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Story [Avatar: The Last Airbender] Heart of Fire (Zuko/Mai Pentathlon for 2021 Fanfic Olympics)

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by devilinthedetails , Jul 1, 2021.

  1. devilinthedetails

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

    Jun 19, 2019
    Title: Heart of Fire

    Author: devilinthedetails

    Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender

    Genre: A variety of genres.

    Characters: Zuko; Mai; Izumi.

    Summary: An anthology of Zuko/Mai stories written for my Zuko/Mai Pentathlon for the 2021 Fanfic Olympics.

    Index of Entries:

    Nothing Better to Do. 100 Word Sprint. Zuko; Mai. Post #2.

    What If. 110 Word Hurdle. Zuko; Mai. Post #3.

    Family Portraits. 200 Word Freestyle. Zuko; Mai. Post #5.

    Repeated Nightmare. 400 Word Cross Country. Zuko; Mai; Izumi. Post #6.

    Ember Island Sunset. 1500 Word Dash. Zuko; Mai. Post #8.

    Pentathlon completed on 7/25/2021. Thread still open for comments, of course!
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2021
    amidalachick and Mira_Jade like this.
  2. devilinthedetails

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

    Jun 19, 2019
    Title: Nothing Better to Do

    Genre: Romance; Fluff (or what passes for fluff with Zuko and Mai).

    Characters: Zuko; Mai.

    Event: 100 Word Sprint.

    Summary: Mai had nothing better to do than wait for Zuko.

    Nothing Better to Do (100 Word Sprint)

    “Thank you for waiting for me,” Zuko muttered, crimson-faced as sunburn, to Mai as they stood on the deck of the steamship carrying them back to the Fire Nation. Back to what he hoped would be a reconciliation with his father and a restoration of his honor.

    “I had nothing better to do.” Mai flicked ocean-blown hair out of her eyes but didn’t look at him, instead staring out at the white-foamed waves stretching to the horizon, vanishing into the bleeding sunset before them. “The Fire Nation was boring without you in it. Life was boring without you in it.”
  3. devilinthedetails

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

    Jun 19, 2019
    Title: What If

    Genre: Romance; Drama.

    Characters: Zuko; Mai.

    Event: 110 Word Hurdle

    Summary: Mai wonders what will happen if she gives birth to a child who isn't a firebender.

    What if (110 Word Hurdle)

    “What if our child isn’t a firebender?” She forced herself to ask her husband the question that she hadn’t wanted to think about since she learned that she, a non-bender, was pregnant with the Fire Lord’s child. The question she should have asked before they married. “Will you think our child is too weak, too unfit, to rule after you?”

    “Of course not.” His scarred face twisted into a wry grin. The grin that chased away all her fears and banished all her doubts. The grin that would always chase away her fears and banish her doubts. “Many of the strongest people I know aren’t firebenders or benders at all.”
  4. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    This is another great set. :)

    I started quoting specifics before I realized that I really had more general comments and I was quoting pretty much the entire piece! Because it was the little details in Nothing Better to Do that I really enjoyed - sunburn-crimson and ocean-blown hair and bleeding sunset. And the sentiment is, of course, very Mai and Zuko. :p

    With What If, that quite literally is a hurdle to tackle, isn't it? Not that such was required for the event, but it was certainly in the title and more than well featured here. But it's a hurdle that Mai doesn't have to worry for. They certainly know more than a few non-benders who are more than a match for any bender, and if their child is one of them she's still going to rule with just as much strength and grace as her father. Just lovely, once again! =D=
  5. devilinthedetails

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

    Jun 19, 2019
    @Mira_Jade As always, thank you so much for commenting!:D I'm so glad that you're finding this to be another great set, and I hope you'll enjoy the next installment of it just as much.

    It's awesome to hear that you loved the little details in "Nothing Better to Do" because I really wanted to capture an almost poetic feeling to the scene, and the descriptions you highlighted were some of my favorites as a writer, so that makes me super happy. And I couldn't resist having Mai talk about how boring life was without Zuko because she does so love to complain about being bored, haha.

