Despite the Guardian of Maarihk being condemned as anathema, and his very existence relegated to legend, Natharr resumes his ancient responsibilities as Mankind's protector. He joins with a mysterious Firstborn companion, Ellis the Elder, to journey into the snowy reaches of Biraald, where his Sight promises he will find those who secretly adhere to the ways of the Olde Gods.
Although Biraaldi bloodlines show their Firstborn heritage more clearly than even in Maarihk itself, the two nations have never enjoyed peace. It has been far worse since the rise of Brandt the Usurper to Maarihk's throne. Natharr and Ellis must navigate threats not only against the Firstborn, but the Maarihkish, as they seek out the sympathizers he Saw who are brave enough to resist Maarihk's tyranny. Only then can the damage be repaired from when Natharr chose personal happiness with Darshelle and the young crown prince over his weighty responsibilities as Guardian of Maarihk.
Natharr leapt up and forward, arching his back, and the blade of a short sword sliced the air only a whisper away from his shoulder blade. He whirled immediately, slashing at the men at his back, but had to turn the attack into a defending stroke, and chopped down into one attacker's blade, then reversed the motion to feint at the body before striking at the sword in a disarming attack. Their blades threw sparks and the soldier's eyes bulged, big and brown, as his short sword twisted in his grip and flew to the ground, vanishing in the snow. Normally, Natharr would have pressed the advantage, at least bloodying the unarmed man to make him less of a threat when he retrieved his weapon, but the others were already surging forward to give thier companion the necessary cover to rearm himself. Once again, Natharr was impressed with the training of these garrison line troops.
Natharr whirled away and leapt over the top of the snow, throwing a new cloud of white, and he saw Martice and Ellis. They stood, rooted in the knee-deep snow as if they were frozen. The old man's face was hidden in the shadows of his hood, but the expression on Martice's face was clear enough. Her eyes bulged and her mouth was open, a look of horror that took a strong woman and transformed her into any maid caught in a difficult situation. He was having a hard enough time fighting so many men in the deep snow, he did not need the distraction of the two of them acting like idiots waiting to be told what to do.
"The trap door!" he yelled, leaping over the top of the snow. "Get through it!"
They did not move.
Natharr turned hard to the right and the soldiers followed. He hoped he could keep their attention on him, rather than turning back toward the Elder and the woman, but that was not certain, particularly when he had just yelled instructions. Swords flew at him in rapid succession. By turning so sharply, he had closed the gap between himself and his pursuers, allowing three to get ahead of him, limiting his paths of escape, all of them back toward Ellis and Martice. His sword arm was heavy, his shoulder and wrist burning; his legs were becoming leaden from fighting through the crusty snow both as he raised each foot and as it came back down. He had to even the odds and he had to do it immediately. There was no telling how much longer he could keep this up. He was only a man and he could do only so much for so long, despite his Sight helping him ward off the worst of their sword strokes.
The three that had cut him off cried out, eyes bulging, as Natharr took his long sword in both hands to rain a barrage of strokes at their heads and shoulders. They stumbled backward through the snow, then one backed into the stiff branches of a pine. His eyes flicked upward for the briefest instant, but it was all the distraction Natharr needed. He swung his sword in a wide arc that ended with a wrist-wrenching impact as his blade bit into the man's arm at the base of the shoulder. The soldier cursed and dropped to his knees, bright red spraying across the snow as he clutched at the wound. The bone had stopped Natharr's edge from severing the limb, but the Guardian knew the man would not wield a sword for the garrison again.