It was an odd sensation to regain consciousness in a standing position. Glyph wasn’t sure if the flash of white light had been in his mind or whether it had actually happened. It didn’t matter of course, the only thing that mattered to him right now was that he was back, and some things were about to change; at least if he had any say in it.
Spinning around, he saw that there was no one about and relaxed his grip on the pistol. The court had apparently ended shortly after Glyph’s disappearance, which suited him fine. He hadn’t been looking forward to fighting his way out of this place, but had been willing to try, for his own sake. Why had Cruix just left his body there? Clearly he was not considered much of a threat, but they had to realize he would come back to his body at some point. Something about this was wrong, and he hoped there’d be more time to figure it out later. His main focus now was to find Ishea and get the hell out of here. He hustled back into the low light of the shadows, in case someone decided to take a peek. The only lights came from three massive bowls suspended like chandeliers from the vaulted soot-charred ceiling. All the other torches had been extinguished including the two enormous fire pits in front of the stage Cruix’s throne sat upon.
Obviously his curse was back and his hour had been bizarre to say the least. Killing those guards had been a necessity, he kept telling himself. There was no time for guilt over their deaths, even though they had been innocents. It seemed there was no evil coming to hunt him down, it was just him and his desire to kill, and that made him wonder.
He moved cautiously among the shadows of the stone pillars that lined the left side of the great hall. Glyph found himself falling into survival mode, without even realizing it. As he stalked closer to the open archway that served as the entrance, he noticed there were two lesser demons standing watch. There was no getting by them unseen; the opening was huge, but then so were the guards. Glyph reasoned that this must have been the way he and Ishea had been brought in. Somewhere out there was the staircase that led down to the dungeon. Since Ishea wasn’t here, she was most likely back in her cell. If she wasn’t in her cell…well, Glyph didn’t want to think about that.
Holstering his pistol, he reached back into his pants and pulled out the tranq gun. He took the small case of darts from his pocket and loaded one into the chamber. It would only take one dart at a time. ‘This could get tricky.’ he thought, as he found a nice spot behind a nearby pillar. He knelt down, laid another dart beside his leg, and brought the pistol to bear.
Taking aim on the guard closest to him, Glyph realized it resembled Simeon. He was struck with the memory of the horrific torture he had suffered under the demon’s hand. Sweat began to bead up across Glyph’s head. ‘I hope this thing is quiet!’ Glyph shouted in his mind as he exhaled and pulled the trigger.
The Guard slapped at its snake-like neck as if it were brushing away a mosquito. Glyph was already loading the next shot. He brought the gun back up, slamming the bolt into position, and took aim on the second demon. Another small click, and a puff of air popped out of the gun as the dart found its way into the back of the other sentry.
Taking a few deep breaths, Glyph stole a glance at the two demons, who were now standing there chatting and grunting at one another. He sat there another minute then looked again; nothing had changed. ‘Son of a Bitch!’ Glyph thought and pulled out two more darts. He loaded them in turn and pumped another round into each of the unsuspecting sentries. Putting his back to the pillar, he patiently sat, again ticking off the time on his watch. One minute. Shifting to one side, he glanced at the two guards. They were both showing some signs of fatigue, leaning heavily on the walls.
Glyph waited another two minutes to be sure, then stealthily approached the drowsy guards. Quickly placing the weapon back in his waistband, he drew the Beretta, and crept in between them. The left one grumbled loudly, its arm slipping off its leg, as if it were trying to get at Glyph. Passing them quietly, Glyph was tempted to kill them both, but he knew it would raise an alarm when they were discovered.
Glyph left the half conscious guards, and went right, entering a wide, dimly lit corridor. Trying to determine if this was the right way to go or not, Glyph spied what looked to be a staircase at the end of the passageway, and made his way towards it. He was right, a wide stairway led downward, and Glyph began his descent. It was clear this place had been built for demons. The stairs were enormous, with each step nearly three feet tall, and the height to the ceiling everywhere in the temple was at least thirty feet. He switched the pistol to his left hand and pulled out a tazer with his right, as he crept down the steps. He could see large stone doors leading off to the left and right on each level, but he remembered there was no door on the stairway leading to the dungeon, and kept going.
Glyph must have gone down three levels before finally reaching the bottom. The stairs turned ninety degrees about twelve steps before the end of the staircase, and Glyph could cautiously ease himself out into view by creeping along the inside wall. Straining to see if anyone (or anything) was in the large common room, he edged his way down to the bottom, one deep step after another, with a weapon clenched tightly in each hand.
