Glyph slammed face-first into the dark red sandy ground. He turned his head and opened his eyes. Ishea quickly extinguished a candle, scooped up an ancient tome, and slid them into a rucksack. She threw a cloth over the Divinare crystal and tucked it away in her cloak. Pulling a large knife from her boot, she grabbed him and began to cut away the bindings of his jacket.
‘Holy shit!’ Glyph thought. ‘Is this really happening? What the fuck! I’m back here!’ Ishea cut the last restraint, and Glyph felt his arms release. He pulled his arms apart, and slowly rolled over, looking Ishea full in the face.
“Ishea?” Glyph asked, as if he wasn’t sure.
“Glyph!” she whispered in excitement, bent down and kissed him square on the mouth. “I found you! I found you!” she squealed in delight. Then her face became serious, and she nervously glanced about. “We must hurry, Glyph. I can explain later. We are in danger here.”
Ishea helped him remove the straightjacket and then pulled him to his feet. Glyph looked at her as if she were an alien.
‘What the hell? It’s happening again, but it’s different. I don’t quite get this.’ Glyph thought as Ishea began to drag him across the rocky, desert-like terrain. The sky was a dark twilight, and Glyph was having trouble making out the shapes and shadows around him. There was a small light emitting from the end of Ishea’s staff, but it was not really enough for both of them to see by. There must have been some kind of path that Ishea was following, because she seemed to know where she was going. Right now, that was enough for Glyph.
‘Why is this happening now?’ He thought as they moved hurriedly across a rocky ridge. ‘Where are the other people from my hallucinations? Where am I?’ he wondered as he glanced around.
They began to descend into a cavernous gorge. The ground was covered in brownish sand and gravel. Glyph found he was starting to have trouble keeping up with Ishea, and eventually stopped.
“What is wrong?” Ishea whispered out of the darkness.
“I’m exhausted, this place smells like a leaky gas pump, and my slippers are starting to shred on this ground!” Glyph yelled back at her.
“Quiet!” Ishea hissed at him.
Glyph saw her shape begin to form as she moved in close to him.
“Drink this.” She said and handed him a small vial of liquid. “It will help your strength.”
Glyph downed the vial in one shot, and immediately began to feel the effects.
“Damn that shit is awful.” Glyph complained keeping his voice low. “You wouldn’t happen to have a pair of boots on you, would ya?” He asked, grinning.
“I did not think to bring any. I did not anticipate that you would not be wearing shoes. Hmm. Maybe this will work.” She replied and pulled Glyph’s straightjacket from her bag. Ishea produced her boot knife once again, and used it to cut the leather restraining straps from the garment. “Sit down.” She commanded, and set to work wrapping Glyph’s feet.
Glyph tested out her handiwork when she finished. It was adequate, and certainly better than slippers, he decided as he stomped back and forth. “Why didn’t you just zap me up a pair?” Glyph questioned her.
“Our magic has different limitations here. At least mine does, I suspect that your magic may be less noticeable.”
“Who’s going to see you create a pair of shoes?” Glyph asked.
“When you use magic, an aura is created. Each aura has its own color, and each color produces a sound frequency. Usually the aura cannot be seen or heard, but I think the blue aura of our magic is foreign here, and its use creates a different reaction. If I use my magic for anything, the aura creates a flash of blinding light and sounds like a landslide. It is definitely detectable, especially when we are this close to a force-line intersection. It appears as if everyone’s magic here has a red cast to it. You might be able to get away with it if you concentrated on using your red aura.”
Glyph broke into laughter at that point and was once again shushed by Ishea.
“I can’t do magic.” Glyph stated matter-of-factly.
“Of course you can, Glyph. Stop trying to be funny.” Ishea said seriously as she glanced back over her shoulder. “We need to keep moving.”
“Who’s after us?” Glyph asked, as they picked their way down the sandy slope. “And where are we exactly?”
