“Alright, I’ll need the rest of you to start the troops moving. There is a large range of mountains directly toward the West, down route 64. We need to get there as soon as possible. Tsach’s force is most likely already headed this way and I want us in control of the high ground when he gets here.” Glyph stated.
“If there’s nothing else, I believe we all have some work to do.” Albast said and concluded the meeting.
Grot and Greem were headed back toward the portal, and Glyph ran to catch up. “Grot, I need to talk to you for a minute.”
“Certainly, Great One.”
“The people of this world seek peace with the demons. I know it is a futile attempt. But they are afraid to fight back unless there is no other option. I intend to prove to them that there is no other option; they will have to fight or die. The President has arranged this diplomatic meeting with Tsach. I plan to go representing M’atra, I would like you to be present as well.” Glyph asked of Grot.
Grot grimaced maniacally. “There is no chance of peace or freedom with the demons. Tsach will not agree to anything of that kind.” Grot replied.
“I know. But the people here want to try. They are sick of being witness to their world’s destruction. Will you go with us?” Glyph implored.
“Of course, Great One. But the outcome is already decided.” Glyph nodded glumly, and thanked Grot for his continued support. Grot sent Greem back through the portal and went in search of Amos, who had teleported away as soon as the hilltop meeting had ended.
Glyph decided to return to the hotel and await the president’s arrival. He found Albast there on the front porch sitting in a wooden rocking chair he must have created.
“So much for ‘we all have work to do’.” Glyph commented as he created his own chair to sit in.
“I am very old, Glyph. I believe I am entitled to a break every now and then.” Albast replied.
“A few actually. I was wondering about this mission of yours with the president. Why did you agree to it? Amos was right in that it is a waste of time. Tsach will never agree to peace.” Albast asked him.
“I don’t really know. It seemed like the right thing to do. I guess I hope the president will see Tsach for what he really is, and I’m sure he’ll show his true colors if I’m there.” Glyph replied. He had made the decision long before he saw the scene on the tapestry, and could find no good reason to try to change his mind now.
Albast nodded, and they sat there for a few minutes in silence, listening to the sounds of soldiers moving about the surrounding camp. Glyph decided he could no longer afford to keep his knowledge of the Drayden prophecies a secret, especially if the old wizard could shed some light on the subject. It was time to tell Albast what he knew.
“You told me once that if the prophecies presented themselves to me you would be happy to discuss your interpretation of them with me. Does that offer still hold?” Glyph questioned.
“Yes, of course.” Albast said suddenly perking up. “I take it you have discovered Drayden’s Tapestry.”
“You knew?” Glyph asked.
“I have had my suspicions. Just as I have had my suspicions that Amos has seen them as well. The only difference is that Amos has seen all of them, and you have not.” Albast said.
“What? How did you know?” Glyph asked.
“Who do you think helped Drayden to encode them into the tapestry?”
“So how can I see them all? The way the tapestry operates does me very little good. I need to see the rest in order to decide how best to proceed.”
The sounds of helicopters could now be heard in the distance. Albast glanced up over the tree line. “It appears the president is about to arrive.” The old wizard commented.
“That doesn’t answer my question.” Glyph stated.
“I am sorry, but as I have told you before, I will not risk interfering with prophecy. Telling you what they are could influence your actions. It is imperative that everything happen the way that it happens. You can not do that if your mind is second guessing every choice because it is clouded with prophetic images of the future.”
“So that’s it then, you won’t help me at all?”
“Not in regards to the prophecy.” Albast spoke firmly. “Had it not been for Drayden’s insistence, I would never have helped him record them. The Tapestry was coded to show you what you need to know when you need to know it. It was done this way on purpose so that your decisions could still be objective. I had hoped you would never find Drayden’s Tapestry. The simple truth is, you are better off not knowing any of them.”
“So are you saying that if I were to see them all at once I would jump to conclusions that may be wrong?” Glyph postulated.
