The Hammer OF Hu'Mod Part 7
by "Splatter" Joe Solmo
The following afternoon they came across a desiccated husk of a human surrounded with what looked like the smashed remains of a small cart used by the Desert Folk. Stone Spear examined and explained it was a victim of the large spiders that lived and hunted in these wastelands. The body was too long dead for anyone to recognize the person, so there was no way to know which village he was from. The party remained on full alert for the rest of the day, but there was no sign of the desert spiders.
Grian walked with purpose towards the line of red mountains in the distance. They didn’t get closer fast enough for him. He walked with a purpose, much like in the forest when he found the temple and had to constantly slow himself down so he didn’t pass his friends.
Every once in a while he would look at the menagerie of followers he accumulated. It must have been Hu’Mod’s will that these people travel with him, but it still made him feel odd. He had resigned himself to living alone as an outcast as a dwarf with magical abilities for the rest of his life, but now he found outsiders that no only accepted him, but encouraged him. It nearly brought a tear to his eye thinking of it.
The Keystone, he thought, would unlock his god from his prison and he could go home a hero, something he never dreamed of. Every time that thought crossed his mind he looked up at the red rocky horizon and started walking faster again.
With the exception of Sreg who spent his time in Birell’s company, the brother’s passed the time telling stories of their adventures since leaving the tower. They seemed to have a penchant for getting themselves in trouble. Grian envied their carefree attitude.
The most stoic of them all was Stone Spear. The constant sandstorms must have worn away any sense of humor the warrior had, thought Grian as he studied their guide. The man was very light on his feet and nearly glided over the smooth sand, barely leaving a trace. Stone Spear always carried his namesake in his left hand, with a few spares tied to his back, ready at a moment’s notice. Suddenly the guide stopped and looked down into the sand.
“See these marks?” the warrior said pointing to several shallow holes in the sand.
“Yes, what are they?” Grian asked as he approached. He was very careful not to step on them.
“Spiders, four of them,” Stone Spear said as the rest of the group caught up. Skrat knelt down and traced one of the holes with his finger.
“They must be two hundred pounds to make that kind of indentation,” the young mage said.
“And as tall as a man when they are skittering,” the warrior said, nodding.
“Anyone else get goosebumps?” Sreg said pulling an arrow out of his quiver and inspecting it.
“Don’t tell me the ranger is afraid of spiders,” Birell kidded.
“Just the ones that get near me,” Sreg replied.
“It looks like we are crossing their paths, not traveling the same way. I’m sure you will be fine,” the elf said.
“The elf speaks true,” Stone Spear said and started to walk. The rest of the group fell into line behind him.
“Grian, do you have a minute?” Birell asked.
“What’s the matter, lass?” the dwarf asked.
“I just wanted to tell you thanks for saving me from the Shade’s poison in my ankle. I don’t know what would have happened without you there,” she said.
“Birell, I only stood there while Hu’Mod did all the work. It is him you should be thanking, not me. Does one thank the barrel the whiskey is in, or the whiskey it’s self for drowning your sorrows?” he said shyly.
“Without the barrel the whiskey would just evaporate,” she said. Grian nodded trying to think of a comeback.
“Well anyway I am sure if the situation was reversed you would do the same for me,” he finally said.
“Do not doubt I would,” she said and gave him an uncharacteristic hug. Luckily his beard hid most of his face as it turned red.
“So. You and Sreg eh,” he said trying to turn the conversation around and embarrass the elf.
“No,” she said. “He is…unrefined. Fun to work with, but not the kind of person you bring home to your parents.”
“You can deny it all you want, lass. I can see the way you two look at each other,” the dwarf said with a grin.
“Oh really?” she said. Her mind searched for a retort but he had caught her off guard. “You know you don’t act like a paladin! Trying to ruffle my feathers about a fictional relationship with a coworker!” she said.
“Ok lass, your right. I am new to this paladin thing. I apologize,” Grian said, but couldn’t conceal the smirk growing in his face knowing he had riled her up.
“Thank you, Sir Dwarf,” she said and dropped back in the line near Sreg. It was funny to Grian that he and any elf would be friends at all, but his relationship with Birell was more sibling-esque than anything else.
Zeeg’s voice behind him cut of that train of thought. “Hey, where did Stone Spear go?”
Grain looked at the man’s footprints just disappear twenty feet ahead, his spear laying in the sand. Zeeg and Grian jogged to the spot, stopping just short of the spear and crouching on the ground.
“Don’t move,” Skrat said approaching jabbing his staff’s end into the sand with each step. He stopped next to Grian and probed the sand in front of them. The haft of the staff sunk in a few inches.
