Glyph jolted upright, and quickly glanced about. The rough hewn logs that made up the walls of the room were familiar to him. This was the room in Ishea’s cabin, where she had taken him on his very first day in M’atra, all those many years ago. It felt like it had before, and a strange wave of déjà vu momentarily overcame him, but Glyph only had one thing on his mind right now, and that was defeating Tsach. Glyph leapt to his feet from the dusty bed in the corner and ran across the room. He burst through the door, rushing into the great room of the cabin.
“Glyph! Thank the gods you are all right. Where have you been? We were expecting you hours ago.” Ishea exclaimed. She, Toban, and Mahjdi sat around the large oak table near the kitchen.
“There’s been a slight change of plans.” Glyph said as Amos emerged from further down the hallway. Then he did a double-take as his eyes snapped back to Mahjdi. “What are you doing here?” He demanded gruffly.
“Forgive me, Glyph, but in my state of exuberance over the fate of mankind, I stowed away in a large trunk as your friends left Priam. I take full responsibility for my actions.” Mahjdi replied.
“We found him early this morning, calling for help. Apparently one of our officers had noticed the trunk and locked it.” Toban added.
Glyph sighed and shook his head, then noticed the weird look on Amos’s face and quickly introduced the aging monk.
“I do not understand, Glyph. Was Albast unable to send you back?” Ishea stated ignoring the others.
Glyph hesitated. It was bad enough that he had been the one to tell Ishea that Albast was still alive, but now he would have to tell her he was dead.
“You might as well tell her.” Amos interjected as he rubbed his eye.
“Tell me what?” Ishea asked. The look of worry grew on her face with every passing second.
Glyph looked at her, but was unable to bring himself to say the words, and after a few seconds of silence hung his head and pointed at Amos.
“Albast is dead, Ishea.” Amos said bluntly.
Ishea began to tear up immediately. “Why, Glyph?” She asked, choked up, and began to sob. “Did you–.” She started but couldn’t finish.
“I didn’t kill him.” Glyph said and put his hand on her shoulder, but she jerked it away.
“He’s telling the truth, Ishea. I saw the whole thing. Albast threw himself onto Glyph’s sword. Glyph didn’t even know he was there until it was too late.” Amos told her.
Ishea reigned in her emotions and sniffed loudly. “So, the prophecy has still come to pass.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.” Amos acknowledged, and looked at Glyph, who had spied the living tapestry in the corner of the room and was making his way there. The blank canvas sprang to life as Glyph approached, and showed him the scene of Albast’s death once more. Without another thought, Glyph hit the white square in the bottom right corner and held his breath as the threads reweaved themselves into the next scene, the last scene of the Drayden Propheticals. Glyph took a step back when he saw the image.
‘Amos was right. He had been right all along.’ Glyph thought as he tried to steady his shaking knees. The scene showed Tsach standing on the highest parapet of Kivas throwing Glyph’s battered and broken body over the edge. All the other prophecies had come true, even if it was with Albast and Drayden’s help. Glyph could not shake the feeling that this scene too would happen.
“I tried, Glyph. We tried. But it’s still come down to this.” Amos said from behind him.
Albast had known. He had foreseen his own death and made it happen, and now Glyph was faced with the same dilemma. He was going to die. ‘How could Albast have possibly thought that my death would help to defeat Tsach? It makes even less sense than it did yesterday.’
“Glyph?” Ishea asked. When Glyph did not respond she said, “Amos?”
Glyph turned to face her. “I’m going to die. Tsach is going to kill me.”
“My Lord, no! There must be some kind of mistake, this cannot happen.” Toban shouted.
“See for yourselves.” Glyph muttered and opened their minds to see what the Tapestry had shown him, as they moved closer for a better view.
Ishea began to cry again, and the sound of it grated on Glyph’s last nerve. Glyph glanced around. “Where’s Zarish?”
“I am sorry, Glyph. The wagons we used to transport her could not traverse the rocky path leading to the cabin. We were forced to continue on horse back and leave her behind. I’m afraid she is several leagues–.” Toban began to say when a bright flash filled the room as Glyph teleported the female demon into the cabin. She took human form immediately and looked around at them somewhat startled by her sudden change of scenery.
