Glyph lurched forward as the white light faded from his vision, replaced with the dark torch-lit room hidden in the repository deep beneath Toleth’va. He hated reappearing in a standing position, as it always took him longer to regain his balance.
“Great One, I am glad to see you have returned.” Mahjdi’s familiar voice greeted him.
“It is good to be back.” Glyph replied turning to see the old librarian. “Please tell me you weren’t here the whole time.”
Mahjdi chuckled softly. “No, no, I simply calculated the twenty-three hours till your return and decided that someone should at least be here when you did. It was a rather interesting transformation I might add, if that is the best word for it. Tell me, how does the curse keep your body from falling to the floor after you ‘leave’?” He questioned.
Glyph smiled. “I don’t know how it works, it just does.” He said, as he shook the confusion from his mind. Mahjdi seemed to accept this for the moment and stared off in deep thought.
“So, how are things progressing here?” Glyph asked, hoping to fend off any other questions Mahjdi might be pondering about how his curse worked.
“Well, I suppose. The armies of M’atra march toward Priam as we speak, and the Torleans are already here, and are very close to being ready to traverse the gate to Earth. Master Lobrein was kind enough to speed up the process by contacting the other countries instantly with the use of the Divinare crystal. How are things on Earth?” Mahjdi questioned.
“Not good. Tsach is massing his forces to attack, and the people there are seeking diplomatic solutions.” Glyph replied, and then began to study the Living Tapestry on the far wall.
“I see.” Mahjdi said solemnly. He noticed Glyph staring at the Tapestry. “It has not changed since you left. It still strikes me as curious as to why master Drayden would not have allowed you to see the whole prophecy at once. There is obviously more to it than what we have seen here.”
“I know, and I have my suspicions that Albast and Amos have seen the whole thing, but they’re not talking either.” Glyph said. The picture was indeed the same. It depicted a meeting of sorts on a small hill near the gate on Earth. All seven wizards, two Hexzu that could only be Grot and Greem, a man in military fatigues who Glyph now realized resembled Captain Haddix, and a young blond woman, all stood in a circle and appeared to be talking about something. “We must be discussing the plan to defeat Tsach, but look. Amos seems a bit upset.”
Mahjdi moved closer to the Tapestry. “Yes he does. If his demeanor suggests that he is upset because he knows what may happen in the future, then it does not seem to affect Albast in the same manner.”
“Hm.” Glyph mumbled. He was right; Albast’s face was completely neutral. “He doesn’t want to influence the outcome, but he knows. Amos appears to want things his way, though. The question is whether he is trying to change prophecy or encourage it.” Glyph stated, and glanced at the bottom right corner of the fabric to see if the white square had returned, but it was not there. “Something’s not right, Mahjdi. I intend to find out what it is.”
“Perhaps you could ask him.” Mahjdi offered.
“I don’t know. If he has seen the prophecy, then he has already lied to me once. I don’t know that I could trust him to tell me the truth.” Glyph commented.
“Quite a conundrum.” Mahjdi said and chuckled quietly to himself.
Glyph shot him a look, and Mahjdi stopped laughing.
“Care to elaborate?” Glyph asked.
“If there is anything I have learned in the past several days, Great One, it is that secrecy and lies lead to more secrecy and more lies. I have seen the effect first hand between Lobrein, Ishea, and the other wizards; between Verto and the people of Priam. The thought occurred to me that, what if it is not so much about prophecy, but more of a test to see what you believe? Perhaps whatever force that drives us wants to make sure you are the right person for the job.”
“You mean all this could just be a test to see if I really am the Great One? What if I fail? Then what?” Glyph said shaking his head.
“I suppose if you failed then the battle between good and evil would continue, and everything that has happened would happen again, with someone else on some other world. It was only a thought, mind you.” Mahjdi explained.
“I don’t know that I like the sound of that very much. Besides, why wait until now to test my resolve? No Mahjdi, I don’t think that’s it at all. There is a clear message being sent here, and if I could just see this prophecy in its entirety I am sure I could figure it out.” Glyph responded.
