Battle For Raven Pass

(A direct sequel to What the Eastern Wind brings)

“One thousand?” Oluf Bolton, de facto leader of the Northern Settlements asked the panting boy, “Are you sure, boy?”

Peter had just arrived and shouted that an attack was imminent. He still could not catch his breath.

“Yes, sir!” he tried to calm down and continued, “they are marching on the narrow Mountain Road. An avalanche slowed them down I think. Their scouts –“ he paused, but not because of exhaustion, “they killed my father. I barely escaped, sir!”

Bolton stood on the town square as a large crowd gathered around him and Peter. He patted Peter on the shoulder and said, “You did the right thing, Peter! We will have time to –“
He did not finish the sentence. Instead he turned to the crowd and spoke loudly:

“One thousand skeleton warriors are headed for our settlements, Realmers of the North! There is no time to waste. This brave boy, Peter Ruslan, lived with his father in the Outpost Shack. The skeletons have claimed their first victim.”

The Realmers on the city square became pale. Some of the men frowned, others began to tremble. Everyone was quiet. The night air was cold, but the wind had almost stopped. The night was clear and the moon shone on the pavement and the houses in the town. The stars twinkled. Everything was calm. It was as if nature kept itself calm before the storm of man.

Oluf Bolton was in his early forties. He was tough, but compassionate. He did not tolerate weakness or cowardice – he expected all men under his command to be as endurant and brave as he was. And under his guidance, they were! He loved each and every one of them. He rubbed his brown beard and spoke once again.

“We have no choice, Realmers! This army will burn and ravage anything in their way. They will kill without asking questions! I have fought skeletons only once and they are nothing like us humans! I hereby order the Settlements to fully evacuate! I want all women, children and elderly to pack only the most necessary gear and head for Hammerton.”

The crowd began to mumble.

“Quiet! There is no time for empty talk!” Bolton shouted, “I want all men gathered within twenty minutes – we will march for Raven Pass, meet them where their numbers can not overwhelm us and buy our wives and children enough time to…survive!”

Oluf’s commanding voice was not to be mistaken. Some women began to cry, but all of them hurried to prepare the evacuation. Skeletons showed no mercy.

Peter stood silent next to Bolton as the crowd spilled across the town. He still held his father’s bow tightly in his left hand. He would avenge his father at Raven Pass.


In twenty hour’s time, the men of the Northern Settlements gathered on the town square. They had said goodbye to their wives. To their children. To their home. They knew they would not return, but felt no fear. They were in total around 200 men. All clad in personal armour. Most of it was leather with a few metal plates. Half of them carried bulky tower shields, others only small round, wooden shields. A small group carried bows and arrows. Most of these archers were boys at Peter’s age.

Oluf stepped ahead of his men. They had practiced combat before. All of the Northern men were muscular and tough. He had no doubt in that. Bolton was more afraid of his men’s discipline – namely the lack thereof. Bolton had fought in the White Army before moving to the Northern Settlements. He would have his men fight in close combat formation at the pass. He did not fear that the men would break the formation to flee – he was afraid that each man would want to kill as many skeletons as he could – individually. They had to fight like a unit. Bolton sighed and then spoke to the men- his men:

“The march to Raven Pass is ten hours long. For the skeletons we hope slightly more, thanks to that avalanche! Ten hours! If we hold out for four hours, we will buy our families more than twenty-four hours to get to safety! THAT IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR!”

The men cheered and cried battle cries to the night. A messenger had been sent to Hammerton on horseback. He would have the cavalry stationed there aid the Northern Settlements as quick as possible, but Bolton and all of his men knew that these reinforcements would come too late for them, but perhaps not too late for their houses and families. If slowing these monsters was all they could do, then they would slow them down as much as possible! Each man knew this was his duty. None of them were looking forward to dying. No one should confuse them with the reckless heroes tales and songs tell about. They were only men. Not warriors. Not heroes. Only men.

Oluf raised his sword high and yelled:

“To Raven Pass, my brothers! To battle!”

