The Hour Book3 Chapter 7

 

Glyph watched President Bradley reach into his desk drawer, pull out an automatic pistol, and chamber a round. Whatever this thing was, it was hell bent on getting into the White House, and was obviously out to kill the president, unless it somehow knew Glyph was there. Glyph immediately thought of the King’s sword, but just as quickly ruled it out. Tsach might know that Glyph was on Earth, but there was no way the Arch-demon could have tracked his journey to the White House; this had to be an assassination attempt.

“Stay back and stay low. And whatever you do, don’t fire at it unless you are directly threatened. The last thing I need is a bullet in my back.” Glyph said. “I’m going to try and head it off.” Calmly, Glyph went to the door and out into the hallway. He could now follow the creature’s progress by the sounds of machinegun fire and human screams. When he rounded the first corner, Glyph could see the main entrance, and as he started to move toward it three massive claws protruded through from the outside. The wood splintered, and the massive doorframe began to shake violently. Glyph steadied himself and shifted into an attack stance. With one great heave the door ripped loose, and Glyph caught a quick glimpse of the creature before it vanished. Glyph blanketed the hall with lightning, and saw a shape made visible in the electric display as sparkling lights outlined its form. The creature continued to advance, and it quickly became clear to Glyph that the lightning was having no effect on it.

Taking a few steps back, Glyph waved his arm upward and brought the floor of the hallway, and the rock beneath it, smashing into the ceiling. For a moment Glyph thought he had flattened the beast, until he heard its fast-moving steps pounding across the floor above him. “Damn it!” Glyph cursed and hastily made his way back toward the oval office.

“I’m coming back in!” Glyph shouted as he burst through the door, “It’s invisible, and it’s upstairs.” He informed the President as his eyes scanned the ceiling.

“Invisible?” President Bradley said questioningly.

“Yeah, and so far my magic has been ineffectual.” Glyph replied. An eerie silence fell over the room as Glyph strained to listen for its footfalls. “I don’t hear it anymore.”

“You won’t. The room is soundproof.” Bradley informed him.

Glyph drew the King’s sword, and willed it to life. The glowing white blade made the President’s eyes bulge slightly. “What the devil…” The President began to say when the west wall near the vaulted ceiling came crashing down into the room.

Glyph narrowly escaped being crushed as he leapt back toward the south wall. With a quick flick of his wrist, a blast of air swept through the debris and slammed everything, including the creature, into the brick fireplace on the north wall of the office. Glyph caught another fleeting glimpse of it before it vanished again; it seemed to need a few seconds to adapt to its new surroundings before going invisible, like a chameleon. Anticipating its movement, Glyph leapt to block the beast’s path, swinging his sword back and forth in hopes of making contact. He was sure it was still in front of him. When machine gun fire erupted behind him, Glyph spun and instinctually raised his shield as he witnessed one of the Presidential guards being hoisted into the air while unloading his weapon at the unseen force. With a quick snap, the guard’s neck twisted grotesquely to one side as two of the guards pulled the President backwards and the rest opened fire.

Glyph swatted the creature back into the fireplace once more, and this time held it there applying enough wind power to flatten an elephant. It flickered a few times into his visual range, then disappeared again, and somehow managed to slip out of Glyph’s control. It was reddish with silvery tattoos running the length of its human shaped body, but its limbs were grossly enlarged. Glyph tried to head it off, but was too late, as its claws ripped through two more of the soldiers surrounding the president. Blood spewed from their wounds as one body was thrown across the desk and the other was slammed head first into the thick, bulletproof windows with a sickening crack. The other three guards unloaded their machineguns at the invisible force, but the barrage of bullets seemed a mere annoyance to the beast. Seconds later, the creature lifted the President into the air. As the soldiers leapt back to reload, Glyph stepped in behind it and swung his sword. Suddenly the creature became visible. Thick greenish plasma gushed out of it onto the floor. Its tiny eyes bulged out as its torso began to slide from its still standing legs. The claws of its left hand clicked several times just inches from the President’s face, before it collapsed into two pieces, dragging Bradley with it to the floor.

“What? What the hell is it?” The President exclaimed as he struggled to free himself from the creature’s death grip.

