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Story Even Odder Ends [Multi-Fandom Medley for the 2024 Kessel Run Challenge]

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by devilinthedetails , Jan 8, 2024.

  1. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @earlybird-obi-wan Thank you so much for reading and commenting all throughout my Kessel Run Challenge:D I'm so thrilled that you enjoyed Chiaki's point of view and that you loved Chiaki's guest appearance in the classroom!

    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for reading and for the kind words[:D] I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed the use of the prompt words and got a chuckle out of Chiaki's visit to the classroom! The strict teacher is indeed immune to poor Chiaki's inimitable charms[face_laugh]

    @amidalachick Thank you so much for reading and commenting! :D I'm so glad that you found it great to see Chiaki again and appreciated how protective he was of Lu Ten. He is indeed a very loyal cat and made this challenge prompt a joy to write for! I hope you will enjoy the final vignette as well!

    Title: A Compilation of Letters Exchanged between Fire Nation Princes

    Characters: Lu Ten; Iroh.

    Fandom: Avatar-The Last Airbender.

    Genres: General; Family; Epistolary; Drama.

    Summary: A compilation of letters exchanged between Lu Ten and Iroh while Iroh is at war in the Earth Kingdom and Lu Ten is studying at the Royal Fire Academy for Boys.

    A Compilation of Letters Exchanged between Fire Nation Princes

    To my honored father,

    Picture me bowing respectfully to you. Knuckles pressed against flat palm. Fingers extended like a fanned, rising flame.

    Though the messenger I entrusted this letter to assured me that it would be sent by the fastest steamships in the priority mail for the highest-ranking military officers, he warned me it could be a week or more before this reaches you at your outpost in the distant Earth Kingdom. I imagine this letter puffing its way to you in the iron belly of a smoking steamship. Churning across the white-capped waves to the faraway shore of a strange country on which I have never set foot.

    By the time this letter is placed in your hands, I will have started my first semester at the Royal Fire Academy for Boys.

    I start tomorrow morning, in fact. At the crack of dawn.

    Grandfather summoned me to his throne room today for a formal audience. While I knelt before him, he filled my ears with stern pronouncements. Reminding me that I am your only son and heir. That I must live up to your legacy. That it is my duty to make you proud. To not disappoint or disgrace you. To excel in my studies and training. To prove worthy of my birthright.

    I will not disappoint or disgrace you, Father. I will do my duty as Grandfather said. I will be top in all my classes and training. I will make you proud. I will do well in school tomorrow and all other days.

    This I solemnly promise to you in unfading ink.

    I remain your dutiful son,
    Lu Ten

    To my beloved Lu Ten,

    Imagine me clutching you close to my chest. Hugging you there tight and warm as a blanket on a winter’s night. So I can feel your heartbeat, and you can hear mine.

    I am sorry your grandfather put such pressure on you the day before you started at the Fire Academy, but pressure creates diamonds, and you are a very brightly shining diamond indeed, my son.

    Know that I am always proud of you, and that you have my love forever, no matter how many miles of land and sea separate us. That you could never disappoint or disgrace me. That it is my joy to watch you shape your own destiny. Carve out your own legacy.

    Keep your wide-eyed curiosity, and I am sure you will learn much. Both inside school and outside of it. Perhaps more outside of it than inside of it. The most important lessons are often not taught in classrooms, after all. Remember that even as you bend over your books and memorize the characters written there.

    You were worthy of your birthright the moment you were born, and I held you, crying, in my arms for the first time.

    I hope your first day of school went well.

    You remain ever in my heart, steady as its beat,

    To my golden general of a father,

    My first days and weeks of school have gone well. I have adjusted to the rigors of the schedule even though my mind and body are drained by dusk. Like spent candles burnt to their smoldering bottoms.

    I have joined three extracurricular activities because we have been urged to participate in as many as we can juggle on top of our classwork and training. We are not supposed to have any free time we might use to get into mischief or just to be lazy. We are only supposed to sleep, eat, study, train, and do our enriching extracurriculars.

