The Frozen Pass

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A scouting party is being chased by a hostile army and their scouts. They need to get back home in time to warn of the oncoming army, however in order to do that they need to cross a desolate and cruel mountain pass.

Submitted: December 18, 2016

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Submitted: December 18, 2016

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Frozen Pass

Written by Mate Pasztor

 

Lenny woke from the flame of the campfire. The flame glowed and crackled in the eerie night air. Lenny was a scout captain. He was leading a scouting-party, with no more than a score of fifteen men, including himself, around the borders of the kingdom's lands. They were currently at war and needed to account for the position of the enemy. His men lay on their mats huddled near the fire. One of Lenny’s archers was on guard. Every night, the archers took turns on shifts to wake the men should something show danger. Lenny sat up and stared out past the sizzling fire. He saw the silhouette of Ralf against the moons humble glow. Lenny got up to stroll towards his archer. Ralf leaned on a tree, his bow out and arrow notched, looking out into the forest for movement. Ralf’s gaze shifted towards his captain, and he cocked his eyebrow. Lenny spoke to clear the air, “Ah, the, campfire woke me oop. How goes the watch?”

Ralf looked back out and replied, “Animals here and tha, the wind pulling fast ones on meh. Makin’ me think there’s some’hm tha.”

“Alright, well oi’m going to take four of the men with meh, and wi’ll do a small scout through the forest and plains,” Ralf gave no verbal response but nodded his head, as was his way. Lenny went back to the fire and woke some of his men up. He brought with him one of his archers as well as three more of his scouts. They walked towards the horses and brought their weapons and gear.

As Talon put on his quiver, he said with a little chuckle, “Aint we looking for a peaceful night ride?”

Boren replied before Lenny, “We’re the scouts! Neva know who wi’ll run inta.”

Or what Lenny thought to himself. The horses were all saddled, the scouts were dressed and ready. They got up on their horses and began their ride. They trotted past the trees and said adieu to Ralf. Lenny gave his horse a kick and they began to ride in a small galop. They exited the trees and entered a small grove of grass. The tall blades of vegetation blew gracefully with the wind, it had a slight scent that the forest had lacked. Lenny began thinking about the horses hooves, always being such a peaceful and homely sound to his ears. A symphony of horse and earth. As they rode through the grove, they looked out into the forest and saw a bear looking back at them. They continued through a sort of a semi-circle. Lenny had established he wanted to pass the cliff side, to lookout where they would have to go through to get home. The rides use was to check for any possible ambushes, or maybe even enemy scouts of an army they haven’t seen yet nearby. They past many animals, probably giving many of them a fright, when an audible whistle came from nearby. Lenny ordered his man to a stop, to make sure his ears served true. He heard the whistle once more. They got off horseback, and stalked further to investigate. They hid behind some bushes and there they saw a man. The man wore a tabard of the Loek, the nation they were at war with. Lenny looked to Talon and gave him the order. Talon drew his bow up, cocked the arrow and was primed to fire. A thud accompanied with a screeching cry came from the rear, the four men quickly turned around. Boren had received an arrow into his chest, he was going to quickly bleed out. Talon released his arrow as they rushed to their feet. They made quick haste back to their horses, and were forced to leave Boren behind. They jumped on their horses and ran as fast as they could, the enemy archer released more arrows, as they began their retreat Walter yelled, “Sard you bastads!” An arrow protruded from Walters leg. The enemy archer didn’t appear to have trained in horse archery. Riding whilst on horseback, the enemy archer was having drastically different accuracy. They ran past the cliff side and saw it, a Loek army with a company of nigh five hundred. They rode through the grove once again, the enemy was close behind. Talon hollered from the rear that he had hit one of them. They entered back into the forest and were almost at the camp. Lenny was putting faith in Ralf that he would see them, and know to wake the men. They charged through the woods and were in sight of the archer on duty. Ralf’s eyes lit as adrenaline jumpstarted him. Ralf ran back to the camp. The shouts of men waking and preparing for a fight were as clear as the moon sky. Lenny and the others jumped off their horses and prepared to use the enemy's speed against them. His men were all awake and had their weapons at the ready, however wore no armor. His vanguard men held the front and were ready to slice through the first of the horses. The fire was quelled and they used the trees and the night as cover. Here they come, Lenny thought as they heard the familiar sound of hooves clunked against the solid ground. The first horses came out, and his vanguard made quick work. They hopped out to the side and attacked the flank of the horsemen. Chaos echoed in the night as the cries of pain painted the audible canvas.

