Glyph glanced up at the night sky, as an occasional death shriek still sounded from the battleground. He wanted to scream, he wanted to kill something, do anything to make this madness stop. Drayden was going to die. ‘Again, someone else has to die because of me. Who’s next?’ He wondered. ‘Step right up and take the deathblow for Glyph.’ He mused sarcastically. Glyph shook the feeling of weight from his shoulders, as Drayden’s last words seeped back into his consciousness. Taking a deep breath, he turned and teleported after Drayden.
Lobrein was already hard at work studying the gate when they arrived. Ishea was talking to Zarabish, trying to pick her brain on the portal’s operation. They had all opened it before; first Lobrein and Drayden, and later Ishea and Miatsu, but they had never opened it to its full size, only large enough to allow them to pass through.
“We need the Tome, Glyph.” Lobrein spoke up.
“I thought you said you could open it.” Glyph replied.
“It is not a matter of success, but of time and energy. It would take us several attempts to recall the spell from memory. With the book we can get it right on the first try.” She explained.
Everyone fell silent. Glyph reached down and unzipped the bag he had teleported from the dune where they had been standing. He pulled out the Tome of Dark Lore and stared at it a few seconds, before handing it over to Lobrein. She quickly flipped through the pages, until she found what she was looking for. Skimming over it, she handed the Tome to Drayden, who also scanned it briefly before passing it back to Glyph.
The pair walked a slight distance apart, and then faced each other with their palms open. With a loud snap, a door of glowing blue energy opened between them. Lobrein and Drayden both took several steps sideways, as they continued to feed each side of the portal with a steady stream of blue energy.
“Okay, now you need to make it bigger.” Glyph stated.
“That is harder than it sounds, Glyph. It is all I can do to maintain this level of usage.” Drayden informed him.
“What we need is more power.” Glyph said scratching his head. “You can obviously open it, now all we need to do is amplify it somehow. That’s got to be it, the demons use some sort of amplification spell to enlarge the opening.”
“I think you are on to something Glyph. Go ahead and try to make it larger, just, do not over do it.” Drayden spoke out.
Glyph noticed how frail Drayden seemed now. He had been dying slowly since their battle with Cruix, and he had never said a word about it. That also explained why he wasn’t thrilled when Glyph had brought Amos across from Earth that first time. Glyph still had problems envisioning Amos as a wizard, let alone the keeper of Drayden’s soul, so to speak. It seemed things were getting more and more convoluted lately.
Glyph focused his mind and stared at the door-sized portal Lobrein and Drayden had just opened. He imagined more power in his mind, and then focused it into the gate by spreading his arms apart slowly and calmly thinking ‘larger’.
The portal flickered slightly, resembling a ripple traveling across the surface of a still pond. Then it began to grow; within seconds Lobrein and Drayden had to turn outward to keep up with its expansion. A minute later and it had opened fully. Cheer-like screeches rose from the ranks of Hexzu, who had been waiting patiently.
“I will go through first and inform the armies to stand down, and to make sure no one attacks the Hexzu as they come through.” Ishea said.
“Good idea.” Glyph said and moved back a bit from the opening.
Ishea stepped up to the gate, winked at Glyph and walked through. The energy rippled slightly as she passed. Glyph glanced over at Drayden, but the blind wizard appeared to be holding his end of the gate just fine for the moment. Glyph was about to ask them how long they should wait before allowing the Hexzu to enter, when the surface of the portal swirled and Ishea suddenly reemerged. “What is wrong?” She asked, staring at their surprised faces.
“Didn’t it work? You’ve only been gone thirty seconds!” Glyph said.
“I have? It is the time differential between the worlds. I have been in M’atra for nearly a quarter hour. Listen, it turns out that three years have past since I departed. Miatsu left a means to contact him in case of our return. He is on his way from the mountains as we speak. There is only a small contingency force left behind at the gate, mostly made up of Kivan military. There are only five hundred soldiers.” Ishea informed them.
“Then by all means, let the evacuation begin. I am an old man, and I will not be able to hold this forever.” Drayden blurted out.
“You have never been old a day in your life Drayden.” Lobrein quipped slyly, just as Grot, Greem, Crowf and Aroth landed in the small clearing to their right.
“Have you ever noticed there is always a Hexzu around when you need one.” Drayden commented dryly.
“Grot. We must begin the evacuation at once.” Glyph said as he strode up to them.
Grot nodded and gave a signal to Aroth, who turned and flew off. He blew his horn three times, and the first wave of Hexzu began to move toward the gate. They were mostly females and hatchlings, occasionally flanked by a soldier with a spear or Vorka at the ready.
Drayden and Lobrein moved to each side of the two stone pillars, which contained the gate. It was roughly a hundred feet wide and thirty foot tall. Ishea led the way as the Hexzu followed her into M’atra, a moment later she returned once again.
“Tell them to touch the pillars.” Zarabish spoke out.
Glyph turned to Drayden, who had heard and sent word to Lobrein.