The men marched forwards. Not one of them smiled. Not one of them found their shields, weapons or equipment too heavy. Not one of them was afraid, yet not one of them could help looking over their shoulders. The women and children – their women and children quickly walked southwards. All animals following. A few children lagged behind, waving at the departing men. They could not understand that their fathers were walking towards their deaths. But each of them felt pride that their fathers would be the ones fighting on the frontier of the White Realm. As the men marched on towards the narrow mountain road, the wind blew once more – this time from the west!


Oluf Bolton knew the landscape as well as anyone in the settlements. By dawn they truly reached the narrow pass, which any army had to pass in order to reach the Northern Settlements – unless the attackers took a very long detour around the mountains. Bolton knew they would not do that.

The men ate a light breakfast and prepared their defences. The rocks around them were hard and cold. They looked like giant spikes – pointing towards the sky. Climbing them was impossible. Bolton looked towards the rising sun. He hoped he would be strong enough to save his family. It was all he cared about.

The pass was about fifteen metres wide and three hundred metres long. Oluf Bolton set up his men near the middle and ordered his men to form up in rows of fifteen. The five lines furthest ahead were all equipped with tower shields and spears. This would be a big “pushing battle” and Bolton was thankful that his men were all lean and strong. They had to hold.

The formation was tight and the men at the back would have to fill eventual holes quickly. Oluf ordered men, armed with large two-handed weapons on the flanks, although not in the two frontal lines. The flanks would be crucial. They had to hold, Bolton knew.

As he gave the orders, his face was emotionless. He showed neither fear nor confidence. He was just the commander of this doomed unit, but he would make the most out of it.

In the very back, Oluf ordered the teenage archers.

“Fire volleys until your ammunition is spent, boys! Hit them behind the frontal lines. Thin them out at the back” Oluf said to the forty archers. Some of them had wished to fight in the main formation with their fathers, but Bolton had declined. The formation needed as much raw power as possible and the archers would be useful. In truth, Bolton was in doubt about how much damage the archers would inflict, but he hoped they would be effective.

The men were silent – in formation – they were ready. Bolton moved to the frontline. He walked ahead of it, turned around and spoke loudly, so that all his men could hear him:

“On this day, we fight together! I will tell you this, my men! I chose this place to stage the battle because here, it does not matter that they are five times as many as us. That is only true if we hold this formation! I want no formation breaches! That does not mean deserters! I know none of you men are cowards. I know you will fight to the end! I just ask you humbly to not leave this formation as to kill more skeletons than the man next to you. Hold them with your shields! Strike if you can, but do – not – break – formation! If we are tough! If we are as one! If we hold, we might buy enough time – not just for our families to escape the clutches of these monsters, but also to save our homes! Every minute we hold out, our wives and children get closer to Hammerton. Every minute we stand together, the cavalry of Hammerton comes closer to the Settlements. AND MEN! Every minute we fight here in this pass – this god-forsaken Undead army comes closer to its destruction! By your hands, men! BY OUR HANDS!”

Furious battle cries could be heard from the “militiamen”. Their voices echoed in the pass. Then the wind turned again and within fifteen minutes, the skeleton army came in sight.

“Hold the formation, men! And know that with your blood, the Realm’s borders will prevail!” Bolton shouted as he returned to his spot in the formation and steeled himself.

The skeleton army was not formed in a particular formation. They just ran towards the men of the Realm, mindless. Their necromancer was somewhere at the rear, Bolton knew. Slaying him would be impossible, unfortunately. He was simply out of reach

When the skeletons came in range, the archers in the rear of the Realmish formation opened fire. A volley of arrows arched over the men, the wind playing with their directions. Some of them hit the rocky ground while others found targets and splintered ancient bones. Peter wasted no time. He fired again. His father would be avenged! Peter would redeem his family’s honour! He would die for the settlements, as his father had! Peter shouted as he fired again.

Bolton said to the men around him: “Steady!”

The vanguard of the skeleton army sprinted towards the stoic Realmers. The wind carried them towards the frontline of the brave men. They all carried different weapons and shields. There was no consistency in this army. They were mindless slaves of the necromancer – wishing to tear Realmers apart and nothing else. There was no visible commander on the frontline. They just stormed ahead.