    So glad that you liked "What If" as well. You are right that is definitely a hurdle true to the name of the event. I admit that "What If" was sort of inspired by how Ozai was basically considering killing Zuko as a baby because he didn't seem to be a powerful enough firebender (just Ozai trying to win Father of the Year award as usual) and that got me thinking about how the Fire Nation expects the Fire Lords to be these great, powerful fire benders, which in turn led to this story. Where we get to see just how different Zuko is from Ozai because he can value and respect the strength of all people, whether they are fire benders or not. And I absolutely agree that whether their child is a bender or not, she will rule with as much strength and grace as her father. [face_love] So Mai really doesn't have to worry about this what if as you say!

    Title: Family Portraits

    Genre: General; Drama.

    Characters: Zuko; Mai.

    Event: 200 Freestyle.

    Summary: Zuko and Mai debate what to do with the Royal Family portraits.

    Family Portraits (200 Freestyle)

    “You can burn them, you know. At least the ones of your father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.” Mai stood beside Zuko as he stared up at the portraits of past Fire Lords lining the Royal Gallery.

    The faces of his ancestors gazed back at him. There was Sozin depicted with his iconic comet flashing above his head, and a scroll furled in his fist, representing the laws he had changed. Azulon followed, the two globes of fire hovering above his hands preserving for posterity the fact that he was a firebending prodigy. Then came Zuko’s own father Ozai.

    Black flames rose like shadows from Ozai’s fingertips, and dark smokestacks lurked behind him, celebrating how the Fire Nation had continued to industrialize during his time. As the Fire Nation had done since the days when Sozin’s father ruled from this palace and posed for his portrait.

    “I’ve thought about doing that,” Zuko admitted. “But they are history and should be kept for scholars to learn from in the future. I will have them moved to a special archive for academics from around the world to study with permits. That way history won’t be forgotten and repeated, but infamy also won’t be honored.”
  6. devilinthedetails

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

    Jun 19, 2019
    Title: Repeated Nightmare

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

    Characters: Zuko; Mai; Izumi.

    Event: 400 Word Cross Country.

    Summary: Mai comforts Zuko when he wakes from his worst nightmare.

    Author's Note: Trigger warning for discussion of abuse and its traumatic impact on Zuko.

    Repeated Nightmare (400 Word Cross Country)

    Zuko stood in his father’s place, towering over his daughter. Proclaiming in a resounding tone that terrified even himself--that made his heart tremble inside him--that she would learn respect and suffering would be her teacher as it had been his. Echoing his father’s words. Following his father’s legacy because that was his destiny after all.

    When he raised fire to his fingertips and burned her face with it, she screamed, and he screamed with her. The scream shook him out of his nightmare, and he awoke in a tangle of sweaty sheets.

    Rolling out of bed and crossing over to the cradle where his baby girl slept, he was relieved to see her wrapped safely and snuggly in a blanket. His little Izumi’s expression was peaceful, testifying to sweet dreams undisturbed by nightmares and a haunting past that refused to rest. Her legs were curled, and her thumb was slipped between her lips as if she had drifted off to sleep sucking on it. She looked so beautiful that he couldn’t imagine burning her. So innocent that he didn’t want to picture himself as the one who broke her.

    He rocked the cradle gently, more to comfort himself than Izumi, who was still lost in her dreams. Tears began to trickle down his cheeks. He ached to be able to promise her that he would never hurt her, but the memory of his father filled him with doubt and turned the vow to ash in his mouth whenever he tried to speak it.

    “I thought it was Izumi crying but it’s you.” Mai stirred, propping herself up on a pile of pillows. “Did you have another nightmare, Zuko?”

    “I did.” Zuko couldn’t lie to her because she knew him too well.

    She proved how well she knew him by asking, “A nightmare of your father burning and banishing you again?”

    That had been his greatest fear before Izumi was born. Now it was repeating with his own daughter the nightmare he had lived.

    “No.” Zuko shook his head. “In my nightmare, I was the father doing the burning and banishing.”

    “Your dream doesn’t have to be the future.” Mai’s gaze was unusually soft when she looked at him. “It doesn’t have to be a prophecy. Dreams aren’t destiny. Only your choices are your destiny. Every day, you can choose whether or not your nightmare comes true. You have that power.”
  7. amidalachick

    amidalachick Chosen One star 5

    Aug 3, 2003
    "Nothing Better To Do": I love the imagery in this, I could picture the scene so clearly. Beautifully done!

