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Plot Update 10 March 2021

A year has passed since Fire Lord Zuko ascended the throne, and it seems like trouble is brewing between the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom once more. The Fire Lord and the Avatar began the Harmony Restoration Movement to restore the Fire Nation Colonies to their pre-war state by bringing any Fire Nation nationals back home, but for many of the citizens — of mixed Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom … Read more ›

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A Little Sight Seeing [TAG: Charumati]

Post by Lin Lua'Kahn on Sept 2, 2020 19:57:47 GMT -6

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Lin and her companions settled behind a bush well out of sight of the main road. The dense red leafed trees providing more than enough over from any prying eyes that might have happened upon them. The sun sat high in the sky, but the way it filtered down through the trees it might as well have been just before twilight. The entire forest floor was cast in deep hues of orange and red. As if the essence of fire itself had soaked into the trees here. 

After a short pause, just long enough to assure herself that they were truly alone in the wood, Lin settled her weapon to the ground beside her. Hastily beginning the process of binding and covering the weapon in a dark sheet of coarse linen. Using leaves and twigs from nearby bushes she changed the silver guan dao into a shapeless dark bundle. Nothing more than a collection of firewood stuffed in a sack to protect it over a long journey. It had not rained in days, so such protection wasn't necessary. But she highly doubted anyone who cared or mattered would notice. 

All the while as she worked, Lin spoke in a hushed tone to her companions.

"Alright, stick to the plan," Lin hissed. "Jozhou, you head to the north side and travel into town from there. He-Lin, you come in from the west side up the river. I'll continue in from the east. Remember, don't start anything. Just a some country bumpkins in town for a stroll. If your attacked finish it, but disengage as soon as possible. If you are chased we will meet up by the big badgermole statue back in Taku in three days. Got it?" 

The other two nodded and without a word whisked through the brush to begin the long trek through the woods around town before coming in from their assigned positions. As they fled Lin worked on the second part of her disguise. Swiftly she unclasped and unbound the hooks and bindings that held her breastplate and plate metal faulds in place. Carefully and, most importantly, quietly she folded the scaled armour on top of itself and tucked it under the bush she had chosen as cover. Then she removed the vambraces at her sleeves, her rusted and dented conical helm, and finally the thick cotton gambeson she had worn beneath it all. Bundling it all together she shoved it beneath the bush, casting leaves and branches on top to hide it from any lucky forest wanderer.

Unarmored Lin got to her feet, brushing a lock of black hair from her eyes as she surveyed her little hiding spot from where she stood. It passed the brief inspection, she highly doubted anyone could be so lucky as to stumble upon her equipment this far from the road anyway. Satisfied she drew her belt knife and slashed a shallow "X" into the trunk just above eye level for her. Then, slamming the knife home, she gathered the bundle of twigs, sticks, and her hidden guan dao then made her way away from this place. Counting the steps as returned towards the main road. 

Fifty paces later she stepped cautiously out onto the main road, checking both up and down the path for travelers. She saw no one so, with a sigh of relief, she hefted her bundle onto a shoulder and started towards town. Clad in the muted green tunic, trousers, and smock of a regular Earth Kingdom peasant she continued on in a slouch. The same kind of slouch she had seen for so much of her young life from men and women who worked long and hard in the fields back home. Her green eyes cast to the ground except for the occasional, and she hoped subtle, furtive glances to the path ahead. 

Just a peasant. No one important, a farm woman left to her own devices. Lin thought as she trudged westward down the road towards town. Within minutes she breached the edge of the forest and the river valley came into sight. And with it the small town that was her target.

The village looked like any other tiny walled in hamlet in the Earth Kingdom but for one major difference. Fire nation banners hung from the towers that marked the four corners of the village, and tents in the muted red hues of fire nation soldiers sat huddled just north of the town along the shallow river that passed by. Surrounded by a palisade of logs that had been sharpened and hardened by fire to ward off any overly brave farmers. 

Lin averted her eyes from the Fire Nation camp, and continued towards town. If the intel Sifu and the others had received was right, the camp was under manned, but also under supplied. The real juicy target would be in the town itself. A granary full to bursting, and manse taken over by the local Fire Nation officer who had decided he was tired of sleeping on the ground. 
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Post by Charumati on Sept 5, 2020 20:41:43 GMT -6

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Unusually, Charumati found herself en route to a Fire Nation outpost.

