Glyph stared at her openmouthed. He knew she had been hiding something from him, but he still didn’t want to believe what he had just heard. Glyph didn’t know what to do for her, and all he found himself saying was “I’m sorry.” After watching her a few more moments, he pulled his hands from the crystal, and found himself in the small glade outside of Priam. He wiped a tear from his eye and thought “Now what?”
Glyph stood up from his stone chair, and though it was several hours away, set his mind to creating some sort of shelter for the night. Concentrating on a nearby thicket, Glyph brought his powers to life and the thorny vines obeyed, growing and weaving themselves together to form a barrier against the elements. He was quite pleased with the result, as it had taken him more time than usual to master the spell Ishea had taught him months ago. It was tall enough to sit under, and long enough to keep him covered when he lay down. He had thought about just sleeping under the stars as he had the last few nights, but the sky had turned cloudy and the last thing he wanted was to wake in the middle of a downpour. Glyph then pulled the saddlebags from O’dista, placed his belongings beneath his newly created shelter, and put the scrolls away to keep them dry in case it did rain.
The sight of the scrolls got him thinking once more. “Murder and theft. Ishea killed Verto for the book of evil. She was guilty, and the monks knew it. To bring her here and subject her to a trial would condemn her to whatever punishment the monks decided upon. No wonder she didn’t want to talk about it. She had lived with the guilt for three years, and every time I brought it up reminded her of that fact.”
He paced around the glade while pondering his new situation. Glyph understood why she killed Verto. He probably would have done the same thing had their situations been reversed. She murdered him for all the right reasons, saving M’atra being the chief among them, but would it be enough of a defense to get her off the hook with Solkit? Somehow he doubted it. What he really needed now was an expert in Priam law, and it was unlikely he would get any help here. It was quite clear, as usual, that it was up to him, and no one else.
Tossing the bag over his shoulder, Glyph teleported back to the main gate and once more called out for an audience with Solkit. A half hour later Solkit emerged from the city gate.
“Have you made your decision Great One?” Solkit inquired, trying to mask his nervousness.
“I have. I believe that Lady Ishea should stand trial, but I am not trained in the nuances of Priam law. I will need to familiarize myself with the law if I am to present her case.” Glyph stated.
Solkit’s relief was visible upon his face. “I am glad you have chosen to see it our way, Great One. I will grant your request, but you will be under escort at all times, and will only be given access to areas of the repository and Toleth’va that pertain to the defense of the accused. Do I have your oath that you will respect our wishes in this matter?” He asked, staring at Glyph intently.
“You have my oath.” Glyph replied, and hoped he was doing the right thing.
Without further ado, Glyph was escorted to the repository, and then to the section on Priam law. The repository was immense, much larger than Glyph could have imagined, and was placed in the lower levels of Toleth’va. He immediately felt overwhelmed staring at rows upon rows of ancient texts, and began to wonder if he was even up to the task. The books seemed to be arranged by the type of crime one had committed. This made it significantly easier for Glyph, who pulled out the first volume on murder. He sat for nearly an hour pouring over the old book without much luck, only discovering that if Ishea was not found innocent she would most likely be executed. Rubbing his temples, Glyph sat back and stretched, taking note of his escorts who stood silently watching his every move. They were obviously of the warrior class, Glyph guessed by their manner of dress. Their robes were black, and ended at the knee. The religious cast wore mainly full-length brown robes, and Solkit wore crimson as high priest. Glyph had seen the warrior class once before, years ago when Verto had assigned a hundred or so to protect him during the second war of Drathus. During the battle, Glyph had become friends with one named Osirus, only to see him die while saving Glyph’s life. The people here were not evil, nor were they zealots looking for blood over the murder of their high priest. They were simply devout, with a strong sense of loyalty and justice.
Leafing through another volume, Glyph suddenly felt another set of eyes upon him. He casually glanced around the room, and noticed a figure hovering just in the shadows of his oil lamp. Glyph stopped what he was doing and stared at the monk with a blank expression. “Can I help you?” Glyph inquired.
