The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 37
by Joe Solmo
Grian woke with a start, covered in sweat. Lod’rum haunted his dreams, mocking him, making the paladin doubt himself. He reached over to the oak stand next to his bed and grabbed the magically charged pitcher that kept water cool all night. After he nearly emptied it, he sighed and lay back down staring at the ceiling. Was it just a dream? Or was the greatest evil known invading his slumber. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes looked towards the window. The sun was just rising. Time to start the day. Today he would start it with a prayer to Hu’Mod. Not just a quick word to his friend turned god, but a ceremony worthy of the greatest of the dwarven pantheon.
He had found texts dating back to when people worshipped Hu’Mod that detailed the rites and ceremonies they observed, and Grian was just waiting for an opportunity like this to break them out and use them. His eyes fell on the polished silver he used as a mirror. A disheveled dwarf stared back at him. He would have to go see the barber and get himself presentable first.
There was a loud knock at the heavy oaken door to his chamber. Grian sat up with a grunt. When did he get old? “Come,” he called out.
The door swung open and Cyrin’s face peaked out between his long black hair. “Sir, you wanted me to wake you at dawn?” the dwarf said.
“Yes, thank you,” Grian replied and slipped out of the heavy covers. He got dressed quickly while Cyrin went over the day’s agenda.
“Never mind all that. Tell the newest acolytes to meet me at the temple at mid-day. We are going to perform a ceremony to raise spirits. I must go prepare,” Grian said.
“As you wish, sir,” Cyrin said.
“I told you to call me Grian. I’m just Grian.”
“Ok, Grian. I will tell the acolytes to meet you.”
“Thank you. If you need me I will be walking the town getting a haircut and some breakfast,” Grian said.
The cool morning air hit Grian like an invigorating wave, giving him the energy to make his way across the sprawling city. From the stone steps of the temple Grian could smell the various bakeries already hard at work. The sweet aromas made his stomach grumble. He decided to grab some sweet rolls first.
Grian passed several desert folk who were on patrol as he made his ways through the streets. He nodded to them as they passed, but they either didn’t notice or ignored him. He thought back about his conversation with Stone Spear. Maybe there was a rift with the different peoples of the new city. One more thing for him to worry about.
He found a bakery a moment later, following the scent of sweet rolls fresh from the hearth. It was run by a dwarf woman who reminded Grian of his grandmother. Her warm smile greeted him as he walked through the door.
“What can I get ya?” the older dwarf said without looking up from her work, kneading dough.
“I’ll take a sweet roll or two,” Grian replied, approaching the counter.
“Well which is it? One or two,” the woman said then her eyes met Grian’s. “Oh! It’s you. Two sweet rolls coming right up,” the woman said and grabbed a tray off the shelf behind her as fast as she could.
“Don’t rush on my account,” Grian said watching her.
“Nonsense, we won’t have the Hammer of Hu’Mod waiting for a sweet roll in this shop,” she said as she plopped down two rolls and a napkin on the countertop. The wood of the which still looked brand new.
Grian reached into his pocket, and he closed his eyes and sighed. “I am sorry, but I seem to have no money on me. I will have to return for the sweet rolls,” he said.
“I will not have it,” the woman said pointing a finger at him. “I can’t let our leader leave my shop hungry. The way I see it, you’ve done enough for everyone around here to earn a sweet roll or two when you want one,” the woman said.
“I can’t accept this,” Grian said reaching into his pocket again hoping he missed a stray coin the first time he checked.
“Whats’ the matter? The sweet rolls no good?” the woman asked, leering at him.
“No, that’s not it at all. I just…”
“Just what?” she asked keeping eye contact with Grian.
“I just don’t want to cut into your profits,” he said thinking it was the nicest way to tell her he didn’t want her charity.
“My profits? What do you think having you walk out of my shop empty handed is going to do to my profits? If my food isn’t good enough for you, who would want to eat here?” the woman asked.
“You make a good point,” Grian said and reached out for the sweet rolls. His stomach was still rumbling after all.
“That’s a good boy. Got to build up your strength to fight evil now,” the woman said going back to kneading the dough.
“Thank you…What is your name?” Grian asked.
“You can call me Mrs. Leah,” the woman said.
“Well, I thank you Mrs. Leah,” Grian said and turned towards the door with sweet rolls in hand. He exited the shop and stopped in the street to take a bite.
“That will be three copper shills when you get it!” Mrs. Leah called out from inside the shop.
Grian smiled and turned to face the doorway. He nodded to her, not able to talk to with a mouth full of sweet roll. His appetite satiated, Grian headed down to the barber shop that was recommended to him a few days ago by his father, Jyr.
A few hours later, with a short rehearsal, Grian had the dozen prospects lined up at the temple to perform the invoking of Hu’Mod. Six acolytes stood on each side. One on each of the stone steps leading down to the ground from the temple’s main floor. In the older days the Hammers would invoke the god to empower their weapons and bless them before battle. He had all the members of both the dwarf and desert folk army lined up in the plaza just in front of the temple.