“I’m not sure.” Glyph replied as he wiped the greenish slime from his sword on the curtains lining the room. Two of the guards quickly helped the President to his feet, and they all stared at the bisected corpse in silence for several seconds. Its body was thin, like an average-size man, but it’s legs and arms were strangely, disproportionately large, and looked like they would fit a small demon. Its hand was at least as large as Zarish’s, and had three giant foot-long claws for fingers. “I wonder if it’s born with these?” Glyph thought aloud, indicating the silver reflective tattoos on its bright red sandpaper-like skin. Sheathing his sword, Glyph kicked the torso over a bit to get a good look at the thing’s face. The eyes were like black peas, and a row of tiny horns protruded from its forehead. The nose was long and pointy, and the mouth was hideously large. It almost appeared to be smiling, with the corners of its mouth set well above its eyes. The whole scene almost made him want to wretch and, as if on cue, one of the soldiers turned away and spewed onto the carpet.

Suddenly more soldiers rushed into the room and trained their assault rifles on Glyph. “Stand down!” President Bradley ordered. When the soldiers didn’t move right away, he stepped between them and Glyph. “Lower your weapons. This man just saved my life!” As the soldiers obeyed, President Bradley turned around to face Glyph. “Thank you Mr. Young, and I think I’ve seen enough proof for a lifetime.”

“You may call me Glyph, Mr. President.” Glyph replied.

“Get that thing out of my sight.” The President commanded of the other soldiers, indicating the halved hellion. “And get these wounded men some medical attention.” Then he knelt down beside the soldier who had been killed outright by the creature. “So much killing, so many have died to save me. I don’t believe I’m worth that much.” He spoke in a low voice.

Glyph understood all too well; he had felt exactly the same way for the longest time. “No Mr. President, they did not die for you, they died for their country, for their freedom. You are just a mortal representation of those ideals. To let you die is to give up hope.”

President Bradley gazed intently at Glyph. “I suppose you’re right, Glyph, but that doesn’t make it any easier.”

“The truth seldom does. The question is, are those lives worth the truce you’ve proposed to Tsach?” Glyph asked.

Without hesitation the President shook his head no. “What can I do? There was no hope, at least not until you walked through the door.” He said as two corpsmen loaded one of the dead soldiers onto a gurney and carried him from the room.

“We can use the truce to stall, and buy us some time to get the rest of my army here. I can defeat Tsach, but we’ll all have to work together to pull it off. Can I count on your support?”

Bradley looked torn, as if unable to make a decision.

“Even if Tsach accepts the truce, his terms would include your delivering me to him. And once he has me, he will come and destroy you anyway.”

The President nodded gravely. “You are right, Glyph. I have watched the greatest military in history be reduced to half of what it was in a matter of months. If you are what you claim to be, then you are our last great hope.” President Bradley conceded. “I would really love to stick one down that bastard Tsach’s throat.” He said in a low voice. The President of the United States straightened his back and looked Glyph dead in the eye. “You will have our support.”

“Thank you Mr. President.” Glyph said, and shook Bradley’s hand to seal the deal. “I need to get back to my friends now. I suggest you move your base of operations to someplace more secure. Apparently Tsach knows you’re here, and it won’t be long before the next assassin comes calling.”

“I was just thinking the same thing.” Bradley replied. “It’s time I join what’s left of our government in hiding. Can I give you a lift? You could tell me a bit more of your plans on the way.” He offered.

“I would be honored.” Glyph replied.

“Good.” The president said, and then turned to one of the guards. “Find Mr. Sorenson, and tell General Eddings were moving out. I’m sure he’ll be happy to hear that. The General has been after me for weeks to get out of here. At least now I have a reason to go.”

The soldiers found Sorenson hiding in a broom closet, and after twenty minutes or so of gathering their things together they headed out towards a helipad in the back of the White House. General Eddings was there to greet them.

“General Eddings, this is Glyph Young, the bearer of the Lincoln letter. He has come a long way to help us out of this jam, and I have already pledged him our full support.” The President said as the blades of the helicopter roared to life.

“Good to meet you, Mr. Young. I owe you my gratitude for saving the President’s life, and for convincing him to leave here.” Eddings told Glyph.