“Then I suppose you will just have to wait and see.”
Glyph thought about it for another minute, and shrugged off the whole notion. “Let’s get out of here. I’d like to go see how they set up the gate.” He started for the door, then stopped and looked back. “Could you do me a favor, Mahjdi?”
“Of course, Great One.” Mahjdi replied.
“Could you have someone take the Tapestry down and bring it to me? I’m not sure I like the idea of being tied to this room for every hour I am here.” Glyph requested. Mahjdi agreed, and Glyph walked down the short corridor to the repository. He had thought about walking to the gate but reconsidered. His time here was short; there was no sense in wasting it on a leisurely stroll. Closing his eyes, he pictured the stables outside in the small city of Priam, and within seconds was standing in front of the stable master. The monk nearly jumped from his own skin at the sight of Glyph’s appearance, but regained his composure quickly and, at Glyph’s prompting, retrieved O’dista from the stables. Glyph patted the steed on his neck, then mounted the horse and rode out the main gate and down the wide trodden path toward the pylon.
There was quite a bit of traffic on the road. Horse-drawn wagons passed in both directions along with a number of monks on foot. It was a stark contrast from the nearly abandoned road he traveled just a few days ago. The ride was short, and within ten minutes he cleared the forest and was astounded by what he saw. The Army of Torlea was camped in the wide open fields that surrounded the pylon, and convoys of carts led to and from the encampment off into the distance as far as he could see.
Glyph made his way steadily toward the newly formed gate, when he heard a familiar voice barking commands amongst a group of Torlean soldiers. As he came closer he could see Covat, King of Torlea, in front of a large table with maps and various documents strewn about it.
“Hail Covat, King of Torlea!” Glyph said as he approached.
Covat looked up immediately, and his expression softened. “Great One! By the gods, it is good to see you.” Covat said as Glyph dismounted.
“And you as well my friend. You look to be a bit busy.” Glyph commented as they shook hands.
Covat dismissed the remaining soldiers and leaned heavily on the table. “It has been a logistical nightmare, sire, but we are here and ready.” The King sighed heavily. “Please, come inside.” He said and pointed to a soldier who immediately tended to Glyph’s horse. Lifting back the flap on a nearby tent, he entered and Glyph followed. “It would seem you are just in time. A messenger from Kivas has just arrived looking for you.”
Glyph could see a woman sitting cross-legged on the ground in the corner of the tent, and she stood as soon as Glyph stepped in.
“I came as fast as I could, Glyph.” The woman said.
Glyph looked at her closely, and though she seemed familiar to him, Glyph was sure he had never seen the messenger before. “Do I know you?” Glyph asked.
The woman laughed. “I suppose you do not.” She said. Then, crouching down, her features began to distort and grow. Glyph jumped back, his hand reflexively went for the King’s sword and Covat reached for his weapon at the same time. Before he could pull the weapon from its scabbard, the demon Zarish stood in front of them. Glyph relaxed, but Covat still stood at the ready. “It is good to see you.” Zarish said, slurring the word ‘good’ slightly.
“Damn. That got my heart jumping, how about you Covat?” Glyph asked with a smile.
“It was unexpected, to say the least.” Covat replied, releasing a slow measured breath and re-sheathing his sword.
“What’s up with the disguise?” Glyph asked Zarish.
Zarish raised one eyebrow. “A demon traveling the countryside attracts a great deal of unwanted attention. I did not feel up to fighting my way here all the way from Muret.”
Glyph understood. “Of course. And the Pylon at Priam no longer functions with the others now that it has been altered to support a gate. But still, that was extraordinarily quick.”
“Lobrein delivered your message using the crystal. I did not stop to sleep, and teleported frequently. The longest part of my journey was the last, and holding that shape for so long made it more difficult.”
“Well I am glad you made it so soon. I have something rather important to discuss with you.” Glyph said. He glanced over at Covat, who was still rather pale in the face. “Covat, would it be alright if I made use of your tent for a short while?”
