Glyph appeared in a brilliant flash of white light that illuminated the small cave-like room. Opening his eyes, he immediately tried to inhale but only got half a lung-full before he began to cough violently. Cradling his duffle bag like a newborn baby, Glyph rolled to one side and thought about getting up, but realized he couldn’t. The pain was excruciating, and left him gasping for air. The opening of the cave suddenly grew brighter as the sound of footsteps approached. Glyph watched as Ishea entered the room, quickly placed her torch into a ring in the wall, and knelt down by his side to examine him.
“Oh, Glyph.” She said shaking her head. “Hold still, I will send for Drayden.”
He listened as she hurried away, and groaned in his own private hell. Within a few minutes she returned with a bowl of water and some towels that looked more like chamois. Ishea began to carefully clean the blood off his face and hair. There was scarcely a spot on him not covered in it.
Pulling out a small cup, she poured some of the water into his mouth, which he swallowed gratefully. He wasn’t sure where she had found water on this god-forsaken planet, but he couldn’t complain.
“Ishea…” Glyph croaked out before another wave of coughing gripped him.
“Relax, we can talk all you want later. Right now try to stay calm. The Hexzu are trying to locate Drayden.” She attempted to heal the worst of his wounds, but the noise made it feel like Glyph’s head had been strapped to a diesel engine. She managed to ease his pain a little, before she resigned herself to wait for Drayden.
Glyph settled back and tried to remain still; he eventually found a spot that caused him the least amount of pain.
Drayden arrived about ten minutes later, and set about the task of healing Glyph. Taking his time, Drayden carefully showed Ishea in each step of the process how to dull the noise of the blue magic. Ishea took over for Drayden at the end and managed to set and heal Glyph’s broken shoulder with only a few firecracker-like pop noises. Finally they put him into a deep healing sleep.
Glyph found himself walking through the courtyard at Toleth’Va. It was large and spacious, just as he remembered. Trees carefully shaped through years of pruning were spaced evenly along the main walk. The mosaic tiles covering the pathway glinted in the early morning sun. He walked until he came upon a large flat dais. Six pillars suspended a dome roof over the platform, and steps descended to the ground in circular fashion, as if radiating outward.
Walking up the stairs, he passed the columns and came upon an old man sitting by a koi pond, leisurely dragging his finger tips over the top of the water.
“Who are you?” Glyph heard himself speak as he stared at the ancient figure dressed in gray robes. Suddenly a fierce wind began to blow all around them. Debris started flying at him from every angle. “Why are you doing this to me?” Glyph shouted above the howling winds.
“Because it is necessary.” A calm voice spoke in his mind. “Who are you?” the calm voice asked.
Glyph turned into the wind and held his hand across his face to protect his eyes.
He could see the old man still sitting by the pool as if nothing was happening. “I am the Yin and Yang. The Man of Light and Darkness; the Great One!” Glyph yelled through the winds.
“You are the progenitor of conflict; you are both problem and solution, war and peace, compassion and cruelty. You must fulfill your destiny.” The voice rumbled, growing louder.
“What is my destiny?” Glyph asked loudly.
The swirling winds turned red like the sunset. “First you must choose.” The voice rang out, and the winds slowly changed to purple and then settled on a dark blue. Then the winds became even fiercer.
“I don’t understand! What must I choose?” Glyph screamed, as the winds began to knock him back and forth. The rotating mass of wind lifted him off the ground, then rolled in upon itself and left Glyph in the still black vacuum of space. When the stars faded away and all was dark, consciousness returned.
Glyph opened his eyes and shot up to a sitting position, He was breathing hard and his heart was racing a mile a minute. There was some minor pain in his hip and knee, and some tenderness about the ribs, but the rest of him felt pretty decent. This was by far the most bizarre of his dreams yet; at least it didn’t end in horrible disaster like most of them had recently.
It was dark in the cave where he lay staring at the low ceiling. ‘Where’s the light switch in this place’ he thought. Immediately all the torches on the wall burst into flame. Glyph smiled brightly. “I’m back! It’s back! I got it back. Yes!”
“So it would appear.” He heard Ishea’s voice floating across the room. “How do you feel otherwise?”
“Not bad, considering I got hit by a car last night.” Glyph said, sobering a bit at the thought. He had to tell her, things were getting out of control now. When he had run toward that car the part of him that was in control thought it would win, thought it could take on a speeding vehicle and survive. He had felt the overpowering urge to rend the car in two using his own body as a weapon. It had nearly got him killed, and Glyph detested anything that might get him killed.
“Ishea…” Glyph began to say, then stopped.
Glyph sought the words to tell her. “This last time…”
“Yeah. I don’t know, something strange happened.” He finally forced out.
“Okay. This is what happened. I went looking for some Earth weapons, to give me an advantage over our demon friends, in case I lost my magic again. Anyway, I broke into this place, and there were people there, and well, I killed them.”
