Our scene begins as four newly-escaped changelings flee Arcadia and their respective Keepers, meeting up somewhere in the Hedge not far from Detroit, Michigan (to whence they are all attempting to return). Some have been away for years, while others believe that they have spent very little time in captivity.
Stumbling through the Thorns, they emerge before one another in a clearing, and take in each others' strange appearance: an enormous, bestial man clad in rough rags; a homely woman composed of stone and crystals; a slight, birdlike man with large, watchful eyes; and a beautiful young man in whose footsteps flowers bloom riotously. They introduce themselves to one another, and ask each other if they know the way back home.
Suddenly, the blast of a hunting horn rends the air: Privateers are on their trail! The protagonists flee, urged on by the baying of the Privateers' hounds. As they run, they notice that the Hedge cannot decide which time of year to represent: different areas, some only feet apart, bear the trappings of completely opposite seasons. Vladimir (the giant) accidentally steps on a nest of Greenjackets, and is stung by their hallucinogenic venom.
Fleeing the Greenjackets, the protagonists soon stumble into a large open space, in which they come upon a young female changeling (who resembles nothing so much as a humanoid phoenix) in the midst of harvesting Goblin Fruit. She tells them to dive into a nearby pond and not to emerge until she pulls them out. Activating an unknown Contract, she wreaths herself in flames and makes short work of the pursuing swarm. Before they can rest, the baying of the hounds is renewed, and the young woman (who calls herself Calliope) tells them to follow her, that she knows a way out of the Hedge.
Calliope leads them to an old tree; diving through a hollow in its trunk, they emerge in an abandoned, boarded-up house in Detroit—except for the blooming young man, who stays behind to challenge their pursuers, and in so doing learns their names: Bert and Ernie, an avian Beast and a porcine Ogre, respectively. Seeking to prevent the Privateers from following them, the protagonists "borrow" some nearby demolition equipment and destroy the entire structure they just emerged from (after the blooming one has rejoined them), effectively preventing any attempt by the Privateers to follow them.
Taking a moment to catch her breath, Calliope remembers to welcome the protagonists to Detroit. Only time will tell what kind of welcome-wagon rolls up to greet them.