“Not at all, Great One. I should inform the others of the General’s arrival, in case you feel the need to leave this tent in your present form.” Covat replied, directing the last part of his reply directly to Zarish, who nodded her approval. He then turned and left them alone in the tent.
“So, how are things in Kivas?” Glyph asked.
Zarish tilted her head quizzically. “All is well. Toban was sounding the call to arms as I left. I would think he and the army should be here by tomorrow evening, possibly the day after.” She said and sat down to alleviate her hunched posture. “You may get right to the point, Glyph. I am not well versed in pleasantries.” Zarish stated.
Glyph let out a long breath. “This is not exactly easy for me to ask.” Glyph said as he began to pace back and forth in front of her. “You have shown deep dedication and loyalty to me the past two years.”
“All demons are loyal to their benefactors. It is ingrained upon us from our birth.” Zarish commented.
“I thought so, and that is what I am counting on.” Glyph took another deep breath. “I want you to seek out Tsach, tell him you have followed his orders precisely and have learned all about the Great One. Tell him whatever you must to make him believe you are telling the truth.” He blurted out.
“Are you insane?” Zarish nearly shouted with a look of profound astonishment on her face.
“I need someone on the inside. We need to know what Tsach is planning.” Glyph told her.
“His plan is to kill you.” Zarish replied.
“I know that, what I don’t know is how or when. I need to know the extent of his powers and any weaknesses he may have. Only you can get that information.” He explained.
There was a long pause. Zarish looked deep in thought. “Even if I could do this, how would I be able to report any information I find back to you?” Zarish questioned.
“That’s where it gets interesting. When my hour here is up I want to take you with me when I go back to Earth.”
“You wish to re-infect me with the asundering curse.” Zarish clarified.
“Yes. You will have twenty-three hours on Earth, then you will return to M’atra for an hour and be able to tell me everything you have discovered.” Glyph said, staring into his general’s eyes. “So what do you think?” Glyph asked after a moment of silence.
“I think you are mad.” Zarish replied quickly. “But your logic is sound. It is not all that different than what I have done for Tsach in the past.” The demon paused again. “I take it you are giving me a choice?” She asked.
“As my friend, yes. As the general of the Kivan army, no.” Glyph stated matter of factly.
“Very well, then I shall do it, as your friend.” Zarish replied.
“Thank you Zarish, I appreciate it.” Glyph said. “Let me go see about getting us some temporary quarters, at least until Toban and the army arrive.”
Zarish nodded, and Glyph left to find Covat. Glyph found him at the table outside once again. “Excuse me, King Covat?”
“Yes King Glyph, what can I do for you?”
“Do you think you could spare a tent for General Zarish and me? Only until the Kivan army arrives of course.”
Glyph requested formally, being that he was surrounded by Covat’s Generals.
“I believe we can accommodate you, sire. General Nuvad, you have some empty tents in your section, correct?” Covat asked.
“Yes sire.” Nuvad replied.
“See to it that King Glyph and his general are given comfortable accommodations.”
“Of course, sire.” General Nuvad replied. He then turned to his aid and passed his order along. “If you follow my lieutenant, he will take you there, sire.”
“Thank you, general.” Glyph replied. He then called for Zarish, whose exit from the tent made all of Covat’s generals take several steps backward in order to provide the demon with a wide berth. Zarish nodded at Covat and the generals. “Your highness. Gentlemen.” Zarish said.
“Oh, do we have an E.T.A. on the rest of the armies?” Glyph asked Covat before leaving.
“I am sorry, what is an E.T.A.?” Covat asked.
“Estimated time of arrival.” Glyph explained.
“Oh, yes of course. The Delturans should be arriving later this evening, the Kivans should be here by tomorrow night, and the Barjons by the following morning.” Covat informed him.
“Thank you, King Covat.” Glyph replied. Covat nodded, and Glyph and Zarish cut across the growing compound, and entered their temporary quarters.