It was a small village on the outskirts of the colony territories, perhaps an hour's carriage ride from her own, larger town. The most unusual part of things was that she found herself attending not in her White Lotus persona — disguised and inconspicuous — but rather by her persona of Rohana, wealthy merchant heiress. It was rare that she ever left town as Rohana... most of her business dealings could be done by letter and missive, and she was known (or rather, Rohana was known) as something of a homebody, preferring to stay, eat, and shop locally.

But, as needs must, she found herself along this path. The small village was home to a local supplier, a man whose family had been setting stones in jewellery for six generations. There had been some discrepancies in the charges he sent her, and Charu suspected that the Fire Nation had hit his family hard for some sort of bribe or cut of profit.

Anger flooded her, but she bit the inside of her cheek to stay calm. Getting angry and blowing her cover before the Order even had a chance to help the Avatar would be unacceptable. Not just for the Order, but for her own personal sense of justice.

As they neared the town, Charumati saw a figure moving westward, heading towards her. A farmer, to the untrained eye, but Charumati wasn't a member of the Order for nothing; the figure's head kept glancing up and down, as if checking to see if anyone noticed them. Immediately, Charumati's suspicion heightened.

With a soft word to her driver, the carriage stopped just short of the town, in such a way that the figure would have to pass her.

Charumati stepped out of the carriage, her silk robes trailing elegantly behind her. Today's over-robe was made of light blue silk, her hem and billowing sleeves decorated with cranes, their beaks embroidered with ochre thread; the collar was a dark blue, patterned silk, while the sash cinching it closed was made of ochre silk. Her flowing under-robes were a dark blue silk, with the barest of gold-threaded patterns.

Her driver held out his hand to help her step down and she accepted, taking care to ensure her long, gold finger-talons didn't brush his skin. The poison concealed within them hadn't yet been released, but since he was a good man, a good driver, and (even more crucially) an excellent and loyal secret-keeper, Charumati was loathe to run the risk.

Once she had stepped onto firm ground, he bent over to check the axle on the carriage wheel. Charumati turned as if surveying their surroundings, and he used the cover of her voluminous robes to intentionally break one of the axle's metal parts with his firebending.

"Sorry, madam," he said loudly, as the hooded figure came into earshot. "I have no idea what happened here, it looks like the metal just melted."

"That's horrible!" Charumati exclaimed, placing a hand over her heart as if she were in distress. "We must get someone to assist us — you, you there, farmer. We need your help, my carriage has broken down."
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Last edit: Sept 7, 2020 2:05:01 GMT -6

Post by Lin Lua'Kahn on Sept 7, 2020 3:41:53 GMT -6

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Lin was surprised to hear the woman in silks call out to her. She had noted the carriage down the road but had thought little of it. After all if someone could afford a carriage they clearly could not afford the time to notice anyone like her. She had seen the carriage roll to a stop however and when the woman had gotten out she was stunned. Why in the spirits would a wealthy Earth Kingdom woman get out of her carriage so close to a Fire Nation occupied town? 

Either way whatever the woman was about was of no interest to Lin, so she had intended to pass by without so much of a second glance. That was of course until the woman had called out and stopped Lin in her tracks.At first her heart fluttered in panic, but she stamped it down almost immediately. What was there to panic about? It was just some woman... though if the sentries saw them they might draw undue attention to Lin. Who wanted no part in whatever had happened to the woman. 

Lin tried to continue on past the woman, starting again with a shake of her head at the woman's request. 

"Sorry, have to get this wood to my father. I don't know much about wagons. I can see if I can get him to come help you, though." She said without meeting the blue silk garbed woman's gaze. Unwilling to so much as make eye contact as she continue her evasive attempts to escape the confrontation. 
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Post by Charumati on Sept 9, 2020 14:31:00 GMT -6

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After multiple decades in the Order of the White Lotus, Charumati knew a suspicious character when she saw one. They tried to move past her, deflecting her pleas for help with something about an obligation; deftly, she sidestepped to block their path.

"I suggest," she said, her voice dropping to a low hiss, "that you rethink whatever it is you're about to do."

She made a big show of adjusting her robes for the benefit of the soldiers she knew were watching them, and made vague gestures to her carriage as if explaining the problem with her transport. Her softly spoken words, however, told the suspicious stranger a different story.

