All posts by Gloucester

The Hour Book3 Epilogue

It felt like he had been lying there for hours. Glyph had completely lost track of time, and it wasn’t until his energy levels returned that he even considered moving. Teleporting a black hole into deep space wasn’t just hard, it had nearly been impossible, and took every last ounce of power Glyph had in order to do it.

He had wept, but not for the Earth, or the billions of people he had killed. Glyph wept because of the realization that he had failed. It hadn’t been enough to kill Tsach, no. He had to go and kill every demon, everywhere, throughout the entire universe, and beyond. Glyph knew when he had done it that he had gone too far; the loss of life was immeasurable. The demon populace numbered in the trillions, and made the five billion dead on Earth feel like a mere pin prick in comparison. Now, their population numbered forty-seven, including Zarish.

The devastation that surrounded him was enough to make him sick, and the ramifications of what he had done to the Earth came crashing down on him once more. “They must hate me for what I’ve done.” Glyph thought aloud. Worse still was the thought that they might ask him to set it all right again. He knew he could do it too, but it wasn’t meant to be. Everyone who had died was supposed to die, and returning it to the way it had been would only make what he had already done that much worse. There was a balance, and it was already tipped too far to the good. Bringing the dead back to life would only tip it further, and another Tsach would likely come to challenge him. It was the way of the universe. It sought in its own way to keep a balance; it was the whole reason he had been thrust into this mess to begin with. The real problem was that Glyph was meant to hold the balance between the two forces, but had failed, and now he had to set it right. The question was how?

“I guess there’s no point in putting it off any longer.” He said, though part of him just wanted to disappear and never come back.

Glyph took a few steps and the scenery changed. It wasn’t even a teleport, it was as though time and space had bent to accommodate him, and he walked into the center of a large underground chamber.

“Glyph?” Miatsu said questioningly, as if he wasn’t sure it was really him.

“Glyph!” Amos shouted, and leapt to his feet.

Albast smiled and approached Glyph. “I believe he has been successful.” The ancient wizard announced. “Summon the others, they should hear what he has to say.” Albast instructed Miatsu.

“No wait!” Glyph announced. “Albast I—.” Glyph cut himself off. At the mention of Albast’s name a flood of images flashed through his mind, but more than that. Glyph had memories and knowledge of the ancient wizard that no one knew, until now.

Albast stared at him like a deer in headlights, as if he could sense what Glyph now understood.

“Are you okay?” Amos asked him.

“Yes, I’ll be fine.” Glyph replied, and sat down on the crude stone bench that had been carved from the wall, and rubbed his temples as he tried to process what had just occurred. He glanced up at Albast. “You…you were like me.” Glyph said.

Albast looked as though he might answer ‘how’s that?’. Instead he calmly walked over and sat down beside Glyph. “Then, you know.” He replied, and Glyph nodded yes and stared at him. “I was not the first person to hold your position, but I was the most recent.”

“What is it? What just happened?” Glyph asked.

“You are becoming omniscient, and though you are consciously aware of this fact, your subconscious is not.” Albast told him. “In other words, any knowledge that you  need doesn’t just come to you. You have to think about it, concentrate on it, before those answers are revealed to you. It gets easier, but those first few times it happens are, well, a bit overwhelming.”

“What the hell are you two babbling about? It’s over, right?” Amos questioned.

“Yes my friend. That part of it is finished.” Glyph replied, and forced a smile to reassure him, then turned his attention back to Albast. “I’ve failed, Albast. The balance is too far toward good.”

“Too far–. Glyph, what did you do?” Albast asked gravely, his brow furrowing in concern.

“I killed them all. Not just here, but everywhere. With the exception of Zarish and her group, every last demon is dead.” Glyph explained.

Albast let out a long whistle. “Damn. How far off is the balance?”

“Not much, but enough to realize that the cycle will continue. Albast, it happened to you as well, what do I have to do? How can I fix it?” Glyph asked.

“Time is of the essence, I’m afraid. You must act quickly to reset the balance, and it will require you to make some tough decisions.” Albast said, and then glazed over as if remembering something.

“Decisions you were unwilling to make.” Glyph finished for him.

Albast stared at him for a moment. “Yes.”

“Okay seriously, somebody start telling me what’s going on here. Glyph, what do you mean you failed?” Amos demanded.

“I think we would all like to know.” Lobrein spoke as she appeared beside Miatsu. Glyph hadn’t seen them come, but Prianna and Shea were now present as well.

“I was supposed to hold the line.” Glyph said, but stopped, unwilling to say it again.

“The balance is askew.” Albast stated for him. “Glyph must take steps to rectify the imbalance if the cycle is to be broken.”

“What cycle?” Miatsu spoke up.

“It’s complicated.” Albast replied. “Suffice it to say, when I was selected I too pushed the envelope of retribution against evil. But I was unwilling to do what was necessary to correct the problem. Glyph, your powers will soon start to diminish. You must do whatever it takes to make it right again.”

“You mean, you were–.” Lobrein started, and pointed at Glyph.

“The Great One. Yes. When I failed, the universe knew thousands of years of peace, and I thought I had made the right decision, but I was wrong. The evil that grew from my lack of action was far worse than anything I could have imagined. By the time I realized this, it was too late. I had lost the power to make the necessary changes to bring the balance back in line. The title of ‘Man of Light and Darkness’ and the powers associated with it, had passed on. I promised a dear friend that I would try and make it right again, and have dedicated my life to that purpose ever since.” Albast explained.

“Then this is all your fault!” Amos shouted, but Glyph held up his hand and motioned for Amos to be quiet.

“What’s done is done. It doesn’t matter who’s to blame, only that we make it right.” Glyph said. “Albast, what must I do?”

“You must concentrate on the problem. Visualize the imbalance in your mind, and the corrective action you need to take will become evident.” Albast stated. “I must warn you however, you will not like what you see. You will be required to do evil, in order to abolish the abundance of good you have created.”

Glyph’s head sunk into his hands as he sat there contemplating everything Albast had told him.

“Glyph, you must not do this. Let this title of the Great One pass. Only sorrow and heartbreak will come of it. You have done your best, do not pursue it further.” Shea suddenly spoke out.

Glyph looked up at her, and then once more to Albast. “What will happen if I don’t?” He questioned.

“The evil will rise up again, but worse. All that is good will be trodden upon for thousands of years until the next Man of Light and Darkness is chosen. If you thought that what you had to do here was hard, it will be nothing compared to what the next Great One will face.” Albast replied and stared at Shea.

Glyph heard the words Albast spoke, but this time he also received his own answer to the question he had asked. He had to smile at how the ancient wizard had tweaked and caressed his reply. Albast’s response was essentially correct, the pendulum would continue swing, the alternating cycles of good and evil would continue. His inaction, as Albast’s had, would create a peace that would span millennia, but ultimately every cycle of evil would be greater than the last. Eventually another ‘Great One’ would be chosen to reset the balance, even if it took a hundred thousand years. The thought of walking away was tempting, but why give up and pass the problem on to someone else later, when he was here now. “Then I will do it.” Glyph finally acquiesced.

“Glyph, no! I beg you, do not.” Shea said firmly.

“You heard what he said, I can’t let that happen.” Glyph responded.

“If we are to be together, then you must!” Shea shouted angrily. Everyone began to step back as to not get hit in the crossfire.

“Shea, we can still be together. We can still be married.” Glyph told her.

“No, we cannot! If you succeed you will become a god!” Shea roared.

“I don’t understand.” Glyph stated.

“Gods are worshipped Glyph, not married! How long do you think we could last before you got tired of me, of knowing everything about me? A few years maybe, if that! You said yourself that Albast is only out for himself. You must not listen to him.” Shea yelled.

Albast stared at his daughter in disbelief.

“That was before I knew what Albast stood for, what he was trying to accomplish. Could you really live with yourself knowing that we were the cause of rampant evil in the universe?” Glyph asked her point blank.

“YES!” Shea screamed violently, spittle shooting like rockets from the corner of her mouth.

Glyph just stared at her sadly. “I can’t, Shea. I can’t turn my back and walk away. I was chosen for a reason, and I have to see this through, no matter what.”

Shea shook uncontrollably now, and her eyes began to glow purple. “You would not! It is his fault this has happened! He was the one who walked away! He was the one who turned his back! You say this now, but wait! Wait until you see what you have to do! If he couldn’t do it, what makes you think you can?!” Shea berated him, burst into tears and ran from the room.

Silence filled the room in her absence, and everyone seemed just as shocked as Glyph over Shea’s behavior. He really couldn’t blame her though. He knew what she had gone through to get to this point and, like Glyph, had hoped that it would now be over. But it wasn’t.

After a minute Albast spoke up. “No one would blame you, if you didn’t want to go through with this.”

“No. It’s my job, my responsibility now. I can only hope that everything works out for the best.” Glyph said, and with that, he closed his eyes and concentrated on what he must do to reset the balance once and for all.

Suddenly the answers were there, dumped into his conscious mind faster than light. The influx of information made him feel as if his head were about to explode, and then it was over.

Glyph staggered to his feet. “One thing at a time. One thing at a time.” He muttered slowly. Then his head snapped up straight and his eyes glowed red. Glyph glanced around the room at the others with a profound look of sadness etched upon his face. A moment later he, Albast, and Amos were gone.

 

The scenery shifted around them, and they found themselves standing on a snow-covered mountain. “Glyph, what are we doing here?” Amos asked quickly realizing the others were nowhere around.

“The evil of the Tome must be neutralized.” Glyph said calmly even though his eyes still burned red, and his hands trembled.

“Okay, but why here?” Amos asked, shivering in the cold wind as he stared out across the frozen landscape.

For a long moment Glyph said nothing, as if contemplating his own actions. “I must perform evil in order to reset the balance. I didn’t want the others to see. I know they will find out what I have done, I just…they don’t need to witness it.”

“Look, why not just destroy the book. The release of the evil inside it will make up for any surplus of good.” Amos offered.

“No. There is too much evil in the book. If it were released the balance would tip from good to evil, and I will still have failed.” Glyph told him as a rock podium rose up from the icy snow.

Glyph pulled out the Tome of Dark Lore and placed it on the stand. He opened the Tome, and its pages were blank. Then he turned to face them both. Reaching out his hand, Glyph touched the side of Amos’s head and as he pulled his hand away it was followed by a bright shimmering light. Glyph moved his arm away from Amos as the light broke free of his head and drifted closer to Glyph’s hand. Then with a bright flash Drayden was there, his features slightly blurred by the blue nimbus of light that encircled his body, as if he had just appeared using the Divinare crystal.

“Drayden?” Albast whispered.

It is I, my friend.” Drayden’s animus replied, and stretched out his arms toward Albast. His eyes were normal, and Glyph decided that this made sense, since it was Drayden’s physical body that had been blinded and not his soul.

“I—I don’t know what to say.” Albast said. He stepped forward and attempted to embrace Drayden, only to have his arms pass through his ghost-like form.

My brother. It is good to see you this one last time.” Drayden spoke with an electric warble in his voice.

“I thought I would never see you again.” He said to Drayden. Albast looked toward Glyph with tears streaming down his face. “What is going on?”

“I have to allow Drayden to perform his final task.” Glyph replied calmly.

“And what is that?”

I must be the balance of the Tome.” Drayden told him. “It has been my purpose all along, my friend. Glyph cannot destroy the book without releasing its evil into the universe. Since the evil of the Tome is selfcontained, balance must be brought to the Tome as well.

“But you, Drayden?” Albast questioned.

“Surely you must have wondered why I needed to be replaced?”

“Well, yes, but I always thought it was something that had to take place, in order for the prophecies to come true.”

“Yes, but there was also a reason, and I have discovered there is very little the universe does without reason. Do not feel sad for me, Albast. I have lived a thousand lifetimes, and thanks to Amos, I have lived long enough to see our efforts through to their conclusion.”

“But Drayden I–.” Albast said and choked on his emotions. Then he straightened himself and stared his old friend in the eyes. “I wish you well.”

Drayden smiled. “You too, my friend. Perhaps if the fates are kind, we may see each other again someday.”  Then he turned to face Amos and placed his hand near the former detective’s shoulder. “Thank you, Amos Bogg. And you as well, Great One.”

Glyph nodded and smiled. Then in another bright flash, Drayden was gone and the hazy wavering light hovered above Glyph’s hand.

Suddenly an eerie voice broke the silence of the moment. “Give him to me!”

Glyph stopped moving his arm toward the Tome of Dark Lore and stared at the ancient book. There, on its pages was the image of a demon’s face, and its mouth moved.

“Let me feast upon his soul for all eternity!” The demon spoke.

Glyph stared in horror at what he was about to do.

“I, Morgus, king of the demons, command it!” Morgus demanded from the pages of the Tome.

Glyph hesitated; he hadn’t foreseen this. He didn’t know Morgus was in the Tome.

“Glyph, do not falter. It must be done!” Albast shouted.

The Tome began to laugh maniacally, as the inky mouth licked its lips.

“But… I didn’t know–.” Glyph stammered.

“Do it! Do it now!” Albast yelled.

Glyph forcibly moved his arm toward the Tome, and tears fell from his eyes as the light left Glyph’s hand and drifted into the blank pages of the book. When the last of Drayden’s animus had gone, the Tome snapped shut.

“God damn it, Glyph! Do you know what you just did?” Amos quipped.

Glyph sank to his knees weeping. “Yes. I know.”

Albast put his arm around Glyph’s shoulder and helped him back to his feet.

“Thank you for allowing me to see Drayden once more.” Albast said appreciatively.

“It was the right thing to do.” Glyph answered.

“Now you must not dwell on this, lest you lose your resolve to finish it.” Albast told him.

“Dwell on it!” Amos said excitedly. “He just sent Drayden to eternal—!” And Amos was silent.

With a wave of his hand Albast had silenced Amos, grabbed up the Tome, slid it into Glyph’s tunic, and led him away. “What is next, Glyph? We must act quickly before it is too late.”

 

The scene shifted once more, and they stood in another dark chamber under the snow-capped mountains. This time Zarish was there with him and Albast.

“What has happened? Why have you brought me here, Glyph? Did you defeat Tsach?” Zarish asked.

“Yes. Tsach is dead.” Glyph said stonily.

“Excellent. You have succeeded then. I should inform the others.” Zarish replied.

“They already know.” Glyph said.

Zarish glanced back and forth between Albast and Glyph. “Glyph? Why have you brought me here?” She questioned, staring at the red glow in Glyph’s eyes, and his tear stained cheeks.

“You are now the Arch-Demon of your people.” Glyph stated.

“I was thinking Queen might be a better title.” Zarish commented dryly.

“I believe that by exterminating your people, I have gone too far. I have tipped the balance in favor of good. That was not my purpose, I was to hold the line and reset the balance.”

“Go on.” Zarish answered.

“Zarish, I brought you back to life because you were good. You trusted in me, and what I believed. You never betrayed me, even when I thought you had.”

Zarish tilted her head and stared at him quizzically.

“The demons must return to Heelix, Zarish. They must continue to be evil.” Glyph told her.

“I see.” Zarish stated calmly.

“What I have given you, I must now take back. I am sorry.” Glyph said calmly.

“What you have given me?” Zarish asked curiously, then choked as Glyph drove the King’s sword through her abdomen and out her backside in one quick move. “Glyph—!” She spat out, as she stared into his eyes.

“You are too good to lead them, Zarish.” Glyph told her. With one swift lift of his sword he brought the blade up through her torso and across her neck as Zarish’s head flopped to one side and black blood splashed everywhere as her body slumped to the ground, dead. “I am so sorry, Zarish. I’m so sorry. I didn’t want it to be this way.” Glyph sobbed. “I didn’t…I didn’t.”

As he stood there crying, a small red point of light drifted slowly upward from Zarish’s dead body, and Glyph reached out and took it in his hand as the light dissolved into his palm and vanished.

Glyph started to shake. “I can’t do this! I can’t!” Glyph cried out.

“You must, Glyph, now focus! What’s left? What do you need to do next? Concentrate!” Albast demanded of him.

 

Glyph nodded and the world moved around them again. They were back in the first chamber, and all the other wizards were there, including Amos and Shea.

“What is going on? Glyph? Albast?” Lobrein demanded. Then she saw the black splatter of demon blood on Glyph’s clothes, and the look of pain and grief on Glyph’s face and she drew silent.

“There is one last task to perform.” Glyph said and sheathed the bloody King’s sword without cleaning it.

“What, Glyph? What is it?” Albast asked feverishly

Glyph held up his hand and choked back his tears.

“One of you must return to Heelix and lead the demons.” Glyph said.

Prianna gasped loudly.

“What? But Glyph, Zarish is the leader of–.” Lobrein started, but Glyph cut her off.

“Zarish is dead.” Glyph choked out. “I just killed her.”

“You did what?” Amos yelled.

“It was the only way.” Glyph told them.

“The only way! You’re out of your fucking mind! They both are! We have to stop this!” Amos shouted.

But Albast stepped forward, and grabbed Glyph by the shoulders, staring intently into his face. “Do not worry. I will make this easier for you. I will go. I will lead the demons, you don’t have to choose.”

Glyph stared at him sadly. “You’re right, Albast. The universe does want your blood. It wants you to sacrifice your blood, because you turned your back, because you wouldn’t reset the balance after your mistake. You couldn’t kill your wife and children. You couldn’t destroy the planet you once called home. Morgus arose from the tar pits of Heelix on that day. Your failure spawned the entire demon race. So yes, the universe wants your blood, Albast. It just doesn’t want it from you.”

Albast turned pale. “No. No, I am the one! I will lead the demons!” Albast shouted, but Glyph waved him aside and pinned him to the wall of the cave, holding him there with the force of his mind. Amos leapt forward to try and grab Glyph, but Glyph waved him aside as well, followed by Lobrein, Miatsu and Prianna.

“No, Glyph!” Lobrein cried out as he made his way the short distance to Shea.

“Stop it man! Fight it! You don’t want to do this!” Amos shouted.

“I am the one! I am the one!” Albast ranted.

Then Glyph silenced them all as he stood staring at Shea. The hatred was plain on her face as if she had spit in his eye.

“See what you have done.” Shea hissed at him. Glyph said nothing, but Shea suddenly cried out, and her mouth wrenched open as if two giant invisible hands had pried her jaw apart.  Glyph held out his hand and a small red point of light drifted from his palm into Shea’s mouth and then it clamped shut. Glyph stepped back as her muted cries went unanswered. She trembled violently, and then began to change. Her white hair turned black and blew upwards in some unseen gale. Her face contorted and small thin horns rose from the top of her head, and she began to grow. Shea’s purple eyes turned yellow as her new body burst from her old clothes, and her long pointed tail swept them away.

It was over. Shea began to laugh as she felt her new demon body with her hands. “Hmmm. I like it!” She said and smiled evilly at Glyph. Glyph stood there with tears streaming down his face. With a wave of his hand he created a portal behind her. Then he reached into his tunic and pulled out the Tome of Dark Lore and offered it up to her. She reached out and snatched it from his hand and looked at him contemptuously. “Do not be sad, Great One. I will kill you…someday!” Shea said and spun around to enter the gate to Heelix. Then she stole one last look at Glyph. “Until we meet again…Glyyyph!” She said and vanished into the swirling portal.

 

 

The End.

The Hour Book3 Chapter 25

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.

 

 

The Hour Book3 Chapter 24

 

Glyph jolted upright, and quickly glanced about. The rough hewn logs that made up the walls of the room were familiar to him. This was the room in Ishea’s cabin, where she had taken him on his very first day in M’atra, all those many years ago. It felt like it had before, and a strange wave of déjà vu momentarily overcame him, but Glyph only had one thing on his mind right now, and that was defeating Tsach.  Glyph leapt to his feet from the dusty bed in the corner and ran across the room. He burst through the door, rushing into the great room of the cabin.

“Glyph! Thank the gods you are all right. Where have you been? We were expecting you hours ago.” Ishea exclaimed. She, Toban, and Mahjdi sat around the large oak table near the kitchen.

“There’s been a slight change of plans.” Glyph said as Amos emerged from further down the hallway. Then he did a double-take as his eyes snapped back to Mahjdi. “What are you doing here?” He demanded gruffly.

“Forgive me, Glyph, but in my state of exuberance over the fate of mankind, I stowed away in a large trunk as your friends left Priam. I take full responsibility for my actions.” Mahjdi replied.

“We found him early this morning, calling for help. Apparently one of our officers had noticed the trunk and locked it.” Toban added.

Glyph sighed and shook his head, then noticed the weird look on Amos’s face and quickly introduced the aging monk.

“I do not understand, Glyph. Was Albast unable to send you back?” Ishea stated ignoring the others.

Glyph hesitated. It was bad enough that he had been the one to tell Ishea that Albast was still alive, but now he would have to tell her he was dead.

“You might as well tell her.” Amos interjected as he rubbed his eye.

“Tell me what?” Ishea asked. The look of worry grew on her face with every passing second.

Glyph looked at her, but was unable to bring himself to say the words, and after a few seconds of silence hung his head and pointed at Amos.

“Albast is dead, Ishea.” Amos said bluntly.

Ishea began to tear up immediately. “Why, Glyph?” She asked, choked up, and began to sob. “Did you–.” She started but couldn’t finish.

“I didn’t kill him.” Glyph said and put his hand on her shoulder, but she jerked it away.

“He’s telling the truth, Ishea. I saw the whole thing. Albast threw himself onto Glyph’s sword. Glyph didn’t even know he was there until it was too late.” Amos told her.

Ishea reigned in her emotions and sniffed loudly. “So, the prophecy has still come to pass.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.” Amos acknowledged, and looked at Glyph, who had spied the living tapestry in the corner of the room and was making his way there. The blank canvas sprang to life as Glyph approached, and showed him the scene of Albast’s death once more. Without another thought, Glyph hit the white square in the bottom right corner and held his breath as the threads reweaved themselves into the next scene, the last scene of the Drayden Propheticals. Glyph took a step back when he saw the image.

‘Amos was right. He had been right all along.’ Glyph thought as he tried to steady his shaking knees. The scene showed Tsach standing on the highest parapet of Kivas throwing Glyph’s battered and broken body over the edge. All the other prophecies had come true, even if it was with Albast and Drayden’s help. Glyph could not shake the feeling that this scene too would happen.

“I tried, Glyph. We tried. But it’s still come down to this.” Amos said from behind him.

Albast had known. He had foreseen his own death and made it happen, and now Glyph was faced with the same dilemma. He was going to die. ‘How could Albast have possibly thought that my death would help to defeat Tsach? It makes even less sense than it did yesterday.’

“Glyph?” Ishea asked. When Glyph did not respond she said, “Amos?”

Glyph turned to face her. “I’m going to die. Tsach is going to kill me.”

Mahjdi gasped.

“My Lord, no! There must be some kind of mistake, this cannot happen.” Toban shouted.

“See for yourselves.” Glyph muttered and opened their minds to see what the Tapestry had shown him, as they moved closer for a better view.

Ishea began to cry again, and the sound of it grated on Glyph’s last nerve. Glyph glanced around. “Where’s Zarish?”

“I am sorry, Glyph. The wagons we used to transport her could not traverse the rocky path leading to the cabin. We were forced to continue on horse back and leave her behind. I’m afraid she is several leagues–.” Toban began to say when a bright flash filled the room as Glyph teleported the female demon into the cabin. She took human form immediately and looked around at them somewhat startled by her sudden change of scenery.

“Astounding!” Mahjdi proclaimed.

“What has happened?” Zarish demanded. Glyph merely pointed to the tapestry and she too was able to see the last prophecy. “I see.” The female demon stated stoically.

After a minute of silence Glyph finally spoke. “We only have one shot at this. I have to face Tsach alone.”

“Glyph, I could not stand by idly and allow you to face Tsach by yourself.” Toban said firmly.

Suddenly Amos smiled. “No, he’s right! If I’m not there to see it happen then it can’t come true. The Drayden prophecies, remember?” He said and pointed at his head.

“It is not that simple, master Amos.” Mahjdi spoke up, and turned from the tapestry to face them.

“What you talkin’ bout, Mahjdi?” Amos said, staring at the ancient monk.

“You have already seen it happen. As have we all, right here in this very room, not more than a moment ago.” Mahjdi said and gestured to the Living Tapestry.

“But, I mean, I have to see it as it happens.” Amos told him.

“Do you? Are you certain?” Mahjdi questioned him.

“Wait, you mean that Amos saw the prophecy on the Tapestry, so he’s already seen the act and doesn’t have to see it in person?” Glyph asked.

“I do not know, Glyph. It is but one possibility, and if true, negates the idea of your facing Tsach alone.” Mahjdi answered.

“But I saw all the others before they happened, and I witnessed them as well. How can there be a prophecy of what I have seen in a prophecy? It makes no sense.” Amos argued.

