The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 20
by Joe Solmo
The group left for home, giving Grian mixed feelings. In his mind he played over his homecoming over and over again. Sometimes they welcomed Hu’Mod and he with open arms and minds, and that thought made him feel great inside. Other times he envisioned it much like when he had left. The dwarves looking down and shunning all magic. He imagined all his family lynching him upon crossing the great stone bridge that spanned the river that ran next his town in the mountains bringing gold along with it.
He kept these feelings to himself as they traveled along the edge of the Woods of the Damned trying to catch the other party of dwarves. He didn’t want to alarm the elf to how the dwarves may receive him, and Grian was sure his father was thinking the same thing.
He turned his head and watched his father. The old man kept pace with them both without complaint, although Grian knew the man had a hip injury from years ago that must make every step painful. He admired the constitution of the older dwarf.
Birell was vigilant in watching the woods on her left, only occasionally stopping to look skyward for the possibility of the returning hawk. So far there was no sign of either the hawk or trouble from the cursed woods.
“Maybe we should go through the Woods. It would at least be more interesting,” Birell joked as she skirted a fallen tree.
“Interesting isn’t always better, lass,” Jyr said. It was the first time he has spoken since they had left.
“True. I was just thinking about how soon our adventure would be over and I would have to go home back to my boring life,” the elf answered.
“You could always stick around with us,” Grian said.
“One or two is bad enough. I can’t imagine what a whole town of dwarves smell like,” she said with a smile.
“I wouldn’t try at humor when we catch up with our clansmen,” Jyr said trying to hide the fact he was offended at the elf’s joke.
“I will keep that in mind, sir dwarf,” she said and gave Jyr a curtsey. The sound of a large something came from the forest to their left. Everyone froze, the hair on the back of their necks raising. Instantly Birell reached out with her senses, looking for signs of the unnatural dangers she had faced last time in the Woods of the Damned. It didn’t take her long to find the source of the noise.
She looked at the image in her mind, at first not understanding what it was she was looking at. Gray flesh wrapped the large white bones of the creature that stood nearly ten feet tall. It walked on all fours with a methodical pace, straight at them. It seemed to her that it wasn’t a mere coincidence that it was drawing near. It must have been sent.
Birell turned to Grian. “Do you see that?” she called out to him.
“Aye lass. Have you encountered a Probos before?” he asked her.
“Is that what it is? I have only heard of them,” she said, her voice sounding a lot stronger than she felt.
“What is a Probos?” Jyr asked working his weapon into his hand.
“It’s a killing machine. In the simplest terms I can think of, it is an unstoppable undead elephant assassin,” Grian said pulling his hammer from his belt. “It has to be sent. I bet Lod’rum is behind this,” Grian explained.
“An elephant…,” Jyr said. “That is undead?”
“Oh yeah, and there is that and the assassin thing,” Jyr said. “You damn kids sure do get into a lot of trouble.”
“We don’t have much time, we have to run,” Birell said. They began to take off down the game trail that they had been following.
“What do you mean by unstoppable anyway?” Jyr asked.
“It means it’s very hard to kill,” Grian said as he heard the sound of a tree falling over somewhere behind them. The trumpet of the deceased pachyderm made them stop dead in their tracks. They couldn’t turn or move their heads, just hear and feel the undead abomination as it stampeded closer through the forest.
“Hu’Mod if you can hear me,” Grian whispered through lips that wouldn’t move. “Guide me to destroy this affront to your most holy name. Grant me the power to break this lock evil has over us and triumph over its champion.”
No words could describe the feeling he got when he felt his gods power grow inside of him. Not since being granted it had he had to draw upon the new power given to him. He felt the evil fading away and noticed his father and the elf both moving their hands. They must have the same pins and needles in their extremities that he felt.
The thunder of the Probos drew closer, they could feel every footfall. It seemed like any second it would trample them into the cold earth below. Grian was the first to be freed. He spun and whispered a phrase he had no idea what it mean. It was in a language he had never heard, let alone spoken. A transparent shield flashed into existence around him and his friend. He stared into the blood red eyes of the ten foot monstrosity bearing down on him.
The creature was only fifty feet away and closing fast when the shield went up, and it really wasn’t a moment too soon. It slammed into the holy shield with tremendous impact, actually pushing the shield and the three people inside back twenty feet until it crashed up against a very large oak tree. The wood splinted on the tree but it held.
The large head of the Probos pushed against the shield making it cave in and bow on the side. Grian’s eyes grew wild as he wondered if the shield would even hold. He poured as much power into it as he could.
“That thing looks pretty unstoppable,” Jyr said. “But doesn’t look very assassin like. Most assassins I have run into have been a little more on the stealthy side.”
“Historically accurate I am sure,” Grian said between clenched teeth. The wood of the giant oak splintered some more.
“This thing won’t hold him long, I fear,” Grian said as he saw the edge of the shield scrape in the dirt a few inches farther back. The Probos’s blood red eyes were focused on the dwarf, its large feet digging into the ground.
“Can things leave the protection?” Birell called out drawing an arrow on her bow.
“I really have no idea,” Grian said. “Maybe you should try with a small stone or a twig first.”
“No time,” the elf replied and let loose. Her arrow flew true through the shield and buried itself into the large forehead of the Probos. If the undead beast felt it, it didn’t let on, just kept relentlessly pushed against the holy barrier. Birell fired several more arrows into it.
