Glyph’s journey past the Great Lake was rather pleasant. Ishea had once described it as the lifeblood of Torlea, and that without out it, civilization would be difficult to sustain on the vast plain. It was very similar to Earth’s Great Lakes; the water had been deposited there by receding ice sheets hundreds of thousands of years ago. Those same ice flows were likely responsible for The Pass and the barren wastes of Degruthra beyond, once an ancient inland sea. He had always noticed the similarities between the two worlds, but it was the differences that he reveled in. Most notable was the clean air. There were no factories spewing out smog and industrial waste, and everything was quiet. Even the cities were quiet, and the lack of noise felt like music to his clouded mind.
O’dista whinnied slightly, and broke Glyph from his thoughts in time to see the next Pylon coming into view. It seemed that everything had beauty in it on M’atra, and the Pylons were no exception. Albast had created them before he had brought Lobrein here, so that he could travel to the other kingdoms more efficiently. What once took months of travel could now be traversed in an instant. The jade colored marbled quartz obelisks were positioned strategically on the intersections of force lines so their power could be sustained indefinitely once activated, much like the portals the demons had created between different worlds. The Runes carved on each side indicated size and direction, and when spoken aloud by a wizard, activated and set the destination point of the pylon. It was devices such as these that Glyph still found beyond his ability to create, and were obviously tied to Albast’s thousands of years of experience.
Placing his hand to the side of the pylon, Glyph spoke the word, and the runes lit up a brilliant orange. The archway appeared between the single crystal on the top and the crystal on the bottom left side, and expanded outward with every tap of his hand. He rode into the archway and found himself just south of the Toleth River. He spurred O’dista into a trot and they arrived at the ford within an hour. The road, which had once been heavily used for trade between Priam and Torlea, had started to fall into disrepair after Priam had voluntarily cut itself off from the other kingdoms. Glyph wondered how much of a problem this was going to be. The monks still maintained that Ishea had murdered their high priest nearly three years ago, and were willing to stake the prosperity of their country on it. His only hope was that the title of the ‘Great One’ might hold more sway with the monks and allow him access, where other ambassadors from the southern kingdoms had failed. After all, he only sought the wisdom of their rectory, surely they would not deny him that much.
The last time he had come north, Glyph had brought the armies of M’atra with him to attack Drathus at The Pass; this was where he had met Covat, general of the Torlean army, for the first time. Other memories of that time came flowing into his mind as he rode on toward the next pylon, and after a while he found himself practicing what he would say to the new high priest of Priam.
That evening he made camp a short distance away from the Pylon that would take him to the base of Toleth’va. The mountains were just barely visible from this point, and he had thought about camping after passing through the Pylon, but wasn’t sure how the monks would feel about him staying the night on their front porch, as it were. Glyph slept fitfully, and found himself dreaming of Albast and Amos fighting the armies of Tsach alone.
When he awoke, he felt a new sense of urgency to seek the information he desperately needed in order to find his way back to Earth. Glyph completely extinguished his campfire with a thought and packed his supplies into O’dista’s saddlebags. He rode past the Pylon came upon the base of Toleth’va. The mountain loomed ominously overhead as Glyph meandered up the road to the gates of Priam.
Glyph found the large doors in the mud-brick and wooden palisade wall that surrounded Priam closed, and paused in front of them, unsure of how to proceed. He scanned the top of the wall for a gatekeeper or guard, but there seemed to be no one about, and he began to wonder whether he should use his magic to open the gate or wait awhile longer. He tied O’dista to a nearby tree, and approached the gate again on foot.
“You have no business here!” A voice suddenly boomed from atop the wall. “Leave at once!”
Glyph stared up to where he had heard the voice but saw no one. “My name is Glyph. I seek an audience with the high priest of Priam!” He shouted upward. There was no response. Glyph paced back and forth a few minutes and repeated his shout again.
“Your presence is not welcome here! The gate will not be opened for you. Now leave!” The voice shouted back at him.
