Lost in Hamlet Forest

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series War of the Soulhers: Dugar's Story

After a long trek through the mountains of their homeland, the group of six dwarves finally arrived in the wooded forest of Hamlet. The smell of pine and maple permeated the air. It was not something they much enjoyed, preferring the feel of being surrounded by dank stone.

The Karidig brothers, Hagdun and Pwint, argued most of the way.  Their intense conversations caused them to lag behind the others, forcing them to double back and find the two shouting dwarves.  With this back and forth, it wasn’t long before the group got lost among the large pine trees of the forest.

“I’m tellin’ ye, Pwint, yer sissy armor, with its flashy shine just canno’ take a hit from an axe or hammer the way mine can,” said Hagdun.

“Bah, yer rusted old thing is gonna break on its next hit, believe you me,” answered Pwint. “T’would be well enough, maybe it could smack some sense into yer dirty beard there.”

“Hah, your beard ain’t any cleaner, brother,” said Hagdun.

“Hey fellas,” chimed in Dugar, who had fallen back in order to bring Pwint and Hagdun back with the group.  ”If yer done fightin’ amongst yerselves, how’s about coming over here an’ helpin’ us figure out jus’ where in the nine hells we are.”

Hagdun and Pwint scowled at Dugar in unison, that is until they realized they couldn’t see the other three dwarves.  They picked up the pace and jogged back to the group.

***

“So Piknen,” said Ivel as he ruffled through some leaves, “d’ya got any clue on how to get to the village of Hamlet from here?”

“Nay, Ivel, I don’t think so,” Piknen answered, looking as far into the dark and wild forest as he could.  “Anyone got any ideas? I canno’ find a durned thing in this mess.”

The trio heard ruffling foliage and turned to find Dugar, Hagdun and Pwint returning, all three slightly out of breath from their small jog.  Belda’s gaze caught Dugar by surprised, and he looked away from her shyly.

“No ideas here,” said Belda, turning back towards Piknen, “but perhaps Dugar, Hagdun or Pwint have any ideas?”

“Sorry to say m’lady,” answered Hagdun, “but Pwint an’ I have been too busy discussing how best to cleave armor rather than paying attention on our whereabouts. Although Pwint thinks he knows best, I believe I know best, an’ Dugar here agreed with me, ain’t that right Dugar?”

Dugar had heard enough family cussing today to last him for a long time, and the last thing he wanted was to be thrown into the middle of it.  He turned to slap Hagdun in the back of the head when he noticed something in the distance: a group of human soldiers bearing the symbol of the Kingdom of Tarra on their shields.  This had to be a saving grace from Moradin himself.

“Up ahead, laddies. Some folk who can help us just up there,” Dugar pointed in their direction.

As he did, the group of soldiers stopped and turned towards the dwarves: they had obviously noticed their presence.  Both groups made their way toward each other and met about halfway, next to a giant oak tree.

“Greetings Dwarves,” said the only the man in plate armor, obviously the leader of the group.  He must be a great fighter, Dugar thought, looking at the giant sword sheathed at his back. A hint of purple radiance emanated from the blade – a magical blade it must be.  The man coughed, turned away from the dwarves, put his hands to his face and turned back to face them once again.

“I am Lieutenant Bog, and this is my company from the Kingdom of Tarra, and we are currently on patrol in this forest. What brings you here?”

Dugar stepped in front of his comrades and took the leadership role among them at that instant.

“I be Dugar, and these are my companions from Adgad. Our village elder, Lacidin, has sent us on a mission to Tarra to aid in local troubles. To our dismay, we are lost.”

“Worry yourselves no longer then,” said Lieutenant Bog, “for we have been expecting you, just not quite as many of you. Nevertheless, we will gladly escort you to Fort Caspien, where a retinue awaits your presence.”

The six dwarves smiled at that. They simply hated the smell of trees and were glad that would soon end.

The group then began marching in a south-westerly direction. Ivel began to notice a few oddities about the soldiers. Other than the lieutenant, they all seemed very pale and weak, and did not converse among each other.  They also marched in a very inhuman and monotonous way.

“Hey Piknen,” whispered Ivel, “d’ya notice the way these soldiers seem to gaze straight ahead and don’t speak much?”

“Why da ya ask?”

“I dunno, there’s just something unnatural about the way they are is all,” Ivel answered.

“Bah, yer worryin’ o’er nothin’. They’re just trained real good at soldierin’ is all.”

Piknen’s response did little to ease Ivel’s tension however, who began to study the human leader with greater detail. For all intents and purposes, the lieutenant appeared quite normal in comparison to his troops. He couldn’t make out much of him as he had a gleaming helmet that covered most of his face. He did notice, however, that every so often, he would face away from everyone else and rub his hands across his face – no, not just his face, but right to his eyes. Something was definitely strange about him. He decided it best to talk to Belda about this.

“Hey Belda,” he said, waiving her to the side , “can I talk ta ya bout somethin’?”

“Sure thing,” she responded.

The two dwarves ducked behind a bush, unnoticed by the human soldiers.  Whispering, Ivel explained to Belda the minute details he had been noticing.

“Well it sounds like something might be up,” she said. “I will commune with Moradin and see if we can discover anything with his divine guidance.”

Ivel nodded and gave Belda a bit of room. She then proceeded to flip through a few pages of a tome she had been carrying on herself. The pages were filled with various holy texts about Moradin, but a portion of the book was reserved to holding divine rituals which she had mastered. She flipped over to the ritual that she had been seeking.