    I have joined the orchestra. Playing the tsungi horn in the back row. I think of you whenever I blow into it.

    I am also a member of the Poetry Oratory Society–headed by our literature teacher–and of the Pai Sho Club, which is led by our mathematics master. My friend Koji has joined the Pai Sho Club as well, and we compete against each other often.

    I have been told by the mathematics master himself that you were the best Pai Sho player in your year during your time at the Royal Academy and that you were President of the Pai Sho Club in your senior year.

    I have confirmed this is not a tall tale–not the mathematics master pulling my leg and having a laugh at my gullible expense–with a visit to the glass trophy cabinet in the school’s red marble atrium. Where I have seen your name embossed in a golden, polished plaque. Memorializing forever the dates you served as President of the Pai Sho Club.

    It is quite a legacy to live up to, but I enjoy playing Pai Sho and am learning many new tricks and strategies through the Club.

    I look forward to testing them against you when you are next home on leave.

    Confident that my new Pai Sho tactics will result in victory,
    Lu Ten

    My roaring dragon of a son,

    A game of Pai Sho would be sweet, and a game of Pai Sho home with you on leave would be even sweeter. Sweeter than honey melted into oolong tea.

    I marched through an Earth Kingdom village with the most marvelous oolong tea today. It is flavorful and fragrant. With or without milk and honey.

    I am sending you two boxes with this letter. Think of me when you sip and smell it. When you brew and steep it. Never for more than three minutes. The steeping, that is. Not the thinking of me.

    Think of me as much as you like. As long as you like.

    Know that I am thinking even longer and harder of you,

    My tea connoisseur of a father,

    Thank you for sending the boxes of oolong tea. I have sampled it many ways with varying amounts of milk and honey. Based on my experimentations, I have decided that I like it best with a spoonful of honey stirred in and no milk.

    I have sent you some tins of matcha tea. I picture you mixing a cup of it for yourself and sipping on it as you sit at your desk in your tent. Studying your maps. Plotting your next battle. Bringing the Fire Nation ever closer to our final triumph in the Earth Kingdom. The conquest of Ba Sing Se.

    May the matcha tea bring down the mighty walls of Ba Sing Se,
    Lu Ten

    To my dearest son,

    I thank you kindly for the matcha tea. I believe the cups of it propelled me to victory over the ancient Earth Kingdom city of Jinlan.

    I am enjoying the tins of matcha tea very much. It makes a nice counterpoint to the spicy chuan chuan served in restaurants across Jinlan.

    Chuan Chuan is the city’s speciality. The dish for which it is famous across the Earth Kingdom. You order the individual skewers of food that you want at the restaurant counter. Strips of tofu. Freshly sliced vegetables. Cow intestine. Chicken feet and gizzards. Slivers of beef.

    Then you choose the soups in which you wish to cook your skewers. You are not limited to one soup, and may pick two or even three as the hotpots in which the skewers are cooked can be divided into segments. The soup spiced by chili peppers is mouth-numbing and nicely complimented by the milder oxtail broth and the unami of the boiled fish with pickled cabbage options.

    It is hearty, Earth Kingdom peasant fare. Stomach-warming and stomach-filling. Incorporating the offal and intestines that are so much a part of the Earth Kingdom peasant diet.

    I hope we will be able to enjoy skewers of chuan chuan together one day when the Earth Kingdom is entirely at peace and subjugated. A content part of the glory of the Fire Nation. You would savor the beef slivers though perhaps gag at the chicken feet unless you have become a more adventurous eater since I saw you last.

    Thinking of you with a love as warm as chili pepper soup,

    To my most triumphant father,

    Word has reached us in Caldera City of your successful conquest of once-proud Jinlan. There were parades in your honor. Speeches from your father the Fire Lord and other top government officials. Their voices ringing out from palace balconies over the crowded squares of the capital.

