The Earth King
Written By: John O'Bryan
Directed By: Ethan Spaulding
Storyboard By: Miyuki Hoshikawa, Ethan Spaulding, Tomihiro Yamaguchi, Michael Chang, Joaquim Dos Santos
Animation By: JM Animation Co, Ltd
Transcribers: Avatar_Mom, Isidorios
["Previously on Avatar" sequence includes clips from "Appa's Lost Days", "City of Walls and Secrets", and "Lake Laogai".]
(The scene opens over the vast waters of Lake Laogai. Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, Appa and Momo have stopped on a tiny islet in the center of the lake. Aang is embracing Appa, clinging to the fur on the bison's massive brow.)
Aang: (ardently) I missed you more than you'll ever know, buddy.
(Momo alights next to Aang, also hugging Appa. Appa licks a laughing Aang off of his face with his huge tongue. Pulling back, we see Sokka walk over to talk with Katara and Toph, who is sitting on the ground.)
Sokka: (confidently) Look, we escaped from the Dai Li, we got Appa back, I'm telling you, we should go to the Earth King now and tell him our plan. We're on a roll.
Katara: (critically) One good hour after weeks of trouble isn't much of a roll.
Sokka: We can build on it. If we want to invade the Fire Nation when the eclipse happens, we need the Earth King's support.
(Aang continues petting Appa in the background.)
Toph: What makes you think we'll get it? I don't know if you've noticed, but things don't usually go that smoothly for our little gang.
Sokka: I know, but I've got a good feeling about this. This time will be different.
Katara: (unconvinced) Sokka, Long Feng is control of the city. His conspiracy with the Dai Li is too powerful. I think we should just keep flying and leave this horrible place behind us.
Toph: I'm with sweetness. I've seen enough of Ba Sing Se, (raises arms and opens eyes wide) and I can't even see!
Aang: (leaping into the scene) But now that we have Appa back, there is nothing stopping us from telling the Earth King the truth about the conspiracy and the war.
Sokka: See, Aang's with me. (puts arm over smiling Aang's shoulder, flashing a wide grin) It's the whole reason we came here in the first place, we have to try.
Katara: (thoughtfully) Well, I guess if the Earth King knew the truth, things could change. (both boys smile again)
Toph: (rising to feet) I don't trust the new positive Sokka. (points accusingly) Long Feng brainwashed you, didn't he!
(Aang suddenly notices something off to his left. He rushes to the edge of the water, and we see that he has spied three Earth Kingdom ships off in the distance. Katara and Sokka rush up beside him.)
Sokka: That's probably the Dai Li searching for us. (turns to Katara) So?
Katara: (pauses, then decisively) Let's fly!
(Cut to Appa, soaring toward the palace of Ba Sing Se. He roars defiantly as he turns to start his descent. The heroes are clinging to the fur on his back, with Aang riding on his neck. Toph in particular is holding on for dear life.)
Toph: (pleading) Can we please buy a new saddle? Riding bareback is terrifying! (buries face in Appa's back)
(In another shot, we see Appa descending toward the distant palace, a massive complex at the center of the city, surrounded by a circular wall.)
Sokka: There it is. That whole thing is the palace. The Earth King's chambers should be in the center. (another shot of the palace, and the vast open plaza in front)
Katara: We have to be careful. Long Feng's probably warned the King that we're coming.
Sokka: Why would you assume that? If you ask me, I think we're just gonna sail right in....Ahhh!
(Appa evades a massive stone that streaks up and past them, leaving a billowing trail of dust behind it. The sky-bison emerges from the smoke cloud with a growl of defiance.)
Toph: (shouting over the wind) What was that?!
Sokka: (shouting in alarm) Surface to air rocks! (below, several rows of massive, puck-shaped boulders are being launched skyward by teams of earthbending troops) More incoming! Ahhh!
(Appa manages to evade several more of the streaking missiles, which are being shot in rapid succession. Two earthbenders lift the Appa-sized stones from the ground, and two more rush forward to send one hurtling toward the heroes. Aang stares steadily ahead at the palace as the fly over the launch sites. One of the massive stones arcs directly at him, but he backhands it casually, shattering it without even glancing away. Appa emerges from the dust once more as more projectiles streak towards him. Aang splits a boulder with a strike of his staff, sending either half safely to the side.
