The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 36
by Joe Solmo
Birell charged through the forest with Sreg right behind her. Whatever magic he had tried to cast he said they were out of range and had to get closer. They dogged the dark elf army as it raced through the treetops, trying to keep out of sight. Sreg promised her it wouldn’t take much longer to meet up with their ride out of the forest.
The elf leapt across the bank of a stream landing almost silently on the far bank in the soft moss. She heard an “oomph” behind and turned to see Sreg’s eyes pop out of his head as he slid back over the bank and landed with a splash. She glanced over her shoulder at the nearby army to see if anyone noticed and was shocked to see a dark elf stop and look around.
Birell dropped down behind a pine tree, waiting for the dark elf to lose its interest in the bank of the stream.
“Birell! Help,” called out Sreg from below the bank. Birell flinched at the noise, imagining the dark elf heading towards the noise.
“Shhh you idiot!” she whispered loudly and mustered the courage to look around the side of the pine tree she was using for shelter. She saw the dark elf getting closer, looking around. He must have heard something. She waited until he looked the other way and jumped down the bank next to Sreg.
“There is a dark elf approaching,” she whispered. “Keep your mouth shut or we are both dead.”
Sreg nodded at her and pointed down at his leg. She saw his ankle twisted in a wrong angle. There would be no outrunning the dark elf if he found them. “There isn’t much I can do, if it comes to it. You will have to deal with the dark elf,” Sreg whispered back.
“Ah ha ha, deal with the dark elf?” came a baritone voice from above. It was too late, he had found them.
Birell leapt against a tree and pushed off, landing on the bank of the stream to face the dark elf.
“Imagine the promotion when I bring my general the head of a betrayer. How did you escape the assault?” the dark elf asked.
“Betrayer? You killed my father!” she called back.
“And your people doomed my own, it’s only fitting now that your doom lies in my hands,” he responded with a sneer and drew a sickle in his right hand and a mace in his left. “The human can wait, he is no threat. Draw your weapon if you must.”
Birell reached for her swords then realized she didn’t have them when she had left the palace. Damn! She unslung her bow from her shoulder and dropped it to the ground. She had no arrows left. The dark elf laughed as he realized she was unarmed. “This will be easy,” he said and lunged at her with a yell.
Birell dove to the right and just missed a swing from the wicked curved blade of the sickle. She hit the ground with a grunt and used her momentum to roll back onto her feet. “I will make it as difficult as I can, I assure you,” she replied, returning the dark elf’s sneer.
“Die Betrayer!” he called and charged her. Birell back stepped to avoid the blade but caught the mace in the ribs. The hard wood with metal reinforcements forced the air from her lungs and she felt her legs grow weak. Her vision began to darken and the elf dropped to one knee. “You light elves forgot combat, forgot honor, forgot where you came from. You are all weak. It’s a disgrace.”
“Zephyr, I summon thee!” Birell said and pushed her hands out. A great wind knocked the dark elf back a few steps. She repeated it louder and the dark elf was lifted from the ground and slammed into the trunk of a great oak tree with a loud crack.
“Impossible! Nature magic? Kilyn took nature magic from you light elves as punishment for what your kind did to us!”
“Well, he gave it back,” Birell said with a quick glance at the stream’s bank. She turned her hands in a twisting motion. Vines crawled up the side of the tree and wrapped around the dark elf. The vines tightened against the tree biting into the flesh of the dark elf.
“A child’s trick, you really disappoint me,” the dark elf responded and uttered a word, branches grew out of the tree around him pushing the vines away from him. “A dark elf toddler could break out of this! It’s like you’re not even trying.” The branches snapped the vines and continued to grow towards Birell, turning into grasping hands clutching at her.
She quickly dodged the first swipe from the creaking branches, the second gave her a glancing blow and sent her to the ground. She saw the dark elf’s sickle laying on the soft moss of the bank. He must have dropped it when she sent him flying. She reached out and grasped the handle just in time to swing at an outstretched limb. She struck and severed the branch from the tree as she rose to her feet, but more were growing out of the tree towards her.
“Enough talk, dark elf. It’s time you went back where you belong,” Birell said and planted her feet in defiance.
“I admit, I might have underestimated you, but do not think you are a challenge for me. I am a Captain in the Great Dark Elf Army of the Fae. I have warred for eons, child. This ends now,” the dark elf said and swung wildly with his mace at her. She caught the weapon inside the crescent of the sickle and deflected his strike down and away. With the dark elf off balance she stuck out with her right foot, planting it deep into the abdomen of her foe. A second kick made the dark elf fall back onto the ground, dropping the mace in the process.