"There is another occupied town, much larger than this one, just an hour away. A commander has made it his regiment's outposts, and his forces number five hundred. You are starting a fight you cannot finish, and you will subject the people of this town to a greater retribution than you can make amends for."

Her eyes narrowed as she studied the figure. They were fairly androgynous in their disguise, but from the lack of wrinkles around their green eyes Charu knew they were significantly younger than she was. It always warmed her heart to see young folk picking up the banner of fighting against the occupation, but with youth came a brashness not tempered by experience. Normally, she would have let this go; but the little town had already suffered so much and she was nearly certain that this person and whatever little friends they may have had scattered about to assist, would be opening a box that could not be so easily closed.

"Please," she said, gesturing again to her carriage and maintaining the facade of a woman seeking mechanical help, "there are children in this town."
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Post by Lin Lua'Kahn on Sept 9, 2020 19:32:25 GMT -6

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Lin had opened her mouth to snap at the woman when she'd stepped in her path, but the woman's whispered words caused her pause. Mouth agape as she listened to the woman's soft words in dumb struck silence. And even once the woman had finished she held her silence for a long moment as she cursed herself. 

Oh of course, I'm the one who gets found out almost immediately. Who in the name of Kyoshi does this woman think she is? Lin thought bitterly as she looked from the woman, to the cart, and to the Fire Nation soldiers far beyond earshot at the town gates watching with mild disinterest. None made a move to help the stalled carriage and leaned on their spears, bored at their assigned task. 

Lin tried to find an out, to find some way to get away from this woman and continue her mission. To do something to extricate herself without breaking her cover. And the only option she found was to play along with this farce and hope the woman wasn't just trying to get a confession out of her. If this turned out to be some ruse to turn Lin over to the fire nation for a couple of coins... 

"I'm not about to do anything but look around, Lady." Lin finally growled when she felt she had no choice. She shifted the bundle on her shoulders and settled it to the ground between her and dropped the bundle the last few feet to the ground. Allowing the sticks to rattle against the metal of the weapon underneath. She intended the gesture as a warning, but the simple act of letting the weapon leave her hands made her feel all the more vulnerable.

"Not if they didn't start anything first." The diminutive young woman added softly with a irritable shrug of her shoulders. She then heaved an almost theatrical sigh and gestured at the carriage. As if to ask for the woman to show her the problem rather than just tell her. 

"Besides, what will the fire nation do that they don't already whenever the fancy takes them when no one fights back?"
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Post by Charumati on Sept 9, 2020 20:06:13 GMT -6

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Charumati watched calmly as the would-be freedom fighter's expression changed from nervousness to surprise, then flashed to irritation. They rattled their weapon at her, and she hid a smile, instead gesturing for them to look closer at the carriage wheel.

She peered and jabbed pointlessly at various things, but continued in her undertone: "It's an honourable attempt, but you're being too brash. Unless you have a hundred or so good fighters waiting for you in the wings? Or perhaps a few bending and weapons masters?"

Charumati crouched down as if showing a specific carriage part, and waggled her gold-taloned fingers.

"Relax. If I wanted you dead, or turned over to the Fire Nation, you wouldn't have had time to blink; there's enough poison here to kill a lion-moose."

With a wry half-smile, she glanced at the person out of the corner of her eye.

"If you want to keep going, I won't stop you further. But think about it. You're lucky that you ran into me and not a Fire Nation assassin or spy. There can't be that many of you—a half dozen, I'm guessing? Let's say something goes wrong. I trust you can save your own skin, and that your compatriots can do the same. How will you answer to the children whose parents will bear the punishment for your actions?"

Subtly, Charumati gestured to her driver, who made a great show of pretending to lift the carriage and shaking his head. They were going to have to ask for help from the soliders, but she wanted to keep up the pretense that she had tried to enlist other people to help before turning to them.

"You're sloppy, friend," she continued in an undertone. "Too nervous, trying too hard to fit in. Farmers are a friendly, open bunch. Hunched over and avoiding eye contact? That's like shouting, I'm a spy, look at me."
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Post by Lin Lua'Kahn on Sept 9, 2020 21:31:40 GMT -6

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Lin pursed her lips at the woman's condemnations, and threats, and just grew more irritated with the whole situation. Who was she and where did she get off thinking she knew everything about their situation. What right did she have to lecture her about consequences, she knew just as well as anyone that things had to be done right.