Belda took a few items from a pouch and sprinkled the magical components in the air. She intoned a few words, and made strange hand gestures in the air.  She then took out a few more components – some of which were moving, Ivel noticed – and proceeded with more gestures and words that were incomprehensible, certainly not common or dwarvish.

Finally, a glint of light surrounded her, and her eyes opened wide in realization as she completed the ritual.

“What is it?” asked Ivel.

“They’re Undead!” she cringed.

Suddenly, Lieutenant Bog appeared before them, ripping the bush under which the dwarves had been hiding from the ground. In so doing, his right eye came right out of its socket, dangling before his face. Bog then scooped it up from where it hung at his cheek and shoved it back into its socket. As he grazed his cheek, the skin peeled right off: the early stages of decomposition were clearly evident on the lieutenant. Bog then took out and swung his great sword in one mighty motion.

Although Belda and Ivel were able to avoid the sword, it efficiently sliced through the bush, catching Hagdun off guard and separating his head from his neck. He would not have a chance to prove his brother right or wrong on his armor, as the blade cut just above it.

The rest of the dwarves took out their arms immediately after that, now fully aware of the situation they were in. Somehow, these undead soldiers from Tarra must have been waiting for them, but what vile servant of evil would have known they would be in the forest?

The undead soldiers began to swing their swords systematically at the dwarves. Dugar’s shield came right up to deflect a blow heading towards Piknen’s chest. He followed this by smashing his shield into the soldier’s face, with an immediate upward arc from his hammer, right between the legs. Although he heard a crunch, Dugar noticed the soldier didn’t react to the pain of the blow and instead continued to fight.

“Filthy undead scum,” he said, then brought the hammer back down, smashing its head into its body.

Seeing his brother decapitated, Pwint welled up in tears and suddenly went into a blinding rage. His axe was swinging wildly, cleaving undead soldier after undead soldier. In his madness, he nearly slashed Ivel as he finally entered the fray with Belda.  He charged at Bog.

“I’ll kill you…I’ll re-kill you…bah just die!!” he screamed.

Each of Pwint’s swings were easily deflected by Bog’s immense blade. Each parry seemed to sent sparks of purple flying in every which way. The calmness in those parries was scary. It seemed way too easy for the lieutenant.

Pwint stopped swinging and took a few steps back. He then muscled up all his anger and courage, flexing all his bulging muscles, fueled with hate, anger and adrenaline. He charged the lieutenant with the intent of  cleaving his head just as the lieutenant had cleaved the head of his brother. Just as he got near, however, a soldier planted itself in front of its leader and took the blow for him. Another one then stuck its blade in Pwint’s neck, also just above the armor line. Blood gushed forward as Pwint’s body dropped to the floor.  He too, would not get the chance to prove to his brother the efficacy of his armor.

Piknen’s battle axe was active, chopping down soldiers’ limbs. Ivel helped him by smashing as much as was left with his hammer. One got its leg cut off while it got an arm smacked. Another lost a hand and had a foot smashed.

Belda, meanwhile, was deflecting sword thrusts with her fine mithril chain, all the while summoning the power of Moradin, presenting his hammer and anvil symbol and causing soldiers to cower away from her. These were then easy picking for Dugar, who hammered one after the other against the trees.
Her power now drained, though, Belda put her symbol away and took out a shield strapped to her back. More undead began rushing her with their swords. It was getting difficult to defend against those blows, even more difficult to counterattack them. Noticing her struggle, Dugar rushed in and assisted her in deflecting their attacks.

“Worry not, beautiful one,” he said, “I got ye covered.”

Belda smiled at that and kissed Dugar’s cheek while they were hidden behind their shields. Ivel and Piknen soon came to help them, cleaving away at the many soldiers, more than had originally accompanied them.

Blades then protruded through Ivel and Piknen’s shoulders. The blood gushed forth and hit Dugar and Belda’s shields.

“No!” they screamed in unison.

Ivel and Piknen used their still good arms to turn around and fight off the soldiers. The pain was excruciating.

Now with a less pressing attack on them, Belda and Dugar split up. Belda went to Ivel and Piknen and used healing prayers on them to ease the pain and mend the wounds. Meanwhile, Dugar noted Lieutenant Bog had wandered away from the battle, and made his way towards him, leaving the other dwarves on their own.  As he approached him, the Lieutenant took out his giant sword in challenge.

“I was not expecting the son of Bagdin Gedoon to be among the group,” said Bog. “A pleasant surprise nonetheless.”

“I don’t know who ye are, ye vile scum, but know this, no pride shall be taken from bringing down Dugar ‘Shieldbearer’ on this day, cuz yer stinkin’ hide is the one that will be taken down!” Dugar said, getting his hammer and shield ready, goading the lieutenant toward him.

“Let that be what you think then, ‘Shieldbearer’.”

Bog then charged at Dugar with his blade, smacking right on the shield. The force of the swing was so mighty that it knocked the dwar back a couple of feet – something that didn’t happen too often to a dwarf. A feeling of evil energy could also be felt in that blow, Dugar didn’t like his chances.

The dwarf charged at the lieutenant with his hammer, his swing missing the lieutenant by a large margin, Dugar sliding passed Bog.    Bog retaliated and hitting Dugar directly in the back of his head as slid passed.

As darkness grew around him, and consciousness slipped away, Dugar’s thoughts went to Ivel, Piknen and Belda.  He wondered what their fates would be.

Then everything went black.

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