The Story Begins
The story begins in Ganzong Yu, a walled kingdom built on land created by Avatar Kuruk on the western coast of the Earth Kingdom. For various reasons, each member of the party decides to visit a local haunted manor house nested on a mountainside some distance outside town.
Lily Shin is in town with her father, a Fire Nation Captain, who is on a diplomatic mission to meet with the king of Ganzong Wu, Pao Rang. After the pomp of the first day’s meetings and pleasantries, Lily is free to explore while they remain in town. She purchases a ticket, interested in what seems to be one of the town’s few entertainment attractions.
Hitsu Mabushi, a young third-generation Dai-Li agent, has tracked his father to this town following his disappearance. He learns that his father stayed in town for only a few nights, and spoke to almost no one during his stay. Learning that his father went to see the haunted manor, Hitsu decides to investigate.
Mayumi Sakura, an air bender born to a Fire Nation mother, is in the region with her uncle shopping for rare teas. He tells her that he will have to travel further than he had planned, and that she is free to wander back home at her leisure. Taking the opportunity to indulge her wandering nature, she hears about the haunted manor in Ganzong Yu and decides to see what it holds.
Inoka of the Southern Water Tribe is visiting sites along the coast near Ganzong Yu when she hears about the haunted manor. Curious, she purchases a ticket.
Hai Wei, a weaponmaster from the Si Wong desert has set out to perfect his technique. Upon hearing about the haunted manor, he was immediately skeptical, and decided to sneak inside and see its secrets on his own terms.
Having been raised in a secluded monastery, Jang Se Hong had reached the age of traveling, when he must wander out the monastery gates and find his way in the world. He wandered about six miles before finding Ganzong Yu’s capitol, where he spent his few coin and began trading odd jobs for warm meals. With his meager payment, one of the local shops also gave him a ticket to see a haunted manor.
The Party Assembles
The party (except for Hai Wei) assembled around dusk en route to and just outside the manor. The manor itself was strange in that it was made of wood, and it was three stories tall. A kid of about 8 years and as many teeth was outside collecting tickets. He eventually led the group on a tour of the house, where they saw a series of illusions and creepy effects pulled off with moderate skill. There was a creepy girl behind a mirror, a bleeding wall, some rattling doors, and similar parlor tricks.
It was after one of these effects on the second floor that the party realized that their guide was missing. They discovered him hanging from a chandelere a few rooms away. Skeptical, Mayumi airbended a gust to make him swing, nearly knocking off his cleverly disguised perch. Hai Wei fell out of a panel in the wall at this point and joined the group, still tangled in control ropes and wires. Frustrated and deflated by the destoryed illusion, the boy ended the tour, but just then, the door to the attic began to rattle. It was determined that none of the actors were doing it, and that the door wasn’t part of the act.
Upon investigation, the door, which had been locked, was opened, revealing the dusty stairs to the attic. In the dust were footprints leading to a rocking chair and the far corner of the attic among some old boxes and broken furniture. Investigating, Lily found a secret panel in the corner of the attic along the eaves. Inside was a small wooden box. Inside the box was a map and two marble spheres. The map showed a river, some mountains, and a location marked with Chinese characters meaning “temple”. The stones were about baseball-sized, and one had been cracked apart. Heading back to town, the group decided to tell no one about the map and to meet up at the palace gates the following morning so that they could compare the map to larger ones from the palace library.
The Next Day
The party was having a hard time matching the features of the map to features on any of the maps in the palace until Jang held the map up backwards, realizing that when backwards, the features corresponded to a region west of Ba Sing Se. The rest of the party all looked, immediately noticing what the illiterate monk had missed: backwards, the characters that read “temple” now read “secret armory”.
They decide to set out and find the location on the map and see what is there. Lily convinces her father to arrange the use of a Fire Nation vessel to take them north up the coast before they travel east up-river towards their goal. The group is stopped on the stone pier before boarding their boat by four earthbenders in uniforms demanding that they relinquish what they had found. Combat ensued, and the earthbenders ended up unconscious or in the water.