Lenny’s men collected the weapons and goods they could from the bodies, and counted their losses. The small battle was short and bloody, once it was over three of their own had also died versus a total of seven. Kard, the second in command, had captured one of the men and was ready to interrogate him. The mans screams from torture were antagonizing to many. Lenny’s men had learned that the army knew of their position, and that they would need to quickly retreat. Lenny was looking at a map of the nearby terrain. They needed to inform the towncastle of the threat. Lenny had three options; they could try to go through the valley and risk being caught; they could go around the mountains and risk not making it in time; or they could take the pass that cut through the mountains. The Frozen Pass, as it was called, had never been crossed before with a survivor. Many people have tried and none have ever returned. Lenny stepped away from the men, and thought to himself in solace, ifwe go through the valley wi’ll run into the army, if we turn around and go around the moun’ains we won’t make it in time. Sard… We’ll need to take the pass through the moun’ains. Such a dangerous call he wouldn’t be able to make without the approval of his men. He shook his head in frustration of the situation. He looked up and saw that his men were staring right at him

Lenny’s men grew impatient of a decision. Kard spoke first, “So?” Lenny told him of their options, and told them which he thought they should take.

Crow was quick to respond, “The Frozen Pass ‘as neva been crossed with a surviva, if we go through ‘ere’s not a chance in ‘ell we’d survive”. The men continued to mutter to themselves and it seemed to be all around no’s.

Kard saw the answer but knew that Lenny was right. “Consarn it men, if ‘at army reaches the towncastle before we warn ‘em, not a single one of ‘em people will survive. Now suck it up and let’s be some sardin’ heroes will we!?” It was now peer pressure that pushed them to signing their death warrants as they now agreed to go through the cursed valley.

“Aye through the moun’ains it is, if it’s a cold shiverin’ death, so be it!” Said Marven. The men agreed with that, but Walters leg still was an issue. Silence blanketed them as the elephant in the camp dawned at them. Lenny thought the only answer would be to give him a quick death because going through the mountains with that leg would be brutal and painful.

Before Lenny could say anything Walter said, “Let me go the loong way ‘round. These are good strong horses, and I can carry a week’s worth of food with me. By the time I get ‘ere ya’ll sorry lot will be at the o’er side aye?” Walter said with a chuckle. Lenny thought, Walter’s to smart to know ‘at he wou’n’t make it alone. With the enemy likely not far behind and faster than their horses, Walter wouldn’t last. It was all decided however, while the men go through the pass, Walter would try the long route. The men got ready to set off. Walter had his horse and his food. He went to Lenny and whispered, “Cap’n, oi know ‘at I won’t make it. But if oi die whilst with ya, then the men will only be less inclined to go through. Ya must make it through, at Least one. Strength be with ya Lenny.” Walter got on his horse, and made way to the long way route. Lenny looked back at his map and decided the swiftest way to the pass. The rest of them all got back on their horses and followed Lenny to the frozen pass. As they went along they looked back and saw that the enemy patrol was indeed chasing Walter.

Once they’d arrived at the entranced, they released their horses. The entrance to the Frozen Pass stared at them, the smell of death leached from the air. A chill passed through Lenny. They decided they’d set up camp near the edge. From the forest they couldn’t see the snow, but knew it wasn’t far before they’d be cuddling for warmth. They brought some leftover wood they had from the campfire, and set off for continuing their night rest before setting onto the real treacherous voyage through. Their camp was barely into the pass but it would provide some protection from enemy scouts finding them.. He told the men to just sleep and they’d wake when the first one does. So they all slept nicely for the rest of the night and a little bit into the day.

