Glyph and Zarabish walked to the Kivan mess tent that had been set up the night before. He could smell the cooking as he approached and thought it best if Zarabish waited outside; there really wasn’t enough room for her anyway. He instructed the cook to place a large amount of food behind the tent, and though the man thought it strange, obeyed his king’s order. After collecting the food, Zarabish and Glyph went back to her tent and sat down to eat. Shortly thereafter Ishea and Lobrein came looking for them, and entered through the large flap.
“Where is Amos?” Ishea asked almost immediately. Glyph wiped his mouth, conjured up a cigarette and began his explanation. He told her how he had found the spell to end his curse in the Tome of Dark Lore, and how he had attempted the spell on Earth during his last hour. Lobrein in particular eyed him suspiciously as he told how Zarabish had vanished, and Amos did not.
“I don’t know what happened, but for some reason it didn’t work on Amos; by then it was too late. I had already begun the incantation, and Amos begged me to continue even though it meant he would be left behind. I promised I would find a way to bring him back, and then I was here.” Glyph told them.
“You left him behind?” Ishea responded.
“This was terribly irresponsible of you Glyph, and may have altered events yet to come. Now Drayden’s animus is lost to us, and we cannot benefit from his experience. I can not believe you would be so…” Lobrein said, stopping herself short of berating him.
“Stupid?” Glyph finished for her.
“For lack of a better word, yes.” Lobrein replied.
“I know, and I’m sorry. I thought I could handle it; it looked so simple. I should have known not to trust what the Tome said.”
“You could have at least informed us of what you were planning. We may have been able to help.” Lobrein said.
“For what it’s worth, if I ever do use the book again, I’ll be sure to consult with you before I take any action.” Glyph added.
“I should hope so; now you have piled on yet another problem we must try to solve.” Lobrein chastised.
Ishea just stared at him, and Glyph couldn’t tell if she was sad, or angry. “I do not know how, Glyph, but we will find a way to get him back. I truly believed he wanted to stay with us and help in our fight against Tsach. It may well be that since he had not yet voiced his decision, he remained on Earth, since it was the place of his origin.”
“That must be it, then. I know I miss him already.” Glyph said. He hated lying to her, but if Albast was correct, no one must know he was alive and training Amos to be a wizard.
“I too have grown accustomed to his presence.” Zarabish chimed in.
“General Zarabish?” A voice came from outside the tent.
“Enter.” Zarabish replied.
Toban stepped into the tent. “Very good, you are all here. The Torlean envoy is approaching.” He said, scanning their faces. “Should I inform master Amos?” he asked.
Glyph explained Amos’s absence to Toban, and they all filed out to greet Covat. Deciding it would be best that Zarabish be introduced to the whole group, Glyph asked that she remain in her tent until the council meeting the next morning, and Zarabish agreed.
After welcoming King Covat, Glyph had the Torleans set up camp on the other side of the Kivans, to lessen the chance of anyone stumbling across Zarabish by accident. Later that afternoon Miatsu, King Rokka, and the Delturan delegation arrived, followed by King Kahula later that night.
Toban and Glyph passed the time practicing their swordsmanship, and had returned to Glyph’s cave shortly after Kahula’s arrival. “I guess that just leaves Verto. Do we know when he will be coming? I want everyone to be present for the meeting in the morning.”
“I am sorry Glyph, there will be no one attending from Priam.” Toban said.
“What do you mean? We sent word to them right?” Glyph asked.
“I forgot that you were unaware of the situation with Priam. Several months after you disappeared from The Pass, Verto was found in his chambers; murdered.” Toban told him. “The Lady Ishea was the last person to see him alive, and the monks believe that it was somehow her doing. Needless to say, relations between Priam and the rest of us became greatly strained and quickly dissolved. The monks withdrew from the rest of the world, and refuse to see anyone.”
Glyph wiped the shock off his face. “Verto was murdered? Who, why would anyone do such a thing?”
“Unknown, but this much is certain, they lay the blame squarely at Ishea’s feet. The fact that she left for Degruthras shortly thereafter did not help matters, since she was not present to defend herself from their preposterous accusations.” Toban answered him.
“Have you talked to Ishea about this? I mean, does she know?”
