With a burst of light, Glyph found himself standing inside the large tent he had left twenty-three hours before. As soon as he could move, he pushed his body into action. Ignoring the monks who had stayed to watch over him, Glyph drew his sword and willed it to life. Spinning to his right, he leveled the sword at the demon Zarish, who had, as expected, appeared beside him.
The female demon looked at Glyph with a startled expression as she shifted to face him. “Glyph?” She questioned.
“Great One, What is–” Mahjdi began to say.
“Stand back!” Glyph cautioned the monks. “What are your intentions, Zarish?” Glyph demanded.
“I believe we had an understanding.” Zarish countered calmly.
The sound of a bell ringing off in the distance began to reach Glyph’s ears. “Really? Because I’m not so sure.” Glyph said, as he slowly backed away from her.
Mahjdi and the other three monks leapt to their feet. Mahjdi’s eyes were suddenly wild. “Great One, I–” The monk said and was cut off a second time.
“Shut up Mahjdi!” Glyph yelled, keeping his eyes locked on Zarish. “Whose side are you on?” Glyph demanded of her.
“We have been over this before, Glyph. Why are you acting out in this manner?” Zarish asked in return.
“Great One!” Mahjdi now shouted at Glyph, physically grabbing his shoulder.
“WHAT?” Glyph screamed back at him, annoyed at the old monks persistence.
“The bell!” Mahjdi exclaimed
“What about the damn bell?” Glyph shot back at him, still concentrating on Zarish.
“It is a warning!” Mahjdi said, and then gasped as he realized its meaning. “The temple must be under attack!”
“Wait– What?” Glyph stammered, glancing quickly at the old monk.
“The bell rings once a year to mark the end of the cold season and the beginning of spring. For it to be ringing now means something terrible must be happening. The Seers have witnessed the movement of the Demon Lord’s forces toward the Pass. They weren’t expected to reach it until tomorrow, but what else could it be?” Mahjdi hurriedly explained.
Glyph stood there, looking back and forth between Mahjdi and Zarish, suddenly unsure of what to do. The steady sound of the bell ringing far atop Toleth’va filled the silence that had descended upon them.
“Should we not investigate?” Zarish asked.
“That depends. Can I trust you? Or are you going to stab me in the back the first chance you get?” Glyph retorted, remembering saying something similar the first time they had met.
Zarish began to laugh. “Of course.”
Just then the flap to the tent opened. “King Glyph. General Zarish. It is good to see you both.” Toban said as he strode into the tent. “We just arrived a few minutes ago. The last of the Delturans have passed through the Portal and …” His voice fading off as he stared at Glyph, whose sword still pointed at Zarish.
“Steward Toban, instruct the army to continue toward the Pass. We have received word that Tsach’s forces have found a way through the gate at Vigilance Lake, and are advancing on our position.” Zarish informed him.
Glyph eyed her shrewdly, and staunched the flow of power into the King’s sword. Slowly he lowered the weapon toward the ground.
“How is that possible?” Toban announced, still looking back and forth between Glyph and Zarish, trying to ascertain what he had just interrupted.
“I do not know, Toban, but it is true.” Glyph said, re-sheathing his sword. “The Kivans will remain here to defend M’atra. Pass the word along, and move the Special Forces into Priam. Something bad is happening there that the General and I were just about to investigate.”
“Great One, you must hurry. I fear the worst.” Mahjdi said.
“I will issue the order at once, sire.” Toban replied, and gave a quick nod at Zarish then left the tent.
“Let’s go see what is going on in the temple.” Glyph decided, and thought of the courtyard at the monastery. He reached out his hand toward Zarish who morphed into a female Hexzu and extended her hand in return. When they touched, Glyph teleported both of them there.