There was a long pause. “I didn’t want to kill them, all of them, but I couldn’t stop myself. Once everyone was dead, I snapped out of it. My vision cleared, and it was over.”
“Your vision cleared?” Ishea asked, looking confused.
“Yes, my vision would blur and then take on a reddish cast. Every time I killed, I got a rush, and it was great!” Glyph suddenly found his enthusiasm for death rather distasteful. “I don’t even know why I just said that! Ishea something weird is happening to me, I can feel it.”
Ishea sat down beside him. “May I see?” She said politely, holding up her hand with her index and middle fingers extended.
It would be easier this way, Glyph thought. “Go ahead.” he found himself muttering. Trying to face your fears is far less stupid than trying to pretend they aren’t there at all. It was something his father had always said.
Touching his forehead, Ishea closed her eyes and concentrated. He heard the sound of a breaking twig. She suddenly frowned and shook her head. She watched the whole hour pass as Glyph remembered it, felt it. It only took a few minutes, and Ishea pulled her hand away.
She recoiled away from him, trying to process what she had just witnessed. Standing quickly, she stifled a gag, and wiped her mouth on her forearm. When she turned back to face him, her eyes were like stone, and her countenance had changed.
“I want you to come with me.” She commanded and walked toward the entrance to the cave.
Glyph stood. At first he was a bit shaky, but quickly regained his sense of balance and followed Ishea from the cave. They walked out onto the bluff the Gargoyles had landed upon when they had first arrived. There was some natural light coming in through a few passages leading to the outside; it was still not enough to see by. Glyph picked up a rock and dusted it off. “Light.” He said quietly. The rock instantly blazed a bright red, illuminating the surrounding area. Ishea stood several feet away watching in silence.
“What?” Glyph growled, growing weary of her actions toward him.
“Follow me. There is a large hall down this path.” Ishea started down the narrow trail using the light from Glyph’s rock to light the way. The path ran down the inside of the mountain on their right. To the left was emptiness; occasionally the sound of beating wings would pass below, or above. They walked in silence for several minutes, until they reached the entrance to the large hall.
“The Hexzu use this area for a training ground. It is not currently in use, so they have been kind enough to offer it to us.” Ishea smiled curtly and began to walk toward the end of the hall, raising both arms as she went. When her arms reached above her head, the torches on both sides of the wall blazed to life. There was a faint noise like the sound of a champagne cork popping echoing off the walls and ceiling.
Glyph was staring at the giant football stadium-sized cavern in awe. The shadows of stalactites and stalagmites danced under the torchlight. “What are we doing here?” He asked, staring at some of the paintings adorning the walls.
“I thought we might try an experiment. It may shed some light on your problem.” Ishea explained.
“So what do you want me to do?” Glyph asked.
“Defend yourself!” Ishea yelled, as her eyes burned purple and a bright blue aura surrounded her hands. A bright light began to form in between them as she dropped into a fighting stance. She thrust her arms outward at Glyph with force, and the energy in her hands jumped forth as lightning toward him. Having a second to react, Glyph brought forth the image of the shield, and felt the heat and crackle, as the red shield took the brunt of the bolt. The force of the impact slid Glyph backward several feet.
“What the hell!” Glyph screamed at her. “A little more warning would have been nice! I almost didn’t make that one in time!”
“It was necessary. Did you notice you instinctually reacted with the red magic?” Ishea questioned him.
“That’s the only kind I got, don’t you remember when I told –.”
“No! It is not!” Ishea interrupted. “It is not the only kind you have, you have blue magic too.” She continued a bit more subdued.
“I told you I can’t use it. It doesn’t work here for some reason.”
“Why? Do you not wonder? I do. I am not sure I like what I see.” Ishea snapped.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Glyph asked rolling his eyes.
“I will tell you what it means. It means blue magic does work here. It works for me and it works for Drayden, why does it not work for you? The path you walk is not the right way. I am not sure what happened to the real you during your years of captivity, but you have changed. You have always walked the line, Glyph, hanging on technicalities of faith, but now…” She paused shaking her head slowly. “Now you have strayed too far from the line.”
“So what are you getting at? What, am I evil now, am I one of them? What god damn difference does it make if it’s red or fucking blue! Who gives a rat’s ass! I don’t. As long as I got some power, I’m good, and that’s all I really care about.”
Ishea shook her head. “You still do not get it, do you? It is all meaningless in your view. Do you hear yourself speak? Power is all you care about by your own admission–.”
“That’s not what I meant and you know it. I can’t help you or anybody else if I don’t have the power to back it up.”
“But you do have it, Glyph. I have seen you use it and do far greater things than I have ever seen you do with your use of the red magic; you are not as adept as you were.”
“Then what is it? What don’t I see?” He asked her, growing more frustrated by the second.