“It did not come to light until after she had already gone in search of you. To my knowledge she does not know. Keep in mind, this happened over three years ago, almost four now. For us this is old news.” Toban replied.
Glyph shook his head, still trying to grasp all of what Toban had told him. “Did anyone investigate; do you know how he was killed?”
“The monks apparently did their own investigation, and drew their own conclusions. The facts were never provided to us, only that he had been murdered and Ishea was to blame. We sent several envoys, but they were all turned away. I suspect the monks were afraid that we might uncover the true reason, and possibly who killed him. They have disavowed any allegiance to the wizards of M’atra, and anyone who accepts them.”
It was unbelievable, to think that someone was out to subvert the monks of Priam into turning against the wizards. This would be something Drathus might have attempted had he been alive, at least that would have made sense. The monks must know who really killed Verto, the question was why would they try to pin the murder on Ishea? It occurred to Glyph that there was more going on here than meets the eye, and decided to look into the matter once he had returned to Kivas.
Surprisingly, Glyph slept late the next morning. He felt like his internal clock was out of synch, especially now that his daily life-threatening jumps between worlds had ceased. Glyph dressed in the Kingly garb that Toban had provided, and had the other leaders meet him atop the highest dune beside the body of water he had created forty-eight hours ago. As they stood next to the water’s edge, Glyph told them the story of what had happened since his disappearance.
He explained their new alliance with the Hexzu, and how they had helped defeat Cruix, and of their retreat to the gate. Glyph then waved his hand and Grot and his entourage flew down from the sky and landed beside him, affording everyone their first glimpse of the gargoyles. By the time the meeting had started word had spread of the winged creature that had flown Glyph to the Kivan party as it crossed the desert, so the Kings were not too shocked by what they saw. He introduced Grot and Greem, and then asked that they all adjourn to the Torlean tent to discuss certain issues.
After they had taken their seats, Glyph introduced them to Zarabish.
“This is the demon who helped us.” Glyph said, as Zarabish lifted the flap and entered the tent.
King Rokka leapt to his feet and pulled his sword. “Devil swine!” he screamed and lunged at Zarabish.
Glyph and Toban jumped to block his way, when Ishea yelled, “FREEZE!” Everyone immediately came to a halt including Glyph. It had been a word of command and it had been very effective. “King Rokka, Zarabish is our ally, and General of the Kivan army. Anyone who takes arms against her will have to answer to me, and would also be considered an act of war against the Kivans.” With a wave of her hand she released them from the spell.
Everyone was shocked. “General?” Kahula spouted in amazement as soon as his lips could move. Rokka sheathed his sword but gave the demon a look of death, and grudgingly returned to his seat.
“Forgive me, err, demon.” Covat stated, and then turned to Glyph. “How do we know it can be trusted?”
“I agree!” Kahula added. “These demons are our enemies, and the enemies of our ancestors! We have fought them in two wars, and now we are supposed to accept them as one of our own?”
Rokka sat there quietly staring at Zarabish.
“I understand your concerns, and I’m not asking you to accept all demons, just this one. What you must realize is that just as M’atra has bad people, criminals and the like, there are some demons who are good. As we would lock up our criminals, there the criminals are in charge, and they lock up or make slaves of the good demons. Those are the demons we are at war with, not those who wish a better life, not those who are slaves hoping for freedom.” Glyph explained. “General Zarabish was a slave on her world. Forced to do the bidding of an evil master, when she got the chance for freedom she took it, and when I set her free, she made the choice to stay and help us in the war against Tsach. She has proven herself to me, to Ishea, and Lobrein. I will personally vouch for her integrity and her trust.”
The room was silent, then Grot stood. “My people were enslaved by the demons for thousands of years. I have learned to hate them as you do, and it is something we have in common. I would never have thought that I could set aside my hatred for even one of them, but the Great One has shown me the error of my prejudice. I have fought along side the demon Zarabish, I have seen her kill her own without mercy. I too believe her to be trustworthy.”
Glyph seemed a bit amazed at the comment, as did Zarabish, who nodded her appreciation toward the Hexzu leader.
“How do we know you can be trusted?” Rokka blurted out to the gargoyle. Grot remained calm and sat back down; Glyph had warned him that there may be hostile words and intents.
