Terror in the Teahouse
The bustling teahouse in Merchant Town, northwest Earth Kingdom, had been recieving much greater volume of business of late. The bandits in the mountains had cut off the over land supply and travel routes for the town about two weeks before. With the primary route to Ba Sing Se cut off people had been stuck trying to figure out how to get to the capital so they sell their wares or buy food.
The bandits were known to be waterbenders and earthbenders who used the mountain and natural spring to control everything in the passes over the mountain. It was the rumours that had caught the attention of the Order of the White Lotus. However they had refused to act in in such a minor feud despite their top hunter, Ryuu of the Azure Flame the master firebender of the Northern Hunter Chapter demanding to be allowed to act.
Despite the grandure of the man's title, he preferred to be known simply as Takumi. Now, despite the wishes of his order, he was sat in the teahouse listening to the stories of the survivors of the bandit attacks. The bandits seemed to be becomming more and more brazen with their actions, moving from simple robbery with threats of bending to setting up and causing mudslides to block trap their targets. Things were getting out of control and the earth kindgom seemed to be oblivious to the plight of its people.
Takumi subtly picked up his cup and reheated his cold tea, the heat swelling through his hand and warming his rough clay cup and its contents. He took a sip and tried not to pull a sour face; cold and unpalatable, it was amazing the teahouse was still in business.
He had spent a few hours in the establishment and was beginning to get a clear picture of what was happening. If something wasn't done soon the bandits would just get more and more outragous in their actions.
The ground shook as Takumi finished the last of his sour tasting tea. There were only three things that could shake the ground like that; earthquakes, armies and earthbenders. There were no armies in this region and there had been no sound of panicked animals fleeing before the shakings arrival, which told him all he needed to know.
His prediction came true as the wall of the teahouse smashed open and rubble flew across the room, sending the inhabitants into a panic. Takumi had not moved save to flick his little square table up onto its side to act as a shield. He felt the thud of small rocks against the wood and then was surrounded by a cloud of dust.
The earthbender stood in the hole in the teahouse's wall surveying the room as the dust settled. He grinned viciously as he saw the panic his attack had caused. 'These country bumpkins are such easy pickings' he thought to himself as he watched a merchant quivvering in terror before him. "THIS TOWN IS OURS NOW!!" He bellowed "WE CLAIM THIS TOWN IN THE NAME OF THE BLOODY..." He stopped mid-sentance as he saw a man stand calmly and put his table back on its feet and walk towards the till, checking his coin purse. "Thorn" he finished his sentence in a confused tone.
The earthbender gritted his teeth and lashed out a hand, causing a spear of rock to errupt and fly at the man. The man simply ducked a few inches and the spear passed harmlessly over his head. The earthbender was so stunned by the apparent ease of the dodge, that he did nothing as the man calmly paid for his tea and turned towards him.
"We should take this outside." The man gave the earthbender a look that dared him to argue. The earthbrnder bristled at the challenge, he was being taken lightly. He was going to bring the man outside where he would crush him in front of his men. A savage grin split his face, even if the man did become troublesome his men outside could step in.
The earthbender went to kick up a a rock, but it was too late. Takumi stepped out and sent a straight right punch, a jet of blue flame blasted the man back out of the wall. There was a collective gasp as the earthbender skidded across the ground, his arms flailing at the flames singeing his chest.
"He's a firebender! Get Back!!" The men fell about in a disordered panic, they had been ready to showboat and scare people with their bending. They were not ready to fight a battle of bender vs bender. The group scrambled for footing as Takumi dashed out, the broken wall erupting in flame to cover his movements. The earth benders launched stones at the wall, making the people inside scream in panic. Takumi had already dropped low, a burst of flame swiping at the bandit's feet breaking their stances.
The bandits were now completely in disarray. Their leader had been driven back, and now one man was ignoring their attacks pushing them onto the defensive. The man stumbled but quickly found their foot as the leader shouted "ROCK WALLS"!! They stamped and giant ramparts rose ball around Takumi blocking him from sight. "We got him boss, no way he's getting out!' The earthbenders all stepped forward, ready to deliver their finishing blow.
A roar of blue flames errupted from within in walls and Takumi flew out landing on top of the rocks. Sparks were already crackling from his fingers as he landed, giving the bandits only a moment to recognise what was coming next. A flash of light and a crack of thunder, left all the men unmoving on the floor.
Takumi dropped to the ground by ther inert form of his assailants, he face a mask of disgust. He searched their boduies and found very little: a few coins, a crudely drawn map, some hallucenogenic fungi and a single carved stone on each man; a stone in the shape of a screaming head wrapped in thorns. The discovery of the tiles hardened Takumi's resolve that he was doing something right by leaving his order. It was no coincedence that so many men linked to bender crimes had been found carrying these stones, there had to be a pattern.
A few quick knots later and the men were completely subdued. These bandits were nothing special, so to go so far and draw so much attention there had to be something else at work. Whatever it was, it lay hidden in the mountain pass to Ba Sing Se; so that was where Takumi was headed. He looked at his captured targets and at the staff of the teahouse now peering out at him. They have been useless at making tea, but perhaps they could be set to another purpose.