Heart of the Dragon General

General Iroh. Fire Nation hero. First born son of Fire Lord Azulan. The Dragon of the West. It was thought he would be the greatest warrior in the history of the Fire Nation.
But all that changed when the war claimed his son's life. This changed him, and he turned his back on the war.
This was a necessary event. Iroh had a role to play in bringing balance back to the world...but to play that role, he first had to be broken down, so that he could be rebuilt. This truth was self evident in the spirit realm.
But one particular spirit felt this was unfair to Iroh. The wheels of fate are cruel to those caught in the gears, but this particular spirit felt that Iroh deserved kindness. And so this spirit sent Iroh one who would help him to rebuild himself.
And so, shortly after his son's funeral, Iroh would find a creature sent by the spirits, the likes of which he never would have imagined...a pretty pink pony princess.
Somepony to love...and be loved by.


42. First Steps on Unknown Ground

Kuei sat nervously upon his throne, Bosco to one side of him, Avatar Aang and his friends to the other.  His nervousness was threefold.  On one side, he had just barely pulled through an attempted coup and takeover attempt by the Fire Nation and his own protectors.  On another side, part of the force that thwarted it was Fire Nation soldiers, led by two apparently prominent Fire Nation figures who he was about to meet with.  But even with all that, he couldn't shake the feeling that in a matter of hours the entire world had turned on its head, and there was no way of knowing what would happen next.  After all, there was the matter of the giant honey-badger-mole napping on his metaphorical front lawn.  Most would see that as reason enough for nerves, right?

At least the palace functionaries who weren't Dai Li puppets certainly seemed to share his nerves.  "P-prince Zuko of the Fire Nation, G-General Iroh of the Fire Nation, and...other to see you, Your Majesty," the scribe announced, filling in for the one who usually announced guests.  He was apparently so flustered he couldn't even properly identify the third guest.

Kuei desperately hoped it wasn't the giant honey-badger-mole.  "Send them in," he proclaimed, doing his best to at least appear calm.

He looked over the group as they entered.  He was rather surprised that he recognized the two humans in the group by their uniforms.  He'd spotted 'The Jasmine Dragon' when riding Appa to the Outer Wall with Aang and his group, and had privately decided to stop there for tea on the way back if Aang's revelation hadn't played out.  "How did a Prince of the Fire Nation and one of its most famous generals end up running a tea shop in the Upper Ring of my own city?" he asked curiously.

A familiar giggle drew his attention.  "Daddy's tea's just that good!" Cadence replied happily as she stepped up.

"Oh!" Kuei gasped out, shocked.  "It's my little creature spirit friend.  So nice to meet you in the flesh."  He blinked as he processed what she said.  "I didn't know you were General Iroh's daughter," he murmured as Bosco walked up to say his own hellos.

"Well, I didn't know you were the Earth King," Cadence countered before bursting into giggles as Bosco said his hellos.  "Or that Bosco was such a kisser!"

Kuei chuckled, managing to relax a bit.  "So tell me, Your Highness," he began, turning to Zuko...after Iroh pointed him to the right face, much to Kuei's embarrassment.  "Have you come to demand my surrender?"

Zuko blinked in surprise.  "What makes you think I'd be demanding that?" he asked, confused.

"Well, your force is currently the strongest armed force in the city, and surrounding the palace," Kuei pointed out.

"It's only 100 troops-"

"And a giant honey-badger-mole," Kuei reminded him.  "In a city made almost entirely of stone."

"Oh, right," Zuko muttered.  "Forgot about Chin's friend for a bit there..."

"So you aren't demanding surrender," Aang brought up, trying to keep the discussion on point.

"That's right," Zuko replied.  "I understand you are planning an invasion of the Fire Nation on the Day of Black Sun.  I want to help."

Kuei frowned.  "That seems...a very odd offer from you."

"This war has torn the world apart, and threatens to destroy it," Zuko explained.  "It has to be stopped.  The driving force behind the war is my father, Fire Lord Ozai.  He has to be stopped.  But even though this is true...I'm still a Prince of the Fire Nation.  My first concern in all my training was the well being of my Nation, of my people.  And if I take no action here, my people will suffer greatly from your invasion...and the aftermath."

Kuei crossed his hands under his chin.  "And what, exactly, are you offering?"

"I will lead the actual invasion of the Fire Nation capitol," Zuko replied.  "I know where the palace is, and where my father would likely withdraw to if an invasion pushed too far or was too dangerous to face head on.  We will isolate my father...and when the eclipse ends, I will challenge him to an Agni Kai, for the throne of the Fire Nation."

"At which point it is your intention to work towards stabilizing a peace between the nations?" Kuei clarified.

"That's correct," Zuko promised.

Kuei sat back, lost in thought.  The offer was good...almost too good to be true.  And after the Kyoshi Warriors had turned out to be Fire Nation spies, he was a bit suspicious of such things.  He wished he had some way of knowing if Zuko's word could be trusted.

"He's telling the truth," Toph spoke up suddenly.

Kuei blinked, turning to the blind girl.  "He spoke of this to you before?" he asked, surprised.

"No, but he's standing on stone," Toph explained.  I can tell through the vibrations when someone's lying.  But he's completely calm, not a hint of deception in him."

Kuei turned to the others of the group.  "You've seen this ability in action?" he asked.

All three nodded.  "If Toph says he's not lying, then he's not," Sokka admitted grudgingly.

Kuei sighed, then nodded.  "Very well, Prince Zuko.  I accept your terms."

Zuko nodded.  "My Uncle is more of a tactician on the grand scale than I," he offered.  "His advice would be most useful in planning the assault."

"I am happy to assist my nephew in whatever way he deems necessary," Iroh added, bowing.

"Then I'll introduce you to the Council of Five," Kuei agreed, standing up.  As he turned, he paused.  "...just as soon as we get their locations out of the Dai Li..."

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