Category Archives: The Hour – Book 2

The second book about Glyph, and his “hour”.

The Hour Book2 Prologue

Cruix lifted her head up from the report she had just been given. “You are certain of this?” she asked.

“Yes, my Queen. Your father Svebak has been executed.” Srokus informed her.

“Very well. And this new Arch-Demon?”

“His name is Tsach. He has come from the Outer Districts. I am not up to date on home world politics, but it is rumored that he has been in exile for quite some time.”

‘Drek,’ Cruix thought. ‘Svebak had been the only one standing between me and the home world. His refusal to pursue me after my failed attempt to usurp him must have made him look weak. But why would they send someone from the Outer Rim? Why not a war-cleric from Heelix?’ She wondered. ‘Something reeks about this whole situation.’ Cruix decided, and turned her attention back to Srokus.

“That is interesting, but not unusual. Is he acting alone?” Cruix prompted.

“No, my Queen. His following rivals that of Mrodin, and he is reputed to be the most powerful demon to live since Morgus.” Srokus replied.

“Ha! Somehow I doubt that. There is not a demon alive who is that powerful.” Cruix replied, and clicked her nails upon the top of her desk thoughtfully. “I want you to start searching for spies. Interrogate anyone with questionable loyalties.”

“Yes, my Queen.” Srokus said.

“Is there any word on the sorceress? She came through the gate over a month ago, and yet for some reason no one has been able to locate her. I want to know what she is doing here and why.  I want her found, Srokus.  I do not need any more surprises.”

“Our trackers have determined she is bound for Sa Saran, but she has still managed to slip through our grasp on more than one occasion.”

“Enough with the excuses! I want answers and I want them now! You will go to Sa Saran and handle this personally, and do not come back without her. Understood?”

Srokus nodded, and began to walk toward the door, then hesitated.

“You have something to say, Srokus?” Cruix said noting his pause.

“Only that your father…he was a great leader.”

 “Svebak was a fool. He should have killed me while he had the chance; instead he left me here to rule Parcel three in exile. I can only pray that whatever weakness he had for me is not hereditary. Now get out.” Cruix spat.

“Yes, my Queen.” Srokus said as the large obsidian slab that served as a door to her inner sanctum turned white to allow his passage.

Cruix leaned back in her chair. This was not good. Not good at all. She had been focusing too much of her attention on the portal to the new world, and had hoped that it would serve as an escape route for just such an occasion. She had sent nearly half of her ground forces there to ensure victory, but word had come in several weeks ago that Drathus had been unsuccessful in conquering the lands beyond. Not even a fifth of the Grull had returned. Those drekking wizards had defeated her son twice in battle, and rumors of his death by the hand of the fabled Great One were very disturbing, though equally unlikely. She knew Drathus was dead, but by the Great One’s hand? No, it would mean the Book of Morgus spoke the truth literally, and not figuratively as most had assumed.

She dismissed the thought as she looked at the pedestal that had once held the book. ‘If those wizards have gotten their filthy pink paws on it, who knows what it might reveal to them.’ The thought of demonkind’s most important book lost on an alien world gave her chills. ‘It is good that Drathus died in his second attempt, or I would have killed him myself.’

‘Perhaps it is time to pull the decrepit old wizard from his cell and ask him some new questions. He is obviously never going to tell me what I want to know, and rotting in a cell for the last several decades has had little effect on him anyway. Maybe I should just kill him.’

She let out a scream in frustration. All this waiting was starting to get to her. She knew that with Tsach as overlord of Parcel one and two, it would only be a matter of time before he would come for her. He was probably massing his armies in preparation right now. It is what she would be doing had their roles been reversed.

Pacing back and forth, she absently fondled the jeweled necklace around her neck. The gong sounded outside her door, and she glanced over at it for a moment. ‘Now what?’ She thought. “Enter!” Cruix said, still pacing.

The obsidian door changed color to white, allowing a large stony gargoyle to phase through it, into her inner sanctum. “What is it now, Crowf?” She asked of him. “This is not a particularly good time.”

“Forgive the intrusion, my Queen. I came to speak of the Hexzu tribute to your highness.” Crowf explained.

“What of it?” Cruix demanded as she strutted back behind her table and began to leaf through some of the parchments left there.

“It is too much, my Queen. There will not be enough Lizbah left to feed our own populace.” Crowf stated.

Cruix’s countenance changed, and she walked back out from behind the table to where he stood. She was easily five feet taller than his eight-foot frame, and began to stroke his left wing. “But, Crowf, the numbers you gave me last week suggest that there will be plenty of the snake-birds left to feed the number of gargoyles housed here in Okrune. The gargoyle tribute to me has only increased slightly, and is necessary to feed the demon populace of Parcel Three.”

Crowf stiffened noticeably. “You know I do not like you touching me, like that.” He said pointing at her.

“Oh, my apologies.” She said cajolingly. Taking a step back, she waved her hand and morphed into a female gargoyle. She then stepped forward, placed her hands on his chest and looked into his eyes. “Is that better?”

Crowf relaxed slightly. “Yes, my Queen.”

“Now, about those numbers. Surely there will be enough food for your people, unless, of course, there are more gargoyles you are not telling me about.” She said, whispering the last part in his ear.

“N-no. Of course not. I know of no other gargoyles, my Queen.” Crowf replied shakily.

“Very good. Then the tribute you will present to me will reflect that.” Cruix said to him and attempted to smile. Turning, she clapped her hands, and one wall of the room slid to the side revealing a large bedroom, with a demon-sized bed some twenty feet long and fifteen feet wide. “Were there any other problems, Crowf?”

Crowf shifted uneasily to one side, and was unable to keep his eyes off of her. “No, my Queen. There are no other problems.”

“You know what I like about you Crowf?” Cruix asked rhetorically as she led him into the bedroom. “You are so agreeable.” Cruix, still in her gargoyle form, disrobed and  leapt up onto the side of the enormous bed and spread her wings before him. “Now, service your queen!” Crowf obeyed. Her bat-like stony wings swept in and down as his moved forward and out. When they intersected a shower of sparks flew upward from each wing at the point of contact as Crowf slowly ground her wings apart with his own. They locked eyes and Cruix cackled as the massive stone wall slid back into place behind them.

 

-oOo-

 

A few days later Cruix received word from Srokus that a trap had been set for the female sorceress, and it would only be a matter of time before she was in his custody. ‘Finally some good news.’ she thought. She grunted a dismissal at the chin’ee that handed her the message. The sub-demon turned to leave when Cruix yelled, “Wait!”

The lesser demon turned slowly toward her queen.

“Where is Godakath?” Cruix demanded.

“My Queen?”

“Godakath. Godakath! My personal messenger, where is he?” She screamed, getting close to the female messenger’s face.

“He is drunk, my Queen. He ordered me to deliver this message to you.” She said, trembling and staring at Cruix’s feet.

“And what is your name, my pet?” Cruix asked.

“Zarabish, my Queen.”

“I have not seen your face around here, Zarabish. From whence did you come?”

“I was traded at the stitch three weeks ago, my Queen.” Zarabish explained.

Cruix eyed her up suspiciously. “And what did we trade to get you?”

“Several snake-birds and some crystals.”

“Are you worth it?”

“Yes, my Queen.”

“Then prove it! Go fetch me some dinner. Now!” Cruix spat, and sent Zarabish scrambling out of her inner sanctum.

A few moments after the sub-demon left Crowf entered the room.

“Back for more, so soon? I thought gargoyles only mated twice a year?” Cruix said as she once again waved her hand and transformed into a female gargoyle. Crowf’s eyes lit up as soon as the transformation was complete.

“Yes, my Queen. You are very hard to resist.” Crowf stated, his breathing becoming quicker.

“I know.” Cruix said and moved in close to him. “I understand you are helping Srokus find the female Sorceress.”

“I have dispatched several of my best warriors to assist in the hunt. Srokus believes we will have better luck spotting her from the air. With our range of sight it will be an easy task.” Crowf shifted slightly. “If I might ask my Queen, who is this female?”

“That is precisely what I intend to find out.” Cruix informed him.

“I should not stay, my Queen. I am afraid the others will begin to question my loyalties if I am seen frequenting your chambers so often.”

“That is your problem, Crowf. Are you saying you no longer wish to hold the title of prefect? I am sure I can find another–.”

“No!” Crowf shouted. His eyes filled with lust as he moved his hands up and down her back.

Cruix raised an eyebrow, and stared him down.

“Forgive me, my Queen, but when it comes to you, I am weak. I am worried though. If the others find out I am collaborating, they may no longer allow me to be privy to the information you desire.”

Cruix sighed, and rubbed his chest. “I suppose, if it makes you happy, I will grant you access to my chambers without having to come through the main door.” Then her countenance changed. “Do not make me regret it!”

“Never, my Queen.” Crowf responded.

“Then let us get to it, I have work to do.” Cruix said and began to push him toward her bedroom as the giant stone door slid back.

 

                                                            -oOo-

 

Later that evening Cruix made her rounds of the temple. There was something quite enjoyable about watching her demons and chin’ee jump at her approach. The orders had already been given to start preparations for an invasion by this ‘Tsach’. The odds were stacked against her, especially after Drathus had lost half of her foot soldiers. She would likely lose any war with the new Arch-Demon, but she was not without her resources. She would survive even if it meant fleeing through the portal. Of course, that option was now questionable since the wizards had discovered it. She considered it bad form to be caught between two enemy forces. The power she had accrued here was not enough, but it was all she had, and she would not let it go easily.  As she returned to her outer chamber, she found the chin’ee Zarabish waiting outside her door with several trays of food.

 “You again?” Cruix remarked.

“Yes, my Queen.”

“Is Godakath drunk again?” She asked. ‘He is back less than two months and this?’ Cruix thought. “I will punish him severely for shirking his duties.”

Zarabish nodded and followed Cruix through the obsidian slab that functioned as a gate to her inner chambers. “Forgive me, my Queen, but may I ask you something?”

Cruix raised her eyebrows at the chin’ee. “What is it?” she said, curious about the audacity of this sub-demon.

“I have heard that the Great One has returned. Is this true?”

Cruix spat on the floor in front of her. “Of course not. Who has said this?”

“No one person, my Queen. It is just that some say he has come, and the end is near for our kind.”

“Do not believe everything you hear, chin’ee. You would be well advised to not broach the subject again.”

“Yes, my Queen.” Zarabish replied as she finished setting up her Queen’s meal, bowed, and left the room.

‘That one reminds me of Drathus.’ Cruix mused. ‘He too seemed obsessed with finding and destroying the Great One. How he used to whine and beg to enter into the Jakarute, and when he was finally given the chance, he chose Simeon. My dear Simeon, how I have missed him. He gave up his own freedom, lost the challenge to my son on purpose, and almost died, just to spare my feelings.’

‘And when Drathus finally completed the Jakarute ritual and achieved full demon status, he still obsessed about the Great One. When I could stand no more, I sent him away to help build the portal, and to conquer the world beyond. I should have known he would fail; of course I could not foresee these alien wizards. I have never encountered one of them before coming here; the war-clerics believe them to be some rare anomaly. Yet now not only have I captured one, but another has graced me with her presence on this world, and I want to know why.’ She thought. Glancing down at the tray of prepared food, Cruix cast a spell over it to detect any poisons before she grabbed a hunk of meat from the plate and took a bite.

 

                                                            -oOo-

 

The next day the temple and all of Okrune was abuzz with activity. Preparations were being made to defend against a full invasion, and there was much work to be done. Most of the Grull were at work making repairs and fortifications to the rock wall that surrounded the small city. This fight would be ugly, and Cruix was making plans for her retreat to the portal, and to make sure she had sufficient forces there to handle whatever she found waiting for her on the other side. She was fairly certain she would not be able to win against Tsach’s army, but vowed to make sure there was nothing left of value here when he arrived.

Word came at noon that the Sorceress and her companion had been spotted leaving Sa Saran. “Two of them!” Cruix screamed in outrage. Now she began to wonder if the wizards of the new world were planning an invasion of their own. “This is all I need.” She said, as she read the report given to her by Zarabish.

“May I speak, my Queen?” Zarabish asked Cruix.

Cruix stared at her, then nodded.

“We are about to be invaded, are we not?”

Again Cruix nodded, wondering what was going to come out of this chin’ee’s mouth now.

“Would it not be wise to allow those sub-demons who are ready to enter the Jakarute to do so? You will need all the ‘full’ demons you can get, if you are to defeat the armies that will come.” Zarabish said as she stared at the ground in front of Cruix.

“Why is this of interest to you, chin’ee?” Cruix asked in response. ‘This one is a little too bold for my liking.’ she thought.

“Only that I would like to make the attempt myself.” Zarabish replied.

Cruix laughed. “You are on the bottom of my list, chin’ee. You hold no favor with me. Taking the duties of that worm Godakath does not elevate your status.”

“Yes, my Queen.” Zarabish said. “Forgive me for asking.”

“You must earn the right to enter the Jakarute, and I will tell you when you are ready. Now get out of my sight before I kill you for your insolence!” Cruix yelled and slammed the table with her fist.

“Yes, my Queen.” Zarabish replied, bowing, then quickly turned and left the room.

As soon as she was gone Cruix sat back down on her chair. “Well?” She said out loud.

A small door slid back in the far wall, and a creature draped in a ragged black cloak glided forth from the shadows. “I could not read her, my Queen.”

“What! You are a Seer, are you not?” Cruix seethed.

“It is extremely rare, but the sub-demon has a strong natural ability to block my sight, and more than that, my Queen, she has been enhanced.” The hooded Seer replied calmly.

“Enhanced?” Cruix questioned.

“I could tell that much, my Queen. Her ability was enhanced by magic.”

“Could she have done this to herself?” Cruix asked, her brow furrowing again.

“Unknown, my Queen, as I could not read her.”

“Very well Seer, you may go.” Cruix said, and watched as the small creature turned and glided away through her door. She reached over and touched a small bell sitting on her desk and a soft chime rang out. A moment later a demon entered the chamber.

“Yes, my Queen?” He questioned.

“Double your efforts to find Godakath. Assume he is dead, and not a deserter.” Cruix ordered.

“Yes, my Queen.” The demon said and left the room.

This was getting interesting, Cruix thought, and returned to her paper work.

 

                                                            -oOo-

                                                                       

That evening the demon returned to Cruix’s chambers.

“My Queen, we have found Godakath. He is dead, and was buried under manure in the hyukduk stables.”

“It is as I suspected. Take several Ghouls, and locate the one named Zarabish. Bring her to me, and make certain she does not escape you, or I will have your head.”

“Yes, my Queen.” 

The Hour Book2 Epilogue

Epilogue

 

Glyph and Zarabish walked to the Kivan mess tent that had been set up the night before. He could smell the cooking as he approached and thought it best if Zarabish waited outside; there really wasn’t enough room for her anyway. He instructed the cook to place a large amount of food behind the tent, and though the man thought it strange, obeyed his king’s order. After collecting the food, Zarabish and Glyph went back to her tent and sat down to eat. Shortly thereafter Ishea and Lobrein came looking for them, and entered through the large flap.

“Where is Amos?” Ishea asked almost immediately. Glyph wiped his mouth, conjured up a cigarette and began his explanation. He told her how he had found the spell to end his curse in the Tome of Dark Lore, and how he had attempted the spell on Earth during his last hour. Lobrein in particular eyed him suspiciously as he told how Zarabish had vanished, and Amos did not.

“I don’t know what happened, but for some reason it didn’t work on Amos; by then it was too late. I had already begun the incantation, and Amos begged me to continue even though it meant he would be left behind. I promised I would find a way to bring him back, and then I was here.” Glyph told them.

“You left him behind?” Ishea responded.

“This was terribly irresponsible of you Glyph, and may have altered events yet to come. Now Drayden’s animus is lost to us, and we cannot benefit from his experience. I can not believe you would be so…” Lobrein said, stopping herself short of berating him.

“Stupid?” Glyph finished for her.

“For lack of a better word, yes.” Lobrein replied.

“I know, and I’m sorry. I thought I could handle it; it looked so simple. I should have known not to trust what the Tome said.”

“You could have at least informed us of what you were planning. We may have been able to help.” Lobrein said.

“For what it’s worth, if I ever do use the book again, I’ll be sure to consult with you before I take any action.” Glyph added.

“I should hope so; now you have piled on yet another problem we must try to solve.” Lobrein chastised.

Ishea just stared at him, and Glyph couldn’t tell if she was sad, or angry. “I do not know how, Glyph, but we will find a way to get him back. I truly believed he wanted to stay with us and help in our fight against Tsach. It may well be that since he had not yet voiced his decision, he remained on Earth, since it was the place of his origin.”

“That must be it, then. I know I miss him already.” Glyph said. He hated lying to her, but if Albast was correct, no one must know he was alive and training Amos to be a wizard.

“I too have grown accustomed to his presence.” Zarabish chimed in.

“General Zarabish?” A voice came from outside the tent.

“Enter.” Zarabish replied.

Toban stepped into the tent. “Very good, you are all here. The Torlean envoy is approaching.” He said, scanning their faces. “Should I inform master Amos?” he asked.

Glyph explained Amos’s absence to Toban, and they all filed out to greet Covat. Deciding it would be best that Zarabish be introduced to the whole group, Glyph asked that she remain in her tent until the council meeting the next morning, and Zarabish agreed.

After welcoming King Covat, Glyph had the Torleans set up camp on the other side of the Kivans, to lessen the chance of anyone stumbling across Zarabish by accident. Later that afternoon Miatsu, King Rokka, and the Delturan delegation arrived, followed by King Kahula later that night.

Toban and Glyph passed the time practicing their swordsmanship, and had returned to Glyph’s cave shortly after Kahula’s arrival. “I guess that just leaves Verto. Do we know when he will be coming? I want everyone to be present for the meeting in the morning.”

“I am sorry Glyph, there will be no one attending from Priam.” Toban said.

“What do you mean?  We sent word to them right?” Glyph asked.

“I forgot that you were unaware of the situation with Priam. Several months after you disappeared from The Pass, Verto was found in his chambers; murdered.” Toban told him. “The Lady Ishea was the last person to see him alive, and the monks believe that it was somehow her doing. Needless to say, relations between Priam and the rest of us became greatly strained and quickly dissolved. The monks withdrew from the rest of the world, and refuse to see anyone.”

Glyph wiped the shock off his face. “Verto was murdered? Who, why would anyone do such a thing?”

“Unknown, but this much is certain, they lay the blame squarely at Ishea’s feet. The fact that she left for Degruthras shortly thereafter did not help matters, since she was not present to defend herself from their preposterous accusations.” Toban answered him.

“Have you talked to Ishea about this? I mean, does she know?”

“It did not come to light until after she had already gone in search of you. To my knowledge she does not know. Keep in mind, this happened over three years ago, almost four now. For us this is old news.” Toban replied.

Glyph shook his head, still trying to grasp all of what Toban had told him. “Did anyone investigate; do you know how he was killed?”

“The monks apparently did their own investigation, and drew their own conclusions. The facts were never provided to us, only that he had been murdered and Ishea was to blame. We sent several envoys, but they were all turned away. I suspect the monks were afraid that we might uncover the true reason, and possibly who killed him. They have disavowed any allegiance to the wizards of M’atra, and anyone who accepts them.”

It was unbelievable, to think that someone was out to subvert the monks of Priam into turning against the wizards. This would be something Drathus might have attempted had he been alive, at least that would have made sense. The monks must know who really killed Verto, the question was why would they try to pin the murder on Ishea? It occurred to Glyph that there was more going on here than meets the eye, and decided to look into the matter once he had returned to Kivas.

Surprisingly, Glyph slept late the next morning. He felt like his internal clock was out of synch, especially now that his daily life-threatening jumps between worlds had ceased. Glyph dressed in the Kingly garb that Toban had provided, and had the other leaders meet him atop the highest dune beside the body of water he had created forty-eight hours ago. As they stood next to the water’s edge, Glyph told them the story of what had happened since his disappearance.

He explained their new alliance with the Hexzu, and how they had helped defeat Cruix, and of their retreat to the gate. Glyph then waved his hand and Grot and his entourage flew down from the sky and landed beside him, affording everyone their first glimpse of the gargoyles. By the time the meeting had started word had spread of the winged creature that had flown Glyph to the Kivan party as it crossed the desert, so the Kings were not too shocked by what they saw. He introduced Grot and Greem, and then asked that they all adjourn to the Torlean tent to discuss certain issues.

After they had taken their seats, Glyph introduced them to Zarabish.

“This is the demon who helped us.” Glyph said, as Zarabish lifted the flap and entered the tent.

King Rokka leapt to his feet and pulled his sword. “Devil swine!” he screamed and lunged at Zarabish.

Glyph and Toban jumped to block his way, when Ishea yelled, “FREEZE!” Everyone immediately came to a halt including Glyph. It had been a word of command and it had been very effective. “King Rokka, Zarabish is our ally, and General of the Kivan army. Anyone who takes arms against her will have to answer to me, and would also be considered an act of war against the Kivans.” With a wave of her hand she released them from the spell.

Everyone was shocked. “General?” Kahula spouted in amazement as soon as his lips could move. Rokka sheathed his sword but gave the demon a look of death, and grudgingly returned to his seat.

“Forgive me, err, demon.” Covat stated, and then turned to Glyph. “How do we know it can be trusted?”

“I agree!” Kahula added. “These demons are our enemies, and the enemies of our ancestors! We have fought them in two wars, and now we are supposed to accept them as one of our own?”

Rokka sat there quietly staring at Zarabish.

“I understand your concerns, and I’m not asking you to accept all demons, just this one. What you must realize is that just as M’atra has bad people, criminals and the like, there are some demons who are good. As we would lock up our criminals, there the criminals are in charge, and they lock up or make slaves of the good demons. Those are the demons we are at war with, not those who wish a better life, not those who are slaves hoping for freedom.” Glyph explained. “General Zarabish was a slave on her world. Forced to do the bidding of an evil master, when she got the chance for freedom she took it, and when I set her free, she made the choice to stay and help us in the war against Tsach. She has proven herself to me, to Ishea, and Lobrein. I will personally vouch for her integrity and her trust.”

The room was silent, then Grot stood. “My people were enslaved by the demons for thousands of years. I have learned to hate them as you do, and it is something we have in common. I would never have thought that I could set aside my hatred for even one of them, but the Great One has shown me the error of my prejudice. I have fought along side the demon Zarabish, I have seen her kill her own without mercy. I too believe her to be trustworthy.”

Glyph seemed a bit amazed at the comment, as did Zarabish, who nodded her appreciation toward the Hexzu leader.

“How do we know you can be trusted?” Rokka blurted out to the gargoyle. Grot remained calm and sat back down; Glyph had warned him that there may be hostile words and intents.

“The fact is I am asking you to accept her, not as Glyph, but as the Great One. I have twice saved this world from invasion, I would hope that you could do this for me in return.” Glyph said.

The room went silent again. Covat appeared a bit pale. “We would never deny the Great One a request. I will take you at your word that the demon is safe.”

“If this is what you want then so be it.” Kahula said more subdued than usual.

“What? Are we the slaves now? You force your will upon us! Was that a threat? The country of Deltur will not accept a demon. Not now or ever!” Rokka spouted. “The rest of you can bow down, but I will not, especially not for this.”

Glyph felt like blasting him across the room, but refrained. “That is your right. Would anyone else care to reverse their decision?” Glyph questioned them. There was no answer. “Very well, the next order of business is the Hexzu nation. I have given them the desert of Degruthra to live, since that is what they are used to. Also the northern half of the mountains, the side that faces the desert will also be used by them.”

King Rokka’s mouth dropped open. “Is this some kind of joke? Those mountains belong to Deltur, all the way up to Toleth’va.”

“Right, well, now the northern half belongs to the Hexzu.” Glyph replied glaring at Rokka.

“We do not wish to–.” Grot said, and stopped as Glyph swung his gaze toward him.

“This is outrageous, we have held claim to the mountains for thousands of years. You cannot give away land that is not yours.” Rokka continued.

“Rokka, I understand, but you’re not using it anyway.”

“That is untrue, there are several mines and logging communities on those mountains.” Rokka quickly interjected.

“On the North side?” Ishea joined in, and stared intently at Rokka.

King Rokka shifted uneasily in his seat. “Very well.” He said grudgingly after a long pause.

Glyph glanced at Ishea and briefly wondered how much influence she had over these people. “Thank you King Rokka, your sacrifice will not be forgotten.” Glyph said in the interest of diplomacy. “What we need to do now, is set up an outpost here at the lake. Even though there is a lake on top of it, there is still a gate at the bottom. If the water level drops, it will be the first sign that the gate has reopened, and that the demons are up to something.” Glyph saw Rokka roll his eyes, but said nothing.

“The Hexzu volunteer to keep vigilance over this lake.” Grot suddenly announced.  There was a moment of silence, then Rokka and Covat were on their feet yelling over each other in protest, as Grot’s expression went blank.

‘The Hexzu are handling this with remarkable calm.’ Glyph thought, smiling. ‘I guess being an enslaved race has taught them to put up with a lot of shit.’

“If that is acceptable!” Glyph shouted, then continued in a normal voice, “to everyone else, it is certainly acceptable to me.” He could tell Rokka wanted to object, but instead he sat down, maintained his composure, and his silence.

‘What has gotten in to him?’ Glyph wondered. He had personally saved Rokka’s life; Glyph expected a little more cooperation. Could dissent for wizards have spread from Priam? Whatever it was that crawled up Rokka’s ass, Glyph was at least grateful that he kept mouth shut.

“Lake Vigilance.” Ishea said. “We should call it Lake Vigilance. Though your offer is most generous Grot, it might be best if we all kept watch together. One Barjon, one Kivan, one Torlean, one Delturan, and one Hexzu. Each soldier could be rotated out on a monthly basis. This way it is fair to everyone.” She stated.

“That’s a great idea Ishea.” Glyph said. “Does anyone have a problem with that arrangement?” He asked. After a few moments of silence Glyph continued. “Excellent. Then it’s settled, we will all keep watch over Lake Vigilance.”

With that, the meeting wound to an end, and all the delegations left for home leaving one soldier behind from each group. Glyph was glad to put it behind him, and looked forward to his return to Kivas.

On the way, Glyph talked about Rokka, and informed Ishea about the situation with Priam. “Did you notice King Rokka’s behavior? It was rather unlike him, at least the Rokka I remember.”

“He did seem a bit hostile, but that is understandable considering you gave part of the Delturan’s land to the Hexzu without consulting him.” Ishea responded.

“Yes, but even before that. None of the other Kings reacted to Zarabish the way he did.” Glyph countered.

“Glyph, she is a demon. Perhaps if you had not been so interested in causing shock by waiting to reveal her appearance, Zarabish may have received a warmer reception.” Ishea stated.

“Maybe. I just hope the situation with Priam is not spreading.”

“What situation would that be?”

“Didn’t you notice there was no delegation from Priam?”

“Well, now that you mention it. I am sure that Verto had his reasons.” Ishea remarked.

“Ishea, remember when you told me that Verto arrived at the gate and brought you the Tome of Dark Lore.”

“Yes.”

“Well Verto is dead. The monks at Priam are saying that you killed him, that you were the last person to see him alive at Toleth’va.” Glyph explained.

“What?” Ishea said, and turned her attention to her steed. Reaching forward she patted the side of its neck.

“Verto is dead.” Glyph said, as if it shouldn’t need repeating

“So? Verto was an old man. It would have happened sooner or later.”

“Not just an old man, the oldest man, and why do you think the monks blame you?” Glyph questioned her.

“Why do the monks do anything they do? It is unimportant, and I cannot allow their misguided beliefs to rule my life. There is really no need to even be discussing this.”

“Yes, there is. If the monks think it was you, then that idea may well spread to neighboring countries like Deltur. It could explain why Rokka acted the way he did.”

“Honestly Glyph, you are making more of this than it is. I have lived over three thousand years, and have seen many a king come and go. So Rokka had a bad day, it does not mean he has turned against us.” Ishea replied.

“And it doesn’t bother you that the monks think you are to blame for Verto’s death?”

“I have been accused of worse, and as for the monks, their revered leader has passed on; they are merely acting out in grief. Be thankful they did not start a war.”

“Yes, but if Verto brought you the book at the gate in Degruthras, then you have a solid alibi. There would have been others who witnessed his arrival and departure. The monks say he died at Toleth’va, we could prove your innocence and put an end to the rumors before–.” Ishea cut him off.

“Enough, Glyph! I do not care about what they think. The Tome was probably the only thing keeping him alive and when he gave it away he died. Did you ever think of that?”

