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  #1  
Old Apr 25th, 2024, 12:07 AM
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Chapter 1: Supplies for Shu Jing

The Road to Shu Jing
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It is a few days into your journey aboard the merchant vessel Xiatian Yu when you arrive at your first stop, on Luri Island. The island is lush and green, though relatively unforested, a perfect place for agriculture, which is precisely the industry that fills up most of the flatter western half of the island. Your vessel docks at the tiny village that serves as Luri Island's only seaport: Port Hikiri, a humble village of mostly fisherfolk. The town has no true harbor, only a pair of long rickety piers which jut out into the warm waters of the Mo Ce Sea. But you're not here for Port Hikiri, you're here because Captain Fukui has a trade deal arranged in Shu Jing, a village that sits along the edge of the Qo-Mun canyon which runs through the center of the island.

While the Captain stays back to re-supply the ship, he's asked the five of you to carry his shipment into Shu Jing for him. The shipment is in five heavy sealed barrels, and he doesn't tell you what's inside. Instead, he rents a wooden cart and a dragon moose to help you carry the goods along the road to Shu Jing. He instructs you that when you arrive in town, you're to seek out a merchant named Sharsah. She will, he says, accept the barrels from you, and give you three crates in return, which you're to bring back to the ship for him. Because of the pirate attack in North Chung Ling, his crew has not had the opportunity to take any shore leave recently so he intends for the ship to stay in Port Hikiri for a full week, more than enough time for you to travel to Shu Jing, exchange the goods, and return.

The road to Shu Jing is tranquil and beautiful. To the right side of the road, the sound of the gently trickling River Chuche echoes up the natural black stone walls of the canyon as it ambles out to sea. To the left side is all farmland, where a variety of fruits and vegetables are grown. You're able to identify grapes, tomatoes, cabbages, cassava, and taro among others. Interspersed with the fields are wide hilly hippo cow pastures, where the great beasts graze peacefully in the late morning sunshine.

You're only a few hours out of Port Hikiri, but you haven't run into anyone else travelling this road so far today, just another sign of how little traffic this area sees. How do you occupy yourself as you walk? Do you talk to your companions, and if so, what about? What stands out to your senses in this place of natural beauty?


OOGM
Welcome to our first chapter! I've decided to start us off slow, and then I'll get us stuck into some trouble with my next post. For now, let's just get to know each other and the world.

If there's questions or anything else you would have wanted to talk to the captain about, feel free to include that as a "flashback" of sorts in your post, and I'll make sure it gets addressed.

You'll notice I've used present tense when writing this post. I ask that you do the same when writing about events that are happening in the present. Thanks!
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Old Apr 25th, 2024, 11:34 AM
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On the road
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Honoka takes deep measured breaths as she walks, trying to find peace in controlled, meditative breathing. The fight against the brigands remains on her mind, for all that the bruises have faded. She had enjoyed it, there was no denying, and that gives her pause. Her great-grandmother would have approved of her actions, she is sure, but she is not so sure about Zawa, who doubtlessly would have advocated for a less...percussive approach. And yet it had worked, and they had rescued Captain Fukui. Wasn't that the most important thing? She runs her fingers through the stubble on her head and touches the thong holding her topknot in place to make sure it has not loosened.

Her eyes keep getting drawn to the canyon wall, pulled by the play of light reflected off the river onto the rocks. Even black stone shines under the light. Her eyes shift back to the dragon-moose they are guiding and the sealed barrels they are to deliver, her staff rapping against the ground. "Does it strike no one else as odd that Fukui was so tight-lipped about what we are delivering?" She gestures towards the cart with a sweep of her red and yellow sleeve. "Surely rescuing him from those brigands should be reason enough to trust us not to run off with their contents." She raises an eyebrow. "Do you suppose he is embarrassed about the nature of his cargo?" She had learned enough at the Academy about maintaining a household to know that there were a number of unsavory things that had to be moved by somebody.
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Old Apr 26th, 2024, 09:12 AM
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Su, the Rogue
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Running into local criminals, as it so often does, complicated things. Not just getting caught up in that fight, these things happens often enough. Or being thrown together with a group of strangers on the Xiatian Yu, who all seem to be square folk at least. The job Su got sent to do is ruined, that’s the real complication. As little as she cares about it and the man who ordered it done, for the entire voyage it hangs over their head like an evil spirit.

