Glyph inhaled suddenly, and jerked quickly into a standing position. “What? What?” He screamed, feeling his chest and arms as he began to realize he was not only still alive, but in one piece. “The time! What is the time?” Glyph yelled out. He stared at his wrist in a panic, but couldn’t believe what his Rolex was telling him. At the sound of Glyph’s outburst, several Torlean soldiers and General Haddix rushed into his tent. Glyph grabbed Haddix by the front of his flak jacket with one hand, and stared at him with wild eyes. “What time is it?” He demanded to know. With a flash, Lobrein suddenly appeared.
“Glyph!” Amos shouted as he too jumped to his feet, staring at Glyph as though he were a ghost.
“It’s sixteen fifty-two.” Haddix stated firmly, though he too was taken aback by Glyph’s demeanor.
“Glyph! You should not be here for eight more minutes! What has happened?” She asked frantically.
“I died!” Glyph screamed back at her and turned to see Miatsu and Prianna burst into the tent.
Amos stood wide-eyed and open mouthed, and Haddix stepped back several paces.
Glyph shook uncontrollably now, and Lobrein stared in astonishment “What…what do you mean?” She gasped.
One of the soldiers offered Glyph a chair, and his knees gave out as he slumped into it. “I mean I died. I’m dead, Lobrein. Tsach killed me.” Glyph spat hastily.
A profound silence fell over them, and all that could be heard was Glyph’s heavy breathing. “But you are here.” Miatsu finally spoke. “How–?”
“It’s the curse.” Glyph said his voice quivering, “It’s the only thing that makes sense. The curse must end when your generated body dies.” Then he looked about the room with frantic eyes. “Where’s Zarish?” He demanded.
“You infected her with the curse in M’atra, Glyph. She must have returned to her original body as well.” Miatsu reasoned.
“That would mean Albast could still be alive.” Amos blurted out.
“They would both be on M’atra.” Lobrein gasped, her hand cupped to her mouth.
Glyph just nodded yes.
“Glyph, Tsach is still in Kivas with Ishea. Zarish was a bloody mess. Even if the curse hasn’t ended, there’s still no way to return in time to help them!” Amos shouted.
Glyph just sat there. Albast was alive. “He knew.” Glyph muttered.
“What?” Amos exclaimed.
Glyph looked up at them, his face was pale and his skin pasty. “Albast knew the curse would be broken, that’s why he threw himself onto my sword. More than that, he was right.” He said calmly, reflexively placing his hand to the hilt of the Kings sword, only to find it was missing.
“You mean he was right about the curse?” Miatsu questioned.
“He was right about everything, Miatsu. The curse, the prophecies, everything. I should have listened.” Glyph told him. “We’ve got to—.” He started as he tried to stand, but his knees gave out and sent him crashing to the floor.
“Quickly, move him to the couch.” He heard Lobrein say. Miatsu and Amos moved in and lifted him there. “Glyph. Glyph, stay with us now.” He could hear Lobrein saying, but it was muffled as if she were talking through several layers of blankets.
“Here, try this.” General Haddix said.
Suddenly Glyph found himself forced to consciousness, his eyes popped open as he saw Lobrein pulling the smelling salts away. “Drink this.” Lobrein said, placing a small vial to his lips. He gagged down the foul tasting liquid, and could feel his strength returning almost instantly. “Bring some water, quickly.” Lobrein ordered and Prianna rushed from the room.
Glyph glanced around at them. Lobrein was strictly business. Miatsu and General Haddix looked worried, but Amos was in a near state of panic. Amos’s eyes bulged and his hands pulled at what little hair he had as he paced shakily. Glyph met Lobrein’s stare and weakly pointed at Amos. She glanced back, and then stood and placed herself in Amos’s path.
“Amos.” Lobrein said to him.
“Ishea…what?…how can we?…what are?…then…” Amos stuttered incoherently.
Lobrein guided him over to the chair and pushed him into it.
As soon as Amos landed in the seat he sprang back up. “We can’t!…we have to!…Ishea…Albast!” He screamed. Amos’s eyes bulged darting about aimlessly, and as he attempted to push past Lobrein she grabbed his forehead. His eyelids fluttered momentarily, then closed as she eased him back into the chair fast asleep.
Prianna entered with a jug of water and Lobrein immediately pushed it toward Glyph, who began to sip graciously. “What’s wrong with me?” Glyph said weakly.
“You are dehydrated, and your energy levels are low. Try to stay still.”
“And Amos?” Glyph eked out.
“That is a bit more complicated. Amos is being affected by Drayden’s animus. It appears to reduce his coping skills.”
“I have to get back.” Glyph told her. “Ishea is–.”
“On her own for the moment. Until your strength returns you are in no condition to do anything.” Lobrein stated resolutely.
“If there is indeed anything that we can do.” Miatsu added. Lobrein gave him a disapproving stare, and he stepped back saying nothing.
Glyph laid there, his thoughts moving a mile a minute. Suddenly he sat up. Something Albast had said sprung into his mind.
“Glyph, what is it?” Prianna said as she moved toward him.
“Albast. He said that when I realize that I am as powerful as Tsach, that what I wanted from him will no longer be necessary.” Glyph answered calmly as he concentrated on the old wizard’s words.
“What you wanted from Albast? I do not understand.” Prianna questioned.
