Anansi sketches
Lee and the Cannibals
Chapter information




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Release date

June 5, 2013

Last chapter

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Don was cold, and hungry, also impatient. Don was cold, hungry impatient and many other varieties of uncomfortable. He was on the dock of a fishing boat travelling north on the southern seas. Xisi was frying up some chicken-salmon and made of a point of taking his sweet time, "If it ain't done right, my grandma would roll in her grave", he had said. 

Water Tribe cutter ship

A few days ago, the two were at the Southern Air Temple where they stayed with the air bending monks. The food was superb (although vegetarian) and the songs they could make with their air bending made Xisi dance in delight. They held a celebration in their honor and Don had incredible fun using water bending to play airball with the locals.He rode air bison, air glided and even had a chance to swim in clouds.It was truly an amazing experience. 

But right now he was on a tiny boat, in the freezing cold and hungry. "Where are we going again?" he asked Xisi, the air condensing as it left his mouth. Xisi ignored him and continued to attend to the cooking meat on the grill turning it over slowly as it sizzled.  

"OI XISI!" he cried out, launching a snow ball into the man's head. It splatted snow everywhere, the water making the grill sizzle angrily. He looked up at Don pouting.

"Look what you did!" he cried out, "It's ruined now, completely ruined. Might as well throw it away."

Don got up brandishing his staff. "Don't you dare! I swear if you throw that away I will eat you instead!" Xisi sighed, put the food onto their plates and sat down.  Don ripped into his food, it was delicious, easily one of the best things he had eaten. 

Xisi looked down at his food in disgust, then looked up at the night sky thoughtfully. "You know the Air Nomads were once cannibals," he said fondly. Don gagged on his fish and nearly choked. Coughing, he wheezed, his voiced laced with disbelief.

"What?! No way, they're vegetarians!"  

Xisi pointed at him with his chopsticks,"No it's very true. Long ago, the Air Nomads were a cannibalistic, violent and savage people."

Don raised an eyebrow, "How long ago we talking about?" he asked.

Xisi shrugged. " Several thousand years," then he continued eating, wincing with every mouthful.

"Oh, so how do you know this then?" asked Don.

"Its a story," replied Xisi casually.

Don sighed, his friend was obsessed with stories. They had been travelling for three months now, and Xisi has been going on about stories from the start, with no sign of running out of any soon. "So it's just another one of your stories? he asked.

Xisi smiled, "There's a lot to learn about from stories Don. Maybe one day you might be in a few yourself."

Don looked away darkly, "There won't if I have anything to say about it". Silence fell on the boat, the cold wind whistling gently. Xisi frowned slightly but continued.

"I could tell you if you'd like," he chirped cheerfully. Don stabbed a piece of fish with his chopstick and looked at it as though it fascinated him.

"Sure", he said. "You'd tell me anyway".

Xisi smiled, put down his bowel and raised his arms theatrically.

"Long, long, ago!" he began. "Before there were even four nations, though not that much before, there was a spirit reincarnated as a man and his name was..."

"Lee?" interrupted Don. All of Xisi's stories were either about Anansi or one of his reincarnations. He wondered what his fascination with them was.

Xisi pouted slightly, "Yes, Lee now if you don't mind I am trying to tell a story." Don put his hand over his mouth gave Xisi a sarcastic thumbs up.

"Now where was I?" he began. " Ah yes..."

It was long ago shortly before the four nations were four. Back then it was all tribes, tibes of fire benders, water benders, etc. Each tribe was unique in its style some even had entire bending arts of their own that none have been able to rediscover such as the legendary metalbenders of the black mountains.

Now Lee was travelling across the harsh wastelands of Norqat; he had been travelling for weeks without any interaction with another person. And the wasteland had sapped both his strength and supplies dry. Just when he was about to collapse from exhaustion, a hunting party found him. But these were no ordinary hunting party but belonged to the cannibalistic airbending tribe that savaged the lands. They tied up Lee like a hog and carried him to their town.

There they untied him and kicked him to the ground, ready to slit his throat like a common foal. But Lee was clever and said, "You don't want to eat me. Look, my arms are skinny and my legs are like sticks. I would be a tough meal with no gain." They looked at Lee, indeed he was not the most appealing of people to eat. But they wished a sacrifice to their dark gods. "Why not feed me nicely, then when I'm nice and fat you can feed to your heart's content."