Below, an earth kingdom commander, mounted upon an armored ostrich-horse, signals to the scores of earthbenders arrayed behind him on the central causeway. Appa continues to plunge toward the palace, with Aang perched on his left horn. The Avatar leaps downward to land directly in front of the commander. Striking the ground with the full force of his descent, Aang earthbends a cascading ring of rising stone blocks, which spread outward like a shockwave. The earthbender troops are flung into the air like rag-dolls, to drop insensible to the plaza surface. Appa lands directly in front of the mounted commander, and bringing his huge face close, knocks him off his mount with a mighty roar. The ostrich horse flees in panic, and the commander crawls away.
Aang stride forward with an intense glare, as behind him the others leap to dismount from Appa's back. Everyone dashes together toward the palace stairs along the block-paved causeway. Ahead, more earthbenders line either side of their path. Acting in unison, each bends up a head-sized block of stone, and punches it at the heroes. Aang swipes some of them from the air, while Toph pushes up projections of stone to block others. Twirling his staff around his body, the Avatar causes the large stone blocks of the causeway to rotate, shielding them from yet more of the attacks. Meanwhile, Katara is stunning the men with vicious cracks of her long water whip.)
Katara: Sorry! (winces at the soldiers cries of pain)
(Yet another group of earthbenders rush down the causeway toward them. With a single earthbending move, Toph flips the causeway up like so many dominoes, then topples them backwards. The soldiers are pinned helplessly at the waist by the large sheets of stone. Katara addresses them as she rushes past.)
Katara: Sorry! We just need to get through to see the Earth King.
(From a high view, we see the heroes approaching a moat at the foot of the wide stairs. More earthbender troops wait up the first flight of stairs, and dozens more approach from either flank. With a tremendous effort, the benders on the stairs lift a pair of enormous badger-mole statues. They hurl them from atop the stairs to plunge down at the heroes. Sokka looks up in horror as the statue's shadow falls over him. Toph and Aang quickly bend up a massive barrier of stone blocks over everyone, and the two statues ricochet off it with ground-shaking crash.
Emerging from behind the barrier, Katara dashes forward, drawing her water once more from her reserve. She crafts a narrow arcing ramp on the edge of the moat ahead of her. She uses it to launch herself up and over the moat, simultaneously drawing a tendril of water from below her. She twirls in the air, imparting a spin to the long strand orbiting her. Landing gracefully, she slaps them into the moat, tumbles and lands in a defensive stance. Spotting another group of soldiers, she sends out a tentacle of water to snatch them into the moat as well.
Aang leaps across the moat, and with a frigid gust of wind he freezes the surface of the water, trapping the guardsmen. Appa and the others make their way across the bridge behind him. The heroes regroup on the other side of the moat, as more rocks rain down from atop the towering main palace stair. Yet another wave of warriors pours forth from the palace, racing down the stairs to join the battle. With a mighty expression of earthbending power, Toph causes the entire length of the great stair to begin folding in on itself, leaving a smooth stone ramp. The earth guard begin to slide helplessly downward, as Toph and Aang bend an elevator platform of stone and begin ascending the ramp. Dozen of soldiers fall past them as they rise.)
Sokka: Seriously, we're actually on your guys' side. (soldiers continue to slide past) Sorry.
(As the earthbending elevator reaches the top of the stairs, another dozen earthguards close in from either flank. Toph and Aang each bend up a wall of stone, and use them to drive back the approaching warriors. Finally, the team reaches the entrance to the palace proper, and hurry inside.)
Sokka: In there.
(Rushing down a long hall, they come to a four-way intersection in a large vaulted room. More guards issue from the other three passageways. With a stomp of her foot, Toph pins several of the to the ceiling with up-thrust pillars of rock. As she continues to wield her powers against them, Sokka addresses her.)
Sokka: Toph, which way to the Earth King?
Toph: How should I know? I'm still voting that we leave Ba Sing Se.