Lobrein turned to stare at them, as Haddix and Miatsu also perked up.
“The curse. I wanted him to alter the curse and send me back!” Glyph said excitedly. “He said I would have the power to do whatever I wanted!”
“Glyph, you are still weak, you should–.” Lobrein said, but Glyph cut her off.
“No. No I’m not!” Glyph shouted as he stood up. Just a thought had increased his strength, and re-hydrated his body. Glyph smiled and laughed. Prianna, caught up in Glyph’s rant began to giggle as well, and Glyph caught her in a bear hug and lifted her off her feet.
“Glyph, what are you saying?” Lobrein demanded.
Glyph released Prianna and stared at them. “Don’t you get it? Whatever I want!” He exclaimed like it should make perfect sense. The others gawked at him as if he had finally lost his mind. “We’re going to M’atra! We’re going now!”
“Glyph I –.” Lobrein started.
“Amos! Wake up, we’re going back.” Glyph said, and Amos’s eyes fluttered open, and he sat up straight.
“What? Are you ready now? It’s about time.” Amos said as he got to his feet, rubbing his left eye.
Prianna clapped her hands together quickly, squealed with delight, and began to jump up and down.
“But how?” Miatsu said in awe.
“Like this.” Glyph said and pointed at the wall with the window. Instantly it began to morph, swirling inward towards the center. Then with a loud bang it turned blue and spun quickly into a bright maelstrom of light and energy. Lobrein’s mouth dropped open in astonishment.
Glyph grew serious as he looked at them. “It’s still going to be dangerous. We could still die. You don’t have to come.”
Amos eyed him up. “And miss all the fun? No way, count me in.”
“Me as well.” Miatsu added.
“Me too.” Prianna stated.
“If you’re going then so am I.” General Haddix spoke crisply, as he placed his hands on Prianna’s shoulders.
They all looked at Lobrein, whose mouth slowly contorted into a wicked smile. “Lead on, Great One.” She said devilishly.
Glyph smiled broadly, it was all starting to make sense to him now. “Good.” He said. “First things first.” And he boldly stepped through the gate.
Glyph walked into the dark chamber and the torches lit up as the others filed in behind him. With a wave of his hand, the magical protection that surrounded Albast’s sarcophagus crystallized and fell to the ground, skittering across the polished marble floor. Then, with a loud crack, the top flew off and slammed into the far wall, creating a small cloud of dust. The room grew silent as Glyph walked up the few steps of the raised dais and approached the coffin. Glyph peered in and saw Albast lying there peacefully, with a blue nimbus bubble surrounding his head. As the others gathered around, his eyes popped open and the bubble disappeared.
“I’m glad you all could make it.” Albast said weakly. Glyph grasped the ancient wizards hand and began to pump him full of energy, while pulling him into a seated position. “I was beginning to think I would actually die here.” The color returned to his ashen skin as he looked around.
Prianna squealed exuberantly, as Lobrein threw her arms around Albast, who smiled and winked at Glyph.
Glyph smiled back as he and Lobrein helped Albast out of his coffin.
“That’s some grip you have there.” Albast said to Glyph.
“Are you well, Master?” Miatsu asked, still in shock.
“Better than well, thanks to our friend here.” Albast said and nodded at Glyph, who now released the old wizard’s hand.
“Oh Glyph, you are amazing! Thank you!” Prianna gushed.
“There’ll be time for that later Prianna.” Albast said shaking the fabric of his thousand-year-old robes as if they were dusty. “I believe there’s still work to be done.” He said and glanced at Glyph for confirmation.
Glyph nodded once in agreement. “Are you ready?” Glyph asked him.
“I believe so, yes.” Albast replied.
In a flash of brilliant white light the group vanished, and a moment later reappeared on the highest parapet of the mountain Keep of Kivas. Glyph glanced about anxiously. The devastation that surrounded them was immense; blocks of stone and rubble were strewn about everywhere. A large chunk of the mountain itself had crumbled onto the floor of the high tower. Glyph ran to where he had last seen Ishea but she was gone, along with Tsach.
“I don’t understand. Where is she?” Glyph asked.
“It has been nearly half an hour since your return, Glyph. Tsach must have taken Ishea and left.” Miatsu answered.
“They can’t have gone too far.” Amos added. “Hopefully.”
Glyph spied the Kings sword jutting out of some rubble near the edge of the parapet and retrieved it with a thought. He examined the blade for a moment then resheathed the weapon, when he heard Prianna scream. He turned his head and saw her and General Haddix standing some distance away staring at a large black lump on the ground.
Fearing the worst, Glyph ran toward them, and understood all too quickly what they were looking at. It was Zarish; her crumpled and twisted body was slick with black blood that pooled on the stone beneath her. Lobrein walked around the demon’s torso, and briefly placed her hand on Zarish’s head.
“It is Zarish.” She said soberly. “She is dead Glyph.”
“No.” Glyph said as he stared at her body. “She can’t be dead.”
“I am so sorry, Glyph.” Prianna said in-between sobs.
Albast scratched his head and appeared puzzled.
