Glyph awoke on the same bed he had been sitting on before his hour. He sat up, and noticed sunlight was now streaming through the open window, and with it the sound of the waterfall dropping into the city below. He felt himself getting angry again over the injustice of everything that had been happening to him. There was no sense left to anything, and he started to feel dead inside. His back ached fiercely as he leveraged himself off the bed onto his feet. As he walked to the door, the throbbing from his temple reminded him of the beating he had taken by the two teens on Earth. The thought of killing them nearly brought him to tears, but he fought them back. Regaining his composure, Glyph opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.
A man in a servant’s uniform quickly ran up to him. “Fair morning, My Lord. How may I be of service to you?”
Glyph looked at him, and scratched his head. “I don’t suppose you have a shower I could use, do you?”
“Of course, My Lord. Allow me to escort you to the bathhouse.” The servant said, turning on his heel and marching down the hall. They came to a spiral staircase and followed it down several stories. Glyph estimated that they were close to level with the city now. The stairs exited into a small room with a door. The servant opened the door revealing a larger room with a high ceiling. A path of thick carpet led to a stone dais with a few steps leading to the top. Glyph walked up the steps and looked down into a marble tub. It had a built-in seat, and a large grated drain in the center. He then turned back to the servant.
“I really wanted a shower.” Glyph said.
“When you are ready, pull back the lever on the side of the tub. It will release a panel in the ceiling allowing water to come through from the heated cistern above. There are drying cloths in the alcove just inside the door.” The man bowed and left the room, leaving Glyph to his shower.
He took off his clothes, pulled the lever, and was pleasantly surprised to see a shower of water drop into the middle of the tub. Stepping in, Glyph sat down and began to think. He had always done his best thinking in the shower. He remembered the last day of ‘normal life’ he had. Glyph had called off work sick, and was so tired that day he could hardly get up to go to the bathroom. That night he had met Simeon in his dreams, and the next day the ‘hours’ started. He remembered the trial and error survival process that had allowed him to stay alive for so long, and more recently his shift to this new world, and Ishea. Glyph could admit that being here was a hell of a lot better than being tortured, but had serious issues with having to kill people in real life.
‘Before, my hour was my life and I could survive. Now my hour is a living nightmare where I either kill, or be killed.’ Glyph thought as wafts of steam rose up around him. ‘What could be wrong with me? What kind of mental illness could possibly generate such vivid hallucinations as this?’ He wondered. ‘Why would I even dream this up? First the torture, and now Ishea and this whole ‘King’ thing she’s trying to force on me? There has got to be a way out of this, some way to wake up, or snap out of it, something. I just have to figure out what it is.’ After about twenty minutes the water falling from the cistern started to cool off.
“This must have something to do with those damn prophecies Ishea keeps spouting off, and I think it’s time I take a look at them for myself.” Glyph muttered, stood, and pushed the lever back in place.
Glyph dried himself off; the soaking helped a great deal. His back was much less stiff, and not nearly as painful now. There was something he was missing, though, and he just couldn’t get his mind around it yet. He got dressed and went back up the staircase into what appeared to be his own private wing. He walked back into the bedroom, more because he hadn’t seen the servant guy and didn’t know where else to go. Glyph walked to the window and again surveyed the city below him. The streets were very busy, and large horse-drawn carts were entering and leaving through the main gates. He walked back over to the bed, where the tapestry caught his eye again. It was somehow different looking now. There was a main column of the beasts marching toward the center of the armies of men he hadn’t noticed before. There were also several groups of men outflanking them, and the leader seemed to be pointing instead of waving like he was yesterday. Glyph sat back down on the bed, absently touched the knot on the side of his head and winced.
“Ouch.” He said and stood up.
“Okay. I need to get some damn answers.” Glyph said out loud to himself. He then strolled back out into the hallway. The servant was there as before.
“Ah, My Lord. I see you have finished bathing. Is there anything else I may do for you?”
“Yes.” Glyph replied. “I want you to take me to Ishea.”
“Lady Ishea is in a meeting with Steward Toban, and they asked not to be disturbed.”
