The Hammer of Hu'Mod Part 5
by "Splatter" Joe Solmo
The torches grew close quickly as the group stood back to back in the camp, the pulsing green light illuminating their faces. The screeching continued above as the creature circled above them. Sreg stood with his bow trained on the sound, ready to fire.
“Which one do we concentrate on?” Birell asked, weapons drawn. She stood next to Grian who held his hammer at the ready. He was whispering to Hu’Mod for help in the coming battle.
Zeeg stood towards the torches, while Moose stood opposite, closer to the dark forms making their way over the weathered and worn rocks of the Akridland. They were still too far out in the darkness to make out if they were human or animal, but Moose stood ready.
The youngest brother stood in the center of the rest of them. For once his face wasn’t buried in a book. He was alert, eyes darting between the three threats.
“Looks like the torches will get here first,” Skrat said. They could hear the sound of horses approaching as the torches bounced in the darkness. They were still about a hundred yards out from the camp.
“Well at least it’s not a shade. They wouldn’t carry torches,” Sreg said. “I hate undead.”
The horses drew close and the pulsing green security lights Skrat had placed glinted off the armor of most of the riders. A coat of arms of a white tower on a field of blue and yellow adorned the shields on the riders.
“Oh shit,” Sreg said.
“Moose, how are we looking on that side,” Zeeg said as he took a step towards the riders, weapon still in his hand.
“Good,” Moose replied.
“Who are they?” Grian asked.
“The Tower Guard. They are here for Skrat,” Sreg said turning his bow on the foremost rider.
“Well they aren’t getting him,” Zeeg said. The rider nudged his horse a little closer. This man didn’t wear a helmet and his dark brown hair hung down over his chainmail shirt.
“Please, no blood needs to be shed this day. We come only for Skrat,” the man spoke in a voice that was used to authority.
“I don’t wish to go with you, Lord Badric,” Skrat said. “Take your group of glorified babysitters and return to that poor excuse of a learning facility,” the young wizard said. The rider turned back to the group of twenty soldiers behind him.
Another man rode out next to Lord Badric, this one wore pouches around his waist and a light cotton shirt. A staff rested across his saddle.
“Skrat, you are only making things worse for yourself. Come back now and it might only mean punishment. If you continue to run, then it would condemn you. I can’t keep the dogs on a leash for you much longer,” the man said.
“I will not return to that place,” Skrat said.
“You heard him, now leave if you don’t wish to spill blood,” Zeeg said.
“Getting closer,” Moose said from the back of the pack. The shapes were men approaching as they zigzagged between the rocks in the desert night. Long spears jutted up above the dark robes they wore.
“Desert Folk,” Lord Badric said to his men and drawing his weapon. “Signal the Wyvern.” He turned back in the saddle to face Zeeg. “Let us put aside our difference until the threat is taken care of.”
“Absolve my brother of murder,” Zeeg said. “You know it was an accident.”
“Twelve students died when your brother set off the magical device in the auditorium. I can not absolve him of that. One of those children was my son, Faugh. He shouldn’t have touched the device,” Lord Badric said.
“He thought it would open a portal,” Zeeg said. The soldiers on horseback all drew their weapons as the tension rose.
“Let me speak for myself, Brother,” Skrat said.
“Hurry,” Moose said and started to growl low in his throat.
Zeeg turned towards his youngest brother and saw the look in the wizard’s eye. Zeeg dropped to his knees just in time to evade the fireball leaving Skrat’s slender fingers. The ball light the camp as it raced across the buffer zone between the two sides and took Lord Badric in the side. He fell from his horse with a yell.
Just then Moose called out. The Desert Folk had arrived and the party braced it’s self for a two sided attack. Spears flew from the dark robed figures and sailed over the heads of the party, striking the first row of horsemen and dropping a few of them.
The wizard horsemen turned towards the sky and shouted a word in the language of magic. A screech came and the sound of leathery wings grew louder.
“Eyes on the sky,” Zeeg said and deflected an arrow that shot from the horsemen.
The Desert Folk flowed around the party like the tide around the rocky shore. They met the horsemen in battle. Zeeg jumped into the fray and Sreg began to fire arrows when the opportunity rose. Birell protected Sreg from getting stabbed, dropping two of the horsemen who attempted to take him out in the chaos of battle.
