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Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head and its Companions are summoned back to Marcher lands where the High Commander Zhu’zi’a’ro’a and its Warriors have been engaged in a war with the Southern Nasutes over possession of the land to the south of Pol’ki’shtot (the Valley of Thorns). Having little luck keeping the treacherous Sta’ein’zei at bay, Zhu’zi’a’ro’a has decided to take A’zhu’lo’s advice and attempt to negotiate peace, with Ki’shto’ba’s help. Now, however, the Sta’ein’zei are advancing on the new fortress of Wei’loi’bao’cha, which lies immediately south of the Valley of Thorns. Ki’shto’ba decides it will cast its lot with the Marchers and fight alongside A’zhu’lo to protect Wei’loi’bao’cha.
However, the defense of the fortress does not go well. The Marchers decide they must abandon Wei’loi’bao’cha, taking its Mother with them inside one of the trickster Za’dut’s wheeled conveyances. The Marchers withdraw through the Valley of Thorns, granted sworn assurances of safe passage by Pai’it’zei and Lin’tuk’ko (the Commander and the High Priest of the Sta’ein’zei). Ki’shto’ba is assigned to lead the vanguard that escorts the Mother while Zhu’zi’a’ro’a, A’zhu’lo, and Lug’tei’a command the rear, intending to use the lightning horn to summon aid from Ki’shto’ba’s forces should there be any treachery.
And indeed treachery is fated to be the order of the day …