“Astounding!” Mahjdi proclaimed.
“What has happened?” Zarish demanded. Glyph merely pointed to the tapestry and she too was able to see the last prophecy. “I see.” The female demon stated stoically.
After a minute of silence Glyph finally spoke. “We only have one shot at this. I have to face Tsach alone.”
“Glyph, I could not stand by idly and allow you to face Tsach by yourself.” Toban said firmly.
Suddenly Amos smiled. “No, he’s right! If I’m not there to see it happen then it can’t come true. The Drayden prophecies, remember?” He said and pointed at his head.
“It is not that simple, master Amos.” Mahjdi spoke up, and turned from the tapestry to face them.
“What you talkin’ bout, Mahjdi?” Amos said, staring at the ancient monk.
“You have already seen it happen. As have we all, right here in this very room, not more than a moment ago.” Mahjdi said and gestured to the Living Tapestry.
“But, I mean, I have to see it as it happens.” Amos told him.
“Do you? Are you certain?” Mahjdi questioned him.
“Wait, you mean that Amos saw the prophecy on the Tapestry, so he’s already seen the act and doesn’t have to see it in person?” Glyph asked.
“I do not know, Glyph. It is but one possibility, and if true, negates the idea of your facing Tsach alone.” Mahjdi answered.
“But I saw all the others before they happened, and I witnessed them as well. How can there be a prophecy of what I have seen in a prophecy? It makes no sense.” Amos argued.
“As I have said, it is not a simple matter. You have seen it here with us, therefore it could happen the same way even if you are not there to see it when it takes place. The original Drayden may have seen what you have seen just now, an image in a tapestry. To him there would be no difference between this and the real thing. Of course if this is indeed true, then all of the prophecies could have been viewed under similar circumstances. So the idea that their outcomes are dependent upon your presence in order to have them come true, may be false. It is quite a conundrum, one that could take years of meticulous study to unravel for certain.” Mahjdi concluded.
“We don’t have that kind of time.” Glyph said. “If what you say is true then it really doesn’t matter.” He said and paused, deep in thought. “Everybody get ready, we’re going to face Tsach. All of us.”
Amos immediately rechecked his gear, as the others stood and gathered closer together. “What about Mahjdi?” Amos stated as he slung the Mac 10 over his shoulder.
“I have come this far, Glyph. I should continue, if for no other reason than to bear witness to these events. Should things go awry, someone should tell the story of what has happened here.” Mahjdi quickly interjected before Glyph could shoot down the idea.
Glyph eyed the old monk up. “I’ll take you as far as the keep. After we get there, keep your head down and stay out of the way.” He told him. Mahjdi agreed. “If things get too hot between me and Tsach I want the rest of you to get out of the way. I don’t want anyone getting caught in the crossfire, is that clear?” Glyph asked of them, and looked directly at Ishea, whose eyes were still puffy and swollen from her grief.
“I understand, Glyph.” She replied calmly.
“Good. Everyone keep in mind this is my show. Listen to me and do exactly what I say.” With that said, Glyph closed his eyes and a moment later they were all standing above the waterfall around a small rocky path that lead down a little ways to a small outcropping of rock. Glyph had used the King’s entrance on several occasions over the last several years and was no stranger to the surrounding terrain. He led them down the small trail and pulled his sword, laying it on the granite slab so the indentation of the rock matched the hilt and blade perfectly. The giant rock moved aside, and revealed the carved staircase that led them spiraling downward through the chimney-like cavern. They were all unusually quiet as they shuffled into the small antechamber at the bottom, and Glyph confidently laid his hand upon the large ruby mounted in the ornately carved alabaster door. “Open!” He commanded, and they made their way cautiously into the great room behind the falls.
“Where do you think he is, Glyph?” Toban asked in a hushed tone.
“I’m not sure. I don’t want to probe too deeply and risk tipping him off.” Glyph replied.
“It ain’t like he don’t know we’re coming.” Amos commented.
Glyph produced the Divinare crystal from thin air and placed it between his hands. “I’m pretty sure he can’t detect me this way, as long as I don’t create an image of myself that can be seen.” He said and closed his eyes. A moment later he opened them and handed the crystal to Mahjdi. “Stay here. At the first sign of trouble make your way back the way we came and follow the trail to the cabin. You should be safe there.”
