The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 21
by Joe Solmo
Grian watched as his clansmen came to his rescue. He found tears forming as his heart swelled with pride that he never knew he had for the dwarven people. He never felt like he had belonged and once he learned what he was and how the dwarves felt about such a thing he turned his back on the people that turned their back on him. He wrapped the Probos in the shield he had formed, like a fish at the market. Wrapped the shield around it inside out so things could go into it, but couldn’t get out.
He held the beast as the dwarves did their best to make the undead juggernaut looks like a porcupine. Even with the extra help the beast was proving too hard to kill. The thing thrashed around pushing the entire barrier with it, and the dwarves that stood just outside of it.
Grian looked at the beast, it still had its blood red eyes focused on him. It simply didn’t care that there were dozens of dwarves poking it with weapons, it had only one goal. There was no doubt now that Lod’rum was behind this beast’s rage.
He felt the beast push forwards gain towards him and felt his feet slide through the knee high grass of the clearing that held the dwarven camp. The power of the creature was nearly unimaginable. He tried to push back, but it was like pushing on a brick wall.
The Probos managed to raise its rotting trunk into the air and let out a trumpet call that froze the dwarves dead in their tracks. Grian used that moment to push more power into the shield and he began to gain ground. The barrier became stronger and began to constrict on the undead elephant.
“Be gone fowl beast. Bother us no more!” Grian called out as he took a step closer. He could see the barrier beginning to contort its body. The thing never took his eye off him, it held a steady gaze of hatred the entire time. “Lod’rum, Skrat, whichever cast this beast at me. If you hear me coming. I won’t stop until I smite your evil from this world!” he called out and stepped again.
With each step gained, Grian also gained confidence in himself. Every step his power grew within him. The beast made a last effort to push past the barrier and almost succeeded as its bulk lurched forward and was close enough that if it drew breath, Grian would have felt it on his face.
“I banish you!” Grian said an opened his hands up wide. He slammed them together into a thunderous clap that sent a shockwave of holy magic out in front of him. The force of the blow and the barrier crushing down was too much for the Probos. Its body collapsed in on itself, first breaking bones, then turning them to powder almost instantly.
Five seconds later the Probos was the size of a small dog, wrapped in its own flesh. It exploded from the pressure as the barrier spell failed and rotten flesh shot out onto Grian’s face. Once the creature was gone, all the dwarves were free from the paralyzation spell. They looked wide-eyed upon their lost clansman.
Grian froze in fear. How would they treat him? What damage did the prophet do when he was among them? He waited for someone else to make the first move. The tension was growing by the second.
Sensing a dwarven stubborn situation taking form Birell walked up to her friend and placed her hand on his shoulder, giving him support. Grian turned to her and gave her a smile. Jyr, not wanting to be outdone also approached Grian.
“Hail my son, the hero!” the older dwarf called out raised Grian’s hand over his head like the winner of a prize fight.
A red bearded dwarf approached from the crowd. He looked older than Grian remembered. It was his father’s best friend, Byion. He approached the group and stood there looking at Grian and the elf, before turning his attention to Jyr. “This be your boy? This is Grian?” he asked.
“Aye, and he saved yer arses,” Jyr said back. Grian watched as Byion reached into his leather vest and fumbled around for something. When the other dwarf pulled his hand out, Grian had to fight the urge to flinch.
The man pulled out a coin purse and opened the drawstring. He couldn’t out ten gold coins. “Here ye go,” he said and handed them to Jyr.
“Thank ye, Byion,” Jyr said and pocketed the coins.
“What is going on here?” Grian asked, looking confused.
“I won,” Jyr said with a smile and patted his son on the shoulder before walking back the other way towards the dwarven camp. “You guys have any ale?”
“You won what?” Grian asked, but his father was out of ear shot. The other dwarf turned and walked back to the other dwarves.
Over the course of the next few days, most of the dwarves warmed up to Grian. Even the most stubborn dwarf had to admit the power Grian used to vanquish the evil that was attacking them, although the verdict was still out on whether the fact that he brought that evil into their camp should be remembered.
Grian started to recite the teachings of Hu’Mod he read in the temple every night, to make sure he didn’t forget them. On the second night he had two dwarves sit and listen to him, when he was done they asked questions and he answered them to the best of his ability. He felt awkward openly talking to the dwarves about not only Hu’Mod, but the power he held in his god’s name.
By the fourth night he had half a dozen dwarves listen to him after the evening meal. With each sermon he gave he gained confidence that he was doing the right thing. He never went looking for people to preach too, he only spoke to those that came to him. He took a night off to help heal minor injuries that the dwarves had. Even though it was an old wound he even fixed his father’s hip injury.
