Glyph left Mahjdi to his work; it would be hard enough to prove Ishea’s innocence without Glyph interrupting every few minutes to ask mundane questions. He found it worked better if he presented all the facts he had gathered to the old monk and let him iron out the details concerning the law.
Glyph was somewhat surprised that he was not asked to spend the night, even in the city that surrounded the mountain fortress. This hadn’t bothered him though; there was something quite relaxing about camping outdoors under the elements. The sun had set by the time he returned to the glade; O’dista whinnied his approval of Glyph’s return, and he immediately set about feeding and watering the warhorse.
Setting up several torches around his camp, Glyph brought out the Divinare crystal once more and placed it on the table he had created earlier. He knew what he had to do, even though he was sure Ishea was not going to like it. Placing his hands to the crystal, Glyph concentrated on Lobrein.
“Good evening, Glyph.” Lobrein said as she spun to face his shimmering blue form in the long hallway outside the common room in the castle of Kivas. “You just caught me on my way to bed. You do know there is a certain etiquette involved in using a Divinare, right?” She prompted.
“Yes, I know. Don’t disturb anyone who doesn’t wish to be disturbed, stay out of your subject’s personal space, and no snooping. You drilled them into my head years ago, and this is the hallway outside your quarters. Besides, this is important.” Glyph explained the situation to her as succinctly as he could, knowing his time was limited.
“Noini’ka you say? That is very interesting indeed. I was surprised to hear that, since my trip to Degruthras, Verto had closed the repository to all outsiders. Albast would have never allowed such a thing.” Lobrein commented.
“So you see the problem.”
“Yes. It appears that you have surmised correctly. Ishea must stand trial in order to unite the lands of M’atra. What isn’t clear is whether it is due to her being set free, or because she is executed for her crime.” Lobrein paused. “I was not going to interfere with Ishea’s decision in this matter, but now I see that it must be done. I will speak with her on the matter and contact you when we have left for Priam.” Lobrein told him.
“You sound fairly certain you will be able to talk her into it. Are you sure?” Glyph asked, doubting anyone’s ability to get Ishea to do something she didn’t want to do.
“I am. After I have informed her of the facts I will appeal to her sense of logic and reason. It is the only outcome that is acceptable under the circumstances; otherwise she risks the fate of our world over her unwillingness to stand up and face her accusers. You are right Glyph, she did kill Verto for all the right reasons, and if that journal you found of his has half of what I have seen in the Tome of Dark Lore, then it is enough to damn Verto. I can tell you this; there is something unholy about a priest, or anyone besides a sorcerer, living as long as he did.” Lobrein assured him.
“Very well, then.” Glyph said. “Looks like I have some reading to do. I hope to hear from you soon.”
“Until then.” Lobrein nodded in return.
Glyph removed his hands from the crystal once more. He tucked the crystal back into O’dista’s saddle bag and crawled into bed. Creating a glowstone from a small rock, he tied a small piece of string to it, and then looped the cord through the branches of the interwoven thicket of his shelter. It was quite comfortable, and the light from his glowstone was plenty to read by. Glyph started by studying the spells to create a portal, and read on from there. An hour or so later it began to rain and Glyph, feeling rather tired, doused his glowstone with a thought, rolled over and went to sleep.
He awoke early the next morning and took O’dista for a ride to give the warhorse some exercise. Glyph enjoyed the change of scenery and covered several miles before returning to the glade. Using a bit of magic, Glyph air-dried the rainwater from his table and chair with a sustained breeze, then sat down to study Verto’s journal. He still could not grasp why Verto had copied down spells and incantations he could not use. Being a monk, he would have had limited magical ability, which to Glyph’s knowledge was mainly used for healing. Since the monks devoted their whole life to that art they had become quite proficient at it and were well known for their skill. Even so, it usually took several monks to heal an injury. Perhaps Verto had hoped to gain more power and become a sorcerer himself. It was anybody’s guess, though.