“As I have said, it is not a simple matter. You have seen it here with us, therefore it could happen the same way even if you are not there to see it when it takes place. The original Drayden may have seen what you have seen just now, an image in a tapestry. To him there would be no difference between this and the real thing. Of course if this is indeed true, then all of the prophecies could have been viewed under similar circumstances. So the idea that their outcomes are dependent upon your presence in order to have them come true, may be false. It is quite a conundrum, one that could take years of meticulous study to unravel for certain.” Mahjdi concluded.

“We don’t have that kind of time.” Glyph said. “If what you say is true then it really doesn’t matter.” He said and paused, deep in thought. “Everybody get ready, we’re going to face Tsach. All of us.”

Amos immediately rechecked his gear, as the others stood and gathered closer together. “What about Mahjdi?” Amos stated as he slung the Mac 10 over his shoulder.

“I have come this far, Glyph. I should continue, if for no other reason than to bear witness to these events. Should things go awry, someone should tell the story of what has happened here.” Mahjdi quickly interjected before Glyph could shoot down the idea.

Glyph eyed the old monk up. “I’ll take you as far as the keep. After we get there, keep your head down and stay out of the way.” He told him. Mahjdi agreed. “If things get too hot between me and Tsach I want the rest of you to get out of the way. I don’t want anyone getting caught in the crossfire, is that clear?” Glyph asked of them, and looked directly at Ishea, whose eyes were still puffy and swollen from her grief.

“I understand, Glyph.” She replied calmly.

“Good. Everyone keep in mind this is my show. Listen to me and do exactly what I say.” With that said, Glyph closed his eyes and a moment later they were all standing above the waterfall around a small rocky path that lead down a little ways to a small outcropping of rock. Glyph had used the King’s entrance on several occasions over the last several years and was no stranger to the surrounding terrain. He led them down the small trail and pulled his sword, laying it on the granite slab so the indentation of the rock matched the hilt and blade perfectly. The giant rock moved aside, and revealed the carved staircase that led them spiraling downward through the chimney-like cavern. They were all unusually quiet as they shuffled into the small antechamber at the bottom, and Glyph confidently laid his hand upon the large ruby mounted in the ornately carved alabaster door. “Open!” He commanded, and they made their way cautiously into the great room behind the falls.

“Where do you think he is, Glyph?” Toban asked in a hushed tone.

“I’m not sure. I don’t want to probe too deeply and risk tipping him off.” Glyph replied.

“It ain’t like he don’t know we’re coming.” Amos commented.

Glyph produced the Divinare crystal from thin air and placed it between his hands. “I’m pretty sure he can’t detect me this way, as long as I don’t create an image of myself that can be seen.” He said and closed his eyes. A moment later he opened them and handed the crystal to Mahjdi. “Stay here. At the first sign of trouble make your way back the way we came and follow the trail to the cabin. You should be safe there.”

“Yes, certainly.” Mahjdi said as he took the crystal gingerly from Glyph’s grasp.

“He’s in the throne room.” Glyph stated, and led the way down the large corridor to his right. After a few twists and turns they found the next spiral stair that led down to the lower levels. When they reached the throne room, Glyph opened a secret corridor around the corner from the main entrance and motioned for Amos and Ishea to enter. “It leads to the rear of the Great Hall. From there you may be able to come at Tsach from behind.” He whispered, then closed it behind them. Zarish and Toban exchanged looks of surprise, for despite their many years in the Keep had not known of the passageway’s existence.

Peeking around the corner at the main doors, Glyph imploded the heads of the two Imps standing guard, and then walked confidently to the entrance. He checked his watch. Nearly ten minutes of his hour had passed; it was time to get on with it. “I don’t think there’s any better way to do this.” He told his companions, and with one mighty gust of wind blew the enormous doors inward and strode into the Hall.

Tsach was sprawled over Glyph’s throne, and actually appeared a bit startled by Glyph’s grand entrance. Though he made no threatening move, Tsach stood and watched as Glyph walked down the center aisle toward him. The Arch-Demon had reduced his normal size, but still towered over everyone at some twelve feet high. Glyph could see that the aisles which lined each side of the room were littered with bodies; most of them unclothed women who lay grotesquely twisted and bloodied in piles. The sight sickened him, and at the same time ignited the fire in his stomach that yearned to be unleashed. Glyph’s eyes began to burn red as he approached the throne.

Tsach began to laugh as Glyph moved forward, with Zarish and Toban following cautiously at a distance. “I see you have found your way home, Glyyyph. I had hoped you would not keep me waiting for too long.” Tsach bellowed, and looked past Glyph. “Zarabish, my loyal servant. You have done well.” He added.

“Thank you my lord.” Zarish proclaimed and reverted to her normal size and shape. Without hesitation the female demon disarmed Toban and pulled him in front of her, placing the tip of her spear to his throat. A look of shock was plainly evident on his face.

“You see Glyyyph, I control everything here.” As Tsach spoke, about a dozen Imps turned visible all around the throne room.

Glyph didn’t even turn around. He stood transfixed on Tsach with his eyes blazing red.

“Bow before your God, and I will spare the life of your pathetic companion.” Tsach commanded. A moment passed and Glyph remained standing. “Very well. Zarabish, bring the human to me.” Tsach demanded.

Glyph made no move toward Zarish as she passed by carrying Toban. He didn’t even turn his head to look at her. Zarish made her way to the bottom of the raised dais where the throne rested, and traversed the six steps in two bounds. She placed Toban on the floor at Tsach’s feet and bent low on one knee. Tsach smiled broadly, and stared at Glyph and laughed again.

A second later Glyph saw Toban vanish, and in the same instant Zarish thrust her spear deep into Tsach’s chest. “For the Great One!” The female demon yelled and twisted the spear inside of the Arch-Demon. Tsach howled, and kicked Zarish hard in the face. Her neck snapped back with a crack, and her body followed, sliding down the stairs to the throne room floor, unconscious or dead. “Impudent bitch! How dare you!” Tsach screamed as he wrenched the spear from his body, which began to heal instantly.

Then Glyph was there, teleporting beside Tsach’s frame. He sliced off one leg and arm with the King’s sword’s molten blue blade before the Arch-Demon even saw him. Tsach sprang back on his three good legs and landed some twenty-five feet away like a wounded spider, looking shocked. Glyph moved forward, and as the Imps descended upon him they began to explode in a series of hideous pops and spurting fountains of green blood.

“Excellent!” Tsach yelled as he regained his composure and a new arm and leg sprouted forth from the bloody stumps Glyph had just inflicted upon him. “I was afraid this would be too easy.” He said as Glyph charged forward.

Glyph pointed his sword, and a blazing blue bolt shot forth toward the Arch-Demon, but Tsach transformed into the dirty brown and black cloud he had seen on Degruthras, and the burning blue beam was swallowed in its expanding darkness. A second later, Glyph found himself engulfed in the cloud, and caught off guard, couldn’t catch his breath. His lungs and throat felt like they were being burned by acid, and his eyes burned in the acrid smoke, making it impossible to see. Glyph slashed his sword about wildly with no effect. He tried desperately to get out of the cloud, but could only cough and hack uncontrollably as the lack of oxygen brought him to his knees.

Glyph felt as though he was about to black out when suddenly he felt two hands grasp his shoulders and the pain in his lungs vanished as he inhaled deeply. His eyes cleared and when he looked up, he saw Ishea with her staff raised high.

“Insuritol cor magi affilium protus, insuritol cor magi affilium protus.” Ishea said fiercely, repeating the words again and again. A protective shield had encased them and held the roiling cloud at bay.

“Bet you’re glad we tagged along now!” Amos said over his shoulder as the former detective finished healing Glyph.

Glyph said nothing, but stood and clapped his hands together. The earth rumbled beneath their feet as twisting, swirling winds sprouted from nowhere and expanded outward from Ishea’s shield of energy. A moment later the cloud dissipated, and Glyph silenced the winds as quickly as they had appeared. Ishea stopped her magical enchantment and the three of them scanned the room quickly waiting for the next attack.

Tsach was nowhere to be found. Glyph spun about and called out, “Coward!”, his voice echoing through the keep. Glyph was pissed, and all he could think about was choking the life from Tsach with his bare hands. “Come and fight me, fucker!

“Zarish!” The voice was Toban’s, and the call snapped Glyph out of his blinding rage. He turned to see Toban rushing toward the demon’s body, as Amos advanced from the opposite direction.

“She’s still alive!” Amos yelled out. Glyph ran toward the fallen demon and healed her of her broken neck. An instant later she moaned and began to stir.

“Damn, Zarish, that was brilliant!” Amos blurted out. “For a moment I was afraid you really were on Tsach’s side!”

“For all the good it did.” Zarish stated weakly, as Toban and Amos tried to help her to a seated position.

“Where’s Tsach?” Glyph asked, as if anyone there knew the answer.

“I’ll give you one guess.” Amos said bleakly and shot Glyph a look.

“The Tower.” Glyph and Ishea said at the same time, and exchanged looks.

“Glyph, Tsach knows you only have an hour. Time is in his favor. He can afford to play these games, but we cannot.” Zarish said as she slowly got to her feet.

“We have also lost the element of surprise.” Toban added. “He knows that Ishea and Amos are here, and also where Zarish’s loyalty truly lies.”

Zarish extended her hand and caught her spear as it flew to her from across the hall. “I am ready.”

Glyph looked at all of them in turn. They were running out of time, and the thought of losing any one of them struck him to the core. “I have to go alone.” Glyph said.

“Damn it, Glyph, we’ve been over this already, all for one and one for all. Let’s just go already.” Amos quipped.

Glyph ignored him. “Thank you all for everything you have done.” He said soberly, and then turned to Ishea. “I truly love you, Ishea.”

“Glyph–.” She said quickly but in a flash of white light Glyph was gone.

The sun was bright and the breeze cool, as Glyph stepped out of the shadow of the falls. Tsach stood against the far wall of the highest parapet in the mountain keep, grinning.

“Why would you even follow me, Glyyyph? I know you have seen the prophecies from the Book of Morgus. You know what will happen as well as I.” Tsach questioned, as Glyph made his way toward the Arch-Demon once more.

“I have to, Tsach. It’s the whole reason I’m here.” Glyph answered as his sword sprang to life.

“So be it.” Tsach said and a moment later the stone Glyph walked upon morphed upward to encase his body. Just as quickly as it happened the stone blew outward away from him and Glyph continued to walk forward.

The Arch-Demon snarled and let loose a blinding stream of pure red energy at Glyph, who caught it deftly on his blade. Glyph moved both hands to the hilt as Tsach increased the flow of power into his sustained blast of crackling fury. Sweat beaded on Glyph’s forehead as the sheer force of Tsach’s assault pushed him back. Glyph pushed the sword downward to his left, which redirected Tsach’s blast into the stone floor beside him. The ripping sound nearly blew out Glyph’s eardrums as the blast tore into the floor, blowing huge chunks of rock in every direction. A piece of it slammed Glyph in the jaw, twisting him off balance. He managed to throw up his shield before Tsach engulfed him in white hot flames that looked as if the air itself were burning. Glyph extinguished the flames before they could touch him, and responded with his own blast of force. The energy wave continued, passing through Tsach as the Demon turned transparent, and blew out the half wall that surrounded the parapet, sending chunks of rock raining down into the city far below.

Glyph breathed heavily as his jaw reset itself and healed. Tsach was simply too strong, too powerful, Glyph realized with dread. In an instant his shield was ripped away as the Arch-Demon transformed into an enormous lizard beast and leapt upon him, pinning his sword arm to the ground, and digging its enormous claws into his arm and chest. The creature bit into his neck and shoulder and Glyph screamed in agony as the velociraptor-like beast clamped down and shook its head vigorously, flinging Glyph back and forth, ripping muscle and snapping bones. Glyph managed to teleport away before he lost consciousness. Glyph reappeared some forty feet away in the shadow of the falls and crumpled to the ground. He instantly healed himself, and jumped back to his feet to face the snarling beast.

“You are running out of time, Glyyyph.” Tsach’s voice emanated from the beast’s mouth, as it charged him once more. Glyph instantly morphed into a Hexzu and pushed upward into flight as Tsach pounced, passing within inches beneath him. Glyph somersaulted in mid-air and drove the King’s sword into the lizard beast’s back. He could hear Tsach’s howl as the creature turned to vapor beneath him and the King’s sword passed through it with no effect. The dirty brown cloud roiled and struck upward toward Glyph trying to engulf him once more, but Glyph flapped his wings and rose above the cloud as it continued to chase him higher and higher into the sky. Glyph quickly dove to his right and simultaneously blasted the cloud with a gust of freezing wind.

A quarter of the cloud turned to ice and sheeted away from him. Glyph arched his back and spun upward again into a tight loop, and blasted another gust of frigid air at the cloud, but it was already dissipating and vanished before his attack made contact. Sliding into a wide downward spiral, Glyph searched the area for any signs of the Arch-Demon. As Glyph glided by the parapet they had just been on, a section of the stone wall expanded outward toward him in the shape of a giant hand and grasped his legs. Glyph tried to counter, but found himself being swung at terrific speed toward the falls. At the last moment Glyph remembered Grot, and performed the Ki Enatae. Glyph’s body turned completely obsidian; he had become living rock.  A moment later he splashed through the waterfall, slammed through the half wall railing, and skittered across the floor into the back wall of the Great room, leaving a trail of obsidian shards behind him. Glyph stood slowly. His skin was pitch black and glassy.

“Great One?” Mahjdi’s voice called out meekly.

Glyph’s head snapped toward Mahjdi who was cowering under a nearby bench. “Get out of here! Now!” Glyph yelled at him as black stone flecks fell from the corners of his mouth. Then he turned and marched back toward the falls.

Glyph could hear loud crashes emanating from above him over the roar of the falling water, and teleported himself back to the tall tower that served as a watch post in times of war. His worst fears were realized the moment he rematerialized. Amos and Ishea stood back to back, fighting an unseen force that lashed at them with bolts of energy. Their shield was weakening as Amos let off bursts of bullets indiscriminately from his machine gun. With a thought, Glyph teleported the pair back to the Great room where he had just been and strode defiantly to the center of the circular landing.

“I’m waiting, Tsach!” Glyph bellowed, and listened as the sound of his voice echoed from the far mountains. He wondered how much of his hour was left, but decided that reverting to his human form to check his watch was just too risky. The granite stones of the floor rose up in front of him and coalesced into Tsach’s form. Glyph raised his hands and thin disks of razor-sharp obsidian flew at the demon, who casually brushed them aside.

“Your death is at hand, Glyyyph!” Tsach yelled at him.

Glyph stood still, breathing heavily. He could see blackened charred chunks of flesh hanging from the Arch-Demon’s left shoulder. He had wounded him at some point, though not seriously, but the hope spurred him to action. Glyph called mentally for the King’s sword, which he had lost when Tsach had launched him through the falls, and smiled as it reappeared in his hand. The blade turned ice blue in Glyph’s grip, and he stared at Tsach through his beady obsidian Hexzu eyes.

Fuck you!” Glyph cried and instantly launched the sword toward Tsach. Time slowed as Glyph watched the sword tumbling end over end toward Tsach’s enormous frame. The Arch-Demon waved at the sword, but it cut through the blast of force Tsach had thrown. Tsach tried to leap out of the way but the sword spun true and lodged deep into the demon’s abdomen. A startled look crossed Tsach’s face as he stared at the protruding hilt. A bright pink liquid gushed from the wound as the demon took several steps backward, sliding the sword from his body. Glyph wasted no time, and with one swift swing of his arm redirected the flow of the waterfall directly at Tsach, catching the demon off guard, sweeping his four legs out from underneath of him and washing him back into the mountainside that made up the rear of the parapet. Glyph could hear the crack of bones as the Arch-Demon was smashed into the rock with the force of a raging river.

As the water rushed away, Glyph could see Tsach’s crumpled body mending itself exponentially. Teleporting atop Tsach’s body, Glyph punched his rocky arm up to his shoulder into the wound made by the King’s sword.

“Aaggghhhkk–!” Tsach screamed and then stopped short as Glyph let loose another blast of obsidian shards into the demon’s innards. A second later Tsach had Glyph in his grasp and ripped him away from his body as the obsidian shards still flew from Glyph’s hands. Then the Arch-Demon rammed him head-first into the mountainside. Stars filled Glyph’s vision, and he momentarily lost consciousness. Tsach pulled him back for another blow, and Glyph could see the demon arch rigidly in pain as his wounds tried to heal. Glyph gathered his focus and was about to teleport away when Tsach bashed him into the wall again. This time Glyph felt the pain of the impact and his loss of concentration made him revert to his true form. Glyph slid from the demon’s grasp and dropped fifteen feet to the stone floor with a loud crack as the knee of his left leg bent outward at a hideous angle.

Glyph’s head reeled painfully from the impact with the wall and he began to drag himself away from Tsach, who’s labored breathing started to ease as the demon’s healing power began to catch up with the severity of the wounds Glyph had inflicted upon him. As Tsach’s fist dropped like a hammer toward Glyph, Zarish appeared above him and jammed her spear into the Arch-Demon’s wrist and out the other side. Reaching down, she touch-teleported Glyph away from the battle to the far side of the parapet and then blasted Tsach point blank with lightning. Tsach writhed for an instant before morphing into his now signature black-brown cloud and quickly surrounded the female demon’s body.

Glyph stared at the cloud as his sight began to clear and his leg moved back into place. “Zarish!” Glyph called out weakly as he struggled to get to his feet. The cloud that was Tsach roiled backward and Glyph could see Zarish’s body smeared slick with her own black blood, laying lifeless on the cold hard stone. Ishea and Amos appeared a moment later, but as soon as they materialized an unseen force swept them away, tossing them end over end toward the edge of the parapet. “NO!” Glyph screamed and stopped the pair magically before they flipped over the edge. Glyph staggered toward the cloud, and called for his sword, but as it appeared in his hand, the cloud sprang forward in the form of a snake and sank its fangs once more into Glyph’s chest. Glyph was hoisted skyward trapped in the maw of the unholy creature, and then as Tsach coalesced into his true form caught Glyph in his grasp and squeezed hard.

Glyph fought for breath, but had none. Tsach grabbed Glyph with his other hand and twisted Glyph’s body backward with a sickening snap. Glyph suddenly lost all feeling and stars filled his vision as he struggled to remain conscious. Tsach had broken his spine and quickly scurried to the edge of the platform, raising Glyph high above his head. The last thing Glyph saw was Amos cradling Ishea’s body, staring upward at Glyph with a look of horror in his eyes. Then he was falling, and Tsach’s booming laughter followed him as he sailed over the edge of the parapet.

Glyph could see glimpses of the keep and the waterfall as he fell. He thought of Albast and the prophecy, but rather than try to save himself, Glyph let go as the ground rushed closer and closer. Then everything went black as his body splattered onto the cobbled street, right next to the larger-than-life statue of the Great One.

 

 

The Hour Book3 Chapter 23

 

 

Fuck!” Glyph screamed, and his voice carried for miles. He just stood there, stunned into inaction, as his mind tried to comprehend what had just happened. There were no answers however, only questions. Soon the other soldiers had gathered around them in a circle facing outward. They were protecting us, Glyph realized, but not one of them asked him why, or what had happened. They only knew that something was wrong, and it was their duty to stay and defend us, for as long as we were going to stand here. The thought of those soldiers eventually brought Glyph back to his senses. He gently helped Amos back to his feet, and lead the distraught wizard back to their home base.

It had been a slow march back. Every so often they would come across some wounded or dying men or Hexzu, and Glyph would lean Amos against a tree, heal the survivors and move on. Amos mostly stumbled, and near the end of their journey took to mumbling incoherently, with words like ‘doomed’, and ‘death’ occasionally coming through quite clearly. Glyph didn’t know what to think, so he tried not to. He could not make sense of what had happened, and his mind had shut down, so his body could run on automatic.

When Lobrein’s voice penetrated the cloudiness of his mind he found he couldn’t answer her. “Glyph, Amos, where are you?” Amos’s body stiffened and became quiet for a moment and then the sobs began again. All Glyph could do was walk, and they continued that way until they reached the encampment.

Prianna was the first to see them as they emerged from the tree line with some fifty warriors, all walking silently. Even though most of them hadn’t seen what took place, they still instinctually remained quiet. Not one of them had spoken the entire time; they had simply picked up their weapons and surrounded the pair as they walked.

“Glyph. Amos.” She called out to the group as if she were unsure it was them. Then she caught sight of them amongst the other soldiers. “Glyph! Amos!” She yelled, and was quickly followed by the broadcast she sent out telepathically. “Glyph and Amos have returned!”. As she ran toward them, the group parted to allow her access. “Glyph, what is wrong, what has happened?” She asked him.

A second later Miatsu appeared, followed by Lobrein. “Glyph?” Lobrein asked, and at the sound of her voice Amos fell to his knees weeping. Lobrein’s eyes grew as wide as saucers. “Glyph, where is Albast?!” She demanded. Glyph didn’t know what to say. He felt numb all over, as if it was a dream. When he didn’t answer, Lobrein began to tear up. “Where is he!?” She screamed violently, and slapped Glyph hard across the face. “Answer me!” Lobrein demanded, and shoved Glyph forcefully backward several steps.

“Lobrein I–.” Glyph started, but stopped. How could he explain what had happened when he didn’t know himself? The next thing he knew Lobrein had tackled him to the ground and began to wail on his chest and face with her fists. He halfheartedly tried to defend himself, but couldn’t. He knew he had just killed her husband, and part of him felt he deserved it, and probably more. The ‘more’ however didn’t come.

“Freeze!” Miatsu shouted the word of command so loud that everyone within the sound of his voice stopped instantly. Glyph could see Prianna and Miatsu prying Lobrein off of him. In her rage, Lobrein’s guard had fallen and she too had been affected by Miatsu’s spell.

Suddenly Glyph was free again, but he just laid there.

“Get off of me!” Lobrein screeched as she fought Prianna’s grasp, broke loose and headed for Glyph again.

“Stop.” Amos said quietly. “Just stop.” It hadn’t been a word of command, but the way he had said it brought Lobrein up short. “It wasn’t Glyph, Lobrein. Albast threw himself onto Glyph’s sword. He killed himself.”

Lobrein looked stunned, and then collapsed crying onto the grass. Prianna tried to comfort her, as Glyph began to sit up. That was it, Glyph realized as Amos had spoken the words; Albast had committed suicide on his sword. Albast had killed himself.

Miatsu took control of the situation, “Where’s the body?” he asked.

“There is none. He just faded away to nothing. It was part of the Asundering curse. The same thing happened to me when I killed Drathus and the curse was broken.” Glyph informed him.

Miatsu let out a long sigh, and with the aid of some of the soldiers Glyph had healed, helped Lobrein and Amos inside the lobby of the nearby mansion. Glyph sat down heavily in an old leather chair as they put Lobrein on the couch. Prianna mopped Lobrein’s brow with a compress, and Amos sat in one of the other chairs. Miatsu stood in the center of the room and looked around at them.

“Okay, what exactly happened out there?” Miatsu finally asked. Glyph described the attack by the Imp.

“And when I turned around he…he was sliding down my sword.” Glyph finished. “Why? Why did he do it?”

“He was fulfilling the prophecy, Glyph.” Amos announced quietly.

“But he said–.” Glyph tried to speak.

“It doesn’t matter what he said. It’s what he did. There was no way you could have stopped it from happening. Albast appeared in front of you, he saw the sword, and he leapt onto it.”

“God damn it!” Glyph shouted. He felt betrayed, and his anger began to boil in the pit of his gut. “Now what?” Glyph demanded. “He was going to send us back to M’atra, I was going to have time to fight Tsach! And now…what now?” Glyph raved, stood and started pacing back and forth. “That means I’ll only have an hour to find Tsach, and defeat him, before I’m sucked back here, and if I don’t then he’ll have Ishea. He’ll kill her, or worse–. God damn it. Mother fucking shit hole!” He spouted off and rubbed his face with both hands. “All because of his damn fucking prophecy! How could he be so damn certain of it? Who made him god all of a sudden!”

“Glyph, please calm down.” Miatsu said.

“No! I will not calm down. That mother fucker killed himself when we needed him most, and now I’m left holding the bag as always. Mother fucker!” Glyph cursed and kicked the chair over onto its back, and into the wall. He could hear Lobrein’s sobs, and that pissed him off even more.

“Perhaps he knew something we did not.” Prianna suggested.

“No. No he didn’t.” Glyph snapped at her, his eyes bulging. “He didn’t know jack shit! He just took it upon himself to make sure that damned evil fucking prophecy came true, no matter what!” Glyph yelled at them. “Why did he have to be so damned stubborn? My way could have worked, but now we’ll never know, will we? Cause now I have an hour, one lousy, stinking, fucking hour!”

“Glyph, we will find a way, but this is not helping any.” Miatsu told him.

Glyph shot him the look of death. “Don’t you get it?” Glyph shouted, staring wildly at each of them in turn. “I can’t kill Tsach in an hour! Hell, I probably can’t kill Tsach period! Ishea is going to die, and M’atra and Earth will be burned to the ground! And you want to tell me we’ll find a way?!!”

