“Fuck!” Glyph screamed, and his voice carried for miles. He just stood there, stunned into inaction, as his mind tried to comprehend what had just happened. There were no answers however, only questions. Soon the other soldiers had gathered around them in a circle facing outward. They were protecting us, Glyph realized, but not one of them asked him why, or what had happened. They only knew that something was wrong, and it was their duty to stay and defend us, for as long as we were going to stand here. The thought of those soldiers eventually brought Glyph back to his senses. He gently helped Amos back to his feet, and lead the distraught wizard back to their home base.
It had been a slow march back. Every so often they would come across some wounded or dying men or Hexzu, and Glyph would lean Amos against a tree, heal the survivors and move on. Amos mostly stumbled, and near the end of their journey took to mumbling incoherently, with words like ‘doomed’, and ‘death’ occasionally coming through quite clearly. Glyph didn’t know what to think, so he tried not to. He could not make sense of what had happened, and his mind had shut down, so his body could run on automatic.
When Lobrein’s voice penetrated the cloudiness of his mind he found he couldn’t answer her. “Glyph, Amos, where are you?” Amos’s body stiffened and became quiet for a moment and then the sobs began again. All Glyph could do was walk, and they continued that way until they reached the encampment.
Prianna was the first to see them as they emerged from the tree line with some fifty warriors, all walking silently. Even though most of them hadn’t seen what took place, they still instinctually remained quiet. Not one of them had spoken the entire time; they had simply picked up their weapons and surrounded the pair as they walked.
“Glyph. Amos.” She called out to the group as if she were unsure it was them. Then she caught sight of them amongst the other soldiers. “Glyph! Amos!” She yelled, and was quickly followed by the broadcast she sent out telepathically. “Glyph and Amos have returned!”. As she ran toward them, the group parted to allow her access. “Glyph, what is wrong, what has happened?” She asked him.
A second later Miatsu appeared, followed by Lobrein. “Glyph?” Lobrein asked, and at the sound of her voice Amos fell to his knees weeping. Lobrein’s eyes grew as wide as saucers. “Glyph, where is Albast?!” She demanded. Glyph didn’t know what to say. He felt numb all over, as if it was a dream. When he didn’t answer, Lobrein began to tear up. “Where is he!?” She screamed violently, and slapped Glyph hard across the face. “Answer me!” Lobrein demanded, and shoved Glyph forcefully backward several steps.
“Lobrein I–.” Glyph started, but stopped. How could he explain what had happened when he didn’t know himself? The next thing he knew Lobrein had tackled him to the ground and began to wail on his chest and face with her fists. He halfheartedly tried to defend himself, but couldn’t. He knew he had just killed her husband, and part of him felt he deserved it, and probably more. The ‘more’ however didn’t come.
“Freeze!” Miatsu shouted the word of command so loud that everyone within the sound of his voice stopped instantly. Glyph could see Prianna and Miatsu prying Lobrein off of him. In her rage, Lobrein’s guard had fallen and she too had been affected by Miatsu’s spell.
Suddenly Glyph was free again, but he just laid there.
“Get off of me!” Lobrein screeched as she fought Prianna’s grasp, broke loose and headed for Glyph again.
“Stop.” Amos said quietly. “Just stop.” It hadn’t been a word of command, but the way he had said it brought Lobrein up short. “It wasn’t Glyph, Lobrein. Albast threw himself onto Glyph’s sword. He killed himself.”
Lobrein looked stunned, and then collapsed crying onto the grass. Prianna tried to comfort her, as Glyph began to sit up. That was it, Glyph realized as Amos had spoken the words; Albast had committed suicide on his sword. Albast had killed himself.
Miatsu took control of the situation, “Where’s the body?” he asked.
“There is none. He just faded away to nothing. It was part of the Asundering curse. The same thing happened to me when I killed Drathus and the curse was broken.” Glyph informed him.
Miatsu let out a long sigh, and with the aid of some of the soldiers Glyph had healed, helped Lobrein and Amos inside the lobby of the nearby mansion. Glyph sat down heavily in an old leather chair as they put Lobrein on the couch. Prianna mopped Lobrein’s brow with a compress, and Amos sat in one of the other chairs. Miatsu stood in the center of the room and looked around at them.
“Okay, what exactly happened out there?” Miatsu finally asked. Glyph described the attack by the Imp.