Grian blocked a wild swing from a short armored man who had lost his horse. The two went back and forth with swings in an island surrounded by violence. He had asked Hu’Mod for guidance and knew that his God needed these brothers to help him with his quest. He had to protect them.
The wyvern swooped from the sky, spitting acid from its jaws. The spray caught Sreg on the arm and he screamed and dropped his bow. His shirt sleeve disappeared as the acid began to burn into his flesh.
Moose leapt into the air, smacking the beast with his giant hammer. It momentarily lost its momentum and crashed to the ground. The largest of the brothers tackled it and began to punch the wyvern wildly.
“Grian, Sreg is hurt,” Birell called out trying to pull the archer from the fray. Grian swung low and took the knees out of his opponent. With a crushing blow he crushed the chest of the man he was fighting. He rushed over to his friends.
“Poison,” the dwarf said and pulled his sleeves up. “Keep us safe,” he said to the elf. Birell nodded and turned to face the fight, weapons drawn.
Grian put his hands on Sreg’s wounded arm. He closed his eyes and asked his god to help cure his friend. He felt Hu’Mod’s power flow through him, growing from his heart out through his hands and into Sreg. It wasn’t as severe as when he healed Birell though.
Moose grabbed the jaw of the wyvern when it tried to bit him. He placed one large hand on the bottom and another by its nose. They sickly smell from the flying reptile’s mouth repulsed Moose, but he held on. “You hurt my brother. You pay now,” he said “and began to push with all his might. His large muscles strained as the best screeched into his face. He could see in its throat the wyvern was trying to muster up another dose of acid to spit into his face. He screamed himself and it was just enough to give him enough strength. There was a snapping sound as Moose broke the jaw of the beast.
“Impossible,” the Tower wizard called out and started to chant in another language.
“Quickly, behind me,” Skrat called out and stood in front of Sreg and Grian. Birell and Zeeg had just enough time to get behind him before the man unleashed a wave of magical energy. Skrat crossed his arms in front of his face. “Cara Che,” he yelled and the blast flowed around them harmlessly.
“Take out the wizard,” Zeeg yelled and charged. The Desert people heard him and turned their spears towards the wizard. He almost fell off the horse dodging the projectiles. Skrat kept the wizard on the defensive by firing spells at him in rapid succession.
Moose rode the wyvern as it convulsed in pain. Breaking its jaw didn’t slow it down much. The strength of the beast surprised Moose as it rose him off the ground for a few seconds.
“Stay back, pretty one,” Moose said.
“Thanks for your concern,” Birell said sarcastically and charged in with the lightning reflexes of an elf. She punctured the beast just under its neck with her dagger, and slid her short sword across its neck. Moose rode the wyvern back down to the ground until it stopped moving. He looked down at it for a few seconds then punched it squarely on the nose before returning to his feet and looking for is weapon.
Sreg opened his eyes. The pain of the wound had dulled, then disappeared. There was only a light red mark on his arm where the acid had burned him. He looked at Grian as he flinched, as if in pain for a few seconds before opening his eyes.
“Thank you, Paladin,” he said rubbing his arm.
“Please don’t call me that,” the dwarf said running his hands through his beard. That’s when he noticed the silence around them. Grian looked out over the battlefield. The fight had ended. The Tower Guard was dead, to a man. The Desert people stood around looking at them. One of them in particular was staring at Grian. He grinned nervously towards him.
The man was dressed differently than the rest of them. He wore a necklace of small bones around his sun-weathered neck. His face was painted with red and black pigments in what Grian could only assume was symbols of their religion.
The man dropped to his knees, keeping his eyes on Grian the whole time. He bent over and bowed. “Shia,” he said.
“What’s this?” Zeeg asked as he sheathed his weapon.
“I…I don’t know,” Grian said. The man rose to his feet and approached the dwarf. He reached out his hand and gripped the dwarf’s shirt.
“Shia,” he whispered.
“I think he likes you,” Sreg said with a smile.
Skrat approached the man and gently pulled his hand from Grian. He shook it. “Excuse me, what does Shia mean?” the young wizard asked.