They started toward each respective pillar, and in unison reached out and placed their hand to the rune-carved stone. A bright red flash of light sparked from the column and it began to hum. Lobrein and Drayden stepped away, no longer powering the portal. Glyph slowly slacked off his power until he was sure the gate would maintain itself, before finally cutting his energy flow as well.
“That was incredible!” Amos shouted with unbridled enthusiasm.
Glyph, Drayden, and Lobrein eyed each other. Glyph even thought he saw a smile cross Lobrein’s face. Drayden however was panting and having trouble catching his breath, and Lobrein was starting to take notice.
“What ails you old man?” Lobrein asked half sarcastically.
Drayden stumbled, but managed to catch himself on his staff. “I will be–.” Drayden suddenly clutched at his chest, and hunched as a wave of pain convulsed his body.
Lobrein rushed to his side and helped lower him gently to the ground. With a wave of her hand a sheet of rock rose from the sand and shaded them from the suns. “Drayden!” she said patting the old wizard’s face. “Drayden!” Lobrein said again, as Drayden began to regain consciousness. “What is wrong, Drayden?”
“I am dying. It will not be long now.”
“Dying!” Lobrein and Ishea shouted in near unison. Lobrein placed her hand to his chest, and after a few seconds Drayden placed his weak hand onto hers.
“It is of no use Lobrein, you see the affliction, you know what it is.” Drayden said as he coughed a few more times.
Lobrein pulled her trembling hand away. “How?” She asked shaking her head slowly in disbelief.
“That witch Cruix. I was careless; I let myself get too close. She countered my rope, changed it into that damn serpent. As soon as I saw it happen I knew it was over. I cannot stop the venom.” Drayden broke into another spasm of pain.
“Is there nothing we can do?” Ishea spouted out desperately.
“Nothing.” Lobrein answered her.
“I’ll give it a try.” Glyph said walking over to them. The healing he performed on Gorth fresh in his mind.
Drayden quickly held up his hand. “No Glyph, it is not meant to be. You must not try.”
Glyph stood there ready to protest, then realized that this might be what Drayden really wanted, what had he called it earlier, ‘his part to play’. Deciding against his own argument, Glyph merely shrugged and looked toward the ground.
Drayden begin to stir and come around. He squeezed Lobrein’s hand as he came to consciousness once more. “Why, Lobrein, why have you never returned my affections?” Drayden rasped out slowly.
“Oh Drayden.” Lobrein said tearing up. “My heart only ever belonged to one man.” Lobrein confessed. She gently stroked his hand, as the gravity of the situation began to sink in.
Drayden looked up at her and furrowed his brow. “I do not understand, was it someone you knew before the gift?”
Lobrein sat quietly for a moment. “No Drayden, it was not.” She shifted uncomfortably, as if unsure what to say, then finally blurted out. “My heart, my love, belonged to Albast.” She told him, and a solitary tear slid down her cheek.
Glyph looked at Ishea, who now stood there open-mouthed over the news. Drayden appeared shocked as well.
“Albast? Why did you…? How could you have…?” Drayden stammered, then his face lit up, and a broad smile arched across his face. “Then Ishea is…?” He said staring at her piercingly with his sightless eyes.
“Ishea is what?” Ishea suddenly interjected
Lobrein spun her head and stopped Ishea cold with the look of apprehension on her face.
“Shea,” she announced, “is my daughter. Albast was her father.”
Ishea began to wobble slightly at the knees as the color drained from her face. Glyph jumped to catch her, but it was too late as Ishea’s legs crumpled beneath her. She managed to stay in a kneeling position as she stared at Lobrein. Glyph helped steady her as best he could.
“Shea! Of Course!” Drayden trumpeted, and immediately began to cough.
“Shea?” Glyph said, wondering what they were getting at now.
“‘Shea’ was changed to ‘Ishea’, in order to protect her.” Lobrein said, getting suddenly choked up. “The prophecy made quite clear your role in this matter. We hoped to put it off as long as possible by disguising your name and abilities. It was for your own safety.” She said, trailing off as tears streamed down her face.
Ishea’s face was blank, though Glyph could see her clenching fistfuls of sand. “You are my mother? You are my mother.” Ishea stated with no inflection.
“Your name is really Shea?” Glyph said out loud toward Ishea, as he tried to discern the meaning of this new information. “You’re her mother?” He said to Lobrein, who nodded yes in return.
“My name is Ishea! And you will only address me as such!” Ishea screamed at them. Her eyes flared purple as she rose to her feet. She stared at Lobrein with the look of death. “All these years; all this time!” She growled through clenched teeth.
“Ishea! Relax already, it’s me Glyph, remember?” Glyph said as he positioned himself between her and Lobrein. “I’ll call you whatever you want to be called. Let’s all cool down, Drayden doesn’t need this right now, so let’s try and focus on the immediate situation, and we can all speak our piece later, alright?”
Ishea glanced at him and, to Glyph’s surprise, began to calm herself.
“Thank you Glyph, for once again being the voice of reason.” Drayden rasped.
Glyph heard the sudden beating of wings, and turned in time to see Grot, Greem, Aroth, and several other guards land next to their party. Grot seemed a bit perturbed as he stepped up to Glyph.
