Characters: Ozai, Kajizu (OC)
Word Count: 1200+
Summary: It is the Firelord's duty to deal with rebellion. The Seneschal reminds Ozai he doesn't have to do it personally.
"Guoyin rebels," Ozai mused. The city had only been conquered a handful of years before, and it had never settled easily under Fire Nation rule. No Earth Kingdom city did, no matter the propaganda. With the death of Azulon and the ascension of a new Firelord, rebellion had ignited in all of the newly-conquered provinces. His military forces stamped them out, but every new week seemed to bring another flurry of reports of spreading rebellion.
Guoyin, inland and located in difficult terrain, had thrown off her governor entirely. Rumor had it that they had carved the man into thirty pieces and displayed his body from the walls.
Word of such a barbaric display, true or not, heartened the rebellion. So long as Gouyin remained free, it would poison the rest of the Fire Nation lands in the Earth Kingdom.
Ozai could not allow that. He was the Firelord. A rebellion against his governors was a rebellion against him. The execution of his governors was an insult and threat that must be answered decisively. Brutally. Personally.
Besides, why should he waste the perfect opportunity to make his own mark on the Earth Kingdom and have his own name written in the military annals?
"Guoyin rebels," he said again, and his lips curled in a smile of satisfaction. Servants and sailors were already preparing a ship to bring him to the Earth Kingdom. It would take some time to get there and more time to decide on his tactics for the rebelling city. Even more time to fight the campaign. He might not return to the Capital for a full year.
The door to his suite swung open, and Seneschal Kajizu stalked in. Her only acknowledgment of the death of her previous lord was a kerchief of white silk wrapped around her maimed hand. Otherwise, she looked much as she had every day of her service to Firelord Azulon: dark brown hair pulled back in a soldier's topknot, staff of office carried in her left hand, fine linen clothing dyed too drab for a woman of her position. Heat waves shimmered over her shoulders, and Ozai tilted his head slightly as he realized she was angry.
"Firelord," she said stiffly. "Your Chamberlain informs me that you will be leaving for the Earth Kingdom."
"I am not surprised. Your husband has never been one to hide things from you." Ozai appreciated the marriage between his seneschal and his chamberlain. Far too many older courts had been ruined by disagreements and rivalries between the people who held those ranks, and he had no need for such strife.
"I am aware that the court supports you, Firelord, and the daimyos not at court have children in attendance here." Kajizu's eyes narrowed. "Yet the situation in the Earth Kingdom hardly needs your personal attention."
Ozai raised his eyebrows. "Rebellion always needs the attention of the Firelord."
"Certainly," she replied. "However, this is a matter your generals may attend to in your name most effectively. There is no need for this-" Her eyes flashed, and he wondered what word she held back.
She would not have done the same for Azulon, he knew. Him, she had spoken her mind plainly to.
"Speak," he commanded.
Heat spiked around her in a brief aura of red that faded almost before it was visible. "Do you want a crisis in succession, or are you simply a fool, Ozai son of Azulon?"
His eyes narrowed. "You had best argue that well, Kajizu."
She lifted her chin, acknowledging what it signified that he did not call her by her rank. "Without you here to enforce it, the daimyos will see weakness. They will steal back their children, they will give no taxes. They will whisper of your cousin, who also has the blood of Sozin. They will speak plainly of your brother. If they care for the blood of Sozin at all."
"Torao has no interest in the Bronze Throne. He supports me utterly." Ozai considered the rest of the argument. It did have some merit, but to be a Firelord without military victories to his name in this day and age... That would be more damaging.
"Daimyo Torao might," Kajizu shifted her staff of office to the crook of her right elbow. "Daimyo Osamu would not. Daimyo Akio most certainly would not. Daimyo Al Gan is angry that his nephew is dead, and who knows what he will do about your usurpation?"
"Careful," Ozai said silkily.
"Afraid of the truth, Firelord?" Her whole hand settled against her hip. "You usurped the throne from your brother. Do not try to hide behind pretty stories of Firelord Azulon changing his will - your wife's disappearance speaks much of that."
He toyed with the idea of challenging her to an Agni Kai. She had been a formidable soldier before Azulon appointed her as his seneschal, or so they said. Her own record of duels showed a tendency to win, though he suspected she simply did not have the power to actually best him. Yet, a Firelord's Agni Kais must be publicly announced, and while he was certain everyone whispered what she had spoken so boldly to him, he did not wish for it to be said plainly. "Believe what you will, Kajizu. Do you have more reasons than fear of my nobles to stay me?"
"You are four months into your reign and you wish to go to the Earth Kingdom. Solidify your position first before you put yourself in harm's way."
"Azulon conquered Lan Chang province two months into his reign."
"Your father had a sister who could take the throne if he died. He was gravely injured on the campaign, and the throne almost did go to a distaff line. You, Firelord Ozai, do not have a viable distaff line to give the throne to should you die." Kajizu's maimed hand twisted and sparks danced along it. "Yes, you have children, but the boy is ten years old! There is no one to be an acceptable regent - your wife, need I remind you, is gone, and there will be a civil war before they let Torao handle such a matter. Especially not while your brother lives!"
"He wouldn't be my choice, anyway," Ozai said distractedly. He did not like the picture she painted, especially not since it meant she was right. "The Fire Nation would tear itself apart in a succession crisis."
"Yes, my lord."
He blinked. That was the first time since his coronation she had acknowledged him as 'my' anything. "Very well. See that the most current reports and files on my generals are available in my study. Guoyin rebels, and it must be put down."
Kajizu bowed then switched her staff of office back to her left hand. As she turned to leave, Ozai tilted his head slightly.
"A moment, Seneschal."
She paused. "Yes, my lord?"
"I have wondered sometimes why it is that you supported me rather than my brother."
Kajizu glanced over her shoulder at him. "Iroh was not worthy to be Firelord."
A little flicker-doubt of her sanity and wisdom kindled in him. By what measure could the Seneschal possibly find Iroh unworthy? Iroh's failure to take Ba Sing Se was certainly damaging, but it did not negate the rest of his military career or the simple fact that he was the firstborn child of the previous Firelord. "And you determined that how?"
"You usurped his throne, my lord, and he did not fight you."