The light swirled around them and suddenly vanished. Glyph looked around, and discovered that they were standing on the porch of Albast’s cabin in his inner sanctum. A soft breeze shuffled by as Glyph, Amos, and Zarabish exchanged glances.
Glyph made his way toward the entrance, and turned the handle of the door, opening it a crack. “Hey! Albast! You in here?” he called, pausing to listen for a response.
“I guess we’ll have a look around.” Glyph mumbled as he pushed the door inwards.
The layout of the cabin seemed familiar, and then it hit him; this was Ishea’s cabin, the one in the mountains near Kivas. This looked exactly like the place Ishea had taken Glyph when she had first brought him to M’atra. Glyph moved slowly among the piles of scrolls, furniture and other artifacts. Amos followed him in, and Zarabish, who was too large for the doorway, elected to stay outside.
A few scrolls fell to the floor as he made his way across the great room. Glyph stooped to pick them up and place them back on the pile, when something caught his eye. He began to read the first line out loud. “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…” Glyph looked at Amos. “Dude, that’s The Declaration of Independence.” He stated and handed it to Amos. Glyph opened the next one. “This is the Emancipation Proclamation.”
“He must be a U.S. History buff, or something.” Amos commented.
“I wonder what this is?” Glyph said while reaching over to a small pedestal with a leather bound book perched upon it. Glyph turned it over and opened it up. “The Merlin Prophecies. Wonder what that’s about?” He said and placed it back on the stand.
“I heard about them, there was some doomsday special on the History channel I watched a couple of weeks ago. It ranks right up there with the writings of Nostradamus, and they both predict the end of the world.” Amos replied.
“I collect all manner of things.” Albast’s voice rang out from the hallway entrance. Both Glyph and Amos stared at him like they were deer caught in headlights. “The people here are most ingenious. Why, the rifle alone puts them years beyond the inhabitants of M’atra.” Albast smiled. “You could say that I am a student of history, but only because I have lived it. Surely you didn’t think that I have never left the confines of my sanctum?”
“Actually, I never really thought about it. I’ve been pretty busy lately.” Glyph replied.
“Well, I am glad to see you both alive. Let us adjourn to the porch, so as not to be rude to our demon friend.” Amos and Glyph turned around and made their way back to the front door and stepped out onto the porch. “Please, have a seat. I trust all went well?”
“You could say that.” Glyph replied.
“We’re here, aren’t we?” Amos chimed in.
“You didn’t use the Tome to destroy the gate, so how did you do it? I must confess, by the time I got around to checking on your progress, it seemed as if the battle was already over.” Albast asked.
“I created a lake over top of it. I sunk the gate a thousand feet into the ground and filled it up.” Glyph explained.
“Astounding. I would have never thought of doing it that way.” Albast commented. “Of course, I’m fairly certain I couldn’t do it that way.”
“It was impressive, to say the least.” Zarabish spoke up.
“We lived up to our end of the bargain, Albast. No one knows you’re alive, and the gate has been rendered inoperable. Now, what did you find out about our curse?” Glyph asked, getting right to the point.
“Ah, yes. I’m sure you’re all very anxious to get this done. I have studied my calculations, and I believe I can remove Amos and Zarabish from the curse. Once that is done I will attempt to change your curse back to its original form. If all goes according to plan you, Glyph, will be sent to M’atra, while your duplicate will remain here in my sanctum.” Albast replied.
“I don’t know, you didn’t sound too sure of that last part.” Glyph announced.
“What I intend to do will be difficult, require all of my attention, and drain my strength. The risk to you is minimal; at worst I will fail and your curse will remain the same. I’m sure there is no other way to end your curse, other than the death or destruction of all but one of the people or things that contain the power of the curse. Currently, that is Ishea, and the Tome of Dark Lore now in your possession.” Albast explained.
“Can’t the holder of the curse’s power give it up?” Glyph asked.
