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…”

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