“And when I turned around he…he was sliding down my sword.” Glyph finished. “Why? Why did he do it?”
“He was fulfilling the prophecy, Glyph.” Amos announced quietly.
“But he said–.” Glyph tried to speak.
“It doesn’t matter what he said. It’s what he did. There was no way you could have stopped it from happening. Albast appeared in front of you, he saw the sword, and he leapt onto it.”
“God damn it!” Glyph shouted. He felt betrayed, and his anger began to boil in the pit of his gut. “Now what?” Glyph demanded. “He was going to send us back to M’atra, I was going to have time to fight Tsach! And now…what now?” Glyph raved, stood and started pacing back and forth. “That means I’ll only have an hour to find Tsach, and defeat him, before I’m sucked back here, and if I don’t then he’ll have Ishea. He’ll kill her, or worse–. God damn it. Mother fucking shit hole!” He spouted off and rubbed his face with both hands. “All because of his damn fucking prophecy! How could he be so damn certain of it? Who made him god all of a sudden!”
“Glyph, please calm down.” Miatsu said.
“No! I will not calm down. That mother fucker killed himself when we needed him most, and now I’m left holding the bag as always. Mother fucker!” Glyph cursed and kicked the chair over onto its back, and into the wall. He could hear Lobrein’s sobs, and that pissed him off even more.
“Perhaps he knew something we did not.” Prianna suggested.
“No. No he didn’t.” Glyph snapped at her, his eyes bulging. “He didn’t know jack shit! He just took it upon himself to make sure that damned evil fucking prophecy came true, no matter what!” Glyph yelled at them. “Why did he have to be so damned stubborn? My way could have worked, but now we’ll never know, will we? Cause now I have an hour, one lousy, stinking, fucking hour!”
“Glyph, we will find a way, but this is not helping any.” Miatsu told him.
Glyph shot him the look of death. “Don’t you get it?” Glyph shouted, staring wildly at each of them in turn. “I can’t kill Tsach in an hour! Hell, I probably can’t kill Tsach period! Ishea is going to die, and M’atra and Earth will be burned to the ground! And you want to tell me we’ll find a way?!!”
“Glyph! Enough already!” Amos shouted at him.
Glyph turned and stared at him. He felt as though he were about to go supernova, so he let out a long protracted scream and stormed out of the room.
‘This is bullshit!’ Glyph thought as he stepped down into the yard off the front porch. ‘How could I have been so blind? That mother fucker was planning it the whole time. Albast obviously spun me a tale to throw me off track, but god damn! To kill himself just because the Drayden prophecy showed it to him?’ It was hard to fathom the ancient wizard’s reasoning, mostly because there was none. How could he have been so sure that the prophecies needed to take place, when it was so obvious that they should be stopped at all cost?
Glyph wandered around the surrounding forest. Every now and again he would come across some dead bodies from the last assault. Soon the sun began to rise, and realizing he had not gotten any sleep, he made his way back to headquarters. He had calmed down enough that he wouldn’t disturb Lobrein with his colorful remarks about her dead husband. The whole idea still didn’t sit well with him, but there was really nothing he could do about it.
When he reached the house, Captain Jon Haddix was waiting for him on the front porch. “Good morning.” The Captain said as Glyph approached. The man’s cheery disposition made Glyph feel even more sour inside, but he knew it was just because Haddix was in love.
Glyph grunted his acknowledgement. “What’s so good about it?”
Haddix shrugged it off. “The President is here. He would like to have a word with you.”
“Why am I not surprised?” Glyph said dryly.
Haddix escorted him inside to a large den in the back of the mansion, which had been converted into a conference room. The President and General Eddings were seated at a long table in the center of the room drinking coffee.
“Glyph, so good to see you.” Bradley said as they entered the room. “I understand it was an eventful evening.”
“That’s an understatement. Albast is dead.” Glyph informed them.
“Yes, I heard. I am sorry for your loss.”
Captain Haddix turned to leave but was stopped by Eddings. “I’d like you to sit in on this one, Captain.”
“Of course, General.” Haddix replied and took a seat.
Glyph sat down as well. “First, I’d like to congratulate you on killing Akthule.” The President said.
Glyph nodded. “What’s this all about Mr. President?”