The bell was much louder now. Glyph kept one eye on Zarish as he glanced about in all directions. Something was definitely wrong. Glyph drew his sword and willed it to life once more as they made their way toward the monastery steps. Before they could get inside, a death shriek filled the air and the bell stopped ringing. Looking up, Glyph spotted the bell tower and teleported there immediately. Glyph spotted the monk’s head, shoulder and one arm still locked in a death grip on the bell’s pull rope. Copious amounts of blood dripped from the mangled remains, and a large swath of blood led a short distance to the top of a flight of stairs. It was obvious the man had been pulled apart, but more so that it had only taken place a few seconds ago. Peeking down the stairs, Glyph followed the path of blood to the bottom and around another corner. There he saw a monk huddled over the remains of his freshly killed brother.
“Seek cover, there are demons about.” Glyph said to the monk, and moved past the grotesque remains. He rounded the next corner when he heard an inhuman scream from behind him. Turning, Glyph jumped back around the corner, and came face to face with the monk he had just spoken to. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth as the tip of a large spear protruded from his chest. Behind the monk stood Zarish, who twisted the spear and pulled it back through the monk, enlarging the already gaping wound.
“What the hell are you doing?” Glyph yelled at her.
“Saving your life.” Zarish replied as the dying monk blurred and slowly assumed the shape of a demon. The hole in its chest now pumped out the familiar black blood of his enemy. It twitched a few times before succumbing to death’s grip. Glyph stared at Zarish for a moment. “Thanks.” He said to her, as she nodded once in return.
“The demons have taken human form to infiltrate the monastery. They are likely an advance wave sent here to cause distraction, and keep attention from the bulk of their army that is moving through the desert.” Zarish stated.
Glyph just stood there looking at her. He was still unsure of the female demon’s intentions, even if she did just save him from being ambushed. “How could you tell that was a demon?” He asked her.
“He did not mask his scent.” She explained. “A magical detection spell would also reveal their true nature, if you have the time to cast it.”
“They’ve never done this before.” Glyph commented.
Zarish shrugged. “They adapt quickly.”
“Let’s work our way toward Solkit’s chamber.” Glyph said and bounded down the next flight of stairs. He stopped when they reached the entrance to the main hall. Placing his hands to the wall, Glyph closed his eyes for a moment and magically peered into the space beyond. “It’s clear.” He declared and started out.
About half way down the hall, they passed the charred remains of several monks who had been caught off guard. They made their way quickly to the end of the great hall. Three smaller corridors led off in each direction, but Glyph went straight, following the distant sounds of battle. Within a minute Glyph and Zarish saw the back of a demon slinging fireballs in rapid succession. Without hesitation, Glyph swung his free arm out in a wave like motion; a ball of swirling water appeared in his hand, and shot forward into the demon’s back. The foul creature howled and arched backward as the muscle and flesh melted from the demon’s body, revealing its spine and leg bones as it splashed onto the floor.
Before he could react, a group of monks toppled the demon, pushing it onto its back with a loud crash. Several of them clamored on top of the creature and pounded its skull with the butts of their steel-tipped staffs, as it breathed its last breath.
“How many of them are there?” Glyph asked the nearest monk.
“We are unable to determine their numbers, but they have struck simultaneously throughout the temple.” The black robed monk told him.
“Let’s find our way to the High Priest, and work our way down from there.” Glyph commanded.
The monk eyed him speculatively. “How do I know it is you, Great One?” The monk asked.
Glyph chuckled a bit. “You mean besides helping you kill this demon? You’re going to have to trust me. Can you do that?” Glyph asked.
The monk nodded, but insisted Glyph lead the way, and within a few minutes, they were jogging down the secret stairs that led from the temple directly to Solkit’s chamber within the mountain keep. The door was ajar, and Glyph could hear sounds of a struggle within. Without slowing his pace, Glyph burst into the room and lunged at the demon that had Solkit pinned in the corner of the chamber. The demon tried to sidestep at the last instant, but was too late. The King’s sword, blazing red, sliced through the demon’s hip, severing its left leg. The demon lost balance and fell to one side. As it went down, it backhanded Glyph into the far wall. Zarish immediately attacked the demon, driving the point of her spear through its face and out the back of its skull into Solkit’s desk. It quivered a bit as a group of warrior monks swarmed in to make certain the creature was dead.