(As she finishes speaking, Toph drives two guards back with a rippling wave of stone. As the other continue the fight, Sokka starts pushing open doors. Inside the third room, a woman in an elegant dress is standing before a long mirror.)
Woman in the Palace: (screaming) Burglar! (tries to run, trips and falls on her face)
Sokka: (closing door behind him) Sorry, wrong door.
(The scene changes to the exterior of the apartment buildings where Zuko and Iroh stay. Looking through their window, we see a downtrodden Zuko enter the apartment, followed by a pleased-looking Iroh.)
Iroh: You did the right thing, letting the Avatar's bison go free. (closes door behind him)
Zuko: (feebly) I don't feel right.
(From Zuko's point of view, we see his vision begin to blur and grow dark. He suddenly collapses unconscious to the floor, breaking a vase in the process.)
Iroh: (alarmed) Zuko! (rushes to his nephews side)
(Returning to the Earth King's palace, we find the heroes standing in a vast hall. Behind them the passage is choked with rubble and wreckage. Turning, Sokka climbs atop the debris to look past it. Down the passageway he spies a massive set of double doors, clad in gold.)
Sokka: Now that's an impressive door. It's gotta go somewhere.
(Leaping down and sprinting down the hall, Sokka launches a flying kick at the colossal doors. His foot impacts with absolutely no effect, and he hangs in the air a moment before dropping comically to the floor. He jumps up and begins pushing ineffectually at them, just as Toph and Aang close in behind him. They strike the doors with their bending powers, causing them to explode off their hinges. With a startled cry, Sokka is flung inward with the doors, and skids to a stop on his face.)
Sokka: A little warning next time! (rubs the back of his head as he rises)
(The heroes rush past the fallen doors into a vast chamber lined with ornate pillars and lit by hanging lanterns. The draw to a stop before a large dais, weapons at the ready. Seated upon a golden throne is the Earth King himself. He is a bespectacled young man wearing a simple crown and necklace of jade beads. Long Feng suddenly interposes himself in front of the king, followed by a protective line of Dai Li agents. Both sides seem prepared to join battle.)
Aang: (urgently) We need to talk to you!
Long Feng: (turning to the king) They're here to overthrow you.
Sokka: No, we're on your side. We're here to help.
Katara: (appealing) You have to trust us.
Earth King: (rising with an aggravated tone) You invade my palace, lay waste to all my guards, break down my fancy door, and you expect me to trust you?
Toph: (sardonically) He has a good point.
Earth King: If you're own my side, then drop your weapons and stand down. (one by one, the heroes drop their weapons to the floor)
Aang: (attempting charm) See, we're friends, your Earthiness.
(The King, unimpressed, continues to frown grimly. With a wave of his arm, Long Feng signals for the Dai Li to attack. They project their stone gloves at the startled heroes, binding their arms behind their backs. As Aang strains against his bonds, Long Feng smiles wickedly, and the scene fades to black.)
The scene reopens to a shot of the elaborate dais, showing the five Dai Li standing ready before Long Feng and the Earth King.)
Long Feng: Detain the assailants. (the Dai Li skate forward to take up positions behind the heroes)
Sokka: (confused) But we dropped our weapons. We're your allies.
Long Feng: Make sure the Avatar and his friends never see daylight again.
Earth King: (surprised) The Avatar? You're the Avatar? (points at Sokka)
Sokka: Uh, no, him. (nods his head toward Aang)
Aang: Over here. (effortlessly escaping his bonds, Aang raises up his arms, then allows them to be bound behind him again)
Long Feng: What does it matter Your Highness? They're enemies of the state.
Earth King: (uncertainly) Perhaps you're right.
(The Earth King's pet bear walks up to Aang, sniffs and then licks his face, causing Aang to giggle.)
Earth King: (amused) Though Bosco seems to like him. (turns serious) I'll hear what he has to say.
(Long Feng's eyes narrow with displeasure.)
Aang: (approaching the throne) Well, sir, there is a war going on right now. For the past 100 years, in fact. The Dai Li's kept it secret from you. It's a conspiracy to control the city, and to control you.