“Glyph I’m just going to be blunt. As I understand it, these prophecies you’ve been viewing, the ones from the Tome of Dark Lore, have been coming true. The last one said you would kill Albast, but you didn’t. I guess my question is, why do you think Albast killed himself?”
He quickly had Glyph’s full attention now. “How do you know about the prophecies?”
“I’ve been talking with your friends Lobrein and Miatsu. They have been keeping me informed of the situation.” He told Glyph.
“Oh. I wasn’t aware of that.” Glyph replied. “As to your question, Albast believed that the prophecy had to come true in order for me to defeat Tsach.”
“But, you disagree. Is that right?”
“Yes. I mean I don’t know really, but the prophecies came from a book that was made by demons for demons. It is inherently evil, and I wouldn’t trust a damn thing it says in there.” Glyph said.
“Glyph, how old was Albast?” Eddings asked.
Glyph looked at the General. “Well, he was on M’atra for about six or seven thousand years, and on Earth for a thousand. But he wasn’t born on that planet, so who knows how long he was around before that. Why? What’s this all about?”
“So he has been trying to help these evil prophecies come true then?” Bradley asked.
“Yes. Now what exactly are you getting at?”
“Well, you see Glyph, I pride myself on being a logical person, and I’m trying to make sense of this little mystery.”
“Yeah, well good luck with that.” Glyph commented. “Why would you want to know about all this anyway? It really doesn’t concern you.”
“Ah, but I think it does. It’s my job to know these things. You see, your intentions here are clear, Glyph; however those of your friends are not. I’ve made it a point to find out as much about your situation as possible, and I have found that Albast in particular had been operating under a different set of instructions. It seems to me that he has been perpetuating these prophecies, and that you have been trying to stop them. Is that essentially correct?” Bradley asked while looking at some scribbled notes. Glyph nodded affirmative and wondered where this was headed.
“So after I talked with Miatsu earlier this morning, I got to wondering. How important are these prophecies to the continued existence of the Earth, and why would a seven thousand year old man dedicated to protecting his world from this demon scourge deliberately commit suicide to ensure that a known evil prophecy would be fulfilled?”
“I guess you’d have to have asked him that.”
“Allow me to extrapolate a bit further, please stop me if I’m wrong. How many of these prophecies are there?”
Glyph thought a bit “Seven or eight, I think.”
“And how many of those did Albast have a direct hand in trying to make come true?”
Glyph scratched his head. “Half, maybe. I believe all the ones I have seen since I returned to Earth.”
“So, let’s see then.” Bradley flipped back a few pages and started reading. “By my count there are eight so far. The first was detective Bogg discovering your disappearance. The second was Drayden’s death and transference of knowledge to Amos. The third was of Albast altering your curse. The fourth one was of Tsach’s invasion. The fifth was a meeting of the combined armies of Earth and My-atra, the sixth was of our meeting with Tsach, followed by Morracor’s death, and finally Albast’s death. Is that correct?”
“Yes.” Glyph replied, the man had been busy, obviously.
“It would appear to me that Albast could have had his hand in all of them to some extent.” Bradley said.
Glyph thought about that for a minute. Then he reached over and took the list of prophecies from Bradley’s hand and studied it. All but Drayden’s death, but if Drayden knew he was going to be replaced, and knew that Albast was on Earth, then it could have been Albast who had steered Bogg in his direction in the first place. Not to mention, Drayden knew it would happen and he believed that the prophecies had to come true as well. “Now that I look at it, you could be right.” Glyph conceded, and handed the paper back to Bradley.
“Do you have any idea how many prophecies are left?” He questioned Glyph.
“No, oh wait, yes. Amos let slip that there is only one more prophecy for me to see.”
“So it all comes down to you then.”
“Well yeah, but I don’t quite follow you.” Glyph answered.
“All the other prophecies were helped, encouraged if you will, to come true by either Drayden or Albast. But there is one left, Glyph, and it will be up to you to decide what to do about it.”
Glyph tilted his head and furrowed his brow a bit as the meaning of President Bradley’s words sunk in.
“What I’m getting at is, will you still fight against what the last prophecy shows you, or will you encourage it to take place?”
“Why would I –.” Glyph started to say and then stopped, as he began to see Bradley’s point.
“This leads me to my original question.” Bradley interjected. “Why would an immortal seven thousand year old man, dedicated to the protection of his planet, commit suicide to fulfill a prophecy?”
