Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for violence.
Private Devlin rubbed his eyes in a desperate attempt to keep the sleep out of them. A wide yawn betrayed his actions. Just ten more minutes. He kicked his snowy, sealskin boots against the outpost tower's railing, trying to knock some life back into his frozen feet. People had talked about how cold it was in Sadoria, but they didn't do it justice, leastwise not Hoden's pass.
He observed the pass in front of him. It was only wide enough for twenty men at the most. That meant it would be easy for his regiment of just over two-hundred troops to easily hold off an opposing force, should they elect to come charging down the pass. Not that anyone could with the four feet of snow, making mobility almost non-existent before cutting a path.
Devlin turned to the metal firepit behind him, hands extending for any warmth. The last of the wood was smoldering with a warm orange glow, but the mild breeze -mild for Hoden's pass- threatened to freeze even that. The sun was trying its best to peak over the cliffs that rose to the east, just fifty feet east past the second watchtower, but grey clouds had denied it thus far.
Crunchy footsteps sounded below, followed by the soft thud of boots on snowy ladder rungs as Devlin's replacement mounted the tower. Devlin's shoulders sagged. Boy, do I need a nap. He clasped Frasier's arm and helped him from the ladder to tower.
"Any excitement?" Frasier asked, tucking a carrot-orange curl of hair back into his hood. He should have a helmet, just like every other foot soldier here at Hoden's Pass, but a small avalanche had knocked it away months ago.
"Oh yeah," Devlin said, snatching his quiver of arrows from its resting place in the corner of the tower, "you missed a wolf howl, and, oh, get this, a snow rabbit ran by!"
"And you didn't tell me?" Frasier said, letting a slight smile escape.
Devlin chuckled. "Forgot to in all the chaos. But don't worry, next time I'll let you know right away." He slung his bow on his back and attached his quiver to his belt, then mounted the ladder.
"Man, what are we doing here?" Frasier said, pulling his cape tight around his arms. "No one is going to come through this pass in the dead of winter. It's not even possible. Look at how much snow there is!"
Devlin nodded. "Must be at least four feet. You'd need a snow dragon to get through that."
"Let's hope that doesn't show up," Frasier said, shivering at the thought. "But with our luck, it would not surprise me," and he tapped his head where with any good luck he would still have a helmet.
Devlin squinted as he looked to the east where the sun poked its head over the mountainside. Finally. "Hey, at least it can't get worse, right?" he said, turning to Frasier.
Frasier opened his mouth to reply, but he never got the chance. The arrow struck him in the temple. He crashed into the fire pit, sending sparks flying up in disorder.
Devlin froze as his eyes widened with horror. Everything was silent for a moment, then Devlin regained control of himself and grabbed the horn from his belt, brought it to his lips to blow then WHOOSH! A surge of wind propelled him off off the ladder. For a moment he was in free fall, then his body slammed into the ground, rattling his frame. He gasped for air, but it didn't come. He rolled to his side, groaning. We're under attack! The horn!
His mind was screaming. Devin gulped in fresh air and realized how dry his mouth was. He pushed himself to his knees, eyes flitting about for a glimpse of the horn. Where he had landed had been plowed away for easy access to the tower's ladder, but on either side of him, the snow was piled high where it had been tossed aside from the path.
A metallic crash to his left caused Devlin to turn. Another watchman down. who can shoot in this wind? Devlin staggered to his feet, clawing through the snow, but the horn was nowhere in sight. Forget this.
"Ambush! We're under attack!"
Devlin took off at a sprint, swaying like a drunken fool. The officer's hut was just thirty feet away. Devlin shouted at the top of his lungs and threw a glance in the direction of the pass. There were several dark figures running it down it now, silent as a ghost, led by someone taller than the rest. His helmet shined in the dawn light, adorned with a pair of bulls horns. And the four feet of snow in the path had been shoved to the edges of the pass. What the...
Devlin stormed into the large officer's tent. "Ambush!"
