The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 15
by Joe Solmo
“Ugh they are like cockroaches. I leave one dwarf on his own and now we have two,” Birell said as Grian and Jyr approached. She had a wide grin on her face.
“Don’t mind her, she is okay,” Grian said to his father. He saw the older dwarf’s muscles tense at the mock insult.
“A friend of ye?” Jyr asked.
“Aye. She helped me get the Keystone,” Grian said and then hung his head in shame. The thought of that prophet having the holiest of relics made his stomach turn and his blood boil.
“You know, Jyr is it? We elves consider the dwarves to be a clumsy people. I have to say in my adventure with Grian here I have learned that for the most part that is unfounded,” Birell said.
“Most part, lass?” Jyr said defensively.
“Yes sir,” she said. “Just when I think he has left those ways behind I go and find something like this,” she said and tossed a cloth wrapped item at Grian. He caught it with an incredulous look on his face.
“It can’t be,” he said, quickly unwrapping the bundle. “How?”
“It was Moose’s idea actually. When we first arrived he saw the dwarves and knew you would do something stupid. It took me a while to find the right time to swap it out. Not as long as it took me to figure out what that oaf was trying to say though. Even Zeeg couldn’t make out the idea without my help,” the elf said beaming.
“I don’t think I can thank you enough,” Grain said wrapping the slender elf into his arms. His father looked on with disdain at first, but came around after he saw how much his son truly liked the elf.
“Will wonders never cease, lad. You brought back the gift of magic to the dwarves and made friends with an elf. I am not sure which is the greater feat,” the older dwarf said.
“The elf,” Grian said and they all laughed. “Besides, I haven’t brought the magic back until we get to the temple and let Hu’Mod out of the magic bindings that hold him there.
“Is it close, lad?” his father asked.
“Not far at all, a day, maybe two,” Birell said. “Let’s grab Sreg and the others and get on over there.”
“We are ready,” came Zeeg’s voice as he and his bigger brother came around the base of a giant pine tree.
“Then lets rescue Sreg,” Birell said.
“Is that the loudmouth human?” asked Jyr.
“Yes!” the rest of the party said at once, and broke into laughter for a moment.
“I can probably get him released,” Jyr said. “As long as that prophet didn’t muck things up to bad.”
The group headed into the woods in the direction the dwarf camp had fled from the earthquake. It didn’t take long to pick up the trail since dwarves weren’t known for their stealthy way. It only took about twenty minutes to find the outskirts of the new camp.
The group let Jyr lead the way once they got close enough to the other dwarves. Grian was surprised to find he wasn’t as apprehensive about it as he thought he should be. Maybe having his father at his side made a difference.
“Halt!” came the voice of a dwarf who stepped out from behind a tree, he had a large warhammer in his hand, tight to his chest. “Who goes there?”
“You know who I am, Fruin. I am your god’s damned cousin,” Jyr said. “Now get out of the way.”
“Sorry Jyr, it is protocol. I have to follow protocol,” Fruin responded.
“Do ye now?” Jyr asked cocking one eyebrow. “Is it protocol to have that second flask tucked into ye belt while on duty?” Jyr asked pointing at the other dwarf’s waist.
“Well, you see this has been a particularly had week for me…” the dwarf started to explain.
“Enough!” Zeeg said. “I have come to ask for the release of my brother, Sreg. He was taken hostage by you dwarves. Am I to believe that the dwarven nation is committing an act of war against the human kingdom of Brevia? Or where you unaware that the man you kidnapped is cousin to the King of Brevia?” Zeeg asked.
“Well, I am sure it wasn’t meant as a war whatchacallit,” the dwarf said.
“Act of war,” Zeeg repeated.
“Yeah, that. I am sure that it was just a huge misunderstanding,” Fruin said.
“I would like to be immediately taken to you leader to discuss the gravity of this situation with him. Or have you been authorized to represent the dwarven nation?” Zeeg asked.
“I…um…wait right here,” Fruin said and disappeared into the forest.
“If you were of royal blood why haven’t you mentioned it before,” Birell asked the oldest of the brothers.
“Because it is false. I heard Sreg use that once to get out of trouble. If he gets wind of it then he will know we are here to help him. At the very least we will give him piece of mind.
They waited only a few moments before Fruin came running back to them with someone in tow. Sreg had his hands bound but jogged behind the simple dwarf. His bow was in the hands of his captor.
“I couldn’t find Grulin, so I decided to act for the dwarves. You are right Jyr, I should represent my people. I always knew I was destined for something greater,” Fruin said. The older dwarf could barely contain his smile as he nodded his agreement.
“I thank you for your immediate response, ambassador,” Zeeg said and winked at his captive brother. “Now, if you would remove the bindings,” Zeeg finished.
“Oh of course,” Fruin replied and dug out a small and well-worn pocket knife from a pouch on his belt. “I hope Brevia will forgive out indiscretions,” he finished.
“Does he me indiscretion?” Birell asked. Grian elbowed her gently to keep quiet. The elf gave him a dirty look as he put her delicate hand on her ribs.
Fruin finished cutting the leather thong that held Sreg’s hands and handed the ranger his bow. He bowed three times while trying to apologize for any mistreatment the dwarves may have done to him.
