The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 33
by Joe Solmo
Grian put his hand to his brow to block out the sun as he looked out over the city that grew around the temple to Hu’Mod. Buildings were everywhere in neat rows. Large buildings, such as the hospital and barracks were two or more stories tall, made of the same red stone as the temple. The desert folk brought each brick with them. Each new group arriving bringing all they could carry, and the dwarves putting them together, teaching the desert folk about stone working. From here, Grian could see all the desert folk working on the finishing touches of the city. There were thousands of them down there. He couldn’t keep track of all the different tribes, but was told it was unusual for them all to be in the same place without conflict. They attributed that miracle to Grian, and secondly, to Hu’Mod.
The Paladin’s gaze fell on some of the smaller buildings, some made of mud, some made of stone, still others were strong wooded structures like the shops and Inns, lined streets of hard packed earth that all led to the temple, much like the spokes on a wagon wheel. It was from this center building, the temple that Grian looked on.
From the flat temple roof everyone looked small, Grian thought, but it gave him an excellent view of not only the new city below, but the surrounding area. He could see the large mountains near his home on clear cool days, but facing the other way he could see the sea of sand that made up the Akridlands. The forest of the dead, spread out to the east, although parties of dwarves have been slowly exploring and clear cutting the cursed woods to rid the land so close to Hu’Mod’s temple and city from evil. Kregas and Grian took turns clensing the cleared ground.
With the city just about built, Grian found he went from having too much to do to almost having nothing to do and grew bored. In the evenings he would gather people in front of the temple and teach them about Hu’Mod, using the information he found in the temple to fill in the blanks of his knowledge. He prayed that Hu’Mod would return, to tell him what to do next. He had this great city, and a formidable armed force of dwarves and desert folk, but nothing to point them at. He knew the evil of Lod’rum wouldn’t rest, but it seemed to be laying low somewhere. He prayed at night for a sign of what to do next.
In the meantime, dwarven blacksmiths worked around the clock to outfit all with armor and weapons, and he had the warriors run drills and prepare for war. The desert folk were taught the ways of fighting in forests and mountains, and taught the dwarves about desert survival so that when evil finally reared its head, they would be ready.
The paladin shifted his gaze to his childhood friend, Kregas. He stood next to him on the shining roof of the temple, dressed in fine clothes instead of the clothes they arrived in. His friend was definitely enjoying being a celebrity. Kregas had his own sermons in the morning, before the workday began. He tried to take some of the load off of Grian, seeing his friend get buried in responsibility. After all, they were both Paladin’s of Hu’Mod.
“Where is your axe, my brother?” Grian asked him, noticing the empty loop on the dwarf’s leather belt.
“We are…spending some time apart,” Kregas replied. He looked down at his newly polished boots. “We had a bit of an argument.”
“I see. Well I am sure you two will work it out before it is needed,” Grian said trying to hide a smile. He thought back to his father’s joke about Kregas and the axe being married.
“I am sure we will. No one can stay mad at me for long. I have such charisma. How does the search go?” Kregas replied.
“I sent away 5 right away, a dozen have shown promise. Further testing is still needed though,” Grian said.
“A dozen? I guess we aren’t so special after all,” Kregas said incredulously.
“It seems we were just the first. Imagine what we could do with a dozen Paladins,” Grian said.
“Maybe end this war with a minimal loss of life,” Kregas said.
“A dozen paladins healing and fighting, we might be unstoppable,” Grian said thinking out loud. “Maybe we could start other cities, and temples to Hu’Mod.”
“You know that they will all look up to you as leader no matter what,” Kregas explained.
“Well, Hu’Mod is the leader, not me. I just do what he tells me to do. In here,” Grian said tapping his chest. “I am just a follower, as are all of them,” he said pointing down at the people moving on the ground below.
“You do yourself a disservice,” Kregas said patting his friend on the back. “You lead these people whether you see it or not. You may have the power of a god, but that isn’t what I saw in you back when we were just two pups running around our village making trouble for my father.”
Grian sighed. “Maybe your right. Maybe I am just in denial. I don’t know. Speaking of fathers, have you heard from Jyr today?”
“Your father led the last expedition into those spooky woods. They are due back later today or tomorrow. He took Braindead Brandin with him.”
“I wish you wouldn’t call him that. It’s been a long time since he was kicked out of school,” Grian said. “And he isn’t stupid.”
“I know, but nicknames have a way to stick,” Kregas said.
“That is true, Greasepot,” Grian said with a smile as he headed back to the trap door that led back down into the temple. Kregas’s jaw dropped and he stood there for a shocked moment.
“Shhh. No one knows about that,” Kregas said looking around, even though they were the only two people on the roof.
“Whatever you say, Greasepot,” Grian said heading down the ladder into the temple below.
“Come on!” Kregas said chasing after his friend.
Once in the temple, the childhood friends went their separate ways. Kregas went to work in the hospital, helping with injuries that medicine couldn’t heal. Grian spent most of his time studying the writings of Hu’Mod that were only discovered during the restoration of the temple. When the workers found them, they knew it was important but wasn’t sure what it was, so they packed them away to show Grian when he arrived. They were forgotten for a while in the hustle of building a city, but now that things were slowing down, people remembered.
