The voice in his mind shouted, startling him from a sound sleep. Falling out of bed, Glyph reached for his sword with one arm and his clothes with the other. “What? What is it?” He broadcast telepathically.
“The locals are coming.” Amos replied.
“The locals?” Glyph sent back.
“Meet me outside. Hurry.” Amos said.
‘What the hell?’ Glyph thought, as he pulled on his pants and quickly laced up his boots. Slipping into his shirt, he grabbed the King’s Sword and ran down the hall into the lobby. He bolted out the front double doors and nearly tripped over Amos, who was casually sitting on the front steps.
The sun was up and a gentle breeze rustled the bushes on both sides of the cement railing.
“One minute, thirty-seven seconds.” Amos said, looking at his wristwatch. “You might want to consider sleeping in your clothes.”
“What?” Glyph demanded. “You timed me?”
Amos shook his head, stood up and dusted his hands together. “There’s a group from the local town on their way here. They think we have supplies; food and fuel mostly. We have to stop them.”
“Are you serious? We don’t have anything here, except for the food Albast brought, and that will only last us four or five days.” Glyph said.
“I know that. It’s them you’ll have to convince.” Amos said, and pointed down the long driveway as several pickup trucks full of men and a minivan came roaring toward them.
“Okay. What’s the plan?” Glyph asked.
“Oh, I thought I’d let you handle it.” Amos replied.
Glyph looked at him, puzzled by Amos’s behavior. “Fine.” Glyph replied, and walked down the steps to greet the angry mob.
He watched as they pulled across the lawn perpendicular to his position with the minivan sandwiched between the two trucks. There were about seven men in each truck, armed with shotguns and semi-automatic weapons. Glyph drew his sword on instinct and faced them down as they stood some forty feet away.
“Give us everything you have, and we’ll think about letting you live.” One of the men shouted out.
“We have nothing to give. There are beds and furniture in the hotel, you are welcome to those.” Glyph stated diplomatically.
“You dumb fuck! We have beds and homes. What we need is your food and supplies!” He shouted, and threw the bolt back on his rifle.
“We don’t want any trouble.” Glyph replied calmly.
“Just kill them, Jimmy!” One of the men said.
The lead man turned and looked at the one who spoke, then he nodded his head. One man pulled back the side door of the minivan to reveal a fifty-caliber machine gun.
“Light ‘em up!” The lead man commanded.
Glyph immediately called forth his shield just in time to deflect the first wave of bullets.
“Stop!” Glyph bellowed in a magically amplified voice. The hail of gunfire ceased, and the last few spent casings could be seen falling silently onto the ground. Glyph dropped his shield and glanced over at Amos who was clapping his hands together slowly.
“There might be hope for you yet.” Amos said and chuckled. “You don’t even know how many times that one has gotten me out of trouble. Did you know they are particularly susceptible to suggestion in this state?” Amos said as he and Glyph walked the short distance to where they stood twitching, having to stop every action they attempted.
“Check this out.” Amos said as he approached the lead man, whose eyes tracked him nervously. “Dance!” Amos commanded.
Glyph watched as the man began a crude line dance, probably the only dance he knew.
“See he’s dancing, right? But watch.” Amos explained to Glyph. He then turned to the man and said “Not like that, like Michael Jackson.” The man immediately spun and slid into a crude moonwalk that broke Amos out in a fit of laughter. Glyph was not amused.
“Cut it out.” Glyph said to Amos. Amos stopped laughing and stared at Glyph.
“What?” Amos said spreading his arms wide.
“It’s not funny, okay.”
“Of course it’s funny.” Amos replied.
“No it isn’t. These aren’t some ignorant Grull. These people are just scared, and desperate. They don’t deserve to be humiliated.” Glyph chastised.
“They were going to kill you, and me, and take everything we had. I don’t see the difference.” Amos shot back at him.
Glyph shook his head and snatched the pistol from the zombie-like dancing man’s hand.
