Glyph sat up with a start, and inhaled deeply as he struggled to remember where he was. Zarish stirred on the other side of the room, while Glyph’s eyes immediately took note of the living Tapestry that was now hung on the opposite wall from the doorway. He stood and made his way over to the Tapestry. It still had the last scene pictured, but the white square had returned to the bottom right of the fabric. Glyph was reaching out to touch the square when Mahjdi entered the room.
“Ah, Great One. I am pleased to see that you have returned, and you as well General Zarish.” Mahjdi said. The sound of his voice startled Glyph, and he jerked his hand away from the Tapestry. “I apologize if I startled you.”
“That’s alright Mahjdi, I’m afraid I’m a bit jumpy. I’ve been fighting a battle for the last seven hours straight.” Glyph replied.
“Care to make it eight?” Ishea commented as she entered the room. Glyph noticed her disheveled appearance as she crossed the room and embraced him.
Glyph groaned. “Let me guess, they have already attacked.”
“Just about mid-day. They started through the Pass, but quickly realized that we were already entrenched and waiting for them. After several hours of fighting we received word from the monks that the enemy had split their forces and that the other half was ascending the mountains north of the monastery. Do not ask me how, but I think they are coming after you, Glyph.” Ishea informed him.
“I know they are.” Zarish replied, and the three of them turned to face the female demon.
“What do you mean?” Glyph asked her.
“Tsach knows that you are cursed, and has likely been tracing your energy signature when you bounce between worlds. He can pinpoint your location as you enter and exit each world.” Zarish announced.
“How would Tsach know that?” Glyph asked staring hard at the demon.
“Your energy signature was part of the report that Simeon sent to Tsach. I know this because I intercepted the report, and read it before passing it along.” Zarish informed them.
“And you never thought to mention this before now?” Glyph asked.
“I did not think to say so at the time, and once you left for your hour in Tsach’s presence on Degruthras the point was moot. The Arch Demon had what he needed at that point to discover your energy signature. I thought everyone had understood this.” The demon replied.
“Yeah, I understood that.” Glyph replied growing frustrated with Zarish’s constantly evasive answers.
“When Albast put your body on Earth into stasis, Tsach could no longer track you, at least, not until the curse was reactivated. I was unaware that this had happened until you summoned me to Priam. Unfortunately the thought did not strike me until just after our last encounter.”
“Oh, that explains it.” Glyph spat sarcastically in disgust.
“Sorceress, may I ask the condition and location of our army?” Zarish questioned, and appeared to have believed Glyph’s remark as serious.
Ishea opened her mouth to speak, but Glyph abruptly cut her off. “No, I don’t think so.” He said to the demon. “You have become something of a liability, Zarish. Too many things have been going wrong since you left, and your loyalties have come to be suspect.”
Zarish sat up straight against the wall, and her eyebrows rose in surprise.
“Glyph, what are you saying?” Ishea asked.
“I’m not saying anything. The question has been raised, and until I’m certain of the answer, we’ll have to leave you out of the loop, Zarish.” Glyph stated. “I am sorry.”
“I am used to such things.” Zarish replied.
“Now, perhaps you could tell me where Tsach is.” Glyph demanded.
Zarish looked at Glyph and shrugged. “I do not know.”
“Somehow I thought you might say that. Is there anything you can tell me that will make it look as if you are not a spy?”
“Tsach vanished early this morning, about the time the sun was rising. I have not seen him since. If I had to guess, I would say that he has gone off world, but to where I do not know.” Zarish answered.
“Glyph what is going on? Are things that bad on Earth?” Ishea asked.
“Worse. Grot is dead, and the Hexzu are about to become extinct. I tried to face Tsach before it all went down, but he was conveniently absent, and left some bastard named Akthule in charge.” Glyph told her as he made his way back over to the living Tapestry. “And I’m almost afraid to look at this.” He added as he reached out his hand and touched it to the fabric. The threads began to change, and when they coalesced into a new scene, Glyph just stared open mouthed in shock.
“Great One?” Mahjdi said after a few moments.
“Glyph what is it? What do you see?” Ishea asked.
