Drac was right, his old mentor, the senior commander of the Triarchy’s elite forces was able to get them the access they needed. But the cost was high, and now the circle continued reduced to four once again.
The journey up the Grey River was uneventful. They booked passage on a barge, but their accommodations were not as luxurious as those Kaveh had got for them in the past. About a week into the journey, they helped fight off a band of river pirates, and in revealing their prowess, the crew became wary of them. The barge-master, a guild merchant, invited them to dine with him and say aboard his personal barge and the shrine-barge to keep them away from the now wary crew. The rest of the river trip passed uneventfully.
They arrived in Varsi, purchased horses, and made their way through the rolling valleys lined with the tea plantations that made the realm famous across the Scavenger Lands. In the city of Varsi, Smoke Orchid spent an evening walking the familiar streets. On their way out of town in the morning, she left a large sum at a small bakery, saying that it was to repay past kindness. Genjo was please to find small communities of Thorns refugees who had found a place as artists and performers for the sorcerer princes.
Upon passing into Puyo, Drac’s demeanor lightened, and he told stories about his service in the Triarchy’s cavalry. He spoke of the open plains and jagged crags of his homeland. Of his right of passage, capturing and breaking one of the wild horses that roamed the open country. He spoke of his time hunting horse bandits, and of his service in the Autocrat's War where served with distinction and earned a place as a captain of the Triarch’s honor guard. His new role lead him to Rasa Ha, and he told his circle about their romance. He speculated about the woman who shared her face that they had fought in Great Forks, and wished to find her again someday to understand what had become of her.
Drac’s familiarity with the land let them pass across it quickly. They descended into the great canyon that hosted Puyo City, and Drac lead them through the winding caverns up into the city’s catacombs. Knowing he may be recognized, he asked Zakiti to deliver a letter to his old mentor, Jing Bu. The old veteran agreed to meet. Drac assured Jing that he had not killed Rasa, and that she may still be alive. He explained their need for access to the archives in Lookshy, and asked Jing to speak to the ambassador from Lookshy on their behalf.
Jing said that meeting with the ambassador would take time and he had a critical mission to carry out in Puyo’s defense. The tales Drac had heard about the dead attacking Puyo were no exaggeration. Along the border with Thorns, hungry ghosts ravaged range towns, skeletal soldiers had skirmished with the local garrisons, and rumors of dark champion of the dead had started surfacing. The Triarchs feared that the figure was a Deathknights of the Mask of Winters.
Drac insisted that the threat was beyond something even the might of Puyo’s elite could handle. He said that as one of the Chosen of the Sun, it was his destiny to lead the fight against the darkness, and he would not hesitate to defend his homeland. He asked Jing to stay in Puyo City to meet with the ambassador and to try to clear his name so he could lead openly once again. Jing agreed, believing Puyo had no greater champion than Drac Ir.
Drac told the others that his greatest duty was to defend his homeland. Still not entirely clear about Rasa's survival and newfound power, he asked the other Solars to be watchful for her. He asked them to detain her if they could so they could ascertain what she had become and her true motivation.Their battle in Great Forks had been a misunderstanding, and he did not believe that she was an agent of the Mask of Winters as Onmoraki had suspected. He wanted her brought to Puyo, so he could see the truth for himself.For now, he would lead the fight against the dead assailing Puyo. When the time came to ride against the Mask of Winters, he would be ready to ride with them.
The other Solars were sorry to let Drac go, but saw no other way to get what they needed without delay. They wished him well, and Senka told him to take care of himself and promised that if she could, she would see that his child by Lilac was carried for. Genjo told him that they would need him for the battle that lay ahead.