“Uh, yeah that’s great.” Glyph replied putting one finger to his chin and bouncing it. “So, how about you take me to Ishea. Now.” Putting his emphasis on ‘now’.
“But, My Lord, surely you would respect the lady’s wishes in this matter.” The servant said much more seriously.
“Okay. Let’s try this a different way.” Glyph said, his temper beginning to flare. “What’s your name?”
“Sturim, My Lord.” Sturim replied.
“Look Sturim, do you know who I am?” Glyph asked.
Sturim cocked his head slightly, and with a quizzical expression replied “Yes, My Lord.”
“Do you know who I’m going to be?” Glyph demanded.
Sturim’s brow wrinkled a bit and he nodded yes, unsure of what to say.
“Good, then you will take me to Ishea right now, or I will have the guards toss you out my bedroom window, and if they don’t obey me now, they sure as hell are going to obey me tomorrow. So which way do you want it?” Glyph asked forcefully, and stared at him coldly.
The color drained from Sturim’s face, and his eyes grew wide with fear. “This way, My Lord.” He said, quickly spun around, and led Glyph down the hall. They passed two intersecting hallways and came into the large room behind the falls, then passed into a corridor on the far side. After crossing another hallway they came to a spiral stair going up. Upon reaching the top, the servant knocked briefly on the door and opened it. Glyph could see this was a library, and rather extensive from the looks of it.
“My lady, Steward, I am so sorry to interrupt, but I did not know what to do.” Sturim began to explain hurriedly.
“It is alright Sturim.” Ishea said staring at Glyph. “I know how he can be. Thank you.”
The servant nodded and quickly made his exit. Ishea and Toban were sitting at a large oval table with a long map spread across it, and several stacks of books piled here and there. Shafts of natural light were coming down through square ducts carved in the ceiling.
“What do you want, Glyph?” Ishea asked bluntly.
“I need some answers and I want them straight, just so we’re clear.” Glyph said, trying to keep his temper under control.
“What would you like to know?” she replied, somewhat sarcastically.
Toban began to shift uneasily in his seat, and appeared highly uncomfortable.
“First, I just got whacked in my back with a baseball bat during my hour, not to mention a goose-egg on my head. How come I’m still feeling it? I mean the whole pain thing never used to transfer before, so what gives?” Glyph spoke evenly, again trying not to blow up.
Ishea looked at Glyph gravely. “You are feeling pain now?” She questioned. Ishea leaned forward a bit in her chair, thinking hard. “It is likely because I brought you here. I believe that Drathus had already begun to warp the effects of the curse, to what end I am unsure. Changing it again to bring you here may have altered the rules of the curse further. It could also be that Drathus is trying to re-take control of your curse. Either way, if the wounds from your hour appear here, then whatever happens to you here will also transfer into your hour.”
“Okay.” He was somewhat surprised by her straight answer. “So, can Drathus re-take control of my curse?”
Ishea smiled slightly. “Anything is possible, but I believe he would have to be in possession of one of your bodies to do so. I discovered your energy signature quite accidentally, and therefore used some rather creative magic in order to interact with your curse. If Drathus or Simeon were capable of figuring it out, they would have done so by now.” She explained.
Glyph was glad to hear it. The last thing he needed to worry about now was that at any moment he might suddenly find himself back in Simeon’s care. “Then that’s why Drathus is so intent on killing me during my hour, right?”
Ishea was looking almost concerned now “Yes. Of course, he can kill you here as well, it would just be harder for him.” She replied.
“Okay.” Glyph responded a bit calmer now. “So, since you won’t send me back, my only way out of this, besides dying is …?” he said questioningly.
“To fulfill the prophecy.” She stated.
“And then will you send me back?”
“If you so choose, yes.” Ishea said, looking happy and crushed at the same time.
Glyph nodded and slowly walked in towards the table. Pulling out a chair, he sat down. “Agents of good and evil in both worlds, right?” he said, feeling as though a weight had been lifted.
“Correct.” Ishea replied, half shocked that he had remembered this much.