    Firecrackers in an exploding rainbow of colors were released every night for a week. Lighting up the sky. Reflected in the ocean and canals.

    Hundreds of people dressed as crimson and cobalt dragons. Danced through the streets in celebration.

    We at the Royal Fire Academy were not granted so much as a day off from our lessons. However, we were permitted the rare treat of a dessert after our lunch. A single small cup of rice pudding each. Sweetened with soy milk. Spiced with cinnamon and ginger. Then it was back to our classes and our training as usual.

    I do not have much time to write. My time is swallowed up preparing for the annual Dragon Boat Festival that will take place in Caldera City next week.

    Koji and I are competing as a team together. I, the lighter of the two of us, will be rowing at the front of the ship. In the prow we have carved to look like a dragon’s fanged head. Koji will be in the rear, which we have shaped to resemble the sinuous tail of a dragon.

    So much of our flesh and blood has gone into that ship. We have each sustained a hundred splinters working on it.

    I hope our flesh and our blood, our splinters and our tears, will be rewarded with a victory in the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival.

    That, next time I write to you, I will have my own humble triumph to report to you.

    Wish me luck, though the race of the Dragon Boat Festival will probably be long over by the time you receive this letter. It is the thought that counts as you always say!

    Your splintered, ship-building son,
    Lu Ten

    To my brave, young mariner,

    You have, as always, my wish for your good fortune in the Dragon Boat Festival race and in all else.

    I know that you will do your best in the race. That you will work as hard as you can, and, more importantly, you will have fun with Koji. Do not forget to laugh during the race. Laughter will lighten you and speed you through the water. Making you glide along it like a bug over a lotus-covered garden pond.

    As long as you worked hard and had fun with Koji, you won the race whether you came first or not. Coming first is the smallest part of winning.

    You will have to show me the dragon boat that you built with Kojji when I come home. I look forward to rowing in it with you if my pot-belly won’t sink it to the bottom when I first step into it.

    I eagerly await an update on the Dragon Boat Festival race.

    Your ever-fascinated,

    To my wisest and best of fathers,

    My fingers tremble so much with excitement as I write this that it is a marvel that every word isn’t an incomprehensible blur. An indistinguishable, unfathomable smear. A vague smudge of ink-blackness.

    Not to bury the lead (as my friends who participate in the Journalism Club that produces our Fire Academy school newspaper would say), but Koji and I won our Dragon Boat Festival race.

    We were the first in our age group to cross the scarlet ribbon of the finish line.

    I admit that I was worried when the race first started because the crowds lining the banks and bridges of the canals were louder than I had expected. Louder than Koji and I had trained for when we practiced our rowing for the race.

    It was hard to tune out the shouts and cheers of the crowd at first, but it became easier to ignore them as we fell into the rhythm of our rowing. Found the steady pace of our strokes that we needed to push us to victory. We were focused but we had fun too. We laughed when the water from our flying oars sprayed us.

    And when we stood on the podium and the mayor draped our gold medals around our necks, we had grins splitting our cheeks open. Cutting across our faces from ear to ear.

    We lifted our newly awarded medals to our lips. Bit into them. For luck and to test their solidity. To affirm that they were real. Not trinkets we had dreamed.

    I can still taste the gold and the triumph on my tongue. Tingling as chili pepper.

    Your happy and hard-working son,
    Lu Ten
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Great exchange of love in words and tangible gifts like different kinds of tea ;) I love the ways they open and close their letters with unique salutations.

    Congratulations on completing your KR successfully. It was a joy to read.
  3. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 11, 2014
    I was hoping to catch up with your thread before you posted the long vignette, but I got swallowed whole by my own viggie and then by the OTP Challenge. So I'm late (as usual) but you're getting a big fat review from me today!

    One Bed and Three Fire Nation Girls

    Oh, Azula. Never change. I said this already in your DDC but you really have her voice and attitude down pat, and this was a great twist on the "only one bed" prompt. I also love how Ty Lee is always the optimistic one and Mai the sarcastic one (I'm kind of puzzled that they lasted that long as Azula's "friends" TBH :p ).
    Azula logic. You just can't make it up – but you actually can, and you do it perfectly!

