The demon showed no expression over the loss of his brethren, and casually raised his hand and let it fall. With a loud roar the lines of the enemy rushed forward, and Akthule vanished from sight.
Glyph calmly walked around the dead demon and casually slit its throat for good measure. “I think it’s time for us to go, Captain.” He said and, wasting no time, Captain Haddix took off running for the Humvee. Glyph stood there a few moments more, watching the sheer power of their overwhelming numbers stampede toward him. The sound was deafening, and the ground shook beneath his feet. Glyph teleported back to the Humvee and leapt in the side door as Haddix hastily started the engine, turned the vehicle around and began to speed back over the rough terrain.
“Holy shit!” Captain Haddix yelled out as he pushed the accelerator to the floor. The armored car was careening wildly now across the fields toward the base of the mountain as fireballs whizzed by on both sides. Glyph was seething now. His attempt to fight Tsach had failed, and now the war was on; nothing had changed. He was certain this would be it, and had convinced himself it was the right time, and the only way, but obviously it wasn’t. Then Glyph chuckled. Maybe this was what Albast had been trying to tell him, he realized. It’s not just about ‘who’, but ‘where’ and ‘when’ as well. Everything happens for a reason and all that good bullshit. ‘Obviously something else has to take place before I can fight Tsach’, he thought.
Glyph could now see the Torlean phalanx steadily moving toward them as the vehicle raced across the fields that led to their position. A fireball exploded in front of them as Captain Haddix swerved the Humvee hard to the right. Flames momentarily engulfing the front of the vehicle before it burst through them at high speed.
“That was a little close!” Haddix cried out as he struggled to maintain control.
“Keep your head down Captain, and good luck. This is where I get off.” Glyph shouted at him. Closing his eyes for a moment, Glyph teleported from the transport and appeared in the field about a hundred yards from the M’atrans front line. Calling forth his shield, Glyph turned to face the approaching mass of creatures that made up Tsach’s army. He could see howitzer rounds blasting large swaths of Grull into pieces behind the enemy lines as they pushed forward. Bullets began to fly in every direction, even from the ranks of advancing Grull. Glyph watched as energy shields popped on within the approaching ranks, indicating the movement of the demon forces it contained. The ground shook with every explosion, and the noise was deafening. The scene was as close to Armageddon as Glyph had ever imagined it would be.
The forces of Tsach were drawing close, nearly a million of them, and Glyph realized they would overrun the M’atrans with sheer numbers if something weren’t done to slow them down. Raising his hand, Glyph pushed toward the ground in front of him. The Earth heaved up as if a five-ton mole were digging just under the surface. Ground blew skyward as the line of up-heaving rock and soil zigzagged across the field and into Tsach’s forces, leaving a twenty-foot tall mounded rock wall behind it as it went. He then stomp-kicked the ground to his right and a fissure formed at Glyph’s feet. With his right hand he pushed outward; the fissure widened and moved off across the field at blinding speed. The two lines of wall and fissure crisscrossed the field, as Grull and demons were tossed this way and that by the resulting devastation.
Glyph heard the unified shout of the Torleans as they charged the forces that had been cut off by Glyph’s terrain-altering efforts. The US infantry, momentarily stunned by the charge of the Torleans, quickly regrouped and flanked the charging soldiers in order to get a clean line of fire on the hordes of Grull and Demons. Glyph teleported away a moment later, minutes before the sickening thud of the two armies clashing together echoed from the mountainside.
His plan had worked to some extent; Tsach’s army was forced to move around the walls and across the fissures Glyph had created in order to get to the base of the mountain. It also served to create several pinch points that the enemy had to navigate through. Glyph watched in satisfaction as he pondered his next move from a nearby outcropping of rock. Several horns blew in the distance, and Glyph looked up to see thousands of Hexzu swarming over the top of the mountain and swooping toward the battlefield below. Their numbers momentarily blotted out the sunlight, and within seconds the razor sharp Vorkas began to fly. Glyph had seen the tactic used before at the portal on Degruthras, and this was no less impressive. From where he stood the Vorkas blurred together creating the illusion of a massive rotating blade that carved through the enemy lines below like a chainsaw.
