For three days and nights the deluge had been unbearable, forcing Valius and the small detachment of Excubitors he commanded to set up camp on the hillside just beyond Coven’s Ford. The men grew foul without the labor of marching to distract them from the storm which pelted their tents and howled in their faces and soaked them to the marrow whenever they should venture far enough from camp to drop trou in solitude. So when the downpour at last exhausted itself on the fourth night, Valius breathed a sigh of relief and ordered his soldiers to prepare at once to resume their journey to the Presidio at Grattenshead. The Adumbraters there were in grave danger and without so much as a watchman to abide the gates.
The Excubitors moved nimbly, anxious to again be on the move. In their haste, they elected to forego the fires and tear down in darkness. It was with great shock and disturbance then when the listless clouds at last departed, unmasking the face of the sullen, silver moon. Its pale light touched not just the Excubitors, but also the flooded fields beyond and the evil that now awakened there.
Up from the cold mud sprang tremoring hands like hateful night flowers. The hands thrashed and grasped and found purchase and pulled. Valius turned and saw this himself when an unnatural hush washed over the camp. The Ghost Army rose from the ground one-thousand strong and wasted not a moment’s pause, charging his men in dead silence.
“To the Ford!” he called as the first of his elite soldiers were cut down by a foe who felt not the edge of their swords nor the force of their maces. Those not already in the thick of the slaughter retreated toward the Ford, knowing well that ghosts may never cross the bewitched waters. But when Valius arrived he found the Ford flooded and raging from the recent storms. It could not be crossed.
He and his Excubitors were to decide now, each man for himself, whether to drown in the torrents or stay and battle an army of phantasms. It would be like fighting fog, but to each a man they stayed. And on this night, they would indeed do the impossible.