“Ishea I didn’t mean to–.” Was all Glyph could say before Ishea kicked her heels and drove her horse into a full gallop, leaving Glyph there. Something wasn’t right to be sure, and he couldn’t help but dwell upon it as he rode. There was only one problem with Ishea’s explanation; nobody had been able to simply give the Tome of Dark Lore away, not even Albast. The thought didn’t sit well with Glyph, and now he wished that Amos had come back with him. If anyone could have figured this out he could have.

After a short stop at Muret to visit Albast’s tomb, the party moved on toward Kivas. It began to rain, and Glyph began to laugh. It had been too long since he had seen so much water falling from the sky. It was especially egregious to Zarabish who was forced to take shelter as Glyph, Ishea, and Toban hurried to lash two of their supply wagons together end to end in order to provide enough cover for her demon-sized frame. The fanfare at Kivas was a bit subdued due to the weather, but a great party had been arranged to welcome home their King. A large statue of Glyph now resided in the main square, just before the entrance to the mountain castle. It depicted him standing in the stirrups of his horse with his sword drawn pointing the way to victory. Glyph smiled. Never in a million years would he have thought that there would be a statue made in his likeness.

Turim greeted them at the entrance, “My Lord, it is so good to see you again.” He said a bit shakily. “I hope you do not mind, I took the liberty of organizing a welcome home banquet.”

Glyph was concerned over Turim’s pale color, then remembered that the last time he had seen him, he had threatened to throw Turim from a castle window.

“I do not mind at all Turim, and thank you.”

Turim breathed a sigh of relief and led them to their chambers. Luckily the ceilings were just high enough for Zarabish to move about freely. With every servant they passed, Glyph could imagine the rumors spreading about the King’s pet demon. Thanks to Turim, a large storage room with a vaulted roof near the ground floor had been cleared as a temporary residence for the female demon, who was a bit surprised that anyone had even considered her size. After Glyph made sure that Zarabish had everything she would need, he took his leave of her and headed for his own room. Once safely in his quarters, Glyph removed his wet clothing and headed for the showers. He was amazed at how well he remembered his way around after four years, and made his way down the spiral steps to the bath area. Glyph stepped into the bath and pulled the lever that released the warm water from the cisterns above, and lay down to soak. He tried not to think too much.

That evening in the banquet hall, Glyph loaded up on the local red wine, and basked in the attention given to the long lost King. He introduced Zarabish to a stunned crowd, but to their credit, no one said or did anything inappropriate. The only one who seemed to have a problem was the previous general, a man by the name of Bose Finnicks. Glyph allowed him to keep his rank, but made perfectly clear that Zarabish was the master General of the Kivan military. Zarabish engaged him directly most of the evening, and after a few tankards of ale General Finnicks was regaling them with stories of the Second War of Drathus. Glyph thought he recognized the man, but had never actually met him; he had been General Hilen’s second in command. By early morning most of the guests had left, and Lobrein approached Glyph.

“So what are your plans now Glyph?” She asked.

“I think a nice soft bed and a good nights sleep.” Glyph replied.

Lobrein laughed. “It is so good to be home. I had almost forgotten what it was like.” She said.

Then Glyph beckoned her closer. “I would like to find the rest of the Seven. We will need all the help we can get.”

“It would be good to see them again too.” Lobrein added.

He turned his head slightly and caught Ishea looking at him from across the grand hall. She had been rather standoffish since they had talked about Verto on the ride home. “Any ideas on where to look?” He asked.

“I may have a few.” She said, then noticed him staring at Ishea. “She will come around Glyph. She has been through an awful lot lately.”

“Yeah, I know. We all have.”

A week later, Lobrein and Miatsu left to find the two remaining wizards. Ishea had slowly warmed up to him, and it seemed as long as he didn’t mention Verto or Priam she was perfectly content. Zarabish too, seemed to be fitting in quite nicely; she and Toban had already cleared a new battle drill area, and had begun to run the troops through their new training regime.

Two months later, during a training exercise, a frayed rope broke free on a catapult causing a misfire. The rock careened wildly through a field of soldiers and killed several instantly. Toban was mortally wounded in the incident. The large boulder plowed into his horse killing it and crushing Toban from the waist down.

General Zarabish teleported to the scene from a nearby overlook, and walked to where the boulder had come to rest. Toban lay pinned beneath its mass, as Zarabish knelt beside the dying Steward.

“Help the others.” Toban commanded hoarsely.

“The others are dead.” She responded. Several of the soldiers had begun to throw ropes over the rock in an attempt to pull it off of Toban.

“Glyph…Ishea?” Toban croaked out, his face now drained of all color.

“Word has been sent, but there is not enough time. You will be dead before they arrive.” Zarabish said soberly. “I believe I am the only one who can help you. Do you want my assistance?” She asked him, unsure of what she would be able to do.

Toban nodded his approval, already unable to speak, as blood flowed freely from his mouth.

“Clear the area! Now!” Zarabish bellowed, as shocked soldiers stopped and stared at her. “This will likely cause immense pain.” She explained to Toban. Placing her hand to the side of the rock, it cracked in half, and with her free hand she waved the pieces away from Toban’s flattened body.

Toban let out one shrill gargling scream as blood tried to reenter his crushed extremities. Zarabish, in desperation, attempted a healing spell on Toban, placing her hand over his whole head. She began to whisper, and chant, her face contorting with effort. One of the soldiers began to yell at her, demanding to know what she was doing, before several others dragged him off, leaving her to her task. Zarabish’s breathing became labored, and several of her muscles began to twitch involuntarily. Her whispers became frantic as a red glow began to flow down the length of Toban’s body, slowly enveloping his crushed lower torso. Soldiers began to form a ring around them, watching in fascination as the blood pouring from Toban’s mouth slowed to a stop. Zarabish began to pour more power into the spell, a spell she had never had cause to perform, even if she had been allowed to do so. After several minutes, the pain of the effort made her scream out momentarily, but she went right back to it. She was determined to put herself between Toban and the grip that death had placed over him. She could only hear her heartbeat pounding in her head as the demon moved her hand over his crushed legs. Her body weaved slowly back and forth as she forced herself to give more and more power to the spell. Soon Toban began to breathe again, as Zarabish managed to stabilize his condition, keeping him alive until Ishea and Glyph arrived, before succumbing and passing out.

Toban lived because of her actions, and in great pomp and circumstance Glyph bestowed upon her the rank of full demon status, for her successful completion of the Jakarute.

“Due to her quick thinking, General Zarabish performed a healing spell, against her very nature, to save Steward Toban’s life. Therefore in accordance with demon tradition she shall be awarded full demon status, and will from this day forward be known as Zarish.” Glyph announced at the ceremony to thunderous cheers. If demons could cry she might well have that day. Zarish had won the respect of the Kivan military, and the rest of her doubters would soon follow.

Over the next several months, elite forces of soldiers arrived from all the M’atran countries, except Priam, to learn fighting techniques specifically designed for demon warfare. Even a small group from Deltur showed up, though Glyph secretly wondered if they were really here to spy, and report back to Rokka when they returned. General Zarish herself would engage groups of up to eight soldiers in combat at a time. She taught them how to work together to achieve success in defeating her, and some of them were getting quite good. Zarish had plenty of opportunity to perfect her healing spell, particularly on herself.

Glyph would also take part in the exercises, and trained on a daily basis with Ishea during Lobrein’s absence, to improve his skills as a sorcerer. At night Glyph would study anything he could get his hands on, including many of Albast’s books on portals and dimension travel. He could see his power growing quickly, and his unconventional way of doing magic helped him to push the envelope.

They would occasionally receive word from Lobrein, and on one such occasion Ishea entered his quarters to tell Glyph the news. “They have found Prianna!” Ishea said as she burst through the door.

“Prianna, isn’t she the one apprenticed to Lobrein?” Glyph asked.

“Yes, I knew Lobrein could find her. She was like an older sister to me. They convinced her to return with them. That only leaves Morracor.” Ishea gushed.

“And he was Drayden’s student.” Glyph stated.

“Correct. Oh Glyph, it has been so long since I have seen any of them. I cannot wait, it will be just like when I was younger.”

Glyph stared at her. “There’s been something I’ve been meaning to ask you. I’ve been watching the living tapestry for well over a year now, hoping to find the answer, but since I have returned it has not moved.”

“What?” Ishea replied, her brow furrowing ever so slightly. “The Tapestry only operates in time of great need, besides why would you need to see an answer that I could give to you.”

Glyph could tell she was thinking that he was about to bring up the whole Verto thing again. “Well, I was thinking the other day that we don’t know how long it will be before Tsach attempts to come after me. What I mean is, it could be days or years, but he will come eventually.” Glyph said and rubbed the back of his neck.

“So what are you getting at?” Ishea responded.

“It’s just that our time here together is limited, and I think we should spend that time enjoying each other’s company.” Glyph said.

Ishea’s left eyebrow raised up a bit. “Are we not enjoying each other’s company right now?”

“Yes, but I was considering something a bit more formal.” Glyph offered.

She turned her head slightly to one side. “What exactly do you want to ask me, Glyph?” Ishea said more seriously.

Glyph paused a moment, and reached into his desk drawer. He pulled out a small wooden box and opened it. Reaching inside he produced a ring and handed it to her. “Ishea, will you marry me?”

Ishea looked momentarily stunned, then gasped and threw her arms around Glyph’s neck. “Yes! Oh Glyph!” she cried out in joy.

The news spread quickly, and a date was set. Plans for the wedding ceremony were given to Turim, who was delighted with the task. Glyph had been King for nearly eighteen months, and shortly Kivastor would have a new queen.

A few days before the ceremony, Glyph awoke in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. He lay there staring at the ceiling for several minutes, trying to figure out what it was that had jarred him from his sleep. Unable to come up with a reason he got up to relieve himself in the chamber pot. “Light.” He called out and the torches on the wall burst into flames. As he made his way around the bed the Tapestry caught his eye. It had changed! Glyph produced his own magical light source and directed it at the woven fabric.

“No. No! This can’t be right!” He shouted. His knees felt weak, and he sat down on the edge of his bed. The Tapestry depicted a man walking on a city street. Glyph recognized the man as Amos. A giant portal was opening in front of him, and through that portal Glyph could see the Arch-demon Tsach. This was the catalyst that Albast said Amos would witness, it was clearly the start of the third demon war, only… Tsach wasn’t coming through the portal to attack M’atra as they had thought, he was attacking Earth.
End Book II

The Hour Book2 Chapter 25

The light swirled around them and suddenly vanished. Glyph looked around, and discovered that they were standing on the porch of Albast’s cabin in his inner sanctum. A soft breeze shuffled by as Glyph, Amos, and Zarabish exchanged glances.

Glyph made his way toward the entrance, and turned the handle of the door, opening it a crack. “Hey! Albast! You in here?” he called, pausing to listen for a response.

“I guess we’ll have a look around.” Glyph mumbled as he pushed the door inwards.

The layout of the cabin seemed familiar, and then it hit him; this was Ishea’s cabin, the one in the mountains near Kivas. This looked exactly like the place Ishea had taken Glyph when she had first brought him to M’atra. Glyph moved slowly among the piles of scrolls, furniture and other artifacts. Amos followed him in, and Zarabish, who was too large for the doorway, elected to stay outside.

A few scrolls fell to the floor as he made his way across the great room. Glyph stooped to pick them up and place them back on the pile, when something caught his eye. He began to read the first line out loud. “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…” Glyph looked at Amos. “Dude, that’s The Declaration of Independence.” He stated and handed it to Amos. Glyph opened the next one. “This is the Emancipation Proclamation.”

“He must be a U.S. History buff, or something.” Amos commented.

“I wonder what this is?” Glyph said while reaching over to a small pedestal with a leather bound book perched upon it. Glyph turned it over and opened it up. “The Merlin Prophecies. Wonder what that’s about?” He said and placed it back on the stand.

“I heard about them, there was some doomsday special on the History channel I watched a couple of weeks ago. It ranks right up there with the writings of Nostradamus, and they both predict the end of the world.” Amos replied.

“I collect all manner of things.” Albast’s voice rang out from the hallway entrance. Both Glyph and Amos stared at him like they were deer caught in headlights. “The people here are most ingenious. Why, the rifle alone puts them years beyond the inhabitants of M’atra.” Albast smiled. “You could say that I am a student of history, but only because I have lived it. Surely you didn’t think that I have never left the confines of my sanctum?”

“Actually, I never really thought about it. I’ve been pretty busy lately.” Glyph replied.

“Well, I am glad to see you both alive. Let us adjourn to the porch, so as not to be rude to our demon friend.” Amos and Glyph turned around and made their way back to the front door and stepped out onto the porch. “Please, have a seat. I trust all went well?”

“You could say that.” Glyph replied.

“We’re here, aren’t we?” Amos chimed in.

“You didn’t use the Tome to destroy the gate, so how did you do it? I must confess, by the time I got around to checking on your progress, it seemed as if the battle was already over.” Albast asked.

            “I created a lake over top of it. I sunk the gate a thousand feet into the ground and filled it up.” Glyph explained.

            “Astounding. I would have never thought of doing it that way.” Albast commented. “Of course, I’m fairly certain I couldn’t do it that way.”

“It was impressive, to say the least.” Zarabish spoke up.

“We lived up to our end of the bargain, Albast. No one knows you’re alive, and the gate has been rendered inoperable. Now, what did you find out about our curse?” Glyph asked, getting right to the point.

 “Ah, yes. I’m sure you’re all very anxious to get this done. I have studied my calculations, and I believe I can remove Amos and Zarabish from the curse. Once that is done I will attempt to change your curse back to its original form. If all goes according to plan you, Glyph, will be sent to M’atra, while your duplicate will remain here in my sanctum.” Albast replied.

“I don’t know, you didn’t sound too sure of that last part.” Glyph announced.

“What I intend to do will be difficult, require all of my attention, and drain my strength. The risk to you is minimal; at worst I will fail and your curse will remain the same. I’m sure there is no other way to end your curse, other than the death or destruction of all but one of the people or things that contain the power of the curse. Currently, that is Ishea, and the Tome of Dark Lore now in your possession.” Albast explained.

“Can’t the holder of the curse’s power give it up?” Glyph asked.

“It is the nature of a curse to, in some fashion, destroy a person’s life. To that end, the person who should unleash such a malicious spell must also pay a price. The progenitor must bear the power of that curse upon himself for the rest of his life. There is no giving it away, no taking back of what they have done. I was duped into cursing myself, and like a novice I jumped at the chance. It looked so simple, but now, now I understand it all too well. It is like a stain that can never be washed away, and becomes a mark upon your soul. I hold part of the power of my own curse, if I could have given it away I would have done so centuries ago.” Albast said while he rocked slowly back and forth.

“So why don’t you destroy the book and solve both your problems?” Amos asked.

“No.” Glyph and Albast spoke in unison, causing them to quickly stare at each other.

“You’re both so addicted to that thing you’d rather live the rest of your lives being cursed.” Amos said and shook his head in disgust.

“Do not be so quick to judge, Amos. Drayden knew the pain of its siren call all too well, perhaps you might understand Glyph’s and my own situation better if you would try and access his feelings on the subject.” Albast replied.

“Or better yet…” Glyph said and pulled the Tome from his inner pocket and tossed it toward Amos.

Lunging from his chair, Amos dodged the book, fell into a forward roll and came to his feet cursing. “What the fuck are you doing?!” He yelled at Glyph.

Glyph used his mind to snatch the Tome and levitate it back to his hand and tucked it away in his vest. “I’m tired of your holier-than-thou bullshit. Do you think I would have ever touched that thing if I knew what it would do to me? Besides, arguing over our personal reasons for not wanting to destroy the book gets us nowhere.”

“Oh it’s a bit of a sore point with you? Rubs you the wrong way, does it? That’s addiction my friend. I’ve seen it nearly every day for the last twenty years of my life.” Amos shot back.

“What is, is. I’ll deal with it later.”

“It is simply not the right time, Amos.” Albast interjected.

“And what do you know of it? It’s not the right time? What the hell is that? When is the right time? You know more than you’re letting on, and you want to talk about tired? I’m tired of being the mouse nibbling on your cheesy forecast of the future. If you know something then spill it!” Amos demanded.

Albast appeared to be taken aback, then quickly recovered and began to chuckle. “You chose well, Glyph.”

“I didn’t choose anybody, and I’m with Amos on this one. The prophecies have apparently been fulfilled, and no one seems to know what is going to happen next. The only one who knows what’s going on is you, so let’s have it.” Glyph said.

Albast shook his head. “I do not know anything for certain, and what I believe will happen may not in fact come to pass. But, I see you will not take no for an answer.” Albast sighed and continued. “As near as I can discern, a great war will take place between the forces of good and evil. Events have been set into motion to reset the balance of the universe, and you are at the center. It all revolves around you.”

“What about the Drayden prophecies?” Amos asked, slowly regaining his composure.

“Once you learn to access Drayden’s animus, you will know the answers to what you seek. Suffice it to say that Drayden recorded the prophecies he saw in the Tome of Dark Lore, those that were revealed only to him. It concerned his death, and his replacement. I believe it is one of the reasons I am here. You see, I am to train you in the ways of what I like to call Martial Magic.” Albast disseminated.

“Who, me?” Amos asked.

“The choice is yours of course, but I had hoped to build upon your skills, and teach you how to perform magic. I do not know when the war will start, but I do know that you must be versed in the ways of magic when it does. You will all have your roles to play of course. Mine is to show you how to access Drayden’s experience, so you will be an effective fighting force against that evil.”

“So what are my choices?” Amos questioned him.

“You have several. You may return to your life here on Earth and remain in ignorance. You would be at a slight advantage over the rest of humankind, but displays of magic would elude you should you try them. The second choice would be to return with Glyph and Zarabish to M’atra, where, after years of study, you would likely be a mediocre wizard at best. Or you can choose to remain here, and learn how to use your powers to their fullest potential.”

“So I would return to M’atra when the war starts?”

“You will be on the front line when it begins.” Albast commented.

“So where are these prophecies?” Glyph prompted.

“Lost to time I suppose. It’s likely that only Amos could tell us for sure. I only know what Drayden shared with me before I foolishly released the Asundering curse upon myself.”

“I could come back with you, Glyph. Maybe I can tap Drayden’s memories and we might find the prophecies.” Amos offered, staring intently at Glyph.

“I would like that, but knowing the prophecies won’t help us that much, at least not as much as having you trained as a full wizard. If you are to be on the front line, you wouldn’t last a minute against a group of demons.” Glyph suggested.

“You will personally witness the catalyst that starts the war Amos, at least if Drayden was right.” Albast added.

“The old one is correct. If you are to be the first line of defense in a war of such magnitude, you would fare better as a trained wizard. The absence of your presence would be felt, should you perish.” Zarabish interrupted.

 “Zarabish, you ole’ softy” Glyph called out in fun.

“I only meant that his strategic importance would be missed.” Zarabish huffed.

“I know what you meant, Zarabish.” Amos said. “And thanks.” He added.

“I must know your answer before I try to remove you from Glyph’s curse, so I know where to place your body.”

“You said training Amos was one of the reasons, what are the others?” Glyph asked Albast.

“Hm? Well, to help you of course.” Albast replied.

“And…”

And, to know a prophecy is not the same as knowing how to act upon it. Suffice it to say that those are the only two reasons I am sure of.”

“So you know the prophecies, you’re just not going to share them with us.” Glyph said.

“It would not matter. If they reveal themselves to you I will be happy to discuss my interpretation. But to tell you outright might change the outcome; there is only so much I am able to do. In that respect, yes, I am not going to share.” Albast explained.

“That’s what I thought.” Glyph commented, and Amos just shook his head.

“Well, I think it’s probably time to remove Zarabish and Amos from your curse. I must prepare a few things. When I return, I would like Glyph to stand with Zarabish on one side, and Amos on the other.” Albast instructed as he stood from his seat and walked through the doorway to his cabin. “Just a few items, that’s all” He called back through the entrance.

Glyph stood and walked over to Zarabish, and Amos followed. “So what do you think?” Glyph asked Zarabish.

“About what?”

“About any of this. What are your thoughts?”

“I think the wizard has made some valid points. He has also told us only what he wants us to know, and has withheld the rest. I am not sure if he can be trusted, but I was once unsure if you could be trusted.” Zarabish stated in a low voice.

“You are very astute, that’s exactly what I was thinking. What about you Amos?”

“I’d say that about sums it up.” Amos answered.

“It is my job to be astute, is it not?” Zarabish asked.

“That it is, and you do it well.” Glyph replied with a smile.

Just then Albast walked out carrying a small bowl, two small bundles of grasses and a few scrolls. Putting them on the steps of the porch, he turned and looked at all of them. He walked over to Glyph and directed him to move a few steps to his right, and then moved Amos a little further away from Glyph until they were evenly spaced with Glyph in the middle.

“Zarabish, leader of all free demons, where would you like to be once I remove the curse?” Albast queried.

“I would like to be on the world of M’atra.”

“Excellent choice. I sincerely hope I will have the pleasure of meeting you again someday.” He said to the demon. “Do you have your stories straight? You will be appearing on M’atra before Glyph, and I’m sure there will be questions if you are noticed.”

Zarabish glanced at Glyph, who shrugged in return.

“Just tell them I found out how to end my curse in the Tome of Dark Lore. Tell them I performed the spell and you found yourself back on M’atra.” Glyph suggested, and Zarabish nodded.

“That should be adequate.” Albast stated, then turned toward Amos. “Amos, the replacement, spiritual leader of the Hexzu, what is your choice?”

“Damn, I forgot about the Hexzu.” Amos said as the stress began to furrow his brow.

“I can explain it to Grot; I’ll tell him you were sent back to Earth. I’m sure he’ll understand.” Glyph offered.

Amos looked torn, and then a measure of resolve crossed his face. He looked Albast in the eye and said, “I would like to stay here on Earth, as your student.”

Albast smiled. “Very well.” He said, and turned around and opened the three scrolls and laid them out beside each other.

“Don’t worry, man, I have everything right here.” Amos whispered to Glyph pointing at his head. “When I figure out what’s going to happen, I’ll find a way to let you know.”

Glyph nodded in response.

Albast read the first scroll aloud, and rolled it back up. Picking up the bowl, he walked to Glyph, dabbed his forefinger into what looked to Glyph to be silver paint, and began to draw patterns on Glyph’s face and arms. When he finished, Albast painted symbols on Zarabish and Amos as well. Returning to the cabin steps, he put down the bowl, and then read the second scroll out loud. Finishing, he rolled it up like the first and placed it back on the porch steps. Albast then picked up a bundle of tied grass in each hand and raised them over his head. The ends of the grass lit on fire as he did so. He brought them to his mouth and blew them both out, the coals still burning like incense. Moving back toward Zarabish he waved the smoke all around her, and did the same to Amos. Finally he read the third scroll, placed it beside the other two and strode to face Zarabish.

“Tritese amoc verbecullum!” He shouted. “Esruca emohot M’atra!”

“I’ll see you soon.” Glyph called out to the demon as he watched her start to fade from view, and then suddenly vanish.

Albast now faced Amos. “Duotese amoc verbecullum! Esruca emohot Earth!”

Glyph saw Amos fade and vanish, only to reappear a moment later in the same place. Albast sagged to the ground and sat with his head propped against his knees.

“It is done.” The old wizard stated.

Amos looked around and approached Albast. “Are you alright?”

“I will be. It took a little more than I thought it would. Could you help me up?”

Amos reached down and took the wizards hand and helped him back to his feet.

“Just give me a few moments, and I will be ready to try and help you, Glyph.” Albast said as he sat down on the steps to his porch.

“You know, there’s something that’s been bugging me about this curse business.” Amos said.

“What’s that?” Glyph asked, as they stood there waiting for Albast to recover.

“Well, as I understand it, if Albast changes your curse, won’t he then hold part of the curse’s power also?”

Glyph looked over at Albast, and back at Amos. “You’re right. That would mean that even if the book were destroyed I would still be cursed, and it would leave the power in Ishea and Albast.”

“Which means that one of them would have to die in order for the curse to be broken.” Amos continued.

“You are both correct.” Albast finally spoke. “The power of the curse spreads like a wild fire to anyone or anything that can tap into it. It is quite insidious.”

“I don’t know, Albast, this may not be such a good idea after all.” Glyph announced.

“I knew the risks before I attempted the ritual spell to remove Zarabish and Amos. It is already too late.” Albast informed them.

“Then I will be cursed forever.”

“There are worse things to live with, trust me. And that is not to say that the spell to end the curse may yet be revealed to you.” Albast stated.

“That sounds like a big ‘if’.” Amos commented.

“Even if that day never comes, Ishea or I may yet perish. Although we might live forever, it does not mean we can’t be killed.” Albast said, and nodded at Amos.

“Great, like that gives me something to look forward to.” Glyph said sarcastically.

“The damage is done. It would be foolish not to continue.” Albast said, “I believe I am ready now.”

“Alright. Let’s get this over with.” Glyph said after a moment of silence.

Very well, then. Remember Glyph, it may be years before the war begins. You are not to reveal my existence until it does, and be sure to use your time wisely.”

Glyph nodded and Albast had him sit on the ground facing the steps. Closing his eyes, Albast reached out and placed his hand on Glyph’s head and began to whisper incantations. Glyph stole a look at Amos who held up his one hand with fingers crossed. Albast’s voice became increasingly louder, as the minutes ticked by. It almost sounded like he was speaking Latin, but Glyph was not familiar enough with the language to know for sure.

After what seemed like an eternity, Glyph could feel himself rising up into the air, as if levitating. He was looking all around as he went higher, almost cresting the roof of Albast’s cabin. Glyph glanced downward, only to see Amos standing beside Albast, who still had his hand on Glyph’s forehead. For a moment his body seemed to flicker in and out of reality, and for a split second there were two of him, then one again. At that moment the winds came and sucked all the air from Glyph’s lungs. Then the darkness surrounded him, hopefully for the last time.

 

Glyph felt as if he had awoken from a dream, as his eyes flicked open and stared up at the sky. It was dawn, and a quick look around told him all he needed to know; it had worked. Getting to his feet, he flipped back the opening to Zarabish’s tent and walked inside.

“I see the attempt was successful,” Zarabish said as he entered. The demon sat there calmly sharpening a spear point she had taken from the battle the day before.

“It’s good to see you too.” Glyph said and stretched. “Let’s go get some breakfast; I think it’s going to be a long day.”

The Hour Book2 Chapter 24

Glyph thought about going in search of some sustenance. Anything would be preferable to the week’s worth of Turmur he had eaten. Just then Ishea and Lobrein strolled in carrying what looked like chicken and some green vegetables. Ishea placed the tray on the makeshift table next to Glyph’s hammock and then conjured up some chairs. Lobrein dropped some water skins onto the floor between them.

“For me? You shouldn’t have.” Glyph said sarcastically.

“Of course for you, silly.” Ishea said with a huge grin that lit up the room. Lobrein rolled her eyes slightly and sat down. Glyph reached over, grabbed a bird leg, and began to munch down. Lobrein and Ishea sat down in the chairs and did the same.

“Is this a working lunch? Or are you just here to visit?” Glyph asked them in between bites.

“A working lunch? I declare it is impossible to understand you at times, Glyph.” Lobrein replied.

“Is it business, or pleasure?” Glyph clarified.

“Perhaps a bit of both. We were curious as to your plans for the meeting tomorrow.” Lobrein stated.

“She hates surprises, Glyph.” Ishea commented, and winked at him.

“Well I’ve been giving it some thought. We’ll have to explain a few things first, like the Hexzu and Zarabish.” He paused and took a drink of water. “There will also have to be some sort of watch over the lake at all times. Just to make sure the demons don’t try and open the portal again.”

“You do realize that Tsach will find a way to come after you.” Lobrein said pointedly.

He glanced up at her, “I know.” Glyph said meeting her gaze as he tossed a handful of beans into his mouth. A long silence followed as Glyph chewed up some more vegetables and took another bite of meat.

“Well, what do you intend to do about it?” Lobrein asked

“I’m glad you asked.” He replied and wiped his mouth. “We are going to prepare for all out invasion. First and foremost I will begin training, to practice and push my powers to the limit. Second, I plan on training the Kivan military, and anyone else who wants to know, how to fight against demons. I gave the job to Zarabish, she now holds the rank of General of the Kivan army.”

 “Are you mad?” Lobrein exclaimed, nearly falling from her seat. “You cannot put a demon in charge of the Kivan military!”

“Actually he can. Glyph is the king of Kivastor, and I think it an excellent idea. Who better to teach an army how to fight and kill demons, than an actual demon?” Ishea informed her.