“This guy, uh, Jimmy?” Glyph said after snapping his fingers a few times. “He’s got an awfully nice looking watch there. Looks like a brand new Rolex. Did you steal that, Jimmy?” Glyph asked. Jimmy’s jaw clenched and his eyes shifted to stare at Glyph, but he couldn’t move other than to grab and double-pump his crotch as he continued his macabre Michael Jackson impersonation.
“Crime doesn’t pay, Jimmy.” Glyph grabbed the panting man by the wrist, and unbuckled the watch. He admired it for a few moments, shrugged, then unstrapped his watch and buckled the Rolex on in its place.
Glyph began to gather the other men’s guns in a pile by the front steps; panic was plainly evident in their eyes as they watched. The fifty-caliber machine gun was a bit bulky to move from its mount, which had been bolted to the floor of the van. Glyph managed to figure out how to detach it after a few minutes, heaved it onto his shoulder while he walked back, and then deposited it onto the large stack of weapons. Then he turned and looked at the fear stricken men. “Flee!” He commanded, and for good measure added “And don’t come back.” The men broke and ran, some for their vehicles, others back toward the road on foot, tripping over themselves as they went. Glyph and Amos watched as the vehicles peeled out, careening wildly across the yard toward the road without bothering to even pick up their friends.
“They’ll be back.” Amos said.
“Maybe.” Glyph replied. Then he turned and headed off toward the portal. It seemed as if Amos had changed in the last few years, though Glyph had to admit he had never really gotten to know the detective all that well. When he reached the site of the portal, he found Albast working steadily, and Glyph quickly pitched in, following the old wizard’s direction. Amos joined them a short while later, and the three of them worked until noon before breaking for lunch. They mostly sat in silence, eating their sandwiches and drinking sun tea that Albast had been brewing all morning. Afterward, Amos excused himself and left to scout the area. Knowing that Tsach’s army had crossed the Mississippi had made Amos more nervous and very paranoid. Glyph and Albast resumed their work on the portal, and soon Glyph’s thoughts about Amos’s strange behavior got the better of him.
“Amos seems to be different than I remember him. Is he okay?” Glyph asked Albast as he created another strange symbol in the stone with a wave of his hand.
Albast sighed. “The destruction of your country has had an effect on him. He has witnessed atrocities committed by the demons and by his countrymen, first hand. It’s enough to change anyone.”
“I can understand, but he seems awfully distant and withdrawn. The way he treated those men this morning was mighty cold.” Glyph commented.
“Amos is struggling right now. He is frustrated by our lack of action against Tsach, and I think he may have even felt that once we had revived you, that you would fight Tsach and this would all be over now.” Albast explained. Glyph nodded his understanding. “I believe he is distressed over the way you have chosen to go about things here. He knows you are not ready to fight Tsach, but feels that you should be, and in that, is a bit disappointed.”
“What about you? Do you feel the same way? Should I have just gone right out in search of Tsach and tried to kill him as soon as I arrived?” Glyph questioned, absently rubbing the shoulder that Tsach had bitten through earlier.
“Oh, Glyph. I am old enough to realize that everything happens in its own time and for reasons that are not always obvious at the moment. I see nothing wrong with how you have handled things here on Earth; of course, I am a bit more patient than Amos. His quick temper is often at odds with his reason, and carrying Drayden’s animus doesn’t exactly help things. Sometimes knowing too much about something isn’t a good thing.” Albast told him.
“Then, what is it that he knows?” Glyph questioned.
“Enough to frustrate him, but not enough to act upon? It is hard to say, and only Amos could tell us for sure.”
Glyph guessed that was Albast’s way of saying he either didn’t know, or wasn’t going to say, and let it drop. He wanted to tell Albast about his discovery of the Drayden prophecies on the Tapestry in Toleth’va, but if Albast wasn’t going to share, then why should he? Something was eating at Amos, something more than just Tsach laying waste to the countryside, but was it the Drayden prophecies? Could Amos have discovered them locked away in Drayden’s animus and not told anyone? It was possible, and until Glyph knew for sure, he decided it might be best to keep his own knowledge of the prophecies a secret.