Suddenly a hand the size of a kite flew around the corner and enveloped his head. Glyph found himself jerked off his feet and dragged across the ground towards one of the pillars. The thick calloused fingers held his head like a baseball. He was thrown hard up against the pillar, then slid to the ground. Glyph saw it was the ghoul that had tortured Ishea and him earlier.
Rolling quickly to one side, Glyph shot him with the tazer. The cords leapt out of the gun and stuck into the ghoul’s fat belly. It stopped instantly, shaking so violently it fell to the stone floor. Leaping to one side as it toppled over, Glyph heard the growl of a second ghoul, now storming across the room from the far corner.
Glyph swung his pistol toward the writhing form laying in front of him, aimed for the head, and unloaded three shots into its skull. Dropping the tazer, he dove out of the way of the charging ghoul, which flew past, and hit the wall with a dull thud. Back-pedaling across the floor, Glyph reached for his second tazer, fumbled with it and dropped it, as he tried to pull it free of his jacket.
He bent to pick it up, and noticed the butt-ugly beast was bearing down on him again. Glyph jumped back, but too late as the spikes of the cestus cut into his jacket sleeve and across his bicep, becoming entangled in the thick leather. The ghoul’s swing pulled Glyph off his feet and sent him hurtling several feet through the air.
Hitting the hard stone, Glyph rolled to a stop against one of the cell doors. He struggled to upright himself as he aimed the pistol at the ghoul. Glyph burped off three rounds at its head, but it showed no signs of stopping as it lifted its arm high for the death blow.
As the spikes of the cestus fell towards him, Glyph closed his eyes, and threw his arms outward in a last ditch attempt to shield his head, when he heard the impact of the cestus above him. Opening his eyes, Glyph looked up to see a translucent red energy shield. The ghoul snorted in surprise.
Without hesitation, Glyph dropped the gun and stood up. He could feel the power flowing out of him into the shield and knew at once that he had created it. Concentrating, he slid his arms in a low arc towards the ghoul. Glyph grinned in satisfaction as he shot the red energy surrounding his hands into the beast’s chest, tossing it backwards like an egg. Rushing forward, Glyph came to within a few feet of the thing’s head.
Reaching out with his open hand he called for the gun in his mind. The pistol lifted into the air and sailed toward Glyph, landing in his grasp. Whipping the gun around, he put it to the ghoul’s head as it attempted to stand, and unloaded the last four rounds into its face. Skull and brains flew every which way. Wiping the splatter off his cheek, Glyph swiftly stomped the ghoul’s head and laughed when he felt the skull crush inward beneath his boot.
“This is great!” Glyph exuded, ejecting the spent magazine and slapping in another. Chambering a round, he holstered the gun, and retrieved his unused tazer.
“Ishea!” roared Glyph.
He tried to call out to her with his mind in desperation, hoping to locate her. There was no response; he wasn’t even sure if he was doing it right. Running to the nearest cell door, he placed his hand upon it and closed his eyes. Attempting to look through stone isn’t as easy as it sounds and, having problems concentrating, Glyph came to the conclusion that he would have to open every door.
“I believe the one you are looking for is here.” A voice said from behind him.
Glyph spun and saw an old, thin man in rags standing beside an open cell. Glyph cautiously approached the man, checking to see that there was no one else in the area.
“I’m looking for –.”Glyph started.
“– A young woman. A humanoid such as yourself. I know, she is in here.” The old man said, indicating the room.
As Glyph approached the man, he noticed his milky white eyes, and realized the old guy was blind.
“Who are you?” Asked Glyph, and slid past the man into the cell.
Glyph saw Ishea lying in the corner, and rushed to her side.
“She is doing better now. I have helped her some, she is resting.” The old man stated, following Glyph over to where Ishea lay.
Glyph checked her vitals; she appeared to be all right. She was topless, and must have suffered another severe beating after Glyph had gone. Turning, he stared up into the old man’s face.
“My name is Drayden. I have come to help. Please forgive my tardiness. I’m not as fast as I used to be.” He explained to Glyph as if he could read his thoughts. Drayden brushed a patch of long, dirty, gray hair out of his face and knelt down beside her.
“Hey, that’s great!” Glyph said sarcastically, taking off his ripped leather jacket. Carefully, he slipped the coat onto Ishea and zipped it up to her neck.
‘This guy seems on the level, but is he a threat?‘ Glyph wondered, eyeing Drayden.