Picking up where he had left off, Glyph opened the journal and began to read. He noted that some pages were marked and were much more worn than the others, and after awhile it became apparent that these pages contained spells that Verto was able to do. A hidden-object spell on the following page had tipped Glyph off; it had been the same spell Verto had used to hide the journal in his chambers. Interspersed among the pages was what Glyph could only describe as prophecy. Some were rather vague, but one in particular caught Glyph’s eye. ‘A powerful sorcerer will take the life of the holy leader and will serve as another mark of the end of days.’ Underneath the inscription two names were scribbled with a question mark: Albast, or the Great One? Verto had foreseen his own death, and had deduced incorrectly that it was either Glyph or Albast who would commit the act. That might explain Verto’s bizarre behavior when he had first met him those many years ago. ‘If he believed that Albast was dead, then he must have thought that I was going to kill him, every time we met.’ Glyph thought to himself.
Turning the page, Glyph read some more. Suddenly his eyes widened as he came upon a ritualistic spell for life extension. As he read, Glyph became acutely aware just how corrupt Verto had become. It took very little magical power to perform, but only because it involved a ritual sacrifice. Verto was slaughtering innocents and transferring their remaining life energy into himself. The younger the subject was when they were killed, the more years of life Verto gained. Glyph shuddered at the thought; this was an abomination of the foulest kind. To think how many people had been sacrificed so that Verto could live for a thousand years; it was horrendous, but it was also exactly what Glyph had hoped to find. It would prove that Verto was a sick evil bastard, and that Ishea did them all a favor by ending his life. By taking the Tome of Dark Lore she had also prevented anyone else from doing the same.
Closing Verto’s journal, Glyph tucked it inside his tunic and gathered a few things together. He was about to leave his camp and head back to Priam, when Lobrein’s shimmering form appeared in front of him.
“We have left the Keep, and are headed for Priam now, Glyph.” Lobrein stated.
“Fantastic! I’m sure Solkit will be pleased to hear that.” He replied.
“You sound rather enthusiastic about it.” Lobrein noted.
“I am. I think I just discovered the one piece of crucial evidence that will prove Ishea’s innocence. Verto was sacrificing people and using their life energy to extend his own, that’s how he lived for so long.”
Lobrein just stared at him. “That… that is disgusting!” Lobrein exclaimed.
“I know. The younger the sacrifice, the longer he would live; chances are he was killing children, maybe even infants.” Glyph explained.
Lobrein shook her head. “Verto was such a devout man. To think he had gone to such lengths.” She paused. “It is a testament to the Tome of Dark Lore’s ability to subvert even the most noble.” She said, and then shuddered, as if casting off the revolting thought.
Glyph knew all too well the power of that tome, and the affect it had on anyone who had come in contact with it. “I am headed for the city now, when do you think you might arrive?” He asked, trying to push past the distasteful subject.
“I believe we should be there in two days’ time, three at most. I would like to stop at Muret, and visit Albast’s tomb. It will be the first time we will have done so as mother and daughter. It will give me some time to share my insight with Ishea about her father.” Lobrein told him.
Glyph kept his mouth shut and nodded. For a moment he had nearly forgotten about the fact that everyone still thought Albast was dead. He wasn’t sure how to break that news, or even if he should. He just knew that the time was quickly approaching that they would find out, and he would have to deal with it when they did.
“So how’s Ishea holding up?” Glyph questioned.
“Fair, I suppose. She has become quite melancholy over the thought of standing trial, and is convinced the monks will crucify her. I will inform her of your discovery, perhaps it may help to put her mind at ease.” She replied.
“Let’s hope. Give her my love, and tell her not to worry.”
“I will.” Lobrein replied, and promptly vanished.
Glyph mounted O’dista, and made haste to the front gate of the city. After waiting for his escorts to arrive, he wasted no time in returning to the repository to share this new information with Mahjdi. He found the old monk in his usual spot, among several piles of books and quickly filled him in on the situation.
