The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 19
by Joe Solmo
So much had changed since Hu’Mod imbued Grian with his power. The world was different. Grian could feel the energy pumping through everything. The earth and stone was a slow and steady pulse, where the flames in the torches were more erratic and energetic. Runes in the temple were suddenly readable to him. It was as if a veil was lifted from his eyes, similar to what happened to Moose. No, Hu’Mod. Moose doesn’t exist. It was such a mess. Once his friends had gotten the chamber doors open he spent nearly an hour resting on the floor trying to make sense of everything he had learned.
Grian spent the rest of the day examining the runes and writings that adorned the walls of the temple. The runes made sense to him now, since Hu’Mod blessed him with his power earlier. He studied them, committed Hu’Mod’s teachings to memory since he didn’t have anything to write them down on. Being chosen to spread the word of a god to a people that have turned their backs on gods wasn’t going to be an easy task.
He knew it was going to be a rough road ahead, but he had never felt as confident that he was doing the right thing as he did now. He still didn’t like the fact that Lod’rum had used him to free himself, but after giving it much thought, he knew that in the end he also freed Hu’Mod from his mortal prison. That itself was worth it.
Since that realization he dove into the task in front of him. Memorizing the writings in the temple. He wanted to make sure he got every bit as right as possible. He wanted to show his fellow dwarves, and the world the power and glory of Hu’Mod. He was so intent on studying the word of his god he didn’t notice when Birell entered the chamber to bring him an evening meal.
“You still have to eat, don’t you Paladin?” she asked him, placing a tin plate on a stone bench. The contents sent of steam into the chilly night air.
“What? Oh yes. I guess I have been distracted. These are fascinating. I can’t believe I didn’t notice them the last time I was here. It’s amazing Birell,” the dwarf replied.
“It’s ok. We could use the day off after everything we have been through. I got to say you made a fan of your father. He can’t stop talking about you,” the elf said.
“Aye,” Grian replied with a chuckle. “It’s a very different Jyr than I am used too. That’s for sure.”
“I know you have been through a lot here, Grian,” Birell said putting her slender hand on his shoulder. “I know you won’t take my offer, but if you need to talk, I am right here.”
“Thank ye, lass. I am fine, considering. It’s a lot to take in I admit, but I think I will be alright. Just having you guys around means a lot,” Grian replied and picked up the tin plate. He sniffed the vegetables and looked back at the elf questionably.
“It’s good. I promise. It’s not often we can find wild vegetables. You are lucky you have an elf with you,” she said with a smile.
“Thanks lass, if I be a rabbit I bet I would love it,” he said and smiled. He poked at the vegetables with his pocket knife and skewered one before popping it into his mouth.
“Not bad, right?” Birell asked.
“Aye not the worst thing I have eaten. What’s it called?” Grian asked.
“A carrot,” she replied.
“Care aught you say. I bet it goes well with meat,” the dwarf said and popped another bite of the orange vegetable into his mouth.
“We are set up outside for the night. Come and join us when you’re ready,” Birell said and patted his shoulder. She turned to go and walked several steps towards the hall leading out of the temple.
“Birell?” he called out.
“Yes?” she replied.
“Thanks for thinking of me,” he said nodding to the plate of vegetables. The elf smiled and walked out the door. Grian spit out the carrot he was keeping in his cheek. He was lucky his burly beard hid the lump from the elf. He knew she knew well but a vegetable? Really? She should have used it as bait for a proper meal.
“Told ye he wouldn’t eat it,” Jyr said as the elf returned from the temple. He turned around and saw the plate was missing from her hand. “Eh, not the first time I have been wrong,” he said and chuckled.
“He took it, but didn’t look happy. He must have been starving,” she said as she sat down next to the older dwarf in front of their fire. Without the brothers with them the fire seemed so lonely. The elf sighed when she realized she even missed Sreg.
“So what’s the next step?” Jyr asked her.
“I would assume we return Grian to the dwarves to bring back Hu’Mod’s magic,” the elf replied.
“I am not so sure that is a good idea. I mean at first. Dwarves are a stubborn folk. It’s going to take more than one Paladin and his half-crazy father to turn centuries of discrimination and backward thinking,” Jyr said throwing a log onto the fire.
“What about the dwarves you traveled here with to meet Grian. If they were convinced first and returned with you wouldn’t it go better?” Birell asked.
“It might lass, or they might lynch us, it’s fifty-fifty,” the old dwarf replied.
“It’s not a bad idea. To go to the other dwarves. We can catch them on the way home,” Grian said as he approached the fire. He squatted and put his hands out to warm them.
“Glad ye could join us,” Jyr said and held up a flask to Grian. The younger dwarf took the flask and drank from it, then immediately coughed.
“Hammerthroat! Really father? I am surprised you can still see,” Grian said.
“Aye your uncle’s recipe. It will keep ye warm tonight,” the older dwarf said with a laugh.
“It’s got to be pure alcohol!” Grian said.
“If it’s any good it is,” Jyr replied and grabbed the flask and drank some more. “I was saving it for a special occasion. My son being the mortal spokesperson for a god I guess is as good as any.”