The Realmers steadied their foothold, prepared to stop the wave of bones and evil.
Bolton held his spear ready and supported his shield with his left shoulder, awaiting the crushing force of the storming skeletons.
The men behind the frontline prepared to support their comrades in front with their shields.
Peter fired another arrow. The only thing going through his mind was that this was his father’s bow and his own hands that fired it. They were together again – in this peculiar way - and Peter knew that he would join his father before the day was over. He did not cry, he did not feel sad. He had a job to do and he would do it right! This is what his dad had trained him for!

The clash echoed in Raven Pass. Bones and metal clashed on the shields and will strength of the men of the Realm. They shouted, encouraged each other to hold, to stand, to push. The initial blow of the skeleton storm was hard and their feet dug deep into the cold soil. The wind blew hard.

The Realmers’ large shields protected them from the slashes and blows of the skeletons, but after half a minute of “holding” they pushed in union, exposing themselves, but also striking at the staggering skeletons. Bones were splintered, curses left the Realmers’ mouths and they returned to defensive positions again. Not in union. They were not trained well enough, Bolton knew. Some lagged behind and were pierced by crude skeleton pikes. Their comrades quickly filled the gaps and then steadied for another half minute of waiting. They repeated this process again and again.

Peter fired at the rear of the skeleton army. They could not see the end of it. The road curved to the south three hundred metres from Peter’s position, but more skeletons came. He did not care. He kept on firing.

Bolton beckoned for another charge and he penetrated a skeleton shield, he let go of his spear, he took out his sword and hewed the monster. For every 10 fallen skeletons in the front line, 1 or 2 Realmers fell. The archers also inflicted damage. Was this a possible victory? Bolton asked himself. Then suddenly skeletons with large two-handed axes started smashing at the realmish tower shields. Some splintered, some did not, but many men were left exposed and while some deflected with their swords, most of them died, their bodies cut in half.

The horror was overwhelming as the settlers saw their comrades die in this way. The formation was full of holes, the skeletons used this advantage and a crazy melee erupted. Bolton cursed as he cut the skull off of a skeleton’s visible spine. The formation was broken. They fought on – but not as one.

Peter fired another volley and looked in his quiver, hanging by his side to see how many arrows he had left. In this very moment, a man ahead shouted: “ARROWS!” and a volley of around two hundred bony arrows flew across the sky in an arc over the fighting men and skeletons in the pass. The arrows struck at the rear of the human formation, just in front of the archers. Some Realmers protected themselves with their shields, but others did not react fast enough. None of the arrows were instant kills, but now both the front and the back of the formation began to colour the white road with red blood. Peter fired again, no time to despair!

Bolton feared that the arrows would discourage the men at the back and he tried to shout to his men to return in formation. It was hopeless. The place in the pass where the two forces met was a square of 15 x 15 metres and within this square both men and skeletons fought and perished. The kill/death ratio was still high for the Realmers, but as the formation shattered, the melee turned into unfair battles. The skeletons managed to outnumber most of the frontal human fighters. The men at the back stormed ahead to help their comrades and the “square” became even bigger – and blodier.

Bolton had hoped that the formation would have held for much longer. The two handed axes had shattered his plan completely. The arrows continued to fly, but less so now. The skeletons did not wish to kill their own, while some of the Realmers simply ran out of arrows.

The battle had been going on for 45 minutes now. The road became slippery with blood and bodies stacked up – both bones and flesh.

