Voice of the Earth #8
Apr. 6th, 2010 @ 12:35 pm
Here we go again!|
Zuko wakes up in the healer's hut. Long story short, here's what's happening: Toph has swamp fever, it could kill her, it could leave her brain-damaged if it doesn't, Zuko got bitten by a cottonmouth gar and could lose his leg if Healer-Lady can't draw out the poison quickly enough. The suspense that this last revelation is intended to create falls flat on its face, because anyone who's read the prequel to this fic knows damn well that the author worships Zuko's ~*~ZOMG hawt body~*~ far too much to ever permanently damage it. Healer-Lady leaves the hut to get more supplies, creating the perfect set-up for a hilariously awkward reunion scene between Zuko and Jet. Do recall that the last time these boys saw each other, Jet was being hauled off by the Dai Li after barging into the tea shop and accusing "Li" and "Mushi" of being Firebenders.
But no. We don't get awkward lulziness, because I guess that's not Manly enough for this fic.
"I remember you, Jet," Zuko began. "And I want to say I'm sorry."
"About what?" Jet asked.
"I got you thrown into prison in Ba Sing Se. You nearly died there. If it wasn't for me and my uncle, it would never have happened," Zuko answered, then coughed a little. His throat was still a little dry.
Jet refilled the water cup and held it to his lips again. "Don't worry about it. Everything happens for a reason. Even the bad stuff," he replied evenly. Then he flashed Zuko a cocky grin. "Besides, I'd done enough wrong by that point to earn several trips to prison. My time was just up, I guess."
"I also ought to tell you my name isn't really Li," Zuko said, swallowing the last of the water. His voice was smoother, stronger now. "It's Zuko. My uncle is Fire Lord Iroh. I'm his heir."
Jet sat back, his eyes a little wider. Then he stood up, took Zuko's cup from his hand, and walked back to place it next to the water jug. "So Li the refugee was really Prince Zuko," he said in disbelief. Then he shook his head. "I guess I ought to be relieved. I was right. You two really were firebenders."
That's it. Zuko's awfully articulate for someone whose entire leg is infected to the point where amputation is imminent. And I guess Jet's Fire Nation grudge is out to lunch, or something. Then Jet notices Toph and Zuko does a bit of territory-marking.
Then Zuko watched as Jet strode across the room to where Toph lay quietly.
He determined that if the young mercenary made so much as the hint of a threatening move in her direction, he'd incinerate him on the spot. Little tips of flame danced at the ends of his fingers in readiness.
But Jet just looked at her, his eyes searching her face. "And who is this?" he asked Zuko with a little laugh. "Your Fire Nation girlfriend?"
"No," Zuko replied slowly. He wanted to be certain Jet understood him. "That's my wife. Maybe you remember her—Toph Bei Fong. She traveled with Avatar Aang back in Ba Sing Se."
Jet burst into laughter, then looked down at her again. "That's Toph? The mean little earthbender? She used to scare the hell out of me," he stated in disbelief. "She certainly grew up, though, didn't she?"
If the tone in Jet's voice had been anything less than respectful, Zuko would have let him have it. But as it was, he simply replied, "Sometimes she scares me, too."
I have no idea what's going on in those last two paragraphs, but it makes me nervous. Zuko explains that he and the rest of the Brady Bunch came to the swamp to find Jet, and then complains about how weird the swamp is, and how it seems to be after Toph for some reason, and how he had to threaten it to find her. Jet finds the swamp-threatening LOLarious.
We cut to Aang, Katara, and Mai, who find Hu. Aang does all the talking, not even letting the wimminfolk answer questions addressed to them:
"So how have y'all been? It's been a spell since I've seen you and Katara. Mai, how is everything in Omashu?" Hu began, apparently glad of the company.
"We've all been fine," Aang began. "But we're missing some of our group. Do remember Toph Bei Fong and Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation?"
Aang's kind of a douche in this fic, isn't he? Hu reveals that the swamp sought out Toph because its spirit wants to talk to her. The fever, it turns out, is a physical manifestation of Toph's presence in the Spirit World. He also says that the last Earthbender the Swamp Spirit communicated with was Bumi. This apparently means that the Swamp agrees with Bumi's assessment that Toph should be the next King of Omashu. Then there's a strange little bit of canon fuckery:
Hu patiently continued, "The king of Omashu is also the swamp's guardian. He keeps the rest of the Earth Kingdom from interfering in our affairs." Then he gave them an amused look, "Not that anybody on the outside is interested in what happens to the swamp."
*scratches head* Ooookay. Whatever. Hu then repeats the healer's warning-- that Toph could wind up not quite right in the head if she stays in the fever state/Spirit World for too long. Katara reassures Aang that spending time in the Spirit World hasn't fucked his brain, and Hu says it's different for Aang:
"The spirit world is always a part of you. For the rest of us, venturing into the world of spirit can be tough indeed. Some come out completely insane--"
"Like Bumi," Mai muttered under her breath.
Hu graciously ignored her. "And some come out with a totally new perspective on things. I remember many years ago, Fire Lord Iroh spent time in the swamp. To my knowledge, he's the only firebender she's ever taken inside to meet," Hu remembered. "And some time later, he actually went back again on his own. I think he found it helpful."
"Helpful?" Mai scoffed.
"Iroh," Aang sighed. "That explains a lot."
I like the bolded part-- for Mai's inexplicable rudeness (she was always snarky, but a diplomat being outright rude about the man who's given her a job and a place to live in his city? And in front of someone who's 1) a local authority of sorts and 2) trying to help them save their friends? No thanx), and for the part where Hu "graciously ignores" her. LOLOLOLOL
They depart to find Zuko and Toph, since the Swamp won't be very enthusiastic about having to let go over her chosen monarch. We cut to Toph in the Spirit World, where she's having a blast. She isn't blind in the Spirit World, and is loving this whole "colors" thing. The author makes a hilarious slip-up, though, by having Toph use her Earthbending:
At first, she'd had no idea what was happening to her. It was like her earthbending sight had taken on a thousand additional dimensions. Rough shapes became clear and vibrant. Details sprang out at her. She got levels of information and clarity that she had no idea how to interpret.
After much wonderment, she came to one conclusion—color. She was seeing colors for the first time.
She wandered around for hours just looking at everything. Sometimes she had to call on her earthbending abilities to figure out what things were—but especially difficult were items that were not connected to the earth.
No Bending in the Spirit World, remember? If Aang couldn't do it, neither can Toph. She finds the Swamp Spirit's abode and goes all fangirly at the sight of a fire burning in a clay fire pit. Then the Swamp Spirit emerges, and she's a green, planty woman. Swampy tells Toph that she "knows Toph's destiny", and the chapter ends with Swampy proclaiming that Toph's destiny is either becoming the ruler of Omashu, or death. I guess "cake" isn't an option here.
I do believe my icon says it all.