The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 14
by Joe Solmo
Grian stared out over the rocky ledge at his father. It was the last face he expected to see staring back at him on this journey. What could he do? He couldn’t fight his own clansmen, especially his own flesh and blood. By staying here under cover he was just postponing the inevitable, he would have to go out there and face him eventually. The thing that bothered him more than seeing his father, was seeing the prophet standing next to him. For a fleeting moment he thought that he should have let the Desert Folk kill him when they had a chance, but that wasn’t Hu’Mod’s way.
Hu’Mod was definitely a practical god. He didn’t forbid killing, but he was an honorable god. Killing could only be done in self-defense, the defense of the helpless, or the defense of one’s god. At the time Grian didn’t believe the prophet was a threat. “I should have kept him near me,” he mumbled under his breath.
“What was that Grian?” asked Zeeg, peeking out over the rocks next to the dwarf.
“Just mumbling to myself. If that prophet wasn’t there I could probably talk to them and get Sreg freed, but now with him there, there is no telling what stories he has made up to turn my clan against me. Honestly he wouldn’t have to make things up. He could just tell them what I have done, it’s enough to condemn me in the eyes of my Clan.”
“But everything you did was good. You healed people, your bringing the glory of your god back to your people,” Zeeg said.
“Some people don’t want the gods back in their life. Then they would have to answer for the things that they do,” Grian said gravely. “I don’t have a choice, lad. I have to go out there. There is no reason for you or Moose to get entangled. I will go. I will do everything I can to get Sreg freed,” the dwarf explained.
“Wait for Birell. She might have information. If I had Sreg’s bow I would put an arrow between the eyes of that measly little bastard from here,” Zeeg said. Moose nodded in agreement.
“Which god’s do ye follow?” asked Grian.
“You know, good question. We have been traveling along without our memories for so long now and I never thought about it, really. We have seen some things. Powerful things, I guess you could call them gods, but for some reason I never thought to stop and worship them. It’s funny too. I never feared their wrath either,” Zeeg explained.
“It’s never too late to start,” Grian said.
“Are you trying to convert me?” Zeeg said and gave him a crooked smile, so much like Sreg’s. It must run in the family, Grian thought, then tried to imagine the large rock that was Moose’s head try to smile like that. He snorted and laughed.
“Quiet, you’re going to give us away!” Zeeg said putting his hand over the dwarf’s mouth.
“Can’t take a dwarf anywhere,” Birell said climbing over a rock behind them. Neither of them had heard her coming.
“I think if we wait to nightfall we can grab Sreg. He is being questioned in the large tent. But they are keeping him on the edge of the forest. The place is crawling with dwarves, but I have trained my whole life to be quiet in the woods,” the elf said. “Maybe you guys could create some kind of distraction?” Birell asked.
“I will go talk to my father,” Grian said.
“That sounds like a dumb idea. We would lose you, but gain Sreg. I like the guy, but he doesn’t have a holy mission I promised to help,” Birell said matter-of-factly.
“Can you think of another way to get it done?” the dwarf asked sharply. He sighed, his breathe pushing the hairs of his beard away from his face. “I am sorry, lass. It’s just unnerving seeing my family again. It was the last thing I expected.”
“I understand,” the elf said and patted him on the shoulder. Was there a story behind that? Birell hadn’t said much about her own family on this adventure. Moose moved forward and grabbed the dwarf. He pushed the hands together of the paladin and looked up into the afternoon sky.
“You want me to pray, Moose?” Grian asked. Moose nodded.
“Why not, seems like if you god wants to be free he would help you,” Zeeg said.
“It’s worth a try,” Birell added with a shrug. Grian returned Moose’s nod and scrambled away from the group a little bit. He never liked praying in front of people. It was more of a personal experience to him.
“You think it will help?” Birell asked Zeeg.
“I don’t know,” he said. Moose nodded yes but no one noticed him. They grouped waited patiently while the Paladin of Hu’Mod prayed for guidance. Moose started to pace back and forth behind the stones.