The mortars had ceased as the Hexzu flew into range, then started again, but now shot off into the far distance. The demon hordes kept advancing, and there was no end in sight to their numbers, Glyph began to realize there was little chance of winning this one. He had to find Tsach, but knew his army would perish if he were to leave. Tsach once again seemed to have the upper hand, and had created a means of keeping Glyph exactly where the Arch-demon wanted him. If he couldn’t find a way to work outside of Tsach’s box and engage the demon lord, the armies of Earth and M’atra would be decimated.
Glyph was just about to enter the fray once more when he heard a voice call out in his mind. “Glyph! Where are you?” It was Prianna. Glyph mentally focused on her image and teleported to her side in a blinding flash.
“Shield!” Glyph commanded, as Prianna dropped to her knees, sweat dripping from her hairline. “Are you alright?” He asked. She nodded yes, and pointed. Glyph could see a group of ten sub-demons coming out from behind a pile of boulders.
“They are all over the mountainside, Glyph.” Prianna told him between heavy gasps of air. “Groups of them teleported in as soon as the fighting started. I have been holding them back, but it has been very difficult.” She said. Then without warning Prianna winced and threw her hands up to cover her ears.
“What?” Glyph asked again.
“They burn everything…the trees are screaming!” Prianna shouted near hysterics. The sub-demons had now taken aim at Glyph’s shield. Glyph grabbed Prianna by the shoulders and stared into her eyes until they stared back at him. “I hate war, Glyph! I hate those that make war, all the senseless killing. They burn my children!”
Glyph yanked her to her feet with one hand and slapped her hard across the face. She was instantly startled into sobriety, as she gazed at Glyph with a sudden fear in her eyes. “Then make them pay, Prianna! Use your hatred to fuel that desire, and kill them. There will be no peace until they’re dead!” Glyph yelled, and forcefully shoved her toward the advancing demons.
She glanced back at him once and her eyes appeared as emerald green flames. Vines sprouted from the ground around the demons and three of them were covered within seconds. A moment later they were lifted off their feet and repeatedly slammed against the rocks; black blood began to spray in all directions. As the others sub-demons tried to burn the vines, Prianna would flip the demon in her magical vines grasp, and use their bodies as a shield. A smile began to form on Prianna’s face as they burned the remaining life from their fellow demons. Thorn whips grew up from behind and snatched several of the sub-demons off guard as the exponentially growing thorny sprouts wrapped around their necks and tightened.
Glyph waved his hand and knocked the remaining four to the ground, and held them there as the vines released their corpses and attacked the living as they struggled against Glyph’s invisible energy force. A minute later the ground lay littered with severed limbs and heads, and twisted forms soaked in puddles of black ooze. Prianna’s eyes reverted to normal as she turned to face Glyph. She huffed loudly and blew a strand of her hair from her eyes. “Stay focused Prianna. If you can’t do it for the humans, do it for the trees. Feed the hatred, it will make sure you accomplish what is necessary.” Glyph told her, hoping it was the right thing to say.
“Thank you Glyph, I will remember that.” She said casually, and stomped off through the woods looking for more demons, with an army of writhing snake-like vines leading the way.
Glyph morphed into a Hexzu and took to the air in hopes of getting a better view. When he had a clear sight of the battlefield, it was chaos. Smoke filled the valley below. The typical demon smokescreen, however, did not seem to deter the Hexzu. Several flaming stakes shot up out of the smoke and skewered several of the gargoyle-like beings in mid flight, which was quickly followed by another volley of the same. Random lightning bolts also shot haphazardly into the mass of Hexzu, and Glyph watched as more than a few of the winged creatures spiraled lifelessly out of the sky. Suddenly the smoke began to clear, slowly at first, and then it was all lifted away on an unseen blast of wind, likely created by Albast or Lobrein. The Torlean line was being pushed back. Even with backup from the Delturan berserkers, they were simply out-numbered.