“Why? I don’t understand! I have done nothing to offend the good people of Priam.” Glyph answered.
There was another long pause, and Glyph was beginning to wonder why exactly it was taking so long. He found himself growing angrier as he waited.
“The Southern kingdoms have yet to deliver the sorcerer Ishea to us to face the crime of murder!” The voice bellowed as if reading a proclamation. “Do not return here unless you bring the criminal to stand trial!”
“I have come to seek an audience with the high priest on an urgent matter concerning the whole of M’atra! You must let me speak with him. It is of great importance!” Glyph yelled back at the top of the wall.
This time he waited for well over an hour, and after receiving no response, he mounted O’dista and rode to a nearby glade out of sight of the city wall. Glyph pulled out his pack and retrieved the Divinare crystal. Placing it on a large stone in front of him, he placed his hands to it and searched for Ishea. Within a few seconds he was in the palace at Kivas in one of the royal dressing chambers. Ishea was standing on a stool in front of him and was being fitted for her wedding gown. Prianna was there as well as several handmaidens.
“Ishea?” Prianna said as soon as she saw Glyph’s form before them. Ishea glanced up and immediately smiled.
“Glyph! Did you find what you were looking for?” Ishea asked.
“No. The monks have denied me entrance to the city. They won’t let me in until you have come to stand trial.” Glyph replied, eyeing her up.
“I am not surprised. I guess I will see you home sooner than I had thought.”
Glyph scratched his head. “No. I want you to come here so we can get this taken care of. You’re innocent Ishea, you–.”
“Absolutely not! I do not appreciate their accusations in the least, and I will not bow down to their law. Glyph, we are to be married in a few short days. I will not put the wedding off again, and certainly not for something as trite as this!” Ishea replied, her temper beginning to flare.
“Ishea, we have to know what they know. There might be something there that can help us find a way to Earth.”
“No Glyph, I refuse to lower myself to their standards. Just come home, we can find another way.” Ishea replied.
“Look, you aren’t guilty, so what’s the harm in –.”
“No Glyph. That is my final word on the subject, I do not want to hear anything more about it, and unless the next words out of your mouth are about the wedding, our conversation is done.” Ishea interrupted once again.
Glyph stared at her openmouthed for a moment, then pulled his hands away from the crystal. What the hell? Glyph thought. “This is really pissing me off!” He growled at no one in particular. “Earth is being invaded, my only hope of finding a way there lies in Priam, they won’t let me in unless I bring them my future wife to try her for murder, and she refuses to do it even though she is innocent.” Glyph started mumbling as he re-wrapped the crystal and placed it in his bag. “Why does this shit always happen to me?” He yelled out to the treetops trying to vent his growing frustration.
Glyph sat on the ground and tried his daily meditation to help him relax, but it only served to fuel his growing anxiety over the current situation. The more he thought about it the angrier he became. After a bit it turned to rage.
“I’m the fucking Great One, God damn it! I’m tired of asking politely. They will listen to me!” He finally screamed through clenched teeth. Glyph took two steps and vanished, only to reappear in mid-stride before the wooden gate of Priam.
“I am the Great One!” Glyph shouted, magically amplifying his voice. “I am the line between good and evil, the man of light and darkness. Sworn protector of M’atra! I demand audience with high priest or I will level this mountain to dust!” Glyph yelled. He stared at the gate before him. He could feel the power coursing through him as a blue aura engulfed his body. ‘Where are they?’ Glyph wondered. ‘Not even so much as a reply.’
Glyph seethed as he stood there, he had had enough. Placing his feet firmly in the dirt, Glyph fed his immense energy into the ground beneath him, and the Earth immediately began to shake. The vibrations spread outward like a wave flowing under the walls of the gate, through the city, and into the mountain itself.
Glyph held the continuing vibration for nearly a minute, just to give everyone proper notice, then ramped it up a notch. The ground around him rocked back and forth, and the wooden palisades of the gate began to twist in the ground as it shook. The lashings and tar binding the posts of the gate stretched and creaked as they were pulled to and fro.