Earth King: (dismayed) A secret war? That's crazy!
Long Feng: (derisively) Completely!
Aang: (accusingly) Long Feng didn't want us to tell you, so he stole our Sky Bison to blackmail us. And blackmail is the least of his crimes, he brain washed our friend!
Long Feng: (turning to the King) All lies. I've never even seen a Sky Bison, Your Majesty. (looks aside) Frankly, I thought they were extinct.
Earth King: (sits back on his throne, skeptical) Your claim is difficult to believe, even from an Avatar.
Long Feng: (whispering conspiratorially) These hooligans are part of an anarchist cell that my agents have been tracking for weeks. If you listen to them, you're playing right into your own destruction.
Earth King: (resigned) I have to trust my advisor.
(Aang looks distraught as one of the Dai Li steps forward for him. As they are being led from the throne room, Sokka suddenly turns with a look of inspiration.)
Sokka: Wait, I can prove he's lying. Long Feng said he's never seen a Sky Bison, ask him to lift his robe.
Long Feng: (appalled) What?! I am not disrobing!
(The Earth King looks thoughtful again. Aang and Sokka smile and nod knowingly at each other. The Avatar draws in a mighty breath of air, and blows a powerful gust of wind at Long Feng, blowing up his minister's robes. The toothmark bruise he received from Appa can be clearly seen on his left leg.)
Aang: Right there! Appa bit him.
Sokka: (smugly) Never met a Sky Bison , huh?
Long Feng: (pushing down his robes, feigning embarrassment) That happens to be a large birthmark. Thanks for showing everyone.
Earth King: Well, I suppose there's no way to prove where those marks came from.
Sokka: Of course there is!
(The scene changes to show Appa standing behind the heroes in the throne room. Appa gapes open his huge mouth. Aang points to one of his large teeth, then slides over to point at the matching bruise on the minister's leg.)
Earth King: (convinced) Yup, that pretty much proves it. (Aang slides out of the scene comically)
Gang: (pumping arms in the air) Yeah! Woo!
Earth King: But it doesn't prove this crazy conspiracy theory.
Gang: (slumping in disappointment) Awww.
Earth King: Though, I suppose this matter is worth looking into.
Gang: (gesturing uncertainly) Uh, ok, we'll take it. Yeah.
(A apprehensive looking Long Feng exits the throne room, followed by his Dai Li agents.
The scene changes to show a feverish Zuko, tossing and moaning on his futon in the apartment. Iroh is kneeling next to him, and reaches to take a cloth from a tub of water.)
Iroh: You're burning up. You have an intense fever. (places cloth over Zuko's brow) This will help cool you down.
Zuko: (feebly) So thirsty. (tries to sit up, but is pushed back down by Iroh)
Iroh: Here's some clean water to drink. (ladles water from another bucket, and supports Zuko's shoulders while he drinks) Stay under the blankets, and sweat this out.
(Zuko snatches the ladle from him and drains it completely. He tosses it away, turns and grabs up the bucket, pouring it down his throat and splashing his chest. He hurls it against a wall before settling back down, coughing.
We cut to see the Ba Sing Se train passing over the city on its raised track. Inside, the passengers wear stunned expressions. Everyone is staring at the Earth King, who stands in the center of the car, flanked by four of his guardsmen.)
Earth King: (uncomfortably) So, this is what a train is like? I didn't realize it would be this... public. (we can now see the rows of passengers seated to either side of him)
Katara: (astonished) So you've never been outside the upper ring before?
Earth King: I've never been outside of the palace. (points out a window) Now that's the way to travel. (Appa is flying alongside the train, Momo riding on his head) So, may I ask where we're going?
Sokka: Underneath Lake Laogai, Your Kingliness. To the Dai Li's secret headquarters. You're about to see where all the brainwashing and conspiring took place.
(Cut to the shores of Lake Laogai. The heroes stand on the shore beside the Earth King and his guards. Toph steps to the edge of the water, and with a hop, attempts to raise the causeway that leads to the underground passage. However, only broken rubble rises to the surface.)
Toph: It's gone!