“Where did you find this information, Great One?” Mahjdi asked immediately, a look of concern on his face.
“I found Verto’s journal when I examined the crime scene yesterday.”
“You should not have removed the journal from his chambers. It may cast doubt upon its validity.” Mahjdi said.
“It’s right here in black and white, in Verto’s own handwriting. How could anyone believe otherwise?” Glyph declared.
“It is exactly what we need to prove that Verto was corrupt, there is no doubt. However the law states that evidence may not be removed from a crime scene until it is cleared by the court. It may be deemed unusable if they realize you have taken it.”
Glyph shook his head. “Go figure.” He muttered. “What if I return it, without them knowing?” Glyph questioned.
“That could prove to be quite difficult, considering you are under guard, and that the chamber has been sealed by the high priest himself.” Mahjdi said.
“You know, they call me the Great One for a reason.” Glyph said and winked at him.
“As far as I know, there is no law against returning something no one knows is missing.” The monk replied with a sly grin. “Though I would like to know how you could perform such a feat.”
“Everyone has to go to the bathroom sometime right?” Glyph said, and left Mahjdi to his work with a confused look upon his face. Approaching the guards, Glyph requested to be taken to the nearest latrine.
As soon as Glyph was out of sight of his escorts, he quickly teleported into Verto’s chamber. Withdrawing Verto’s journal from his tunic he pushed it, along with his hand, through the rock into the hidden niche. Glyph had just stepped back with a look of satisfaction, when the door to the chamber ‘clicked’, and began to open. Caught off guard, Glyph turned himself invisible instead of teleporting, and slid up against the wall to try and keep his movements to a minimum.
Solkit entered the chamber with a worried expression, and locked the door behind him. Wasting no time, the High Priest made a direct line for the hidden niche. Moving the books to one side he placed one hand to the wall and his other hand over his eyes. Glyph could see a faint blue aura flicker around Solkit’s hands for a moment, then cease. The High Priest let out a long sigh of relief and smiled. “You have done well Great One, very well indeed. Everything is once again as it should be.”
Glyph’s mouth dropped open. ‘Does he know I’m here?’ He thought, but quickly dismissed the idea as he watched Solkit turn and leave the room. Before he closed the door, Solkit poked his head back in for one final look around. The Priests eyes hovered for a moment on Glyph’s position, and then the chamber door was pulled closed and locked once more.
Breathing his own sigh of relief, Glyph dropped his invisibility, and concentrated on the latrine. Within seconds he was standing there, and immediately went out to where his guards were waiting. It appeared that they had suspected nothing during the few minutes he was gone, and quite dutifully led him back to the repository. What he had just witnessed added more to the mystery here; something was going on that he obviously knew nothing about. Glyph quietly explained everything to Mahjdi, who seemed quite shocked by the whole encounter.
“You mean Solkit knew where the journal was hidden?” Mahjdi asked in a hushed tone, unable to contain himself any longer.
“Yes, and more than that, he acted as if he knew the journal had been taken, like he was checking to see if it had been returned; as though he were expecting it.” Glyph whispered back.
“It may explain why he allowed you to be in the chamber without the guards in the first place. Maybe he intended for you to find the journal, read it, and ultimately return it there.” Mahjdi suggested.
Glyph furrowed his brow. “That would make sense, but why would Solkit keep Verto’s journal a secret from everyone but me?”
“I can not say, but I will think about it. Perhaps another piece of the puzzle will present itself in the meantime.”
Excusing himself, Glyph went to see Solkit.
“What may I do for you today, Great One?” Solkit said as he greeted Glyph.
“I wanted to let you know that Ishea is on her way here in order to stand trial.”
Solkit seemed surprised. “So soon? I had expected it to take you a bit longer to prepare her defense.”
