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As the scene opens, a small wooden gong strikes a brazen bowl, producing a loud "klang". The frame zooms out, revealing the dining room of the Jasmine Dragon; Aang holds the gong, sitting facing the bowl and the Air Acolytes, who have been meditating. Behind Aang, Iroh stands in the kitchen, wiping a teapot dry. Aang cheerfully addresses the Acolytes.

Gene Luen Yang - That's the Avatarverse equivalent of a Tibetan singing bowl, often used to signal the beginning and end of meditation.

Gurihiru - Before we started work on the second part of Smoke and Shadow, we had the chance to travel to China. We took many reference photos of the architecture, and they have been a big help in drawing the world of Avatar.

Aang And with that, we end our meditation! Good job, Acolytes!
As Aang nods his head respectfully toward the departing Acolytes, Xing Ying kneels down in front of Jingbo, who has fallen asleep during the meditation. She lightly shakes him by the shoulders, rousing him.
Xing Ying Jingbo? Jingbo! Wake up!
Jingbo [Sleepily.] Wha--?
As the two stand, Aang walks up to them.
Jingbo [His head bowed in disappointment.] Sorry I fell asleep again.
Aang [Reassuringly.] Just keep practicing, Jingbo. You'll get the hang of it! [As Jingbo leaves through the wooden front doors, Aang turns to Iroh.] As always, Iroh, thank you for letting us meet here.
Iroh [Cheerfully.] Any time, Avatar! Tea and meditation go so well together!

Gene - This scene takes place in Uncle Iroh's teashop, the Jasmine Dragon, which first appeared in the episode "The Guru." I love the green dragon pattern on the rug.

Behind him, Katara and Sokka appear in the doorway, peering around the doors. As Katara speaks, Aang turns his head toward them.
Katara Hey, sweetie! You guys done?
Aang [Smiling.] Just finished!
Sokka [Gesturing over his shoulder, to where Appa is sitting in the square outside.] Perfect timing! We just got everything packed on Appa!
As Appa lets out a roar, Iroh walks from the kitchen to where the three stand.
Iroh Where are you heading!
Sokka To the South Pole! It'll be our first time back since the end of the war!
Aang We've been planning this trip ever since running into a couple of Katara's old friends at the Earthen Fire Refinery!
Katara They were right - we should've gone back sooner to help rebuild. Plus, we'll finally get to see Dad!
Aang [Excitedly.] And go penguin sledding!
Sokka [Licking his lips.] And eat some of Auntie Ashuna's seal jerky!
Katara [As they all walk toward the doors.] What? You hate Auntie Ashuna's seal jerky!
Sokka You mean I hated Auntie Ashuna's seal jerky! Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Aang Let's get moving! Weather's perfect right now! If we hurry, we can probably get to --
As Aang walks through the front entrance, a SQUAWK from overhead cuts him off, and he looks up, surprised, to see a red-and-gray messenger hawk descending toward him; on its back is tied a small scroll-holder, which bears the insignia of the Fire Nation. The bird lands on Aang's shoulder, and he removes and reads the note it carries.
Katara What is it?
Aang It's from Zuko. He needs me.
The note reads: Aang, spirits are threatening the Fire Nation. Please come help.
Katara So ... you're going to the Fire Nation, then?
Aang I think I have to. [Turning to the siblings.] Hey, why don't you guys come with me? I'm sure it won't take long!
Sokka It's Spirit World stuff. When's the last time Spirit World stuff didn't take long?
Katara And dad's expecting us. [Placing her hand on Aang's shoulder.] You go help Zuko, Aang. Take Appa so you can meet us at the South Pole after things are settled.
Aang [Hugging Katara, with a sad look on his face.] I'm sorry, Katara.
Katara Nothing to be sorry about. It just comes with dating the Avatar.
Moments later, Aang departs on Appa as Iroh, Sokka, and Katara look on. From high above the three standing in the square, Aang waves goodbye, and they all wave back, Katara somewhat less enthusiastically than Sokka. After Aang disappears, Katara and Sokka shoulder their packs and leave as well, offering their goodbyes to Iroh.
Katara [Waving.] Thanks for everything, Iroh! [Iroh waves back from the front steps of the shop.]
Sokka Come on. Let's head to the dock to find a ride home.

Gurihiru - This is the last time we see Katara and Sokka in this series. It's a bit sad, since Sokka so often brightens the atmosphere. We will be seeing them more in the next series, North and South!

Cut to some time later. Having completed the trip to the Fire Nation, Aang enters a room within the royal palace, inside which sit Mai and Kei Lo. Zuko stands next to another chair, and a tall, gray-haired man stands by the far wall.
Aang Zuko!
Zuko Avatar Aang! [Zuko walks to meet Aang and shakes his hand emphatically.] Thank you for being here, buddy.
Aang No problem.
Zuko [Turning to the others, intending to introduce Mai and Kei Lo.] You remember --
Aang [Recognizing her.] Mai!
Mai [Smiling.] Hello, Aang.
Aang Wow, this is great! Does this mean you two are back together?!
Zuko [Correcting Aang's misconception indifferently, motioning to Kei Lo.] And this is Kei Lo. Mai's boyfriend.
Kei Lo [Rising from his chair.] Hello.
Aang [Realizing his mistake, too late.] Oh, I mean -- You know, I -- What I said earlier -- by "back together" I meant, um --
Stoic as he is, Zuko seems embarrassed by Aang's fumbling with words, turning his eyes away from him.
Mai Please, keep talking. Because things aren't awkward enough already.
Aang [Giving up.] Sorry.
Zuko [Clears his throat before finishing his introductions, motioning to the tall man standing by the back wall, who walks to meet them.] And finally, Aang, meet Constable Sung. He's leading the investigation into the kidnapping.
Constable Sung [Bowing respectfully as Aang does the same.] I'm honored, Avatar.
Aang Nice to meet you, Constable -- [suddenly realizing.] -- Wait, kidnapping?!
Mai Last night, my little brother Tom-Tom was taken by a band of dark spirits.
Aang You saw them?
Mai I fought them. They were the Kemurikage.
Aang [Unaware of whom Mai is speaking.] Who?
Mai [Serious.] Dark spirits who supposedly haunt the mountains just outside my home village. I recognize them from stories my parents used to tell me.
Sung [Indicating the map of the Fire Nation on the wall.] Several reports of dark spirits sightings came in from all over Capital City, though Tom-Tom was the only abductee.
Aang Constable, were these sightings from --
Shouting from behind him cut his thought short; Ukano has struggled his way past the guard outside the doorway.
Ukano Get off me! My son's missing, and you're worried about palace protocol?
Palace Guard Apologies, Fire Lord! We asked him to wait, but --
Zuko [Extending a hand to quiet the guard.] It's all right. He's the victim's father. He ought to be informed.
Ukano [Walking toward Mai, who seems shocked by his sudden appearance.] Mai! I should've known you'd be here!
Mai Father.
Ukano [Pointing his finger at her, enraged.] This is all your fault, daughter! If Tom-Tom were still with me in our home, he would've been safe! I would've made sure of it! [Lowers his finger; more calmly.] You may hate me, but you know I'm right.
Mai has no answer for her father's accusation. Kei Lo, on the other hand, does and voices his answer with clenched fists.
Kei Lo Oh, come on! No house is safe from dark spirits!
Ukano You stay out of this, boy!
Aang [Stepping between the two, separating them.] Please, everybody! Calm down! All this arguing isn't helping us find Tom-Tom! We need to put our heads together and figure out what to do next!
Ukano I'll tell you what needs to happen next! [Pointing a finger at Zuko, who is unpleasantly surprised by the renewed outburst.] Our "Fire Lord" needs to grow a spine! Everybody knows the Spirit World begins to act up when the human world is weak!