Su’s paranoia, set in like a knotted muscle, only really starts to relax after leaving Port Hikiri with the group. The open road is an old friend, and the natural beauty of the island is quite calming. Bai, Cui, Gawa and Honoka are still more acquaintances than friends, but to Su's mind fighting together back in North Chung-Ling means they have the benefit of the doubt for now.

With the trail being so devoid of people, Su breaks from the dragon moose cart two or three times for the fecund farmland. Farms are big places and not all fields are watched all the time. Grapes, tomatoes, cabbages, cassava, taro, whatever! She picks as much as she can get away with. It’s free food, who turns that down?

”It’s none of our business,” Su says with tomato juice still dribbling down their chin. “But if you’re going to break one open, make sure you can seal it back up before we reach Shu Jing.”

Last edited by Robodog; May 23rd, 2024 at 02:06 PM.
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Old Apr 27th, 2024, 01:44 AM
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Gawa the Airbender
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Gawa walks calmly in front of the wagon, his steps measured and steady, his hand gently resting upon the flank of the dragon moose, both comforting and urging. The sun shines and he can feel its warmth against the skin of his face and that of his shaved head. At the same time, a gentle sea breeze blows from the coast, bringing the smell of salt and keeping the monk from sweating. The earth feels soft and fertile beneath his sandals, shaped by each step he and his companions take. The picture of perfection is completed by the sound of flowing water, relaxing, harmonious and eternal. The elements are at peace.

The young man stays silent. He prefers to listen to the singing of the birds and the distant grunting of the hippo cows rather than his own words. The simplicity and honesty of their cries is inspiring. He also welcomes the voices of his companions, cherishing them for what they are - an expression of their souls. Even if imperfect, there is beauty in them, a beauty that in some cases they don’t even recognize.

Su strays from their chosen path time and again, visiting the nearby fields and returning with stains on her hands and mouth, but also with a light in her eyes. A soft smile forms on Gawa’s lips. He doesn’t approve of her taking without permission, but recognizes the futility of trying to stop a child from plunging a finger into a jar full of scorpion bee honey. Su reminds him of a child whenever she scoops up whatever edibles she can find. She doesn’t realize it, but the wall she has erected around her crumbles at such moments.

Honoka’s words make the monk turn to look at the sealed barrels inside the wagon.

"Do you have reason to suspect the captain, Honoka?", he asks earnestly. He seeks his companion’s eyes, showing her that he doesn’t condemn her curiosity, even though he doesn’t share it. "Learning about the barrels’ contents wouldn’t change their nature." But it would signify a breach of trust. He doesn’t say so, but he also knows he doesn’t have to. Honoka understands, both the spoken words and those left unsaid.

With the matter resolved as far as he is concerned, the monk again focuses on the sensations surrounding him. A part of him wishes the journey to Shu Jing would go on forever.


 

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Last edited by Elanir; May 9th, 2024 at 11:43 AM.
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Old Apr 27th, 2024, 08:24 AM
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Cui Fan
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The journey from North Chung-Ling was gentle enough, their voyage untroubled by marauding pirates, terrifying sea monsters, or even particularly choppy waters. Cui spent most of it being violently ill, and is only now recovering.

She wasn't much help in Port Hikiri (having spent most of their brief visit face down in the dirt, groaning gratefully) so she's trying to make up for it now by walking at the front of the group, leading the way. It's proving more challenging than she thought it would (Gawa has longer legs), but she's regaining her strength with every bare-footed stride. This river canyon they're making their way up is not at all like home, but after the terrors of the open ocean it's enormously comforting.

"We shouldn't open them, should we? Won't we find out what they are when we deliver them?"

Cui frowns. It hadn't struck her as odd that Fukui hadn't confided it them - does this mean Honoka's more switched-on than she is? Sharper of wit, keener of eye, more vigilant? Or just paranoid and cynical? Actually she'd been horizontal for most of that exchange with the captain, so she supposes she loses this round by default...

"...hey. When did we get tomatoes?"
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Old Apr 27th, 2024, 01:19 PM
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Su, the Rogue
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“Two… no, three hippo cows back.” Su waves a hand over to the left side of the road, only vaguely pointing Cui towards the farms.

