@te-al-latte this is what happens when you goad me with amazing art okay, i am blameless
Zuko is a prince from a country far to the west, who was banished from his home after being cursed by an angry spirit that threatened his people. He stood up to the spirit and got an angry mark on his face where the spirit touched him as he tried to stop its rampage. He managed to drive the spirit away, but was unable to stop it entirely. The elders of his people told him the spirit fled east, toward the vast expanse of the Earth Kingdom. He decides to follow it and stop any more destruction it might cause; he has nowhere else to go. He cannot stay, cursed as he is. His journey takes him to Makapu Village, where a firebending woman named Aunt Wu has rallied the people into making the most of the rich resources the volcano overlooking the town provides. She meets with him, sees his cursed face. He tells her he has been spirit-touched, that an angry spirit attacked his home and cursed him, and he had followed it all this way. She tells him when she first arrived to this village, the people here were appeasing the spirit of the volcano so that it would not destroy their village. She liberated them from that burden, she tells Zuko, by casting the spirit out with her riflemen so that the villagers could improve their lives with all the resources the volcano provides. It turned out that the land around the volcano was rich with akome ironsand, and Aunt Wu had the villagers work on clearing out the forest to collect more iron to smelt and sell. The only problems are the less powerful spirits of the surrounding forest, who have a strong ally in a young waterbending girl. This girl has been trying to sabotage the work Aunt Wu has set up, and rally the rest of the minor spirits of the forest to fight back against Makapu Village.
~5638 words; inspired by this amazing fanart
“She’s coming again!” someone shouted from the eastern lookout tower. “Everyone get ready!”
There was a sudden flurry of activity throughout the dirt streets of the village. People grabbed whatever was handy—pitchforks, spears, hoes, anything—and ran toward the open square before Aunt Wu’s machiya household, all necks craned to watch the wall surrounding Makapu Village. Zuko’s scar filled with a brief warmth that had nothing to do with the furnace of the tatara forge behind him and his heart ricocheted in his chest. It wasn’t Ozai come back, was it? In the dense of the forest surrounding this area, he’d lost the trail of the spirit he’d been tracking. There were no paths of scorched earth or woods around here, and Zuko had found himself wondering if he’d come to the right place. That was before he learned what Aunt Wu had done to anger the volcano’s spirit, that had sent Ozai rampaging from here all the way to where he’d fought and been burned by the enraged spirit.
He jogged toward the square with everyone else, eyes scanning the wall. She, the villagers had shouted. Zuko sucked in a breath. It must be the waterbender Aunt Wu had talked about. The one working in league with the spirits of the forest to try and take the land back from the villagers. Unsure what he wanted to do—what he could do—Zuko ran faster, breath coming quicker as he tried to see where she was coming from.
A flash of movement caught the corner of his eye. It was someone dressed in blue, darting along the top of the wall. That had to be her. Surging into motion, Zuko sprinted through narrow alleys, heading in a straight shot toward the incoming waterbender.