Gurihiru - Fear can be a good thing -- paying attention to our fears can keep us safe. But when does fear cross the line? When does fear become a hindrance rather than a help? That's the question Zuko's struggling with.

Aang [Interrupting.] No! That isn't how the Spirit World works! The balance between the humans and the spirits has nothing to do with strength!
Ukano [Ignoring Aang.] Show that you're worthy, Zuko! Declare a curfew to keep your citizens safe! Then send out an elite task force to fight the dark spirits! [Zuko turns away from Ukano, his hand on his chin and his expression thoughtful.] Take down just one of them and we'll show the spirits that humans aren't to be trifled with!
Sung [Behind Ukano.] If that is your wish, Fire Lord, I'll begin gathering a task force. It may take some time, though.
Aang [Putting a hand on Zuko's shoulder; his tone imperative.] Don't do it, Zuko! A curfew would just make folks even more fearful! Plus, how's a "task force" supposed to fight spirits? You can't use normal bending! Let's first figure out exactly what happened to Tom-Tom. Then we'll know what to do next.
Mai What the Avatar says makes sense.
Having listened to Aang's and Ukano's arguments, Zuko closes his eyes to think.After a moment of silence, he opens his eyes and turns to address Aang.
Zuko Wise advice, Avatar. [To Sung.] Constable, please escort Ukano out.
Ukano [As Sung leads him from the room, he again loses his composure, beginning to rant.] I knew it! You're unworthy of the throne, Zuko! You're an imposter! Imposter! Imposter!
The repeated shouting of the word seems to trigger something in Zuko's memory; his eyes widen as he remembers. After Ukano's shouts fade, Zuko turns to Mai.
Zuko Mai, when the New Ozai Society attacked me and my family a few weeks ago ... was your father a part of that?
Mai pauses, weighing her words, before answering; her eyes avoid Zuko as she speaks, and Kei Lo, who knows the truth, stares at Mai in incredulous disbelief.
Mai Not that I know of.
Zuko Hm. I thought I recognized his voice.
Aang [As Zuko steps aside.] Mai, I need to know everything you know about the Kemurikage.
Mai I've already told you. They're just an old legend.
Zuko An old legend, huh? Then I have an idea about where to find out more. Follow me.
Zuko and Aang leave the room together, but Kei Lo and Mai stay behind. Kei Lo is still staring wide-eyed at her. Once Aang and Zuko are gone, he speaks to her.
Kei Lo Your dad ought to be arrested! Why would you lie about his involvement with the New Ozai Society?
Mai Because he's right. If I hadn't brought Tom-Tom to live with me, maybe none of this would've happened. Our house was big and boring ... but it was also safe.
Kei Lo You're not thinking clearly about this, Mai!
Mai If we find Tom-Tom --
Kei Lo You mean when we find Tom-Tom --
Mai [Continuing as if she was not interrupted.] I'm going to need my father to take care of him, and he can't do that from prison.
Mai turns and walks from the room without another word, following Zuko and Aang. A moment later, Kei Lo follows her.

The scene changes to Sung escorting Ukano from the palace. Ukano is still upset and taking his frustration out on Sung.

Ukano I don't need to be escorted like some child! I can see my own way out!
Sung Fire Lord's orders, sir. I don't mean any disrespect.
Ukano Tell me, Constable, do you have any kids?
Sung A boy, four years old. Truly, Ukano, I can't imagine what you're going through. My men and I will do everything in their power to find your son. As soon as the Fire Lord gives the word --
Ukano [Rounding on Sung.] But don't you understand?! We can't afford to wait for Zuko to find his courage before we act! Mark my words -- this is only the beginning. Dark spirits aren't to be taken lightly. As long as that coward's on the throne, you'll see. [He turns and begins walking down the hallway again.] If I were you, I'd keep a close eye on your boy.
Behind Ukano and Sung, where their corridor meets another, stand Noren, Ursa, and Kiyi. The focus of the scene switches to them.
Noren [Holding Kiyi's hand as he looks down at her.] It's well past your bedtime, Kiyi. If you're trying to stall again ...
Kiyi [Pointing down the hallway toward Ukano and Sung.] Daddy, what's that grumpy man talking about?
Noren I don't think it's any of our business.
Ursa [Kneeling down in front of Kiyi and taking her hand.] It's nothing, dear. Don't worry. There's no place safer than the royal palace.
Kiyi [Snatching her hand away and recoiling.] I was asking Daddy, not you! Let go! You're freezing!
A moment passes in silence: Noren looks down, upset by Kiyi's episode of panic, while Kiyi clings defensively to his arm. After kneeling, motionless, for a few seconds, Ursa rises to her feet, and the group continues walking down the empty hallway, with Ursa walking a short distance behind Noren and Kiyi.

The scene changes; night has fallen as Appa flies toward an expansive structure in the shadow of towering mountains. The structure is built on a square foundation, giving rise to a small number of tall pagodas. Cut to moments later as the group, having dismounted Appa, walks up the front steps of the building.

Kei Lo Whoa. What is this place?
Mai The Fire Sages Capital Temple.
Kei Lo You've been her before, Mai?
Mai [Not looking at Kei Lo.] An ex thought it'd be romantic to share a meal over the burial site of his ancestors.
Zuko [Looking over his shoulder at Mai, who avoids his gaze.] And he was right. It was romantic.
Kei Lo is left speechless by this exchange and stands motionless on the steps for a moment. Aang, sensing Kei Lo's discomfort, tries to move the conversation elsewhere.
Aang [Looking at Kei Lo, his expression overenthusiastic.] So! You guys! How about we, you know -- get going on the, uh -- whatever it is we came here to do?!
Walking through the main gate into the courtyard, they come upon a white-bearded man sweeping the ground. He turns to face them when they enter.
Zuko Great Sage Shyu!
Shyu Fire Lord! Avatar! What a pleasant surprise!