    "What If?":
    Awww, love this! Such a sweet couple moment. [face_love]

    "Family Portraits": Once again, you say so much in a short space. Your descriptions are just fantastic, I could picture the setting so clearly here too. And I think Zuko's definitely got the right idea for what to do with the portraits. Great job on this!

    "Repeated Nightmare": Oh, this was so intense to read but I think it was my favorite out of this collection. Your writing is so powerful here. Poor Zuko, his fears really come across so strongly and I felt so bad for him. And I just love the image of Izumi, sleeping so peacefully, and how Mai understands and comforts him.

    So true. I loved this, and it's the perfect way to wrap up this fic.

    Excellent work, once again! =D=
    Kahara and WarmNyota_SweetAyesha like this.
  8. devilinthedetails

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

    Jun 19, 2019
    @amidalachick Thank you so much for reading and commenting!:) I'm so glad that you loved the imagery of "Nothing Better to Do." I was really trying to paint a picture of the scene with some vivid imagery so it makes me so happy that you felt you could picture it so well.

    I was really trying to make "What If?" a sweet couple's moment where Zuko can provide comfort and reassurance to Mai so it makes my heart sing to know you loved it so much!

    So glad that you enjoyed "Family Portraits." I had to edit that piece down considerably to make my idea fit within the word count, so it is awesome to hear that you felt I was able to say so much in such a short space. The nice thing about these word counts is it has forced me to be concise and think about every word I write. And it is wonderful to hear that you felt my descriptions were fantastic and that you were able to envision the setting so clearly. I agree with you that I think Zuko has found a good solution for what to do with the portraits. He is not going to destroy history for scholars who need to study it to help prevent history from repeating itself, but he is also not going to glamorize the past imperialism and colonialism of the Fire Nation. He is going to make a sharp break from the past without denying that the past happens, and I think that is the best course of action for the Fire Nation.

    "Repeated Nightmare" was very intense and emotional for me to write, and I can understand it being your favorite of the collection. My heart did break for poor Zuko and his fears here, but writing about Izumi being so sweet and peaceful in her sleep did really warm my heart at the same time, and it was beautiful to have Mai being so understanding and comforting with Zuko. And I'm so glad that you found Mai's words to be so true and a perfect way to wrap up the fic.

    I hope that you'll enjoy the final entry in this pentathlon as well!

    Title: Ember Island Sunset

    Genre: Romance; Mush; Fluff; General.

    Characters: Zuko; Mai.

    Event: 1500 Word Dash

    Summary: Zuko and Mai take a walk along an Ember Island beach at sunset.

    Ember Island Sunset (1500 Word Dash)

    In the Fire Nation, Ember Island was known as the ultimate resort destination. Perfect for families with small children, wild teenagers hoping to party all night on beautiful beaches, and young couples hoping for romantic sunset strolls through the waves crashing along the shore.

    More cheekily, it was also referred to as the spirits’ waiting room because of a tendency among Fire Nation retirees who could afford it to flock en masse to the island for some peace and pleasure in their old age. Thus, a majority of the island’s year-round residents were either those who made their living entertaining tourists or those advanced enough in age to have retired from work and responsibility altogether. It made for a strange but still somehow idyllic atmosphere to live out the sunset of one’s own years. A place that offered reflection and escape in equal measure.

    At least that was the case for Zuko, who had abdicated his throne, entrusting the eternal challenge of governing the Fire Nation into a brighter future in the eminently capable hands of his daughter Izumi. Who had come to live on Ember Island with Mai, his wife of so many long and loving years.

    Standing on the porch carved from red pine that overlooked the ocean, Zuko saw the sunset beginning to stain the sky dragon-scarlet and orange. Sunset. When firebenders like him could feel their power waning with the sun sinking in the west. Sunset. When Agni Kais were fought, lost, and won. Sunset. When the world seemed to dance in flames.

    “Will you take a sunset walk with me along the beach?” Zuko asked Mai, who leaned on the railing beside him.

    A sunset walk with his wife on the beach. That struck him as romantic and reflective. He had a need for both romance and reflection these days. Aang’s death made him want to both look back on his life and treasure every moment, every passion, and every heartbeat he had left.

    “A sunset walk along the beach? How romantic.” Mai’s words were an arch echo of his own thoughts, but she slipped her hand--the once smooth skin now laced with varicose veins--between his wrinkled one.