Lenny woke up first, as he got up he remembered to wake the rest. The men started the day by warming their rations by the fire, they ate up then started pushing forward. As they walked up the terrain, it started to change. It was obvious they were exiting the lush forest and entering the cold hell they submitted themselves into. Lenny was getting cold, colder than in the forest. His fingertips began to feel numb despite the gloves he wore, and his face was feeling the effects as well. Even though it was winter, it never snowed in the nation's lands, and the trees around them were always green. The trees in the valley had leaves too, but the leaves were ice blue and looked frozen. They walked a great deal that day, they walked at a fast pace. They covered much ground before the sun began to settle, and they needed to look for shelter. In the risen valley there were many caverns and cave openings, so they decided they would look for a cave. It hadn’t taken them long before they chose a small cave opening that had some trees around it. They hacked at the wood together, and Tom used the flint and steel that they had and quickly got a fire going. As night began to come Lenny was making the map that he would use to track how far they’d gone. He estimated the size of the valley, and thought it would take them a few days. He looked outward past the cave and saw a shine. Something was reflecting the flame’s light and it caught Lenny in the eye. He walked out of the shelter of the cave to see what it was.

The cold brisk air caused his hairs to go up, the snow crunched beneath his feet. He reached under the icy snow and pulled up the mysterious object. It was a sword, and attached to it was a frozen arm, no body attached to the end of it. The sight got him off guard and he retched. After cleaning himself he broke the frozen grip of the hand and  latched it to his bag and made way back to the cave. He decided to keep the sword because the sword looked of expensive value. Not the attributes of it but quality of the blade, something he would have trouble getting with the money that he had. Once he got back to the cave he took rest by the fire.

Lenny was woken the next morning by Richard. While they had eaten, Lenny had taken a head count. Ten. There were fifteen of them when they had left, and all of them his friend. Now four had died and Walter wouldn’t survive his journey across. After they finished eating, Lenny called over Kard.

“Yes?” Was his reply as he made way to Lenny.

“The valley, to our knowledge, is a straight pass. So far oi’ve seen not’in’ we would be able to eat. However that shoul’n’t be a worry as we ‘ave enough food for four days. However oi’m assuming about ‘alf the party won’t survive and wi’ll need to collect food that they had in their bags. We’ll be fine on food. We just have to make sure to be out of ‘ere as soon as possible.”

“So we’ll be going as fast as we can then aye? Sounds easy enough,” Was Kard’s reply. Kard stepped away from Lenny and looked for the men. Kard knew to leave out Lenny’s hope of how many would die, versus the large possibility of it being everyone. Lenny went around to collect their things and made sure they had everything. They walked out of the cave and shuffled through the snow. After some time it began to snow, it was simple, soft snow, at first but it quickly turned into a vicious blizzard. The wind threatened to throw them back, and the snow stung against their eyes. Lenny was in the back and watched them all. He wanted to make sure they would all make it. Marven was walking when he misstep, and stumbled into the snow. Lenny was about to run towards him, when Simon quickly brought him back up. The stumble left Marven unhindered, and he kept forward. As the day moved on they once again needed another resting spot. Lenny couldn’t see much through the fog in the snow, but he hoped Kard would in the front. He could hear that someone had shouted something, but was too far to hear it with the wind blaring in his ear. The men shouted to one another till everyone knew, when the words reached Lenny, he was told that they had spotted shelter. The men made way to the shelter, and it wasn’t long till they started looking for wood.

They found a tree and the ten men hacked as fast as they could through the tree, they collected the sticks, and then made some logs, and then carried it back. They all carried it in one trip. A fire that would last the night and into the day. Lenny was in the back again and he saw someone fall. Then, he heard Peter yell, “Marven!” Lenny dropped his wood and rushed to the sound. Marven had fallen again, this time though the wood hit him on the head. Marven was still breathing, but he had been knocked out. Lenny knew this was the end of Marvens voyage. Peter started to drag Marven but Lenny stopped him.

“Sard! Peter can’t ya see is no use! We can’t bring ‘em with us. He’s knocked out and will have a painless death. We need to keep moving.” Peter was in anguish as were the other men, but they listened. Peter picked up Marven’s wood and then his and made way back to the shelter. Lenny did the same. Nine.