Gene - The Fire Sages Capital Temple and the Dragonbone Catacombs beneath first showed up in the episode "The Avatar and the Fire Lord." Shyu, however, wasn't in that episode. He first appeared in "Avatar Roku." Shyu was the only Fire Sage still loyal to the old ways. On Crescent Island, he helped Aang get in touch with his past life. Although we don't show it in the comics, Shyu was appointed Great Sage after the end of the war.

The three approach each other and bow respectfully.
Aang So good to see you again, Shyu!
Zuko I'm sorry it's been so long since my last visit. Things have been busy.
Shyu [As the three all raise their heads, Shyu raising a finger instructively.] You know what Fire Sage Kaja used to say -- The busier we are, the more attention we must pay to our interior life.
Zuko True, but --
Shyu My brother sages and I recently revived a couple of old practices that may be of interest to you! In fact, I'm teaching a meditation class that --
Zuko [Raising a hand to stop Shyu.] I'd love to hear more, Shyu -- I swear -- but right now, my friends and I need to get into the Dragonbone Catacombs.
Shyu [Sighs, disappointed, before speaking.] Of course.
Walking to the center of the courtyard, Shyu takes his place at the center of a large and ornate flower-like circular pattern in the stone ground. Around him, rising from the pattern at even intervals, are six small flames, one in each petal. Separating himself from the rest of the group, Aang addresses Shyu.
Aang Does the Fire Lord visit often?
Shyu [Looking over his shoulder at Aang.] Sure. Sometimes for the view -- sometimes for the dusty old scrolls in the catacombs. Never for my meditation classes.
Having thus spoken, Shyu takes up a firebending stance; clenching both his fists and raising his right fist above him, he forcefully lowers the raised fist into the floor. The small tongues of flame erupt upward, growing briefly taller than the crouched Shyu before disappearing altogether. The floor around the circle on which Shyu stands breaks into pieces, which slide outward into the floor, revealing a spiral staircase leading downward into darkness. A moment later, Zuko, holding a flame in his hand, leads Mai, Kei Lo, and Aang, also holding a flame, down the staircase.

Gene - I just loved the way the Dragonbone Catacomb opened up in "The Avatar and the Fire Lord." That's why we gave it a full page here.

The scene changes: A house stands in the frame, its lights extinguished, save for those shining through the kitchen windows closest to the frame. Cut to the interior of the kitchen, where Sung sits at a table with his wife, both of them eating a late dinner. His wife is telling him a story.
Sung's wife So he has his hand in the jar, and I hear him whisper, "I shouldn't be doing this!" But he still takes the cookie! Ha ha! I tried to be mad at him! Honestly, I tried. [She notices the vacant expression on her husband's face, which brings her story to an end.] Honey, what's wrong?

Gene - One of my kids actually did do something like this.

Gurihiru - Those two are eating udon. We always have fun thinking up meals and cooking scenes.

Sung Earlier today, I met a father whose son was taken.
Sung's wife [Shocked, she raises a hand to her mouth.] Oh no! What happened?
Sung [Deciding against elaborating.] You know what? We agreed I wouldn't bring my troubles from work -- Shhh! Do you hear that?
Having dropped his chopsticks, he has raised his finger to his lips, his eyes regarding the wall separating the kitchen from the rest of the house. An instant later, as his wife watches him in surprise, he jumps up from the table, dashing to the doorway in a panic.
Sung Footsteps, coming from Guri's room!
Sung's wife I'm sure it's nothing, honey! He probably just got up for a drink of water!
As Sung races down the hall, his skeptical wife follows him. Upon reaching the closed door to Guri's room, however, they find thick smoke billowing from underneath it. His wife gasps in horror, and Sung smashes the door down with a single kick. Awaiting them on the other side of the door are two figures in billowing cloaks and carved masks, illuminated by the moonlight shining through an open window. One of the figures holds a small boy in its arms.
Sung [Horrified.] The Kemurikage!
Sung and his wife draw knives at the same time, brandishing the blades at the figures holding their son.
Sung Release my son! Now!
Sung's wife You heard the man!

Gene - In the first draft of the script, only the dad goes into the room to fight the Kemurikage. It didn't feel right ... it didn't feel realistic. Moms fight for their kids. Always.

A moment passes in silence as the two parties eye each other motionlessly before the cloaked figure holding Guri rushes the couple.

The next few actions happen quickly: Sung, ready for the attack, swipes at the figure with his knife.

Sung Let him go!
The figure avoids the blow, deftly gliding out of the way. As his blow misses, the second figure engages Sung's wife, doing the same as the first: she swipes at it in vain as it dances around her. As the figure fills the room with smoke, she begins to cough. Sung, having missed his first strike on the figure holding his son, turns to attack again, but the figure has picked up a lantern from a dresser near Guri's bed and now throws it at Sung with a human-like hand, which wears a red bracelet on its wrist. It catches Sung square in the chest, and he lets out a groan as he drops his knife and crumples to his knees.
Sung's wife [Having seen him fall, her hand outstretched toward him.] Honey --!
As the figures, unopposed at last, move away from him, Sung, in pain, calls vainly after them as smoke suffuses the room, extending a hand toward the figures escaping with his son.
Sung [Coughs.] Come back! [Coughs.]
The couple's words are replaced by choking coughs as the smoke envelops them, but as quickly as it appeared, it begins to vanish. As they recover and open their eyes, the horrible reality of what has happened washes over them, and they regard the clearing room with eyes filled with horror and despair.
Sung No ...
The frame zooms out, revealing the couple together on the floor of their son's room. The last wisps of smoke fade away as they regard the empty bed by the window.
Sung No ...NO!
The scene changes: Deep in the catacombs, Aang, Zuko, Mai, and Kei Lo walk down an ancient corridor. Numerous large dragon skulls face outward into the hall, which itself seems to be supported by the skeletal spine and rib cage of some deceased dragon. The hall is dimly lit only by the small flames held by Aang and Zuko, as well as the numerous open-flame torches above them, built into the columns around them. While the others seems only slightly distressed by the crypt, and Zuko shows no sign of fear, Aang wears an expression of deep discomfort.
Kei Lo So this is where the Fire Lords are buried?
Zuko Yes.
Mai Reserve a place for yourself yet?
Zuko [Stopping and turning to face Mai.] What's that supposed to mean?
Mai It's just a question, Zuko.
Kei Lo [Pointing ahead of him, further down the corridor.] Is this supposed to be Fire Lord Sozin?
Zuko [As the frame shifts, revealing a metal door bearing a tall image of Sozin.] My great-grandfather, yes.
Kei Lo Looks like a crank.
Mai Crankiness runs in the family.
Aang [To Zuko, as the rest all regard the statue of Sozin.] So how's this visit gonna help us, Zuko?
Zuko [Walking down the next part of the hall, revealing a large mural stretching the length of the passage.] Look at this. This mural illustrates the history of the Fire Nation, including its myths and legends.