“Glyph! Enough already!” Amos shouted at him.

Glyph turned and stared at him. He felt as though he were about to go supernova, so he let out a long protracted scream and stormed out of the room.

‘This is bullshit!’ Glyph thought as he stepped down into the yard off the front porch. ‘How could I have been so blind? That mother fucker was planning it the whole time. Albast obviously spun me a tale to throw me off track, but god damn! To kill himself just because the Drayden prophecy showed it to him?’ It was hard to fathom the ancient wizard’s reasoning, mostly because there was none. How could he have been so sure that the prophecies needed to take place, when it was so obvious that they should be stopped at all cost?

Glyph wandered around the surrounding forest. Every now and again he would come across some dead bodies from the last assault. Soon the sun began to rise, and realizing he had not gotten any sleep, he made his way back to headquarters. He had calmed down enough that he wouldn’t disturb Lobrein with his colorful remarks about her dead husband. The whole idea still didn’t sit well with him, but there was really nothing he could do about it.

When he reached the house, Captain Jon Haddix was waiting for him on the front porch. “Good morning.” The Captain said as Glyph approached. The man’s cheery disposition made Glyph feel even more sour inside, but he knew it was just because Haddix was in love.

Glyph grunted his acknowledgement. “What’s so good about it?”

Haddix shrugged it off. “The President is here. He would like to have a word with you.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Glyph said dryly.

Haddix escorted him inside to a large den in the back of the mansion, which had been converted into a conference room. The President and General Eddings were seated at a long table in the center of the room drinking coffee.

“Glyph, so good to see you.” Bradley said as they entered the room. “I understand it was an eventful evening.”

“That’s an understatement. Albast is dead.” Glyph informed them.

“Yes, I heard. I am sorry for your loss.”

Captain Haddix turned to leave but was stopped by Eddings. “I’d like you to sit in on this one, Captain.”

“Of course, General.” Haddix replied and took a seat.

Glyph sat down as well. “First, I’d like to congratulate you on killing Akthule.” The President said.

Glyph nodded. “What’s this all about Mr. President?”

“Glyph I’m just going to be blunt. As I understand it, these prophecies you’ve been viewing, the ones from the Tome of Dark Lore, have been coming true. The last one said you would kill Albast, but you didn’t. I guess my question is, why do you think Albast killed himself?”

He quickly had Glyph’s full attention now. “How do you know about the prophecies?”

“I’ve been talking with your friends Lobrein and Miatsu. They have been keeping me informed of the situation.” He told Glyph.

“Oh. I wasn’t aware of that.” Glyph replied. “As to your question, Albast believed that the prophecy had to come true in order for me to defeat Tsach.”

“But, you disagree. Is that right?”

“Yes. I mean I don’t know really, but the prophecies came from a book that was made by demons for demons. It is inherently evil, and I wouldn’t trust a damn thing it says in there.” Glyph said.

“Glyph, how old was Albast?” Eddings asked.

Glyph looked at the General. “Well, he was on M’atra for about six or seven thousand years, and on Earth for a thousand. But he wasn’t born on that planet, so who knows how long he was around before that. Why? What’s this all about?”

“So he has been trying to help these evil prophecies come true then?” Bradley asked.

“Yes. Now what exactly are you getting at?”

“Well, you see Glyph, I pride myself on being a logical person, and I’m trying to make sense of this little mystery.”

“Yeah, well good luck with that.” Glyph commented. “Why would you want to know about all this anyway? It really doesn’t concern you.”

“Ah, but I think it does. It’s my job to know these things. You see, your intentions here are clear, Glyph; however those of your friends are not. I’ve made it a point to find out as much about your situation as possible, and I have found that Albast in particular had been operating under a different set of instructions. It seems to me that he has been perpetuating these prophecies, and that you have been trying to stop them. Is that essentially correct?” Bradley asked while looking at some scribbled notes. Glyph nodded affirmative and wondered where this was headed.

“So after I talked with Miatsu earlier this morning, I got to wondering. How important are these prophecies to the continued existence of the Earth, and why would a seven thousand year old man dedicated to protecting his world from this demon scourge deliberately commit suicide to ensure that a known evil prophecy would be fulfilled?”

“I guess you’d have to have asked him that.”

“Allow me to extrapolate a bit further, please stop me if I’m wrong. How many of these prophecies are there?”

Glyph thought a bit “Seven or eight, I think.”

“And how many of those did Albast have a direct hand in trying to make come true?”

Glyph scratched his head. “Half, maybe. I believe all the ones I have seen since I returned to Earth.”

“So, let’s see then.” Bradley flipped back a few pages and started reading. “By my count there are eight so far. The first was detective Bogg discovering your disappearance. The second was Drayden’s death and transference of knowledge to Amos. The third was of Albast altering your curse. The fourth one was of Tsach’s invasion. The fifth was a meeting of the combined armies of Earth and My-atra, the sixth was of our meeting with Tsach, followed by Morracor’s death, and finally Albast’s death. Is that correct?”

“Yes.” Glyph replied, the man had been busy, obviously.

“It would appear to me that Albast could have had his hand in all of them to some extent.” Bradley said.

Glyph thought about that for a minute. Then he reached over and took the list of prophecies from Bradley’s hand and studied it. All but Drayden’s death, but if Drayden knew he was going to be replaced, and knew that Albast was on Earth, then it could have been Albast who had steered Bogg in his direction in the first place. Not to mention, Drayden knew it would happen and he believed that the prophecies had to come true as well. “Now that I look at it, you could be right.” Glyph conceded, and handed the paper back to Bradley.

“Do you have any idea how many prophecies are left?” He questioned Glyph.

“No, oh wait, yes. Amos let slip that there is only one more prophecy for me to see.”

“So it all comes down to you then.”

“Well yeah, but I don’t quite follow you.” Glyph answered.

“All the other prophecies were helped, encouraged if you will, to come true by either Drayden or Albast. But there is one left, Glyph, and it will be up to you to decide what to do about it.”

Glyph tilted his head and furrowed his brow a bit as the meaning of President Bradley’s words sunk in.

“What I’m getting at is, will you still fight against what the last prophecy shows you, or will you encourage it to take place?”

“Why would I –.” Glyph started to say and then stopped, as he began to see Bradley’s point.

“This leads me to my original question.” Bradley interjected. “Why would an immortal seven thousand year old man, dedicated to the protection of his planet, commit suicide to fulfill a prophecy?”

“He obviously thought it was important.” Glyph stated.

“Precisely. It takes an unwavering belief that what you are doing is for certain, without a doubt, the way it has to be, if you are willing to give your own life for it. Albast believed, Glyph. He believed without a doubt that he was correct, and he died for that belief.” There was a moment of silence before he continued. “I have to think that it was damn near the most important decision he ever had to make. Now it’s your turn. If what Albast believed was that important that he gave up his own life, perhaps you should at least consider that he may have been correct.”

“I–.” Glyph started to say and stopped. What if he’s right? What if Albast was right? Yes, it was terrible what had happened to Morracor and Albast, but if the prophecies really were shown in a way to make Glyph want to stop them, then maybe he shouldn’t. Glyph rubbed his face again.  He was almost too exhausted to think right now.

“That was very enlightening Mr. President, and certainly gives me something to think about.” Like I didn’t have enough already, he thought.

“I’ve seen all the latest reports. There’s another whole army out there coming across the Mississippi as we speak. We can barely handle half of what’s already here. As much as I hate to say it, there’s no way we can hope to win this one, even with your help. It will only be a matter of time before they reorganize their pecking order due to Akthule’s death, and when they do, we’re in for one major shit storm.” Bradley explained. “It really does all come back to you, Glyph. I understand you will be confronting Tsach during your next time on My-atra. I would like to take this time to extend to you my best wishes and good luck. You truly are our only hope.”

Glyph stood and shook the President’s hand. “It seems you have a pretty good understanding of the situation, Mr. President.” Glyph said.

“Like I said, it’s my job.”

“Was there anything else?” Glyph asked.

“No. I’m not trying to tell you what to do, I just want you to consider your options carefully.”

“I will, President Bradley.” Glyph told him and nodded at General Eddings. He glanced at Captain Haddix to see if he was leaving as well, but Eddings had motioned for him to stay behind. Glyph walked down the corridor to the stairs and went directly up to his room. ‘That was interesting.’ Glyph thought. ‘I wonder if Albast had anything to do with that little meeting?’ Glyph chuckled. The President had made a pretty convincing argument, though one he didn’t really want to hear. He was pretty sure he had had a similar discussion with Mahjdi just a couple of days ago, only he had held the opposite opinion. ‘The choice will be mine alone. I guess the decision to follow it or not will depend on what the last prophecy has to show me.’ And with that thought Glyph drifted off to sleep.

 

It was afternoon when he was roused from his sleep by Amos’s voice echoing through his head. “Glyph. The first wave of their reinforcements has arrived. Things are beginning to stir in the enemy camp, and I think they’re getting ready to move against us.”

“Okay.” Glyph answered back. He checked his watch; one thirty-six. Nearly seven hours had passed. Time flies while you sleep. But instead of getting up, he just laid there. Thoughts of fighting Tsach filled his mind, and he kept trying to envision how he would go about confronting him. He could teleport in, but Tsach would likely sense that. He knew he would have to think outside the box to gain the upper hand, but what? He would have to think big, and do things he had never tried before. The idea didn’t sit well with him. The last battle to save the universe wasn’t the time to be trying new things.

Then there was the matter of the last prophecy, and he wouldn’t even know what that was until he got back to M’atra. After a bit, his head hurt. Why did it have to be so complicated? After another half hour had passed, Glyph decided he should go check on everything, not that what happened here would make much of a difference. Still, it took his mind off of other things. Glyph got ready and made his way outside.

He went to the mess tent first but there was no food. There was a new desk in the corner and soldiers were coming and going from there at a rapid pace. Glyph made his way over and found Captain Haddix behind the desk handing out orders to certain people and talking to others. After a few minutes there was a break in the traffic and Glyph walked over to see what was going on.

“Captain, what’s the good word?” Glyph asked him.

“It’s ‘General’ now.” Haddix informed him, indicating the star on his collar.

“Congratulations.” Glyph said.

“Save it, it won’t mean much unless we win. I guess I should say unless you win. Perhaps we can congratulate each other tomorrow.” He said, and gave Glyph a quick smile.

“I’ll be sure to do that. So General, how’s it going?”

“Not well. I’m afraid. Rations are running low. We might receive a truckload or two by the end of the day, but it won’t be enough. We’re also out of ammo, we rationed out the last of it this morning, and now we’re having to deal with deserters.” Haddix told him.

“Deserters? Really?” Glyph asked surprised.

“They can see the writing on the wall. Everyone was hopeful up until we learned that another army the same size as the last one was on its way here. We’ve lost over half of our forces fighting the first one, and now… well, now we don’t even have ammo for our guns. A lot of people think they’ll be better off if they go and hide somewhere, and try to wait it out.”

“Damn. I guess I can’t blame them.”

“No, but it does make our situation here that much worse.”

“I see.” Glyph said for lack of something better. For once he’d like to hear some good news. “Well, I’m off to check on the rest of the gang.”

“Glyph, wait. There’s something else I’d like to ask.” Haddix said.

“Go ahead.”

The new General looked this way and that to see if anyone was listening, and then he stood so he could be closer to Glyph. “If all this goes well, and we’re both still around tomorrow, well I would kind of like to ask your permission to marry Prianna.”

Glyph started to laugh, and quickly choked it back to spare the man’s feelings. “I think you need to ask Prianna. Don’t you?”

“Well yes.” He said and blushed. “I just wanted to make sure it was okay by you.”

“Uh yeah, sure. You have my blessing.” Glyph said as he finally understood what the man was getting at. “You do realize that she’s immortal right?”

“Oh yeah, I understand that completely.” Haddix replied and winked.

Glyph wrapped his knuckles on the desk twice, nodded and smiled as he walked away. The rest of the day was spent trying to figure out what the enemy was waiting for, and by the time his hour drew close the demon camps were overflowing with Grull and equipment. Hopefully his battle with Tsach would take care of all that. He gathered with the other wizards shortly before his departure. Everyone was of a somber mood. They all realized this may be the last time they saw each other alive, but no one wanted to voice it.

Amos wore his black ops uniform, and was steadily checking and rechecking all his gear. Lobrein sat quietly staring out the window, and Miatsu was pacing. Only Prianna seemed to be in a happy mood as she sat on the sofa humming an ancient tune from some distant world while rolling acorns between her fingers.

“Perhaps we should come with you.” Miatsu finally said.

“And leave these people here to die?” Glyph said.

“Face it Glyph, if you don’t succeed they’re dead anyway.” Miatsu countered.

He was right, and they all knew it, but it still didn’t feel right for some reason. “It won’t make any difference, Miatsu. This is my responsibility. With more of you there, I’ll only have a better chance of being distracted. It’s bad enough I have to worry about Ishea, Amos and Zarish.” Glyph said and looked around. “Where is Zarish anyway?”

As if on cue, the female demon walked into the room. “I have spoken with Karatchic. The demons who have defected understand the basic rules of your society, and have expressed an interest to help fight.”

“Oh.” Prianna said, and reached out and magically produced a long piece of tightly woven pine branches. “I thought perhaps they could wear these, either around their head or arm. It would be easier to identify them that way.”

“It could work, I suppose.” Glyph added. “The real trick will be to make sure our soldiers understand that they’re friendly. There are more than a few out there that would shoot first before looking. Not to mention, every one of them has already lost someone they knew at the hands of the demons. I’d imagine their prejudice runs pretty deep about now.”

“I can handle that. We’re going to need all the help we can get.” Miatsu stated.

“Very well then, I will inform them that you will be coming to visit.” Zarish said, and closed her eyes for a moment, communicating with Karatchic telepathically.

“You ready?” Amos asked Glyph. “It’s almost that time.”

Glyph nodded yes. “Do you really need all that stuff?” Glyph asked him pointing at his weapons.

“No, not really, but I’m more comfortable with it, and they make me feel better.” Amos explained.

“Zarish?” Glyph said.

“I am ready.” She replied.

Glyph took several deep breaths to try and shake the nagging feeling of impending doom he had been feeling all day.

“Any last instructions?” Miatsu asked Glyph.

Glyph looked at the three of them, Miatsu, Prianna, and Lobrein. There was an all too real possibility he may never see them again. “Yes.” He replied. “Stay alive.”

“We will try.” Miatsu stated as the wind sprouted from nowhere inside the room, and time began to slow once more. ‘One hour’ Glyph thought ‘One fucking hour to save the universe.’ The darkness began to creep in around him, and a moment later they were gone.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hour Book3 Chapter 22

When they reappeared, all hell broke loose. The group was inside Akthule’s tent, and the demon began spraying lightning in all directions as he rolled from his oversized bed onto his feet. Amos and Zarish responded in kind, as Glyph immediately called forth his shield, enlarging it in hopes of keeping everyone safe. The tent immediately caught fire and began to collapse, as the Hexzu and soldiers scattered from the tent in all directions to secure a perimeter. Glyph upended a slab of bedrock beneath the demon so quickly and forcefully that Akthule was ejected backwards through the burning tent as the structure fell to the ground, covering them. Glyph flicked his sword upward and split the tarp above them, allowing Amos and him to emerge unscathed into the crisp night air. He glanced about for Zarish but she was nowhere to be found.

Climbing the upturned slab of ground, Glyph leapt from the top and drove the King’s sword into the back of Akthule’s thigh as the Demon scrambled to escape the onslaught. Glyph slid down the demon’s leg, filleting it as he went. Akthule howled, and quickly swatted Glyph with his tree-trunk sized tail, sending him shoulder-first into the dirt behind the demon. Glyph managed to roll out of the way as Akthule spun and charred the spot where he had just been with a continuous jet of fire that looked like a flame-thrower on steroids. By the time Glyph got back to his feet, his dislocated shoulder had reset and healed itself. Luckily he had managed to hold onto the sword and maneuvered it in time to catch the next round of lightning Akthule threw at him. By now the demon lord was panting heavily, and had erected a shield of his own in order to heal the wound to his leg.

With a thought, Glyph ripped the shield from the demon and Amos blasted him in the chest with lightning. Akthule screamed again and twisted to one side to avoid another hit. With one arm he blasted Amos with magical force that sent the wizard tumbling through the air into the surrounding darkness. Glyph and Akthule squared off against each other, moving slowly in a circular motion as fighting began to erupt all around them.

“I see you have changed your tactics, Great One.” Akthule panted as he kept his eyes glued to Glyph.

“Just repaying the favor.” Glyph replied. “I thought you’d put up more of a fight, Akthule. It looks as though you’re in a bit of pain.”

Akthule dipped suddenly and blasted Glyph with another wave of force. The wave hit Glyph’s burning blue blade and split around him. “You’ll have to do better than that.” Glyph commented.

“Perhaps.” Akthule said and quickly vanished from sight.

Glyph looked about frantically. “Mother fucker, you ain’t getting away that easy.” Glyph said as he concentrated on Akthule once again. A split second later he appeared in front of the demon lord, who was trying to heal himself some distance away beneath the trees.

Blasting the demon flat with a wind so strong several of the surrounding trees cracked and splintered, Glyph made his way closer. He held the demon in place with sheer force of mind, as the wind abated. “It’s not nice to leave the party early, Akthule.”

The demon lord struggled violently as he tried to free himself from Glyph’s invisible grasp. He grunted and gasped repeatedly, then scratched and clawed at the dirt. “Release me!” Akthule growled menacingly.

“That’s ‘release me master’.” Glyph replied, as he stalked around the demon’s enormous frame. “Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?”

Akthule’s eyes blazed red at Glyph’s comments. “Tsach will tear you limb from limb and feast upon your bones!” He roared.

“Hmm, well, Tsach isn’t here, is he?” Glyph asked, and as an afterthought momentarily electrified the force field that pinned Akthule to the dirt. The demon lord’s body arched and writhed for several seconds. His red skin steamed in the cool night air, and he began to breathe erratically.

“Glyph! We need to finish it and get out of here!” Amos’s voice sounded off in his mind, but Glyph ignored it. With a wave of his hand Glyph released Akthule. “Get up you pathetic piece of shit!” Glyph yelled as his eyes began to blaze red as well. “Fight me Akthule! Show me your superior skill!” He shouted. His voice, now amplified, spread outward across the demon camp.

Akthule’s eyes grew wide as he scurried away from Glyph on his back. Turning, Glyph blasted an invisible Imp that tried to sneak up from behind, blowing tiny pieces of the creature so high into the air that they rained down over a half mile away. With a lurch, Akthule tried once more to strike Glyph down, but the force of his attack was reversed upon him twofold, charring the demon’s skin on his right arm until pieces floated away as ash. The Demon Lord howled as he clutched at the remains of his arm.

“Something wrong, Akthule?” Glyph bellowed. The demon stumbled back and forth as he struggled to remain on his feet. Glyph could see the fear in Akthule as he looked for an escape. Then the demon blurred and vanished, but reappeared in the same place, as Glyph watched and laughed. Akthule was panic-stricken as Glyph systematically turned the demon’s spells against himself.

In a last ditch effort, the demon lord gathered his remaining bit of strength to launch a final attack against Glyph, but before he could do so a large spear head protruded from Akthule’s chest. The enormous demon dropped to its knees revealing Zarish, who placed her foot against Akthule’s back and wrenched the spear back out, simultaneously pushing the Demon Lord onto his face against the rocky ground. Black blood and bubbles poured from Akthule’s back and mouth as he breathed his last.

“No! I wasn’t finished!” Glyph yelled brandishing the King’s sword at her, as she too began to back away slowly.

“The demons are aware of our presence, Glyph. They have mounted a counter-attack.” Zarish explained calmly.

Glyph started to advance on her, when Amos appeared in between them. “Glyph! Get a hold of yourself. We have to get out of here now!” The former detective demanded. Another invisible Imp blew open with an exaggerated pop noise off to the left about fifty feet. Amos glanced at it nervously. “Glyph, people are dying. We have to go!”

Suddenly Glyph stopped and his eyes reverted to normal. He looked about quickly, trying to gauge what had just happened and where he was. “Right, of course.” Glyph said then quickly closed his eyes. When he opened them again they were standing in the back yard of the mansion that had served as their headquarters for the last few days. Zarish and Amos were still standing in the same position in front of him. Then two Hexzu landed a short distance away. The night air was pierced by a soldier’s scream. “Medic!” It came from the trees some distance away from the main house, and Glyph, Amos, and Zarish turned and ran that way. As they came round the corner of the estate Zarish transformed into the human female figure and the three of them bolted off into the trees.

“Medic!” The scream sounded off once more. By now flares were being struck everywhere, and light was popping up all throughout the immediate area. Glyph could see the soldier about twenty feet away and blinked there instantly. It was Jon Haddix who had yelled, but the man who was injured was King Rokka and he wasn’t breathing. Dropping to his knees, Glyph placed his hands to the King’s chest and thought ‘live’. With a quick burst of light the man began to breathe again. A second later, the rest of his injuries had been healed. Rokka reached weakly toward Glyph and whispered, “I hate Imps.” Then he chuckled softly and tried to stand. Glyph helped him up and looked him over.

“Are you okay?” Glyph asked him.

“Yes, yes, I am fine.” He said as he patted himself down “There are others.” Rokka said and pointed shakily further into the dark forest.

“Stay here, I’ll go check it out.” Amos said to Glyph and Zarish and then he vanished.

“How?” Rokka said, still feeling a bit week in the knees as Haddix steadied him. “How did we get back here?” The King questioned.

“I teleported us all back.” Glyph answered. Then he caught Zarish’s stare. “What?” he demanded.

Zarish shrugged, but her eyes told Glyph that something had happened. “Help him back to the house.” Glyph finally said. “I’m going to help round up the others.” Zarish and Captain Haddix nodded. Glyph started off through the woods when the realization hit him. He had just teleported everyone back, whether he could see them or not, no matter how far away from him they had been at the time. He had just thought it, and it had happened. After a few steps he stopped, and closed his eyes again. This time everyone reappeared back at the mansion positioned  in their original circle, with a few strangled cries of surprise.

“Is anyone injured?” Glyph asked the group, and several, “here” shouts went up. Amos was there and he too just stared at Glyph. Glyph ignored him, and closing his eyes again, healed everyone of their injuries at the same time. Opening his eyes, Glyph smiled. Amos’s jaw had dropped open, and Zarish was still checking over a Torlean soldier who was bleeding to death only a moment before. Within a few minutes everyone was up and headed toward the Mess tent. Lobrein and Albast had appeared and were talking with Amos. Zarish stood next to Glyph smiling broadly.

“What’s with the smile, Zarish? Something amusing?” Glyph asked as he watched the others moving into the large tent.

“You will make a fine god.” The female demon quipped.

“Don’t tell me you’re buying into that nonsense too?” Glyph asked.

“I am no expert.” Zarish said scratching her dirty blonde hair. “But, mass teleportation? Instantaneous group healing? What would you call it?”

Glyph opened his mouth to speak, but found he didn’t have an answer. Zarish may have been on to something. No one else could do those things, and he had, without even breaking a sweat. “I…I don’t know what to call it.”

Zarish turned and placed her hand on his shoulder then stared him full in the face. “God.” She said, and then winked. Her smile came back and she turned toward the tent.

“Okay, I am not a god. Seriously.” Glyph told her as they both started walking back.

“Maybe you are correct. Demi-god might serve you better.” Zarish stated.

“Cut it out.” Glyph said and Zarish chuckled softly. They were the last of the raiding party to enter, and as Glyph stepped in, thunderous applause erupted.

Glyph waved a bit and then quickly found a seat. What he had done, any of them would have done in his place, and he hated being singled out for it all the time. Zarish had plopped down beside him, and he was soon surrounded by the other soldiers and Hexzu, each of them thanking him for saving their lives or congratulating him for killing Akthule. Even Prianna had joined them, standing near the back, arm-in-arm with Captain Haddix. Glyph tried to give Zarish the credit for killing Akthule, but no one would hear of it, not even Zarish.

“I only helped speed up the process.” Zarish claimed as everyone erupted in laughter. Neither she nor Amos said anything about the fact that he was only a few scant seconds away from losing control and killing both of them as well.

Finally Glyph stood to say a few words when he realized no one was going away. “We went and did what we had to do. All of you performed admirably, and if I could give you all medals I would. Unfortunately this isn’t over, not by a long shot. Earlier this evening, Akthule had pulled his forces back from the battlefield. I can tell you it wasn’t because he was worried about defeat, but because he was awaiting reinforcements. We’ve bought ourselves a little more time, that’s all. I expect there will be some sort of retaliation for our actions tonight. It’s just a matter of when and where.” Glyph told them, and could tell by their crestfallen faces that it probably wasn’t the best thing to say, even if it was the truth. “Do not despair my friends, for we are still alive, and as long as we are alive there is hope.” That appeared to help a bit, and the group slowly started to disperse.