“So did I, but Mahjdi has proven himself quite adept at Priam law. We will be ready to present her case before the court when she arrives. I humbly ask that the trial be able to begin at that time.” Glyph responded.
“Very well, I shall see to it. The court council should have no objections to your request, and I see no point in delaying the inevitable.”
“You sound convinced that she will be found guilty.” Glyph commented, hoping to glean some more answers out of Solkit.
“As do you of her innocence.” Solkit said considering Glyph for a moment. He then returned his focus to several papers on the corner of his desk. “I will recommend the trial to begin at mid-day, in three days time. That should give her more than enough time to arrive here from Kivas. Do you agree?”
“Yes.” Glyph replied, somewhat disappointed that he hadn’t been able to get more from Solkit.
“Then it will be so.” Solkit concluded.
Glyph thanked him and returned to Mahjdi in the repository. They spent the rest of the day working out the details of their strategy, particularly how they were going to get Verto’s journal submitted as evidence. The sun had set when Glyph finally returned to his glade. He informed Lobrein and Ishea of the trial date, and checked on their progress. Lobrein assured him that they would be there in time, and that all was proceeding on time. All that was left to do was wait for their arrival.
The next two days Glyph spent with Mahjdi going over all the ins and outs of court protocol, interspersed with leading Mahjdi from the repository for the first time in his life. Glyph could tell the wonder and excitement Mahjdi felt at seeing things he had only read about, stood in stark contrast with the wrenching pain of never being able to return to the repository. He was given temporary quarters in the monastery itself, and the blue robe of the Bibliot order was rather unceremoniously stripped from him and replaced with the basic brown of the other monks. Glyph wondered several times whether the old monk would be fit to serve as Ishea’s counselor given his emotional state, but every time he brought it up, Mahjdi would become strictly business. He even told Glyph it would be the crowning achievement of his life, and considered it his most sacred duty to assist the Great One and the sorceress Ishea. Glyph had come to realize exactly what Mahjdi had given up in order to perform this task, and realized that like everyone else in his life to date, he had caused a great deal of pain and suffering. He could only hope that it was worth it.
On the morning of the third day, Glyph and Mahjdi rode to the portal and awaited Lobrein and Ishea’s arrival. They didn’t have to wait long before the teleportation pylon lit up, a portal appeared, and out rode Lobrein and Ishea, followed by Prianna, Morracor, and Miatsu. Mahjdi’s eyes grew wide as he stared at what amounted to M’atran Royalty, gathered in one place for the first time in a millennium. Glyph made the introductions, and then led the way to Priam.
It was a rather somber ride, and no one seemed interested in talking except for Mahjdi, who was asking all manner of questions. Miatsu bore the brunt of the onslaught as he was closest to the ex-Bibliot, Lobrein took advantage of this and hastened to move her horse alongside of Glyph.
“I thought you should know. I have left the continental pylons active between here and Kivas.” Lobrein spoke in a low voice that the others could not hear.
Glyph cocked his head slightly and eyed her suspiciously.
“We may need to leave in a hurry.” Glyph heard Lobrein speak directly to his mind. “I will not allow them to kill my daughter.”
“That will not happen.” Glyph answered her.
Lobrein looked him in the eye and shrugged her shoulders.
“Regardless, I was going to open them after the trial, in case we need to move our armies at a moment’s notice.” Glyph told her quietly.
“Well then, you are welcome.” Lobrein replied, smiled briefly, and drifted back toward the others.
Glyph stopped alongside the trail and allowed them to pass as they neared the city, in hopes of talking a bit with Ishea. He noticed Ishea’s melancholy mood, and reined O’dista in to trot beside her. “Are you okay?” He asked.
Ishea glanced over at him, then turned her attention back to the pathway. “That is a relative term, Glyph. Am I well? Yes. Am I happy? No.” Ishea stated.
“I’m sorry about this Ishea, if there was any other way to do this I would.”