“The fact is I am asking you to accept her, not as Glyph, but as the Great One. I have twice saved this world from invasion, I would hope that you could do this for me in return.” Glyph said.
The room went silent again. Covat appeared a bit pale. “We would never deny the Great One a request. I will take you at your word that the demon is safe.”
“If this is what you want then so be it.” Kahula said more subdued than usual.
“What? Are we the slaves now? You force your will upon us! Was that a threat? The country of Deltur will not accept a demon. Not now or ever!” Rokka spouted. “The rest of you can bow down, but I will not, especially not for this.”
Glyph felt like blasting him across the room, but refrained. “That is your right. Would anyone else care to reverse their decision?” Glyph questioned them. There was no answer. “Very well, the next order of business is the Hexzu nation. I have given them the desert of Degruthra to live, since that is what they are used to. Also the northern half of the mountains, the side that faces the desert will also be used by them.”
King Rokka’s mouth dropped open. “Is this some kind of joke? Those mountains belong to Deltur, all the way up to Toleth’va.”
“Right, well, now the northern half belongs to the Hexzu.” Glyph replied glaring at Rokka.
“We do not wish to–.” Grot said, and stopped as Glyph swung his gaze toward him.
“This is outrageous, we have held claim to the mountains for thousands of years. You cannot give away land that is not yours.” Rokka continued.
“Rokka, I understand, but you’re not using it anyway.”
“That is untrue, there are several mines and logging communities on those mountains.” Rokka quickly interjected.
“On the North side?” Ishea joined in, and stared intently at Rokka.
King Rokka shifted uneasily in his seat. “Very well.” He said grudgingly after a long pause.
Glyph glanced at Ishea and briefly wondered how much influence she had over these people. “Thank you King Rokka, your sacrifice will not be forgotten.” Glyph said in the interest of diplomacy. “What we need to do now, is set up an outpost here at the lake. Even though there is a lake on top of it, there is still a gate at the bottom. If the water level drops, it will be the first sign that the gate has reopened, and that the demons are up to something.” Glyph saw Rokka roll his eyes, but said nothing.
“The Hexzu volunteer to keep vigilance over this lake.” Grot suddenly announced. There was a moment of silence, then Rokka and Covat were on their feet yelling over each other in protest, as Grot’s expression went blank.
‘The Hexzu are handling this with remarkable calm.’ Glyph thought, smiling. ‘I guess being an enslaved race has taught them to put up with a lot of shit.’
“If that is acceptable!” Glyph shouted, then continued in a normal voice, “to everyone else, it is certainly acceptable to me.” He could tell Rokka wanted to object, but instead he sat down, maintained his composure, and his silence.
‘What has gotten in to him?’ Glyph wondered. He had personally saved Rokka’s life; Glyph expected a little more cooperation. Could dissent for wizards have spread from Priam? Whatever it was that crawled up Rokka’s ass, Glyph was at least grateful that he kept mouth shut.
“Lake Vigilance.” Ishea said. “We should call it Lake Vigilance. Though your offer is most generous Grot, it might be best if we all kept watch together. One Barjon, one Kivan, one Torlean, one Delturan, and one Hexzu. Each soldier could be rotated out on a monthly basis. This way it is fair to everyone.” She stated.
“That’s a great idea Ishea.” Glyph said. “Does anyone have a problem with that arrangement?” He asked. After a few moments of silence Glyph continued. “Excellent. Then it’s settled, we will all keep watch over Lake Vigilance.”
With that, the meeting wound to an end, and all the delegations left for home leaving one soldier behind from each group. Glyph was glad to put it behind him, and looked forward to his return to Kivas.
On the way, Glyph talked about Rokka, and informed Ishea about the situation with Priam. “Did you notice King Rokka’s behavior? It was rather unlike him, at least the Rokka I remember.”
“He did seem a bit hostile, but that is understandable considering you gave part of the Delturan’s land to the Hexzu without consulting him.” Ishea responded.
“Yes, but even before that. None of the other Kings reacted to Zarabish the way he did.” Glyph countered.
“Glyph, she is a demon. Perhaps if you had not been so interested in causing shock by waiting to reveal her appearance, Zarabish may have received a warmer reception.” Ishea stated.
