The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 17
by Joe Solmo
Grian approached the temple slowly. The weight of the moment seemed to make his boots drag. Everything he had down up until now has led to this. His father stood at his side, encouraging him as they approached the door leading inside. The rest of the party stood just off the stone steps, in the grassy clearing surrounding the temple.
He looked back at his longest companion, Birell. The elf had been like a rock for him to lean on, helping him selflessly throughout the journey. There was no way he could possibly thank her for all she had done. She gave him a smile and a thumbs up. He turned around as he looked at the large door leading to the interior. It seemed so much more foreboding this time around, he thought.
He reached out with a hand that was shaking, whether from excitement or fear he couldn’t be sure. This was a big moment, not just in his life, but in the lives of all the dwarves everywhere. The return of Hu’Mod was going to cause a lot of commotion, and commotion is one thing dwarves didn’t like.
He gripped the brass handle, cool to the touch, even in the afternoon sun. He pulled the large worn doors open and let his eyes adjust to the relative darkness inside. His father put a hand on his shoulder for reassurance.
Grian took a deep breath and reveled in the feeling of his god being so close to him. It filled him with such joy. He smiled back at his father and stepped inside. The older dwarf followed his son’s lead.
A flash of red from the forest grabbed Moose’s attention. He recognized the robe instantly. His youngest brother was here. He saw him one second and then the mage disappeared. He worriedly glanced towards the doors of the temple where his new stunted friends had entered. He watched as the doors swung closed slowly, seemingly without anyone’s help. Skrat had entered the temple.
“Moose, go,” Moose said pointing towards the temple.
“No Moose,” Sreg said putting his hand on his brother’s arm. “Even I know that reddish stone temple is a dwarven holy place. Some places we humans just shouldn’t enter,” the ranger said.
“Let the dwarves have their moment,” Birell said. Zeeg nodded his agreement.
“Moose go. You come too,” the big guy said to Sreg agitated.
“You have been acting awfully strange of late, Moose. What is going on?” Zeeg asked, concerned for his brother.
“Important,” Was the big man’s response.
“Yes, this is an important moment for Grian,” Zeeg replied.
“No. Us,” Moose replied and started to move towards the temple.
“Now wait one minute,” Zeeg said. “I am the oldest and I am in charge, Moose. And I say we let the dwarves do their thing. It’s a holy temple to Hu’Mod, they don’t need our help inside. What could go wrong?” Zeeg asked.
Moose didn’t slow down and both Zeeg and Sreg held on as the largest brother dragged them towards the temple. They exchanged incredulous glances, not sure if they could slow down let alone stop the big brute when his mind was set.
“Well, wait for me,” Birell said and chased after them. She always wondered what a dwarven temple looked like. She wondered if the ceilings were shorter than elven cathedrals. They probably had kegs of ale lining the walls, she thought with a smile.
The elf followed the brothers up the red stone steps to the large doors at the entrance to the temple. Its size from this angle reminded Birell of the royal palace back home, even though the architecture wasn’t as elegant.
Moose was tugging on the handle of the door, but it wasn’t budging. The strain showed it’s self on his reddened face. Zeeg rushed in to help his brother pull on the ring. Birell watched them struggle for a few more minutes before she interrupted.
“Oh boys, can’t you tell when a door is magically sealed? Stand back and let me take a look at it. It’s been a while since I studied the minor cantrips all elves learn, but I might be able to figure it out,” she said to them. Zeeg turned towards her and bowed with a smile.
“It is all yours, my liege,” Sreg said sarcastically, but Birell expected no less from the ranger. Moose was the only one that didn’t concede to the elf’s wishes. HE continued to tug on the ring like his life depended on it.
“I am afraid we can’t stop Moose even if we wanted to,” Zeeg said. “I don’t know what has gotten into him.”
“It’s okay. I think I can manage with the minor distraction,” Birell said and closed her eyes in concentration. “Stop staring at me, Sreg,” Birell said after a few seconds.