Glyph quickly healed himself, and stood up. He brushed himself off as he walked over to where Solkit’s body lied crumpled in the corner. Two of the monks were gingerly turning him over, and Glyph knelt down beside them.
“He lives!” The one monk exclaimed as he passed his hand slowly down the length of Solkit’s frame. Glyph put his hand out over top the monk’s and Solkit began to heal exponentially. The monk’s eyes grew wide at the realization of Glyph’s power flowing through his own hand into the High Priest, and quickly returned to his concentration. Solkit’s eyes fluttered open as their hands passed over his face, and the bruises and deep cut marks faded away.
“Great One?” Solkit asked.
“One and the same.” Glyph remarked, as another two monks joined their hands over his, and finished the task in record time. Solkit still looked weak, but with the monk’s help, was now able to pull himself upright. “What happened?” Glyph questioned him.
“They attacked from within, with no warning.” Then his face took on an expression of shock. “They were after the Tome of Dark Lore, Glyph.”
“The Tome? Are you certain?” Glyph asked.
“Yes, they questioned me repeatedly about it. I told them it was not here. Obviously they did not believe me.” Solkit said, leaning on his desk with one hand while the other felt various parts of his body checking for injuries, but finding them all healed.
“Are you alright?” Glyph asked.
“Yes, I believe so. Thanks to you.”
“Thank these monks, they did the work, I just helped them speed up the process.” Glyph replied.
Solkit bowed graciously to the monks, who seemed pleased that Glyph had given them the credit for saving the High Priest’s life. He then turned back to Glyph. “Did Mahjdi give you the message about Tsach’s army moving through the desert?”
“Yes.” Glyph replied..
“They should be at the Pass at this time tomorrow. What are we going to do, Great One? The armies of Torlea and Deltur have already passed through the gates to Earth.”
“Don’t worry about that.” Glyph replied. “The Kivans will stay to repel the attack; the Barjons too if we need them. Right now we need to make sure the Keep is secure.” He then turned to the Hexzu, who had been quietly standing in the corner. “Zarish, how can we tell if a demon is in human form?”
“Without magic? Generally by their voice. It is hard to maintain their human form, but matching their voice is even more difficult. Most of them will not be able to project the higher octaves, and it is likely they will not be able to match the syntax of your speech.” Zarish said. “Speaking of forms, I will need to revert to mine soon, and I would prefer to be out of sight when I do.”
“Zarish? General Zarish? It is an honor to meet you.” Solkit said. “I wish it had been under better circumstances.”
“As do I, High Priest Solkit.” Zarish replied.
“Please feel free to use my chamber.” Solkit said, and clapped his hands twice, dismissing the other monks in the room. As soon as they had gone, Zarish bent down and reverted to her demon form. Solkit cringed at her appearance, but soon regained his composure.
“This may take several minutes, Glyph.” Zarish stated.
“No it won’t.” He said and placed his hand on her leg. “I have been practicing regenerating my stamina, and stumbled onto a way to transfer energy directly from the force lines into other magical beings.” He explained as he dumped large amounts of energy into Zarish, bringing her levels to capacity within seconds. “It is the same principle I used to enhance the monk’s healing powers.
Zarish’s eyes bulged for an instant as Glyph removed his hand. “That is… intense.”
“It’s quite a rush. Now let’s get rid of our intruders shall we?” Glyph asked and started for the door. He had to stop himself several times from falling back into trusting Zarish. She was helping him for the moment, but he didn’t want to fool himself into thinking that she might not still attack him, given the opportunity.
They left Solkit and moved quickly through the keep to the Great Hall, where the first set of wide stairs descended toward the lower level. Charred bodies littered the hallway, and Glyph was appalled at the amount of carnage. This was pissing him off. It felt like Tsach was always running several steps ahead of him. Racing down the stairs to the second level, Glyph was almost caught off guard by a volley of lightning bolts zinging out of a side corridor. One of the monks was fried to a crisp beside Glyph and fell to the floor as Glyph raised his shield. Zarish threw several blasts of lightning in return, but the demon’s form blurred and then vanished.