Tom started the fire again. While the shelter protected them from wind, a gust of wind still occasionally coursed through. Lenny feared that the fire might die from the gusts. He told them that someone would need to keep watch of the fire. No one volunteered so it was Lenny for the first half of the night, and Kard for the next. Lenny did his half of the night, and then woke Kard for the next. Lenny was exhausted from the grueling day, and went fast asleep.

Kard woke everyone that morning. They all had their food and then went into a small corner for a makeshift outhouse. It reeked, and Lenny was close to happy that they were leaving the shelter, the smell was vile. They went back into the blizzard and it felt stronger. Lenny told the men to have their axes out incase they lost their balance. The axes were at least five feet each, and were good walking sticks. Lenny still had the sword if he needed extra footing. While the wind slowed them, their powerful legs still kept them moving. He thought it would take them between three to four days to be out. Lenny looked around throughout that day, and while the fog hid much, he saw many dead travelers. He wondered how many people had tried to cross the Frozen Pass. The only damage done to the bodies he saw, seemed to have been what killed them in the first place. This almost made him certain that the only living thing besides them in the valley were the trees, because nothing was eating the bodies. There was one that looked like it was impaled by something, he suspected an icicle as it was under a cave entrance and hanging were frozen shards.

As they walked, he felt the weight of his body with every step. He may have slept some last night, but it was still tiring to go through even with the little of sleep he had. The cold kept him awake, but barely. He tried to move faster to try and stay awake, however it only made him more tired. The whistling wind blared at him, with every blink of his eye making him more tired. What if I just close my eyes for a sec-. Lenny fell into the snow, and every one of the scouts rushed towards their captain. One of them had woken him up as the storm carried on. He was still dreary. Crow was holding him and slapped him as hard as he could across the face. That woke him up. Lenny was now wide awake and Lenny walked even faster. The scouts followed Lenny as he was now in the lead, pushing forward.

Kard was next to Lenny and they walked some more till he shouted to him, “Lenny, we’ll need to find shelter soon.”

Lenny agreed with the statement, and then said “Men! Start lookin’ for a noice beau’iful cave we can rest in!” he laughed with that last bit. He heard the men start shouting the message down the line. The scouts began looking. It took longer this time, and they even walked through the night a little, which made it even more difficult to look for a cavern entrance. When they had finally found one, they made quick haste to setting up a fire. Inside the cave was another body.

“‘At’s fifty oi’ve seen. When we were told about ‘is cursed valley, I thought it was simply ‘cause it looked scary and no one had eva troid to go through. But the longer we’re ‘ere the more it feels like the pass doesn’t want us ‘ere. As if it’s, alive.” Kard said.

Richard looked back at Kard and said. “Ya know, oi’d rather not be thinkin’ about thin’s like that. So if ya could keep ‘em thoughts locked in yer ‘ead, oi’d be a jolly fellow.” Lenny chuckled a little bit to the brief conversation.

Lenny had sat at the edge of the den. He stared out into the snow, and thought about its terrifying beauty. He heard the men playing some sort of game in the back. The wind blew with power, and the snow was scary to look at. He was happy to see that they could have fun despite everything that was happening. He wasn’t as lifted as they were however. When they all began to start sleeping he asked who would watch the flame. Ralf and Talon took the “firewatch” as they now called it. He ate his food and lay at a good resting spot, and closed his eyes, happy to be resting once again.

“Kard. Kard! Wake oop you sardin’ shit. Wake oop or oi’ll throw ya in the snow!” Lenny quickly woke up to the yelling. Talon was trying to wake Kard up with no use. Lenny went to him and noticed that his eyes were indeed open he just was limp. Kard died from the cold. It was a hit in the stomach. He lost concentration as his men hung onto hope, and tried to wake Kard. Kard was always by Lenny’s side, ever since they started training as scouts. He moved the men to the side and picked up his friend, his best friend. He sobbed as he held Kard in his arms. He didn’t know what to do. He wanted to bury him but knew that, that would take too much time. We must move forward. That’s what he would have done, Lenny’s thoughts echoed in his mind. Lenny let his friend down and prepared to leave. When he left the cave he took one more look at his best friend. Eight.