“Hold! Hold! The high priest approaches! Hold! The High Priest is coming!” A shout rang out over the din of quaking earth.
Glyph glanced up, somewhat surprised, and spied a monk atop the gate calling out as he clung to the shaking wall. Reigning in on his power, Glyph brought the quake back to a vibration until the gate opened and a monk in a crimson robe approached him with a steady even gait.
“I am Solkit, High Priest of Priam. You may cease your hostility, I have granted your audience.” Solkit said calmly.
Glyph shut down his power immediately, and bled the excess off into the air around him causing his blue aura to dissipate into the breeze.
“What is so important that you would bring fear and suffering unto the people of Priam?” Solkit immediately demanded.
Glyph eyed Solkit up. “The world is once again in danger. The demon Tsach stops at nothing to increase his armies and raw materials. His forces invade another world as we speak. I ask that I be given access to your repository, and any personal writings of the sorcerer Albast.” He tried to explain.
“We care not what happens to other worlds, only M’atra.” Solkit said very matter-of-factly. “Your request for entrance to the city has already been denied, that includes the repository and the monastery on Toleth’va.”
“Until I deliver Ishea to you to stand trial.” Glyph continued for him.
“I see you were paying attention after all.” Solkit responded.
Glyph could tell Solkit was a bit uneasy about the whole encounter, but he could also tell he was prepared to stand by his decision. “You can’t have a trial if you already believe she is guilty.”
“It is our way and our law. I can assure you, the trial will be most fair. The sorceress will be given every opportunity to defend herself and prove her innocence. We are not heathens, and we are not without compassion, but our laws are absolute and we are bound by oath to uphold them.” Solkit stated.
“How can she defend herself if she doesn’t know what she is up against?” Glyph asked hoping to find the loophole that might allow him inside.
“The accused is given that information before the trial. However, since the sorceress Ishea is not here, she cannot receive that information.” Solkit said.
“Then allow me to prepare a defense on her behalf.” Glyph replied.
Solkit shifted a bit. “It is rather unusual, but not unheard of.” He said and snapped his fingers once. Another monk stepped out from behind the gate with a burlap bag and carried it over to where Glyph stood. “Read the charging documents, arrangements can be made for you to talk to the witnesses. Make your own decision Great One. If you agree with us, then deliver the sorcerer Ishea to us for trial. If not then leave this place, or destroy us. We are prepared to die for our beliefs.”
The monk then handed the bag to Glyph, and without another word they both turned and walked back to the gate. Glyph watched as it shut behind them. Part of him really wanted to try and level the place, but he knew he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He wasn’t even sure if he could. The threat had at least gotten him one step closer.
Returning to the glade where he had tied up O’dista, Glyph magically created a table and chairs out of the rocky ground. Placing the bag upon the table, he pulled out several scrolls. The first contained the list of charges. There were only two: murder, and theft. He had known about the accusation of murder, but theft? Reading on, Glyph slowly began to piece together what the monks believed to have happened, but something was wrong. There were several eyewitness accounts from monks who had clearly seen Ishea come into the mountain, enter Verto’s chambers, and leave with a leather-bound book. The question Glyph could not reconcile is why they would lie? There seemed no obvious answer.
Someone must have assumed her shape, a demon perhaps? The gate was still accessible at the time, or it could have escaped into the mountains during the battle with Drathus’s army at the Pass. But why? Why kill Verto? What would a demon have to gain, unless his original assessment was correct, and it was looking to divide the kingdoms and cause resentment against the sorcerers of M’atra. Glyph sat back in his chair and stretched; the monks were nothing if not thorough, they had literally left no stone unturned.
“Theft of a leather-bound book.” He said out loud, and O’dista looked up at him from the patch of grass he had been grazing on. “Could it be the Tome of Dark Lore?” Glyph questioned. He could easily believe that the demons would want to retrieve their precious book, but if that were true, how could Ishea have gotten a hold of it? Glyph decided the best defense would be a good offense, so he gathered his wits and prepared himself to contact Ishea again. She had to remember something, someone had to have seen Verto give her the book at the encampment outside of the gate in Degruthra. All he would need would be a few witnesses of his own to throw enough doubt into the mix.
