Sometimes the sound of wind in the trees is just the sound of the wind in the trees. Not tonight.
We’d been hunting the Doom. The flesh-eaters that had attacked Sourbridge, Halthorpe and a handful more of villages across the Loon valley were the scouts. There had been victories, even against those early surprise incursions, but tonight ghost hounds were hunting the hunters.
Traces of phosphorescence dashed between the trees down on the river flat, finding the scent from where we’d crossed the river. Those were the ghost hounds, smudges of glowing light with noses, saucer eyes and rending teeth. The ghost hounds could kill but tonight there was a smudge darker than midnight crossing the river too, a Doom Master was guiding them.
We were long out of the woods and had spent our time well, fortifying the hilltop against the assault that would come. With a Doom Master here, dawn wasn’t going to save us. Our dissenter and pestilence burner was reinforcing our defences but he’d not been tested against this calibre of enemy before. The sound of wind in the trees below us, the sound of the ghost hounds seeking us out, was coming closer, becoming easier to hear.
Moonrise would mark the beginning of the most dangerous part of the night. The ghost hounds would be harder to see by moonlight, harder to see and easier to miss. We looked at each other, there were only seven of us and that wasn’t going to be enough.
We’d done everything we could, we’d done everything right, but then the wind began to move in the trees above us.
I automatically looked around for the deadly gleaming traces but what I saw was a man standing watch within our perimeter on the western flank. We had no light but I could see every detail of his kit. No-one had worn anything like that for over a millennium. “Canae,” he said gravely, nodding at me and pointing in the direction of the hounds.
“Dominus,” added a voice from behind me. A second ghost was there, whetting his ghostly sword.
More ghosts were becoming apparent around us. The pestilence burner looked astonished. “I knew this was possible but where are we to get so many?” There were over a score of them now.
“They used to hang sacrifices on a sacred tree that stood here,” said an almost modernly-dressed ghost standing close to him. “Not myself of course, I’m far too recent – died of cold one night about two score years ago. What on earth’s been going on in the world? Some of the older fellows here really want a go at whatever-they-are coming up the hill.”
Around us the ghosts were joining us in the defensive positions, with their ghostly weapons limber. Some, indeed, looked eager for a fight.