“Do you think for an instant that the people of M’atra will just welcome her with open arms? You have only known this demoness for what, three days? She could still have it in her mind to try and spy for Tsach.”

“They will. They have to, just as they will have to accept the Hexzu. If this is going to work, all of M’atra will have to learn to work together, and most importantly, fight together. Zarabish does not sound ideal, I know that, but she is the right person for the job.” Glyph paused. “As for how long I’ve known her; I met her twelve hours after I first met you. Should I suspect you of treachery as well?”

“She is a demon, Glyph!” Lobrein spat.

“And I am the line between you. Or did you forget already? If I am the Great One, and I am here to restore the balance of good and evil in the universe, then I have to do it my way. For whatever reason, the demons have been chosen to be the evil, just as M’atra is the good. It doesn’t mean that all demons are bad, and all M’atrans are good. I believe that Zarabish has the best of intentions, and has earned my respect. If that means trust than so be it.”

There was a moment of silence after Glyph finished. Lobrein stared at him as if she wasn’t sure who he was, and Ishea gazed at the cave wall to her left as if she might break into tears any second.

Lobrein glanced at Ishea, and then back at Glyph. “Very well, but I wash my hands of the whole affair.”

“No.”

“What?” Lobrein asked Glyph as if unsure of what she had heard.

“That’s not good enough. This is the second time you’ve told me that, and I’m telling you, that doesn’t fly.”

“Fly?”

“It doesn’t work, Lobrein. You have to accept Zarabish, just as Ishea, Grot, and all the other leaders of this world have to accept her. We have to lead by example, and if you’re washing your hands of it, others will as well.

“For someone who is thousands of years old, your wisdom on this seems a bit lacking, or have your prejudices grown so deep that they decide what is right and wrong?” Glyph accused her.

When Lobrein didn’t reply, Glyph continued. “Think about it, either we have a united front and a chance at restoring the balance between good and evil, or we stand alone and hope for the best. It’s all about the balance, the evil in the universe has been disproportionate for far too long, but if we eradicate it then we risk having the pendulum swing back against us in the future. I’ll need your support; you, Ishea, everyone. Without it I feel we will be doomed to failure.”

“Lobrein, please.” Ishea interjected, “Can you not see that this is the way? Glyph is the Great One, he may not be what you expected, but at least consider what he is saying; what he has done.”

“I cannot fault your logic, Glyph. Perhaps not all demons are completely evil, only time will tell. There is certainly no doubt that you are the Great One, and it appears that for the moment you will have some time to grow not just your power, but your control and discipline as well. For as long as you have the best interest of M’atra at heart, I will give you my support.” Lobrein finally said.

“Thank you.” Glyph responded. “As soon as we are settled back in Kivas, we could work out some schedule for my training. I would be honored if you were a part of that process.”

“I do not know why, but I always thought you would come to us as an accomplished wizard. I guess there are worse things than helping to train the Great One.” Lobrein replied and laughed a little.

Ishea beamed at both of them, and ate some more fruit from the tray. Glyph noted her attitude had completely changed since he had effectively, and permanently, closed the portal. She seemed to have forgiven Lobrein for hiding the relationship between them. It also appeared that she had forgotten that her name, her real name, implied that she was a much more powerful sorceress. Glyph wondered about the ramifications of it all, but let it drop. He was just glad to see her happy again.

They ate the rest of their meal, and talked about how Glyph finally decided to shut the portal. Ishea even asked him what a toilet was, and Glyph explained it to her in detail. Both Ishea and Lobrein were interested in the mechanism and how it worked. Glyph was beginning to think he would have to create one, but they caught on fairly quickly. He had a feeling there would be some toilets being installed in their quarters in Kivas when they returned. They soon took their leave of him to check on some soldiers they had been healing, with Ishea turning and blowing him a kiss on the way out of the cave.

Glyph sat there awhile and thought about everything that had happened in the last ten days. It was hard to believe he had only been free for that long. He was glad to finally relax and let some of his built up stress melt away, but the longer he sat there the more worried he became. He had never had a real chance to relax; there was always something he had to do, someone to fight, some war to win, and he began to think that maybe it wasn’t over yet. What if something happened when he returned to Earth, or if Albast couldn’t help him, then what? He knew Tsach would come after him eventually, but what if it was tomorrow, or the next day? This sitting around resting was starting to drive him crazy.

Glyph quickly sat up and was just getting ready to stand when Grot and Greem entered into the cave. He could tell that Grot was having trouble walking, his one leg twisted to the outside every time he took a step.

“Grot, Greem, how are you?” Glyph said as he stood and bumped forearms with each of them.

“We are well, Great One, but we would ask the same of you.” Grot replied.

“I’m alright, I guess.” Glyph said. “You know you can call me Glyph, right?”

“I would not wish to offend you.” Grot said.

“There is no offense to be taken. I consider you both my friends, and Great One sounds so formal.” Glyph replied, then paused. “Now that the fighting seems to be over, I was wondering if I might be able to sit down and talk to you about Crowf.” Grot and Greem exchanged glances, and Glyph looked around, now worried that Crowf may not have survived the battle.

“That will not be possible, Great…Glyph.” Grot said correcting himself at the last minute.

Glyph’s heart sank, “Is he alive?”

“He was, the last time I saw him. Crowf, and a few of his friends, decided that they would stay behind in Degruthras.” Grot said somewhat solemnly.

“What? Is he crazy?” Glyph asked.

“He thought it would be better to stay, and continue to fight Tsach, than to come here with you.” Grot answered.

“Grot, I don’t know what to say, I am sorry.”

“Do not be. Crowf stayed with my blessing. He has fought against the demon occupation his entire life, and spent years trying to gain the trust of that witch Cruix. It would be better for him to die fighting against Tsach, than to live here on this world in misery.” Grot explained.

After a moment of silence, Greem spoke up. “Great One—.” He started, then caught Glyph’s look. “Glyph, we are anxious to get settled, but we are not sure where you would like us to set our residence.”

“Well it’s a big desert, I’m sure there’s a suitable place somewhere.” Glyph replied.

“We do not know our boundaries, we do not wish to stake claim to something that has already been spoken for.” Grot clarified.

Glyph rubbed his chin. “I think I see what you’re getting at.” He said smiling. “Maybe we should go take a look around and figure this out.” Glyph said, and belted on his sword. Grabbing a water bladder, he slung it over his shoulder and made for the exit. Stepping out onto the desert sand, Glyph shielded his eyes from the glaring mid-day sun.

“Shall we?” Glyph said and pointed upward toward the sky. “I’m sure the view is much better from up there.”

Grot scowled happily and shook his head. “You do not like to waste time.”

“There’s no better time than the present.” Glyph replied and smiled back. He felt Greem’s familiar grip as they lifted off the ground, and began to circle as they ascended higher.

Glyph pointed toward the mountains south of them. “The tallest mountain is called Toleth’va, it belongs to the monks of Priam. I would stay clear of it just to be considerate of your neighbors.” Glyph shouted over at Grot. “The mountain range extends west to the ocean. If you split it lengthwise, the southern half belongs to Deltur, the northern half belongs to you.”

“And the desert, how much of the desert may we use.” Grot spoke loudly over the buffeting winds.

Glyph looked over at him quizzically. “The people of this world don’t care much for the arid environment, and it has never been claimed. Therefore you may use as much of it as you wish, I hope it’s enough.”

“You mean, all of this?” Grot replied sweeping his arm back across the horizon, as he hovered in place.

Glyph chuckled. “You didn’t think I’d invite you to live here, and then confine you to some small cave did you?”

Grot just stared at him, not knowing how to respond.

“The Hexzu are a free people Grot, and I am not an Overlord. I know it’s a tough adjustment, but I think you’ll get used to it.” Glyph shouted.

Grot scowled happily, and Greem began to laugh out loud. “We will send out scouting parties right away. Some of us have a seventh sense for locating large caverns. I am sure we will find something to suit our needs.”

“Glad to hear it.” Glyph replied, feeling rather pleased for making good on his promise to the Hexzu.

“Shall we return?” Grot asked him.

“You go Grot, I’ll return Greem to you in a little while, if that’s alright?” Glyph queried.

“Of course, Glyph.” Grot replied, and dived back toward the ground.

“What did you have in mind Grea–Glyph?” Greem questioned.

“Let’s head for the Pass.” Glyph replied, smiling over Greem’s trouble calling him Glyph.

“Where is that?”

Glyph pointed and Greem shifted to the right and entered a forty-five degree angled dive toward the base of Toleth’va. About twenty minutes later, Glyph pointed to a small group of tiny dots moving across the desert floor. “Set us down in front of them.” Glyph shouted. Greem angled his pitch toward the right and began to slowly glide in a large circle, eventually landing a few hundred feet in front of a group of Kivan soldiers.

Glyph pulled his water skin to his lips and took a large drink.

“Glyph, who are these people?” Greem asked.

“Friends, Greem. Old friends.” Glyph told him.

A few minutes later, Toban and several soldiers approached warily. Suddenly Toban let out a shout. “King Glyph!” and ran closer toward him, stopping short at the sight of Greem. “My Lord, it is so good to see you again!” he exclaimed, never taking his eyes off the Hexzu. “I am sorry we did not make it in time to assist in the battle.”

Glyph walked over to the Steward of Kivastor, and gave him a hug. Toban whispered in his ear, “Are you in danger?”

Glyph started to laugh. “Always looking out for me, eh Toban? It is good to see you as well my old friend. Allow me to introduce my new friend Greem, he is second in command of the Hexzu, and our new neighbor.” Toban steadily extended his hand toward Greem, who moved his own arm sideways to bump Toban’s forearm.

“Well met, friend of the Great One.” Greem said addressing Toban.

“The honor is mine sir. Any friend of King Glyph is my friend as well.” Toban replied.

“Toban watches over things while I’m away.” Glyph informed Greem.

“Great One, I should return. There is much work to be done.”

“I understand, Greem. Please inform the others that I will be riding back with Toban.” Glyph said. Greem nodded and turned to fly away. “Oh Greem, thanks for the lift.”

“Anytime, just give the word.” Greem replied, smiled a scowl at Glyph, and leapt into the air and flew off.

“Interesting company you keep now.” Toban commented as he watched Greem sailing away on the wind. “So what has happened? I received word that the portal had been reopened, and that an invading army was about to attack. We have been marching day and night ever since. Of course, without the benefit of the continental pylons it has taken us several weeks. Then shortly before we reached the Pass, we were told to send the armies back. And where have you been? When Lady Ishea did not return after several months I became terribly worried. I had given up hope of ever seeing either of you again.”

“It’s a long story, Toban.” Glyph replied. “I will tell you all about it while we ride to the Portal.”

Toban signaled to one of his guards and a horse was brought to the front of the line. “O’dista!” Glyph almost shouted.

“When I learned of your imminent return, I made sure to bring him along. It is a long walk to Kivas.” Toban said and smiled. “Of course I see you have other means of transportation now.”

Glyph patted the horse’s head and mounted onto its back. “I guess I’ll start from the beginning.” Glyph then launched into his tale from the time he had disappeared in the Pass after defeating Drathus. Toban cringed when he heard of Glyph’s incarceration on Earth.

“It was three long years for us as well.” Toban remarked, as Glyph explained the time differentials between the world of Degruthras and that of Earth and M’atra. “You mean only one month has passed for Lady Ishea since she entered the gate? That is incredible.”

“Yeah, tell me about it. We didn’t realize the difference in time held true for M’atra as well until we met Drayden.” Glyph told him.

Toban stopped his horse and stared at Glyph wide eyed. “The Drayden? Of the Seven?” Toban said astonished.

“The very same.” Glyph said, and continued with his story. He told him about the plan Albast, Lobrein, Drayden, and Verto had hatched after reading the Demon Book, being careful to leave Albast as having died. He then continued to tell him about Cruix, and how his hour curse came to be reinstated. Toban let out several gasps, as he explained how the Demon Queen had taken Ishea into her inner chambers, how Ishea had emerged victorious, and his attaining the rank of full Demon status.

“Apparently it is the mastery of the red magic.” Glyph replied, when Toban asked what full demon status meant. Glyph then talked about the Hexzu, and the battle of Okrune, Lobrein’s appearance, and the battle for the Bridge of Bones.

“The bridge was made of bone?” Toban asked.

“The bones of enslaved Hexzu. What the demons did to them was terribly tragic, but as horrific as the bridge sounds, it was an amazing work of engineering.” Glyph explained.

 He told Toban about Tsach, the Demon Lord that was now out to kill him, and how they learned that the massive army was marching against them. Finally, he explained how Drayden died as they retreated to the Portal with the Hexzu.

“A pity.” Toban commented, “I would have liked to meet him.”

“You still can, in a way.” Glyph said and went on to tell how Amos now carried the wizard’s animus. He shared how the prophecy stated that Amos was Drayden’s replacement.

“This is the same man who hunted you on Earth during your hour?”

“He changed, Toban. Once he realized Degruthras was real, and that I was telling the truth, he decided to see it our way.” Glyph said, and continued with his story.

When Glyph mentioned Zarabish, he thought Toban might fall off his steed.

“A female demon? And she is here now, on M’atra?” He questioned Glyph.

“And just so there are no surprises, I have made her General of the Kivan army.” Glyph said.

Toban stifled a laugh, and then did a double-take, staring at Glyph. “You are serious?”

“Tsach will never stop, he will find a way to get at me, and when that day comes, I want us all to be ready.”

“Forgive me for saying so, but is that wise?” Toban asked.

 “It will be a tough adjustment for everyone, but I know in my heart, it’s the right thing to do. She has defected, and is willing and ready to do what it takes to help us defeat Tsach, and believe me, we will need all the help we can get.” Glyph told him, but could tell by Toban’s expression that the thought did not set well with him. “I freed her from the Demon Lord’s control, just as I freed the Hexzu. They have both pledged their allegiance to me, and I trust them, just as I trust you. Toban, if this is going to work I will need your support.”

Toban looked up as if he were in deep thought. “Of course, Glyph. If what you say is true, and I believe that it is, then it would be to everyone’s advantage to learn all we can from the demon.” Toban said then paused. “Still, I do not know if everyone will be in agreement on the situation.”

“They will. I’ll see to that.” Glyph replied, took a long drink of water, and continued telling Toban the rest of the story up to and including his ingenious method of making sure the Portal would never be opened again.

Glyph finished as the sun was setting over the horizon, and the giant crater-lake had come into view. They rode to the top of the dune together and watched as the last rays of sunlight skittered across the surface of the water.

“I knew you were powerful Glyph, but this defies my imagination. I felt the tremor early this morning as we marched past Priam on our way to the Pass. It was you.” Toban relayed.

Glyph just nodded his head. “It’s getting dark, and I’m sure Ishea wants to see you.”

Toban smiled broadly at the thought. “It has been too long since I have seen either one of you. I feared the worst, and had given up hope that I might ever lay eyes upon you again.” He said, his eyes glassing over.

“I know Toban, I know.” Glyph said, not quite ready to tell Toban that he had gone so far as to doubt their existence. “She and Lobrein are down there. Let’s go.”

A few moments later they were entering the cave Ishea and Lobrein had made.

“Toban!” Ishea yelled out as soon as she saw her old friend.

“Lady Ishea! It is so good to see you again.” Toban replied as she jumped in and hugged him. “Glyph filled me in on everything that has happened.”

Ishea’s face suddenly turned sad. “Oh Toban, I am so sorry, it was not my intention to be gone for so long.”

“I must admit, I had given up hope. But that is the past, you are here now with Glyph, and all is as it should be.” He said and smiled at her.

Ishea smiled back. “I want you to meet someone.” She said and led him out of her section of the cave. As they all walked into Lobrein’s section he could see her sitting cross-legged meditating. Her eyes opened as they entered.

“Toban, this is Lobrein.” Ishea introduced. “Toban is the steward of Kivastor, and one of my dearest friends.”

“The honor is mine, madam. Your name is still held in high regard in the halls of Kivas, but to actually meet a true master… I do not know if I am worthy.” Toban said and bowed deeply.

“So nice to meet you Toban, Steward of Kivastor.” Lobrein replied. “Your words are very kind, but I am a person, like anyone else. Please treat me no different than Ishea, or Glyph.”

“Very well, my Lady.” Toban stated.

“Come on, Toban, there will be time to talk later, I want to introduce you to the rest of our gang.” Glyph said impatiently.

“Until later then.” Toban said and bowed again.

Glyph led Toban from the cave and over to a large tent. “Zarabish! Are you decent?” Glyph called out, then smiled at Toban.

“Enter.” Zarabish replied.

Toban had a quizzical look on his face as Glyph pulled back the flap and walked inside. “Zarabish, I would like you to meet Toban, he is the Steward of Kivastor.” Glyph said.

Toban went pale at the site of the demon, and his hand reflexively leapt to the hilt of his sword, before he realized what he was doing in time to stop himself from drawing the weapon.

“I would stand, but the ceilings are a bit low for my taste.” Zarabish commented.

Glyph laughed. “I think I must be getting used to your humor.”

Toban just stood there open-mouthed, with Zarabish and Glyph looking at him. He took a step back, and managed to pry his hand from the hilt of his sword. Glyph had never seen Toban at a loss for words, and almost enjoyed seeing his old friend struggle. Zarabish tilted her head slightly to one side, and the motion seemed to snap Toban out of his initial shock. “Lady Zarabish, I…It is good to meet you. Please pardon me, I have never spoken to a demon before.”

Zarabish glanced over at Glyph. “What rank is Steward?” She asked

Before Glyph could reply, Toban spoke up. “Steward is second in command. I understand that King Glyph has made you a General, congratulations. It would appear that we will be spending quite a bit of time together.”

Glyph could tell Toban was quickly regaining his confidence. It seemed he was not about to let his competence to deal with any situation come under question.

“So, you are like a prince then. You lead in absence of the King?” She asked.

Toban exchanged looks with Glyph. “Yes, in a manner of speaking.” He said.

“Then it is an honor to serve under you, Steward Toban. I look forward to discussing my ideas on how we might best train our warriors to defeat the hordes of Tsach.”

Glyph thought Toban might fall over upon hearing such words from a demon.

“Forgive me for saying so, but you are not the typical demon. How do I know if you speak with integrity?” Toban asked. Now it was Glyph’s turn to be stunned.

“There in no need for apology, I suspect it is part of your duty, and in that you perform them well. As for my uniqueness, there are others like me, those who do not have the thirst for war and power. We are mostly lesser-demons, and more often than not find ourselves forced to submit to archaic rituals that lead to either death or enslavement. King Glyph has given me my freedom, and a chance to help those that wish to do so, escape the Demon Lord’s grasp.” Zarabish paused for a moment, as if thinking of the best way to continue. “Truth is relative to trust, and trust must be earned, and that is my intention.”

“Does that answer your question Toban?” Glyph asked filling the silence that followed.

“Indeed it does. I think we will get along fine General Zarabish. You may find that adversity will follow you in all things, here on M’atra. You may have to prove yourself time and again. Stay true to your path, and eventually no one will question your loyalty, or your integrity.” Toban informed her.

“You are wise, Steward Toban.” Zarabish said in response.

“As are you, General Zarabish.” Toban replied.

“Well, I’d like to meet up with Amos before it gets too late. I will meet you here before our next hour.” Glyph explained to Zarabish.

“Very well.” Zarabish acknowledged, as Glyph and Toban left the tent.

They walked for awhile under the cover of darkness before Glyph finally spoke. “That went better than I expected.” Glyph commented. “I probably should have warned you first.”

“She is an intriguing being, Glyph. If she speaks the truth, she will certainly be a great asset to us. I think only time can answer that.”

“That’s what Lobrein said as well; I only hope she will be able to find her place here with us.” Glyph said as they entered the cave again and headed for Amos’s room.

“Amos are you decent?” Glyph called out as he stepped slowly into the room.

“Glyph? Come on in man, I’ve just been sitting here trying to figure some things out.” came Amos’s reply.

“Amos, I’d like you to meet Toban, the Steward of Kivastor. Toban this is Amos.”

“Oh, nice to meet you Toban.” Amos replied.

“Likewise, sir.” Toban said and bowed.

“That is going to take some getting used to.” Amos said to Glyph referring to Toban’s bow. “Please, have a seat.”

Glyph and Toban both sat at a stone table, which must have been created by Ishea or Lobrein. “So what’s on your mind, Amos?” Glyph asked.

“Well, I’m not sure really. I’m just wondering where I fit into the equation. Drayden seemed only concerned with getting me to this point, but not what I would do afterward. I asked Lobrein and Ishea about it, but they don’t know how I fit in either, it’s like the prophecies bring us all to this point and then stop. The war isn’t over, we both know Tsach won’t stop, but Lobrein says little is known about what is to come. I think we’re missing part of the puzzle.”

“So, you carry the Master Drayden’s soul with you?” Toban said out of curiosity.

“It’s all up here.” Amos said and tapped his temple with a forefinger.

“Can you access his thoughts?”

“Sometimes, but they’re more like memories, it’s a lot less confusing now then it was. When I try, I get a strange feeling, like I’m supposed to return home.” Amos replied.

“You mean back to Earth? Are you sure?” Glyph said.

“No, I’m not sure. That’s the problem, and I still have a choice to make. Now that I know who I am, I want to help. Part of me wants to stay, to learn the ways of magic and help you to fight Tsach, but the other part, and this is what’s weird, the part that is Drayden urges me to return. I don’t know what to do.”

“I know I could sure use your help here, Amos.” Glyph said, and was about to continue when Toban coughed. Glyph turned and raised one eyebrow at Toban, who looked as if he had something to say but didn’t know how to broach the subject. “Toban, was there something you wanted to add?

“I’m sorry Glyph, but I have studied the lives of the Seven my entire life, and particularly those of the Masters Albast, Lobrein, and Drayden. It is recorded that of the three, Drayden had peculiar insight into the future, and had at one point visions, which he had written down. This book of prophecy was known only as the Works of Drayden, and has never been seen. It may be a work of fiction by an unknown scribe a thousand years ago, but, if it is true, then Drayden may hold the key that you seek, and it might be worth listening to his ‘urgings’”.

“Wait, wouldn’t Ishea know if Drayden had written a book of prophecy?” Glyph asked.

“I have asked her about it, and she can neither confirm nor deny the account. She says only that she herself had never seen such a manuscript. The account comes from a scribe who lived during the time of Drathus’s first attack. At this time the Seven had spread far across the land, and each resided separately from the others to engage in their own studies. Since they were immortal, going several hundred years between contacts was normal for them. After awhile only Albast, Lobrein, and Ishea were ever seen together. It is generally believed that it was this separation that allowed Drathus to gain such a foothold on M’atra, and why it took the Seven so long to come together and fight him off.”

“What about Lobrein, would she know about it?” Glyph asked.

“She might, but Amos has already asked her, and she would have no reason to withhold this information from him, especially if he might have a chance of figuring it out on his own. It may well be that the scribe who bound his book may have been the only one to have ever laid eyes upon it. Drayden may have shared the book with Albast as well, but since he has passed on, we will never know.” Toban explained.

With that, Amos and Glyph exchanged knowing glances. “Well, that’s something to think about anyway.” Glyph said. “We’ll talk later, Amos, I think I should catch a few hours sleep before our hour.”

“It was an honor to meet you, Amos.” Toban said.

“You too, Toban, and thanks for your input.” Amos returned.

Toban accompanied Glyph back to his room, and then took his leave of him. Glyph lay down in his hammock and thought about what Amos and Toban had said. There did appear to be a piece missing from the puzzle. Why would the prophecies lead them to this point and then cease? There must be more to it, maybe in the Tome of Dark Lore, though he loathed the thought of opening it again. Like Albast said, some things are not worth knowing. Glyph eventually succumbed to a fitful sleep.

He awoke later, in time to ready himself and to meet Zarabish at her tent. On the way he found Amos sitting and staring at the night sky. The two walked in silence to the Demon’s tent, and found her there waiting.

“Have you decided what you’re going to do?” Glyph asked Amos as the minutes counted down.

“No, but I will. I think Albast knows more than he lets on.”

“Yeah, they’re all that way. Heaven forbid if we try to alter prophecy.” Glyph added

“Well, I plan on getting some answers.” Amos said, checking his weapons.

“Should I ask?” Zarabish stated calmly.

“No, you’ll know soon enough.” Glyph replied, and within seconds the space around them turned into a vacuum, and the white light engulfed them all.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hour Book2 Chapter 23

Glyph shouted the song in his mind as the white light slowly faded and his vision began to focus. He felt the force of Tsach’s mind assault immediately, but Glyph could tell it was having no effect. Quickly assessing his situation, Glyph could see he was surrounded. A ring of demon and Grull formed around him, though they were still some twenty feet away. Standing directly in front of him was Tsach, a towering figure unlike any demon he had seen before. Tsach had four spidery legs that transitioned into a human torso with four arms, and gray leathery skin. The Demon Lord stood twenty feet tall with an oversized, but human shaped, skull.

“So, we finally meet face to face, Great One.” Tsach bellowed, then sneered as he looked down at him. “You are the one who will defeat me and my kind?”

“That’s what they tell me.” Glyph shouted back at him, glancing about to find the direction to the gate. His view was half obscured by the rows of Grull and demon marching through the portal into M’atra.

“You are weak, and undisciplined. Your friends have fled; even they could not withstand my might for very long.” Tsach’s voice boomed across the desert.

Glyph drew his sword, which instantly blazed a deep blue. “I don’t have to win. I just have to live!” With a twist, and a wave of his hand, Glyph unleashed a wave of energy that blasted everything away from him. Demons who managed to raise their shields were still pushed back fifty feet. Grull sailed end over end into the distance. Glyph called for his own shield and headed for the gate. The path was relatively clear now, and Tsach was nowhere to be seen.

Lightning bolts and fireballs began to deflect off his shield as he covered the short distance. A smoky cloud descended just in front of the gate and within seconds transformed into Tsach, who now blocked Glyph’s way.

“Did you believe it was that easy?” Tsach demanded.

Startled, Glyph stopped dead in his tracks. ‘Fuck me,’ he thought, ‘this can’t be good’.

 With a slight wave of his hand, Tsach ripped apart the red energy shield that surrounded Glyph, turning it into a shower of sparks that fell to the ground around him. With another hand, a force wave struck Glyph so hard it flung him to the ground flat on his back.

“There is no room for both of us in this universe Glyyph.” Tsach said, slurring Glyph’s name as he had done before, and staring at him with disdain. “How pathetic a being you must be; I at least expected a challenge. Your wretched life must be terminated.”

Glyph pushed back with his mind against the invisible force that pinned him to the ground, and slowly struggled to his feet. He waved his sword in defiance, but mostly as a distraction, as Glyph let the grenade slip from his pocket onto the ground by his feet. “You can’t win Tsach, give up now and I might let you live.”

 Tsach’s legs twisted around his back giving him an insectile walk as he took several steps to where Glyph stood. Glyph took a few steps back as the massive hulking frame of Tsach loomed over him. A second later Tsach swung his massive fist at Glyph. With magical speed, he spun deftly to one side, slicing Tsach’s hand off at the wrist and watching with satisfaction as it dropped to the sandy ground. Glyph turned his attention to Tsach’s other hand a second too late as it slammed into his body like a brick wall, and sent him hurling through the air like a wet blanket.

Glyph could feel the broken bones in his arm and leg before he hit the ground and bounced several times. He started to heal the worst of it as fast as possible as he heard Tsach laughing. Glyph glanced up and watched as Tsach’s hand regenerated out of the demon’s seared stump.

“You will not win. You will not live. You will only suffer and die!” Tsach bellowed as he gazed down at Glyph’s broken body.

“No, not today.” Glyph muttered, and pulled the pin from the grenade with his mind. He began to stand, his leg and hip freshly healed. His left arm still hurt but the pain was rapidly subsiding. “Fuck off bitch!” Glyph yelled at Tsach as the grenade exploded beneath the demon.

Tsach jumped at the sound, as shrapnel lit up his underside. Glyph took his chance and teleported to the portal, appearing next to several stunned Grull. Glyph cleaved two of them in one swing, and leapt through the gate without looking back.

Tsach’s own arrogance had allowed Glyph to escape, and Albast was right, the Demon Lord would not be taken by surprise the next time. Glyph hated running out like this, but it wasn’t the right time, and he couldn’t do the things Tsach did, and that pissed him off more than anything. Glyph emerged through the gate into chaos, he could hear the sounds of battle not that far away, Grull and lesser demons were being led across the floor of a giant cavern. The line of unearthly beings extended to the far side and then led upward. There, Glyph could see the light of day shining down around the army of Tsach as it poured out onto the desert floor. Right now he needed to shut down the portal, so Tsach wouldn’t follow him through. Glancing at his sword, Glyph saw it was now glowing red, and took the opportunity to thrust the blade into the lower back of a nearby lesser demon. Glyph severed its spine, then gave it a mental push and slit its throat as it fell to the ground.