Gurihiru - This mural describes the history of the Fire Kingdom, but we had a hard time figuring out how these murals should look. We were inspired by the episode "The Firebending Masters."

Aang Oh, yeah! [Aang walks down the hall further, but quickly finds himself at a dead end, a metal door bearing four open-mouthed dragon's heads. As the others walk up behind him, he turns toward them.] But it all stops here!
Zuko When Sozin came to power, he ordered the rest of this corridor sealed off, as if Fire Nation history began with him.
Aang Why didn't he just have it destroyed?
Zuko He wanted access, just in case. You can still learn from the past, even if you officially deny its existence. I'm guessing we'll find a clue about the Kemurikage behind that wall.
Aang [Regarding the dragon's heads briefly before turning back to Zuko.] You know, there's something just like this in the sages' temple on Crescent Island! Zuko, if you and I send fire blasts into each of the dragons' mouths, the whole thing will open right up!
Zuko Worth a try.
The two firebenders step back from the door and take up bending stances.
Aang [To Zuko.] Ready when you are!
Zuko [To Mai and Kei Lo.] You might want to stand back.
Mai We're fine, thanks.
Extending their left arms, flames erupt from just beyond their clenched fists as Zuko and Aang firebend at the dragons on the door.

The scene changes again: At the royal palace, Suki, in Kyoshi Warriors' garb, is policing the building's exterior from a balcony, a lantern in her hand, when Ty Lee, behind her, calls to her.

Ty Lee Suki! Suki! Did y'hear?! More dark spirits are popping up all over the city! We gotta do something!
Suki Not yet. We'll wait until Zuko gets back, He and Aang are trying to figure something out.
Ty Lee But what if what happened to Mai's little brother happens to someone else?
Suki Let's just give them a little more time.
The frame zooms out; out of sight of the two Kyoshi Warriors, on the balcony above, Ursa sits at a small table, holding a cup of tea. She has overheard the exchange below her, and the words have silently petrified her; a zoom of frame shows her eyes wide with fear, a drop of sweat rolling down her face, and her hands, shaking, holding the cup of tea. Moments later, Ursa races through the maze of corridors, having abandoned her tea; opening a door, she finds Noren sitting alone on a couch.
Ursa [Frantically.] Where's Kiyi?! Why aren't you with her?!
Noren She's sleeping in the other room! [Surprised by her panic, he watches as she crosses the room hastily.] Ursa, what's wrong?
Ursa [Opening the door to Kiyi's room.] I have the worst feeling --!
Entering the room, with Noren now following, Ursa rushes to the bed and finds Kiyi asleep. Relieved, she climbs onto the bed, putting an arm over her sleeping child.
Ursa [Kissing Kiyi on the back of her neck.] Oh, you're safe ... Thank goodness you're safe ...
The scene changes once again, cutting back to Aang and Zuko, who are still firebending into the dragons' heads on the door. The door, however, has not responded in the least to their fire; they are still as closed as they ever were. Aang and Zuko stop firebending and turn to face each other, baffled.
Zuko Nothing.
Aang Huh. Maybe if we give it one more try --
Kei Lo [Moving forward and examining the dragons' heads.] You've given it, like, twenty tries already! My turn.
Aang I didn't know you could firebend, Kei Lo.
Kei Lo I can't. Mai, can you hand me four of your throwing knives? [He takes the knives from a slightly suspicious Mai and turns back to one of the dragons.] If you two had taken the time to study the dragons -- instead of just blasting away -- you would've noticed that the locking mechanisms aren't located in the dragons' mouths.
Kei Lo takes one of the knives and inserts it into the dragon's right nostril.
Aang [Unpleasantly surprised.] Wait, you're gonna pick the dragons' noses? That seems awfully disrespectful.' Not to mention gross.
Kei Lo [Ignoring Aang; his arm wrist-deep in the dragon's nose, he turns to Mai, two knives in his free hand.] Babe, can you help me out here?
Mai Sure.
Aang [Quietly, to Zuko.] "Babe"?
Zuko [Quietly, to Aang.] You're not really one to talk, Aang.

Gene - I didn't want to repeat the sequence from "Avatar Roku," so I couldn't let these doors be opened with firebending. We had to come up with something different. I also wanted to give Kei Lo a chance to flirt with Mai. I figured it would give Zuko and Mai's conversation a few pages later some more oomph.

Gurihiru - Aang seems to be having a hard time being in the middle of the love triangle between Zuko, Mai, and Kei Lo, but we had fun drawing them.

Kei Lo, meanwhile, positioned Mai between the two dragons on the right, put a knife in each of her hands, and is placing her hands within the dragons' noses.
Kei Lo Just hold this here -- and this here. [Brief close-up of Zuko's eyes; he seems to disapprove of Kei Lo's methods, or perhaps something else. Kei Lo moves to his own set of dragon heads, places his knives within their noses, and speaks to Mai.] Give each a counterclockwise turn -- now!
In sync with each other, they each turn their knives. A rumbling emanates from the door, and they step away from the doors as they slowly slide open, revealing the continuation of the tunnel behind. Aang is the first to enter the passage.
Aang Well, look at that! You were right, Zuko! The mural keeps going!
Mai [Holding onto Kei Lo's arm, smiling.] I'm impressed. Any other criminal talents I should know about?
Kei Lo [Winking.] Stick around. Maybe you'll find out.
Change of scene: Asleep in his house, Ukano is awakened by knocking on his bedroom door, which opens onto the outside. Rising, he makes his way to the door and slides it partly open and finds Constable Sung on the other side.
Ukano Constable Sung?
Sung Ukano, forgive me for not believing you. The Kemurikage --
Ukano [Knowingly.] They've taken your son, haven't they?
Sung And according to my officers, he wasn't the only one. Within the last few hours, there's been a rash of kidnappings.
Ukano [Opening the door completely.] And Zuko's response?
Sung I went to the royal palace just before coming here ... He's nowhere to be found. [Looking over his shoulder at the empty rooftops, as if expecting the apparitions to appear at any moment.] You were right. We cannot wait for the Fire Lord. For the sake of our children -- we must act now.
Ukano [As the frame zooms on his face, his expression ambitious and victorious.] And I know just how to get started.
Cut to the crypt, where the group continues to make their way down the hall.
Mai [Regarding a mural.] Oh look, more of Zuko's cranky ancestors.
Aang [Regarding the mural on the opposite wall as Kei Lo laughs at Mai's comment.] They don't all look cranky. This guy's more ... stoic. [To Zuko.] How many Fire Lords were there?
Zuko I'm not sure. The history books I studied as a kid all began with Sozin. [Stopping briefly to illuminate an ancient mural, an image, faded by time, of a cloaked and crowned man.] But I bet this is the first one, the one who united the Fire Islands.