“Yes, certainly.” Mahjdi said as he took the crystal gingerly from Glyph’s grasp.
“He’s in the throne room.” Glyph stated, and led the way down the large corridor to his right. After a few twists and turns they found the next spiral stair that led down to the lower levels. When they reached the throne room, Glyph opened a secret corridor around the corner from the main entrance and motioned for Amos and Ishea to enter. “It leads to the rear of the Great Hall. From there you may be able to come at Tsach from behind.” He whispered, then closed it behind them. Zarish and Toban exchanged looks of surprise, for despite their many years in the Keep had not known of the passageway’s existence.
Peeking around the corner at the main doors, Glyph imploded the heads of the two Imps standing guard, and then walked confidently to the entrance. He checked his watch. Nearly ten minutes of his hour had passed; it was time to get on with it. “I don’t think there’s any better way to do this.” He told his companions, and with one mighty gust of wind blew the enormous doors inward and strode into the Hall.
Tsach was sprawled over Glyph’s throne, and actually appeared a bit startled by Glyph’s grand entrance. Though he made no threatening move, Tsach stood and watched as Glyph walked down the center aisle toward him. The Arch-Demon had reduced his normal size, but still towered over everyone at some twelve feet high. Glyph could see that the aisles which lined each side of the room were littered with bodies; most of them unclothed women who lay grotesquely twisted and bloodied in piles. The sight sickened him, and at the same time ignited the fire in his stomach that yearned to be unleashed. Glyph’s eyes began to burn red as he approached the throne.
Tsach began to laugh as Glyph moved forward, with Zarish and Toban following cautiously at a distance. “I see you have found your way home, Glyyyph. I had hoped you would not keep me waiting for too long.” Tsach bellowed, and looked past Glyph. “Zarabish, my loyal servant. You have done well.” He added.
“Thank you my lord.” Zarish proclaimed and reverted to her normal size and shape. Without hesitation the female demon disarmed Toban and pulled him in front of her, placing the tip of her spear to his throat. A look of shock was plainly evident on his face.
“You see Glyyyph, I control everything here.” As Tsach spoke, about a dozen Imps turned visible all around the throne room.
Glyph didn’t even turn around. He stood transfixed on Tsach with his eyes blazing red.
“Bow before your God, and I will spare the life of your pathetic companion.” Tsach commanded. A moment passed and Glyph remained standing. “Very well. Zarabish, bring the human to me.” Tsach demanded.
Glyph made no move toward Zarish as she passed by carrying Toban. He didn’t even turn his head to look at her. Zarish made her way to the bottom of the raised dais where the throne rested, and traversed the six steps in two bounds. She placed Toban on the floor at Tsach’s feet and bent low on one knee. Tsach smiled broadly, and stared at Glyph and laughed again.
A second later Glyph saw Toban vanish, and in the same instant Zarish thrust her spear deep into Tsach’s chest. “For the Great One!” The female demon yelled and twisted the spear inside of the Arch-Demon. Tsach howled, and kicked Zarish hard in the face. Her neck snapped back with a crack, and her body followed, sliding down the stairs to the throne room floor, unconscious or dead. “Impudent bitch! How dare you!” Tsach screamed as he wrenched the spear from his body, which began to heal instantly.
Then Glyph was there, teleporting beside Tsach’s frame. He sliced off one leg and arm with the King’s sword’s molten blue blade before the Arch-Demon even saw him. Tsach sprang back on his three good legs and landed some twenty-five feet away like a wounded spider, looking shocked. Glyph moved forward, and as the Imps descended upon him they began to explode in a series of hideous pops and spurting fountains of green blood.
“Excellent!” Tsach yelled as he regained his composure and a new arm and leg sprouted forth from the bloody stumps Glyph had just inflicted upon him. “I was afraid this would be too easy.” He said as Glyph charged forward.
