The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 23
by Joe Solmo
Grian raced out the front door of his childhood home in search of the scream. Rectangles of lantern light spilled from the doorways of other dwarven homes, only broken by the silhouettes of people who came to investigate. Birell followed the dwarf as he ran towards the village center.
There was already a crowd there when Grian arrived. He had to push through the curious dwarves to see what the commotion was about. Laying on the ground was the body of Kregas, his face looked so pale in the moonlight. “What happened?” Grian asked.
A dwarf looked up at Grian, his wrinkled face ensconced in a white beard. “Lad, we don’t know he was fine less than an hour ago when I was closing up shop. I was on the way home for dinner and found him lying there,” the old dwarf said.
“Was it you that screamed out?” Birell asked.
“No lad, it was his mother. She was with me. I was walking her home from the bazaar,” he said and pointed towards Kregas’s mother, who sat on the ground nearly catatonic. Grian was surprised how dirty the woman’s dress looked. The woman had always kept herself and her family clean, Grian thought.
“Anything else you can tell me, Plairor?” Grian asked. The old man shook his head no and shrugged.
“Excuse me,” Birell said and crouched down in front of the woman, but she didn’t respond.
“Vonette,” the old dwarf said and took her hand. She looked up at him, but it didn’t look like she knew what was going on. Suddenly the man withdrew his hand, and Vonette’s fell back to her lap with a wet slap. Plairor held his hand up into the moonlight with a confused look on his grizzled face. His wrinkled and gnarled hand was covered in a thick, dark red liquid. “Is this?” he began to ask.
“Blood,” Birell said gripping the man’s wrist. “Get us a lantern over here!” the elf called out to the surrounding dwarves. It didn’t take long for the scene of the crime to be illuminated. There was a large pool of blood next to Kregas. Vonette was sitting in the pool.
“Vonette is it? Please come with me,” Birell said helping the dwarf to her feet. She let the elf lead her a few steps away. Birell paused there and looked back at the scene and looked at Grian. They had both seen this thing before. Grian looked up at the elf and whispered the name she didn’t want to hear. “Skrat.” She nodded back to him and led Vonette out of the village center. Plairor chased after them, concerned for her.
Grian crouched next to his childhood friend, now dead. He fought a tear as he pushed the black hair from his friends face. He said a little prayer to Hu’Mod to protect his friend in the afterlife.
“Out of the way!” came a gruff voice from behind as Hamas pushed his way through the crowd.
“Hamas, you might want to let someone else investigate this one,” a voice from the crowd said.
“What nonsense is this? I am the constable,” he said as he broke through the barrier of the crowd and took in the scene. “Kregas?” he asked and dropped to his knees with a splash into the pool of blood. “What happened,” the constable asked, his tearing eyes raised to look at Grian. “You. You did this to my boy,” he said, the sadness leaving his face and being replaced with anger.
“No Hamas. I just got here. I did not do this to him, but I think I know who did,” Grian said and held his dead friends hand.
“Was it the elf? I will avenge him, do not doubt that,” Hamas said placing his hand on his club on his belt.
“It was a wizard, named Skrat. A human. He has aligned himself with Lod’rum. He is the enemy of good. An enemy of Hu”mod,” Grian said.
“Now is not the time for your propaganda, Paladin,” he said, the last part with a sneer. Grian was shocked at the constable’s reaction.
“You brought this to him. You know this murderer?” Hamas said.
“I had no idea. I couldn’t have. How would I know he would follow me here? I didn’t know where he was,” Grian said. He looked around at the crowd for some support. Two of the dwarves that had travelled with him backed his story. They had not seen Skrat while in Grian’s company.
Grian looked down. He had felt something in his friend’s hand. He couldn’t explain it. It felt electric. Energetic. It was there one second and then it was gone.
“I want this dwarf arrested,” Hamas called out. “Where is my deputy?”
“Wait, Constable,” Grian said and placed both of his hands over his dead friends. “At least let me say goodbye to Kregas.”
“Make it quick,” the constable said. “The thought of you running free while my son lays there stone dead makes me sick,” he finished.
Grian closed his eyes and tried to shut out the commotion around him. He called out for guidance to Hu’Mod, or Moose, or whatever his god called himself. He asked for an answer to help with the situation with the constable. He felt the energy again, this time a little stronger. He tried to focus on it, trying to figure out what it was. He narrowed in on it and tried to grasp onto the feeling.
He latched onto it, from his mind and turned it over to examine. He couldn’t tell how he knew, but somehow he knew it was a spark of life. There was hope for his friend. Instantly he tried to push his strength into that little bit of energy he felt. He flooded his friend with his own essence, feeling weaker each second that passed. He felt sweat drip off his brow and his nose from the exertion. He never had done something like this before, it was different than the healing he was used to doing.
He felt the energy grow stronger. He could tell the second his friend’s heart began to beat again. He felt the lungs fill with air as his friend sat up in shock. Grian heard the gasps from the crowd around him, except for Hamas who sat there totally still. Grian opened his eyes and looked at his friend sitting there staring at him. He couldn’t help but smile.
“What witchcraft is this?” Hamas called out accusingly.
“Father?” Kregas asked.
“Are you really my son?” Hamas asked.
“Of course he is. I managed to bring him back from the brink of death,” Grian said. “He wasn’t quite ready to pass on, the stubborn bastard.” Both Grian and Kregas smiled at the constable.