“No problem General, it’s what I do.” Glyph replied as he climbed on board. Glyph sat down in a plush chair and buckled himself in. The President sat to his right, and the General took a seat across from him, followed by Mr. Sorenson. Glyph was somewhat amazed that he had come this far. He never would have dreamed that he would get to meet the President, let alone save his life. Everything seemed to be happening so fast, and Glyph knew the feeling well. He felt it every time destiny reared its ugly head.

“Where to?” The President asked as they lifted off.

“Virginia.” Glyph replied.

“Virginia’s a big state, Mr. Young. Anyplace in particular?” The General asked.

“The land bridge.” Glyph replied “You’ve heard of it, right?”

“The land bridge it is.” The President replied and pointed at a soldier who rushed forward to inform the pilot. Over the next hour or so, Glyph outlined his plans for bringing the army through the portal. The President was still having trouble understanding the whole portal idea, and simply couldn’t believe there had been one in Virginia all this time and no one knew about it. Glyph explained things the best he could, and got the location of the President’s new base of operations from Eddings. He was in the middle of telling them his own story, when alarm buzzers began to sound off in the cabin.

“What is it?” Eddings demanded of the soldier who came back from the cockpit.

“The pilot reports a swarm of Mandrake, and is trying to skirt around them.”

“What’s a Mandrake?” Glyph asked.

“That’s what the pilots have been calling them. They’re like enormous bats, some four or five feet in length, with poison-tipped claws. They don’t act too intelligent, but they’ve wrecked thousands of our jet fighters and other aircraft. They even took down Air force One. Vice President O’Malley was on board at the time. There were no survivors.” General Eddings explained.

“Maybe I can help.” Glyph said and unbuckled his harness and began to stand.

“I doubt there’s anything you can do, Mr. Young.” Eddings interjected.

“Don’t be so sure.” The President replied, and followed up with “By all means, be my guest.” The General gave President Bradley a quizzical look, as Glyph shuffled past them and made his way to the front of the craft.

“I think they’ve spotted us.” Glyph over heard the pilot and copilot talking as he entered the cockpit. “Radar has them moving in our direction now.” The copilot stated tensely.

“Sounds like trouble.” Glyph commented as both pilots quickly glanced back at him, and returned to their instruments.

“You’d be safer in the back cabin, sir.” The pilot said to Glyph.

Glyph understood the ‘get the hell out’ message underlying the pilot’s words. “Sorry guys, I can’t, President’s orders. So how do these Mandrake operate?” Glyph asked them.

Glyph could hear the annoyance in the pilot’s reply. “They’ll attach themselves to us until their combined weight pulls us to the ground.”

“Wow.” Glyph replied. “And they can take down jets the same way?”

“No sir. They throw themselves into the propulsion engine turbines and stall them out. The engines can’t restart due to all of the dead bodies gumming up the works.” The copilot responded.”

“What if we land before they get to us?”

“It doesn’t help. They’ll attack us on the ground, and if you stay inside the aircraft, they will eventually rip it apart until they get you. Once they lock on, the only hope is to outrun them.” The pilot answered.

“Here they come.” The copilot interrupted.

“Try to stay above them, if they foul up our blades were goners.” The pilot instructed. The sudden upward movement nearly knocked Glyph off balance.

A few minutes later the craft rocked heavily to one side. “Shit! We got some hangers!” The pilot yelled out as he struggled to keep the helicopter on track.

“Radar has them right on top of us!” The copilot called out.

“I don’t see them!” The pilot replied craning his neck back and forth trying to peer into the darkness. “They must be underneath!”

“They’re latching on, we’re starting to drag!”

“Dammit! I can’t shake ‘em.” The pilot swore as the craft veered violently left and right.

Just then several of the creatures began crawling up the front of the copter onto the windshield. “What if we electrify the hull?” Glyph shouted as he braced himself in the doorframe of the compartment.

Both pilot and copilot stole a look at Glyph as if he were a lunatic, but said nothing and immediately returned their attention back to the aircraft.

“Never mind.” Glyph replied calmly.

“We’re not gonna make it!” One of them cried, as Glyph found an overhead hatch and popped it open. There was a mass of wiring inside, and Glyph pushed it aside and rammed his arm up into the compartment until he felt bare metal. With a thought a massive electric force flowed from his hand into the outer hull of the helicopter. There was a sudden screeching chorus of wails from outside the craft. The Mandrake on the front of the chopper began to convulse and writhe in agony. The lights began to flicker inside the cabin, and Glyph ceased the flow of electricity from his hand. The bodies on the front glass released their hold and slipped from view as the craft began to spiral.