Sokka: (raises hands to his face in dismay) Oh, don't tell me.. (slumps, then recovers and flashes a thumbs-up) That's ok, still got my positive attitude.
Katara: The Dai Li must have known we were coming and destroyed the evidence.
Earth King: (frowning suspiciously) Hmm. That seems awfully convenient.
Sokka: Hey, if anything, this proves the conspiracy exists even more.
Earth King: (dissatisfied) Long Feng was right, this was a waste of time. If you'll excuse me, I'm going back to the palace. (turns to leave with his guards)
Katara: (suddenly inspired) The wall! They'll never be able to cover that up in time!
Aang: Oh yeah. (Aaag vaults upward, to land in front of the departing King) If you come with us to the outer wall, we can prove to you that the secret war is real!
Earth King (annoyed) No Earth King has ever been to the outer wall. I don't have anymore time for this nonsense. (brushes past a sad Aang)
Sokka: (rushing up) If you come with us, this time you can ride on Appa.
(The Earth King pauses as Appa lows in the background. A pleased smile grows on his face. Cut to show him screaming in fright, his clothes flapping in the wind. He is clinging to the back of the flying air-bison.)
Earth King: Ahhhh!
Toph: (irreverently) First time flying?
Earth King: (breathlessly) Its both thrilling and terrifying.
Toph: Yeah, I hate it too.
Earth King: I have to be honest with you. Part of me really hopes that what you are telling me about this war...isn't true.
Aang: (under his breath) I wish it wasn't.
(From a high aerial view, we see Appa soaring over the patchwork fields that lie between the city and the outer wall. Then the scene changes to the interior of the apartment, where Iroh sits near a sleeping Zuko. He mops the feverish Zuko's brow with a damp cloth as the prince continues to moan and toss. As we draw closer to Zuko's face, everything goes white briefly and we share his fever-dream.
In his dreams, a figure kneels upon the Firelord's throne-mat, behind a screen of golden flames. Rows of fire nation soldiers genuflect towards the throne, and we see that they bow towards Zuko. Clad in the raiment and crown of the Firelord, his serene face is without scar or blemish. As he sits impassively, two sinuous dragons, one blue and one red, slither down nearby pillars to address him.)
Blue Dragon: (in Azula's voice) It's getting late. Are you planning to retire soon, my Lord?
Zuko: I'm not tired.
Blue Dragon: (drawing close to his face) Relax, Fire Lord Zuko. Just let go, give into it. Shut your eyes for awhile.
Red Dragon: (in Iroh's insistent voice) No, Fire Lord Zuko! Do not listen to the Blue Dragon. You should get out of here right now. Go! Before it's too late! (both dragons are poised to either side of Zuko)
Blue Dragon: Sleep now, Fire Lord Zuko.
(Both dragons disappear. The throne room is swallowed by inky blackness, and the four pillars crumble and fall into the void. As the room falls dark, the soldier's armor collapses to the floor, empty. Zuko searches the darkness, eyes wide with distress. Two golden eyes appear, then the face of the Blue Dragon, which closes rapidly.)
Blue Dragon: (in a rising voice) Sleep, just Like MOTHER!!
(The dragons jaws gape wide, swallowing Zuko in complete darkness. Within that darkness we draw closer to the figure of Ursa, who drops her hood as we draw closer.)
Ursa: (plaintively) Zuko, help me!
(We see Zuko's distraught face reflected in her eyes, as we seem to fall into them. Firelord Zuko is kneeling once more on the throne-mat in a sea of blackness, and a hole seems to open up beneath him, swallowing everything. Returning to the apartment, we see that the prince's face is looked in a feverish grimace.
Cut to show Appa carrying everyone to the top of the outer wall. As they pass atop it, Aang points down excitedly.)
Aang: It's still there!
Earth King: (in wonderment) What is that?
Sokka: It's a drill. A giant drill made by the Fire Nation, to break through your walls.
(As Sokka speaks, we see the Drill far below them, still partially imbedded in the great wall. It sits in a lake of slurry and is enclosed by a recently erected perimeter of stone wall. The Earth King wears a stunned expression. Now atop the great wall, the Earth King gazes down at the massive machine penetrating the outer defenses.)