“We are on Degruthras. There are several demons that have been trying to follow me since I arrived here, and they have these foul smelling hogdogs you do not want to meet up close.” She replied.
“Don’t you mean in Degruthra? Not on?” He said jumping down to a rock beside Ishea.
“No, I mean on. This is Drathus’s world, Glyph, and it is named Degruthras. The desert that Drathus occupied on M’atra is called Degruthra. When the name was recorded, it was not known to us that it was the name of a world, and the “s” must have been lost in the translation.”
“That is the name of our world. I suppose it has never come up before, has it?”
“No, it hasn’t. So how did you get here?” Glyph asked, hoping to get some clues as to why his mind chose to re-invent this place. The other world, M’atra, had been a lot nicer, and certainly smelled better.
“After you were lost, the combined armies of Kivastor, Barjon, and Torlea stormed through The Pass. As we poured out the other side, we found most of Drathus’s minions were fleeing north. We followed them through the desert, to what appeared to be a tent city. It was already under siege by King Rokka and Miatsu. There was much chaos and killing, but we managed to link our forces with the Delturans, and proceeded to slay every last evil creature we came upon. Their resistance suddenly fell away, and when we entered the large underground cavern the enemy had retreated to, we could find no one. What we did find staggered our understanding of the universe. An enormous stone pillar stood on each side of the back wall, and between them we could see a gateway to another world. As we arrived at the portal it closed. We were victorious; the enemy had fled back to Degruthras.” Ishea turned slightly and led him up a large red dune.
“A day later, Verto arrived. With him, he brought an ancient text, which he presented to me. It contained information on the arcane arts, and was full of rituals and spells, including the one with which Drathus opened the portal. I studied the book for several weeks, and with Miatsu’s help, figured out a way to bring you back to M’atra. Between us, we could only open the gate wide enough for me to slip through. I entered the gate, fought my way through the other side, and here I am.”
“You’ve been looking for me for four years?” Glyph questioned, somewhat taken aback.
Ishea stopped and stared at Glyph. “Glyph, at most you have been gone only three months, not four years.” Then her eyes widened and a shocked expression befell her face.
Glyph stood there silently, also starting to see the problem. “It’s been four years, Ishea. I’ve been locked up for four long years, and now I’m back, and I just don’t know what to say.” He longed to tell her he loved her, but did he really? They had only known each other a week for Christ’s sake, if he had actually known her at all. “It was so real then, and it’s so real now.” was all he could get out.
“Has it really been so long for you?” Ishea spoke, her voice quivering slightly.
“Yes.” He paused. “And apparently not so long for you; now there’s an interesting situation.” Glyph smiled. It still boiled down to: here was better than there, even if it was all in his own fucked up mind.
Ishea lowered her head and looked away. They stood there for several moments, each lost in their own thoughts. “We should go.” Ishea finally said, and without a word they both turned and trudged along the crest of the red sand dune.
Glyph could live with this bizarre dream; after all, he had lived through the last one he had. The only real injuries that took place were a few minor bruises, and some sore muscles. Everything else was part of the illusion, and he planned on playing along, at least until he could understand it all a little better. He feared that the killing would begin again, though at least as long as he wasn’t on Earth, he felt fairly safe. ‘I wonder what happens when you die in a hallucination?’ He thought.
They made their way, steadily descending, to a massive plain of red sand and boulders. Columns of stone rose from the desert floor like skyscrapers and peppered the surrounding landscape. The terrain reminded him of the Badlands on Earth, only on a much grander scale. Glyph looked up as lightning bolts illuminated the sky, and saw a band of large black clouds moving on the horizon. Ishea was looking at them too, and suddenly became very anxious.
“We must move quickly now. I know of a cave not too far from here where we can take shelter.” Ishea informed him.
Glyph remained silent and followed Ishea as she started running across the vast desert. About fifteen minutes later they reached the bottom of another mountainous rock, and began to climb up toward an outcropping of stone. It was only twenty feet up, so they reached it in a short amount of time. There was a short flat area, and a large crack in the side of the cliff about seven feet high and two feet wide.