Albast smiled, and shook his head at Glyph’s persistence. “There are no right or wrong answers, Glyph. It’s what meaning we place on those answers that dictates the actions we may or may not take in the future.” Albast said and stood up. The helicopters were landing a short distance away. “We can talk again later. Right now, you have work to do.”
Glyph watched the ancient wizard walk away, as President Bradley and several soldiers exited the helicopter and made their way toward the front porch.
“Mr. Young, it’s good to see you again.” President Bradley greeted him.
“And you as well, Mr. President. Shall we go inside?” Glyph responded and opened the door for the man. There was a small conference room toward the back of the sprawling hotel that Glyph had decided would suit their needs.
As they sat down around the long table the President spoke up. “Are you sure it is wise for me to attend, Glyph?” he asks. “What will keep Tsach from attacking and killing us as soon as we arrive?”
“He won’t be able to, sir, because we won’t really be there.” Glyph replied, pulled out the Divinare Crystal and set it on the table in front of him. “With this, we can meet him where he wants, but we will be in no danger.” Glyph explained and then informed the president how the crystal operated.
“This is the same way you appeared to us the other night. How extraordinary.” Bradley said.
“Yes, I thought so too.” Glyph replied. “Now before we begin, I have invited a friend of mine along. His name is Grot, and he is chieftain of the Hexzu race. I thought he might be representative of people who had once been enslaved by the demons. I, of course, would speak for the world of M’atra.”
Bradley eyed Glyph shrewdly. “You seem to be stacking the deck a bit in your favor, don’t you think?” He questioned.
“Perhaps a little. My hope is for you to see Tsach for what he truly is. It will be harder for him to lie to you if the truth is standing in front of him.” Glyph explained.
“I had hoped to bring my Secretary of State, but the man resigned when I told him I needed him to come along. I thought perhaps Mr. Bogg would stand in for him.”
Glyph chuckled. “Now it seems you’re stacking the deck in my favor. Don’t you think that being a wizard will make him a bit biased?”
“I think that being a police detective, and a wizard, makes him the perfect candidate. He is from this world, and has been fighting for this world before you arrived. Technically, his whole career. I feel he would give me his honest opinion.” President Bradley remarked.
“Very well, allow me to call both of them here, so that we can get started. I will let you ask Amos to come to the meeting, as he was your choice.” The President nodded his approval, and Glyph stepped out of the room and summoned both Grot and Amos telepathically. Grot arrived a few minutes later and met Glyph in the hallway outside the conference room.
“Where’s Amos?” Glyph asked
“The prophet has advised me not to go with you on this journey, though he could not tell me why. When I told him I would not refuse your request without fine reasoning, he became highly agitated and vanished before my eyes. I hope I have not offended him in some way.” Grot told Glyph.
“We haven’t been seeing eye to eye lately, Grot. Don’t take it personally. I think Amos has seen into the future, and is disturbed by what he has discovered. It’s just a guess though, since he won’t tell me about it.” Glyph told him.
“What good is a prophet who does not share his prophecy?” Grot answered, and Glyph smiled back at him. Amos appeared in the lobby and made his way over to them. He nodded at Grot and looked straight away at Glyph.
“What’s this about the president?” Amos asked looking perturbed.
“He wanted to speak with you about something.” Glyph said, acting as though he knew nothing about it.
“The president wants to talk to me?” Amos asked dubiously.
“That’s what he said.” Glyph replied. “He’s in that room waiting for you.”
Amos’s face twitched slightly and without another word opened the door to the conference room and walked inside. Glyph briefed Grot on how they were going to get there from the conference room, and explained the Divinare crystal and what it did. After a minute or two the pair opened the door and entered the room as well.
Bogg immediately shot both of them the look of death, and had the appearance of a caged animal. Sweat poured off his head and his eyes were bulging, as if he were ready to explode. Glyph knew why. Amos was avoiding this meeting as much as he had tried to avoid the one on the hilltop just a few hours ago. What could it be? Glyph wondered. What could he have seen that was so awful that he had decided to try and alter the prophecies every chance he had? After a tense moment of silence, Bogg hung his head and took a seat next to President Bradley.
