It felt like he had been lying there for hours. Glyph had completely lost track of time, and it wasn’t until his energy levels returned that he even considered moving. Teleporting a black hole into deep space wasn’t just hard, it had nearly been impossible, and took every last ounce of power Glyph had in order to do it.
He had wept, but not for the Earth, or the billions of people he had killed. Glyph wept because of the realization that he had failed. It hadn’t been enough to kill Tsach, no. He had to go and kill every demon, everywhere, throughout the entire universe, and beyond. Glyph knew when he had done it that he had gone too far; the loss of life was immeasurable. The demon populace numbered in the trillions, and made the five billion dead on Earth feel like a mere pin prick in comparison. Now, their population numbered forty-seven, including Zarish.
The devastation that surrounded him was enough to make him sick, and the ramifications of what he had done to the Earth came crashing down on him once more. “They must hate me for what I’ve done.” Glyph thought aloud. Worse still was the thought that they might ask him to set it all right again. He knew he could do it too, but it wasn’t meant to be. Everyone who had died was supposed to die, and returning it to the way it had been would only make what he had already done that much worse. There was a balance, and it was already tipped too far to the good. Bringing the dead back to life would only tip it further, and another Tsach would likely come to challenge him. It was the way of the universe. It sought in its own way to keep a balance; it was the whole reason he had been thrust into this mess to begin with. The real problem was that Glyph was meant to hold the balance between the two forces, but had failed, and now he had to set it right. The question was how?
“I guess there’s no point in putting it off any longer.” He said, though part of him just wanted to disappear and never come back.
Glyph took a few steps and the scenery changed. It wasn’t even a teleport, it was as though time and space had bent to accommodate him, and he walked into the center of a large underground chamber.
“Glyph?” Miatsu said questioningly, as if he wasn’t sure it was really him.
“Glyph!” Amos shouted, and leapt to his feet.
Albast smiled and approached Glyph. “I believe he has been successful.” The ancient wizard announced. “Summon the others, they should hear what he has to say.” Albast instructed Miatsu.
“No wait!” Glyph announced. “Albast I—.” Glyph cut himself off. At the mention of Albast’s name a flood of images flashed through his mind, but more than that. Glyph had memories and knowledge of the ancient wizard that no one knew, until now.
Albast stared at him like a deer in headlights, as if he could sense what Glyph now understood.
“Are you okay?” Amos asked him.
“Yes, I’ll be fine.” Glyph replied, and sat down on the crude stone bench that had been carved from the wall, and rubbed his temples as he tried to process what had just occurred. He glanced up at Albast. “You…you were like me.” Glyph said.
Albast looked as though he might answer ‘how’s that?’. Instead he calmly walked over and sat down beside Glyph. “Then, you know.” He replied, and Glyph nodded yes and stared at him. “I was not the first person to hold your position, but I was the most recent.”
“What is it? What just happened?” Glyph asked.
“You are becoming omniscient, and though you are consciously aware of this fact, your subconscious is not.” Albast told him. “In other words, any knowledge that you need doesn’t just come to you. You have to think about it, concentrate on it, before those answers are revealed to you. It gets easier, but those first few times it happens are, well, a bit overwhelming.”
“What the hell are you two babbling about? It’s over, right?” Amos questioned.
“Yes my friend. That part of it is finished.” Glyph replied, and forced a smile to reassure him, then turned his attention back to Albast. “I’ve failed, Albast. The balance is too far toward good.”
“Too far–. Glyph, what did you do?” Albast asked gravely, his brow furrowing in concern.
“I killed them all. Not just here, but everywhere. With the exception of Zarish and her group, every last demon is dead.” Glyph explained.
Albast let out a long whistle. “Damn. How far off is the balance?”
“Not much, but enough to realize that the cycle will continue. Albast, it happened to you as well, what do I have to do? How can I fix it?” Glyph asked.
“Time is of the essence, I’m afraid. You must act quickly to reset the balance, and it will require you to make some tough decisions.” Albast said, and then glazed over as if remembering something.