Another of the Desert Folk approached cleaning his spear tip off on his pants. “Healer. Shia means Healer,” the man said. “I am White Light. The leader of the tribe here. Our shaman is in awe of that dwarf’s healing powers. Healing is a magical art long dead to us, and I thought to the dwarves as well,” the man explained.
“It is among the dwarves still. Grian is an exception,” Skrat said. “I am Skrat, and these are my brothers, Moose, Zeeg and Sreg. The elf is Birell,” he explained.
“May you never thirst,” White Light said. “These men we fought. They are wasteful. We watched them kill three Kamocks.”
“Kamocks?” Grian asked.
“Large lizards the size of a tent, our main source of meat,” the shaman said now that he had the time to calm down. “They taste better than the spiders.”
“Spiders?” Sreg asked looking around behind him.
“As large as a man,” the shaman said and pulled out a fang the size of his hand to show Sreg.
“I don’t want to run into one of those,” he said.
“Afraid of a little bug?” Birell chided.
“They hunt in packs, usually four to eight. They have a central lair where they hole up and breed. So what brings you to the Akridlands? We don’t get many visitors,” White Light said pulled a pipe from his belt pouch.
“That’s kind of complicated,” Grian said. “I’m looking for a place. Maybe you heard of it. A castle made out of red stone,” he said.
“I know the place,” White Light said.
It is still many days journey from here. Come to our village and rest up. From Three Pillar Rock we can supply a guide. We must take a quick run to the west though. We were hunting when we saw those people’s torches. We have to return with meat for our women and children,” the leader of the Desert Folk said.
Zeeg and the brothers looked towards Grian. Even Birell was looking at him. “Why are you guys looking at me?” the dwarf asked.
“You’re in charge of this adventure,” Skrat said.
“Guess I better get used to it,” Grian mumbled to himself and nodded towards White Light.
“We leave at daybreak, the Kamock sleeps then and is easier to hunt,” the leader of the Desert Folk said.
The next morning arrived a little too early for Grian. He was stiff from the battle the night before. He looked around the camp. The soldier’s horses were tethered together near a large rock. The Desert folk were sharpening their spears sitting by themselves. The rest of the party was enjoying some dried meat.
“Morning, Sir Dwarf,” Birell said with smile, handing him some meat. He stood next to her and stretched. The hard rocks and desert sand did little for a comfortable sleep.
“Where…Where are the soldiers?” he asked pointing around with his dried meat.
“The Desert Folk took care of it last night while we slept, apparently,” the elf explained and bit off another piece of meat.
“I would have helped,” he said.
“It is our job to bury those we slay in battle. In doing so we pay homage to the challenge they gave us,” White Light said as he approached them. “We leave in ten minutes, no that everyone is awake. Here,” he finished handing them the same dark colored cloaks that they wore. “It will help with the sun.”
“Thank you,” Birell said taking the bundle from him and handing them out to the brothers.
“You might have to sew two together for Moose,” Sreg said as he donned his.
“Moose fine,” the largest of the brothers said and slung the garment over his shoulder. Grian imagined the large man trying to put it on. A smile crossed his face as he pictured it. Luckily the smile was hidden by his beard, which had grown quite scruffy since all the excitement had started two weeks ago.
“The castle of which you speak is inhabited by people that aren’t that nice,” White Light said. “They deal in flesh. Our tribe isn’t strong enough to take on the castle men, and every year our village, and the other villages around, lose people to them. Not just warriors and hunters, like us. Women and children are taken in raids, we fight them off when we can.”
The party headed out shortly after under a cloudless sky. The sun beat down on them, but oddly the dark cloaks felt better than their regular clothes. The Desert Folk, with the exception of White Light and the Shaman, who they found out was named Spirit Walker.
The shamans were chosen from the people who had some connection to arcane of spiritual arts. Magic wasn’t common among their people so they mostly served for life. Although Spirit Walked explained that his predecessor, Sky Spear still lived in another village. He was very interested in Grian’s healing ability.
The dwarf reluctantly explained where his power came from. The shaman listened intently and seemed very excited. He had met dwarves from time to time that wander into the desert, or run from trouble, but he had never met one that would Heal. Even the shaman couldn’t heal wyvern poison.