The rest of the afternoon went on without incident. At about three o’clock, a caravan of humvees and military transports rolled up to the hotel and set up a defensive perimeter. Glyph and Amos left the portal momentarily to talk to the soldiers who had just arrived.
“You must be Mr. Young. I’m Captain Haddix, Sixth Marine Regiment; this is Sergeant Bowman.” The Captain said, by way of introduction.
“Call me Glyph. This is my friend Amos and the old man’s name is Albast.”
The Captain and Sergeant shook hands crisply with each of them. “If I may ask sir, what exactly is going on here? Our orders were a bit sketchy, but were given top priority.”
“I’m not sure how much you may know about what is really going on, and I’m not big on keeping secrets. The truth is, we’re creating a portal to another world in order to get reinforcements for the war against the demons.”
“And where is this portal?” Haddix asked.
“About a half mile down that path, through the woods.” Glyph replied.
“We’d like to take a look if you don’t mind. I take it the demons have singled this out as a target?” The Captain questioned.
“Uh, yeah. Sure, follow me.” Glyph said and led the two soldiers through the woods to where the work was being done. He hadn’t thought of the portal in terms of being a target, but he was certain the demons did. “You don’t seem the least bit surprised by what I’ve told you.”
“Frankly sir, nothing much surprises me anymore. I’ve fought the demons and their bull-headed minions. I’ve seen what they are capable of. The idea of a gate to another world seems like child’s play in comparison.” Haddix told him.
Glyph could certainly understand. He led the men to the base of the portal, and Sergeant Bowman let out a long whistle. “I’ll be damned.” Bowman said, and turned toward Haddix. “I’ll set up a perimeter defense grid further west, that’ll be their likely approach.” Haddix nodded as the Sergeant shifted his rucksack to the opposite shoulder and trudged off into the woods. Glyph introduced Haddix to Albast, and then the Captain took off back toward the hotel.
“We’re not that far off now, Glyph.” Albast commented. If they’re ready on the other side I may be able to open it before you head back for your hour.”
Glyph, Albast, and Amos worked continuously for the next few hours, until Captain Haddix reappeared.
“Excuse me gentlemen.” Haddix said in stiff military fashion. “I need to speak with Mr. Young.”
“What can I do for you Captain?” Glyph answered, appearing a few feet away from him.
“I have a message from the President, sir.” Haddix stated. A brief expression of disgust crossed his face before he continued. “The demon lord Tsach has agreed to open a dialog of peace with the President.”
Glyph studied the man for a moment. “What’s your take on this, Captain?” He asked.
“Hm? Oh. Nothing, sir.” Haddix replied.
“That nothing sure sounds like something. Feel free to speak your mind on the matter, we’re all in this together.” Glyph offered.
“Well sir, to be frank, it sounds more like terms for our surrender, rather than an overture of peace.” The Captain said.
“That’s exactly what it is, Captain. I have seen the demon lord operate before; there is no peace. Only destruction, and domination. I can only hope the President has instincts like yours. He has, however, committed himself to this course of action, and plans to see it through. I have to admire his values, even if they may be a bit misguided.”
“They’re coming here, aren’t they sir? The demons I mean.” Haddix asked changing the subject.
“Eventually. I’m hoping to stop them at the Appalachians.” Glyph replied.
“You sir, and this off-world army? What are our chances of success?”
“I honestly don’t know, but we’ve had a lot of experience fighting these creatures. Not on this scale, but we’ve had our share of victories.”
“This army, are they like…them?” The soldier asked.
“Well, most of them are just ordinary men like yourself. They know if Earth falls their world will be next on Tsach’s list.”
The Captains eyebrows raised. “Most of them?”
Glyph chuckled. “Yes, there will also be several thousand…gargoyles, joining us as well.”
“Gargoyles? The little stone statues on top of castles…those gargoyles?”
“Yes, exactly. Only they’re not so little, the smallest are at least eight feet tall.” Glyph told him.