Gene - As an Avatar fan, I hope we someday learn more about the first Fire Lord.

Kei Lo Guys, I think I found what we're looking for.
A small distance further down the tunnel, Kei Lo and Mai stand by a mural depicting spirit-like figures clad in tattered black robes, their faces obscured by carved, one-eyed masks. Kei Lo points to them.
Kei Lo The spirits who kidnapped Tom-Tom -- that's exactly what they looked like!
Mai The Kemurikage.
Aang Creepy!
While Aang and Kei Lo further examine the mural, Zuko's eyes follow Mai as she crosses the passage, walking over to a small wooden box, which holds within it a scroll. Mai removes it.
Mai And this must be their story. Can I get a light, Aang?
Zuko [Walking over to her.] I got it.
He offers his own flame. Mai does not reject the offer; rather, they exchange a weak smile for a brief moment before she puts her head down and begins to read the scroll aloud.
Mai Long ago, long before the Fire Nation came into existence, warlords ruled the Fire Islands.

Gene - Mike, Bryan, the editors, and I debated whether the legend of the Kemurikage was too bleak. In the end, we decided to run with it.

Gurihiru - For the costumes in this sequence, we referenced the Ainu, an indigenous people who lived on the Kuril Islands.

As Mai reads, images from the past depicting the events of which the scroll tells appear; devoid of color, the images are the faded tan of worn paper.
Mai [As the shot cuts to a shot of warring factions, as civilians in the foreground flee for their lives.] They fought one another for territory, and often the common people were caught in the middle. [Shot of a large man in fur-adorned armor; he wears a feathered helmet and earrings of brass and fur, and wields a sword.] All the warlords were cruel and ruthless, but worst of them was a brute named Toz. [As Toz sits on a stool, flanked by soldiers in his encampment, a line of commoners kneels before him, bearing food. A small child is visible in a tent behind him.] Feast or famine, Toz demanded annual tributes from all the villages in his territory. [Shot of Toz again sitting on his stool; his hand under his chin, he waits for an offering with furrowed eyebrows. A mother and her two children stand watching him in the background.] One year, a village dared to refuse Toz his tribute. [Shot of Toz ordering soldiers, their swords drawn, into a village; Toz, a smile on his face, has his own sword raised.] And so, to teach them a lesson, Toz had all the village's children kidnapped. [Cut back to the present, a close-up of Mai's eyes as she reads; her eyes are wide with horror.] The children were never seen again, and the village's mothers died in sadness.
Aang How horrible! Where was my past life in all this?!
Zuko Maybe this was before the first Avatar.
Mai Shhh. I'm not done. [Returning to its aged tan shades, the frame shows close-ups of the masked faces of the Kemurikage.] Soon after the mothers' deaths, dark spirits began to haunt Toz and his men. [Shot of three Kemurikage gliding soundlessly through the midst of Toz's tents in the darkness.] Every so often, they would drift into the warlord's encampment in the middle of the night. [Shot of a mother and a father standing over an empty bed, regarding it with disbelief and horror.] The next morning, a child would be gone. [Shot of Toz, his head down; he stands next to a leafless, windblown tree. Behind him, his encampment lies empty.] Out of fear, Toz's men abandoned him. His regime collapsed. [shot returns to the present, with a medium shot of the mural, the group, and the corridor in which they stand, suffused with a bluish light.] However, the dark spirits -- the Kemurikage -- continue to appear, even to this day, their sadness insatiable.
Kei Lo Eeesh. Maybe Sozin kept ancient Fire Nation history locked away because it's so depressing.
Aang Mai, I think you summoned something by reading that scroll! Look!
They all look up. Emanating from one of the spirits in the mural is a wisp of smoke, lazily hanging in the air. As the stream of smoke begins winding its way down the hall past them, Aang puts his hand through it; to his surprise, it loops around his hand and unexpectedly begins to glow a bright bluish-white.

Gene - I just love the way Gurihiru did the bottom of this page. It slows down the action perfectly.

Aang [Astonished.] Whoa. [He follows its path with his eyes.] Neat!
Aang immediately runs down the newly illuminated corridor, chasing the wisp.
Zuko Aang! Where are you going?! It could be dangerous down there!
Aang [Without turning around.] But I think it wants me to follow it!
Left with no other option, the others begin chasing Aang.
Kei Lo This kind of thing happen a lot?
Zuko With the Avatar? All the time.
Mai Interesting friends you got there, Zuko.
A change of scene: On an empty cobblestone street in the capital, two men walk by the light of a lantern. Reaching an intersection, they are seen by Sung.
Sung You! What are you doing out so late?!
Both men are caught off guard by Sung's demand. The first to speak is the shorter and older of the two, a man who wears a hat which resembles a pith helmet and carries a satchel over his shoulder. He is indignant at being accosted.
Old man What in tarnation --?!
Sung [Striding over to the two men, Ukano in tow.] We're doing our best to keep you safe, sir.
Old man Why, Constable Sung, my grandson and I were just catchin' up on work at the shop!
Grandson [Looking at Sung through eyeglasses.] What's the meaning of this?
Sung The entire city is under curfew.
Ukano No citizen is permitted to be out of his home after sundown!
Old man [Still upset.] By whose authority?! Fire Lord Zuko's?!
Sung By the authority of necessity.
At that moment, a group of men passes behind the two relatives; they turn around, surprised, to watch them pass. Each of the men in the group wears a headband denoting their affiliation and wields a torch, save for the lead man, a firebender who holds a flame above his hand.
Safe Nation Society members A strong nation is a safe nation! A strong nation is a safe nation!
Old man [Somewhat timidly.] And who's that buncha ruffians?
Sung The Safe Nation Society, a volunteer militia. My police force isn't big enough to handle everything that needs to be done, so they're pitching in.
Ukano The capital city is under siege by dark spirits! [Pointing into the distance.] Now get home before we arrest you for your own good!
Grandson Dark spirits ...?
Old man Sounds like a load of hooey t'me! Listen, I been round the block more times than the two a'you put together! So unless I --
A scream coming from an open window above them cuts him off mid-sentence. A frantic woman rushes to the window, pushing it open further and looking into the distance.
Woman My baby! My baby!
On the ground, the man leading the Safe Nation Society calls out, pointing up at something.
Society leader Master Ukano! Constable! Up there!
On the roof of the house closest to them stand three Kemurikage, the middle one clutching a child, barely visible, in its arms. Cut to the relatives standing with Ukano and Sung, whose faces wear expressions of terror.
Old man [Quietly.] We best be gettin' home now.
Grandson Yep.
Ukano What are you waiting for, Safe Nation Society?! ATTACK!
As men climb the nearby roofs and others on the ground launch fireballs at them, the Kemurikage holding the child turns its body to shield it.