    Protection through a Mad Eye

    Ooooh, great choice of POV here, and it was a perfect choice for the prompt to show us the depths of Barty's black soul, up to and including the line of dialogue, which fit seamlessly in this story and was actually an operative moment in the plot. I especially liked the sequence of Barty's manoeuvering around Neville and how you showed that the demonstration of the Unforgivable Curses in class was a many-layered scheme – to establish his reputation and image as Mad-Eye Moody but also to have a pretext to "comfort" Neville, no matter the distress it caused him to see the Cruciatus Curse. The fact that this distress isn't even mentioned one way or another tells us everything we need to know about how Barty views Neville as a pawn – not even an adversary, just a pawn.

    I agree with you and @Mira Grau that Barty Crouch came across as the bravest, most dedicated and most competent Death Eater, but I think that this is precisely why he had to be taken out of the picture at the end of the book – the rest of the story would become incredibly complicated if there was such a formidable foe, and removing him also left the "space" for Snape to be Voldemort's most trusted servant. I do feel that it would have been cool to see him again, but he's not a character that can just appear in the background, can he?

    A Rainy Day at the Burrow, Recounted for the Amusement and Edification of the Grandchildren

    It was great to revisit this story from Molly's POV, even if it was much sadder given the context. Molly reminiscing of her lost son and commenting how she misses him was really heart-tugging, even when it was mixed with the humour of commenting how Roxanne lifts her chin in the same way :(

    But then, there are bits of frank humour in this story, for instance:
    I just love this. The story of the Weasley family life, encapsulated in a single paragraph.

    I also loved the punchline. "The damage was done..." It's so very Molly Weasley!

    A Cat in the Classroom

    Chiaki! I love this little fellow, and I'm always happy to see him back! Once more, he has a mind of his own, as cats do, and I can perfectly imagine him having a go at the teacher. It's lucky that he listened to Lu Ten in the classroom, but outside the classroom? I suspect that he has a surprise or two in store for the teacher.

    A Compilation of Letters Exchanged between Fire Nation Princes

    I LOVED THIS! Such a wonderful portrayal of a parent-child relationship when the parent and the child are next in line to the throne of the Fire Nation.

    I absolutely loved how you began with a very formal tone in Lu Ten's first letter after the admonishment he received from his grandfather, and gradually made it less and less formal until he begins to call Iroh "my tea connoisseur of a father" [face_laugh] and begins to describe what he enjoys about his school days and how his extracurricular activities bring him closer to his father. At the same time, Iroh is just formal enough, as befits his rank, but he still dispenses his unconventional (by Fire Nation standards) wisdom even in his letters, and you can tell from the moment he says "The most important lessons are often not taught in classrooms" that he's rather unimpressed by the Royal Fire Academy for Boys. And then, of course, he starts going on and on about tea and food in the Earth Kingdom, and he's daddy!Iroh in full blast.

    As usual, I love your worldbuilding, for instance the details of Earth Kingdom peasant food, the celebrations in Caldera City for the conquest of Jinlan, the Dragon Boat Festival race and so on. Out of curiosity, are there elements here that you borrow from A:TLA expanded universe material or did you make it all up?

    And another question. As far as I can tell Lu Ten appears only in passing in the animated show and not at all (so far) in live-action, yet I know that you write often about him. Again, is there more about him in the EU, or is this simply a relationship that caught your eye and you decided to develop it?

    And lastly (spoiler tag for those who haven't seen the live-action show)
    What did you think of the scene between Zuko and Iroh at Lu Ten's funeral? I thought it was really well done; it was one of those moments when the live-action show gave substance to something that was established in animation and I was really glad we got it. I'd say that this is true of much of the Fire Nation scenes in that show, especially with Azula and the backstory of Zuko's crew.