“It’s Morracor. He’s going to die.” Glyph responded, and then quickly looked away. It was too late, as the scene had already been burned into his mind. Morracor lay on the forest floor, blackened and charred from the neck and chest down, and it appeared that his innards had boiled out between cracks in his dried husk-like skin.
“Morracor…” Ishea said, placing her hand over her mouth.
“Is dead. Or will be soon.” Glyph reiterated. “Mother fucker!” He yelled, slamming his fist down onto the makeshift bed, shattering one of the legs that supported it. Then he looked at Ishea. “Where are they?” He growled.
Ishea looked back at Glyph, her face contorted with sadness and worry, she was about to reply, and then cast a sidelong glance at Zarish. “Their army is split. The ones in the Pass are currently contained. The others have probably reached the outer wall of the temple by now.”
Glyph turned and stormed from the room. “How many are there?” He asked as they moved into the long corridor and headed for the open courtyard.
“More than we originally thought. I would guess about a third of the army that marched against us on Degruthras.” Ishea replied as she and Mahjdi hurried to keep up with him. Zarish followed as well, but in human form, and at a respectable distance.
“Show me.” Glyph told Ishea as they barged through the doors on the inner temple, and out into the open air. Ishea quickly took the lead toward the north wall, but Glyph could tell by the number of monks that lined the wall that the demons were attacking there. Armed with longbows, the black-robed monks of the temple released volley after volley of arrows over the rock fortification as the four of them made their way there.
“Make room, make room! The Great One is here!” Mahjdi called out to the other monks, who scattered out of the way as Glyph approached. Stepping up to the wall, Glyph peered over the edge. Thousands of sub-demons and demons scaled the cliffs leading to the temple, and made the rock look as if it were moving in the setting sunlight. The counterattack came quickly; fireballs and lightning bolts fired into the temple fortifications. Several of the monks were engulfed in flames and dropped to the ground, screaming in agony. Glyph was so pissed off he could barely see straight. “I have had enough!” Glyph screamed, with the last word echoing back and forth between the mountaintops. Time seemed to slow once more.
Glyph closed his eyes as his hands trembled with rage. ‘This must stop. This will end.’ Glyph thought as he drew power up through the mountain into his legs and body and out to the tips of his fingers. A faint white nimbus glow surrounded him, and all other sounds began to fade into silence.
“Glyph, what are you doing?” Ishea asked, but they were just words to him now. The meaning of the question was lost as the power filled his mind and body. With one arm, Glyph stretched forward and placed his hand to the top of the stone wall. Ishea and Mahjdi were now yelling at the other monks, and pointing back toward the temple, but Glyph could not understand them. When he opened his eyes, he released the power into the wall, and the very mountain itself. A sonic boom went off that shook the mountain, and then everything was silent, but only for a moment before a horrendous cracking noise filled the air. Taking a step back, Glyph watched as a wide fissure opened at the base of the wall in front of him, and within seconds spread the length of the north face of the temple. Once again everything fell into silence.
Glyph stepped back up to the wall and gazed over the side once more. The demons still clung to their rocks, recovering from the loud and violent tremors. Then, in an instant, the wall and the rock face beneath it for several hundred feet dropped straight down, carrying the demons with it as it crashed thunderously to the ground thousands of feet below. Teetering precariously, Glyph quickly regained his balance and stepped away from what was now a two-thousand-foot sheer cliff that extended from the temple courtyard tiles to the valley floor.
He staggered a bit as he turned around and everyone there just stared in profound awe of what they had just witnessed.
“By the gods, Glyph!” Ishea was the first to speak.
“I’m not fucking done. I haven’t even fucking begun.” Glyph shouted, and began to walk shakily toward the main gate of the temple.
Before Ishea could reply, Glyph closed his eyes and vanished. Opening his eyes, Glyph stood at the entrance to the Pass. Thousands of Kivan and Barjon soldiers filled the plains that led up to the mountains, and many of them saw him appear. Folding his legs up beneath him, Glyph levitated in the lotus position. With a slight lean forward, he launched into motion, steadily increasing in speed as he entered the Pass. There was no time for thought as Glyph maneuvered gracefully over troops and boulders, and within a few minutes he had passed over the front lines and slowed to a stop on a small stretch of ground between the two opposing forces. Glyph lowered his feet to the ground, stepped into a fighting stance, and leveled his gaze at the demon army entrenched amongst the rocks and boulders that peppered the landscape.
