Glyph woke in a panic. He could only see a bright blue light and Ishea’s hands as she repaired the damage done to his face. He tried to sit up, but Ishea pushed him back down. She removed her hands, and Glyph tried to sit up again.
“FREEZE!” She yelled at him with a strangely deep and hollow voice. Glyph realized he could no longer move, not even to blink.
Ishea moved her hands skillfully above his chest. He could now tell there were other people in the room, as they would shift in and out of his peripheral vision. There was a strange numb sensation coming from the gunshot wound in his leg, and his breathing was becoming easier. He kept trying to open his mouth but couldn’t, and his voice wasn’t working either. Seeing the exasperated look in his eyes, Ishea reached over and touched his head. Suddenly, Glyph heard her voice inside his mind.
“Be patient Glyph, the monks are still mending the wound on you leg.”
“They’re coming through The Pass!” Glyph screamed back in his mind.
Ishea withdrew her hand and put it to her head as she winced visibly.
“I am right here Glyph, you do not have to shout.” Ishea replied, while handing one of the monks a vial of crushed leaves. She turned to someone and said, “Send word to the others, let them know he is awake.” Then she turned back to Glyph.
“Our forces are moving out past The Hook right now. Lukret has taken over in your absence. We know they are coming through the pass and there is nothing you can do about it right now, so try to relax and we will get you there, when you get there.” She informed him, and then waved her hand, releasing her hold on his voice, as well as his body from the waist up.
“So what’s happening?” Glyph spat out.
“Nothing yet, but your original plan is no longer valid.” Ishea stated calmly.
“You should not swear in front of the monks, Glyph,” she scolded.
Glyph turned his head, and glared at Ishea intensely.
“Are you insane? I’ve got to get out there; you’ve got to get out there. They’ll get stomped without our magic!” Glyph yelled at her.
“Though your sentiment is touching, what will be, will be. Until the monks are finished working on your leg, you will not be going anywhere.”
Glyph lifted his head and looked down his body at the six monks. All of their palms were face down on top of one another, and moving as one. A bright white light emanated from the bottom of the monk’s hands as they moved them slowly above his wound.
“Where did they come from?” he asked Ishea, eyeing up the monks.
“Verto sensed your need, and sent his best healers to aid in your recovery. You will find that together they can do some pretty amazing surgery.”
“Can’t you do it?” Glyph questioned her.
“I could, but I tend to skip a lot of steps. If you plan on walking on that leg when you get off this table you will need a thorough rebuilding of your bone and muscle tissue. It may take another several minutes, but your injury will be healed. Not to mention, I would like to save some of my strength for battle ahead. Oh, speaking of which,” Ishea said, grabbing a small vial of liquid from her case. “Have you ever been in a battle of these proportions?” She asked.
Glyph thought for a moment, like he was recalling all the epic battles of his past.
“No, I haven’t, and your bringing it up doesn’t help my state of mind.”
“I too find myself reluctant to enter into battle again. Here, drink this. It will help.” Ishea said, holding it above his mouth.
Glyph opened, and she drained the whole vial. He almost gagged, but managed to swallow all of it. “Oh man, that shit tasted like mouthwash!” Glyph complained as he grimaced.
Ishea smiled and downed one herself. As she finished, the monks began to lift their hands up and take a step back one by one, then they bowed, and started to file out of the tent. Ishea nodded her head and movement was restored to both his legs. Glyph sat up slowly and groaned.
“You will be sore yet awhile.” Ishea prompted.
“Yeah, I got that.” Glyph said snidely. He was always sore, he never stopped being sore, and he was pretty sure he couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t. Glyph stood and tried out his leg, and was surprised to find that it felt practically normal.
“You should think about taking a refresher course.” Glyph joked, rubbing his ribs.
Grabbing his mail shirt off the dresser, Glyph quickly slipped it over his head. Ishea casually handed him his sword which he snatched from her and immediately belted on. He plucked his crown from the nightstand and, while setting it in place on his head, turned and stared at The Tapestry. The scene depicted a huge battle in front of The Pass, and it was ugly. The forces of men, stretched nearly end to end from The Hook to the Eastern Mountains, were fighting the forces of evil. Despite all his plans, neither side would have an advantage.
“It’s going to be nasty.” he commented.
“Shall we go?” Ishea asked.
“Let’s do this.”
Ishea and Glyph walked through the tent flap side by side. A servant stood in waiting, with O’dista and Ishea’s mount. They both leapt into their saddles, and Glyph noticed that Ishea was dressed in leather armor covered in ancient runes.