“There is something here,” the young mage said and closed his eyes. Zeeg and Grian exchanged glances and waited.
“There is a cave, it’s hollow under here,” Skrat said.
The rest of the group arrived circling the entrance to the sand covered cave. “How do we get in?” Grian asked.
“Something is coming,” Birell said drawing her blades. No one questioned how she knew and they all took a step back baring steel, except for Moose who stood there. Moose’s face was trained on the spot that Stone Spear had disappeared. The sand there began to vibrate bounce around. Moose cracked his knuckles in anticipation.
The dune erupted into a cloud of sand as the largest spider they had ever seen emerged from the cave below. Its many black eyes reflecting the sun in each one. A skittering sound came from the front as it rubbed its hairy mandibles together. It took a step forward and another appeared directly behind it.
Moose dove into action charging them without fear. He grappled with spider, clutching one of its hairy legs in each hand as the thing reared up. His muscles strained under the weight and strength of the beast. Within seconds arrows fell into the things face, which had drawn dangerously close to Moose’s own.
Zeeg charged the second one, swinging his sword in a two handed stroke that severed a leg about a foot from the body. “There are more!” he yelled out as he looked into the tunnel entrance with horror.
Grian raced to Zeeg’s aid, being smaller of stature he managed to get under the spider and swing an upward stroke with his hammer, crushing it into the monstrous creature’s abdomen. The force of the blow nearly raising it off its seven remaining legs. Skrat sent a blue beam into the face of the same one.
Moose was struggling with the first spider, it spread its legs wider, bringing its face down almost touching Moose’s. The mandibles slapping his shoulder blades. He grunted and started to twist his arms. There was a sickening cracking sound and the spider’s arms couldn’t hold up to the torque Moose was applying to them. He drew the spider’s face in closer and head butted it as hard as he could.
The spider reared back from the blow and his arms came off in Moose’s powerful hands. It screamed in surprise and pain and struggled to keep itself balanced. Moose wasted no time and used the creatures own limbs to beat its face. He swung left, then right and back without stopping until the spider collapsed from the sheer force of the blow. He kicked it hard and it rolled over on its back, its remaining legs curling up and twitching.
Moose turned towards his youngest brother and pointed to the spider. Skrat send a fireball into the spider’s body burning the corpse as Moose wasted no time and joined in with Zeeg and Grian on the second spider. So far they held it back at the entrance not letting the rest out of the cave.
“Fireball,” Moose said.
“He can’t, Stone Spear might still be alive in there,” Zeeg replied to his brother.
“Let it out,” Skrat said. The brother’s looked at him like he was crazy. Trust me I have a plan. Let it out and run back about fifty feet,” the young mage said situating himself to the side of the entrance.
Moose punched the spider in the face, making it reel back, giving the rest of them time to back off from the spider. Sreg continued to fire arrows into its body, enraging it. After the rest of the people got clear he stopped and put down his bow.
The Spider charged them, not seeing Skrat to the side as new spiders poured out of the entrance. Skrat counted five before the flood of spider’s stopped. He took a deep breath and hoped his calculations were right.
Grian watched as the sea of spiders charged them. He trusted the young mage, but still the primal fear of spiders rose in him. He could see it in his companions as well as they danced from foot to foot, trying not to flee.
“Come on Skrat, do what you’re going to do,” the dwarf whispered, clutching his weapon with white knuckles.
Suddenly bright light flashed from behind the spiders. The arcing light blinded the group awaiting the spiders attack momentarily. A few seconds later, when Grian could see again the spiders all lay twitching on the ground. The sand beneath the arachnids was melted and turned to glass. Grian ran his fingers through his beard to make sure it was still there.
“What the hell was that, Lad? Grian asked as Skrat jogged up to them to see his handiwork close up. Everyone stood around the dying spiders in awe.
“A controlled lightning bolt, I guess you could call it,” Skrat said smiling. Zeeg walked up to his youngest brother and patted him on the back.
“Great job, Skrat. I am so proud of you,” he said.
“You could have fried us!” Birell said.
“That is why I told you to run,” Skrat said. “The risk was minimal actually, once I took into account the conductivity of the spider’s body and angle of atmospheric current refraction it was pretty simple really.”
“You won the day, little brother,” Sreg said. “Now let’s find Stone Spear. The group agreed and headed for the cave entrance.
Torch in hand, Zeeg took the lead into the darkness. There was no noise from within from friend or foe. The ground descended twenty feet before the cave took a left turn. The reached a large chamber, about fifty feet across a minute later. Several tunnels led off in different directions. Near the back they say human shaped forms against the stone wall.