A loud triumphant horn blew nearby as a slow but growing shout began to rise from the Kivan soldiers “King Glyph! King Glyph! King Glyph!” Growing in strength and intensity with every round.
“Tsach!” Glyph yelled, his amplified voice echoing throughout the Pass. He waited silently, but somehow he knew there would be no response. Glyph couldn’t help but wonder where the Arch Demon was, and what he was planning. It was of no matter now. Glyph was already on the verge of exploding, and viewing Morracor’s death in the living Tapestry had pushed him over the edge. There was no time left for speculation now; Glyph began to tremble once more as his anger amplified the power he tapped, drawing it into his being. He didn’t even know what he was going to do, all he knew for certain was that there was no room for sympathy or mercy left inside him now, and his only thought was of death.
The Pass was suddenly plunged into darkness, as Glyph screamed, “Return to the soil you evil fucks!” His eyes were blazing red, as the white aura that surrounded him bulged forward, and in an instant burst loose in a wave of pure white energy. The wave encompassed the entire width of the canyon, and changed rapidly to orange and then crimson as it passed over the creatures there. Within seconds the wave cleared the far exit and blew out into the surrounding desert. Glyph was shaking so violently that his left leg gave way and he dropped to one knee. “Die, mother fuckers! Die!” Glyph yelled out again as the last of the energy passed through his body, and left him gasping for breath.
At first it appeared as though nothing had happened, other than the extreme darkness that clung to every crevice and rock like wet fur. Glyph stared through watery eyes as red and white sparkles of energy lifted from the places in which the enemy hid, poured out of their bodies and rose upward, swirling into the black void that blotted out the sky. Then came the sound of universal strangulation, the gurgling sounds of thousands of Grull and Demons gasping out their last breath, followed by the muted drum roll of soft thumps as their bodies fell lifeless to the ground.
As quickly as it had come, the darkness lifted and the last rays of the setting sun once again filtered into the deep rocky canyon. Glyph slowly leaned to the right until he collapsed onto his side, panting and gasping for air. He felt cold, and shivered as he lay there listening to the absence of all sound. Not so much as a pebble stirred in the wake of his display. He wasn’t even sure what he had done.
He had applied massive power on a massive scale, and felt by far the most powerful since he had created Lake Vigilance. But what had happened? He stared across the sandy ground toward the enemy, but there was no sign of movement, no signs of life at all. He tried to stand but couldn’t, and the chill he felt permeated his bones. After a few minutes, a slight warmth returned and, with great effort, Glyph was able to pull himself erect. There were bodies everywhere, stretched over rocks and leaning out from behind boulders. But they were just that, only bodies; they were all dead. Had he really just done that? And yet, there seemed to be something more. For a moment there had been a pure understanding, as if he had tapped into the universe itself before it vanished as quickly as it had come. Somehow he just couldn’t believe what he saw. It had happened so fast, and had been so easy to do.
The sound of shouting men began to register in his numbed mind. Several horses suddenly rode up from behind him, and Glyph turned around to see King Kahula, Toban, and General Finnicks quickly dismounting.
“Glyph!” He heard Toban shout as the Steward ran to Glyph and helped prop him up as he teetered from side to side. “What did you do?” The Steward asked as he and the others glanced about the battlefield.
A moment later Ishea appeared. She too looked about in disbelief. “Glyph. What happened?” She asked, but Glyph gave no response. Ishea waved her hand over a nearby rock and transformed its outer layer into a large wooly blanket, which she draped over Glyph’s shivering frame.
“They are dead. All of them, at least all the ones in the Pass.” Kahula stated as he stepped around the corpses that had constituted the enemies front line.
“They are just like ours, not a single mark on them but completely void of life.” General Finnicks commented as he kicked a Grull body over onto its back.
“Wait, what do you mean like ours?” Ishea asked.
“About a hundred of our soldiers nearest to the battle are also dead.” Toban replied soberly.
Ishea turned and placed her hands on Glyph’s face and looked him in the eye. Silent tears now ran down his cheeks in response to Toban’s words. “Glyph. Glyph, look at me. What happened here? You must tell me.”