“It’s ok. I am fine,” Sreg said. “In fact it wasn’t all that bad. They serve ale with every meal, and not the weak stuff human’s drink either. I don’t know how they make it so strong, but I could be a prisoner for a long time, no complaints,” he smiled.
“Can we get going, I have to get this keystone to the temple,” Grian said.
“Aye, let us be done with it, so my son will no longer be a fugitive to his own people,” Jyr commented.
“Son?” Fruin said and furrowed his brow. His eyes traveled between Jyr and Grian several times before his look changed to one of surprise. “Son?” “Grian?” he questioned.
“Aye ya daft bastard,” Jyr said. “How many sons do ye think I have?”
“He’s the reason we are here, we have to stop him,” he said and turned to run back to the dwarven camp. He didn’t get very far before he was stopped. Moose reached out a strong arm and wrapped his massive hand over the dwarf’s head, lifting him off the ground and placing him in the middle of the group.
“You can’t tell them, Fruin,” Grian said. “They wouldn’t understand, not yet anyway. You are my father’s cousin, Couldn’t you just keep our secret a little longer? After all ambassadors of nations have to keep secrets all the time to keep the peace, don’t they? It’s a very important job, after all. I am sure you understand,” the paladin finished looking at Fruin with hope that the ruse will work.
“Well of course I can keep secrets. I can be trusted with anything. That’s why they had me as a guard. They knew I would protect the borders of the camp, and I did a good job too,” Fruin said.
“Aye, you did lad. Until you were promoted to Ambassador anyway. Do we have your promise of diplomatic immunity to finish our quest? We will return after for any kind of explanation you want,” Grian said.
Fruin thought about it for a few moments. He mumbled and grunted under his breath before turning towards the party. “You have my permission to travel and return to me when you are done. Report back here no more than three days for now or I will have to send a search party for you,” he said as officially as he could.
“I Promise,” Sreg said taking over the conversation. He shook the dwarf’s hand. “Mr. Ambassador.”
With a nod, Fruin let go of the ranger’s hand and stood at attention to watch them leave. The group made their way around to the right of the dwarven camp to avoid any more confrontations. Once they were out of sight the forest grew quiet, and Fruin’s hair started to stand up. His stomach began to twist and turn inside of him. The forest seemed darker, emptier than he remembered.
“Wait a minute…” he said and threw down his weapon in disgust. He ran back towards the camp to let Grulin know what he had done, ashamed that once again he was tricked into letting a prisoner go.
The bushes parted as Skrat stepped into the clearing. “So that’s where the prophet ran off too,” he said. “I will have to have a talk with him. He could have ruined the whole thing.” Skrat whispered a few phrases in a language that hadn’t been spoken aloud in centuries and dissipated into mist, and then floated on the gentle breeze that tossed the leaves of the forest canopy.
Grian and company made their way through the forest. The dwarf Paladin never thought he would be so happy to hear the annoying call of the Black-Winged Whooper, but it was music to his ears. The rest of the company seemed to be in high spirits as well as they navigated the underbrush.
Grian felt bad for taking advantage of his simple-minded cousin, but he was on a holy mission after all and didn’t have time to waste. He wondered where the magic caster brother went after the prophet and he split. Was he waiting at the temple for them or did he just want to escape and is still headed back towards civilization? He hoped Sreg, Zeeg, and Moose could find some kind of closure to their family drama.
He had hoped the forest would look familiar as they made their way back to the temple but it did not. The growing feeling inside of him was his only guidance. It was so much like before, when Birell had accompanied him there the first time, well without the unrestful spirits from the Wood of The Damned chasing them, anyway.
With Sreg back it seemed everyone was in good spirits. If nothing else Sreg was entertaining company. He was always in a fresh supply of jokes to make even Moose smile from time to time. Which didn’t really make sense since traveling with them, when had he had time to hear new jokes?
“I can feel it, like last time,” he whispered to Birell as she matched his pace for a few moments. Her natural graceful movements normally would carry her a lot faster through the forest floor.
“Just a little longer now,” Birell replied. “It can’t be more than an hour, two tops.”
“I am not sure lass, I just feel it growing inside me, like last time when he got close,” the dwarf replied.
Birell outpaced the paladin and his father and went ahead to explore, and scout. Sreg and the elf had taken turns since leaving the destroyed dwarf camp. So far there was no sign of the prophet or of Skrat.
Whenever someone brought up the mage’s name Moose grew solemn. He took it the hardest of all the brothers. Grian felt for him, and wished his magic could cure emotional wounds as well as physical ones. He patted the large man on the arm to show his support.
Moose had been acting rather strangely since reentering the forest. He seems to grow more alive, and could almost form complete sentences now.
“Dwarf friend good people,” he said and gave Grian a genuine smile. The dwarf couldn’t help but smile back at the big guy.
“You seem to have the admiration of your friends,” Jyr said to his son.
“Aye, father, but only because of the power Hu’Mod has given me,” he replied.
“Son you don’t have to sell me on Hu’Mod anymore, I believe you. But I can’t help but think even without the powers you would be a good person. These friends of yours can see that, and I can too now,” the older dwarf said with pride in his voice. “You turned out well.”
“Father, you’re embarrassing me,” Grian said.
“Why don’t you give your son a hug, to show how much you care,” Birell said returning to the group from scouting. “Looks like trouble ahead.
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