“I have bad news Great One.” Grot started and paused looking around at the others. “Tsach’s army approaches from the south. They will be within our striking distance in six hours.” He rubbed the side of his chin, and cast a wary glance at Zarabish. “Their numbers are…impressive.”
Glyph could tell by the seriousness of Grot’s face that it must be a massive force.
“It is estimated the evacuation will take eighteen hours.” Grot continued. “This means we will have to hold off a sustained attack for nearly twelve hours.”
“Eighteen hours!” Glyph checked his watch; it was almost nine a.m. now, which meant the last Hexzu would pass through the gate to M’atra at three in the morning. Since his hour went from midnight to one, the Hexzu would still be going through the gate. If Glyph didn’t make this go faster he would return to Earth right in the middle of the battle. “Faster.” Glyph said quietly staring at the rows of Hexzu walking through the gate.
“Faster…Oh shit! Grot, there is a time differential on M’atra. You need to organize your people, the first groups there will likely be there days, maybe weeks before the last ones go through the gate here. Have the necessary personnel fly through above the ones on the ground, then cycle the rest of the populace into the flight paths as well, we really need to fit as many Hexzu through that gate as we can. Tell them to fill every bit of space available.” Glyph explained.
“Thank you for bringing this to my attention.” Grot said, and gave Aroth a signal, who immediately stood and leapt skyward.
“What preparations have you made regarding Tsach’s army?” Glyph inquired.
Greem stepped forward. “We are massing our warriors to the south of the exodus. Plans are in motion to strike at the enemy as soon as we are able; it will slow their advance, and keep the fighting away from our people for as long as possible. We hope near the end we will still have enough numbers to flank our rear, and protect the populace until the last Hexzu passes the gate.”
Glyph nodded his head; it was about all they could do. “Do not despair, we will help to ensure your people arrive safely.”
“Master Drayden, are you un-well?” Grot asked, turning his attention toward Lobrein and Drayden.
“I am.” Drayden said hoarsely. Grot unslung the water bladder from his shoulder and handed it to Lobrein, who quickly gave a drink to the dying wizard. “Come closer Grot.”
Grot stepped forward and knelt down beside Drayden. Drayden whispered something to the Hexzu Chief; Grot appeared stunned for a moment. Drayden said something else, then slumped backward as another wave of venomous pain coursed through the old man’s veins.
Glyph couldn’t quite hear what they had said, but gathered that it had something to do with Drayden’s imminent passing. Grot stood and bowed, and took a few steps back next to Glyph. Glyph noticed Zarabish sitting and meditating as far away from everyone as possible. Ishea and Amos had also drawn off a ways, and it appeared as if he was giving her counsel.
“Great One, destiny is often surrounded by unfounded doubt and unwanted change, these things plague you like a cloud of scorch. If I am to believe in destiny, then you must be our best hope for survival.” Grot commented.
Glyph raised one eyebrow. “Thanks?”
Grot smiled menacingly. “I am glad to see you still live.”
“Me too.” Glyph replied.
Grot chuckled. “You look tired.”
“I am. In fact, if I can arrange it, I plan on sleeping for the next several hours. My body is exhausted, and my mind is overloaded.” Glyph shook his head slowly, and watched Lobrein as she tended to the failing wizard. “Drayden is dying, and I want to sleep. Does that make me a bad person?” Glyph asked.
“No.” Grot replied. “Only a tired one.” Then added “I will have Gorth watch over our friend. If something changes, I will have him wake you at once.”
“Thank you Grot. I won’t be much help to anyone unless I get some sleep.” The more he talked about it the more he could feel the adrenaline rush wearing off, and the weight of his own shoulders. He watched as Lobrein fashioned a bed for Drayden out of the sand, transforming millions of grains of silicate into a frame, mattress and pillows. Then she gently levitated his body onto it.
Grot bowed. “I must attend to some matters.”
“Of course Grot, I understand.” Glyph replied and approached Drayden’s bedside. Glyph noticed the lines of flying Gargoyles entering the portal from above, carrying large leather sewn tarps between them, loaded with supplies. He looked down at Drayden; Lobrein had withdrawn and was now wringing her hands while pacing back and forth several yards away.
“I have to sleep, Drayden. I just want you to know, I’ll miss you. I kind of liked knowing you had my back.” Glyph said to him.
Drayden smiled weakly, as life just seemed to drain out of him. “Keep the Tome, Glyph, it is rightly yours. You must carry it with you.” He paused, licking his lips. “Lobrein covets the book as you once did. Do not let her have it. The power it holds corrupts. She too has her part to play, Glyph.” Another spasm of pain made him writhe and twist under the blankets. Lobrein rushed to his side and began to mop his brow.
Drayden nodded off for a minute, then snapped back to consciousness. Focusing his blind eyes he seemed to stare through Glyph. “You are the Great One, Glyph. There is no mistake. I suspect you may also have come to this realization?”
Glyph nodded his head. There was no doubt anymore, he was the Great One, he knew it in his heart, just as he knew he had to have mastery of both the red and the blue magic. For every weakness in one type, there was a strength in the other. He could now see how using both could be extremely advantageous.