“Maybe. I just hope the situation with Priam is not spreading.”
“What situation would that be?”
“Didn’t you notice there was no delegation from Priam?”
“Well, now that you mention it. I am sure that Verto had his reasons.” Ishea remarked.
“Ishea, remember when you told me that Verto arrived at the gate and brought you the Tome of Dark Lore.”
“Well Verto is dead. The monks at Priam are saying that you killed him, that you were the last person to see him alive at Toleth’va.” Glyph explained.
“What?” Ishea said, and turned her attention to her steed. Reaching forward she patted the side of its neck.
“Verto is dead.” Glyph said, as if it shouldn’t need repeating
“So? Verto was an old man. It would have happened sooner or later.”
“Not just an old man, the oldest man, and why do you think the monks blame you?” Glyph questioned her.
“Why do the monks do anything they do? It is unimportant, and I cannot allow their misguided beliefs to rule my life. There is really no need to even be discussing this.”
“Yes, there is. If the monks think it was you, then that idea may well spread to neighboring countries like Deltur. It could explain why Rokka acted the way he did.”
“Honestly Glyph, you are making more of this than it is. I have lived over three thousand years, and have seen many a king come and go. So Rokka had a bad day, it does not mean he has turned against us.” Ishea replied.
“And it doesn’t bother you that the monks think you are to blame for Verto’s death?”
“I have been accused of worse, and as for the monks, their revered leader has passed on; they are merely acting out in grief. Be thankful they did not start a war.”
“Yes, but if Verto brought you the book at the gate in Degruthras, then you have a solid alibi. There would have been others who witnessed his arrival and departure. The monks say he died at Toleth’va, we could prove your innocence and put an end to the rumors before–.” Ishea cut him off.
“Enough, Glyph! I do not care about what they think. The Tome was probably the only thing keeping him alive and when he gave it away he died. Did you ever think of that?”
“Ishea I didn’t mean to–.” Was all Glyph could say before Ishea kicked her heels and drove her horse into a full gallop, leaving Glyph there. Something wasn’t right to be sure, and he couldn’t help but dwell upon it as he rode. There was only one problem with Ishea’s explanation; nobody had been able to simply give the Tome of Dark Lore away, not even Albast. The thought didn’t sit well with Glyph, and now he wished that Amos had come back with him. If anyone could have figured this out he could have.
After a short stop at Muret to visit Albast’s tomb, the party moved on toward Kivas. It began to rain, and Glyph began to laugh. It had been too long since he had seen so much water falling from the sky. It was especially egregious to Zarabish who was forced to take shelter as Glyph, Ishea, and Toban hurried to lash two of their supply wagons together end to end in order to provide enough cover for her demon-sized frame. The fanfare at Kivas was a bit subdued due to the weather, but a great party had been arranged to welcome home their King. A large statue of Glyph now resided in the main square, just before the entrance to the mountain castle. It depicted him standing in the stirrups of his horse with his sword drawn pointing the way to victory. Glyph smiled. Never in a million years would he have thought that there would be a statue made in his likeness.
Turim greeted them at the entrance, “My Lord, it is so good to see you again.” He said a bit shakily. “I hope you do not mind, I took the liberty of organizing a welcome home banquet.”
Glyph was concerned over Turim’s pale color, then remembered that the last time he had seen him, he had threatened to throw Turim from a castle window.
“I do not mind at all Turim, and thank you.”
Turim breathed a sigh of relief and led them to their chambers. Luckily the ceilings were just high enough for Zarabish to move about freely. With every servant they passed, Glyph could imagine the rumors spreading about the King’s pet demon. Thanks to Turim, a large storage room with a vaulted roof near the ground floor had been cleared as a temporary residence for the female demon, who was a bit surprised that anyone had even considered her size. After Glyph made sure that Zarabish had everything she would need, he took his leave of her and headed for his own room. Once safely in his quarters, Glyph removed his wet clothing and headed for the showers. He was amazed at how well he remembered his way around after four years, and made his way down the spiral steps to the bath area. Glyph stepped into the bath and pulled the lever that released the warm water from the cisterns above, and lay down to soak. He tried not to think too much.