Earth King: (shaken) I can't believe I never knew. (he looks to his right as Long Feng arrives on a stone elevator, flanked by two of his agents)
Long Feng: (reasonably) I can explain this, Your Majesty. (approaches) This is nothing more than... a construction project. (gestures down at the Drill)
Katara: (sarcastically) Really Then perhaps you can explain why there's a Fire Nation insignia on your construction project. (gestures toward the drill, which bears the symbol clearly upon its back)
Long Feng: (lamely) Well, it's imported of course. You know you can't trust domestic machinery. (smiles weakly, everyone stares at him) Surely you don't believe these children, instead of your most loyal attendant?!
(The Earth King, clearly in shock, looks first to the heroes then over to Long Feng, who wears an unreadable expression.)
Earth King: (firmly) Dai Li, arrest Long Feng. I want him to stand trial for crimes against the Earth Kingdom.
(Long Feng's expression changes to one of alarm. The heroes look surprised at this sudden victory. The two Dai Li agents exchange glances, and then snare Long Feng's wrists in their chain-manacles. They pull him backwards, securing his arms behind him.)
Long Feng: (outraged) You can't arrest me. You all need me more than you know! (is drug away by the agents)
Sokka: (shouting after him mockingly) Looks like Long Feng is "long gone"! Ha...Oh, yeah, I've been waitin' to use that one. (rubs a tear from one of his eyes)
(Scene fades to black for commercial break.)
(The show returns to a night-time view of the palace, then inside the Earth Kings throne room. The four heroes are lined before the base of the dais. The King is seated on his throne, his pet bear sitting at his feet.)
Earth King: I want to thank you, young heroes for opening my eyes. All this time, what I thought was a great metropolis, was merely a city of fools, and that makes me the king fool. (buries his face in one of his hands) We're at war, with the Fire Nation.
Sokka: (stepping forward) That's why we came to Ba Sing Se, Your Highness. Because we think you can help us end the war. (Momo perches on the King's shoulder)
Aang: (earnestly) We don't have much time. There's a comet coming this summer. Its energy will give the fire benders unbelievable strength. They'll be unstoppable. (Momo hops to sit atop Bosco, as the Earth King leans forward intently)
Sokka: But there is hope. Before the comet comes, we have a window of opportunity. A solar eclipse is coming. The sun will be entirely blocked out by the moon, and the fire benders will be helpless.
Earth King: What are you suggesting, Sokka?
Sokka: (decisively) That's the day we need to invade the Fire Nation. The Day of Black Sun.
Earth King: (apprehensively) I don't know. That would require moving troops out of Ba Sing Se. We'd be completely vulnerable.
Sokka: You're already vulnerable. The Fire Nation won't stop until Ba Sing Se falls. You can either sit back and wait for that to happen, or take the offensive, and give yourself a fighting chance. (everyone waits anxiously as the King considers his options)
Earth King: Very well. You have my support.
Gang: (drawing together) Woo! Alright! Good work team! (Sokka, Toph and Katara hug, as Aang circles them on an air scooter)
General How: (entering the throne room) Your Majesty. I apologize for the interruption. (he walks up next to the heroes, at the base of the dais, and drops to his hands and knees)
Earth King: This is General How, he's the leader of The Council of Five. My highest- ranking generals.
General How: (lifting his forehead from the floor) We searched Long Feng's office. I think we found something that will interest everybody. (the heroes look to each other)
(Cut to show a guardsman carrying a small ornate chest. General How, the Earth King and the heroes are gathered around a desk in Long Feng's private study. The guardsman slides the box across the desk to the Earth King, then departs.)
General How: There are secret files on everyone in Ba Sing Se. Including you kids. (the King opens the chest)
Aang: Secret files?
Earth King: (reading the address on a rolled up scroll) Toph Bei Fong. (the scroll is handed across to Toph, who hands it to Katara)
Katara: (unrolling and reading) It's a letter from your mom. You mom's here in the city, and she wants to see you. (Toph's face lights up in surprise)
Toph: (disgusted) Long Feng intercepted our letters from home? That's just sad.