Amos and Ishea walked up to Drayden’s bed. Ishea went to Glyph’s side and Amos settled alongside Lobrein as if he had always been there. It was eerie to Glyph, but no one else seemed to have noticed.
“Amos–.” Drayden choked out as another wave of pain assailed him. Amos bent over close to Drayden.
“I must complete the transference…have you made your decision?” Drayden asked.
“I have. If this is all you say it is, I would be stupid to say no. So go ahead.” Amos replied.
Drayden reached out feebly and touched Amos’s head, there was a faint blue aura and a flash of light. Drayden slumped once more into unconsciousness. Amos slowly leaned upright. “What do we do now?” Amos asked.
“We wait, and we rest.” Lobrein said tears rolling down her face. “Thank you Amos. You have shown us a great honor by accepting Drayden’s animus. I am in your debt.”
“Look, it was the right thing to do, let’s just drop it.”
Lobrein nodded. “I will stay with him. I will inform all of you as soon as he wakes, or turns for the worse. Go. Get some sleep, you will need your strength to fight Tsach.”
Ishea said nothing but conjured up a few blankets and handed them out. Glyph informed Zarabish, then picked out a cozy spot behind some boulders, laid down on the blanket, and was out cold in a matter of seconds.
Glyph! Drayden is about to expire. Come quickly! Lobrein’s voice blared in his head as he bolted upright. A moment after he oriented himself, Glyph closed his eyes and teleported into Drayden’s make-shift bedroom. Ishea was already there conversing with the visibly shrunken and frail wizard. Lobrein paced anxiously nearby.
Grot, Greem and about fifteen other Hexzu suddenly swooped in and landed. Grot approached the bed. “The enemy is almost within striking distance.” He informed everyone.
Amos came running into the small enclave Lobrein had made for Drayden, panting and out of breath.
“I am pleased you are here Master Amos, there is a matter that requires your presence.” Grot said.
“Who me?” Amos said glancing around.
Grot continued as if Amos had said nothing. “It is the ritual of transference. You are Master Drayden’s successor. We must transfer his title to you.”
Amos looked at Glyph, who just shrugged. Amos let out a sigh. “What do I got to do?”
“Stand beside the bed here.” Grot said, as Glyph and Ishea backed away to make room. Grot stepped forward and placed one hand to Drayden’s chest and the other to Amos’s. The rest of the Hexzu lined up at the foot of the bed in rows.
“I Grot, Chieftain of the Hexzu, remove from Master Drayden the title of Prophet, and offer it to Master Amos. Do you accept this title?”
“Wait, I’m no prophet. I can’t–.” Amos stared down at Drayden, who looked up at him imploringly.
Amos slumped his shoulders. “Yes. I accept.” Amos said.
“Then it is done.” Grot turned and faced the Hexzu. “Master Amos is now Prophet of the Hexzu. We offer up our brotherhood, and accept you as one of our own. May your guidance bestow blessings upon our people.”
Drayden gripped Amos’s sleeve. “Thank you.” He said softly, and Amos nodded.
“Goodbye master Drayden. May your journey be unburdened.” Grot said and bowed slightly.
Drayden nodded. Another wave of pain swept over him, and Lobrein moved back to his side again. Reaching out, Drayden grabbed Glyph by his pants leg and pulled him close. “Take care of Shea, Glyph. I do not envy you your task.” He rasped. “But you must prevail.” He choked a few times, then his eyes became wild. “Tell him…tell him… I have fulfilled–.” Drayden took one last gasp of air and slumped onto his side, dead.
The Hexzu then extended their left wings to overlap the shoulder of the next one in line. Greem began to sing. It was the same song he had first heard when Oathtet had died. The rest of the gargoyles joined in with the chorus, and finished a few moments later. The silence that followed felt as though it would last forever, only broken occasionally by the sound of Lobrein’s sobs.
The Hexzu bowed one at a time toward Drayden’s body before turning and flying into the sky, with Greem and Grot the last to go. Lobrein cradled Drayden’s head and wept. Ishea stood behind her, with tears falling from her eyes as well. Amos sighed deeply and walked away.
“Is there anything I can do?” Glyph asked not knowing what to do or say.
“We will take care of the body, Glyph.” Ishea said staring down at Drayden. “He will be moved to M’atra and buried with honors.”
Glyph nodded his understanding.
“There is someone else who needs your attention now.” Ishea said and took a long look at Amos who was slowly, aimlessly walking away.
Glyph turned and hurried to catch up to the new wizard.
“You Okay?” Glyph asked Amos as he caught up to him.
“Am I okay? That’s it? That’s all you have to say?” Amos shot back at him. “No Glyph, I’m not okay.”
“I know it can be a bit overwhelming. Think how I felt when I found out that I was the Great One.” Glyph replied.
“Did you know I’m a wizard too?”
Glyph nodded yes, then shifted a bit uncomfortably in the silence that followed. “I want you to know, if I had understood what bringing you here meant, I would have let you die on that bridge.”