They walked through the blizzard again. Lenny was kept warm, fueled by his rage at the world and grief of his friend. Lenny was in the back again and saw the seven remaining men. They all marched forward, and bashed the snow away. He was shivering cold and looking down, he used the axe handle to help him move through. Pain made him look up, and he realized that the snow had turned to hail and began to pebble them. One got close to his eye and made him protect them. He shouted to the top of his lungs for his men to protect their unshielded eyes. They all did as he ordered, but one still was hit.

A scream coursed through the air. Lenny picked up his feet and he charged toward the cry. He heard Talon yelp as he got closer, “My eyes, my eyes! Oi did as you asked cap’n but ‘ey still hit meh. Oi’m sorry cap’n.” Lenny looked at Talon and knew he was destined to die. He faced the opposing direction of the hail, and looked at Talon. Blood came down Talon’s face and Lenny knew he’d have to give Talon a quick death.

He spoke to Talon as he drew his knife, “It doesn’t look ‘at bad, wi’ll help you through the storm, and by tomarra you’ll won't even rememba being ‘it.” Tears streamed down Lenny’s face as another would have to die. He lined up the knife. Talon’s hands were on his own face as he felt the blood. Lenny shoved the knife into Talon’s skull and Talon’s hands fell to the side. He let him down gently as the wind blasted. The hail continued to pursue. The scouts looked at Lenny and knew what he did wasn’t easy. “We can’t stop. The army is still movin’ to ‘at towncastle, we can’t stop. Le’s move.” Seven.

As they stood through snow, he thought to himself, this last few ‘ave to make it. Please let ‘em make it. Lenny couldn’t bear another loss. He started moving forward. Behind him, the men looked at him and then Talon - wishing to mourn but unable. They followed shortly behind. The day was soon over, and they looked for a cave. After a long time of walking they were unable to find one but needed something to rest. There was some large rocks that while didn’t protect much from cold, or at all for the matter, would protect from the wind which had an unchanging direction of wanting to blast them back the way they came. They were able to chop the tree swiftly, but there was still a noticeable difference in time now that three had died. Simon took the first firewatch and Richard the second. They all huddled around the flame for its warmth, and the night was a swift one for Lenny.

Lenny woke up once more. He woke up without needing to be shaken. He was the first to wake despite Richard being on firewatch. It wasn’t long till Richard woke the rest of the men. They still had a total of seven alive, including himself, and he was relieved everyone made it through the night. They all warmed up their meals and ate up. They had been gathering their dead’s food throughout the trip, and had enough to make it through. There were probably two or three full days left of walking. They set forth again, seeing how they practically slept in the blizzard, their bodies weren’t as shocked to feel the cold wind and the snow. It seemed the hail had stopped though and he was happy for it.

They stepped through the blizzard, the wind stronger than any of the other days. Lenny felt himself being lifted with every step. If it weren’t for using the axe, he would already have been taken by the wind, and would have been lost. The fog was also rather strong, they were forced to be much closer together so they could simply see each other. Tom was in the back with Crow in the front. Lenny was sort of in the middle this time. The scouts were all heavily exhausted from the walk and Lenny sword he would never complain about the weather again, so long as it wasn’t like this. Lenny thought about how nature was one of man’s greatest ally as well as greatest enemy. Nature allowed them to live with food but it also forced them to die, like this storm. He also realized that unlike a person you can’t exactly get mad at nature like you can at another person. Funny enough he began to get upset that he couldn’t really be angry at nature for taking his friends. What a wonderfully horrible world we live in, he thought.

As they walked, an extremely powerful gush of wind threw them back. Lenny rolled in the snow and used his axe to let him hold his ground. As he got back up he looked around for his men. He saw Richard, Crow, Peter was struggling to get back up, and Simon was unhindered. He didn’t see Tom though, fear crossed him as he realized Tom had the flint and steel. “Men! Look for Tom! Without ‘em fire ‘ill be a pain in the arse.” They all shouted for him but he was lost in the storm, and unless they actively looked, which they couldn’t with the storm, they’d never find him. Sard! Lenny cursed in his mind. While he was sad for Tom he worried for fire. Without the flint and steel, fire making was going to be more difficult. He still knew how to use the friction of the sticks to start a fire but nonetheless it would be harder. Six.