Ishea helped Glyph onto the flat stone, then turned and entered the crack. He saw a few small sparks, and then a small fire sprouted inside. Glyph stepped in and could see that the cave extended back about fifteen feet. Ishea moved the glowing stone that was mounted to the tip of her staff away from the fire she cradled gingerly in a shallow stone bowl. After blowing on it gently a few times the flames perked up and burned rather brightly. She put the bowl on the ground, placed her staff against the side of the cave wall, and took off her pack. Glyph stared at the flickering flames a few moments, realizing there was no source of fuel in the bowl.
“So now what?” He asked standing in the mouth of the cave.
“Now we wait.” Ishea replied.
“Wait for what?”
“The storm. They are different here, too.”
“Everything seems to be different here. Why am I seeing this?” He said half to himself.
“What do you mean?” Ishea quickly asked.
Glyph felt more frustration building up, and started to fight it down. “You wouldn’t understand.” He said, trying to cover up his slip of the tongue.
“Try me. I am over three thousand years old.” Ishea smiled. It was the first time Glyph had seen her smile since he had arrived here, and it began to tear him apart.
“Ishea…” He started, but faltered at the sound of her name.
Glyph slumped his shoulders, and turned away from her. ‘How do you tell a hallucination she’s not real?’ He thought, ‘especially when you love her. It doesn’t make any sense, yet that is what I’m thinking, isn’t it?’ he asked himself. “Nothing.” He replied.
Ishea walked over to him and placed her hand on his shoulder. “Glyph?” she questioned, moving in front of him. “What is wrong?”
Glyph tried to look her in the eyes, but couldn’t. Frustration began to turn to rage inside him.
“May I?” Ishea asked him lifting her hand towards his forehead.
Glyph recoiled slightly; he didn’t want her in his mind, he had enough people screw around in there already. He wanted to run away, but instead he nodded his head in resignation. Ishea reached up and gently touched his forehead. Glyph stared at her face as she closed her eyes with concentration, and watched her expression change from concern to outrage, and then sadness. She opened her eyes, and took a step back from him, her eyes wet with sympathy and pain.
“I am real, Glyph.” She said, and sniffled. “Everything that happened to you here was real.” She paused as a tear escaped her eye. “I am so sorry, for what you have endured during your incarceration.” She choked out, then turned and walked toward the back of the cave.
Glyph felt like killing someone, anyone. He knew it would relieve his inner turmoil, and that thought made him ill. He stood there for several seconds watching her walk away, before he turned to leave the cave.
The wind blew hard upon the north face of the cliff, carrying small bits of sand and debris, pelting Glyph’s face. The storm clouds raged overhead as if in eternal battle. Glyph decided he didn’t really like this place, this new dream. No matter how Ishea tried to convince him, he wasn’t going to believe.
“This is bullshit!” He screamed into the biting maelstrom.
As if to answer him, a loud thunderclap boomed ominously above him. The clouds burst and fire began to rain from the sky. Like tiny sparklers at first, then as Glyph gazed up at the black rolling clouds, drips of liquid flame began to fall in torrents.
Glyph jumped backwards into the mouth of the cave, and stared in wonder as flames fell like raindrops. They were snuffed out as soon as they hit the sandy ground, sending off a tiny bit of black smoke. The temperature quickly rose about twenty degrees, and Glyph took off his makeshift cloak. The smell of burning plastic permeated the air. The scene was so surreal that he could barely take his eyes off of it.
“Eerily beautiful, is it not?” Ishea commented softly as she walked up behind him.
Glyph turned to look at her. She was just as he remembered her from The Pass; she hadn’t changed a bit. He turned back to take in the storm. “Yes, it is.” He replied. Glyph watched as streams of liquid flame ran down the rocks into the sand. Puddles of flame began to form on shallow parts of the ground where the rock had been exposed.
“No wonder there’s nothing alive here.” He commented, shaking his head “Does it always rain like this?” Glyph asked.