“But there is not another way, is there? We must all do things that we loathe from time to time; usually it is by choice.” She said, still staring straight ahead.
Glyph groaned inwardly. He knew it would be a long time before she let him live this one down. “We have to do this. It’s the only way to unite M’atra. This battle isn’t going to be like the others. It’s not a matter of loose alliances between countries staving off invasion, this time it’s all or nothing. This battle is between worlds, and on a much larger scale than I could imagine.”
“Really? How would you know?” Ishea questioned him bluntly.
“I can feel it. More than I’ve felt anything in my life. Maybe I’ve become more accustomed to my role in all of this, maybe I’m just more aware. You’ve seen my powers increase exponentially in the last two years. This will be the end, Ishea, and M’atra must be ready to stand and fight. I don’t think it’s only about whether M’atra will survive, or if Earth will survive. I’m pretty sure it’s going to affect the whole universe.”
Ishea nodded. “You may be right. I just hope I will be alive to help you fight that battle.” She looked at him again, and smiled wanly.
“You will be.”
“Are you so sure?”
“Everything will turn out fine, you’ll see.” Glyph tried to assure her.
“Glyph, I know what you have done here, all the great deeds, and all the horrific suffering you have endured. I also know that you have done all these things for me.”
Glyph was slightly taken aback. He had never discussed his reasoning with her before, and was about to speak when she continued.
“You accepted your role as King of Kivastor for me, you fought and slayed Drathus because I wanted you to. You risked your life to rescue me from the dungeons of Okrune, and killed countless innocents on your world during the Jakarute so that you would have enough power to protect me from Cruix. You saved this world from invasion by Tsach’s demonic hordes, and now you hope to secure the entire universe from evil so that we can be together, and live in peace.” She paused, and stared at him.
“Ishea I–. How–?” Glyph stammered.
“I see it in your eyes every day. I know your heart Glyph, as surely as you know mine. This–.” She said indicating the looming city of Priam with her hand. “This I do for you, not to unite M’atra, not to save the universe. I do it for you, because it is what you want, and for no other reason. I am here because I love you, Glyph.”
Ishea then pulled up on her reigns and veered away from him, falling in beside Prianna. Glyph just sat there in his saddle staring dumbfounded at the empty space where she had just been. He didn’t even know how to respond, he just knew how he felt, as if everything were on his shoulders. Not just Kivas, or M’atra, or even Earth, but the whole universe, and it was damned uncomfortable.
To Glyph’s amazement, the gates of the city were open, and a whole contingent of warrior class monks stood at the ready upon their approach.
Solkit and an assistant walked out to meet them. “Great One, have you brought the sorceress Ishea to stand trial for her crime?” Solkit stated loudly for all to hear.
“I have.” Glyph replied.
“Do I have your oath, and the oaths of the others in your party, that they will in no way interfere, or influence the outcome of this trial?”
“Yes.” Glyph said and turned to look at the others, who also nodded their agreement. Glyph was particularly concerned with Prianna, and what she might do. They all dismounted and Glyph led Ishea to where Solkit stood.
The High Priest looked at her gravely. “Please extend your arms.”
Ishea glanced up at Glyph, and then did as she was instructed. Solkit’s assistant pulled out a pair of silver manacles and clasped them over her wrists. Glyph turned in time to snatch Prianna as she rushed forward toward the guard closest to Ishea.
“You cannot— !” Prianna started, then stopped abruptly, struggling against Glyph’s iron grip on her arms. Glyph stared at her blazing green eyes and shook his head no. As quickly as her outburst started, it was over.
Solkit straightened his robe slightly as if he hadn’t noticed and then announced that the trial would begin after noon meal, in three hours, in the main court inside Toleth’va, and that all interested parties should convene there promptly at that time. Ishea did not look back at them as the monks led her away.
“I hope you know what you are doing, Glyph.” Miatsu stated.
“Me too.” Glyph replied, as he watched her go.