The scene opens in a marble room with a shimmering portal. As we gaze through the portal we see a pitched battle and teenage girls weeping. A gnome appears, grabs a teenage boy, and with strength that belies his small stature throws him through the portal, back into the marble room.
The view pulls back and the marble room is guarded by several soldiers who look unlike any soldiers seen before. Shaven head, dark leather armor, quarterstaves, and an air of sorcery. They surround a group of teenagers. The new boy is picked up ruthlessly by a guard and the rest of the prisoners are led from the room.
Suddenly a woman enters the room dressed in a shimmering gown and heavily jeweled. The gnome drops to a knee and addresses her as “Queen”, while she calls him “Tinker”. The Tinker is obviously awed and stumbles on his words. The Queen tells the Tinker he has failed her and he responds saying that he has brought many “breeders” for her but that the Guild has interfered, spoiling his plans. The Queen reiterates the price for failure is death, but that in light of his usefulness she will instead send him to the Mines to repair the Machinery.
The view pulls back out of the room showing a tall tower in a gigantic city filled with even more towers interconnected by raised aquaducts. These aquaducts are large enough to handle barge traffic and other ships. This city is built above a sprawling everglades type of environment, and as the view pulls back further, more huge cities are seen, all of them in the area east of the Impasse Mountains.
Gazing around from atop the plateau where they were recovering after their last fight, Kurgaz spots two groups of enemies moving over the bridges away from the party and heading south towards Bilmar. The group warily moves to investigate the smoking wreckage of the carriage, finding a tripwire strung underneath the dead body of the driver. Toran attempts to disarm the trap remotely using his Mage Hand, but a huge fireball detonates, obliterating the wreckage. The group is safely removed from the range of the explosion.
Moving off after the retreating groups of enemies, the party moves south in pursuit at a quick trot. The group enters wide grasslands and sees four horsemen gallop off on a road, again heading south. Wary because of the tall grasses, the group reaches the road and follows on foot, aware that enemies remain. Somewhere.
Entering into a forest growing up on both sides of the road, a check of the tracks shows that the horsemen have entered the forest to the west. As they rest and discuss a plan, a rising dust cloud is seen on the road over a mile distant. Predicting that this could be another carriage of apprentices, the party rushes off again down the road to attempt to warn them of an impending ambush.
Fighting exhaustion, they continue to run south along the road until obvious movement in the grasses to the side of the road brings them up short. Several of the Quickling assassins they have fought earlier race into the midst of the party, knives flashing. Toran, surprised, is eviscerated and brought to the ground, out of the fight and struggling to survive. Kurgaz ducks behind his shield and then kills his attacker with his axe in a battle rage while Pelaois explodes another in a heartbeat with deadly magic. The third attacker disappears in a flash, vanishing into the tall grasses.
Kurgaz leaps to the pursuit while a revived Toran (thanks to Kasimir’s quick healing) rushes after him, nearly matching the barbarian in rage. Kasimir yells at the party to stay together, but the two run off heedlessly into the grasses, where the assassin leaps at them once more. Kurgaz, off balance, cannot bring his weapons to bear while an enraged, naked, and bloodied Toran destroys the assassin with his Eldritch blasts.
Racing forward to the carriage, the exhausted and bloodied party realize that while they may have won the fight, the distraction it caused made the ambush of the carriage possible. The driver is found riddled with crossbow bolts, and the passengers are gone, the attackers fleeing.
The party now has a difficult decision to make; try to chase after the abductors while already fatigued, or rest to recover their energy. The carriage and the horses remain ready to potentially use in the pursuit as well.