Glyph dove steeply toward the battlefield, in hopes of helping the soldiers there, and barely avoided another flaming wooden stake that shot past him. Turning, he angled his descent toward the source of the giant arrow. He saw it instantly with his superior Hexzu vision; a giant crossbow on wooden wheels, manned by several Ghouls. As he made for the Ballista, Glyph realized he was not alone, and that several other Hexzu warriors had fallen into formation behind him. Glyph spiraled into a horizontal corkscrew as several large demons shot lightning bolts at him while he slipped past overhead. Touching down just in front of the giant machine, several of the Ghouls dropped to the ground with Vorkas protruding from their necks and chests. One of the creatures that had not been hit leapt several feet off the ground and caught a Hexzu by its leg, and slammed it head first into the ground. The warrior’s brain splattered out in all directions as its skull splintered on impact. For being such enormous beings, the Ghouls could sure move fast when they needed to. Glyph wasted no time blasting the Ballista into confetti. He stared at the Ghoul for a split second and quickly made a fist. The Ghoul stiffened suddenly and then crumpled to the ground, its spine crushed in the magical grip of Glyph’s hand. He had considered killing it outright, but decided this way was more fitting, and certainly more satisfying.
The last Ghoul had fled and, as Glyph took to the air, a Grull bullet blew through his forearm, throwing off his balance as he struggled to gain altitude. Several other Grull now took aim with their magical rifles. As Glyph spun to face them some thirty feet in the air, his arm was almost healed as he waved his good hand, sending all three bullets back into the heads of his attackers. An instant later he vanished, teleporting to a nearby slope of the southern most mountain.
“Mother Fucker!” Glyph yelled rubbing his freshly healed arm. ‘This isn’t working,’ he thought. ‘All these people are going to die, and Tsach knows it; I swear he’s doing this just to fuck with me, to strip me of everything I care about. He hopes to make me weaker but it only serves to make me angrier.’ Glyph thought.
He stared out over the battlefield. The Hexzu chainsaw was starting to break down into smaller groups of marauding hunters as the fighting raged in a fierce free-for-all. Glyph leapt from his perch and sailed off to his left, deciding a quick fly by to check on his friends was in order. Skimming the trees, Glyph caught a glimpse of movement up ahead through the canopy. A moment later he saw Albast unleashing some sort of stun spell that dropped four sub-demons at one pop. Gliding by silently, Glyph saw Prianna and a group of soldiers creeping up behind a demon that was out prowling.
Glyph then spotted Amos and a group of soldiers sniping from a hidden ridge about a third of the way up the mountain. Angling in toward the trees, Glyph swooped to the ground in a small grove of pine. Changing into human form, Glyph ran through the trees toward Amos’s position.
“Amos. I’m coming.” Glyph projected with his mind so as not to surprise anyone. Two minutes later Glyph leapt down a small seven-foot cliff into a natural trench that ran along the hillside for some length. Apparently Amos must have cleared away just enough trees and bushes to give them a clear view of the battlefield. Glyph found their sentry around the next corner, who let him pass by. Amos was standing behind them staring at the chaos of the battle. “I take it Tsach wasn’t home?” Amos asked him as Glyph approached.
“No.” Glyph replied.
Amos just nodded his head. “I had a feeling. Anyway, not that I mind the company, but shouldn’t you be out there?” Amos said pointing toward the battle
“I was. I decided to make sure everyone else was doing alright.”