Around midday they stopped in the shade of a large rock formation. They took turns in the shade of the tree, letting the horses going first and drank from their wineskins. The Desert Folk carried cactus that have had the needles plucked out, and filled with water.
After another meal of dried meat they continued. An hour later they found tracks in the soft sand between the rocks. The Kamock tracks were as large as a man’s. The Desert Folk followed the tracks they said the lizard had made the night before.
A half hour later White Light called a halt. He signaled something to his warriors then turned back towards Grian and the others. “The Kamock should be right up here under that formation,” he whispered. “My men will go in and flush him out. Wait here. If it gets past us go for its throat,” he said.
Grian nodded back and looked at the rest of his party. Sreg had his bow out and knocked an arrow. They watched the desert folk disappear around a large rock and waited in silence for a notion of what to do. It took several minutes before they heard anything.
A roar erupted from behind the rock, shaking the ground and the party looked over at each other. Grian heard yells from the warriors as they fought the lizard.
“Screw this,” Sreg said and ran around the boulder.
“Sreg, wait!” Birell said and chased after the archer. Once the damn sprung a leak the rest of the brothers charged around the corner as well. Grian sighed and chased after his friends. So much for following orders.
When he ran around the corner he saw a large, dull-green reptile and several warriors fighting. Sreg was firing arrows into its side, next too three bands of red, black, and tan scales. Moose charged the beast and swung, but missed the head as it swung towards a warrior with a spear.
White Light plunged his spear just under the jaw of the Kamock and it reared back lifting the leader off the ground until the spear broke and he fell to the ground. Two other warriors jabbed their spears into the creature’s long neck, and blood trickled down the scales.
Sreg fired into the face of the monster, setting it on a rampage. It trampled over one of the warriors, crushing the man’s ribcage. The lizard turned towards the path between the rocks and charged for freedom. Charged right towards Grian.
The dwarf panicked and dived to side, nearly avoiding getting trampled. He hit the sandy ground hard. The lizard passed by with White Light and Moose hanging off its back. The Kamock disappeared around the corner of a boulder with the brothers and Desert Folk warriors in pursuit.
“Can you help him?” Birell asked standing over the warrior that was stepped on. The dwarf ran to the man’s side and knelt down. His chest was caved in but he was still breathing erratically.
“I don’t know,” Grian said and placed his hands on the man’s chest gently. He looked up to the sky. “Please Hu’Mod, can you help this man who was only trying to provide for his family. Show him the glory that is Hu’Mod and heal this man,” he prayed.
He felt his god flow into him and he closed his eyes and braced himself. The pain of the dying man raced into him. The weight on his chest, the struggle for breath, all entered the dwarf paladin. He heard the man coughing and knew he blood was spewing from his mouth as well. The tingly sensation of Hu’Mod’s power faded behind the pain, as he continued to work on the man. He could feel the chest starting to fix itself. The concave wound started to inflate under his touch. He felt the pain fade as he felt broken bones return to their places under his skin. The warrior gasped for breath under his touch and soon, both the warrior and the dwarf lay next to each other on the rocky sand panting.
“You did it,” Birell said, wiping the warrior’s hair off his sweaty forehead and looking at Grian. “You actually did it.”
The pain and exhaustion faded from Grian and he climbed to his feet. The hunting party was returning and saw him helping the warrior to his feet. The shaman ran over to the previously wounded warrior and threw his arms around him.
“He is my brother, you saved him, yes?” Spirit Walker said.
“Yes,” Grian said picking up his war hammer off the ground and dusting it off.
“Shia,” the shaman replied.
The warriors returning looked at Grian in awe. They helped their friend walk back to where they had felled the beast. It took quite a while for them to carve up the body for its meat. They tied the pieces of the beast to their spears and hefted them onto their shoulders.
“It’s time we go home. Thank you for saving Stone Spear,” White Light said and shook Grian’s hand. “You are a hero among my people, from this moment on.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Grian said bashfully.
What the warriors couldn’t carry Moose was happy too. He carried the body without complaint until they saw smoke rising from the cook fires of Three Pillar Rock. The sun was only an hour away from disappearing over the horizon and everyone was tired from the desert trek. Grian wondered what kind of ale these people made. Then a horrifying thought crossed the dwarf’s mind. What if they didn’t drink alcohol!
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