“Quiet down Moose. You’re going to get seen,” Zeeg said to his brother. Either Moose didn’t hear him or didn’t care. If anything his pace increased.
“What’s wrong with him?” Birell asked.
“I don’t know, I have never seen him act like this before. It’s been a long time since he was able to smash something, maybe that’s it,” Zeeg responded.
Birell watched as a group of birds suddenly took flight from the canopy of the forest ahead of them. Something was amiss. What could have startled them, she wondered.
Suddenly there was a rumbling from deep in the earth. It started to grow stronger and soon small pebbles were falling from the rocks above them. “This isn’t good,” Zeeg said. “Go get Grian, we have to move.”
Birell took a step towards the dwarf off in the distance, but the rocky path in front of her split open, she nearly fell into the widening pit. The crack ran down the rock and started to split the land in front, heading towards the dwarven camp. Concerned, she looked for her friend. “Grian!” she called out. There was no response. “GRIAN!” the sound of the earthquake was deafening. Even if he did respond she doubted she would be able to hear him, even with her elf ears.
“We have to get away from these rocks,” Zeeg said pulling Birell back from the edge of the pit. We can head back into the Akridland a little way. Grian can find us, I am sure of it. We are only going to get crushed or fall into that pit if we stay, then we are no good to him,” the eldest brother said.
Birell reluctantly agreed and gave once last hopeful glance in the direction that she had last seen Grian. There was no sign. “Take care,” she whispered and headed with Moose and Zeeg.
Grian opened his eyes. His god had heard him! He scrambled to his feet, elated at the rumblings and shakings he was experiencing. “It worked, Moose you’re a genius,” he called out as he headed back towards the group, but his path was blocked with a large pit. The ground must have opened up when the quake started. He looked across and saw a quick glance of Birell’s back as she darted behind some rocks. He looked for a path that would lead him to his friends, but didn’t see anything. They only way out of the rocks was down, towards the dwarven camp. He gave his clansmen a quick look over the shaking rocks. They were scrambling for the trees, which were shaking back and forth as in dance.
The split in the earth reached down to the camp and turned into a y. His father stood between the two small cracks in the earth. Grian’s eyes widened with fear when he realized if his father didn’t move soon, he would fall victim to the very magic he despised. He raced over the rocks, with reckless abandon, nearly injuring himself several times as he raced to help.
“Father!” he called out, but he was still too far away to be heard. He glanced around and noticed that the prophet was nowhere in sight. The coward had run when Hu’Mod showed his power.
“Father!” he called out as he skidded to a halt at the gap in the earth. It was nearly three feet across now, and widening. His father was pacing the small earth island looking like a trapped animal. How different of a view Grian had of his father now compared to when he was a child. No longer was the patriarch of his family the infallible leader, but just another dwarf, with hopes and fears, like the rest of them.
Grian scrambled out of his pack and dug through for some rope, but couldn’t find any. He knew he had packed some. He checked again knowing it had to be in there, but still couldn’t find it.
“Lad! Don’t worry about me. Is what I heard true?” his father called out. “Do you have something that doesn’t belong to you? I didn’t raise a thief.”
“Not now, let’s get you safe first,” Grian said.
“I cannot jump this, lad. Save yourself,” his father said.
“I can save you,” Grian said and closed his eyes. He started to pray under his breath. If there was a better time for Hu’Mod to help him, now was it,” he thought to himself.
“Grian! Please! Save yourself. There is no honor in a useless death,” his father called out, but Grian couldn’t hear him. Suddenly Grian’s eyes opened. There was nothing but white within. A bright light emanated from them. His father started to rise off of the earth island he was trapped on.
“What is this?” his father called out.
“We got you, father,” Grian said, too low for his father to hear. His father floated above the gap and landed next to Grian on the ground. The light left the paladin’s eyes and returned to normal. He reached down with his hand. “Come on father,” he said.
With reluctance his father grabbed his hand and stood. They fled to the forest edge as the small island of earth fell away into the abyss. As they made it to the trees they were suddenly yanked up into the air, caught in a trap. The father and son duo, swung from a rope, a very familiar looking rope to one of them.