Amos turned his head, and looked to the left. “Lobrein is helping Morracor fight off a demon and two—No make that one sub-demon. Miatsu is taking care of the left flank.” Turning toward the right Amos scanned the mountains for a few seconds. “Looks like Albast is systematically annihilating every demon he comes across. Your friend Captain Haddix is with Prianna, and they just killed one…” He stated and scanned the sky. “Grot and Greem are still holding their attack pattern.” Then looking down he pronounced. “Covat has a problem.”
“What? What’s wrong with Covat?” Glyph asked.
“Nothing now. A squad of men braced some halberds sideways behind a sub-demon’s knees, while another squad formed a phalanx and shield-rushed the demon from the front till he backed over the first squad and fell onto their spears. Damn, how did they learn to take down demons like that? That was incredible!” Amos said in surprise.
“That was my idea.” Glyph stated, and as an after thought added, “But it was Zarish who taught them how to do it and be effective.”
Amos shot him a look; his eyes were a dull milky gray with no pupils. It was the first time he had made eye contact with Glyph since he arrived. Glyph pointed at his eyes. “Nice trick, I usually turn into a Hexzu to see like that.”
“What? You don’t know how to do magic sight? I thought everyone knew how to do that.” Amos spouted off.
“Yeah, well, different teachers I suppose.” Glyph commented.
Amos smiled wanly, “I’m worried about Morracor. His fighting skills are not as good as the others. You might want to keep an eye on him if you can.” Amos said and looked back at the field. Amos knelt beside one of the snipers, “There.” He told the soldier, and nudged the man’s rifle so the soldier could see the shot through his scope. A second later the sniper fired, and Amos let out a triumphant “Yes!” As he stood, Amos glanced over at Glyph. “Are you still here? We’re fine, okay? So get out there and kill something already!”
Glyph smiled. “I’ll check in on Morracor as often as I can.” As much as he hated to admit it, he had missed Amos. Morphing back into a Hexzu, Glyph took to the sky once more, and headed straight for Grot and Greem.
“Great One!” Greem shouted at him as he came within earshot. He scowled happily, but then became serious. “Are you in need of assistance?” The warrior asked him.
“No, but you are. We need to take out those Ballistas.” Glyph replied.
“We are trying, but have had little success.” Greem replied, all the while keeping a vigilant watch over the battlefield.
“That’s about to change. Follow me.” Glyph called out. Spiraling toward the right flank, Glyph took note of the nearest weapon and dove straight for it. He dodged the giant arrow that came at him as he closed in. Glyph slowed to a stop just above the crossbow, and let loose with a jet of fire from each hand, engulfing it in flames. Vorkas sunk into the Ghouls around him that manned the machine. When Glyph was certain the war machine was burning, he fell upon the back of the nearest Ghoul just as the other Hexzu did the same, retrieving their Vorkas and finishing their prey in one swift maneuver. Using his Hexzu strength, Glyph twisted the being’s neck until it snapped, then blanketed the surrounding area in darkness to cover their retreat and took to the air with Greem and the other Hexzu warriors.
“The shadow was good.” Greem called to him as they arched upward toward the next Ballista.
“Sure beats getting shot by a Grull.” Glyph replied and smiled. “Shield!” Glyph called out just as a volley of lightning bolts came hurling at him from below. He quickly darted between the battle and the other Hexzu in his group, in an attempt to protect them. He realized his senses had become heightened since the start of the battle; he hadn’t even seen those last bolts until after he had called forth his shield. It wasn’t just his Hexzu form either, he had similar occurrences happen in his true form as well. Lobrein had described it as a universal awareness during his training, and it was the underlying resource of his reverse-missile spell. If you waited until you saw it then it was too late to send it back.
Over the course of the next hour they took out six more Ballistae. Of the original ten Hexzu only four had survived, Greem being among them. Landing on a small ledge high up on the southern most mountain, they all took a moment to rest.
“That should help, at least for awhile.” Greem said, pulling a bit of Lizbah jerky from a pouch tied to his waist and passing it around.