"News flash, lady. I'm one of those children." Lin snapped standing up in a rush with her hands on her hips, not even trying to hide her scowl now. She was really angry now and didn't care any longer if the Fire Nation soldiers saw it.

"And when is the last time you've seen a Earth Kingdom farmer happy to be in Fire Nation territory?" She added pointing angrily at the walled in town. "Everyone walks on egg shells because of them. The only way to slip by unnoticed is to look cowed and harmless. To look like your scared so the most they'll do is watch you then try and goose you along because they get their kicks watching farmers and merchants break down at the slightest Fire Nation interest! You know how many spies they actually ever find? None! Half the people they charge as spies are innocent farmers who just want to be left alone! Or kids who just so happen to know how to Earth Bend a pebble two feet off the ground!" 

Lin's voice was rising now. She didn't mean to, but as she went on she gathered more and more fuel in her furor. This tantrum had been long in coming. All this skulking around and being sneaky. She wanted to smash things, not dance around them like some waterbender. 
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Post by Charumati on Sept 9, 2020 21:52:32 GMT -6

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Charumati shook her head.

"You misunderstand me, and if you don't want to entirely blow your cover, keep your voice down."

She sighed and fiddled unnecessarily with the wheel and pretended to fan herself with her other hand. She hadn't planned on being out of doors this long, but while the heavy silks were breathable fabric, the layering was beginning to make her perspire. She gauged the situation, and figured it was safe to let a small secret slip.

"Being cowed isn't the only way to be undetected. Would you believe me if I said I've been a spy for longer than you've been alive? If you were a Fire Nation soldier, would you think of a woman who could spend a year of your wages or more in the blink of an eye as a threat? I'm not here to threaten you, I'm saying we have a common purpose and I am more experienced than you in this arena. Being an effective spy means understanding your audience and learning how to blend in with any crowd. The colonies have normalised Fire Nation presence. We live in harmony with many Fire Nation citizens, even if we still resent the army's presence. It is far more common to see a happy colonist, even in a city as large as Yu Dao, than it is a skulking one."

Charumati pulled out a fan from a hidden inner pocket on her robe and began fanning herself in earnest.

"You are no longer one of these children, my dear, because you're old enough to fight. Are you telling me the consequence for you will be the same as the consequence for the toddler who will cry herself to sleep when mommy and daddy are taken away by the Fire Nation tonight? Will you fill the bellies of the orphans whose parents are executed for your acts of treason against the Fire Nation? Or are you content to hit the Fire Nation no matter who pays the price for your attack?"

She sighed again and looked at the young person with understanding.

"I only advise you to rethink your strategy. This outpost is not as unguarded as you think."
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Last edit by Charumati: Sept 9, 2020 21:53:46 GMT -6

Post by Lin Lua'Kahn on Sept 9, 2020 22:28:18 GMT -6

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Lin just folded her arms and scowled at the woman. She did lower her voice but that was the only concession she made to the woman. 

"No ones mom or dad would be taken away by the Fire Nation if people simply fought. You hit the Fire Nation, and keep hitting them so they can't do any of the things that they are already doing if you don't do anything anymore. It's the responsibility of those who can act, and can do something about it, to just do it and not sit around. The Fire Nation will do those things with or without our intervention, so we might as well Intervene and stop it from happening." Lin growled on stubbornly, if she was anything when it came to talking about the fire nation, it was stubborn. As stubborn as a rock.

After a moment more Lin waved her hand at the cart. 

"Whatever's actually wrong with your cart, I can't do anything about it. And there's know way I can get that into town without getting both of us thrown in a Fire Nation prison." 
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Post by Charumati on Sept 9, 2020 22:36:52 GMT -6

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Charu shook her head again, but didn't argue any further. The young person was in their righteous indignation stage, and only the passing of time would allow them to gain the experience that Charumati had the benefit of already having acquired. Experience taught her that the Fire Nation couldn't be hit with guerrilla tactics involving innocent civilians. Sure, if they were hit hard enough they'd leave the Earth Kingdom alone....... and then send in their metal tanks and airships, and their superior military force that only the city of Ba Sing Se had been able to withstand.

She stood and brushed her robes off, and bowed as if thanking an innocent traveller who had stopped to aid a helpless socialite on the side of the road.

"I can still get into the town," she said blandly. "I have business there, and my face is not an uncommon one in this town."

With another wry half-smile she straightened and motioned to her driver.

