The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 24
by Joe Solmo
Grian woke the next morning feeling physically drained. The adrenaline rush of bringing his friend Kregas back to life was over and he was feeling the effects. It took him several minutes to shake the cobwebs in his head and rise from his bed. He could tell by the angle of the light from the window that is was late morning. If that wasn’t enough of a clue, he could hear his mother washing the breakfast dishes. His stomach rumbled to remind him he hadn’t eaten since the night before.
When he approached the kitchen, he found Birell sitting there with Kregas. Jyr sat at the head of the table with a flagon and pipe. Grian stood in the doorway unnoticed and listened to his best friend’s account of what happened. Kregas made Grian out to be a hero, and he blushed, even though no one knew he was there.
“It was a miracle. An honest and true sign that Hu’Mod has come back to the dwarves,” Kregas said.
“No doubt soon. I saw the bastard with me own eyes,” Jyr said and took a long pull off whatever was in the flagon.
“I know, and others have spoken about Grian’s powers, but this is proof for the rest of us. Even my father had to admit it was a miracle,” Kregas said and looked down at the table.
“How is your father doing?” Birell asked putting her hand on the dwarf’s shoulder. Grian smiled. The elf was such a compassionate person, it seemed odd to him that she used to be a bounty hunter. Birell seemed like such a polar opposite from the typical bounty hunters Grian had run into in the past.
“My father never came home last night,” Kregas said. “I was hoping Grian could help me find him today. He was definitely shaken last night. Mother is worried,” Kregas replied.
“I’ll help ye find him,” Grian said and stepped into the room. He noticed the whole room broke into smiles.
“I will make you something to eat,” his mother said.
“No need mother. I will grab something out. I wouldn’t want to dirty more dishes,” Grian said and turned toward his childhood friend. “Hamas never came home?”
“No. I went to his office first thing this morning too. It doesn’t look like he had been there. Those are really the only two places he goes. Well that and the tavern,” Kregas said.
“Well it just so happens we have the best elven tracker here with us. Isn’t that right, Birell,” Grian said and smiled at the elf.
“I will do my best,” she responded to praise with a smile she couldn’t help.
“Thank you. Thank both of you, and thank Hu’mod for returning and bringing you back to us,” Kregas said to his friend.
“Shall we go?” Grian asked and grabbed an apple that was on the counter. He really was hungry.
“You have been away from home far too long son,” Jyr said. “Eating a raw apple like that before it can be made into a hard cider.”
“It’s the elf’s influence,” Grian said back with a laugh and headed for the door.
Once outside in the bright sunlight, Grian started to feel better. Energy returned to him as they made their way across the village center where Kregas was attacked the night before. There was nothing there to show that the attack took place. The trio made their way to Hama’s office to see if he had checked in today.
When they entered the building they were greeted by a dwarf woman sitting behind a desk. “He isn’t in. Fill out this form with your complaint or come back later,” she said without looking up. Kregas cleared his throat, and the woman looked up.
“Oh pardon me, I didn’t know it was you,” the woman said.
“Have you seen father?” Kregas asked.
“No, I am sorry. He hasn’t been in all morning. That is pretty odd now that I think about it,” she said.
“Is his office unlocked?” Kregas asked.
“I wouldn’t know. I don’t go in there unless he is in,” the woman said and took a parchment from the left side of the large oaken desk, she stamped it and placed it on a pile on the right side.
Kregas walked over to his father’s office and turned the handle. The door swung open and the trio went inside the constable’s office. There was a line of filing cabinets along one wall, labeled alphabetically. Grian was surprised how much paper work went into the constable’s job. He really didn’t see Hamas as the scholarly type. Maybe that was what the woman in the other room was for.
The opposite wall from the files, held a large armoire. It had a large iron lock, a masterpiece of dwarven smithing, securing it. “That’s where my father keeps his weapons, and any evidence he collects,” Kregas said. Grian looked over the papers on the constable’s desk. They were in two baskets, one said open and the other closed. Birell took a paper off the top of the open basket and began to read.
“You can read dwarven?” Kregas asked.
“I can get the most of it,” Birell said. “It’s been a while since I learned it in school. For instance, I can see Grian’s name all over this one,” she finished.
“What?” the two dwarves said and came around the desk. The elf held the paper out for them to read.
“He was keeping tabs on me,” Grian said. “Your father was following me around.”
“He did think you weren’t who you claimed to be. He didn’t believe in Hu’mod. He believed the prophet when he was here,” Kregas said.
“We should have killed him the first time we caught him,” Birell said angrily. “The prophet is still causing us grief, even from the grave.”
“Not from the grave,” came a raspy voice from behind them. The trio spun around to face the speaker.
“Hello again, Paladin,” came a voice from the silhouette in the doorway. The morning light framing the twisted neck and head hanging sideways.
“It can’t be,” Grian said.
“Impossible,” Birell spoke.
“Both incorrect. You should have known my lord has providence over death. You and your feeble Hu’Mod cannot kill me. He has tried and failed. Much like you will on this fool mission to bring his flawed rhetoric back to the dwarves. True power comes with the night, the darkness, fear. The light only illuminates the hatred bred in dark places,” the prophet spoke.