There were four draped off sections where the three captains and general each had a private quarter. The drapes burst open now. Devlin was greeted by four sets of blurry, wide eyes. General Vokoun already had his sword brandished, and he rushed to Devlin.
"Alert the camp! To arms!' he yelled back to his captains who were already snatching their helmets.
A gust of wind slammed into the tent, ripping the stakes from the ground and sending the walls of the tent caving in on the group. Everything went black as Devlin was pulled to the ground, wrapped in the tent's sackcloth walls. He fumbled for his dagger and rammed it upwards, hacking his way out of the mess. He emerged just in time to be slammed to the ground by a massive figure covered in hairy clothing and blue tattoos.
Devlin screamed as his dagger sailed form his hands. He landed. Hard. The assailant raised an ax equally massive to his frame and brought it down at Devlin, who rolled to the side. The assailant growled and swung again. The blade landed into the tangled fabric, close enough to Devlin for him to see his reflection in the half-moon shaped blade. His helmet was hanging at a precarious angle, kept on only by the chinstrap. He rolled again, straightening his helmet as he came to his feet, unsheathing his sword. The attacker pulled at his ax from the destroyed tent, but it had caught on the roping that held the stake in the ground.
Devlin didn't wait for him to free it, but charged, bringing the sword down with a two-hand chop. The axman blocked the blow with his gauntlet. The blade made a sickening screeching sound as it glanced off. Devlin brought the sword back up again, and the axman turned his arm to block once again, but Devlin had feinted, and with the flick of his wrist twirled the sword above the axman's arm, then brought it down. The swing cleaved into the arm, and the axman let out a shriek. Devlin yanked the sword from the arm, sending blood spurting out, then silenced the screams with a thrust through the chest.
The axman careened forward, and Devlin couldn't pull his sword free before the dead man fell on it. He slid to the hilt so that the sword stuck nearly a two feet out his back. Devlin swallowed, forcing the vomit to stay down. A yell from behind Devlin caused him to spin.
"Brother!" The man was the spitting image of the one whom Devlin has just dispatched, save for the fact that he sported a throwing dart, just over a yard long.
The man cocked his arm back and Devlin dove to the side, landing in the snow. The dart whizzed overhead. Before he could stand to his feet the man was on top of him. The first blow caught Devlin across the jaw, the second slammed into his shoulder. He yelled as he fought for space, holding his arms above his face to ward off blows as they rained down. Finally, he parried a left hook, then with the speed of a tiger struck out, catching the assailant in the jaw. He reeled back for a moment, giving Devlin time to shove him off and regain his footing. Need a weapon.
Devlin scoured the area for a moment, spotting the dart ten feet to his left, buried in the snow. He dashed for it, as the attacker dove in pursuit, catching his boot. He crashed to the ground again, face buried in the snow. He felt a strong grip on his neck, then his head was being slammed into the ground. He swung his arms as his unseen attacker, but to no avail. He felt the warm blood trickle from his nose and then pounding wracked his head. His head was yanked up once more and he squeezed his eyes shut, sure that this blow would break his skull. But the blow never came. The grip lessened and the attacker crumpled on top of him, burying his face in the snow.
Someone rolled the body off of him and a new set of hands pulled him to his knees. Devlin now realized that everything was going black, despite the sun climbing in the sky. He rolled his head to the side, to see General Vokoun's face looking down on him. His mouth was moving, but there was no sound. And someone was approaching the general from behind. Devlin tried to speak but coughed up blood and snow instead.
The general must have sensed the presence because he spun to his feet, but it was too late. Devlin watched the blade separate body from head. The lifeless body of the general crashed on top of Devlin, who felt arm blood soaking on his neck and down his back. A sob jammed itself in his throat, but no sound came out. The horned-helmet figure walked away, wiping the blood from his sword on his ebony-colored cape. Then, he twirled it above his head, and with a swift swing sent a blast of wind so fierce that it rattled the soldier's tents twenty feet away from where Devlin lay smothered in the snow.
Who is that?
Devlin slipped into unconsciousness.