"Alas, Lee," she said, a bit more loudly. "It looks like we will have to go on foot."

"Yes, madame," her driver replied, a hint of sadness in his voice. "Should I fetch a rickshaw?"

Charumati shook her head, then eyed the young person and once more dropped her voice to an undertone.

"Do you want to escort me into the city and then disappear into the crowd, or do you want to try your luck sneaking in?"
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Post by Lin Lua'Kahn on Sept 10, 2020 7:21:29 GMT -6

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Lin's brow remained furrowed at the woman's question. She wanted to say she would try her own luck, she really wanted to just try her own luck rather than spend a few more moments in the woman's presence. But through her stubbornness a pragmatic spark managed to beat the refusal back into submission. The woman was offering an, if she was to be believed, free pass into the town for Lin. Travelling with her would get her past the guards and once they were out of sight it would be a simple enough matter of ditching the woman and scouting out her objectives. 

Actually saying she would just go with the woman was far harder for Lin to do than rationalizing the need to go with the woman. She bit her lip almost hard enough to draw blood before she hung her head in defeat before her own inner contest of wills. 

"I'll go with you," Lin finally grumbled, "but the moment I find a good chance to break away I am gone." 

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Post by Charumati on Sept 14, 2020 14:56:32 GMT -6

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She breathed an inward sigh of relief; they were brash, but otherwise seemed to have a good head on their shoulders.

"Wonderful," she said briskly, fanning herself with apparent leisure. With a slight nod to her driver to follow, Charu made her way to the town. It was still a moderate distance away, perhaps a five minute or so walk to the gates, so she took her time. If she moved with haste, it would seem unusual — she was a woman of independent wealth and someone of her status simply did not hasten down a public road in luxurious silken robes.

As they walked, she glanced at her new acquaintance out of the corner of her eye. They were sullen, reluctant, and clearly uncomfortable.

Charu sighed again. Had she ever been this headstrong in her training? Is this what her mentors had felt when she was this age? It was difficult to remember the time before her involvement with the Order. She hadn't been much older than this person was when she was inducted, and spent several years under the skilled and watchful eye of martial arts and weapons masters.

But she refrained from chastising them further. If they weren't receptive, she'd be at risk of making them so incensed that they rushed off without thinking, which would endanger them as well as their comrades.

Passing through the village gates was uneventful. The Fire Nation soldiers nodded familiarly at her arrival. She didn't visit the village often, but she frequently employed messengers and other staff to do so on her behalf. One of the guards raised an inquisitive eyebrow at her new accompaniment, and instead of answering Charumati smiled.

"Good afternoon," she said in her soft, quiet way. "I seem to have run into some trouble on the road. I'm afraid I can't quite remember where the nearest wainwright is?"

As she spoke, she used the cover of her voluminous robes to surreptitiously nudge the would-be freedom fighter with her foot, willing them to leave quietly. Her glance shifted to her driver, who nodded once in understanding.
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Post by Lin Lua'Kahn on Sept 15, 2020 21:48:34 GMT -6

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Lin shouldered her burden and followed along with the woman in sullen silence. She followed closely, just another member of the woman's party, and kept her eyes to herself as they approached the town gate. She waited impatiently when the woman had stopped just past the gate to ask about a wainwright, whatever on earth that was. She was surprised to receive a nudge from the woman and after a moment's hesitation Lin shook her head as if she didn't have time to wait and see if the woman got her directions. She was no longer her concern. 

Quietly, and she hoped innocuously, Lin began to walk off. Readjusting her burden on her shoulders as she started towards the center of town. Already trying to recall the route she had planned to scout out on her way to the town granary. Her eyes traced the streets past stone constructed buildings. Market stalls that had been placed along the main thoroughfare congested the sides of the street, but evidence of a relatively recent "clearing out" showed there were less stalls then there had been. 

The streets were far less occupied than Lin had expected and she frowned in consternation as she gazed across the street at the handful of colonials that seemed willing to walk in broad daylight. And those who few she did see moving about moved quickly about their business. Eager to be out of the streets. 

What happened here? Lin wondered as she trudged onward toward the center of town. 
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Post by Charumati on Sept 16, 2020 21:07:45 GMT -6

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The young person scurried off, unnoticed by the town guards.

Charumati was pleased. Brash as they were, they seemed to have a relatively good head on their shoulders. Probably much too headstrong, still, to test the waters of being recruited into the Order, but she filed their face away in her mind to remember for the future.