“It is the nature of a curse to, in some fashion, destroy a person’s life. To that end, the person who should unleash such a malicious spell must also pay a price. The progenitor must bear the power of that curse upon himself for the rest of his life. There is no giving it away, no taking back of what they have done. I was duped into cursing myself, and like a novice I jumped at the chance. It looked so simple, but now, now I understand it all too well. It is like a stain that can never be washed away, and becomes a mark upon your soul. I hold part of the power of my own curse, if I could have given it away I would have done so centuries ago.” Albast said while he rocked slowly back and forth.
“So why don’t you destroy the book and solve both your problems?” Amos asked.
“No.” Glyph and Albast spoke in unison, causing them to quickly stare at each other.
“You’re both so addicted to that thing you’d rather live the rest of your lives being cursed.” Amos said and shook his head in disgust.
“Do not be so quick to judge, Amos. Drayden knew the pain of its siren call all too well, perhaps you might understand Glyph’s and my own situation better if you would try and access his feelings on the subject.” Albast replied.
“Or better yet…” Glyph said and pulled the Tome from his inner pocket and tossed it toward Amos.
Lunging from his chair, Amos dodged the book, fell into a forward roll and came to his feet cursing. “What the fuck are you doing?!” He yelled at Glyph.
Glyph used his mind to snatch the Tome and levitate it back to his hand and tucked it away in his vest. “I’m tired of your holier-than-thou bullshit. Do you think I would have ever touched that thing if I knew what it would do to me? Besides, arguing over our personal reasons for not wanting to destroy the book gets us nowhere.”
“Oh it’s a bit of a sore point with you? Rubs you the wrong way, does it? That’s addiction my friend. I’ve seen it nearly every day for the last twenty years of my life.” Amos shot back.
“What is, is. I’ll deal with it later.”
“It is simply not the right time, Amos.” Albast interjected.
“And what do you know of it? It’s not the right time? What the hell is that? When is the right time? You know more than you’re letting on, and you want to talk about tired? I’m tired of being the mouse nibbling on your cheesy forecast of the future. If you know something then spill it!” Amos demanded.
Albast appeared to be taken aback, then quickly recovered and began to chuckle. “You chose well, Glyph.”
“I didn’t choose anybody, and I’m with Amos on this one. The prophecies have apparently been fulfilled, and no one seems to know what is going to happen next. The only one who knows what’s going on is you, so let’s have it.” Glyph said.
Albast shook his head. “I do not know anything for certain, and what I believe will happen may not in fact come to pass. But, I see you will not take no for an answer.” Albast sighed and continued. “As near as I can discern, a great war will take place between the forces of good and evil. Events have been set into motion to reset the balance of the universe, and you are at the center. It all revolves around you.”
“What about the Drayden prophecies?” Amos asked, slowly regaining his composure.
“Once you learn to access Drayden’s animus, you will know the answers to what you seek. Suffice it to say that Drayden recorded the prophecies he saw in the Tome of Dark Lore, those that were revealed only to him. It concerned his death, and his replacement. I believe it is one of the reasons I am here. You see, I am to train you in the ways of what I like to call Martial Magic.” Albast disseminated.
“Who, me?” Amos asked.
“The choice is yours of course, but I had hoped to build upon your skills, and teach you how to perform magic. I do not know when the war will start, but I do know that you must be versed in the ways of magic when it does. You will all have your roles to play of course. Mine is to show you how to access Drayden’s experience, so you will be an effective fighting force against that evil.”
“So what are my choices?” Amos questioned him.
“You have several. You may return to your life here on Earth and remain in ignorance. You would be at a slight advantage over the rest of humankind, but displays of magic would elude you should you try them. The second choice would be to return with Glyph and Zarabish to M’atra, where, after years of study, you would likely be a mediocre wizard at best. Or you can choose to remain here, and learn how to use your powers to their fullest potential.”
“So I would return to M’atra when the war starts?”
“You will be on the front line when it begins.” Albast commented.
“So where are these prophecies?” Glyph prompted.
“Lost to time I suppose. It’s likely that only Amos could tell us for sure. I only know what Drayden shared with me before I foolishly released the Asundering curse upon myself.”
“I could come back with you, Glyph. Maybe I can tap Drayden’s memories and we might find the prophecies.” Amos offered, staring intently at Glyph.
“I would like that, but knowing the prophecies won’t help us that much, at least not as much as having you trained as a full wizard. If you are to be on the front line, you wouldn’t last a minute against a group of demons.” Glyph suggested.
