The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 34
by Joe Solmo
Birell charged through the forest, not even feeling the young saplings stinging her flesh as they passed through them. Her mind was focused on what she could see beyond the trees. Smoke rose from her home, a place of safety for her entire life. Never in the history of Charindril, has it been under attack, not even in the war with the dwarves that consumed so much of Arain.
She burst through the trees, only vaguely aware that Sreg was beside her, and skidded to a halt to take in the unobstructed view. Her eyes widened in horror and her brain tried to tell her it was all lies, that what she saw wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true, those things didn’t exist, she tried to tell herself as she saw the destruction in front of her.
“It can’t be,” Sreg said in a whisper, talking more to himself than to Birell. Kilyn was giving him information on what he saw.
“The dark elves, but how?” Birell whispered, barely audible to the ranger. “I didn’t think they were even real.”
“Oh they are real. Kilyn says they are real. How did they get here?” Sreg asked as he watched a group of elves with dark purplish black skin, slide their thin black blades into an elf woman. Kilyn raged inside of him at the atrocity he saw.
“We have to help them!” Birell said drawing her bow. Sreg reached out and pushed Birell’s arm down.
“There are too many of them, look!” he said pointing at the entrance to the palace. Dark elves poured out of the large entranceway as the tower above burned. Some of the dark elves carried blades like the one she saw, others had staffs made of stone, painted with red and black bands. Those ones shot magic fire like a projectile, lighting her childhood home on fire.
“We can’t sit here and do nothing!” Birell said trying to maneuver around Sreg.
“No we can’t,” Sreg said and started to chant, he pulled on the strength of Kilyn inside of him and began to chant words he didn’t even understand. A shockwave a force shot out from Sreg and slammed into the ranks of dark elves. Birell watched as they were pushed into each other, being crushed under their own weight as they slammed into the stone structures that surrounded the wooden homes of the elves.
“We have a chance!” Birell said with hope. Just then they noticed a hooded figure walk out slowly from an alley into the force wave. The wave parted around him, like a stone in a river, and the figure turned towards them.
“No. It can’t be,” Sreg said. Something in his tone made the hair on the back of Birell’s neck stand up and she shivered when she saw the look of fear on Sreg’s face. Sreg had never been afraid of anything as long as she knew him.
The figure raised his hands and pushed them forward, towards them, sending his own wave of force. Sreg did his best to try to counter it, but the spell was too strong and it struck them hard. The air left Birell’s lungs as she smashed into a large maple tree and she fell to the ground. She tried to blink the tears of pain out of her eyes to see what happened to Sreg.
The human was getting to his feet a yard from her, slowly. He arched his arm like he was throwing something, and she watched a fireball grow on its way to the figure. With a dismissing gesture, the figure deflected the magic fireball and it crashed into a wooden house behind him. There was something in his motion that seemed familiar to her.
Just then she heard a loud groaning sound and looked up. The large wooden pillar that served as the palace tower started to lean towards them as the fire weakened it. Birell’s entire life was in that tower. Her rooms, her family and all of her possessions she wasn’t currently carrying were in there. “Father!” she said and tried to get to her feet, but the impact against the tree had injured her leg, and she couldn’t put any pressure on it. She fell back to the ground with a pained sigh. She heard the figure laugh as it approached them. The tower fell towards them, breaking apart as it did so. The figure raised his hand deflecting all but one of the chunks as it fell, this one he sent hurtling at Sreg, connecting with him and sending him into the trunk of an oak tree that cracked audibly with the impact.
“Concerned for your family, elf?” the figure said and she looked up in recognition of that voice. “Family used to mean something to me as well, but it’s only a weight around your ankles that you have to drag through life. In a way I am doing you a favor, freeing you from the burden,” the figure said as it stopped about ten feet away.
“You will pay for what you have done here. I will avenge my father,” Birell said through clenched teeth.
“Avenge? You are in no position to do anything. You can’t even stand,” the figure said as he drew closer, looking down at her. “Look at that leg. I bet you wish that fool dwarf was here to help you. He has his own problems. Another army marches on his shiny new city,” the hooded figure said and raised a foot, placing it on her injured leg and stepped down. Birell yelled out in pain and tried to pull her leg away.
“And this one here,” the hooded figure said. “Speaking of family…” the figure lowered his hood and walked over to Sreg. “Oh dear brother, what have you got inside of you. You should really leave the magic to me. I am the only one in the family with a knack for it. So two of my brothers now have the old gods inside. How interesting. It won’t help though. Death is inevitable, even for a god. Lod’rum will rule this world. It’s only a matter of time,” the figure said.
