Kira emerges alone from the wilderness, homeless, lost, and confused, without any memory of her previous life or who she really is, and enters a world of uncertainty and war, with struggles on every side. The Old Powers oppose the New Gods and their believers; nations of men fight one another for supremacy, while still confronting ancient racial enemies of steppe and forest; and within Ruthenia--from Novgorod to Kiev, from the lands of the Baltic dwarves in the west to the Volga River home of the Bulgar elves to the east--knights and their druzhinas
fight and die so that rival princes can expand their reach and their power, indifferent to the peasants they crush underfoot, spreading misery with sword and flame.
Kira is given both a name and cared for by an elderly peasant couple, but comes to the attention of the capricious local lord, a man with his own secrets, who takes her into his home. There she is forced to hide her past, including the truth of the Wampyr Blade, the terrifying artifact she stole from the witch's cabin and was forced to use to save her life. Now she must learn to ride, and to wield axe and sword, because if she is to survive, if she is to discover who she really is and where she comes from, she must fight alongside the lord's warriors, earning their trust, serving beside them in desperate battle.
In every moment, Kira is looking over her shoulder, listening for the rushing wind and snapping branches she fears to someday hear, because she is being chased by Baba Jadwiga, the cruel Witch of the Shadowed Wood, the relentless Old Power who still invades her dreams. Kira suffered as the witch's servant, kept in thrall to her, witness to her many hideous crimes, for two long years before freeing an innocent girl and escaping herself into the wilderness. The witch does not forget, and she does not forgive; she will have her servant back, at all costs, and enlists her many allies to track her down. The Black Riders of Vorotynsk, with their scourge-like knouts and casual cruelty, do not hesitate to terrify and punish innocents to find her.
Kira must learn her true identity before she is turned over to the witch by her enemies. Her survival, and the fate of three princedoms, depend on her courage, the strength of her arm, and the loyalty of her friends.