Earth King: (handing another to the Avatar) Aang.
General How: This scroll was attached to the horn of your bison when the Dai Li captured it.
Aang: (reading) It's from the Eastern Air Temple.
Katara: (hopefully) Is there a letter for me and Sokka by any chance?
Earth King: I'm afraid not.
Sokka: (both siblings exchange sorrowful looks) Oh.
General How: But there is an intelligence report that might interest you. (hands another scroll to Katara)
Katara: (reading) A small fleet of water tribe ships...
Sokka: (eagerly) What? That could be Dad.
Katara: (in rising excitement) Protecting the mouth of Chameleon Bay, led by Hakoda. It is Dad!
(Cut to the night-time exterior of the apartments. Inside, Iroh is pouring hot tea into a stoneware cup.)
Iroh: You should know this is not a natural sickness. But that shouldn't stop you from enjoying tea. (supports Zuko's head as he drinks)
Zuko: (disorientated) What? What's happening?
Iroh: You're critical decision, what you did beneath that lake...it was in such conflict with your image of yourself, that you are now at war within your own mind and body. (Zuko takes a second sip of the tea)
Zuko: What's that mean (collapses in a fit of coughing)
Iroh: You're going through a metamorphosis, my nephew. It will not be a pleasant experience, but when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful Prince you were always meant to be. (mops Zuko's forehead with the damp cloth, as the camera draws back from their window)
(Aang, Sokka, Toph and Katara sit in a circle on a rug inside Long Feng's office.)
Aang: (reading his scroll) I can't believe it. There's a man living at the Eastern Air Temple. He says he's a Guru. (Momo seems to study the scroll beside him)
Sokka: What's a Guru? Some kind of poisonous blowfish? (scratches the back of his head)
Aang: (eagerly) No, a spiritual expert. He wants to help me take the next step in the Avatar journey. He says he can teach me to control the Avatar State.
Katara: (happily) And I can't believe we know where our Dad is now. (holds the report)
Toph: (reassured) I know what you mean. My Mom's in the city, and from her letter it sounds like she finally understands me.
Sokka: This is all such big news. Where do we even start?
Katara: I hate to say it, but...we have to split up.
Aang: (distraught) Split up? We just found Appa and got the family back together. Now you want us to separate?
Katara: (firmly) You have to meet this Guru, Aang. If we're gonna invade the Fire Nation, you need to be ready.
Aang: (smiling) Well, if I'm going to the Eastern Air Temple. Appa and I can drop you at Chameleon Bay to see your Dad.
Sokka: (resigned) Someone has to stay here with the Earth King and help him plan for the invasion. I guess that's me? (rises to his feet with a glum expression)
Katara: (rises) No Sokka, I know how badly you want to help Dad. You go to Chameleon Bay, I'll stay here with the king.
Sokka: (tears welling in his eyes) You are...the nicest... sister...ever. (does a strange little happy dance, throws his arms around her and kisses her cheek)
Katara: (pushes him back) Easy there, big brother. (pleased) Though you're right, I am.
(Cut to the next morning, the plaza at the foot of the palace. The Earth King is descending the great stair, to where the heroes are gathered around Appa. Katara is pressing affectionately against Appa's flank. Aang looks hesitant, then turns to speak to her.)
Aang: (softly) Katara, I need to tell you something. I've been wanting to say it for a long time. (blushes and looks down)
Katara: (curiously) What is it Aang?
Aang: (hesitantly, still blushing) Katara, I...
Sokka: (abruptly interrupts, throwing Aang in a headlock) Alright! Who's ready to get going on our little men-only man trip (gives Aang a head-noogie, as Katara wears a incredulous expression)
Earth King: (approaching) Aang and Sokka, I wish you good journey. (they wheel about, Aang still in the headlock) Ba Sing Se owes you its thanks, and we look forward to your return. (Sokka releases him, and all three of them bow respectfully to the King)
Guard: Your Majesty. There are three female warriors here to see you, they're from the island of Kyoshi.
