The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 2

            Light broke through the cloud cover far above the forest, heating the land. The warm breeze flowed through the branches of the forest trees. Not an insect stirred in the infamous wood. Nothing moved in the branches forty feet above the forest floor, and the two travelers, who wandered eagerly through the forest.  

            The first half of the morning went by without incident. Grian led the way saying that he could feel a pulling sensation towards what had to be the temple. Birell followed him, keeping an eye on the surrounding forest. The unnatural silence of the forest was beginning to bother Birell, another dangerous aspect of the Wood, at least to elves. Being closer with nature then most races and then suddenly taken away from the voices of nature, and elf could really feel isolated, which is another reason why Birell is one of the only elves that would dare travel into these woods.

            Inside Grian, he could feel the power of his god pulling him towards something; he hoped it was the temple. Most of his life he had felt the sensation of power and the closeness of his god to him, but what he was feeling now was something a lot more, it was so intense he found himself practically running ahead of Birell trying to reach it. It wasn't like Grian to be hasty in anyway, but he was getting caught up in the excitement.

            A part of him told him to slow down, the forest was a dangerous place and a wrong step could be fatal, but that part was slowly being drowned out by the elation of knowing that he was so close to his goal. His fingers tingled with the power he felt grow as he got closer to his goal.

            Tree by tree they scanned the forest looking for any sign of a temple, or building of any kind. No where did they find such a place, and they decided to stop for a quick lunch before continuing onward once they found a small clearing in forest. Their water supplies were running low, since they were afraid to gather the forest’s water from the small streams that they have passed.

            The woods themselves seemed to have changed. The Pyros trees gave way to other trees, more common in the forests of the land, still no animal roamed the wood, but it almost seemed as if the forest here was more natural. The silence still bothered Birell in the back of her mind.

            The meal went without a word as both travelers were lost in their individual thoughts, and without another word they both rose to their feet and prepared to leave.

            “Wait, Grian, I have an idea,” Birell said breaking the silence of the last few hours. The sound of her voice seemed almost intrusive on the forest.

            “Lass?” The stout dwarf asked.

            “What if we climbed the trees and looked around, maybe we could spot the top of the building somewhere. Trudging through the woods is getting us closer, but if we had something more to aim for, besides a feeling, it might be more helpful,” Birell explained.

            “Aha!  A dwarf in the trees! Such a thing is unheard of!” Grian said.

            “Well I can climb a tree, as long as you watch my back. I do not know the forest as well as you do,” Birell said with a smile.

            As Grian watched the limber elf made her way up the trunk of one of the biggest trees surrounding the clearing they had lunched in. Grain’s eyes and senses were as alert as they had ever been looking for any sign of danger from the forest.

            He heard the elf call down to him and he craned his neck to face her in the tree. She was pointing south excitedly. He turned in that direction, as if he could see through the trees. “What is it lass?” the dwarf called out.

            “I can see the end of the forest ahead, just a few miles away. I can see a tower, on top of a large building! Grian! We have found it!” Birell shouted from the tree as she climbed her way down with excitement in her voice.

            “That’s great news! I’ll never make fun of the relationship between elves and trees again!” Grian said dancing in a little circle. Gone was the weight of the cursed woods, Grian was filled with joy.


            Birell hit the ground and raced over to the dwarf, so excited for him she hugged him without thinking. As if they both realized what had happened at the same time, they awkwardly let go and turned their attention elsewhere. She pointed in the direction that she had seen the tower and they began to jog in that direction. Together they ran with a refreshed vigor towards their goal. 

            It didn’t take that long at their pace to get close enough to see the large building ahead of them. As they came closer to the edge of the forest, the trees thinned out and they had a better visual range. They could see a small plume of smoke rising from somewhere near the tower of the temple, a sign that it must be inhabited.  