Glyph pointed his sword, and a blazing blue bolt shot forth toward the Arch-Demon, but Tsach transformed into the dirty brown and black cloud he had seen on Degruthras, and the burning blue beam was swallowed in its expanding darkness. A second later, Glyph found himself engulfed in the cloud, and caught off guard, couldn’t catch his breath. His lungs and throat felt like they were being burned by acid, and his eyes burned in the acrid smoke, making it impossible to see. Glyph slashed his sword about wildly with no effect. He tried desperately to get out of the cloud, but could only cough and hack uncontrollably as the lack of oxygen brought him to his knees.
Glyph felt as though he was about to black out when suddenly he felt two hands grasp his shoulders and the pain in his lungs vanished as he inhaled deeply. His eyes cleared and when he looked up, he saw Ishea with her staff raised high.
“Insuritol cor magi affilium protus, insuritol cor magi affilium protus.” Ishea said fiercely, repeating the words again and again. A protective shield had encased them and held the roiling cloud at bay.
“Bet you’re glad we tagged along now!” Amos said over his shoulder as the former detective finished healing Glyph.
Glyph said nothing, but stood and clapped his hands together. The earth rumbled beneath their feet as twisting, swirling winds sprouted from nowhere and expanded outward from Ishea’s shield of energy. A moment later the cloud dissipated, and Glyph silenced the winds as quickly as they had appeared. Ishea stopped her magical enchantment and the three of them scanned the room quickly waiting for the next attack.
Tsach was nowhere to be found. Glyph spun about and called out, “Coward!”, his voice echoing through the keep. Glyph was pissed, and all he could think about was choking the life from Tsach with his bare hands. “Come and fight me, fucker!”
“Zarish!” The voice was Toban’s, and the call snapped Glyph out of his blinding rage. He turned to see Toban rushing toward the demon’s body, as Amos advanced from the opposite direction.
“She’s still alive!” Amos yelled out. Glyph ran toward the fallen demon and healed her of her broken neck. An instant later she moaned and began to stir.
“Damn, Zarish, that was brilliant!” Amos blurted out. “For a moment I was afraid you really were on Tsach’s side!”
“For all the good it did.” Zarish stated weakly, as Toban and Amos tried to help her to a seated position.
“Where’s Tsach?” Glyph asked, as if anyone there knew the answer.
“I’ll give you one guess.” Amos said bleakly and shot Glyph a look.
“The Tower.” Glyph and Ishea said at the same time, and exchanged looks.
“Glyph, Tsach knows you only have an hour. Time is in his favor. He can afford to play these games, but we cannot.” Zarish said as she slowly got to her feet.
“We have also lost the element of surprise.” Toban added. “He knows that Ishea and Amos are here, and also where Zarish’s loyalty truly lies.”
Zarish extended her hand and caught her spear as it flew to her from across the hall. “I am ready.”
Glyph looked at all of them in turn. They were running out of time, and the thought of losing any one of them struck him to the core. “I have to go alone.” Glyph said.
“Damn it, Glyph, we’ve been over this already, all for one and one for all. Let’s just go already.” Amos quipped.
Glyph ignored him. “Thank you all for everything you have done.” He said soberly, and then turned to Ishea. “I truly love you, Ishea.”
“Glyph–.” She said quickly but in a flash of white light Glyph was gone.
The sun was bright and the breeze cool, as Glyph stepped out of the shadow of the falls. Tsach stood against the far wall of the highest parapet in the mountain keep, grinning.
“Why would you even follow me, Glyyyph? I know you have seen the prophecies from the Book of Morgus. You know what will happen as well as I.” Tsach questioned, as Glyph made his way toward the Arch-Demon once more.
“I have to, Tsach. It’s the whole reason I’m here.” Glyph answered as his sword sprang to life.
“So be it.” Tsach said and a moment later the stone Glyph walked upon morphed upward to encase his body. Just as quickly as it happened the stone blew outward away from him and Glyph continued to walk forward.
The Arch-Demon snarled and let loose a blinding stream of pure red energy at Glyph, who caught it deftly on his blade. Glyph moved both hands to the hilt as Tsach increased the flow of power into his sustained blast of crackling fury. Sweat beaded on Glyph’s forehead as the sheer force of Tsach’s assault pushed him back. Glyph pushed the sword downward to his left, which redirected Tsach’s blast into the stone floor beside him. The ripping sound nearly blew out Glyph’s eardrums as the blast tore into the floor, blowing huge chunks of rock in every direction. A piece of it slammed Glyph in the jaw, twisting him off balance. He managed to throw up his shield before Tsach engulfed him in white hot flames that looked as if the air itself were burning. Glyph extinguished the flames before they could touch him, and responded with his own blast of force. The energy wave continued, passing through Tsach as the Demon turned transparent, and blew out the half wall that surrounded the parapet, sending chunks of rock raining down into the city far below.
