Iroh, Cadence, and Zuko calmly walked into the small mountain village together, wearing Earth kingdom colors with the hoods up so Zuko and Iroh could hide their topknots. "So...why are we here again?" Iroh asked, having only the faintest idea behind the reasons for Zuko's decision to change course. Ever since Zuko had led the mission to the Fire Temple alone, he'd begun to be more independent of Iroh and Cadence's advice, happy to divide the decision making progress. While Iroh was happy Zuko was showing such independence, it did leave him in the dark quite a bit. Zuko seemed to take a perverse pleasure in giving Iroh directives that only made sense in hindsight. ...he couldn't be more proud of his nephew.
"See the mountain?" Zuko indicated. "It erupted less than a week ago, but the village is still here. Short of powerful Earth Benders with a great deal of foresight, that means the Avatar was here when it erupted."
Looking up, Iroh noticed a very unusual rock formation around the edge of the village towards the volcano. Volcanic rock rose upward in a dome shape, ending in claw like protrusions. "I wonder what could have caused that?" Iroh inquired.
"It looks a bit like surf frozen just as it breaks against a rock," Cadence pointed out.
"Or magma cooled against a dome of air?" Zuko suggested.
Iroh stroked his chin thoughtfully as Cadence gasped in surprise. "And...we left our soldiers well outside the village, why?"
"Because we're here as investigators, not invaders," Zuko explained.
"And that's why we're in Earth colors!" Cadence proclaimed with quiet pride. "Because they're more likely to talk to strangers than enemies."
"Exactly," Zuko agreed as he led them past a large house.
The door opened practically in his face, and a young girl in a pink kimono, her brown hair done in pigtails and missing a front tooth, smiled up at them. "Prince Zuko, General Iroh, Aunt Wu's been expecting you." She gestured inside.
"So much for that," Iroh muttered as Zuko, resigned, led them inside.
As they sat down on cushions, the young girl brought them some tea and bean curd. After a time, an old woman with graying hair and wearing an unusual symbol on her forehead stepped out from the inner chamber. "General, if you would enter now?"
Seeing Zuko nod, Iroh stood and entered the inner chamber. After a time, he came back out. "Well?" Zuko asked.
"She is a fortune teller," Iroh replied. "And she gives...very unusual predictions. She did confirm that Aang and his friends were here, though."
"Unusual predictions?" Cadence inquired.
Iroh nodded, rubbing his chin as he pondered. "She said I would find true love again...in my second life."
"Your Highness?" Aunt Wu called out.
Frustrated, Zuko followed her into the inner chamber. "Which way did Aang go when he left?" he demanded intently.
"Up," Aunt Wu replied easily. "Patience, young Prince. You've been doing so well so far." She gestured to a bowl filled with bones. "Choose one," she instructed.
Zuko rolled his eyes. He didn't believe in fortune telling, but if humoring the old woman would get him more answers, he wasn't going to turn up his nose at it. Seeing a bone that caught his interest for some reason, he pulled it from the bowl.
"Now, throw it into the fire, and its cracks will tell me your future."
Sitting down, Zuko tossed the bone into the flames. To his surprise, a large crack split the bone almost immediately, and it exploded in a burst of black smoke not long after.
Aunt Wu stared into the smoke and fragments. "You need not worry overmuch about finding the Avatar," she stated calmly at last. "Your path is intertwined with his. A crossroads is coming, and the decision you make will determine the fate of the entire world."
Zuko blinked, shivering as he shook off the spell. "I don't suppose it gave you any details as far as when?"
"Your decision will be made by the last day of Spring," she replied. "And the world's fate set in stone before Summer's end."
Zuko shook off the gravity of that proclamation with difficulty. "Are you sure that's my fortune?" he asked finally. "And not my Uncle's?"
"No, that's definitely your fortune," Aunt Wu replied. "Though I admit the General's was equally surprising in its own way."
"But Uncle's the one who was sent the Spirit Creature to care for," Zuko pointed out. "He's the one with destiny on his-"
"Spirit Creature?" Aunt Wu demanded. "I saw no such being!"
Zuko stared at her for a time, then relaxed completely. "That's going to make it hard to read her fortune," he replied, the awe and fear the performance had inspired pushed aside by what Aunt Wu hadn't predicted.
At that moment, Cadence stuck her head in. "Is it my turn now?" she asked eagerly.
Aunt Wu stared at Cadence, her jaw working soundlessly.
Zuko chuckled. "If you really want to. Just throw a bone into the fire, and she'll read the cracks." He slowly stood up.
Smiling widely, Cadence seized one of the bones in her magic and tossed it into the fire. What she didn't realize was that her own magic was still clinging to the bone as it entered the fire.
The citizens of the village were startled as Aunt Wu's house was blown 50 feet into the air on a massive plume of smoke before landing back on its own foundations. However, most of them went about their business, assuming that if it was important, Aunt Wu would tell them.
The only exception was a particular produce merchant bewailing the fate of his cart and product. Aunt Wu had predicted this would be a very bad year for him, and as a fragment of bone had knocked part of the volcanic rock onto his cart, it seemed she was right.
Aunt Wu stared at Cadence as the smoke cleared. "You are not of this world," she stated bluntly. "Your presence warps the weft of the Loom of Fate, and what once was impossible is now inevitable, and what once was inevitable is now impossible. And you bring bad luck to cabbages."
Cadence tilted her head in confusion at the very oddly specific declaration after such an explosive reading. "So...what about my future love life?"
A fragment of bone spun down and stuck in the wall next to Aunt Wu's ear. Turning, she examined it. "...you haven't already found your soulmate yet," she stated after a time.
"What?" Zuko demanded in confusion.
"That's the best I've got," Aunt Wu replied. "My art's meant for humans of this world. She's neither. It's stretched to its limits as is."
Groaning, Zuko headed back to his troops and ship, writing the trip off as a waste of time.