“Decisions you were unwilling to make.” Glyph finished for him.
Albast stared at him for a moment. “Yes.”
“Okay seriously, somebody start telling me what’s going on here. Glyph, what do you mean you failed?” Amos demanded.
“I think we would all like to know.” Lobrein spoke as she appeared beside Miatsu. Glyph hadn’t seen them come, but Prianna and Shea were now present as well.
“I was supposed to hold the line.” Glyph said, but stopped, unwilling to say it again.
“The balance is askew.” Albast stated for him. “Glyph must take steps to rectify the imbalance if the cycle is to be broken.”
“What cycle?” Miatsu spoke up.
“It’s complicated.” Albast replied. “Suffice it to say, when I was selected I too pushed the envelope of retribution against evil. But I was unwilling to do what was necessary to correct the problem. Glyph, your powers will soon start to diminish. You must do whatever it takes to make it right again.”
“You mean, you were–.” Lobrein started, and pointed at Glyph.
“The Great One. Yes. When I failed, the universe knew thousands of years of peace, and I thought I had made the right decision, but I was wrong. The evil that grew from my lack of action was far worse than anything I could have imagined. By the time I realized this, it was too late. I had lost the power to make the necessary changes to bring the balance back in line. The title of ‘Man of Light and Darkness’ and the powers associated with it, had passed on. I promised a dear friend that I would try and make it right again, and have dedicated my life to that purpose ever since.” Albast explained.
“Then this is all your fault!” Amos shouted, but Glyph held up his hand and motioned for Amos to be quiet.
“What’s done is done. It doesn’t matter who’s to blame, only that we make it right.” Glyph said. “Albast, what must I do?”
“You must concentrate on the problem. Visualize the imbalance in your mind, and the corrective action you need to take will become evident.” Albast stated. “I must warn you however, you will not like what you see. You will be required to do evil, in order to abolish the abundance of good you have created.”
Glyph’s head sunk into his hands as he sat there contemplating everything Albast had told him.
“Glyph, you must not do this. Let this title of the Great One pass. Only sorrow and heartbreak will come of it. You have done your best, do not pursue it further.” Shea suddenly spoke out.
Glyph looked up at her, and then once more to Albast. “What will happen if I don’t?” He questioned.
“The evil will rise up again, but worse. All that is good will be trodden upon for thousands of years until the next Man of Light and Darkness is chosen. If you thought that what you had to do here was hard, it will be nothing compared to what the next Great One will face.” Albast replied and stared at Shea.
Glyph heard the words Albast spoke, but this time he also received his own answer to the question he had asked. He had to smile at how the ancient wizard had tweaked and caressed his reply. Albast’s response was essentially correct, the pendulum would continue swing, the alternating cycles of good and evil would continue. His inaction, as Albast’s had, would create a peace that would span millennia, but ultimately every cycle of evil would be greater than the last. Eventually another ‘Great One’ would be chosen to reset the balance, even if it took a hundred thousand years. The thought of walking away was tempting, but why give up and pass the problem on to someone else later, when he was here now. “Then I will do it.” Glyph finally acquiesced.
“Glyph, no! I beg you, do not.” Shea said firmly.
“You heard what he said, I can’t let that happen.” Glyph responded.
“If we are to be together, then you must!” Shea shouted angrily. Everyone began to step back as to not get hit in the crossfire.
“Shea, we can still be together. We can still be married.” Glyph told her.
“No, we cannot! If you succeed you will become a god!” Shea roared.
“I don’t understand.” Glyph stated.
“Gods are worshipped Glyph, not married! How long do you think we could last before you got tired of me, of knowing everything about me? A few years maybe, if that! You said yourself that Albast is only out for himself. You must not listen to him.” Shea yelled.
Albast stared at his daughter in disbelief.
“That was before I knew what Albast stood for, what he was trying to accomplish. Could you really live with yourself knowing that we were the cause of rampant evil in the universe?” Glyph asked her point blank.