“How touching,” came a snide voice from behind them. Grian twisted around to see the prophet looking up at them. “Didn’t I tell you Jyr. Didn’t I tell you what your son was up too? That magic is forbidden,” the prophet said.
“You!” Grian exclaimed. “Father, this…prophet escaped custody of the Desert Folk. He is a wanted criminal,” Grian explained.
“No more a criminal that you are, thief,” the prophet said. “Where is the keystone?”
“You will never have it. I am too close to lose it to you know. Hu’Mod will be freed and his power will return to the dwarves!” Grian said.
“Oh lad, that’s just a fairy tale,” his father said as they swayed in the rope.
“If that was true how you get across the gap in the ground?” Grian asked, just now realizing the earthquake had stopped.
“Well I must have jumped when the adrenaline kicked in. It’s amazing what some people can do at times like that. Why once when my anvil had fallen on your brother, I lifted it right off of him like nothing. That’s why he walks with a limp, you know. The next morning I tried to move it back a few inches and I couldn’t budge it,” Jyr explained.
“Give me the Keystone and I will let your father live,” the prophet said. “Unfortunately I can’t allow you the same courtesy.”
“Father, please trust me,” Grian said. “You never believed in me, or the power I have. Let me prove it to you once and for all.” Jyr nodded at his son.
“I will give you the keystone for my father’s freedom,” Grian said with resignation. The prophet danced with glee and ran over and cut the rope, dropping the dwarves ten feet to the earth.
“Are you alright, father?” Grian asked.
“Aye lad, let me catch my breath,” he responded.
“Give it to me, Grian, the paladin of Hu’Mod. Give me the keystone so that you can fail like your god did,” the prophet said.
“I am really beginning to not like you,” Grian said.
“You won’t live long enough for that to matter,” the prophet said as he approached them. “Give it to me, now.”
Grian reached into his pack and pulled out the keystone wrapped in cloth. “First let my father go,” Grain said.
“Set it on the ground,” the prophet responded and now stood only three feet away. He reached out for the stone.
“I have your word?” Grian asked.
“I promise,” the prophet said with a smile. Grain put the stone down on the ground. He stood back up. The prophet moved quicker than Grian anticipated and drove his dagger into the stomach of Jyr. The older dwarf fell to the ground, blood already soaking through his clothes.
“You son of a bitch,” Grian said and pulled his hammer from his belt.
“You can fight me, or you can save him. Your choice,” the prophet said, grabbing the stone wrapped in cloth. He darted off into the woods with his new possession.
“Father!” Grian dropped to his knees. “I can help you,” he said and laid his hands on his father’s stomach.
“It’s a gut wound lad. I am done for,” Jyr said, coughing up blood. “Get out of here. Don’t let that arsehole get away. I should have seen the truth, lad. I should have known that you weren’t a bad person. After all, I raised you,” he finished with a smile.
“Hang in there father,” Grian said and began to pray. Jyr’s eyes opened wide as they watched his son channel Hu’Mod through him. The pain from the dagger wound faded as a warmth filled his body. At first he thought it was shock, but soon he began to feel better. Grian fell back on to the ground out of breath a moment later, with blood on his lips.
“Son, are ye ok?” Jyr asked.
“Aye, give me a moment,” the paladin responded.
“No power of healing can be bad. I apologize, lad,” his father said.
“It’s ok, father, can you help me rescue Sreg from our clansmen?”
“Consider it done, lad, and call me Jyr. We are equals, Grian. If anything you should look down on me,” Jyr said reaching for his tobacco pouch.
“Never father. I failed my mission. I lost the keystone. I do not deserve your praise,” Grian said.
“Nonsense. You healed me afterword. Seems to me if Hu’Mod was angry with you he would have taken those powers away,” his father explained.
“I will have to hunt him down, after I find my friends,” Grian said.
“Let’s go free that big mouth human friend of yours,” Jyr said helping Grian to his feet.
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