Several Grull raised the alarm, as more of them began to form a circle around Glyph. With a wave of his arm Glyph sent them hurtling into the far wall of the immense cavern. He turned and rushed down the length of the gate toward the pylon nearest to him, his blazing red blade edging a swath of destruction through Grull and Demon alike. Glyph reached the side of the gate, a massive pillar carved out of the rock, and quickly placed his hand onto the engraved triangle.

“Shield!” Glyph yelled a few scant seconds before two demons began to bombard him with fireballs. Glyph closed his eyes tight and concentrated on the gate. “Close.” Glyph whispered through clenched teeth. The ground trembled slightly underfoot as the sound of fire burned all around him. Slowly Glyph peeked through one eye, then opened his other eye and stared as the last bit of the portal energy winked out leaving nothing but the cavern wall behind it. A muffled thud could be heard as half-bodies, severed vertically by the closing gate as they passed through, fell to the floor along with limbs of varying lengths.

Glyph sighed in relief, it was only temporary he knew, but it should buy him the time he needed to figure out how to destroy it. He wiped the sweat off his brow, and turned on his attackers. The pit of his belly already burned, and these two demons really needed to know whom they were dealing with. With a shout that shook the walls, Glyph raised his hands, bringing a column of rock up under each demon. With a twist of his hand, an equally sized column of rock dropped from the ceiling of the cave. In a split-second, the demons were flattened, crushed beyond recognition between the two massive cylinders of rock.

The collision was thunderous, sending debris and stalactites into the air. Glyph stepped out, and moved his arm in an arc, creating a tornado force wind that snatched up the falling rocks before they even touched the ground. Debris of all sizes and shapes now swirled faster in Glyph’s vortex. He pushed it forward with his mind, flinging boulders in all directions and guiding them to their mark. He walked slowly at first; then as he witnessed the amount of destruction it was causing, quickly picked up his pace, running behind the tornado of rock as it cleared the way to the exit of the cavern.

Glyph reached the mouth of the cave as a wave of exhaustion crept over him, and he let the vortex break apart, sending huge chunks of rock off in every direction at once. Glyph took the opportunity to catch his breath.

‘I should have gotten Albast to give me a potion before I left’, he thought. Glyph surveyed the area at a glance. There was still an army-sized force here, and by the looks of it, they were advancing on a much smaller force fighting from the surrounding dunes, and thousands of Hexzu circled the skies above. Glyph’s giant blast of flying rock seemed to grab a lot of attention, and mostly from the bad guys, who were now starting to form a line around him some distance away.

He needed to find Ishea and Lobrein, he couldn’t think with all this fighting going on. Concentrating on the nearest dune, Glyph shut his eyes and teleported there. Suddenly, Glyph saw a Grull stampeding a Kivan soldier a few feet away. Without hesitation, Glyph thrust his blazing red sword into the Grull’s back, through its heart, and out the beast’s chest. The soldier stabbed the Grull in its neck with his spear, as Glyph pulled the sword free. Pushing the carcass to one side, the soldier’s eyes grew wide with recognition. “King Glyph!” He suddenly shouted.

“Where is Ishea?” Glyph asked.

“My Lord, Lady Ishea commands this flank, she is right over–.” Sudden cracks and flashes of lightning on the other side of the dune interrupted him. Glyph turned and ran to the crest of the sandy hill. He could see Ishea engaged in battle with a demon of Srokus’s size. Charging down the dune, Glyph threw his right hand forward, and a wave of sand roiled outward from the dune, completely engulfing Ishea’s opponent.

Ishea looked up at him. “Glyph!” She cried. “Thank the Gods.” She said, and sprinted up the dune to where Glyph stood. The giant mound of sand began to stir, and they both watched as the demon clawed its way to the surface. As it emerged, Glyph teleported beside the creature and drove the Kings Sword deep into its horned skull. Glyph was breathing heavily at this point, and felt drained again.

“Glyph, what is wrong?” Ishea asked him as he walked slowly back up the dune toward her, noting his pale color.

“Nothing. Is everyone alright?” He asked hoping to change the subject.

Ishea smiled at him. “I believe so. Zarabish and Amos, in particular, were pretty beat up when they finally reached us, but they are doing fine now.” She said, and then paused and was about to continue when Glyph cut her off.

“Take me to them. I feel responsible, neither one of them would be here if it weren’t for me.”

She looked as if she was going to say something else, then nodded. She placed her hand on Glyph’s back and they vanished, reappearing a moment later on the tallest dune surrounding the cavern.

“It’s about time you got here.” Glyph heard Amos say as he opened his eyes. Twirling about, Glyph saw Zarabish and Amos. Ishea removed her hand from Glyph’s shoulder and looked at Amos. “How are your injuries?” She asked him

“I’ll be fine. Have you destroyed the gate?” Amos asked, turning to look at Glyph.

“No, I only closed it to buy us some time.” Glyph replied.

“Glyph, you know what you have to do. You know how to do it, so stop wasting time!” Amos demanded.

“You’re so subtle.” Glyph said, realizing that no one was going to be able to help him; only he could destroy the gate. Scanning the horizon, he pointed at the next dune over. “Take me there.” Glyph said to Ishea, who looked perplexed over the whole encounter. Stepping forward, she placed her hand on his shoulder and did as he asked.

As they reappeared, Glyph walked about in a circle, surveying the area.

“Glyph, is there a problem?” Ishea asked him.

Glyph didn’t know what to say, he knew that he could destroy the gate using the Tome, but the more he had thought about it, the more resolute he became that it shouldn’t be done that way. Reaching into his vest he extracted the book and opened it. It had to show him the way, it just had to.

Ishea seemed poised on the verge of wanting to speak, but stayed silent and watched Glyph intently. Glyph tried to ignore her gaze as he turned the pages of the demon Book. The words slowly transformed into English and Glyph began to read.

 

Using the essence of power within the Book of Morgus, the Great One will destroy the portal to his world and the Book along with it. The Book will pass from this dimension, and the evil contained within will be released to wreak havoc among the populated worlds for a millennia.

 

As he read it the words on the rest of the page disappeared and left only those two sentences. Quickly, Glyph turned the page, only to find the same two sentences written there, as well as the next page and the one after that.

“No!” Glyph yelled, and slammed the Book shut. ‘It will not happen that way.’ Glyph decided.

Ishea surmised the situation. “Glyph, did it tell you what you needed to know?”

“Yes. It did, but it didn’t tell me how to destroy the gate.” Glyph replied solemnly.

“Perhaps if I looked at it, maybe it will show me something useful.” She said, and began to reach for the book. Glyph stepped away from her, and shoved the book back into his vest pocket.

“It won’t help. It’s evil, and it only wants to propagate evil. You were right Ishea, I should never have laid my hands upon it. Albast, Drayden, and Lobrein should have destroyed it the moment they found it, but it lured them into its evil web, with hopes of a better outcome. Well, guess what? There are none. What happens will happen, but I refuse to be dictated to by some evil prophecy.” Glyph said, and stared down at the ensuing battle spread out before him. He closed his eyes to avoid Ishea’s angry look, and half-raised his arms toward the cavern below.

“You must now end what Drathus has started Glyph.” Ishea said hotly

“I know, I’m trying!”

“You have vowed your allegiance to protect this world. Our soldiers are dying. Toban and the reinforcements will not get here in time to help us.”

“Just give me a minute, okay?” Glyph barked, and searched his mind for some way to destroy the gate, but everything he thought of seemed grossly inadequate for the task at hand. He could hear the desperation in her voice, and the sound of it raked his last nerve.

After a few more moments of silence, Ishea spoke again. “You told us you could destroy the gate. You said you would handle it; we trusted you!”

“Shut the fuck up! You think I want this? I am sick and tired of this fucked up shit! I can’t take it anymore!” Glyph screamed at her as he felt something inside him snap, and the acid in his gut felt ready to boil over.

“So you will turn your back on us?” Ishea asked quietly, a tear forming in her eye.

“FUCK!” Glyph screamed, and the ground beneath them began to shake. He felt as if he would explode any second. Glyph could sense the Valdeffor upon him, and screamed again, the sound of it tore the air like a sonic boom, and echoed off the mountains far in the distance. Ishea dropped to her knees and covered her ears. The battle seemed to stop as bewildered men and demons glanced about for the source of the deafening roar. “Get them out. Now!” Glyph said through clenched teeth, not knowing for sure what was about to happen.

Ishea immediately understood and sent the signal telepathically for a full retreat. She took several steps back as Glyph raised his arms, one hand burst into red flames and the other into blue flames. The auras crept the length of his arms, rolling silently down his trembling body, encompassing both legs. One half of him red, and the other blue, until meeting together at the middle of his chest and abdomen in front, and the length of his spine in back.

Glyph saw Lobrein appear, and watched as she began to pull Ishea further away from him. A loud popping noise filled his ears, drowning out all other sound. Suddenly he emitted a brilliant white light that expanded outward around him until it reached about the diameter his shield would usually be. Time slowed to a stop around Glyph. He could no longer make out Ishea’s form, all he could see was blinding white light.

After what seemed to be an eternity, Glyph’s vision began to clear, but instead of seeing the scene of battle, he could see the whole of M’atra. All of it, at the same time, as if he were looking down from space. He started to focus on Degruthra, and his vision of that area became larger; it was like using the Divinare Crystal, only on a much grander scale. As he stared in wonder, the answer to his problem began to take shape before his eyes.

With a giant rush of wind, Glyph found himself on the dune again. His arms and body were engulfed in brilliant white flames, even though he felt no heat. He became aware of the ground shaking beneath his feet, as the sound of battle reached him once again.

“…I do not know!” He heard Ishea yell in response to a question he did not hear.

“Glyph! The portal is opening again!” He heard Lobrein shout at him.

Staring at the cavern entrance below, Glyph found himself appearing there. Without a second thought, he spread his fingers wide, turned his hands palm down, and slowly lowered his arms. The earth shook violently, and then began to sink. Slowly at first, starting with the cavern entrance, the ground dropped lower and lower, as if being swallowed by the surrounding sand, until a crater began to form around it. As Glyph and the entrance to the cave sank, the surrounding dunes seemed to rise upward. Glyph watched as soldiers scrambled up what had now become a small mountain, clinging to rocks and whatever else they could grab to keep from falling into the enormous depression. Bewildered demons and Grull looked about not knowing what to do, as they too dropped further and further into the ground. The sandy dunes spilled into the massive hole, which had easily become a mile wide and nearly as deep. He saw Ishea appear some twenty feet away, followed by Lobrein, who was desperately trying to coax Ishea away from him. Finally Ishea shoved her away, unable to keep her eyes off of him.

Suddenly everything stopped, and grew eerily silent. Glyph pulled back one arm and punched it outward toward the west.  With a thunderous boom, the lower half of the crater’s granite wall bowed inward and shattered into rubble, as a massive horizontal shaft pushed into M’atra’s crust.  Glyph spread his fingers, and the continent bucked and shook as he extended the opening deeper into the side of the massive bowl.  An unendurable screech of pulverizing rock emanated from the deepening hole, creating a massive tunnel that increased in speed as it bored its way beneath the desert floor, eventually reaching the horizon. The sound of it receded until it could no longer be heard; Glyph stood there holding his position with one arm forward for nearly a full minute, then as quickly as it had come, the white light vanished and split into the red and blue auras flowing in reverse back into his hands, until they vanished completely. Small wafts of steam rose off his clothes as Glyph wobbled back and forth.

“Glyph!” Ishea screamed fearfully, and dashed to his side.

Glyph took two steps backward, then one forward and toppled onto his face on the sandy ground. Ishea reached him a moment later, and dropping to her knees, grabbed him and teleported them both back to the top of the dune. She immediately heaved Glyph’s body over onto his back and called his name again. His eyes fluttered slightly and opened, and he stared up at Ishea who was covered in fine dusty sand from the maelstrom Glyph had just created.

“You’re beautiful.” Glyph rasped out, and smiled.

“Glyph! What did you do?” Ishea asked him imploringly.

“Nothing.” He heard Lobrein call out as she popped in a short distance away. “The portal has just been reopened.” As if in response to her words a weak shout rang out from the crater floor as the demons tried to rally their courage after what they had just witnessed.

Glyph began to laugh, coughed several times, then laughed some more.

“Glyph! Get up. You must finish–.” Lobrein said, then stopped short. A dull rumbling could be heard in the distance, becoming louder and louder as it got closer. Soon the roar became almost deafening as Ishea slowly stood to her feet beside Lobrein and stared down toward the massive tunnel Glyph had made in the side of the crater.

“By the Gods!” Glyph heard Ishea say as he laid on the ground staring up at them.

“What have you done?” Lobrein gasped as her jaw fell open.

A tidal wave of water suddenly spewed from the opening like an aqueduct, nearly a hundred feet tall and a hundred feet across, and burst into the crater. Every living creature in Tsach’s army drowned or was burned to the bone in under a minute. A whirlpool effect began to form at the entrance to the cavern, as millions of gallons of water poured in, entered the portal and began to empty onto Degruthras.

Zarabish and Amos popped in a moment later. “Jesus Christ!” Glyph could hear Amos shout over the thunderous noise. “What’d you do?” He asked Glyph.

Glyph just stared up at the sky chuckling, too tired to move. “I flushed the toilet.” He replied and broke into hysterical laughter.   

No one said a word, as they all just stood there, entranced by what they saw. Only the rush of the water and Glyph’s laughter could be heard for several minutes. Grot, Greem, and several other Hexzu landed nearby.

“Great One, are you well?” Grot asked, somewhat distracted by the scene.

“I’m fine, Grot. I’m fine.” Glyph said with a huge smile as he lay there with his eyes closed listening to the sound of the water.

“That was most impressive.” Grot commented.

“Impressive? That was downright amazing!” Amos blurted out.

Grot looked at Amos and scowled happily. “Agreed.”

“Glyph is that… the ocean?” Lobrein asked, still unable to pull her eyes away.

“Yep.” He replied, and rolled over onto his side.

“Look. The whirlpool has ceased. They must have closed the portal on the other side.” Ishea pointed out. Within seconds the giant crater began to fill with water.

“They will never be able to open the portal again.” Zarabish said. “Not as long as this body of water sits on top of it.”

“There are still a number of your warriors in need of help along the cliffs of this…” Grot said, then paused, and gestured at the giant crater.

“Lake, Grot. It’s called a lake.” Glyph said, as he stretched out on the warm sand.

Lake. I have given the order to help rescue them.” Grot continued.

“Thank you Grot, you are most kind.” Ishea said, smiling broadly. “You have done it Glyph, you have saved us all.”

At the sound of her voice Glyph opened his eyes. Now they all stared down at him. “I couldn’t have done it without you; all of you.” He said, attempting to sit up. Greem reached down and held out his hand. Glyph grabbed it, and Greem pulled him to his feet, and held him there, as he almost collapsed under his own weight. Ishea stepped forward and kissed Glyph deeply. When she finally pulled away she wiped her eyes and gave him ‘the smile’.

Amos reached over and shook Glyph’s hand. “I wasn’t sure if you could pull it off man, but that was incredible!” Then his face turned serious. “Glyph, I think I understand now. I hope you can forgive me for doubting your story about this place.”

“Don’t sweat it Amos, you were just doing your job. Besides, I knew you’d come around, if I could keep you alive long enough.” Glyph said with a laugh.

Then Lobrein stepped forward. “Glyph, what I have seen you do here scares the hell out of me.” She paused, and glanced over at Ishea. “But at least now I am sure your intentions are honorable.” She said and after hesitating a moment, finally leaned over and gave him a hug. “Thank you.” She whispered to him as she stepped back, and Glyph nodded.

“Great One, I would like to formalize my allegiance to you and your cause.” Zarabish said in her deep demon voice.

“Decided to stay with the winning side Zarabish?” Glyph said and winked at her.

“No. I have decided to stay on your side. Win or lose, you are my best hope for freedom.” She said flatly, unable to see the humor in his question.

“The Hexzu wish to formalize our allegiance as well.” Grot said, not to be outdone. “You have done a great service for my people, and we are in your debt.”

Glyph seemed shocked by both statements, and he could feel his eyes beginning to well up. “I don’t know what to say, I am honored, but there will be time for this later. “Right now, I just want a shower, and a nice soft bed.”

“Here drink this.” Lobrein said and produced a small vial from her smock. “I do not believe Greem will want to carry you all the way to Kivas.” She smiled.

“I will take him anywhere he wishes to go. Where is this Kivas?” Greem said resolutely, glancing about. Glyph, Lobrein, and Ishea all began to laugh, leaving the rest of them with a puzzled look on their faces. “I’ll explain it later.” Glyph said, and they all made their way down to the desert floor.

After several hours, the lake had filled, and any remnants of Tsach’s army had been disposed of. Nearly all of the Kivan soldiers guarding the portal had perished, and almost as many Hexzu in the hours it had taken Glyph to get to M’atra and submerge the gate. Most of the battlefield had been flushed into Degruthras, dead bodies and all, so proper burial cleanup had taken less time than Glyph had anticipated. Word had been sent to Toban and the other Kings to turn the bulk of their armies back towards home, but to have the leaders of all the countries to meet with Glyph here. By Lobrein’s estimate, Toban would arrive closer to nightfall, and Glyph looked forward to seeing his old friend. Covat was only a few hours behind Toban, but there was apparently some problem with the Delturan’s that Miatsu had to go and handle personally. He and King Rokka were expected to arrive in the morning, with Kahula only a day’s march behind them.

Ishea and Lobrein had created a large stone cave from the bedrock under the sand dunes. They magically carved out four chambers, one for each of them, and Zarabish, who was none too fond of being underground, took the tent that had served as the outpost for the portal. Glyph was resting comfortably in a hammock, strung between two tree size pillars of rock Ishea had made for him. He was just now starting to feel a trickle of magical energy returning to him, and it had been at least four hours since the battle. It was strange returning from his hour in Degruthras after midnight, and stepping through into M’atra shortly after sunrise. Ishea explained that it was due to the time differential between the two worlds and Glyph had left it at that. He really didn’t care, it was closer to how he remembered it anyway. It wouldn’t matter as long as Albast was true to his word and could help him to stay here on M’atra.

There was a knocking sound coming from just outside his offshoot of the cave. “Come in.” Glyph said and was surprised to see Zarabish, halfway crawling into his room and sitting crossed legged.

“Great One, may we speak?” She said.

“I believe this is the first time you have ever come to talk to me.” Glyph said, and chuckled. “What’s on your mind?”

“I am wondering at what capacity I may serve in your fight against Tsach?”

“Here’s what I want to know, why? Why do you want to help me fight Tsach? You could do anything, go anywhere. Why stay here with me? I hope it’s not out of some sort of moral obligation for setting you free, because–.”

“I can assure you it is not.” Zarabish interrupted. “I have thought about what the old man said to me.” She said her voice growing quiet. “There are others, who think like me. If I can, I would like to save them from extinction.”

“Damn, you get right to it. Wow. I really don’t know what to say about that. I guess in that case you should probably hold the rank of General.”

“What rank is General? Is this a military rank?” Zarabish asked, Glyph could tell she was somewhat intrigued now.

“Let’s see, that would mean me, then a handful of other people, then you, then the army of Kivas. That would be a General.” Glyph explained.

“I would lead your army?” Zarabish almost gasped.

“It would be rather hard to save demon lives, those that want to defect, unless you’re in command of the army trying to kill them.” Glyph said seriously.

“Are you sure? Your people may not accept me. Many of them must still harbor animosity for demons. Drathus did invade this world twice, Great One.” Zarabish replied.

“Alright, first you can drop the Great One title. When we are in private, or among friends, you should call me Glyph. In public, you will refer to me as King Glyph. Second, my people will accept whomever I tell them to accept, just as they’re going to accept the Hexzu. And besides, who is better qualified to train an army to defeat Demons and Grull than another Demon. So what I need to know now is, do you accept my offer, General?”

Zarabish stared at him for a few seconds. “I accept…Glyph.” She scowled.

“Great. Now, I will announce it tomorrow at the meeting. Until then, we’ll keep it between us. This is a serious position, and I expect you to live up to your reputation.” Glyph venerated.

“I do not have a reputation.” Zarabish replied.

“Not yet, but you will.” Glyph said sitting up on his hammock.

Zarabish nodded. “Very well, I will take my leave of you…Glyph.”

“Good evening Zarabish.” Glyph shook his head as the demon left. ‘I’m not sure if this one will go over too well, but too bad. I’ve saved this world too many damn times for them to deny me any request.’ He thought to himself.

 

The Hour Book2 Chapter 22

Glyph stopped shrieking as soon as the bright white flash of light had dissipated. The pain was gone. Tsach was no longer in his mind, and Glyph lay there on the cold stone floor reveling in the silence.

A red light illuminated his surroundings, and Glyph turned to see Zarabish and Amos standing a few feet in front of him.

“Are you injured?” Zarabish asked Glyph as soon as she saw him there on the ground.

“Glyph! Are you okay?” Amos blurted out as he ran the few feet between them to Glyph’s side.

“I think.” Glyph replied, breathing heavily and checking himself over. “I think I’m alright.” With Amos’s help Glyph rose to his feet. “Though I feel a bit hung over.” He rubbed his temples, wiped the sweat from his forehead and looked at Amos. The wound to his thigh had been completely healed. “How long were you on M’atra?” He asked them.

“Maybe thirty minutes.” Amos answered. “Oh, and here.” He said pulling the King’s sword from his belt, and handing it to Glyph.

Glyph nodded his understanding as he took the sword from Amos and slid it back into the sheath on his back. It had been at least a minute after Zarabish and Amos went through the portal, and when he had been taken by the hour. “Thanks, to both of you.”

A grinding noise grabbed their attention as a large opening appeared at the end of the small dark cave they were in. Zarabish focused her light, which revealed an old man beckoning to them. “This way.” He called out.

Glyph gave Amos a quick look, then he straightened his shoulders and walked directly at the stranger. Amos spun the MAC-10 to where he could get at it easier, then fell in step behind him and Zarabish followed. Glyph knew as he got a good look at the man’s face that he was the old man from his dreams. “I hope you have some good protection my friend, we’re going to have a demon here any minute now.” Glyph said tapping the hilt of his sword.

The old man smiled and gestured for Glyph to enter the rock doorway, bright light poured into the cave from the other room. “I have the best protection of all.” He replied, and seeing Glyph’s hesitation to go through the door, the old man decided to lead the way.

Glyph followed him through, only to stop short. Amos bumped into his back and Zarabish, who had to duck awkwardly to fit inside almost tripped over them both. Glyph could only stare about in awe. He was outside. He could see the sky, feel the breeze, even hear the birds. He stood on a small grassy knoll on the side of a mountain. Crude stone steps led down a small embankment to a log cabin.

“Welcome, Great One.” The old man trumpeted. “And friends, of course.” He said looking at Zarabish and Amos.

“Where…How?” Amos stammered out.

“I assure you, we are still inside the mountain.” The wizard explained. “And no one can detect any magic within, from the outside.” He said, eyeing Glyph. “A little trick I picked up from the demons.”

“An inner sanctum.” Zarabish stated matter of factly.

“Please, I will answer all your questions, but there are some very comfortable chairs on the front porch, and I am an old man you know.” The wizard shuffled on down the path as Glyph, Amos, and Zarabish followed behind once again. They walked down along the side of a wraparound porch, very similar to Ishea’s cabin in the woods behind Kivas. The stranger offered Glyph and Amos a seat, and Zarabish a large boulder just the perfect distance away from the cabin for her size. “I apologize for your accommodations; I didn’t expect someone of your stature.” He said to her.

The old man then walked back to where Glyph and Amos sat on the porch, conjured up another chair, and plopped down on it. Even though they knew it was an elaborate illusion, the pair were momentarily taken by the picturesque view of the valley and the mountains beyond.

“Now, what did you want to know? We probably only have about forty-five minutes left of our little visit.”

“You’re obviously a wizard, but who are you? And how do you know of my curse?” Glyph blurted out, his patience beginning to wear a bit thin.

“Ah, my name. I have had many different names in my lifetime, you would know me as Albast.”

Glyph just sat there looking at the old man as if he had spoken a foreign language. Rubbing his temples, Glyph leaned back in the chair, and closed his eyes. This was going to be a long forty-five minutes.

“I…I…I don’t understand.” Amos stammered. “Part of me is screaming right now. What’s happening?” He asked, and started to slide out of his chair, when Albast steadied him with a touch.

“Easy my friend.” Albast said. “You are more important than you know.” Then Albast squinted and leaned in closer to Amos. He turned his head slightly to one side, then sighed deeply, and leaned back. His eyes were moist, and Glyph thought he saw Albast’s body shake a few times.

“How do you know about me, and the curse?” Glyph shot off.

Albast composed himself quickly. “I have known about you for as long as I can remember. Your title is strewn across the pages of prophecies from hundreds of different worlds. The curse, that’s another story. Suffice it to say that I have been able to keep tabs on all of you from time to time.” Reaching over to an old rickety table he tugged on a small cloth, revealing a crystal blue stone.

“A divinare crystal! But, it’s shaped differently than mine.” Glyph said.

“You didn’t think they were all the same did you? They are all of varying sizes, and some have different abilities. This one will, on occasion, let me see into other worlds. It is faint, and sometimes vague, but I see enough of what I need to see.”

“What about dreams? Does it let you enter the dreams of someone on another world?” Glyph asked sarcastically.

“Yes, sometimes it does, and please forgive my intrusions, but it is the only way I have found to communicate to M’atra, or Degruthras. I am sure it seemed distorted, but you gave me the answer I sought.”

“That I chose good over evil.” Glyph offered.

“Yes.” Albast said and smiled.

“What about the curse?” Glyph said after a short pause.

“The curse, well, it’s called an asundering curse. It is actually how the demons first learned to travel between worlds.”

“Asundering?” Glyph said questioningly.

“Yes, the curse creates a duplicate body on another world, then your consciousness floats between the two for a designated period of time. Someone or something besides the progenitor of the curse must also hold part of the curse’s power in order for it to work. It was quite clever of Drathus really, to use such a curse. I dare say it was a bit beyond his mental capabilities.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“The curse is in the Tome of Dark Lore, obviously that was where Drathus discovered it. He most likely stole the book from Cruix, or maybe even Orgas; either way I am sure that is where he learned of the curse.” Albast paused for a moment. “The same curse was revealed to me when I looked between its pages. It is the reason I am here now. I used the curse on myself to travel here. Initially, I did not realize that my mind was moving between two bodies, but instead thought I was being transported back and forth. The other wizards discovered my body while my consciousness was on Earth, assumed I had died, and entombed me beneath Muret. Then, in order to protect my body for the rest of eternity, they placed magical protections over the coffin. To my dismay when I returned, I could not escape, as the spell which kept everything else out, also kept me in.”

“So they think you’re dead, but you’re really trapped here.” Glyph scratched his head. “You used the curse to bring yourself here. Why?”

“It was revealed to me that this was the planet where the Great One would rise. Lobrein, Drayden, and I created a plan in order to increase the odds of success.” Albast stood and started to pace. “You see, when we all examined the Tome together, we saw the big picture, the grand scheme of things. The prophecy we all studied was vague and strewn with generalities, it spoke of wars and grand events. It showed us things we wished we had never laid our eyes upon, things we knew we had to prevent. But when we looked at the book individually only prophecy that was important to each of us could be seen. The book acted as a mirror and often reflected the needs we had at the moment. They were much more detailed, and sometimes even specific spells were revealed.” Albast explained.

“As I recall, Drayden said that he and Lobrein left for Degruthras the night of your death. He didn’t say anything about you going to Earth.”

“He didn’t know, at least not directly. The plan was for them to go to Degruthras, and I was to begin my search for the Great One. The day they were to leave, the place of the Great One’s origin was revealed to me. The asundering curse followed, and in my haste, and perhaps my arrogance, I attempted the dark magic. The proximity to the book had been taxing my health for several weeks prior, taking from me little by little. Make no mistake, the Tome is evil.” Albast said seriously.

Glyph reached into his vest, and pulled out the book. “You’re telling me if I open this book right now and read it it’s going to show me what I most need to know?” Glyph asked outright, suddenly thinking about the portal he would need to destroy in a little while, or possibly how to get away from Tsach in order to do it.

