The party used the merchant’s directions and followed the northeast branch of the Lam River upstream out of Kāi'ěrwén, opting for the south bank so they could avoid having to make a crossing when they reached Mǐ shā’s Ferry. At about noon, turning a bank in the river, they rode right into the middle of an armed encampment of brigands who, while seemingly prepared to ambush someone traveling on the river, assaulted the party instead. Beatriss, Tetsukichi & co. made short work of the surprised archers, riding over them with horses and slashing them with their swords. They then turned to assist Tsao Ho and his monks who were less capable in defending themselves against the spear-wielding brigands. By the time the battle was over, one of the monks had been killed and most of the others had been badly wounded. Ju-May and Afu tended to the wounded monks while they hastily buried their brother.
Two more hours of riding brought them to what they assumed was Mǐ shā’s Ferry— there was a stone building, in the same style as the ancient guardhouse where they’d sheltered in the mountains, on the opposite shore, and there was a boat adrift in the middle of the river. Most importantly to this goal-oriented party, there was a rough road leading south, which according to the merchant’s directions, would lead them closer to Quitokai.
They traveled for about an hour before reaching their final turn-off point, the narrow footpath leading east that was supposed to take them to Quitokai itself. Late in the afternoon, they began hearing voices, and through the thick screen of trees, thought they could see the light of a clearing. Continuing on, they smelled the smoke of cooking fires. And then it was quiet. They dismounted and marched into the trees, bushwhacking through the jungle. One hundred yards into the jungle, they didn’t reach a clearing, and feared losing the path. At last they decided to get back on their horses and keep following the path. And after another half hour of riding, they began to see a clearing before them, and then see building, and hear the river and muffled chatter.
There was a group of armed warriors waiting for them on the bridge that led into Quitokai. They did not attack, but they were suspicious. When Beatriss mentioned Gwinch, the warriors agreed that Beatriss and Tetsukichi would be allowed to talk to the elders. They were frank with the elders. Gwinch was their friend. They had heard rumors that he had allied himself with the slavers who operated in the border reason and hoping that it wasn’t true, wanted to confirm. The elders responded that Gwinch had been a friend to them and had helped defend them against the slavers. And they welcomed the entire party to stay in Quitokai.
Over the next several days, the party debated what to do next. The people of Quitokai explained that after leading a raid on the slaver’s stockade, and rescuing a number of captives, Gwinch and his companions, including two powerful sorcerers, had resumed their mission of chasing down Genral Goyat and General Kawabi. For Beatriss, this was enough, and her first thought was that she was ready to return to Kāi'ěrwén and then Menkan, and then find a way to reunite with her family in Anca Sansar’s grazing lands. But for Tsao Ho and Golfo, it was equally clear that there mission was not only to get an update on Gwinch’s mission, but to take up the search for Goyat and Kawabi themselves. Tsao Ho in particular voice his intention to follow their trail deeper into the jungle. And there was a third option. The escaped captives explained how Gwinch’s sorcerers had released a horrible creature that savaged the residents of the stockade while giving him a chance to rescue them. But he didn’t rescue all of them. There was a dungeon below the stockade where many more were imprisoned. They knew that the horrible creature had likely killed them along with their captors, and yet the hope peristed that they, too, might be rescued.