    Together, they made their slow, careful progress down the stairs to the beach. Rushing anywhere at their age risked a bruising fall on the tailbone or a painful dislocation of the hips. Old bones and creaking joints were not made for haste.

    Stepping onto the black sand beach, Zuko saw the remnants of palaces and pavilions small children had built in the sand. He remembered being a little boy and constructing his own sand palaces and pavilions. Showing those palaces and pavilions to his father in the days when he had still believed that his ambitions and achievements could make his father proud.

    Izumi, too, had once built palaces and pavilions in the sand. He had praised her for them. In awe of everything his child could create with her tiny hands and boundless imagination. Now that young daughter wasn’t so little anymore and ruled in a palace that wasn’t made of sand.

    As they continued along the beach, Zuko saw childish footprints imprinted in the damp sand where the ocean lapped at the coast. Evidence of races held here. He had once run along this same shore, chasing after his older cousin Lu Ten. Never able to catch him but delighting in the thrill of the chase. His shrill laughter rising from the beach to the foam-white clouds above, shrill as a seagull’s call. Lu Ten’s hair and feet flying. Lu Ten, forever young and strong. Frozen in his prime because he had died in his prime. Crushed by an earthbender rock at the walls of Ba Sing Se. One of too many Fire Nation children lost in a hundred year war that should never have been fought.

    The waves washed away the footprints but not the memories. Memories of engaging in a water fight with Sokka and Katara. Sokka, always playful and quick with a joke that was more likely to be unfunny than funny, was dead along with his laughter now. Katara still lived but she was older and sadder now. Bowed but not broken by her grief. Like Zuko himself was. They had been so young when they first came to Ember Island together, and now they were old or dead. He wished they could have remained that young and vibrant forever, but that was not how time worked.

    “A shell for you.” Mai slowly bent to pick up a spiral shell with stripes of pearl-white and turquoise. Once she had it and straightened with equal caution for her no longer flexible spine, she slipped it between his fingers with a smile.

    He remembered, because all times felt like the present with the waves melting against the sandy shore, how he had tried to give her a shell he thought was pretty and she’d been mystified as to why she would want such a thing. He’d been frustrated and hurt by her rejection of the shell because in rejecting the shell it had been as if she’d been rejecting him. His blundering attempt at thoughtfulness and kindness. He’d thought because she was a girl, she should want pretty things, and when she’d scoffed only stupid girls would want a shell like the one he’d picked out for her, he’d snapped at her to forget it.

    Yet he had never been able to forget that moment, that interaction, in all the years they had spent together. All the walks they had taken along the black beaches of Ember Island.

    Perhaps Mai remembered as well. After that, she was always the one presenting him with seashells because he was the one who liked them, not her. They were her little gifts to him, and he treasured them.

    “It’s beautiful.” Gently, admiringly, he stroked the rough sand from the shell’s smooth surface. “Thank you.”

    They came to a tide pool brimming with a motley, colorful collection of aquatic life. Many years ago, when he was a small boy, his uncle Iroh had told him all the names of the strange creatures and plants that made their damp homes in the tide pools that dotted Ember Island’s coast. Then, when he was an older man with graying hair himself, he had passed along all the names of the tide pool creatures and plants to his grandson Iroh. Two Irohs and one Zuko. The same Zuko and yet not the same Zuko, altered by time and experience, because nobody was ever truly the same from year to year, day to day, moment to moment, heartbeat to heartbeat. All were always in a painful transition, a transformation as beautiful as it was agonizing.

    He and Mai went on with their walk along the beach, grains of sand slipping between the straps of their sandals to scrape at their heels. They passed a bunch of bathing suit clad teenagers competing in a match of kuai ball, adolescent banter bouncing across the net as easily as the ball.

    “Remember when we played on the same kuai ball team as Azula and Ty Lee?” Zuko felt a surge of nostalgia as he stared at the kuai ball match as he recalled one of the last good memories and happy times he had ever shared with his younger sister. Yes, Azula had been crazy competitive and determined to vanquish her enemies, but in that moment she hadn’t seen him as an enemy. She’d seen him as an ally. Someone to strategize with, and now she too was dead.