Albast paled slightly as he stared at the book in Glyph’s hand. “Is that? Yes. Of course it is.” He sighed. “The Tome of Dark Lore is deeply magical, and it is a powerful tool, but it comes with a price. Morgus, the first demon to ever rise to power, created it. It has been passed down from generation to generation for well over ten thousand years. The Tome appears to be some kind of catalyst for prophecy, and has managed to weave itself into the fabric of our time. Do not ask of it any more than you are willing to bear, for you will see things, things that will make you want to lie down and die. It is the book’s nature. It was created by evil for evil, and whether we use it for good or not, the possibility for addiction and corruption is all too real. I crave it right now as I sit here looking at it in your hand, even though I haven’t seen, or touched it, in a thousand years.” Albast’s face lost all expression. “The more you use it, the more you crave its use.”

“Take it then.” Glyph said. “All it’s shown me are some historical facts about Degruthras.”

“No, the book was not meant for me. The asundering curse I saw in the Tome led me away from it. When I performed the spell, I had my hand on the Divinare crystal, but I did not have my hand on the book, which lay open on the table before me. When I shifted to Earth a copy of the crystal was created for me, but not the Tome, and when I shifted back many days later, well, you know the rest. You don’t even have to use it, just keeping the book in your possession will eventually wear down your resistance, and sooner or later you will use it. It reveals much at first. After awhile, it shows you less and less, until finally you see nothing but blank pages. And that must be its own hell.” Albast explained. “The fact that you are carrying it now suggests it already has an influence over you, even if you have only used it once.”

“As I understand it, the book holds part of my curse, just as Ishea holds the other. That’s about as far as it goes. I stopped craving the book when I achieved full demon status. I kept it only because I thought it necessary to open the portal back to M’atra.” Glyph responded.

Albast shifted forward in his seat. “Perhaps, it is possible your dual ranking as wizard and full demon allows you to forgo the addiction. It could also be that you do not desire that which you already have. To that end I suggest you be very careful, as you tread a dangerous path.”

“That much I know. What I really need to know is how to destroy the gate?” Glyph asked pointedly.

Amos and Zarabish both looked at Glyph. “Wait a second, are you saying you don’t know how to destroy the gate?” Amos blurted out.

“It’s a technicality at best.” Glyph offered.

“One we have based our entire retreat upon.” Zarabish spoke up. “If you fail in this task, M’atra is doomed.”

Glyph waved his arm, as if to shoo the two of them away. “Do you know how, or not?” he asked Albast.

Albast scratched his head. “There is only one way that I know of to do it quickly. Use the power in the Tome of Dark Lore. Tap into its magic, and use its power to destroy the portal.”

“Now you want me to read the Tome? After telling me how evil it is?”

“No Glyph, you must tap its magical power and drain it, then use that power to collapse the gate permanently. The Book will be consumed; it will likely fall into dust and blow away in the wind. It will also end your curse, and mine as well.”

“What? I can’t destroy the Tome; we might need it later. Isn’t there an easier way?” Glyph implored.

“The portal to M’atra likely took ten demons twenty years to create, do you really think you can destroy it with the blink of an eye?” Albast questioned.

“No, I never thought it would be that easy.” Glyph took pause for a moment.

‘If it weren’t for this feeling in my gut telling me that the book may be needed later on, I would go for it. There is so much more that could be learned about the demons, even the spell to destroy a gate…’ He thought.

“Still, if I could do it another way… If I am immune to its addiction, wouldn’t the Tome of Dark Lore be better off in our hands, used by our side?”

“You mean your hands, by your side.” Albast said and shot Glyph a look he had seen Ishea give him numerous times. “That aside, it might. There is no telling if the Tome has secrets yet to reveal to you, to me, or to any of us. It is a catalyst for prophecy and information; but more importantly, if you don’t use the Book to destroy the Portal, how will you destroy it?” He asked.

Glyph shook his head, “I already know the answer to that one… luck.”

Amos stared at Glyph incredulously. “Really? That’s your answer, luck? Would that be good luck, or bad luck?” He questioned. Glyph just smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

“A bit of both I suspect.” Albast mumbled to himself, and then smiled cryptically. “Tell me, how long do you keep your energy shield up in battle?” He asked.

“Most of the time, why?” Glyph asked, wondering what the old wizard was getting at.

“To wield a shield for so long is no easy task. It should drain you; make you weak.”

“I do it all the time.” Glyph replied.

“Yes, but you are special; the Great One, remember? Because you run with no reserve, you hold nothing back; and by doing so you are somehow able to tap the force lines directly. And when you channel all their power, you become a vessel of your intent. I would love to witness the Valdeffor personally, it must be quite visually stunning.”

“You’re talking about when I lose control and the power takes me; like my fight with Drathus. I fought back by making things happen as I thought them, and used my imagination for the rest. It was as close to all-powerful as I have ever felt.” Glyph commented.

“Therein lies your true gift, Glyph. You are all-powerful, at least you can be. The Valdeffor may be the only way to destroy the Portal, without using the Book.”

“If I can reach that… What did you call it again?” Glyph asked uncertainly.

“Valdeffor. It is an ancient word that means god-like power.” Albast answered.

“Well, it’s not like it comes with an on-off switch.” Glyph told him.

Albast nodded his understanding, then leaned forward and spoke in a low voice.

“There are only two ways to permanently close the gate. One is the Valdeffor, which is, as you say, unreliable. The second is the power inherent in the Tome of Dark Lore. If you don’t choose one of these options, the result will be the invasion and subjugation of M’atra.” Albast leaned back in his chair, turned his head, and stared off toward the distant mountains.

Everything grew silent for a few moments. Glyph glanced over at Amos who sat slumped back in his chair looking ashen.

“You okay?” Glyph asked him.

Amos shifted slightly. “I don’t know. There’s so much going on right now… I’m having sensory overload.” He said calmly, even though his breathing had become erratic.

Albast seemed to break free from his daze, and quickly reached out his hand and grasped a small vial of liquid that appeared just as he wrapped his fingers around it. “Here, here, drink this.” Albast pronounced as he thrust the elixir at Amos. He continued to gaze at Amos as the new wizard’s shaky hand poured the fluid into his mouth. Amos coughed a few times, then inhaled deeply as his breathing became easier. “I should thank you.” Albast said as Amos began to recover. “You have done Drayden a great honor in bearing his animus. Knowing that his knowledge and experience will live on in you is a great comfort to me.”

“I don’t know if I want this…” Amos sputtered and steadied his shaking head with both hands. “I don’t want to be Drayden, I want to be me.” He said much more subdued.

“Relax Amos. Once the integration process is complete, you will feel normal again.” Albast said.

“How long we talking here?” Amos asked. “Hours? Days? Weeks?”

“Yes, or longer. It will end when it ends, my friend. I can only tell you for certain that it will end, and you will be you again.”

“That’s pretty fucked up.” Amos retorted.

“Join the club.” Glyph said, extended his hand, and a lit cigarette appeared between his fingers. He took a long drag, rubbed his forehead, and looked at Albast. “So you think I can create this magic mojo and what? Blow the portal to pieces?” He asked, changing the subject.

“I do not know, I just know that the potential lies within you. You should not worry so much; I have found that decisions made to alter prophecy have little effect. What needs to happen happens, whether we try to alter the outcome or not.”

Glyph began to laugh. “Oh that’s rich. It looks to me as if all you’ve done is to try to alter your prophecy since day one.”

“We did not try to alter prophecy. We merely tried to position ourselves where we could do the most good, to increase the likelihood of things going our way. I admit it seems like a fine line to follow, but everything is going according to plan.” Albast tried to explain.

“What about Drayden? He’s dead, was that part of the plan? And Ishea, she’s been tortured, branded, and who knows what else she suffered under Cruix’s hand. The girl hasn’t been quite right since then. Was that part of the plan too?”

Albast sighed. “Drayden’s death is regrettable, but necessary. He has passed so that Amos could take his place, so Amos could fulfill his own part of the prophecy.” He paused and looked off into the distance. “Shea faced those obstacles and survived. Her trials and tribulations were necessary, in order for her to gain confidence and perspective; to prepare her for the wars to come.”

“Shea’s your daughter…and that’s all you can say.”

“Do not presume to preach to me! She had her part to play at this juncture and she did it well. Whatever she faced she did for the greater good, whether she knew it or not.”

“And that makes it alright?” Glyph almost shouted.

“Do you not understand? Shea went to Degruthras to try and save you, to bring you back; she left knowing full well that the odds of her being able to open a cross-world portal were impossible for a three-syllabelled wizard, yet she went all the same. It was her faith, and love for you, that has brought you to this point. Without her, you wouldn’t be here at all; you wouldn’t have chosen good over evil, and accepted your own role in this grand saga.”

“Without her, I imagine you’d still be stuck in that prison. Well, I suppose I helped a little, at least where your hour was concerned. You may not remember, but this is not the first time we have met in these mountains. I gave you a lift in my pickup truck down near Vernon about three years ago. A man possessed by evil was after you. I pretended not to notice him chasing us down the road as we drove away. I was a bit thrown when you told me we had reached the address you were looking for, and had me drop you off.” Albast paused. “To put it simply, Shea has made these choices without knowledge of the prophecy but she still made the right ones. You are the Great One, there is no denying your power. You are here to restore balance. Up to this point, I have been afraid to reveal my true identity to you for fear of disrupting the prophecy.”

“You were that old man?” Glyph said with sudden realization. “No shit, and the prison? Oh wait, the whack job I left to take the heat; that was you? The guy in my cell, what was his name?”

“Turkel.” Albast said.

“Yeah! Turkel! That was you! Son of a bitch.” Glyph said. “Ishea always said there was a balance between good and evil, that there were forces of good helping me during my hour. I never thought it would be you.”

“It wasn’t only me. There were many other good people who chose to help you. Even if they detested you for what they thought you were, they were still compelled to help. Take Amos for example.”

“I don’t know, I kind of think it was that twenty foot tall demon attacking us that changed my mind.” Amos interjected.

“Why did you return to the bar that night, Amos? There was no reason for Glyph to reappear there, that you knew of?”

“It was just a hunch.”

“A hunch you were compelled to follow?”

“Yeah. But–.” Amos replied then stopped.

Albast smiled broadly, “This is how it works, you see.”

“You used the divinare to spy on us then?” Glyph asked.

“Here on Earth, I have been able to track almost every move you have made with the crystal’s help.” Albast replied, shifting his attention back to Glyph.

“That’s how you knew we were coming.” Glyph said.

Albast nodded.

“This has all been very fascinating, but what has this got to do with me? Why am I here, old man? Tell me that.” Zarabish suddenly spoke up.

Albast turned to face the demon. “Where are my manners? I had almost forgotten you were here. You are by far the most restrained, and dare I say quiet, demon I have ever encountered, and I suspect that is why you are here. There is an obscure passage in the Chronicle of Jorge about the fate of demon-kind, it read something like this:

 

“Farther and faint the line it makes

The Great One his perception takes.

Life is torn, the worst shall fall,

beneath his branches few stand tall

in the end to save them all.

These will set the balance sure,

if pride doth rend the evil core.

For truth and peace to reign

from extinction he abstains.”

 

“I believe it to mean that some of your race will defect, and find, in the Great One, a way to be free to express themselves; to retain honor, and still be a demon. Believe it or not even demons have the capacity to do good.” Albast explained.

“I most certainly do NOT believe it.” She answered curtly.

“You have only to look as far as the Jakarute ritual, which culminates in the healing of another being, to see that demons are capable of doing good.” The old wizard said in reply.

“Why should I believe you, or him, for that matter?” She demanded, indicating Glyph with her hand.

“He has already given you amnesty, and trusted you enough to remove your shackles.” Albast pointed out.

“He has released me of further obligation.” Zarabish said, as if it made a difference somehow.

“He has set you free, and yet you have not returned to your people, why is that?” Albast questioned.

Zarabish looked slightly shocked. “Because I do not have to.” She spoke angrily. “I am my own being, I owe allegiance to no one.”

“Precisely! You can decide for yourself. And to what conclusion have you arrived?” He asked.

“Your kind, they appear to be a bit more civilized. I am treated with respect, even though I was your enemy, even if my presence is resented.” Zarabish stated candidly. “My status as a lesser demon is not held against me. In truth it has never been mentioned.” She continued, staring at Glyph. “Your culture may be alien to me, but given the choice, being my own master here is more preferable than serving as a slave to the Demon Lord.”

“It would seem you knew the answer to your own question all along, perhaps you just needed to say it out loud to confirm your conviction.” Albast stated, and created a small keg with a handle on one side. “Would you like some tea?” He asked her, levitating the giant mug toward the demon’s hand.

Zarabish reached out, took the mug in silence and tipped back a large gulp. She stared at Albast, not quite knowing how to reply to his unfaltering assessment of her beliefs.

Albast smiled at her, and returned to his seat on the porch. He looked at each of them approvingly as he noted that they were all now consumed by their own thoughts. A slight breeze blew by and Albast cleared his throat. “There is one thing I must make perfectly clear to all of you.” He said sipping his tea. Everyone turned to gaze at him. “Shea and Lobrein, and any of the other wizards, must not know of my existence.”

“Wait a minute. What? Why?” Glyph questioned immediately.

“They would want me to return, and it is not meant to be. Knowing that I am alive, here; they would try to find me, to contact me. I must not return by their power.”

“How do you know? What if I told them not to come, not to try?” Glyph asked.

“I know as surely as I know you will not end our curse by destroying the book.” Albast explained. “And I know they would not listen to you, and would find a way to me behind your back; they are quite clever. At the very least, they would tempt me by removing the magical protections surrounding my body. No, they must not know.”

Glyph was about to argue, but decided against it. He could tell them anyway, but Albast would find out eventually, and what if the old wizard was right?

“I can help you. In return for your silence, I may be able to alter your curse, just as Ishea altered Drathus’s curse to bring you to M’atra. I believe that if I can trace the curse closer to its original form, it would create another body in M’atra and return you to that body permanently.”

Albast now held Glyph’s full attention. “You can do that?” Glyph asked.

“I have essentially done it to myself already. I haven’t seen the inside of my coffin for several hundred years.” Albast replied.

“What about…?” Glyph asked glancing down at himself.

“Your body would remain here in my inner sanctum, until you die, or the curse is broken.” He then turned to Amos and Zarabish. “I am sure I can free you both of the curse entirely, as you are not cursed directly.”

Glyph sat there pondering the situation. He could tell Amos and Zarabish were both agreeable, almost giddy over the prospect. Even he had to admit, this could be his best shot at normalcy, as crazy as it sounded.

“I would have to do a bit of research, but I am sure I can do it the next time we meet.” Albast stated.

“Next time? I suppose you forgot we’re in the middle of a battle; I was being attacked by Tsach himself when I blinked over here.” Glyph said emphatically.

“I can do nothing until you have resolved your decision regarding the Portal. I suspect it will happen sometime in the next twenty-three hours.” Albast stated plainly.

Glyph scanned the horizon, and turned to Amos. “And you think your shit is fucked up.”

“As far as your situation is concerned I would tell you this. Don’t play the hero; go through the Portal to M’atra the first chance you get. Tsach is beyond your current capabilities. Surprise him, confuse him. Catching him off guard may give you one chance to escape. I say one because I am fairly certain you will not get two.” Albast offered.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“The cloud of darkness that approached you was not created by Tsach, it was Tsach. That level of power is amazing, and far beyond anything I have ever witnessed; even your Valdeffor.”

“So I should just run off with my tail tucked between my legs? I’m the Great One, right, shouldn’t that count for something? Shouldn’t I be at least as powerful as my enemies?” Glyph asked the old man.

“You are more powerful, but you are also inexperienced. Tsach has had thousands of years to perfect his craft. You have been a wizard for all of two weeks now. The fact you can do what takes others years to master is a testament to your power, but you have yet to do the things that Tsach can. Now is not the time to fight. Go to M’atra, destroy the portal, and then you can relax and learn more about what you can do.”

“Is that what the prophecy says? It seems to me as if you’re leaving something out. Your choice of words implies I’m going to have to fight Tsach later.” Glyph questioned.

“That is unfounded, and also irrelevant. The fact is you are not ready to fight Tsach, and you know it. He already knows you are weak, since he has twice affected your mind. Tsach believes you are as good as beaten. He will waste no time killing you, and stop at nothing in order to do it.”

“Great. That’s all we need.” Amos said. “Why do people hate you so much?”

“Funny.” Glyph replied sliding Amos a stern look.

“I’m afraid our time here grows short. Do you know how to keep Tsach from entering your mind?” He said to Glyph.

“Yeah, I know how.”

“Good, then I suggest you prepare yourself.” Albast told him, then turned to Amos. “Your situation will improve my friend, remember if you have trouble believing in anything, believe in yourself.”

“Which self would that be?” Amos asked sarcastically.

Albast chuckled. “Your old self, the self you are now, and the self you want to become.” He said as he patted Amos’s shoulder.

“And as for you.” Albast said while turning to face Zarabish. “You are the first of your kind, and destined to be the leader of your people. Your role in all of this is not trivial. Never think less of yourself just because someone tells you to; you are no longer bound by status or previous misconceptions. You are your own master now.” Then he signaled for her to lean down closer until her ear was near his head. “Don’t forget who your friends are.” He whispered to her.

Sitting upright, Zarabish nodded her understanding, though stared at him quizzically.

Albast shuffled over to his seat and sat down once more. “I’m afraid our time here is almost at an end. Remember, tell no one of my existence, it is of the utmost importance.” Albast rubbed his eyes. “I hope to see all of you again…soon.”

Glyph slowly began to tune everyone out, and closed his eyes. He recalled the last position he had been in, curled up in a screeching ball of agony. That wasn’t going to happen again, he quickly determined. Glyph decided he would teleport to the gate as soon as he reappeared. There was no good reason to tempt fate, and Albast was right; he wasn’t ready to fight Tsach not now, and certainly not alone.

Recalling Lobrein’s lesson in mind protection, Glyph began to hum the tune that enabled him to block an assault. He stood, reached back, and touched the hilt of his sword to make sure it was still there. Briefly checking his pockets, his hand wrapped around a grenade; Glyph had forgotten it was even there, and made a mental note of it. Bending his knees slightly, he steadied himself, and took slow measured breaths. Now he sung the words in his head.

The thought of saying goodbye to his companions entered his mind the instant the space around them turned into a vacuum. He could see Albast staring at him as time slowed quickly to a stop and everything was engulfed in the blinding white light…

 

“…He lives in a garbage can. He eats all the worms, and spits out the germs…”

The Hour Book2 Chapter 21

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.

 

The Hour Book2 Chapter 20

Chapter 20

 

Glyph inhaled deeply. Something was wrong. He was having trouble breathing. Opening his eyes, Glyph looked around; he could see Zarabish and Greem to his right, Lobrein and Ishea to his left.

Glyph could hear the pounding of his heartbeat in his ears. Ishea and Lobrein began to stand, looks of concern flashed as they moved toward him.

Ishea reached him first, touching his shoulder as he started to collapse. Within seconds Glyph felt notably better. Greem steadied him as he found his footing.

“Glyph.” Ishea said as if cajoling a puppy. She shook her head. “What am I to do with you?” Ishea steadily fed him a stream of blue energy through her touch.

Glyph instantly realized the problem. He needed to change back, but he couldn’t. He hadn’t the energy to do it.

“How long have you been in this form?” Lobrein demanded.

“I know. I have to change back, I’m just having a little trouble right now alright?” Glyph growled back at her.

“How long?” Lobrein asked Zarabish.

“Almost the whole time.” Zarabish answered coldly.

Lobrein turned her attention back to Glyph. “You cannot hold a morph for more than a few minutes Glyph. Holding it this long is too dangerous, and you have compounded the problem by depleting your own energy; burning power like there is no tomorrow.” She said angrily.

“You can do it.” Glyph said accusingly. “You can be a gargoyle for a hell of a lot longer than a few minutes.”

“That is true. I can, and do you want to know why? Because I have a disciplined mind, Glyph. I have trained and practiced shape shifting for five thousand years. What makes you think you can even begin to do what I can do?” Lobrein chastised.

“Lobrein!” Ishea snapped.

Lobrein calmed down, and took a few deliberate breaths. “Some spells can atrophy, especially those that require sustained magical energy use.”

“I’m not sure I follow. Magical atrophy?” Glyph questioned.

“The more magic you pour into a spell to sustain it, the more magic it takes out of you to do so. If you hold a spell too long, that is to say, beyond the capacity of your reserve, it can begin to feed on your own strength and will. If you continue, you will not have enough magic to stop the spell, and then the spell will consume your life-force to perpetuate its existence.”

“Oh.” Glyph said sheepishly. “Like that draining electrical stuff you pulled on Cruix.” Glyph said to Ishea. “It weakened her, but weakened you more.”

Ishea nodded.

“Simply put, you are pouring out more magical energy to keep the spell going than you are able to absorb from the local force lines. This is why spells like shape-shifting and even energy shields can only be held for short periods of time. The fact that you could hold this form for as long as you did, and perform magic at the same time is truly remarkable and, had we not been here, just as deadly.” Lobrein told him. “Ishea almost has your energy level back to the point where you can change back. I sure hope you took a long hard look at yourself the last time you saw your reflection.” Lobrein stated.

“What do you mean by that?” Glyph asked.

Ishea looked up from his shoulder. “In order to morph successfully you have to have a clear self image of yourself in order to turn back. If not, you may appear a bit more idealized.”

“What?”

“A scar may disappear, a mole, freckles. People have a tendency to fix the things they dislike about their appearance.”

“You are ready Glyph, you have enough power to change back now. I suggest you do so.” Lobrein stated and stomped off to check the perimeter of the camp.

“Great One?” Greem said as Glyph prepared to change himself back.

“What is it Greem?” Glyph asked as he closed his eyes.

“You make a… very handsome Hexzu.” Greem answered him with a wide scowl.

“Thanks.” Glyph offered sarcastically as he remembered he had modeled his Hexzu form after Greem. Aroth and the other Hexzu could be heard trying their best to hold back their laughter.

Glyph began to concentrate. ‘Just like before’ he thought. ‘If Lobrein can do it so can I.’ He repeated several times in his mind. He pushed the image of Greem into putty and pushed and prodded the shape of it back into some semblance of his own appearance. It was hard work, and required all of the energy Ishea had given him to pull all the details together. Finally Glyph got it as close as he was bound to, and opened his eyes.

He was back, he could tell instantly. It was nothing short of amazing, but then again, what magic wasn’t? “That’s better. So, what’s our situation?” Glyph asked.

“Great One…?” Greem spoke up.

Ishea started to giggle. “Here this will help.” She said, and took the amulet from around her neck. She turned it over revealing a polished mirror on the back. Tapping it once the surface emitted a soft blue glow.

Glyph held it up to look at his face. It was cartoonish! Momentarily taken aback, he immediately set about rectifying the problem. After another minute he was satisfied with the results.

“Okay, now that’s done. Can we talk about the attack now?” Glyph said, wishing he could just go to bed.

“There are four demons, and roughly twenty lesser demons. Around two thousand Grull are camped around their perimeter. It appears they are well stocked, and expecting an attack.” Greem reported.

“Damn. There’s a lot more demons than I had anticipated.” Glyph said, thinking out loud.

“Is there a problem?” Lobrein asked as she strolled back among them.

“No. I was just going over our plan of attack. I think a surgical strike is best; we’ve had success with it before. If we take out the full demons, the rest will fall apart.”

“Glyph, this is a sizeable force. We will be attacked from every direction.” Ishea stated.

“Only if they know we’re there. This isn’t the time for open warfare. Normally, I would suggest we each take a demon one on one, but that won’t work here. We need to work as a team and go straight for the kill. We need to be quick, silent, and efficient, and take them out one at a time.” Glyph explained.

“Interesting.” Greem commented.

“You, Aroth, Orotet, Gorth and Crom will provide air support, and silence anyone who may witness the attack. Ishea, Lobrein, and I will take out the demons.”

“You mean we are to assassinate them?” Lobrein questioned.

“Unless you can think of a better way.” Glyph replied.

Lobrein nodded her understanding.

“And what will I be doing, or am I to sit here and watch?” Zarabish lamented.

“You have the most important role of all, Zarabish.” Glyph said.

“What is that?”

“You get to play the part of a lesser demon. Your job is to create chaos among the Grull. Order them into the desert, whatever, just stay unnoticed by any other demons. The lesser demons will have their hands full solving the Grull problems you create, and won’t be around to hinder our attack.”

Everyone nodded his or her head in agreement. “Then it’s settled.” Glyph said. “Are we ready?”

“We are ready, you and the demon are not. You will be of no use depleted as you are. I have calculated that Grot and Drayden will be here by mid-morning. We have four or five hours of darkness yet ahead of us. You should sleep.” Lobrein stated.

Glyph nodded his head. “You’re absolutely right Lobrein. Will three hours be enough?”

“Barely. I will work on a potion to take you the rest of the way.” She handed Glyph a small blanket from her sack.

Glyph took the blanket and walked off a ways from the others. Plopping down in the sand he pulled the blanket tight around his aching back and shoulders. ‘I shouldn’t be able to sleep, no sane man could.’ He thought as his eyes shut. Exhaustion over took him and he passed out.

 

“Glyph. Glyph!” Ishea whispered forcefully as she shook him awake.

Glyph felt worse now than before he had slept. “What is it?” Glyph said somewhat disoriented.

“We are about to start the attack. Here, drink this.” Ishea prompted as she handed him a small vial of dark purple liquid.

Glyph took the potion and slugged it down. He tried to curl his tongue so as not to taste it. Ishea helped him to his feet. Glyph glanced around for his sword before he realized it was already on his belt; he had never taken it off. Soon after, he felt tingling in his extremities, and his energy levels started to rise. He had become hyper alert, and aware of everything around him. ‘These potions are the bomb! There has to be a way to make them taste better.’ Glyph thought as Ishea led him a short distance down the giant sand dune toward the others.

“Glyph, I have healed Zarabish’s leg. It was broken, though she would not admit it. I assume any injury you incurred was taken care of when you shifted form. So what happened? How was your hour on Earth?” Ishea questioned.

“Oh, the usual. People trying to kill us and all. Tsach seems to be monitoring my coming and going. He sent a demon after me again, who must have tracked the magical signature of the sword, just like Simeon. And as you noticed, Zarabish was there.” Glyph replied. The thought of Amos lying beside him in the dark cave suddenly came to mind, and Glyph wondered whether he had survived the fall.

“Yes, as soon as you both disappeared, we surmised her blood oath must have caused your curse to transfer to her as well.” Ishea told him.

“Your demon is already causing mayhem on the outskirts of their encampment.” Lobrein called out as Glyph and Ishea approached. “The first target is in the tent to the far right. We can start with it and then move on down the line. Was that what you had in mind Glyph?” She asked.

Glyph stopped and examined the drawing she had made of the camp. “Looks like a plan to me.” He said approvingly. “Lobrein, I uh, thanks for the potion.”

“You are welcome. Now, shall we start the hunt?” She asked.

“Let’s do this.” Glyph said.

The Hexzu sprang into the pre-dawn darkness, as Glyph, Ishea and Lobrein crested the dune and started their way down to the desert floor. They crouched silently at the bottom for a few moments, then Ishea begin to chant softly.

“Ishea is concealing us.” Lobrein whispered.

“Invisibility?” Glyph asked.

“No, shadow. Invisibility takes too much power, and wouldn’t leave enough for our engagements. Conserve your power Glyph.  If things go badly, we will need every last bit you have.” Lobrein said, and gave him her I’m-trying-to-teach-you-something look.

“Shadow?” Glyph said. “Is that like engulfing someone in darkness?”

“Yes, only with a little more finesse. Instead of covering us in shadow, we will instead appear as shadows. In the light, we will appear dark, and in the darkness we will vanish completely.” Lobrein explained.

“It is done.” Ishea stated.

“Glyph, you and I will be on offense, Ishea will defend us. Is that agreeable?” Lobrein asked.

Glyph wondered what she would say if he disagreed, but so far the plan was sound. ‘It was as if she was trying to compete…maybe its nothing’ Glyph decided. “I can live with that.”

“This way then.” Ishea susurrated.

They navigated their way through the encampment toward the first demon’s tent without incident. The three of them shimmied their way along the course animal hides covering the structure, creeping silently in the shadows of the torchlight illuminating the opening. There were two lesser demons standing guard.

“Meet you inside.” Lobrein whispered.

Before Glyph could protest she turned, and phased through the side of the tent. Glyph turned back to Ishea with a strange look on his face. “How…?”

“Like this.” Ishea said taking his hand.