“Those last two were really difficult. I think they were catching on to our tactics.” Glyph said as he took a few bites. They sat in silence for several more minutes. Glyph healed their minor injuries and soon everyone was anxious to get back to the fight. The other three Hexzu took off, but Glyph motioned for Greem to wait.
“Greem. How is Grot doing?”
Greem eyed him curiously. “I have sensed there was something wrong since his return from your meeting with Tsach, though he will not speak of it. May I ask what happened?”
“You mean Grot didn’t tell you? Perhaps it is not my place.” Glyph told him.
Greem reached out and grabbed Glyph’s arm. “He will never tell me, and we may all die here. I need to know, Great One, and you are the only one who would share with me.”
Glyph wiped his face, more out of habit since Hexzu do not sweat, and took a deep breath. “Tsach had Crowf tied to the wall of his cave. He claimed that Crowf had betrayed his people, along with me and the other wizards as well, in hopes of gaining the Arch-demon’s favor. Then he filleted Crowf open and spilled his guts onto the floor.” Greem clenched his eyes closed and turned away. “It was pretty horrific.”
“So it was Crowf, all along.” The Hexzu nodded his head. “This makes much sense Great One. Thank you.”
Glyph felt dead inside for having said it aloud, but somehow knew that Greem had to be told. He watched a bit as Greem flew off to rejoin the battle, and he wondered if this might be the last time he would see his friend again.
Glyph morphed back into a human and checked his watch. The battle had been going on for nearly four hours; it was almost two p.m., only three more hours before he returned to M’atra. He wondered what it would take to stop the battle, but he knew that nothing would truly end now, not until Tsach was dead. Perhaps it was time to pay Akthule a visit. At least Glyph knew he was here, somewhere.
Glyph teleported to the front line, and immediately sent out an energy burst so fierce that it tossed Grull for a hundred yards in every direction. There were several grunts of relief from the Torleans and Delturans, who were now holding the line side by side, along with many U.S. soldiers who were now carrying swords and shields. Glyph assumed that ammunition was running low, or had already run out completely. Glancing about, Glyph found it hard to believe that they had held out as long as they had; bodies littered the field and the ground was slick with blood.
‘Where the fuck was Tsach? Or even Akthule for that matter?’ Glyph wondered. He watched as the enemy line slowly reformed. It was staggered and messy, and it dawned on him that these Grull were more slave than soldier. Glyph had yet seen but a handful of full-fledged demons, and again wondered what they were waiting for. ‘They must know that we have limited resources, and that we would run out of bullets, fuel, and the like. Tsach also knew that the wizards would try and protect the army, perhaps he was trying to wear us down before sending in the true demons’.
Then, as if they had read Glyph’s mind, demons began to appear all across the field, first ten, then fifty, then a hundred and more. This was it, this was the real battle, and it didn’t look good. Glyph spun around and caught sight of King Rokka, who’s terrified expression spoke volumes. It was time to save lives, Glyph decided.
“Fall back!” Glyph screamed, mentally projecting his message at the same time. “Head for the trees!” The weary soldiers didn’t bother to wait for confirmation from their superiors, and scrambled for the base of the mountain behind them, scattering into the wood line as fast as they could run.
“Mother Fuck!” Glyph heard Amos say in his mind.
Glyph didn’t have time to respond and conjured his shield as a wall of unified lightning blasted across the field from the demons, who now began to advance toward him. Spying the charred remains of a farmhouse, Glyph appeared there, and quickly spotted what he was after. With one wave of his hand the well cap and pump were blown off as a spout of water blasted several hundred feet into the sky, and with a slight nudge came cascading down onto the nearby demons. Some of them were caught off guard by the deluge, but most of the red ones threw up shields in time to avoid it, and Glyph noticed that the demons that were not red brushed it off without a second thought. It had become painfully obvious that not all demons were affected by water the same way, and was apparently only a weakness of the red devils. At least it had given them pause, and gave his men a chance to seek cover amongst the trees.