    Dead for many years because she hadn’t been able to endure living in the asylum. Not being a Fire Lord. Not having anyone to boss around. Not having power. Her ambition had burned her out, her strength and sanity reduced to smoldering cinders when she couldn’t have everything she had been taught she should hunger and fight for. A casualty of his father’s parenting, because she had only ever been everything Ozai had bred her to be.

    Ozai was dead now, too, but somehow the damage he had done still seemed to linger in the world, the painful ripples refusing to die even when he did.

    “Now I couldn’t play kuai ball if my life depended on it.” Mai snorted, dragging Zuko back to the present, away from his memories of pain. “My knees would collapse on me.”

    A little way beyond the kuai ball match, they met a vendor hawking his ice cream cones.

    “Want one?” Zuko asked, craving a mango cone himself.

    “You trying to give me a heart attack?” Mai smirked before adding, “I’ll have a watermelon one.”

    Zuko ordered the mango cone for himself and the watermelon one for Mai. He was careful to hand the watermelon ice cream to Mai before it could start to melt--never forgetting the time a scoop had dropped on her. Then the two of them turned around and began to make their slow walk home.
  9. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    Congratulations on finishing this wonderful pentathlon! In particular, since the last time I reviewed, I enjoyed . . .

    I'm with Mai. [face_mischief]

    But, thankfully, Zuko made the smart choice: remember the past without honoring it, that really is the best way for the Fire Nation going forward in more ways than one. [face_love]

    Zuko's pain and trauma - and how that influences his fears about being a father himself - is just heartbreaking, but this was exactly what he needed to hear. [face_love]

    And I love how, even more cheekily, that term applies to Zuko now! [face_laugh] :p Great tongue-in-cheek writing!

    This was so understandable, and so beautiful. [face_love] I love how, throughout their walk, they did look back on every moment that had led them here - and forward to all those they still have left. This was a perfect way to end your pentathlon!

    Thank-you for sharing this wonderful collection with us, and congratulations again! =D=
  10. devilinthedetails

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

    Jun 19, 2019
    @Mira_Jade As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting on this pentathlon as it progressed!:)I'm both happy to have finished something and sad that it is done since I really enjoyed writing it! I'm so glad that you found it wonderful since there were many times when writing it warmed my heart.

    I really did love Mai's idea of burning the portraits of Sozin, Azulon, and Ozai. I definitely don't blame her for suggesting that, and I wouldn't have blamed Zuko for taking her up on the idea, but I do appreciate the balance Zuko was able to find in terms of allowing the horrible history of what the Fire Nation did to be perserved and hopefully learned from while at the same time not glorifying or honoring that past. I think coming to terms with a history of colonialism, violence, and imperialism can be really difficult, but I believe the Fire Nation under Zuko and later Izumi will be up to handling that challenge.

    I definitely think Zuko's past pain and trauma can't help but influence and shape his own fears about fatherhood (like will he end up being his father). I think that is one of the most heartbreaking long term effects of abuse. People who were abused worry about becoming abusers in the future. But I was glad that Mai was able to find a way to comfort Zuko and tell him exactly what he needed to hear in the moment. To reassure him that he can absolutely choose to be different from his father.

    Haha, the term definitely applies to Zuko now[face_laugh] Sometimes tongue-in-cheek writing can definitely be fun...;)

    Oh, thank you! I'm so happy you found that passage both understandable and beautiful. I really wanted to capture that reflective quality of looking back on the moments that have led Zuko and Mai to this point--and what is more reflective than a sunset walk on the beach?--while at the same time having a sense of there still being good times in the future for the two of them to enjoy and share. Writing this definitely took me awhile even though it had been an idea in my head since the start of the pentathlon so it was a relief and joy to be able to get it written and published.

    And I'm so pleased you thought it was a perfect way to end the pentathlon! Thank you again for your kind words and for reading[:D]
    Kahara and Mira_Jade like this.
  11. Seldes_Katne

    Seldes_Katne Force Ghost star 3

    Mar 18, 2002
    This pentathlon was a pleasure to read. It nicely fills in blanks in the series, and then steps out into a reasonable vision of the future.