Glyph could feel the magic spread up his arm and through his body in a matter of seconds, and a chill passed over him. Glyph discovered he could see through himself, as he stared at his arms and legs. The sensation felt as if his whole body was drifting apart, held together by the tiniest of strings that threatened to break at any moment, and scatter his molecules to the wind. It was very unpleasant, but that was the least of his worries as Ishea tugged him forward into the wall of the tent and then inside.

It was pitch black, but Glyph took comfort in the fact that he could feel himself solidifying. ‘Ishea, light the room.’ He heard sound off in his mind. ‘I knew they could communicate telepathically!’ Glyph thought, placing his hand on the hilt of his sword in preparation for the attack.

The room lit up instantly as a large brilliant blue ball of plasma lifted from Ishea’s hand and floated upward, hovering just above her head. Scanning the room Glyph located the bed where the demon lay. Drawing his sword, Glyph teleported, and reappeared beside the demon’s head. Glyph swung the burning blue blade downward, and as the demon opened his eyes, its severed head rolled off onto the floor; the smell of seared flesh began to fill the tent. Lobrein stared at him with disbelief. Her mouth was open as if she wanted to say something but nothing came out. “There are more civilized ways to kill, Glyph.” She finally said as if she couldn’t come up with anything better.

“Maybe, but I bet they’re not as efficient as mine.” Glyph whispered in response.

Ishea dimmed her light. ‘Take a look around. Make sure there are no magical items about that could be used against us later.’ Lobrein’s thought echoed in his head. Glyph turned to check his side of the tent, but before he could begin to search Ishea spoke up.

“There is nothing of significance.” She stated.

A quick glance told Glyph she had used some sort of spell.

“Quickly! We must move on to the next target.” Lobrein urged, as her body became fuzzy and turned transparent before his eyes. Then she spun around and passed through the opposite side of the tent from where they had entered.

“I’m not doing that again unless I have too.” Glyph whispered to Ishea. “I’ll meet you out there.” Glyph blinked away, and materialized on the side of the tent where he had entered. Glyph peeked around the front, but the guards were gone; only a smattering of black blood lay on the ground. He was pretty sure that Greem and the other Hexzu must have taken care of them. Sneaking hastily around the backside of the nearest tent he met up with Ishea and Lobrein, who was giving him one of her looks again.

“I don’t like doing that, okay?” Glyph whispered.

Lobrein shook her head and darted into a large shadow that covered the path that led them to the next tent. Ishea and Glyph hurried to keep up.

“It is awake.” Lobrein said in a hushed tone as they approached. “Stop here.” They all stood silently for a few moments, while Lobrein closed her eyes and concentrated. “It is engaged…with a female.”

“Oh great, two for one.” Glyph commented dryly.

“We can teleport in, I have seen the inside of the tent. Glyph, attack the female as soon as we appear. I will handle the male demon, while Ishea will provide us a defense.” Lobrein whispered, then turned to Glyph. “Do not turn your back on the female, finish the job before you decide to offer me assistance.”

Glyph thought of a lot of different things he could say to her right now, but once again, her plan was sound, and better to operate as a team then to risk frying each other by mistake. “Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I can handle it.” He said, and smirked at Lobrein.

“Are you both ready?” Lobrein asked.

Glyph and Ishea both nodded. Lobrein extended her arm, Ishea placed her hand over Lobrein’s, and Glyph followed suit.

A second later they were inside the tent. Even as Glyph flung his first bolt of lightning, living vines began to engulf both demons. The female took the full blast, and was already held in place tightly enough by the growing vine that she could barely move.

Glyph let fly the second bolt, as several giant ice spears ran through the male’s chest and neck. As he opened his mouth to scream, vines strapped across the demon’s gaping maw, stifling his screams. Lunging forward, Glyph pulled his sword and slashed through the female’s torso. The upper part of her body slid off to one side before becoming reinforced by the exponentially growing weeds. Black blood dumped onto the floor by the gallons.

Glyph turned to attack the male, but he could already see that it was dead. Vines had grown into its mouth, and into its chest. They exploded out through the demon’s stomach, and continued to grow, intertwining with other vines and constricting around his arms and legs. The holes left by Lobrein’s ice spears now burst with growing vines, slowly ripping the body into pieces, while black ooze poured from the splits and tears.

“Damn.” Glyph said, taking several steps back from the horrific sight. “I’m pretty sure he’s dead.” He declared. The vines continued. Glyph glanced over at Ishea, her eyes blazed purple, and her face contorted with rage.

“Ishea!” Lobrein snapped, but the vines kept squeezing and pulling.

“Ishea, that’s enough, it’s dead already.” Glyph half shouted at her.

With an eerie popping noise the male demon’s dark red body split into chunks. Blood sprayed in random streams across the room, as the pieces of flesh were engulfed in the organic fray. Glyph and Lobrein stared at Ishea as her eyes reverted to normal and the vines ceased growing. “That was a bit excessive.” Glyph commented.

“To say the least of it.” Lobrein stated.

“You said to finish it.” Ishea replied, as the pair stared at each other.

“We can deal with this later, right now there are still two demons to kill.” Glyph said trying to keep the two of them focused.

Just then the tent flap blew inward and a lesser demon ran into the room. Before Glyph could raise his hand, a Vorka blade shot out from between its eyes.  A Hexzu rode the sub-demon’s back as it fell to the ground; it was Aroth. Standing, he plucked the boomerang like weapon from the creature’s skull.

“Excuse the intrusion.” Aroth said, and quickly exited.

“Glyph is right, we must hurry. Our efforts could be exposed at any moment now.” Lobrein said. “This way.” She turned and followed Aroth’s path through the front flap.

Glyph kept his eye on Ishea, who shot him a look, and followed Lobrein out of the tent. He shuddered as the thought of Srokus crossed his mind. He was beginning to think there may have been something to the demon’s last words, after that little display. There was no more time for thought now, as he ran to catch up.

Slinking through the shadows, they came upon the next tent. Lobrein and Ishea immediately stopped short as they approached, and Glyph practically ran into them.

“What? What is it?” Glyph asked.

“A magical shroud. It inhibits the creation of magic by anyone within its boundary, except of course the user. This demon is likely in charge here, as most demons would not be allowed to keep such a powerful artifact. A shroud is rare magic that is usually bound to an object worn by the user. Unfortunately, our proximity to that zone may have already alerted the demon to our presence.” Lobrein replied. “We must either kill it in physical battle, or a long distance assault.”

“So you can use magic against the demon, you just can’t create magic in the zone surrounding him?”

“Correct.” Lobrein stated.

“I’ll engage the demon, you and Ishea attack from here.” Glyph said, slipping into tactical mode. “Just try not to hit me.”

Glyph lifted his arms and swung them down and out toward the side of the tent some twenty feet away. An enormous wind burst forth, ripping the whole side of the tent skyward as if it had been touched by the core of a tornado.

“So much for being discreet.” Lobrein said sighing and rolling her eyes.

Glyph smiled at her, drew his sword and willed it to life as he leapt forward into the zone of the magical shroud. He caught his first glimpse of the demon as it moved toward the new entrance to its tent.

It was black and scaly, with a mane of shimmering silver hair down the length of its back. The demon immediately sent several lightning bolts at Glyph which were all pulled into the bright blue glow of the King’s Sword. Glyph panted heavily as he continued to charge.  He was determined to engage the demon so Ishea and Lobrein wouldn’t have to constantly change their position to stay out of the shroud.

Glyph entered the tent and immediately dove for cover, as the demon whipped his arm around backhand and sent a barrage of micro-bursting fireballs from the tips of his fingers.  Glyph flattened out as the tiny orbs exploded over his head.

Ishea and Lobrein’s return volley of lightning blasts crackled above Glyph as he low-crawled behind a demon-sized stone chair. The furniture suddenly blew into rubble in front of him and sent Glyph scrambling toward the back of the tent. He definitely had the demon’s attention now. Glyph feared getting too far away from the demon, that it would go after Ishea or Lobrein instead, but the situation was already getting hairy without his trusty energy shield.

A large glass decanter bubbling next to the burning tent wall suddenly exploded, and the shockwave sent Glyph flying through a fresh cut in the side of the tent and onto the sandy rocks behind it.  Shaking his head to clear his mind Glyph pushed himself to his feet, and raced around what was left of the tent toward Ishea and Lobrein.

Glyph could see the demon’s red energy shield blazing under the assault of Lobrein and Ishea’s combined firepower. Lunging forward, Glyph rushed straight for the demon. ‘Stop! I’m going to attack! Stop now!’ He screamed in his mind hoping Ishea or Lobrein would hear him. Glyph ran sword-first, slicing through the demon’s shield with one swipe. Leaping as high as he could, Glyph lunged with his sword toward the creature, but the demon swatted Glyph out of the air with his fist. Glyph felt the crunch of bones in his shoulder and ribs, and stars lit up his vision as he was knocked away like a fly. Bouncing off a nearby tent, Glyph slammed into the dirt with his knees, flopped to his right side and slid several feet.

 

Boom!

‘What was that? …What is that noise keeping me awake?’

BOOM!

‘Why is it getting louder?’ Glyph’s eyes suddenly opened.

“Oh fuck me.” He mumbled aloud through the half of his mouth that wasn’t buried in the sand. Slowly he pulled himself erect. Glyph could barely stifle the shrieks of agony from the pain coursing through his chest and shoulders. Through blurred eyes Glyph could see the demon advancing on Lobrein and Ishea, who were slowly widening the distance between them so at least one of them could constantly engage the creature while the other would move to keep out of the magical shroud.

Glyph began to limp away in the opposite direction. His breathing was becoming raspy, his heartbeat erratic, and he could see bone splinters poking through the skin of his forearm.

A little farther Glyph. We will draw him away.’ Ishea’s voice blazed through his mind. Stumbling erratically, Glyph could feel his magic return as he passed beyond the shroud’s boundary. Power poured into his being as he tapped into the nearby force-lines. Dropping to his knees, Glyph concentrated on healing his crushed ribs and shoulder. Willing bones back into their natural positions, mending muscle, repairing tissue and joints; it was much easier now that he had experienced shape-shifting, and a lot faster. Within a minute his wounds were healed and he was ready to go.

Glyph stood, flexed his neck to one side until it cracked, and picked up his sword, which he had managed to somehow keep nearby. “Note to self: Next time have Lobrein do the physical battle part.” He said aloud, and forced a smile.

As Glyph was about to head back into the battle, he felt something large pass over his head. Glyph turned in time to see Greem latch onto the horns of a Grull that was about to spear him, and drag it face first into the ground. The weight of the gargoyle on the beast’s horns cracked its skull in two upon impact. Greem stepped off the Grull casually and scowled happily at Glyph. “My uncle would never forgive me.”

“You’re probably right, better not risk letting me be killed.” Glyph joked and smiled. “I could use –.”

Glyph was cut off by the sound of large demon footsteps thumping toward them from the opposite direction of the one fighting Lobrein and Ishea. Glyph locked eyes with Greem, and pointed upwards. The Hexzu immediately sprang skyward, as Glyph ignited his sword and stood poised to strike.

Glyph blasted the demon with lightning as it crashed around the left side of a tent about fifty feet in front of him. The bolt grazed the demon’s shoulder, causing the creature to stumble and slide to a halt as he called forth a shield.

‘Damn, this last demon is hard enough to kill, we don’t need another one. Maybe a blinding burst of light would slow it down, or better yet’ Glyph thought, remembering his training session with Drayden and Ishea ‘no light at all!’

Glyph concentrated on the demon, and a cloud of impenatratable darkness engulfed the monstrous being in a forty-foot sphere. “I found our last demon!” Glyph called out, hoping to alert Ishea to the new situation.

Not wasting another second, Glyph charged toward the shadow. As he passed through into the dark cloud Glyph found he could still see within it; the demon was moving off to the right. Glyph could tell that, even though the demon had created his own light, he was having difficulty seeing more than a few feet in any direction. Instantly, Glyph teleported into the demon’s path outside the shadow’s barrier, and waited for the creature to exit.

When the demon came leaping out, growling in triumph, Glyph cut through the back half of its leg just below the knee. The blue blade of his sword, momentarily covered in thick black ooze, boiled the impurity to vapor. The demon fell onto his side, grabbed at his wounded leg, and screamed. As Glyph strode forward to finish the job he heard Ishea scream out.

He immediately turned and ran back towards Ishea and Lobrein. Glyph could see pandemonium breaking loose all around him; the Hexzu had their hands full trying to staunch the increasing numbers of Grull and sub-demons who kept showing up to see what was going on. Rounding the edge of the lead demon’s tent, Glyph could tell Ishea and Lobrein were losing ground as their fight with the silver-backed demon had traversed several leveled tents.

‘That magical shroud has got to go.’ Glyph thought.

Before he could go any further, a loud roar sounded out behind him. He turned in time to see the demon he had just wounded smashing through a tent on his way toward Glyph. ‘Damn. I should’ve killed that fucker.’

“Shield!” Glyph screamed, and an instant later a wave of liquid flames burst from the demon’s hands and covered his shield. ‘This is no ordinary fireball!’ Glyph realized as the temperature beneath his shield began to rise dramatically. The fire surrounded him, the blue and white flames crackling against his energy barrier.

“Two can play at that game, fucker!” Glyph yelled out. Rubbing his hands together, Glyph stood in momentary concentration. A second later the flames around him chilled and froze in place. Then they burst into ice dust and fell to the ground around his shield like frozen snow. He could see the demon now, clearly taken aback by what it had just witnessed. In the blink of an eye Glyph teleported in front of the creature and thrust out his sword. The demon dove to one side as the bright blue blade sliced into the demon’s hip. The creature rolled past him quickly, toward the battle between Ishea, Lobrein, and the other demon.

Glyph spun instantly and pulled up his shield as the demon thrust his arm forward intent upon frying Glyph with lightning. Glyph braced for the impact, but nothing happened. The demon stiffened, realizing it had strayed into his comrade’s magical shroud.

Before Glyph could react, a blast of water hit the demon from the dark sky above. The demon howled in pain and clutched at his chest as it boiled into liquid and oozed down the front of his body. A moment later Glyph could see the beating of wings as Greem dipped down overhead and quickly disappeared into the darkness.

Retaliating with his own lightning bolt, Glyph watched the demon dropping to its knees as electricity coursed through him. The demon wobbled back and forth a few seconds, and Glyph knew it was as good as dead as the creature struggled to breathe. The demon’s hands grasped desperately at the exposed bones in his chest and neck, as his flesh, muscle, and organs dissolved into acrid smoke, before toppling face first to the sandy ground.

Glyph ran past the smoldering remains of the dead demon toward the silver-back that still battled with Ishea and Lobrein. The shroud had already moved away from him as the demon advanced on the two sorceresses. Stopping in his tracks, Glyph tried desperately to come up with some idea of how to kill the fucker once and for all. Hurling rocks, or even spraying water would have no effect against its shield.

‘Magic can’t be created within the perimeter. That only leaves magic that can be created outside the sphere and thrown into it.’ He thought, trying to catch his breath. Glyph’s eyes darted to the blue blade of his sword. ‘It’s our best bet at ending this.’ He decided. Glancing around, Glyph could see that the Hexzu were now losing ground against the lesser demons and Grull, who were advancing with more reinforcements every minute, undoubtedly called by their master.

Clenching the sword tight, Glyph charged headlong straight at the demon. Catching sight of him, the demon jumped back nearly twenty feet. It swiftly flung several bolts of lightning in Glyph’s direction. Glyph deftly caught two with his sword as the third crackled past overhead. Turning slightly in mid stride, he stormed forward, intent on the demon’s death.

The demon’s shield suddenly blazed bright blue, as both Ishea and Lobrein continuously blasted it with an energy draining lightning attack. ‘They should know I’m going for the kill’ Glyph thought as he moved closer. “It must be ‘a distraction’.” Glyph heard the words in his mind even as he spoke them out loud. Then he heard Ishea add ‘Hurry!’ The demon turned momentarily to face Ishea and Lobrein, and then turned back, shooting a bolt directly at Glyph point blank.

Glyph swung and his blue blade deflected the bolt. With an enormous leap, Glyph cut through the demon’s shield and as he came back down, thrust the sword deep into the creature’s knee until it protruded out the back. Using his momentum, Glyph held the hilt tightly and swung his body to the outside of the demon’s leg causing the sword to slice back, severing most of the creature’s leg.

Glyph dropped to the ground, and watched the demon howl as his leg turned inward, toppling the creature onto his back. Narrowly escaping the demon’s fall, Glyph scrambled to his feet. Flipping his sword grip over in his hand, he rushed the demon as he lay there and plunged the blade deep into his side. Using his weight again, he pushed the sword down the length of the demon’s mid-section from his ribs to his hip as purplish gore spilled out over Glyph’s knees and feet.

The demon roared and tried to roll to one side, his arm raised up toward Glyph. With his dying breath, the creature’s hand lit up momentarily before the spell fizzled in a shower of sparks. With one great heave, Glyph leapt forward into the air, lopped off the demon’s hand at the wrist, twisted in mid-air, and severed the creature’s head on the backstroke.

Glyph quickly looked around. “Fall back! That way!” Glyph shouted and pointed behind them. Glyph felt an enormous rush as energy began to flow back into his body. Whatever powered the magical shroud had obviously died with its owner. Ishea and Lobrein fell into defensive positions, as a throng of Grull began to advance upon them.

“The Hexzu are being overrun.” Glyph yelled to his companions.

He had almost made it to their position when a gargoyle slammed into the ground in front of him. Glyph ran over to the Hexzu, checking him over for injury. It didn’t look good. His gray rock like skin now resembled charcoal briquettes after a messy barbeque, and the burn covered his chest, and arm. Cracks and tears rippled his left wing as he lay there in the sandy dirt.

Glyph looked up in time to magically swat away an incoming spear, and fireball the Grull that threw it. “I’m getting you out of here, lay still!” Glyph spoke to Gorth, as he finally placed the face with his name.

‘Shit, shit, shit!’ Glyph thought as he placed his hand on the Hexzu’s good shoulder and thought of the dune outside the camp where they had waited for Glyph’s hour. In an instant they were there. “Hang in there Gorth! Don’t give up!” Placing his hand onto Gorth’s chest Glyph began to heal his wounds. It was so hard using red magic to heal; there had to be an easier way. There was an easier way, he realized. Glyph stopped his healing, then started again this time trying to tap the blue magic. ‘It’s time I learn how to use it again as well’ He thought.

Concentrating all of his energy, Glyph tried to call forth the blue magic. With a sudden roar, a blinding brilliant blue aura surrounded his hand, and Gorth’s torso. Startled, Glyph quickly pulled away, and the healing stopped. Glyph looked down at Gorth as the gargoyle opened his eyes. “Great One…” Gorth rasped.

The Hexzu appeared to have been completely healed in those few seconds. “Wow.” Glyph responded.

“You have saved me!” Gorth said, trembling as Glyph helped pull him to his feet.

“I suppose I did.” Glyph said examining the Hexzu closely. “Now we must get back to the battle Gorth, the others need our help.”

Gorth shuddered and stiffened to attention, as if a general was addressing him. “Agreed.” The Hexzu said, now scowling happily.

“I need to find Ishea and Lobrein.” Glyph said, trying not to make it sound like a command. Without a word Gorth immediately stepped behind Glyph and lifted him skyward. Within a minute the Hexzu had circled the camp and set him down about twenty feet behind Ishea and Lobrein. The pair had been moving steadily toward the edge of the encampment in an effort to keep the enemy forces from surrounding them. The other Hexzu warriors now flew in a circle above their heads slinging their Vorkas at anyone who strayed too close.

Shooting out a volley of lightning bolts, Glyph began to cover their flank. “It is about time you got here. Is he…?” Ishea asked him as Glyph moved up behind her.

“He’s fine.” Glyph answered her while slicing a hunk of brain, horn, and some face from a Grull that charged in at them. “Keep moving this way, we can’t let them surround us!” Glyph called out as he moved slowly into the outskirts of the compound.

The fighting became more and more intense as several lesser demons, working in unison, joined the fray. Suddenly Aroth and Greem spiraled into the sand between Glyph and Ishea. Glyph called forth a shield to cover the four of them, as Ishea ran to the two injured Hexzu.

“We can’t protect ourselves and them too.” Glyph said.

“They chose their way Glyph.” Ishea retorted, as she administered her healing touch.

“So it’s okay if they die, as long as we live?” Glyph said his anger rising to the surface of his voice.

“I did not say that!” Ishea shouted back at him.

Glyph glanced around to locate Lobrein, who was still holding her own for the moment. “We need to get out of here and regroup. Tell Lobrein and the Hexzu to meet back at the dune. Notify Zarabish as well.” Glyph interjected. Ishea sent the word as Glyph strode up and placed his hand on her back. Glyph dropped his shield just as they all vanished and reappeared a second later behind the dune above the demon camp. Jumping to Greem’s side, Glyph began to heal the Hexzu’s injuries using the red magic. Glyph wasn’t sure if he could control the amount of raw power that he had conjured up the last time he used the blue.

Lobrein came walking over to them a minute later, with Crom, Gorth, and Orotet landing several feet behind her. “We should hide out until the others arrive.” She suggested. “There are too many of them, and too few of us.”

“No.” Glyph replied. “They will regroup. They aren’t the average fighting unit, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“What do you mean, Glyph?” Ishea asked him, hoping to cut off Lobrein’s harsh reply.

“I mean these guys were trained to act as a fighting force, they weren’t all just a bunch of hapless Grull running about waiting to die. Some of them were almost effective.” He explained.

“Then what would you suggest we do?” Lobrein said sarcastically.

“What they don’t expect.” Glyph said pausing dramatically while healing Greem’s stone skin using some sand from the dune the Hexzu was now laying upon. “Attack.”

“He is right.” A voice came from out of the darkness. They all turned to see a battle-worn Zarabish walk into the small light of their circle. “They have already taken notice of your light here and are organizing an attack.”

“What happened to you?” Glyph asked her, slightly increasing the speed at which he was healing Greem.

“The Grull were strictly business, and protocol. They attacked me as soon as I was unable to give them the proper response to their sentry’s question.” She replied.

“They’re obviously better trained than the group at Okrune, so what’s changed?” Glyph wondered aloud.

“They learn, they adapt.” Zarabish commented. “They probably observed the fighting style of your military in the last foray into your world.”

“You mean they are mimicking the behavior of our soldiers, so they can learn how to defeat us?” Ishea asked, helping Aroth to his feet.

“It is a common tactic used against an enemy of particularly difficult resistance.” Zarabish said, slightly shrugging her shoulders. Ishea approached Zarabish and held out her hand. Zarabish eyed Ishea suspiciously, but sat down cross-legged in front of her anyway. Ishea began to heal the demon as Glyph finished with Greem.

“Thank you, Great One.” Greem said to Glyph, stretching his neck and shoulder from side to side.

“Grot would never have forgiven me.” Glyph said to him with a straight face.

Greem instantly recognized the same line he had given Glyph earlier and scowled broadly. “So. What is our plan?” The Hexzu asked.

“We form a wedge, wizards in front, Hexzu flanking the sides. If we attack them from behind we can strike, then withdraw, heal up, and go in again.” Glyph replied.

“And what of me? Am I to do nothing?” Zarabish questioned.

“Yeah, that about sums it up.” Glyph answered curtly.

“Do you think I am weak, that I cannot defend myself against a Grull? I killed at least twenty of those horned beasts not more than a moment ago.” Zarabish glanced at her magical shackles and sighed. “At least let me vent my frustration on a few broken skulls.”

Glyph narrowed his eyes and stared at Zarabish, considering her request for a moment, as Ishea finished healing her and stepped away. “I thought you said you couldn’t fight without magic?” He said raising one eyebrow.

“I lied.” Zarabish replied, staring back at him with the best poker face Glyph had ever seen.

“Alright, you have the rear. Any move or action you take to try and free yourself, communicate with the enemy, cause interference, or initiate a direct attack against anyone of us, and you will wish that I had let Tsach kill you back in the dungeon. Understood?” Glyph demanded of her.

“Understood.” Zarabish said, nodding slightly, then she turned to face Ishea. “I never thought I would say this but, thank you, sorceress.” The words sounded foreign in her mouth. Ishea nodded and smiled politely.

“They are coming.” Lobrein said suddenly.

“Care to take the point?” Glyph asked Lobrein.

She nodded her head once, “Very well.”

Their group quickly crested the dune as the suns began to rise. Glyph could see a column of Grull soldiers marching up the other side toward them, a group of sub-demons huddled together at the rear. ‘This is going to be ugly’ Glyph thought as he scanned the encampment for the right spot to attack. He turned to Greem and pointed to the right. “What about there?” Glyph asked.

Just then they could here a dull roar in the distance. Greem and the other Hexzu became suddenly excited and started pointing to the left, but past the encampment further into the distance. Glyph strained to see what they were looking at.

“They are here.” Aroth announced.

Glyph could now see the giant shadow that crossed the landscape moving toward them. It was the Hexzu; all of them, and they blotted out the rising suns.

“Holy shit.” Glyph swore, finding his mouth slightly agape at the sight of it. The sounds of horns blowing in the distance now reached his ears. A small breeze picked up as they stood there and watched. Some of the Grull slowed their pace and also began to look towards the giant mass of Hexzu approaching them. Glyph stared as wave after wave broke rank and dove toward the right flank of the main force. Seconds later Greem answered with his own horn, then he and the other Hexzu were airborne headed toward the battle.

The Hexzu picked their targets and let their Vorkas fly. It reminded Glyph of a chainsaw. A thousand razorblades shot toward the enemy forces all at one time, followed by a large group of Hexzu whose sole purpose was to retrieve the weapons that hit their target. The Vorka that missed quickly returned upwards like boomerangs, followed by the Hexzu who had retrieved them from dying or wounded enemies. The tactic created an oval of spinning death that gave birth to nothing less than mass carnage. As the first wave retrieved their weapons, the second wave was releasing. If they were challenged by fireball or some other magic from a lesser demon they would change directions and dive bomb the devils with water from the animal skins many of them had slung to their backs. After the fourth wave of Hexzu sliced into them, any Grull still standing were trying to run away.

The main group of Hexzu began to mass, now hovering upon the outskirts of the encampment. The four attack waves of gargoyles now circled clockwise above them, and began to rain down upon the bloodied Grull and Demons, cleaving skulls and splitting chests as they attacked and flew skyward again. Only Zarabish seemed bored with the sheer beauty of the Hexzu’s attack.

A bright flash to Glyph’s left immediately drew his attention. “Drayden! Amos!” Glyph called out as he saw them materialize. Everyone turned and Ishea rushed in to embrace Drayden, who smiled broadly.

Amos nodded to Glyph, “Nice to see you again.” He stated with a slight smile.

Glyph also fought back a smile as he reached out and shook Amos’s hand. “You guys have great timing.” He said, then stepped back and looked Amos over. “I guess that fall didn’t do you in completely.”

“Nah, I was out cold though. When I came to, Drayden was already healing up the rest of me.” Amos replied.

“I believe we have a gate to open.” Drayden said, one arm still holding onto Ishea. “The Hexzu have cleaned things up here, so we should get started right away. There will be time to talk once the evacuation has begun.”

“Drayden is correct. The battle here is won, let us concentrate our efforts on the gate at once.” Lobrein said, took a step back and blinked away. Ishea touched Zarabish and they disappeared as well.

Drayden reached for Amos and as he touched him, Amos vanished, but Drayden remained behind.

“Glyph, Glyph!” Drayden called out, just as Glyph was concentrating on the outline of the gate. Glyph turned to stare at the old blind man.

“Something wrong?” Glyph asked.

“There is something you must know; Amos has powers, he is a wizard, but more importantly, he is my replacement.”

“What? Bogg?” Glyph stammered.

“No, Amos.” Drayden corrected, “and he is.”

“Amos is a wizard? Are you shitting me?” Glyph asked in shock.

Drayden cocked his head to one side, and wrinkled his brow. “Amos is here to take my place. It was written in the prophecy. Lobrein does not know, I have hidden it from her. I feared she might act to prevent it, or try to interfere. This is my purpose Glyph, my part to play in this drama to unfold. I am sorry, I believe I have the easier path to follow.”

“If Amos is taking your place, where are you going?”

“I am dying, Glyph. The magical serpent that Cruix created bit me in the arm. Its venom has been increasingly difficult to combat. I have very little time left, and it is important that you know I have transferred my animus into Amos. He carries it with him now, and will eventually be able to use it.” Drayden explained.

Glyph stood there, stunned. “Animus?” was all he could ask.