“Why am I not surprised?” Haddix said and shook his head. “Well, I should get back to it.” He stated. “Do you have a reply for the President?”
“Yes, inform him that he should negotiate with Tsach himself, and not a diplomat. Also, I would like to accompany him to this meeting, along with some of my friends. I hope he will find that acceptable. If he does, then he should come here first so that we can travel to this meeting together.” Glyph told him.
“Affirmative.” The Captain said, then turned and made his way back toward the hotel.
Albast made his way over to Glyph. “He seems like a competent enough young man.”
Glyph nodded his head in agreement. “Are we ready to do this?”
“We can try. I’ll know rather quickly if the portal on M’atra is not ready.”
They signaled to Amos, who took his position on one side of the gate, and Albast on the other. It looked very similar to Lobrein and Drayden opening the gate on Degruthras, Glyph thought as Albast began to gather the energy force into himself. They walked towards each other with their palms open and facing each other. As they drew closer, Glyph could feel the power that emanated through them and throughout the portal itself. When they came within ten feet of each other, arcs of blue energy jumped between them and then, with a thunderous boom, a portal of blue energy took shape between them. They began to slowly walk backwards toward each side of the gate until they were able to place their hands to the symbols carved on either side. In an instant the blue energy filled the entire interior of the land bridge. It was done. Albast’s chest heaved as he gasped for breath, and slowly made his way over to where Glyph was standing, and Amos did the same.
“It is self-sufficient now.” Albast wheezed as he began to recover. Glyph just stared at the opening.
“It’s open, right? I mean, they can come through now?” Glyph asked.
“Any time now, I imagine.” Albast replied, and within a few moments, Lobrein appeared through the curtain of blue swirling energy, followed shortly by Ishea.
Lobrein stood silently in front of Albast for several long moments, then the tears broke free as Albast slowly put his arms around her and patted her back gently. Ishea’s eyes welled up as she leapt into Glyph’s embrace. He wasn’t certain, but guessed he had been forgiven, at least for the moment. Then Ishea turned away and threw her arms around a startled Amos, and kissed him quickly on the cheek. She put her other arm back around Glyph, and the three of them watched the gentle embrace shared by her mother and father, Lobrein and Albast. Soon Albast turned his gaze toward the three of them.
“Shea. My dear Shea.” Albast said as his watery eyes met hers.
Ishea stepped forward and hugged him, as tears now streamed down her face.
“I am so sorry, Shea. I did not mean for it to be this way, to be gone from you, from all of you, for so long.” Albast tried to explain.
“I know you named me Shea, father, but I am called Ishea. I have been thus for three thousand years. Ishea is my name.” Ishea choked out in a voice strangled with sobs.
“No, my child. Your mother and I named you Shea and that is who you are. We tried to conceal your presence in the universe in order to protect you, but now that you have faced your challenge and defeated Cruix, you needn’t hide any longer. You must embrace who you truly are in order to fully utilize the power of your birthright. Do you understand?” Albast said as he gently pried her away and stared into her eyes.
“Yes father, I do.” She replied.
“Good, then the choice is yours. No matter what you decide, you will still be my daughter, and there isn’t a force in all creation that could change that.” Albast stated and smiled at her widely.
A moment later, Prianna stepped through the gate followed by Morracor and finally Miatsu. Within seconds of laying eyes on Albast, Prianna was nearly hysterical. Falling on her knees at the old wizard’s feet, she swayed, sobbing and wailing, to the point of prostration.
“Prianna.” Albast said calmly.
Upon hearing him say her name she settled herself very quickly, faster than Glyph had ever seen her do so. “Yes Master.” She barely choked out.
Albast knelt down and took her hands and helped her to her feet. He then wrapped his arms around her in a loving embrace. “You must let go of this pain and grief. I am alive, my child, and well. Free your sorrow, lest it consume you.”
Prianna nodded and stifled her cries, then turned and hugged Lobrein.
“Morracor. How are you?” Albast asked as he shook his hand and pulled him close for a hug.