Glyph pulled the Divinare Crystal from his pack and placed it on the table. ‘Here goes nothing.’ He thought, and placed his hands on the crystal. Within a few moments Glyph found himself in Ishea’s quarters. Ishea was brushing her silver hair, which had grown back in the years since Cruix had hacked it off in her inner sanctum. Her eyes immediately lit up as she saw him in the mirror.
“How long till you are back home Glyph? I sorely miss you.” Ishea said as she turned to face him.
“I’m not coming back just yet. I am going to try and prove your innocence to the people of Priam, but I will need your help.” Glyph explained.
“I thought we had already gone over this Glyph, you know how I feel about it.” Ishea replied frowning.
“You’re right, I do. What you don’t know is how I feel about it. I won’t take much of your time, I just need to know exactly where and when Verto gave you the Tome of Dark Lore, and anyone else who was with you at the time.” Glyph said a bit forcefully.
“I do not recall.” She said and resumed brushing her hair.
“Damn it Ishea! I am trying to help save the fucking world here, all I want is a little cooperation!” Glyph shouted as he lost his last ounce of patience. “Now where did Verto give you the book?”
Ishea sighed. “I told you all this once.”
“Then tell me again.”
“He gave me the book in Degruthra.” She answered curtly.
“Where in Degruthra?” Glyph questioned her.
“In the camp, outside the cavern that held the gate to Degruthras. He gave it to me there.” She replied
“A few days after we discovered the gate. I really do not see how this is going to help.”
“Fine.” He said, ignoring her comment. “Who was with him?”
“I do not remember.”
“So the High Priest was alone?”
“I did not say that. It was at night and all the monks look similar to me.” Ishea replied hotly.
“Was anyone else there?”
“No.” Ishea answered. Her aggravation with him was clearly beginning to show.
“So you’re telling me that Verto, and several monks, showed up in the middle of the night outside your tent, and there wasn’t so much as a guard who may have seen him enter the camp? How did Verto know where you were? Surely someone had to have escorted him to your tent.”
“I am sure someone did, but I do not remember who.” Ishea exasperated.
Glyph shook his head. “So there is absolutely no one who can corroborate the fact that Verto was even in the camp at all?”
Ishea shook her head no.
“Fine. What did he say when he got there?” Glyph asked, continuing his line of questioning.
“I do not understand.”
“What did he say? Did he just hand you the book and leave or what?”
“He showed me the spell, and gave me the book, and then he left!” Ishea yelled, nearing hysterics.
“Ishea, no one has ever been able to give the book away. Not even me, and surely not someone who had held onto to it for nearly a thousand years.” Glyph said calmly.
Ishea’s eyes blazed purple now, and her face contorted in anger. “He gave me the book!” She screamed at him.
Glyph wanted to believe her, but the lack of details was like a slap in the face. There was no reason for her to be going into hysterics over this, either. Taking a chance, Glyph decided to bluff. “I already talked to Miatsu. He said you left for several days after discovering the gate, and that when you returned, the book was in your possession.”
Ishea’s whole body began to tremble. The mirror on her dressing table shattered and fell from its frame, as she stood. The brush in her hand disintegrated to dust. “I saved you! I had to save you!” She shouted angrily, jabbing her finger repeatedly at his apparition. “When I confronted Verto at Toleth’va, he showed me the book. He told me of the spells he had found within its pages, and when I asked him for it, he refused! So I begged, and I pleaded. I had to find you, there was no one else who could! And when he demanded that I leave, I did what I had to do, what had to be done. I did it for you Glyph, I did it for M’atra! I burned him to death in his own study, and I took the book and left! Are you happy now? Did you get the answers you so desperately needed? I killed Verto, Glyph, me!” She shouted at him one last time before collapsing onto the floor in a heap of sobs and crying wails.