“May I?” asked Birell. Both dwarves began to laugh. “What?” she asked. It caused them both to laugh harder. Birell grabbed the flask from their hands and sniffed it. She coughed which sent the drunken dwarves back into a fit of laughter.
Peeved with their actions she took a long pull off the flask and handed it back to Jyr. “It’s not so bad,” Birell said and fell over on her side. She was snoring a few seconds later.
“We tried to warn her,” Jyr laughed and took another sip off the flask. Grian managed to get a blanket around the sleeping elf before passing out himself. Jyr looked down at his son as he stood, unsteadily to relieve himself. “Did I raise an elf?” he mumbled and took three steps to the right awkwardly. He returned to the fire a moment later and passed out himself.
A figure watched from a skewed vantage point as the small group went to sleep. Slobs, all of them. How did they manage to get the upper hand on him? The figure moved through the tree line as carefully as it could. It was hard when the world was off by ninety degrees. His own predicament didn’t matter though. It was the position of his god Lod’rum that mattered. Once he returned to Lod’rum and explained what happened here his god would return him back to his natural state. A prophet reborn. Then the real fun would begin. The figure smiled, a sideways smile illuminated by the dying light of the party’s fire. The smile faded from view, if anyone was looking as the figure retreated back into the darkness of the forest. It turned towards the Wood of the Damned with no fear of its inhabitants. He was the thing to fear this night.
The next morning found two out of three of the remaining party holding their heads and moaning. Jyr watched them with a smile on his face as he built the fire up with the remaining wood they had gathered and began to make some semblance of a breakfast. He knew that a big breakfast would make their heads feel better so he went off into the surrounding woods to look for some small game.
He instantly found what he thought was a game trail that lead from the clearing towards those haunted woods the dwarves avoided on the way down to find Grian. He followed it for a little ways before coming upon a Neddlebird. A large species of grouse with a needle like beak that lived in the temperate forests in this part of the world. The bird was half asleep with its head laying back on its body. The old dwarf grabbed it before it knew it knew he was there.
When he returned to the campsite the others had warmed water and were sipping tea the elf must have made. They seemed to be feeling a bit better. He approached them with his kill and tossed it at Grian. “I kill it, you cook it,” he said and sat down. “Just like when ye was little.”
“I hated killing anything, even back then,” Grian explained to Birell and began to pluck the Needlebird. “I made a deal. I would prepare the animal if I didn’t have to kill it.”
“Sounds fair,” Birell said helped him. “You know, Jyr. That drink packs quite a punch. I have had every dwarven drink made before, but nothing like that.”
“It’s a family recipe. We don’t even share the drink with people outside our family. I tried to warn you, lass,” the older dwarf replied.
“You did. Sometime I will have to bring you some of our elvish wine. The finest in all the land,” Birell said.
“That spoiled grape juice? No thanks,” Jyr said and spat. Grian and Birell exchanged a smile.
“Are you going home now? Grian asked Birell. “You promised to help me get the Keystone and we have finished that. You don’t have to continue with us,” Grian said.
“I know, but I feel I should at least see you two back to the other dwarves. Who knows what kind of trouble you two could get into if I let you off on your own,” the elf said with a smile.
“I am glad you are sticking around for a little while more,” Grian said. “What will you do after we meet up with the dwarves?”
“I should return to Charindril to let them know that the dwarven god has returned. I am sure they will want to keep an eye on the situation. Something of this magnitude they will want to record into the annals.”
“The dwarves won’t be told what to do by elves,” Jyr said.
“That isn’t what I meant, Jyr. I meant as scholars and experts in magic in general, they might be able to help with the transition. It could mend the rift between our two races,” she explained. “If we can get along this whole time then there is a chance for our kind to mend their relationships, right Grian?” the elf said.
“The quickest way back is through the Woods of the Damned,” she said pointing in the direction of the cursed forest. Grian looked up at the forest and shivered.
“It’s where we met, rememeber?” she asked Grian then turned towards his father. “Would the dwarves cut through there on their way home?” she asked the older dwarf.
“Probably not, but they would skirt it. We can try to pick up their trail on this end. If it looks like we are behind them then we can take the shortcut if ye wish. Although I would like to avoid that forest if possible,” Jyr said. “You guys actually cut through there? Is it as bad as the stories?”
“We managed to survive it,” Grian said. “It’s not a great place to take a holiday.”
“That sounds reassuring,” Jyr said and took the dressed Needlebird from Grian and placed it in the pot of water. “This meal will give us the strength we need to get through any obstacle,” the older dwarf said. “We can catch up to dwarves and head home after breakfast.”
“Don’t forget the Desert Folk that were supposed to be following us,” Grian said. “We should leave them a message somehow.”
“Who?” Jyr asked.
“Oh didn’t I tell you father, I have an army,” Grian replied.
“You most certainly did not,” Jyr replied.
“I can get a message to them. What do you want the message to say?” Birell asked and whistled. A moment later a hawk landed on her outstretched hand. It turned its head to her. Its golden eyes had an almost human intelligence behind them. She whispered the message into its ear and it took off into the sky, heading towards the Akridlands.
“It will report and return to us if there is another message,” she said. “Like I told you, it’s good to have an elf by your side.”
“Aye lass,” Jyr said. “Unless you’re cooking.”
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