“I am open to suggestions!” Glyph called out to his fellow wizards telepathically, but there was no time for an answer. The demons turned on Glyph as he stood beside the dried up well. He had barely enough time to raise his shield before the attack began. Boulders, wind, lightning and fire pummeled him from every angle, and the ground heaved beneath his feet at the onslaught. Within seconds Glyph was forced to his knees under the weight of the assault on his shield.
“Glyph, get out of there!” He heard Lobrein cry out.
“I can’t drop my shield to teleport!” Glyph responded.
“They’re all over him, I can’t even get close!” Amos interjected.
“Phase into the soil, Glyph, then drop your shield once you are completely under ground.” This time it was Albast.
Glyph took a deep breath. He hated phasing into anything. The act was simply something he had never felt comfortable with; but Albast was right, there was little choice in the matter. Placing his hands to the dirt, Glyph concentrated briefly, and could feel himself begin to sink slowly downward as the molecules of his flesh drifted apart. Once he was covered, he turned off his shield and slowly made his way toward the well. After a minute or so the turmoil above subsided and the ground stopped shaking. They probably think I was able to teleport away somehow, Glyph imagined. Moving through the ground was tedious work, and even though the well was only ten feet away it still took nearly five minutes to reach it.
“Glyph?” It was Albast’s voice again.
“I’m almost in the well, I’ll be there shortly.” Glyph replied, letting them know he was okay. Once he had pulled himself completely into the cramped shaft he solidified and teleported to the rocky overhang he and Greem had stopped at earlier in the day. Glyph immediately took several gulps of the fresh air and quickly surveyed the battlefield. It wasn’t good. Many of the demons had already reached the trees at the base of the mountain and were working their way upwards. The Hexzu circled above targeting the red demons with buckets of water, but on the whole had become very ineffectual as their numbers dwindled. A large number of attack helicopters hovered on the left flank, letting loose with everything they had, blowing large clouds of mustard gas across the battlefield, but they too were being sidelined by the demons. Rockets and machine gun fire filled the air, most of which bounced off the demon shields. It looked as if for every demon that succumbed to the gas, several of the helicopters were blasted from the sky. The howitzers were also volleying shells into the field with little to no effect on slowing or stopping the demons’ advance.
Glyph teleported to Amos’s position, but he was no longer there. “Where’s Amos?” Glyph asked the nearest sniper.
“He went down to confront those things.” The soldier replied.
Scrambling over the rocks, Glyph slid down to the ground in pursuit of his friend. After picking his way down the mountainside, Glyph saw a demon drop to the ground and howl in pain. Amos leapt from the shadows and pumped four rounds from his Glock into the creature’s head, and had disappeared before it toppled to the ground. Glyph charged ahead until he found the next demon. He was just in time to see a lizard-shaped demon bite the head off of a Delturan soldier. Several more warriors attacked the creature from behind and were instantly fried to a crisp for their bravery. Teleporting just above the demon’s back, Glyph dropped onto its long thick neck and beheaded it with one stroke of the King’s sword, which now blazed a brilliant white.
They fought on like that for another hour, killing the demons one or two at a time. The entire north side of the southern mountains was now in flames. Many soldiers asphyxiated on the smoke and ash, too afraid to break cover and run. Glyph blinked from spot to spot helping the others as best he could, when he was not engaged in fighting himself. It seemed for every demon felled two more would crop up, appearing through the occasional backdrafts of smoke from the fire that raged out of control. As the day wore on he found himself almost solely at the side of Prianna or Morracor helping them out of one jam or another. Just when he thought he had a section cleared he would be needed elsewhere to repel another forward push of demons. At one point he caught a glimpse of the fields below, and could see them filling up with more of Tsach’s unnatural minions. Ballistae were being fired in rapid succession, and their giant wooden spikes would crash down through the treetops, more often than not with a skewered Hexzu body attached.