“I know you did what you had to. I think part of me still wants to believe you’re a psychopathic killer, but the other part is realizing that you did what was necessary. I’ve seen what you had to go through Glyph. Hell, I’ve experienced it first hand.” Amos said and paused as if remembering. “I’m not the same person anymore, I feel like I know all of you as friends, but I hardly know any of you. I even think differently sometimes.”
“And you’re a prophet now. Don’t forget that.” Glyph said jokingly.
“How could I forget after that ceremony. How can I be a prophet Glyph? Tell me that one. I’m a wizard and a prophet, and I’m carrying Drayden’s animus. I don’t think I can take much more.” Amos spouted.
“Do you want the answer?” Glyph asked him.
“Hell yes I want the answer! What it is it?” Amos demanded.
“Acceptance. That, and belief.” Glyph replied.
“That’s it.” Amos said deadpan.
“That’s it.” Glyph reiterated.
“What kind of bullshit is that? I’m just to accept that what’s happening to me is okay, and start predicting the future based only on the fact that I believe I can do it? You’re outta your mind brother.”
“I’m telling you, that’s how it works. You have to believe. It’s not all in your mind, you’re not on an acid trip. It’s really happening, and you can really do magic.” Glyph explained. Amos shook his head. “I know, it takes a while to sink in; I recently figured it out myself. Do me a favor, just think about it.” Glyph said, then undid the straps to the shoulder holster holding the two Glocks, slid it off, and handed the weapons to Bogg. “Take them, I don’t have any further use for them.”
Amos reached over and took the weapons, instinctually checked them over, and noted how much ammunition was in each. Then he sat down and rechecked the AK47 and Mac 10 as well. Glyph sat down beside him and watched the setting twin suns of Degruthras, and reveled in the silence. He would soon be called on to fight, and it looked as though it could be a long battle. They had increased the rate of evacuation, but would it save enough time? Now the placement of his coming hour was even more troublesome, and could fall about the same time their exodus from Degruthras would be complete. ‘Oh well, I am resigned to my fate.’ Glyph decided, and conjured up a lit cigarette and began to smoke.
Amos looked over at Glyph and shook his head. “You know that will kill you?” He said gesturing towards Glyph’s smoke.
“Maybe. I’m not so sure anymore.” Glyph replied.
With that, he stood and walked away toward Zarabish leaving Amos to his thoughts. As he approached the still meditating demon, her head turned and one eye opened to focus on him.
“What do you want now?” She stated flatly.
“Remember when I first let you out of the dungeon, and I told you there’d come a time when I would give you the opportunity to redeem yourself?” Glyph asked.
“Vaguely.” Zarabish replied.
“Well this is it. Prove your loyalty to me today, and I will remove the silver bands.”
Zarabish gave Glyph her full attention now. “Really?” She asked, and Glyph couldn’t tell whether she was being sarcastic or not.
“Yes. I feel it’s the only way I can know for sure if you are truly my friend and ally. I don’t need a servant or a slave. Work with us on this, and you can live free the rest of your life.” Glyph said, as he watched Zarabish for any sign of what she might be thinking. “It’s not a promise, it’s a threat. Betray me, and I will destroy you like any other enemy.”
“What if I choose to stay on Degruthras after I have fulfilled this obligation?” She asked him.
“Your choice. I never intended to keep you anyway, I just wanted to show you my side of it. I think you’re smart enough to make your own decisions.” Glyph said pointedly.
Zarabish tilted her head slightly. “It is agreed, then?”
“Good.” Glyph glanced upward as something caught his eye. It was Greem, flying down toward them. “It looks like we’re about ready to join in the fight.”
Amos came walking up on them, just as Greem was landing. He had all his guns holstered and slung in a cowboy fashion. Glyph half chuckled thinking he had looked just like that not long ago. “Looks like we’re up.” Amos said.
“Great One, the attacks are going according to plan, but they are fierce, and we have already suffered a few casualties. I have also been informed that it will take six more hours to fully evacuate the rest of the remaining Hexzu and livestock. The enemy will be upon us in four, five if we manage to slow their advance. Grot sends word, and asks that you wait until the enemy arrives before attacking so you will be at full power. That last hour or two will be the most important, and the most bloody.”
“What do we do till then?” Amos asked.
“You could try practicing magic.” Glyph offered, somewhat relieved. “I plan on getting some more rest.” Amos just shot him a mean look. “If you want something to do, you could inform Lobrein and Ishea for me.”
Amos glanced at Zarabish who shrugged a slight bit. “Fine.” Amos said and stomped off.
“Thank you Greem, Amos will inform the others; tell Grot we will be ready when he needs us.” Glyph said.
“Understood.” Greem acknowledged.
“And Greem, be careful. I already lost one friend today, don’t make it two.” Glyph added. Greem scowled widely, and leapt upwards, disappearing into the night sky.
Glyph was becoming anxious. The thought of having to destroy the gate began to weigh heavily upon his mind, especially since he didn’t have a clue about how to accomplish that. His miserable failure at the Bridge of Bones made him doubt whether he even could. At least they had managed to accelerate the rate of the evacuation by two or three hours, but he would still be cutting it close with his hour. The last thing he wanted to do was vanish when everyone needed him most.