There was silence in the hall; Glyph could hear the sound of the gravel shift beneath his boots. ‘The choice?’ He thought over and over in his mind. “You mean the choice between what color of magic I use?”
“Yes. Glyph, I have told you before, the red magic is evil; it is a negative power. Blue magic is good, and has a positive power. The difference is what it does to your soul.” Ishea told him.
“My soul. You’re serious.” Glyph said, glancing at her sidelong.
“Yes, and that is the whole problem. You do not want to believe that there is something more important in the universe than how you might help to win the next war, and especially if that something is your own soul.” Ishea paused, pushed her hair back over one shoulder, and smirked. “Do you want to know what I think?”
Glyph leaned up against a rock and shrugged. “What do you think?”
“I think the combination of your touching the ancient tome, Cruix’s blood sacrifice and the mutation of Drathus’s curse restarted your hour, but I think it is your choice that makes you become one of them while you are there.”
“One of them? What–.”
“You remember, those people deemed evil who became possessed and would immediately try to kill you every hour you were on Earth until you killed Drathus. Those sad devils you slayed to protect yourself. I think you are becoming one of them. Only I am not sure if you care whether the people you kill are evil or not, as long as you are killing, and that has everything to do with your soul.”
Glyph glared at her and clenched his jaw tight. “Look, I do not like killing people! And I’m not some kind of homicidal maniac on a spree!” he shouted, spittle flying from his mouth.
“Oh really? So you just killed those people, so you could bring their talismans here.”
“I did what I had too.”
“Did you have to kill the two women? They were not even armed, they begged you not to do it! Yet you did it anyway, you could not stop yourself and you enjoyed it. You say one thing, but your actions prove otherwise. You are just using the aquistion of these weapons as an excuse to murder innocents.” Ishea paused in thought.
Shaking his head, Glyph turned and looked at the wall. He tried to think of what to say, but found nothing. He felt the anger inside growing, and stifled it down. Finally, Glyph turned and began to walk away. “Fuck it! I don’t need this shit! I have too much other crap to worry about, than to stand here and listen to your crazy mumbo jumbo!”
“I am right, Glyph! You can walk away from me, but you cannot from the choice! You will have to choose, if it has not already been made for you!” Ishea shouted after him.
Never breaking his stride, Glyph flipped her the bird without ever turning around as he marched out of the cave. He could still hear the echoes of her last biting jibe as he turned onto the small path leading up towards the rock landing. Reaching the large rock platform, Glyph walked to the edge and peered off into the blackness. ‘First things first, I’m tired of not seeing anything around here’ he thought. Raising his hands to the air, he poured his rage into his arms and chest. His eyes burned red as he screamed deep within his mind “Light!”
Like a rising column, the surrounding walls lit up in a blaze of brilliant red. As the light moved higher it blurred to white like the sun. Every crevice was filled with light, and the entire enormous cavern was bright as day. There were caves everywhere along the walls, and gargoyles stood like giant bats peering out at the light. It was as close to an underground city as Glyph would ever see. Glyph stood there smiling as every last space was lit, and he began to laugh. Gargoyles hovered in the air staring open-mouthed at one another, some landing on the nearest ledge to avoid colliding in the blinding light.
“You wanted proof, Grot! Here’s your proof!” Glyph bellowed out, magically amplifying the volume of his voice. Dust fell from the ceiling as the echo of it reverberated throughout the inside of the mountain.
Drayden suddenly appeared a few feet away. “Glyph, what are you doing? You must cease this at once.” He spoke calmly but forcefully. “You do not call out the high chief of the Hexzu in this manner. These people were forced into slavery and were held there by magic every day. To say they do not like it is an understatement.” Drayden hissed under his breath.
A mighty beating of wings filled the air as Grot and three warriors landed beside Glyph on the platform. Grot looked at Drayden and then at Glyph. “You may extinguish your light, Great One. My request for proof has been fulfilled. I believe we have plans to discuss. ”
“You were saying…” Glyph mumbled to Drayden. Moving one hand in a quick circular motion, Glyph snapped his fingers and everything was plunged into instant darkness. “Certainly, High Chief. I’m glad it was sufficient.” He spoke to Grot.
Grot cackled deeply and said, “Let us go to the war room.”
Glyph cast a glance at Drayden, who nodded in return. “We’ll meet you there.” Glyph replied.
“Very good.” Grot remarked and signaled to the other three. One by one they crouched slightly and launched themselves straight up into the air.
As the last one took off in flight, Glyph turned to Drayden. “I’m not up on this teleportation thing. How’s it done?”
“Hmm. Oh, yes, it is quite simple once you get the hang of it. First you imagine the place you want to appear, uh, be sure not to over-extend yourself mind you, and then imagine yourself there. If you have trouble reappearing, focus hard on one particular thing or point in the place and imagine yourself solidifying.” Drayden explained. “However since you cannot know where the war room is or what it looks like, I will have to take you. I can make it look as if you came under your own power, if you like?” he questioned.
