The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 43
by Joe Solmo
The army of dead approached in unison. There was no deviation from their pounding skeletal steps as they approached. At about 50 yards out from Grian and his friends the dead stopped marching. A silence spread over the city like a heavy blanket. The weight of which was crushing down on the living.
Grian counted the Probos that lined an avenue to the left of the main undead army. He gave up and sighed at fourty. One was a challenge, he didn’t know what he could do against so many. He turned to his companions, so few in number compared to the enemy across the plaza.
“What are they waiting for?” Zeeg asked as he placed his shield between the living and the dead.
“For us to die of old age?” Jyr joked as he shifted his weapon’s weight in his wrinkled, gnarled hands.
“I don’t think Death Smite is going to let me wait,” Kregas said with doubt in his voice as he looked down at the argueably intelligent weapon in his hand.
“Death comes for us all, lad,” Jyr said looking at his son. “Let’s not keep Death waiting.” Grian nodded to his father.
“Any tactics you can suggest? Or just a good old fashioned dwarven brawl?” Grian asked his father.
“I think you know which I would choose,” the older dwarf said with a wink.
Just then a loud boom came from above, and all heads, living and dead turned towards the sky. Two bodies screamed towards the ground, hitting with the impact of a meteor. Both forms took a few seconds to stir but rose to their feet. Moose dusted off his shoulder with his right hand and walked towards the companions.
“Brother?” Zeeg asked. Moose waved away his concearn.
“I am alive, Zeeg. What has happened while we battled?” the god spoke. He turned to find his enemy also rising to his feet.
“My army has arrived. The living are on borrowed time. First the elves, fell, who shall be next? Do I march on the humans or the dwarves next? Maybe I should start with those gnomes to the North,” Lod’rum said using his power to levitate a foot above the cobblestones.
“You should worry about what you have in front of you, first,” Joician called out.
“Ah I see not all the tools have corroded over the years. No matter. You can not defeat death!” Lod’rum said and raised his hand. In unison all the undead stood at attention. “Perfect control over the perfect army. No ambitions of their own. They march for me, and me alone. Where is your army now, Hu’Mod? Have they all fled to lick their wounds like the beaten dogs they are?” the evil god prodded.
Moose placed his hand on Grian’s shoulder and gave him a weak smile. The weight of Moose’s large hand pushing down was immense. Far greater than the man could possibly make. More importantly was the power, or lack thereof that Grian felt from the large man. It was still there, but very faint. Moose was weakened from the fight.
“I have faith in you,” Moose bent over and whispered to the paladin. “Do you have faith in me?”
“Of course, I do,” Grian said.
“Then trust in my decisions. I know what I am doing,” Moose replied.
“Always,” Grian replied with a resolve he didn’t know he had. He turned and faced each of his friends he had made on his adventure. “I am glad I met each and every one of you. You have enriched this dwarf’s life more than you could ever know. No matter the outcome, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Grian said to them. The companions nodded back their similar sentiments. With that done, they turned to face Lod’rum and his army of bones.
“I have defeated you all already. Do you really think a pep talk would make a difference?” Lod’rum chided.
“As long as a spark of life remains, you have won nothing,” Grian said and began to channel the energy inside of him.
“Your God can barely stand. It is over,” Lod’rum said with a sneer. Grian turned his face upwards to Moose.
“Trust me,” Moose said and gripped the dwarf’s shoulder harder. Suddenly Grian felt a flare up of energy in the large man. Soon it was flowing into him. He was taking in so much power his knees almost gave out. Small pieces of rubble and dust around him began to vibrate away from the dwarf and man as the power intensified.
“No!” Lod’rum said and motioned towards the companions. “Get them!” The undead army began to move in unison. All the vacant eye sockets trained on them. Before the undead got three steps the companions formed a semi-circle of protection in front of Moose and Grian. They might not fully understand what was happening but they knew they should protect their friends. Zeeg slammed the shield into the stone and a shockwave shot out from him towards the undead army. Even Lod’rum wrapped his cloak around him in a defensive stance.
When the magic struck the army, bones broke, splintered shards flew back into the ranks behind. But for every skeleton that dropped dead, another took its place in line. Birell charged forward and began to make a twisting movement with her hand. Vines grew from the ground and wrapped around the ankles of the oncoming army, holding them fast.
“Kilyn, you are a thorn in my side!” Lod’rum said and swiped his arm from left to right. The vines withered and died. In their weakend state the undead broke free and once again began its unrelenting march on them.
“I got this!” Kregas called our and charged towards the approaching army with a mighty roar. He broke into their ranks with reckless aggression, swinging Death Smite with such grace the party was in awe.
“Now that’s a weapon,” Joician said with admiration as she took a deep breath and charged towards the carnage in Kregas’s wake. The charge was infectious as the rest of the companions raced towards what seemed like certain death. Only Grian and Moose remained in the center of the plaza.