“The light illuminates the truth. It shines on the holy. You know nothing of the light, or of Hu’Mod. All you know are the lies spoken by Lod’rum.
The prophet slid backwards, never moving his feet. “Come my new pet,” he said and raised his hands. The slumped form of the dwarf woman behind the desk rose, her skin pale. She moved awkwardly towards the doorway. “I will see your death, this day. Meet me behind the windmill and we will see whose god is more powerful,” the prophet said and the room filled with smoke. Grian parted his hands and the smoke separated, but the prophet and woman were gone.
“Why does he haunt me?” Grian said and punched the wooden wall. He sighed, ashamed of his lack of control.
“Whenever a person stands for something important to them, there will be another person who will delight in ruining it for them,” Birell replied, looking at the dwarf’s hand. “Nothing broken.”
He nodded at the elf. “Sometimes it is hard to believe the wisdom that comes from an elf’s mouth,” he said and started to smile. Birell couldn’t help but smile as well. “I guess the next step is meeting him behind the windmill,” the dwarf finished.
“You know this is a trap, right?” Birell asked him as they exited the building.
“Trap or no, what choice does he have,” Kregas said from behind. “Do you think the prophet did something with my father?”
“We will make him answer for it if he did,” Grian said with uncharacteristic hatred in his voice. Birell stopped and turned towards him.
“Are you okay, Grian?” she asked.
“Yes, it’s just this so-called prophet. He is messing with my hometown. I guess I feel more kinship to me kin than I thought,” the dwarf responded.
“You’re going to make be blush,” Kregas said and patted his childhood friend on the back. “I will meet you there, Grian. I have to take care of one more thing first.”
Grian watched Kregas jog towards the other side of town, where the artisan shops were set up. He placed his hand on the large hammer he carried and felt reassured from the hefty weight of the head. Back when he was first learning of his power he found it easier to channel it through the weapon, and he always felt safer with it by his side.
“You know I will watch your back,” Birell said. “Are you sure you are fully recovered from bringing your friend back to life?”
“The only thing I am sure of is that Hu’Mod wouldn’t set this obstacle in front of me if he didn’t think I could overcome it. I have to have faith in his faith in me,” Grian said and thought a moment. “I didn’t realize it but I am starting to sound like a real holy man!”
“Indeed! I didn’t want to say anything and scare you,” Birell replied and smiled. “My little dwarf buddy is growing up.”
“Let’s get this over with,” Grian said and headed out of the village. They traveled in silence. The dwarf carried an air or urgency and seriousness about him as he made his was across the dwarven settlement, his gaze didn’t waver from the spinning windmill blades ahead.
Birell took a silence inventory of her weapons and tried to get the lay of the land. It was a fool’s errand to walk into a trap, but she knew she couldn’t deter the stubborn dwarf once his mind was made it. She would do her best to keep her friend out of trouble, no matter what danger he faced.
They rounded a large two story stone building that housed most of the flour and grain used by the windmill. The large stone tower stood in front of them, its shadow fell on them like the weight of the battle they knew was about to begin.
There was no immediate sign of the prophet, or his latest victim, so they rounded the building from fifty feet out, wary of an ambush. Grian rested his hand on his weapon, ready to draw at the first sign of danger. He was focusing Hu’Mod’s power into it already, he could feel the electric energy flowing from his hand into the worked wooden handle.
The woman from Hamas’s office stood on the lawn that stretched to the river. A circle of dried dead grass immediately surrounded her feet, as if her presence there killed it. Her face raised up to face him. In the prophet’s voice it spoke. “I didn’t think you would show, Paladin. You will die this day, and become property of Lod’rum.”
“Enough tricks, foul thing. Come out and face me. Have you no honor?” Grian called out, scanning the area for the prophet.
“What use does the dead have for honor?” the prophet’s voice spoke from the mouth of the woman. A wicked smile crossed her pale face, and a black viscous fluid flowed freely from between her lips and struck the ground with a hiss.
“She doesn’t look right,” Birell said drawing her bow.
“You wanted to have done with me? Then let it begin,” Grian said and pulled his hammer from his belt. “Face me!” he called out.
An evil laugh came from seemingly every direction as the prophet walked out from behind the mill. “You will not leave this place alive,” he said and began to chant making an upwards motion with his hands.
“Maybe not, but I will take you with me,” Grian said and raised his hammer over his head. He heard Birell draw an arrow, waiting for his signal.
The ground shook suddenly, and the prophet smiled. “Your fate was sealed the moment you were born. You and all the living will suffer,” the prophet said.
“No,” Grian responded. At first Birell thought it a feeble response to such a taunt, but then she saw the horrified look on her friends face. “It can’t be,” the dwarf finished.
“What is it?” Birell asked. The dwarf didn’t answer but she saw what was horrifying him. Behind the prophet were lines of stones. Birell thought nothing of them at first until one was pushed aside by a skeletal hand coming from the earth.
“He is going to use my ancestors against me,” Grian replied, his hands shaking uncertainly. He lowered the hammer. “The monster.”
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