“He obviously thought it was important.” Glyph stated.
“Precisely. It takes an unwavering belief that what you are doing is for certain, without a doubt, the way it has to be, if you are willing to give your own life for it. Albast believed, Glyph. He believed without a doubt that he was correct, and he died for that belief.” There was a moment of silence before he continued. “I have to think that it was damn near the most important decision he ever had to make. Now it’s your turn. If what Albast believed was that important that he gave up his own life, perhaps you should at least consider that he may have been correct.”
“I–.” Glyph started to say and stopped. What if he’s right? What if Albast was right? Yes, it was terrible what had happened to Morracor and Albast, but if the prophecies really were shown in a way to make Glyph want to stop them, then maybe he shouldn’t. Glyph rubbed his face again. He was almost too exhausted to think right now.
“That was very enlightening Mr. President, and certainly gives me something to think about.” Like I didn’t have enough already, he thought.
“I’ve seen all the latest reports. There’s another whole army out there coming across the Mississippi as we speak. We can barely handle half of what’s already here. As much as I hate to say it, there’s no way we can hope to win this one, even with your help. It will only be a matter of time before they reorganize their pecking order due to Akthule’s death, and when they do, we’re in for one major shit storm.” Bradley explained. “It really does all come back to you, Glyph. I understand you will be confronting Tsach during your next time on My-atra. I would like to take this time to extend to you my best wishes and good luck. You truly are our only hope.”
Glyph stood and shook the President’s hand. “It seems you have a pretty good understanding of the situation, Mr. President.” Glyph said.
“Like I said, it’s my job.”
“Was there anything else?” Glyph asked.
“No. I’m not trying to tell you what to do, I just want you to consider your options carefully.”
“I will, President Bradley.” Glyph told him and nodded at General Eddings. He glanced at Captain Haddix to see if he was leaving as well, but Eddings had motioned for him to stay behind. Glyph walked down the corridor to the stairs and went directly up to his room. ‘That was interesting.’ Glyph thought. ‘I wonder if Albast had anything to do with that little meeting?’ Glyph chuckled. The President had made a pretty convincing argument, though one he didn’t really want to hear. He was pretty sure he had had a similar discussion with Mahjdi just a couple of days ago, only he had held the opposite opinion. ‘The choice will be mine alone. I guess the decision to follow it or not will depend on what the last prophecy has to show me.’ And with that thought Glyph drifted off to sleep.
It was afternoon when he was roused from his sleep by Amos’s voice echoing through his head. “Glyph. The first wave of their reinforcements has arrived. Things are beginning to stir in the enemy camp, and I think they’re getting ready to move against us.”
“Okay.” Glyph answered back. He checked his watch; one thirty-six. Nearly seven hours had passed. Time flies while you sleep. But instead of getting up, he just laid there. Thoughts of fighting Tsach filled his mind, and he kept trying to envision how he would go about confronting him. He could teleport in, but Tsach would likely sense that. He knew he would have to think outside the box to gain the upper hand, but what? He would have to think big, and do things he had never tried before. The idea didn’t sit well with him. The last battle to save the universe wasn’t the time to be trying new things.
Then there was the matter of the last prophecy, and he wouldn’t even know what that was until he got back to M’atra. After a bit, his head hurt. Why did it have to be so complicated? After another half hour had passed, Glyph decided he should go check on everything, not that what happened here would make much of a difference. Still, it took his mind off of other things. Glyph got ready and made his way outside.
He went to the mess tent first but there was no food. There was a new desk in the corner and soldiers were coming and going from there at a rapid pace. Glyph made his way over and found Captain Haddix behind the desk handing out orders to certain people and talking to others. After a few minutes there was a break in the traffic and Glyph walked over to see what was going on.
“Captain, what’s the good word?” Glyph asked him.
“It’s ‘General’ now.” Haddix informed him, indicating the star on his collar.
“Congratulations.” Glyph said.
“Save it, it won’t mean much unless we win. I guess I should say unless you win. Perhaps we can congratulate each other tomorrow.” He said, and gave Glyph a quick smile.
“I’ll be sure to do that. So General, how’s it going?”
