Avatar: Acts of Aggression

Tanka diary, entry three
Lily writes tanka and haiku about her companions

Jang receives his ikebana gift
I’m watching over
that shine-eyed boy who races
to see each new thing,
setting down his flower pot
to open doors to the world.

Hai Wei tries to dissuade us from rescuing the young sky bison
My great grandfather –
that mean hotman with a cane –
was calm and gentle
compared to this skinny kid
bellyaching in the street.

Hitsu?
He’ll miss the forest
while looking for what’s hiding
in the sunlit trees.

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S1:E3 The Missing Sky Bison, Part 1

On the River

Traveling up-river, the party stops to resupply in a small lumber town called Pohuai. Their visit to the market is interrupted by the intense crying of a very young Air Nomad boy. They learn that the boy has lost his young sky bison, Tannu, and all clues point to the creature being killed in a rockslide. A local’s remark about another sky bison’s disappearance only a month ago makes the party suspicious, and they decide to investigate.

The group of Air Nomads tell them what happened as they lead the party just outside town. The rockslide left a large scar up the mountainside. As Hitsu begins to move the rubble, Mayumi flies up to investigate the rockslide’s source. Hitsu uncovers the bumpy yellow rind of a mostly-eaten fruit, but finds no trace of any sky bison’s remains. Mayumi discovers a small ledge that seems to lead nowhere right at the top of the scar. Jang licks the fruit and falls unconscious for several minutes.

Riding up on one of the Air Nomads’ three remaining air bison, Hitsu studies the footprints and determines that they were left by earthbenders in bending stances. Using the footprints as a guide, Hitsu bends the side of the mountain, unsealing a cave entrance. The natural cave has worked stairs and floors and leads down to another sealed entrance just next to the base of the rockslide. In the cave, the party discovers the stem and leaf from a fruit plant and a boat oar. Hai searches the tracks between the rockslide and the riverbank and finds evidence that Tannu may have been dragged to the river.

Theorizing that Tannu may have been captured to be sold to a circus, the group considers making a detour to visit the city of Taku, the largest city in the region and most likely to have a circus. Mayumi and Lily both light up in excitement, as Taku is home to the world-famous Taku Herbalism Institute, and suggest that they could bring the fruit specimens there to see if they could identify it.

Taku

The city of Taku grew on a flat expanse on an otherwise rocky mountain shoreline. The most important buildings are built in ziggurat style from the heavy trade influence from the west, with the largest of these housing the Taku Herbalism Institute and looming over the city like a man-made mountain nested back among the natural peaks.

Mayumi, Lily, and Jang (in search of some hot peppers) all darted off to the institute while Inoka, Hai, and Hitsu tried to locate likely buyers for acquired sky-bison.

The exterior of the institute’s multiple levels serves as a terraced garden and arboretum, featuring greenhouses and open areas alike. The party is greeted by Unu, an endearingly short old woman who excels at her job of being friendly and helpful to the institute’s visitors. She quickly identifies the fruit specimens and shows the party to a particularly warm and humid greenhouse room on one of the ziggurat’s sides. There the party is shown the one and only living lemonmelon tree outside of its native habitat, which consists of only a handful of the southernmost islands in the Fire Nation. The tree itself is not large, and its long straight branches droop down to the ground where the growing lemonmelons rest. Unu explains that the sedative properties that Jang experienced are intrinsic to the fruit. She also says that this plant is being studied by only a single herbalist at the institute, a Dr. Kenku, who is not immediately available. The party indulge their other herbalogical interests for most of the rest of the day while they wait for him.

Meanwhile, Inoka learns that the only circus in town already has a sky bison, an adult who is kept by an airbender who appears to be his rightful owner. Hitsu makes some discrete inquiries and sets up a meeting with an underground trader named Fang. Fang says that the market has been hot for sky bison since a couple of buyers showed up earlier in the year and that he was hoping that Hitsu had one that Fang could buy. Fang said that he could give Hitsu his contact, but only for some coin. Hitsu said that he’d have to get it, and that he’d be back with the money.

Unu finally announced that Dr. Kenku was at the institute, and the party went to meet with him. A thin, terse man with a cane and a “thatch roof” haircut, Dr. Kenku seemed annoyed with the party’s questions, telling them little more than they already knew, and refusing to part with a sample from the lemonmelon tree. The party left after purchasing a less-potent sedative, and Unu also gave them a healing elixir.

Regrouping outside the institute, the party updated each other with what they had discovered, and Hitsu borrowed the money he needed from Lily before returning to find Fang. He found Fang outside the tavern where they had met, and Fang seemed surprised that Hitsu had returned, especially with the money. Fang took the money and almost apologetically explained that he didn’t actually have a contact with a buyer, but rather an address. He directed Hitsu to a storage building a few blocks away with a dancing crane decorating its exterior.

Everyone takes up positions around the building. Climbing an exterior wall to look in a high window, Hai, Inoka, and Jang see that the inside of the large building is nearly empty, containing just two Taku guards playing at tiles and a large out-of-place-looking straw mat. Inoka insists that there has to be a hidden trapdoor under that mat, and they decide that they have to get inside.

To Be Continued …

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Tanka Diary, day two
Lily writes a tanka (5-7-5-7-7) about camping with viper hounds

I hate camping in the dark

With eight eyes glowing
in the woods for company,
who would bring a gourd
of spiced wine to share with friends
in the solitary dark?

Parties in the woods
are overrated.

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S1:E2 That Which Follows

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.

Heading North

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.

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Tanka Diary, day one
Lily writes a tanka poem (5-7-5-7-7) about asking a favor from her dad, and old habits

A journey begins

A spider-fly spins
her thread and complications
into artful home.
Bound in that silvery web,
she is comfortable and caught.

Seeking adventure
and the spark of different things,
I ask for safety.
At home but confined, I’m sad
aboard Daddy’s navy ship.

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S1:E1 The House on the Hill
The Adventure Begins

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.

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