Birell quickly pressed the advantage and placed her knee on the dark elf’s chest. Birell placed the tip of the sickle’s blade against his neck. “Give me a reason, go ahead,” she said lowering her face to his.
“I would give you no quarter, I do not expect you to be different, Betrayer!” he said and spat into her face. Birell sighed and then with a savage yell, she pulled back and swung the sickle, its sharp blade biting deeply into the dark elf’s neck. Hot blood erupted from the wound and covered her face and arms. She stood on unsteady legs and surveyed the scene around her. She saw movement in her peripheral vision and turned to face the new threat, but let out a sigh of relief when she saw Sreg scrambling over the bank. She dropped the sickle and raced to her friend’s side.
“Thanks,” Sreg said as she pulled him up onto the bank with a grunt. “I knew you could do it,” he finished nodding towards the dark elf’s body.
“Never any doubt, eh” Birell said and dropped to the ground with a laugh. Sreg laughed with her for a minute. They needed the stress relief, but it was short lived. There was a rustling in the forest and both of them grew silent. Birell reached for the sickle at her side.
“I...I think it will be ok,” Sreg said and winced as he got to his feet, keeping his broken ankle elevated. Suddenly a flash of white jumped from bush to bush. Birell turned as she heard the same rustling from behind her. The creatures broke through the underbrush and she let out a sigh of relief. She even felt a tear stream down her face at the view in front of her. Three pure white unicorns moved to stand in front of them, facing them.
“Thank you for coming,” Sreg said and hobbled closer. I might have looked different the last time we met, but I assure you it’s me, Kilyn.”
The center unicorn, a little larger than the rest nodded its head and snorted. The other two looked at him, as if asking for approval of the people in front of them.
“We need your help. We need to reach the new city of Hu’Mod ahead of this dark elf army. Do you know the way?” Sreg asked. The center unicorn dipped its head again and stamped the ground once.
“I can’t remember if it’s once for yes, or twice,” Sreg said under his breath. “Do you think you can help us get there? It would be much appreciated.”
The unicorns put their heads together, their twisted golden horns glowing with the power of the magical beasts. A bright flash nearly blinded Birell and when her eyes adjusted she saw a sled, like the ones dwarves use in the wintertime. Vines ran from it to the unicorns forming reins.
“How will they be able to pull on the ground? There is no snow,” Birell asked Sreg as he hobbled his way towards the sled.
“Don’t worry Birell, there’s a way,” Sreg said and grasped the edge of the wooden sleigh. Just as his hand gripped the wooden frame of the sleigh an arrow struck mere inches away with a thud. Birell whirled around and saw several dark elves heading their way. They must have seen the flash!
Birell gave Sreg a push on the butt to get him into the sled. “Hey now, we don’t have time for this!” he said with a smirk. Birell rolled her eyes and leapt into the sleigh as two more arrows struck the wooden side.
“Go!” Sreg said and whipped the vines that attached the sleigh to the unicorns. Suddenly a rumbling was heard beneath them and the ground began to buckle. Undulating like a wave under the sleigh the unicorns pulled it with ease and took off through the forest. A hail of arrows fell around them and one stray arrow struck the hind quarters of the lead unicorn. It whinnied in pain, but through sheer determination it didn’t slow its pace.
“Is there anything you can do for him?” Birell asked Sreg.
“Sorry, healing isn’t my strong suit. Maybe Grian can do something when we get there,” he answered as he ducked another barrage of arrows from the chasing dark elves. “Did you hear me Birell?” he asked and turned to his friend.
Confusion set in as he saw his friend not even looking at him, it took a moment or two for the sight to register in his mind. Birell lay slack in the seat. She wasn’t moving and her eyes her glazed over. “Birell?” he asked and shook her. She fell forward and landed on the floor, an arrow sticking out of her shoulder.
“Oh shit,” Sreg said and pulled the arrow out of her. Birell let out a blood curdling scream. “Well you can still yell, that’s a good sign,” he said and looked around. The unicorns were outpacing the dark elves easily. Soon they would be out of danger, well, except for Birell. He felt the warmth leaving her as he placed her back on the bench. It must be some kind of poison working its way through her.
“I don’t know what they did to you, but you can’t leave me now. Not after what we have been through,” Sreg whispered, wiping a tear from his eye. He was grateful no one was around to see it.
Birell groaned and he was sure he heard her whisper Betrayer. Her face was growing so pale, he hoped she could hold on long enough to get to the Paladin. He would be able to fix her and the unicorn. He turned his attention to the lead animal and saw the pure white of its hair turning dark before his eyes. What kind of poison were the dark elves using?
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