    In “What If,” Mai voices what is a perfectly legitimate question, since not only have the previous Fire Lords all been firebenders, but because that’s seen as a symbol of strength. Fortunately, Zuko’s been out in the world and met a wide variety of people, and understands how limited the idea of “bender superiority” is. (One of my favorite characters in Avatar: the Last Airbender is Piandao, the swordsmaster who has no bending ability at all.)

    This journey also plays into “Repeated Nightmare,” where Zuko has seen functional families and spent time with found family members who cared about him and modeled better parenting behavior. I’m sure that’s not what Ozai expected Zuko to learn during his banishment, but it was a good lesson nonetheless.

    From “What If”:
    This reminds me of all those statues that people in the southern US are taking down – certainly the events that inspired them are part of history, but it doesn’t need to be held up as an example of shining achievement. Put them in a museum instead of in the public eye, and make sure the information posted about them reflects the full measure of their legacy, good and/or bad.

    It’s interesting how many instances in “Ember Island Sunset” involve children: the remnants of sand castles, the memories of Zuko’s cousin, the thoughts of his own daughter as a little girl. In real life, I often see a lovely bond between the oldest and youngest members of families, since seniors have time to play with grandchildren, and youngsters remind the elderly of their own youth.

    So much of this story was reflection, a looking back on what was, the pleasant and the painful. All of it, in some way or another, served to mold the people that Zuko and Mai have become.

    It’s been a while since I watched the entire Airbender series, but your stories sound exactly like the characters I remember, and offer a believable continuation of their stories.
  12. devilinthedetails

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

    Jun 19, 2019
    @Seldes_Katne Thank you so much for reading and commenting!:)I'm so happy to hear that you found this pentathlon a pleasure to read. I enjoyed being able to fill in the blanks between some scenes in the show as well as to expand and explore on what might happen between Zuko and Mai in the future.

    I definitely think Mai's question and concern is understandable. After all, there is the example of Ozai treating Zuko so horribly because he thinks Zuko isn't a strong fire bender (telling Zuko he was lucky to be born). Fortunately, I think Zuko met enough amazing and strong people who weren't fire benders or benders at all that he has been able to realize that strength in firebending or bending at all is not the best measure of someone's worth as a person or as a leader. And I am with you in loving Piandao. I only wish he had gotten a little more screen time!

    Yeah, I think the time Zuko spent with more functional families (like Katara, Sokka, and Hakoda) as well as with Uncle Iroh to serve as a much better father figure than Ozai ever could helped model better parenting behavior for him so he could be a different sort of father to Izumi than Ozai was to him.

    It's interesting that you mention the controversy surrounding statues in the Southern US. I was somewhat inspired by that in terms of writing how Zuko decides to deal with the portraits of Ozai, Azulon, and Sozin. I think destroying the portraits entirely might in a twisted way make the imperialism and colonialism more likely to happen again if people end up being able to forget the horrible history. And sometimes being able to see the ugly history of something can have more of an impact than just reading about it in a textbook. For example, I will never forget visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. I cried through my whole visit, but I will never forget it. It was a deeply emotional experience. So if the history can be preserved in a way designed to communicate the horror of what happened, I think it is good to preserve the history. However, the history should not be preserved in such a way that the horrible events and attitudes are glorified. So, for instance, slavery and those who fought for it, should not, in my opinion be held up as glowing examples of human achievement and morality. So I like Zuko's idea of preserving the portraits in an archive and limiting access to the archives for those who come with serious academic purposes and not to glorify imperialism and colonialism.

    You're right that a lot of events and details in "Ember Island Sunset" involved children. I think writing about children just comes naturally to me when I writing about someone older reflecting on their past and how much life has changed and time has moved on. But I think you are also right that the elderly and the young can share a special bond and connection, which might also be why so many events and memories in "Ember Island Sunset" involved references to children.

    I really wanted "Ember Island Sunset" to feel like one long reflection on the past with both its pleasant and painful aspects so I'm so happy that tone and quality came through for you. And I do think everything Zuko and Mai experienced, both the good and the bad, shaped and defined them into who they are as they take this sunset walk along the beach.

    I'm so flattered that you felt the characters sounded exactly like you remembered and that you thought I was able to offer a believable continuation of their stories!

    Thank you again for reading and commenting!:)
    Kahara likes this.
  13. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Nothing Better to Do: What a lighthearted honest bit of warmth! :)

    What If: A very natural concern and wonderful assurances about not having bending abilities.

