The armies of the Wasp Empire are on the march, and first to feel their might will be the city of Tark -- even now preparing for siege. Within its walls Salma and Totho must weather the storm, as the Ant-kinden prepare to stand against numbers and weaponry such as the Lowlands have never seen. And after his earlier victory, the Empire's secret service has decided veteran artificer Stenwold Maker is too dangerous to live. So disgraced Major Thalric is despatched on a desperate mission, not only to eliminate Stenwold himself, but to destroy his beloved city of Collegium. Thus they hope to end all hope of intelligent resistance to the remorseless imperial advance.