“This isn’t right. She was to lead her people. She was good, damn it! She gave her life to save mine! No! No one will ever die for me again! Not now, not ever!” Glyph shouted and placed his hands to the demon’s bloody frame. In a brilliant flash, Glyph was covered in a blinding white light, and everyone around him began to back up as the light moved to encompass Zarish’s body as well. Glyph poured more and more of his own life essence into her, and although her wounds had healed, the spark of life needed to reanimate her eluded him. Just as Glyph was about to give up, Lobrein stepped up and placed her hand over Glyph’s. A moment later Prianna added hers, followed by Amos, Miatsu and Albast. When the light had faded away, the whole area around them was cleansed. One by one they removed their hands and stepped back. The female demon’s wounds were healed and her blood was gone, even from the stone on which she lay.
Glyph stood up and turned to face the others. “Thank you.” He said earnestly. No one said a word, but they all stared at him as if he had three heads. There were limits to a wizard’s power, but it was plain that no one there thought Glyph was a wizard any longer. Glyph heard Zarish stir, and knew that they had been successful. Separating himself from the others a short distance, he set his mind on finding Ishea. “They’re in the throne room again.” He said, but no one had heard him.
“Holy shit!” Haddix blurted out.
They all stared, transfixed on the demon Zarish as she began to sit up. She shook her head a little, and placed one hand to her forehead to shield her eyes from the sunlight, as she began to focus on her surroundings. “What are you all staring at?” She demanded, and looked rather irritated to be the center of attention.
“Zarish. Good to have you back.” Glyph said calmly.
“What do you mean, back?” Zarish asked. “And why is everyone looking at me like that?”
“One does not often bear witness to resurrection. Especially in its purest form.” Albast finally spoke.
Once more Glyph began to have second thoughts about letting his friends join in this battle. The fact that he might be able to bring them back from death would only hold true if he defeated the Arch Demon, not to mention it had taken all six of them to bring Zarish back to life. Glyph decided they would simply be too much of a distraction. Tsach would be hard enough to defeat without worrying about them, and as they gathered around Zarish to see the miracle up close, Glyph withdrew several more feet and vanished.
Glyph appeared in the middle of the throne room, and calmly pulled his sword and willed it to life. Tsach stood near the throne, with the Tome of Dark Lore in one hand and a silver chain in another. The chain led to the floor where it wrapped around Ishea’s body. The Arch-Demon seemed distracted as he poured over the Tome flipping pages back and forth.
“It’s over, Tsach!” Glyph yelled.
Tsach snapped the book closed and stared at Glyph, clearly startled by his sudden appearance. “I see you have survived…ironic that a curse has spared your life, but it is of no matter. I killed you once, and I will do it again.”
Pointing his sword at the demon Glyph released a beam of blue energy that just missed Tsach as he sprang back and twisted to one side. Tsach’s eyes grew wide for a moment as the beam ripped through the top of Glyph’s throne without leaving so much as a speck of dust behind. Tsach yanked the chain and pulled Ishea’s body closer to him, before regaining his composure.
“Let her go, Tsach!” Glyph commanded angrily.
“You have grown attached to this female, Glyyyph. She will be your downfall.” Tsach said as he scooped Ishea up with his two left arms, and placed the Tome into a pouch on his waist.
At that moment Albast appeared next to Glyph, followed by the other wizards and Zarish. They were all spread throughout the throne room, each one stood poised to attack with their eyes glowing. Haddix brought up the rear sporting Amos’s magical machine gun.
“You!” Tsach bellowed as he stared contemptuously at Albast.
“I’m surprised you remember, Tsach. It has been quite some time.” Albast replied.
“You should be dead!” Tsach ranted.
“But you were wrong. Just as you were wrong about having killed Zarish and defeated Glyph.” Albast answered coolly. Tsach looked more irritable than ever as he cast a weary glance at Zarish and the wizards as they prepared to attack. “Feeling a bit outnumbered? Not so tough without your slaves to do your bidding?” Albast goaded.
Tsach laughed evilly. “You are no match for me old man! None of you are! I am a god!”
“Put the girl down Tsach, and we’ll put that theory to the test.” Albast replied.
Tsach glanced about the room at the other wizards and laughed again, but before he could finish, Glyph charged at the Arch-Demon, who promptly vanished in a blinding array of bursting lights.
“Follow him! Quickly!” Albast shouted. But Glyph was already dematerializing in pursuit.
Glyph reappeared at the base of the Keep; on the very spot he had died not more than an hour before. He could see Tsach some thirty feet away entering a red portal, then he and Ishea were gone, as the portal swirled shut and vanished from sight. Glyph’s charge slowed to a stop as he realized there was nothing left to chase.
“Glyph!” Amos called out as he appeared nearby, followed by Albast and the others.
“What?” Glyph screamed at him. He had never felt angrier in his whole life. Tsach and Ishea were gone, and the pit of his stomach burned so hot he felt he could spit acid.
“Where are they?” Amos asked a bit more subdued. He had learned to recognize Glyph’s look of all consuming hatred.
“Tsach has likely taken her to Earth.” Albast interjected. “It is destined to be the final battleground.”
“Then let’s go.” Glyph replied and turned to open a portal of his own.
“Wait. Tsach seeks to draw you into an ambush. He wants to fight you while you are also being attacked by his demons as well. We should take a moment to collect our thoughts.” Albast told him.
“I am not wasting any more time. It’s up to me to take him down, and that’s what I’m going to do.” Glyph replied
“Just a few minutes are all I ask. We should not rush in blindly, lest we give Tsach the upper hand, or risk making a fatal mistake.”