“You really brought my son back from the dead?” Hamas asked astonished at first then grew angry. “If this is some kind of trick, I will have your head.”
“No trick father, it is me,” Kregas said and tried to stand. Grian helped his childhood friend to his feet.
“Do you know what happened to you?” Hamas asked. Pulling a small parchment pad and a piece of charcoal from his jerkin.
“I saw a man. He wore robes. He was frail, young I think, for a human. He said he was called here to take care of something,” Kregas said shaking his head to clear the cobwebs.
“Called you say?” Grian asked.
“Aye,” Kregas replied.
“Never mind that. Did you see the youth’s face?” the constable asked. “Can you describe it to me?”Kregas said with disappointment in his voice. His father nodded and put his hand on his shoulder to console him.
“What happened next?” Grian asked.
“The human held out a hand towards me and spoke a few words I couldn’t understand. It must have been magic. The next thing I know Grian brought me back,” the young dwarf explained.
“Magic,” Hamas said and broke the stick of charcoal in half. His accusing eyes fell on Grian.
“You can’t believe it was me,” Grian said.
“Well we will see,” Hamas said and looked at the crowd. “Please disperse, back to your homes now. Kregas is fine. I will fill you in with details tomorrow,” he said. The dwarves reluctantly went back to their homes, mumbling to themselves.
Birell arrived just as the crowd left. The constable was giving her dirty looks. “A young frail human in a robe, eh son,” Hamas said circling around Birell. “In the dark an elf in a robe could be mistaken for a young human.”
“You got to be kidding me,” Birell said surprised.
“Now I have to investigate every angle. Do you have a robe or cloak with you, elf?” Hamas asked.
“Of course I have a cloak,” Birell explained.
“You can’t possibly think…” Grian said.
“I am the authority here, Grian. I never left my people behind to meddle in things dwarves have no business meddling in. I appreciate you helping my son. He must have been knocked out. It’s the only explanation,” the constable said.
“He was dead,” Grian replied. “Through Hu’Mod’s power I brought him back. You witnessed it with your own eyes!”
“The lantern light can play tricks on the eyes,” Hamas said and looked towards the side of village where his office was. “You are free to go, for now. Don’t leave town,” Hamas said to Birell and headed that way.
“Come on Kregas. We will walk you home. Your mother will be so happy to see your ugly face upright,” Grian said and patted his friend on the back.
The darkness swallowed up the town shortly after the village center was cleared and once again the night ruled. Many things move in the darkness. Some of those things are trivial, harmless, others can be dangerous. On this night there was something dangerous prowling the dwarf village. A creature no one had seen for a thousand years. Scales covered its hide as the long reptilian tail stood out for balance. A low growl left its throat as it watched a lone dwarf approach in the darkness.
“Hush now,” came the voice of the rider. He placed a thin, pale hand on the beast’s back, soothing him. “He is the one that called us here, after all,” the rider finished and slid from the saddle that adorned the beast’s back.
“Come forward, dwarf. It is safe I have a camouflaging spell. No one will see or hear us,” the rider said. The dwarf let out a sigh of relief and looked back to the village one more time before stepping into the confines of the spell. “You are the one who called me here?”
“Yes. He is here flaunting Hu’Mod, just like you said he might. I sent the raven you left here as soon as possible,” Hamas said.
“Good. You did well. You will be rewarded. We can’t have the chaos that the Hu’Mod nonsense would bring. Do you know where he is staying?” the rider said.
“He is staying with his parents on the far side of the town. In the red house. He has an elf female with him. Could be trouble,” Hamas said.
“Not for one like me,” the rider said and pulled his hood down revealing his face in the moonlight. His young human features showed a wicked smile on his face.
“One question. Did you attack my son?” Hamas asked.
“It was necessary to injure or kill a villager. The danger of housing a Paladin of Hu’Mod must be shown,” the man said.
“But, it was my son. Why punish me?” Hamas asked.
“If you don’t like my methods then contact my superior and tell him Skrat is doing a bad job,” the young man said and let out a wicked laugh. Hamas cowered from that laugh, shivering in the cold void of emotion in it.
“Of course you know best,” Hamas said and turned to go.
“One more thing constable, I am waiting for another to arrive,” the mage said as he ran a hand down the scaled back of his mount. “Do not warn them that I am coming. It would be very…unfortunate for your family if I found out you spoiled my fun,” Skrat said.
Hamas thought the beast smiled as well as the mage. “I wouldn’t think of it,” Hamas said and walked away. He didn’t look back over his shoulder. He tried to convince himself it was because he was brave, but in reality he didn’t want to see the man or his mount again. Not only the look of pure evil was enough to cause him to flee, but the guilt he felt from bringing this evil to his town. Could Grian be on the good side?
The thought of that made Hamas angry. He was so sure he was doing the right thing until he saw his son’s attacker. The Prophet told him there would be hard decisions and even harder times ahead. He preached to the whole village, but he did promise everything would work out for the best in the end. What would have happened to his son if Grian didn’t work his magic on him? Would he be digging his own son’s grave?
He knew his family would be killed if he told Grian about the agent of the Prophet, Skrat is what he called himself. He heard Grian say the name. He knew. Maybe it wouldn’t be a surprise if he told him, but he had to be smart about it. Hamas sighed in the dark and headed home to a glass of brandy and his pipe. It was time to do some heavy dwarf thinking.
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