“I killed them.” Glyph choked out, and coughed several times.
“How, Glyph? How did you kill them?”
“I don’t know. I wanted them all to die…and they did.” Glyph responded.
Ishea glanced about at the lifeless bodies. “What did it look like?” She asked Toban.
“We saw Glyph pass over our position in the Pass, so we immediately gave chase to lend him our assistance. Before we could get very far, the area was covered in darkness. There was a bright flash of light, and then particles of white and red light could be seen being pulled upward into the darkness. Then it was over.”
“He ripped the life force from them.” She said, trying to fathom the implications of such an act. She then turned to face Glyph again. “You pulled their souls from their bodies, their very life essence.” Ishea said, and then paused and stepped back away from him. “How, Glyph? How is that even possible?”
“I don’t know. It just happened.”
“Just happened! What you have done here only Gods can do. Not men or wizards or demons, only gods!”
Glyph just shrugged under the weight of the heavy blanket wrapped about him. It was hard to concentrate, and standing became more of a chore with every passing second.
“Take a scouting party to the end of the Pass, General. We need to find out the scope of damage Glyph has inflicted upon the enemy.” Toban said as he applied more force to keep Glyph steady.
“Right away, Steward.” Finnicks replied, then mounted his horse and called out to some nearby soldiers.
Ishea was still examining him; for what, Glyph wasn’t sure. Maybe she thought he had been wounded somehow.
“I need to take him back to the temple right away.” Ishea said to Toban.
“Of course. Should I come with you?” Toban asked.
“Yes. I could use your help moving him.” The sorceress replied. She then placed one hand onto Glyph and the other on Toban’s shoulder. In a flash of blue light they appeared at the entrance to the Pass, then blinked out again, this time reappearing at the Hook. After two more jumps they had made it to Priam, and another two had them appearing inside the temple, in the room where Glyph had found himself when he arrived.
“Here, place him on the cot.” Ishea instructed Toban. Toban lowered him onto the cot in a sitting position, as Ishea produced an elixir and held it while Glyph drank it down, then they both helped ease Glyph over onto his right side.
Glyph still felt as if he was only half there. Though he could feel the warming effect of the potion he had just taken, he still shivered uncontrollably. “What’s wrong with me?” He asked in a hoarse voice.
“I am unsure. It is likely the effect of using such powerful dark magic.” Ishea replied with a look of concern on her face. She began her healing ministrations upon him as he lay there, and soon the violent shivering started to subside.
“How much time do I have?” Glyph asked, now sounding much improved.
“I suspect maybe five more minutes at best.” Ishea replied. “When you return here, you will be in a different location. We will move your body as soon as you jump to Earth in case Tsach’s minions come looking for you again.”
“Thanks.” Glyph grunted and moved back into a seated position. Ishea finished, and stepped back to look at him, the worry still plainly etched onto her face. “I’m alright, Ishea.”
“This time.” She responded curtly.
“Did I really just do that, I mean, did I really take their souls?” He questioned as he stared down at his hands.
Ishea nodded. “Yes, you did.”
“And the Kivan soldiers, did I kill them too?” Glyph asked.
“I am afraid so, Glyph. Magic that dark and powerful usually exacts a hefty price.”
Toban spoke up. “There were about a hundred Kivan soldiers found dead. I am sorry. Though strictly speaking, from a military point of view, there were several thousand enemy troops in that Pass. The losses were more than acceptable, and had an actual battle taken place there would have been many more casualties.”
“Somehow, that just doesn’t make me feel any better about it.” Glyph replied, and pushed himself onto his feet.
Mahjdi entered at that moment, “Great One, are you well?” He asked.
“I’ll be fine, Mahjdi. Where’s Zarish?” Glyph responded.
“The General has submitted herself to house arrest. She is in a room down the hall from here under guard.” Mahjdi told him.
“General Zarish? What is the meaning of this?” Toban questioned.
“I don’t know Toban, only that information has been running one way since I sent her back to Tsach to spy on him. That one way has not been toward us. Tsach has out-maneuvered me several times since, and all of it was information that Zarish knew and could have passed on. Her loyalties have been brought under question, and until I can find out for sure I don’t want you to tell her anything. Especially about whatever it was I just did in the Pass.” Glyph explained.
