Picture the following: A thick white winter covers the Northlands wilderness once again, with unbearable cold. Bloody hand marks on frozen trees, echo the ugly death offered by the plague. Death ships — once filled with Viking warriors and traders – now silently float on the Volga river, carrying nothing but diseased corpses. Black Wolves feeding on a human skeleton somewhere in the dark night. It’s 1020 A.D., baby, and the fourth volume of Northlanders throws you straight into the chaotic midst of it, right from its very first grasping scenes.
Hilda — the protagonist and narrator of our story — is a beautiful young woman, married to a loving husband, who is also a wealthy merchant. Together with their young daughter Karin, they live in a Viking settlement, somewhere along the Volga River. Don’t get too pleased with the prospect of a happy Viking family though — it’s not how the story goes. Hilda’s husband is sick with the plague, and soon after a few pages he dies. Hilda is left alone with her daughter, to survive the upcoming hardships of winter and plague.
But is the long winter the worst to deal with? Should the horrible plague be feared the most? Sadly, it’s not. People are the most dangerous factor, and in our story, it’s the characters of Gunborg and his men. Gunborg is the settlements’ muscle, and more importantly, a blood-thirsty violent opportunist, who’s just craving the chance to harness fear and chaos to his own advantage.
Opposite to ruthless Gunborg stands Boris (also quite ruthless, but generally a good guy) – a bald, black-bearded foreign priest (I’m guessing Russian), who serves as an advisor to the old Viking lord of the settlement. Boris is very advent in his ideas and notions as he believes both in god and science. Boris has developed a theory about “communicative diseases” that are passed between people through breath and saliva. Though a priest and a thinker, Boris is also a fierce opponent in battle, and the only one who dares to publicly oppose Gunborg.