The monk moved slowly into the light, and Glyph was surprised by his dark blue robe. Pulling his hood back to reveal his face, the monk introduced himself. “I am Mahjdi.” He said, his glassy eyes glazing at Glyph. There was a pause, as if the monk was unsure of what to say next. “May I ask…?” Another pause. “Are you, I mean, are you the Great One?” Mahjdi finally blurted out.
“I am called the Great One.” Glyph replied looking at the elderly man who now stood before him.
Mahjdi smiled broadly, and stole a quick glance at Glyph’s escorts. “Then it is true…” He said inhaling, his eyes growing wide as he paused again.
“Then what is true?” Glyph asked.
“Hmm? Oh. I am the keeper of the repository, may I be of assistance?” Mahjdi said a bit louder, casting a furtive look at the two warriors standing by the entrance.
Glyph followed his gaze for a quick moment, and then turned back toward the monk in the blue robe, who was imperceptibly nodding affirmative. “Oooh-kay.” Glyph said, drawling out his reply as he tried to decipher Mahjdi’s cryptic behavior.
“I see you have chosen some tomes pertaining to Priam law, murder in particular. Such a nasty business. Was there something specific you were looking for?” Mahjdi said.
Glyph studied the old man; unsure whether or not he could be trusted. On the other hand he had nothing to lose and Mahjdi appeared willing to help if nothing else. “My friend is accused of murdering the high priest of Priam, I am here to study your laws in order to prepare her defense.”
“It was a female?” Mahjdi half gasped, then quickly silenced himself and regained his composure.
“Surely you have heard this already. It happened nearly three years ago.” Glyph stated.
“Oh no, I am a Bibliot. Our order has sworn an oath to study the knowledge of the repository; we know nothing of the outside world. Our job is to study, and provide assistance to those seeking knowledge here.” Mahjdi answered.
“Is that why you wear the blue robe? I have never seen a monk in blue before.” Glyph questioned.
“You are quite perceptive; the blue robe is a mark of our order. It also serves as a reminder to others not to speak to us concerning worldly events. There was a time when we were allowed to roam freely throughout the monastery, but Verto thought the temptation for corruption may be too great, so now we live here within the repository, taken at birth and raised within these walls. It has been this way for hundreds of years.”
“So you’ve never been outside?”
“Not even once.” Mahjdi smiled again. “So how may I help you, Great One?” He asked again, almost giddy over having said the words ‘Great One’.
Glyph shook his head; he wondered if anyone besides the other monks even knew these people exist.
“Oh yes, right. You are defending your female friend against the charges of murder of the high priest. I am afraid she may be in great jeopardy, as there is only one defense against the crime of murder.” Mahjdi said and sighed. He moved silently to another shelf and removed a bound book that looked as old as time itself. Placing the book before him on the table, he opened it about a third of the way and began to slowly turn the pages. “Ah, here it is. It was included by the master sorcerer Albast some seven thousand years ago.” He said and began to read out loud. “And hence the guilt of murder is absolute, barring the defense of the country, and could only be forgiven if it can be proved that the crime was committed for the greater good of the people.”
Glyph couldn’t believe his ears. It was the only defense of the crime of murder, and Albast wrote it.
“It is one of our most fundamental laws, and is likely the reason criminals must prove their innocence, when accused of any crime in Priam. The presumption of guilt is unlike the kingdoms of Torlea and Kivastor where guilt must be proven to obtain conviction.”
“That’s exactly what I’m looking for. Ishea killed Verto for the Tome of Dark Lore, so she could rescue me, so I could help to save M’atra from the demon invasion.” Glyph blurted out without thinking.
Mahjdi’s face turned ashen. “The Guide? Oh great mountain protect me.” He said and sank into a chair beside Glyph.
“Then you know her?” Glyph asked.
“No, I know of her, I know what has been written and prophesized about her.” He said and turned to stare Glyph in the eye. “But can you prove what you say?”
“I think so, it’s the truth. It should be easy.” Glyph replied.
“No one that has used murder for the greater good as a defense has ever succeeded in proving it. If even one member of the tribunal has doubts as to the sorceress Ishea’s motives she will be executed.”
