lizbee: Mid-shot of Lin Beifong, a slight pout on her lips (LoK: Lin (pout))
[personal profile] lizbee
Title: ("Royals!")
Author: LizBee
Rating: All ages
Characters: Lin Beifong, Suyin, various others
Notes: I have to apologise to [personal profile] archangelbeth, who shared her headcanon that Lin is Kuei's daughter, and therefore next in line for the Earth Kingdom throne. Because I have taken a perfectly good crack theory and treated it seriously, but also given it the worst possible title (I've had the Lorde song in my head all day, shut up) because none of my friends stopped me. Uh, spoilers for the book 4 trailer and the name of a new character.

Summary: Lin discovers (a) who her father is and (b) that she's the new Earth Queen. She's not delighted.


According to ancient Earth Kingdom tradition, only a handful of trusted servants were permitted to know in which of his five beds the Earth King slept. Each bed was made up in the morning, each had its curtains drawn when the Earth King retired, and the king enjoyed a shred of privacy as he slept.

There are no trusted servants anymore, and everyone in Ba Sing Se knows where the new Earth Queen sleeps: on a thin futon in a bare room. They say her earthbending will sense even the lightest tread, and she can bend the royal jewels into weapons before an assassin has taken a step. There are songs about it, sung in Lower Ring taverns.

There have been three assassins. So far. Two await their trials.

The third is dead. The songs say the Queen killed him herself, and made the Dai Li clean up the mess.

The Earth Queen sleeps lightly these days.


Fifty-four years ago, in summer, Toph Beifong escorted the Earth King to Omashu. It was an exercise in diplomacy: a United Republic police officer accompanying the Earth King to the city that presumed to have a monarch of its own. An historical footnote.

In spring, Beifong gave birth to a daughter.


"You've got to be kidding me," says Lin. "What are you -- get up, you stupid -- Ambassador. Is this a joke?"

President Raiko shakes his head.

The Earth Kingdom ambassador presents her with King Kuei's will.

"So it's forged," she says, but it was written by Kuei himself in the traditional red ink, and no one else was permitted to touch his seals. And it's clear: if Hou-Ting's line dies, the eldest daughter of Toph Beifong -- a concubine, however informal, for this purpose -- is next in line. Kuei has explained the circumstances of Lin's conception in dispassionate phrases.


It doesn't even matter if it's true. She was anointed by the fifty-second Earth King. Next to that, all claims are inferior.

Beifong curses Prince Wu and Queen Hou-Ting for getting themselves murdered, and despatches the Avatar to find her mother.


The servants dress her in layers of silk and weigh her down with jewellery. The headpiece is a problem: her hair is too short.

They exchange urgent whispers about wigs, while Beifong plays with her rings, turning them into throwing stars and back again. Gold is too soft. She needs steel.


Dressed, her face painted, she visits her sister in prison.

"You've looked better," says Suyin.

"The Council of Five want me to have you executed."

Kuvira's army didn't come from nowhere. Suyin has been in jail since the Avatar restored the current, fragile peace.

"If I let you go," Lin says, "there'll be a cost."


She needs an heir. It was the first thing they told her after they gave her the Earth Kingdom. She's fifty-four years old -- but a baby would be almost as bad as no heir at all.

"You want one of my children?"

Suyin has rejected the robes appropriate to a half-sister of the Earth Queen in favour of her own clothes and jewellery. She looks sleek and comfortable, and Lin feels ridiculous and overdressed by comparison. You almost look like a real queen.

"Obviously your relationship with them would continue," says Tenzin. "The adoption is merely a formality. Nothing else can move until Lin has an heir."

"You can adopt anyone." Suyin's voice is low and furious. "Make Kai your heir. Or Bolin. Or adopt the Avatar, that'll throw the owl-cat among the pigeons."

The Grand-Secretariat clears her throat.

"We would prefer," she says, "that the next monarch come from within the Earth Kingdom."

"Sure," says Lin. "But your current monarch comes from the United Republic, so I guess you can't always get what you want." A smile touches her lips but doesn't reach her eyes. "Maybe I'll adopt Meelo."

Mouth full of taro bun, Meelo says, "I got a lot of thoughts about your long-term military strategy. We can take Kyoshi Island before winter." He wipes his mouth on his sleeve and adds, "We'll make that unagi crawl."

"Let me think about it," Suyin says at last.


Tenzin finds Lin in a courtyard at sunset.

"Just think," she says, "if I'd married you, it'd be one of our kids facing ... this."

He takes her hand and squeezes it.

"The world is spared an airbending Earth King," he says. "Meelo's ambitions notwithstanding."

"As if any kid of mine would be an airbender."