Glyph breathed heavily as his jaw reset itself and healed. Tsach was simply too strong, too powerful, Glyph realized with dread. In an instant his shield was ripped away as the Arch-Demon transformed into an enormous lizard beast and leapt upon him, pinning his sword arm to the ground, and digging its enormous claws into his arm and chest. The creature bit into his neck and shoulder and Glyph screamed in agony as the velociraptor-like beast clamped down and shook its head vigorously, flinging Glyph back and forth, ripping muscle and snapping bones. Glyph managed to teleport away before he lost consciousness. Glyph reappeared some forty feet away in the shadow of the falls and crumpled to the ground. He instantly healed himself, and jumped back to his feet to face the snarling beast.
“You are running out of time, Glyyyph.” Tsach’s voice emanated from the beast’s mouth, as it charged him once more. Glyph instantly morphed into a Hexzu and pushed upward into flight as Tsach pounced, passing within inches beneath him. Glyph somersaulted in mid-air and drove the King’s sword into the lizard beast’s back. He could hear Tsach’s howl as the creature turned to vapor beneath him and the King’s sword passed through it with no effect. The dirty brown cloud roiled and struck upward toward Glyph trying to engulf him once more, but Glyph flapped his wings and rose above the cloud as it continued to chase him higher and higher into the sky. Glyph quickly dove to his right and simultaneously blasted the cloud with a gust of freezing wind.
A quarter of the cloud turned to ice and sheeted away from him. Glyph arched his back and spun upward again into a tight loop, and blasted another gust of frigid air at the cloud, but it was already dissipating and vanished before his attack made contact. Sliding into a wide downward spiral, Glyph searched the area for any signs of the Arch-Demon. As Glyph glided by the parapet they had just been on, a section of the stone wall expanded outward toward him in the shape of a giant hand and grasped his legs. Glyph tried to counter, but found himself being swung at terrific speed toward the falls. At the last moment Glyph remembered Grot, and performed the Ki Enatae. Glyph’s body turned completely obsidian; he had become living rock. A moment later he splashed through the waterfall, slammed through the half wall railing, and skittered across the floor into the back wall of the Great room, leaving a trail of obsidian shards behind him. Glyph stood slowly. His skin was pitch black and glassy.
“Great One?” Mahjdi’s voice called out meekly.
Glyph’s head snapped toward Mahjdi who was cowering under a nearby bench. “Get out of here! Now!” Glyph yelled at him as black stone flecks fell from the corners of his mouth. Then he turned and marched back toward the falls.
Glyph could hear loud crashes emanating from above him over the roar of the falling water, and teleported himself back to the tall tower that served as a watch post in times of war. His worst fears were realized the moment he rematerialized. Amos and Ishea stood back to back, fighting an unseen force that lashed at them with bolts of energy. Their shield was weakening as Amos let off bursts of bullets indiscriminately from his machine gun. With a thought, Glyph teleported the pair back to the Great room where he had just been and strode defiantly to the center of the circular landing.
“I’m waiting, Tsach!” Glyph bellowed, and listened as the sound of his voice echoed from the far mountains. He wondered how much of his hour was left, but decided that reverting to his human form to check his watch was just too risky. The granite stones of the floor rose up in front of him and coalesced into Tsach’s form. Glyph raised his hands and thin disks of razor-sharp obsidian flew at the demon, who casually brushed them aside.
“Your death is at hand, Glyyyph!” Tsach yelled at him.
Glyph stood still, breathing heavily. He could see blackened charred chunks of flesh hanging from the Arch-Demon’s left shoulder. He had wounded him at some point, though not seriously, but the hope spurred him to action. Glyph called mentally for the King’s sword, which he had lost when Tsach had launched him through the falls, and smiled as it reappeared in his hand. The blade turned ice blue in Glyph’s grip, and he stared at Tsach through his beady obsidian Hexzu eyes.