Glyph introduced Grot to the president, and uncovered the Divinare crystal in the center of the table. “Is everyone ready?” He announced. Each of them nodded their heads in return. “Mr. President, I’ll need to know Tsach’s location.”
“Oh, yes of course, it’s a place called Colossal Cave, in Arizona.” Bradley divulged.
“A cave, well this should be interesting. Mr. President, this is your show. We won’t get involved unless you ask us to directly. When you’re ready to leave, just let me know,” Glyph told him.
“Tsach isn’t expecting us for several more hours.” Bradley said a bit apprehensively. “What if he isn’t there?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll find him no matter where he is.” Glyph placed his hands on the crystal, and within a few moments all four of them appeared at the entrance to the enormous cave. “Okay, take a few seconds to get acclimated. I know it takes a bit of getting used to.” Glyph said as the others looked at their blue shimmering auras. Glyph gestured to the president, who took the lead entering the cavern. After fifty feet or so, the cave opened into an enormous underground cavern. Glyph could see Tsach and several other demons near the far wall, and followed as the President led the way. The demon lord sat on an elaborate throne he had created from the quartz in the surrounding rock walls.
“Demon Lord Tsach! I am President Bradley.” The President called out.
“Approach me!” Tsach bellowed, and leaned forward in his seat to scrutinize them closely in the dim torchlight. “What manner of magic is this?” He then proclaimed.
“Forgive our appearance Lord Tsach, but I felt it wise to communicate with you in this manner, due to the current state of war between us.” Bradley explained.
Tsach began to laugh, “I expected as much from you, Glyyyph. I see you have brought a Gargoyle as well, and you must be Dray-dan.” Tsach said, indicating Amos.
“I have invited these men as my counsel, but it is I who have requested these talks of peace.” The President stated, then turned and introduced them. “I assume you have already met Mr. Young. This is Chieftain Grot of the Hexzu, and this is Amos Bogg of Earth.”
Tsach chuckled again. “Amaas…interesting.” He said, his expression stony. “My terms are simple. I will leave your world and return to you what is yours, but you must deliver the Great One to me. Only then can there be peace.”
Glyph could feel Tsach scanning him with magic, and the others as well. The President appeared stunned for a moment, and his eyes grew large. Glyph took a step towards Bradley, but the President held up his hand and motioned Glyph back.
“Lord Tsach, I will consider your requested terms, and present them to our congress. These things take time. May I have a few days to return our reply?” The President implored.
Tsach looked at him with disgust. “You have eight hours.” He then turned his attention to Grot. “I have something that belongs to you, Gargoyle.” Tsach said, and waved his second right hand.
Glyph watched as a Hexzu appeared, pinned to the wall, with massive stone spikes through its arms and legs. It whimpered slightly as the weight of its own body hung from the stone nails.
“I understand that loyalty is highly prized amongst your people, as it is with us demons.” Tsach said, and then paused. “This gargoyle came to me after your exodus from Degruthras. He willingly divulged information to me about your people, the Great One, and his wizard accomplices. I believe he hoped for a position of power in my regime. He was wrong.”
Glyph wasn’t sure what was going on, but it was clear that Grot recognized the Hexzu warrior, as his eyes grew larger by the second. Suddenly, Glyph realized the Hexzu was Grot’s son, Crowf.
“I was going to return this traitorous creature to you as a gift, and let you deal with it as you saw fit. But, since you are not truly here, I will take care of the matter for you.” Tsach flexed his hand slightly and Crowf’s arms and legs split open. Crowf shrieked and howled in agony as thick pasty white goo began to seep from the wounds and drip to the floor below.
Glyph reached instinctively for his sword, but Grot clamped down on his sword arm and held it in place before he could draw. Tsach began to laugh. “What would you do, Glyyyph? Smite me with your shadow?” He said mockingly. Crowf’s screams echoed throughout the cavern.