“We usually use these tents for storage, but they were the only ones that could accommodate General Zarish’s size.” The lieutenant stated.
“It will do nicely, lieutenant. There will be some monks delivering a large package soon. Could you see that they find their way here?” Glyph asked.
“Of course, sire.” The lieutenant replied, then bowed and left hastily.
Zarish paced about in a circle, and then sat down. “How long do we have?” She asked Glyph.
He glanced at his watch. “About twenty minutes or so.”
“Very well, I shall meditate.” Zarish stated.
Glyph stared at her for a moment. “Everything okay, General?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Just a hunch.”
“Yes.” Glyph replied, then realized Zarish wasn’t catching on. “What I mean to say is; what’s on your mind?”
Zarish looked pained, “I do not have a problem with what you have asked me to do.” She said and then paused a moment. “But are you sure this is what you want?”
“There is no other way, Zarish. Besides, if you hope to find other demons willing to defect, you won’t be very effective if you are killing them on the front lines.” Glyph explained.
“I was not questioning your judgment, only your resolve. I have noticed that some Kivans are easily swayed to change their minds if given the chance to second guess themselves. Obviously you are not like them.” She said.
Glyph just looked at her. He couldn’t tell if she was being serious or joking around. Demon humor was rather complicated at times. Before he could decide whether or not to ask her, someone called out “Great One!” outside the tent. Glyph walked to the entrance and opened the flap.
“Ah, there you are.” Mahjdi said from a few yards away. “The Torlean soldier sent me in this direction, but was not specific about which tent you had occupied.” He then turned and motioned to several other monks nearby. “Come this way, I have located him.” Three monks in bibliot blue robes carrying a large cylinder came towards them, and Glyph stood back and held the flap so they could enter. “I have the object you wanted, Great one.” Mahjdi was saying as he entered the tent. “It wasn’t as difficult to remove as the…” He said as his words drifted into silence.
Glyph turned after closing the flap to see all four monks frozen in place staring at Zarish. He glanced back and forth a few times between Zarish and the group of monks before he realized what was taking place. “For a moment there I thought you had cast a spell on them, Zarish.” Glyph commented.
“I get this often, Glyph. I am quite used to it now.” Zarish replied.
“By the ancients.” Mahjdi whispered, then quickly regained his composure. He clapped his hands twice, and the three monks stood at attention. “Where are my manners? I apologize profoundly. We have never seen an actual demon before.” He said to Zarish.
“Allow me to introduce you. Zarish this is Mahjdi, Mahjdi, Zarish. Zarish is the General of the Kivan army, and Mahjdi is perhaps the smartest man on the planet.” Glyph said.
The old monk shot Glyph a look, and blushed. “I would not go quite that far, Great One.” He then walked over to Zarish and extended his hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you General.”
Zarish tilted her head slightly and placed her finger in Mahjdi’s hand. “Indeed.” She replied, and Glyph almost burst into laughter, but managed to refrain.
“These are my former students, Jin, Granu, and Placus. I have found that many of my brethren are still hesitant to leave the confines of the repository, so I figured this would be a good reason to have them get out and enjoy some fresh air. Where would you like them to place the Tapestry?” Mahjdi asked.
“Oh, over there would be fine.” Glyph said and pointed to the side of the tent. “I am glad to see you have them out and about. Why are they former students, Mahjdi? I thought Solkit reinstated your position among the Bibliots.”
“He did, however upon further contemplation, I was led to ask for a different one.” Mahjdi replied.
“Oh really, what will you be doing now?”
“I have been given the prestigious title of Ambassador, and, with your permission of course, I will be representing the people of Priam in the great country of Kivastor.”
Glyph smiled broadly. “Well, in that case Ambassador, welcome aboard.”
“Thank you Great One, I look forward to it.” Mahjdi proclaimed, as his eyes kept wandering back to Zarish. “Please pardon me General, I do not mean to stare. It is just that your presence here was so unexpected, and I must admit, I was certain if I ever had the chance to meet one of your kind it would be dangling from the end of a spear that had just impaled me.”
