The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 38
by Joe Solmo
Grian didn’t know which part to address first, he tried to speak, halted then tried to speak again looking at Sreg in confusion. The ranger stood there waiting impatiently with a crooked smile on his face, almost daring the dwarf to say something. He began to tap his leather boot on the stone while looking up at the sun in the sky.
“Save her, maybe?” Sreg said pointing at Birell, who was moaning in pain below them.
“Yes!” Grian said, snapping out of it. He lifted Birell in his arms, and thought how small and frail his friend seemed. He headed towards the temple entrance.
“Don’t worry, we got the invasion!” Kregas said and turned towards Sreg. “Hello, I’m Kregas by the way. And you are?”
“What a strange name for your pet,” Sreg said looking at the weapon at Kregas’s waist. “Did you name him that?”
“I am not a pet!” Kregas said indignantly. Sreg shrugged then winked while walking down the stone steps towards the assembled army, whistling a tune Kregas didn’t know. “NOT A PET!” he called out after the ranger, but if he heard, Sreg didn’t let on. “Well, wait up!” Kregas said chasing after the human.
Grian put Birell down carefully on his bed, it was the best in the temple, even though he didn’t ask for the comfort, but Cyrin wouldn’t take no for an answer. He carefully wiped her face with a clean cloth from a stand near the bed. Several of the acolytes stood behind him, eager to help, but also content to watch the miracle of healing they have heard only Grian could perform. It wasn’t that they couldn’t heal, but only Grian’s ability would be good enough to bring the elf back from the brink of death.
Once again, the paladin lay his hands on his friend and used his magic to delve into her, to battle the poison within. The sheer magnitude of the corruption inside of her assaulted him, and made him sick to his stomach. He swallowed hard and refocused on his duty. He had to save his friend at all costs.
Birell was mumbling something, but he tried to ignore all the outside noise and concentrate his senses on what was inside of her. He could tell she was very weak. She had fought the poison and was nearly defeated. He flooded her body with his will, his power, his resolve. He felt the poison, which seemed like so much more than that, respond to his actions, like it was a living thing.
“My father…” Birell said weakly, but Grian tried to tune her out for the moment. He pushed with his inner strength, calling upon Hu’Mod to help, and he cornered the corruption inside her. It lashed back so violently it almost pushed Grian away from Birell, but he held on as beads of sweat trickled down his face and into his beard. Again, he pushed the strange sickness back, trying to isolate it from Birell.
“Grian, is that you?” Birell asked in a whisper and grazed his fuzzy cheeks with her slender fingers. “Grian. I am dying.”
“Not an option, Birell. You can’t leave me now, I just got you back!” Grian said between clenched teeth. He recalled a prayer he read about in the tomes he found and began to recite them. “Oh Hu’Mod, Lightbringer, grant me the power to cleanse the corruption within and illuminate the darkness, to destroy it with your holy light!”
The power flooded through his short fingers into his elf friend and her back arched from the influx of the energy. It was more energy than he had ever handled before. He felt the strange darkness try to run from the light and he screamed out in pain as it shot up his arm looking for a way to escape from the power of Hu’Mod. He fell back onto the floor, severing the link with his friend. The dwarf tried to get to his feet, but he couldn’t move, his body was wracked with the pain of the poison that had transferred to him.
“Get Kregas!” one of the acolytes call out, and Grian could hear the panicked footfalls of one of his trainees as he raced down the polished stone floor. He struggled with the pain, it was fading, but not quickly enough. If this is what his friend had gone through to get here, he was glad he took the pain from her. He tried to turn his head to see her, but his body wouldn’t respond, no matter how hard he struggled.
“Is he ok?” he heard her ask from out of sight. He felt relief knowing that she sounded better, that he had helped her. It almost made the pain bearable for a few seconds, before it lashed out at his organs again. It was worse than he had ever felt before. It hurt so bad, he didn’t notice at first that Birell had placed her hands on him. He could feel the comforting power of Hu’Mod as it returned to his body, a second later, Birell let go and brushed his red hair from his face.
“If I can’t die…you can’t either! Please don’t die. I’m losing too many people around me,” she said and tried to smile. Grian tried to reply, but his jaw wasn’t working. It was like it was disconnected from his brain, somehow. He tried to give her a sign, and found that his arm could wiggle, feebly. He looked down at it, and Birell’s gaze followed his own.
“Is that a thumb’s up?” Birell asked looking back into the dwarf’s eyes. He tried to tell her, he could grunt now, and tried to grunt in a way to communicate a yes. Birell smiled down at her friend, relief in her expression. “Thank you, again. Sir dwarf. I owe you my life, once again.”
Grian grunted in response. It would take some time for his body to destroy the corruption within, but it was getting better. He could hear footfalls coming from the hall as the acolyte returned with someone still out of view. A moment later, his father’s face took up his vision for a second before the older dwarf’s beard fell into his face. It stunk like alcohol.
“Son, speak to me!” Jyr said with concern in his eyes. Grian tried to move, not so much to show he was okay but more to get the older dwarf’s ratty beard out of his face. He strained, but he wasn’t strong enough yet. The smell was all he could think about. Grian was pretty sure it wasn’t just this morning’s alcohol he was smelling on that beard, rather it was layer upon layer of alcoholic days since his father’s last bath. Which, by the smell, was quite some time ago. Jyr smacked Grian across the face hard. The sting from the strike still paled in comparison to the smell that assaulted his broad nose.