“I’m seeing a bunch of evil in my hour and not any good. It’s become obvious to me that my only way out of this is to do as you say. That being the case, I’m going to need help surviving my ‘hour’, so where are these good guys?” Glyph just said it; there wasn’t any more reason to beat around the bush. He glanced over at Toban; his mouth was agape and he was starting to turn a slight shade of gray. “I take it he hasn’t been ‘briefed’ on my condition yet?” Glyph said indicating Toban with a slight nod of the head.
“No Glyph, that is what I was doing when you interrupted us. As to your question, there are forces of good out to help you in your world.” She closed her eyes for a moment. “The man who picked you up on the road, did he not help you? He was an agent of good.”
Glyph thought about it for a moment “So the evil guys know enough to try and kill me, but the good guys don’t even know they’re helping me, it just sort of happens.”
“Good and Evil are different, Glyph. They work differently; they even operate under different sets of rules.” Ishea said as though everyone should know this.
“Well whatever happened to them balancing each other out?” Glyph began to feel irritated again.
“They always do, but they are not bound by time as we are. It could take thousands of years for one to balance the other, or just a few seconds. You must take heed in your hour, but also have faith that all will be as it must.” Ishea said as she put her hand on his. “It is unfortunate that I cannot directly aid you in your hour, for I assure you if I could, I would do so. Drathus knows this, and that is why, I suspect, he attempted to get you to take your own life by cursing you with the hour. He deduced that once I brought you here, he could locate your position on your world. Since he already has access to this world he can follow your ‘trail’ from here, as well as access your own world through the path he created with the curse. It gives him a great advantage.”
“It gives him an hour to hunt me every day is what it gives him.” Glyph said, again fighting back his frustration with the whole thing. Toban was shaking his head, and Glyph could tell the tale was pissing him off as well. “When does this coronation thing start?” Glyph asked Toban.
“It is scheduled for this afternoon, My Lord.” Toban said after clearing his throat. “My Lord …” he started, but then paused for a moment “I cannot even imagine.” He finished, trying to put into words his sympathy for Glyph’s situation.
“Don’t even try, Toban. Don’t even try.” Glyph said with a nod.
“Well, my lady, that explains things.” Toban said to Ishea. “I will call upon you after noon meal, My Lord. Sturim will see to it that you are ready.” He said to Glyph “I must take my leave of you now.”
“Very good, Toban.” Ishea replied, while Glyph gave a two-fingered salute. Toban turned and left.
Glyph turned back to Ishea, “I think I’d like to have a look at those prophecies now.” She smiled slightly at him and looked over at the piles of books already stacked on the table. “Take your pick.”
Reaching over to the closest pile, he grabbed one off the top. Strange symbols covered the front of the leather bound book. The pages were so old and yellowed Glyph could have believed the book had just been plucked from the fire place and set there to cool.
“I enjoy reading Shulin.” Ishea informed him. “He was a master scribe who lived about five thousand years ago. He hand-copied nearly a thousand manuscripts in his lifetime, but only ever authored one.”
Opening the book, Glyph flipped slowly through the pages, staring blankly at the bizarre markings and symbols. “Uhm, this could be a problem.”
Ishea stared at him wide-eyed. “What? Did you find something?” She asked excitedly.
“No, I can’t read this.”
She suddenly shot him a stern look. “I am sure you can read.” Ishea stated.
“Oh I can read. I just can’t read this.” He told her and pointed at the page in the book. Glyph watched as the realization of his problem dawned across her face.
“I apologize.” She said sincerely. “Please, close your eyes for a moment.”
Glyph glanced at her strangely, but did as he was instructed. Ishea reached over and placed her hand over his closed eyes.
“Try it now.” She prompted.
Glyph opened his eyes and looked down at the cover. “‘The book of Shulin’ by Shulin.” He read out loud, finding that he could now read the strange writing. “Wasn’t a very imaginative fellow was he?” Glyph asked and chuckled at his own attempt at humor, and Ishea smiled politely.