The tribesmen thought this was a good idea. So they fed Lee like a king, for nine days he feasted on the finest boar-moose and drank the finest wine-water. Then when Lee has become nice and plump they brought him to the center of the town at dusk to begin the sacrifice and the feast. The Chief held a finger to Lees' throat ready to use a blade of wind to slice it open. The tribe began to bang their spears against the ground in rhythm.

But before he could do so, Lee shouted, "WAIT!" the tribesmen stopped and looked at Lee in frustration.

"Quiet you! We fed you until you became fat now accept your fate like a man!"

Lee nodded but continued, "No I know, it's just before I go I would like to tell you a story. The tribesmen were confused, for they had never heard of a story before. There was only ever the hunt and the punishment of their dark gods.

"What's a story?" asked the Chief, confused.

Lee smiled, "A story takes you to far away lands filled with knowledge and adventure". The Chief furrowed his brow not understanding.

"Is it some form of magic like ours?" he asked.

Lee shrugged. "Sort of", then had a thought, "It makes you want to do this", then he did a little jig. Shuffling his feet in the sand and humming to himself a song long forgotten. The Chiefs eyes widened, impressed, and tried to do the jig. Failing miserably.

When the Chief got off the ground with a puff of wind, he looked at Lee and said, "Very well, I am curious, let us hear this story".

So Lee told them a story, a story about a hunter chasing game through a thick wood and the trials he had to endure to reach it. The game was a majestic deer-wolf, with antlers of gold and a coat whiter than the moon itself. The hero would often find himself just out of throwing distance before the beast spotted him and ran. The tribesmen, women, and children gathered around him listening to the tied up man and his stories.

And on he went, the story becoming more dramatic, drawing them closer and closer to the end. They felt excitement in the rush of the hunt, anticipation of the kill. They were at the edge of their seats and ready for the climatic ending.

Then the sun arose, and Lee stopped. For he claimed, his tale could only be told in the dead of night. The tribesmen moaned in disappointment, for they wanted the ending of the tale. So they untied Lee and waited until the sun set again.

At midnight Lee began his tale again, refusing to demean the ending by jumping right to it (and rightly so). And so the cycle began, every night they would tie up Lee and listen to his story until the sun rose before the ending. At which point Lee would stop and they would be forced to wait until the next sunset.

Eventually they became frustrated, and accused Lee of delaying the inevitable. So they tied him up before sunrise and demanded he tell the ending before they slit his neck and feast on his remains. In a sad voice Lee told them that the ending was a melody and he would need his hands for an instrument.

So, begrudgingly they untied him keeping the knife pressed firmly to his throat the entire time and allowed him to play his "final" song.

Lee sang of the hunter reaching his prey unnoticed, the beast was majestic and lit up the entire wood with its divine beauty. The hunter raised his spear and struck the beast down in one blow, its blood splashing onto the green grass, dying it dark and red. The hunter surveyed his actions with horror. The great beast had fallen, its golden antlers shattered against the floor, its white coat dyed with blood. The forest became a whole lot darker and uglier as the stench of death weighed heavily in the air. Distraught, the hunter raised his knife and ended his own life next to the deer-wolf. The melody continued sad and somber, the tribes-people looked down in sadness and shame. Lee could feel the rhythm flowing through them, their core was made of fear. Fear of death, abandonment, fear of famine and disease. He tweaked and pulled until he felt it give. Then he wrapped it up and put it somewhere else in their minds. Without fear, they would feel acceptance. The one holding the knife to Lee's throat dropped it and walked away, the desire to kill no longer within him.

Lee left the village and its people. Walking back into the wasteland, a bag over his shoulder and an oud-base in his hand.

Xisi ended his tale with a sad shake of his head. Then he smiled and said, "And that is how the Air Nomads became vegetarians (or that tribe at least)". They had moved into the sleeping quarters after finishing their dinner.

In the top bunk Don clicked his tongue," You said this was a story about cannibals but they never do anything cannibalistic."

"They wanted to kill and eat Lee didn't they?" Xisi pointed out. "That's pretty cannibalistic if you ask me."

"But they never ate human meat in that tale!" cried the white haired youth.

Xisi coughed. "No, of course not. That's why Lee was such a special event for them but they would have eaten him if not for the story."

"Another thing, what kind of story makes an entire tribe change their view on life entirely?"

Xisi laughed, and it echoed through the boat. The skies cleared and fish began to jump out the water. "An amazing one. Now go to sleep big day ahead of us."

"How big?" asked Don cautiously.

"Gigantic," replied Xisi and he went to sleep.

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