The reluctant heir to the half throne of Winterhold leaves the plots that threaten his life and flees North with the woman he loves. Upon returning to his home in the Waste, he discovers to his horror that the murderous schemes have followed him and wiped out his clan, leaving only his adoptive brother alive. His brother captures the female captain of the troop of warriors sent to destroy the heir and the four of them flee into the mountains of the Northern Range. Wandering through the dark maze of tunnels beneath the mountains, they eventually emerge into a valley whose existence was unknown to the outside world. There they discover an ancient empire divided into three warring factions. A formidable wall manned by one faction separates the other two, keeping the valley in a constant state of warfare. Split up soon after they enter the valley, the sojoumers must make their way through a host of plots for power and once again try to survive, but in a very different climate from the one they had known outside the isolated realm. The valley is hot and lush with growth, a stark contrast to the rest of the frozen planet. Brought together at the end in a battle among the three factions, the four discover that ancient enmities can wreak havoc, both inside and outside of the hidden empire.