“YES!” Shea screamed violently, spittle shooting like rockets from the corner of her mouth.
Glyph just stared at her sadly. “I can’t, Shea. I can’t turn my back and walk away. I was chosen for a reason, and I have to see this through, no matter what.”
Shea shook uncontrollably now, and her eyes began to glow purple. “You would not! It is his fault this has happened! He was the one who walked away! He was the one who turned his back! You say this now, but wait! Wait until you see what you have to do! If he couldn’t do it, what makes you think you can?!” Shea berated him, burst into tears and ran from the room.
Silence filled the room in her absence, and everyone seemed just as shocked as Glyph over Shea’s behavior. He really couldn’t blame her though. He knew what she had gone through to get to this point and, like Glyph, had hoped that it would now be over. But it wasn’t.
After a minute Albast spoke up. “No one would blame you, if you didn’t want to go through with this.”
“No. It’s my job, my responsibility now. I can only hope that everything works out for the best.” Glyph said, and with that, he closed his eyes and concentrated on what he must do to reset the balance once and for all.
Suddenly the answers were there, dumped into his conscious mind faster than light. The influx of information made him feel as if his head were about to explode, and then it was over.
Glyph staggered to his feet. “One thing at a time. One thing at a time.” He muttered slowly. Then his head snapped up straight and his eyes glowed red. Glyph glanced around the room at the others with a profound look of sadness etched upon his face. A moment later he, Albast, and Amos were gone.
The scenery shifted around them, and they found themselves standing on a snow-covered mountain. “Glyph, what are we doing here?” Amos asked quickly realizing the others were nowhere around.
“The evil of the Tome must be neutralized.” Glyph said calmly even though his eyes still burned red, and his hands trembled.
“Okay, but why here?” Amos asked, shivering in the cold wind as he stared out across the frozen landscape.
For a long moment Glyph said nothing, as if contemplating his own actions. “I must perform evil in order to reset the balance. I didn’t want the others to see. I know they will find out what I have done, I just…they don’t need to witness it.”
“Look, why not just destroy the book. The release of the evil inside it will make up for any surplus of good.” Amos offered.
“No. There is too much evil in the book. If it were released the balance would tip from good to evil, and I will still have failed.” Glyph told him as a rock podium rose up from the icy snow.
Glyph pulled out the Tome of Dark Lore and placed it on the stand. He opened the Tome, and its pages were blank. Then he turned to face them both. Reaching out his hand, Glyph touched the side of Amos’s head and as he pulled his hand away it was followed by a bright shimmering light. Glyph moved his arm away from Amos as the light broke free of his head and drifted closer to Glyph’s hand. Then with a bright flash Drayden was there, his features slightly blurred by the blue nimbus of light that encircled his body, as if he had just appeared using the Divinare crystal.
“Drayden?” Albast whispered.
“It is I, my friend.” Drayden’s animus replied, and stretched out his arms toward Albast. His eyes were normal, and Glyph decided that this made sense, since it was Drayden’s physical body that had been blinded and not his soul.
“I—I don’t know what to say.” Albast said. He stepped forward and attempted to embrace Drayden, only to have his arms pass through his ghost-like form.
“My brother. It is good to see you this one last time.” Drayden spoke with an electric warble in his voice.
“I thought I would never see you again.” He said to Drayden. Albast looked toward Glyph with tears streaming down his face. “What is going on?”
“I have to allow Drayden to perform his final task.” Glyph replied calmly.
“And what is that?”
“I must be the balance of the Tome.” Drayden told him. “It has been my purpose all along, my friend. Glyph cannot destroy the book without releasing its evil into the universe. Since the evil of the Tome is self–contained, balance must be brought to the Tome as well.”
“But you, Drayden?” Albast questioned.
“Surely you must have wondered why I needed to be replaced?”
“Well, yes, but I always thought it was something that had to take place, in order for the prophecies to come true.”