“What the hell?” The pilot asked of no one in particular.

“We’re back online, the system’s back online!” The copilot yelled excitedly.

“Are they gone?” The pilot asked him as he managed to stop the wild spin.

“The comp shows us at normal payload, but several of our secondary systems are shorted out.”

“Let’s not waste time. Get us the hell out of here.” Glyph commanded.

The helicopter’s engines hummed loudly as the aircraft sped away from the tangled, confused, and charred swarm of Mandrake.

“What the hell did you do, mister? Cause you just saved our skins!” The pilot asked Glyph, smiling widely.

“Just a little trick I learned from watching Star Trek.” Glyph commented slyly and headed back toward the cabin.

“What just happened?” Eddings demanded, as Glyph returned to his seat.

“Just a little skirmish with some Mandrake.” Glyph stated. “They won’t bother us again.”

“Just a skirmish, what the hell?” General Eddings said, his face a bit pale.

“Nothing I couldn’t handle, General.” Glyph said, and then informed them of what had transpired. Twenty minutes later the aircraft touched down on the front lawn of a large resort, and the President ordered the pilots to shut down the engines.

Glyph gave him a questioning look. “I thought you were headed to your new base of operations.” He inquired.

“I am, but if it’s all the same to you I’d like to rest my nerves on solid ground, and to be truthful, I wouldn’t mind meeting these friends of yours.” The President replied.

“I am certain they would not mind meeting you either.” Glyph replied, as they exited the helicopter. No one knew exactly which way the land bridge was, especially in the dark. Even with the moon half full there was barely enough visibility for them to find a place to land. Glyph called forth an orb of light, which hung above his head, and led the way to the front entrance of the resort. Sorenson elected to stay with the helicopter and the two pilots, who were working on some minor repairs. The place was eerie with no power, and they weren’t sure if the resort was occupied or not. The front doors were locked and with a wave of his hand Glyph heard the lock click open. Just inside the lobby was a large rack of pamphlets showing all the sights in the area. “Here it is.” Glyph said as he picked up one about the land bridge. It was only a mile from the resort, and a tiny map indicated the way there.

They walked back outside where several soldiers were waiting with flashlights they had found in the helicopter. “This way.” Glyph said checking his map. They all walked down a large gravel-packed pathway that led into the tree line. Following the trail through the woods, it wasn’t long before they could see a bright light shining through the trees. When they came upon the land bridge, it was lit up like a construction site at night. An enormous sphere of light floated near the center of the opening. Albast and Amos were hard at work, one levitating near each side of the interior walls. The trail ran through the opening to the right, and a large stream passed under on the left. Overall, it looked several hundred feet up to the top of the land bridge, and maybe a hundred feet across.

It’s beautiful! Just the right size!” Glyph called out to his friends. Albast teleported down first, followed by Amos.

“I see you’ve brought company.” Albast noted.

Glyph made all the introductions.

“So this is where your army will come through?” General Eddings questioned, trying to gauge the size of the portal.

“That is the idea.” Glyph replied. “Do you think we should get rid of that stream?” Glyph asked Albast.

“Yes, otherwise it could take a very long time to get everyone through.” Albast said. “First thing in the morning, I’ll redirect the water flow further upstream.” He then turned to Amos. “I don’t know about you, but I could use a little break.” And Amos nodded.

“We’ve made a small day-camp just around the corner, would you care to join us?” Albast asked.

“Yes, we would.” President Bradley replied.

The orb of light dwindled greatly in size, and slowly meandered its way down to rest a few feet above Albast’s head as he passed by. Everyone fell in behind the ancient wizard as he led the way under the land bridge, and off a small trail to the right. Within a hundred feet or so, they came upon their camp, and Albast effortlessly raised a large stone table with chairs from the ground. General Eddings stood with his mouth agape, and the four soldiers that tagged along for protection couldn’t believe their eyes, either. Only the President walked over and sat down. “It’s alright Eddings, they won’t bite. And I think I’m already getting used to the miracles that these men can do.” Bradley told him.