Glyph was momentarily stunned by Mahjdi’s comment, but Zarish let loose a deep throaty laughter. “I like a man with musk.” She bellowed and laughed some more. Perhaps demon humor was not so complicated after all, just twisted. Mahjdi smiled as well, and then attempted to help the younger monks set up the tapestry.
A minute or so later the Tapestry was hung from the side supports of the tent. Glyph immediately noticed that the white corner to the right of the cloth had returned. “Can you still see the image?” He asked Mahjdi.
“No, not now. Either rolling it up, or perhaps removing it from the repository has reset your incantation.” The ambassador replied.
“Reveal.” Glyph commanded again. He had thought about keeping the scenes to himself from now on, but it just made sense to have another opinion.
“I see, and it would seem the tapestry is ready to show you the next scene of Master Drayden’s prophecy.”
“Drayden’s Prophecy?” Zarish questioned. “Then you have found it.”
“Yes. It was apparently waiting for me in the depths of Toleth’va.” Glyph replied. He walked over to the Living Tapestry and hesitantly reached his hand toward the right square. As he touched it there was a small flash of light, and the threads began to systematically reweave themselves at inhuman speed. Within seconds the cloth held a new scene, one which Glyph instantly wished he had never seen. It showed Amos, Glyph, Grot and President Bradley, standing before Tsach.
“That is Tsach.” Zarish commented as she peered over their heads.
“He looks rather amused.” Mahjdi said.
“What is that?” Glyph said pointing to something in the background. “I cannot make it out. It almost looks human, but it is so distorted.”
“Yes, the focus of the picture appears to be the four of you, and Tsach of course.”
“Why is Grot even there? I mean it is obviously the meeting the president has agreed to, but Grot has no reason to be there.” Glyph questioned.
“Perhaps that is what the prophecy is trying to show you; that Chieftain Grot should be present at your meeting.” Zarish offered.
“Or not. Let us not forget the source of these prophecies, Great One. They could be deliberately misleading.” Mahjdi reminded Glyph.
Glyph, Zarish, and Mahjdi studied the Living Tapestry a few minutes more.
“Well, it looks pretty straight forward.” Glyph stated after a while. “We should get ready for our departure, Zarish. We only have a few more minutes.”
“Hail King Glyph!” They heard a soldier cry out from outside the tent.
“Enter.” Glyph replied.
A stout Soldier opened the flap. “A Hexzu messenger has just arrived for you, King Glyph.”
“Certainly, please send him in, soldier.” Glyph replied.
A Hexzu entered immediately, and Glyph recognized him right away. “Gorth. So good to see you again. How are those wounds feeling these days?” Glyph said.
“Like they never happened, thanks to you, Great One.” Gorth stated.
“So what brings you here today?” Glyph asked him.
“My lord, Chieftain Grot wishes to inform you that he has lost contact with the outpost at Lake Vigilance.”
“Is it serious?”
“Chieftain Grot believes that something may be happening at the lake.”
“An invasion, Great One.”
“Invasion? By who? From where?” Glyph asked trying to figure out what Gorth was getting at.
“From Degruthras, my lord.” The Hexzu replied.
“That’s not possible, Gorth. Do you have proof of this?”
“Only that this has been the first missed contact in two years. The Chieftain has sent scouts. They too have not returned, and are overdue at present.” Gorth continued.
“Shit.” Glyph breathed. This was not at all what he had expected. Somehow, Tsach had discovered a way around their gate problem, and now he faced a war on two fronts. To make matters worse, Glyph could feel the tug of the Asundering curse as his last few seconds ticked away. He reached over and took hold of Zarish’s leg, and glanced back at Mahjdi. “Check with the Seers, have them concentrate on Lake Vigilance. I want to know exactly what in hell is going on up there.” Glyph commanded. Mahjdi nodded his head even as time began to slow. The wind suddenly shot through the tent ripping the air from the room, and in a flash of white light everything was plunged into darkness once more.