            Suddenly Grain lost his footing and fell to the hard earth. His ankle was twisted into a weird angle. Birell tried to carry the dwarf, but he was too heavy and too stubborn to allow her.  With a short search of the surrounding forest floor they found a suitable crutch and began to move at a slower pace.

            Grian thought to himself, it was just like his life that something would slow him down on his journey, when he was this close, but pushed the thought away and tried to remain positive.  It had been a long trek across many miles for the young dwarf, always alone, throughout many villages and kingdoms. Never before had he told anyone his true reason for traveling, until this elf. 

            She was an enigma to him. Why would she want to help him? He trusted that she meant it when she said so, but still it made no sense. A long time ago he had tried to convince some dwarves about their heritage, those he naively expected to agree with him, but an elf? It was highly unlikely. Still the companionship was a great factor in his uplifted spirits, and the company seemed pleasant enough. He tried to concentrate on the task in front of him, coming face to face with the end of his quest, to bring back the power of his god to this world.

            Birell smiled at the dwarf, she could see the excitement in his eyes, and also another look, if one looked deeply enough. She could tell that the dwarf was questioning himself. It’s one thing to have a dream to chase; it’s another to catch it. With the realization that he was so close, it meant some heavy thinking on the part of the dwarf.


            They traveled on for a while, in silence, both lost in their thoughts, through the forest, which grew extremely quiet the closer they got to the mysterious temple. Still no animals were evidenced, but the forest itself seemed to be getting more natural. The cold of the residual necromantic magic was fading; they were drawing close to their goal.

            Suddenly the forest gave way to a clearing. The grasses were short and looked like the grand lawns of a palace. A hundred yards from the trees stood a fairly large building made of some kind of reddish stone, faded and cracked in places, but yet still held firm. Grian’s ankle was feeling a little better and he hobbled away from Birell towards the great wooden doors in the center of the wall.   

            The elf stopped following him as he reached the doors, she knew that the dwarf needed some space, to do this thing without her. She sat on the soft grass and began to rearrange her things, taking an inventory of the remaining food stores and other supplies.


            Grian’s heart was pounding in his chest, finally…he would be one with Hu’Mod. An incredible feeling flowed through him. A sense of coming home, the hairs stood up on the back of neck as he reached out a short arm towards the large handle on the time warn doors. He stood there, for a few seconds, with his fingers wrapped around the handle, and with a deep breath he pulled them open.  

            Inside he could see a torch burning in a wall sconce in some kind of chamber, a foyer, or lobby, he guessed and took a step inside. From the doorway he could see a hall directly in front of him, lighted by an unknown source. A large staircase, well-worn with years of use, led up on the left hand side to a balcony that wrapped around the chamber. The stairs and the balcony were made of a white stone.

            Birell watched her new friend disappear into the building and wished him luck with a little prayer in elvish. Her eyes scanned the tree line, looking for trouble, it was more habit then instinct that made her do so. She decided to waste time sharpening her sword and utensils.


            Not a sound came from anywhere inside the chamber, other than the torch burning.  Grian noticed the walls were decorated with dwarven tapestries and runes worked into the stone.  The runes themselves were vaguely like the ones used today, he thought, but not quite the same.  Still he could make out several parts of the message written there. He spoke it aloud and surprised himself with his own voice, so alien in the silence of the place. Loosely translated it said something along the lines of The Home of Hu’Mod, Father of Light.

            “Hello,” Grian spoke louder, and glanced around the balcony. He could feel eyes watching him, from somewhere above, but nothing stirred up there in the shadows. He took a few steps towards the back wall, the sound of his footsteps echoing. He couldn’t see any other exit from the room except the hall directly in front of him, he didn’t see any doors or openings upstairs, so he began to walk into the weirdly lit hallway. The light was whiter, more pure than that of the fire burning on the end of the torch, he noticed, and it seemed to be coming from a chamber about thirty feet farther. 