They both studied the books for the next several hours. As near as Glyph could tell, there were only two relevant prophecies out of about twenty that pertained to his situation. The first was from The Book of Shulin which read as follows: ‘In the age of awakening, near the day of Reckoning, a man will be delivered from the darkness by the powers of light, and he will not see like us, or be of our ways, but his power will be great, and this man we shall call King. This King will be like no other, and the people will accept him. He, and he alone, can lead the people into battle with the forces of darkness and prevail upon the day of Reckoning. Time will stand poised on the edge of the Great Choice, and actions unknown will claim him forever the savior of all the lands.’
“Well, that’s not very clear is it? It could mean anything really, especially that last part.” Glyph commented.
“Sadly, it is the nature of prophecy to be vague. It tells us of the future, but in a way that we cannot always understand, often only becoming obvious after it has happened.”
The second prophecy was from a collection of notes labeled ‘The Prophecy of Priam’ which stated: ‘The evil minions of darkness will enter the world and the light will be as a precipice. Near the end of days a man of light and darkness, greater than any king of one, will make the evil tremble and falter. He who knows not will choose, and those unknown will spirit him unto the heavens.’
There were several other entries that mentioned ‘He of wretched hour will be hunted by the eyes of darkness’, and ‘The survivor of time will grasp ultimate darkness from the depth of the celestial heavens to bring balance unto evil’, but said little else. Ishea had been very patient with him, and sounded totally agreeable now that she knew he was ‘accepting his destiny’. They discussed a few of the finer points, until Sturim entered to tell them the noonday meal was almost ready.
They went down the stairs and entered a dining room a few doors down the hall. It was a large room with a long table that could seat at least twenty. A high vaulted ceiling enclosed the room, with ample torchlight illuminating the architecture. They sat down and were soon surrounded by servants performing different tasks, some serving trays of food. A steaming hot chicken was put out for the main course, and they both ate in relative silence. Glyph was then ushered off by Sturim to his chambers, where he was presented with the kingly apparel he was to wear at the coronation.
“I am not wearing that.” Glyph said eyeing up the doublet and hose.
“But My Lord, it is the traditional garb.” Sturim pleaded.
“Well, I ain’t traditional, and I’m not wearing that.”
“Very well, My Lord.” Sturim gave in; after his last protest he felt he probably ought not to press his luck.
Glyph donned a white, loose-fitting shirt and kept his blue jeans in place. He buckled on his sword, and Sturim helped him into a close-knit chainmail tunic. Finally, Sturim draped a long ornate velvet cape over his shoulders, and excused himself. Ishea entered the room shortly thereafter, wearing a stunning silver dress with purple vines embroidered in the sleeves and shoulders. She sized him up.
“Surely you look at least half a king.” She mused. “Have you given any thought to your speech?” She said slyly.
“My what?” Glyph choked.
“Your speech. You know, the thing you give after you are crowned king.”
“Now you tell me.” He remarked snidely.
Sturim returned presently and escorted them to the ‘Hall of Ministry’, where a balcony opened up far to the left side of the falls, and just a few stories above a large open square in the city. Toban was there in formal robes, and briefed him on the ceremony. The Steward then went out onto the balcony and read aloud the proclamation of kingship. After he stopped, trumpets began to sound and Glyph stepped out onto the balcony beside Toban. Below him were people as far as the eye could see; the whole inner courtyard and the marketplace beyond were filled to capacity. Glyph was motioned to sit in a chair which had been carved right out of the stone floor of the balcony. Toban then introduced Glyph to the citizens of Kivastor. A servant handed him a silver crown inset with emeralds, and he placed it upon Glyph’s head. Trumpets and cheers went up from below, and after they had died down Ishea stepped forward, staff in hand.
“On this day we have witnessed a fulfillment of prophecy. On this day our hope is once again restored. I give you your new monarch, King Glyph!” she shouted to the crowd.
Cheers went up again and Glyph stood and walked to the edge. A hush came over the courtyard and he cleared his throat.