“But Ishea!” Glyph argued.
“Tsach will not harm her, as long as he believes he can use her for his own advantage. Listen to me, Glyph. Tsach has realized things did not go as he had thought. It has given him doubt, perhaps even fear, as to the outcome of your final encounter. It will be our job to make sure that you are not distracted from your course. We will defend you against Tsach’s forces so that you can concentrate solely on the defeat of the Arch-Demon.” Albast hurriedly explained.
Power oozed from Glyph in all directions now, creating a prickly electric sensation for anyone who came too near. Zarish had retrieved her war spear, and strode up next to Glyph and stood at attention. Albast took a moment, and began to issue orders to the other wizards, gesturing wildly as he raced to explain what they were about to do, and all the while Glyph seethed, trying to wait patiently for the ancient wizard to set his plans into motion.
Then Albast was there beside him. “Are you ready?” He asked.
Glyph just shot him a look. “Why now, Albast? Why am I now so powerful?”
Albast chuckled. “I think your curse may have divided the true extent of your power, and it could not manifest fully until your curse had ended.”
“And how do I know how to do these things, like opening portals, and bringing the dead back to life?” Glyph questioned.
“That is the beginning of omniscience. I believe that your power will continue to grow until you defeat Tsach. After that it’s anybody’s guess as to what will happen. You will probably be all-powerful, even all-knowing. There will be no need to ask questions, because you will know everything.” Albast told him.
“Then, I am becoming a god.” Glyph stated.
“Well, yes. For lack of a better word.” Albast said.
Glyph shifted his stance back and forth. He couldn’t even feel his weight, and every ache and pain he had ever had was gone. Casting a weary glance over his shoulder, Glyph could see that the other wizards had stepped into a loose formation behind them.
“Remember, Glyph, we are here to help you, but you are here to reset the balance of the universe. Concentrate only on defeating Tsach and nothing else. No matter what the consequence, you must succeed.” Albast said, and stared penetratingly into Glyph’s eyes.
Glyph wondered briefly if Albast was referring to Ishea, but decided not to ask. “I understand.”
“Good. The rest of us will try to keep Tsach’s forces at bay. Do not be concerned with us; we can take care of ourselves. Do not let anything that happens to us be a distraction, even if it means our own death.”
The thought didn’t sit well with Glyph, but he understood the necessity. For some reason, Albast’s words had calmed him down considerably. His mental faculties began to return, and his blinding rage subsided slightly. Exhaling deeply, Glyph nodded his understanding. “I am ready.”
“Yes, I believe you are.” Albast decided, and patted Glyph lightly on the shoulder.
What Albast said had made sense, Glyph decided, but his patience was all but gone. Glyph raised his arm in response and pointed. A portal began to take shape in front of them. Without pause, Glyph led the way through to Earth. A few seconds later they all
stood in the middle of the demon encampment.
Several startled demons rushed them, but Glyph smeared them flat as paste across the ground with a glance.
Albast nodded his approval. “Good hunting.” The ancient wizard offered, then charged off with Amos and Zarish toward a group of Ghouls. Lobrein took off in the opposite direction with Miatsu and Prianna. Glyph wasn’t sure where Haddix had gotten off to, but assumed they had teleported him to relative safety.
Then Glyph released the blue ray of death from the tip of the King’s Sword and swung the blade mercilessly, destroying everything in his path for hundreds of feet. A vast rumbling could be heard in the distance, and Glyph looked up to see the sky darkening overhead.
“I’m waiting Tsach!” Glyph called out in a voice that echoed for hundreds of miles. He did not have to wait long, as Tsach’s cloud came billowing out from around a distant hillside. As it moved closer, the dirty brown cloud began to take shape and transformed into Tsach, his four chitinous feet thumping along like enormous jackhammers as he skittered toward Glyph’s position. The Arch-Demon was once more at his full height of nearly twenty feet, and to Glyph’s horror, Ishea lay strapped naked and spread-eagled to Tsach’s chest, bound with silver chains.
Glyph deftly moved his sword in a low arc. The blue ray leapt forth to cut Tsach off at the knees, but the Arch-Demon brushed it aside with a slight wave of his second left hand, causing the ray to strike the ground and pass around him.
He watched as Tsach continued to move closer, like a three story building on legs. Glyph heard the wail of demons from his right and stole a glance to see Albast with thirty-foot lightning whips in each hand, moving in a graceful dance of death, frying anything that got too close.
“Glyph!” He heard Ishea’s warning blast through his mind, but too late. Tsach had teleported next to him in the blink of an eye and snatched him up in one hand. As Tsach raised him to his eye level, he caught a glimpse of Ishea’s worried face, and her eyes were wild. The Arch-Demon squeezed hard, forcing the air from Glyph’s lungs and cracking his ribs. Glyph pushed back with his own energy, and caused the outside of his body to superheat. With disgust, Tsach threw Glyph down to avoid having his hand ignite into flames, and Glyph slammed into the ground at high speed. Even as Glyph hit the dirt, his wounds began to heal. He rolled in time to meet Tsach’s enormous spider-like leg with the tip of the King’s sword as it came crashing down on him, burying the blade to the hilt into the bottom of the demon’s claw. With a surge of power, Glyph held the leg above his head, and twirling the sword, carved off huge swaths of Tsach’s lower leg.