“Amos will be able to use my knowledge and skills, and he will become increasingly wise, drawing on some seven thousand years of experience.” Drayden said trying to clarify.

“So, he will become you?”

“No, he will be Amos, but he will, in effect, know what I know. He will be able to tap into it more and more as time passes and his skill increases.”

“Son of a bitch.” Glyph said and let out a short whistle. “Does Amos know?”

“I told him as much, but he does not yet know what it means to be a wizard. I told him he must choose. Help to guide him Glyph, as he follows the right path his journey will become self-evident. You will know, when his knowledge and power begin to increase exponentially.” Drayden reached out and placed his hand on Glyph’s shoulder. “You must promise me.” He said and stared piercingly at Glyph with his blind white-pupiled eyes.

“Yes…Yes of course” Glyph said, his eyes becoming moist as the prospect of Drayden’s death began to sink in.

“Remember Glyph, you brought him here, and whether you knew it or not, you have chosen him to take my place. He is your responsibility.” Drayden said, and hacked up a piece of lung.

“When will you…?” Glyph asked, unsure as to how to phrase the question.

“It will not be long, and do not tell the others, they will know soon enough. We must open the portal now, my concoctions will not sustain me for much longer.” Drayden nodded, and teleported away.

 

The Hour Book2 Chapter 19

“That was a quick hour.”

Glyph heard the words as the light dimmed and his new surroundings took hold. It was Zarabish!

“What the…?” Glyph gasped and swiftly turned his head.

Suddenly Bogg started to scream out in terror. Glyph’s eyes began to focus in on the female demon, who was seated a few yards away. Her shadowy outline was barely visible in the forested twilight.

He glanced over at Bogg, who was lunging for the guns that hung around Glyph’s neck.

“Bogg! It’s OK!” Glyph shouted at him, as he dodged the detective’s second attempt to get his hands on the weapons.

Amos Bogg continued to rant hysterically about the demon he knew was about to slay them both.

“Amos! Relax!” Glyph shouted.

Instantly Bogg began to relax. “What is going on?” He asked calmly. “Why am I no longer terrified? I don’t understand.”

Without realizing, Glyph had used a Word of Command on him. “Bogg, this is Zarabish. She is my demon. She will not harm you.” Glyph stared hard at Zarabish. “Understood?”

“Son of a bitch.” Bogg said, as Zarabish slowly got to her feet. “I don’t see you for 23 hours, and you already got yourself a demon. You do move fast.”

‘That sounds like the Bogg I know.’ Glyph thought, and smiled.

Glyph then turned his attention to Zarabish. “How did you get here?” He demanded.

“You tell me. One minute you were giving your pathetic goodbyes and the next moment I was here.” Zarabish stated, and chuckled over his ignorance.

“Oh damn! Dammit! The Blood Oath, you gave a blood oath to a cursed man, now you have it too. Fucking transference! Lobrein warned me to be more careful. Fuck it all!” Glyph swore.

“Well Glyph, this looks like an interesting world; perhaps I could be useful.” Zarabish teased, as she glanced about at her surroundings.

“Perhaps you could get me killed too.” Glyph shot back at her.

“Mind filling me in on what the hell is going on here?” Bogg interrupted. “Is that…?” Bogg choked, pointing repeatedly at Zarabish, as if struggling to find the right word.

“Demon?” Glyph suggested, uncertain if that was what Bogg was trying to say.

“Is that demon on our side?” He finally blurted out.

“As a matter of fact, she is.” Glyph stated as he scanned the darkening sky for helicopters. “Look, right now we need to get as far away from here as we can. Those special ops guys are still around, it’ll only be a matter of minutes before they realize we’re here and try to burn us hard.” Glyph explained.

“Where do we go then?” Bogg asked.

Glyph glanced around a moment. “That way.” He replied, pointing up river.

“What’s there?” Bogg demanded, never taking his eyes off Zarabish, and keeping his distance.

“Two mountains, separated by a river. I’m pretty certain it’s that way.” Glyph replied. He wasn’t sure why, but he knew there was something there, something he had seen in a dream.

“Let me guess, this is another one of your fantastic plans right? Glyph, the mountains are a ways off, and it ain’t like we can drive there.” Bogg said sarcastically eyeing up Zarabish. “How do you propose we get there, or anywhere, without being spotted?”

“We go fast. Faster than a human can move anyway.” Glyph turned back to Zarabish, and eyed her speculatively. “How fast can you run?”

“What are you thinking?” Zarabish retorted.

“Can you carry me and Bogg?”

“Not while running, that is for certain.”

“What if it was just Bogg?”

“Perhaps. It would depend on how far I would have to run.”

“Okay, take Bogg and head up the river until you come to a gap between two mountains.”

“I am not going anywhere near that river!” Zarabish shouted.

“Keep it down, there are people hunting us remember? Just follow the river, you don’t have to be in the water.”

“Will you tell me what this is all about already!” Bogg interrupted.

“It’s a long story, Bogg. All you need to know is that she is on our side and she can’t do magic.” Glyph quipped, and turned back to Zarabish. “Are you ready?”

“I suppose.” Zarabish replied. “You. Bogg. I will sit down and you will climb onto my back.”

“Call me Amos.” The detective informed her as she sat down in front of him. “That goes for you too, Glyph.”

“Whatever you say, Amos.” Glyph said and gave Amos a mock salute. “You’ll need these.” Glyph said as he slid the machine gun straps onto his arm, and tossed them to Amos. Amos deftly caught the guns and slung them over each shoulder, then he took extra ammo out of the bag that Glyph dropped at his feet and started shoveling it into his pockets.

Amos stepped up apprehensively behind Zarabish. “You sure about this?” He asked Glyph as he cast a wary eye at the female demon. Glyph nodded yes, and Amos threw his arms around her neck and wrapped his legs around her torso. Zarabish stood slowly, but with ease of motion, and turned to face Glyph.

“I’m serious, man. No more Bogg. I was Bogg in a previous life.” Amos said to him, smiling over the demons shoulder.

“Oh, I almost forgot. Here take this too.” Glyph said and handed Zarabish the parchment that Greem had given him, and she in turn handed it back to Amos. “It’s for Grot.”

Amos nodded his thanks at Glyph who then gave Zarabish the thumbs up, and signaled her to move out. “And Amos, if she gives you any trouble, don’t hesitate to shoot her.” Glyph added, and smiled at the look on both of their faces.

“And what about you?  How will you keep up?” Zarabish questioned.

“I’ll find a way.” Glyph said winking at her.

“Don’t you think we should stick together? Whatever you’re going to do, just do it, and then we’ll head out.” Amos stated.

“Amos is correct, if we are confronted, we may need your power to overcome such a circumstance. Especially since I am unable to perform magic.” Zarabish commented.

Glyph thought about it for a moment, and had to admit they did have a point. He agreed and immediately set his mind to figuring out the best way for him to follow them. “Alright, my first thought was to teleport along from point to point behind you, but teleportation requires line of sight or memory to work, and the sun has already set, so I have neither.”

“Can you change shape?” Zarabish asked.

“Well, the idea occurred to me, but I have never tried it, so I don’t know how to change, or how to change back. It’s probably my best bet though.” Glyph reasoned. All Glyph knew for certain was that he had to do something, and quick.

“Maybe you could change into a deer or bird or something.” Amos suggested.

“The ‘or something’ has a nice ring to it. Alright, I’ll give it a go.” Glyph decided.

Closing his eyes, Glyph concentrated on an image of Greem. ‘If Lobrein can change into a gargoyle than so can I’. He thought. ‘It should be like creating something, only I need to place it in the same space that I occupy, and instead of creating all of the material, I can use most of what’s already there. I just need to change it, and tweak it a bit to make it perfect.’ Glyph struggled with his first attempt, and began to make progress, until his mind became jumbled with too many details. “I don’t think I can do it, there are too many factors to consider.” Glyph said. His flesh had turned lumpy and parts of his body were growing while the rest of him remained the same.

“You do not need to know the mechanics of how the animal works, you just have to recreate the shape, its musculature, and appendages.” Zarabish offered as she and Amos watched with rapt fascination. “The rest will follow.”

Glyph took the idea and ran with it. “So, I must concentrate on the image… and mold myself into it.” Suddenly Glyph felt a strange surge of heat pass through him, and opened his eyes. Something was different, he was taller, he was…a gargoyle! Glyph stared at his arms, the stony flesh, the wings! “That’s the secret, dammit! If I believe it, I can do it!” He nearly shouted. Glyph turned in a circle trying to admire his newly formed body from every angle, flexing his wings, and feeling the texture of his skin. ‘That’s why I can do things the others can’t.’ Glyph thought to himself. ‘Because I have no preconceived notions as to what can and can’t be done.’

Amos’s eyes bulged as he stared at Glyph. “That was damned incredible!” He stated, and snapped Glyph out of his shape-shifting reverie.

“Okay, we can discuss it later, right now it’s time to go.” Glyph said aloud and crouched down to spring into the air, when a bright flash of light cut through the darkness behind him.

“Leaving so soon Hexzu?” A deep raspy voice spoke.

Glyph spun around to see a demon standing in the tree line.

“Shit.” Amos said, and sounded as if he actually had.

“So, which of you is the Great One?” It demanded. “Perhaps you could enlighten me Zarabish.”

“Krodich.” Zarabish spoke spitefully.

Krodich chuckled evilly. “I recognized your musk as soon as I appeared. Though I am surprised to find you here, and in the company of wizards at that. Tsach will be so disappointed when I inform him.” Krodich gloated.

“Tsach, sent you here?” Zarabish growled. “How did you find us?”

Krodich ignored her however and took a few steps closer to them, eyeing Amos and Glyph shrewdly. “The one you carry on your back loosely fits the description.” The demon said looking at Amos. “But there is something different about you gargoyle.” Krodich said turning towards Glyph. “For one, you haven’t tried to fly away.”

“What difference would it make?” Glyph answered, trying to stall. Why, and how did this demon get here? Glyph stood his ground as Krodich took another several steps closer.

“That is a fancy little sword you have there.” The demon commented, snapping a small tree branch off and picking his long pointy teeth with it.

‘The sword!’ Glyph thought as he glanced down at it. Glyph forgot he was wearing it when he came to Earth. That would explain how the demon found them, it was the same way Simeon had done it; they both followed the magic in the sword. Glyph looked up from the scabbard to the demon, its penetrating eyes stared at him.

“Shield!” Glyph called out just as lightning flew from the demon’s hands. Glyph quickly pushed his arms out and a force-wave of unseen power blasted the demon back into the trees some thirty feet.

“Shit! We don’t have time for this!” Glyph yelled.

“How did he get here?” Amos blurted out, as he threw the bolt on the AK.

“It’s the sword, they can follow the magic in the sword!” Glyph replied excitedly.

“Glyph, you must kill him. If he returns and tells Tsach about Amos and me, he may be able to use us to get at you!” Zarabish hissed at him.

“I’ll handle it, take Amos and go!” Glyph ordered. Just as Zarabish turned to go, a flat red burst of energy shot out of the trees in a wide path, just missing Zarabish’s head. A moment later trees began to topple all around them. Glyph leapt toward Zarabish and Amos, encompassing them within the dome of his energy shield, just as a massive tree trunk slammed into it and slid off to one side.

Amos released his grip on Zarabish and slid down her back to the ground, looking about nervously. “Where is it? Where is it?” He kept asking repeatedly.

With a guttural howl Glyph let loose an explosive ring of energy that violently ripped the tree away from his shield in a fury of splintering wood and shredded leaves. Glyph dropped the shield and quickly drew his sword on instinct. It was smaller now in his claw-like hand. Without even thinking, he willed the sword larger to be more proportionate to his Hexzu body. The blazing white color of its blade lit up the surrounding area, but Glyph could not see the demon anywhere.

He stole a glance at Zarabish, who seemed to be terrified. He hoped this meant that she wasn’t suddenly going to try and turn on him. Without warning, Amos let loose with the machine gun; Glyph side-stepped in time to see Amos thrown off into the darkness by an unseen force. “Light!” Glyph said as an orb of white light shot into the air and hovered above them. Krodich came over the fallen trees in one leap and shot lightning at Glyph before it landed in the small clearing that surrounded them.

Glyph caught the lightning with his sword, and spun the blade, re-directing the bolt back into the surprised demon’s shoulder knocking him to his knees. Zarabish jumped backward, as if she didn’t know what to do without her magic, or possibly to avoid being hit in the crossfire, Glyph didn’t know which.

As Glyph charged forward, the demon vanished! “What the hell? Is it invisible? Or did it just teleport away?” Glyph asked himself.

“He has shape-shifted!” Zarabish shouted as she clambered into the tangled mess of cut trees behind him.

‘That was it! Just like Cruix and the mouse, only… how small did he go, and into what?’ Glyph wondered, as he kept turning left then right, waving his sword back and forth in front of him. “I don’t have time for this, Krodich!” He shouted. Glyph called forth his shield and ignited the air, as a blast furnace of flames surrounded him in a twenty-foot radius. As soon as the air was consumed the fire extinguished itself, except for a few tree limbs and some scrub. Within seconds the demon reappeared, now singed black in areas, and gasping for breath.

Glyph lunged at the demon, the larger bulk of his Hexzu frame knocking the demon off balance onto its back. With one gliding leap, Glyph landed next to the demon’s head and brought the bright white blade of his sword toward Krodich’s throat. Krodich swung his arm upward at the same time, and swept Glyph’s legs out from under him. Glyph pressed the sword down, but the demon had turned its head, and as Glyph fell, the flat of the blade slid across the side of the creature’s neck and lifted away.

“Grab him you stupid Chin’ee!” Krodich raged at Zarabish, who was scrambling to get away from both of them. Rolling to his feet, Glyph again stood opposite the demon, their eyes locked. Glyph found himself out of breath; all this magic use was wearing him out.

With blinding speed the demon pushed its fists toward Glyph, and before he could raise his shield the wall of invisible force blasted Glyph backward into the air. He tried to compensate with his wings, but slammed into the limbs of a tree before fully recovering. Glyph began to untangle himself from the branches, and just as he was crawling out, Krodich blasted the bottom of the tree sending it and Glyph crashing to the ground. Glyph tried to roll over in the mess of branches and leaves and found his wing pinned under the weight of the trunk. He thought of using his sword to cut himself free, but it was nowhere around. Glyph could hear the demon moving closer now, as it ripped limbs off the tree in an effort to get at him. Channeling power into his fist, Glyph punched the trunk where his wing was pinned and cracked the tree in half. He worked feverishly to free his wing and just as he pulled it loose, he was kicked onto his back. Glyph looked up to see Krodich towering over him.

“Is that all you have Great One?” The demon sneered at him, and placed his massive foot onto Glyph’s chest. “I expected a challenge, but I have chin’ee that would make a worthier opponent.”

“Don’t you realize when you’re beat Krodich?” Glyph wheezed back as he struggled under the demon’s weight.

Without warning Krodich cried out and fell backward. Glyph wasn’t sure what had happened, but quickly jumped to his feet, as a new idea suddenly sprang to mind. ‘Use it as a tool.’ He said to himself, and leapt forward toward the toppling demon. Glyph concentrated hard as he pounced onto the demon’s chest. Moving his open hand in a circle, he thrust it down toward Krodich’s head at lightning speed, as water began to spray from his palm like a power washer into the demon’s face.

Krodich let loose a blood curdling scream that raised the hairs on the back of Glyph’s neck. Its body and limbs quivered uncontrollably as the water ate through the demon’s flesh and muscle like industrial acid. The creature jerked violently several times, and finally fell silent. Glyph closed his hand and the water stopped. He quickly jumped back to avoid the acrid black and yellow smoke pouring from the devil’s face. Its skull had been stripped bare to the bone.

Glyph looked up and saw Zarabish standing there with the King’s sword held firmly in her grasp, black demon blood dripping from the blade. She waved the putrid smoke away from her face with her free hand, and stared at Glyph intently. For a moment Glyph thought she was going to attack, but then she flipped the sword around and offered him the handle.

“Sharp blade.” She commented.

Glyph reached forward slowly and took the sword, and looking down at Krodich’s lifeless body. He realized that its one leg had nearly been severed in two. That was what had made the demon fall; Zarabish had saved him.

“Thanks.” Glyph replied. “Where’s Amos?”

“He is over there.” She said, and then added. “He is injured, but still breathing.”

Glyph made his way over to Amos. “What’s wrong?” He asked.

“Ribs.” Amos said softly.

Glyph placed his hand over Amos’s ribs and healed them, then helped him to his feet.

“Is it dead?” Amos asked.

“Yes. Now let’s get out of here, all this magical fighting is bound to have attracted attention.” Glyph replied. Amos climbed up onto Zarabish’s back, and the female demon turned quickly and started off through the woods at a run. Glyph crouched down and sprang into the air, willing his new wings to flap. At first he strained with the effort, but as he gained altitude he began to relax, and found that it became easier to do.

Sailing the winds, Glyph covered a mile in less than a minute. Staying close to the river, he picked up Zarabish’s trail shortly thereafter. Following the swath of broken trees and stomped underbrush, Glyph flew over their heads for another mile or two. Angling his body and pumping his wings harder, he ascended higher. There was a clear sky and Glyph wanted to see how far they had to go. He could see the mountains in the distance, and guessed they were some fifteen miles away. Pulling his wings close to his body, as he had seen Greem and Grot do, Glyph dropped into a dive, and spiraled downward, locating Zarabish and Amos’s position once again.

Repeating the way the Hexzu landed from memory wasn’t easy. Glyph tried his best, but ended up pulling his wings in too soon, and dropped like a rock about six feet onto the ground. Glyph caught himself with his knees and arms, and pushed himself back to his feet.

Suddenly the trees parted and Zarabish came sliding to a stop in front of him.

“What is it?” She asked.

“The place we need to be is about fifteen miles away; do you think you can make that in…” Glyph glanced at his Hexzu wrist. “Amos, how long have we been here?” Glyph asked.

“I’m guessing about twenty minutes or so.” Amos replied.

“… Forty more minutes?” Glyph continued.

“If I understand your mile, then I think it could be done.” Zarabish replied.

“Glyph, why are these mountains so important? What’s up there?” Amos questioned him.

“I’m not sure exactly. I’ll explain later. Zarabish, don’t stop until you get there. Climb the mountain to the right of the river, I’ll scout ahead and find the right place.”

“How will I get across the river?” Zarabish asked.

Glyph reached over and touched his hand to her hip; an instant later they all appeared on the other side of the river.

Stepping back, Glyph looked upward at an opening in the tree canopy, then over at Amos and Zarabish. “If I find this place fast, I can come back and try teleporting us there, but you’ll have to be a lot closer, so let’s get going.”

“Glyph, free me from these silver shackles and I can get us there in half the time!” Zarabish argued.

“No, not yet. I appreciate what you did back there with Krodich, but the shackles stay, and we don’t have time to argue, so go! Quickly!” Glyph said to her, and in one swift leap, took to the air and sped up the river.

About fifteen minutes later, Glyph spied a small clearing about halfway up the mountain, he wasn’t sure why, but knew this was the place, and quickly doubled back.

‘I’ve got to get back to Zarabish and Amos fast.’ He thought, but as he flew in their direction, he could hear the sounds of helicopters in the distance.

Glyph strained to peer through the darkness, and could see about a half-dozen choppers headed up the river and moving fast. “Great. Fucking great.” Glyph mumbled, and flew off to find his companions.

‘I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to outrun them.’ He thought. ‘It all depends on how close Zarabish has gotten to the Gap. Those black ops guys are most likely coming to investigate whatever the hell is going on out here, and It won’t be long before they find Zarabish’s trail, or catch my scent.’

Glyph doubled his speed, and flew down near the tops of the trees in hopes of finding them in the darkness; he found his Hexzu vision was far superior to his own, especially at night. Swooping across the river, Glyph picked up their trail fairly easily. He was flying incredibly fast now as he followed their pathway back toward the mountains. Zarabish and Amos must be making good time, or he had been gone longer than he suspected.

A few minutes later, and about ten miles from where they had crossed the river, Glyph spied them trudging along through the underbrush. He touched down fairly smoothly on an exposed outcropping of rock in their path, and waited for Zarabish and Amos to reach him. Glyph called out to them as the pair came within shouting distance, stopping Zarabish short.

“It took you long enough.” Zarabish complained. “My back is killing me you know.”

Glyph scowled a grin. “It’s not far now, maybe five miles. We only have about twenty minutes before we get pulled back to M’atra, and we need to make it there without being detected; those special ops guys are on our tail again.”

“Not again!” Amos exclaimed, sounding pissed off. “And this ain’t no joy ride for me either.” He directed at Zarabish. “Where the hell are we going anyway?”

“We can talk about it when we get there, right now we have to go.” Glyph answered.

“I too would like to know where you are making me go.” Zarabish commented, half waiting for Glyph’s order.

Glyph shuddered in exasperation. “There! Okay?” Glyph said, pointing to the shadowy mountains silhouetted by the night sky. “Right there! The mountain on our side of the river about half way up, and don’t ask me why! Can we go now?”

“Why not just order me to do so?” Zarabish asked, a confused look on her face.

“Because I don’t want to have to order you.” Glyph paused, shaking his fist in frustration. “Just do it.”

Zarabish nodded, hoisted Amos a bit higher on her back, and resumed her course through the trees. Glyph spread his wings and took to the sky.

As soon as he was above the trees he could see six choppers circling the area where Glyph had teleported Zarabish and Amos to this side of the river. He had only watched for a few seconds before one of the helicopters broke formation and headed straight for him. Seconds later another followed. Of the four left behind, two began to weave and fly erratically, then suddenly straightened and also came at Glyph. One of the remaining two began to spin in place, and without warning crashed into another and exploded into a giant ball of flames.

‘They turned on each other’ Glyph decided ‘They turned evil, and the good ones fought back. The other four aircraft aren’t even following the path Zarabish left. Those are the black-eyed evil sons of bitches that are coming to kill me.’ Glyph thought as he hovered above the trees watching the helicopters approach.

Glyph concentrated, and channeling power into his arms he lifted them swiftly above his head. An enormous cracking noise filled the air, almost like popping bubble wrap, as a dozen trees along both sides of the river shot into the air like missiles.

The first helicopter was pierced through the bottom, branches splintered off in every direction as the main trunk blew through the top and snapped the blades of the propeller. It dropped from the sky, and was followed shortly by the second one.

The third copter veered off ninety degrees, and the fourth followed suit in the opposite direction, barely dodging the barrage of tree-spears.

Glyph turned back towards the gap and began to fly away as fast as he could. Just as he had caught up to Zarabish, he could hear the last two helicopters closing in. ‘They never stop coming until they’re dead.’ He reminded himself. Glyph had become accustomed to being the one who did the attacking during his hour, now it was back to the way things used to be, and he had to make that adjustment.

He spun around to face them and saw two flashes of light burst from the front of the pursuing aircraft; Glyph instantly realized they were missiles. Arching his back, Glyph shot straight up as fast as he could will his wings to carry him. Calling forth his shield, a faint white sphere surrounded him. He knew it would make him more of a target, but it would also make Zarabish and Amos less of one, and he hoped it would be enough to keep them from being discovered.

The missiles snaked through the air, then shot upward after Glyph. ‘Heat-seeking’ Glyph thought, and angled left in a descending arch toward the side of the mountain. As the missiles closed in, Glyph ignited the air behind him, shut off his shield, and quickly arced to the right. Seconds later they exploded on impact with the side of the cliff, sending large chunks of rock and trees careening toward the river below.

As Glyph veered around the side of an escarpment, he stole a quick glance, and could see both helicopters moving to intercept him. He was running out of time, and if he didn’t destroy them soon, they would know exactly where he disappeared, and that meant they would be waiting when he returned. ‘They really need to die now.’ Glyph decided.

Suddenly reversing course, Glyph showered the chopper closest to him in a blanket of thick ice, and sustained it until the second copter came into weapons range. The second craft immediately fired two rockets at him, and Glyph returned fire with a volley of fireballs as he flew in close and latched onto the ice covered helicopter, and rode it down as it dropped silently out of the sky.

The fireballs acted just like flares, and drew the missiles off in the opposite direction. Glyph let go of the helicopter shortly before it slammed into the ground and glided off just above the trees in a wide loop across the river. He looked back for the other chopper, but couldn’t find it. A few seconds later, as Glyph ascended toward the mountain once more he heard the distinct sound of gunfire. Fearing that the last copter had discovered Amos and Zarabish, he sped in their direction when a barrage of bullets ripped through his right wing.

Glyph shrieked on the next flap of his wings, as the thin membrane tore. He tried to compensate, but instead began to tumble in a spiraling free fall toward the valley beneath him. Glyph desperately tried to create some air or wind to cushion his impact, but found it hard to direct his thoughts at the ground while spinning end over end. A few seconds later Glyph tried again, but the wind merely brought him in at a softer trajectory, slowing him a bit before he slammed into a small clearing.

He opened his eyes, and couldn’t see anything. Lifting his head, Glyph realized he was laying face down in the dirt. His right side hurt, but he wasn’t sure if it was from the bullets or the fall. Glyph pushed himself up from the depression he had left in the soft detritus; damn, gargoyles are tough!

Glyph was feeling drained as he attempted to heal his wing. He had barely gotten started when the helicopter came over the treetops, its machineguns blazing. Closing his eyes he thought of the last place he had glimpsed Zarabish and Amos; when Glyph opened his eyes he was there. They were about a mile up the mountainside ahead of him. “We’re running out of time!” Glyph said through gritted teeth as he resumed the healing of his wing. He sealed the tear, and made the bullet holes whole again. He felt drained, but pure adrenaline forced him to act.

Immediately Glyph took to the sky. His right wing still hurt, but it at least kept him airborne. Gaining altitude, Glyph spied a large hollow in the rock several hundred feet in front of Zarabish and Amos, and instantly teleported there. Glyph collapsed on the rock, and tried to catch his breath. He was exhausted now, and began to realize the huge amounts of energy he had been expending just holding the form of the Hexzu. He hadn’t heard the helicopter yet, but knew it was only a matter of time before it found him again.

Glyph began to tick off seconds in his head; they had to be down to the last several minutes, it could happen anytime now. A minute later Zarabish and Amos came upon the hollow; the demon almost stepped on Glyph as she went by.

“Stop.” Glyph called out.

Zarabish turned and saw Glyph lying there. “What are you doing?”

“Resting.” Glyph replied. “My reserves are tapped, I don’t know how much longer I can hold up. Luckily we’re almost out of time.”

“Is this the spot you wanted?” Amos asked him.

“Close enough. It’s around here somewhere.”

“There is nothing here but trees and rock. What did you expect to find?” Zarabish asked bending down to allow Amos to slide off her back.

Glyph sat up, and held himself upright with his arms braced against the rock. “I’m not sure but–.” He began to reply, but was cut off by the sounds of the helicopter blades, now whirling overhead. “Amos! Take it down!” Glyph shouted.

Amos, startled at first, whipped off the AK-47, pulled the bolt, and started blanketing the airship in lead.

Glyph called for a shield, which popped up for a second than fizzled. “I’m too damn tired.” He said to no one in particular. “We have to take cover!” Glyph yelled at Zarabish, who appeared momentarily stunned by the flying vessel and its weapons. “Over there!” Glyph screamed with the little bit of breath he could muster. He pointed toward the rocky mountainside, where he saw a fissure in the cliff that might be large enough to hide Zarabish.

The female demon looked as if she might make a break for it, but at the last second turned and scooped Glyph off the rock, tossed his Hexzu sized body over her shoulder and started to run.

“Amos!” Glyph wailed over the gunfire that Amos was spraying at the helicopter, which was now spinning around to face them above the trees. Zarabish sprinted past Amos, and Glyph screamed again, just as Amos’s ammo clip ran dry. “Amos! Take cover!”

Amos locked eyes with Glyph for a short moment as he rode by on Zarabish’s shoulder, then took off after them. Within seconds Zarabish was at the opening.

“I do not think I will fit!” Zarabish shouted as she dropped Glyph to the ground in front of the opening like a sack of potatoes.

“If you don’t” Glyph wheezed. “We’re as good as dead.”

Zarabish turned sideways and pushed herself into the fissure, which widened considerably on the inside, but had only a small ledge to stand on before the crevice dropped into darkness.  She took a moment to brace herself before she reached out, grabbed Glyph by the ankle, and started dragging him in behind her.

Glyph looked back and saw Amos racing towards him. The helicopter behind them had a distinctive wobble to it, and only one machinegun opened fire on them as Amos dove over top of Glyph into the cave. The last thing Glyph saw before his head was pulled inside were the telltale flashes of light that he knew were missiles. “Fuck me.”