    Congratulations for completing yet another Kessel Run in grand style! It was a delight to follow your thread since January, and I'll be back to catch up on your Narnia fics as soon as I read the books!
  4. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    Love to see you ending your Kessel run with Lu Ten and his father exchanging those lovely letters and what accompanies them. Congrats on finishing
  5. Seldes_Katne

    Seldes_Katne Force Ghost star 3

    Mar 18, 2002
    Devilinthedetails, you have quite a wide variety of interests. (And all excellent choices, may I add.) Just wanted to comment on a few of the (many) highlights:

    Northern Necklace (Inheritance): I find it interesting that Kanna kept the betrothal necklace all those years. Was it because it reminded her of the best parts of home, regardless of how she acquired it? Did she keep it to remind herself of being stuck in a repressive society, so she would remain grateful for her freedom? Did it set her apart from her Southern Water Tribe companions? So many questions….

    Distant Horizon: That was an impressive feat of migration from the North to the South Pole, especially if Kanna had to row the entire distance! At the least the Arctic Tern on Earth gets to fly it!

    The Wardrobe’s Perspective: What an intriguing bit of between-the-scenes storytelling. It highlights the similarities between Edmund (who’s always been a favorite character of mine) and the Professor, and their respective Narnia experiences, set centuries apart in the books. Your wardrobe is quite eloquent, especially considering that it can’t speak aloud. That last paragraph was perfect.

    The Snake in the Glade: As much as I like snakes personally, I can understand Caspian’s trepidation at seeing the first snake in the story. Fortunate that Lillandil can distinguish between a grass snake and an adder. What an ironic turn of events when the second snake, years later, makes Caspian’s prediction come true. I like how you’ve drawn attention to the similarities in the two events – good use of the forward and back time jump requirement.

    A Cat in the Classroom: This school scene explains a lot about the Fire Nation and their treatment of the rest of the world. Many of them seem to be trauma survivors and have learned that this is the correct way to treat others. I guess it’s not surprising that Koji doesn’t admit to letting the cat into the room when Chiaki is discovered in Lu Ten’s lap. And Lu Ten has learned that one can’t stand up to a bully alone. You’re right -- this is basically child abuse.

    A Compilation of Letters Exchanged Between Fire Nation Princes:
    After reading “A Cat in the Classroom,” this was a reassuring piece that explores a love between father and son that is sorely needed to balance the Fire Academy harsh, strict discipline. Lu Ten is fortunate to have a father willing to model compassion and understanding. (I wonder where he learned that. Certainly not from his father….)

    Lu Ten has chosen an interesting trio of extracurricular activities – music, poetry and games. While I understand that games teach strategy and music teaches discipline, poetry seems like an outlier – the exploration of the world through thought and emotion. Presumably they spend their time memorizing and reciting epic odes to old Fire Nation heroes….[face_tired]

    I found it interesting that Iroh focuses on food and beverages in his letters. It all sounds like a delightful tour through the countryside, rather than a conquest of an unwilling nation. Granted, he is writing to a child, and one who has never experienced battle at that, but it seems as though Iroh is glossing over what’s really happening in the Earth Kingdom. I wonder how much of that food and drink he thinks will still be produced once the Earth Kingdom is conquered.

    However, the letter exchange certainly tells its own tale of two people’s experiences, contrasting Lu Ten’s need to excel at everything with his father’s admonition to slow down and enjoy at least some of life’s offerings. This was an excellent finish to this anthology. =D=
  6. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you so much for reading and commenting all throughout my Kessel Run! I'm so glad that you felt the final entry was a great exchange of love both in words and more tangible gifts like different kinds of tea, which was exactly the feeling I was hoping to convey[face_love] I really wanted to showcase that love in the unique opening and closing salutations of their letters (which were also fun for me to invent as a writer;)) and I'm so happy to hear that you found my Kessel Run a joy to read!