“What’s the name of your horse?” Glyph asked her out of the blue.
“Her name is Taimea.” Ishea smiled at him “Why do you ask?”
“When they record this battle for history, I want to make sure they have the facts straight.” Glyph replied, kicked into his horse, and galloped off toward the battlefront.
They both raced out of the encampment, driving their horses onward. After a few miles, Glyph noticed O’dista beginning to slow. “We’re not going to make it!” Glyph shouted across to Ishea. “The horses will need to rest!”
Ishea shook her head. “Remember the sword? Make the horse lighter!” She called back. Glyph watched as Ishea placed her hand on Taimai’s neck and concentrated. Suddenly her horse began to pick up speed and pull away from him.
Reaching down, Glyph attempted the same with O’dista. It was hard to stay focused at a full gallop, but Glyph got it right on his second try. The warhorse neighed once, and Glyph could feel the animal’s labored breathing ease. A moment later they shot off like a rocket. Within ten minutes they were at The Hook, and rode like the wind to the only tent in the middle of a sea of soldiers. Glyph and Ishea dismounted amid the barely controlled chaos, handed the reins of their horses to an attentive page, and entered together. Lukret stood at a table, and beside him was Covat and Toban. Kahula was on the opposite side with Hilen, and behind them near the back wall of the tent stood another Barjon warrior.
“What have we got, gentlemen?” Glyph spoke while striding to the side of the table.
They all looked at him at once.
“King Glyph!” Toban shouted, and rushed to greet him.
“Toban.” Glyph smiled.
“They must have come through the Pass during the night. We noticed them marching across the plain shortly after your hour began.” Toban informed him.
“What are we doing about it?” He asked Lukret.
“Currently, we are building our troops toward the center of the plain.” Lukret responded.
“Alright then, here’s what I want to do.” Glyph said eyeing the map on the table. “Kahula, take your men and stay near to The Hook. Toban, Hilen, take our troops to the East of Kahula’s men. Lukret, Covat, set your troops in the center of the plain, and toward the Eastern Mountains.”
“Very well, King Glyph.” Lukret said, “What is your plan?”
“My plan is to try and not get us all killed. We have limited time; Drathus is filling up the plain as we speak. Fight, fight hard; and Lukret?”
“Don’t let them outflank us. Don’t close ranks until there is no resistance, and preferably not until you are within site of The Pass. The rest of us will hold The Hook. We’ll be the handle, you be the blade.” Glyph stated, making a scissor-like motion with his hands.
Lukret nodded and grinned. “I am so glad you could join us.”
Glyph looked at each one of them in turn. “I am honored to serve with all of you, together we can do this. We will prevail this day. We know what we must do, so let’s get to it.” He took several steps back, and shook hands with each of them as they filed out.
As Glyph and Ishea exited the tent, they were astounded to see nearly a hundred monks in knee-length black robes with crimson sashes tied about their waists surrounding the tent.
“I think you might have forgotten some troops.” Ishea leaned over and spoke to Glyph.
“Well, not exactly.” Glyph stated, as a monk stepped forward and bowed.
“Rise, noble monk.” Glyph ordered.
The monk stood. “I am Osirus, leader of the Crimson Guard. We have been sent here by the venerable High Priest Verto to protect you, my Lord.”
Glyph decided not to argue. “Your service is welcomed, Osirus. Try not to stand too close when the battle starts.”
The monk nodded and bowed, then stood back. Glyph and Ishea mounted, and rode up to where Toban and Hilen were barking orders, marching their amassed forces deeper onto the plain. He could see the Legions trotting double-time as a single entity in front of him; they had nearly reached the center mark. Looking back, he saw the black mass of the Crimson Guard running to catch up to him.
“You’re being a bit quiet.” Glyph turned and said to Ishea.
“I am trying to center myself. I despise war, but this must be done, and I am reconciling the two in my heart.”
“You know I’ve decided, don’t you?” He asked her pointedly.
She grinned widely, and her eyes lit up. “I thought you might have.”
“I want to stay, Ishea. There’s no going back to Earth now.” Glyph said, meeting her gaze.
“I am so glad, Glyph.” she told him, fighting back the urge to cry. “I need to tell you something, and I am not sure how you will feel about it.”
“So what if you’re not from this world, it doesn’t really change things that much.” Glyph stated, watching her mouth open in astonishment. “Verto filled me in.”
“Ah, well, that would explain things.” Ishea responded, nodding her head and smiling.