Oluf Bolton killed yet another skeleton, but his shield had been destroyed by a hammer-wielding skeleton. His arm had been hurt in the process and he bled from his thigh, where a skeleton landed a lucky slash with a cutlass. He cried as he killed again. The melee was chaotic and bloody. He shouted to his men:


He killed another skeleton, gasped for air and shouted again:


Snow Ravens flew high above the chaotic battle, the wind ceased to blow and clouds formed on the sky. Peter fired his last arrow and drew out his short sword. With a battle cry and the ravens’ scream, he stormed into the hand-to-hand battle.
“FATHER!” he screamed as he stabbed a skeleton in the chest. He ran further ahead. He cut a skeleton’s helmeted head off and dodged a javelin as it flew through the air. He crouched on the ground, by a fallen Realmer. He was alive, but his left arm was gone and he had multiple slashes across the torso. Peter shouted again as he parried a skeleton’s blow. He cut its arm off and pierced its chest. As he grabbed a shield from the ground, a Realmer saved him by killing a skeleton, who was about to kill Peter. Peter shouted a quick thanks, before he crossed blades with another skeleton.
Was this army endless? he thought, as a skeleton inflicted a wound on his shoulder. He screamed and struck back. Fury scrolled across his eyes as blood poured from his shoulder.
“DIE!” he cried as another skeleton fell.

Bolton was still at the front. He did not give up. He was surrounded by three skeletons. He picked up a spear from the ground, penetrated the skull of a skeleton, dodged a throwing axe, parried a sword blow, cut a skull off and fell to the ground as the bones in his left forearm shattered. A skeleton “smiled” as it struck again with its hammer. Bolton rolled on the ground, away from the hammer blow and rose. His left arm hurt, but he fought on with the right. He killed the hammer-wielding skeleton, but then another skeleton appeared behind him and stabbed him in the back. Oluf Bolton screamed as he fell to the ground once again. It was cold and sticky with blood. He rolled on his back so that he could defend himself, but the skeleton was out of reach as it pierced his stomach with a large spear. He cried, with his final strength:


And then the commander of the Northern Settlements, the bold hero of Raven Pass died.

Describing the horror of the battle is impossible. It raged on for two hours before the men of the White Realm formed up again – in what had been the “rear”. There were only 50 or so left of them, all wounded, all tired.

Peter Ruslan was one of them. He was in the front line now. Blood covered his face, his shoulder hurt like hell and he was breathing irregularly. His lung had been punctured, but he did not know. He could hear his father’s words in his head: “Do not be weak! Realmers are not weak! Northern Realmers are not weak!” He hoped with all of his heart that his father would know that he had not been weak. That he had been strong till the end.

The skeletons stormed ahead once again and the stout Realmers stood their ground once again. Peter killed two skeletons, before his chest was pierced by a dagger. A dying skeleton had thrown it at him as it lay on the ground. It started snowing as Peter Ruslan fell to his knees and then to the ground. He managed to say, before he died: “I love you, dad!”

Marshal Andy led a unit consisting of about four hundred marshals. The light cavalry had met the fleeing women and children as Andy and his men rode towards Prishton. The messenger had said that a large skeleton army was on their way to the Northern Settlements and that the men of the settlements had marched out to meet them at Raven Pass. Andy had gathered his unit as quickly as possible and they had ridden off at once.

Andy had his unit ride as fast as possible. They passed the deserted Prishton as the wind blew hard from the east. The snowflakes felt surprisingly cold on his face. His marshals followed the road and they made contact with the skeleton army about two and a half hours from Prishton. They were disorganized. The skeletons were only one hour’s march from Raven Pass, Andy guessed as his men slaughtered the monsters. A few marshals fell as they killed the remains of the army – about 400 skeletons. At the very rear was the army’s leader – the necromancer. As he saw the light cavalry devastate his army, he killed himself – the Realmers would not know of his secrets – pure or not.

Andy and his mounted troops reached Raven Pass only half an hour after finishing off the skeleton army. He saw them here. The corpses of these brave Realmers. They had fought till the end. Not one had fled the battle. What had shocked Andy even more was that there lay at least a thousand skeleton corpses. This skeleton army had been bigger than anticipated, and the Realmers had fought much more valiantly than anyone could have hoped. Andy cursed for being late. These men had held out for so long. He had been only two hours from saving at least some of them. Andy cursed loudly and the curse was carried across Raven Pass with the echo. These undead would pay for this! These brave Realmers had defended the borders of the White Realm, saved their settlements and families and died the most heroic way possible! Andy would make sure these necromancers would pay! He would avenge these sons of the Realm! One day! One day he would take the fight to them!

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