“I am well Master, and I am also glad you are alive.” Morracor replied. Albast gave him a long hard look, then patted him on his shoulder. Then he whispered, “I miss him too.” Had Glyph been standing any further away, he wouldn’t have heard anything. Glyph happened to glance over at Amos who stared at Morracor in abstract horror. Amos’s face had turned ashen and sweat began to form across his brow.
“Master, it is good to see you.” Miatsu stated.
Albast turned to stare at his first pupil. “Miatsu, I…” He started, and then paused.
“There is no need to explain.” Miatsu replied. A single tear rolled down the old man’s cheek, then he nodded once and patted Miatsu on the back.
Albast turned to face them all. “Thank you for your understanding. It has made this much easier than I had hoped. You have done well, and I am so proud of each of you. We have been chosen for our special talents to stand for all that is good in the universe. And this is the planet the fates have chosen for the last Great War to take place. It is why we are here today. No matter what sacrifice we may be called on to make, we must prevail, for the alternative is far too grave to consider. Now that being said, there is much catching up to do, and this little thing about saving the planet and such.” He said, and then began to laugh, a deep rich laughter that Glyph had never heard from Albast before. It was getting very near the end, Glyph thought; the end of everything.
Glyph noticed that Amos was moving as far away from Morracor as he could without being too obvious, and decided to take full advantage of his discomfort. “You know he’s going to want to talk to you eventually.” Glyph said as he slid up next to Amos.
“Who? What do you mean?” Amos replied nervously.
“Morracor. I’ve seen the way you’ve been avoiding him, so what’s the deal?” Glyph asked. “You’ve looked like death warmed over ever since he came through the gate.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Amos replied gruffly, then quickly stormed off muttering to himself.
The last rays of sunset dipped below the horizon, and Glyph went to where the others stood talking. “I must excuse myself.” He said hurriedly. “I’m afraid my time has come. I’ll be back in an hour.” Glyph said and winked.
“I will bargain you will at that.” Miatsu called back laughing.
Glyph waved and smiled, and headed down the path toward the hotel. He was deep in thought wondering what Drayden’s prophetic tapestry would show him next, if the president was going to accept him on the diplomatic mission to meet with Tsach, and why Amos seemed so worried about Morracor. The more he thought about it, the more convinced he became that Amos had accessed some part of Drayden’s animus, and Glyph aimed to find out what he knew. Walking through the long yard toward the front steps, Glyph noted the Humvees parked around the perimeter of the property. He knew they were fairly ineffectual, but they somehow made him feel better, as if their being there legitimized his presence here.
“Good evening, Mr. Young.” Captain Haddix greeted him as he ascended the front stairs.
“Evening, Captain.” Glyph said as he passed to the front doors. “Oh, and just so you know, there will be a few more guests staying over tonight. The gate is open. Our reinforcements haven’t arrived yet, but it’s open. I’m sure Tsach felt the surge of the gates operation, so if he didn’t before, he now knows exactly where we are. I imagine he will waste little time in getting here, so fair warning.”
“Great.” Haddix said with no emotion. “Thanks for the heads up. Say, this is quite a cache of weapons you have here.” The Captain commented, pointing at the pile of guns Glyph had taken from the band of locals that morning. “Would you mind if we used a few of these?”
“Help yourself. Consider them a gift.” Glyph said smiling.
Haddix’s eyes lit up. “Thank you, sir.” He said, and immediately began to separate the guns and ammunition into piles. “You should know, we have some infrared sensors set up in roughly a half mile perimeter across this whole area, so if you hear the sirens go off, you’ll know something is coming our way.”
“Okay. I’ll tell the others when I get back.” Glyph said as he pulled open the door.
“Are you going somewhere, sir?” Haddix asked.
“Ah, no. Just taking a little nap. I’ll see you in about an hour.” Glyph told him and walked into the lobby, and down the hall to his room. No sooner had he closed the door behind him, when he felt that slowing of time that struck just before he was pulled back to M’atra. As the air rushed out of the room, Glyph imagined hearing sirens wailing in the distance, and then he was surrounded by the darkness, and vanished.