The Watchmakers’ Guild completes their magical timepieces, the Chronomantic Anchors, thanks to the help of the group and some distilled Obliviax moss. They are activated just in time to see the effects of a Time-Shift. An unknown agent at some point in the past changes something and a happy parade of honored diplomats from foreign lands suddenly distorts itself into a death-march. Cheers turn to shouts of anger while the northern ambassadors metamorph into shackled prisoners. Accused of spying, these miserable souls are carted off to be hung from the castle walls.
Only those who were wearing the Anchors retain their memories of what was before the Shift. Amidst the maddened crowds’ chaos, a small riot begins, and an overeager child wanders into the way of a massive horse-cart. Acting instantly, Samael Thrushton III hurtles himself into the fray to snatch the toddler out of the deadly path. One life saved, but many others extinguished — for some are trampled and beaten to death as the mob exhausts its patriotic rage.
With the city on the brink, talk turns to why this was done, and how. Miched Sanel Dufraine hits upon the idea that the magic might be traceable, and works with Master Klein and his Chronometric Anchor to triangulate the point of origin — somewhere beneath the Canal District.
Scouting for an entrance to whatever lies below, the group stumbles upon a frantic mother searching for thirteen-year-old Marabel, a girl who wandered off the night before and never returned. They explore the slip-shod buildings above the canals and find an opening into a netherworld of ancient houses from an antiquated past, half-buried in the rubble of Pacht’s history. Intermingled in this tangle of passages are the old sewers and evidence of the young girl’s movement through them.
A steep slope and falling water intimidates Haldis the Sage and Vadran, priest of Fyros, to the point that they stay back. Forging into the darkness, Miched and Samael press on. By the time they reach flickering lights, their swords are bare, ready to act. And act they must, for within a huge vault of untold age, the half-buried top of a tower is being excavated by a score of strongmen. These brutes have captured the wayward Marabel and left her, bound and unconscious to die while they toil. Miched steals through the shadows and hauls the girl away from danger while the brave Lieutenant from Haelmgood holds the line.
While his comrade rescues the lost child, Samael fends off blow after blow with razored steel, dicing a third of the villains into little more than meat. They fall back in terror, seeking a way to end the bladesman’s victory. They try to explode him with a rolling barrel full of blasting powder, but the soldier is too quick and all they manage to do is entomb themselves.
On the surface, Miched reunites the girl and her mother, and the City Watch is called to gather up the imprisoned survivors below. But what were they digging up, and who is powerful enough to have changed time itself in the first place?