“Step away Skrat. This is the only warning I will give you,” came a voice from behind them, yet another familiar voice.
“Ah,” Skrat said turning in surprise. “Do all of my brothers have a divine parasite living inside of them? My power is my own, but are my brothers so jealous they have to mimic me any way they can? Let me ask you Zeeg, who lives inside of you?” Skrat said with venom in his voice. He raised his right hand and placed it in his robes.
The new man was covered head to toe in plate mail armor, a large shield hung on his back and a long sword was strapped to his waist. He reached up and removed his helmet. Zeeg looked upon his youngest brother with pity. “It doesn’t have to end like this Skrat. Give up this nonsense and come with me. We will talk to Moose together,” Zeeg said.
“Fools, all of you. There is no power in the light. Fear is power, and fear breeds like cockroaches in the darkness, my misled brother. I would ask that you join me, but I know you are too weak. Follow what you were taught is right without thinking for yourselves. Thinking was always my job when we travelled together. Now, step aside so I can finish the task I was sent her to do,” Skrat said.
“Sent here? That doesn’t sound so powerful to me. Who commands you, my brother? Lod’rum? Do you think he will share his power with you? You are a pawn in his game and he will toss you aside when he no longer has a need for you. This is your last chance,” Zeeg said and positioned himself between Skrat and the fallen rangers.
“Are you saying the true power is having a being that calls its self a god live in your brain because it can’t even manifest itself in our physical world? Step aside!” Skrat said and pulled a small wand from his robes. He began to chant.
Zeeg put his helmet on and pulled his shield from his back. With his free hand he pointed to Birell and she could feel her leg tingling as he healed her broken bones. “Take Sreg and go. There is nothing more you can do here,” Zeeg said and planted his shield in the ground. A force field rose up in a semi-circle in front of them. “I will hold him off.” The eldest of the brothers turned back to Skrat. “We will not let you harm anymore people today. I will stop you. He will stop you. Little brother you now face The Protector, Azer!” Zeeg said and drew his sword.
Birell dragged the unconscious Sreg into the trees away from the warring brothers. She could hear the fight, and feel the power being wielded by them back in Charindril. She thought of her home, her father. Both taken away by Skrat and the dark elves. She dug into her memories, trying to remember the tales she heard of those dark elves. She heard Sreg groan.
“Are you alright?” She asked looking down at her friend. Sreg made another weak groan but didn’t answer her. She put him on her shoulder and continued into the forest. She travelled on for nearly twenty minutes, but had to stop to rest. She placed her friend down gently near a stream and sat on the bank. Now that she had a moment, the events caught up to her and she couldn’t stop the tears from streaking down her face.
After Birell composed herself she checked on her friend. He was sleeping soundly. She rummaged through his things looking for a container to collect water in, but didn’t find anything. She bent down in the stream, cupping her slender hands to get a drink. As she sipped she looked up into the canopy of the ancient forest that surrounded her childhood home and stopped mid-drink.
Through the trees, as silent as her brethren, the dark elves travelled west. West towards Grian and his people. She had to warn them, somehow. She moved over to her friend and slapped his face. He groaned. She looked back at the army on the move, trying to get an idea of the numbers. She wondered who won the fight, Skrat or Zeeg. She slapped him again.
“Ouch. The first one woke me up,” Sreg said rubbing his cheek. “Where is Skrat,” he asked and sat up suddenly.
“Sorry,” she apologized. “I don’t know. We left before the fight was over.”
“What fight?” Sreg asked as he watched the dark elves in the distance over the stream. He lowered his voice.
“Between your brothers,” she explained.
“Moose showed up?” Sreg said rubbing his back where he made contact with the tree.
“No. Zeeg. It seems your family is destined to carry the old gods inside of them,” the elf finished.
“Who did he get?” Sreg asked getting to his feet with a groan.
“Azer,” Birell answered. “The Protector.”
“No shit! That fits him perfectly. The way he always tried to play mom to us,” Sreg said with a crooked smile. “I can’t wait to tease him.”
“If he yet lives. When we left he was in battle with Skrat as the dark elves burned my home and killed my people. They travel now, maybe Skrat won,” Birell said looking through their stuff and taking an inventory.
“He probably put that kid over his knee and spanked him,” Sreg said.
“Is there any way we can get ahead of that army?” Birell asked. “We have to warn Grian.”
“Leave everything to me. The forest is like my home. Well it is my home, and everything that dwells inside are my friends. Well not the undead things, and definitely not squirrels. They are little bastards, but the rest of them,” he said and began to whisper words in a language Birell didn’t understand. A moment later he turned towards her. “It is done, they come. Wait, did you go through my things?”
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