“Okay. Let’s do it.” Glyph agreed. Drayden stepped behind him and put his hand on Glyph’s shoulder. Glyph saw Ishea walk up onto the rock landing just as the view slowly faded away, and a new room began to appear. It reminded him of the transition to his ‘hour’ way too much.
There was a large octagonal marble table in the center of a large cave. It was covered in maps and scrolls. Torches were lit along each wall, and in between them hung decorative animal skins. Stone chairs, carved right out of the floor of the cave, circled the table. Glyph shook himself for a second, and proceeded to walk across the room to the table.
Grot and the three warriors came striding in. “Great One, these are my Ruktan. This is Oathtet.” Grot said indicating the Gargoyle to his immediate left. “Crowf, and Greem.” He introduced, pointing at the other two in turn.
Just then Ishea appeared in the corner of the room and stepped forward to the table. She said nothing, but shot Glyph a look that could freeze hell.
Glyph nodded at each one, and unrolled a map of Okrune. “I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes here, but I think I may have a better solution than a frontal attack.” He paused looking at Grot. “A frontal assault, though effective, will not leave enough of a fighting force to defend your prize.”
Grot’s eyes widened slightly, as he glanced at Oathtet. “I too have had my reservations over the number of deaths my kind would suffer. Continue.” Grot sat at the table and locked eyes with Glyph.
“Alright, I want to divide the Hexzu into three groups. Group one will be your best fliers; we’ll call them the Air force. Use whatever weapons you can from the air; spears, slings, bows, hell giant rocks will even work.
The second group will be the ground force. I would like to attack at daybreak, so we can move the Ground force as close to the walls of the city under cover of darkness. If need be we can station them just inside The Chasm until we’re ready to deploy; we’ll keep the air force there as well.
The last group will be the most important, and we’ll call them the Inside force. We’ll need to move as many Hexzu into the city as possible, without drawing any attention. They will attack from the inside, after the first wave of assault from the Air force. This will cause enough confusion to allow the Ground force to fly over the walls into the city.” Glyph explained.
“Do we have any information about where our Demon friends might be inside the city?” Glyph asked.
Oathtet nodded his head. “The lesser demons reside in this section,” he said indicating a section of the city. “The Demons over here.” Pointing again. “And Cruix is in the temple.”
Drayden spoke up. “I have a good idea where Cruix’s personal chambers are.”
“Good. We hit them in their sleep. We’ll have enough of your warriors on the inside to engage all the full demons separately, but at the same time. If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to take some of them out before they’re even awake.”
“There is no honor in it.” Grot interjected shaking his head.
“Where I come from, honor is measured by the victor. What is it like here, Grot?” Glyph asked.
“I do not understand the question.” Grot stated, looking somewhat confused.
“If you die in battle, is that honorable?”
“To die in service to ones clan is honorable.”
“And what if you all die in battle is that honorable?” Glyph questioned.
“Yes. We would be honored by our loved ones, and remembered.”
“If you lose the battle, the war, who will be left to remember you? Do you think the Demons will slay you and let your women and children live? I think they would exterminate you all as an example to the other species of slaves.”
Grot stared at him but said nothing.
“There is no honor in battle; there is only survival, and extinction. You can claim all the honor you want, but only if you win.” Glyph spoke seriously.
Grot stiffened a bit, and shifted in his seat. He looked at Oathtet once more, and then back at Glyph. “And where would you be, Great One?”
“Drayden, Ishea, and I will concentrate our combined efforts on Cruix. Hopefully, if we are successful in defeating Cruix, there will be less incentive for the other Demons to fight, some may even run.” Glyph answered. “If all goes according to plan, you will lose less men, and enforce your reign over Parcel Three. Most importantly, you will have enough forces to defend your position when the other Parcels come calling.” He unrolled another map, which showed The Chasm and the other two Parcels and studied it.
“Very well. I see the wisdom in your plan, Great One. Crowf, see to the infiltration of Okrune, and have them pass the word to those already inside. Give them their targets, and tell them to wait for the first sky attack.” Grot commanded.
Crowf nodded and left the room.
“Greem, you will be in charge of the Air force. Gather as many weapons as you can and begin to mass your warriors in The Chasm. Drill them if necessary, but make sure they know the plan. I will give the order at daybreak, wait for it.”
Nodding in a half bow, Greem grunted acceptance of his orders and exited.
“Oathtet, you will command the Ground force. You know what to do, I trust your judgment.” Grot bestowed.
“Chieftain Grot, where will you coordinate the attack from?” Oathtet asked.
“I will send word, but I believe I will go with the Great One.” Grot replied.
Everyone turned to stare at Grot, who sat there with a large wicked grin on his face.