Zuko stared at the sight before him, uncertain what to make of it. He'd left Iroh in charge of the ship for a few days when he'd come down with a head cold that made it painful to be out in the open air, keeping himself in his room. At his request, Cadence hadn't been allowed in to prevent her from getting sick as well. When he came out, however, the first sight that greeted him was Cadence, bound to the wall in the brig.
Her wings were bound tight to her sides with leather wrapped chains, preventing her from spreading them. Braces had been riveted to the wall and locked around all four of her hooves, affixing her spread eagled against the metal behind her. Even her tail had been locked down so it couldn't be moved. And a full helmet covered every inch of her head, shaped around her horn and muzzle, with only her eyes visible, glaring at him pugnaciously.
"Is...is this some kind of joke?" Zuko asked in confusion.
"No joke, Zuko," Iroh stated as he approached. "Cadence is grounded."
Zuko's eyes popped. "All this for grounded? Why not just lock her in her room?"
"She broke out five times," Iroh replied. "I believe she was...upset about not being allowed to tend to you in your illness."
"Just what did she do?" Zuko demanded.
Iroh sighed. "She slipped some herbs in the food, giving the entire crew explosive bowel movements," he began, counting off Cadence's crimes. "She reversed the flow of flame through the engine pipes, causing the ship to go backwards. She hid the maps we've been using to maneuver, replacing them with inverted ones so we went the wrong direction. She switched labels on the food stores, so we couldn't tell which was which. She slipped fish into the deck crew's pockets so sea birds would go after them. And ignored her grounding in her room three times before we started putting her in the brig, which she escaped twice."
Zuko's jaw had slowly lowered as he heard the list of Cadence's crimes. "All that...because she wasn't allowed to nurse me back to health?"
"We assume so," Iroh allowed. "She's refused to explain herself."
"And why such strong restraint?"
Iroh managed a chuckle. "The first time she broke out of the brig, she used her bending. So we sealed off any methods by which she could use her bending."
Zuko nodded. "I see...and the metal diaper?" he asked, pointing to the most curious of Cadence's restraints. He sniffed the air. "Also, what's that smell?" He held his nose, glad that it was still stuffed from his head cold.
Iroh nodded, glad he'd dabbed some sweet smelling oil under his own nose. "Her second escape from the brig."
Cadence's giggle was distorted through her mask. "I invented fart bending!" she called out happily.
"So that's why she's affixed to the wall instead of chained to it," Zuko murmured. "But where did you get such an idea?"
"The sailors call it 'breaking wind' for a reason, after all," Cadence pointed out logically.
Zuko couldn't help but chuckle. "Yeesh, so much effort to lock someone up when they can bend all four Elements." He blinked for a moment, and then his eyes widened. "If it's this much trouble to lock up a child with these abilities..."
"...how much more difficult will it be to contain an adult with such abilities, having mastered them over the course of a century?" Iroh finished the question, his mind having reached the same conclusion his nephew's had.
Cadence let out another giggle. "Okay, you can let me down now," she said happily. "I'm done being a bad girl."
"Wait, what?" Zuko demanded in shock.
"You mean your misbehavior wasn't about not being able to nurse Zuko back to health?" Iroh asked in shock.
"Well, the herbs in the soup were," Cadence explained. "Then while I was locked in my room, I was feeling rather petulant, and grumbling about not being allowed out of my room or to tend to Zuko, and I found myself grumbling that the crew was lucky I was so well behaved, and that I could bust out of my room at any time if I really wanted to, adding that four elements gave me all sorts of possibilities for mischief. When I said that, I realized that the Avatar also can bend all four Elements, and likely far more efficiently than I can, since he's probably mastered them all.
"And if you can't keep me contained, what hope do we have of containing the Avatar?"
Zuko nodded as he took this all in. "A valid point. I'll get the crew to make up another cell like this, with restraints sized to an adult human. That way we'll have somewhere to lock the Avatar up once we have him." He paused as he started to walk away. "Or her. The Avatar has been female in the past. We only know for a fact that the Avatar was born to the Air Nomads."
"The Fire Sages did inform us that the Avatar was male, Zuko," Iroh corrected him.
"Are we sure they'd know?" Zuko asked.
"Why not just look for anyone old with arrow tattoos?" Cadence asked. "That's pretty distinctive."
Nodding, Zuko continued his march out to get the crew's assistance in refurbishing one of the cells in the brig.
Iroh turned back to Cadence. "Why didn't you tell me about this thought?"
"Because you weren't talking to me until my grounding was up," Cadence pointed out logically.
Iroh lowered his head. "That is true-"
"Besides, I'm the only one who could test if these bindings would actually work as designed," she added. "Would you have bound me so tight unless you were genuinely trying to keep me contained?"
Iroh couldn't help but chuckle. "Also true."
"So does this mean I can get down now?" she asked eagerly.
Iroh scratched his chin for a time. "...no," he said at last, turning to leave. "You still have eight more hours of grounding to sit through."
Cadence stared after Iroh in disbelief as he walked away, then hung her head. "This stinks..." she grumbled into the helm.