“Since I have been here it has. I suspect that creatures here do not survive on water, as we do. It is probably why it is believed that demons are afraid of it.” She replied flatly.
“Do we have enough water?” Glyph asked, as the gravity of what she said began to sink in.
“I think we have enough to get us back to the portal, but it will be tight. I have been surviving mainly on the potions I have brought with me, and with the both of us now… we will have to hurry.” Ishea spoke softly.
“Well we’re not going anywhere tonight.” Glyph commented dryly.
He turned and walked past her into the back of the cave, picked out a high spot, and lay down. ‘Great, it rains fire, we have little water, and the woman I love knows that I think she’s not real. As far as hallucinations go, I’ve had better.’ Glyph thought as he tried to sleep. ‘If I can just put the pieces together, I know all of this will make sense.’
Glyph listened as Ishea made her way to the back of the cave. She sat down, and started to meditate. Rolling to face the wall, Glyph tried to sleep, but he couldn’t. It was all so real, and he found, as he lay on the hard rocks, that part of him wanted to believe.
He awoke several hours later and almost screamed when he didn’t see the familiar setting of his padded cell. He sat up, and glanced around the dimly lit cave. Ishea was sleeping in the corner, and it sounded as if the storm had passed. Realizing he was hungry, Glyph crept over to Ishea’s pack, and began to rummage through its contents. He managed to find a few pieces of flat bread and began to eat one. He wrapped the other piece back up and placed it in the pack. As he did, Glyph came across the book he had seen Ishea with, when he first came through the portal.
Taking another bite of the bread, he grabbed the book, moved closer to the light, and started to look it over. The binding was made of some sort of animal skin, and as he opened it, the pages began to glow a faint red color. He finished his bread and started to leaf through the pages. The language it was written in was unlike anything Glyph had seen before, but the illustrations and diagrams were drawn in precise detail. There were pentagrams, and several other symbols of witchcraft that Glyph recognized. Turning through some more pages, he found detailed drawings of bizarre looking creatures, and strange alien animals. The pages seemed to get clearer and brighter as he leafed through them, and then he realized that the book was now glowing a bright red. As he turned the next page, Glyph noticed that he could now read the writing on the page. It was in English! Then he turned back to the front where he had seen the alien writing, and it too was now completely understandable.
Ishea began to stir in the corner. Glyph quickly closed the book, and as he did the red glowing light of the pages vanished instantly. He slid the book back into her pack and moved to the place he had been sleeping.
Laying down, he began to think about magic, and the way it must work. He started to flash back to the magic he had performed in The Pass while fighting Drathus. He had used the power of magic then; could he still? Upon reflection, Glyph decided that it was one of the better parts about being here. And being here is better than being there, after all. ‘If I’m going to stay here anyway, or at least as long as I can, I might as well do what I want to do. Fuck everybody else.’ he thought, and tried to go back to sleep.
When he woke again a few hours later, he saw Ishea standing at the entrance to the cave with her back to him. He sat up and rubbed his eyes with both hands. Oddly, he felt better this morning, as if he had been cleansed during his sleep. Glyph noticed that everything had already been packed away; he stood up and straightened his smock. Grabbing his makeshift cloak, he walked up behind Ishea.
“Are you ready?” She asked him, stepping out onto the flat rock outside the opening.
Glyph shot her a look. “Yes. I’m ready.” he replied somewhat sarcastically.
As they made their way back down to the ground, he realized he was breathing easier. At first he thought it was just an effect of the potion Ishea had given him, but soon figured out the gasoline smell that had permeated the air the night before had nearly vanished and assumed it had something to do with the fire-rain. Ishea quickly led them toward the next giant rock. By the time they reached it, the two suns of Degruthras were high in the sky. The atmosphere filtered the light like a giant pair of sunglasses, and the result was an ethereal twilight.
They stopped there to rest for a few minutes and take another shot of Ishea’s energy potion.
