Those on the parapets were alert and silent. The only sounds were those of the night birds and the chirping of the crickets. Moments later the quiet was shattered by a resounding din of guttural roars as thousands of demons resembling huge, grotesque spiders with incredibly long legs and arms tore through the forest and onto the lea surrounding Haven’s Hold.
Mo Demz was transformed into an eagle. He circled above in communication with the seven Commanders who were stationed around the circular parapets. In close proximity to them were the seven Sect Sisters wielding their magic against the demons.
It was nearly five hours later that the Commanders led the units of Barrand Guards out onto the lea to finish off the demons.
With victory evident, Sect Mistress Asenda directed the transfer and care of the hundreds of wounded to the Omniplex. As she and her sisters brought forth their healing, those killed by the demons were laid out on the courtyard to be identified and cremated by Mo Demz.
About two hours later the Commanders began arriving in the conclave. Drai, the supreme Commander, was last to arrive. He scanned the room and saw only five of the seven sect sisters and only four of the six Commanders. He asked, “Where are the others?”
Mo Demz’ look was anguished and Drai knew. Asenda had her face buried in her hands. Drai stepped over to Mo Demz and pulled him to his feet. He draped his arms around him while his father mourned the loss of two sons and two daughters.
That afternoon Azar summoned Mo Demz. He was the god who created the lands, the animals and the races that inhabited it. Azar consoled Mo Demz by his loving touch and assured him that his sons and daughters were well and happy in His domain. He gave Mo Demz the Book of Empyrean and instructed him to distribute it throughout the lands. In it, Azar talked about his creation and how he inspected it in the form of a white falcon. It told how his brother Condragon attempted to destroy it with his evil magic, and about His placement of the wizard Mo Demz upon the lands to destroy the evil spread by his brother. It even explained how Mo Demz, under Azar’s guidance, established the Barranda Sect, the Barrand Guards and Haven’s Hold.
It prophesied a battle in the fifth age between His five Chosen and five disciples of his evil brother. It said that Condragon would place three warlocks and two witches on the lands. The two gods agreed that if the Chosen of Azar defeated the warlocks and witches, one of the Chosen would battle Condragon to determine the future of the lands.
The tracker’s stealthy stalking of his prey was abruptly shattered by the piercing cries and terrified whinnies of his pack-horses. He tore through the forest with the bow and arrow in his left hand. As he ran, he drew his long knife with his right ready to take on whatever was threatening his horses and his livelihood. His panic increased as the sounds of the horses ceased. He raced into the small clearing where they had been tethered by long ropes so they could eat the grasses. Only one of the horses was there. It lay lifeless with a gaping wound in its throat. By the bent grass, it was apparent that the other had been dragged off. The tracker barely had time to register these facts when he heard the sounds of the killer returning for the other horse. It took only a millisecond for the tracker’s survival instinct to kick in. He moved with swift silence into the foliage of a chokecherry bush at the fringe of the clearing. Barely was he settled in with a small view of the clearing when it stepped into view. The tracker bit his tongue in an effort to remain absolutely quiet and unmoving. Never had he felt such terror. The beast wore clothing and boots; it carried a spear. Its head and arms were covered with black fur, eyes resembled those of a wolf and it had a pig-like snout instead of a nose.
The Churl stopped and sniffed the air; the tracker’s fear increased; the grip on his knife turned his knuckles white. The beast roared and lumbered in the direction of the chokecherry bush.
The tracker leapt from the bush, threw the knife and ran. He didn’t stop running for several miles until he collapsed on the ground completely spent; his every gasping breath a labor. He listened, but there were no sounds of pursuit. He knew that his knife penetrated the beast by the shriek of pain it emitted as he turned to run. When he rested enough to breath normally, he stood and looked up at the sky. He thanked Azar for mantling him. The tracker had heard stories of such creatures existing, but this was the first one he had ever encountered. He prayed it would be the last.
Asenda rose from her desk and stared out the window over the eastern grounds of Haven’s Hold and beyond to the magnificent Barranda Mountains. She didn’t take in the beauty because her thoughts were on the tasks ahead. Already there were signs of evil on the lands, a sure sign that Condragon was stirring. She was apprehensive about what was to come; knowing the fifth age prophecy was in motion. It began seventeen years earlier when Azar placed His talisman upon the chest of a newborn. She knew that Azar had summoned Mo Demz and told him the time was at hand to gather His Chosen to begin their training. She also knew it would be the most important undertaking in the Haven’s history. There was a soft knock on the door. “Come.”
A young girl entered dressed in the gray shift that signified her as a second-year trainee of the Sect. She bowed. “Mo Demz has arrived, Sect Mistress, and he awaits you in the conclave.”
Asenda smiled. “Thank you, Tina. Will you please summon Rheanna and Commanders Drai and Raza to join us in the conclave?”
“Yes, Sect Mistress.”
A short time later, the four joined Mo Demz in the conclave. They sat at the sides of a long oak table with Mo Demz at the head. Mo Demz said, “It’s time to gather the Chosen.” He looked at Drai and Raza, a glint of humor in his eyes and a smile on his face. “Congratulations, you have just become fathers. Drai, you’re the lucky one. You have three!”
Drai’s expression was unreadable. “How will we know them?”
Mo Demz turned to Rheanna and nodded. The tall flaxen-haired Magisect spoke in a soft contralto voice. “Azar revealed them to me in a vision. I will project their images on the wall for you to study.” She stood, turned and faced the high wall. She pointed to her left. She did it five times, each time moving her arm until the final image was to her right. She finished and took her seat.
“The first three are yours, Drai, and the other two yours, Raza.” Mo Demz leaned back in his chair and quietly watched the Commanders. He asked, “Who do you think is destined to fight Condragon?”
Raza glanced at Drai and said, “I think it’s the one in the middle.” Drai nodded in agreement.
“Most intuitive,” Mo Demz said sincerely. “His name is Beni. He just turned seventeen. The girl and boy to his left are twins. They’re the youngest of the five at fifteen. Their names are Dell and Vina. Raza, your two are first cousins, but have been raised together. The cousins are sixteen, and their names are Jenda and Dane. This won’t be an easy task,” he warned. “Just because they’re the Chosen of Azar do not assume that they’re faultless; I assure you they’re not.” He chuckled and added in a serious tone, “I have no qualms that you two have been given the task of nurturing and training these children. Had the choice been mine, it would have been the same. There’s no one better suited to prepare them for their destinies which will determine all of our futures.” On a more serious note he said, “We must control them or they could pose a danger to themselves and everyone else. The key to their safety, and ultimately ours, is discipline.”
They began their trek two days later. Raza headed northwest to Toranda to pick up Jenda and Dane. Drai and Mo Demz went southeast into Multa to pick up the twins. Five weeks later, they stopped at a house hidden within a clearing. It was in the country of Davrin where the oldest of the five Chosen lived. Drai left the twins in the care of Mo Demz and proceeded alone to get Beni.