The Arch-Demon jumped back, instinctively reaching for the wound even as his leg grew whole again. Glyph dodged and ran with superhuman speed to escape the onslaught. Tsach surged after him at once, with all four of his legs pounding down around him like giant pointy redwoods dropping from the sky, crushing boulders and shaking the earth violently. Glyph could barely maintain his balance as he maneuvered to slice off another of Tsach’s claw-like feet as it threatened to crush him like a bug.
‘This is getting me nowhere.’ Glyph thought. He morphed into a Hexzu and took flight just as Tsach’s wounded foot re-grew and another came smashing down where he had just been. “How can I bring him down when every blow I make is healed instantly? I’m like a gnat attacking a bear.” Glyph said to himself and deftly out-maneuvered a volley of lightning that streamed out from each of Tsach’s four hands.
Spinning, Glyph blasted the demon with a force of wind that would have leveled a forest, but Tsach merely dug in his feet and rode it out. He heard Ishea cry out as the debris stirred up from Glyph’s blast cut into her flesh at hurricane speed. As he stared in shock at what he had done, Tsach leapt forward and smacked him out of the sky, shattering one of his wings. Glyph teleported several hundred feet away before he hit the ground and reverted back to his human form.
Tsach turned and immediately locked on to his new position. “You can’t run from a god, Glyyyph!” Tsach bellowed as he moved quickly toward Glyph.
“What does a god need with a human shield?!” Glyph countered, desperately thinking of a way to level the playing field. Glyph called forth his shield, and with a wave of his hand he split the ground under Tsach’s feet, but the Arch-Demon teleported to where Glyph stood, stripped his shield away and let loose another lightning attack. Glyph raised his sword just in time to catch the electric blast with its edge. As he raised the blade to swing the blazing plasma back onto the demon, Tsach kicked him, sending Glyph spinning up into the air, lightning spewing forth from his sword in a pinwheel fashion as his body spiraled up and over the top of the hill. Stars filled Glyph’s vision as he hit the rocky slope and began to bounce down the embankment. He screamed out in agony, but as before his bloody wounds and broken bones healed instantly, and by the time he stopped rolling he was whole enough to push himself back onto his feet.
“Glyph, you must not hold back!” Ishea’s voice suddenly filled his mind.
“I can’t risk killing you, Ishea. There must be another way!” Glyph replied, but part of him knew she was correct. No matter what he did, Ishea would surely die, and there was no guarantee that Glyph could bring her back. As he stood watching Tsach crest the top of the hill in pursuit, Glyph finally understood. There was still something that had to happen, that needed to happen, if Glyph was to win this battle.
“Shea, there is only one way.” Glyph sent his thought to her.
“The bitch is correct, Glyyyph. You must kill her to get at me!” Tsach roared, and launched a volley of blue-white fireballs down the hill at him.
Glyph caught the first one on his blade and sent it back into the other three, showering the ground with fiery napalm.
“I do not know if I can.” Ishea replied.
‘Good’ Glyph thought, she had understood. “You must, Shea.” He said.
“Shut up, whore!” Tsach yelled at Ishea, and leapt down to the base of the hill beside Glyph.
Glyph fired his blue ray at Tsach’s face, but Tsach was too quick, and the beam only ripped into his right ear, shaving it from the rest of the Arch-Demon’s head. One of Tsach’s hands reflexively touched the side of his head and when he pulled it away, the ear had reappeared.
“I love you, Glyph.” He heard Ishea’s voice once more, and Glyph could feel his hatred for Tsach boil over.
“I said be silent, cunt!” Tsach raged. As the Arch-Demon moved one hand up toward Ishea to strike at her, the female wizard’s eyes flashed a brilliant purple.
“Fuck you!” Ishea cursed sending out shockwaves of energy that rippled the flesh of Tsach’s chest and hand. “My name is Shea!” She screamed, as her body began to glow, and an instant later was eclipsed by a blinding lavender light. The silver chains that bound her melted away, and then she was gone.
Tsach howled and beat at his now-blackened chest, where Shea had been a moment before. She had freed herself and teleported away, and an evil grin stretched its way across Glyph’s face.
‘Grow.’ Glyph thought, and suddenly felt himself surging upward into the air, though his feet remained on the ground. A second later, Glyph and his sword had expanded to almost four times their normal size; he now stared at Tsach eye to eye. With a quick jab, he hit the Arch-Demon square in the face with all his might, knocking him over onto his back.
“Time to die fucker!” Glyph yelled. Flipping the King’s sword over his head, he swung down toward Tsach, but two of the demon’s hands caught Glyph’s arms, and the other two grabbed Glyph’s torso. Tsach pushed back with his four legs and flipped Glyph over his head onto the other side of the hill. Glyph slammed hard onto the rocky bank, but used the momentum to push forward and spring back onto his feet. He spun in time to catch Tsach as the Demon pounced on him, pushing Glyph off balance and landing on top of him as Glyph fell onto his back squashing several Grull that had wandered too close.
They grappled for several minutes, rolling over the ground this way and that. Glyph tried to gain the upper hand, but realized quickly that with Tsach’s extra arms and legs it was nearly impossible. Glyph struggled under the demon, and just as he began to change two of Tsach’s arms into ice, he felt a searing pain in his lower abdomen. Tsach had morphed his third arm into a massive spike and jammed it into Glyph’s stomach, pinning him momentarily to the earth. Twisting his hold on Tsach’s frozen arms, he snapped them both free of the Demon’s torso at the shoulder, dropped them, and immediately grabbed Tsach’s face, digging both of his thumbs deep into the Arch-Demon’s eyes.