When most of the stragglers had gone, Albast, Lobrein and Amos approached and sat down. “How are you feeling Glyph?” Lobrein asked him.

“Okay, what is it now? Anytime I get asked that it’s because I did something that freaked everyone out, so just tell me.” Glyph told them.

“Face it, Glyph. You just pulled off some crazy shit back there. Don’t try to deny it.” Amos blurted out.

“What? You’re upset because we all made it back alive?” Glyph snapped back.

“Some of us didn’t, Glyph. In case you hadn’t noticed, Rokka was dead as a doornail when we got to him, and that Torlean soldier was only a few seconds away.” Amos said.

“Big deal, paramedics do it all the time.” Glyph said dryly, trying to downplay what he had done.

“Not like that, they don’t!” Amos shouted. Lobrein held up her hand and Amos quickly quieted down, regaining his composure.

“I understand there were a few tense moments after Zarish killed Akthule.” Lobrein stated.

“Look, I got a little carried away was all. Nothing happened.” Glyph said.

“But it could have. Remember, Glyph, all the power in the universe will not help you if you are unable to control your actions.” Lobrein continued calmly.

“I think Zarish would have gone the way of those exploding Imps if I hadn’t gotten there when I did.” Amos said much more subdued.

Glyph just shot him a look. “I’m doing my best, alright?”

“Of course Glyph, but you must understand our concern.” Albast interjected.

“Okay, okay, I’ll try harder.” Glyph conceded.

“We would not bring it up if it were not important.” Lobrein said, and then promptly changed the subject. “I have informed everyone of the demons who now reside to the southeast of us. They have been told to avoid the area at all cost. We do not want any unfortunate accidents to take place.”

Glyph nodded. That was good anyway. “We need to find a way to allow them to fight without being killed by our people.” He stated.

“Prianna is working on a way that they could be identified as friendly.” Lobrein said and glanced around for the sorceress who was nowhere to be found. “As I understand it she has regained the use of her powers.” She raised one eyebrow and shot Glyph a look, then continued. “I will let you know of her progress.”

“Speaking of progress, I am ready to alter your curse, Glyph. Everything is in order and I can start whenever you are ready.” Albast informed him.

Glyph perked up. “Fantastic! I think we should do that as soon as possible then.”

As he stood up from the table alarms began to sound all over the camp.

“Shit!” Glyph cursed.

“That didn’t take long.” Amos commented as they all rushed out of the tent.

“Fan out!” Glyph shouted as he ran toward the wood line with Zarish. Flashes of light lit up the sky in the distance. Glyph slowed to a stop under the trees and grabbed hold of Zarish. “This way.” He said, and the pair vanished, reappearing behind several demons creeping slowly through the darkness. Zarish popped several balls of light high into the air to signal the others, but by the time she had turned her attention back to the enemy, Glyph was slicing the head off the last one and the other three lay motionless in expanding pools of their own blood.

As it turned out they had been the advance wave, as a small army of Imps came pouring in after them. No sooner would Glyph feel their presence than they would blow open from the inside out, whether they had been invisible or not. Glyph soon realized that their invisibility was no longer an issue, as he could feel their presence long before they were anywhere near him. He wasn’t sure exactly how he was making them explode, only that he had wanted it to happen, and soon he found his fear was not of the Imps or demons, but that he might accidentally blow up the wrong person by mistake.

The enemy attack had been ordered hastily, as if they had been slowly moving forces to the east in order to attack at first light, but had been pushed to charge the camp after news of Akthule’s death had reached them. No matter the reason why, their actions told Glyph that someone was still in charge, at least temporarily. Glyph had to reign in his power and attempted more control after he exploded a herd of mule deer that had been spooked by the sudden eruption of fighting. He also had to watch his sword closely, as he swept its annihilating beam through a bunch of ghouls, and inadvertently sliced through several old growth trees, toppling them onto a group of American soldiers. It was an ugly battle that lasted nearly an hour. The enemy soon turned and fled, and Glyph and Amos took to hunting down the stragglers.

Just as they were about to turn back, a group of sub-demons leapt over a small embankment and assailed them with fireballs. Glyph threw his shield up around Amos as the wizard quickly extinguished his burning tunic and healed the resulting burns.

“What was that you were saying about it being over?” Amos said to him as he pulled his Mac 10 off his shoulder and started burping rounds off in the enemies’ general direction.

“Okay, maybe that call was a bit premature.” Glyph replied. “Are you ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.” Amos grunted, and quickly encased the nearest demon’s feet in stone.

Glyph blasted several others with water that jetted from his palm like a cannon. Their screams were horrific as their flesh melted and ran down their bodies, exposing bone and pitted cartilage. Ripping the energy shield from the last two, Glyph allowed Amos to mow them down, riddling their faces and torsos with hundreds of bullets.

“Doesn’t that thing run out of ammo?” Glyph asked him.

“Not when you use magic bullets. See?” Amos said and popped the magazine out of the submachine gun and showed it to Glyph. “Full to the top. It’s a trick Albast taught me. As soon as the slug stops moving, it and its casing return to the bottom of the clip as an unfired bullet. I call it ‘ammo clip of replenishment’.”

“Nice.” Glyph said and glanced about. “Alright, that has to be the last of them. We’d better get back and help the others clean up the wounded.”

Amos pointed the way and the two started back. Glyph thought of teleporting, but decided they could help anyone who was injured along the way. They hadn’t gone a half mile before they came upon a pile of dead American soldiers. Bodies were ripped and shredded, others were scorched black and crispy. There were still a few survivors in the group though they too were in dire straits. Amos quickly set to work, but Glyph just closed his eyes and thought of healing. When he opened his eyes many of the men began to stir, and over half of them got to their feet, feeling their non-existent wounds the way every one did when they found themselves instantly healed. Glyph had thought about trying to bring the dead back to life, but he wasn’t quite sure how to do it, and something just felt wrong about the whole resurrection thing. Not to mention Amos was already freaking out that Glyph had just healed everyone. The former detective might have another coronary if Glyph were to start raising the dead.

The group of soldiers had just started to walk back toward the encampment, when one of the men beside Glyph screamed and was hoisted into the air by an unseen force. Glyph’s sword blazed cobalt blue as he drew it and drove it into the belly of an invisible Imp just a few feet away. Glyph held the sword outstretched as the Imp took shape, and stared at Glyph as bright green blood pumped out from around the blade. The other soldiers had run for cover as Glyph pulled the blade free and pointed it at the creature, who slowly sagged to its knees and toppled forward. Unfortunately it was too late for the soldier it had attacked, as his neck was grotesquely twisted.

“Glyph!” Amos shouted, and Glyph turned his head to look at him.

Amos stood about twenty feet away staring at him. Glyph was about to say something smart, when Amos’s face suddenly blanched.

“No!” Amos shouted, but it was too late. Glyph had heard the faint poof sound in front of him, and as Amos started to point, Glyph snapped his head back around in time to see Albast leaping onto his outstretched sword. The ancient wizard’s momentum carried him down to the hilt, where his face was just a few feet from Glyph’s.

“You will succeed–.”  Albast gasped out with his last breath.

Glyph instinctively tried to snatch the sword away, but only succeeded in slicing through Albast’s rib cage and most of his abdomen. The ancient wizard plopped to the ground at Glyph’s feet. Blood ran from his eviscerated body, as part of Albast slumped over the top of the dead Imp’s head and torso.

“Nooooooo!” Glyph heard Amos’s cry from behind him, as he stared in horror at Albast’s body.

“But I—. How—. I didn’t—.” Glyph stammered as Amos came rushing in sliding up next to Albast’s fallen frame.

Amos began to heal the wound, but no sooner had he started, then Albast’s body began to loose cohesion, and a few seconds later, a fierce wind blew at them from out of nowhere, and then he vanished completely. The night engulfed them as Amos’s light winked out, and Glyph quenched the flow of energy to his sword. In the ensuing silence all Glyph could hear was Amos sobbing on his knees in front of him.

The Hour Book3 Chapter 21

Glyph awoke in the dark woods, his outstretched arm still grasping Amos’s sleeve. He could hear Amos breathing as the former detective began to move.

“Where are we?” Amos asked as he came to consciousness.

“I don’t know. I was in a bit of a rush when we left.” Glyph replied, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the surrounding darkness.

“You got fucking lucky. We both could have been captured, you know.” Amos said and began to move about, scanning the trees for enemies.

“Well we weren’t, so let’s leave it at that.” Glyph said quickly. He didn’t want to get into an argument over his own carelessness. Amos was right of course. Glyph had been so consumed with his thoughts of protecting Ishea he had forgotten the fact that their bodies would remain on the battlefield, when his hour had come upon them. “They must have thought we were dead. Do you think we’re behind enemy lines?”

“It’s hard to say, but there does seem to be a lack of action around here. Maybe the battle shifted somewhere else.” Amos said. “Either way, let’s get back to our people and find out what’s happened.”

The thought of seeing Albast, so soon after having viewed himself murdering the old wizard, did not sit well. He decided to find Lobrein instead, and teleported them both to her location. As they appeared, Lobrein jumped in surprise and blasted the pair to the ground with a wave of invisible force that nearly knocked the wind out of Glyph.

“What the–?” Lobrein exclaimed as she stood staring down at Glyph and Amos. “By the gods, Glyph! Do not do that again! You are fortunate I did not incinerate both of you.” Then she looked at Amos. “Where have you been? We have been looking for you for…” She began to ask and then trailed off. Lobrein must have started to put it all together. “Do not tell me…” She said questioningly, then stopped and stared at Glyph. “You did not!”

“Oh, he did.” Amos replied, dusting himself off as he and Glyph got to their feet.

“Glyph, why? What reason could you have possibly had to take Amos back to M’atra?” She demanded.

“I’m going to fight Tsach on M’atra, Lobrein. I needed Amos to protect Ishea.” Glyph said.

“More like to keep her from following you into battle.” Amos quipped. “Which ain’t going to work by the way.”

“I know. So what’s going on here?” Glyph asked quickly to avoid yet another chastisement from Lobrein.

She stared at him sternly, and Glyph could tell she was fighting the urge to chew him a new one. “Tsach’s forces began to fall back when the sun started to set. It was touch and go for a while after you left. I am sure they are planning something. What that might be is another question, one we have yet to ascertain.”

“Okay, well, we have some planning of our own to do.” Glyph stated, and swatted at a gnat that was circling his head. “Where are the others?”

“Miatsu is on the North front with Albast. Rokka is there as well. Covat is over on that ridge.” She said and pointed off to the left. “I believe Captain Haddix is there too.”

“What about Prianna?” Amos asked her.

“She is still at base camp. She has not expressed an interest in returning to the battle, and we do not want to rush her. It is still unclear if she is able to perform magic, but we may need her again before this is all over, so the time might come when we have to confront her about it.”

“Pass the word along to the others. I would like to meet at base camp within the hour; providing that everything remains quiet out here.” Glyph told her. “I need to talk with Albast.”

“I’m going with you.” Amos said.

Glyph eyed him up. “Why?” He asked, but already knew the answer.

“This could be our last chance. I want to be there to make sure, if you get my meaning.” Amos replied.

“The last chance for what?” Lobrein asked.

“You don’t want to know.” Amos interjected.

“You are probably correct, Amos.” She said and paused. “You have seen the next prophecy, have you not?”

“Yeah.” Glyph answered.

“And?” Lobrein said questioningly.

“You really don’t want to know.” Glyph said, and tapped Amos on his arm, and a moment later he had teleported them away, leaving Lobrein wondering.

The pair appeared in a small grove of pine. “That wasn’t very nice.” Amos said immediately, and glanced about. “Where’s Albast?”

“He’s over there a ways, and being rude had nothing to do with our leaving her; or did you want to be the one to tell her that I was going to kill her husband?” Glyph asked.

“Ah, no.” Amos replied sharply.

“I didn’t think so.”

“So what are you going to talk to Albast about?” Amos wanted to know.

“Well for starters I need to know if he can change the parameters of my curse or not. There’s also the matter of the prophecy we just saw.” Glyph explained.

“Okay, you don’t feel like killing him or anything, right?”

“No, Amos, I don’t. But I’m sure I can count on you to stop me if I do.” Glyph replied sarcastically. He then began to walk carefully through the woods to where he knew Albast would be. After being slammed to the ground by Lobrein, Glyph decided that teleporting directly to their position might not be the best idea. After a few minutes they found him and Miatsu, peering over a ridge into the deepening darkness.

“Glyph, Amos! I am glad to see you well. We have been trying to contact you for the last hour or so.” Miatsu said to Amos as he stood and greeted his fellow wizards.

“I took him.” Glyph said cutting to the chase.

Miatsu looked surprised, but Albast just nodded. “I see.” The ancient wizard said as acknowledgement, and then cast a sidelong glance at Amos.

“I already know, Albast. I’ve seen the next prophecy, so you can drop the pretense. I’m not going to kill you.” Glyph blurted out.

Again Miatsu looked shocked. “Ah, but are you certain?” Albast asked and turned to face Glyph.

“Yes, god damn it!” Glyph said.

“The evil grows within you.” Albast commented.

“And so does the good. I would sooner die than run you through the middle with my sword.”

Miatsu could contain himself no longer. “What is this about?” He questioned, staring imploringly at Amos. Glyph and Albast ignored him.

“What if I attacked you, forced you to defend yourself?” Albast asked.

“Are you nuts? Do you really want me to kill you? Are you so sure of yourself and these damned prophecies to do that?” Glyph demanded in response.

Albast just stared at Glyph, and for a moment Glyph was truly afraid that the old man would try something. But then he turned his head and looked away. “No, of course not, my friend. I would never go that far.” He said, but the way he said it bothered Glyph, as though he would try to find some other way.

“Master, what is this about? Why would Glyph kill you? I do not understand.” Miatsu questioned frantically.

“Relax Miatsu. Relax. Glyph has seen something in the prophecy he is resolutely opposed to. I was only testing his resolve. There will be no killing.” Albast told him.

“But if he has seen it in the prophecy Master, then, will it not come true?” Miatsu asked.

“The prophecies are very misleading, in many ways. I would not deliberately try to force one to take place.” Albast replied.

“Oh, but you don’t mind helping them happen when it suits you.” Glyph accused.

“Glyph, this is my life we are contemplating. It is the one prophecy I have had serious issues with since the beginning. Maybe you can understand my position better now, Glyph. You see, it was not only Drayden’s and Morracor’s death that I have seen, but my own as well. I honestly believe that you do not have it within you to kill me, therefore I can only deduce that what we have seen is somehow in error. That perhaps either you or I are not who we appear to be in the scene that Amos will witness.” Albast explained.

Glyph and Amos looked at each other. ‘It is plausible,’ Glyph considered, ‘and it does make more sense than me killing Albast.’ he thought.

“King Rokka has informed me of your plan to assassinate Akthule. I believe it is a good decision. It will certainly cause a great deal of confusion amongst them, especially if there is some question as to who should succeed him as leader.” Albast said approvingly.

“So that’s what you’ve been planning.” Amos declared.

“Yes. Zarish is going to get his location and bring it to us.” Glyph said and glanced around. He was still mulling Albast’s words over in his head, but could not discern any subterfuge. It truly sounded as if he believed that somehow one of us was not who we thought he was, and that the prophecy was intentionally misleading us. “Speaking of which, we need to gather everyone together at base camp to hash out the details. I already told Lobrein to pass the word along on her side, could you do the same over here?”

“Of course. Everything has been quiet here for a little while. Akthule has withdrawn for now.” Albast replied.

“Good, let’s say around seven then. I need to go make some preparations of my own. There’s also the matter of changing my curse.” Glyph said.

“Oh yes, I am nearly complete in that task; perhaps only a few more hours of preparation. I was somewhat distracted by the battle taking place, and when we could not find Amos I was forced to drop those endeavors at that time.” Albast said.

“Very well. I will see you all soon.” Glyph said and teleported away. No matter what Albast said, Glyph still felt it prudent to be as far away from the ancient wizard as possible, just in case.

Glyph reappeared on the front porch of the mansion. The hole left by the Humvee had been rudimentarily repaired with some old boards. His stomach growled, and he turned his attention to the mess tent in the front yard. Before he could head that way, the front door opened and Prianna stepped out.

“Oh Glyph!” She exclaimed and threw her arms around him. “It is good to see you have returned. How is Ishea doing on M’atra?” She asked. Glyph didn’t want to worry her, but didn’t want to lie either.

“We’ll be engaging Tsach tomorrow. Other than that, she is fine.” Glyph said a bit glumly.

“I am sure that you will do well, Glyph. You have always done well in the past.” She said.

“Thanks Prianna.” Glyph replied, and quickly averted his eyes from her, as thoughts of the previous night began to return. “How are you feeling?” He asked.

“Everyone keeps asking me, and I tell them I am fine, but they all look at me as if something is wrong.” She replied.

Glyph looked back at her. ‘This is stupid.’ he thought. ‘Either she can, or she can’t, do magic. Why not just have her try it and see, rather than tip-toeing around the subject?’

“They are worried that you may not be able to do magic anymore.” Glyph blurted out.

“Why would they think that? Is that why they do not want me to go and help fight anymore? Not that I mind. I do not like fighting, although I am getting better at it.” She questioned.

“You nearly died, Prianna. You used up your reserve and used most of your life energy to create that forest. There may be nothing left. We were lucky to save your life.” Glyph informed her bluntly.

“Oh.” Prianna said in response. Her brow furrowed momentarily, and then relaxed. “I was going to get some food, would you like to join me?”

Glyph was hungry, but just being around Prianna made him relive his time with her in his mind. Finally his stomach growled loudly enough for Prianna to hear.

“That sounds like a yes to me.” She said and giggled. “Come on, they are having corn and potatoes again. They have something called meatloaf as well, but I do not eat meat. You knew that already though, did you not?”

Glyph nodded his head yes. It was going to be a long meal, he thought as the pair entered the tent and got in line. They sat at a table and ate in silence for several minutes. Glyph was about to make some excuse to leave when he saw Captain Haddix enter the tent. Glyph waved him over almost frantically as he finished going through the line. The Captain was all too eager to join them. “You’ve met Captain Haddix, haven’t you Prianna?”

“Oh yes, he is the poor man who lost his good friends defending the portal against the Imps.” Prianna stated.

Haddix just looked at her, as if he didn’t know how to respond. Suddenly Glyph understood why the man had been asking about her the other night. It was plainly obvious now that he was attracted to her. The Captain cleared his throat. “Yes, and you’re the young lady who created that forest of bamboo yesterday. That was really amazing.” He commented, trying to control his excitement over getting to talk to her again.

“It was, actually, now that I think about it. Of course, it nearly killed me, and now everyone is worried that I can no longer perform magic.” She told him.

Haddix just smiled as he sat down across from her. “When will you know? I mean if you can still do magic?” He asked.

“Well, the thought never occurred to me until Glyph just told me about it. Perhaps I should try to do something when I am done eating. Do you eat meat? I only eat vegetables. Meat is not really necessary to complete your nutritional needs, you know.”

Glyph glanced up as Covat and Lobrein entered the tent. He looked at Haddix. Why he hadn’t noticed how smitten the man was with Prianna before now was beyond him; it was clear that he was in love. Of course Glyph had been a bit busy lately. “If you two will excuse me, I need to talk to King Covat.”

“Yes, of course.” Haddix said politely. He truly could not take his eyes off of her.

Glyph moved off quickly, and once more forced thoughts of his encounter with Prianna far from his mind. He still did not know what to do about it, if anything, but at least for now Haddix could preoccupy her for a while.

Glyph talked with Covat at some length before the others arrived, and was saddened by the losses that the King of Torlea had shared with him. Torlea had lost a third of their men and the Delturans nearly half.

When Greem and Aroth entered the tent, nearly everyone there stiffened. The M’atrans were human enough to be accepted, but apparently no one was quite used to the imposing size and shape of the Hexzu. Glyph went to greet them immediately and quickly caught up on their situation as well. A few minutes later Rokka and Albast arrived and Glyph started the meeting.

Glyph spelled out the generalities of their attack plan, and then opened the floor to any ideas. King Covat suggested that the initial assassination team be comprised of representatives of all the allied races. The others agreed, but decided that the final number of people who would take part in the attack should be decided after Zarish returned with the information on Akthule’s defenses.

“I would like to add that this mission will be strictly voluntary. It is likely not all of us will return from this endeavor.” Glyph added as the meeting began to wrap up. He made his way over to where Albast, Lobrein, Amos and Miatsu were seated, and cleared his throat. The others looked up at him. “I would like three of you to remain behind to defend the camp. Tsach has beaten us to the punch before and I don’t want it happening again.” He told them. They all just stared at him. “Okay, well I think it’s a good idea if Albast stayed behind. I would rather that you worked on changing the curse than fighting anywhere near me.”

“That is a sound decision.” Lobrein stated matter-of-factly. “I too would like to sit this one out.” She said and looked gravely at Albast. Glyph could tell that she had obviously been filled in on the latest prophecy and wasn’t too happy about what she had heard. Albast was strangely silent. Glyph then looked to Miatsu and Amos.

“I’ll go.” Amos spoke up.

“Good, then that’s settled. All we can do now is sit back and wait for Zarish.”

“Glyph I know I’ve said it before, but are you sure we can trust her? I mean, I like her too, but you’ve just given her the opportunity to lead us right into a trap.” Amos said.

“I know.” Glyph said and paused.

“You know!?” Amos quipped.

“Look, there has to be some level of trust in the universe, Amos. Without it I don’t believe the balance between good and evil can be reset. We have to know one way or the other; more importantly, I have to know. It’s the main reason I requested this mission be on a volunteer basis. If I’m wrong then most of us will probably be killed.” Glyph told them.

“Oh, and that’s the best way you could come up with?” Amos replied snidely.

“I saw the opportunity and I took it. It’s not like I can sit around for the next couple of years thinking up ways to prove Zarish’s loyalty.” Glyph said.

Amos just shook his head and got that ‘I hope you’re right’ look on his face. Glyph turned to face Albast, who sat staring off into the corner of the tent. “Albast, changing this curse is perhaps the most important thing we have to do right now, and the sooner we can do it the better.”

“Yes, yes, I understand. I will be ready to perform the spell as soon as you are finished with the ambush on Akthule. I may be able to do it sooner, but it sounds as if you had better be here for this one, in case as you say, things do not go as planned.” Albast replied.

Glyph felt relieved. It was as if Albast finally understood what he and Amos have been trying to tell him about the prophecies. It seemed as though the thought of losing his own life had made him reconsider his position on the matter. “Thanks Albast. I know you will be ready when the time comes.”

There was a short silence before Albast spoke up again. “Glyph?”

“What is it?” he responded.

“I understand you will be confronting Tsach when you return to M’atra.” The ancient wizard said.

“That’s the plan.” Glyph replied.

“You will do fine.” Albast said.

“Okay. What are you getting at?” Glyph wanted to know.

“Just that. You needn’t worry about the outcome of things.”

Glyph just stared at the old man. “And that’s it, I shouldn’t worry about my fight with Tsach? The battle that apparently decides the fate of the entire universe? That’s what you really wanted to tell me?” Glyph questioned him.

Albast scratched his head and a pained expression crossed his face. “Glyph, I will send you to M’atra as you have requested, and you will engage Tsach. I just want you to know that there is hope. Do not despair as your time with Tsach grows near; you are at least as powerful as Tsach, if not more so. You simply have not come to that realization. When you do, you will understand that what you ask of me will no longer be necessary anyway, in that you will have the power to do whatever you want.”

“I’m glad you think so. Everyone seems to feel that I have this whole battle with Tsach all wrapped up, but I’m not so sure. He nearly killed me once already, Let’s just say I plan on giving it my best shot.” Glyph said candidly. The end was drawing close, he could feel it in the fiber of his being.

Lobrein smiled. “That is all any of us can ask, Glyph. We have faith in you. You are a part of this family, whether you choose to believe it or not.” With that, she stood and gave Glyph a hug. “You have erased the lies that have bound us for thousands of years, and brought us closer than we have ever been before. You have saved the Hexzu from extinction, despite their losses here, and gave them a fighting chance. You have saved the people of M’atra twice, and are doing the same for the people of Earth. You have even managed to change our perceptions of the demons that have been our sworn enemies. You are not alone, Glyph. As long as any of us are alive, we will be here for you.”

Glyph thanked them for their support, but he really wasn’t all that interested in what he had done. The only thing on his mind now was Tsach, and making sure Ishea was safe. Albast excused himself and went to make his final preparations. Glyph decided he needed some air and left the tent as well. He was walking toward the large grove of Oak trees that resided nearby when he heard the distinct sound of someone crying. He moved closer to the sound and finally saw the light of a lantern through the trees. As he got nearer, he could see that it was Prianna and Captain Haddix.

“It’s okay Prianna, it’ll come back to you in time. Don’t worry.” Haddix was consoling her.