Last edited by Robodog; May 23rd, 2024 at 02:06 PM.
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Old Apr 27th, 2024, 03:17 PM
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Cui Fan "Oh."

Cui glances back down the road, and assumes that she must have somehow missed a stall.

"...can I have one?"
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Old Apr 28th, 2024, 05:53 AM
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“Um…”

Su's gut response is simple. 'What? No, get your own.' But she hesitates. It's rude, impolite, outright discourteous. Which is fine, but she's stuck with these people for a week at least. Plus the voyage on to Taka! There's no way having to find another way off a rural Fire Nation island is worth the price of a single tomato.

“…sure.” She wipes tomato dribbles off with the back of their hand and jogs up from the back (Cui has longer legs), armed with a satchel full of vegetables.

Last edited by Robodog; May 23rd, 2024 at 02:06 PM.
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Old Apr 28th, 2024, 09:18 AM
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HonokaHonoka meets Gawa's gaze. "No." She knows her old headmistress would imply that Fukui would not have run afoul of brigands if he were not himself involved in questionable business. But that is not the example she wishes to emulate anymore. Although, Fukui being a victim did not, itself, mean that he is pure as a dragon's flame either. "No," she says more firmly. "I have no reason to mistrust him, and even if I did, it would be a poor smuggler who entrusted their goods to strangers in the interests of shore leave."

She eyes the barrels again. "Which is why I consider it far more likely that we're escorting a shipment of night soil and the captain did not wish to offend our sensibilities with that knowledge." Honoka smirked. "And while I won't turn my nose up at purveying Mind the profanity filter, folks!excrement, I'm not going to unseal a barrel to get the full effect."
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Old May 1st, 2024, 02:15 AM
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She is glad to be back on terra firma. The Foggy Swamp is not exactly a dry place, of course – closer to the opposite if anything – but its bodies of water take the shape of stagnant pools, stretches of sodden, muddy soil, and crude canals of sorts that meander past (or underneath) the twisting roots of the swamp’s countless gnarled trees. For there to be nothing but water, as far as the eye can see and the mind can encompass – that did not sit particularly well with Bai. If she were a waterbender the open sea might have proved a vista of boundless opportunity and potential, but as things are…

Well, she has quickly come to like Luri Island a lot. Its verdancy, its colours, its sheer openness beneath that glorious, wide sky: all of it is so very different from her native swamp, and in a good way no less. If she did not have a job to do, she could spend days just wandering around the island, aimless in no particular direction, taking an earnest interest in its multifarious flora and maybe trying to befriend a hippo cow or two.

Bai does have a job to do, however, and so she pads alongside the wagon just off the road itself, keeping an idly watchful eye on everything and nothing while letting the grass tickle her bare feet. Earlier she used her plantbending to fashion a number of small, pretty flowers into a simple coronet that now brings a modicum of earthy elegance to her somewhat unkempt dark hair. It also goes well with the rest of her attire, which chiefly comprises a wrap top of rugged, moss-green cloth and a long skirt sewn from the large, leathery, frond-like leaves of some huge swamp plant.

On the subject of the wagon’s cargo, she considers Honoka’s suggestion for a spell. “D’you reckon there’s any profit to be had in that sort of thing ’round these parts?” Bai muses in her easy drawl. “Surely all of them critters do enough crappin’ to fill everybody’s needs and then some, if they’ve a hankerin’ for droppings.” She plucks the blade of grass she has been chewing on from her mouth and waves it generally towards the ubiquitous hippo cows.
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Old May 1st, 2024, 05:13 PM
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Noise by Nightfall The warm breeze, the open sky, and the not-quite-ripe yet still tasty vegetables of Luri island are as welcoming as can be, and they make the day's travel with your companions both pleasant and relaxing. It's good to finally have the chance to start to feel each other out, absent the presence of the captain and his crew. The day passes quickly as you converse with one another and walk the narrow road along the edge of the canyon.

As the sun begins to set, you're only a couple hours outside of Shu Jing, and you're left with a decision. You can press on in the dark, in which case you'll arrive there late this night. Or you can camp on the road, and arrive early tomorrow morning. As you crest a small hill, however, you notice something that catches your attention before you have a chance to discuss your plans.