Albast, Amos, and Glyph all took a seat. Eddings took his time sliding his hand across the seat of the chair and testing the strength of the table. After he finally sat, the soldiers did the same, and Glyph quickly made introductions.

“I take it things went well.” Albast deduced.

“In a manner of speaking, yes. Your friend Glyph here saved my life. That red devil was just inches away from taking my head off.” The President offered.

“Was it a demon?” Albast said, becoming somewhat worried.

“No.” Glyph replied. “I have never seen anything like it before.” He said and described the whole encounter to the two wizards.

“Ahh, it sounds like an Imp. Be glad there was only one. I once stumbled across their home world in my youth, and barely escaped with my life. I can see how they would make excellent assassins, being able to change into any background, and with super strength and agility, well they just tend to be good at the job. They have a slight natural repulsive aura toward magical attacks, but the tattoos are obviously some form of demon enhancement.” Albast explained. “And I have seen the things you call Mandrake. They swarm like gnats, and tend to follow the demons from world to world like rats behind an army.”

“Glyph here tells us you were a police officer?” Eddings said to Amos, who had been strangely silent since their arrival.

Amos coughed, and cleared his throat. “Detective actually. Trenton P.D.” he responded.

“What’s bothering you, Amos? You are being awfully close-lipped.” Glyph asked.

“It’s, well, I just never thought in a million years that I would meet the President.” Amos replied, a bit bashfully.

“Relax Mr. Bogg. I’m just like any other person, more so now than ever before. You gentlemen are the heroes here. I was ready to throw in the towel before Glyph showed me there was still hope.”

“Trenton P.D.” General Eddings said to himself. “That’s it. That’s where I know you from.” He said to Amos, and then turned to President Bradley. “Remember that fiasco in Trenton a few years back? The front of that bar was blown out, and we took that crusted hulk of a carcass off that bridge there, had to quarantine the whole area. Several of our Special Forces attack copters were downed. There were reports that some of our soldiers refused to follow orders, and of mass hysteria. You were the detective that disappeared. That was you wasn’t it?”

Amos and Glyph looked at each other, expecting the other one to answer. Finally Amos said, “Yeah, that was me. That was the night I was taken by Glyph to the world of Degruthras. As it turned out, I was a wizard too.”

“Then, was that you two that fought that thing on the bridge? I remember some of the eyewitness accounts, they were simply unbelievable.” Eddings remarked.

“Yes, that was us, and that carcass on the bridge was a demon who chose unwisely to follow me to Earth.” Glyph replied uneasily.

“So that stuff they saw, tornadoes, energy blasts, giant waterspouts, that was real, you can do those things?” The general pried.

“Yes general, we can. That’s why we’re here to help now. I am only sorry we did not get here sooner.” Glyph told him.

“You and me both.” The general replied and let out a low whistle. “Wait a minute, that would mean… and the guy you were after…” Eddings trailed off, his finger unknowingly pointing from Amos to Glyph. Now he was staring directly at Glyph.

Glyph had been waiting for this; he knew it was inevitable, as soon as the General had recognized Amos. “I know what you’re thinking, General, and I ask you to base your opinion on the man you met tonight, and allow me to give you my side of the story.” Glyph proposed outright.

The General sat back in his chair, and folded his arms.

“What? What is it?” President Bradley asked.

“Mr. President, this man is a convicted homicidal psychopath. He killed well over a hundred people in one night at that bar in Trenton. Not to mention countless others.” General Eddings informed him.

“What is this about, Glyph? Is what the General says true?” Bradley asked.

“I can explain. If you know of me, then you know my trial, my defense was the truth. The people I killed, I killed in self-defense. The first ones were controlled by a demon named Drathus. It possessed any humans who’s natures were more evil than good. Anyway, he forced these people to attack me to the death.” Glyph explained as succinctly as he could.

“Nobody at that bar was trying to kill you, Mr. Young.” Eddings spouted off.