“Certainly, Glyph. I understand. Do you really think she is a spy for Tsach? For all these years?” Toban asked.
“I hope not, Toban. I honestly hope not.”
“Are you sure you are alright?” Ishea prodded.
“I will be fine. Thank you.” Glyph replied, and a moment of silence followed.
“Glyph, I do not want to tell you what to do…” Ishea said, and then paused as if unsure of how to continue.
“I will do everything in my power to help Morracor, do not worry.” Glyph told her, and forced himself to smile. He was doing that a lot lately.
Ishea nodded and squeezed his hand in response. Glyph walked slowly toward the Living Tapestry once more, and examined the scene more closely. The way the light filtered through the trees, it must be sunset. ‘Shit, that would be just about when I will be returning’. He thought. ‘Amos must have figured that out as well, and was trying to warn me. I may only have a few seconds to react once I get there, and since the tapestry is from Amos’s perspective, all I should have to do is focus on him and teleport to his position, and that will lead me to Morracor.’ Glyph ran his hand over the fabric where the image of Morracor lay. ‘There may yet be time to prevent this from happening.’ he thought, ‘and then it will be time to do something about Tsach’s army on Earth.’ After what had taken place in the Pass, Glyph found he was feeling a bit more confident about facing the Arch demon. ‘Once his armies are gone, I can devote my full attention to finding and killing that fucker once and for all.’ he decided.
When Glyph turned back around, he heard Toban and Mahjdi swapping tales about what they had seen Glyph do in the last hour.
“So that is what we heard.” Toban said shaking his head back and forth in disbelief. “Was it truly half the mountain?” He asked the Ambassador.
“Well, perhaps it was only a third. You can see for yourself out on the courtyard of the temple.” Mahjdi replied, and the pair excused themselves.
Ishea sat there with her head resting in her hand leaning against the makeshift bed. Glyph made his way over to her and wrapped his arms around her. “I do not know how much more of this I can take, Glyph. Tsach, this prophesy, Albast, the Tome. What does it all mean, and where will it take us?”
Glyph was about to answer, when a thought suddenly struck him. “Ishea, where is the Tome of Dark Lore?”
“Where you have kept it for the last two years, in the royal vault at Kivas.”
Suddenly his eyes grew wide. “Shit! That god damn mother fucker!” Glyph swore violently.
“Glyph! What is it?” Ishea exclaimed
“I’ll bet that’s what he’s up to, that cocksucker!” Glyph fumed and began to pace back and forth.
“Glyph, what? Who are you talking about?” Ishea demanded.
“Tsach, Ishea. I’m talking about Tsach.” Glyph said slamming his fist into his other hand repeatedly.
“I still do not understand.” Ishea insisted.
“Tsach. He’s not on Earth, and he’s not here, at least right here anyway.”
“Then where is he?” Ishea asked.
“He’s headed for Kivas. Tsach is going to retrieve the Tome of Dark Lore. Solkit told me the demons that attacked the monastery were looking for it. It all makes sense.” Glyph told her.
“But Glyph, that is not possible. How could Tsach possibly know where it was being kept?” Ishea questioned.
Glyph shot her a look. “Think about it, Ishea. Who knows that the Tome is in Kivas?”
“Well, Toban, myself, the other wizards…” Ishea said trailing off.
“And?” Glyph prodded.
Suddenly her eyes grew wide with sudden understanding. “Zarish!” she exclaimed. “But why? What use would the Tome be to Tsach now?”
“I don’t know, but I do know a certain female demon who might be able to answer that. Assuming I let her live long enough to tell us.” Glyph declared.
He had taken only two steps toward the door when he realized it would have to wait. “Take the army to Kivas!” Glyph managed to shout. As the winds suddenly poured through the room leaving nothing left to breathe, Glyph understood. He had played directly into Tsach’s hands. The Arch Demon had kept him occupied long enough to claim his prize. There would be no way Glyph could beat him to Kivas. All he could do now was to try and follow him there.
With that thought Glyph was engulfed in darkness and slid away into the vast expanse of the cosmos.