“You will personally witness the catalyst that starts the war Amos, at least if Drayden was right.” Albast added.
“The old one is correct. If you are to be the first line of defense in a war of such magnitude, you would fare better as a trained wizard. The absence of your presence would be felt, should you perish.” Zarabish interrupted.
“Zarabish, you ole’ softy” Glyph called out in fun.
“I only meant that his strategic importance would be missed.” Zarabish huffed.
“I know what you meant, Zarabish.” Amos said. “And thanks.” He added.
“I must know your answer before I try to remove you from Glyph’s curse, so I know where to place your body.”
“You said training Amos was one of the reasons, what are the others?” Glyph asked Albast.
“Hm? Well, to help you of course.” Albast replied.
“And, to know a prophecy is not the same as knowing how to act upon it. Suffice it to say that those are the only two reasons I am sure of.”
“So you know the prophecies, you’re just not going to share them with us.” Glyph said.
“It would not matter. If they reveal themselves to you I will be happy to discuss my interpretation. But to tell you outright might change the outcome; there is only so much I am able to do. In that respect, yes, I am not going to share.” Albast explained.
“That’s what I thought.” Glyph commented, and Amos just shook his head.
“Well, I think it’s probably time to remove Zarabish and Amos from your curse. I must prepare a few things. When I return, I would like Glyph to stand with Zarabish on one side, and Amos on the other.” Albast instructed as he stood from his seat and walked through the doorway to his cabin. “Just a few items, that’s all” He called back through the entrance.
Glyph stood and walked over to Zarabish, and Amos followed. “So what do you think?” Glyph asked Zarabish.
“About any of this. What are your thoughts?”
“I think the wizard has made some valid points. He has also told us only what he wants us to know, and has withheld the rest. I am not sure if he can be trusted, but I was once unsure if you could be trusted.” Zarabish stated in a low voice.
“You are very astute, that’s exactly what I was thinking. What about you Amos?”
“I’d say that about sums it up.” Amos answered.
“It is my job to be astute, is it not?” Zarabish asked.
“That it is, and you do it well.” Glyph replied with a smile.
Just then Albast walked out carrying a small bowl, two small bundles of grasses and a few scrolls. Putting them on the steps of the porch, he turned and looked at all of them. He walked over to Glyph and directed him to move a few steps to his right, and then moved Amos a little further away from Glyph until they were evenly spaced with Glyph in the middle.
“Zarabish, leader of all free demons, where would you like to be once I remove the curse?” Albast queried.
“I would like to be on the world of M’atra.”
“Excellent choice. I sincerely hope I will have the pleasure of meeting you again someday.” He said to the demon. “Do you have your stories straight? You will be appearing on M’atra before Glyph, and I’m sure there will be questions if you are noticed.”
Zarabish glanced at Glyph, who shrugged in return.
“Just tell them I found out how to end my curse in the Tome of Dark Lore. Tell them I performed the spell and you found yourself back on M’atra.” Glyph suggested, and Zarabish nodded.
“That should be adequate.” Albast stated, then turned toward Amos. “Amos, the replacement, spiritual leader of the Hexzu, what is your choice?”
“Damn, I forgot about the Hexzu.” Amos said as the stress began to furrow his brow.
“I can explain it to Grot; I’ll tell him you were sent back to Earth. I’m sure he’ll understand.” Glyph offered.
Amos looked torn, and then a measure of resolve crossed his face. He looked Albast in the eye and said, “I would like to stay here on Earth, as your student.”
Albast smiled. “Very well.” He said, and turned around and opened the three scrolls and laid them out beside each other.
“Don’t worry, man, I have everything right here.” Amos whispered to Glyph pointing at his head. “When I figure out what’s going to happen, I’ll find a way to let you know.”
Glyph nodded in response.