“That was a completely different situation, I’m afraid.” Albast spoke up. “Glyph had inadvertently entered into a demon ritual which forced him to kill. As unlikely as it may sound to you, and perhaps in light of our country’s present dilemma, you might give this man the benefit of the doubt. It was truly an unfortunate thing to have had happen. Glyph never wanted to do any of those things. It was actually a fulfillment of prophecy on our world, and countless others. He is known by many names throughout the galaxy; on M’atra he is called the man of light and darkness. The demons know him as the bringer of life and death; some call him the Great One. We call him Glyph, and those atrocities he committed were horrible, but they were also not his fault. Glyph was forced, both times, to kill. The simple truth is, he has saved the world of M’atra several times, and he can save yours too if you can get past this so we can proceed forward.” Albast concluded.

That about summed it up, Glyph thought, as he returned the Generals steady gaze.

“It’s true.” Amos spoke up. “I was a cop, I knew this guy was scum that’s why I went after him. Only I found out he’s not a killer, and he’s not the bad guy I thought he was.”

The president shifted uneasily on the stone chair. “Mr. Young, what would you have done had I declined your offer of help?” He asked thoughtfully.

Glyph had been ready to defend himself, and the offbeat question struck him as odd. “Well, to be honest, I guess I would have said goodbye and come here to help work on the portal.”

“So you would have gone ahead with your plan to bring your army here to Earth?” Bradley questioned.

“Yes Mr. President, I would.”

“What if I had expressly forbidden your army to set foot in this country?” The President asked.

“I’m sorry Mr. President, but I would still have brought them here. This is still my country, and my world, and I would defend it against Tsach with or without your permission, but that’s only one reason.” Glyph answered candidly. “I think I understand what you’re getting at. You do not have enough facts to make a decision. The only evidence to back what I’m telling you is my word and a letter from President Lincoln. I’ll admit, it’s not much to go on.”

Bradley nodded. “Frankly if it weren’t for the letter, and the state of the war, I doubt I would have considered your offer at all. Welcoming a foreign army on American soil would have been hard to swallow in the best of times, but an alien one? For all I know the Earth could be caught between two warring alien worlds, for what? Raw materials, Strategic importance, even colonization. How can I know that once these demons are defeated, that you won’t try to take the Earth for yourselves?”

“That is the great failing of trust, Mr. President. Lincoln also had these reservations; he had only my word to go on as well. In the end, his trust came as a necessity, and he was very thankful that I was a man of my word.” Albast interjected.

“You were the one who helped Lincoln? You may be old, but not nearly that old.” Eddings replied.

Albast chuckled lightly. “I am over seven thousand years old, General Eddings, and I have lived on your world for over a thousand of those years. Not all beings age in the same manner, but I thank you for the compliment. The truth of what we are telling you may not yet be evident, but I can assure you we are not conquerors. Our interest in your world was only because this was the prophesized birthplace of the Great One. Had that not been the case, the demons would have conquered your world a millennia ago, and human kind would have been enslaved. Your great country would not even exist.”

“You mean that demons have been on Earth before?” The President asked.

“Surely they are familiar to you, Mr. President? Do they not bear a most striking resemblance to the demons and creatures of ancient lore? Yes, they have been here before, and I most firmly dissuaded their conquest of this world.” Albast explained. “I have found evidence that they had a fairly large force in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, and China nearly ten thousand years ago. For some unknown reason they left, and in great haste, as some of their slaves were left behind. Creatures we know as Minotaurs and dragons among others were used as beasts of burden, and some of them continued to live on for hundreds of years. A few were hunted down and killed by man, but most of them died from inbreeding as there were not enough of them to provide a lasting gene pool. They appeared again in the late ninth century in Europe and England. A hundred years later I too appeared here, right in the middle of Stonehenge. Let’s see, that would have been the year nine ninety-four. They were well on their way to taking over; they mostly worked underground and used kings and castles as pawns in various clan battles in bids to gain more power. The demons were firmly entrenched in Germany; the people there lived in constant fear. They were present in England, but whatever they had originally found on the island they had taken years before I arrived. First I drove them from the isle, and then from Europe, and eventually from this world.” Albast finished.

“That’s a very unique take on history, Mr. Albast.” Eddings commented.

