The Avatar's Return
Ba Sing Se
Ba Sing Se is one large, sprawling metropolis. It is so large that the climate is different between north and south, east and west. A vast stone wall, approximately 300 feet tall and thousands of miles in circumference, offers a first and daunting line of defense for the aptly-named "Impenetrable City". Smaller walls divide the city into districts based on function and the social class of its residents.
Behind the Outer Wall is the Agrarian Zone, which is made up primarily of farmland and livestock ranges. All those who work here live in the Lower ring, within the Inner Wall. To get a sense of the size of the Agrarian Zone, the northwest portion contains a small mountain range. Weather differs on location in the Agrarian Zone: the north is cold and dry, the southwest is warm and wet, and the east is hot and dry.
Within the Inner Wall, there are three rings, which make up the residential districts of Ba Sing Se. The Lower Ring is home to the city's artisans and craftsmen, as well as the city's poor. More than one traveler to this city has noted the absence of poor from the inner districts, and the Lower Ring is rightly considered one large ghetto.
The Middle Ring contains the financial and shopping districts of Ba Sing Se, and houses its middle-class citizens. Features of note include the Firelights Fountain, Town Hall, and Ba Sing Se University.
The Inner Ring boasts the Royal Palace and the homes of the wealthy of Ba Sing Se. Visitors of special importance to the royal family or government officials often stay in the manor houses within sight of the Palace. Close to the Palace stands Inner Station, which connects all of the monorails in Ba Sing Se. In order to enter the Inner Ring, one needs special permission from the Dai Li—the cultural authority of Ba Sing Se.
Until recently, the Earth Kingdom was ruled from Ba Sing Se by King Guang Wu. Since his sudden and mysterious passing three years ago, a combined council of military generals, aristocrats, and Dai Li traditionalists have overseen day-to-day municipal management. However, since the death of the king and ensuing political power vacuum, the Dai Li have assumed control of the defense of its allies, consisting of most of the provinces north of the East and West Lakes, and Gaoling to the south. To cede overt political control, they have recently appointed a Transitionary Regent—Guang's cousin Shion.
Popular support for Shion and his "transition from the warmongering of old to an era of peace" is waning, however. The ever-mounting tensions between Omashu and the kingdom's traditional capital have not resulted in all-out war, but that time does not seem far off. Its resources plummeting and alliance wearing thin, Ba Sing Se today represents little of its former strength and majesty. The Dai Li, once "guardians of culture" now operate as a not-so-secret police force, rooting out "subversive" elements within and without the city, and, more often than not, political rivals of the Transitionary Regent vanish before becoming too vocal in their protests.