Glyph could feel his headache beginning to throb. “I guess I’ll have to be the first then.” Glyph said and smiled. “What I really need is a good lawyer.”
“I am not familiar with the term ‘lawyer’.” Mahjdi offered.
“Someone who is well versed in the law and how to use it to its fullest extent.”
“Ah, a court counselor. You are permitted to appoint anyone to that position who may be willing. It would be wise of you to do so, especially for one foreign to the law and our culture.” Mahjdi replied.
“What about you? Would you be willing?” Glyph asked him straightforwardly.
“Me? I do not know if it would be allowed. There are those who make a living serving in this capacity, they are the ones you should choose from.” Mahjdi answered.
Glyph however had already made up his mind; he liked this old man, and for some reason felt compelled to trust him. “I think you would make an excellent counselor. You certainly have the knowledge, and someone who doesn’t know anything of the outside world could offer some impartial advice. Besides, with the exception of Solkit, I don’t know anybody else here.”
“I am honored that you would ask me, but I do not believe I would be able to leave the confines of the repository to attend the court. Not to mention the fact that it would require me to learn of events that I should know nothing about. Even so, I would be more than happy to lend you any assistance you may need while you are here.”
“I don’t want to conflict with the order of things, but if I could get Solkit to agree to allow you to serve as my counselor, would you accept?” Glyph asked him.
“If the high priest gives his blessing, I would be honored to be your court counselor.” Mahjdi replied, his face aglow with the possibility.
“Very well, I will speak to Solkit right away.” Glyph said and stood from the table. “I will not discuss my case any further until Solkit gives his blessing as you say. In the meantime, if you could gather any information that you may think could help me prove Ishea’s innocence, it would be greatly appreciated.”
“I will set myself to the task immediately, Great One.”
“Thank you, Mahjdi. I will return soon. I have to get some more facts about what exactly happened here.” Glyph said and approached one of the guards. “Please take me to Solkit. I need to speak with him.” Glyph asked.
The guard nodded and led Glyph up the long stone-carved steps into the large main hall of the mountain fortress. It surprised Glyph that his escort did not lead him directly to Verto’s chamber, but instead to a smaller room nearby. Glyph knocked, and was quickly granted access.
“What is it that you wish to speak to me about, great One?” Solkit questioned as he looked up from some papers on his desk.
“I’d like to have access to the crime scene. I need to gather some facts on how Verto was killed. I would also like to appoint a court counselor on Ishea’s behalf.” Glyph explained.
“Certainly Great One, I see you have made good use of your time here so far. I can take you to the crime scene myself, and as far as your counselor, you may appoint whoever is willing to help. Did you have someone in mind?”
“Yes. I would like to appoint the Bibliot Mahjdi to serve in that capacity.” Glyph stated.
“A Bibliot?” Solkit questioned, a slight smile forming on his face. “Their order has sworn to not have contact with the outside world. Surely Mahjdi informed you of this fact.”
“He has, but said he would agree if you gave your blessing.” Glyph informed him.
Solkit’s brow furrowed as he concentrated, as if weighing a decision of great importance. “It is possible, I suppose.” The high priest said after a long pause. “But that would require him to leave the repository.”
“But not Toleth’va, and the Bibliots were once free to roam within the mountain halls. That would include the court, right?” Glyph asked, trying to persuade Solkit.
“It is not for me to undo what Verto has decreed.” He said to Glyph, staring intently into his eyes. “But I will speak with Mahjdi, and determine if this is something he truly wishes to do.” With that, Solkit stood and retrieved his staff from the corner of the room. “Until then, allow me to show you the crime scene.”
Glyph recognized the staff as the one Verto had carried with him, and fell in step behind the priest as they walked out into the corridor. Solkit lead him directly to Verto’s chamber.
“I thought this was the high priest’s chamber.” Glyph asked Solkit as they stood in front of the door.