“I can assure you, I am no threat. I am here to help.”
“So you keep telling me. Call me Glyph.”
Reaching under Ishea, Glyph pulled her up to his chest. Holding her against the wall, he bent over and placed his shoulder to her waist, and struggled to upright himself. When her full weight fell across the shredded skin and muscle of his back he nearly yelled out in pain. The knee the hogdog had bit began to grind a bit, and all his muscles screamed under the load. ‘The price your body pays in captivity.’ he grimaced.
Turning, Glyph carried Ishea to the doorway. ‘Whoever this Drayden is, I’m pretty sure he can’t help me, unless he knows an easy way out of—‘.
“—I know of a way out of here.” Drayden pronounced suddenly as he followed Glyph out of the cell.
Glyph spun around and glared at Drayden. “First of all, cut out that mind reading shit! If I got something to say to you I’ll say it!” The pain in his back was excruciating under the weight of Ishea’s unconscious form.
“I am sorry. I find it saves time; it has been long since I have lived among civil men.” Drayden paused. “You are the Great One.” He blurted out.
“Yes, I know, I’d sign you an autograph but my hands are full. Look, if you know a way out of here I suggest we take it!” Glyph snapped at him, straining to keep from dropping Ishea. His knees were starting to shake and sweat beaded across his forehead.
“Oh. Yes then, this way.” and Drayden walked across the large chamber to another cell door. Leaning his head against the door, he whispered something and it slid open several feet.
“How’d you do that?” Glyph asked, as he panted for breath. He wondered how the old man could get around so well being blind, let alone moving stone slabs.
“After you are here for so long you start to learn the tricks.” Drayden chuckled.
Glyph entered the cell behind him. A thought suddenly rang out in his head. “Wait. We can’t go yet.” He groaned.
“Oh?” Drayden said turning around.
“The book. The book that has the spell to open the gate!” Glyph half shouted. “Shit!”
“Are you certain?” Drayden questioned him, his eyes becoming bright. “The sword, do you have the sword? I mean, is it here in the temple?”
Glyph glanced over at him as he propped himself against the stone wall for support. “How did you–?” Glyph tried to ask before Drayden cut him off abruptly.
“—The staff. Oh, of course.” Drayden chuckled softly. “We must get your things. I take it Cruix has them?”
“She’s got the book and the Divinare crystal for certain.” Glyph replied, and being unable to carry Ishea even a second longer, lowered her down against the wall. He stood hunched over with his hands on his knees for support, and gasped for breath.
“Yes, I’m sure she has the book.” Drayden agreed, with a look of disdain. “The question is how best to get them. How indeed…”
“As far as I’m concerned, just point me in the right direction, I’ll get there.” Glyph said matter-of-factly as he sat down beside Ishea with a flop.
“Hmm? Oh, yes. No, no, no, no, nothing like that. I suppose I could tell her I was leaving; it would be the polite thing to do after all these years of letting me use her dungeon. Rent-free at that. Of course, it did cost me my sight, but what I see now is so much better. Truly, my stay here has not been too bad. We will have to come back.” The old man sat cross-legged on the floor and fell into a trance.
Glyph glared at Drayden in disbelief. ‘What makes him think I have all the time in the world? I’ll just take a nap here, in the middle of our escape. The man hasn’t even told me how to get out.’ he thought facetiously.
Glancing over at Ishea, he decided it was time to get out of here, and moved toward her to attempt another lift. Suddenly the old man sprang to life.
“Wait, wait, wait. Do not go just yet. Look, allow me to show you.” Drayden said smiling.
Placing his hands on the back of his cell he began to mutter under his breath, caressing the rough stone. Drayden stepped back and spread his arms wide and with a creaking moan a section of the wall vanished before them.
Drayden was right. As much as he wanted to get the book, he didn’t want to jeopardize Ishea’s safety. Glyph stood over Ishea, tried in vain to hoist her onto his shoulder and failed.
“This way.” Drayden indicated, walking into the newly formed passageway. An instant later he popped his head back around the corner to stare at Glyph. “A shame she is not lighter.” He commented, smiling broadly. “I would bet that someone versed in the use of magic could perform such a feat.”
Glyph groaned inwardly at the thought. He had used magic against the Ghouls, but it was red, would it work the same way? Glyph concentrated swiftly as he held Ishea’s arm. He pushed the thought of the light reed into her form, but it was hard, much harder then he remembered. He had done it before with the King’s sword, and again on his war horse. That was then. Now everything was different, even his magic. Slowly, Glyph could sense it working, and a few moments later he lifted Ishea with ease.