“I am somewhat hungry.” Zarabish commented, breaking him free of his dire thoughts.
“Me too.” Glyph agreed, realizing he had not eaten in some time. Glyph placed his hand on her arm, and teleported them to their supplies. He began to gather a bunch of food, and placed it into an empty sack.
“Are you not going to eat?” Zarabish said shoving some Turmur jerky into her mouth.
“I’m going to bring some to the others, they haven’t eaten either.” Glyph explained, and finished stuffing the sack.
“I suppose, that would be, kind.” She replied slurring the last word a bit. She grabbed a sack for herself, and Glyph transported them to Ishea, Lobrein, and Amos.
They mostly ate in silence. Ishea and Lobrein had taken Drayden’s body back into M’atra, and returned. They informed everyone that eleven days had passed there, and that the evacuation was going smoothly. All the nations had been informed, and Miatsu was coordinating things there. He hoped to have a sizeable military force ready, in case Glyph could not destroy the gate right away, and some spill-over occurred between worlds.
“This will be a defensive battle.” Glyph said after they had finished. “It won’t be won by brute force, or head on tactics, but by preparation, and cunning.” He stood and snatching up a nearby torch, gestured them to follow. Upon reaching the outskirts of the camp, he pointed to the southeast. “They’ll be coming that way; what we need to do is set up a defensive line. No ground-based obstacle will impair the Hexzu, but it will slow Tsach’s forces. We should start here, parallel to the portal.” With a push of his arm a giant stone spike, the width of a two car garage, pushed some twenty-five feet into the air at a forty-five degree angle pointing toward the path of the enemy. Lobrein raised a second one, and staggered the row. As Ishea raised the third pointed rock in sequence, an enormous palisade began to take shape. They continued the defensive line around the encampment and continued it for some ways down the length of the retreating Hexzu.
Once they had finished, they found Amos attempting to raise a rock of his own with no luck. “You need to try something easier at first, Amos.” Ishea said to him.
“Try making a flower. That’s what I did.” Glyph offered.
“No Glyph, I’m afraid that’s a lot more complicated than you might think.” Lobrein replied. “Your efforts would be put to better use trying to create a small light, Amos.”
“How’s a light going to help me fight those things.” Amos said pointing out past the stone palisades.
“It won’t” Glyph said, understanding all too well Amos’s predicament. “But it will help you later. In the meantime, you can fight from within our shields.”
Lobrein nodded. “It will be much safer for you that way.”
“There will be plenty of time to learn magic, after we reach M’atra, and Glyph destroys the Portal.” Ishea said putting her hand on Amos’s shoulder.
Glyph withdrew from the rest of them shortly after that, hearing Ishea say the words out loud, and confidently, as if there were no doubt as to whether he could do it at all, was a little much. Walking over to a small drop-off surrounded by several boulders, Glyph jumped down about four feet in between them and sat down. He extinguished the red light he was using to see by and closed his eyes.
Glyph needed the blue magic again if he was to have any chance of defeating Tsach. He needed to be able to wield it like he did in M’atra. He concentrated on creating a light, something small, so the noise wouldn’t attract anyone. Even as he thought it, the sound of an idling chainsaw filled his ears. Opening his eyes Glyph could see the light glowing with an enhanced brightness. Next he concentrated on the noise, and the sound became quieter. Glyph worked at it for about an hour, extinguishing the flame, and lighting it again, tuning his application to the right harmonics to reduce the noise a little more each time. It became easier with every attempt, and when he finally created the light with no noise, he rolled onto his side and tried to rest. He even conjured a blanket out of the sand as he had seen Lobrein do for Drayden, and morphed a nearby rock into a pillow.
Glyph tried to sleep, but couldn’t. He kept worrying about the gate, and Ishea, and Amos, hell, everything. His thoughts were jumbled as he lay staring at the millions of stars stretched across the alien sky, and time passed slowly. Just as he found himself drifting into sleep, he heard the Hexzu horn sound in the distance. The battle was drawing close. Glyph rolled into a standing position and teleported back to the gate. Lobrein and Amos were there already, engaged in conversation. Ishea arrived a moment later. Even Zarabish strolled up, as Greem and a few other Hexzu soldiers arrived on the scene.
They looked battle weary, and Glyph could tell by Greem’s dirt smeared face, that he had hit the ground pretty hard at some point.
“It is time Great One, the battle has arrived.” Greem announced.
“Right on schedule.” Lobrein said moving closer to Greem and Glyph. “I’ll defend the rear, Ishea and Glyph will take the left flank of the remaining Hexzu. When we reach the outskirts of the encampment, we will make our stand there, buying enough time for the Hexzu fighters to escape as well.”
“I will fight.” Zarabish spoke up.
“And where am I at?” Amos added.
Lobrein stared at Glyph raising one eyebrow.
“You can fight under my shield.” Glyph said.
“I will not need your protection.” Zarabish replied.
“Don’t be so sure.” Glyph quipped. “Just stay close.” He acquiesced, not wanting to argue. The roar of marching feet could be heard in the distance; lightning bolts and fireballs could be seen arcing across the sky. Zarabish nodded, and Amos flipped the safety off on his AK47.