“It is. It has remained sealed since Verto’s murder, in the hopes that it may be used to bring his murderer to justice. Since I was Verto’s personal assistant, I have remained in the office assigned to me until such a day comes.” Solkit explained. Tapping the staff twice in front of the door, there was an audible click noise, and the door swung inward several inches. “You may observe anything you wish within the chamber, but please do not disturb its contents. I have need of your escorts for a few moments; they will return to you shortly. If you are finished before they return you must stay here and wait for them. Do you understand?” Solkit asked, again staring intently into Glyph’s eyes.
“Of course.” Glyph replied. He wasn’t sure, but Glyph was beginning to think that Solkit was trying to tell him something. Solkit wasn’t as practiced at hiding his body language as Verto had been, but Solkit hadn’t lived for a thousand years, either. Still, there was something odd about his behavior that Glyph couldn’t put his finger on.
Stepping into the chamber, Glyph began to take in the scene. There on the wall behind Verto’s desk was the scorched outline of his body, still etched clearly on the rock by the blackened soot that surrounded it. Wasting no time, Glyph used a magical detection spell to make visible any magic that had been used in the room, and a blue aura immediately lit up around the place where Verto had been killed. It appeared to Glyph that Ishea had used some form of a fireball to roast the priest where he stood. There was no doubt it had been magically created, and the blue aura was likely an indication of the type of magic used. Glyph shook his head, and wondered why Verto would even show Ishea the book to begin with. Why would he show her the one thing she needed most only to deny her use of it? It didn’t make much sense, and he decided he would have to question Ishea on the matter; after she had calmed down of course.
There was not much else to see. It was clear that Verto had been killed by blue magic, magic that was indicative of the sorcerers of M’atra. Ishea had admitted to as much, and the scene backed her up. Just as Glyph was about to turn off his spell, he caught a flash of red out of the corner of his eye. Glyph went to the bookshelf where he had seen the flash and, upon closer inspection, noticed that red light was filtering out between some books. Glyph carefully removed the books in front of the light, and found a glowing foot-long stone behind them. Glancing about to make sure the guards had not returned, Glyph tapped on the stone and whispered the word “reveal.” The rock turned translucent and Glyph could see a hollowed space behind it containing a book. Transmorphing his hand, Glyph reached through the stone and grabbed the book, and transmorphing it as well, pulled it out of the wall.
Glyph quickly replaced the books upon the shelf, and then knelt down to open the book he had removed from the wall. Inside were all manner of spells and potions, hand-written (he assumed) by Verto himself. Then Glyph saw it; a spell to locate a home world, followed by another to create a portal. “But why?” Glyph said silently to himself. Verto was not a sorcerer; he did not have the skill or the power to perform such a spell, yet here it was. Glyph examined it closely trying to contain his excitement, and suddenly it made sense. Verto had copied everything of relevance that had been revealed to him by the Tome of Dark Lore. The spells reeked of red magic and the arcane, and explained why the area Glyph had found the book had a red aura. Verto must have used a spell from the book of evil in order to hide the copies he had made.
A shuffling at the door caught Glyph’s attention, and he thrust the book into his tunic, and began to stand just as his warrior escorts returned. Glyph tried to act calmly as they entered the room, but knowing he had found what he had been looking for all along was almost too much to contain.
“I am finished here. Please take me back to the repository.” Glyph said trying not to bubble over.
As they left the room, Solkit appeared from around the corner and poked his head inside the door, took a quick glance around to make sure Glyph had not disturbed anything then pulled the heavy wooden door closed. Tapping his staff twice, Glyph heard the ‘click’ noise once more.
“I trust you found everything you needed?” Solkit inquired.
“Yes, the evidence was quite clear.” Glyph replied. A drop of sweat began to roll down from his temple along his jaw. ‘Does Solkit know? Did he want me to find the book? Why else would he have conveniently left me alone there for several minutes by myself?’ Glyph thought as the questions ran rampant through his mind.
“I thought you might think so. I have talked to Mahjdi, and have given him my blessing to be your court counselor.” Solkit informed Glyph.
“Thank you.” Glyph replied, and Solkit nodded his acceptance, then turned and walked away.
Breathing a quiet sigh of relief, Glyph motioned for the guards to lead on, and followed them back to the repository. He found Mahjdi almost exactly where he had left the monk, sitting amongst a large pile of books. As Glyph approached Mahjdi looked up at him with a worried expression.
