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|By Paperclipchains||See other fanon and fan fiction works from Paperclipchains.|
Location: Approximately 550 miles off the west coast of the Fire Nation
The Igni Island chain was home to a settlement of the Fire Nation nearly four hundred years previously. The jungle islands were a resource for rare spices, gems, and quality hardwoods. However, a wave of disease during the following monsoon season killed off much of the population that inhabited the largest of the islands and left the mainland members of the Fire Nation with the sense that the Ignis were cursed.
The small portion of the colony that survived were the lucky few to have an immunity to the disease that killed off their brethren. However, the Fire Nation had decided to cut their losses and pulled back all their ships from the islands, effectively stranding the survivors. They were left for dead, but through the leadership of a former officer of the military who was a member of the settling party, the few dozen survivors managed to carve out a living. These people were the progenitors of a new society that spread across the main Igni Island and the surrounding isles. They adapted to life in the jungle terrain, living in scattered tribes that prevented disease from taking high tolls on concentrated populations. And due to the limited gene pool of the original islanders, the Igni inhabitants developed a distinct set of features that separated them from their mainland kin. Among these is an average height of about 5'10", somewhat large beak-like noses, and exceptionally angular facial features. And even though it may simply be due to the environment and culture as opposed to genetics, it is difficult to find an Igni who isn't lean and fit.
The separation between the tribal groups, however, invariably led to conflicts. Fighting would break out when one tribe, unable to gather enough food or supplies on their own, would steal from or raid another. Nearly the first two centuries of Igni history consisted of countless battles and a sharp rise in population. During this turbulent time, the six main tribes were formed. Two tribes shared the main island, the third and largest tribe occupies the whole of the second-largest idland, and three other relatively small and isolated tribes occupy the remaining three islands of the archipelago. It was also during this time that the culture of the Ignis began to take shape. They developed their own distinctive styles of clothing and incorporated ritualistic tattooing into their culture. The facial tattoos served as a way to differentiate members of one tribe from another, and the plants from which the various dyes were taken were believed to increase the power of the warriors they marked.
True seafaring vessels were not fully developed until nearly 150 years after the first settlers arrived. Once the technology of shipbuilding was rediscovered and perfected, they then had to begin exploring the seas around their home. Aside from the stories passed down through the generations, the Ignis had no real knowledge of the world outside their island home. They knew the Fire Nation, the mythical land of their ancestors, was to the East, but that was about it. Eventually though, the wandering vessels of the Ignis happened across some traveling cargo ships on the way back to the Fire Nation. The two ships met at sea and in that simple exchange, the Fire Nation traders discovered the existence of the Igni Tribes as well as a sample of the amazing jewels and hardwoods that the island had to offer. The captain of the Igni ship wore a crude necklace composed of a 2 lb gem that would come to be known as a Fire Ruby, and the vessel itself was made of wood stronger than anything the merchants had ever seen.
Following that encounter, more ships or trading parties would venture to the mainland bringing all the rare goods that could only be found on the islands. In exchange they traded for metals, tools, supplies, and other manufactured goods that they couldn't make themselves. The Fire Nation developed a stigma about their island-dwelling relatives, though, feeling that they carried with them the diseases of the jungle. However, with their goods in such high demand, the Fire Nation merchants were able to look past that and focus on the mountains of gold that were to be found in trading with the islanders. When the Fire Lord was informed of this most peculiar development, he and his advisors decided to include the Igni Islands as a protectorate of the Fire Nation. In exchange for exclusive trading rights, the Fire Nation would protect the Ignis from foreign invaders. However, considering that the island chain itself was little more than a blank spot on the map for the rest of the world, there was little chance the Fire Nation would ever have to keep its end of the bargain.
The people of the Ignis also developed their own methods of combat and bending. Taking a lesson from the nimble, monkey-like creatures that inhabited the dense underbrush, they developed a system of fighting that utilized explosive jumps and maneuvers that incorporated many airborne attacks. In the jungle, punches and kicks were impractical when you couldn't see three feet in front of you. Instead, their fighting style relied on singular flying kicks and head-scissor take-downs, often using tree trunks as springboards. The technique is suited best for surprise attacks in close quarters, but it still translates well onto battlefield conditions. Mainland opponents who have never been accustomed to such jumping abilities often never suspect such attacks. And once caught in the legs of an Igni, defeat is all but inevitable.
In the present, the Igni Islands are strange blend of the primitive and the technological. They still retain a largely tribal, hunter-gatherer society with an ever-growing workforce of miners, herbalists, woodworkers, and craftsman. However, with the availability of advanced Fire Nation technology, it is not uncommon to see the occasional ironclad, brandished with the bastardized fire insignia of the Igni Islands, patrolling the shores. They also have acquired several civilized luxuries like processed fabrics, utensils, steel cookware, several mechanized tools and equipment, as well as an armory of finely crafted Fire Nation weaponry.
