Three months shy of 15, Matthi the Goth is too young to be considered for promotion into the senior ranks of his elite military academy, or so he thinks. But his master trainer thinks differently, and Matthi finds himself beside his friend Thomas in a grueling test of mental strength and physical endurance.
Flashback to where it all started: A young Matthi makes a stupid boyhood mistake and ends up at the center of clan hostilities, facing the harsh justice of the Angel of Death.
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Matthi seeks out his brother's friend, Stensius, to find answers about his brother's death, as angry cadets, worn and hungry, turn the chow hall into a battleground.
Outside the garrison, starving Goths stir up trouble and the legion of the V Macedonica doesn't have the numbers to stop them. Someone is hiring mercenaries to keep the peace and a skinny, foreign slave, gambles his life to gain his freedom.
A shadow in the night leads Matthi into dark places and darker realizations.
In the Gothlands, Helmreik is dying. Ermalinde wakes in the night to hear the rantings of an old man and the deadly predictions of the new, young Angel of Death.