Glyph glanced at Amos and saw that he too had been restrained by President Bradley’s arm. Amos looked hopeless, knowing there was nothing he could do to help, even if the President had allowed him. Glyph felt the burn in the pit of his stomach, and was about to solidify his own image and attack.
“It is time for us to leave now, Mr. Young.” President Bradley said rather forcefully. Glyph shot him a look and turned back toward Tsach, and slowly removed his hand from his sword.
“President Bradley is correct, Great One. It is time for us to leave.” Grot said quite calmly. Crowf continued to wail, his body writhing and contorting beneath the stone spikes. Tsach laughed even louder, as Crowf’s body began to split down the center, the screams becoming gurgles as his internal organs were exposed, and entrails dropped to the floor in a large splat. Glyph stood entranced by the scene, part of him wanting to see it through to the end, the other half of him begging to take his hands from the crystal.
“Glyph!” Amos shouted, and broke him free of the horrendous scene.
“You have eight hours, human!” Tsach yelled as Glyph pulled his hands away from the Divinare crystal, and looked up at the others as they all exchanged glances in the conference room of the hotel. Grot turned silently and left the room, and Glyph immediately went after him.
“Grot. Grot!” Glyph yelled at the retreating Hexzu. Grot stopped as he exited the main doors onto the porch. “Grot, are you alright?” Glyph asked.
“I am well, Great One.” Grot answered calmly.
Glyph stood there a moment unsure of what to say. “I am sorry about Crowf. No one deserves that.”
“Crowf chose his own path.” Grot said stoically.
“So you’re okay with that?” Glyph asked with concern.
“A traitor gets what he deserves in the end.” Grot replied.
“But we don’t know for certain, Tsach could be–.”
“I knew in my heart that he was, though I did not want to believe it of my own son. Tsach spoke the truth, and what is done is done. Let us speak of it no more.” Grot said.
“Are you sure?” Glyph asked.
Grot nodded, then turned and flew off into the sky over the tree line toward the portal. Glyph watched him go, wondering if Grot would really be all right. Both of his sons were now dead at the hands of demons, and Glyph was sure that the fact would have some impact on Grot, even if he refused to show it. He turned and went back inside the hotel to the conference room. As he approached the room, he could hear Amos’s voice through the door.
“…But Glyph is the real key. No matter what the rest of us do, it’s his job to fight and kill Tsach, and the war won’t end until he does.”
“Then all we can do is lend him our support until he is ready. We go through the motions and hope that his battle with Tsach is sooner rather than later.” The President replied.
There was a moment of silence and then he continued, “Thank you for your opinions Mr. Bogg, they have been very insightful.”
Glyph made some scuffing noise with his feet, and then opened the door. Amos was headed his way; he briefly made eye contact before brushing past Glyph and leaving the room. “Mr. President, is everything okay?” Glyph asked.
“Yes, I believe so. That was a very enlightening meeting, thank you for making time in your busy schedule.” Bradley said to him.
“So, what have you decided?” Glyph prompted.
“I have decided to back you fully, one hundred percent. Tsach demanded that I turn and fight with him against you; he spoke directly into my mind.”
“I see, and you’re not going to follow his commands?” Glyph said half jokingly.
“Hardly. I still can’t shake the image of that poor creature being cut open like that. It was absolutely horrific, and I cannot be party to such atrocities. It is clear now that these creatures, these demons, are an abomination of nature. They are here only to destroy, and it appears that only you can stop them.” The President said.
Glyph nodded, and inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. “You at least bought us some more time, though Tsach may not wait for your reply before moving against us. We need to set up a defensive position in the mountains. The high ground will give us the best chance of success in repelling their attack.” Glyph explained.
“I agree. I will talk with General Eddings.” The president said, “What else do you need?”
“Well, I have an army here that can only travel on foot. If we hope to have them in position in time, we’re going to need transportation.” Glyph replied.