“Damn, where’d that fucker go?” Glyph yelled, while he scanned the area frantically. Within a few seconds, Glyph heard several explosive noises from the lower level, and moved forward to the next grand staircase. They cautiously crept down the polished stone steps until he saw a group of Kivans boldly backing a demon into an antechamber near the entrance to the repository. The demon suddenly let loose a blast of energy that tossed the soldiers back, slamming them into the far wall. Glyph created a stream of flowing ice that shot from his fingers down the stairs and encased the demons left side. It turned, momentarily stunned by the magical attack, and then screamed as the ice turned to water as it melted over the creature’s hot skin. Steam roiled off the demon as it struggled to free itself. A moment later, Glyph teleported next to it and swiftly disemboweled the creature with one stroke of his molten red blade.
“Glyph, look out!” Glyph heard Toban’s voice cry out from the pile of Kivan soldiers. He spun around and waved his hand, just as a demon launched a lightning bolt at him. The bolt immediately reversed itself in mid-flight and blew back into the demon, burning its arm into a fried, blackened lump. The demon called forth a shield, and then sank to one knee breathing heavily, the look of shock on its face clearly portraying its surprise at having its own spell used against him.
“Impressive.” Zarish commented.
“Yeah, I like that one myself. It’s a little tricky though.” Glyph responded.
The demon labored to stand up. As soon as it did, an enormous three headed snake appeared in front of it. The snake slithered forward quickly to within striking distance of Glyph, who had started to walk toward the demon. Glyph eyed the illusion with amusement, and with a slight wave of his hand the snake burst into a swarm of tiny lights that drifted away on an unseen breeze for several feet before winking out.
“Is that it, demon?” Glyph taunted, as he strode defiantly toward the creature.
The demon cast several fireballs at Glyph in quick succession. Glyph caught each one deftly with the magical red blade of the Kings sword. It began to look nervously about, as if calculating its chances of escape. A moment later it teleported to the front exit, but as it tried to step through the opening, Glyph appeared in front of it, running the demon through the middle with his sword.
Glyph stared up into the demon’s eyes as its head slowly sagged forward. Gravity pulled it toward the ground as Glyph lifted the sword in a wide upward arc, cleaving its chest as the blade slid effortlessly out the left side of the creature’s neck. As it collapsed onto Glyph it separated, with half of the demon’s body slipping past him to each side.
“Do you think there are anymore?” Glyph asked Zarish.
“It is hard to say. It depends on what their mission here was. I am certain we would have heard sounds of another attack if there were any more about.”
Suddenly the door to the repository swung open and several blue robed monks scattered out in a puff of black smoke. “Fire!” the one monk choked out, coughed several times and said, “The repository is on fire!”
Glyph rushed into the opening. He quickly created a backdraft to draw the smoke out of the lower levels, then made a bubble of fresh air surrounding his head as he made his way forward following the twists and turns of the smoke as it was pulled out. Rounding a corner, Glyph saw a mountain of fire in a room to his left. Water poured from his hands like a fire hose as he fought back the flames, determined to contain the fire to this one area of the repository. After several minutes the flames were drowned out, and Glyph made his way back up to the Keep.
Toban and Zarish were there waiting. “Are you well?” Toban asked hurriedly.
“A bit burnt around the edges, but otherwise healthy.” Glyph replied as the bizarre bubble of fresh air vanished from around his head.
“One of the monks informed me the fire was set deliberately by one of the demons. He said he overheard the creature demand the Drayden propheticals from several of the other monks before he executed them. When he found no one else, the demon torched the room and left.” Toban told him as they sat on the steps to rest.
“The Drayden Propheticals?” Glyph said quizzically.
“What does it mean, Glyph?” Toban asked.
“It means Tsach knows more about us, than we know about him.” Glyph commented dryly and cast a leery glance at Zarish. He watched the monks rush hastily about entering the repository, as others came out choking on the thick white smoke. What was Tsach up to, he wondered? More monks appeared, some hauling dead or wounded to different areas of the Keep. A few of them went out the exit, and Glyph caught the intense stare of one monk as he glanced back at him before he left.