Albast read the first scroll aloud, and rolled it back up. Picking up the bowl, he walked to Glyph, dabbed his forefinger into what looked to Glyph to be silver paint, and began to draw patterns on Glyph’s face and arms. When he finished, Albast painted symbols on Zarabish and Amos as well. Returning to the cabin steps, he put down the bowl, and then read the second scroll out loud. Finishing, he rolled it up like the first and placed it back on the porch steps. Albast then picked up a bundle of tied grass in each hand and raised them over his head. The ends of the grass lit on fire as he did so. He brought them to his mouth and blew them both out, the coals still burning like incense. Moving back toward Zarabish he waved the smoke all around her, and did the same to Amos. Finally he read the third scroll, placed it beside the other two and strode to face Zarabish.
“Tritese amoc verbecullum!” He shouted. “Esruca emohot M’atra!”
“I’ll see you soon.” Glyph called out to the demon as he watched her start to fade from view, and then suddenly vanish.
Albast now faced Amos. “Duotese amoc verbecullum! Esruca emohot Earth!”
Glyph saw Amos fade and vanish, only to reappear a moment later in the same place. Albast sagged to the ground and sat with his head propped against his knees.
“It is done.” The old wizard stated.
Amos looked around and approached Albast. “Are you alright?”
“I will be. It took a little more than I thought it would. Could you help me up?”
Amos reached down and took the wizards hand and helped him back to his feet.
“Just give me a few moments, and I will be ready to try and help you, Glyph.” Albast said as he sat down on the steps to his porch.
“You know, there’s something that’s been bugging me about this curse business.” Amos said.
“What’s that?” Glyph asked, as they stood there waiting for Albast to recover.
“Well, as I understand it, if Albast changes your curse, won’t he then hold part of the curse’s power also?”
Glyph looked over at Albast, and back at Amos. “You’re right. That would mean that even if the book were destroyed I would still be cursed, and it would leave the power in Ishea and Albast.”
“Which means that one of them would have to die in order for the curse to be broken.” Amos continued.
“You are both correct.” Albast finally spoke. “The power of the curse spreads like a wild fire to anyone or anything that can tap into it. It is quite insidious.”
“I don’t know, Albast, this may not be such a good idea after all.” Glyph announced.
“I knew the risks before I attempted the ritual spell to remove Zarabish and Amos. It is already too late.” Albast informed them.
“Then I will be cursed forever.”
“There are worse things to live with, trust me. And that is not to say that the spell to end the curse may yet be revealed to you.” Albast stated.
“That sounds like a big ‘if’.” Amos commented.
“Even if that day never comes, Ishea or I may yet perish. Although we might live forever, it does not mean we can’t be killed.” Albast said, and nodded at Amos.
“Great, like that gives me something to look forward to.” Glyph said sarcastically.
“The damage is done. It would be foolish not to continue.” Albast said, “I believe I am ready now.”
“Alright. Let’s get this over with.” Glyph said after a moment of silence.
“Very well, then. Remember Glyph, it may be years before the war begins. You are not to reveal my existence until it does, and be sure to use your time wisely.”
Glyph nodded and Albast had him sit on the ground facing the steps. Closing his eyes, Albast reached out and placed his hand on Glyph’s head and began to whisper incantations. Glyph stole a look at Amos who held up his one hand with fingers crossed. Albast’s voice became increasingly louder, as the minutes ticked by. It almost sounded like he was speaking Latin, but Glyph was not familiar enough with the language to know for sure.
After what seemed like an eternity, Glyph could feel himself rising up into the air, as if levitating. He was looking all around as he went higher, almost cresting the roof of Albast’s cabin. Glyph glanced downward, only to see Amos standing beside Albast, who still had his hand on Glyph’s forehead. For a moment his body seemed to flicker in and out of reality, and for a split second there were two of him, then one again. At that moment the winds came and sucked all the air from Glyph’s lungs. Then the darkness surrounded him, hopefully for the last time.
Glyph felt as if he had awoken from a dream, as his eyes flicked open and stared up at the sky. It was dawn, and a quick look around told him all he needed to know; it had worked. Getting to his feet, he flipped back the opening to Zarabish’s tent and walked inside.
“I see the attempt was successful,” Zarabish said as he entered. The demon sat there calmly sharpening a spear point she had taken from the battle the day before.
“It’s good to see you too.” Glyph said and stretched. “Let’s go get some breakfast; I think it’s going to be a long day.”