“I am he who is of Light and Darkness.” Glyph shouted, glancing at Ishea only to catch her startled expression. “I have been delivered from Darkness unto you, and here shall I serve!” The crowd went wild again. After a few minutes a hush fell upon them again. “I thank you for your gracious hospitality, and now may we enjoy together the festivity you have labored to prepare!” He shouted, and glanced at Toban who gave the signal for the trumpets. Glyph waved like he was on stage at a rock concert, and then they all withdrew to the main hall to the roar of the crowd. Music began to play from some unseen band, and Ishea looked at Glyph.
“Looks like a promising start.” She said to him, smiling. Glyph shrugged.
Toban approached them.
“Your highness, we may now adjourn to the Great Hall.” he said, and escorted them down yet another flight of stairs into a room the size of a high school gymnasium. There, he was seated at one end of the hall on an elevated stage, in an ornately carved wooden throne, inlaid with swirling jade patterns and highlighted with sapphires. The seat could have easily fit two of him, and the high back towered three or four feet above his head. Ishea sat to his left, and Toban to his right, in smaller chairs, but equally as well crafted.
Many strange forms of entertainment were brought forth for the pleasure of the king, and afterward, with a clap of Toban’s hands, the room was flooded with servants who performed an intricate dance as they transformed the room into a banquet hall. Tables and chairs were twirled and tossed around the guests with ease, with a final long table carried over the guests’ heads from the back of the room on poles, and deposited gently in front of the three of them. The meal was just as grand, with roasted pheasants and hogs rounding out the main course. As evening came, Glyph listened patiently to the whimsical ramblings of many ambassadors and government officials. Finally, prompted by Ishea, they mingled through the crowd meeting just about everyone of importance in the whole kingdom. The night began to wear on, and Ishea helped Glyph to make an exit, and led him back up to the room behind the falls.
“You did well tonight, Glyph. Even I must admit you were impressive.” She said.
“Yeah, it’s amazing what you’ll do to keep from dying.” Glyph said jokingly, but could tell from Ishea’s reaction that he had hit a sore point.
“I am sorry I must keep you here, but even if you had not accepted your destiny, I would be loath to send you into Drathus’s clutches.” She said sincerely.
Glyph found himself feeling sorry for her. “I know, Ishea. I’m beginning to see that now.”
“You should rest now. We can talk about your hour in the morning. Perhaps together we might be able to find some way to help you better survive it.” She smiled again and walked away. Glyph stood staring at the falling water for a while, and then went on to his bedroom. He took off the crown and placed it on a bureau and hung his cape beside it on a peg in the wall. He struggled out of his chainmail and lay down on the bed. He tossed and turned for an hour, and finally got up and took to wandering the halls. Soon he came upon a guard and asked him where he could find Steward Toban, who immediately showed him the way to Toban’s quarters.
Glyph knocked on the door, and heard Toban’s voice say “Enter”. Glyph pushed the door open and Toban immediately stood.
“Your Highness, what can I do for you?” he said.
“Okay, first, let’s drop the ‘highness’.” Glyph replied.
“Certainly, Glyph.” Toban said, somewhat strained.
“I couldn’t sleep, and I had a few questions for you.”
“Please have a seat.” Toban said politely, and they both sat down at the table.
“First, I want to make sure there’s no hard feelings, me taking your job and all.” Glyph said.
“By no means, Glyph. You are the king. I am merely the steward, and I will still serve in that capacity unless you wish otherwise.” Toban said as if he just realized that might be the case.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else, Toban.” Glyph said, noticing a slight relief in Toban’s demeanor. “I will need you if we are to do this… thing.” he said for lack of a better description. “What do you know of Drathus?”
“He is a foul demon of darkness, whose armies have sought to conquer our world for a millennia.” Toban stated.
“So this isn’t a new thing.” Glyph said, somewhat surprised.
“No, Drathus and his evil brood has brought war upon us once before. The Seven came together, and drove them back to a far corner of the world, but were not strong enough to banish them forever.” He reached behind him and pulled out a map from a shelf, unrolled it and showed it to Glyph. “Here is Kivas, and here is Degruthra.” Toban indicated with his finger. “It means land of the damned, and is nothing but wasteland.”