As Glyph followed Drayden into the tunnel, the wall reappeared behind him. A small luminescent blue sphere the size of a shooter marble flashed into view and hovered between him and Drayden to light his way.
“I do not need the use of a light anymore, but I did not forget you.” Drayden explained.
“How far is it?” Glyph asked.
“About a thousand feet or so. It opens into a sewer that flows under the south wall of the city. Once we are outside the wall I will call for some help.” Drayden replied.
“Are you sure we’ll be able to get back in?” Glyph asked hopefully.
“Yes, oh yes, I do it all the time.” He assured him. They trudged along in silence, except for Glyph’s labored breathing. The tunnel began to angle upward, which made sense considering how far the dungeon was beneath the temple.
“Just who exactly are you?” Glyph said after awhile. “You seem to know an awful lot for a man living in a dungeon. And your magic—.” Glyph stopped in mid-sentence. “You use blue magic, but that would mean…you would have to be from…” He stammered as the pieces fell into place in his brain.
“M’atra. Yes. How much do you know of our world?” Drayden asked.
“Enough. Enough to know that you’re one of The Seven.”
Drayden paused for a moment before he continued. “Yes, I am.”
“What the fuck are you doing here? And why does your magic make no sound?” Glyph demanded, as they reached the end of the corridor.
“All in good time. First we must get to safety.” Drayden answered him and placed his hand to the wall and closed his eyes. The wall again vanished slowly, becoming transparent before fading away to nothing.
They stepped into a small four-foot by four-foot, rank, smelling, sewer culvert. Balancing Ishea as he got to his hands and knees, he managed to shift her weight to his back, and began to crawl through the piles of foul muck that dotted the otherwise clean culvert. The wounds on his back caused him intense agony, but compared to the torture Simeon had forced him to endure all those years ago, it was at least bearable.
Glyph and Drayden went on through the sewage-encrusted drain for thirty minutes, before emerging through into a low spot next to the base of the mountains surrounding the city.
“This way, quickly.” Drayden whispered to Glyph, and sprinted across a short distance to a small out cropping of rock that concealed him from view of the city walls. Glyph shifted Ishea onto his other shoulder. He guessed she weighed about thirty pounds now, but even that was pushing his atrophied muscles to their limits. His left knee throbbed. Glyph knew Ishea had not healed it completely from the Hogdog bite, but there was no helping it now. He hoped that Drayden might be able to heal him whenever they got to where they were going. Determined, Glyph clenched his jaw and limped as quickly as he could to the secluded spot from which Drayden was beckoning.
“You may put her down now.” Drayden told Glyph, as he closed his eyes and began to hum softly.
Glyph lowered Ishea gently to the ground, and checked her over once more. Then he stood to look at Drayden.
Slowly Drayden’s eyes opened and he stared back at Glyph, and laughed.
“What?” Glyph said.
Drayden pointed over Glyph’s head, and Glyph turned just in time to see three large, flying, stony-looking gargoyles, sailing across the valley on bat-like wings. Within a few seconds they had landed a dozen feet away from where Glyph stood.
“We could sure use that help of yours, Drayden!” Glyph shouted leaping back and pulling energy into his fist.
“They are our help, Glyph.” Drayden walked to the lead creature and they bumped their forearms together.
It appeared that Drayden was telling the Gargoyles what to do. They nodded and each one moved toward a different person.
“What’s going on, Drayden?”
“Relax, they have agreed to transport us to safety.” Drayden replied.
“You’re not serious!” Glyph shouted at him.
Glyph saw one gargoyle pick Ishea up in its arms and fly off, and within seconds he too was also being carried skyward on silent wings. The Gargoyle’s grip was like iron, and Glyph could do nothing but watch the lay of the land for clues to where they might be going. They soared higher and higher between the mountains, out of sight of the city, until they crested the top and flew out over a deep canyon.
The gargoyles flew toward the western mountains for nearly an hour, and Glyph’s muscles began to ache where the stone-like creature held him. Glyph marveled at the beautiful colors streaked across the horizon, which reminded him of the deserts of Earth.
Suddenly and without warning, the gargoyles swerved and dove toward the rock face of the closest mountain. They had increased speed, and it appeared to Glyph as if they meant to slam themselves into the rock. At the last second, Glyph saw an opening in the mountainside and lifted his legs just in time to avoid having them ground against the cave walls as the gargoyles flew in. A moment later they were plunged into darkness.