The scene cuts to Aang and the others, chasing the Avatar down the dark passage.

Aang Where are yo leading us, little wisp of smoke?
Mai Probably somewhere dark and dank.
Kei Lo Kind of like where we are now?
Mai Oh, it'll be worse.
Kei Lo [As the frame adjusts to show the couple running behind Zuko, who wears a slightly aggravated expression.] You know, you're pretty cute when you're pessimistic.
Mai [Smiling.] I've been told.
Aang [Reaching for the glowing smoke.] Hey, smoke! Can you wait -- [They have reached another door, with another dragon's-head lock; the smoke begins escaping through the lock.] No, don't go -- [The smoke disappears completely. Aang, disappointed, puts his free hand to his head.] Oh, monkey feathers! I bet his is another lock. Kei Lo, you think maybe you could --

Gene - "Monkey feathers" is such a great phrase. I try to have Aang use it whenever I can.

Kei Lo [Already advancing toward the door, two knives in hand.] No problem, Avatar Aang.
Positioning the knives in the dragon's nostrils and turning them, as before, he unlocks the door, which rotates open, revealing a flight of stairs leading downward. Aang ventures into the new passage.
Aang Looks like a crypt!
Mai I'm not going in there.
Aang [Continuing down the stairs.] Kei Lo, maybe you could come along, n case there's something else to unlock?
Kei Lo [Briefly pausing to look at Zuko and Mai before answering.] Sure.
Kei Lo's departure down the stairs leaves Mai and Zuko by themselves. Neither of them seems to want to look at the other, so they stare at the floor in awkward silence before looking away from each other. Finally they turn toward each other at the same time and speak.
Zuko and Mai [Simultaneously.] So.

Gene - I've only had a couple of girlfriends in my life, so I haven't experienced all that many breakups. But the ones I did have to go through were pretty rough. I drew on some of that emotion to write this scene.

Gurihiru - We liked Mai's changes of expression here and the way we drew them. We hope we were able to show her inner strength.

Zuko [Pointing at his flame.] This enough light? Because if the flame isn't big enough, I could --
Mai [Looking at the floor again.] It's fine, Zuko. The less we see of this place, the better.
Zuko Oh. Okay. You're right. [Brief silence.] Kei Lo seems nice.
Mai Yeah, he is.
Zuko [Looking at her again, smiling.] It's good to see you happy. Or at least happy-ish. But I have to be honest ... [He trails off, returning his gaze to the floor as the smile fades from his face.] I miss you, Mai.
Hearing this, Mai rounds on Zuko, furious.
Mai Ugh! Why would you say something like that?!
Zuko [Looking at her now; shocked by her response.] Because it's true!
Mai Look, Zuko! You and I, we had our chance! It's time for both of us to move on!
Zuko I'm not arguing with that! All I'm saying is ... [He trails off, and they turn away from each other again; Mai crosses her arms, and Zuko buries his face in his free hand.] I don't know what I'm saying. [After a moment he looks at her again.] Tell me, do you feel about him the same way you used to feel about me?
Mai Stop.
Zuko Just answer the question.
Mai [Rounding on him again.] You broke my heart, Zuko! Twice! And the stupid thing is, I let you! [Slight pause, and her gaze falls away from Zuko.] Like a complete moron, I let you. [Turning to look down the dark staircase.] Kei Lo likes me. A lot. Probably more than I like him. And that's exactly how I need it to be, because I won't ever let myself get hurt like that again.
Cut to Aang and Kei Lo, who have followed the smoke into a room with walls of stone and four square columns rising from floor to ceiling. In the center of the room, a mound of dirt marks a grave; the smoke comes to rest over it.
Kei Lo [Peering around the edge of the entrance.] Doesn't look like you need my help! Maybe I should --
Aang [Noticing that the smoke has stopped.] Kei Lo, something's happening!
The wisp spirals upward from the floor, and within the spiral, the form of a spirit appears, its body cloaked in black, its face concealed by a one-eyed mask, and its feet hidden by billows of smoke. When the spirit speaks, its speech bubble is black with white letters, as are those of the other Kemurikage.
Kemurikage Greetings, Avatar.
Aang [As Kei Lo, having followed Aang into the room, stands behind him, using Aang to shield himself from the spirit.] You ... you're one of the Kemurikage -- the original ones, from long ago.
Kemurikage I am. For centuries, my sisters and I haunted the warlords of the Fire Islands. For their crimes, we haunted them. [Another apparition appears behind her, the image of the crowned man the group saw on a mural.] We haunted them until the Fire Islands were united into a single nation. The first Fire Lord, the one who rests in this crypt -- [Cut to a shot, in aged tan, of the same crowned man standing over two bound enemy soldiers, with a number of his own soldiers behind him.] -- brought the warlords to justice and ushered in an era of prolonged peace. [Cut back to Aang and the spirit, face to face.] Our sadness receded. We never again set foot in the human world.

Gene - Here, we wanted to show that the position of the Fire Lord is rooted in good. Not every Fire Lord is like Ozai, Azulon, and Sozin.

Aang But then, why return now? Why are you haunting people again?
Kemurikage I repeat, Avatar -- from the time of the first Fire Lord until this moment, we have not entered your world.
Cut to a close-up of Aang's eyes as he fully comprehends the meaning of the spirit's declaration.

The scene changes: the team sits on Appa, who is descending into Capital City.