“Anything goes. We must hold them off as long as it takes to ensure the safety of the Hexzu.” Lobrein stated. Everyone glanced around at each other for a moment, knowing it may be the last time they might see their comrades alive. “To your positions then.”
Ishea blinked out first, followed by Lobrein. Greem and the other Hexzu flew off to inform Grot of the plan. Glyph placed his hand on Zarabish’s thigh, and teleported her off. “You ready for this?” Glyph asked Amos as he reached over and placed his hand on Amos’s shoulder.
“It’s time for some payback. Hell yeah!” Amos said, an instant later they appeared to the left of Ishea some three hundred yards distance. The stone palisades jutting up and out of the ground about fifty feet in front of them. The gaps between the stones were only wide enough to allow Grull to pass, and then only one at a time.
The massive force ground to a halt outside the enormous palisades. The dull roar of marching feet slowly stopped. An eerie silence washed over them as they waited.
Then the Grull began to pour through; Zarabish wasted no time splitting their skulls as they entered. Glyph and Amos stood side by side watching the enemy seep through the cracks of their defenses. Glyph was shaken from his trance as Amos started to fire single shots from the AK machinegun, carefully picking his targets.
Waving his arm in a sweeping arc, Glyph slapped twenty or so Grull who had come through the barricade with an invisible shock wave, which sent them flying through the air, into the palisades, and then over the top; dropping them on their own forces. Glyph glanced over at Amos, raised his eyebrows and grinned, nodding his head up and down.
“I’m kinda seeing how something like that could be useful.” Amos said, and popped off a few more rounds.
After several minutes bodies littered the ground. Then the assault ceased, and Glyph glanced over at Amos. “Get ready.” Glyph said, suspecting that something bad was about to happen. Several explosions went off somewhere between Ishea and Lobrein. The ground shook beneath Glyph’s feet as he realized the palisades had been breached. Glyph watched as Grull, Ghouls, Hogdogs and Lesser demons poured through the small opening. With renewed zeal, Grull charged through the gaps and streamed in faster than Glyph had thought possible. After several more minutes of intense fighting, Glyph saw more explosions go off; this time right in front of him, as more of the stone palisades collapsed into rubble.
Now, Glyph was attacking several lesser demons at a time; no sooner would he kill one than another would take its place. By the time full demons entered the fray the battle was getting ugly. Hexzu were dropping like flies from the night sky, and Glyph had to keep a closer eye on Amos. He hadn’t seen Zarabish in a while, and feared she had run off, or worse, was dead. The last of the Hexzu were pouring into M’atra, and now the rear flanks and wounded soldiers began to break formation one row at a time to fly through the portal.
Glyph’s wide force bursts were no longer keeping the enemy at bay, as sheer numbers began to overwhelm them. “Fuck!” He heard Amos cry out as his AK-47 jammed on its last clip of ammunition. Amos threw the weapon to the ground, drew his Glock, and fired in time to catch a Grull point blank in the face.
“I’m running low on ammo!” Amos called out. “What should I do?” He asked Glyph. Amos cringed as a Ghoul waddled up and swung its flaming morning star on to the shield above their heads.
“Try using magic!” Glyph yelled back, as a lesser demon attempted to blind Glyph with a dazzling bright light display intended to disorient him. “Make more bullets, make them hit their mark, whatever you got to do!”
Amos calmed himself and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them up he let loose a hail of gunfire from the MAC-10.
Glyph watched as the bullets began to swerve left and right. The Ghoul dropped to its knees as several bullets pierced its brain, and continued onward. Dropping downward, the bullets turned left and dropped a pack of Grull. Each bullet met its mark with pinpoint accuracy; each bullet felled several enemy soldiers, before lodging in the brain of its final victim. The effect was nothing short of astounding, as dead bodies fell to the ground in mid step all around them.
“Fuckin’-A!” Glyph hollered, wondering why he had never thought to do that.
The piles of Grull were well over head-high now, as more crested them like a small hill and continued to advance. Demons used the bodies as cover to throw lightning bolts and other fiery projections at them.
Glyph was beginning to feel the drain of his own shield. “Amos! Head for the portal!” Another wave of Grull rushed over the mound of corpses. They both began to inch backwards under the torrential assault. Amos burped off another volley of controlled rounds from the Mac 10, wiping out another hundred or so creatures.
“All I have are the Glocks!” Amos blurted out, swinging the spent Mac onto his back, and pulling his remaining pistol.
Ishea was close enough to benefit from the reprieve. “We should head for the portal! Grot has ordered full scale retreat.” She shouted at them across the twenty yards or so that separated them now.
A black shadow began to descend upon them from the night sky. It was unnatural in that the torches that were set all around the encampment became engulfed and could no longer be seen. Instinctually, Glyph reached back and caught hold of Amos’s shirt with one arm, and teleported them closer to the Portal.
Spinning in place, Glyph faced the approaching cloud of darkness. He caught sight of Zarabish, sprinting just ahead of the shadow, making a line straight for them. Ishea popped in a moment later, followed by Lobrein. The line of Hexzu warriors continued to stream through the gate at a quickened pace, as screams and shrieks erupted from the back of the line as they became engulfed in the evil darkness.