Without warning, Glyph jumped to his feet and charged through the exit door. Leaping over the rail to the spiral staircase that led to the entrance room at the base of the mountain, he charged out into the open air. He glanced about, and spied the monk who had made eye contact with him making his way toward the front gate. With a thought, Glyph pushed him to the ground and pinned him there, and quickly teleported beside the man.
Glyph flicked his finger and the man began to glow with a soft red aura. “What is your purpose here?!” Glyph demanded of the demon. It struggled to free itself of the unseen force that held it in place. “Speak!” Glyph commanded. The demon struggled harder. Glyph flicked his hand again, and the nails on its fingers removed themselves from its body with a sickening sucking pop noise. The demon gasped for breath, and whimpered. The human nails reverted to enormous four-inch long demon claws as they skittered across the bare ground. “You will tell me what I want to know, one way or the other.” Glyph said calmly. Still it resisted, and Glyph knelt down beside it and placed his hand onto the side of the demon’s human head, as Zarish and Toban caught up to them. The demon screamed as Glyph lit up the inside of its mind, and began to rip the information from it, one piece at a time. He could hear the order of the demon’s superior. “Master wants these for himself. The Tome of Dark Lore resides in the High Priest’s chambers, and the Drayden prophetical is hidden beneath the Keep. They are to be found, or destroyed.” Now we’re getting somewhere. “Why does he want these items?” Glyph asked and entered the demon’s mind once again, but no matter how hard he tried, the demon did not know the answer. Nor did it know where Tsach came by this information. Finally, after Toban’s urgings, Glyph disconnected himself from the red devil, but not before pulping the inside of its brain.
Glyph stood up after he released the demon, which had instantly reverted to its true form. It lay there twitching and moaning on the ground. Black blood poured from its fingertips, and a yellowish drool sopped from its mouth.
Toban and Zarish stood at the ready, expecting the creature to jump and run, but it just laid there, its one arm moving slowly in a circular motion. “What did you do to it, Glyph?” Toban asked as he poked the demon with the tip of his sword to try and get a reaction from it. Turning, Glyph grabbed the free-swinging limb, and held it while he wiped the blood from his sword onto its forearm.
“I broke his mind, and then I destroyed it.” Glyph stated, and sheathed his sword. Glyph checked his watch; he was running out of time. He teleported all three of them back to the temple near the top of the mountain, and as they walked into the antechamber that they had kept Glyph in before, he sat down on the makeshift bed. He filled Toban in on everything that was happening and left instructions for the next twenty-three hours. After Toban left, he sat there staring at Zarish and, knowing the only side she was on was her own, he decided to go with the flow for now.
“So, how are things going for you on Earth?” He asked, as the last few minutes of their hour ticked by.
“Well, Tsach has welcomed me back, and as long as my information is pertinent, I will be hailed as a hero for my years of sacrifice.” She replied.
“So what have you told him?”
“A few lies that he cannot confirm, and enough of the truth to keep my head off the chopping block.” She said, then tilted her head and looked at him quizzically. “You seem unsure of your decision, Glyph. You told me yourself to tell Tsach anything he wants to know in order to gain his trust. I have done that. The next few days will be the real test, once the novelty of having his prized spy return to him has worn off.”
“I’m unsure of a lot of things lately, and you’re only one of them.”
“Surely you did not think I would return and Tsach would tell me his plans the very first day. He is the Arch Demon; he rules absolutely and answers to no one. Odds are I will not be able to glean any information from him in time for it to be of any use to you, but I will try.” Zarish told him.
That was something at least, Glyph thought and rubbed his forehead. “See what you can do, and try not to get yourself killed.” He threw in the last part to mess with her mind, to make her think he really did trust her, that he actually cared. The sad part was, it was true. He did care, and that bothered him even more. The wind rushed in and swirled about as his watch alarm began to chime, and he listened as they both faded to nothing in the all-encompassing darkness.