“Oh there’s more, much, much more. The people I have met, why the people I have been! Merlin was my first persona, but there were others, Leonardo da Vinci being one of my most famous aliases. I was present during the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I saved General Washington’s army from annihilation on Long Island by creating a fog so thick that the British couldn’t attack, and gave the continental army enough time to retreat across the river to New York. The list goes on, gentlemen. The point is that trust is always a gamble, but I am a man of my word, and I can assure you, we are not here to trick you or deceive you in any way. What you may fail to realize is that Glyph is destined to fight Tsach. Whether here or some other world it would make no difference, the battle between good and evil is playing out before us, and if Glyph loses, then this conversation will be meaningless anyway.” Albast said.

“This is not about the fate of Earth, Mr. President,” Glyph summarized, “Or even the solar system or the galaxy. This is about restoring a balance to the universe, on a level even I cannot comprehend. I know it sounds crazy, but then so are demons and Minotaurs, and so is this.” Glyph pulled an apple from the air with his left hand, and held it up for all to see. “Is it a trick, you wonder?” Glyph asked them as the apple burst into flames, and just as quickly turned to ice, capturing the shapes of the flames in a brilliant crystal mosaic, and sat it on the table between President Bradley and General Eddings.        “Think of it this way. With this kind of power I don’t really need to ask your permission, or offer my help, but I did. I’ve told you why I had to do those horrific things. I’ve given you the only explanation that I have, the truth. The only thing I need to know is, are you with us or not?” Glyph asked.

There was a long moment of silence that passed, and only the crickets could be heard chirping in the darkened woods. Their faces were lit only by the fire pit nearby that had ignited magically shortly after they all had sat down.

“Mr. Bogg, you’ve been rather quiet. I wonder if you have anything to add.” The President questioned him.

Amos clasped his hands together and met the President’s steady gaze. “It’s not everyday that a man gets the chance to fight for something that is larger than life itself.” Amos stated. “I stepped up to the plate when I was chosen, I’ve never looked back and I’ve never regretted my decision. What will you decide, Mr. President?” He asked and then looked at Eddings. “General?”

Both men remained silent for some time. Albast finally broke the quiet stalemate. “Gentlemen, it is very late, nearly three in the morning by my reckoning. I’m afraid we must turn in for the night. We have lots of hard work ahead of us if we are to make this gate operational before Tsach breaks the magical protection on the Mississippi and comes for Glyph. We will leave you to discuss your options, but we would like to have your answer as soon as possible so we can decide how best to proceed.” He stated and stood from the table. Glyph and Amos followed Albast’s lead. “Oh, and you are welcome to stay the night with us. I’m sure the resort has several comfortable rooms, and the Mandrakes don’t swarm much in the daylight; it might make your return trip a bit safer. A few of the locals are rather unsavory but they won’t be bothering us, at least not tonight.”

Glyph and Amos nodded their assent, and followed Albast toward the path through some trees about twenty feet away. Amos and Albast had already planned on using the resort as housing during their stay here, and Glyph was glad. He was so emotionally drained he just didn’t even feel like lifting his arm to create a shelter out in the woods. Besides, there was no sense in wasting energy. They reached the hotel about twenty minutes later. Albast spoke to the pilots and a few of the guards left behind. Glyph knew he was telling them where we were staying, and where they could sleep if they chose to do so. Glyph was too tired to think about it anymore. He was rather disappointed that the President hadn’t given him an answer, but could also understand that it was a lot to consider, especially since they discovered his criminal background.

Amos showed him the rooms Albast had scoped out earlier when he and Amos first arrived. Glyph entered room two-twelve, fell onto the bed, and was fast asleep.

The next morning, Glyph awoke to the biting pain of his sword scabbard grinding its way into his hip under the pressure of his own weight. It was still early. The sun had just crested the treetops. He unbuckled the sword and removed his boots, and then opened the window for some fresh air. Glyph had just decided to lie back down, when a knock came on the door to his room.

Opening the door, Glyph fully expected Albast or Amos to be there. Instead he was surprised to see Jon Bradley, President of the United States.

“Mr. President, what can I do for you?” Glyph asked, still a bit bleary eyed.

“I have my answer.” Bradley informed him.

Glyph held the door open, and gestured inwardly with his hand, and the President entered the room and stood near the foot of the bed. After Glyph closed the door, Bradley spoke up.

