Might Breaks the Trees stood before the Solars demanding answers. Thrush revealed himself as one of the Chosen, and the god changed his demeanor to that of respect. He expressed his outrage toward Flames Ascending, the Immaculate Monk who kept his temple closed. Thrush responded darkly, "All flames must die." During the conversation, Starfall heard shouts, and perhaps a battle-cry over the roaring of the falls. They agreed to help Might Breaks the Trees against the monk and passed through the temple toward the square. The god shattered the barred wooden doors, revealing an unexpected scene.
Apemen were attacking the town, the people of Three Falls were defending themselves, and Sky and Flames Ascending fought back to back against a pack of the beastmen. The Exalted and the god rushed to join the battle. Thrush moved to support Sky, striking with his cesti and using his voice as a weapon. Starfall drew upon the essence of Creation, transforming her hands in the rending claws of killing before setting on the assailants. Might Breaks the Trees transformed himself into an ox-dragon, and charged into the packs of apemen, tossing them aside. Sky and Flames Ascending fought with the skill and might of the elemental dragons. The apemen were quickly driven back, and Might Breaks the Trees chased them through the gates of Three Falls.
Thinking the heroes were also Dragon-blooded, Flames Ascending greeted them and thanked them for their aid. Thrush was immediately hostile to Flames, who responded with confusion. Thrush admonished her for stopping the people of Three Falls from worshiping their god. She said it was not proper for god to receive such worship. He asked what gave her the right. She responded as Dragon-blooded, they were at the divine pinnacle of reincarnation, and it was their right and duty to keep the gods in the proper place. Starfall attempted to set Flames off balance through an appeal to carnal companionship, and while tempted by the Solar's magnetism, Flames dedication to her place in the Order.
Before Thrush could continue to escalate the conflict, Might Breaks the Trees returned, running through the town. His face showed distress, and he shouted, "They've taken her, they've taken Ashai!" Once Thrush calmed him, he explained that the apemen had taken Ashai, a shrine maiden and the tribute bride that the empire was to take from him. The beastmen had split up and he was unable to chase them all down. Thrush volunteered to go recover her, and Sky suggested that he and Flames Ascending stay to protect the town in case there was a second wave of attack.
Thrush and Starfall tracked the apemen through the forest. Thrsuh recognized which one was carrying Ashai by the increased depth of the footprints, and tracked that pack unerringly north-east into the foothills of the mountains. The two Exalted passed quickly through the forest, and they soon caught up with the pack of apemen they were tracking. They kept to the shadows, but the keen-nosed beastmen smelled their approach. Starfall overheard their speaking, and despite the harshness of their dialect, was able to understand that the pack would stay behind to delay their passage while a runner would take the girl to the Voice-Stealer, which Starfall recognized as a possible epithet for the demon Berengiere, the Weaver of Voices.
The Exalted leaped into action; Thrush started running across the clearing to catch the escaping runner while Starfall stepped into view and began gathering the essence of Creation about her to weave deadly magic. The apemen surged forward, but with their essence-fueled arete, the Solars avoided their attacks. Thrush caught up to the runner, and used his voice to send the apeman sprawling. He caught Ashai to break her fall before setting her on the ground and subduing her captor. Around Starfall, shards of beautiful obsidian formed in the air, pouring down her glowing anima banner in a cascade of death and blood. The apemen who were not killed fled into the forest. Both Solars' anima banners were glowing from their magic-fueled effort.
Thrush untied Ashai, who responded fearfully before he reassured her that he had been sent to rescue her by Might Breaks the Trees. Starfall guided Thrush in binding the now captive apeman, who they dragged through the forest. With the shaken Ashai and the burden of the bound captive, the journey back to Three Falls took longer than the pursuit, and they didn't get back to the town until evening.
Upon their arrival, people from the town crowded around them, thrilled at Ashai's return but worried for her safety. One hunter, Inti, showed particular concern for her. Starfall and Thrush urged the crowd to give her space and took her to the temple to see Might Breaks the Trees.
At the temple, they are confronted once again by Flames Ascending. She was glad they were able to save the emperor's tribute bride. Thrush was outraged that she would be sent to the capital and stated vehemently that she was in no condition to travel to the capital. Flames suggested delaying the tribute caravan, to which Thrush said that Ashai would not be traveling at all. Flames said another would have to be chosen to go in her place. Thrush became confrontational, and Flames responded in kind. Before things could escalate too far, Sky stepped in and spoke in a low voice to Thrush. "I follow you because you are not what the stories say you are. Do not prove me wrong." Thrush agreed to drop the conversation and take Ashai to see Might Breaks the Trees in the temple.
While the temple doors were still shattered, the interior of the temple had burning torches, incense, and other offerings. Might Breaks the Trees graciously thanked Starfall and Thrush then rushed to make sure Ashai was unhurt. After everything, the shock of the day's events finally hit Ashai, and she broke down sobbing, sinking to the ground. Might Breaks the Trees knelt and embraced her, rocking gently. He looked up to the Solars with pleading eyes, "Please, do not let them take her from me, do not let them take my beloved Ashai."
Thrush said that they could take care of Flames Ascending, but for her aid in defending the town, Might Breaks the Trees did not want to see her killed. That, and the empire would simple send another agent. Three Falls would not always have the might of the Solar Exalted to defend them. Thrush responded that they would stay if Three Falls would fight for their freedom. At this Ashai composed herself and expressed her concern for the harm that could come to the people of the town if they fought in a war of the Exalted. Thrush convinced her to let the people of the town discuss and come to a consensus on whether to rebel. He would honor their decision.
With Ashai gathering the people to choose a course, Thrush and Starfall went to question the captive apeman. Once again, Starfall expertly guided Thrush in securing their captive before the woke her. Thrush began his questioning with violence, instilling fear in their captive. He demanded to know who had sent them, and why. At first, the captive was reluctant, but ultimately, Thrush's wrathful presence overcame the more distant fear of her master. She revealed that she served the great mother Raksi, Queen of Fangs. Raksi had sent her and her pack under the leadership of the voice-stealing demon Berengiere. They had orders to take the favored shrine maiden and bride to the emperor to Berengiere, who was waiting for them a half-day's journey into the mountains. She was certain that her failure would lead to a painful death at Raksi's hand. With her cooperation, Thrush adopted a friendlier demeanor, loosening her bonds and learning her name, Huran.
Their questioning finished, Starfall and Thrush discussed what to do. They did not want to leave Berengiere to return to Raksi, and discussed hunting her down. Starfall realized they could send Flames Ascending after Berengiere, potentially ridding the of two threats. With everything they could do complete, the Solars awaited the decision of the people of Three Falls…