“No, I do not think it will, Jon.” He heard her say between sobs. “The plants no longer hear me when I speak to them.”

“They will, it just might take awhile.” Jon Haddix spoke. Glyph realized he had never asked the man his first name. The scene tore at Glyph’s heart. Prianna had obviously tried to use her magic and failed, but Haddix was resolute, he refused to give up on her.

“Oh Jon, what will I do? The others will not know what to do with me if I cannot help them.” Prianna cried.

“I don’t believe that for a second, Prianna. They love you for who you are, not what you can do for them.”

“But they are concerned. They worry that I can no longer do magic, and they are right. I can not. What good am I if I can not do magic?” She said and sobbed some more.

“Prianna, no one on my world can do magic, and we get by. There are more important things in life than what we can or can’t do. Don’t be so hard on yourself, we’ll work on it together, and you’ll see, your magic will return.” Jon told her.

He was persistent in that, Glyph thought. It was plain that her grief struck Haddix to the core, and Glyph was sure he would tell her anything to ease her pain. Without thinking, Glyph stepped from the shadows and walked straight at the pair. Haddix saw him first.

“Glyph, she fell and bruised her leg a bit, but she’ll be alright.” Haddix stammered.

Prianna looked up at Haddix, as if seeing him for the first time. She then wiped her eyes. “Yes, I will be fine.” She choked out.

Haddix was trying to cover for her, and she realized what he was doing and went along with it. It was so very touching that Glyph began to tear up as well, and walked over to her and knelt down beside the pair. “What he says is true, Prianna. We will love you the same even if you can never do magic again.” Glyph spoke, and without saying another word he took her hand and laid it on top of Jon’s. He really didn’t even know what he was doing, it just sort of happened. Then he pressed their hands toward the Earth and touched a small flower there. There was a bright flash of light and the flower bloomed instantly at their touch. Then he smiled and stood up.

“Glyph, I do not understand. Why?” Prianna stated somewhat confused, and then she too smiled. “I can hear them. I can hear them!” She squealed in delight. Standing up, Prianna spun around quickly in a circle with her arms stretched outward. Suddenly everything within the light of the lantern bloomed as well. The plants and trees began to grow, and arched curiously toward the sorceress.

“Oh Glyph! How can I ever thank you!” She exclaimed.

“It wasn’t me, Prianna.” Glyph told her, as he helped Jon Haddix to his feet. “It was the good Captain’s love for you that made it work.” He stated. He glanced over at Haddix who was now blushing. Glyph wasn’t sure what exactly had taken place, but figured it was a good bet to let Captain Haddix take the credit. It had obviously involved him somehow.

“Your love, for me?” She turned and asked Haddix.

“I uh…” Haddix stammered and looked at Glyph. Glyph nodded yes slowly and raised his eyebrows. “Well, I guess it was.” The Captain choked out. “I mean, my love for you, yes. I mean I do love you, Prianna.”

Prianna was positively beaming as she leapt up and embraced him, kissing him deeply. Glyph walked away, having felt as though he did his good deed for the day. He was rather pleased that the act had also appeased the guilt he had been carrying since his encounter with Prianna. More than that, he did not think of it again.

Glyph went back to his room and tried to sleep, but had little success. The thought of the battle with Akthule, and ultimately Tsach, kept creeping into his thoughts. After an hour or so of tossing and turning, Glyph realized there was a flaw in their plan to assassinate the Demon Lord. No one had asked how they were going to infiltrate the demon encampment, or how long it would take them to get there. Maybe the Hexzu could fly them there, but that too would be risky. He was considering the problem when a familiar voice entered his mind.

“Glyph, I have returned with the location of Akthule.” Zarish spoke telepathically.

“I’ll be right there.” Glyph replied, concentrated on her and quickly blinked away. He was standing on the front porch again when Zarish, disguised in her human form stepped out from the long shadows cast by the lanterns at the front of the mess tent.

“I have done as you asked.” Zarish stated.

“Good. So what happened? Why did Akthule pull his forces back?” Glyph asked her.

“Tsach ordered him to do so. At least that is what he claimed. There are more reinforcements crossing the large river to the west, it is my guess that Akthule is waiting for them.”

“Reinforcements?”

“The portal Tsach opened in the desert did not close just because the war had started. They have been coming through this whole time.” Zarish informed him.

“Damn it!” Glyph said between clenched teeth. The thought had never crossed his mind. He had hoped that when they had defeated Tsach’s forces here that it would be over. It was evident now that his battle with Tsach would be the only way to save the people of Earth. Glyph sent word telepathically that everyone should meet at the mess tent in fifteen minutes. There was no point in delaying this any longer.

“Glyph, I would like you to meet someone.” Zarish said.

“Who?” Glyph asked, snapping him out of his train of thought.

“This is Karatchic.” The female demon said and waved her arm. A human male stepped forward from the shadows. “He is one of the few that is sympathetic to our cause. Karatchic, this is the Great One.”

Before Glyph could say hello, the man pulled a dagger from his belt and slid it across his forearm and prostrated himself before Glyph. “To you my life belongs, to you this I decree, until the time you set me free, forever —-.”

STOP!” Glyph commanded, and the demon froze. Glyph shot a look at Zarish, who also looked taken aback by her friend’s behavior. He stepped over to the man and waved his hand, freeing him from the word of command. He pulled the demon to his feet. “I do not want a slave, and I am not your master, nor will I ever be.” Glyph told him and touched his arm, healing the cut instantly.

Karatchic’s eyes bulged wildly as he glanced back and forth between Zarish and Glyph. “Have I displeased you Mast—?”

“Ah-ah.” Glyph said cutting him off once more. Not again, he thought. He remembered how glad he had been when Zarish finally stopped calling him that. “You may refer to me as Great One, and no, you have not displeased me. You are an individual now, you are free to think and do as you please, Karatchic. There are only a few rules to follow which Zarish can explain later. So let’s start over.” Glyph said and put his hand into the demon’s hand and shook it once. “Good to meet you Karatchic.”

“Yes.” Karatchic said, still visibly shaken by the encounter.

Glyph signaled to Zarish and the two stepped off a ways from Karatchic. “You brought them here now?” Glyph asked somewhat surprised.

“I had to. Once the attack on Akthule begins they will know they have been betrayed, and I will be the first one they suspect of treachery.”

Glyph understood her reasoning, but now wasn’t the best time for dealing with this. “How many?”

“Forty-six.”

Glyph looked around, “where are they?”

“They are a few leagues south of here. Not all of them are capable of shifting shape, and I thought it best that they remain hidden for now.” Zarish explained.

“Good, keep them there and make sure they stay out of sight. I’ll inform the others that they are there, just in case.”

Zarish sent Karatchic back to the other demons who had defected, along with a set of instructions. Then she and Glyph entered the tent to await the rest of his group. Once everyone had reassembled, Glyph started. “I think five from each of our groups should suffice. We’re only there to get Akthule and get out, not to kill everything that moves.” Each group picked their five to go along. Greem hand-picked his group, where those from Earth and M’atra drew lots. When everyone had been chosen, Glyph turned the floor over to Zarish.

“Akthule is in a large black tent near the center of the northern encampment. He is very shrewd, and may have some form of magical protection about him. The demon Lord has a personal guard comprised of Ghouls and Imps, and they are not in the habit of asking questions before they cut you open, nor do they take prisoners. Consider every battle you face there to be to the death. They will show you no mercy, be sure to repay them in kind.” Zarish told them.

“I will take Akthule, the rest of you are to keep the others from interfering, or taking pot shots at me while my back is turned.” Glyph added. “Timing is everything here, so grab your gear and meet on the lawn in five minutes.”

As everyone began to file out, Amos came over to Glyph. “Are we marching there or what?” He asked smartly.

“No, we’re not.” Glyph replied as he too made his way toward the exit. As soon as he stepped outside he could hear Aroth complaining loudly to Greem.

“You should not go, my cousin. You are too important. Should you be lost–” Aroth was saying.

Greem held up his hand. “A leader leads, Aroth. I cannot ask my warriors to do anything that I am unwilling to do myself.”

“But the Earthers do it this way, Greem. It only makes sense.” Aroth continued.

“No Aroth, the leaders here are not warriors. They are not expected to fight, but we are Hexzu, and it is our duty to defend these people. The Great One has so commanded it, and we are in his debt. If he is triumphant in his battle with evil, he shall restore to us our home. This is our purpose in the Great War, and we shall be rewarded for our loyalty. So it is written in the prophecy of our ancestors. You are Ruktan now, and every member of the Ruktan has sworn an oath to uphold that prophecy.” Greem explained to him.

“You are right of course, Chieftain Greem.” Aroth said stiffly and bumped his forearm against that of his Chief.

Glyph walked by some distance away, but Greem’s words kept repeating in his mind. ‘Is that what they think? Obviously it is, but how can I restore their world to them if I can’t even restore my own. I hope Greem isn’t too disappointed.’

“So how do you propose we get there?” Amos asked from behind as he hurried to catch up.

“Everyone form a circle. Pair up and stand back to back.” Glyph ordered. He noted some familiar faces among the group: Captain Jon Haddix was among those from Earth. King Rokka from M’atra, and of course Greem and Aroth. “Weapons at the ready!” Glyph commanded.

“Glyph, what are you doing? How is this going to help us get to Akthule?” Amos asked as Glyph made his way to the center of the circle. There were twenty of them, twenty-three including Amos, Zarish, and himself, ten facing in towards Glyph and ten facing outward.

“We’re going to teleport.” Glyph explained calmly as he closed his eyes and laid his hand across Zarish’s forehead. He scanned her thoughts, and instantly knew where the Demon Lord was located. It was the only thought Glyph could find. There should have been others, but there weren’t, so he pulled his hand away. If this foray was a trap there was only one way to find out.

“Teleport? Glyph that fucker’s miles away.” Amos said incredulously, glancing around as the rest of them formed in a tight circle. “There’s over twenty of us.”

“Prepare to fight!” Glyph called out, then looked at Amos. “So?”

“So you can’t teleport this many people, it’s not possible, and especially that far away.” Amos argued.

“I guess we’ll find out.” Glyph said and closed his eyes once more. He could see the tent and then he could see inside. Spreading his aura outward, it engulfed the group, and a moment later they were gone.

 

 

The Hour Book3 Chapter 20

“–Oooooooooo!” Glyph heard Amos finish screaming as he opened his eyes. Amos was just sitting up rubbing his face and hair vigorously. He tried to stand, but found there was not enough room in the covered wagon they found themselves in. As the wagon jerked to a sudden halt, Amos tipped over and fell onto him. The pair struggled to free themselves from each other as the flap on the back opened to reveal Toban and Ishea. Amos practically rolled out the back as Toban tried to keep him from hitting the ground.

As Amos regained his footing the swearing began. “God damn it! Why the fuck did you do that? Do you have any sense about you at all?” He shouted at Glyph.

“Amos, look, I’m sorry but I needed your help.” Glyph tried to explain as he to crawled from the back of the wagon.

“My help? What could you possibly need my help for? And now I’m here!” Amos continued to rant.

“Tsach is here on M’atra–.” Glyph started to say before Amos cut him off once again.

“I know that! You knew I knew that!” Amos bellowed.

Glyph stood there staring at his old friend, and for the life of him could not understand what Amos was so upset about.

Glyph’s confusion must have been apparent as Amos stared back his eyes bulging from his skull again. “Didn’t you wonder how I knew that? Couldn’t you see what I was trying to do?” Amos chided him. Toban and Ishea stood silently watching the whole tirade.

“Amos?” Ishea said rather softly. Amos looked at her then back at Glyph, and finally back at Ishea, but said nothing. “I do not understand. Glyph, why did you bring him here?”

And then it hit him, he finally got what Amos was so upset about. Amos and Albast knew Tsach was here because they had seen it in the prophecies. The Drayden prophesies. Which meant that Amos would have to be on M’atra in order to see that Tsach was here. And had he not come, that is, if Glyph had not brought him here, Amos would have never seen it and the chain of prophecies could have been broken.

Now that Amos was here on M’atra, the prophecies would likely continue to come true.

“I fucked up. I fucked up big.” Glyph stated, as his head dropped into his hands.

“Oh, now you get it? Well it’s a little late there, Einstein.” Amos declared, gesturing wildly and placing his hands on the top of his head as he paced back and forth.

“What is going on?” Ishea now asked both of them.

“I brought Amos here to help in the battle against Tsach, but by doing so I have inadvertently caused the prophecies to come true.” Glyph told her.

“Well, it certainly makes it a lot more likely, that’s for sure.” Amos blurted out.

Glyph sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “Where are we, anyway?”

“We are just past Muret, toward the south side of the lake. I imagine Zarish is also back with us.” Ishea told them.

“I’ll go check on her.” Amos commented. He glanced questioningly at Toban.

“She is in the rear. Look for the largest wagon, you’ll find her there.” Toban informed him.

“Ishea, where’s the tapestry?” Glyph asked anxiously.

“I will send for it immediately.” Toban proclaimed and moved off at a swift pace.

Glyph put his face back in his hands and moaned.

“Glyph?” Ishea said, placing her hands over his and gently pulled them away. She looked at him with those penetrating purple eyes. “What is wrong, my love?”

“What isn’t wrong would be a better question.” Glyph stared back at her beautiful face. “I am sorry Ishea, I did not make it in time. Morracor is dead.”

Ishea tensed for a moment, and wiped at her eyes. “I know you tried your best, Glyph. It is not your fault.”

“It’s these damn prophecies. Every time I see one, it’s too late to do anything to stop it from happening. Albast knows what they are but he is convinced that the prophecies must come true in order for me to succeed. Who knows, maybe he is right. The first several seemed harmless enough, they didn’t even seem to matter all that much, but now with Morracor’s death, I just don’t know what to think.”

“So how is the war on Earth?” Ishea asked. Glyph was pretty sure she really didn’t want to know, but was just trying to change the subject. He filled her in on everything that had happened, including Prianna’s bamboo forest. Glyph tried his best to push the memory of his encounter with Prianna from his mind. He knew Prianna was okay with what had happened, it was obviously just her way, but Glyph still felt guilty, and he suspected that Ishea would not be as accepting of the situation as her ‘sister’ was. It was the only thing he had left out of his description of the previous twenty-three hours, and he began to feel guilty about that as well.

Toban approached at that point, and two Kivan soldiers helped set up the Tapestry where Glyph could see it from his seat on the back of the wagon. The scene still depicted Morracor’s death, but the white square had returned on the lower right side of the fabric.

Amos now walked up and shuddered as he too gazed upon the Living Tapestry. Glyph was loath to change the scene for fear of what horrible thing it would show him next.

“You might as well get it over with.” Amos said, turning his back to the Tapestry.

“You mean you can see it?” Glyph questioned. Amos pointed to his head and stared at Glyph in response. “Oh, of course.” Glyph said. “I keep forgetting you still have Drayden up there.”

“It doesn’t get any easier. There’s only two more to see so go ahead and look. I guarantee you’re not going to like it.”

“Amos, could you not tell Glyph what they are?” Ishea asked hopefully, as if she too had just remembered that he carried Drayden’s animus.

“I’ve tried Ishea, but I can’t. I’m prevented from speaking every time.” Amos told her.

“Prevented?” Ishea asked.

“It’s Drayden. He believes that the prophecies must come true, just like Albast. He won’t let Amos tell me what they are.” Glyph announced as he gazed dreadfully at the white square on the fabric.

“Yet, you also believe the prophecies to be evil, and that they should be prevented?” She asked.

Amos just nodded yes, then turned back to Glyph. “Just do it already.”

Glyph reached out and touched the square, and as the threads began to reweave themselves. He thought how much it reminded him of pulling the arm on a slot machine, only with the Tapestry, there was little chance of winning.

Glyph suddenly felt chilled, as the scene coalesced a moment later. The hair on his head stood up as he stared in disbelief. He stood in the dark woods, the only light shining from the King’s sword as he ran it through Albast’s middle, and out his back. The features of their faces clearly illuminated. There was no mistake; if this prophesy came true then Glyph was going to kill Albast.

“What? What is it Glyph?” Ishea asked.

Glyph was too stunned to describe what he saw. Instead he waved his hand slightly and said, “reveal.” Ishea gasped and took a step backward, placing her hand over her mouth.

“But…I mean…I know I’m not going to kill Albast! We’ve had our disagreements, but I’m not going to do that…am I?” Glyph asked, now more unsure of himself than ever. He also never thought he would kill several hundred Kivans in order to wipe out several thousand demons and Grull in the Pass, but he did. Glyph knew too well that the evil side of his nature was becoming more powerful by the minute, and he was no longer certain of anything.

“I told you you wouldn’t like it.” Amos said.

“I do not believe you are capable of such an act, Glyph.” Toban stated firmly from behind him.

“Nor do I. I am certain you have nothing to worry about.” Ishea added. Glyph just continued to stare at the scene before him. Finally after about a minute of silence, Glyph spoke. “Let’s get these wagons rolling.” The thought of Tsach in Kivas came flooding back into his consciousness.

“Right away, Glyph.” Toban replied and headed for the front of the line.

“I need to see Zarish right away.” Glyph said, all inflection was gone from his voice. He knew the prophecies, he knew their track record, and he had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach that he was going to kill Albast sometime in the near future. He tried to brush the thought aside but couldn’t. Even after Amos and Ishea escorted him away from the tapestry it still weighed heavily on his mind.

At the back of the line of wagons was a really large one, the biggest covered wagon Glyph had ever seen in his whole time here on M’atra. As they approached, he could hear Zarish arguing with one of the Kivan soldiers.

“At least allow me to walk. My ankles have been dragging through the dirt since you put me in here yesterday.” Zarish complained.

Glyph could see she was right. The wagon looked like it had been built to carry a large siege weapon but had been covered at some point in order to transport supplies. As big as it was, pulled by a team of ten horses, it was still not big enough for her demon-sized frame.

“I will pass along your request, General, but I can not make that decision on my own.” The Kivan guard told her.

There was something wrong, something so wrong that it struck Glyph at his very core. This was not right. “I can.” Glyph told the soldier who promptly jumped to attention and saluted his King. Glyph thought negligently, and the wagon cover vanished, and the silver shackles that bound her arms and legs went with it.

Zarish sat up immediately, rubbing her wrists. Then she looked gravely at Glyph. “Why have you done this?” She asked.

“Because it’s not right. I cannot allow myself to think the worst of you because of a few coincidences. I apologize, Zarish.” Glyph told her, and extended his hand as if he could help her into a standing position.

“I…accept your apology. Mainly because it is more preferable than my execution, which was what I thought was about to take place.” Zarish replied.

Glyph began to laugh. “I just love demon humor.” Zarish just eyed him speculatively.

Amos quickly pulled him aside. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” He asked quietly.

“No, I’m not sure, but you know what else? I don’t care anymore. If she betrays us to Tsach, then so be it. It’s a hell of a lot better than treating her like a criminal if she hasn’t.”

“But what about Tsach knowing that the Tome of Dark Lore was in Kivas?” Amos asked.

“Look, the topic was blurted out during Ishea’s trial. Any number of people could have heard it, even demons posing as monks. Besides, you said yourself that you thought that Tsach had seen the prophecies as well. Maybe he’s just going to Kivas because he saw it.” Glyph explained.

Amos glared at him dubiously.

“The point is, we don’t really know. And until we do, I’m not going to keep my friend in chains.” Glyph said.

“Glyph, is that not the complete opposite of what you told me yesterday?” Ishea chimed in.

“Probably. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to talk to Zarish about a few things.” Glyph replied, and then vanished. A moment later Zarish disappeared as well.

They stood at the base of the mountains of Kivas, and Glyph looked upward admiring the beauty of the rolling countryside.

Zarish just watched him, and waited. “Are you going to kill me now?” She asked him.

Glyph laughed, a deep belly laugh that took him several moments to recover from. “How come I never realized how funny you were before?” When Zarish didn’t immediately respond he continued. “How’s that shoulder wound?” He asked.

Zarish pulled her linen smock off her shoulder to reveal a nasty seeping scar. “I had to wait awhile before I could pay someone to heal it for me. They did a poor job.”

“Why didn’t you do it yourself?” Glyph asked somewhat confused.

“Because there I am Zarabish. I am Chinee. They would kill me if they knew that I had mastered the art of healing, and even if they didn’t they would not recognize my elevation to full demon status due to the way in which I had achieved it.”

Glyph understood. She had left them as Zarabish, it only made sense that she would return the same way.

“No matter. I’m going to ambush Akthule later tonight. I need you to get me his location, and any information about his personal protection, whether magical or not.”

Zarish allowed a slight smile to cross her face. “It would be my pleasure. Akthule is a pompous ass. He could use a good slaying.” Then the demon paused. “Glyph, I swear to you, I did not tell Tsach the location of the Tome.”

Glyph looked her in the eye and nodded. “Okay, but to tell you the truth, I don’t care anymore. I just want this whole thing to be over with.”

Zarish silently agreed. “We will be within striking distance of Kivas by this time tomorrow. Tsach will likely be waiting for you. Do you have a plan?” She asked him.

“No. I’m going to go into Kivas and take him down.” He replied.

“So you believe you will be able to locate Tsach and kill him within an hour?” Zarish stated questioningly.

Glyph was struck by the harsh reality of what she had just said. He would only have an hour, and if he did not succeed, he would be leaving Ishea, Toban, and about thirty Kivan soldiers to finish the job. None of which was equal to the task. The rest of the Kivan army would take nearly another half-day or more to reach the city walls. “You’re right as usual. I am working on a way to change the parameters of the curse.” He told her. Albast would have to come through, or risk leaving Ishea to fight Tsach on her own.

“Let us hope you are successful. I have a feeling that the battle we face will be a long one.” Zarish commented.

“I do as well. Listen, once you have Akthule’s location, it will no longer be safe for you to stay there. I want you to come back. The battle between Tsach and I is coming closer, and I’ll need you, and anyone else you deem worthy of living, on our side.” Glyph said.

“I understand. I will make the preparations, and send word to you as soon as I return.” Zarish replied.

“Good. We had best be getting back. The others are probably already wondering where we got off to.” Glyph replied and teleported them both back to the wagon train, which was on the move once more toward Kivas.

“There you are!” Ishea yelled as Glyph and Zarish reappeared. “If you will excuse us, it is my turn now.” She said as she took Glyph by the arm and led him off toward one of the covered wagons. They both clambered up and inside.

“I take it you want to talk to me?” Glyph said.

“I do not like being ‘left out of the loop’ as you are so fond of saying.” Ishea scolded him. “Why have you released Zarish? And why must you talk with her in private?” She demanded.

“I released her because it was the ‘right thing to do’ as you are so fond of saying.”

“Do not mock me. I am serious.”

“I don’t know, all right? I just did. The pendulum swings back toward good again.” Glyph said.

“What are you talking about?” She asked.

Glyph filled her in on Lobrein’s theory of good and evil. After a few minutes she nodded her understanding. “It does stand to reason. Do you think that is why you are going to kill Albast?” Ishea asked.

“I’m not going to kill Albast! It’s not going happen, I don’t care how evil I may become. I simply refuse to believe it, there’s no way.” Glyph sounded off defensively.

“Glyph, you have to admit that you are changing. From what Amos has told me, you are at least as powerful as Albast if not more so already. Even in your last hour here, you teleported from the Monastery at Toleth’Va to the Pass in one jump. Not to mention the atrocity you performed in the Pass. Your powers are growing, and if you are becoming more evil as Lobrein suspects then you must accept the fact that anything could happen between now and your final confrontation with Tsach.”

“No, not that. If that could happen then I would no longer be me, I would be something completely different, I would be… I would be…”

“A god?” Ishea offered.

“I was thinking more like a monster. Gods don’t kill innocent people.” Glyph stated.

“At least the good ones.” Ishea commented.

Glyph shot her a look, and stared. “If I kill Albast then I am no better than Tsach, and that is the whole idea right? To defeat Tsach, not become him. What good would it do to destroy one evil just to replace it with another?”

“But you are both, Glyph. The choice is ultimately yours to decide, and if you are triumphant in that battle, you will likely hold the power of a god, and hence become one.” Ishea told him.

Glyph shook his head back and forth. “No, I am not a god. The universe doesn’t need a god. It gets along just fine without one.”

“I must disagree. If the need were not present than you would not be here to reset the balance between good and evil.” She paused and wiped her eyes. “There may come a day when we may no longer be together, and that you may have to go out amongst the stars to ensure that the balance be kept.”

“Ishea, I am not a god. I will not be a god. I will not kill Albast. This…this whatever it is that’s taking place will be over soon, and we can go back to our lives, the way they were. I have to believe that.” Glyph told her.

“You truly are our only hope, Glyph. Only you can do what must be done. I foresee the day when the rest of us will be like ants within your shadow, and our love shattered by this fate that has been thrust upon you. Pray that you will succeed, for if our love should be sacrificed then may it be for the greater good.” Ishea said and choked up on the last word.