Upon receiving directions to the wainwright, she and her driver thanked the guards and began a seemingly leisurely stroll to the establishment.

"You know, Lee," Charumati murmured, "I can't help but have a bad feeling about our friend's goals."

The driver nodded, just a half step behind her like a good servant. Of course, Lee was a member of the Order too. Their little arrangement was mostly for appearances, though by virtue of age and experience Charumati was his senior. She listened as Lee remarked good-naturedly about the follies of friends who had a hard time fitting in; it was, of course, a coded discussion.

Arriving at the wainwright's, Charumati immediately tensed. Something was amiss. She could tell that Lee sensed it too. He immediately dropped another half step behind her, to give her room to react should she need to. Outwardly, it looked as if he was deferring to his mistress, but Charu knew she could count on Lee to watch her back.

The wainwright was a strapping older man around Charumati's age. She favoured him with a brilliant smile, which he returned.

She described the inexplicable melting of the metal parts on the axle of her carriage, wondering with exaggerated but convincing concern about ruffians or ne'er-do-wells targeting wealthy women. He quoted a price, and as Charumati reached for her coin purse, she queried casually about her jeweller, sliding his name into the conversation as if she hadn't a care in the world.

But her jaw went slack at the wainwright's reply. She didn't even need to school her face into one of appropriate shock, because she genuinely was.

"Disappeared?" she repeated. "What do you mean, disappeared?"

Just then, there was a commotion outside.
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Post by Lin Lua'Kahn on Sept 19, 2020 19:24:21 GMT -6

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Lin scoured the town looking for all the world like a farmers daughter trying to find her father in town, or where he had wondered off to, to bring fire wood. All the while during he wanderings Lin took stock of the Fire Nation presence in town. It wasn't particularly heavy in the outer reaches of town, but the deeper she went the more errant patrols or sentries she found. She saw small five man band patrols marching down the major streets, and at each major intersection closest to the town mansion she found at minimum two guards. 

The manse however was by far the most heavily guarded place in the town. A short wall surrounded it on all four sides. With two gates, one at the front and the back, Lin found a minimum of four guards at each. Lin assumed there were even more inside the two story structure with large over-reaching rooftop. Not terribly far from the manse was another large building. This one less an opulent dwelling and more a large warehouse. Unlike the other buildings in town, many of which were square shaped and squat, the granary was a massive cylinder in the middle of the block.

There had been some hopes that the granary would be relatively unguarded. However its proximity to the manse put it in rapid response distance, and nearly a half dozen guards patrolled the block on their own. Each one keeping close to the round structure with clear intention to prevent anyone from anything funny. 

So how do we break in without bringing the whole town on our heads. Lin thought as she stopped on one street corner and bent down to secure her bundle of tree limbs. The package having worked itself loose in the interim. All the while she eyed a passing Fire Nation patrol out of the corner of her vision. Already considering potential attack plans. 
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Post by Charumati on Sept 21, 2020 19:25:45 GMT -6

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Charu put a hand to her heart as if distressed; it wasn't that big of a stretch, as the adrenaline started pumping through her veins as soon as she had heard the sound. Her mind immediately went to the little freedom fighter; a glance at Lee told her that he thought the same.

"My goodness," she exclaimed. "What on earth is that?"

She peered outside and saw that some soldiers were pushing around a haggard-looking young man. Could this be one of the freedom fighter's comrades? Her heart in her throat, Charumati ventured out. She schooled her expression into one of scandalised concern, rather than the burning fury she felt roiling under her skin that had her itching to activate the poison in her finger cuffs.

"Really, sirs," she said in her haughtiest, most affected voice as she walked towards the crowd. "Is it really necessary to conduct yourself in such an unseemly manner?"

Behind her, she could hear the laugh Lee quickly turned into a cough.

One of the soldiers looked up, then leered at her. She stilled; his face was new, and not one of the soldiers she had built a rapport with. So the intelligence reports were true; this town was scheduled to be completely taken over by the Fire Nation, with more settlers coming in from the Fire Nation islands in the upcoming weeks. Her missing jeweller moved to the top of her list of concerns. There was no reason to have a jeweller forcibly removed prior to a resettlement when he could be an enticing attraction to a wealthier settler.

The soldier took a step closer to her, his eyes gleaming as he took in her silk robes and golden ornaments.

