed seen each other after the victory. Reuniting on the top of the palace steps. Standing above a newly fallen Ba Sing Se. Amidst its ashes. Lu Ten had tried to bow, folding his hands into the appropriate posture to do so, but had been halted before he could begin by Father pulling him into a crushing hug.

    “You’re alive, my son!” Father had exclaimed as if he cared about nothing else even in this moment of what should have been his transcendent triumph. The culmination of the destiny that had been foreseen and foretold for him.

    “Of course I am.” Lu Ten had struggled to breathe when it felt as if Father’s embrace had cracked one or two of his ribs. Ribs that had somehow miraculously avoided puncturing his lungs when they shattered.

    “Before the battle, I had a nightmare that you would die in it.” Father had kissed Lu Ten’s forehead. As if Lu Ten were still a little boy. As if Lu Ten weren’t taller than him. Hadn’t been taller than him for two years. “It was so terrible. I couldn’t sleep after that.”

    “As if I would miss your glorious victory for anything, Father.” As if the desire to see and contribute to his father’s triumph at Ba Sing Se hadn’t been the reason he had left the Fire Nation. As if it hadn’t been his eagerness to follow in his father’s footsteps as proud prince and brave soldier of the Fire Nation that had brought him to this conquered Earth Kingdom city.

    “You being alive–” Father had patted his cheek– “means more to me than any Fire Nation victory.”

    Loving words from a father relieved to be reunited with his only son after a bloody battle. But also words that could be misconstrued as treason by anyone with an agenda who might overhear and report them to an eternally paranoid Fire Lord ever jealous in guarding his power.

    Victory for the Fire Nation was all that mattered ultimately. Children were nothing next to the needs and glory of the Fire Nation. That was the litany fathers were expected to recite–to believe as true in their flesh and bones–whenever their sons or daughters were slain on the battlefield. A sacrifice to the swelling ambition and the trampling onward march of the Fire Nation.

    It was a dangerous slip of the tongue–a joyful lapse in propriety–for his father to suggest otherwise. Lu Ten was intensely grateful for the chaos surrounding them. The whirlwind that had made his father’s comment less likely to be overheard and repeated to Fire Lord Azulon. Swiftly, he had changed the subject to less perilous topics like what was to be done with the captured King Kuei.

    “We won,” Father remarked in what felt like a continuation of their conversation from the palace steps. “What happens now, Lu Ten?”

    There was a hollowness to Father’s question Lu Ten was astonished to hear echoed in his own flat tone as he answered, “No doubt, Grandfather will wish to reward you for your triumph by naming you governor of Ba Sing Se.”

    “No doubt,” Father agreed. Voice emptier than the throne room where they stood. Fire Lord Azulon could hardly do otherwise after his heir’s seizure of the wealthiest and most powerful city in the Earth Kingdom.

    “You will need to appoint officials to administer the city in your stead, of course,” Lu Ten went on. Wondering how victory could feel so much like defeat. “After your success here, your father will want you to command the campaign to capture Omashu.”

    Omashu. That last strong city of the Earth Kingdom shielded by misty mountains. The next target for Fire Nation expansion.

    “So the long march continues.” Father’s sigh sounded desolate as a vanquished city. “Until the entire Earth Kingdom has fallen. Until there are no more cities to conquer.”

    “Until final victory is achieved for the Fire Nation.” Lu Ten bit his lip. Feeling for the first time how worthless and intangible everything they were fighting for seemed to be. How even capturing it never completely satisfied the hunger that had driven them to conquer in the first place. It was a ravenous appetite that could never be quelled. Not even by swallowing the whole world.

    He clapped his father on the back. Chanced adding what scant consolation he could. “Since you’ve claimed Ba Sing Se for him, Grandfather might allow you some time to rest and recover in the Fire Nation before you fight again.”

    “He will not understand why I need time to rest and recover.” Father shook his head. “He never required such breaks to recuperate in the Fire Nation after he conquered Earth Kingdom provinces, and he was only thirteen when he started doing that.”

    “Eventually he did return to the Fire Nation to assume responsibilities of governance,” Lu Ten pointed out.

    “Only after Sozin died, and he inherited the throne.” Father’s expression had suddenly taken on the shifty look he wore whenever he was about to deploy a particularly cunning tactic in a fierce game of pai sho. “We must hope, of course, that my father will live and reign forever.”

    It would, Lu Ten thought but didn’t say, be treason to hope otherwise.

    Father continued obliquely, “However, we retain the right to enjoy what freedoms we are allowed.”