A week later found them in sight of the mountains that Grian’s clan called home. Home. What a strange word for Grian to say. He still had mixed feelings about going home, even with the mostly warm welcome the dwarven party had for him now. They all swore that when they returned they would back him one hundred percent.
It was surreal passing through the familiar landmarks he remembered from his childhood. First, as he was growing up the place reminded him of the innocence and fun he and his friends shared exploring the forests around the village. He remembered fishing in the streams that flowed together near the entrance to town.
He also remembered the feeling of shame as he was practically ostracized from his clan, and stole away into the night, thinking he would never see his family again. He knew what they would think if they knew his secret. All except for his father. True, he sent Grian away, but he didn’t it just as much to protect him as shun him. He wondered about his mother. Had her hair turned from the fiery red like his or has it turned to gray?
He looked at his father, marching alongside of him. He could see the silvered streaks that invaded his father’s darker red hair. More evident were the lines in his face. Grian hadn’t taken a moment to study his father’s face. He could see the years piling up on the older dwarf. He wondered how the years had been on his father. How long had it been since he left home? He couldn’t remember.
They passed over a stone bridge, built by the first generation dwarves to settle the area. Their superior stonework needed very little maintenance, even now. Grian remembered fishing off the side, with his feet dangling towards the deep slow current that flowed down the Black River, as it was known to them. Stoneybrook intersected with the Black River at the village, once past the bridge Grian was practically home.
He ran over various scenarios in his head on how his homecoming would go. Would his mother hug him? If he thought hard he could still fell her arms wrapped around him and smell her sweet bread cooking.
Soon a large sign, hung from an arch loomed in the distance. This was the actual boundary of the village of Moun’him, loosely translated into common as Mountain Home. The sign had weathered a lot since Grian last passed under it, he thought as he could barely make out the letters. The sign’s wood was gray, and the paint mostly faded. Something about that bothered Grian, but he didn’t know why.
He halted just before passing under the sign and looked at his boots. Another step and his feet would be on the cobblestones that paved the road into town. To the younger dwarf, it felt as if the beginning of the paving stones was a large barrier. The rest of the dwarves halted behind him, and as is their stoic nature, didn’t say a word.
Fortunately for Grian, Birell was an elf, and didn’t have such emotional hang-ups. She placed her hand on his broad shoulder, knowing exactly what he was facing. It was part of the reason she didn’t go home after returning the Keystone. Karnak had escaped her. At least that is the way her father would look at it. Even if he did die in the Forest of the Damned. Being a bounty hunter was the elven nation was a stressful job, but it was even more so when your father ran that nation.
She hadn’t told anyone after leaving home, nor carried anything that could identify her with the royal house. She never wanted to put her father in a compromising position. Her older siblings, her two brothers, Felwin, and Vailo were in line for the throne, and her older sister, Hylwyn would marry a price from another elven nation.
Her whole life Birell felt like a throwaway. She didn’t belong in the capitol any more than the farmers that produced its grain. She was surprised how easily it was her father allowed her to train with weapons and then join the bounty hunters guild. It just concreted the way she felt about her station in life. She didn’t want to return home to be the wild child of King Jolyn, a mockery of the court. Out here in the real world she had met real friends. People that liked her for being herself.
She looked down at Grian and sympathized with him. Grian placed his hand on top of hers, and gave it a squeeze, to let her know he knew she was there for him. He turned back towards the dwarves, placing the rising smoke from the hearth fires of the village behind him.
“Today I return home. Something I had never believed would happen. It is the support of you dwarves that had made this possible. I could never truly show the appreciation I have for you louts,” he said and smiled. All bearded grins responded. “No matter what happens once we enter the village, I want ye to know, I thank ye,” he said and turned away to hide the tear forming in his eye.
“It will be fine lad. Most of the village’s fighters are right here, and support ye. What can they do?” Jyr said and raised his weapon in the air. The rest of the dwarves saluted him in the same way. Grian nodded to them and turned towards Birell.
“You were there from the beginning lass. I thank ye the most. You have been a rock for me to lean on since we met. I think of ye as a sister. You are always welcome, no matter where I call home,” Grian said.
“Well said, for a dwarf,” Birell said and gave him a smile. “Look, this is no great barrier. You have faced worse,” she said and jumped back and forth from the worn wagon tracks of the dirt road to the paved stones of the village. “Now let’s get inside that village. I need a bath.” The elf stopped and turned towards Grian. “The dwarves do bathe, don’t they?” she asked. Grian laughed in response and crossed the barrier onto the paving stone.
“No really? I would like to know?” Birell said. The rest of the dwarves joined in the laughter. “What am I getting myself into?” she asked and followed the bearded procession into the village.
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