"You're not from here," he stated, a little (Charumati thought) stupidly.

"Obviously," Charumati replied with note of incredulousness. She glanced at his comrades, eyebrows raised, and they had the good sense to look sheepish. "I am visiting here on business. As you can plainly see, I am not someone who goes traipsing around tiny hamlets for fun."

She sniffed, as if offended by the notion.

"But I'm not particularly inclined to do business in a town where soldiers are brawling like common thugs in the street."

Her eyes slid slightly past the solider she was reprimanding and landed on a now-familiar figure stopping at a corner just outside a rather unique looking home just as another patrol passed by. Curses and damnation!

Charumati tossed her head back, the ornaments in her hair clinking together daintily.

"What's this fellow done that warrants such treatment?"
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Post by Lin Lua'Kahn on Sept 23, 2020 14:13:13 GMT -6

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Lin had entirely missed the hubbub in the street she had stopped at, but as she started to pick up her bundle her eyes drifted from the granary to a small patrol of Fire Nation soldiers gathered around that same older woman that Lin had ran into earlier. A snide thought had come to mind in regards to the womans supposed mastery of spying, only for her to be found by the Fire Nation so easily. But the thought died when she saw the haggard youth nearby who was clearly the actual focus of the patrol's attention. 

Jozhou you rock-brained moron! Lin practically screamed in the back of her mind as she hastily shouldered her bundle of firewood and stood up. Rushing forward towards the gaggle of soldiers. Thinking quickly she had barely crossed half the distance before she could out. Her eyes locked not on the haggard man. A catch of hesitation caught her as she realized it might not actually be Jozhou. Either way it was too late now and it was time to roll the dice.

"Brother! Brother you idiot! Where have you been? Mother's been worried sick!" Lin snapped from across the road. Sounding for all the world like a furious older sibling. 

"You get over here right this instant and leave those soldiers alone! She told you no more pai sho! She can't afford for you to keep losing like this!"

Lin had closed almost within spear range of the soldiers, and the muscles in her back were sense as a coiled spring as she came to a halt just beyond their reach. Hoping the ruse would work.   
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Post by Charumati on Sept 26, 2020 1:16:51 GMT -6

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Charumati grimaced as the young freedom fighter took notice of the commotion and began to rush over. Luckily, the soldier's had turn their heads at the sound of shouting, and they missed the change in her expression. Quickly, Charu exchanged a glance with Lee, who subtly repositioned himself closer to one of the soldiers, just in case things went pear-shaped.

They called the young man 'brother', and Charumati assumed it was a ruse to protect one of their comrades. Quickly, she cleared her throat to draw the soldiers' attention back to her, and hopefully away from the young people so they could sneak away. She didn't dare glance at either of them, and instead made eye contact with the leering soldier, drawing her fan up to her face so all he could see was her eyes.

"There, now, you see?" she said in a tone that a wise man would take as a warning, "his family has come to retrieve him. Surely this little matter could be considered resolved and let the family take care of their errant son."

The leering soldier looked stupidly from her to the young people, then back at her.

"But he—"

"Is clearly repentant for whatever sins he's committed today. Or is it the job of a Fire Nation solider to interfere with every little ruffian and wayward son in the colonies?"

Charu spoke with derision, her best attempt to mimic those short-haired, middle-aged women who were always demanding to speak to the proprietor of a shop whenever they found something slightly inconvenient. She drew herself up haughtily, shoulders back and chin tilted as she snapped her fan shut and took a few steps forward to help the young man up. Her determined movements dared the soldiers to lay even a finger on her.

They didn't.

"Up you get," she said loudly, helping the young man to his feet. She dropped her voice, and spoke in a tone only the two young folks could hear. "Get out of her. Walk, don't run, and pretend to be deep in conversation."

She took a step back and once again spoke at a loud volume.

"Have a nice afternoon, you two. Young man, be sure to apologise to your mother for the trouble you've put her through."
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Post by Lin Lua'Kahn on Sept 27, 2020 9:25:05 GMT -6

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Lin had to give the old lady credit, she was quick on the uptake. She almost whispered a prayer to the spirit of Kyoshi as she closed to arms length of her "brother" as he got to his feet. She threw her free arm around his shoulders. Before Jozhou had time to react to the seemingly familial gesture, he found his head locked tightly beneath Lin's arm and she bodily dragged him away from the Fire Nation soldiers. She heard the woman's warning on walk and don't run, but she had something a little bit better in mind. 