    “What freedoms would those be, Father?” Lu Ten’s forehead furrowed.

    “To learn what we can from the people of this city before we are forced to move on from it.” There was a sly sparkle–like copper setting sunlight on a garden pond–in Father’s gaze now.

    “Learn from barbarians?” Lu Ten blinked. Nonplussed.

    “Why not?” Father arched an eyebrow. “Even barbarians must have some wisdom to share.”

    “Such as?” Lu Ten couldn’t resist asking. The very notion of barbarians having any wisdom to impart was so baffling. So beyond his understanding. So foreign to the doctrines of Fire Nation supremacy that had been hammered into his head since his school days. The doctrines that felt like the only truths.

    “The trains we saw connecting the city are an ingenious piece of infrastructure,” Father commented.

    “We have trains in the Fire Nation,” Lu Ten reminded his father in case he had somehow forgotten in the disorienting aftermath of battle. Trains being one of the Earth Kingdom inventions that the Fire Nation had appropriated for themselves. Adapting it to their needs and abilities. Improving it with their unquenachable thirst for innovation and speed. “Faster ones.”

    “Powered by steam and not bending.” Father stroked his beard. His contemplative expression remaining in place as he mused, “And I have heard that the elegant tea houses of Ba Sing Se serve the best jasmine tea and egg rolls in the world. I would be eager to test the veracity of such rumors for myself.”

    “As your loyal son–” Lu Ten bowed– “it would be my honor to join you in your inspection of such noble establishments.”

    End Notes: I rarely like to provide commentary on my own intentions or decisions in the body of my own stories because I always want to give readers space and freedom to find their own interpretations and draw their own conclusions without my author intentions intruding. However, this time I did want to pull back the curtain a little bit and offer some insight into what I was thinking as I worked on this AU. There is sort of a prominent opinion in the Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom that Lu Ten's death was necessary to spark Iroh's revelation of how wrong the Fire Nation was and set him on a different path. I even largely fell in line with that belief (because Lu Ten's death definitely has a strong, shaping impact on Iroh--no disputing that), but as I was writing this AU, which I initially intended to be little more than a regurgitation of that belief about how if Lu Ten had lived and Iroh had been successful in conquering Ba Sing Se, he never would've become disillusioned with the war and questioned the Fire Nation's approach.

    Yet, in writing this AU, which grew in the telling as so many of my stories do, I found myself viewing events such as the fall of Ba Sing Se and Lu Ten's death in a different light and also perceiving characters like Lu Ten and Iroh through a different lens. I decided that victory could also be a source of disenchantment with the Fire Nation if Iroh realized just how hollow that victory was and how little it mattered. So I chose to have Iroh get what he wants here--the conquest of Ba Sing Se--and see how unsatisfying that victory is and begin to really question his Fire Nation indoctrination. I also wanted to sort of present that possibility of him being able to go on that sort of character journey with his beloved Lu Ten.

    So, I guess, in a way, I discovered that my own story was pushing back against the narrative I had come to believe about Lu Ten's death being necessary for Iroh's growth as a person and character. And that was truly wonderful to experience as an author. That kind of pushback from my own story. Because it really reminded me that none of the casualties of the Hundred Year War were necessary. Including Lu Ten's. That all those deaths were unnecessary results and consequences of violent imperialism and militarism promoted by the Fire Nation. Indoctrinated into their youth who became sacrifices to the supposed "glory" of the Fire Nation. It just was really powerful to me to have the narrative of my own story reminding me of just how unnecessary all the deaths in the Hundred Year War were, because it seemed like a lesson so in keeping with the pacifistic themes of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

    If you made it this far, I hope you will forgive my rambling, and perhaps enjoy this little peek backstage!
  24. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb! =D= It is so true to life that even a victory could feel hollow if it didn't resolve or lead to anything except a continuing cycle of violence and suffering for the innocents. [face_thinking] I like your end notes a lot and agree that actual character death is not the only way to give the 'remaining' surviving characters a rude awakening.

    Sometimes I think professional authors fall into a trap of thinking that unmitigated tragedy is the only way to give a story depth and poignancy. I think a story without hope and where you can find humor and affection, as Lu Ten and Iroh do in their chat about tea and egg rolls ;) is a story that doesn't enrich the reader but simply leaves you feeling disheartened.

    I love how the Fire Nation takes things from other nations and improves them and adapts them to their own culture. It's amazing how many things you think are recent inventions are actually progessions from earlier, simpler technologies arising from the needs of a given culture.
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  25. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    a great AU with so much of real life in it with that war going on here in the east