Our heroine – and, perhaps, anti-heroine – is Artesia. She is a dangerous woman, perhaps the most dangerous woman in her corner of the world: a witch like her murdered mother, a priestess to dread goddesses, a warrior trained to the sword and the spear. When she was young she saw her mother die on a witch’s pyre, and swore to herself to seek another death – a death on a battlefield, facing her enemies eye-to-eye with a sword in her hand, taking as many of them with her as she can – and she has spent her life seeking to escape her mother’s fate. Raised in a culture that by tradition denies both power and choice to women, she ran away into the mountains and became the concubine of a barbarian king, rising in time to become one of his war captains. She seeks strength, a warrior’s strength, a lord’s power, the might of an armed host, because for her it is strength that makes all other virtues – and desires – possible.