Glyph studied the map then asked, “Who are the Seven? And how did they manage to contain Drathus?”
“Oh, I assumed Ishea had discussed this with you.”
“Well, the Seven were a group of sorcerers, and sorceresses, with great powers. By themselves they were not effectual in combating Drathus’ army. When they realized the severity of the threat Drathus represented, the Seven combined their powers and were able to drive the minions back.” Toban said.
“So where are the Seven now?” Glyph said, asking the obvious.
“Alas, four of them have passed into the grave. Out of the three that are with us, one is a recluse and now sees no one, the second is only concerned with nature and caring for the creatures of the land, and the third you have already met.” He replied
“Ishea?” Glyph asked.
“Indeed. She was the youngest of the group and has taken up the calling of the prophecies.” Toban replied.
Glyph thought for a moment. ‘If Ishea was one of the Seven, and they fought Drathus a thousand years ago then…’ “How old is she?”
“I believe the records would show around three millennia.”
“Holy shit, you’re serious!” Glyph said, amazed.
“Yes, she hardly looks a day past twenty-five, but it is true.”
“So, she’s immortal then?”
“Correct. They all are, or rather, were. That is not to say she cannot be killed. In that regard she is as mortal as I am.” Toban explained.
“If they were to team up, Ishea and the other two, couldn’t the three of them do something?”
“That is doubtful. They have grown apart; the other two have not been seen in hundreds of years, and even so, it took all seven to defeat Drathus’s army the first time. I am afraid that three would prove to be insufficient.”
Glyph thought about what he had said. “Thank you Toban. I’m sure I’ll have more questions for you tomorrow.”
“The pleasure is mine.” Toban responded. Glyph turned to leave “Ah, Glyph?” Toban said.
“Good luck with your hour.” Toban said.
“Thanks.” Glyph replied and made his way back to his room. He lay down again and slept fitfully until morning. He awoke as usual about an hour before his time arrived. Sturim arrived shortly, bringing breakfast.
“Lady Ishea will join you presently. Is there anything else you require, Your Highness?” Sturim inquired.
“Thank you, Sturim, but no, I need nothing else.” Glyph replied and Sturim bowed and left. A few minutes later Ishea entered and they sat at the side table and ate.
“I have been up late studying to see if I can find a way to intervene in your world, but I have made little progress, I am afraid.” Ishea started.
“I figure if I stay away from people during my hour, I’ll have a better chance of not running into Drathus’s gooneys.” Glyph said.
Ishea laughed “Gooneys you say?”
“Yeah, cronies, lackeys, henchman. You know, ‘minions’.” He said,
“Yes, I see.” Ishea finished her pastry. “There is something else you might try.”
“What’s that?” he asked through his mouth full of eggs.
“Nearly everything I looked at last night suggested to me that the source of your power comes from your belief that it will work.” She said, trying to explain.
“So you’re saying that if I need help I should just think of something, believe that it will happen and it will. That sounds ridiculous.” Glyph thought for a moment; he was thinking of the horse’s name, just before he said O’dista aloud. And he had also wanted the door to open when Ishea had him command it open. Until now he hadn’t even thought of those instances. “Besides, how do you know it will work during my hour?”
“I do not. I am sorry, Glyph, it was the best I could come up with. I will continue the search for some way to help you, I promise.” She replied and reached over to pat his shoulder.
“That’s something at least.” Glyph said, feeling as if nothing would really help.
They finished breakfast and Ishea wished him well and left so he could be alone. ‘What the hell am I doing?’ Glyph asked himself. ‘There just isn’t any way to make this easier.’ He thought. Steeling himself, he lay back on his bed and waited. He looked at the tapestry hanging on his wall. Something caught his eye and he sat up to get a better look. For some reason the leader of the men looked different again. Now he wore a silver crown, and his pants were blue and cut straight. “That was not how it was last night.” he said out loud, and began to get up to go see what else was different when it happened. All the air sucked out of the room and the world turned dark once more.