Glyph knocked one demon over with a pulse of concentrated energy directed into its legs. He then teleported to its head and, grasping the demon by its horns, phased it into the ground. Glyph stole a moment, arched his back, and checked his watch. It was already past four o’clock, he had just under an hour before his hour on M’atra would begin, and he began to worry how things might go without his presence here, though he realized there was nothing he could do to stop it from happening.
Glyph started to search out his next target, when a shout interrupted him.
“Great One!” Glyph recognized it as Hexzu and spun to see Aroth gliding in to land a few feet in front of him.
“What is it Aroth?” Glyph asked quickly.
“You must come Great One, Chieftain Grot has gone mad and Greem can not control him.” The Hexzu replied hastily.
“What?” Glyph replied, unsure if he heard Aroth correctly.
“You must come, now!” Aroth shouted his insistence.
“Take me there.” Glyph replied. Aroth did not hesitate as he latched onto Glyph and leapt into the air his wings taking long powerful strokes cleared the trees in a few seconds. They were almost hit twice by lightning as Aroth dodged and weaved his way toward the middle of the southern range of mountains. He let Glyph off on a large outcropping of rock that jutted outward from the surrounding trees.
Several Hexzu stood watching as Grot was shouting, and Greem tried in vain to calm his uncle down. “What does it matter! What is a Chieftain of nothing?” Glyph heard Grot shout as he walked closer to the pair of Hexzu.
Grot shoved Greem to the ground, and pulled his Vorka back fully intending on striking Greem. “Grot, stop!” Glyph demanded. Grot froze instantly the arm holding the Vorka shaking uncontrollably as the Hexzu fought against Glyph’s word of command.
“Thank the mighty rock you are here, Great One.” Greem said as he slowly backed away from Grot and got to his feet.
“Let…me…go!” Grot seethed through clenched teeth.
“What the hell is going on here?” Glyph asked.
Greem looked at Grot, then back at Glyph. “Our warriors have been decimated, Great One. Out of our original ten thousand, we are now less than two thousand strong.”
Glyph stared at the two of them and winced. With a wave of his hand he released Grot, whose arm crashed downward, sinking his Vorka a foot into the ground where Greem had been. The Chieftain howled mournfully as he knelt beside his blade, and wrenched it out of the earth with both hands.
“We are dead!” Grot shouted as he turned toward Glyph and rose to his feet. “For every group I send out only half come back.” He hissed at Glyph. “Better I should kill them then to let them be slaughtered at the hands of those foul wretched beasts!”
“Grot calm down, we can–.” Glyph started to say.
“NO!” Grot screamed and swung his Vorka at Glyph, missing his chest by a scant few inches. “In another hour I will be Chieftain of females and hatchlings. The Hexzu are dead! I have failed my people. I have brought them here to die!” Grot yelled, and in one mighty leap dove from the rocks and swooped toward the valley below.
Glyph instantly morphed into a Hexzu and he and Greem leapt from the edge in pursuit. They glided to a landing just inside the trees adjacent to the field, there they found Grot just a few steps away from the battlefield and certain death. “Grot! You have to listen to me, don’t do this! Your people need you more now than ever before!” Glyph called out. The Hexzu Chieftain turned slowly to face them both.
Grot stared at Glyph soberly. “My time as leader of my people has passed, and there is little left for me in this life. Nothing remains but to avenge my sons.”
“Grot listen, we can do this…” Glyph started to say, but trailed off.
“Uncle, no!” Greem suddenly shouted.
Glyph watched in awe as Grot began to change, his rough stony gray skin morphed into shiny smooth obsidian. When Grot’s eyes opened Glyph nearly jumped out of his own skin. Everything was rock-hard black obsidian; his eyes, his teeth, arms, legs, everything.
“Live Long Great One, and do not forget your promise to the Hexzu.” Grot said. As he spoke, slivered bits of black stone ground away from the corners of his mouth and fell to the ground. Then he turned on his heel and stomped straight into the field.