            As he entered this chamber the light became almost unbearable to him. It came from no source, but it was everywhere.  He shielded his eyes, like as if he was staring into the sun. At the far end of the chamber he saw a large throne. Sitting upon the throne was a corpse of a large man, cobwebs and dust covered its flesh. Long white hair hung from the decaying head. The corpse was dressed in a golden armor. A large hammer lay across its lap.

            Lying on the floor next to the throne was a helm made of the same golden metal as the armor, one large horn on the left side was the only decoration. Excitement flowed through the dwarf like water over a waterfall. The helmet settled the issue of who this man was. It was Hu’Mod. But how could that be? Hu’Mod was a god, how could he be dead? Without thinking Grian ran up to the throne and kneeled down, bowing his head as he did so. He closed his eyes and sent a prayer to his god.

            The corpse shifted. Did it? He thought so but couldn’t see where it had moved, but he had heard it. Didn’t he? Runes marked the bottom portion of the throne, he was close enough to see now, but he couldn’t make any of them out. They were alien to him. Once again he closed his eyes and asked for guidance from Hu’Mod. This time he was sure he heard the shifting of the corpse. He didn’t open his eyes, instead he concentrated on his prayers. 

            He could feel close to his god, it was almost overwhelming. Warmth crawled inside him, even pushing the excitement away. A feeling of knowing came over him and he raised his head and opened his eyes. The corpse on the throne was gone. In its place was a large man. Hu’Mod!  Fully restored the man smiled down and reached out a hand towards the dwarf. Grian raised his hand reluctantly as he lowered his eyes once more.

            “Please stand, my friend,” boomed a deep voice. “Open your eyes, it has been a long time since I had a visitor.” Grian looked his god in the eyes. There was no doubt inside him as too who the man was. The eyes were timeless. Older then the mountains that Grain grew up in. 

            Slowly, the dwarf raised himself from his knees. The realization of the situation was finally sinking in. He stood there, on the verge of exploding with the excitement of his quest coming to an end. The satisfaction of knowing that he was right all along flowed through him like an early spring river current.

            “Mortal Son, what brings you to me?” asked the giant of a man sitting on the throne.  His eyes peered inside Grain, not just into his eyes but inside his being.

            “I came seeking the ancient ways. To serve you and spread your message to all the Dwarfs across Arain,” Grain said and lowered his gaze humbly.

            A small smile creased the corners of the man’s face. He slowly stood, as if he was remembering how. Now at his full height he looked down at the dwarf like a father to a son.  “Child of Stone, you come before me seeking the powers of the Hammers of Hu’Mod? This is not something that I can just give away. In the past strong, worthy warriors came to me with the request for help, I granted them the power they needed only after they had proven themselves to me.  Each one of them embarked on a quest chosen by me and returned with proof of their success, and now you come here and ask for this power? You must prove yourself worthy before we can talk of granting such power. Tell me more of why you wish to have this gift from Hu’Mod,” the man spoke and sat back down on his throne, one hand raised to his chin.

            Grian thought for a moment, trying to organize everything in his head. “I wish to bring back the glory of the Old Kings and the power of magic back to the dwarves. We as a race have turned away from the gift and our stubbornness keeps us away. I need this power to show the Elders that it wasn’t you that turned on us, it was us that turned our backs on you. They need to see that they have made a mistake and need not shun the great gift granted by you,” the dwarf said. 

            Once again the man smiled and nodded to Grian, and signaled him to continue.

            “I will do your quest and show you I am worthy of your gift. I have some power now and try to live my life by your code. Loyalty. Victory. Honor. I have been chased from my home for these beliefs and am ready to do whatever it takes to prove that I deserve the right to be a Hammer of Hu’Mod,” Grian said and exhaled deeply. 

