The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 25
by Joe Solmo
The anger flowed into the Paladin of Hu’Mod as he watched the atrocity of what the prophet was doing. The dead were sacred to dwarves. The prophet knew that being one himself. Grian took a step closer to the monster in front of him.
“You would raise my kin against me? Is nothing sacred to you? You are no dwarf!” he called out, spitting the last sentence with such venom even the prophet flinched.
“The dead are property of my Master. The Great Lod’rum. They no longer belong to you,” the evil dwarf fired back with a sneer.
“I will see you destroyed,” Grian said and raised his hammer and slammed it into the ground. A flash of white energy shot from the head of the hammer across the ground, as fast as lightning, but arced around the prophet. A protective circle of darkness flared around the evil dwarf, and he let out a laugh.
“Your petty god has no power over death!” the prophet called out and motioned forward with his hands. The reanimated dwarves began to lumber towards Grian.
“You put false faith in the darkness, vile being! The light always chases it away. Hu’Mod gives me the knowledge to illuminate,” Grian said charging toward the prophet. Just then an arrow whizzed by his ear. He turned just in time to see Birell leap from the roof of the Inn and land loosing another arrow from a crouching position. Grian turned back towards his enemy and saw two animated dwarves laying on the ground with arrows in their heads, twitching.
Grian let out a scream as he brought his hammer down on the dome of darkness surrounding the prophet. The light and darkness collided in a thunderous wave of energy sending both dwarves flying in the air from the concussion. Grian hit the ground hard and his vision blurred. He tried to get to his feet but couldn’t stand up straight. Desperate, he looked around for the prophet through the haze. He gave a silent prayer to Hu’Mod for guidance.
He could hear the prophet mocking him, it seemed he was everywhere. “Birell, are you there?” he called out, looking for his friend. There was only silence in response.
“I have taken your friend. She is only unconscious at this point, but she will die unless you turn yourself over to Lod’rum,” the prophet said.
“Your dark god will never have me!” Grian called out. “Birell are you there?” this time he heard a moan coming from the windmill’s direction. He stumbled in that direction as he tried to clear his head. He could hear the shambling of his ancestors as they drew closer, seemingly surrounding him.
“Birell, it will be alright. Hu’Mod will protect us,” Grian called out.
“Hu’Mod couldn’t even protect himself. If it wasn’t for the faulty design of the Keystone your god would still be imprisoned in that big oaf’s body. I won’t forget what he did to me!” the prophet said pointing at his neck. Grian could make out the prophet now, standing over a groaning Birell who was clutching her shoulder. Blood, trickled between her slender elf fingers and she winced in pain.
Now, the Paladin could see the army of the dead that surrounded him, making a circle about fifty feet wide. They stood eerily still, dark voids where eyes once were staring hatred for the living into him. He recognized several of the faces from his childhood, but so far didn’t see any immediate family.
Grian bent and picked up his hammer and holstered it. “What you have done here, is an abomination,” the Paladin said stepping closer to the enemy.
“Not unlike what your god has made you,” came a familiar voice from behind Grian. He closed his eyes and let out a sigh.
“It doesn’t have to be this way Skrat. I know there is good inside of you,” the dwarf said, turning to face the mage.
“Your optimism is unfounded, dwarf. Maybe once, I was confused, but now Lod’rum has cleared my mind. Hu’Mod has nothing for me. Power comes from fear. Soon everyone on this despicable world will fear Lod’rum, and fear me!” the mage said and reached in his robes. He pulled out a golden dagger with a red ruby in the hilt. The dagger shot from his hand fast towards Grian, he instinctively put up a shield and deflected the blade.
“Your aim is false, like the promises of your god,” Grian said to the mage.
“Is it? Maybe you should turn around,” Skrat said and let out a laugh that raised the hair on Grian’s neck. The dwarf felt a sinking feeling as he turned and saw Birell laying there with the golden dagger embedded in her chest. The red ruby began to glow.
“Her life force is being drained from her body. She now belongs to Lod’rum,” Skrat said and joined the prophet in a laugh. The dagger shot back to Skrat’s hand and he tucked it back under his robe. “Give up, Paladin. There is no hope. Your friend is dead. You are alone,” the mage said.
“No! Birell!” he called out and then whispered to Hu’Mod for guidance, a sign, anything, but nothing happened. He sighed and dropped to his knees. Everyone around him was getting hurt. Maybe he should just give up and save his people from disaster.
“He is not alone,” came a voice from the roof as the whistle of a crossbow bolt sounded out. Skrat dropped to his knees as the arrow pierced his side.
“Hamas!” Grian called out and turned on Skrat. “My people will fight evil to the death Skrat. It’s called loyalty, something you wouldn’t understand. Something your brothers knew about.”
“Kill,” Skrat said slowly, and the army of dead dwarves began to march and close in the circle. Grian heard a yell and a thud and saw his childhood friend Kregas standing next to him gripping a nasty looking battleaxe. The dwarf nodded to Grian and smiled. The Paladin nearly lost his breath as he saw his friend’s eyes turn white.
“I have heard his call as well,” Kregas said and swung his axe. A wave of white energy shot out dropping a dozen reanimated dwarves. Arrows rained down from the rooftops and Grian saw the faces of those that sat around his fire on the way home listening to his teachings and stories of Hu’Mod. He turned towards Skrat.
“Give me that dagger, mage,” He said slowly walking towards Skrat. The anger in his voice almost making the mage cower.
“Your friends will not be enough. Everyone that drops becomes mine,” Skrat called back to the dwarf, but was backing away just as fast as Grian was approaching.