“How do you fight something like that?” Amos shouted, as he panted heavily.
As if to answer his question Glyph thrust his arms upward, and a brilliant white light appeared above their heads. With another small thrust of his arms the expanding ball of light burned even brighter, and shot forward. The ground shook violently as the light and darkness met. Both sides came grinding to a halt on the edge of the encampment.
Time seemed to slow, except for the steady flow of Hexzu warriors pouring into the Portal. It seemed as if minutes passed, until, with a mighty yell, the enemy forces broke through the darkness and into the light, charging right at them.
Amos dropped to one knee, and began consolidating his ammo into one clip. “Go through the Portal, Amos! One clip won’t help us now.” Glyph yelled at Amos. “Shield.” He called out, and the red energy dome appeared above them.
Ishea had already created a gigantic tree-sized vine. Its exponentially expanding branches grabbed enemy soldiers and flung them into each other, while others choked or snapped the necks of its victims before dropping them and grabbing more. The whole scene struck Glyph as surreal.
Zarabish was still out in front of him, beating off a hoard of Grull with some style of martial arts; occasionally snatching up a Grull spear to sweep them out of her path.
Lobrein used Ishea’s tree-vine as cover and began to focus her assault on the more powerful creatures in the fray.
Glyph kept the light going, holding the darkness at bay. It had become necessary now; he knew if that darkness enveloped them the last of the Hexzu might not make it through the Portal. He glanced over at Amos. “You still here?”
“ I still have a few bullets left.” Amos replied.
“Don’t be stupid. They’ll be here any second now.” With one arm, Glyph waved away several Grull who had slipped past Zarabish. “I may not be able to protect you much longer!”
“So fuck it! If I die here, then this is where I die.” Amos said, now huffing and puffing as he stared at the advancing line of enemy creatures.
Suddenly Glyph felt drained, and weakened. He realized what it was. “Zarabish!” Glyph cried out suddenly. As the demon took a moment to glance back at Glyph the silver shackles around her wrists cracked and fell to the ground in pieces. She immediately roasted a long line of Grull with white-hot fiery explosions, then turned and began to fight her way back across the short distance to where Glyph and Amos stood.
Glyph shrieked in agony and grabbed his head with both hands. The red energy shield immediately vanished, and Glyph stumbled to the left, falling to his knees. Amos jumped in behind him, and began to count down each carefully aimed shot. A faint blue aura surrounded each bullet, and Amos was controlling their directions, steering them into as many of the beasts as he could. Glyph slumped onto the ground, quivering at Amos’s feet and moaning.
It was the same searing red-hot poker drill to the center of the brain feeling he had experienced on the Bridge of Bones. Glyph tried to sing the song in his mind, but it was too late, he had lost the opportunity when he decided to free Zarabish. She was Amos’s only chance now. He stared up through blurry eyes and saw Amos flip the pistol in his hand, grasp the barrel and pistol-whip the nearest Grull. Throwing the weapon at another beast, Amos grabbed at Glyph’s back, and pulled the King’s sword from its sheath in time to slice through the side of a Grull’s neck as it lunged for him. Blood sprayed from the wound onto Glyph as it fell. Glyph watched the dying beast twist its body as it fell, running its left horn through the middle of Amos’s thigh.
Glyph could hear nothing now, only pain filled his mind. In some sort of dream-like fog he could see Amos falling backward; driven to the ground by the weight and forward motion of the Grull, whose bloodied horn now stuck out the back of Amos’s leg. He could see Amos being pinned to the ground in slow motion.
A lesser demon, appearing out of nowhere, swung its giant double bladed axe at Amos’s chest. An instant later a whip of crimson flame severed the creature’s arm, sending the axe into the nearby sand. Amos, bending upright at the waist, sliced into the lesser demon’s ankle. As Glyph clung to sanity by a thread, he saw Zarabish step over him, pushing the lesser demon onto its back. Raising her arm, she morphed it into a metal spike, and plunged it into the creature’s throat. Turning, Zarabish pulled the Grull off of Amos’s leg. Then she stood there staring down at Glyph as if what? Debating? Waiting? He couldn’t decide.
Summoning every ounce of energy he had, Glyph struggled up onto his knees and pointed at the Portal. “Go!” He managed to scream. He willed his eyes to look up at Zarabish. As their eyes locked Glyph could feel the vomit heaving out of his mouth, but still managed to maintain eye contact. Zarabish nodded her understanding, scooped up Amos, teleported to the portal’s entrance, and with one last look around, stepped through the gate.
He could no longer hold back the screams of intense agony, the pounding of his head threatening his sanity at every beat. He thought he heard Ishea call his name, but it was so faint. It had come from his mind. “Go.” He answered, not knowing if he had spoken at all.
Just as he began to lose consciousness, he felt something else. Something much more familiar. His eyes closed as the wind rushed in, and time slowed once again. Within seconds the air was gone, and Glyph felt the pull once more. Enveloped in a flash of light, Glyph vanished, just before the dark cloud reached him.