“Solkit told me he has given you his blessing.” Glyph said
“I do not know if I am able to do what you have asked of me.” Mahjdi replied.
“What do you mean? I thought we had agreed to proceed if Solkit allowed it.”
“We did, but Solkit has applied a stipulation to his agreement, one that I am not sure I can live with.”
“What did he say?” Glyph asked him, wondering where this was headed now.
“I may be the sorceress Ishea’s counselor, but only if I voluntarily leave the Bibliot order and take up residence with the other monks at the monastery. This is my life Great One, these books, these walls. I have known nothing else my entire life. To give it up, I just do not know if I am able.” Mahjdi explained.
Glyph sat down across from the monk and rubbed his eyes. He already had what he was looking for. He should just leave and not return, but something inside him told him otherwise. There was something going on here he did not understand, but clearly it was something only he could make right. Deciding on a different path, Glyph questioned the monk further.
“What do the prophecies you have read tell you about what is going to happen in our time?” Glyph queried.
“Time has no meaning for me. The sun rises and sets, kingdoms rise and fall, but until someone writes about it, I have no knowledge of what has or has not come to pass.”
“Well, based on what you have read, what’s your best guess?”
“There are so many prophecies, Great One.” Mahjdi said, and cast another glance at the guards. “But if I had to guess, I would have to believe that the prophet Noini’ka would hold the most relevance in this day and age.”
“Is there any reference to this trial taking place?” Glyph continued with his line of questioning. He hoped there might be something, anything that would ease his concience about leaving with Verto’s book and not having to return.
“I do not believe so, Great One.” Mahjdi replied. Then the monk canted his head and seemed to be concentrating deeply. “Only, there might be…” Mahjdi trailed off. “Please excuse me, I will be right back.” He said and jumped to his feet and hurried away.
Glyph wondered what was going on now, and he was anxious to get a closer look at Verto’s book. He hoped the old monk wouldn’t be gone too long, so he could excuse himself and leave Priam.
A few minutes later Mahjdi returned waving another book. “Here it is, here it is.” He half shouted. The monk reverently placed the book on the table. Its title read ‘The Prohecies of the Prophet Noini’ka’. “It should be somewhere around here.” He said, flipping through the book. Then he suddenly began to read out loud. “The western lands will drive out the evil, only to find their hero had gone to dust. The love of the Queen of prophecy will foster the second coming of the Great One, reborn in another place, to journey to our world. There will he fight the Evil, and here, will he close the door.” Then the monk looked up at Glyph. “By my best guess this should be happening now. Do you know if this has come to pass?”
Chills ran down the length of Glyph’s spine. He had heard that passage before. Verto had quoted it to him the first time they met. Glyph moved around the table to get a better look at the book. He had defeated Drathus, only to disappear back to Earth; the ‘hero had gone to dust’. Ishea had rescued him, perhaps the ‘love of the Queen of prophecy fostering the second coming’. She brought Glyph back to Degruthras, ‘reborn in another place’. He fought Tsach’s demonic hordes there, and he closed the portal on M’atra, ‘There will he fight the evil, and here will he close the door’. Glyph felt the hair raise on his head, it was true, and it had all come to pass exactly as Noini’ka had predicted.
“Yes, it has. What else does it say?”
Mahjdi read on. “The protectors once dead will live again, and sight unseen the leader will pull the strings and gather his disciples under the banner of the Great One. Before the last Great War the Great One will right the evil of the mountain and unite the western lands once more, that they may be ready for battle in the end of days.”
“Could that be it? ‘The Great One will right the evil of the mountain’.” Mahjdi said looking over at Glyph.
‘Then that’s it.’ Glyph thought. “I have to make this injustice right if I am going to get the full support of the kingdoms of M’atra in the final battle with Tsach.” Glyph said. “I have to do this Mahjdi, I have to prove Ishea’s innocence, and I can’t do it without you. I believe you are pivotal to the outcome of this prophecy.”
A tear ran down Mahjdi’s face, “Then I will do as you ask, Great One.”