After helping Eternal Fang regain his manse, our Exalted heroes return to his encampment to find the wolfmen guarding Erisa have been attacked. Aside from the dead bodies of some of the wild guards, the manse’s hearthstone has also been stolen.
After looking over the scene and arguing whether Erisa double-crossed her husband or was a victim of a kidnapping, they’re investigation is interrupted by a flock of birdmen flying overheard toward the manse. The circle eventually decides to go back to the manse rather than follow the trail to the west.
The Exalts arrive just at the start of the funeral ceremony for Crushing Paw. All four clans of the Arczeckhi Tribal Lands have gathered for the ceremony. The heroes pay their own respects as Crushing Paw receives prayers and is burned atop a pyre.
After the ceremony, they approach Eternal Fang and the other two leaders, a beautiful hawk woman Noble Wing and a surly stag man with giant antlers. They break the news about Erisa, and Eternal Fang refused to believe it at first. His companions are angered at this, and the Exalted heroes decide they are going to track her down, bring back any necessary information, and promise to return the hearthstone.
They set out, bringing Gorbar (“Buddy”) with them, and head into the forest back west in the direction they first came. They track Erisa all the way to the edge of the forest. There they find one of the wolfmen guards strung up and hanging dead from a tree. Amy analyzes the scene and realizes that someone set it up to make it look like she was ambushed. Even though her blood is at the scene, she is convinced that she was not actually killed.
Outside the woods they find tracks leading southwest. They follow it until the reach the southern road coming from The Crossroads Hostel. Giving up on catching them on foot, they head north to Lefty’s domain.
When they arrive, Ruko goes to visit Mayor Bruce Walters and his daughter Maribell Walters. Bruce tells Ruko that he has given up his position as mayor. He then begs Ruko to make sure someone worthy of taking care of the town becomes the new mayor. He also notes that Alundra is nowhere to be found.
The others grab horses, but before they leave they get in an argument over Lefty’s twin brother Righty and how he will slow them down if they have to transport the giant sarcophagus. They decide on putting Righty’s remains in an aushuary.
They travel south along the road, passing by Larjyn. The city is no longer in flames, so they assume that destroying Blossom solved the problems there. They follow the tracks all the way through another set of wilderness and into the small town of Pine Acre.
Along the way they stop at the Moonsilver Manse. Mustang checks up on his wife Akara, who offers them a place to stay for the night and a hot dinner.
Before entering the town, they are stopped by the farmer Erik Summers. Recognizing Ruko, he tells them that his son Timmy has run into the town somewhere. Also, he says he saw a cart that matches the description they had pieced together of the one carrying Erisa.
Once in Pine Acre, they realize the usually sleepy town is full of activity. After wandering around a bit, they come to realize that people have traveled from near and far to campaign to become the new mayor of Pine Acre. Among them is the very straightforward Greasy Joan. She bands together with a very willing Kensai, and the two of them decide to run together on the issues of defense and lower taxes.
Also among the group of potential candidates is a man with tanned skin and fine clothing and jewelry named Rajik Dellens. A somewhat emaciated man gives Amy a flyer advertising his candidacy. Concerned for this person, Amy snoops around and finds Rajik’s caravan filled with two dozen chained slaves. With the help of Ken, they free the slaves and set them about the town. They also find a marking of the Guild, and more specifically, one that links this man with the Lady of Salt.
Another candidate is a monk who claims to have come from the north on a spiritual pilgrimage. Ruko finds something very familiar about him, and he goes to investigate by coming up for a blessing. When he approaches the monk, named Huan Cheng, Ruko recognizes him instead as one of the Cabal Ganju. He accepts the blessing but keeps his identify secret.
The final candidate is an arrogant man by the name of Lord Yatsu Denemor. He claims to come from one of the families of the Republic of Chaya. During one of his big speeches, Lefty chastises him and gives a rousing speech for the rights of the people over the rich. This leads to a confrontation with Ken and Greasy Joan.
While this is going on, Ruko gets inside Lord Demenor’s cart and finds evidence that Erisa was there.
After setting up the argument, the party decides to check inside Mayor Walter’s mansion. Ruko knows a secret way inside from his earlier travels, and they sneak through the cellar and up into his personal study. There they find Erisa sitting behind Mayor Walter’s desk.
An argument breaks out between Erisa and Lefty. She tells them that she is now working for The Guild, and she stole the hearthstone and delivered it to a man heading to Nexus. Things take a turn for the worse when Ken acts on his anger and goes to kill Erisa. She manages to slip out of his grasp and tries to retaliate with her dagger. Lefty and Mustang step in, and the tense situation steps away from dissolving into pure violence. The party leaves, and Erisa assures Lefty that she’ll be just fine.
As they are trying to decide what to do next, they hear Erik Summers yelling and rushing into town. He tells them that an army of Realm soldiers are amassing outside the city.