“Go for an eye, lass,” Jyr said as he searched the area for anything to throw. “That will slow the bastard down.”
“We need to do something,” Grian said as he lost another foot of ground to the Probo’s attack. The great oak behind them snapped off three feet from the ground and began to fall towards them.
“We have a problem,” Jyr managed to say before the tree came crashing down towards them. The shield held out against the weight of the giant tree, but it also acted as a pivot sending the top crashing down on top of the Probos. It let out a peculiar sound and its eyes crossed as it crumpled to the ground.
The pressure from the beast’s attack subsided but the weight of the tree still pressed against the shield. “We have to move,” Grian said and ushered everyone out from under the giant oak. Once everyone was safe he let the shield go with a sigh and the tree shook the forest as it hit the ground.
“I am so glad that is over with,” Jyr said shaking his head. “I got to admit, I almost doubted your power, son,” the older dwarf said.
Birell walked over to the Probos and pulled her arrows out of its body, placing them back in the quiver Sreg had given her. She turned around and looked at her dwarven friends. “So much for being unstoppable,” she said and smiled at them.
Just then the fallen tree fell to the side and the Probos shook its head, as if to clear its mind. The head had slightly caved in from the oak and the blood red eyes were unfocused as it tried to get its bearings.
“I spoke too soon,” Birell said racing back behind the dwarves. “We need to go.”
“Agreed,” Grian said and turned to run. Together they ran through the forest as fast as they could, Birell, being at home in the forest led them through without having to jump logs or skirt boulders. They ran on for almost a minute before they heard the undead beast trumpet call from behind them.
“It truly is unstoppable!” Grian said between labored breaths. His heavy dwarven frame wasn’t cut out for long distance running. He wondered how his father was making out. He could hear the older dwarf right behind him, cursing as he ran for his life.
“I think it is gaining on us,” Jyr said from behind. “Can ye make another circle?” he asked Grian.
“I don’t think I have the strength left to hold that thing at bay,” Grian said over his shoulder. He heard Birell exclaim somewhere in front of him and turned his head back around to see what happened.
Grian almost missed it, he slid to a stop just before the riverbank. It wasn’t a particularly high bank, only about five feet. The bottom held round stones, smoothed by hundreds of years of water working their way over them. Birell lay at the bottom of it clutching her ankle, sitting in the stream.
“I was too busy looking back at you guys I ran right off the damned bank,” the elf said rather uncharacteristically. Grian couldn’t help but crack a smile until he heard Jyr’s voice behind him.
“It’s getting close. We have to keep moving,” the old dwarf said. They climbed down to help Birell to her feet, but she couldn’t put any weight on the ankle.
“I can heal this,” Grian said.
“Is there time?” Jyr asked.
“There has to be. I am not leaving her behind to face that thing alone,” Grian said.
“I wouldn’t suggest it son,” Jyr replied. Over the top of the bank they climbed down they could make out the distant trees shake from the Probo’s charge. It wouldn’t be long before the beast reached them.
Grian focused his mind, trying to shut out the immediate danger approaching them and concentrating on Birell’s ankle. He placed his hand on her leg and began to ask Hu’Mod for his help, but the magic began to flow through him almost immediately. He felt the energy flow into her, healing the damage caused by the fall. That’s when he finally realized the power Hu’Mod had given to him.
He no longer had to call upon his god for magic. The power was within in. He was drawing on his own strength, his own faith in Hu’Mod. A few seconds later he removed his hand from Birell and sat back and rubbed his head. It still took some energy out of him to heal, and keeping that Probos back with the protection circle had worn him down physically. He feared he wouldn’t have the strength to protect his companions when the beast arrived.
They got to their feet and started to make for the river bank on the other side. The sound of their pursuer loud in their ears. Grian could hear his heart beating in his chest as he clamored up the other side of the dried riverbed. He held out his hand helping first his father, then the elf up. Once on the other side they could make out the Probos as it neared the riverbank. It didn’t show signs of slowing as it approached.
The beast charged right off the far side of the riverbank landing heavily on the stones below. It took a moment to gain its footing. “We need to go, now,” Jyr said and started to run. Birell fired a few arrows into its legs, hoping to slow it down. Grian pushed the elf away from the bank and made her run. He followed her as they headed farther into the forest.
Grian heard the undead animal behind him gaining ground with every heavy step it took. It was almost upon them once again. He saw that Birell and Jyr were approaching a clearing and he hoped there was something that could help them escape the Probo’s wrath. He swore to hunt down Skrat and Lod’rum if he survived this. He turned, just before the clearing and formed the circle of protection again, trying to keep the monstrosity in the forest, it’s struck his barrier at a full charge pushing the shield and Grian back into the clearing.
From behind he heard a lot of commotion, but he dare not look and break concentration as the massive forehead of the beast crashed into the barrier again, sending him back another twenty feet. “Grian, are you ok?” came his father’s voice.
“I will hold him as long as I can. You guys run,” the paladin called out staring the beast in the face. Suddenly voices reached Grian’s ears, somewhat familiar voices. Still he couldn’t tear his concentration away. He focused on the hateful red eye staring back at him as he noticed in his peripheral vision movement on either side of him.
His heart nearly left in his chest as dwarf after dwarf ran around his shield and buried axes and swords into the beast he held at bay with his holy magic. They had found the dwarven party on its way home.
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