Another dragon moose pulled cart is stopped outside of a small ranch house up ahead, the cart is about half loaded with crates and boxes. It is accompanied by two people, a man and a woman who wear matching red and black uniforms. The uniforms look vaguely military, though they're not the uniforms of Fire Nation soldiers. Both people have a red band of cloth wrapped around their right arm, on which is embroidered in yellow a symbol of a shield cleft in half. The pair are illuminated by a torch in the man's left hand, which he holds overhead, while the woman pounds on the door of the little cottage.

"Open up!" she shouts "We know you're in there!"

It isn't necessarily any of your business, but it gives you an uneasy feeling. There's an urgency and hostility in the woman's voice that strikes a sharp and bristling contrast from the otherwise tranquil surroundings.

What do you do?
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Old May 2nd, 2024, 03:11 PM
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On the subject of the wagon’s cargo, she considers Honoka’s suggestion for a spell. “D’you reckon there’s any profit to be had in that sort of thing ’round these parts?” Bai muses in her easy drawl. “Surely all of them critters do enough crappin’ to fill everybody’s needs and then some, if they’ve a hankerin’ for droppings.” She plucks the blade of grass she has been chewing on from her mouth and waves it generally towards the ubiquitous hippo cows.
"Well, that all depends on the ratio of pasture to fields..." Honoka continues in the speculative vein for some time, responding to contradiction without rancor and forwarding even more outlandish guesses as to their cargo's nature. Having made the decision to trust Fukui, she no longer cares about arriving at an answer; the fun is in the wondering.

As the sun crawls towards the horizon, a bit of weariness begins to settle into Honoka's loose stance and easy stride. She's looking forward to a bit of rest, but inclined to press on. While she has been gamely learning the lessons of austerity, she is still more practiced in pushing through fatigue than she is in sleeping rough under the stars. A pallet, a pillow, and a roof would be worth the trouble, though she is mindful that others, such as their beast of burden, may have differing opinions.

When they spot the other cart and Honoka has a chance to take everything in—the cart piled with goods, the uniforms, the hostile, entitled urgency in the pair's demeanor—her face resolves into a tight, granite frown and her stride becomes longer and more purposeful in its speed. The uniforms and the armbands suggest a kind of authority, but not one she recognizes as legitimate. Most likely, this is a criminal gang, or else some local lordling's lackeys—which amounts to the same thing in her eyes.

Honoka has a mind to accost them and demand they identify themselves, but before she can get close enough to do so, doubt creeps in and erodes her expression and her speed. They are still in the bounds of the Fire Nation, so she could draw on her family's authority to try to compel an answer, but that feels hypocritical when she is considering renouncing said authority on the grounds that it is fundamentally unjust. More to the point, she doesn't know if she will ultimately make more trouble for whoever is in that house if she takes a high-handed approach. She knows well from experience that attempting to cow bullies through force only makes them more determined to take out their humiliation on those weaker than them.

In the end, she approaches quietly until she is just within the glow of their torch and stands with her arms crossed, staff tucked into the crook of her elbow. She will wait, either for them to notice her so she can judge their intentions by their response, or for them to take a more hostile action that will compel her intervention.
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Old May 5th, 2024, 03:23 AM
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Gawa the Icon (Airbender)
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Ever so slowly, as the light gradually diminishes and the shadows become longer and deeper, Gawa starts feeling fatigue after a long day’s journey. It is a welcome feeling, for the physical strain he experiences reassures him that his actions today have had an effect on the world, minor though it was. He can close his eyes tonight knowing that he has done his best.

The dragon moose appears to have grown tired as well and Gawa comforts the beast with gentle words. He doesn’t mind sleeping under the stars, in fact he prefers it, but he is mindful of both the needs of his traveling companions and the weight of his duty. Fukui expects them to reach Shu Jing as quickly as possible and the Air nomad doesn’t want to disappoint him. The merchant has been generous towards him and his companions and Gawa feels that he deserves the same consideration.