Glyph did not know what to say. It seemed that no matter what came out of his mouth, Ishea was determined to believe otherwise. He tried to see the situation through her eyes as he thought of his reply, but he could simply not fathom the depths of what it would mean if he were to become god of the universe. Instead he leaned over and kissed her resolutely and said, “I love you.”

Glyph hastily made his exit from the wagon and went in search of Amos. He could not bear to see Ishea cry and he was certain it was going to happen. He had brought Amos here for a reason, and he needed to let him know what it was. Making his way back toward Zarish’s cart, Glyph spied the pair deep in conversation. He tried to eavesdrop a bit, but Zarish had taken on human form, and they were keeping their voices low.

Glyph walked up to them. “Amos, Zarish, mind if I join you?”

“Why not.” Amos replied. “We need to discuss this plan of yours. Zarish tells me we will be within striking distance of Kivas at this time tomorrow.”

“She’s right. Whatever is going to happen will happen then. Look I want to do this alone. There is no need to risk your lives when I go to fight Tsach.” Glyph told them.

“I’m sorry, Glyph. I can’t do that.” Amos replied.

“What do you mean? I brought you here to protect Ishea, and to keep her away from this.”

“I swore an oath to protect this world. I cannot turn my back and let you face Tsach alone.” Amos replied.

“And neither can I, Glyph.” Ishea’s voice sounded off behind him.

Glyph turned around to see Ishea standing there as if she had been there the whole time. “Dammit Ishea, I don’t want you involved in this.”

“Then you will have to shackle me, for as long as I can do magic I will fight, even if it means certain death.” Ishea replied coldly.

“Which means you will only have an hour to defeat Tsach, because after that only Ishea will be left here to take up that responsibility.” Amos commented, as if he knew it would get under Glyph’s skin.

“We all go. If you try to go on your own we will follow.” Ishea stated.

“And what if I don’t defeat him in an hour? What then?” Glyph asked her pointedly.

“Then I will continue the fight, if not to defeat Tsach, then to protect your bodies from falling under the Arch-Demon’s control.” Ishea told him.

Glyph hadn’t thought that far ahead. She was right, if he did not destroy Tsach within that hour, their bodies would be left wherever they were when his hour ended. Tsach would undoubtedly kill them, or imprison them somehow; either way it wouldn’t be good. This was getting more and more complicated. “You let me worry about that. Albast is already working on a way to change the parameters of the curse to increase my time here. He’s done it before, he will just have to do it again.”

Several alarmed shouts cut them off. They were coming from the front of the line; Glyph drew his sword and raced forward with Amos, Zarish and Ishea on his heels. Toban met them at the front of the line and quickly shouted “There!” and pointed off in the distance. Glyph could see some commotion several hundred yards in front of them, but could not tell what it was.

“Imps!” Amos shouted.

Glyph stole a quick glance at him and could tell by the dull milky color of Amos’s eyes that he was using his long-distance sight.

“They’re too far out of range now, we’d never be able to catch them.” Amos added quickly.

Glyph ignored this last comment and immediately threw his arm outward and closed his fist. There were three distinct pops in the distance, and Glyph instantly teleported there. He appeared some three hundred yards away, and quickly glanced about as the others popped in nearby and came trotting over.

“Holy shit, dude!” Amos exclaimed. There was nothing but blood and entrails everywhere, as each of the Imps had exploded from the inside out.

“I think that was all of them. I’d rather Tsach not know we were coming.” Glyph said.

“I hate to tell you this, but he already knows.” Amos told him as he surveyed the damage Glyph had done to those creatures.

“Care to elaborate?” Glyph asked him, raising one eyebrow.

Amos just shook his head no, as his jaws clamped tightly shut.

“I have never seen magic like that before.” Zarish said as she too pushed small pieces of gore around the ground with her foot.

Ishea just stared about with her mouth agape.

“Our time’s almost up here, Glyph. Do you have a plan or what?” Amos asked.

Glyph looked at Ishea. “As soon as you get to the base of the mountains, I want you to take us to your cabin. I don’t want you on the main road, in case Tsach gets any ideas about coming out to greet you before we arrive. From there I will get us inside the Keep, then we find Tsach and kill him.”

“That’s some plan you have there, did you think that up by yourself?” Amos asked snidely.

“Can it, Amos. I’m sorry if it’s not detail-oriented enough for you. I’ve never tried to kill an Arch-Demon before, so pardon me if it sounds a little vague.” Glyph shot back at him.

“A little?” Amos replied and let out a laugh.

“Zarish, I need that information before midnight.” Glyph said to the female demon.

“Of course.” She replied.

“Good, then it’s settled.” Glyph said and forced a smile.

“I will do as you ask, but please, be careful.” Ishea said. The worry was plainly evident on her face.

The wagons had almost caught up to them now, and after Toban looked over the scene of the Imps’ explosion, he requested that Zarish return to her wagon before the curse activated. Apparently Zarish reverted to her demon form when she returned to Earth, and hoisting a twelve-hundred pound demon into a wagon is no light matter. After that, Glyph said his goodbyes and watched as the ethereal winds swept down from the distant mountains to claim him. The light that engulfed him seemed to hum loudly before all sound vanished and he felt the cold grip of space.

 

The Hour Book 3 Chapter 19

“Wait!” Zarish cried out.

Glyph stopped for a moment, poised to take her head off with one swing.

“Before you kill me, you need to know that you are about to be ambushed. I volunteered to scout ahead so I could warn you and pass on the information I had gathered. If I do not return shortly, the others will launch the attack believing I have been killed.”

“Who? What others?” Glyph asked angrily.

“There are twenty demons in a patch of woods two leagues north of here. We were sent to try and assassinate you and the other sorcerers while you slept.”

“When?” Glyph growled.

“In a few minutes.” Zarish replied. “You may kill me now. If you wish.” She commented dryly, and made no action to defend herself.

Glyph struggled with the sword and hesitated. Half of him wanted to kill her, and the other half to spare her life. He held his sword at the ready, and telepathically woke the others with a warning of pending attack. Glyph stared into Zarish’s eyes, but there was no trace of her true thoughts there. She was a master of subterfuge, it had been the only way she could survive working under Tsach. This was the price he had to pay for sending her back to spy on the Arch-demon.

He dropped the point of his sword slightly, deactivated the weapon, and then ran the blade swiftly into her left shoulder, and out her back. Zarish stifled a scream, and winced as Glyph withdrew the King’s sword. “Now you have an excuse for not joining the party.” Glyph said and tossed her a sheet from the bed to staunch the flow of black blood oozing from the wound in her shoulder. Zarish appeared relieved, even grateful, as she nodded her understanding. “One more thing. Why would Tsach go after the Tome of Dark Lore?”

“I am not sure.” She replied, refolding the sheet, and pressing it to her wound again.

“I’ll check in on you later this evening. See if you can find that out for me in the meantime.”

Suddenly the sound of a fifty-caliber machinegun cut through the silent night air. Flashes of lightning illuminated the shades across his window. “Go on. Get out of here.” Glyph said to her. Zarish looked as if she might say something, but teleported away instead. Glyph wondered if he had done the right thing by letting her go, but there was no time to worry at the moment.

In a flash he vanished, reappearing outside a moment later. Glyph activated his shield just in time to deflect the Humvee that came hurtling toward him through the air, sending the enormous vehicle crashing into the front porch, through the wall and into the large foyer of the mansion. He leveled his molten blue sword at the demon, and to Glyph’s surprise, a beam of ice blue energy shot from the tip and blasted through the foul beast some forty feet away. The demon stumbled forward, dropped onto one knee, and toppled over dead with a three-foot round hole bored clean through the center of its chest.

Glyph moved toward the nearest sounds of fighting on the side of the house. He could see Lobrein engaged with two demons, moving beneath her shield like a martial artist, flinging lightning bolts with a graceful ease. He quickly blasted the closest one with his newly discovered ice-blue ray of death. It caught the demon in the side of the head, and left nothing. The seventeen-foot tall legs and torso crumpled to the ground in a heap, its head and shoulders completely vaporized. With a thought he ripped the shield away from the second demon, and Lobrein promptly fried the creature to a charred crust.

“By all that is holy, Glyph! How did you do that?” Lobrein asked as she made her way toward the headless demon.

“It’s something new.” Glyph said and shrugged. “There are about twenty of them. We should take care of the rest.”

“By all means. Lead the way.” Lobrein replied, an expression of sheer amazement on her face. She looked to where the head of the demon had been, then turned and followed Glyph into the woods.

Before long, the wizards of M’atra had eliminated the threat. Miatsu had injured his leg, but Lobrein had already taken care of it by the time they had all returned to the mansion that served as their headquarters.

“Not that I was keeping score mind you, but Glyph easily took care of over a dozen of them himself.” Glyph overheard Lobrein talking with Miatsu as they approached. Interested in what they were saying, he slowly moved back into the shadow of the tree line and listened.

“So his powers have increased.” Miatsu declared.

“Exponentially, I would say. He was doing things I would never have dreamed were possible.” Lobrein stated.

“Do you think it will be enough?” Miatsu asked her.

“It will have to be. Albast believes their final confrontation is approaching quickly. Our fates will be decided within the next few days.”

“May the gods be with him.” Miatsu said.

“We can only hope.” Lobrein answered, her apprehension clearly audible in her voice. “Albast is concerned. He feels that Glyph’s frustration and anger may tip the balance in favor of Tsach.”

“Is there nothing we can do to help?” Miatsu asked as they began to move into the light of the surrounding compound.

“We can be his friends, we can try to understand and sympathize with his situation, but in all reality only Shea can truly sway his thoughts and feelings. Only she can guide him to where he needs to be.” Lobrein said, and let it drop as the two of them walked across the lawn in silence.

Just as Glyph was ready to step out of hiding, Albast joined them. “How are things on M’atra?” Miatsu asked.

“Only Glyph knows for sure, but he’s not talking right now. He did say that Tsach was there. I’m worried about Shea. She will try to follow the Arch-demon. If she confronts him before Glyph gets there it could be catastrophic.” Albast explained.

“And what about Amos?” Lobrein questioned.

“I had to sedate him. Drayden’s animus was grieving over Morracor’s death. Amos was adversely affected by it, and began to break down mentally. The stress of sharing a body with two minds is taking its toll. I fear they both may lose their sanity should this continue much longer, and Amos still has a ways to go before the end.” Albast said.

“Before the end of what?” Glyph said smartly, teleporting behind the three wizards, and making like he had been there the whole time. Miatsu and Lobrein nearly jumped out of their skins, only Albast continued on as if nothing had happened.

“The end is what we call the confrontation between you and Tsach. We refer to it that way because beyond that point there are no prophecies, nothing in the living tapestries, no obscure prophetic mentions. It is the end of our knowledge of the future, and depending on the outcome, it could be the end of everything, or the beginning of a new age.” The old wizard told him. Then he stopped and turned to face Glyph. “I am sorry that I must try to keep you from learning certain things about the future, Glyph, but I implore you to try and understand. This is the most important time in all of history, and is by far the most important thing any of us has ever had to do. One misstep, one wrongly phrased sentence, and we could be facing the end of all things as we know it.”

Glyph was surprised at Albast’s candid remarks, but as far as Glyph was concerned the man had already misstepped one too many times already, no matter what he believed. “So. Are you going to send me back to M’atra or are we going to let Shea face Tsach all by herself?” Glyph said, and managed to twist the knife a little deeper.

Albast just nodded. He knew Glyph had heard everything now. “It is not that simple, Glyph. The spell is ritualistic and requires certain items and hours of mental preparation, but I am working on it. Your request to be sent back was not unreasonable, merely unrealistic. No matter what you think of my power, not even I can wave my hand and change your curse. Magic, my magic at least, does not work like that, even though yours does.”

Glyph took the apology for what it was, but he thought he should play with them a bit, and he wasn’t about to let Albast off the hook. “Fine. Whatever, I don’t really care one way or the other right now. Do what you want, Albast.” Glyph said. Truth be told he really was feeling rather detached from the matter at the moment.

Albast gave Glyph a long look. “Very well then, I shall attempt it and, when the time is right, you can make your decision whether to go forward with the process.”

Glyph shrugged his shoulders in response, and sat down on the front step of the porch beside the smoking grill of the Humvee protruding from the wall behind him. Pulling his hand upward, Glyph created a cigarette between two of his fingers, and magically lit the end before placing it in his mouth and taking a long hard drag.

Prianna made her way out the front door and eyed up the crashed vehicle. “What is going on?” She asked. She was wearing a mint-colored sheer spaghetti strap nightgown that ended near the top of her thigh.

“Prianna dear, you should be in bed.” Lobrein said with a quick glance at Albast and Miatsu.

“It is difficult to sleep with… well, with this.” She stated and indicated the wreckage.

Lobrein moved up beside her. “A minor skirmish in the woods was all, its nothing to be concerned about.” She said and ushered her back inside. Before Lobrein went through the door she glanced back at the three of them. “Could you please get rid of that thing?”

“I suppose we could try levitating it.” Miatsu surmised. “It is a bit large to teleport.”

“That’s not a bad idea. One of us could lift it up, and the other two could help pull it free.” Albast stopped and looked at Glyph. “What do you think, Glyph?” The ancient wizard asked.

Glyph took another drag from his cigarette. “I’m sorry, did you say something?” He replied nonchalantly.

Albast stared at him again. “The vehicle. Any ideas on how to move it out of here?”

Glyph casually reached over and rested his hand on the smoking wreckage. “You mean this?” He asked. A second later the massive Humvee vanished, then reappeared about fifty feet out into the front lawn. It hung a few feet off the ground for a moment, then dropped to the ground with a large crash.

“Well that solves that problem.” Miatsu commented and began to laugh. “Your power is growing quickly, Glyph. You did not even sweat.”

“Yeah. I know.” Glyph said flatly. He stood up and dusted off his jeans, then brushed his hands together. With a quick nod to Miatsu, Glyph turned and went back inside the mansion. Something was happening to him. He felt little to no power drain after using his magic, which was, as he had heard Lobrein commenting, growing exponentially. His two years of training told him one thing, his thoughts told him something else. He had now surpassed Lobrein and Albast in raw power, and it was becoming harder to control.

Glyph lay on his bed once more, but before he could close his eyes a subdued knock came at his bedroom door. Glyph checked his watch; it was almost four thirty in the morning. He let out a long sigh, then stood back up and opened the door.

Prianna stood in the hallway staring up at Glyph. “May I come in?” She asked in a quiet voice.

“Uh, Okay.” Glyph answered and stepped to one side to allow her to enter.

Prianna held a glow stone in her hand and placed it on the small table by the window and sat down on one of the leather-backed chairs. Glyph closed the door and sat down in the second chair.

“How are you feeling?” He asked.

“I am unsure. I feel different somehow, though I appear to be in perfect health.” She replied. They sat there for a minute in silence before she spoke again. “I am sorry, I should go.” Prianna began to stand.

“No, no. Sit back down, you obviously have something you want to talk about.” Glyph insisted.

Prianna sat back in the chair. “I could not sleep, and well, I am worried.”

“What’s up?”

“Everyone is talking about your power, and your state of mind recently. I fear you may become consumed by it, this anger you have, and I thought about what I could do to help. It has been a long time since I was made to service another, but I thought that perhaps I could service you. It would be okay because I choose to do this, no one is making me.” She said and stared at him.

“What do you mean Prianna? I’m not sure I follow you, what service are you talking about?” Glyph asked, and yawned.

Rather than answer him, Glyph watched as Prianna slid the spaghetti straps off her shoulders and pulled her nightgown down to reveal her milky white flawless breasts. Glyph found he couldn’t take his eyes off her chest, and when she stood and let her slip drop to the floor around her ankles he almost choked.

“I don’t–. I don’t–.” He stammered.

“It is alright Glyph, I will never tell a soul, and you will be able to think much clearer in the morning.” She explained.

“But Ishea, I, I—.” Glyph stuttered again.

“Ishea will be your wife, silly. I am not interfering in your relationship, I just want to provide a release for your pent up frustration.” She said and stepped in between his legs as he sat there. Taking her hand she gently placed it on the back of Glyph’s head and helped guide it to her breast.

 

“Glyph.”

“Glyph, wake up!”

“What? What is it?” Glyph said aloud as he was startled from his sleep. He opened his eyes and looked around expecting someone to be there but saw no one. Glyph realized he was still in the chair, with his pants down around his ankles. He jumped to his feet and pulled his pants up, and scanned the room once more to make sure no one had seen him. There was a serious kink in his neck, which Glyph healed so he could turn his head to the right without wincing. “That’s what you get for sleeping in a chair.” Glyph said, and then checked his watch. It was ten minutes after ten.

“Glyph. Are you alright?” Lobrein’s voice echoed through his mind once more.

“Lobrein, oh. Yes I’m fine. I uh, was still asleep.” Glyph replied telepathically.

“General Eddings is going to give us a briefing in five minutes, the President wanted to make sure you were going to attend.” She told him.

“Yeah, tell him I will be there. Thanks.” Glyph replied

He checked himself over in the mirror hanging on the wall. With a wave of his hand his hair became clean, combed, and his teeth brushed. “That’s better.” As he strapped on the King’s sword, his eyes came to rest on the leather-backed chair he had slept on. His thoughts quickly shifted to the night before, of Prianna, of what happened.

“Oh shit.” Glyph whispered and paused like a deer in headlights. All he could do was stare at the chair for several seconds, before he finally snapped out of it. Luckily there was no more time to think about it, and with a quick blink, found himself in the backyard.

“Welcome Mr. Young, I wasn’t sure if you were going to make it.” President Bradley said to him. “I think I’m starting to get used to all this teleporting around you do. I don’t think I even jumped that time.”

Glyph nodded sheepishly and grinned, then quickly found a seat between the President and Lobrein. As General Eddings stood and made his way to a makeshift podium, Glyph glanced about casually. He looked down the row to see who all was there, when Prianna leaned forward, winked at him and waved. Glyph stiffened and sat up straight, his eyes suddenly glued to the General, who now held Glyph’s undivided attention.

“First, I would like to commend you all on your bravery, you fought well yesterday, and though our casualties were high, the damage we inflicted on the enemy was greater. With that said, I would like to extend our thanks and gratitude for one special individual who went above and beyond the call of duty, one whose personal sacrifice will not be forgotten.” Eddings said.

Glyph looked back and forth, hoping that Eddings wasn’t referring to him.

Then President Bradley stood and walked to the front. “On behalf of the citizens of the United States of America, I would like to award this medal of distinguished service to Prianna.”

Prianna gasped, a look of astonishment on her face. With some prompting from Lobrein, she stood and went forward, as everyone present began to cheer and applaud.

“I hope you don’t mind.” Captain Haddix’s voice came from behind Glyph. “I sort of let slip who was responsible for that bamboo forest. It just kind of snowballed from there.”

Glyph nodded at Haddix as Prianna shook hands with President Bradley, who then placed the medal around her neck. “Prianna, on behalf of my fellow countrymen, I would like to thank you. What you did yesterday saved thousands of lives, and gave us a reprieve that was sorely needed.”

Prianna smiled politely, and then returned to her seat, as Eddings continued. “Thanks to this young woman, and her companions of course, we were able to regroup, heal our wounded, and even get a bit of sleep. I would also like to commend our allies from Maytara, whose courage and bravery inspired us to never give up, and to never back down. We have learned a valuable lesson, and that is that technology and weapons don’t win battles, but that something deep inside us all, our own moral fortitude and heart, will carry the day. I would also like to give our condolences to the wizards of Maytara for the loss of one of their own, the wizard Morracor, and to the Hecksoo for the loss of their revered chieftain, Grot. And so for them and the loss of many of our soldiers and friends, I would request a moment of silence.” The general stepped back and lowered his head.

For some reason, Glyph did not feel sad, only angry. This was all fine and good, but surely there was time for this later. The demons would return, it was only a matter of time. The fact that they were not already here was amazing unto itself, and of course changed nothing. If these soldiers hadn’t died yesterday, then it would be today or tomorrow. Unless he found a way to get to Tsach, none of this sentiment would mean anything. Glyph could hear Prianna weeping softly, and the sound of it grated his nerves. ‘What is wrong with me?’ He thought. ‘Why am I feeling this way?’

Then Eddings stepped forward again and continued. “The enemy has divided its forces, and is currently as of our last reports moving around the bamboo forest to the north and south. We have moved our troops in response and have positioned them along the ridgeline of the mountains on both sides of our current location. Our estimates show that the battle will begin on the north front within an hour or so, and two to three hours on the south front. Ammunition stockpiles are running low, so try and make each shot count. Once it’s gone there is no more left, and we will have to resort to hand-to-hand combat. The battle plan is simple; fight. And when there is no more fight left in you, fight harder. The future of our country, of our very world hinges on what we do here today. Most of you already know your assignments. For those who don’t, please see me after the meeting. Thank you, and good hunting.” Eddings stated and made his way toward Glyph and the President.

“Mr. Young, I hope you approve of our strategy. You were more than a little busy last night as I understand it, so I took the liberty of devising this plan.” Eddings said.

“Yeah, that’s fine General.” Glyph stated flatly. He was becoming increasingly agitated by the minute and for the life of him could not understand why. Without another word, Glyph turned away and moved straight toward Albast. Maybe he knew why after all, he thought as he approached the ancient wizard.

“So are you ready?” Glyph asked.

“That was a bit impolite don’t you think? First you walk away from the President without so much as a goodbye, and then you question me before you even say hello.” Albast said calmly.

“You know what? Fuck you. I don’t have time for this shit.” Glyph said, barely keeping his volume at normal levels.

“Glyph, this meeting wasn’t so much about strategy as it was about giving everyone something else to think about for awhile, to honor our heroes and mourn the dead. What’s gotten into you?” Albast replied.

“Me!” Glyph shouted, and then lowered his voice as he drew unwanted attention from others around him. “Can you send me back or not?!” Glyph demanded forcefully.

“I can, but I will not be able to do so for some time. There is also the matter of the upcoming battle; I cannot make preparations to alter your curse and fight demons at the same time. Even if I worked tirelessly the rest of the day I would likely still not be ready before your next hour comes upon you. I am sorry.” Albast said.

Glyph was quickly approaching his boiling point. “Just do what you have to do, and leave the demons to me.” Glyph told him.

“As the Great One commands.” Albast replied sarcastically.

Glyph had never wanted to hurt someone more in his whole life, and was gearing up to pop the old man in his mouth, when Amos shoved his way in between them.

“Glyph I need to talk to you right away.” He said insistently and guided Glyph away from Albast as he talked.

“What? What is so damned important?” Glyph asked as he shrugged off Amos’s arm on his shoulder.

“There is one last chance, one last way to avoid the prophecies, to keep them from happening.” Amos told him.

“What? What is it?” Glyph asked.

Amos’s mouth contorted again, and finally he let out a deep breath. “I can’t tell you, only that I am going to try.”

“And that’s it.”

“I know, I know. I wish I could say more.” Amos said.

“It’s not enough for me to be able to help you, Amos. I have to know more.” Glyph prompted.

“What you have surmised so far is true. You know what we know, you have deduced…” His mouth contorted a bit, and he sighed loudly before attempting to continue. “Just remember, they are the Drayden Prophecies.” Amos shook his head several times. “I’m sorry.” He blurted out, and then quickly walked away.

Glyph threw his arms up in frustration. He could see that Amos was trying, but whatever he was trying to tell him made absolutely no sense. Glyph tried hard to swallow the anger that was beginning to boil in the pit of his stomach, but this situation bordered on lunacy. He glanced around; the President and General Eddings had gone, as had most of the others. It appeared as though he was stuck here until his hour came. There was nothing left to do but prepare to fight, and for Glyph that only required a good breakfast.

Making his way around the large mansion, he entered the mess tent and got in line behind a few stragglers that had probably been out on patrol most of the night. Glyph sat at one of the tables and began to eat. After a few bites Glyph noticed a Delturan and Torlean soldier enter. As they passed, the group of American soldiers turned and saluted the M’atrans as they walked by. Glyph took a harder look at the pair as they came closer to him. It was King Covat and King Rokka, and they too got in line and made their way over to where Glyph was sitting.

“May we join you, Great One?” Covat announced

Glyph smiled. “Of course.” He replied. “What brings you here this fine morning?” Glyph asked a bit sarcastically.

“We heard there was a bit of a skirmish here last night.” Rokka said as he dove into the scrambled eggs.

“You could say that.” Glyph replied.

“We also heard that Tsach is no longer on Earth, that he has gone to M’atra.” Covat added.

“You could say that too. So what’s this all about, gentlemen?” Glyph said.

The pair looked at each other as if to see who was going to speak first. “Well, if Tsach is not here, then that just leaves Akthule in charge correct?”

“That would be my understanding.”

“Perhaps we should repay in kind the visit they shared with us last night.” Covat suggested.

“Great One, it is time to sever the head of this beast. They may not run and hide without their leader, but it would sure give us a fighting chance if he were gone.” Rokka explained.