“Stop that!” Birell called out and grabbed Jyr’s hand as he readied another slap. The elf’s arm strained from holding back the swing. Jyr’s eyes went from his son to the elf.
“What do you think you’re doing, elf?” he asked.
“Stopping you from hurting him. He will be fine, you have to give him some time to recover on his own, damnit,” she said and let go of the old dwarf’s arm.
“Son, you hear how this elf is talking to me?” Jyr said and looked from Birell down to his son. He sighed, seeing his son’s thoughts in his eyes. “Have it your way, lass,” Jyr said and sat back, out of Grian’s view. Much to the relief of the paralyzed dwarf. At least he could breathe relatively clean air again.
More footfalls came from the hall and this time Grian recognized the voice of the newcomer, it was Kregas. “How long as he been like that?” his friend asked.
“A few moments. Since he saved me,” Birell responded.
“You are looking better,” Kregas noted and looked down at his friend. “Are you ok?” Grian blinked once. “Ah, once for yes…I think,” Kregas said.
“You think?” Birell asked.
“Yeah, sometimes,” Kregas said and smiled at her. She sighed in frustration, muttering under her breath.
“Let’s get him into his own bed at least,” Birell said and grabbed her friend’s legs. Together they managed to get the dwarf into bed. Just then a series of loud booms came from outside, and then the sounds of people yelling. Birell, Kregas and Jyr looked at each other. “The Dark Elves,” they said in unison and turned to leave the room. Birell hesitated a moment at the doorway and turned to one of the acolytes.
“What is your name?” she asked the young dwarf in front of her.
“Byros,” he replied.
“Take care of my friend, Byros,” the elf said and headed for the courtyard before the young dwarf could answer. The acolyte looked down at Grian lying in the bed. He walked over to the paladin.
“Don’t worry, Grian. You are in good hands,” Byros said and winked at the paralyzed dwarf. Grain gave him a confused look. The young acolyte walked over to the door, and looked both ways down the hallway before returning to the bed. He rubbed his hands together and closed his eyes. “They aren’t going to be too happy about this, but what else can I do? You have too much to accomplish and these dark elves weren’t supposed to be here yet. Well, here goes nothing,” the acolyte said and rubbed his place together. Then he placed his hand on Grian’s chest. An electric pulse shot from the acolyte and into Grian. It felt like even more power than he put into Birell earlier, by an order of magnitude he could barely fathom. The pain went away almost instantly and he shot out of the paralyzation almost instantly and sucked in air in the deepest breath he had been able to take since he was paralyzed. He turned towards Byros with an incredulous look on his face.
“We need… to have a talk, Byros” Grian said while rubbing his cheek where his father had slapped him.
“Fine, but not now, you have too much work to do, Paladin of Hu’Mod,” Byros said and winked at Grian. He leaned to the right and put his hand down on the stand next to the bed, as if catching himself. “Dark Elf poison is a particularly nasty thing to get rid of. It’s a living thing, sort of. It is from the dark reaches of the Fae Realm. It feeds on emotion negative emotions. Curing it is always a pain. Go, I will be fine, I just need a few moments,” Byros explained, seeing the concern for him in Grian’s face. “And please don’t tell anyone until I have a chance to explain myself.”
“As soon as this fight is over, you will get your chance to explain,” Grian said sternly.
“Of course, Thank you, Paladin,” Byros said.
Grian left the room and raced down the hall only stopping for a moment in front of a new statue of Hu’Mod to give thanks for saving him. Outside the sound of fighting grew louder. He raced outside and took in the sight in front of him.
Surrrounded by chanting Dark Elves, portals of negative energy were swirling around throughout the city. Dark Elves were pouring out from each portal and engaging his army. He was lucky that he had them all assembled in armor and arms before the attack, it might be the only thing that saves them today, he thought. He looked for his friends from the raised platform he was standing on. In the distance, near the hospital he saw glimpses of Kregas escorting the wounded out of the city away from the fighting.
Jyr was leading a band of dwarves through the marketplace towards a portal that was still forming. Near the crafting area, he saw Birell’s lilthe form duck between buildings. He was almost sure he saw Sreg near her. It looked like his friends were safe for the moment.
“What shall I tell the commanders,” Cyrin said from behind him, always just a step away.
“Close those portals, take out the ones chanting,” Grian said.
“Very well, sir. I mean Grian,” Cyrin said and turned to a messenger that was waiting for orders. Screaming came from the desert folk housing area. He turned towards the sounds of the screaming.
“Now what?” Grian asked himself looking at the violence below.
He saw the humans running towards him. A group of five women were running for their lives, clutching children to their chests. Without a thought for his own safety Grian ran towards them. With only twenty yards left, the woman suddenly stopped running. Their bodies locked up and they looked around frieghtened. With quick jerky motions the women’s bodies folded up in front of him. From where he stood her could hear the bones snap, but the woman couldn’t scream.
It wasn’t just the woman affected though. Grian watched in horror as smaller bodies folded as well. He heard the sound of a deep voice from behind them, and as the now twisted bodies lost their balance and fell to the street he saw two figures standing behind them.
“It can’t be,” Grian said in astonishment. The deep voice laughed and lowered its hood. It was Lod’rum himself. The other figure lowered its hood as well and Grian stared into SKrat’s eyes once again.
The dark god looked Grian in the eye and smiled. “We meet again, Paladin.”
“Oh shit!” Grian exclaimed.
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