“How did you know?” he asked, incredulously.
“I am an elf, remember. We are magical beings,” she said and smiled, never opening her eyes. She began to mumble a words, knowing the sounds but not the exact pronunciation of the words needed to work her magic. Those without the innate ability, or a lesser level of it needed the words to channel the magic into the desired form. The words she needed were on the tip of her tongue.
Moose put all his weight into pulling for a few seconds before taking a short rest, he was out of breath. He could hear the little elf mumbling something, but he didn’t know if it would work. All he did know was that he had to get inside the building, now. He was driven by the impulse. It was a moment of clarity in his normally clouded mind.
A strong wind picked up and tossed Birell’s chocolate brown hair into her face. Zeeg and Sreg took a step back as they realized the elven magic was beginning. Even Moose paused for a second to see the affect the spell had on the doors, but after a few seconds the spell petered out and the wind turned into a breeze and then dissipated. “I guess I am a little rusty on my magic,” Birell admitted.
Moose picked up his giant hammer and hefted it in his hands.
“I don’t think that’s going to work, brother,” Zeeg said, but Moose ignored him. He raised the weighted end over his head, gripping the handle with two strong hands. A loud bellow erupted from the large man’s face as he swung the hammer at the door. The impact of the strike send everyone back as the magic protecting the door broke and sent a shockwave of energy in their directions. When the group picked themselves off the ground they noticed that not only were the doors open, but they were splintered on the ground. The ancient wooden doors were no match for the combination of Moose and broken spell.
“Well, that’s one way to do it,” Sreg said and patted his largest brother on the back. “You did good Moosey,” he finished. The large man grunted in response.
“Are you ok?” Zeeg asked Moose. The largest brother did look less agitated since breaking the doors.
“Yes. Follow. Ending this,” Moose said and entered the temple. Sreg shrugged at Birell and followed Moose inside. Zeeg took one last look around the clearing for danger before entering as well.
Grian felt the same tingle of energy as he approached the throne chamber as he did on his first visit here. The excitement was almost overwhelming and he outpaced his father several times through the hall that lead here. The doors slid closed to the chamber as they entered, but neither dwarf paid it any mind. It was obvious, even on Jyr’s face the awe they felt looking upon their god resting on his throne.
It was just as Grian remembered. The large corpse with its white hair and beard sat in the same position it was last time, wearing its shiny golden armor with a hammer laying across its lap. Grian’s eyes caught the helm laying on the floor of the chamber, and he half-thought to grab it and place it on the head of the body, like a crown.
“Is this him?” Jyr asked.
“Aye, father. This is Hu’Mod,” Grian said in an awed whisper.
“Doesn’t look like much, does he?” Jyr responded.
“Father!” Grian exclaimed. The echo of his outburst sailed around the room like a sonic maelstrom.
“This place gives me the creeps,” Jyr said to his son. “Let’s get this over with.”
“On that we can agree, Grian said. He took a step forward, his feet echoing on the worn red stones of the chamber. For every step he took he heard two more footfalls. He turned and noticed his father was right next to him.
“I’ll come with you. You know, for support. Where do you have to place the Keystone?” Jyr explained.
“I…don’t know,” Grian said. He took another uncertain step towards the throne. “Maybe there is a place on the throne,” he said.
“We came a long way for maybes,” Jyr said.
“It’s on the back,” came a familiar voice from behind. Grian and Jyr spun, drawing weapons in a flash to face the threat.
Skrat stood there, his arms folded across his chest, wearing a red robe. The hood let just enough light in for Grian to recognize the youngest brother. A short sword was strapped to his side, a new addition, Grian noted. The mage gave them a smile. “It’s good to see you again Grian. I am sorry I had to leave. I learned some things and had to make sure of others before this moment.
“You murderer!” Grian called out, and nearly charged the mage. It was a blasphemy to even have such a person in a temple to Hu’Mod! Anger filled his muscles and he felt like a snake coiled to strike.