It's the closest to happy she's been since she found out.


It was the airbenders who took down the first assassin. Zuko and Asami fight off the second.

The day after the second attempt, the Queen appears at the Dai Li training ground. She watches them, her face unreadable.

She comes back the next day, and the day after that.


"I'm sorry," she says as she puts the royal seal on the adoption papers. "I know it's not what you wanted."

"I don't mind," says Bataar. "It's building things I enjoy. Zaofu was getting too small."

The next day he presents her with plans for a trans-continental rail network.


"There's one other thing," she says to Suyin. "I've been thinking about Zaofu."

When they were young, Lin used to confiscate Su's toys. For her own good, she said.

"Your city hasn't paid taxes in -- well, not for a long time."

"We're not really part of the Earth Kingdom," says Su. "Linked, yes, but we stand apart."

"And what am I supposed to tell all the other warlords? That you get special treatment because you're my sister?"

Su opens her mouth to say she isn't a warlord. But she had an army, even if Kuvira claimed it. She has a city.

She says, "What do you want?"

"Steel. And metalbenders."


The Dai Li train before dawn. She watches them every day. She's starting to feel like she knows them.

Knowing them doesn't temper her dislike. No women. No metalbenders. The antithesis of everything her mother taught her to want in a police force.


The Grand-Secretariat is thirty years old. In a normal world she'd be a mid-level civil servant, but when Hou-Ting died and Ba Sing Se fell into chaos, she was the only one who stayed.

"I don't know if that makes you brave or stupid," Lin tells her.

"Ambitious, your Highness."


"There are four million people in the Earth Kingdom. Most are illiterate, or nearly illiterate. Half the country doesn't have electricity, and even where it does, most people can't afford a wireless set." Lin hurls a boulder at a topiary turtleduck. "And I thought I'd walk in, set up a republic and go home."

"The Earth Kingdom is diverse," says Zuko. "And it's been unstable for a long time. Scared and hungry people need security before they can consider change."

"You think I'm being selfish?"

"I think ... you need to reconsider where 'home' is."

Lin throws another boulder, then sinks to the ground beside Zuko and puts her head in her hands.

"I'm a cop," she says. "I don't make laws, I enforce them. Mom always said no good ever came from a cop making the law."

"Your police reforms have gone a long way towards stabilising Ba Sing Se."

"Yeah, and they nearly got me killed."

The second assassin was sent by a former crime lord.

"Lin," says Zuko, "the Earth Kingdom's diversity is also its strength. Think about that."


She's unpopular in the Upper Ring. No respect for tradition. A dangerous, unpredictable outsider. She sits in silence at parties, arms crossed. She storms out of poetry readings and operas.

The Minister for Finance won't allow his daughter to learn advanced earthbending. She berates him in public and threatens to teach the girl herself.

He hires a master for his daughter.

But someone leaves her gifts. Flowers made of metal. The bending is crude at first, but it improves fast. One day she finds a copper chrysanthemum in her jewellery box. A tin daisy appears on a headpiece.

Her servants offer no explanation, but one blushes when the Queen asks.


She takes to slipping out of the palace and going down to the Lower Ring. Here, stalls sell cheap copies of her portrait. An old woman sells dolls with grey hair and fierce scars stitched into their frowning faces. Lin buys one -- no one gives her a second glance in her old clothes and messy hair -- but then she feels silly and gives it to a passing child.

She goes back the next day and buys another, and this time she keeps it.


Two metalbenders from the Lower Ring apply to join the Dai Li. When they're rejected, they appeal to the Queen.

At the end of training, she walks over to the leader and says, "Those metalbenders. You could learn from them."

It's the first time she has spoken to him. She doesn't wait for his answer.


There are metalbending classes in the Middle Ring. The new police force in Gaoling arrests the governor for corruption. Three villagers from the eastern plains request funds for a hydroelectric plant. Prince Bataar escorts them home to oversee construction personally.


The Avatar arrives in Ba Sing Se, and has herself formally presented to the Earth Queen. She's wearing a silk dress, and she bows.

Lin suspects Korra is making fun of her.

"Your Highness," says Korra, "your mother."

Toph is small and fat and has dirty feet.

"I guess I owe you an apology," she says cheerfully.

"Only one?"

Toph pulls her into a hug.

"I'm proud of you," she says roughly. "I'd have run away."

Lin puts the doll in her mother's hand.


All her gold rings have steel inside them now. She kills the third assassin herself, then leans against the wall and slides down to the floor. That's how the Grand-Secretariat finds her, hunched in the corner like a child.

"Are you hurt?" the Grand-Secretariat asks.

"No." She hauls herself slowly to her feet. She's getting too old to sleep on a futon on a cold stone floor. "I've had enough of this. Where are the Dai Li?"