Zarabish blocked Amos from the hole at her back with her leg, but his momentum knocked her foot from the narrow ledge. She scrambled to regain her balance but slipped and swung her elbow into Amos, who grabbed hold of Glyph, and all three of them tumbled over the edge into the darkness. Glyph impacted the side of the fissure several times before they all slammed unceremoniously to the rocky cave floor. Glyph could hear rocks falling all around them, and then the explosion of the two missiles could be heard above them. Glyph opened his eyes and could see the flash of flames some forty feet above them through the small shaft they had fallen down.

The noise was deafening, and seemed to last forever. Then there was another explosion, but this time Glyph decided it had to have been outside as it sounded like a muffled pop noise. Falling rock pelted him from above, and the inside of his skull was pounding. He could barely lift his head, but even in the pitch darkness his Hexzu eyes could see Zarabish beginning to stir. Glyph forced his head to the right and could see Amos laying a few feet away. He tried to speak but nothing came out.

Before Glyph could even think his next thought, a gasp escaped his lungs as the air was siphoned off around him. Within moments there was a familiar white flash, and all went dark once more, a distant voice could be heard mumbling, “You’re early”, as time, and his hour, came grinding to a halt.

The Hour Book2 Chapter 18

Glyph stopped a Hexzu he passed in the main hallway and inquired as to where he might find Greem, who as it turned out was overseeing the packing of dried food from the temple stores.

“I did as you asked Great One. The female demon is clothed, and under guard in the dungeon.” Greem said as soon as he approached.

“Thank you Greem. You read my mind.” Glyph joked.

Greem scowled at him quizzically, and shook his head.

Glyph found his way down to the dungeon and nodded at the guards as he entered. He found the female demon lying on some straw a short distance from the pillar she had been tied to.

“Oh. It is you.” She said flatly.

“My name is Glyph. You got a name?” Glyph asked looking her over, fighting an urge to fry her with lightning.

“The Great One has a name! Glyph you say; how very odd. I am not impressed.” The demon replied sarcastically.

“Let’s try this a different way. Tell me your name. Now!” Glyph demanded, placing his hand on the hilt of his sword.

Her eyes went wide for a moment, as if she were truly afraid. Turning her head away quickly she replied, “Zarabish.”

“Zarabish. Well, that sure makes me want to kill you less.” Glyph shot back at her. “Now that introductions are out of the way, why don’t we get down to business?”

“What do you want of me?” She sneered.

“Cooperation would be nice, maybe some information.” Glyph replied, calming himself down.

“Cooperation!” Zarabish laughed. “I will not betray my people to a filthy wizard.”

“In case you didn’t realize, you already did that when you begged me for your life, and gave me your blood oath. So we can do this one of two ways, there’s the civilized way, and the not so civilized way.” He threatened.

Zarabish remained silent, but shifted into a cross-legged sitting position.

“First, who is Tsach, and why does he want to kill me?”

Zarabish squirmed, then finally replied. “Tsach is our leader…He wants to kill you because you are the Great One.”

“Very nice, but you haven’t told me anything I don’t already know. Let’s be more specific.”

“Tsach is the Arch-Demon of Degruthras…” Zarabish trailed off.

“And?” Glyph prompted.

“He is a usurper.” Zarabish spat. “He came from obscurity and overthrew many higher ranked Demons.  Power determines rank in our society, so Demons rarely rise above their stations.”

“Where is he from?” Glyph asked.

“Heelix, our home world.”

“And he wants me dead because?”

“You are the Great One.” She said, and shot him a look as if that should be a sufficient enough explanation. Glyph just stared at her intently; finally she sighed heavily and continued. “Our ancient lore says the Great One will be the demise of Demonkind. Tsach seeks to destroy you before you do the same to him.”

“I don’t want to destroy him, I just want to get off this hell-hole of a planet and be left in peace.”

Zarabish chuckled deeply. “You ask some interesting questions. Do you not know you are the ‘bringer of life and death’?”

“What’s the life part about?”

“It is said that you destroy all who oppose you, and let live all those who would turn to your cause. The War-clerics believe that some demons will defect to save their own lives. These you will spare out of some disgusting notion of compassion.” She spat the last word out as if it left a bad taste in her mouth.

“Is that what you did? Defect?” Glyph asked.

“I did what I had to do to keep Tsach from killing me, just as I talk to you now to avoid being tortured or killed. I have no desire to cooperate with you. You are hunted, if not by Tsach, then by the next overlord.”

“Oh I see, you’re just doing it because you have to.” Glyph said, smiling. “You have such a strong sense of loyalty.”

“I am loyal to me! I do what I have to do to survive.” Zarabish quipped.

“I see how well it’s worked for you. I mean, you’re still alive, right? I think you’ve even been treated pretty well, for a prisoner.” Glyph said as he paced back and forth in front of her statuesque, yet slender frame. For some reason he could not quite explain, he admired her. She was nothing like what he had come to expect from a demon. “Perhaps you just need to be enlightened, or simply given an opportunity to make your own decisions, instead of blindly following the orders of your master. I’m not sure what that could be, but I’ll know it when I see it.” Glyph said, rubbing his forehead. “For starters though, I’m going to see if the others will allow you some freedom to move about the temple. The magic shackles have to stay.”

Zarabish stared at him with contempt burning in her eyes. “You have to ask permission? From the others? Have you no musk?”

“I have plenty of musk, but I’m not an overlord or a tyrant. I actually listen to what other people say, and consider their opinions.” He explained.

“Then you are a fool as well.”

“No, it just means I’m not so conceited and full of myself to think that someone else might not have a better idea than me. I would think that following Tsach out of fear is foolish. Following out of respect is called service, and a good leader always rewards service. Which, by the way, doesn’t include killing you via long distance possession.”

“Your mercy sickens me.” Zarabish spat.

“You get used to it after awhile.” Glyph smiled and walked toward the exit. “I’ll be in touch. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

Zarabish huffed in frustration as Glyph walked up the stairs in search of the others. On the main level, Glyph ran into Greem, who was once again looking for him.

“Great One, the others convene in the outer chamber.” Greem informed him.

“Let’s go.” Glyph replied and followed Greem up the steep staircase into the long hall that opened to a terrace on each side. A few gargoyles milled about. Glyph noticed everything else in the room had been cleared out. Most likely the contents had been packed and moved out of the city by now.

Greem opened the door, and Glyph sauntered in and leisurely trotted down the steps toward the large stone table that still sat in the middle of the room. A quiet discussion was taking place as Glyph approached them. Drayden, Lobrein, Ishea, Grot, and Crowf all looked up at Glyph at once.

“So what did I miss?” Glyph asked, taking a seat next to Ishea.

“Grot has informed us that most of the Hexzu populace will be ready to move toward the portal within a few hours. They are at the caves awaiting our arrival to lead them out.” Drayden spoke up. “Unfortunately, their scouts have just arrived with word that there is a rather large force protecting the gate, apparently reinforced with those that fled Okrune during the attack.”

“So we have to fight our way through?” Glyph questioned.

“Yes, Great One. That by itself is no great cause for alarm; however we just found out a few moments ago that Tsach no longer marches against us.” Grot informed them.

“Then where is he going?” Lobrein asked.

“Son of a bitch!” Glyph swore as the answer dawned on him. “He’s headed straight for the portal!”

Grot nodded his agreement.

“Why would he do that? How could he know what we were planning?” Drayden blurted out. The room got suddenly quiet as they all glanced at each other questioningly.

“There is a spy.” Ishea said.

“Who?” Drayden asked her.

“I do not know, but Tsach should not know of our plan, yet he does. Whether willing or unwilling, someone is leaking information to the other side.” Ishea replied.

“It could be anyone, on any level. Who knows, maybe one of the Hexzu that switched sides at the Bridge of Bones was on Tsach’s payroll.” Glyph offered.

Grot sneered a little.

“Can we reach the gate before him if we leave now?” Lobrein asked Grot.

“If we make good time to the caves, we will have all the Rukitan there a half-day ahead of Tsach.” Grot said.

“That doesn’t leave us a hell of a lot of time.” Glyph stated. “What if we head straight to the Portal from here? We could clear the way for the main populace then defend their rear as they go through the portal.”

“It would save us a few hours, no more.” Grot responded.

“Then we’ll split up. Grot, Crowf, and Drayden can head for the caves. Lobrein, Ishea, Greem and I will head for the Portal.” Glyph suggested.

“What about Amos?” Ishea asked.

“Amos will come with me.” Drayden said quickly. “I will try to prepare him for his next hour on Earth.”

“What about the prisoner?” Greem questioned, broaching the subject.

“What prisoner?” Drayden, Lobrein, and Ishea asked almost in unison.

“Zarabish. The female demon we passed on our way through the dungeon the other morning.” Glyph replied looking at Ishea and Drayden.

“You know its name?” Ishea asked a bit perturbed.

“By the Gods, Glyph! What have you done now?” Lobrein chimed in.

“Look, she has on the anti-magic shackles; she’s harmless.” Glyph said defensively.

Drayden turned his head and started to chuckle.

“Why then, do you want to bring it along with us?” Lobrein asked. “I suppose it has switched sides, and wants to help us.”

“No, but she swore a blood oath to me.” Glyph answered.

“Why would it do that Glyph?” Ishea questioned him looking serious.

“Tsach possessed her and she gave a blood oath to me to keep Tsach from killing her.”

Crowf stood up from the table. Lobrein sunk her head into her hands, and Drayden could still be heard snickering.

“So it is your slave? Is that right?” Ishea asked, and looked to Lobrein.

Lobrein nodded yes.

“So what have you and your demon slave been up to Glyph?” Ishea demanded.

“Talking. I’ve been interrogating her, trying to learn more about Tsach’s plans. Things like why he wants to kill me– .” Glyph was suddenly cut off.

“You have a relationship with it?” Crowf blurted out.

“That would depend upon your definition of the word ‘relationship’.” Glyph said calmly while staring Crowf down intently.

“There is your spy!” Crowf shouted. “Father! Are you so blind? He has been talking to a demon, one that has been possessed by Tsach! Who knows what he may have let slip that could be reported directly back to the demon lord!”

“Are you accusing the Great One of treason, Crowf?” Grot said loudly and firmly for all to hear.

Crowf backed up slightly. “No, I only meant the demon of which he had talked about. The one in the dungeon.”

“Then you will make yourself clearer the next time you speak, and you will address any concerns you may have to me in private, and I will determine if it is worthy to be brought to the Great One’s attention.” Grot paused, and turned to stare Crowf full in the face. “Is that understood?”

Crowf scowled menacingly, and for a moment Glyph thought he might even try to attack Grot. Then Crowf backed away and stared down at the floor.

Grot turned his attention back to Glyph. “I am sorry for the interruption Great One, please continue.”

“Basically, I asked her some questions, she gave me some answers, and in return I thought we might give her a little more freedom.” Glyph stated, still glaring at Crowf.

“No. Absolutely not. We cannot have a demon walking around the premises. The risk is too great, not to mention someone would try to kill it.” Lobrein said.

“What if she were under constant guard by, say, four Hexzu? What about then?” Glyph suggested. “She can’t perform magic, she’s bound by the anti-magic shackles around her wrists.”

Drayden shot Lobrein a look with his white eyes. Lobrein shook her head just slightly, and then let out a deep sigh. “Very well. But I for one wash my hands of responsibility for whatever happens to it.” Lobrein said reluctantly.

Glyph’s eyes shifted from Drayden to Lobrein, then back. He wondered if they were communicating telepathically. Maybe Drayden reminded her of the demon’s doomsday prophecy. “Grot, can you spare a few men to guard the prisoner?”

“I shall see to it.” Grot replied.

“So,” Ishea spoke up, “we are going to the portal, and they are going to the caves to lead the Hexzu retreat. We will arrive roughly six hours before the Hexzu Rukitan and engage the enemy forces at the portal.”

“Right, and if there are any demons left, Grot’s forces can help us wipe them out when they arrive.” Glyph added. “We’ll open the portal, and then protect the Hexzu from being attacked by Tsach from behind, especially if moving them to M’atra takes longer than we expect. Once everyone is through, I will destroy the Portal.”

Lobrein glanced at Drayden, then at Glyph. “Is this agreeable to you Grot?” She asked.

Grot nodded and stood from the table. “We must retrieve your friend and depart at once.” He said to Drayden.

“Give me a few minutes.” Drayden replied and stood as well, and with a slight twist of his hand, vanished.

Glyph stood and gestured to Ishea and Lobrein. “I need to make arrangements for Zarabish, and we’ll need some provisions.”

“I have taken the liberty of gathering supplies for us and your detective friend.” Lobrein said. “You will have to get something for the demon.”

“Like I said, I need to make arrangements for Zarabish.” Glyph deadpanned.

Turning to Greem, Glyph said. “Get four of your best soldiers, assign two of them to guard Zarabish and escort her to the terrace. We’ll all try to meet there in about ten minutes or so.”

“Just four Great One? Are we not headed straight for the portal to do battle? Perhaps a thousand would be better.” Greem questioned.

“No Greem, just enough to carry us there, and aerial support. I want to pull several surgical strikes on the remaining demons. Once they’re gone the others will flee, and that will make our job a hell of a lot easier.” Glyph answered.

Greem nodded his agreement. “I will see to it.” A scowling smile stretched across his face, as he turned and flew upward; pumping his membrane-like batwings, until he slipped through one of the openings near the top of the amphitheater.

Glyph shifted his head, and caught Ishea staring at him. He momentarily locked eyes with her and became suddenly aroused by the look she was giving him.

“We should go then.” Lobrein said.

Glyph nodded and focused on his quarters inside the temple; he could feel himself begin to fade, and a moment later was next to the large demon-sized bed. He reached in amongst the cushions until he found the book he had stashed there the night before. He scooped up his duffle bag and guns, and teleported to the dungeon.

“Back so soon?” Zarabish quipped after Glyph materialized a few feet away.

“We’re heading for the portal.” Glyph informed her.

“Which one?” She asked him sarcastically.

“The one to M’atra.”

“I take it Tsach is already on his way there.”

“It appears that way. How do you think he knew where we were going to go?” Glyph remarked.

“A spy perhaps? Of course, he may have just deduced it logically. You are from that world, eventually you want to return there, therefore taking control of the portal locks you in, and forces you to fight him and his army, and if you do not, he threatens to destroy the portal, forcing you to fight or risk being trapped here forever. Tsach did not get to his level of power by being stupid.” Zarabish offered.

Glyph hadn’t even thought about that; she was probably right, there was no spy.

Just then two Hexzu entered the dungeon and relieved the two guards that were there.

“Great One, we are here to serve in the capacity you requested.” The taller one said.

“Very good. Zarabish, these two Hexzu will escort you. Before we go, I have to ask you something.” Glyph said. “Are you going to be loyal to me, or stab me in the back at the first chance?”

“I will do what I have to. Release me,” she said waving her silvery shackles at Glyph, “and I will fight for you.”

“I don’t think so, we’re not even close to going that far.” Glyph laughed.

“Then I am useless to you.”

“I don’t believe that. You know how to use a sword, right?” Glyph asked.

“Of course, but it is usually enhanced by magic”

“Well, there is no magic for you; you’re a special demon.”

“What kind of demon has no magic?”

“My kind.” Glyph said and signaled the Hexzu to take her up. “Cooperate with them, or I will be forced to kill you.” Glyph said, and watched as the gargoyles ushered her up the stairs. This was going to be one hell of a trip.

Glyph closed his eyes and concentrated on the terrace outside the great hall. As he phased out of the dungeon the terrace became clearer until he found himself standing next to Ishea and Lobrein.

“Are you ready?” Lobrein asked.

“As I’ll ever be.” Glyph responded.

“Grot, Drayden and the others have left already.” Ishea stated, and Glyph could see the trail of black dots blotting out the sky as they flew west toward the mountains.

Greem, Aroth, and another Hexzu walked out onto the terrace and strode to where Glyph was standing.

“Great One, sorceresses, this is Orotet. You have already met Aroth. They will be your wings.” Greem said gesturing at Ishea and Lobrein. “The demon Zarabish will be here momentarily. Gorth and Crom will fly her as well.”

Glyph caught Lobrein rolling her eyes, but decided to ignore it. “Are these mine?” He asked pointing to a few bundles on the ground, and a fresh water skin. Ishea nodded, and Glyph knelt down and tossed the provisions in his bag, and slung the water skin on the opposite shoulder from his Mac-10 and AK-47. He already felt loaded down; he felt worse for Greem, who had to carry him there.

Within a minute Zarabish strolled out onto the terrace, and shielded her eyes in the bright sunlight. Gorth prodded her forward with the butt of his spear.

“Zarabish, these are my friends. This is Lobrein, Ishea, Greem, Aroth, and Orotet.” Glyph introduced, pointing to each of them in turn, “And you’re already acquainted with Gorth and Crom”.

“Why are we on the terrace?” Zarabish demanded suspiciously.

“The Hexzu have kindly offered us a ride.” Glyph replied.

“Oh no. I would rather die than be carried by a gargoyle. My feet will not leave the ground under their control!” Zarabish began to rant.

“We don’t have time for this.” Glyph commented, and stretched his arm quickly toward the demon’s head, then snapped his fingers. “Sleep!”

Zarabish staggered, dropped to her knees, and fell into the arms of her Hexzu escorts. Each gargoyle clamped onto her bicep, and took to the air. Orotet carried Lobrein, and Aroth followed them with Ishea. Lastly Greem lifted off and Glyph was sailing skyward.

They flew for hours, giving Glyph plenty of time to think about all the crazy shit that had been happening recently. Now that they were headed for the portal, Glyph began to wonder whether or not he would be able to destroy it. He didn’t want a repeat of the Bridge of Bones. The real key to his magic was still that state of supreme power that engulfed him when pushed too far. If he could learn to control it, he could set this whole mess straight again.

After a bit he let himself drift off to sleep for a while.

Greem alerted Glyph to their descent by dropping into a steep dive. Glyph looked around frantically, trying to determine what was going on. They pulled up just short of the ground and Greem set Glyph down lightly. The others soon joined him.

“What? What is it?” Glyph demanded.

Ishea pointed toward the northern sky. “Scorch.”

Glyph glanced up at the ominous fast moving black clouds, and realized why they had stopped in such a hurry.

“There.” Lobrein pointed, and began running across the sandy rock to a small hill of weathered stone. “It is not perfect, but it will have to do.”

Lobrein lifted her knee, clapped her hands together, and stomp-kicked the base of the rock. Pointing her clasped hands at the crack forming under her foot, she raised her arms, expanding the crack upward to head level. Pulling her elbows back she slowly pushed them forward and the crack in the stone peeled back forming a tunnel running upward a few feet then leveling off into a room.

By the time Glyph had walked the short distance to where she stood, Lobrein had finished. “It has to be bigger. There is no room for Zarabish.” Glyph said to Lobrein as he inspected the size of the tunnel.

“It cannot be any bigger without risking its structural integrity. The rock is not large enough to accommodate us and the demon. It will have to stay elsewhere.” Lobrein said snidely.

“You truly know how to make one feel at ease. You remind me of my mother.” Zarabish said groggily as she began to wake up.

Lobrein pushed Zarabish flat into the sand with pure mental force and held her there. Her eyes flared in anger as she marched over to the demon’s face, now half-buried in the sand. “Let me make this perfectly clear. You will never speak to me, or in my presence; is that understood?”

Zarabish nodded her understanding, “Definitely just like my mother.” She muttered under her breath, just loud enough for Glyph to hear it.

Glyph raised an eyebrow towards Ishea, who just shrugged in return, as if she didn’t know what Lobrein’s problem was either.

Turning away from them, Glyph swept his arm across in front of him, whipping the wind into a sudden fury. Closing his fist he pulled downward, dropping a tornado funnel to the ground, watching as it quickly become a spinning vortex of sand. Glyph shut his eyes and imagined a cylindrical structure with a rounded top. When it was the right size and shape Glyph stomped the ground, yelled, and released a brilliant white light from his palm. It flashed for a moment, the wind died instantly. Glyph opened his eyes and gazed up at the huge, foot thick, solid glass structure.

Zarabish nodded her approval and walked to the opening, which had an overhang to keep the scorch from entering. Crawling inside, she again sat crossed legged on the sandy ground and closed her eyes. Glyph hoped it would be enough to protect her.

Flashes of red lightning crossed the sky. Glyph followed Greem and Aroth into the large room Lobrein had just made. There was barely enough room to fit them comfortably. A moment later the temperature began to rise, and they could hear the scorch hitting the ground outside the opening.

Glyph peeked out to check on Zarabish, and so far she looked okay, at least what he could see of her. The scorch was sheeting off the glass enclosure in torrents of liquid flame. Greem pulled out some dried meat and the rest of them followed suit and ate dinner early.

“I wonder how Drayden and the others are doing?” Ishea asked.

“They are used to the scorch, dear. The Hexzu have invented numerous ways to avoid its destructive nature.” Lobrein told her.

“It is true, sorceress. Though we ourselves can turn to stone as a defense mechanism, our livestock cannot. The Lizbah lived in small numbers and stayed near the mountains for protection. Once we domesticated them we moved them to open spaces for better food to increase their population. We had to learn how to protect them from the sudden onslaught of scorch. Do not worry, your friends are safe.” Aroth explained.

“What’s a Lizbah?” Glyph mouthed to Ishea, who began to giggle.

“The lizard-birds that pull the demon chariots are the Hexzu’s main food source. They maintain several large herds to the north.” Lobrein said nonchalantly.

Glyph nodded, and the room grew quiet.

“I have to say, Glyph, you learn very quickly. You are also quite impressively imaginative. Using the wind to pick up the sand and changing it into glass, albeit a tad dramatic, was very effective.” Lobrein stated.

“What? I’m sorry did you say something nice? Cause that’s kind of what it sounded like.” Glyph remarked.

“It was a compliment, yes. Your plan seems to be working, even with this delay. If the scorch falls further to the east it may even compromise Tsach’s army.”

“Well thank you, Lobrein.” Glyph replied with a hint of sarcasm.

“The crucial question now is will you be able to destroy the gate?”

“I think I know how to do it.”

“You think? This is important Glyph. I see that you have power, and it is indeed great, but it is raw. If you can not destroy the portal, M’atra will be invaded.” Lobrein emphasized.

Glyph rolled his eyes. “I know that, and I will handle it.” Glyph shifted his seat. “You couldn’t just let it go. Why do you always have to be so negative?”

Lobrein remained silent, and Glyph noticed Ishea’s eyebrows rise slightly as she stared at them from the corner of the cave-like room.

“I am trying to gain a sense of your commitment to our problem. It is more than just our lives at stake, and if I have made a decision for those other lives, I want to be sure it is the right one.” Lobrein stated after a long pause.

Glyph stood up. “It is.” He said sharply, and went to check on Zarabish again. He could hear the five Hexzu talking softly on the other side of the hollowed-out cave. Lobrein was starting to wear on him; he hadn’t liked her much since she arrived.

He could see Zarabish sitting contently as the fire-rain washed over the glass dome. Glyph tried to attract her attention, but it looked as if she was in some sort of meditative trance. He turned to head back inside and almost bumped into Greem.

“Greem, this may sound like a silly question. Are you bringing the Lizbah with you?” Glyph asked.

“With me? I do not understand.”

“I mean your people, the Hexzu, are they taking the herds of Lizbah to the portal?” Glyph clarified.

“Yes, but do not worry Great One, Grot included this in his original time estimation.” Greem answered, hearing the concern in Glyph’s voice.

Glyph nodded. “Good, that was beginning to gnaw at me.” He glanced over at Ishea several times trying not to be too obvious. ‘I wonder why she’s being so quiet’ he thought. She hadn’t even spoken to him since they had made love, although he had slept some and been flying for most of the day. Still, that too began to gnaw at him.

“Great One, what does this place on your world look like? The place the Hexzu will live?” Greem asked.

“Just like this Greem, without the scorch. There’s more sand and less exposed rock, and the mountains are covered in trees.”

“It sounds interesting. We will be happy there.”

Greem said it as a statement, but Glyph wondered if it were not a question.

The scorch continued to fall.

“Glyph?” Lobrein said as she approached from behind. “What do you know of your purpose here?” She asked pointedly.

Glyph never took his eyes from Zarabish. “Enough to fuck things up, and not enough to make them right.” He stated dryly, and then turned to look at her. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, how much have you read from the Tome of Dark Lore, and what has it shown you?”

“I know the history of the demons’ occupation here, the Parcels, Bridge of Bones, and Sa Saran. That’s about it. Why? Are you afraid I might know too much?” Glyph said accusingly.

“No. It is, well, difficult to explain. The Demons have a prophecy of their own; it is known as a doomsday prophecy. This prophecy speaks of a great one from another world who will destroy demonkind, and end their civilization. On every world the demons invade they search out prophecy in that world, to see if there is any correlation to their own. When they first invaded M’atra, Drathus found a prophecy that spoke of a great man who will come to defend our world. It was Drathus who first made the connection, and decided that you were that man. From what Ishea and I have been able to piece together, this was the reason he sought you out, hoping to kill you and be elevated to supreme status among his peers by essentially saving the demon race from extinction.”

“Things are starting to make a lot more sense now, but Zarabish filled me in on the whole ‘demons will hunt me till I’m dead’ thing.” Glyph said thoughtfully.

“Glyph, the reason I ask the hard questions, the reason I press you to exercise your blue magic, and keep prophecy from you, is because you are the Great One. You are destined to destroy the demon race, all of them, and I’m afraid that knowing too much could cause you to make the wrong decision.”

“First, I’m not going to kill all the demons, no matter what prophecy says. Secondly, I was always taught that knowledge is power, and I’m a little lacking in that category right now, and lastly, your being a bitch doesn’t make me very enthusiastic about the whole thing. Everything I have done I did to keep Ishea and myself alive. I did it because she asked me to, and that’s my reason. Besides, if it is my destiny then how can I go wrong?”

“There are good and bad ways to achieve destiny. How you do something is at least as important as doing it. Maybe more so.” Lobrein put her hand on his shoulder. “Do you realize the horrific offenses that the demons have inflicted upon the Hexzu?”

“I know about Sa Saran, and that’s enough. I know whatever Cruix did to Ishea changed her from the person she used to be, and that alone makes me want to kill every last demon alive, but I won’t. I can’t. Cruix was one individual; they may not all be that way, and I won’t judge them based upon the acts of their sadistic leaders. Wars are started all the time on my world for just such reasons. Intolerance and prejudice are not acceptable reasons.”

“I had originally thought to talk you out of reading the Tome, but now, I think maybe you should. It is in your possession for a reason. Read it, and when you have finished let me know if you still feel the same. I hope it will enlighten you as to the atrocities they have committed not just on M’atra, and Degruthras, but countless other worlds as well. You are our savior Glyph, whether you like it or not.” With that said Lobrein turned and walked back to where Ishea was already sleeping.

Glyph watched the scorch spilling over the glass dome until it stopped about an hour later. They had a job to do, and it was time to go do it.

Greem gathered everyone together, as Glyph waved his hands and flipped the glass dome off Zarabish, sending it careening into some rocks about twenty yards away. She stood up as if nothing had happened.

“Put me to sleep, I do not want to feel those traitorous Hexzu touching me.” Zarabish demanded.

Glyph nodded and with a quick snap, knocked her unconscious. Lobrein’s words still stung in his ears. ‘Maybe she’s right.’ he thought for an instant, then just as quickly dismissed the idea.

The gargoyles lifted them off into the sky, and soon they were on their way. Darkness had already descended upon them, and several hours later Glyph had Greem set them back down in time for his hour.

“This is a good time to pass along any information to Grot or Drayden. I will be seeing Amos in a few minutes.” Glyph said as he strapped the machine guns to his back. Bogg would need them to defend himself when we get to Earth, and now that Glyph could use his magic there he no longer had a use for the weapons.

Greem handed him a small piece of parchment with coordinates and time estimates scratched on it. Glyph tucked it into his pocket and walked the short distance to where Zarabish stood. “Don’t start any trouble while I’m gone; I don’t want you dead when I get back.” Glyph said. Zarabish grunted an acknowledgement.

He turned and found Ishea standing nearby.

“I’ll see you in an hour.” Glyph said to her for lack of something better to say.

“Glyph, I just want to say…” She paused.

“Don’t worry about it, we can talk when I get back, or at least when this is all over.” Glyph replied.

Ishea looked torn. “Be safe.”

Glyph leaned in and kissed her cheek. Then took a few steps back as he felt the wind pick up and the sensation of breathing in the vacuum of space over took him.