Matthias Helvar is a Drüskelle from Fjerda who finds himself stuck with an unlikely travel companion, Grisha Heartrender Nina Zenik, after previously capturing and placing her on a ship bound for the Ice Court to stand trial.
Matthias and the Drüskelle capture Nina at a boarding house in Novokribirsk and place her in the lower deck of their ship with other Grisha prisoners bound for Fjerda, specifically the Ice Court, where they will face trial. Nina asks just how many Grisha are ever found innocent by Fjerdan law, but Matthias doesn't reply, already knowing the answer. Nina was under the impression that the Drüskelle respected their women and yet they treat her so inhumanly, to which Matthias replies that Grisha are not women.
While his comrades are distracted, Matthias brings Nina something to eat. When she accuses him of trying to poison her, he takes a bite to ease her suspicions. Though it may not be poison, Nina admits, she suspects that Matthias at least wants something in return. Matthias wants answers. He asking if her parents are also Grisha and if she was born Grisha or became one by choice. While he may not be knowledgeable in the ways of the Grisha, he knows for certain is that they're enemies and that Heartrenders like Nina use magic to stop hearts. Nina retorts that Heartrenders can also soothe tempers and calm those in pain. Matthias then asks Nina about the Darkling, but she would rather starve than be a trader. Despite not getting any answers, Matthias offers her a bite of food. Nina reluctantly takes a bite only to spit it in Matthias's face.
On their way back to Fjerda, the Drüskelle find themselves caught up in a storm. One of Matthias's comrades instructs him to kill the Grisha captives if the storm worsens, to prevent them from getting loose when the ship goes under. The notion of which seemingly bothers Matthias as the Grisha are due to stand trial.
Shipwrecked with Nina
As feared, the storm overcomes the ship, killing many of the crew as well as the captives, though Matthias and Nina barely manage to survive. Nina warms Matthias' body and speeds up his heart to awaken him. Trapped in water with nothing to save them but a sheet of deck wood, Matthias and Nina are forced to work together in the interest of survival, as they need each other. Matthias' strength will get them to shore and Nina's Grisha powers will keep the two of them warm.
Matthias and Nina wash up on shore in search of shelter. They find refuge in a lodge in a deserted whaling camp, where Nina proceeds to undress from her cold and wet clothes to keep warm, though Matthias is reluctant. She offers to help keep him warm as well but only if he undresses. Matthias relents and snuggles up behind Nina, who comments that he's cold and clammy like a squid. She places her hand over his chest and warms his body before resting. "You're welcome, you big idiot," she says in Matthias' native tongue.
Matthias awakens next to Nina and jumps to his feet with discomfort from having gotten so close to her, claiming that he can't wait to be back in his own bed, but Nina would beg to differ, noting that she can feel just how much he likes laying next to her. He questions why she speaks in such a lewd manner, especially in comparison to Fjerdan women who are typically more modest and pious. Fjerda women are caretakers and the men are their protectors, whereas in Ravka, the men and women fight together, Nina notes. Matthias claims that it's not natural to fight as so, to which Nina retorts "it's not natural for someone to be as stupid as he is tall and yet, oh, there you stand." She then challenges Matthias to a fight, which earns a bit of laughter, much to Nina's surprise.
Matthias and Nina travel on foot through the cold. Nina worries that they're lost, but Matthias insists they're not and that Drüskelle are trained to overcome any situation. When Matthias pulls away from her, she questions why that is, wondering if he's afraid that he might begin to like her. He's scared that if he likes a Grisha that he might start to think of them as human. Matthias admits that he does in fact like Nina despite the fact that she's horrible, loud, and lewd. Brum always warned them how charming witches could be. Matthias questions if this could be yet another one of Nina's tricks. Amused by his accusations, Nina refers to herself as the wicked Grisha seductress who beguiles innocent men with her Grisha wiles. She then begins to tickle Matthias, a smile forming on his face followed by laughter. All at once, the ice gives away and Nina nearly falls into a seemingly bottomless pit. However, Matthias grabs her arm, preventing her from falling. However, for a moment, he does at least consider letting her go. The two then exchange names rather than referring to one another as "witch" and "Drüskelle."
Arrested for Slave Trading
Matthias and Nina arrive in Arkesk, where Nina will be safe, but Matthias not so much. So he intends to go north in the night, but Nina doesn't want to separate. She proposes they find somewhere where they can be together, somewhere where they're not simply "Grisha" and "Drüskelle." Should he leave, he could never go back to Fjerda, as he would be court-martialed as a deserter. And Nina would be branded a traitor to all Grisha. Matthias has only ever known two countries his entire life: his and Nina's. He asks her what the others are like. She mentions Kerch and the Wandering Isle. Just as they're about to kiss, Matthias' stomachs growls.
Matthias and Nina head downstairs for waffles. Suddenly, Matthias' falls unconscious, and Nina is greeted by her old Grisha companions, who intend to take Matthias to the Little Palace, where he will be executed. In an attempt to save his life, Nina accuses Matthias of being a slaver and the Kerch bounty hunter offers to take the both of them to Ketterdam, where Matthias will face trial, but at least he won't be executed. This leads to a dispute between the Grisha and the bounty hunters, who remind Fedyor that they're already at war with Fjerda and that it wouldn't be a good idea to start a war with the Kerch as well. Fedyor relents, and Nina leaves with Matthias and the Kerch bounty man.
Matthias is placed in a holding cell on the Kerch bounty hunter's ship. Nina brings him food and water, but Matthias accuses her of betraying him and grabs on to her through the cell bars. She forces him to release her and apologizes for accusing him of being a slaver, but she acted to save his life. The Grisha would've simply killed him. It was either falling on the mercy of Kerch law or certain death. By accusing Matthias of slavery, she knew they'd simply arrest him and later drop the charges when the case goes to court. However, another prisoner laughs and informs Nina that the trial won't be for at least a year or two. In the meantime, he'll be sent to Hellgate. Nina begs Matthias to trust her, but she broke his trust, as there's nothing she can do to fix this.
Like most of the Drüskelle, Matthias was raised to believe that all Grisha were evil, leading to an almost natural hatred of their kind. However, in spending time with Nina, not only did he realize just how wrong he was, he also began to like her.
Matthias is well built, very muscular, tall in stature, with distinctive blond hair and blue eyes, as accustom to the Fjerdan people.
Matthias and Nina started out as enemies. Initially, he only saw Nina as another Grisha to capture and put on trial. He and his unit tracked Nina down to a boarding house in Novokribirsk, where they apprehended her and placed her on a ship headed for Fjerda to stand trial. However, when the ship sank after getting caught in a storm, the two were forced to set aside their differences in the interest of survival. In that time of traveling together, Matthias began to see that she wasn't as evil as he had been led to believe.
- " I am a witch hunter and you are a witch. You are my prisoner."