He stood on the top step, in front of a stone podium. There were small channels carved into the granite podium that made his voice amplify across the plaza. He began the rite by raising his Warhammer over his head.
“Hu’Mod. Grant us power in your name. Grant us wisdom in your name. Grant us the ability to stand our ground in the face of evil,” Grian said, his voice booming across the ranks of soldiers below.
“In the face of evil,” the acolytes repeated raising their own hammers above their heads.
“Hu’Mod protect us from your brother, Lod’rum. Protect our families, and our children from the influence of evil in his name,” Grian said.
“Evil in his name,” the acolytes said in response.
“Your children ask of you these things, Hu’Mod. Infuse your power in us,” Grian said.
“Infuse your power in us,” the acolytes said. In unison they all swung their hammer’s down. A white crackling energy flowed from each hammer, into the stairs lighting them up even in the mid-day sun. The light from Grian’s hammer outshone the rest of the powers and together the energy shot out over the army.
All of the soldiers glowed with the holy energy released during the ceremony. Discipline started to break down as the newly energized army began to flex and swing their weapons to test this new feeling filling their bodies. A chant started, “Hu’Mod! Hu’Mod!” The sound of so many praising his god made Grian’s eyes start to tear up. He turned from the crowd, his newly braided beard swinging below his face, and he wiped his eyes in the quasi-privacy.
Grian turned back to the crowd and looked out over the army he would soon lead against the evil forces of Lod’rum. He could feel the day coming, even if he hadn’t heard from Hu’Mod in a long time. He turned his gaze to the acolytes that lined the stairs, each of them had at least a significant spark of power in them. In time they could all potentially be Hammers of Hu’Mod themselves. Finally, his gaze fell on his childhood friend, Kregas. His power was almost equal to his own now. He didn’t have the knack for healing that Grian had, but he had power all the same.
He would have to intensify their training, the acolytes. The growing feeling of something about to happen was getting electric in him. It must be Hu’Mod telling him to make final preparations.
“This was a great idea!” Kregas yelled out over the roar of the crowd. “I think this is going to raise morale and stop the racial bickering.”
“I hope so,” Grian replied as he approached his friend. He looked down at the weapon on his friend’s waist. “Is it still speaking to you?” he asked.
“We are not currently on speaking terms. We haven’t killed enough undead lately,” Kregas answered.
“Well I am sure you two will work it out,” Grian said and patted his friend on the shoulder in condolence.
“Another marriage joke? You’re just like your father, you know that!” Kregas said, a smile escaped his lips giving away that he wasn’t seriously mad at his friend.
“That’s not true, my beard is red,” Grian replied. Just then a loud crack rang out over the city. It was so loud it drowned out the chanting and the army grew silent as they tried to find the source of the sound.
“What the hell was that?” Kregas asked, drawing his weapon.
“I don’t know. Can you feel that?” Grian whispered to his friend.
“It’s some kind of energy, neither good nor evil,” Kregas said.
“It feel’s different. Almost chaotic. Like a force of nature,” Grian said. Another loud crack rang out, this time a flash accompanied it coming from about twenty feet in the air above Grian. All heads turned to the swirling green vortex that was opening up out of thin air.
“Is it Hu’Mod?” Kregas asked his friend.
“No, this is something different,” Grian said backing up from the swirling magical portal. With another flash something shot out of the portal. It happened so fast that Grian’s brain played a trick on him. In his mind he saw his friend Sreg riding a dwarven racing sled being pulled by two white and one black unicorn. Sitting next to Sreg was his old friend, a sleeping Birell. His brain told him that couldn’t be what he was seeing and it was trying to dismiss the image while trying to reprocess what he was seeing so he was late to react.
The sled plummeted from twenty feet up with a crash onto the steps and into the soldiers waiting below. The unicorns crashed into the soldiers and it was a miracle that no one was hurt. “What the hell is that?” he heard Kregas call out as he raced down the stairs to see if everyone was ok.
Grian finally got his wits about him and raced down a few steps after his friend. Sreg was standing among the wreckage of the sled dusting off his leather breeches.
“Oh, hey Grian. How have you been?” Sreg asked nonchalantly.
“You know, bored until now. What is wrong with Birell?” Grian asked.
“Oh! Right. Poison I am afraid. The same with Zella there,” Sreg said pointing to the black unicorn that was trying to stand. The pair of white unicorns were standing around her nervously.
Grian knelt next to his friend and placed his hand on her forehead. He pulled his hand back with a hiss. “What kind of poison?” he asked looking at his hand to see if he had gotten burned.
“The unknown kind,” Sreg said with a shrug. “Oh, and before I forget. There is a dark elf army right on our heels.”
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