Grian met with a party of dwarves that arrived earlier this morning. Many people were trickling in daily to join the cause. Grian was somewhat of a celebrity among the hill dwarves, and stories of his deeds when he was home were spreading to the surrounding villages. Enough of the villagers witnessed them that people were believing them, rather than arguing over if it had happened at all. Little by little the dwarven population of the city was growing, but still wasn’t half of the desert folk’s strength. Still to Grian, who was shunned for so long by his people it felt good to be around so many of them.
He tried not to play favorites with the different races, trying to spend equal time among StoneSpear’s people as his own, but in truth he wanted nothing more to feel the comfort he remembered as a child being surrounded by family and clan. He let out a sigh as he turned his attention to the next group of dwarves that had arrived.
An elderly dwarf approached Grian, past the two guards that the city insisted he had near him whenever he met with new people. Grian told them it was ok with a look, and the guards relaxed their grip on their weapons. The old dwarf placed a gnarled and wrinkled hand on Grian’s bearded cheek and looked him in the eye.
Grian was startled with the strong sense of youth, or even power in the old dwarf’s gaze, a contrast to the aging frail body. “My name is Varin, son. I have traveled a long way to meet you,” The old man said in a strong voice. His wrinkled face broke into a smile, parting the white beard. Grian could see the old dwarf’s yellowed teeth.
“Welcome old one. Welcome to you and your companions. May your knowledge help in the battle against evil that will surely come,” Grain said bowing. He liked to show respect to all that he met in this audiences.
“Among other things,” the old man said. “May I introduce my family? This is my son, Fyr,” he said pointing at the front of the pack. He looked old enough to be Grian’s grandfather. How old was Varin? “This is my grandson, Brynn,” he said pointing at a blonde dwarf that was about Grian’s father’s age. “My Great grandson, Sven,” the old dwarf continued pointing towards the back of the group at a dwarf roughly Grian’s age, he bowed to Grian when his name was mentioned. “And lastly, my great, great, grandson Dorloff,” he said to the boy that hid behind his father’s legs. Am I old enough to have a son, Grian thought.
“We come from the black hills, several weeks journey, after hearing of your exploits,” The old man looked around at the temple. “I haven’t left the village in many years. It’s been a long time,” Valin finished.
“We will find you lodgings right away and figure out where you can help the most,” Grian said. “But right now I have some other matters to attend too. If you need anything, just let me know,” the paladin finished.
“Thank you young man. You do us proud,” the old dwarf finished and ushered his family back out of the temple, shooing them like an unwanted cat or dog. Valin stopped at the large stone archway at the entrance to take another look around before exiting. He sighed, as if in contentment and waved at Grian.
“What a strange old dwarf. He seemed to be in too good of a mood,” a dwarf said from behind Grian. The paladin turned with a smile to face the black haired young dwarf.
“Yeah, strange indeed. Let me know where they get settled, Cyrin,” Grian said to his newly assigned helper.
“Yes, Grian,” Cyrin said and bowed. “We have only seven more parties to meet before lunch. Are you sure you don’t want to do a group meeting? It would be so more efficient,” Cyrin said looking over the clipboard he had covered with parchment detailing the day’s duties.
“Yes I like to meet each person individually,” Grian said. “I like to look at the faces that are living near me.”
“However you want it, my lord,” Cyrin said.
“I am no lord,” Grian replied for the fourth time that day.
“Whatever you say. Next is a party of four from the Frighthammer clan. Mountain dwarves, my..Grian. They come as a delegation to see if the rumors they heard are true. It could mean valuable resources.” Cyrin explained.
“Send them in,” Grian said and straightened his clothes and ran his fingers through his fire red beard.
Jyr sat on a fallen log, cleared by an earlier group sent to the forest. They were only a day away from the city and he was eager to get home. Grian only trusted certain people with these missions and this was the fourth he had led. The evil of the forest wasn’t as shocking to Jyr anymore. With the help of some blessed weapons, the dwarves were systematically taking the forest, and the evil out, one acre at a time. Kregas and Grain would come through in a few days and consecrate the newly cleared land so that crops could be planted for the growing population of the city.
He put the last bite of his apple in his mouth as he looked over the party he led. Half dwarf, half desert folk, it was meant to teach both sides tolerance. Both races seemed to have their strengths and weaknesses and it was up to Jyr to assign them responsibilities that reflected that. It was a pretty good idea to mix the raiding parties, he thought.
Jyr looked in the direction of the temple and thought of his son. He lived with the regret of not keeping his son close, but at the time he thought he was protecting him by sending him away. He was glad their relationship was good again. He respected his son, and all that he had accomplished, without help from anyone, but Hu’Mod.
To think, the ancient god of the dwarves decided to return now, and to choose his son first as a new Hammer of Hu’Mod was such an honor. With a sense of pride of his son he found the energy to call everyone together to march home. He turned towards the warriors, both desert folk and dwarf that lined up.
“Let us go home, lads. Our job is done for now. Let there be gallons of women and dozens of drinks waiting for us. Wait a second I think I got that wrong,” Jyr said.
“We got the gist of it, Jyr,” Brandin said and helped the old dwarf to his feet. In the party they were the only two from the village, and Brandin stuck close to Jyr. The older dwarf took him under his wing on the trip teaching him, and the desert folk survival lessons in the forest. He turned towards the city.
“Follow me, lads. We have to show my son what we found. A hero’s welcome awaits!” Jyr said and headed down the worn path through the clear cut forest.
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