“Not well. I’m afraid. Rations are running low. We might receive a truckload or two by the end of the day, but it won’t be enough. We’re also out of ammo, we rationed out the last of it this morning, and now we’re having to deal with deserters.” Haddix told him.
“Deserters? Really?” Glyph asked surprised.
“They can see the writing on the wall. Everyone was hopeful up until we learned that another army the same size as the last one was on its way here. We’ve lost over half of our forces fighting the first one, and now… well, now we don’t even have ammo for our guns. A lot of people think they’ll be better off if they go and hide somewhere, and try to wait it out.”
“Damn. I guess I can’t blame them.”
“No, but it does make our situation here that much worse.”
“I see.” Glyph said for lack of something better. For once he’d like to hear some good news. “Well, I’m off to check on the rest of the gang.”
“Glyph, wait. There’s something else I’d like to ask.” Haddix said.
The new General looked this way and that to see if anyone was listening, and then he stood so he could be closer to Glyph. “If all this goes well, and we’re both still around tomorrow, well I would kind of like to ask your permission to marry Prianna.”
Glyph started to laugh, and quickly choked it back to spare the man’s feelings. “I think you need to ask Prianna. Don’t you?”
“Well yes.” He said and blushed. “I just wanted to make sure it was okay by you.”
“Uh yeah, sure. You have my blessing.” Glyph said as he finally understood what the man was getting at. “You do realize that she’s immortal right?”
“Oh yeah, I understand that completely.” Haddix replied and winked.
Glyph wrapped his knuckles on the desk twice, nodded and smiled as he walked away. The rest of the day was spent trying to figure out what the enemy was waiting for, and by the time his hour drew close the demon camps were overflowing with Grull and equipment. Hopefully his battle with Tsach would take care of all that. He gathered with the other wizards shortly before his departure. Everyone was of a somber mood. They all realized this may be the last time they saw each other alive, but no one wanted to voice it.
Amos wore his black ops uniform, and was steadily checking and rechecking all his gear. Lobrein sat quietly staring out the window, and Miatsu was pacing. Only Prianna seemed to be in a happy mood as she sat on the sofa humming an ancient tune from some distant world while rolling acorns between her fingers.
“Perhaps we should come with you.” Miatsu finally said.
“And leave these people here to die?” Glyph said.
“Face it Glyph, if you don’t succeed they’re dead anyway.” Miatsu countered.
He was right, and they all knew it, but it still didn’t feel right for some reason. “It won’t make any difference, Miatsu. This is my responsibility. With more of you there, I’ll only have a better chance of being distracted. It’s bad enough I have to worry about Ishea, Amos and Zarish.” Glyph said and looked around. “Where is Zarish anyway?”
As if on cue, the female demon walked into the room. “I have spoken with Karatchic. The demons who have defected understand the basic rules of your society, and have expressed an interest to help fight.”
“Oh.” Prianna said, and reached out and magically produced a long piece of tightly woven pine branches. “I thought perhaps they could wear these, either around their head or arm. It would be easier to identify them that way.”
“It could work, I suppose.” Glyph added. “The real trick will be to make sure our soldiers understand that they’re friendly. There are more than a few out there that would shoot first before looking. Not to mention, every one of them has already lost someone they knew at the hands of the demons. I’d imagine their prejudice runs pretty deep about now.”
“I can handle that. We’re going to need all the help we can get.” Miatsu stated.
“Very well then, I will inform them that you will be coming to visit.” Zarish said, and closed her eyes for a moment, communicating with Karatchic telepathically.
“You ready?” Amos asked Glyph. “It’s almost that time.”
Glyph nodded yes. “Do you really need all that stuff?” Glyph asked him pointing at his weapons.
“No, not really, but I’m more comfortable with it, and they make me feel better.” Amos explained.
“Zarish?” Glyph said.
“I am ready.” She replied.
Glyph took several deep breaths to try and shake the nagging feeling of impending doom he had been feeling all day.
“Any last instructions?” Miatsu asked Glyph.
Glyph looked at the three of them, Miatsu, Prianna, and Lobrein. There was an all too real possibility he may never see them again. “Yes.” He replied. “Stay alive.”
“We will try.” Miatsu stated as the wind sprouted from nowhere inside the room, and time began to slow once more. ‘One hour’ Glyph thought ‘One fucking hour to save the universe.’ The darkness began to creep in around him, and a moment later they were gone.