They walked till the night was coming and sought another shelter. Once they collected wood, they all tried to make the fire. It took them a long while before Lenny had given up. Lenny realized that they would have to walk now until they were out of the valley. “Men stop.” No one heard him at first. Lenny yelled this time, “Stop!” That got their attention. “If we keep tryin’ to make ‘is fire, wi’ll waste too much time and will have go’en too li’le. We must press on until we’re out of this damn pass.” The men looked at him and then back at the wood, as a sort of longing for fire, for warmth. “Take all the food, all the knives, anythin’ we won’t need withou’ a camp, is ou’ of the bag, now! Wi’ll be ligh’er and travel fas’er. Food we can hun’ when we’re out of ‘ere. Ralf keep your bow. We’ll use it for hun’in’ once we make it through.” They made their bags as light as they could. Lenny even got rid of his bag, as everything he didn’t need anymore. He pulled the sword out though and kept that. He carried the sword through the blizzard now, he used the axe once more to walk him through. They all walked faster with less weight and were now almost numb to the cold. They were all very hungry now that they couldn’t eat dinner. They walked through the night and even the next day. Day six in the valley was almost over when the valley rose up again. It got up rather high, at one point a cliff side formed next to them.

They walked for what seemed like forever, their legs were weak from no break and their stomachs begged for food. Lenny was tired, sad, hungry, and angry, all at the same time. He wanted to be done with the valley so much and was beginning to break down from the loss of Tom. Tom’s death began to dawn on him and he was remembering the good times he had with all of the men he had lost. The ground beneath him began sloping towards the cliff and it was now more dangerous than it had ever been. The wind still blew and was just as strong. As they walked, Peter was in the front and he shouted. “Oi see it! OI see ‘ome! We’ll be out of this valley in no time!” At the moment a powerful gush blasted once more, for the last time. Simon lost his footing with the wind and quickly was thrown of the edge, Simon didn’t even have time to slow his slide with the axe. “Simon!” Yelled Peter. Five.

Lenny too was blown back and he slammed his axe and sword into the ground. Crow rushed to him. Lenny slid down the edge and lost grip on his sword, and his grip on his axe left him shortly after. Lenny fell off the edge and as he began to fall, just as he fell Crow had grabbed his arm. A vice grip held him. Crow had grabbed the sword and was now being held up as Crow planted it into the ground. “Cap’n, oi swear, you let go, oi’ll sardin’ kill ya!” Crow shouted. Crow’s logic was flawed but the message was received. Lenny looked down and was unable to see the bottom. It seemed as though he was about to fall into a void. Crow began pulling him up but the sword slipped. His grip dropped and he caught Lenny’s hand now. Lenny heard shouting coming from Ralf, Peter, and Richard and assumed they were making sure Crow doesn’t fall now. Lenny tried again pulling up but Crow slipped and was now lying on the edge. Crow was on his belly now, and it seemed as one of the other men were hanging on to Crow’s legs.

“Lenny, you sardin’ bastad, you pull yourself up now, we’re all get’n tired of ‘is.” Ralf roared.

Lenny knew that if he tried again there was a chance he’d bring Crow with him and maybe more. He knew he’d have to let go. Crow pulled him up a little and hung onto his left arm. Lenny let go with his right hand and shock entered Crow’s eyes as Crow realized what Lenny was doing. Lenny brought his right hand to his left arm, and finger by finger pulled Crow’s grip off him. Right before he slipped out of his grip he said to Crow. “Ya make sure ya make to the o’er side okay, say hi to Walter for meh, aye?”

Lenny fell into the unknown as he heard his men shouting his name. ‘Bout damn time I’m leavin’ ‘is valley’ he thought to himself. He looked down, and as he fell he thought about home. No one at home was waiting for him, but he loved all the people nonetheless. When he became a scout he swore that he would put his people before his life. As he fell, he fulfilled his duty and his men would give word to the towncastle. He saw the ground and saw where Simon had fallen. He knew he wouldn’t survive the fall. Right before he hit the ground his final thought to himself was that at least it was a quick death.

Four...


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The Frozen Pass

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