Glyph chuckled softly, now this was sounding promising. “What did you have in mind?” Glyph asked drinking the last of his water.

“An elite team, maybe made up of all races. We could go under cover of darkness, kill this Akthule and retreat. If all was made ready, we could launch an attack during the ensuing chaos.” Covat told him.

“Assassinate Akthule, and attack at night. Well, they certainly wouldn’t be expecting that now would they?” Glyph stated.

“If we fail, it would be no great loss, but should we succeed, it could be enough to tip the war here in our favor.” Rokka said.

“And get you home to your own kingdoms that much sooner.” Glyph said, and eyed them up.

“That thought had occurred to us.” Covat said coyly.

“I understand completely, gentlemen. The thought of Tsach running amok on M’atra does not sit well with me either. The plan is sound. I will discuss it with the others, but I see no reason to delay. Go ahead and make your preparations.” Glyph said with renewed purpose. He finished his last bite and stood up. “Thank you for not abandoning me.”

Covat looked shocked at the suggestion, but it was Rokka who replied. “We have pledged to follow your banner, Great One. We do not enter into such an agreement lightly. We would not think of desertion, even at the risk of losing our kingdoms, or our world.”

Glyph and Rokka locked eyes for a moment, and Glyph knew the man would sooner run himself through with his own sword than betray him. The trial of Ishea, and the outing of Verto, had truly opened Rokka’s eyes. He wondered if this was the reason he referred to him only as the Great One, instead of King Glyph as he had in the past. Glyph nodded at both of them and left. He was actually looking forward to this mission. Akthule was a coward, and Glyph delighted in the thought of his death. The hard part would be locating him, but as luck would have it Glyph had someone on the inside who would likely be able to help in that matter.

As he left the tent Lobrein came over to him. “How are you feeling this morning Glyph?” She asked.

Glyph cast her a sidelong glance as an image of Prianna came to mind. “Uhm, okay.”

“Good.” Lobrein said and then lapsed into silence.

After a minute Glyph stopped walking. “Well, I suppose I should get to the front line.”

“Yes, of course.” Lobrein said.

Glyph noticed the troubled look she gave him. “Is there something wrong, Lobrein?” He questioned.

“Oh, well, it is nothing really.” She replied.

Glyph just stared at her and raised his eyebrows.

“Fine, it is this contention between you and Albast. It is making the rest of us uneasy.” Lobrein started wringing her hands together. “Glyph, you do know that Albast is doing what he thinks is right. He is not upsetting you out of spite or malice.” She tried to explain. “Do you understand?”

“So he’s pissing me off for the fun of it.” Glyph replied just to see her squirm a little.

“No, of course not.” She replied hotly, then catching Glyph’s slight smile swatted at his arm and to Glyph’s surprise actually smiled back in return. “You know what I mean.”

Glyph laughed a little, then grew serious. “So what is it then? Why is he being so aggravating, or is it just me?”

“I think a little of both actually.” Lobrein said, and then paused as if picking her words carefully.

“Is that even an answer?” Glyph said feeling confused.

“How can I put this? Up until recently your powers have been increasing very quickly, but now they are expanding beyond your ability to keep up.”

“Okay, I’ll buy that, but what has that got to do with me and Albast?” He asked her.

“You are the line. The line between light and darkness, life and death, good and evil. The prophecy says you are the line between these things, meaning both are contained within you, but that you will be loyal to only one in the end which implies a decision. As you come closer to the time of that decision your powers grow, but it also means that both sides are exerting more control in an effort to sway that decision to their side.” Lobrein told him.

“Lobrein, you make it sound as if good and evil are actual entities.”

“In you, Glyph, they very well could be.” Lobrein responded.

“Are you saying that I’m becoming more evil?” He asked.

“It stands up to the reasoning. You have had your moments in the past, but for the most part you have sided with good or remained fairly neutral. Imagine a pendulum; as you get closer to the end, possibly the battle between you and Tsach, it swings further and further away from its center point. In essence you are now wielding power of great evil, and of great good, and both are influencing you in different ways.”

Glyph just stared at her. As convoluted as it sounded it made perfect sense. It was perhaps what they had been telling him all along, it just took until it was actually happening to him before he could fully understand the implications. It may be why he had felt so angry, why he had been so mean to Zarish, Amos, and Albast; even why he had killed so many Kivans in the Pass when he had cast death among the demons and Grull there.

“Glyph, are you okay?” Lobrein asked after a bit.

“More than okay, Lobrein. Much more. Thank you for explaining that to me, I was beginning to think I was losing my mind.”

“So you understand?” Lobrein said as her eyes began to tear up.

“Yes, I think I do.” Glyph said and paused. “I only hope that understanding it makes it easier to control.”

“That I do not know, but it must be a step in the right direction.” Lobrein said and impulsively wrapped her arms around Glyph and hugged him tight. “How about we go kill some demons?” she asked, and wiped a tear from her cheek.

At the moment Glyph actually felt some semblance of peace, but he knew now it would be fleeting as the pendulum swung back toward the other side.

Glyph spent the next five hours teleporting from north to south of the ridgeline. No sooner would he smash the enemy down on one side than he would be needed again on the other. Shortly after noon, Glyph heard the familiar sound of a Hexzu horn in the distance. Within minutes, a wave of the Gargoyle-like creatures, led by Greem, swooped over the ridgeline and joined the battle, bombarding the enemy in a torrent of falling boulders. Now that Tsach’s forces were off the plain and fighting in the mountains they could not use their bulky war machines, and the Hexzu took full advantage.

Glyph went back and forth all day, almost in physical application of his existentialist pendulum. Now he was killing demons three and four at a time, stripping some of their energy shields and leaving them vulnerable to attack by the soldiers as well as by the Hexzu from above. As the battle wore on, Glyph realized he had not grown tired, and he had done most of the fighting, if that were even possible.

His thoughts however began to turn once more to M’atra, and Ishea. He knew that somehow he would fight Tsach, but that Ishea would want to help, and he needed someone to protect her. Not just from Tsach, but himself as well. If he could kill a hundred Kivans with a thought, he realized that he could harm Ishea just as easily. He decided he needed someone he could trust, someone with the power to save her if that happened. Glyph telepathically signaled the others that he was leaving, and teleported back to his favorite spot along the ridgeline above the bamboo forest, where Captain Haddix had placed his tent on the overlook. It was ten of five when he sat down at the picnic table and began to concentrate on Amos.

Glyph knew for a fact that Amos would not want to leave the battle, and more than that, would not want to be cursed again. But Glyph needed his help on M’atra, and there was no time to go all the way back to the gate, and try to catch up to them on their way to Kivas. With one thought, he located Amos. He concentrated on him for several minutes until his hour was almost upon him, then teleported to his position. Within a flash, Glyph appeared in front of Amos and they stood eye to eye. The color drained from Amos’s face as Glyph placed his hand on the former detective’s arm. “Amos I need your help!” Glyph shouted as Amos tried desperately to pull away from him, but once again, it was too late, and all Glyph could hear in his mind as the pair winked out of existence was Amos screaming “Nooooooo–.”

 

The Hour Book3 Chapter 18

As the darkness faded from his eyes, Glyph found himself on a cot inside a green canvas tent. He stumbled to his feet and strained to make out his surroundings in the small amount of light that filtered through the front flap. ‘Where am I now?’ He thought, but quickly remembered what he needed to do, and focused on the task at hand. He had to save Morracor; the prophecies must not be allowed to continue. Concentrating on Amos, Glyph felt out his presence, probed magically to locate his position, then in a quick flash of light teleported there.

When he opened his eyes he was standing next to Amos in the forest. Amos was screaming. “No! No, no, no, no.” as he made his way forward. Glyph saw what Amos was headed for, and at the same time Amos saw Glyph. The two stood and stared at each other for a moment, before they both ran toward the fallen body of Morracor.

Before they could get close, Prianna appeared beside Morracor’s lifeless body and erected a shield to protect them. Several of the demons moved forward from where they had just ambushed Morracor, smelling the fresh meat of new victims. Amos blasted the first one with lightning, and Glyph waved his arm sending three more spinning head over tail down the side of the mountain. He turned on the demon that Amos was attacking and, with a thought, exploded the creature’s head from the inside out, sending a misting cloud of black bloody gore into the treetops.

It was eerily silent as they walked slowly toward Prianna and Morracor. She was attempting to heal him, but Glyph could tell it was too late. The two of them just stood there about ten feet away watching Prianna work. She was already sobbing uncontrollably, and Glyph realized that she too knew that no amount of healing would bring back her adopted brother. A few seconds later Lobrein appeared, quickly followed by Miatsu and Albast.

“Prianna.” Lobrein said as she approached, but then hesitated as Prianna began to shake her head back and forth.

No.” Prianna stated resolutely.

“Prianna.” Lobrein said again as calmly as she could.

NO!” Prianna wailed as she let her energy shield fall away.

“It will be alright, Prianna.” Lobrein said softly and took another step closer to her.

“No!” Prianna screamed and leapt to her feet. “It is not alright! It will never be all right! Morracor is dead!” She yelled as she pointed her finger at Lobrein.

Lobrein stopped short and raised her arms with her palms open toward Prianna.

Prianna’s body shook as tremors of grief and hatred washed over her. Her eyes blazed a brilliant green and the light from them almost overshadowed the features of her face. “Those foul spawn of evil, wretched devils of death and destruction, they will pay for this.” She exclaimed as she turned and snatched a small bag from her belt. As she held the bag aloft a green nimbus glow encompassed her entire body.

“Prianna, stop!” Albast cried out, but Prianna ignored him.

With one quick turn of her wrist, the bag disappeared, leaving the contents in her trembling hand. “Feel my wrath!” The sorceress proclaimed, and threw what Glyph could only assume were some sort of seeds into the air in front of her, in the direction of the slowly advancing demons. There were a few short seconds of stunned expressions across their faces before the first seed fell to the ground, then hell erupted.

At first Glyph thought that the ground itself exploded in green flames, but it wasn’t fire that Prianna had unleashed, but bamboo. Within seconds the first shoots of the plant had matured and reached some twenty to thirty feet in the air, but that was just the beginning. Shoot after shoot spread faster than any man or demon could run, as Prianna poured her magic into the bamboo forest. A wave of the plant spread down the mountainside, the shoots growing through anything that stood in their way. Demon and Grull alike were pierced by the lightning-fast growth of the spreading shoots of bamboo, and the forest of plants left in its wake dripped with the black blood of the enemy, as their skewered bodies hung lifelessly.

For what seemed like hours Prianna channeled her energies into the bamboo, but it was really over in about two minutes. The new forest ran down the mountain into the valley and had spread across the entire plain of the battlefield, encompassing several miles of ground. The devastation was immense, and Glyph guessed nearly half of Tsach’s army had been destroyed by the time Prianna wavered and collapsed face-first across Morracor’s body.

Lobrein rushed to her side, and immediately began to feed magical energy into her body. “Albast, quickly. We must hurry.” She said, but Albast was already there placing his hand over her abdomen as Lobrein had done over her forehead, and the two of them worked on Prianna for several minutes.

Glyph just stared as the two wizards worked in conjunction on Prianna’s unconscious frame. It had happened, there was no stopping it; the Drayden prophecies were coming true no matter what he did to try and stop them. Glyph could only wonder what the future would hold for them next.

Miatsu regained his composure, and nudged Glyph on his way toward Morracor. “Please, help me move him out of the way.” He asked, and Glyph immediately obliged. The pair lifted his body, and carried him some twenty feet away, where Amos had created a long wooden table of tree branches. Reaching out, Glyph moved his hand over the dead wizard’s eyes, pushing them closed. Miatsu moved his hand over Morracor’s body, starting from the feet and moving toward the head, and began to chant some incantation. Glyph figured it was some sort of stasis or protection that he was placing on the body, and turned his attention to Amos.

Amos caught Glyph’s stare, and responded with his characteristic “What?”

“We need to talk. Now.” Glyph stated purposefully. This had gone on long enough. He was tired of playing games, and it was time to find out exactly where the prophecies were leading them. The two of them teleported some distance away, as Glyph wanted to be out of earshot of the others.

“So what do you want to talk about, Glyph?” Amos asked. Glyph noted how much the response sounded like something Ishea would have said to him.

“Let’s cut right to it Amos, you know about the Drayden prophecies don’t you?” Glyph asked.

“Of course I know about them.” Amos replied snidely.

“Don’t play stupid with me, you’ve seen them, you know what they’re about.”

“What? Did you really think I didn’t know?” Amos shouted at him. “I am Drayden, bitch! Up here at least.” He said, pointing one finger at his head. “I’ve seen the prophecies. Hell, I’ve studied them. I discovered them, locked away in Drayden’s animus, several months after you returned to M’atra.”

“You’ve known this whole time then? And you never thought to tell me? This is how you repay me for my friendship?” Glyph asked, becoming highly agitated.

Amos chuckled softly, and looked Glyph in the eye. “I don’t recall hearing you shout it to the mountain tops when you discovered the hidden room beneath the Repository at Toleth’va!” Amos accused.

“Wait, how do you know about that?” Glyph questioned him.

“I know things, Glyph. Things I’m afraid to even speak lest they come true. So there ain’t nothin’ you can say to me that’s gonna make one bit of difference. Face it, the prophecies are coming true. How many more need to come true before you just admit it? We both know what happens. Why even try?” Amos leaned forward and his eyes bulged as he finished.

Glyph felt stunned, and oddly betrayed, even though he too had opted to keep the prophecies a secret from Amos just as Amos had kept them from him. “No, I don’t know what happens, why don’t you enlighten me?” He replied.

“Oh, that’s right.” Amos said coolly. “I almost forgot about the coding sequence that Albast and Drayden placed upon the Tapestry. I can even remember why they did it, though they were sadly mistaken. The prophecies are evil, man. Drayden took them straight from the Tome of Dark Lore. I’ve spent the last four days trying to prevent what I’ve seen there, but with no luck. No matter what I do to try and change them, they still come true.”

“So what is it then? What is so terrible that you had to take it upon yourself to try and prevent them?” Glyph asked.

Amos just stared at him. “What is it? Do you even need to ask, haven’t you seen enough already to guess where this is headed? Drayden, the war, Grot, Morracor. Isn’t that enough? I can’t stop it, Glyph. I’ve tried, and Tsach knows them too, don’t ask me how, but he does and he’s been using them to his advantage the whole time.”

“So tell me, god damn it!”

Amos’s mouth contorted several times but no sound came out. “Don’t you think I’ve tried to tell you? Because I have, I’ve tried so hard to tell you.” Tears streamed from his eyes now and he began to sob. Then he stiffened and jabbed his fingers repeatedly into his forehead. “I can’t. I can’t tell you, the bastard in here won’t let me!” With that Amos stumbled forward, and Glyph caught him before he fell. Then Amos collapsed and clung to Glyph’s leg weeping, whether it was Amos out of frustration, or Drayden out of grief for Morracor he couldn’t tell.

This was the last thing Glyph had expected to happen. He had no idea that Drayden’s animus could excerpt that kind of control over Amos, but it did explain a lot. It also meant the only one who could tell him what was going to happen next was Albast, and Glyph knew that was unlikely to happen as well.

Glyph tried to think about what he needed to do next, but his thoughts kept returning to M’atra. Ishea was on her way to Kivas with their army, but it would be too little too late. Tsach would inevitably make it there long before Ishea would, if he wasn’t there already. The city was defenseless, and Glyph had made it that way; a city full of women and children waiting to be butchered by Tsach. He didn’t need to see a prophecy to know that was going to happen. He had to get back to M’atra, but the curse prevented him from going through the gate, and that meant the only one who could get him there was Albast. The question was, could he do it quickly enough to make a difference, and perhaps more importantly, would he do it at all?

Feeling his anger and frustration begin to rise, Glyph quickly let out several deep breaths, and then peeled himself away from Amos. A second later he reappeared near Prianna, Lobrein, and Albast. Lobrein was helping Prianna to her feet, and Albast was trying to steady her.

“Will she be alright?” Glyph asked as he approached.

“She will live. Whether she is alright or not remains to be determined.” Albast replied.

“I will take her back to the main quarters, and inform General Eddings of what has taken place.” Lobrein said, and with a curt nod toward Glyph the pair vanished.

“What’s wrong with Prianna?” Glyph asked Albast.

“She has drained her magical reserve, possibly to the point where it may not return.” Albast replied as he made his way toward Miatsu, and the body of Morracor.

“How did she do that? I mean it would be hard for me to create a forest of that size, that quickly.”

“How, indeed.” Albast said and chuckled lightly. “Prianna is extraordinarily intelligent, even if her behavior is controlled by her emotions. She was able to do what she did Glyph, because she didn’t create anything.”

“Uhm, its right over there.” Glyph said and pointed at the tip of the bamboo forest. “Its definitely not an illusion.”

Albast smiled as they approached Morracor’s lifeless body. “Prianna has studied nature for thousands of years, and she used that knowledge to her advantage. Rather than create a forest, as you or I may have done, she simply planted one. All she did was use her power to accelerate what nature already does. When she added her emotions, they served as fuel for the power she put forth. Had she not stopped when she did, Prianna would have used up her very life essence and died. As it is she may never regain the use of her magic powers.”

“I have placed the body in stasis, Albast.” Miatsu said softly as the three of them stared down at Morracor.

“Thank you, Miatsu. Please return him to the main quarters. Be discreet. Prianna is there already, and could relapse should she see his body again so soon.”

“Of course Master.” Miatsu replied and then they too vanished.

“Where is Amos?” Albast questioned.

“I left him in the woods. I needed to talk to you.” Glyph replied coldly.

“I see. I suspected as much. Though I am surprised, I thought you might still be cross with me after our last conversation.” He said.

“I am. But as it turns out, you’re the only one who can help me right now.”

“And how may I help you, Great One?”

“Cut the crap, Albast. You’ve seen the prophecies, you knew Morracor would die, and yet you did nothing to stop it.”

“There are far worse things that one may see than the death of a dear friend. Drayden was the first, Morracor the second.”

“Why? Why let the prophecies continue? They came from the Tome of Dark Lore. They are evil, and we should try to prevent them at all cost.”

“Should we now? Is it so hard to understand that it is precisely because of the fact that they are from the Tome that they should be allowed to continue, and even encouraged to take place?”

“Are you out of your fucking mind, old man?!” Glyph shouted.

“If you were malevolent, completely malevolent, and the Tome was in the hands of your enemy, would you show them scenes of what you wanted to take place, and give them the opportunity to prevent it, or would you show them exactly what needed to take place in order for them to win, but present it in a way that would make them want to prevent it?”

Glyph just stared at him, the words churning over and over again in his mind. “But how could you know which one was correct? How could you know if the Tome was tricking us into preventing prophecies that must come true in order for us to win?”

“I do not know, at least for certain. It was Drayden himself who came up with the theory, even though it meant allowing his own death, and that of Morracor as well. It is precisely why he insisted that the prophecies be encoded into the tapestry in that manner, in order to provide you with the most objective viewpoint possible.”

Glyph just shook his head.

“It really is just a matter of perspective. Trust your instincts. If they tell you to try and prevent the prophecies from coming true, than you should do so. You are the Great One, after all.”

“Dammit, Albast, that’s not really any help. Your damn coding of the prophecies leaves me very little wiggle room, and no time to second guess my actions. If you want me to be able to do something about what I see, then you’re going to have to tell me what will happen next.” Glyph demanded.

“I do not.” Albast replied sharply. “I am perfectly fine with allowing the prophecies to continue. I cannot tell you what will happen next.”

“Can’t or won’t?” Glyph quipped. “You know what? I don’t care. Talking to you doesn’t help, so fuck it. There’s only one thing I need from you anyway, and that’s to send me back to M’atra. Do you think you can do that? Or is that contradictory to your precious prophecies?”

“You wish to go back to M’atra? Is their war not going as planned?” Albast questioned.

“Either you can, or you can’t, the answer is pretty simple. What’s happening there is of no concern to you.” Glyph shot back.

“I am sworn to protect M’atra Glyph, perhaps if I knew–.”

“You are sworn protector of shit! You don’t care what happens there anymore than you do over what happens here, as long as it all lines up with the fucking prophecies!” Glyph shouted, his anger breaching the constraints of his sanity. “Did they mean anything to you? Drayden? Morracor?”

“Enough, Glyph.”

“Were they ever really your friends, or were they just pawns to be sacrificed for your beliefs? Hell, why do I bother asking, you let your own daughter be tortured and raped by demons, why would I think you gave a rat’s ass about them?”

“Enough!” Albast yelled, his eyes sparkled and blazed a golden yellow, before reverting quickly back to normal, along with his countenance. “Do not judge what you do not understand.”

“Really? Well maybe that’s what you need, maybe it’s been so long since someone judged you that you forgot what its like. Decisions and beliefs are made easily when no one holds you accountable for them.” Glyph replied, standing his ground against the ancient wizard. “But you knew, and did nothing. For your sake, I hope you’re right, because if you’re wrong, I will be there to make certain you are held accountable, and I will make damn sure that everyone knows why!”

The pair stood and stared at each other in silence. Glyph realized that his argument wasn’t getting him anywhere, but for some reason it felt good to put the enigmatic old wizard in his place.

“Ahem.”

They both turned at once to see Amos standing some distance away, looking rather sheepish for eavesdropping. “Maybe we should take a little breather. We are all on the same side, right?” Amos asked.

There was a long awkward moment of silence. “Can you send me back to M’atra or not?” Glyph finally asked.

“M’atra? Glyph shouldn’t you be trying to find Tsach?” Amos asked, suddenly curious.

“Tsach isn’t here.” Glyph stated calmly. Amos and Albast quickly exchanged looks, and Glyph noticed immediately. He stared at the pair, as they glanced away, and acted as if something meaningful had not just passed between them. “You mother fuckers!” Glyph shouted. “You already know! I don’t believe you! Why? Why wouldn’t you tell me that Tsach was headed for Kivas? I could have stopped him…” Glyph said, and trailed off. As if the glance wasn’t enough, Amos had started to tear up again, and was now embracing Albast.

“For god’s sake, what the fuck is going on now?” Glyph demanded.

“You’ll know soon enough.” Albast replied.

Glyph screamed in frustration. “You know what? Fuck both of you! I’m done!” Glyph yelled and teleported away before he lost control and fried both of them. Glyph stood at the scenic overlook, the last rays of the sun had dipped below the horizon leaving only a dark red glow in the sky to mark its passing. He stared down at the battlefield, not that it could be called that anymore. Prianna’s bamboo forest had put a stop to the war, at least temporarily. He could see the fires of the enemy blazing far in the distance, along with an occasional explosion as the demons tried and failed to burn the bamboo. Even if they tried to go around the new forest and the mountains it grew upon, it would still take them at least eight hours or more before they could get here.

There was some major activity going on down the eastern slope of the mountains, brilliant white light pushed its way into the descending darkness. Engines could be heard running, and sounds of construction as well. Soon, curiosity got the better of him and he made his way across the road to see if he could get a glimpse of what was happening. Before he got to the other side he heard a familiar voice call out from behind him.

“Is that you, Mr. Young?”

Glyph turned to see Captain Haddix standing in the entrance to the tent that the marines had placed there when they first arrived. He started back toward the soldier. “Yes, it’s me.” Glyph replied.

“I’d shake your hand, but as you can see…” Haddix said and gestured to his arm that was now in a sling. “Damned Grull bullet.” The soldier replied to Glyph’s questioning look.

“Mind if I take a look?” Glyph asked.

“So you’re a doctor now, too?” Haddix asked and then laughed a little. “There’s not much they can do for it. There aren’t enough surgeons or medical supplies left for them to do anything about it. I’m pretty certain I’ll never have use of it again, that is, if I live that long.”

“Here, hold still a moment.” Glyph said, and then ran his hand down the length of the Captains arm, healing it as he went. “There you go, how’s that?”

“What? What the fuck did you just do?” Captain Haddix said, as he began to slowly move his arm back and forth. He then looked up at Glyph in total surprise, and began to gingerly remove his sling, as if waiting for the pain to return any second.

“I’ll be damned!” Haddix shouted, and began vigorously rubbing his once broken arm. Soon he was laughing hysterically, after moving and wiggling his arm every which way, trying to get some remnant of pain to return without success. “I didn’t know you could do that.” He commented, and then his face grew serious. “You need to come with me.”

Haddix led him across the road, but didn’t stop. He continued on over the bank, and followed a small game trail down the slope. The night had almost completely fallen, but the lights from ahead were now showing them the way. After descending nearly a hundred feet, Glyph could see some sort of makeshift encampment that was sprouting up on a large flat spot on the side of the mountain. When they finally made their way to it, Glyph realized it was a mobile army hospital. The smell of death was everywhere. Not only were there piles of dead bodies, but body parts, and living bodies as well. The captain looked at Glyph. “Is there anything you can do for them?”