With his free hand, Tsach tore at Glyph’s grip on his eyes, and managed to pry one of Glyph’s hands free, just as his other hand popped the Demon’s right eye with a juicy spurt that sprayed Glyph’s cheek.
Tsach howled, and withdrew his spike arm from Glyph’s body long enough to jam it down into him again. Glyph could feel the searing pain course through him like a wave, as he pushed his thumb deeper into Tsach’s bloodied eye socket. Finally Tsach pulled free of him and leapt shakily to his feet. Glyph gasped for breath and tried to roll away from the Arch-Demon, but could not move. His hands groped at the wounds which, he could tell, were starting to heal, but not fast enough for him to get out of Tsach’s way. The Arch-Demon lunged at him, but at the last moment a blast of force slammed into Tsach and knocked him off course to Glyph’s left.
“Glyph! Get out of there!” Lobrein shouted in his mind.
‘A few more seconds.’ Glyph thought as he staggered to his feet. He caught a quick glimpse of the female sorceress as she teleported away, and Glyph did the same. He looked down at his wounds as they sealed up, and the pain vanished. It occurred to Glyph that his standard tactics weren’t working, and that more drastic measures would be needed if he hoped to end this soon. The sun was setting, and hordes of Tsach’s forces marched steadily forward toward the mountains off to his left. He had lost sight of Albast and the others, but by the sounds of explosions and screams near the base of the mountain, they couldn’t be too far away.
‘How can I possibly defeat him?’ Glyph asked himself. ‘Nothing I do has any effect. If only there were some perceivable weakness I could exploit.’ Glyph decided he would have to think along lines that were perhaps beyond his understanding. But how could he use something like that against Tsach? Especially when he didn’t even know what that something could be? It would have to be big, and powerful, and evil, because using the power of good alone just wasn’t enough. He would have to fight Tsach on the Arch-Demon’s level, and beyond, if he hoped to kill him. Suddenly Glyph snapped back to his senses. Where was Tsach now? And why hadn’t he attacked again? He glanced about quickly trying to catch sight of the Arch-Demon, but he was nowhere to be found. Something was wrong, he could feel it with his whole being.
Concentrating on Tsach, Glyph could feel his presence, and with a thought, vanished in pursuit. When he re-appeared Glyph knew Tsach had been thinking the same thing, but the Arch-Demon didn’t have to guess at Glyph’s weakness, he already knew. About a dozen Torlean soldiers flew past Glyph like tiny rag dolls, as Tsach waved them aside. The Arch-Demon’s focus was Shea, as he pummeled her shield with two hundred mile per hour flaming winds. Ruts formed in the landscape around her shield some twenty or more feet deep. Try as he might, Tsach could not strip her shield away, but her power was finite and Glyph knew it was only a matter of time before she caved.
Snapping the base of a hundred-year-old oak tree, Glyph wrenched it into the air. All the branches snapped and peeled away as he drew it back behind his head like a spear, and the tip peeled into a point as he drove it full force into Tsach’s back. The tree protruded through the Arch-demon like butter, and forced Tsach’s attention away from Shea and back to Glyph. Behind the Arch-Demon, Glyph could see Shea standing defiantly under her energy dome, like an island amidst the wind-stripped mountainside, endlessly repeating the incantation which had strengthened her shield.
Tsach sneered at Glyph, grasped the tree where it protruded from his chest, and burned it to ashes in a matter of seconds. Glyph began to hurl giant slabs of rock from the surrounding landscape at the demon, as fast as he could make it happen. Boulders flew from every direction, assailing the Arch-Demon at every turn. Suddenly Tsach began to grow, and Glyph continued his onslaught, even as Tsach reached heights of nearly a hundred feet. Then, just as suddenly as he had grown, the image wavered and vanished. It wasn’t a teleport; it had been an illusion, and while Glyph had been attacking it, Tsach had slipped away.
Glyph spun around but the demon was nowhere to be found. Suddenly Glyph was falling, as the ground beneath his feet disappeared. Throwing out his arms, Glyph managed to catch himself, but before he could think to escape, the earth slammed shut around him, encasing him up to his armpits. Tsach appeared amongst the trees in front of him, wielding two enormous double-bladed battle-axes. Glyph pushed his thought through his hands into the ground, and before Tsach could take another step the trees around the Arch-Demon sprang to life, bending their trunks and branches, latching on to his arms and legs and straining to hold Tsach in place. Glyph phased the part of his body that was trapped and with one swift push, propelled himself back up onto solid ground.
Swinging his battleaxes, Tsach managed to top several of the trees, and a moment later they all burst into flames from the inside out, sending a cloud of burning coals and ash billowing away from the Arch-Demon. The hole in his chest healed, and Glyph now noticed the wet blood that smeared down one side of Tsach’s face, but where his right eye had been there was only a black glossy orb, just like the eyes of those evil fucks who sought to kill him in his hour.
Then the Arch-Demon reared back to deliver a blast of pure energy into Glyph. “You will die!” Tsach yelled, but Glyph felt his intent, waved his hand and reversed the spell back upon Tsach. Light exploded in the Arch-Demon’s face.
