Azula and Ty Lee sat in Azula's low earthen shelter, silently eating the pinkish mush that Azula said served for food among the wolf-men out of small metal bowls. The brown furred wolf man who Azula had called Xex was sitting by the entrance quietly.
Finally Ty Lee couldn't stand the silence anymore, "Why did you do it Azula?" Azula paused, a spoonful halfway to her mouth. She put the spoon back in the bowl and looked at Ty Lee, a very sad look in her eyes, "Why did I do what?"
"Why did you save me?" Ty Lee clarified, "I thought you hated me." Azula shook her head, "I don't hate you Ty Lee. I never hated you. I was hurt when you and Mei betrayed me at the Boiling Rock, but I never hated either of you."
"Then why did you have us thrown in jail?!" Ty Lee asked, her voice rising a little. "You betrayed me," Azula said, the sad light in her eyes hardening, "The only punishments for treason are life imprisonment and death. I didn't want to kill you." "You looked plenty ready to kill Mei! Why do you think I chi blocked you? The alternative was letting you and Mei kill each other!" Azula started to protest but Ty Lee cut her off, "And don't try to lie and say you would have been able to kill her before she could put a knife in you. You know full well that neither one of you would have walked away from that if I hadn't chi blocked you."
Azula bowed her head sadly and looked at her bowl of mush, "I am sorry Ty Lee." "Oh that makes everything better doesn't it?" Ty Lee snapped, years of pent up anger and hurt bubbling forth, earning a shocked look from Azula. "You're sorry. What about me Azula? You threw me in jail, you've always been mean to me for as long as I can remember, you even took me away from my life at the circus! By the way," She snapped out a blindingly fast punch toward Azula's shoulder.
Just as quickly, Xex reached out and caught her hand before it could touch Azula. Azula reared back in shock. "Oh I really must insist you not do that," Xex said quietly. Ty Lee withdrew the fist, but not the glare, "Fine, but Azula, I OWE you one for making me do my hardest highwire routine over a burning net and wild animals. Do you have any idea how scared I was? I could have died!"
Azula bowed her head in shame, "I am sorry Ty Lee. I shouldn't have done that, but I needed you. Nobody else can do what you do, and there was nobody I would rather have had by my side. I didn't deserve as good a friend as you."
All the anger went out of Ty Lee, she had never been good at staying angry, even with Azula, and the sight of Azula actually regretting something was so rare that whatever anger was left in Ty Lee was promptly shocked out. "You know," she said quietly, "Mei wasn't trying to betray you either. She was trying to save all of us. There was no way she could have known we'd make it off the gondola in time. She only said what she did because she was angry and hurt." Tears welled in Azula's eyes, "So I sent away my two best friends for nothing."
She put her head in her hands and silent tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. Ty Lee was stunned to say the least, she couldn't remember the last time she had seen Azula cry. Ty Lee tried to comfort her friend with a pat on the shoulder and then a full on hug as Azula's sobs intensified, "Hey, come on. It's all right Azula."
Azula shook her head, "No. No it's not." Her voice cracked on the next to last syllable and she dissolved into full on heart wrenching sobs. Ty Lee for the first time she could ever remember found herself being a shoulder for Azula to cry on. In the past Azula had usually been trying to comfort Ty Lee. This was a strange reversal.
Then suddenly Xex spoke, "Look on the bright side, if you hadn't done what you did, you could never have met Lord Lycaon, or me. I'm a mountain of fun you know." This declaration from the usually taciturn Xex earned a snort of laughter from Azula.
Xex tilted his head to the side, "No really. If you hadn't been in the woods, I couldn't have found you, and then Lord Lycaon wouldn't have come after you. Then you wouldn't have met me, you wouldn't be an honorary Kimarehto now, and you might have wound up a slave after the war. That wouldn't have been nearly as fun."
Azula wiped away her tears and sat up, still watery eyed, but composed again, "You're right Xex. It's working out for the best," she turned to Ty Lee, "Can you forgive me Ty Lee?" Ty Lee smiled, "I think I would have to be the worst friend ever if I said no." Azula smiled and hugged her. Ty Lee was momentarily stunned and then she smiled and hugged her friend back.
"You people have the weirdest dinner conversations," Xex said bluntly, earning a gale of laughter from both girls.
Lycaon padded back toward his shelter, a cheerful mood about him. Azula had proven herself a worthy foe to all and sundry, the slaves had been sorted and mining could begin on the morrow; all in all, it had been an excellent night he thought. Suddenly the breeze picked up and Lycaon's hair stood on end as he realized something was watching him. Then a black furred shape fell on him from above howling with vicious delight.
Azula and Ty Lee were startled from their merriment by the howling and roaring of two brawling Kimarehto. Suddenly Lycaon's head was smashed through a seam in the metal shelter's roof. He extracted it with a grunt and the sounds of fighting continued. Xex blinked, "Huh. I wonder who's here. We weren't expecting anyone for another two days." "That's one of yours out there?!" Azula asked.
Xex shrugged, "It's probably one of the other knights. They tend to greet each other with a brawl." He snorted with laughter, "You should see what happens when the council convenes and they're ALL there. I'm gonna go see who it is." He changed to his wolf form and padded out. Azula and Ty Lee exchanged a glance, "Should we go look?" Azula asked. "I'd be just as comfortable here," Ty Lee said, "What if it's that bat things friends?" Azula nodded, "Good point, maybe we should stay here."
Suddenly Xex padded back in, "Oh you two really must come see this. This is Kimarehto fighting at its best." "Are you really sure that's safe?" Azula asked. Xex laughed, "Of course it's safe! Lord Lycaon is entirely focused on Lady Mya right now, and everyone knows to stay out of their way." "Who's Lady Mya?" Ty Lee asked as the three of them ducked outside.
They saw numerous Kimarehto gathered around watching the two rapidly changing inseparably tangled forms brawling in the moonlight. One was unmistakably Lycaon, his consistently silver coloring made him easy to identify despite his rapidly changing form. His opponent was so black it was as if they were sucking the light out of the area around them.
Xex resumed his human form to point with a slightly dreamy look in his eyes, "That is Lady Mya Wild-Heart. She is the king's sister, one of the greatest fighters and THE most coveted bride in all of Kimar. She helps Lord Lycaon's father Iath the Invincible govern the Wolf Clan while Lord Lycaon is away." Azula looked at him, unsure of what the implications of that statement were, but Xex wasn't paying any attention.
Suddenly Lycaon became the immense serpent whose form he had used to ambush Azula and wrapped the struggling form Xex had identified as Lady Mya in his coils and catching her by the neck with a mouthful of fangs. The thing identified as Lady Mya barked out a distinctly feminine laugh, "Alright! Alright! You win!"
Suddenly the monstrous forms shrunk into Lord Lycaon and a beautiful woman clad in black who Lycaon had wrapped in a complex looking wrestling hold. "Of course I do," Lycaon replied, "you should know better than to try wrestling me alone. That was a good throw earlier though." He untangled himself and stepped away. Lady Mya spun and launched a punch so fast Azula and Ty Lee didn't even see it until they saw the fist she had thrown it with clenched in Lycaon's hand.
Mya retracted the fist laughing, "How do you do that 'Caon? Even Kyvon can't catch my punch!" "Maybe I just know you better," Lycaon said with a grin. Azula's heart sank a little as she watched Lycaon hug the beautiful woman Xex had identified as the most wanted bride in the Kimarehto world, "Of course," she thought to herself, "he's got a girlfriend."