Arrival at Feng Yu Zai
Sailing north from Ganzong Yu, Hitsu notices one ship among the throngs of traffic along the coast which was always there behind them, never close, and never out-paced. It follows them to the ports of a port town in the kingdom of Feng Yu Zai.
The city is in the midst of its annual festival celebrating the uniting of the city states of Yu and Zai and the surrounding forest towns under a single banner just a few decades ago. The party hits the streets, taking in the food, dance, music, and of course, shopping.
Lily purchases comical masks for the whole party while Mayumi investigates a local tea made from the leaves of the Red Creeper (a vine that is poisonous most of the year, but can be safely harvested once it dies in late fall and safely made into a dark, initially bitter tea which they traditionally serve with a dollop of thick cream). Jang takes in all the wondrous sites, but is particularly impressed by a display of various stone sculptures in glass jars, which he thoroughly fondles and inspects while Lily is nice enough to distract the shopkeeper.
Everything Was Going Well, Until…
After grabbing a bite, Jang was approached by several local guards and the shopkeeper. They arrested him for stealing one of the jarred statues, which Jang was surprised to discover hanging from his own belt.
Lily spoke with the local guard captain, Gai Wong, who seemed bored with excuses from out-of-towners on festival days who preferred free souvenirs over purchased ones. Sensing that Gai would be happiest to never see Jang again, she suggested that he let Jang go on the condition that they return directly to their ship and stay there. Jang was released.
Confident in Jang’s innocence, Hitsu started asking questions and poking around the souvenir shop, where the shopkeeper was less than helpful. Leaving, he was approached by a child of approximately six years of age. The child asked if he was asking about the floating jar.
The child explained that he had seen one of the jars float from the shop and down the street. He had followed it down several streets along the very path that Jang and the rest of the party had wandered. Hitsu was confused at this, though Jang was relieved to know that he had not unknowingly stolen, as he had feared.
Meanwhile, Back at the Docks…
The ship that was following them was spotted floating at its customary distance while the party’s vessel was at port. The captain accompanying the party, Zhou Long, suggested that they be brought to the attention of the local authorities. Nearing dusk, Hitsu went to speak about the ship to Gai Wong, who sent two guards to row out and have a chat with the vessel while Inoka quietly bended Hai and herself out in a boat to get a better look for themselves.
Hai and Inoka saw the exchange between the two guards and the crew of the mysterious ship, but as the ships lanterns were suddenly all lit, they couldn’t get too close. They did notice that the ship’s crew was dressed identically to the town’s guards and to the group of earthbenders who attacked them as they had left Ganzong Yu.
After the guards rowed back to port, Hitsu, and then Lily, each had a turn pressing them for details. Intimidated by Hitsu’s Dai-Li uniform, the two guards only insisted that it was a merchant vessel, and no concern of Ba Sing Se’s. Not recognizing Lily as being from the vessel that the ship was following, one of the guards revealed that the mysterious vessel was following them on official kingdom business.
After a few days travel north the party decided to quiet away from the ship at night in order to elude any more potential followers. They slipped silently onto the forest coast behind a barrier island and slipped into the woods to make camp.
At last watch, Lily was making little tongues of flame to keep herself warm and dry. (The party had decided that an actual fire might alert their pursuers, so they slept without one.) It was one of these small flashes that revealed to her three pairs of slit eyes watching her from the darkness of the forest. She roused the camp and immolated a nearby bush for light. They were viper hounds, and there were four of them.
Everyone got hits in except Lily, who dropped in the first round after lighting the bush on fire. Jang proved his usefulness as a healer, Hai performed a couple of impressive sword attacks, and Mayumi performed a melee suffocation attack to drop the last of the four.
As it was nearly daybreak when the viper hounds were defeated, the party decided on an early start and a tired day. They set off east towards the river that will take them to the North Earth Sea.