    Family Portraits: Great decision preserving history without honoring infamy.

    Repeated Nightmare: Ow! I can imagine Zuko would feel that way about how he would be with his own children. I love that bit of wisdom that your choices shape your destiny.

    Ember Island Sunset: Gorgeous intermingling of memories bitter and sweet with the gentle basking in the now between these two who've been through so much together.

    Congratulations on finishing the Pentathlon and thank you for gifting us with another great set of character and relationship strong pieces.


    Kahara and devilinthedetails like this.
  14. amidalachick

    amidalachick Chosen One star 5

    Aug 3, 2003
    What a beautiful, bittersweet ending for this pentathlon!

    [face_love] Such a gorgeous description.

    I love all the reminiscing as they walk along the beach. There's something about the ocean that makes it a perfect place for remembering and thinking about all the big things - connection, change, loss, love, death, life - and you really captured that here.

    I loved this entire bit about the seashells.

    Aww! Delicious in every sense of the word. :D It also brings back some memories of my own - there's nothing better than ice cream on the beach on a warm night with someone you love. [face_love] Such a sweet, perfect ending to a beautiful fic.

    Wonderful work, again, and congratulations on finishing! =D=
    Kahara and devilinthedetails like this.
  15. devilinthedetails

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

    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you so much for reading and commenting on this pentathlon!:) I'm so glad that you found Nothing Better to Do to be a lighthearted, honest bit of warmth since that was exactly the tone I was hoping to achieve, so yay![face_dancing]

    I definitely think that Mai had a natural concern especially considering the royal family's history of Ozai treating Zuko badly for just not being a strong enough firebender to suit Ozai, so I was very glad Zuko could give her wonderful assurances and show how he values benders and non-benders alike.

    I really think Zuko was able to make a good decision and find that balance and middle ground between preserving history so it can hopefully not be repeated while also not honoring any sort of evil or infamy. I think that ability to strike that balance is going to help Zuko be just the leader the Fire Nation needs in this chapter of its history.

    Repeated Nightmare was probably the story I put the most of myself because I had experiences of abuse as a child, and sometimes I get afraid that I could repeat similar patterns of abusive behavior myself, but then I just try to remind myself that I have the power to make my own choices and define my own destiny. I don't have to become an abuser because I was abused. I can break the cycle. So I wanted to have Zuko sort of wrestling with the same worries and getting the same sort of reassurances that he can rise above the abuse he experienced in the past. That he can be different.

    Ember Island Sunset was a very reflective piece for me to write. I wanted to capture that quality of recalling the good and bad memories connected with Ember Island (since sunsets and beach walks tend to make me reflective) while also giving that sense of Zuko and Mai basking in the long love they'd shared together over the years. I just wanted to show how that love had endured over all the years despite any changes and challenges they encountered, and so they are able to savor their walk along the beach together and even enjoy some ice cream at the end. They are a happy old married couple with deep memories, both good and bad, of their shared past, and I wanted to try to celebrate that in the last piece!

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I'm super glad that you thought I did these great characters and their relationship justice[:D]

    @amidalachick Thank you so much for reading and commenting on this last installment in my Zuko/Mai pentathlon!:) Beautiful and bittersweet was exactly the type of tone I was striving for in this piece so I'm so happy that came across to you and shone through in this final story.

    I really love sunsets at the beach, so I wanted to try to use very evocative language to describe it, and that makes me super proud that you found the description gorgeous.

    I agree with you that there is something incredibly reflective about walking along a beach. I really wanted to try to capture some of that with Zuko and Mai's walk along the beach here, and I am so happy that you felt I was able to do so!

    Writing the bit about the seashells warmed my heart, so it is awesome to know that you loved that bit[face_love]

    Haha, my mouth was watering as I wrote about Zuko getting those ice cream cones for himself and Mai;)Ice cream is obviously delicious and decadent, and then there is just something so romantic about the idea of sharing an ice cream cone on the beach, and I'm so glad it could connect you to memories of your own with someone you love. Getting those connections to your own memories when reading can be such awesome and powerful moments when reading, so it makes me super happy to be able to have done that for you!

    And I am just unspeakably happy you found this to be a perfect, sweet ending to this pentathlon! Thank you again for reading and for your kind words[:D]