The crowd parts, admitting the two men who should have been guarding her.

"Clean that up," she tells them. "And bring the body."

She leads them through the palace, and it becomes a strange, macabre procession. The guards, the courtiers, the body of the assassin. And the Queen, wearing a threadbare tank top and old grey pants. Her feet are bare.

The Dai Li's barracks are an austere echo of the main palace. They watch as she walks across the training ground. The leader meets her halfway. His forehead touches the ground as he bows.

"This," she points at the assassin's body, "is unacceptable. You call yourselves police? You don't deserve to be ceremonial guards."

The leader bows again. His eyes are closed.

The Earth Queen has the authority to order the summary execution of any citizen. Or, if she's feeling merciful, she may simply require that her subjects commit suicide. Hou-Ting sent white silk scarves to those who displeased her.

Lin steps back.

"Find out who sent the assassin. Bring the evidence to me. If it's acceptable, I'll authorise an arrest. If not -- well, Avatar Kyoshi created the Dai Li. I bet Avatar Korra could destroy you."

She turns and walks away.


The Grand-Secretariat says, "But how do you know he didn't send the assassin himself?"

"I've watched him train. He likes to take care of things himself."


The next day, the Earth Queen walks down to the Dai Li training ground. She wears her own cable harness over her tank top.

"I taught the metalbender squad in Republic City," she says. "I figure you lot will pick it up eventually."

She throws a chunk of ore at the leader.

"Mom always said, the first step is to find the imperfections."


Date: 2014-10-01 12:26 pm (UTC)
sqbr: zuko with a fish on his head (avatar)
From: [personal profile] sqbr
This is great :)

Date: 2014-10-01 01:08 pm (UTC)
fred_mouse: cross stitched image reading "do not feed the data scientists" (Default)
From: [personal profile] fred_mouse
I wasn't going to read this, because I'm so far behind on the canon.

Glad I did, even though I'm sure I'm missing lots of details.

Date: 2014-10-01 02:07 pm (UTC)
musesfool: toph (come with me if you want to live)
From: [personal profile] musesfool
Ah, I like this version of the future, probably as much as Lin dislikes it. *g*

Date: 2014-10-01 02:31 pm (UTC)
umadoshi: (LOK - Korra bring it (sugarplums))
From: [personal profile] umadoshi
Mouth full of taro bun, Meelo says, "I got a lot of thoughts about your long-term military strategy. We can take Kyoshi Island before winter." He wipes his mouth on his sleeve and adds, "We'll make that unagi crawl."

The whole fic is wonderful, but Meelo stole it for me in this moment.

Date: 2014-10-09 12:52 pm (UTC)
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
From: [personal profile] attackfish
Meelo is beautiful! Mind you, I kinda want to read fic about him growing up to be the next Ozai, but I want it out of love.

Date: 2014-10-01 03:29 pm (UTC)
alexseanchai: Ladybug, of Miraculous fame, with a rainbow Pride background (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai

Date: 2014-10-01 03:30 pm (UTC)
cheyinka: A picture of a Metroid made to look like an engraving (engraved Metroid)
From: [personal profile] cheyinka
This was fantastic! Poor Lin. I mean, hooray for Queen Lin! (?)

Date: 2014-10-01 10:18 pm (UTC)
nonelvis: (LEGEND OF KORRA Lin)
From: [personal profile] nonelvis
Eeee! You took great headcanon and really ran with it.

Date: 2014-10-02 02:57 am (UTC)
amalthia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amalthia
This was perfect! :)

Date: 2014-10-03 04:15 am (UTC)
archangelbeth: Zuko and Iroh, when they were running the tea-shop. Captioned: Let's make some TEA (Let's make some TEA)
From: [personal profile] archangelbeth
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! This is AWESOME! You have nothing to apologize for, title and all. O:D

Thank you. Thank you for taking the plot bunny and doing something awesome with it. Yay, excellent fic and it's not eating ME!


Date: 2014-10-09 12:55 pm (UTC)
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
From: [personal profile] attackfish
This isn't my headcanon, which is The Threesome No One Speaks Of, but this is so thoroughly delightful that I almost want it to be my headcanon. Poor Lin! Poor Dai Li! Lucky Earth Kingdom!

Date: 2014-11-20 03:27 am (UTC)
julii_wolfe: created by [ profile] oxoniensis (Default)
From: [personal profile] julii_wolfe
mmmm, so good. I love the characterization and development of Lin. It is really impressive combined with this stark writing style that embodies her personality. WELL DONE.

Date: 2015-01-08 06:01 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Jesus. Lin is my kween. Beautifully written, mate.


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