Aang I'm telling you, they're not the same spirits as the ones in that scroll!
Zuko So they're different spirits who just look like the Kemurikage?
Aang Maybe.
Mai Or maybe they're not spirits at all.
Kei Lo [On edge.] All I know is, on the roof of the flower shop that night? Those ladies looked creepy.
As they draw closer to the city, Aang suddenly turns to look over the side of Appa's saddle upon hearing chanting drifting up from the streets below.
Safe Nation Society members A strong nation is a safe nation!
Aang [Confused.] What the --?!
The frame cuts to a view from the street, showing the Safe Nation Society on patrol as before.
Safe Nation Society members A strong nation is a safe nation! A strong nation is a safe nation!
Aang What are all those people doing out in the street? It's the middle of the night!
Zuko [Close-up of his face, concerned.] Let's find out.
Moments later, now on the ground, Aang and Zuko run up to Sung and Ukano.
Zuko Constable Sung! Ukano! What is the meaning of this?!
Sung Fire Lord!
Ukano As I predicted, the Spirit World has gotten completely out of control! Dark spirits have taken more children, including the constable's own son!
Aang [As Sung drops his head and closes his eyes in sadness.] Oh, no!
Zuko I'm so sorry, constable!
Sung I was unable to find you, Fire Lord! We had to do something!
Ukano The Safe Nation Society --
Aang What's the Safe Nation Society?
Ukano Since Zuko's refused to protect his nation, a group of young volunteers has stepped up! [Gesturing to the men behind him.] The Safe Nation Society are risking their own lives to keep us all safe!
Aang [Somewhat confused.] But how'd you get this many volunteers to assemble this late into the night?
Ukano [Ignoring Aang.] In fact, not ten minutes ago, the Society saved a child by heroically fighting off a group of dark spirits!
Aang [Becoming angry.] Hate to break it to you, but those probably weren't spirits!
Ukano Preposterous! I saw them with my own two eyes! Humans don't move like that!
While Ukano is arguing with Aang and Zuko, Mai walks up behind him.
Mai [Arms crossed; calmly.] You're hiding something.
Ukano [Startled by the close voice behind him, he whirls around.] Mai! What are you doing here?
Mai [Eyes narrowed.] I can tell by the way you're talking ... What's your secret, Father?
Ukano [Sweating, his own eyes avoiding her gaze.] I don't know what you're talking about!
While Mai confronts Ukano, Zuko speaks to Sung.
Zuko Constable Sung, truly, I'm sorry about your son. We will find him -- I promise you. But the curfew -- all of this -- was down without my authority! I will not be undermined! Until further notice, you are suspended from your post!
Sung [Shocked.] Fire Lord, I -- [He simply bows to Zuko.] -- I'm sorry.
Zuko So am I.
The five in the street watch as Sung turns and walks away from them; Zuko's expression remains firm, while Aang seems unsure if what Zuko has just done is proper. Behind them, Ukano has a hand half-outstretched toward Sung in disbelief, while several people watching from a window above them look on in disapproval. After a moment, Ukano renews his tirade.
Ukano What do you think you're doing?! Constable Sung is a good man!
Zuko [Rounding on Ukano, infuriated.] And you, Ukano -- This Society of yours will disband immediately or you will all face arrest!
Another tense moment of silence passes as Ukano stares at Zuko.
Ukano Come, Safe Nation Society! We will respect the wishes of the "Fire Lord". Let us return to our homes and stand idly by while our nation suffers!
Ukano follows his men to a nearby crossroad, where they turn out of sight. Before disappearing, Ukano turns back toward the group.
Ukano And Mai, when you finally come to realize the truth, you know where to find me.
As Ukano walks out of sight, Mai watches him go. The frame shifts to Zuko and Aang, while more people can be seen watching from the upper floors of nearby buildings.
Aang What just happened with Constable Sung ... That was pretty harsh.
Zuko [Turning toward Aang.] I hated to do it, but I had no choice.
Woman Fire Lord Zuko?
The voice prompts him to turn back around, where he finds the woman whose child was being abducted standing before him, holding her daughter, who clings to her.
Woman With all due respect, the Safe Nation Society just saved my daughter. They're heroes, which is more than I can say for you.
Cut to Mai and Kei Lo. As they walk, a furious Mai rants to a silently listening Kei Lo.
Mai And you saw how he spoke to Constable Sung! The poor man's son was just kidnapped! He acts like, like --
Kei Lo Like he's the Fire Lord?
Mai Well, yes, but ... You know what I mean. It's like other people's feelings don't matter.
Kei Lo When you're done talking about your ex-boyfriend, let me know so I can give you a kiss good night.
Mai [Realizing what she has been doing, she quickly raises a hand to her mouth as she turns to face him.] I'm sorry. I'm just ... with Tom-Tom gone, I feel so empty inside. [Embracing Kei Lo.] Thanks for everything, Kei Lo. Let's get some rest. We'll figure out what's next in the morning.

Gene - When Mai, Tom-Tom, and their parents first appeared in "Return to Omashu," Mai wasn't all that warm toward her little brother. In fact, she was willing to go along with Azula's plan to give him up to Team Avatar. As the series progressed, however, we saw Mai opening up. She made a place in her heart for Zuko. She gathered her courage and stood up to Azula. These changes allowed her to warm up to her brother, too.

As she kisses him, the frame cuts to Mai in her room, watching through her window as Kei Lo walks down the street alone. As she turns back to a piece of paper in her hands, the frame shifts as well, showing it is an old picture of her and Zuko, both of them smiling. She regards the image in silence for a moment before rising and crossing the room. Above a tall dresser hangs a painting of Mai and Tom-Tom. While opening the top drawer, she takes a long look at the painting before placing the image of her and Zuko in the drawer and sliding it shut.

The scene changes to a distant shot of the royal palace tower, then cuts to Zuko walking down an empty corridor. He hears a voice coming from inside Noren and Ursa's room on his right.

Kiyi [A quiet, urgent whisper.] Pssst! Zuzu!
Surprised, Zuko enters the room and finds the two adults asleep; Kiyi, however, is wide awake, still under Ursa's protecting arm.
Kiyi Help me, Zuzu!
Zuko Kiyi? Why are you still awake?
Kiyi She's holding me too tight with her cold, cold hands! I'm suffocating!
Zuko [Walking to the bedside and carefully lifting the covers, allowing Kiyi to escape.] Would you like to sleep in the other room?
Kiyi Yes, please!
Cut to Zuko carrying Kiyi on his shoulders down a darkened corridor.
Kiyi What'd you do today, Zuzu?
Zuko [Looking up at her.] I had to ... deal with a problem our nation's been having.
Kiyi What kind of problem?
Zuko [Smiling.] Nothing for you to worry about. I'm going to take care of it.
Now in the new room, Zuko puts Kiyi down and pulls the covers over her.
Kiyi [Rubbing her eyes drowsily.] I know you will, Zuzu. I know you will.
Before closing the door, Zuko turns around.
Zuko Sleep tight, Kiyi.
The scene changes to show Guri, the son of Constable Sung, as he wakes and sits up, stretching and rubbing his eyes.
Guri Mommy? My head kinda hurts. Can you --
Guri has opened his eyes and is shocked to find himself in an unfamiliar place. He sits in a bunk bed, one of several arranged around the carved walls of a cave illuminated by two glowing lights placed on opposite sides of the room. In addition, a number of small children fill the room, some of which are playing with dolls or drawing with crayons on paper. A girl, lying in the bunk above Guri, is reading a book. Next to Guri's bed stands a small boy, who promptly introduces himself.
Tom-Tom Hi! I'm Tom-Tom!
Overwhelmed by shock, Guri bursts into sobs. The girl on the bunk above him quickly lowers herself to Guri's bed to comfort him.
Girl Don't cry! Don't be scared! [Wraps an arm around him as some of the other kids look at them, seemingly shocked themselves.] See? There's a bunch of us kids!
Guri [Still sobbing a bit.] Where's m-m-my m-m-mommy?! I w-w-want my m-m-mommy!
Girl [Rubbing his head.] Our moms and dads will be here soon. Don't worry.
Guri H-how do you know?
Girl [Pointing across the room at the steel door; as if on cue, Ukano has entered the room.] 'Cause Tom-Tom's dad is here. Our moms and dads can't be far behind.
Ukano [Cheerfully, as Tom-Tom runs to him.] Go to bed, all of you. I told you, your parents won't come for you until you're asleep.
Tom-Tom Daddy!