The Ignis are a unique cultural off-shoot of the Fire Nation. Like their Fiery ancestors, hotheadedness and even belligerence are common traits. The Ignis are also possessed of a strong will and ambition.
Violence is also something not uncommon to the culture. Problems are often settled at the point of a spear and death is a familiar experience for nearly every inhabitant of the jungle islands. Whether from the frequent tribal warfare over boundaries or resources, the various deadly creatures that inhabit the dense underbrush, or the diseases that are brought on by the seasonal monsoons, from a young age the people of the Ignis accept death as inevitable and live purely for the moment.
Surprisingly, the Ignis have a very low rate of theft and embezzlement. Crimes still happen in the form of violence, but rarely are they motivated by greed for material possessions. Once one obtains another's gold or possessions, there is a very limited market from which to purchase new goods, and the nearest free trade port is 550 miles away. All trading with the mainland is handled by the tribe's traders and businessmen, and their orders on what to buy come straight from the chief.
Most tribes provide food, shelter, and clothing to anyone who performs a service. The use of currency is relatively limited as is the presence of a market economy. Goods that are actually traded and exchanged on the islands themselves are limited mainly to clothing and jewelry. Hand-made weaponry is also traded to a lesser extent, though imported Fire Nation weaponry are distributed directly to the tribe's warriors as needed.
Another notable feature of the Ignis is their largely egalitarian society. From the early days of their history when the original settlers numbered only a few dozen, no one was allowed the luxury of escaping manual labor. Several centuries later, that opinion hasn't changed. Woman are not restrained from any role in society other than the position of tribal leader. They are even allowed to become warriors if they show an aptitude for the martial arts.
During the majority of the year, the Igni islands are assaulted by daily rainstorms lasting 1-2 hours around noon. This event impacts daily life on the Ignis and as a result, this time is often taken for rest and relaxation, as well as socializing with other tribe-mates in the long houses. It is also because of this midday lull in activity that the Ignis often spend the rest of the day and long into the night performing their various tasks and socializing some more (depending on the job, some Ignis do more socializing than labor, though everyone is expected to contribute to the welfare of the tribe).
Considering the tropical climate, Ignis favor light and oftentimes revealing clothing. Even the women in some tribes are expected to cover up a bit more, even the most conservative Igni outfit would cause an outrage in a Fire Nation court. Specifically, they are fond of light, loose-fitting fabrics like linen or cotton in colors ranging from deep maroons to bright yellows and oranges. Some may also wear small accessories or embroider their clothes with tribe-specific highlight colors.
For men- Vests, sleeveless robes, sarongs, capris, shorts, loin-cloths, kilts, an even going bare-chested are all common clothing styles in various combinations.
For women- it is much the same as the men, though they may also wear chest-wrappings or tube-tops as opposed to going bare-chested.
One thing that both genders share, though, is a common use of leather flaps covering their wrists and ankles. The leather extends a short way up their limbs and are usually held in place by strips of cloth, or sometimes laces, and they serve to protect from spider-snake bites when traversing the jungle.
Finally, Igni hairstyles are likely some of the most non-conformal in the Avaverse. Considering the dense humidity and presence of insects that love to inhabit fur, the Ignis generally keep to styles that are very short or otherwise tightly-braided. Shaved heads are a common style, though it's not uncommon to see men with hair closer to a buzz-cut between shaves. Tightly braided cornrows or even singular ponytails and braids extending from an otherwise bald head are also common. There is even the occasional mohawk among warriors. Women share many of the same style, but more often than not they stick to numerous tight braids. Some are diligent enough to maintain such a style even as their hair grows very long, but most simply cut it off at the shoulders.
Benders are a rarity among the Ignis. Only two of the original Ignis were benders, and since then, the bender percentage has never risen above 5% of the total population of all 6 tribes. Together with the fact that almost a third of those benders are horded on a single island, Benders are a very scarce commodity for most of the tribes and as such are fiercely protected.
Their skills are typically used for the convenience of readily available fire in daily living or in certain tasks such as kilning pottery or cutting gems. Only a very small handful of any tribe's benders actually see battle, and even then they are protected by a vanguard of archers. The benders are used as a form of support troop, and oftentimes carry bows and arrows to make them harder to distinguish from their fellow warriors. They are also sometimes said to launch deadly first strikes on enemy positions, but are never on the front lines long.
In some tribes, benders will often use their powers to try and assert themselves to positions of power, however, though the people fiercely protect their benders they are not overawed by them. Any bender wishing to challenge an incumbent for his position in a duel will be barred from using his bending in the battle, or else the challenge is null and void. Even in victory, a challenger who uses bending would be disgraced. There are occasionally exceptions, however, as it is typically left to the combatants themselves to agree on the terms of their duel.
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