Sokka: (shocked) That's Suki!! (freezing while climbing Appa's side, he slips and falls to the stone plaza, sits up, and begins rubbing his sore back)
Earth King: You know these warriors?
Sokka: ( rising, speaking confidently) Oh yeah. The Kyoshi warriors are a skilled group of fighters, trust worthy too. They're good friends of ours.
Earth King: (satisfied) Then we shall welcome them as honored guests.
Katara: (turning to the departing Avatar) Wait, Aang.
(She throws her arms around him, much to his surprise. She kisses his cheek, causing Aang to blush furiously.)
Toph: (quietly) I'm really gonna miss you guys.
Katara: Me too.
(Katara and Aang throw their arms around her lovingly, while Sokka stands apart, arms folded. He peeks up just in as they swarm him around him, catching him in a group hug.)
Sokka: (embarrassed)Ahhh! Great! That's enough! Ok, we love each other. (pats Katara and Aang's head) Seriously.
(Appa soars away from the palace, bearing Sokka and Aang. We cut to show Zuko sleeping inside his apartment. Rising wearily, he leaves bed walking past the sleeping Iroh. He slides open a door into a small washroom, and splashes water from a basin over his face. He looks up into the mirror. The prince is startled to see his reflection mimics that of the Avatar. It is without his scar, completely bald, and bears the blue arrow tattoo. With a cry, he suddenly starts from his sleep.)
Zuko: Ahhhh! (sitting up in a jolt, he breathes heavily, eyes wide)
(Zuko places his fingers around his left eye. He closes them as he realizes his still bears his terribly scar.
Cut to the skies over the barrens, as Appa flies among the low clouds. Aang sits on his neck as Sokka reclines comfortably on Appa's back.)
Sokka: (smugly) You see Aang, a little positive thinking works wonders. We got the King on our side, we got Long Feng arrested, and when we get back, Suki's waiting for me.
Aang: (love-struck) Yeah, girls are waiting for us. Thanks "positive attitude".
Sokka: (cheerfully) Everything's gonna work out perfectly, from now on and forever. (Aang turns and shares his smile)
(Cut to the gloom of the Earth Kingdom prison, the walls and cell doors clad in steel. Inside one of the cells, Long Feng sits dejectedly. The face of a Dai Li agent appears at the barred window of the cell door, and a tray of food is slid through the gap beneath it.)
Dai Li Agent: Dinner. (in a low voice) The Council of Five and the military are loyal to the Earth King, but the Dai Li remains loyal to you, Long Feng, sir. (walks away)
(Long Feng looks up from his food to smile eagerly, then takes a satisfied bite from a large rice ball, his eyes brimming with cunning.
Cut to a beautiful house in the upper ring of Ba Sing Se. Toph hesitates at the front door, takes a deep breath and exhales nervously. Stepping up to the door, she raps lightly on it, and the unlocked door opens slightly. She steeps into the unlit room, which is bare of furnishings.)
Toph: Hello? Mom? Anyone home?
(She walks into the center of the large empty room with a look of confusion, which is replaced by one of suspicion. She readies herself for trouble just as a large steel trap descends from the ceiling. She gives a shriek of surprise as it snaps her up, enclosing her in a metal box)
Toph: (frightened) Hey! Who do you think you're dealing with?! (outside, two figures drop down from above)
Xin Fu: One loud mouth little brat who strayed too far from home. (Xin Fu and Master Yu stride out of the shadows toward the trap)
(Cut to an exterior view of the Earth King's palace, panning down to show two lines of soldiers creating a path towards a platform. Three Kyoshi warriors walk past the troops toward the Earth King. As they approach him he begins to address them.)
Earth King: (formally) In our hour of need, it is with the highest honor that I welcome our esteemed allies, the Kyoshi warriors.
(All three drop to hands and knees, pressing their heads to the ground. When he finishes, they raise their heads, and we can see that "Suki" is none other than Azula in disguise. She is flanked by Ty Lee and Mai, similarly dressed in the garb of the Kyoshi warriors.)
Azula: (her voice is steady, her eyes cool and deadly) We are the Earth King's humble servants.
(Fade to white.)
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