That evening in the banquet hall, Glyph loaded up on the local red wine, and basked in the attention given to the long lost King. He introduced Zarabish to a stunned crowd, but to their credit, no one said or did anything inappropriate. The only one who seemed to have a problem was the previous general, a man by the name of Bose Finnicks. Glyph allowed him to keep his rank, but made perfectly clear that Zarabish was the master General of the Kivan military. Zarabish engaged him directly most of the evening, and after a few tankards of ale General Finnicks was regaling them with stories of the Second War of Drathus. Glyph thought he recognized the man, but had never actually met him; he had been General Hilen’s second in command. By early morning most of the guests had left, and Lobrein approached Glyph.
“So what are your plans now Glyph?” She asked.
“I think a nice soft bed and a good nights sleep.” Glyph replied.
Lobrein laughed. “It is so good to be home. I had almost forgotten what it was like.” She said.
Then Glyph beckoned her closer. “I would like to find the rest of the Seven. We will need all the help we can get.”
“It would be good to see them again too.” Lobrein added.
He turned his head slightly and caught Ishea looking at him from across the grand hall. She had been rather standoffish since they had talked about Verto on the ride home. “Any ideas on where to look?” He asked.
“I may have a few.” She said, then noticed him staring at Ishea. “She will come around Glyph. She has been through an awful lot lately.”
“Yeah, I know. We all have.”
A week later, Lobrein and Miatsu left to find the two remaining wizards. Ishea had slowly warmed up to him, and it seemed as long as he didn’t mention Verto or Priam she was perfectly content. Zarabish too, seemed to be fitting in quite nicely; she and Toban had already cleared a new battle drill area, and had begun to run the troops through their new training regime.
Two months later, during a training exercise, a frayed rope broke free on a catapult causing a misfire. The rock careened wildly through a field of soldiers and killed several instantly. Toban was mortally wounded in the incident. The large boulder plowed into his horse killing it and crushing Toban from the waist down.
General Zarabish teleported to the scene from a nearby overlook, and walked to where the boulder had come to rest. Toban lay pinned beneath its mass, as Zarabish knelt beside the dying Steward.
“Help the others.” Toban commanded hoarsely.
“The others are dead.” She responded. Several of the soldiers had begun to throw ropes over the rock in an attempt to pull it off of Toban.
“Glyph…Ishea?” Toban croaked out, his face now drained of all color.
“Word has been sent, but there is not enough time. You will be dead before they arrive.” Zarabish said soberly. “I believe I am the only one who can help you. Do you want my assistance?” She asked him, unsure of what she would be able to do.
Toban nodded his approval, already unable to speak, as blood flowed freely from his mouth.
“Clear the area! Now!” Zarabish bellowed, as shocked soldiers stopped and stared at her. “This will likely cause immense pain.” She explained to Toban. Placing her hand to the side of the rock, it cracked in half, and with her free hand she waved the pieces away from Toban’s flattened body.
Toban let out one shrill gargling scream as blood tried to reenter his crushed extremities. Zarabish, in desperation, attempted a healing spell on Toban, placing her hand over his whole head. She began to whisper, and chant, her face contorting with effort. One of the soldiers began to yell at her, demanding to know what she was doing, before several others dragged him off, leaving her to her task. Zarabish’s breathing became labored, and several of her muscles began to twitch involuntarily. Her whispers became frantic as a red glow began to flow down the length of Toban’s body, slowly enveloping his crushed lower torso. Soldiers began to form a ring around them, watching in fascination as the blood pouring from Toban’s mouth slowed to a stop. Zarabish began to pour more power into the spell, a spell she had never had cause to perform, even if she had been allowed to do so. After several minutes, the pain of the effort made her scream out momentarily, but she went right back to it. She was determined to put herself between Toban and the grip that death had placed over him. She could only hear her heartbeat pounding in her head as the demon moved her hand over his crushed legs. Her body weaved slowly back and forth as she forced herself to give more and more power to the spell. Soon Toban began to breathe again, as Zarabish managed to stabilize his condition, keeping him alive until Ishea and Glyph arrived, before succumbing and passing out.
Toban lived because of her actions, and in great pomp and circumstance Glyph bestowed upon her the rank of full demon status, for her successful completion of the Jakarute.