            The man on the throne sat silent for a moment, seemingly contemplating the dwarf’s words. After a moment he sighed and looked Grian directly in the eyes. “Child of Stone I will bestow you a quest and some power to help you along. If you return successful I will consider you for the Hammer. If this is acceptable to you, then say so now. If not, then please leave this place and forgot you found it. The betrayal of my children still pains this old heart and I would like nothing more than to have them back in my house, or forget them completely,” the man on the throne said and leaned forward to hear the dwarf’s response.

            Grian bowed to one knee in front of the throne and lowered his head. “I accept your quest Hu’Mod, the Father of the Stone and promise to raise your name in glory once more in the halls of my kin. I shall not fail you, Father,” he spoke. 

            Hu’Mod smile grew large and he sat back in the throne as if in relief. “Then let me tell you of your quest,” he said.


            Birell sat on the green grass in boredom. Her new friend Grian had been inside the temple for almost an hour. She had inventoried her belongings, twice and walked around the temple three times. She thought back to when she met the dwarf and wondered why she had abandoned her bounty so easily to help this stranger she just met. Part of her thought that if she left now she could still catch Karnak, after all, the dwarf did seem to find what he was searching for, but a larger part of her wanted to see what would happen next. Torn she began to twist blades of grass into little figures of elves like her mother had shown her how many years ago. 

            After she created a squad of elven blademasters she heard her friend exit the temple, she glanced up at Grian with concern in her eyes. He stood looking around the area with a blank expression on his face, his cloak slowly twitching in the light breeze that had recently started to blow. Slowly he turned her way and his eyes seemed to focus, as if he was returning to this world. His mouth broadened in a smile and he jogged over to Birell.

            Scooping her up in a hug, the powerful muscles of the dwarf raised her as high as he could and he cheered. “Birell! It was amazing!  I met the Father, he has given me a quest to become a Hammer. This is the best day of my life,” he said.

            “Put me down you crazy dwarf,” she said smiling, yet a little apprehensive at the dwarf’s weird behavior. Once on the ground she took a step back. Grian nearly glowed with happiness.  It seemed that his smile would never leave his face.

            “He spoke to me, Birell. He told me what I must do to bring glory back to the dwarves.  Do you care to still travel with me? We must leave right away,” he said excitedly and looked around for his pack that he had discarded before entering the temple.

            “What is this quest you speak of? What must you do?” she asked him as she shouldered her own pack, shifting the weight to the middle of her back.          

            “I must seek out a relic from antiquity. Something The Father lost a long time ago and return it to him. He told me it was stolen by his brother and hidden in a keep far to the south, beyond the Akridlands,” he said.

            “The Akridlands! No one travels there. The place is as cursed as these woods!” Birell said, then added,” If he knows that it is there, then it wasn’t hidden to well, was it? Why can’t he just go there himself?”

            “Sadly, The Father cannot leave the temple, his brother has cast some sort of binding spell on him trapping him inside. With the Relic he will be able to break the spell and finally leave. To think he was sitting here all along, and the dwarves thought he turned his back on us!”  Grian said.

            “Who is his brother?” Birell asked as they began walking south into the forest once more.

            “I’m sorry lass, I forget that you are not a dwarf. Lodrum is his brother, he is the total opposite of Hu’Mod. He is Lord of the Giants and through the dwarves and giants, Hu’Mod and Lodrum play out an ancient feud,” Grian explained.

            “So he’s like the Dark Uncle of the Dwarves?” Birell said with a smile.

            “Very Funny, I can’t figure out why the elves are confused as to why the dwarves shy from them. Seriously though, I plan on seeing this through, if you would like to join me I would enjoy the company, but I would understand if you wish to continue to hunt your bounty. I thank you for everything you have done, Birell,” he said.

            They stopped walking and turned to face each other. He waited for her to make up her mind, but she could tell he was antsy to start his holy quest. She was still divided on what she wanted to do. The thrill of the chase of her bounty called to her on one side but she still wanted to help the dwarf and see where his quest takes him. Despite the fact that Grian was watching her waiting for a response, she couldn’t make herself say one way or another. 

