Druan rode the border in the twilight gray at the edge of winter. It was the deep, cold abyss before the faint spring that crept into the northlands, when the sun rose to the horizon and cast a glow over the hillsides and turned the snow to silver. The sky was endless overhead, filled with stars like scattered shards of ice, and always the fitful glow of the sky fires gleamed and shimmered at the far north. There, in the darkness that ebbed but never faded, dwelled their enemy.
Two years gone, since the slaughter at the Pass of Bones, and Druan was grown into a warrior. Now he knew how to ride a horse and wield a sword and a spear. He wore his own iron scale armor and bore a shield of oaken planks and dark hide. He was harder as well, his long limbs filled in with muscle and his face drawn into grim lines. He was no boy any longer; his cold gray eyes had seen too much death.
He rode to the top of a hill and looked north, always north. Soon he would turn south and ride for home, for even the weak day was enough to keep the enemy at bay. Only in the dark they came, the wind always with them to snuff out the flames they feared. Now the race of men had been driven out of their homes by the scourge of the winter wraiths, and they lived in fortified villages, protected by earthworks and by wooden palisades, but most of all by men. Riders ever patrolled the highlands, into the hills, seeking the signs of an attack.
Six times they had come, on the coldest nights. Six times the walls had flamed with fire and cold steel, leaving death in the wake of war. Each time the enemy took away their slain, and the people of the valleys had learned bitterly to guard their own dead. The dead, as well as the living who were dragged screaming into the dark, were never seen again.