“Fuck you!” Glyph cried and instantly launched the sword toward Tsach. Time slowed as Glyph watched the sword tumbling end over end toward Tsach’s enormous frame. The Arch-Demon waved at the sword, but it cut through the blast of force Tsach had thrown. Tsach tried to leap out of the way but the sword spun true and lodged deep into the demon’s abdomen. A startled look crossed Tsach’s face as he stared at the protruding hilt. A bright pink liquid gushed from the wound as the demon took several steps backward, sliding the sword from his body. Glyph wasted no time, and with one swift swing of his arm redirected the flow of the waterfall directly at Tsach, catching the demon off guard, sweeping his four legs out from underneath of him and washing him back into the mountainside that made up the rear of the parapet. Glyph could hear the crack of bones as the Arch-Demon was smashed into the rock with the force of a raging river.
As the water rushed away, Glyph could see Tsach’s crumpled body mending itself exponentially. Teleporting atop Tsach’s body, Glyph punched his rocky arm up to his shoulder into the wound made by the King’s sword.
“Aaggghhhkk–!” Tsach screamed and then stopped short as Glyph let loose another blast of obsidian shards into the demon’s innards. A second later Tsach had Glyph in his grasp and ripped him away from his body as the obsidian shards still flew from Glyph’s hands. Then the Arch-Demon rammed him head-first into the mountainside. Stars filled Glyph’s vision, and he momentarily lost consciousness. Tsach pulled him back for another blow, and Glyph could see the demon arch rigidly in pain as his wounds tried to heal. Glyph gathered his focus and was about to teleport away when Tsach bashed him into the wall again. This time Glyph felt the pain of the impact and his loss of concentration made him revert to his true form. Glyph slid from the demon’s grasp and dropped fifteen feet to the stone floor with a loud crack as the knee of his left leg bent outward at a hideous angle.
Glyph’s head reeled painfully from the impact with the wall and he began to drag himself away from Tsach, who’s labored breathing started to ease as the demon’s healing power began to catch up with the severity of the wounds Glyph had inflicted upon him. As Tsach’s fist dropped like a hammer toward Glyph, Zarish appeared above him and jammed her spear into the Arch-Demon’s wrist and out the other side. Reaching down, she touch-teleported Glyph away from the battle to the far side of the parapet and then blasted Tsach point blank with lightning. Tsach writhed for an instant before morphing into his now signature black-brown cloud and quickly surrounded the female demon’s body.
Glyph stared at the cloud as his sight began to clear and his leg moved back into place. “Zarish!” Glyph called out weakly as he struggled to get to his feet. The cloud that was Tsach roiled backward and Glyph could see Zarish’s body smeared slick with her own black blood, laying lifeless on the cold hard stone. Ishea and Amos appeared a moment later, but as soon as they materialized an unseen force swept them away, tossing them end over end toward the edge of the parapet. “NO!” Glyph screamed and stopped the pair magically before they flipped over the edge. Glyph staggered toward the cloud, and called for his sword, but as it appeared in his hand, the cloud sprang forward in the form of a snake and sank its fangs once more into Glyph’s chest. Glyph was hoisted skyward trapped in the maw of the unholy creature, and then as Tsach coalesced into his true form caught Glyph in his grasp and squeezed hard.
Glyph fought for breath, but had none. Tsach grabbed Glyph with his other hand and twisted Glyph’s body backward with a sickening snap. Glyph suddenly lost all feeling and stars filled his vision as he struggled to remain conscious. Tsach had broken his spine and quickly scurried to the edge of the platform, raising Glyph high above his head. The last thing Glyph saw was Amos cradling Ishea’s body, staring upward at Glyph with a look of horror in his eyes. Then he was falling, and Tsach’s booming laughter followed him as he sailed over the edge of the parapet.
Glyph could see glimpses of the keep and the waterfall as he fell. He thought of Albast and the prophecy, but rather than try to save himself, Glyph let go as the ground rushed closer and closer. Then everything went black as his body splattered onto the cobbled street, right next to the larger-than-life statue of the Great One.