The band has emerged from Faerie 97 years before they entered. With no way back to their present and with snows coming on, they winter over in Hawthorne. The town is more connected to the empire that spawned it than the PCs remember it. There's word of a civil war sparked by the death of an emperor, Brodred, to the East. Three potential heirs, the princesses Pearl, Peahen, and Petal, are fighting to take the throne.
Minnerette develops an uneasy relationship with his old master, now a boy apprentice, Innestra, and Innestra's master, the brooding, gouty Oclugadium. Minnerette disarms some of Oclugadium's suspicion with a startling gift – a grimoire of spells – and Oclugadium tells him about his theory of time as a branching tree, and about a place he might find answers to his questions – the Cave of Secrets that lies in the highlands to the east of Xom-Yeric.
Aptos the dwarf and his associates, Fang, M'bata, and Arnor, serve Minnerette and Vincent during the winter, fetching exotic materials for the wizard and serving as a retinue for the knight.
Vincent spends time as a guest in the households of Elderwoman Sunngifu's knights. He offends the noble Reichenbach family with some breach of etiquette and it grows into a rivalry between him and them.
Nellis falls in love with Penelope Reichenbach. When her father, Gosbert Reichenbach, tries to provoke a duel, the big barbarian declines the duel to spare Penelope the loss of her father. Hawthorne's aristocratic community sees Nellis as something of an overbuilt coward as a result.
Fisk engages in some criminal mischief and crosses Conrad's gang. When Conrad tries to move against Fisk, Fisk burns Conrad's farm as a warning.
When the snows begin to melt, a messenger arrives at Sunngifu's estate to tell her that Princess Pearl has called up the levy from Waterstone, and Count Ufgeat of Waterstone is calling on Hawthorne. Sunngifu offers land south of Hawthorne to Vincent if he'll swear his sword to her. He accepts, and brings his retinue to war. They march with Sunngifu's son, the timid Sir Ricbert, and at Waterstone they join Count Ufgeat and Sir Bagmund. Sir Bagmund and his men wear the livery of Princess Pearl, a purple six-pointed star on a yellow field.
The band rides with the army of Waterstone northeast along the Shining River to Xom-Cahar. There Vincent uses his noble privilege to take his retinue further northeast to Xom-Yeric, promising to meet up with Sir Bagmund or his messenger at Xom-Iforn after he's allowed Minnerette to investigate the Cave of Secrets.
Investigations at Xom-Yeric run long, and the band departs late after wringing what they need from a devilbeetle junkie living in the catacombs. On their second evening in the highlands they are followed by a pack of hungry wolves joined by three feral war dogs. By accident, the band leads the wolves to some pilgrims camped at Ruprecht's Towers near the Cave of Secrets. The wolves seize a man who had walked out of the camp to make water and the band arrives as the pilgrims' attempts to rescue him are getting them in more trouble. The party kills one of the war dogs and drives off the wolves, but Vincent is bitten in the jaw and loses seven teeth.
The session concludes with the wolves dragging a pilgrim corpse off into the heather and the PCs joining the shaken pilgrims at the feet of the ruined towers.