            “It was nice meetin’ ya lass,” Grian said and turned his back to the elf and began to walk into the forest.  

            Birell hesitated a few more seconds before letting out a small sigh. “Wait! I’m coming with you,” she called out and chased after the dwarf. He turned towards her acting as if burdened by her decision, but she could see right through the thin attempt. Together they entered the cursed wood in a southern direction. There still was a few hours of daylight left in the sky.

            “I’ve been in these woods a few times, Grian, but never this deep. How much farther does it go before it reaches the Akridlands?” Birell asked.

            The dwarf looked around at their surroundings, then at the sun, then once again back at the forest and turned to her. “I have no idea, lass. I’ve never been this far in either,” he said.

            Birell rolled her eyes at her companion. Sometimes it seemed to her that the dwarf was less aware of the world around him then an absent minded child, but it has suited him so far.  Maybe that’s why she decided to go with him, some sort of protective instinct. 


            As night fell again on the Forest of the Damned the companions found themselves setting wards around their fire. There was no sign of trouble ahead or behind them and they almost forgot they were in the cursed wood. They enjoyed a light conversation over what provisions they had left. Birell wondered what they were going to do for food in the Akridlands. From all the stories she had heard, it was a barren desert like place where nothing grew or lived. Surely they were going to stop somewhere for provisions before continuing this quest. The dwarf’s god couldn’t possibly want them to travel there half-starved and without water. 

            Then again it was only stories she had heard of the place, based half on superstition and half on fact. Much like the woods they now camped in, there were a hundred stories of terrible monsters and evil people that populated the place, but even though the woods had its share of supernatural beings, some terrible, it wasn’t the same as the tales the elven fathers told around to young elfins in their beds. 

            Another noiseless night crept along hour by hour as a chilly breeze worked its way through the sparse leaves on the trees. Another night without the sounds of owls, rodents, or game of any sort. It’s funny, Birell thought, the unnaturalness of the woods seemed not to bother her as much as it did the other few times she had been in the forest. The danger still lurked in the forest but as they traveled south it seemed as if the wrongness was waning, as if it was centered somewhere in the forest and they were making their way from it.

            She stared at the up and down motion of the dwarf’s chest, as she listened to the sound of his snores. So easy it was for him to just fall asleep without a care. She wondered about his visit at the temple. It seemed a little odd to her that he found his God awaiting him there in the temple, it seemed a little too easy, but Birell was a little more skeptical about the world. She drifted off to sleep thinking about it all.


            When she woke Grian was already awake, morning had just barely come and tea was boiling over their little fire. Grian still seemed to be in great mood, smiling and whistling as he packed up his gear, even if the tunes he was whistling were inappropriate bar songs passed down from father to son in the slums of dwarf towns. Together they put out the fire and buried the embers as to not light the forest on fire. While waiting for Grian to finish packing up his things Birell wandered around the little clearing they had found as darkness overtook them the night before. Suddenly her well trained eyes focused on something on the ground.

            She dropped to her knees next to a small tree and carefully brushed her slender fingers over the dirt. “Grian come here!” she said excitedly. The Dwarf mumbled something and wandered over to her and peeked over her shoulder. “It’s a boot print.” She said pointing at the ground.

            “Aye lass, but who’s?  Who else would be wandering in this wood?  That looks fresh, yesterday, no older,” he said.

            “Maybe it’s my bounty,” she said and smiled, running her fingers over the print one more time, as if it would tell her more about the person who left it.

            Grian thought it over. Did this mean she still wishes to chase her bounty and continue on her way? Or did she really want to go along with him on his quest. Either way he was happy for her company, growing up the way he did he didn’t make much friends and led a very lonely existence, Hu’Mod being the only other thing in his life. He found himself feeling sad that their time might soon come to an end, although he wouldn’t try to stop her from leaving, and he knew if it was the other way around he would not hesitate to leave and chase his calling.