The power pulsing from god to dwarf was overwhelming to Grain. He struggled to keep his feet beneath him as a tide of raw energy flooded into his being. The weight of the hand was gone under the crushing flow that assaulted him. It was a strange sensation for the dwarf. The power exhilarated him as it sapped his strength. As the power continued to flow he grew concerned for his friend and god.
Moose’s bloody face was clenched in a pained expression, the dwarf noticed. Moose’s hair hung in sweaty clumps from his scalp. With every passing moment, Grian notices his friend’s complexion pale before his eyes. He tried to pull away, weakly at first, thenhe gathered what strength he could and pulled again, but the second attempt was as useless as the first. Moose had him in an iron grip, and he was helpless.
“You’re going to give me too much power. Save your strength. We need you,” Grian squeaked out at his god. If Hu’Mod heard him, he did not show it. Grian placed his left hand on Moose’s wrist, trying to pull his hand from him, but the large muscles were too much for the dwarf.
The blinding light that encased the pair made it impossible for Grian to check on his friends, and he wondered how the battle was going. The fact that he wasn’t overrun with the undead was a good sign, but how long could his friends last? It made him feel inadequate that he couldn’t be fighting by their side, when the numbers were so against them.
Suddenly the flow of energy stopped. Moose let go of his grip on Grian and the dwarf stumbled a few steps before recovering his footing. He was out of breath and took a minute for the world to focus around him.
Moose was down on one knee, looking sickly. Sweat poured down his large features and dripped to the stone below. He was also breathing heavily. After a moment, the man/god rose to his feet and surveyed the battle before him. His eyes scanned the fight, looking for something that only he could see.
“What did you do to me?” Grian asked.
“I gave you more power, child of stone,” Hu’Mod spoke. Suddenly the large man stopped and cocked his head like a dog that was studying something. “Is it possible? Joician still lives?”
“Who is she?” Grian asked as he walked towards Moose.
“She was the second Hammer of Hu’Mod. I thought she was lost many years ago. She still fights for me?” he asked the dwarf.
“Aye she does,” Grian said and pulled his war hammer from his belt. “I must help my friends.”
Before Grian could act, Moose pushed the dwarf behind him. “Do you feel that?” he asked.
“Earthquake?” Grian asked.
“Worse,” Hu’Mod spoke and turned to the avenue that was to the left of the main army. A stampede of Probos charged into the plaza heading right for them. “Stay behind me,” Moose said and took a defensive stance.
The sea of undead pacaderms reached them so fast, Grian didn’t have a chance to reply to the request. The first one was met with a meaty fist from Hu’Mod that sent the large beast skittering on unsure legs until it crashed into a stone building, collapsing the wall. Another smashed into Moose, pushing him back several yards. Grian had to sprint to keep behind the large man. More and more of the undead animals pushed into in. Grian channeled the newly gained power and lashed out from around his friend when he got a chance.
The new level of power hurt the Probos, and Grian gained some hope that all was not lost. He even smiled, content to fight by his god’s side. The enjoyment was short lived as a probos hit Moose from the side. The impact was so hard Grian heard bone snap as the mass of Probos rashed into Moose.
Grian barely had time to scramble out of the way of the falling Moose. The Probos sensed victory and stampeded over Mooses body, each step making a sickening sound to the dwarf’s ears. Somehow, he miraculously escaped injury. Once the animals pushed past, the paladin rushed to his god’s side.
He lay his hands on the still form and tried to channel his healing magic into the body, but the body rejected it. He tried again, but once again found a barrier. A moment later that barrier burst and energy flowed into him. Tears formed and fell from the dwarf’s face as he realized what was happening. Moose was dead, and Hu’Mod was entering him. It was a bittersweet moment for the dwarf. One the one hand, his god had chosen him as a worthy vessel, which was the highest of honors. On the other hand, his friend Moose was dead. Moose never wanted any of this. He was the quietest of the brothers, only choosing to talk when necessary. He was fiercely loyal to his brothers, even Skrat, even when he didn’t deserve it. Now that loyal companion was laying dead on the ground.
Grian couldn’t dwell on it too long though, the power ceased and, in the calm, he heard a voice in his head. “I told you to trust me. Now let’s end this,” Hu’Mod said. Grian turned to the fight and saw his friends being forced back towards the end of the plaza. Lod’rum had taken up a position on top of a small fountain. He was cackling as he watched his army take bits of life from the companions with every swing.
The number of skeletons that littered the ground was impressive, and Grian looked on at Kregas and Death Smite, the undead seemed like they were hesitating. Almost like they had a mind of their own and feared the dwarf and the weapon.
“Wait. Him?” Grian asked.
Yes Grian. You have been chosen as my new vessel here. He has been chosen as my new weapon. Behold, Kregas, the newest Hammer of Hu’Mod!
“What should we do?” the dwarf asked.
If we can defeat Lod’rum, the army will die. He is the key.
Grian nodded and turned towards the evil god. He started to channel power into his arms and fists. “This might be fun,” he said and charged through the foray.
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