Gene - Gurihiru needed to make the children's chamber creepy, but not too creepy. I think they did a great job.

Ukano [As the other children, watching him and his son, climb into their beds.] Have you made friends with the other children?
Tom-Tom Yeah.
A moment later, Ukano tucks Tom-Tom into bed and kisses him good-night.
Tom-Tom Daddy, how come we gotta stay here? I miss Mommy and Mai.
Ukano Patience, dear boy. Just a few more days. My friends and I are going to make the Fire Nation strong and safe again. By staying here, you and the other children are doing your part.
Tom-Tom The scary ladies who brought me here -- they're your friends?
Ukano Why, yes. And they're not so scary once you get to know them.
Tom-Tom Then how come your voice shakes when you talk to 'em?
Ukano has no answer for his son; his expression is vacant, and his eyes stare vacantly at his son. After a moment, he rises and walks to the metal door.
Ukano [Without turning around.] Good night, Tom-Tom.
The scene changes. Zuko stands alone on a balcony of the palace under a cloudless, star-filled sky, looking out over the city beyond. Suki opens the door behind him.
Suki The Kyoshi Warriors just finished their nightly rounds. Everything's secure.
Zuko [Turning away from the vista to face her.] Thank you, Suki.
Suki [Smiling at him.] Want some company?
Zuko [Smiling back.] Sure.
She joins him as he falls silent, his expression fading into sadness. She notices.
Suki You'll find Tom-Tom. I know you will.
Zuko Yeah ... But it isn't just about finding him. A couple months before we broke up, Mai and I took Tom-Tom on a picnic with us. I think his mom had errands to run? I don't really remember. [He turns to look at Suki.] At first, I was kind of annoyed. I was hoping to get some alone time, just Mai and me, you know? [Turns back to the vista.] But then, I remember him watching him run after this glow moth. He was so happy. I don't remember ever being that happy. Mai ever tell you what happened to Tom-Tom in Omashu?
Suki Yeah.
Zuko So you know. For a little guy, he's been through a lot. But he could still get so much joy from chasing a flying bug. [Turns to face Suki again, his face worried and unsure.] If we ... When we find him, will he still be the same kid? Will he be able to be that happy ever again?
As he finishes speaking, the shot zooms over Zuko's left shoulder, focusing on the building behind him, where thick smoke has begun to pour from an open window. Turning away from Suki, Zuko notices the smoke, and his expression instantly morphs into absolute horror.
Zuko No.
Immediately, Zuko and Suki make for the door, sprinting through corridors.
Suki What's wrong?
Zuko Smoke! From Kiyi's room!
Moments later, the two reach Kiyi's room, only to find her bed empty. While they stare in disbelief, Aang and Ty Lee run into the room.
Zuko No, no, no!
Aang Zuko?!
Aang notices the open window behind Zuko. As he and Zuko look out onto the roof, they find Kiyi's abductors, three apparent Kemurikage, one of whom holds the sleeping Kiyi, right in front of them.
Zuko [With one foot already on the windowsill.] Put her down! Now!
As they vault over the windowsill, they firebend at the nearest cloaked figure. It deftly dodges their blasts, and the one holding Kiyi flies swiftly at Aang, planting a foot solidly in his chest. He grunts and staggers backward to the edge of the roof as Ty Lee accosts the figure.
Aang [Gasping for breath.] That ... definitely ... felt like a human foot! Try chi blocking 'em, Ty Lee!
Ty Lee [Already attempting to paralyze her opponent, to no effect.] I'm trying, I'm trying!
Suddenly, Suki body-slams the figure holding Kiyi from behind.
Suki Got you!
Managing to free itself, the figure tosses the sleeping child in its arms to one of its compatriots, who are watching the altercation from a higher ledge of the roof. The figure who caught Kiyi immediately flees across the roof, while the one who threw Kiyi stays behind to detain its attackers. The third figure simply watches form the nearby higher edge of the roof.
Zuko After them!
Before they can follow, the figure nearest them begins producing smoke. As it rapidly begins to obscure their vision, Suki, Ty Lee, and Zuko begin to cough and choke. As they cover their mouths and shut their eyes against it, there is a great blast of wind, which immediately dispels the smoke. Opening their eyes, they turn to see that Aang, standing upright, has airbent the smoke away. He points to the last visible cloaked figure, who is fleeing across the same roof the others used for their escapes.
Aang There!
Zuko sends a well-aimed blast of fire at the figure, which catches the figure, who has its back to its pursuers, in the side. Letting out an audible groan, the figure tumbles and falls from the rooftops to the courtyard below, landing in a heap. In mere seconds, Zuko and Aang are standing over it, with Suki and Ty Lee just behind.
Zuko That's it -- it's over! Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide! [Spreading his arms, he threateningly brandishes flames above his upturned palms.] Where'd your friends take my sister?! Same place you took the other kids?! Answer me!
The focus of the shot shifts from Zuko to the collapsed figure. Out of view of Zuko and Aang, the figure raises its left hand, electricity crackling at two of its fingertips. Without warning, the figure rounds on its four attackers and unleashes a blast of lightning on them. The four recoil, shielding themselves from the blinding light as the energy surges past them, failing to strike them. As the lightning's roaring thunder fades, a remnant of electricity dancing on the figure's outstretched fingers, Zuko gazes at it, a mixture of surprise and terror on his face.
Zuko Azula.

Gene - Were you surprised by Azula's appearance? I hope so. The Kemurikage are the embodiment of fear. Since Azula's most potent weapon is fear, it seemed fitting to make her the leader. As she said herself in the series finale, "Trust is for fools! Fear is the only reliable way."







See Also