The rapidly cooling air brings to him the sounds of happy families gathering around the cooking fires from nearby Shu Jing or so he tells himself. According to the map, it’s only a couple of hours before they reach the town. He suspects that Su will be grateful to fill her belly with something more substantial than uncooked vegetables. A fulfilling meal, a conversation among friends, a fire to keep one warm - what more could one want? Yet even as he forms this thought, he knows that it’s a hollow one. The most important part is missing, for Gawa at least.

Harsh voices disturb the calmness of the evening and Honoka is quick to head towards the direction of two figures banging at someone’s door. Gawa admires her determination and courage. Judging from the contents of their wagon, the two ‘soldiers’ are collecting goods. Whether these goods are provided willingly is doubtful.

Gawa is worried about the ones residing inside the house and fears what could happen if the pair with the uniforms grows angry. On the other hand, he knows nothing about the situation other than what he sees and hears. He realizes that appearances are often misleading. Besides, his vows prohibit him from intervening in a community without invitation. Still, he cannot allow the situation to escalate. There might be a way to divert the couple’s attention.

With a reassuring pat at the dragon moose’s flank and a meaningful glance towards his companions, he follows Honoka’s example, approaching the man and woman with the uniforms. As usual, his steps are measured and his tone calm.

"Greetings and blessings of the spirits, good people of Luri Island. My name is Gawa and my companions and I are heading to Shu Jing. Is the town still far away? Our moose dragon is exhausted, as must be yours. It is a calm and beautiful evening, perhaps we should camp for the night and carry on with our business tomorrow. What do you say? Care to join our camp?"

Suspecting that the couple has other things on their mind than spending the night in the fields with strangers, Gawa looks around, trying to find a way to lure them away from the house in case they decline his invitation.


 

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Last edited by Elanir; May 9th, 2024 at 11:43 AM.
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Old May 5th, 2024, 06:32 PM
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When the man notices Honoka's approach and standoffish posture, he turns to face your group, and seems about to say something sharp. Gawa's friendly greeting appears to catch him off guard. He tries to respond kindly in turn.

"Just a couple more hours that way" he answers, his voice low both of pitch and volume "Best you kept moving though. This is Rift Guard business, keep your distance."

The man and the woman reposition themselves to be between their cart and you, stepping away from the door to the house momentarily.

Gawa, as you look around you notice a few things of interest. For starters, it's not lost on you how they reposition themselves, as if to protect the contents of their cart from you. It appears they're not willing to risk the cart's contents easily. You also notice their dragon moose, it's pawing the ground with a front hoof, and shifting side to side in its harness. The creature is anxious, and less well tamed than your own. It's possible it could be spooked into running.

You see a light flickering under the door to the house, which you're sure this pair has noticed as well. It suggests someone is home, or at least that they left a fire burning (most unsafely, if they're absent!). Around the side of the house, a tall stone sticks up from the ground by the closest wall of the nearby barn. The stone is covered in black scorch-marks. The patterns suggest to you that a firebender has used this stone to practice their techniques on. If that firebender is around, this situation could heat up quickly, though you don't see anybody else here.

What now?
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Old May 7th, 2024, 02:30 PM
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Cui Fan
Character sheet (fluff / crunch)_____Cr +1 Fo +1 Ha +0 Pa +0__Fatigue 0/5_____Statuses None Conditions None

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Cui is a subject of the Earth Kingdom: her compatriots are renowned for their stamina, their stoicism, their sheer grit. She has spent countless nights sleeping beneath the stars, countless hours wandering the banks of the great Se Tu - and often in conditions far less clement than these.

...however. She's also used to eating three hot meals a day (plus snacks). "Earthbending comes from the gut!" her father always said, and she was never quite sure if he was joking. The seasickness had been keeping her appetite suppressed for a time, but now that Cui's spent a good few hours walking it off - and eating far too little food - she's ravenous.

"A couple more hours!" she blurts out (disdaining to match the 'Rift Guard' man's subdued tone).

Cui has been slow to get to grips with the situation unfolding before them here, and happy enough to let her more worldly companions take the lead (for it can also fairly be said that Earth Kingdom subjects seldom question those who hold a proper - or even improper - claim to authority over them). Now, though, her (never especially deep) reserves of patience are all but exhausted. She frowns fiercely at no-one in particular, and though she addresses her next question to Honoka she does so quite loudly.

"What is a Rift Guard? Are we supposed to be listening to them?"
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