“Not today, not again!” Glyph cried.
With a thought, Glyph illuminated the force lines that fed their power all across the planet, and there directly behind him was the double helix of a spiraling red and blue force line. He knew that millions would die from what he was about to do, but he also didn’t care. Reaching back, Glyph grabbed the red line of force and tore it free. The Earth rocked as he swung the crackling energy whip upward at Tsach in a low arc, and slammed it into the Arch-Demon. The impact sent out a sheet of red sparks hundreds of feet in all directions, as the power of the strike launched Tsach into the air, higher and higher until his hurtling body could no longer be seen.
The Earth shook again. This time a fissure appeared and traveled down the length of the mountain chain toward the south. Glyph got to his feet and squinted up at the sky. He took the blazing red line of force, intent on repairing it, but with the power flow broken, the rest of it from the point of the break had atrophied, contracted in upon itself and evaporated before his eyes.
Suddenly a powerful rumbling shook the ground once more, as a mountain a few miles away surged upward several hundred feet into the late evening sky then blew its top off, spraying debris outward in a giant mushroom cloud of hot vapor, ash, and lava.
Glyph felt the slight power drain immediately. This wasn’t the only force line in the world, but it was the closest. He took a few steps to where the force line had been, and with sheer force of mind moved the remaining red power line into the blue. Energy blew out all around him for a moment as he stabilized the new line, now a single purple conduit of power. As he stepped back, the lines all vanished from view, and another mountaintop exploded further to the south, followed by another somewhere toward the north. Glyph slowly began to shrink until he reached his normal height. He thought of his sword, and smiled as it formed in his hand. Glyph glanced over to where Shea was. Her shield was down, and she knelt there, face pale, and mouth open. She was too shocked to speak, and as Glyph looked at her, she began to tremble.
“Glyph!” He heard Amos shouting, as the wizard appeared some twenty feet away.
Glyph paid his friend no mind as he stared off at the horizon in the direction he had just sent Tsach.
“Glyph?” Amos said questioningly as he jogged the short distance. Glyph turned his head to look at him. Amos kept shaking his head ‘no’, and Glyph could see the magnitude of what he had done etched clearly in the pain he witnessed in the former Detective’s eyes. Amos held out his hands and waved them palms up.
Glyph didn’t even wait for his question. “About five hundred million.” He told him, and heard Shea gasp. Glyph wanted to apologize, but knew it wouldn’t be sincere. It had, after all, been a small price to pay, and it still wasn’t over.
Without hesitation, Glyph turned away from them, concentrated on Tsach, and teleported there. The Arch Demon lay in a crater nearly ten feet deep. Tsach’s legs were twisted in all directions, a long blackened scar ran like a twisting trough the length of the demon’s body, and black blood oozed through the cracks of the demon’s burnt flesh. Tsach was breathing irregularly, and his eyes locked onto Glyph as he peered down at him.
Glyph started down into the depression, when a horrific blast of heat and pain shot through his back, and sent him careening face first to the bottom. Several blasts of raw energy blew huge chunks of earth into the sky all around him. Weakened, Glyph barely raised his shield in time, and tried to turn his body to see what was attacking him, but as he glanced about the bottom of the crater he realized there was no Tsach, and that the Arch-Demon had fooled him once again. The charred skin on his back cracked and split with the movement, and the agony nearly made him pass out, but he was already healing and the pain was subsiding just as quickly. He could barely make out Tsach’s image above him as the blast of power exploded like a laser light show all over his shield. Now the demon had raw beams of energy blasting from each of his hands, all focused on Glyph.
Suddenly the ground rocked violently, and Glyph felt the earth sinking beneath his knees. At first he thought it must have been Tsach, but the Arch-Demon’s attack had ceased just as abruptly, and a quick glance told him that Tsach was sinking just as fast as he was. In a desperate move, Glyph scrambled out of the depression to the opposite side, but found that the ground here was dropping too, along with everything else for as far as he could see. Glyph locked eyes with Tsach for an instant, and knew that Tsach hadn’t caused what was now happening.
There had to be a way to kill the Arch-Demon, Glyph thought. He had just killed millions of people by breaking a force line and disrupting the balance of the planet, and for what? Glyph’s anger ate at him from the inside out, and he steadied himself on the sinking ground, as the familiar white aura engulfed his body, and his eyes blazed red. If the force line strike couldn’t kill Tsach then he needed something bigger. Reaching toward the sky with his mind, Glyph found what he sought, and with a great flourish of his arms pulled his blazing white hands downward and pointed at Tsach.
The ground stopped moving, and by the look of the horizon they had sunk several hundred feet. Tsach stared shrewdly at Glyph as an eerie calm settled around them. The black scar was still etched across the front of Tsach’s body, and the palms of the demon’s hands glowed with a sparkling red aura. The demon looked about casually, as if he were trying to determine what Glyph had just done, if anything.
“You surprise me, Glyyyph. I thought you would be dead by now.” Tsach proclaimed.
“I was just thinking the same about you.” Glyph yelled back. His breathing was labored, and sweat dripped down his face.