“I am here to help you, Grian. There is no need for hostility,” the mage spoke.
“Son, who is this arsehole?” Jyr asked looking at the mage with a sideways glance.
“He is the youngest brother of the people I am traveling with,” Grian responded.
“The elf?” his father asked.
“No, the brothers. He betrayed them and me. He abandoned us, and killed many people in the process.
“It was war. There is death in war,” Skrat said.
“That is true,” Jyr said shrugging to his son.
“People that didn’t have to die. He could have prevented their deaths with his magic,” Grian explained.
“Now is not the time. Let us use the Keystone, then if you still want to attack me, you can. It would be a shame to have come all this way for you to die to a spell, don’t you agree, Paladin?” Skrat said.
Grian looked at the mage. Was he really trying to help him? His gut was telling him not to trust Skrat. The young human has done nothing to prove his trustworthiness. He was so close to Hu’Mod now, but still felt so far away as he gave a quick prayer for guidance in this difficult decision.
There was a loud boom from the chamber doors. “Quickly now, there isn’t time!” Skrat called out and took a step closer.
“Just stay there until my son says differently,” Jyr said raising his weapon higher. “I don’t care how fancy you can make fireballs look, I can knock you out before you mumble two words.”
“Care to test me, old dwarf,” Skrat sneered back. Another boom came from the doors.
“Who is out there?” Grian asked Skrat.
“The enemies of Hu’Mod come to stop you, I am sure,” the mage said and took another slow step closer to the dwarves.
“Your brothers are outside the temple. They wouldn’t let anyone in to stop us,” Grian said and looked at the corpse, as if for answers. “Tell me why I should trust you after you ran off with the prophet,” Grian said.
“He had connections, I used him for a quick escape. It’s a shame he died, he had his uses. It must be his people out there. Now quickly, the opening is on the back of the throne,” Skrat said.
Grian paced around the throne, never taking his eye off the mage.
“Don’t worry lad, I got this. If he comes another step I will flatten him,” Jyr said and smiled at the mage. To anyone else the smile might have given them a moment pause, but Skrat didn’t feel threatened by the aging dwarf.
Grian glanced at the door as another boom hit, this one louder and stronger than the last. Whomever it was, was going to get inside soon, and he needed to make a decision. He eyed the slot for the Keystone in the throne. His eyes glanced back to the mage who was watching him intently.
“Quickly, Paladin. Place the stone,” Skrat sad. Grian took his back off and removed the stone from it. Carefully he unwrapped the cloth around it and glanced at it one more time. So much trouble of a bit of stone, he thought. He knew once he placed the stone, it would be out of his hands, and he wouldn’t have to worry anymore. The corpse of his god would come to life and then the wisdom of Hu’Mod could decide what to do.
The chamber doors, splinted inward nearly sending Skrat to the floor. Standing in the doorway was Moose and the rest. The big guy looked exhausted and dropped his Warhammer to the stone floor. He took three unsteady steps and collapsed to the floor next to Skrat.
“Wait!” Skrat called out and took a step towards Grian.
“I warned ye,” Jyr said and readied a swing at the mage.
“Flam Ve,” Skrat said and send a fireball at the older dwarf.
“NO!” Grian called out and dropped the stone to the floor. The paladin watched in amazement as the fireball split and went around his father before dissipating. Jyr landed his swing on the side of the head of Skrat and the mage crumbled to the floor.
“SKRAT!” Sreg said and ran to his brother.
“Father?” Grian said looking at Jyr in amazement.
“Aye son, I might have a secret of my own. It seems no magic can affect me. I only ran into a situation where it was needed a few times, and it’s not something I like to test,” the older dwarf answered sheepishly. “I am what they call a Null Dwarf.”
“Now place that stone before this robed bastard wakes up,” Jyr said. Grian took his father’s advice and grabbed the stone from the floor. He ran his hands over the smooth surface and then carefully placed it into the throne.
“Oh shite!” Jyr called out as the temple began to shake.
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