“Grot, wait!” Glyph yelled and jumped forward to follow the Hexzu, when Greem unexpectedly tackled him.
“Get off me!” Glyph yelled at Greem, but as he struggled to free himself Greem’s grip on him tightened more. “What are you doing? I have to save him!” Glyph shouted, and was about to blast the Hexzu off of him, when Greem replied, “He is already dead, Great One!” Glyph looked back at Grot who was rampaging through the ranks of demons and Grull. It seemed as though nothing harmed the Hexzu Chieftain as fireballs spread around him, and lightning bolts reflected off into the ground. Nothing they threw at him had an effect as he took down one demon after another. Only the shards of black stone falling from Grot’s body every time he moved seemed to bother him, and then only slightly.
“What are saying Greem? What did he just do? I mean, I didn’t know you could do that.” Glyph said as Greem released him.
“We cannot, and live.” Greem replied as they both stood, and watched Grot move through the enemy like a knife through butter. “It is called the Ki Enatae, or living stone. The act is part of an ancient ritualistic suicide that can only be performed by the royal Ruktan.” Greem explained.
“How long can he go on like that?” Glyph asked.
“He will continue until his limbs grind off. Death comes quickly after that.”
Just as they were about to lose sight of him, Glyph saw one of Grot’s wings crack and drop to the ground. Glyph half jumped, half flew to the top of a tall tree for a better view, and Greem followed. Both of the Chief Hexzu’s wings had broken off his back. Time slowed as the pair were transfixed by the sight of Grot hacking and slashing his way across the field.
“Is he getting smaller?” Glyph questioned.
“With every movement he makes, more of his body will chip away. Soon, there will be nothing left.” Greem commented dryly.
“I am sorry, Greem.” Glyph told him, and they sat in the tree in silence, and watched Grot until his arms gave way, cracked, and dropped off onto the ground. The Hexzu took a few more steps before his legs followed suit, and they lost sight of him amid the enemy hordes.
“A people now without a home, their masters forced to death by stone.” Greem recited the line from the ancient Hexzu prophecy. “I had always thought that Masters referred to the demons, but now…” Greem said and paused. “Come Great One, there is still time to save my people.”
“Lead the way, Chieftain Greem.” Glyph said, as he spoke the words the reality of Grots death struck him to the core. He followed Greem as the Hexzu ascended to the rocky bluff they were at before. “Pull your people back out of harm’s way, Greem. You have suffered enough loss for one day.”
“We will pull back for now Great One, but only until we have devised a new strategy to use against the demon’s war machines.” Chieftain Greem replied. Glyph then bumped forearms with Greem, and flew off before the Hexzu could see the tears that were now falling freely from his eyes. He sent word telepathically to the others that Grot had perished, and the Hexzu had withdrawn from the battle for the moment. He also requested that someone get word to Eddings that the General would now have free reign over the sky.
Glyph landed some distance away and reverted back to human form. He began to sob uncontrollably for nearly a minute, before forcing himself to stop. With his emotions barely contained, Glyph wiped his eyes on the sleeve of his tunic, and started walking. “I don’t have time for this now.” Glyph said aloud to himself, and quickly checked the time. It was as he suspected, his hour was now only a few minutes away. He teleported to the top of the mountain, to the overlook Glyph had been on when he first arrived.
Glyph started across the road toward the cave he had made before, when Amos appeared.
“Glyph! Glyph!” Amos shouted at him, making him stop and turn around.
“What?” Glyph replied, knowing his time here was growing short.
“It’s the prophecies!” Amos yelled at him, “We have to … Morracor!”
Glyph could feel the wind picking up, there were only a few seconds left. “What about Morracor?” Glyph asked, but it was too late. Amos opened his mouth to reply, but slowed to a stop his mouth agape in silent warning, and all Glyph could do was stare at him as everything faded to black and Glyph vanished from the universe.