The Earth shook again, and without warning several massive geysers of lava burst out of the ground around Glyph. Startled, he leapt to one side, but the lava spun in Tsach’s control and came crashing toward him. Glyph raised his shield, but too late, as several gallons of the molten rock splashed inside his shield and onto his leg. Glyph cried out, but held his concentration on the shield even as he dropped to his left leg while his right one melted away, leaving a blackened stump above his knee. Rolling to his back, Glyph fought to stay conscious and to keep clear of the large pool of molten rock that had just taken his leg. The deluge of magma Tsach sent pouring onto his shield raised the temperature of the air to what felt like boiling.
With a thought, Glyph froze the lava as massive torrents of steam covered them both in a thick fog-like cloud. A second later and the massive spouts of molten magma turned to solid rock, even as they twisted through the air and rested against Glyph’s energy shield. Glyph wiggled a bit, and stared down at his leg as it began to re-grow; the bone first, followed by tissue, veins, blood, and muscle. The pain of re-growing his leg was excruciating, possibly even more so than the lava that had melted it away. About thirty seconds later and he was whole again.
Suddenly his shield went down, and Tsach was there standing over him once more. The torrents of steam were starting to dissipate, and Glyph could sense the movement of the massive orb as it descended toward the atmosphere, increasing its speed with every passing second. Glyph started to laugh, an insane wild laugh, as the meteor grew closer and closer.
“You laugh in the face of your own death?” Tsach pondered as he pulled the energy into his arms and hands and readied himself to dish out the final blow that would finish Glyph once and for all.
“No, I laugh at yours.” Glyph replied, pointing toward the sky behind the Arch-Demon. Tsach turned his head to look, just as the giant meteor crashed through the atmosphere in a blinding white flash. Glyph teleported away, leaving a bewildered Tsach to take the hit in his last fraction of a second.
Glyph thought that tearing the force line had caused massive amounts of damage to the Earth, but he hadn’t expected anything like this. The whole planet shook under the meteor’s impact, and a mushroom cloud the size of Texas rose upward and out into space. Mountains cracked and crumbled, and the oceans swept across the continents, stripping them clean with monster Tsunamis on a scale that had never before been witnessed by the likes of man.
Glyph had managed to save his friends and his army. Glyph’s ever-expanding knowledge of the cosmos had allowed him to mass teleport them to a large cave in the Himalayas, the safest place left on the planet, but everything else, nearly everyone else on the continent had been destroyed. He hovered there levitating, miles above the earth, watching and waiting. Then he sensed it, the faint sign he hoped desperately would not be there, but it was. Tsach lived!
Glyph instantly teleported, and found Tsach at the bottom of the miles-wide impact sight. The Arch-Demon’s shield flickered sadly but still held. Horrendous winds, fire and debris swirled about Glyph, but did not touch him as he walked closer. He had practically destroyed the Earth, and that fucker had lived! Glyph stripped the Arch-Demon of his shield, and Tsach struggled to stand up. Then Tsach stared at Glyph and laughed.
“You will have to do better than that!” Tsach bellowed.
“Fucker! You want better than that! Here, take this!” Glyph growled, then pointed at Tsach’s head and snapped his fingers.
Power began to flow into Tsach’s arms, but as he prepared to strike Glyph, the Arch-Demon’s eyes suddenly grew wide. “Unngghhhh!” Tsach cried out as two of his arms grasped the sides of his head. “What–. What did you do?” The Arch-Demon gasped, suddenly looking terrified.
“I gave you what you asked for, mother fucker!” Glyph told him, mentally wrenching the Tome from his body, and watched Tsach intently as the ancient book glided effortlessly through the air to Glyph’s hand. Tsach swatted at the book as if to try to take it back, but screamed out in pain once again. “It’s time to reset the balance, Tsach. It’s time for you to die, and every demon, everywhere along with you. I am the line, and you cannot cross.”
“Aaaggghhh!” Tsach cried out, and Glyph could see for the first time true fear on the Arch-Demon’s face.
“You can not—Aaaggghhh!” Tsach screamed again, now all four of his glowing, red hands were holding his head, and he dropped to his knees. “You do not—have—the—power! Unngghhh!”Tsach struggled to speak. Then Tsach’s head snapped up and stared at Glyph, and a blank expression crossed his face. As Glyph watched, The Arch-Demon’s remaining eye popped inward, followed by his left cheek, and a large portion of his skull. A strange demented gurgle escaped Tsach’s mouth before his whole skull collapsed in upon itself.
Glyph teleported back fifty feet and erected a large spherical shield around the demon. He stared with immense satisfaction as Tsach’s neck and torso were sucked into the black hole that Glyph had implanted in his head. A moment later and the rest of the Arch-Demon was pulled into the tiny spot of darkness, instantly followed by the dirt and debris that were inside the shield. The soil and rock were pulled upward in a violent maelstrom of sucking wind, and then there was nothing left inside the spherical shield of energy but a tiny, pea-sized, infinitely-black sphere, hovering in the center of a vacuum. Glyph began to concentrate harder, his whole body shook and blazed a brilliant white, and with an effort that made his bones ache, the Great One teleported the black hole deep into space.
Glyph closed his eyes for a moment, and a bright flash surrounded his body, spread outward across the planet, out into space, and rippled through infinite dimensions. As quickly as it appeared it was gone. “It is done.” Glyph whispered. He quietly sank to his knees, slumped forward, laid his head against the rumbling earth and wept.