“Yes, but there was also a reason, and I have discovered there is very little the universe does without reason. Do not feel sad for me, Albast. I have lived a thousand lifetimes, and thanks to Amos, I have lived long enough to see our efforts through to their conclusion.”
“But Drayden I–.” Albast said and choked on his emotions. Then he straightened himself and stared his old friend in the eyes. “I wish you well.”
Drayden smiled. “You too, my friend. Perhaps if the fates are kind, we may see each other again someday.” Then he turned to face Amos and placed his hand near the former detective’s shoulder. “Thank you, Amos Bogg. And you as well, Great One.”
Glyph nodded and smiled. Then in another bright flash, Drayden was gone and the hazy wavering light hovered above Glyph’s hand.
Suddenly an eerie voice broke the silence of the moment. “Give him to me!”
Glyph stopped moving his arm toward the Tome of Dark Lore and stared at the ancient book. There, on its pages was the image of a demon’s face, and its mouth moved.
“Let me feast upon his soul for all eternity!” The demon spoke.
Glyph stared in horror at what he was about to do.
“I, Morgus, king of the demons, command it!” Morgus demanded from the pages of the Tome.
Glyph hesitated; he hadn’t foreseen this. He didn’t know Morgus was in the Tome.
“Glyph, do not falter. It must be done!” Albast shouted.
The Tome began to laugh maniacally, as the inky mouth licked its lips.
“But… I didn’t know–.” Glyph stammered.
“Do it! Do it now!” Albast yelled.
Glyph forcibly moved his arm toward the Tome, and tears fell from his eyes as the light left Glyph’s hand and drifted into the blank pages of the book. When the last of Drayden’s animus had gone, the Tome snapped shut.
“God damn it, Glyph! Do you know what you just did?” Amos quipped.
Glyph sank to his knees weeping. “Yes. I know.”
Albast put his arm around Glyph’s shoulder and helped him back to his feet.
“Thank you for allowing me to see Drayden once more.” Albast said appreciatively.
“It was the right thing to do.” Glyph answered.
“Now you must not dwell on this, lest you lose your resolve to finish it.” Albast told him.
“Dwell on it!” Amos said excitedly. “He just sent Drayden to eternal—!” And Amos was silent.
With a wave of his hand Albast had silenced Amos, grabbed up the Tome, slid it into Glyph’s tunic, and led him away. “What is next, Glyph? We must act quickly before it is too late.”
The scene shifted once more, and they stood in another dark chamber under the snow-capped mountains. This time Zarish was there with him and Albast.
“What has happened? Why have you brought me here, Glyph? Did you defeat Tsach?” Zarish asked.
“Yes. Tsach is dead.” Glyph said stonily.
“Excellent. You have succeeded then. I should inform the others.” Zarish replied.
“They already know.” Glyph said.
Zarish glanced back and forth between Albast and Glyph. “Glyph? Why have you brought me here?” She questioned, staring at the red glow in Glyph’s eyes, and his tear stained cheeks.
“You are now the Arch-Demon of your people.” Glyph stated.
“I was thinking Queen might be a better title.” Zarish commented dryly.
“I believe that by exterminating your people, I have gone too far. I have tipped the balance in favor of good. That was not my purpose, I was to hold the line and reset the balance.”
“Go on.” Zarish answered.
“Zarish, I brought you back to life because you were good. You trusted in me, and what I believed. You never betrayed me, even when I thought you had.”
Zarish tilted her head and stared at him quizzically.
“The demons must return to Heelix, Zarish. They must continue to be evil.” Glyph told her.
“I see.” Zarish stated calmly.
“What I have given you, I must now take back. I am sorry.” Glyph said calmly.
“What you have given me?” Zarish asked curiously, then choked as Glyph drove the King’s sword through her abdomen and out her backside in one quick move. “Glyph—!” She spat out, as she stared into his eyes.
