Winter Warriors, first published in 1997, is a fantasy novel written by David Gemmell. It belongs to the Drenai series and is set several decades after Gemmell's earlier title, Quest for Lost Heroes. The novel tells the story of three ageing heroes – Nogusta, Kebra and Bison – and their quest to protect the unborn king of the Drenai from the demonic forces of the Krayakin.
The Illohir – a race of demons and mystical creatures – had once lived together with humans on earth until the First Great War, when the demon sorcerer Emsharas sided with the humans and banished his twin brother Anharat, Lord of the Night, and the rest of their race to the Great Void.
Centuries later, Anharat is brought back to the physical world by Kalizkan, a dying Ventrian sorcerer seeking to cure his cancer through the use of blood magick. Possessing the sorcerer's body, Anharat seeks to bring his people back from the void by undoing his brother's spell. For this, he must ritually sacrifice three kings.
Meanwhile, the Drenai have recently conquered Ventria and King Skanda has solidified his position by marrying Axiana, the daughter of the late emperor. Axiana is pregnant with Skanda's son, the future king. Her midwife, a Source priestess named Ulmenetha, senses a demonic presence over the city of Usa, where the royal palace is located. With the help of lorassium, Ulmenetha is shown three visions: four warriors and herself protecting Axiana as a white crow hovers above them; an army of demons rising from a frozen lake; and a sacrificial ritual involving Axiana's father, the murdered emperor.
The third of her visions, as she later learns, has already occurred - the Emperor of Ventria was sacrificed as the first of the three kings. The second vision is also a reality, as demons are slowly returning to the physical world. The first vision, with the four warriors protecting the queen, is a premonition.
One of these warriors is Nogusta, a black swordsman who is a descendant of Emsharas and wears a talisman which gives him the Gift of the Third Eye. He is accompanied by two comrades with diametrically opposing personalities – the crude and impulsive hulking warrior known only as "Bison" and the cool-headed and astute archer Kebra. All three of them are veteran soldiers in the Drenai army, having served under the infamous general Banelion, the "White Wolf", during the Ventrian invasion of Drenai and the subsequent Drenai conquest of Ventria. However, as King Skanda plans to further expand his empire into Cadia, he is sending home roughly 2000 of the older men in his army, including Banelion, Nogusta, Bison and Kebra.
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- Nogusta – black Drenai swordsman with precognitive abilities
- Bison – ageing Drenai warrior, friend of Nogusta
- Kebra – ageing Drenai archer, friend of Nogusta
- Anharat – Demon Lord of the Night
- Ulmenetha – priestess of the Source
- Dagorian – young Drenai officer
- Antikas Karios – Ventrian swordsman
- Kalizkan – Ventrian sorcerer whose body is possessed by Anharat
- Malikada – Ventrian prince whose body is possessed by Anharat
- Axiana – pregnant queen of Ventria and the Drenai
- Conalin, Pharis & Sufia – Ventrian orphans
- Balikas – leader of the demonic Krayakin
- Banelion (the "White Wolf") – old Drenai general
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