Glyph stared in disbelief; it looked like something from a civil war documentary. He immediately summoned the other wizards, and one by one they began to appear. Once they arrived there was no need to ask Glyph why he had summoned them, but instead they set to work, making their way toward the tents, healing anyone they could along the way. It was exhausting work, even for Glyph. Captain Haddix never left Glyph’s side, doing what he could for him and the other patients as well. As the wounded walked away in amazement from their deathbeds, Haddix would organize a new patrol and send them out to check the borders, to make sure no one was trying to sneak up on them. It was a little after midnight when Glyph saw his last patient. He took a large drink out of the canteen that Haddix had brought for him, and he made his way outside. Large pyres burned brightly a few hundred yards from the camp, for the ones who were beyond their capacity to heal or died in line waiting to see one of the wizards.

Glyph spoke to no one, and instead decided to try and walk back to their headquarters and get some much needed rest. He hadn’t gotten very far when he heard that familiar voice once again.

“Mr. Young! Mr. Young!” Haddix shouted as he hurried to catch up. “Where are you headed sir?” He asked.

“I’m going to get some rest Captain.”

“If you give me a minute I could get us some transportation.”

“No thanks Captain, I’ve decided to walk. Besides, if I really wanted I could just teleport there, you know.” Glyph told him.

“Oh, right. Mind if I tag along?” Haddix asked.

“Not at all.” Glyph replied, and the two of them walked in relative silence for the next ten minutes. After a while, Glyph could tell the Captain was getting a bit antsy, and took to cracking his knuckles repeatedly. “Something on your mind, Captain?” Glyph finally asked.

“Oh, I was just wondering about the girl, if she was alright. I didn’t see her with the other wizards, and I was a bit concerned that maybe she hadn’t made it.” Captain Haddix replied.

It took Glyph a moment to realize who he was referring to. “Oh, Prianna. She’s fine, just a bit weak after she grew that bamboo forest.”

“That was her? I would have thought that was you.” The Captain said and smiled in the pale light of the moon. “I was in a bunker at the time. I thought the whole mountain was coming down on us.”

“It was rather impressive.” Glyph added.

Several more minutes of silence passed as they walked.

“Mr. Young, I know you’ve already heard this a few thousand times this evening, but thank you. You gave a lot of people hope tonight.”

“No problem, Captain Haddix. I’m sure you would have done the same had you been in my position.” Glyph replied, and Haddix just nodded.

Thirty minutes later they reached the long driveway to the mansion that was serving as their headquarters. The walk had helped Glyph clear his mind, and also got rid of the stench of death that had earlier permeated his nose. Saying good night to Captain Haddix, Glyph made his way inside to his room, collapsed on his bed, and was asleep within minutes.

 

Glyph awoke with a start. Sweat beaded on his forehead and started to soak the sheets of his bed. It was still dark outside, and Glyph moved his arm up to check his watch; it was three forty-nine a.m. He felt uneasy, and at first thought it must have been whatever he had been dreaming about, though he couldn’t remember any of it. Rolling onto his back Glyph thought he saw movement near the end of his bed.

“Light!” Glyph yelled, but as the orb appeared a dark figure leapt on top of him and placed a hand over his mouth. He was about to blast out half the building, when he saw that it was a young woman. Then he recognized her.

“Glyph.” Zarish said in a hoarse whisper

Pushing the woman off of him he rolled onto the floor, and jumped onto his feet. A second later he had the King’s sword leveled at her chest. “What are you doing here?” Glyph demanded.

Zarish stared at him with wide eyes. “I have information about Tsach. My sources tell me he is on M’atra, and headed for Kivas.”

Glyph just sneered at her. “Tell your ‘sources’ it’s too little, too late. I know exactly where Tsach is going and why.”

“You do?” Zarish questioned.

“I do, and the only question you need to be concerned with is how Tsach found out about the location of the Tome.”

“The Tome? Of course, why did I not think of this before?” Zarish commented.

“Don’t play stupid, Zarish! I know you were the one who told Tsach where it was! Admit it!” Glyph commanded, brandishing his sword menacingly.

“I will not.” Zarish replied in surprise. “The only thing I told Tsach about the Tome was that you had it in your possession, I did not tell him it was in Kivas.”

“Nice try. Do you really think I’m that naive? Why should I believe anything you tell me?”

Zarish cocked her head slightly to one side. “We are on the same side.”

“Are we? I think the only side you’re on is your own.” Glyph accused. “Where could he possibly have gotten that information?”

“I am unsure, perhaps I should look into it further. He may have more spies on M’atra than the several we slaughtered in Toleth’va.” She suggested.

Glyph stared at her. Why did she always have an answer for everything? He wondered. And why were they always plausible enough to give him pause. “Fuck it!” Glyph said aloud and pulled back his sword to deliver the deathblow.

The Hour Book3 Chapter 17

Glyph sat up with a start, and inhaled deeply as he struggled to remember where he was. Zarish stirred on the other side of the room, while Glyph’s eyes immediately took note of the living Tapestry that was now hung on the opposite wall from the doorway. He stood and made his way over to the Tapestry. It still had the last scene pictured, but the white square had returned to the bottom right of the fabric. Glyph was reaching out to touch the square when Mahjdi entered the room.

“Ah, Great One. I am pleased to see that you have returned, and you as well General Zarish.” Mahjdi said. The sound of his voice startled Glyph, and he jerked his hand away from the Tapestry. “I apologize if I startled you.”

“That’s alright Mahjdi, I’m afraid I’m a bit jumpy. I’ve been fighting a battle for the last seven hours straight.” Glyph replied.

“Care to make it eight?” Ishea commented as she entered the room. Glyph noticed her disheveled appearance as she crossed the room and embraced him.

Glyph groaned. “Let me guess, they have already attacked.”

“Just about mid-day. They started through the Pass, but quickly realized that we were already entrenched and waiting for them. After several hours of fighting we received word from the monks that the enemy had split their forces and that the other half was ascending the mountains north of the monastery. Do not ask me how, but I think they are coming after you, Glyph.” Ishea informed him.

“I know they are.” Zarish replied, and the three of them turned to face the female demon.

“What do you mean?” Glyph asked her.

“Tsach knows that you are cursed, and has likely been tracing your energy signature when you bounce between worlds. He can pinpoint your location as you enter and exit each world.” Zarish announced.

“How would Tsach know that?” Glyph asked staring hard at the demon.

“Your energy signature was part of the report that Simeon sent to Tsach. I know this because I intercepted the report, and read it before passing it along.” Zarish informed them.

“And you never thought to mention this before now?” Glyph asked.

“I did not think to say so at the time, and once you left for your hour in Tsach’s presence on Degruthras the point was moot. The Arch Demon had what he needed at that point to discover your energy signature. I thought everyone had understood this.” The demon replied.

“Yeah, I understood that.” Glyph replied growing frustrated with Zarish’s constantly evasive answers.

“When Albast put your body on Earth into stasis, Tsach could no longer track you, at least, not until the curse was reactivated. I was unaware that this had happened until you summoned me to Priam. Unfortunately the thought did not strike me until just after our last encounter.”

“Oh, that explains it.” Glyph spat sarcastically in disgust.

“Sorceress, may I ask the condition and location of our army?” Zarish questioned, and appeared to have believed Glyph’s remark as serious.

Ishea opened her mouth to speak, but Glyph abruptly cut her off. “No, I don’t think so.” He said to the demon. “You have become something of a liability, Zarish. Too many things have been going wrong since you left, and your loyalties have come to be suspect.”

Zarish sat up straight against the wall, and her eyebrows rose in surprise.

“Glyph, what are you saying?” Ishea asked.

“I’m not saying anything. The question has been raised, and until I’m certain of the answer, we’ll have to leave you out of the loop, Zarish.” Glyph stated. “I am sorry.”

“I am used to such things.” Zarish replied.

“Now, perhaps you could tell me where Tsach is.” Glyph demanded.

Zarish looked at Glyph and shrugged. “I do not know.”

“Somehow I thought you might say that. Is there anything you can tell me that will make it look as if you are not a spy?”

“Tsach vanished early this morning, about the time the sun was rising. I have not seen him since. If I had to guess, I would say that he has gone off world, but to where I do not know.” Zarish answered.

“Glyph what is going on? Are things that bad on Earth?” Ishea asked.

“Worse. Grot is dead, and the Hexzu are about to become extinct. I tried to face Tsach before it all went down, but he was conveniently absent, and left some bastard named Akthule in charge.” Glyph told her as he made his way back over to the living Tapestry. “And I’m almost afraid to look at this.” He added as he reached out his hand and touched it to the fabric. The threads began to change, and when they coalesced into a new scene, Glyph just stared open mouthed in shock.

“Great One?” Mahjdi said after a few moments.

“Glyph what is it? What do you see?” Ishea asked.

“It’s Morracor. He’s going to die.” Glyph responded, and then quickly looked away. It was too late, as the scene had already been burned into his mind. Morracor lay on the forest floor, blackened and charred from the neck and chest down, and it appeared that his innards had boiled out between cracks in his dried husk-like skin.

“Morracor…” Ishea said, placing her hand over her mouth.

“Is dead. Or will be soon.” Glyph reiterated. “Mother fucker!” He yelled, slamming his fist down onto the makeshift bed, shattering one of the legs that supported it. Then he looked at Ishea. “Where are they?” He growled.

Ishea looked back at Glyph, her face contorted with sadness and worry, she was about to reply, and then cast a sidelong glance at Zarish. “Their army is split. The ones in the Pass are currently contained. The others have probably reached the outer wall of the temple by now.”

Glyph turned and stormed from the room. “How many are there?” He asked as they moved into the long corridor and headed for the open courtyard.

“More than we originally thought. I would guess about a third of the army that marched against us on Degruthras.” Ishea replied as she and Mahjdi hurried to keep up with him. Zarish followed as well, but in human form, and at a respectable distance.

“Show me.” Glyph told Ishea as they barged through the doors on the inner temple, and out into the open air. Ishea quickly took the lead toward the north wall, but Glyph could tell by the number of monks that lined the wall that the demons were attacking there. Armed with longbows, the black-robed monks of the temple released volley after volley of arrows over the rock fortification as the four of them made their way there.

“Make room, make room! The Great One is here!” Mahjdi called out to the other monks, who scattered out of the way as Glyph approached. Stepping up to the wall, Glyph peered over the edge. Thousands of sub-demons and demons scaled the cliffs leading to the temple, and made the rock look as if it were moving in the setting sunlight. The counterattack came quickly; fireballs and lightning bolts fired into the temple fortifications. Several of the monks were engulfed in flames and dropped to the ground, screaming in agony. Glyph was so pissed off he could barely see straight. “I have had enough!” Glyph screamed, with the last word echoing back and forth between the mountaintops. Time seemed to slow once more.

Glyph closed his eyes as his hands trembled with rage. ‘This must stop. This will end.’ Glyph thought as he drew power up through the mountain into his legs and body and out to the tips of his fingers. A faint white nimbus glow surrounded him, and all other sounds began to fade into silence.

“Glyph, what are you doing?” Ishea asked, but they were just words to him now. The meaning of the question was lost as the power filled his mind and body. With one arm, Glyph stretched forward and placed his hand to the top of the stone wall. Ishea and Mahjdi were now yelling at the other monks, and pointing back toward the temple, but Glyph could not understand them. When he opened his eyes, he released the power into the wall, and the very mountain itself. A sonic boom went off that shook the mountain, and then everything was silent, but only for a moment before a horrendous cracking noise filled the air. Taking a step back, Glyph watched as a wide fissure opened at the base of the wall in front of him, and within seconds spread the length of the north face of the temple. Once again everything fell into silence.

Glyph stepped back up to the wall and gazed over the side once more. The demons still clung to their rocks, recovering from the loud and violent tremors. Then, in an instant, the wall and the rock face beneath it for several hundred feet dropped straight down, carrying the demons with it as it crashed thunderously to the ground thousands of feet below. Teetering precariously, Glyph quickly regained his balance and stepped away from what was now a two-thousand-foot sheer cliff that extended from the temple courtyard tiles to the valley floor.

He staggered a bit as he turned around and everyone there just stared in profound awe of what they had just witnessed.

“By the gods, Glyph!” Ishea was the first to speak.

“I’m not fucking done. I haven’t even fucking begun.” Glyph shouted, and began to walk shakily toward the main gate of the temple.

Before Ishea could reply, Glyph closed his eyes and vanished. Opening his eyes, Glyph stood at the entrance to the Pass. Thousands of Kivan and Barjon soldiers filled the plains that led up to the mountains, and many of them saw him appear. Folding his legs up beneath him, Glyph levitated in the lotus position. With a slight lean forward, he launched into motion, steadily increasing in speed as he entered the Pass. There was no time for thought as Glyph maneuvered gracefully over troops and boulders, and within a few minutes he had passed over the front lines and slowed to a stop on a small stretch of ground between the two opposing forces. Glyph lowered his feet to the ground, stepped into a fighting stance, and leveled his gaze at the demon army entrenched amongst the rocks and boulders that peppered the landscape.

A loud triumphant horn blew nearby as a slow but growing shout began to rise from the Kivan soldiers “King Glyph! King Glyph! King Glyph!” Growing in strength and intensity with every round.

“Tsach!” Glyph yelled, his amplified voice echoing throughout the Pass. He waited silently, but somehow he knew there would be no response. Glyph couldn’t help but wonder where the Arch Demon was, and what he was planning. It was of no matter now. Glyph was already on the verge of exploding, and viewing Morracor’s death in the living Tapestry had pushed him over the edge. There was no time left for speculation now; Glyph began to tremble once more as his anger amplified the power he tapped, drawing it into his being. He didn’t even know what he was going to do, all he knew for certain was that there was no room for sympathy or mercy left inside him now, and his only thought was of death.

The Pass was suddenly plunged into darkness, as Glyph screamed, “Return to the soil you evil fucks!” His eyes were blazing red, as the white aura that surrounded him bulged forward, and in an instant burst loose in a wave of pure white energy. The wave encompassed the entire width of the canyon, and changed rapidly to orange and then crimson as it passed over the creatures there. Within seconds the wave cleared the far exit and blew out into the surrounding desert. Glyph was shaking so violently that his left leg gave way and he dropped to one knee. “Die, mother fuckers! Die!” Glyph yelled out again as the last of the energy passed through his body, and left him gasping for breath.

At first it appeared as though nothing had happened, other than the extreme darkness that clung to every crevice and rock like wet fur. Glyph stared through watery eyes as red and white sparkles of energy lifted from the places in which the enemy hid, poured out of their bodies and rose upward, swirling into the black void that blotted out the sky. Then came the sound of universal strangulation, the gurgling sounds of thousands of Grull and Demons gasping out their last breath, followed by the muted drum roll of soft thumps as their bodies fell lifeless to the ground.

As quickly as it had come, the darkness lifted and the last rays of the setting sun once again filtered into the deep rocky canyon. Glyph slowly leaned to the right until he collapsed onto his side, panting and gasping for air. He felt cold, and shivered as he lay there listening to the absence of all sound. Not so much as a pebble stirred in the wake of his display. He wasn’t even sure what he had done.

He had applied massive power on a massive scale, and felt by far the most powerful since he had created Lake Vigilance. But what had happened? He stared across the sandy ground toward the enemy, but there was no sign of movement, no signs of life at all. He tried to stand but couldn’t, and the chill he felt permeated his bones. After a few minutes, a slight warmth returned and, with great effort, Glyph was able to pull himself erect. There were bodies everywhere, stretched over rocks and leaning out from behind boulders. But they were just that, only bodies; they were all dead. Had he really just done that? And yet, there seemed to be something more. For a moment there had been a pure understanding, as if he had tapped into the universe itself before it vanished as quickly as it had come. Somehow he just couldn’t believe what he saw. It had happened so fast, and had been so easy to do.

The sound of shouting men began to register in his numbed mind. Several horses suddenly rode up from behind him, and Glyph turned around to see King Kahula, Toban, and General Finnicks quickly dismounting.

“Glyph!” He heard Toban shout as the Steward ran to Glyph and helped prop him up as he teetered from side to side. “What did you do?” The Steward asked as he and the others glanced about the battlefield.

A moment later Ishea appeared. She too looked about in disbelief. “Glyph. What happened?” She asked, but Glyph gave no response. Ishea waved her hand over a nearby rock and transformed its outer layer into a large wooly blanket, which she draped over Glyph’s shivering frame.

“They are dead. All of them, at least all the ones in the Pass.” Kahula stated as he stepped around the corpses that had constituted the enemies front line.

“They are just like ours, not a single mark on them but completely void of life.” General Finnicks commented as he kicked a Grull body over onto its back.

“Wait, what do you mean like ours?” Ishea asked.

“About a hundred of our soldiers nearest to the battle are also dead.” Toban replied soberly.

Ishea turned and placed her hands on Glyph’s face and looked him in the eye. Silent tears now ran down his cheeks in response to Toban’s words. “Glyph. Glyph, look at me. What happened here? You must tell me.”

“I killed them.” Glyph choked out, and coughed several times.

“How, Glyph? How did you kill them?”

“I don’t know. I wanted them all to die…and they did.” Glyph responded.

Ishea glanced about at the lifeless bodies. “What did it look like?” She asked Toban.

“We saw Glyph pass over our position in the Pass, so we immediately gave chase to lend him our assistance. Before we could get very far, the area was covered in darkness. There was a bright flash of light, and then particles of white and red light could be seen being pulled upward into the darkness. Then it was over.”

“He ripped the life force from them.” She said, trying to fathom the implications of such an act. She then turned to face Glyph again. “You pulled their souls from their bodies, their very life essence.” Ishea said, and then paused and stepped back away from him. “How, Glyph? How is that even possible?”

“I don’t know. It just happened.”

“Just happened! What you have done here only Gods can do. Not men or wizards or demons, only gods!”

Glyph just shrugged under the weight of the heavy blanket wrapped about him. It was hard to concentrate, and standing became more of a chore with every passing second.

“Take a scouting party to the end of the Pass, General. We need to find out the scope of damage Glyph has inflicted upon the enemy.” Toban said as he applied more force to keep Glyph steady.

“Right away, Steward.” Finnicks replied, then mounted his horse and called out to some nearby soldiers.

Ishea was still examining him; for what, Glyph wasn’t sure. Maybe she thought he had been wounded somehow.

“I need to take him back to the temple right away.” Ishea said to Toban.

“Of course. Should I come with you?” Toban asked.

“Yes. I could use your help moving him.” The sorceress replied. She then placed one hand onto Glyph and the other on Toban’s shoulder. In a flash of blue light they appeared at the entrance to the Pass, then blinked out again, this time reappearing at the Hook. After two more jumps they had made it to Priam, and another two had them appearing inside the temple, in the room where Glyph had found himself when he arrived.

“Here, place him on the cot.” Ishea instructed Toban. Toban lowered him onto the cot in a sitting position, as Ishea produced an elixir and held it while Glyph drank it down, then they both helped ease Glyph over onto his right side.

Glyph still felt as if he was only half there. Though he could feel the warming effect of the potion he had just taken, he still shivered uncontrollably. “What’s wrong with me?” He asked in a hoarse voice.

“I am unsure. It is likely the effect of using such powerful dark magic.” Ishea replied with a look of concern on her face. She began her healing ministrations upon him as he lay there, and soon the violent shivering started to subside.

“How much time do I have?” Glyph asked, now sounding much improved.

“I suspect maybe five more minutes at best.” Ishea replied. “When you return here, you will be in a different location. We will move your body as soon as you jump to Earth in case Tsach’s minions come looking for you again.”

“Thanks.” Glyph grunted and moved back into a seated position. Ishea finished, and stepped back to look at him, the worry still plainly etched onto her face. “I’m alright, Ishea.”

“This time.” She responded curtly.

“Did I really just do that, I mean, did I really take their souls?” He questioned as he stared down at his hands.

Ishea nodded. “Yes, you did.”

“And the Kivan soldiers, did I kill them too?” Glyph asked.

“I am afraid so, Glyph. Magic that dark and powerful usually exacts a hefty price.”

“How many?”

Toban spoke up. “There were about a hundred Kivan soldiers found dead. I am sorry. Though strictly speaking, from a military point of view, there were several thousand enemy troops in that Pass. The losses were more than acceptable, and had an actual battle taken place there would have been many more casualties.”

“Somehow, that just doesn’t make me feel any better about it.” Glyph replied, and pushed himself onto his feet.

Mahjdi entered at that moment, “Great One, are you well?” He asked.

“I’ll be fine, Mahjdi. Where’s Zarish?” Glyph responded.

“The General has submitted herself to house arrest. She is in a room down the hall from here under guard.” Mahjdi told him.

“General Zarish? What is the meaning of this?” Toban questioned.

“I don’t know Toban, only that information has been running one way since I sent her back to Tsach to spy on him. That one way has not been toward us. Tsach has out-maneuvered me several times since, and all of it was information that Zarish knew and could have passed on. Her loyalties have been brought under question, and until I can find out for sure I don’t want you to tell her anything. Especially about whatever it was I just did in the Pass.” Glyph explained.

“Certainly, Glyph. I understand. Do you really think she is a spy for Tsach? For all these years?” Toban asked.

“I hope not, Toban. I honestly hope not.”

“Are you sure you are alright?” Ishea prodded.

“I will be fine. Thank you.” Glyph replied, and a moment of silence followed.

“Glyph, I do not want to tell you what to do…” Ishea said, and then paused as if unsure of how to continue.

“I will do everything in my power to help Morracor, do not worry.” Glyph told her, and forced himself to smile. He was doing that a lot lately.

Ishea nodded and squeezed his hand in response. Glyph walked slowly toward the Living Tapestry once more, and examined the scene more closely. The way the light filtered through the trees, it must be sunset. ‘Shit, that would be just about when I will be returning’. He thought. ‘Amos must have figured that out as well, and was trying to warn me. I may only have a few seconds to react once I get there, and since the tapestry is from Amos’s perspective, all I should have to do is focus on him and teleport to his position, and that will lead me to Morracor.’ Glyph ran his hand over the fabric where the image of Morracor lay. ‘There may yet be time to prevent this from happening.’ he thought, ‘and then it will be time to do something about Tsach’s army on Earth.’ After what had taken place in the Pass, Glyph found he was feeling a bit more confident about facing the Arch demon. ‘Once his armies are gone, I can devote my full attention to finding and killing that fucker once and for all.’ he decided.

When Glyph turned back around, he heard Toban and Mahjdi swapping tales about what they had seen Glyph do in the last hour.

“So that is what we heard.” Toban said shaking his head back and forth in disbelief. “Was it truly half the mountain?” He asked the Ambassador.

“Well, perhaps it was only a third. You can see for yourself out on the courtyard of the temple.” Mahjdi replied, and the pair excused themselves.

Ishea sat there with her head resting in her hand leaning against the makeshift bed. Glyph made his way over to her and wrapped his arms around her. “I do not know how much more of this I can take, Glyph. Tsach, this prophesy, Albast, the Tome. What does it all mean, and where will it take us?”

Glyph was about to answer, when a thought suddenly struck him. “Ishea, where is the Tome of Dark Lore?”

“Where you have kept it for the last two years, in the royal vault at Kivas.”

Suddenly his eyes grew wide. “Shit! That god damn mother fucker!” Glyph swore violently.

“Glyph! What is it?” Ishea exclaimed

“I’ll bet that’s what he’s up to, that cocksucker!” Glyph fumed and began to pace back and forth.

“Glyph, what? Who are you talking about?” Ishea demanded.

“Tsach, Ishea. I’m talking about Tsach.” Glyph said slamming his fist into his other hand repeatedly.

“I still do not understand.” Ishea insisted.

“Tsach. He’s not on Earth, and he’s not here, at least right here anyway.”

“Then where is he?” Ishea asked.

“He’s headed for Kivas. Tsach is going to retrieve the Tome of Dark Lore. Solkit told me the demons that attacked the monastery were looking for it. It all makes sense.” Glyph told her.

“But Glyph, that is not possible. How could Tsach possibly know where it was being kept?” Ishea questioned.

Glyph shot her a look. “Think about it, Ishea. Who knows that the Tome is in Kivas?”

“Well, Toban, myself, the other wizards…” Ishea said trailing off.

“And?” Glyph prodded.

Suddenly her eyes grew wide with sudden understanding. “Zarish!” she exclaimed. “But why? What use would the Tome be to Tsach now?”

“I don’t know, but I do know a certain female demon who might be able to answer that. Assuming I let her live long enough to tell us.” Glyph declared.

He had taken only two steps toward the door when he realized it would have to wait. “Take the army to Kivas!” Glyph managed to shout. As the winds suddenly poured through the room leaving nothing left to breathe, Glyph understood. He had played directly into Tsach’s hands. The Arch Demon had kept him occupied long enough to claim his prize. There would be no way Glyph could beat him to Kivas. All he could do now was to try and follow him there.

With that thought Glyph was engulfed in darkness and slid away into the vast expanse of the cosmos.