With Sister Beatrine of the Church of Saerin rescued, the companions return to The Free-City of Pacht and its preparations for The Midsummer Festival. On their way, Hasnim faces off against a rabid boar, urging his companions that the fight must be his alone. They ride on, leaving their friend and his mysterious sword to their work.
Back in the city, the Sisters of Saerin greet the men as heroes and offer them healing and praise. While they were fighting orcs at Lake Katrax, Colonel Odolphus Griest of the Royal Haelmgood Army arrived and took temporary command of the Embassy, recently recovered by Lt. Samael Thrushton III, who earned a promotion from Second Lieutenant to First. Griest has news, both of Captain Abenforth’s “transfer” to a job more suitable for a man of his lack of talent and of those who may visit during the festival week — a prince and princess, no less, among others. Rumors of trouble in the homeland disturb the Lieutenant, and he sets to work readying the armory and the dozen green soldiers at his command.
Letters arrive, offering Miched Sanel Dufraine (under the pen-name Lynon Duvall) a regular column in , one of the “weeklies” distributed in town by the printing houses. Haldis the Sage is asked if an Associate Professorship at the Cinquerre College of Magic would be to his liking, but a secretive test of wit still lies ahead before he can join the ranks of that esteemed academy. Brother Vadran gets word from his fellow priests at the First Church of Fyros, warning him of the estimated strength of The Water Cult. Father-General Kruth, high priest of that fortress-like chapel, writes of secretive fanatics and gathering points in abandoned buildings guarded by hundreds of loyal worshipers. His predictions of what might be are dire indeed.
The next day, Miched finds Master Durvis Adrad at Klein’s Clocks, and the Chronomancer informs him that he has names of three manor houses on Overlook Hill — one of which must be the origin point of the last great spell that caused the Time Shift. Miched takes heart when one of the mansions belongs to a family that owes him a favor, and he sets out to call on them… alone.
Hasnim returns from his night in the wild with a new-found understanding of The Crying Gods Smile. He, Vadran, Haldis, and Samael act on the priest’s information, moving into the guarded Canal District to see what can be seen.
Her Ladyship Marsa Crimwall and her young son Billem greet Miched at Proudfire Manor in the walled-off section of the richest part of Pacht. After some talk, the gentleman adventurer realizes that one of the three houses of which he was warned seems to be the epicenter of some odd occurrences of late. He decides to pay a visit, his noblelady friend and her son in tow. What they find is Gildengate, a mansion butlered by a ruffian and the Margravene Tessy Hallowday who has been frightened into obedience by unknown forces. They are obliged to leave, and Miched sends a note for help to his friends. But they have troubles of their own.
The four companions find the first Cult stronghold, an old rope-making factory, and barge inside. Catching the slovenly wretches that dwell there off-guard, they find an altar to Agraghal, the Demigod of Water. But Vadran spots a real problem — symbols on the unholy stone and inflections in the prayers of the cultists lead him to believe the fools aren’t worshiping The Placid One at all, but Graygle, the titan destroyer of legend created by the Demon Queen of Lies, Essasae!
The heroes leap into action, fending off the poorly-trained cultists with sword and spell while Vadran pushes through a magical barrier and desecrates the offending altar. But they miss their brief chance to escape and in minutes, they are surrounded by a hundred hateful zealots and a dozen lesser priestesses. The magic of Graygle and Essessae proves too powerful. Samael, Haldis, and Hasnim are captured and hauled bodily away. Vadran pulls off a spell of sanctuary at the last moment, allowing him to vanish into the mob.
Time is growing short for the Defenders of Pacht. Can they escape? Or, have they walked into the heart of an evil that will destroy them, just as it intends to destroy their city?