            The dwarf watched as Birell faced the direction that the boot print faced and took a few steps watching carefully the ground in front of her. She stopped and stood still for a moment closing her eyes. Reaching out with her senses she tried to gather anything on her quarry.  Channeling her Sight she caught glimpses of trees whirring by, and heavy labored breathing.  Her bounty! She could see him crashing through the trees and undergrowth. Through his eyes she saw the position of the sun to her left, rising through the trees. He was heading south, the same way they were traveling! But what would she do if they caught up to Karnak? That’s when she would really have to make her decision.

            She opened her eyes and turned towards Grian who had stood patiently while she did her thing. “It’s him Grian. Heading south,” she said.

            “Let us get going then,” he said and started walking through the silent forest.

            Together they traveled along a game path through the trees, it made the traveling a lot easier.  Birell told Grian that they were still traveling in the same direction as Karnak. It would be hard to overtake him through the thick trees, but following the trail they knew they could make better time.

            Slowly, like a creeping snail, a feeling overtook the two, something was behind them again.  Birell reached back with her sight to sense the feelings source. She almost walked off the path and into the woods trying, she had to stop moving to make it work. Grian looked up at her. 

            “No need lass, I sense it too. It’s a Hunter. We must move faster if we wish to avoid it.  This forest must end soon it can’t go on forever,” he said and began to jog. 

            “What is a Hunter?” she asked as she matched the dwarfs pace alongside of him.

            “Another creature of the forest,” he said. “Picture a werewolf mating with a zombie and a bear with rabies. It’s an animal formed through dark magic and forest beings and twisted to almost indiscernible shapes. Not something I want to mess with, let us keep moving,” he added.

            Soon the feeling grew, the wrongness of the creature being pushed ahead of it like dirt in front of a plow. Soon Birell thought she heard the breathing of the unnatural creature behind them. Was that the sound of branches breaking? It was hard to tell from where the noise came from through the filter of her own breathing in her head. She dared not look back, the dwarfs description was as much as she wanted to know about it.

             Birell noticed Grian had worked his hammer from his belt and was carrying it in hand as he ran. She reached for her own sword and pulled it free from the scabbard, as her feet pounded on the dirt and her heartbeat pounded in her head. Beads of sweat started to run down into her face from the exertion of the extended run. 

            She started to panic and outpace the shorter dwarf. She had to make herself slow down as to not leave the dwarf behind to face the Hunter alone. A crazy noise broke through her thoughts from somewhere not too far behind her. It sounded like a howl and snarl all in one. A chill ran up her back and she knew that wasn’t her imagination this time. The Hunter was catching up to them.

            Grian heard it too, she could tell by the expression on his face. He ducked his head down as if to give himself less wind resistance and get a little more speed from his already pumping legs.

            Birell chanced a look over her shoulder, the feeling was so strong now she knew it was close behind. What she saw awed, revolted, and terrified her. Crashing along the game trail, taking up the whole thing and then some, was a horrifying mass of furred muscle, teeth and claws. Grians description was very close to what she saw, she thought to herself. 

            Her head whipped back to the path in front of her and with fear noticed the dwarf was no longer there. A second later the ground rushed up and smacked her in the face. Pain surged through her, but she fought her way back to her feet, her vision still hazy from the impact. For a split second she could only think about what it was she had tripped on, but that second passed and she once again grasped the severity of the moment she was in.    

            The hunter was now only thirty yards back and closing the gap fast, she got her feet moving again in the right direction. She heard branches and sticks crack behind her and wondered at each one if the next crack she heard was going to be her spine as the monster leaped onto her, finally catching its prey.

            “Duck!” came from her left. It was not Grian’s voice and it took a second for it to register in her head. She ducked just in time as a massive axe swung where her head was only a second ago. She heard a howl of pain as she hit the dirt. Birell rolled onto her back with her blade held defensively in front of her and was astounded at what she saw.