“I will see to it personally.” Bradley promised.
“Also, we’re going to need a go-between. Captain Haddix has been filling that position nicely. I’d like to make that his full time job.” Glyph added.
“Agreed.” The President said as he stood up from the table. He paused, and stared at Glyph gravely. “It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets any better, isn’t it Glyph?”
“Much worse, Mr. President. Much, much worse.”
Glyph escorted President Bradley outside, and took his leave of him. He decided he needed to speak with Zarish. That whole scene with Crowf had left a bad taste in his mouth, and he didn’t want a repeat of that event. He found her in one of the Torlean storage tents in her true form, cross-legged and meditating.
“How was your meeting with Tsach?” She asked as soon as he had entered the tent.
“It was about what I had expected. The President decided that peace with Tsach was no longer an option.” Glyph told her.
“Amos seemed rather shaken by the whole ordeal.” Zarish commented.
“Amos? He was here?” Glyph asked.
“He left a few minutes before you arrived.” She said.
Zarish paused and shrugged her shoulders a bit. “He attempted to talk me out of going back to Tsach. Amos claimed I would be more useful here alive, than dead at the hands of Tsach. He is convinced you have given me a death sentence by asking me to return.”
“He’s right. I don’t want you to go.” Glyph said.
Zarish sat up straight, and looked Glyph in the eyes. “I appreciate the sentiment, but it is too late.”
“What do you mean it’s too late?” Glyph questioned.
“Tsach is expecting me.” Zarish informed him.
Alarm bells were sounding off in Glyph’s head. “Tsach is expecting you?” Glyph repeated slowly.
“I contacted him this morning. I informed him that my mission here was a success, and that I would be returning shortly.”
Glyph took a step back and eyed her up. “Your mission here?” He asked quizzically turning his head to one side.
“It was always Tsach’s intention to have me follow you and gain your trust. It was the whole reason I gave you my blood oath, and Tsach pretended to want me dead in the dungeon of Okrune. It will also make my return that much easier.” Zarish informed him.
Glyph wasn’t sure what to think now. Of all things, this had taken him completely by surprise. “Why did you not tell me this before?” He asked, somewhat afraid of the answer.
“I did not want you to think I was a spy.” Zarish said matter of factly. “Had I told you, there would have always been some doubt as to where my loyalties were placed.”
“Well there’s plenty of doubt now.” Glyph said taking another step back.
Zarish began to laugh. “There has to be. If your plan is to work, I must be certain of where I stand, and you and the others must have your doubts. If everything is not in its place then Tsach will sense our rouse, and I will end up like Grot’s son.” She said and reached over and grabbed a small pack off the wall. The demon then morphed into a female Hexzu, and slung the pack onto her back. She strode confidently passed Glyph to the tent entrance and pushed back the flap.
“Wait, Zarish, you don’t have to do this.” Glyph said, still unsure of what was taking place here.
“Yes, I do. Goodbye Glyph.” She said, and an instant later took to the air and vanished out of sight.
“Zarish wait! Zarish!” Glyph screamed, but it was too late. She was gone. Glyph walked out of the tent wondering what the hell had just happened. He wondered around a few minutes looking up at the sky, as if expecting her return, when Amos appeared.
“Damn it Glyph, you have to tell Zarish not to go! You saw what that maniac did to Crowf, do you think she’s going to fare any better?” He shouted angrily.
“I did.” Glyph said glancing upward.
“You did? You did what?”
“I told her not to go.”
“Thank God you came to your senses, man. I was really worried after that whole scene with Tsach–.”
“It’s too late.” Glyph said cutting him off.
“Huh? What are you talking about?” Amos demanded
“I told her not to go, but she went anyway. She wouldn’t listen to me, Amos. It was like she wanted to go back to Tsach. She told me that this had been her mission all along, to gain my trust, find out everything she could about me and report back to Tsach.” Glyph told him.