“Due to her quick thinking, General Zarabish performed a healing spell, against her very nature, to save Steward Toban’s life. Therefore in accordance with demon tradition she shall be awarded full demon status, and will from this day forward be known as Zarish.” Glyph announced at the ceremony to thunderous cheers. If demons could cry she might well have that day. Zarish had won the respect of the Kivan military, and the rest of her doubters would soon follow.
Over the next several months, elite forces of soldiers arrived from all the M’atran countries, except Priam, to learn fighting techniques specifically designed for demon warfare. Even a small group from Deltur showed up, though Glyph secretly wondered if they were really here to spy, and report back to Rokka when they returned. General Zarish herself would engage groups of up to eight soldiers in combat at a time. She taught them how to work together to achieve success in defeating her, and some of them were getting quite good. Zarish had plenty of opportunity to perfect her healing spell, particularly on herself.
Glyph would also take part in the exercises, and trained on a daily basis with Ishea during Lobrein’s absence, to improve his skills as a sorcerer. At night Glyph would study anything he could get his hands on, including many of Albast’s books on portals and dimension travel. He could see his power growing quickly, and his unconventional way of doing magic helped him to push the envelope.
They would occasionally receive word from Lobrein, and on one such occasion Ishea entered his quarters to tell Glyph the news. “They have found Prianna!” Ishea said as she burst through the door.
“Prianna, isn’t she the one apprenticed to Lobrein?” Glyph asked.
“Yes, I knew Lobrein could find her. She was like an older sister to me. They convinced her to return with them. That only leaves Morracor.” Ishea gushed.
“And he was Drayden’s student.” Glyph stated.
“Correct. Oh Glyph, it has been so long since I have seen any of them. I cannot wait, it will be just like when I was younger.”
Glyph stared at her. “There’s been something I’ve been meaning to ask you. I’ve been watching the living tapestry for well over a year now, hoping to find the answer, but since I have returned it has not moved.”
“What?” Ishea replied, her brow furrowing ever so slightly. “The Tapestry only operates in time of great need, besides why would you need to see an answer that I could give to you.”
Glyph could tell she was thinking that he was about to bring up the whole Verto thing again. “Well, I was thinking the other day that we don’t know how long it will be before Tsach attempts to come after me. What I mean is, it could be days or years, but he will come eventually.” Glyph said and rubbed the back of his neck.
“So what are you getting at?” Ishea responded.
“It’s just that our time here together is limited, and I think we should spend that time enjoying each other’s company.” Glyph said.
Ishea’s left eyebrow raised up a bit. “Are we not enjoying each other’s company right now?”
“Yes, but I was considering something a bit more formal.” Glyph offered.
She turned her head slightly to one side. “What exactly do you want to ask me, Glyph?” Ishea said more seriously.
Glyph paused a moment, and reached into his desk drawer. He pulled out a small wooden box and opened it. Reaching inside he produced a ring and handed it to her. “Ishea, will you marry me?”
Ishea looked momentarily stunned, then gasped and threw her arms around Glyph’s neck. “Yes! Oh Glyph!” she cried out in joy.
The news spread quickly, and a date was set. Plans for the wedding ceremony were given to Turim, who was delighted with the task. Glyph had been King for nearly eighteen months, and shortly Kivastor would have a new queen.
A few days before the ceremony, Glyph awoke in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. He lay there staring at the ceiling for several minutes, trying to figure out what it was that had jarred him from his sleep. Unable to come up with a reason he got up to relieve himself in the chamber pot. “Light.” He called out and the torches on the wall burst into flames. As he made his way around the bed the Tapestry caught his eye. It had changed! Glyph produced his own magical light source and directed it at the woven fabric.
“No. No! This can’t be right!” He shouted. His knees felt weak, and he sat down on the edge of his bed. The Tapestry depicted a man walking on a city street. Glyph recognized the man as Amos. A giant portal was opening in front of him, and through that portal Glyph could see the Arch-demon Tsach. This was the catalyst that Albast said Amos would witness, it was clearly the start of the third demon war, only… Tsach wasn’t coming through the portal to attack M’atra as they had thought, he was attacking Earth.
End Book II