            The Hunter lay silent not one yard from her feet with the biggest war axe she had ever seen buried in its massive skull. The only thing that moved was the large handle reverberating from the force of the metal meeting bone. Quickly she turned towards the sound of the voice and saw a mountain of muscle reach a tree trunk hand down. The hand grasped her wrist awkwardly as it pulled and raised her to her feet.

            She only came up to the chest of the massive man. She quickly glanced around for the dwarf, but couldn’t find him anywhere. “Where is my friend, the dwarf?” she asked, her voice betrayed her feeling of being scared.

            “Little man safe,” boomed the voice from the large man. It wasn’t the same voice she had heard yell duck. So there must be more of them around, she thought. Just then two men came from the trees, one holding the dwarf back from charging onto the trail. Birell could tell from the expression he was one miserable dwarf.

            “Let him go!” she demanded.

            “Take it easy. We just wanted to make sure that thing was dead before we let him go,” the man holding Grian said and released the dwarf who took a few steps and spun holding his hammer in front of him.

            “Look, we mean no harm, we saw you were in danger and decided to help,” came another voice from behind the mountain of a man. A curly haired man stepped out from behind the large man. He wore all green clothes that blended in well with the forest around them, a bow was slung over his shoulder. He did a double take at Birell. “An elf!” he exclaimed.

            “Yes, and a dwarf. How many more people are hiding behind this seven foot potato?” Birell asked irritated.

            “Just one more,” came another voice as a young man stepped onto the trail. This man was dark haired, he wore to shoulder length, and had pouches wrapped around his waist.

            “Who are you people,” Grian asked lowering his hammer. He realized they were completely outnumbered and a fight was not a good idea.

            All four of them looked nervously at each other before finally the curly haired man cleared his throat. “We are brothers, traveling the world,” he explained.

            “But what are you doing here, especially in these woods?” Birell asked.

            “Nothing really, just traveling like I said,” the curly man said while looking from brother to brother as if for reassurance.

            The young man turned towards Birell and spoke. “We know not what wood this is. We have been….wandering for a few months now and we are lost. Could you tell us where we are?” he said.

            “We are not lost, Skrat. We don’t really have anywhere to go,” the large man said and sat down on a fallen tree.

            “I told you not to use names, Moose,” the curly haired man said, and turned towards Birell and Grian.

            “Oh, I guess I did it now, Sreg,” Moose said, then sighed. 

            “Well I guess it’s too late to pretend to be something we are not,” said the man who had held Grian. “My name is Zeeg, and these are my brothers, Sreg, Skrat, and the big ox is Moose. We are from Frudyium, and have been traveling for a few months together,” he said.

            “I be Grian, and this lass be Birell. We are heading south to the Akridlands, and we should really be on our way soon,” the dwarf explained. 

            “Akridlands?” Zeeg repeated. “If that’s close by then this must be the Woods of the Damned!”

            “Aye lads, it is,” Grian said.

            Birell caught Sreg looking at her and raised an eyebrow questionably.

            “Sorry, it’s just that I haven’t seen an elf in a very long time, since I was a child,” Sreg said and looked away shyly.

            “How be it that you men have been traveling in the Woods of the Damned and not known where you were?” Grian asked.

            “Well, we have been traveling rather aimlessly and must have entered it and not known it,” Zeeg said.

            “We spent a night in the Woods of the Damned?” Moose said with a combination of fear and astonishment on his face.

            “It’s all my fault. You guys should leave me to travel somewhere safe,” Skrat said and turned back towards the direction he had come from.

            “Now quiet with that Skrat,” Zeeg said then turned towards the elf and dwarf. “Well you two might as well come to our camp for the night, then travel on fresh in the morning. Come we have a deer roasting on our fire.”

            Birell looked toward Grian with the question in her eyes.  The dwarf nodded and sighed and hefted his pack up onto his shoulders. With and outstretched arm he gestured for the brothers to lead on to their camp.


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