They soon reached the middle of the immense field, with the Torlean Legions continuing to march further to the east, and the combined forces of Kivastor and Barjon to the West. The line was forming. A strange calm came over Glyph as he turned and gazed intently toward the Pass. The minions of Drathus spilled onto the plain by the thousands, drawing closer with every passing moment.
He rode out a ways toward the enemy lines, and stopped. Several minutes passed as he watched them moving about like black ants, forming a line a few miles away. Turning O’dista, Glyph moved back, sizing up his own forces. He couldn’t believe this was actually happening, that he, a printing press operator from New Jersey was about to lead an army into battle. The mere thought of it made him laugh out loud. This was insane, and even as fear gripped his heart, he couldn’t wait to fight. Glyph was sure his courage was being forged from the potion Ishea had given him, and he didn’t care, as long as it didn’t abandon him. The waiting was making him anxious, and just when he felt like he would explode he caught sight of Toban riding down the front line.
“The word is given, Sire!” Toban called out to Glyph.
Glyph glanced to the East and saw Lukret riding down the line toward him as well.
“We stand at the ready, King Glyph!” Lukret yelled.
Ishea made her way through the front line of soldiers and brought Taimea out in front beside him. “I feel like I should say something.” Glyph said to her.
“Go ahead. I will project it telepathically so that all shall hear your voice.” Glyph heard Ishea speak directly into his mind.
Glyph stood up in his stirrups and trotted back and forth several times.
“I am Glyph, King of Kivastor! I am the Light and Darkness! Today we stand in the path of darkness! We can see its face!” Glyph shouted and drew his sword. “Today we fight! We fight for our lives, and the lives of our families! We fight for our lands and our way of life! We fight to eradicate our world of this evil! Of this darkness! Of this Hell! Follow me, and together we will scour the demon lord Drathus from our world, and rid ourselves of his influence forever!!”
Roars went up from the throngs of soldiers across the plain in front of him, as they held their weapons high, or beat the pommels of their swords against their shields. With that, Glyph swung O’dista around and held his sword aloft. It begin to glow; slowly at first, and then accelerating, until it was a bright red-orange, like molten steel. A unified deafening cheer went up behind him, and he lowered his sword down, pointed it at the enemy line, and began to lead the charge across the plain towards the hordes of Drathus.
Glyph stood in his stirrups as he steadily approached the enemy. He glanced to his right and saw Ishea and Lukret pouring across the grassy field, and to his left Toban and Kahula leading their troops to battle.
“Concentrate on the Demons. There are seven of them!” Glyph shouted at Ishea over the roar of galloping horses, and running men.
“Thanks for telling me!” She screamed back at him.
Glyph watched her a few seconds longer, then moved his attention back to the quickly approaching Grull. Raising his fist in front of him, he waited until he was right on top of the enemy and flicked his hand open. Grull blew outward around him in every direction as an invisible force crushed their bodies flat against one another in a twenty-foot semi-circle. As he rode into his newly vacuumed space he heard the sound of thousands of bodies impacting as the rest of the armies fell upon the Grull.
Glyph swung the King’s sword mercilessly, burning through bodies like soft butter. He stopped for a moment and caught a glimpse of Ishea blasting lightning bolts from one hand, while cleaving the head of a nearby Grull with her sword in the other. Within seconds, a group of the black-robed monks had created a ring around him. They were somehow managing to keep the hordes at bay using only metal-capped wooden staffs, along with some lethal form of martial art.
Scanning the fray, he located his first target, a large, ugly fucker of a demon about forty-five feet to his front and left. Glyph rode forward between two of the monks and began cutting a path through the throngs of Grull. He could see they were all wearing patches of armor. One might have a breastplate, another’s sword arm was covered in hinged metal, and every now and then one would pop up wearing a helmet specially crafted to fit the creature’s horns. The beasts carried all types of weapons from spears and clubs, to crudely forged blades, but were no match for the destructive power of the King’s sword. A hailstorm of arrows flew over his head, thinning out the ranks of the horned minions. Fearing he might lose sight of his demon, Glyph moved O’dista into a gallop, as he continued to cut his way through layer after layer of Grull.