    @Chyntuck Thank you so much for reading and commenting, and I completely understand about being swallowed up by your vignette and the OTP challenge[:D]

    I'm so flattered that you think I've got Azula's voice and attitude down pat, and that you appreciated this twist on the classic "only one bed" prompt! Part of what fascinates me about the dynamic between Azula, Ty Lee, and Mai is how Ty Lee is always optimistic and Mai is endlessly sarcastic about everything, and so I wanted to highlight each of their personalities and natures in this piece.

    Azula logic is always interesting to devise as an author. It is sort of like an inverted, mirror logic, where I must have her think and believe the opposite of what a generous, compassionate, and empathetic person would. Then I am certain to nail the Azula logic!

    I'm so glad that you thought my choice of Barty's point of view was great, and that you appreciated how the prompt could show the dark depths of Barty's soul. I did want the assigned line to fit seamlessly as possible into the story, and to have relevance and significance to the plot and to Barty's overall twisted character.

    The sequence of Barty maneuvering around Neville was in some ways my favorite to write because it showed both how cunning Barty could be in his multi-faceted demonstration of the Unforgivable Curses during his first lesson and for how devoid of actual compassion he is for Neville despite wanting the pretext to "comfort" Nevill and pass along the book he hopes will provide Harry with needed information for the Second Task. Barty is indeed a very manipulative fellow who as you so wisely note views Neville as a pawn and nothing more.

    I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed seeing the revisiting of my opening story from a bit more angsty and less humorous perspective through Molly's point of view. It definitely tore at my heart every time I had Molly remembering her lost son, and seeing echoes and reminders of him in her grandchildren.

    But, of course, I didn't want to take all the humor out of the original story I was adapting, and I'm so glad that you appreciated the bits of frank Molly humor in this!

    You highlighted one of my favorite lines, and I'm so thrilled that you felt it captured Weasley family life in a single paragraph! There really can be no higher compliment than that[face_blush]

    And it seemed so very Molly to have the final punchline be, "The damage was done..." especially since having a young Fred and George always looking to cause mischief probably meant she had to learn to pick the when and the where of her battles[face_laugh]

    I'm so pleased that you enjoyed the reappearance of Chiaki! He definitely has that independence streak so characteristic of cats, and it definitely wouldn't surprise me if our clever Chiaki devised some sneaky tricks and pranks to get his revenge on the cruel teacher[face_mischief]

    I'm so happy to hear that you loved the portrayal of the parent-child relationship between Iroh and Lu Ten as shown in their compilation of exchanged letters. I'm so pleased that progression from Lu Ten's more formal tone following Azulon's lecture prior to starting school at the Royal Fire Academy for Boys into a more relaxed one. And I totally got a chuckle when he addressed Iroh as his "tea connoisseur" of a father[face_laugh] It did warm my heart, too, when he described what he was enjoying about school and how the extracurriculars he chose made him feel closer to his father.

    With Iroh, I didn't want to lose his formality completely (as befits his rank as prince and general) but I also wanted to show that he is not as severe a father as many Fire Nation parents in this era and that he does have unconventional wisdom and ideas by Fire Nation standards that he is happy to dispense to his son in a warm, affectionate manner. And he absolutely cannot resist discussing the tea and food in the Earth Kingdom in magnificent detail, as tea and food are such passions and pleasures for him!

    I'm so glad that you loved my world building details[face_dancing]

    To answer your questions, chuan chuan is a nod to a Northern Chinese traditional peasant food of the same name. YouTuber Blondie in China has a great video about it if you are curious about it.

    The celebrations at Caldera City were my own invention, though I did get the sense that the Fire Nation loved fireworks with the festival Aang, Katara, and Sokka witness in season 1, and parades and speeches felt fitting for the militaristic nature of the Fire Nation in this era.

    The Dragon Boat Festival is inspired by the Chinese holiday of the same name as well as some of my own college experiences and memories from attending school along the Chesapeake Bay.