Amos stood there open mouthed. “Wait, where is she now?” Amos questioned.
“She’s gone. She turned into a Hexzu and flew away.”
“You let her go!” Amos shouted again.
“I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t believe what she was telling me. I couldn’t tell if she was loyal to Tsach or me. She said it had to be that way and then left.”
“Great, this is just great! You really fucked things up this time, Glyph.” He stood there and shook his head back and forth. “God damn it!” Amos yelled once more and then vanished.
Glyph teleported to the portal, and sat down at the large stone table there. He reached out his hand and a cigarette appeared between his fingers and it lit as he brought it to his mouth to take a drag. The burning in the pit of his stomach was getting worse now, and so was his headache. ‘What the fuck is going on?’ Glyph silently asked himself. He was so sure of things before, but now it seemed as though everything was beginning to unravel. He sat there watching the soldiers march out of the portal toward the encampment. Glyph took note of the uniform change; these were Delturan soldiers. At least that part of the plan was going okay.
Thoughts of Zarish came to him once more. He remembered what she said to him when he had questioned her in the dungeon of Okrune. ‘I am loyal to me. I will do whatever I have to do in order to survive.’ He wondered how the others were going to take it, and he was sure Amos was filling them all in on it now. Still, his hour was only seven hours away now, and unless Tsach could free her from the Asundering curse, Glyph would see her again. Hopefully it would go better than their last meeting. He would hate to think that she might attack him as soon as they popped back into M’atra. Maybe it would still work out, but he really was rather doubtful now.
Deciding not to face the others, he sought out the marines and ate mess with Captain Haddix. Shortly after they had finished eating, a convoy of large military transports came rolling in. There were several hundred or more, and Captain Haddix and Glyph went down to greet them. The M’atran soldiers just stared in awe at the large rolling trucks, and Glyph left to find Covat. A short time later Covat had shipped out a thousand soldiers toward the mountains, and Glyph had hitched a ride with Captain Haddix in his Humvee, leading the way. He was sure the others would be looking for him, no doubt to discuss Zarish’s possible defection. They would also want to know which wizard should go back through the gate in order to protect Glyph during his hour on M’atra. There would be time for that later, he surmised. Right now he just wanted to relax and feel the wind blow across his face as the convoy moved closer and closer to the mountains. He even tried to forget that it was up to him to stop Tsach, and relished in the fantasy that he was just an ordinary cog in the wheel of this war.
It was almost time for his hour when the convoy ground to a halt outside of Lexington, Kentucky. It wasn’t pretty. Tsach’s forces could be seen in the distance, a large moving black snake following the highway east. Tsach had not waited eight hours, and he was glad that they hadn’t either. The first major battle would be a lot sooner than any of them had anticipated. “This is it, Captain.” Glyph announced at the scenic overlook they had parked at. He pulled a Michelin map from his hip pocket that he had found in the pamphlet rack back at the hotel and spread it out on the hood of the vehicle. “This is where we make our last stand. If we can blockade Route 64 in the valley ahead, Tsach will have to detour a hundred miles south around Cave Run lakes before moving east again. Or, he’ll have to detour 40 miles north, across the Ohio River, to flank us to the north. We’ll have Route 60 just behind us to move north and south along the ridge line.”
Walking over to the railing, he absently ran his hand over the hilt of the King’s sword.
“Start digging in, this is going to be pretty nasty. I’ll be back in an hour or so to check on the progress. Make sure those transports make double time back to the portal. We’re going to need every available man we can get our hands on.” With that said, Glyph teleported a short ways down the mountainside out of view, hollowed out a cave under the ground, entered it, and sealed it up behind him. ‘That should keep me out of the way and safe until I get back’ he thought as he called forth his light. Creating a stone chair out of the inner wall he sat down to wait. Glyph steadied his nerves, and prepared himself mentally for his reunion with Zarish., and as usual it wasn’t long before the chill winds came to take his breath away and swallow him once more into the eternal void.