Finally, the Demon loomed a few scant feet away, and Glyph saw the huge spiked club in its hand as it swung down towards his head. Glyph moved his sword up to block, and winced as his sword sliced cleanly through the club, which sent the severed half of the weapon spiraling past his head, and down into the legs of several Grull, crippling them instantly. The Demon looked at the end of the club in shock, and then back at Glyph. Taking advantage, Glyph plunged his sword deep into the demon’s side, then withdrew and quickly maneuvered O’dista behind the now wailing brute. Sweeping the heads off a few courageous Grull, Glyph turned in time to see the demon swat at O’dista. He pulled his weight to one side in the saddle and jerked the reins hard. The horse began to move, but only got a few steps away before the demon’s swing smacked it in the rear. O’dista took off at full gallop, as Glyph was spun from his saddle and landed on his back in the dirt, watching his horse plow through a wall of the horned devils.
Glyph immediately sat up, as a morning star ball whooshed past his head. The tip of its spike cut into his face as it rode down past his ear. Time slowed as Glyph turned to see the Grull arcing back for another swing. Suddenly a wave of anger washed over Glyph as he reached up and touched the wound. Blood trickled down his face, and with a fling of his arm an invisible blast launched the Grull off into the fray, minus his morning star, which Glyph held suspended above the ground with the force of his mind. Glyph rolled to his side and scrambled to reach his sword which had landed a few feet away, but before he could grab it, the demon snatched him up with both hands and began to squeeze. As it pulled Glyph off the ground, the morning star started to spin, slowly at first, then accelerating in speed, until the chain and ball were a blur. The demon began to laugh as he held Glyph suspended in the air at arm’s length.
“You are the Great One?” The demon questioned in a deep voice that was otherworldly. Glyph pushed back against the demon’s crushing grip with all his strength to no avail.
“Should I beg you to spare my life?” It asked sarcastically and began to laugh.
As the last of the air was pushed from Glyph’s lungs, the morning star flew upward and spun into the side of the demons skull, attacking it like a chainsaw, splattering blood, torn flesh, and pieces of bone onto Glyph’s face and chest. Its eyes flashed with surprise for only a moment before the spinning ball of spikes ripped into them. Glyph continued to push the weapon deeper and deeper into the demon’s head with his mind and only released his hold on the weapon when the demon went limp and dropped to its knees. Its arms fell, depositing Glyph back to the ground and onto his feet. He threw his arms out and easily broke the dying demon’s grip, then reached down for his sword which met him halfway. A gurgle erupted from the lump of ground hamburger that was once the fiend’s head. Glyph jumped high and cut the teetering torso down the middle, with the two halves sliding lifelessly past each other to the ground.
“Yes!” Glyph shouted angrily at its remains. At this point many of the Grull warriors started to avoid Glyph, and gave him a wide berth that was reinforced by the number of monks who once again encircled him. Taking several breaths, he was grateful to the monks for this respite. He could feel the energy coursing through his veins; most likely a by-product of the potion Ishea had given him earlier and his own adrenaline.
Suddenly, Glyph caught a glimpse of Toban fending off several Grull not that far away. Stepping between the monks, he cut through the nearest Grull’s neck far enough to have the creature’s head flop over to one side while its body stumbled about like a slaughtered chicken. Noticing that the more surgical a strike was, the more lethal it appeared to be, Glyph no longer bothered with limbs, but rather started skewering the enemy through their skulls. He made his way through to Toban just as the Steward was being overrun. Hacking straight through the spines of two of them, Glyph blew three more off with a wave of his hand. Another Grull lunged at Toban only to be caught in the face with a staff, as Osirus and several other monks began popping up all around them. Glyph reached down and helped Toban to his feet.
“Thank you, Glyph!” Toban shouted sincerely, as he retrieved his sword.
Glyph put his hand on Toban’s shoulder “Are you okay?”
“A little worse for wear perhaps!” he smiled and wiped the sweat from his brow. “Shall we continue?”
“Abso-fucking-lutely!” Glyph yelled. “Don’t get too close to the sword!”
Toban laughed “I will keep that in mind!” he shouted in reply.
Glyph struck out again into the sea of battle, surgically parting it as he went. A few more arrows whizzed past overhead. The Grull were a tough race, Glyph noted. Many of them continued to fight with several arrows pin-cushioning their torsos.
A sonic boom went off to Glyph’s right, and shook the ground; bodies flew upward like a mushroom cloud in all directions about a hundred yards away.
“Ishea.” Glyph thought out loud as he and Toban exchanged glances. He quickly fought back the urge to try and find her. “She can obviously take care of herself.”
“Indeed.” Toban replied.
Just then a small cluster of Kivan soldiers rushed past them, ramming their spears into a herd of approaching Grull. Toban leapt behind the group and defended them as they withdrew their spears. He shouted a rallying cry and several half-squads formed a phalanx which Toban directed toward their next charge. Glyph took out several stragglers, and then made his way toward a small hill in hopes of catching sight of a demon.