“General Eddings wants us to stay out of it, to let you and the demons fight it out, and then try to gain the upper hand over the depleted victor. I listened, and I believe that what he told me was the most logical course of action. But, for some reason, I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity to help you save the universe for the forces of good. I suppose that makes me somewhat of a romantic. That and I feel compelled by all that is in me to believe your story. You can count me in. I want those evil sons of bitches to pay for what they’ve done, and I want to be there to see it happen. I stand by my original word, Glyph. Just tell me what you need us to do.”

“I will contact you later this evening at your bunker complex in Pennsylvania. I will look a little different, but you will know it’s me.” Glyph replied, still somewhat stunned by the President’s words.

“Very well. I have much to do myself, so I will take my leave of you until tonight. I look forward to it. Please give my regards to Amos and Albast.” Bradley stated, shook Glyph’s hand firmly, and left the room.

“It never ceases to amaze me.” Glyph muttered and plopped back down onto the bed. The ramping helicopter blades clacked loudly for several minutes before fading off into the distance, lulling Glyph back to sleep.

He awoke several hours later, stood and stretched. Looking out the window, Glyph realized it was already past noon and he was starving. Pulling on his boots, Glyph reached over and grabbed his sword, then left to see why Albast and Amos hadn’t wakened him. Glyph found their rooms empty, and made his way outside. It was already getting hot out, and Glyph guessed it was probably July or August just by the feel of things. He wasted no time, and teleported to the portal, where he found Albast and Amos hard at work.

“It’s about time you got here.” Amos called out as he approached. “Albast has already rerouted the stream.”

As if on cue Albast appeared. “There, that part of it is done. Ah Glyph, did the President say anything before he left this morning?”

“Yes, he said he felt compelled to believe our story, and promised me his full support. He also asked me to give you both his regards.” Glyph informed them.

Albast smiled and shook his head. “It was meant to be. I wasn’t too sure they would go for it after they found out about your past, Glyph. There are forces at work here gentlemen, and they’re not all bad.”

They all sat down for some lunch. Amos had caught a rabbit earlier in the morning and had it slow-cooking over the fire, and Albast had found some leafy greens to eat as well. Afterward, Glyph helped level the ground where the stream had been, and widen the path leading to the resort, where the large corn field nearby and acres of lawn would make a perfect place to set up a base camp for the armies that, with any luck, would be arriving tomorrow. By the time his hour drew near, the sun was low in the sky.

“Is there anything you want me to tell the others when I return?” Glyph asked Albast.

“You mean should you tell them about me, that I am alive? Yes, I think the time has come that they need to know. If I’m not mistaken, you’ll have some explaining to do yourself. You might as well hit them with it all at once. It will probably save us some time later on if we get this unpleasantness out of the way now.” Albast decided.

“Unpleasantness? I don’t think you know the half of it. I’m just glad it ain’t me delivering that news.” Amos said. “I’m not sure who will be more pissed off, Ishea or Lobrein.”

“I’ve been dreading this day for months now.” Glyph replied. “My guess is Ishea. It has only been thirty-six years or so for Lobrein. This is not going to be fun.”

Albast nodded his head in agreement. “You have already gathered them all together, so that much is done. The countries are prepared for invasion, so the armies will be ready to move. The only thing left is the Portal. I believe this one will be done in a day or two. The one on M’atra however… there may be a chance of altering one of the continental gates. The column to the south of Torlea, and the one outside of Priam reside on unusually large deposits of Tackilite crystal. If you use the pylon as one side of the gate and create another one nearby, you may be able to activate both columns as a large portal. Once that is done, I will attempt to synchronize the two portals from here, and open it. If all goes well, the armies of M’atra will be here in a few days.”

“Along with Ishea and Lobrein. Dude, I wouldn’t be too happy about that if I were you.” Amos said to Albast. “And just wait till they find out you’ve been keeping it a secret for the last two years.” He said pointing at Glyph.

“I know, I know. Don’t remind me.” Glyph whined.

“It was necessary, Glyph. They will understand.” Albast tried to reassure him.

Glyph cast him a sidelong glance and saw Amos over Albast’s shoulder mouthing the words, “no way”, and shaking his head.

Glyph could feel the familiar winds coming to claim him, and sat down at the stone table Albast had created the night before. As the air was being sucked away he heard Albast say, “Eventually”, and heard the two of them laughing until the darkness surrounded him and he was gone.

 

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