    Lu Ten sadly hasn't gotten much attention or development in canon beyond his passing appearances in the animated show. The most I have seen him mentioned in official material beyond that is a picture of him and Iroh in the Legacy of the Fire Nation book. So developing his and Iroh's relationship and Lu Ten's personality and backstory has mostly been a matter of my own invention. Due in part to how much I love Iroh and how important Lu Ten's life and death would have been to him.

    I'm so glad that you enjoyed following this thread throughout the Kessel Run challenge, and I hope that you will enjoy the Narnia entries as well once you've had a chance to read the Narnia books with your daughter!:D

    I thought the scene between Zuko and Iroh at Lu Ten's funeral was a very poignant one that brought tears to my eyes.I think it did a good job on expanding on the relationships and personalities of each of Iroh, Zuko, and Lu Ten.

    I agree that I think most of the Fire Nation characters and scenes were well-done in the Netflix adaptation. To me, it was more with some of the other cultures and characters that Netflix unfortunately seemed to struggle with more.

    @earlybird-obi-wan Thank you so much for reading and for the kind words! So happy you appreciated my decision to end my Kessel Run with Lu Ten and his father exchanging lovely letters and gifts[face_love]

    @Seldes_Katne Thank you so much for reading and commenting!:D I'm so glad that you enjoyed the wide variety of my interests on display throughout the Kessel Run challenge!

    It is indeed interesting that Kanna chose to hold onto her betrothal necklace for so many years, and I think there could have been many different reasons why she did so, which makes her a very fascinating and compelling character with depth to her!

    Yes, it would have taken incredible strength and determination on Kanna's part to row from the North to the South Poles by herself. She is quite a brave woman!

    So happy to hear you found the wardrobe's perspective intriguing. I've always had a soft spot for Edmund as well, and it was really interesting for me to explore some of the commonalities between Edmund and the Professor in terms of their experiences in Narnia despite those experiences occurring centuries apart in terms of the Narnian world. The wardrobe is indeed most eloquent perhaps because of its Narnian roots, and I'm so glad that you felt the last paragraph was perfect!

    I too could understand Caspian's trepidation about seeing the first snake in the story, and Lillandil is fortunate indeed for being able to distinguish between the harmless grass snake and the poisonous adder. And there is such a tragic irony to the second snake years later heartbreakingly making Caspian's prediction come true=(( I really did want to highlight the similarities in the events to make effective use of the forward and back time jump requirement as you mentioned.

    I agree that the school scene explains a lot about the Fire Nation and its treatment of the rest of the world during this time period. I think violence, militarism, and a sense of overall cultural supremacy is being promoted in Fire Nation schools during this era along with a very strict ideal of discipline and the notion that questioning anything is disloyal and potentially treasonous. I think most of the Fire Nation children that we meet (Zuko, Azula, Ty Lee, and Mai, etc) are trauma survivors in their own ways, and that it would take effort on their part to break that cycle of abuse and violence. I do think this is institutionalized child abuse on a large scale, which has massive implications for the Fire Nation and for the world as a whole.

    I'm so glad that you found the compilation of letters between Lu Ten and Iroh to be a reassuring piece exploring the love between one Fire Nation father and his son to balance some of the Fire Nation Academy's harsh discipline. Lu Ten is indeed lucky to have an affectionate father willing to model compassion and understanding for him.

    I think Iroh is indeed glossing over many of the horrors of the Fire Nation's conquest of the Earth Kingdom in his letters to Lu Ten, which focus primarily on delicious Earth Kingdom foods and beverages. To some extent, I think Iroh's own eyes aren't fully opened to the horror of what the Fire Nation is doing in the Earth Kingdom (and of the terrible toll that war takes on societies and people) until Lu Ten's death at Ba Sing Se. That completely changes his perspective on everything.

    I'm so glad that you enjoyed the tale of two people's experiences encapsulated in the letters and that you appreciated how Lu Ten's desire to excel at everything was offset with Iroh's advice to slow down and take pleasure in some of life's offerings. And it makes my day that you thought it was an excellent ending to the anthology[face_dancing]