As he reached the top of a small rise, Glyph saw a number of Kivan soldiers and Barjon warriors bravely engaging another demon. He raced down a slight incline through a field of tall grass, cutting through any enemy body that got in his way, leaving a path of death and destruction in his wake. He rushed in between two Barjon soldiers, as a Kivan went up in a ball of flame. One of the Barjons scored a hit into the demon’s side with a pike, and was promptly electrocuted. Glyph jumped up and severed the demon’s forearm as it attempted to pull the pike from its side. The creature howled as its limb fell to the ground. With a quick spin, Glyph sliced through the back of its calf, causing it to drop down on one knee. The demon growled and turned, blasting a ball of fire toward Glyph, who ducked just in time to avoid being roasted. Out of nowhere, King Kahula appeared at a full sprint and leapt onto its back, sinking his broad axe deep into its neck and shoulder. The demon shook Kahula off its back as Glyph lunged forward and ran it through the middle with his blade using both hands. Wiggling the glowing sword in a circular motion, he burned the searing, cauterized hole in the demon’s chest wider and wider as it stared at Glyph in disbelief. Blood boiled out its mouth and neck, as it slumped forward and fell at Glyph’s feet. Glyph ran over to Kahula, who was attempting to get up, and gave him a hand.
“Did I ever thank you for the sword, Kahula?” Glyph asked, remembering the story Ishea had told him of its origin. Glyph had pulled Kahula onto his knees, and was positioning himself under the Barjon King’s arm when another of his warriors stepped up to help lift him the rest of the way.
“He who gives a gift and expects thanks is not giving.” He replied. “Besides, I did not give it to you, Komei did. I think I would have held on to such a weapon.” Kahula began to laugh, then coughed a few times and grabbed his ribs. “I think I may have cracked a few that time.”
“Let me help you back.” Glyph said immediately.
“I will go back, but you are needed elsewhere. I am fine, Glyph. You must go.” Kahula responded, as a few more Barjon soldiers ran up beside them. “We will meet later, Glyph, King of Kivastor.” Then he and his soldiers turned and started fighting their way back.
Osirus suddenly appeared beside Glyph.
“You guys are running a little thin, aren’t you?” Glyph asked him as he turned and looked back toward the middle of the plain.
“They will be here. You are just a hard person to keep up with.” Osirus replied.
“Are you always this serious?” Glyph questioned, as several other monks began to show up.
The monk looked at him strangely and answered “Yes.”
“Don’t forget to smile, Osirus.” The monk raised his eyebrows. “Smile?” Glyph prompted. Osirus forced a grim smile for him. Glyph laughed and gave the monk a friendly pat on the back. “C’mon, we’ll have to work on that later.”
Glyph ran back towards the spot he had last seen Toban. Along the way he was joined by a dozen more monks and some Kivan soldiers.
Another sonic boom went off in the distance, and Glyph quickened his pace through the minions of darkness. A while later he came upon Toban and a few Torlean fighters battling their way through the melee.
“Have you seen Ishea?” Glyph yelled across the din as he came close to Toban.
“No, I have not!” Toban said parrying a blow from a particularly nasty looking Grull.
“I’m going to find her!” Glyph informed him.
“I will go with you!” Toban shouted back, as he ran the Grull through the chest, and slit the beast’s throat with the dagger in his other hand. Fighting side by side with Osirus at their backs, they battled their way toward the last sonic boom like a wedge, with Glyph in the lead, a group of monks in the middle, and a line of soldiers bringing up the rear. After what felt like an eternity, the group found another high spot in the landscape, and was able to see another large Demon, even taller than the others at nearly fifteen feet tall, further off to his right. It was pounding on something fiercely with a giant war hammer; Glyph got a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach that something was wrong. Gutting a nearby Grull, Glyph realized the combatants between him and the demon had become so intertwined that any destructive power he unleashed might kill his own men.
Suddenly Glyph had an idea. He placed his hands together in front of him and concentrated. “Part!” He screamed, stomping his foot into the dirt and moving his hands apart. Glyph could feel his arms tingling as an invisible force began to separate the chaotic fighting, clearing the way for him straight towards the Demon. Screaming ferociously, he raced down the path created by the bodies as they magically separated in front of him. Toban and Osirus were right on his heels, with the two sides reengaging in combat after they had passed. As the parting force deposited them into the small clearing with the Demon, Glyph could see that something was indeed wrong.