“You are too good to lead them, Zarish.” Glyph told her. With one swift lift of his sword he brought the blade up through her torso and across her neck as Zarish’s head flopped to one side and black blood splashed everywhere as her body slumped to the ground, dead. “I am so sorry, Zarish. I’m so sorry. I didn’t want it to be this way.” Glyph sobbed. “I didn’t…I didn’t.”
As he stood there crying, a small red point of light drifted slowly upward from Zarish’s dead body, and Glyph reached out and took it in his hand as the light dissolved into his palm and vanished.
Glyph started to shake. “I can’t do this! I can’t!” Glyph cried out.
“You must, Glyph, now focus! What’s left? What do you need to do next? Concentrate!” Albast demanded of him.
Glyph nodded and the world moved around them again. They were back in the first chamber, and all the other wizards were there, including Amos and Shea.
“What is going on? Glyph? Albast?” Lobrein demanded. Then she saw the black splatter of demon blood on Glyph’s clothes, and the look of pain and grief on Glyph’s face and she drew silent.
“There is one last task to perform.” Glyph said and sheathed the bloody King’s sword without cleaning it.
“What, Glyph? What is it?” Albast asked feverishly
Glyph held up his hand and choked back his tears.
“One of you must return to Heelix and lead the demons.” Glyph said.
Prianna gasped loudly.
“What? But Glyph, Zarish is the leader of–.” Lobrein started, but Glyph cut her off.
“Zarish is dead.” Glyph choked out. “I just killed her.”
“You did what?” Amos yelled.
“It was the only way.” Glyph told them.
“The only way! You’re out of your fucking mind! They both are! We have to stop this!” Amos shouted.
But Albast stepped forward, and grabbed Glyph by the shoulders, staring intently into his face. “Do not worry. I will make this easier for you. I will go. I will lead the demons, you don’t have to choose.”
Glyph stared at him sadly. “You’re right, Albast. The universe does want your blood. It wants you to sacrifice your blood, because you turned your back, because you wouldn’t reset the balance after your mistake. You couldn’t kill your wife and children. You couldn’t destroy the planet you once called home. Morgus arose from the tar pits of Heelix on that day. Your failure spawned the entire demon race. So yes, the universe wants your blood, Albast. It just doesn’t want it from you.”
Albast turned pale. “No. No, I am the one! I will lead the demons!” Albast shouted, but Glyph waved him aside and pinned him to the wall of the cave, holding him there with the force of his mind. Amos leapt forward to try and grab Glyph, but Glyph waved him aside as well, followed by Lobrein, Miatsu and Prianna.
“No, Glyph!” Lobrein cried out as he made his way the short distance to Shea.
“Stop it man! Fight it! You don’t want to do this!” Amos shouted.
“I am the one! I am the one!” Albast ranted.
Then Glyph silenced them all as he stood staring at Shea. The hatred was plain on her face as if she had spit in his eye.
“See what you have done.” Shea hissed at him. Glyph said nothing, but Shea suddenly cried out, and her mouth wrenched open as if two giant invisible hands had pried her jaw apart. Glyph held out his hand and a small red point of light drifted from his palm into Shea’s mouth and then it clamped shut. Glyph stepped back as her muted cries went unanswered. She trembled violently, and then began to change. Her white hair turned black and blew upwards in some unseen gale. Her face contorted and small thin horns rose from the top of her head, and she began to grow. Shea’s purple eyes turned yellow as her new body burst from her old clothes, and her long pointed tail swept them away.
It was over. Shea began to laugh as she felt her new demon body with her hands. “Hmmm. I like it!” She said and smiled evilly at Glyph. Glyph stood there with tears streaming down his face. With a wave of his hand he created a portal behind her. Then he reached into his tunic and pulled out the Tome of Dark Lore and offered it up to her. She reached out and snatched it from his hand and looked at him contemptuously. “Do not be sad, Great One. I will kill you…someday!” Shea said and spun around to enter the gate to Heelix. Then she stole one last look at Glyph. “Until we meet again…Glyyyph!” She said and vanished into the swirling portal.