The sounds of battle dinned behind Grian as he focused on his enemy. He could hear Kregas locked in a fight with the prophet, and the sounds of the dwarves fighting the undead. Secretly he swelled with pride as the dwarves rose to the occasion. “Give me the dagger and I will speak with Hu’Mod for you. Last chance,” Grian said, focusing power into his fists as he closed the space between them.
“You will never see that elf again. Those around you will die,” Skrat said and began to turn around.
“Karak!” Grian called out. He didn’t know what the word meant, but the power shot from his hands and struck the mage in the back, sending him flying into the river that flowed around the town. Grian watched as the mage began to drift down river, the arrow that pierced his side sticking up like the mast of a ship. He ran down to the bank. “NO!” he called out, thinking about his friend Birell.
He turned back towards the fight and was surprised to see the dwarves winning. Most of the dead were on the ground and a squad of dwarves were poking the Prophet with spears. Kregas jogged down to the water.
“Where is the mage?” he asked.
“Down river, with Birell’s life force,” Grian said. “You know we need to talk.”
“Later, let’s get that dagger,” Kregas said and ran down the bank of the river. “We need to find him before Altios Falls.”
Grian ran after his friend as they followed the current of the river. A mile outside of town there was a waterfall that would send the mage falling seventy feet and probably out of reach. He had to catch him before that.
“Hu’Mod, give me the power to save my friend,” Grian called out. Suddenly he raised off the ground and gained speed.
“Are you flying?” Kregas called out between labored breaths trying to keep pace.
“It appears so,” Grian replied.
“How?” Kregas asked. “That looks fun.”
“I don’t know,” Grian replied and then screamed. Kregas dropped his axe and leapt into the air grabbing his friend around the waist.
“I am coming with you!” he said holding on for life.
Grian had to struggle to keep going along the bank, the extra weight of Kregas made it difficult to steer. In the distance he could just make out the red robes of the mage twirling in the rapid current. He steered his way above the water, his heart pumping in fear of dropping into the turbulent water below. He imagined being bashed upon the rocks that flew by under him.
“Slow down, we are going to pass him!” Kregas called out.
“I can’t,” Grian replied as they gap between them and the mage closed.
“I know I am going to regret this,” Kregas said and reached out with a hand and grabbed the arrow that was lodged in the mage. They spun around and it slowed them down, nearly yanking Kregas’s arm from its socket. He called out in pain and lost his grip on Grian.
The cold water shocked Kregas, but somehow he held on to the mage and managed to get his feet under him. The water wasn’t deep, but flowed fast. It took a few panicked seconds for him to get control and drag the seemingly unconscious mage to the shore. He looked up in time to see Grian facing him with a scared look and still heading down river. “At least that fallen tree will slow him down,” Kregas said as he watched his childhood friend slam into the log and crash into the river.
The Paladin pulled himself from the river, water cascaded down his drenched, red beard onto his boots. His normally bouncy red hair lay flat on his head. Kregas did everything he could not to laugh, but it wasn’t enough. At first it was just a snicker and Grian opened his eyes wide at his friend’s amusement. Soon the guffaws started and Grian stormed over to his childhood friend, sloshing with each step and punched him square in his bulbous nose.
The force of the blow sent Kregas overtop of the mage and onto the bank of the river, still laughing the whole time, even as blood began to flow from his nose. Kregas’s laugh had always been contagious and soon even Grian found himself laughing. He reach down and helped his friend to his feet.
“That was a good swing. You finally learned how to punch,” Kregas said expelling the last of the laughs along with the sentence.
“Aye, yer sister taught me that night in Redstone’s barn,” Grian fired back and pulled his boot off, dumping the water over Kregas’s head.
A moan escaped the lips of the mage on the ground under them and they both turned serious. “What are we going to do with him?” Kregas asked.
“I should kill him for all the trouble he has caused. I know he cannot be saved and has much more evil in store for this world,” Grian said wrenching the water from his beard.
“Right,” Kregas said and pulled his battle axe out and raised it up.
“Wait!” Grian called out getting between the dwarf and the mage. “We canna just kill him. It was more wishful thinking. Life is life. Even his. I do not think Hu’Mod would approve. We should bring him to Hu’Mod for judgement.”
“Your god can’t judge me. Only Lod’rum can,” Skrat managed to squeak out weakly and began to mumble some words. Kregas swung down severing Skrat’s head from his body and silencing the mage.
“Tell him I said hello,” Kregas said and pulled the life draining dagger from Skrat’s robes. Grian emptied his stomach into the river. “Why did you do that?” Grian asked.
“He would only cause us future grief. You said it yourself,” Kregas said washing his axe off in the cold current.
“Murder should never be an option,” Grian said.
“It wasn’t murder, it was preemptive self-defense,” Kregas said putting his weapon away. “Come on let’s get back to town. You look like a drowned rat.”
“We must speak of how you can do what I do. When did this happen?” Grian asked.
“Right after you brought me back. I heard a voice in my head. He spoke to me. Called me a stone child or something like that and asked me to be champion for his cause. He said that you would need help in the days to come,” Kregas explained as they walked home.
The body of Skrat began to smoke. Black tendrils surrounded the mages form and snaked around it. Soon the entire body, and head was engulfed in the black smoke. The body began to sink into the bank of the river as the ground opened up. Once the body was far enough down the ground closed back up and the smoke dissipated on the wind, spreading throughout the wilderness. A moment later the ground looked like it had not been disturbed in the first place.
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