“So what’s with that book of yours?” Glyph broached the subject.
“What is with it?” She repeated, shaking her head slightly.
“You know, what’s it about?”
“It is a spell book, and a very powerful one at that.” She replied.
“Can I look at it?” Glyph shot back at her.
“Why?” Ishea said, glaring at him. “What does it matter to you, Glyph? It is not real after all, is it?” She questioned, then turned and started walking away.
Glyph caught up, and began to walk along side her.
“So what, Ishea! So What! Big deal, I don’t know what’s real and what’s not, sue me. I was just trying to make the best of a fucked up situation, and I thought that maybe, maybe I’d try conversing with you, instead of all this damn silence. I’m tired of listening to the clouds pass overhead, and hoped that you might be tired of listening to them too. Please pardon my fucked up way of thinking!” Glyph blurted out.
There were another few minutes of silence.
“I already told you about the book.” She finally said.
“You said Verto gave it to you, where did he get it?”
“I did not ask him.”
“So what’s it about?” Glyph asked her again, stepping over a ridge of knee-high rocks.
“It is about death, and killing, and sacrifices. It is bloody and arcane, but most of all it is evil. It is more than a spell book and less than a talisman, and it serves as a guide to this world. I loathe the fact that I must even touch it, as it represents all that I abhor.” She paused and glared at him. “Does that explain it to your satisfaction?”
Glyph threw his hands up in mock surrender “Okay, Okay, I give up, silence it is.”
But the thought of the book and what it could represent was intriguing to Glyph, and he found himself pondering it the rest of the afternoon.
Later in the evening they came to a place on the side of another large chunk of rock. Ishea was very circuitous in her approach to ensure there was no one waiting for them. She made her way up to a small niche in the side of the cliff and reached in behind the rock. Pulling out a sheathed sword, she quickly strapped it around her waist. She pulled out a large bundle and handed it to Glyph. He began to unwrap the ties, and folded back the cloth of what appeared to be a cloak, revealing his sword.
“I thought you might want it. I stashed them here on my way through. Magic swords tend to glow when they come to a force-line intersection. I didn’t want to light up the night as I was trying to open the portal to your world.” Ishea explained coldly.
“Thanks.” Glyph said, belted the weapon, and then pulled out the sword. He swung it a few times to get the feel, and noted how fluidly it all came back to him. When he sheathed it, the effort nearly exhausted him. He silently cursed how out of shape he was as he tossed his makeshift cloak back behind the rock and grabbed his new one. Draping it over his shoulders, he hurried after Ishea, who had already started to make her way from the rocky cliff to the sand below.
As the pair moved further away from the rock, they started to look for a secure spot to rest for a while. It was pretty much unspoken, but they both knew, barring another firestorm, they were going to keep moving, and only sleep when needed. As night fell upon them they found a natural pocket on the face of a tall boulder and sat down to rest. It was dark again, and the glowing stone on Ishea’s staff was practically useless, but better than nothing. Glyph could hardly keep his eyes open anyway. Covering all this ground after having been locked in a cell for four years was taking its toll. Reluctantly, Ishea agreed to take first watch so they could both get a few hours of shuteye.
Glyph lay down and almost immediately fell asleep; they had probably covered ten miles that day. He dreamt that he was at The King’s Entrance on the mountain above Kivas. He placed the sword on the rock shelf, and the giant rock turned inward revealing the door. He stepped inside, and the torch on the wall was already lit. He pulled it down and made his way to the bottom of the stairs and entered the small antechamber. He walked to the door and placed his hand on the fist-sized gemstone and yelled “open”, but nothing happened, so he tried it again and again. Finally exhausted, he fell against the door and slid to the floor weeping, though he didn’t know why. Suddenly Ishea shook him out of his dream.
“Glyph!” she whispered fiercely.
“What?” he said as he regained consciousness.
Glyph heard what sounded like seals being clubbed to death in the distance. “What is that?” He said quietly.
Ishea’s eyes were wide with fear.