Besides Stone Spear, who seemed to be unconscious there was two other people laying on the floor. Skrat checked them while Grian kneeled next to their warrior guide. He placed his hands on Stone Spear and felt Hu’Mod begin to flood him.
“This one is dead,” Skrat said of the smaller human, who had been sucked dry of fluids. Its smaller stature was most likely and elf. “This one is still alive, but not for long,” the young mage said feeling its pulse. This one was a human female.
Stone Spear sat up suddenly taking a deep breath as he did so. He looked around at his companions then at Grian. “It seems I now owe you two life debts,” he said and tried to rise to his feet.
“Take it easy a moment,” Grian said and turned his attention to the woman. Once again he asked Hu’Mod for help and felt his god work through him.
Skrat helped the woman to her feet as the rest of the group explored the cavern. The side tunnels were full of eggs, which they destroyed with torches as they went. There was a pile of the victim’s possessions in a corner.
While waiting for the woman and Stone Spear to gain enough strength to leave, they looked though the spoils. There was coins and armor of all different styles littering the place. Sreg pocketed as much coin as he possibly could.
“By the Gods!” Zeeg exclaimed rifling through the armor. Everyone stopped to see what had the oldest brother so excited. He held up in his hands a shield. “It’s my shield. How did it get here?” he said.
“That’s nearly impossible, brother,” Skrat said taking the shield and examining it. He waved his hand over the metal and it began to glow a faint blue under his hand. The glow faded a second later as the mage handed it back to Zeeg.
“It is the same shield,” he said.
Zeeg strapped the shield on his wrist and held it up in front of him. “Vali Gree!” he called out and a blue bubble encompassed the brother. It spread nearly ten feet behind him as well. The oldest brother smiled and the bubble faded out. He looked at the shield in amazement. “I’m so glad your home,” he said and kissed it.
As they left the cave they questioned the woman. She was from a village to the west, travelling with her husband and his brother selling spear heads and iron products between villages when the spiders had taken them by surprise. He husband was an elf, and was the one they found in the cave. Grian promised her he would escort her to the next village where she could find safe passage back home.
They reached the next village mid-morning the following day. Stone Spear and the woman went to talk to the elders while the rest of them went into the market looking for anything useful. Several stalls had fruits and vegetables that were a rare commodity for both the village and the party. Sreg bought them all some apples that they ate while traversing the rest of the stalls.
Most of the stuff wasn’t anything that interested Grian. Clay pots, spears, and clothing didn’t interest the dwarf. He looked for a brewer or tavern as he weeded through the people with the brothers and Birell. They stuck together and resupplied with some dried meat from the large lizards called Kamocks. It definitely was an acquired taste, but it would keep them alive in the weeks to come.
Through conversations with the vendors, Grian found out this was the last village between here and the Red Rock Castle. Roving parties of bandits sweep wide from there and take what they need and destroy the rest. All of the closer villages were abandoned years ago due to that fact.
Birell checked out one of the few weapons merchants, but their knives were not up to par with what the elf was used too. The blades were thick and unbalanced. Not wanting to upset the merchant she bought a small belt knife and tucked it into her pack. It could come in handy to eat with, she thought.
Skrat stopped at a small tent that said it had mystical potions, and while the rest of the party waited for him to return they ate their apples. The young mage emerged a few minutes later with some parchment wrapped with a blue ribbon and sealed with wax.
“What have you there?” Sreg asked pointing to the scroll with his finger.
“You wouldn’t know, you can’t read,” Skrat replied.
“Yes I can!” he said, turning towards Birell. “I can too read!”
“Sure you can,” the self said with a smile patting the ranger on the shoulder. He huffed for a few seconds then laughed.
“If you must know, I traded a spell I know for another. This will teach me something new, once I study it,” Skrat said.
“A way home?” Zeeg asked.
“Possibly, brother,” Skrat said.
“Moose go home,” Moose said with a sad tone in his voice. Skrat patted his giant of a brother on the arm.
Stone Spear and the woman appeared at the far end of the bazaar so the party left to meet them. With the Desert Folk was what appeared to be another shaman. He was really interested in Grian. He sighed when he realized they must have told of his healing abilities. He feared this shaman might resent him like Spirit Walker did.
“Grian, this is Wind Dancer,” Stone Spear said, doing the introductions. Grian nodded to the shaman.
“I hear great things about you. Can we talk in private?” the shaman said.
“I don’t see why not,” Grian said and followed Stone Spear and the shaman out of the bazaar. As they left the area the mystical tent’s flap parted and a black haired dwarf stepped out with a curious look on his face. He followed the group of strangers like his master commanded him to.
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