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.”
“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.”
“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.
‘What was that? …What is that noise keeping me awake?’
‘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.