"You know how much trouble your going to be in when we get back you moron? I had to do all the gathering myself and for what? So you could go goof off with soldiers? They have jobs to do to you moron!" Lin was practically shouting at Jozhou as she dragged him away. If no one looked too closely, and Lin hoped that her performance caused enough discomfort to avert most gazes, she and Jozhou could almost pass as siblings. Save for the fact they looks absolutely nothing alike, but to keep anyone from putting that together she continued to haul the young man by his head. Ignoring his very real groans of protest as she manhandled him with one arm, while still hefting the bundle with her right. 

Despite her performance Lin did not waste time once they were out of sight of the patrol that had accosted Jozhou, and the woman. As they cut down a side street she glanced forward and back to confirm they weren't being tailed before throwing the other forward. Sending Jozhou stumbling to the dirt as he lost his balance. 

"For Yangchen's sake, Jo, what'd you do?" Lin snapped as the young man rolled onto his back and glowered at her. 

"I didn't do nothing, okay? They just got suspicious," Jozhou retorted. "They're paying a lot more attention here than we expected."

Lin let out a long suffering sigh, she wanted to keep venting her frustration out on her compatriot, but now really wasn't the time and even she knew that. She pinched the bridge of her nose then after a second waved at the air dismissively. 

"You're right. They've really locked down the town much more than I expected with a small camp. That old lady that saved mentioned something about a reserve unit in the town nearby that's ready to come running once they get a messenger hawk. If we're going to do anything it needs to be quick, and under darkness." Lin said. Jozhou nodded as he got to his feet, she really doubted he really followed but just thought it sounded like a good idea. 

"What do we do now, Lin?" Jozhou asked his face wracked with worry at the prospect of getting out of town. 

"Well right now we figure out how to leave, and get back to camp." Lin said, biting her lip as she considered. They would probably need to exit out of different gates they had come in on, the guards would likely recognize them if they had stood out so much. And it wasn't unfeasible that within the next half hour word would go around about suspicious activity in town. So they needed to get gone in an Omashu minute. 

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Post by Charumati on Sept 27, 2020 13:03:33 GMT -6

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Charumati felt a weight lift off of her chest as she watched the young folks calmly walk away, keeping up the pretense that they were related. Charumati cleared her throat, drawing the soldiers' attention back on her.

The leering soldier spat at her feet; she stilled, and arched her eyebrow as high as it would go. Another shoulder put his hand on his comrade's shoulder in warning. The leering one shrugged it off and bared his teeth at her in a mock-grin.

"Who are you, anyway?" he challenged.

She tucked her hands into her robe sleeves and gave him a once over. He was young, perhaps around the same age as the boy he had accosted, give or take a few years. It was apparent that his status, and his armour, made him brave. Full of bark, but with the need to prove something that made his bite a little more dangerous that it would be otherwise. She refused to rise to his bait, and instead regarded him with an expression that was a mix of pity and bemusement.

"I am Rohana," she said calmly, as if nothing unusual was happening. "I am but a simple merchant; perhaps you've heard of the Shanxi Group?"

The soldiers' faces paled, as she had intended. The Shanxi Group, set up by her honourable parents, was a powerhouse in import and export across the entirety of the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation Colonies. The group's reach was long, and even the Fire Nation colonist required the wares they provided: imported Fire Nation foodstuffs, textiles, herbs, and cultural materials. While Shanxi Group wasn't a numerous presence, it was strategically placed so even a few small posts could sustain an entire shipping line. 

She smiled at their discomfort, blinking her long lashes at the leering soldier—who was, to her satisfaction, no longer leering and instead looked distinctly pale.

When it was apparent that the soldier had lost his fighting spirit, she turned on her heel to go; the two young people from before were out of sight, and she had no wish to antagonise the Fire Nation any more than necessary in her Rohana persona. The wainwright was peering at her, eyes wide and questioning. She ignored him, and simply went about her business, pressing upon him the need for the change in her wagon wheel so she could return home.

When that was complete, she made her way toward her jeweller's shop. But when she got there, it was boarded up, and no one seemed to know—or, at least, was unwilling to disclose—where he went. It was apparent that she'd get no farther as Rohana.

She made to leave the town; she'd simply wait by her carriage until repairs were complete. On her way out, she kept an eye out for either of the two young people she had previously encountered.
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