Two armies prepare for war, delayed by a long drizzling rain that leaves visibility slight and the men unready for battle. Seeking to ease his way to the throne, Prince Gromel of Koth has assembled an army of four thousand to cross the Khorgas River and invade Khoraja. Long independent of Khoraja, the smaller kingdom has recruited peasants and purchased a mercenary army to defend their borders. A strange delay by Gromel allows the larger mercenary force to arrive. What might have been a route is now an even battle as the battle-hardened Gromel begins his advance into the valley.
In the army of Gromel, two strangers become acquainted. Sorcha of Shadizar has been taken into the harm of Gromel and is among the few in his personal retinue to wait on him in his war tent. There, she spies the robed figure, whose name is never mentioned warn against attacking to early. To see Gromel defer to this strange slight figure is a circumstance of note and leads her to worry for the safety of the entire army. With no army of his own, the robed man is accompanied by a single guard, a young archer from the far reaches of Acquilonia. This Bossonian, Drusus Cinna, is a mystery to her as he follows his master’s every command, but seems sluggish and resentful of the treatment.
The Khorajan army is commanded by Lord Malthom, a noble of pure blood but less experience on the battlefield. Saved by Gromel’s delay, his forces consist of peasants defending their home, warriors recruited for coin and a merchant army only recently arrived. Holding the eastern hill is a young Shemish archer Barakeam-Hazen, who finds himself thrown together with a norther Barbarian Strigandr of Asgard. While unable to understand each other’s tongues, the trained warriors attempt to prepare the peasants preparing alongside them. Strigandr was only now freed from a gladiator’s collar in exchange for taking up arms.
The two armies face each other for days in the cold rain, exchanging arrows when visibility allows. Barakeam-Hazen and Drusus Cinna exchange missiles and an uneasy appreciation as opposite numbers in the upcoming battle.
When the mercenary army arrives for Khoraja, Gromel realizes his opportunity is lost. Now, he must fight a larger force with less battle experience. Seeking to move before the mercenary army is fully in place, he rebukes the robed man for his ill advice and takes his war chariot himself with Drusus Cinna riding along as a sniper.
As Gromel crosses the Khorgas into the valley of Khoraja, a crack shatters throughout the valley and the river breaks its banks and a wall of water comes streaming from the river’s source in the nearby mountains. Both armies are caught in the water’s rush and lost within the flash flood.
Realizing that the robed man has disappeared, Sorcha runs from the prince’s tent and makes it to a tall tree to avoid the river’s onslaught. Very few are so lucky. Traveling with a fast Shemish pony, Hazen makes it to the hill before the flood carries him away, but he loses Strigandr and the pony itself it carried away later. Waterlogged and thrown from the war chariot, Drusus is able to make it to a large boulder, where he and the norther Strigandr both take refuge – attempting to lift others to safety. Then night falls.
In the light of morning, the waters have receded leaving only a few feet of flooding left on the battlefield. Gromel and Malthom are nowhere to be found and most of the army has been washed away. Recovering a Shemish pony, Sorcha returns it to Barakeam-Hazen who uses it to find his friend Strigandr.
The four adventurers (Barakeam-Hazen, Drusus Cinna, Sorscha and Strigandr) find themselves united in questioning the outcome of the battle. Their varying allegiances swept away with the army. They are joined by Fidellus, a slave to one of the fallen Khorjan nobles and a scholar by trade. A tutor for the noble’s children, Fidellus finally allows all four adventurers to communicate.
Surrounded by death, Drusus shares that his former master was obsessed with making his way to a particular spot the mountains. Seeking vengeance and answers, the five journey on together to investigate.