‘Winter War’ Kestrel has recruited Catherine and the Stormguard to a greater cause, but first, they must cross the border during a treacherous Winter War. Watch for this rare skin in the in-game market!
CHECK OUT HER 3D MODEL:
- Compound bow
- Night vision goggles with green glowing laser
- MOLLE backpack
- Fur-lined winter uniform
Read the beginning of The Stormguard Saga:
What Must Be Done
The Right Tool For The Job
What Krul Seeks
The Shield and The Bow
The Coup D’Ètat
Crossing The Bridge
When frozen tundra gave way to dense forest, the Stormguard traveled at night to evade the watchful eyes of nesting ravens. The country was at war, and the Storm Queen would be searching for them, but the freeze itself was their biggest enemy, and Kestrel was glad of her warm winter uniform.
On the last night of their trek, Catherine drew up near Kestrel and murmured, “I have not thanked you.”
“Don’t,” said Kestrel in her usual dry tone. She pulled her backpack around to the front and removed her night vision goggles. “I don’t care who sits on what throne, but I expect Gythia will advise their puppet monarch to free the Storm Queen’s territories.”
Catherine fell quiet, and while the moon rose there was no sound but their steps and their foggy breathing.
When she heard the rush of fast water, Kestrel climbed a tree on a steep hill and scanned the river through the goggles. The bridge below was the only border crossing that had not been destroyed in the Winter War, and their only chance to cross to friendlier territory. She whistled a signal and the others gathered below.
“Your employer’s enemies have taken the bridge, Catherine,” she said. “Twenty guards on either side and ten on bridge patrol.”
“We can take twenty at a time, if it comes to that,” murmured Catherine.
“The bridge patrol have snow beasts,” said Kestrel. She dropped to the ground, soundless except for the poofing of powdery snow, and Ivet scurried up to look. In a moment, the axewoman cursed under her breath at the ten giant, armored, white-furred beasts, their curled horns wrapped with spikes, their tusks protruding from metal helms. On their shoulders rode enemy soldiers.
“I’ve heard about snow beasts,” said Amie, shivering as she drew her mage cloak tighter around her. “They steal children and eat them.”
“Leave them to me.” Kestrel stood at the lip of the hill, the green laser light from her goggles sweeping along the border.
“We don’t have to kill them all. We just have to get across.” Catherine raised her arcshield and the hidden blades snapped out. “If we are separated, you all have your assignments.” She motioned Kestrel ahead, then followed down the dense forested hill until they could hear the rushing of the water and the grunts of the snow beasts, the other women snaking behind, pulling shields, blades and polearms from their backs and belts.
At the edge of the forest, Kestrel disappeared and the others fanned out behind rocks and trees, fighters and mages clumping close to their assigned shieldwomen. Catherine stood alone, her fur cloak waving in the frozen breeze, refusing to shiver, as the guards’ blinding searchlight swung toward her. There was a call in a language Kestrel didn’t understand, then an answer, and Catherine was surrounded by men in heavy wool coats and fur caps, their swords and rifles drawn.
Hidden inside shimmering phosphor, Kestrel slipped past the guards and onto the bridge. The snow beasts were larger than she’d thought from her high vantage point; their steps shook the wooden bridge, and their armor covered all the vital bits, but the plan was in motion and could not be changed. The Stormguard whistled their positions like nocturnal bird calls. Catherine held up her shield, and the first of the giant snow beasts stepped into the phosphorous cloud.
With all eyes on Catherine, it was a simple thing for Kestrel to put a sizzling, glowing arrow into the beast’s eye. It howled, stuck, and twisted about hard, its great hairy arms striking into the darkness, tossing its rider off the side of the bridge and into the river. By the time the nearby guards had reined their beasts around to face their aggressor, Kestrel and the arrow had disappeared, and the panicked beast clutching at its bleeding face could not be contained.
The Stormguard moved into action, shields flanking around Catherine, fighters taking out the unprepared guards, magic flashing, freezing, burning in the air. A flaming phoenix screamed, its wings spraying sparks onto the bridge; the guards leaped out of its way in terror. In the chaos, Kestrel left another cloud of phosphor in the path of the next beast and delivered two arrows under its arm. It stopped still and bellowed, but Kestrel had already disappeared again. Across the bridge she went, shooting and stunning the wild beasts, ducking and sprinting out of the way as they wavered and roared. She glanced over her shoulder to see Catherine’s bubble flash and spin, then back to the other side of the bridge, where they had no element of surprise. The guards there held positions with grim expressions and weapons drawn, eyes darting. She stood sideways and fired, releasing arrows for cover as the shields pushed onto the bridge.
Kestrel vanished and raced, avoiding the slick blood on the ice, to the other side. She reappeared in front of the highest ranking officer who blinked, his mouth open, still half-dreaming, his boots pulled on over his nightclothes. Her arrow nestled an inch from his eye, spitting blue magic onto his nose.
“You know who we are?” she asked.
The officer stuttered in his own language, then said in an accent, “Stormguard.”
“Just passing through.” Catherine’s voice was rich and slow as honey. Her hand rested on Kestrel’s back shoulder, and the rest of the women assembled in defensive positions behind them. “You’ll be a dear and let us by, won’t you?”
Something like hope flashed in Catherine’s eyes as the officer called for his troops to stand down. The Stormguard filed through the enemy’s line while the cavalry struggled to gain control of their wounded beasts. Kestrel walked backward, her bow pulled, until the last of the women had disappeared into friendly territory.
…The Stormguard Saga continues: