As Davin moved along the string of wagons, young men and some of the graybeards who drove the wagons were dismounting. Bows appeared in aged and wrinkled hands, and spears bloomed in the grasp of the young, eager to be tested. Several men tied horses to wagons and mounted beside the drivers, unlimbering bows and placing arrows in easy reach. Davin shifted around in the saddle as he rode, searching for familiar faces.

He found Angelo Martine first, still mounted, looking back at him in surprise. “Cadet, why are you home when the Academy year is two months shy of completion? I thought that the Academy chewed you up and swallowed you whole, never to be seen again!”

Davin laughed. “Angel, I’ve missed your wit. We can talk later, but now—get on up to the front of the wagons. You’re needed.”

Angelo looked sidewise at Davin. “Who says?”

“The commander my father left in charge. Hop to it.” Not waiting for a reply, Davin spurred Charger along, finding Peto Villarel, his best friend, two wagons later, along with Peto’s father. Quickly, Davin explained what was happening, and Peto’s father immediately gave permission for Peto to join Davin’s group.

Surprise still clouded Peto’s face. “When did you get home?”

“Good to see you. We’ll talk later.” And Davin was off.

Geron Oronne was next, a muscular, light-haired giant sitting ahorse by another old friend, Paulo Haldon. Geron registered the same surprise. “You? Home?” Shortly Geron and Paulo were galloping toward the head of the wagon train.

Nearing the end of the wagons and seeing no one else his age, Davin reined Charger around and hurried after his friends. The five of them should make a good fighting team—all of his friends were good with sword and bow, and Angelo and Peto were experts. Even Davin had studied malito combat at Academy.

Bayn had already arranged the four young men in a loose north-south line and proceeded on down the column looking for other fighters. Paulo, smaller and swarthy like Peto, spoke as Davin rode up. “What are you doing back at Aldronne?”

Angelo piped up before Davin could reply. “He missed me.”

“Great heavens,” came from Geron. “He hasn’t seen a girl in so long he’s sweet on Angel.”

 “Too late, Davin,” Paulo grinned back. “He’s pining over some entertainer in Cliff. It’s gotten so we hardly ever see him anymore from Meeting eve until Firstday morn.”

The remark got a growl from Angelo, but soon they were all laughing again, and Angelo commented that it was best to love an entertainer, since that sort of love was never permanent. “The one that’s really hooked is Peto,” he smirked at Davin. “He’s found true love. The way he pines for his lovely Donaia, you’d think he might not live until next Meeting Day to see her.”

Peto blushed and took a swipe at Angelo, who easily eluded it. Peto was the oldest—he had twenty-two years and was the most serious about becoming a rancher. His father could have easily afforded the University, but for Peto, it held no interest.

Davin remembered Donaia, a pretty girl from the city who had attended Meeting with her family. “They’re betrothed,” Paulo said. “He won’t even consider going to the entertainment houses in Cliff anymore.” Paulo was Nortes, his father another settler. He made a sad face at Davin. “Peto sits and mopes for Donaia, getting grouchier by the day. He hasn’t been with a woman in months, and the wedding isn’t until Festival.” That brought a gale of laughter, Peto joining in.

They threw around comments and insults a bit longer. Davin was happy to make Peto the target, because it delayed uncomfortable questions, but finally, Peto asked, “Dav, why are you home? Is someone ill? And Academy maneuvers take up most of summer vacation, don’t they?”

Davin nodded. True, Academy demanded all of a young man’s life. He had been home twice in two years, barely enough time to get reacquainted with Meara, console Aliceia and Riala on the loss of Aliceia’s father, visit friends once or twice, and suffer a few audiences with the General. He had not seen these friends—his best friends—but twice in all that time.

“I was asked to resign. They call it ‘tanked’ or ‘washed out’ at Academy. It means that I was expelled.”

That shocked them into silence. Finally, Peto, who knew him best, asked, “What happened?”

Davin shrugged. “I’m not officer material. Of course, I knew that. I didn’t want to go to Academy in the first place.”

 “I still don’t see how they could kick you out, Dav,” Geron said. “Your test grades in mathematics and science were better than Angelo and mine together.” Angelo nodded in agreement.

“It was the other things,” Davin said. “I’m clumsy with weapons and I’m short besides—Paulo, I’m even shorter than you. With my eyes, I’m no good at scouting or archery drills. The only reason I got into Academy was because the General and the commandant were close friends.”

With that, their conversation died. Davin had expected a few wisecracks from Angelo and maybe a jibe or two from Peto or Paulo, but all five were quiet for a while. Down the line of wagons, Davin could barely make out Bayn as he arranged his defenders. Finally, Paulo said. “What now, Dav? The University maybe? With your ability, you’ll do well there.”

“Maybe.”

Angelo roused himself, as usual, to slip in a verbal dirk. “I’ll bet Dav still wants to be the world’s greatest engineer.”

Geron grinned. “Maybe he did once, but I’ll bet the General has cured him of that.” Another laugh, but it pricked Davin to reply. “What’s wrong with being an engineer? They do more good than a lot of the priests who just sit around blessing people and collecting donations.” Peto appeared shocked, but Angelo looked at Davin admiringly.

Geron took the other side, probably just for the sake of the argument. “I wouldn’t want to be a priest, either, but they do a lot of good. They help the poor and tend the sick.”

 “There are healers in town who have no connection with the Church, you know that,” Angelo said. “For a fee, they’ll heal you of most anything short of a broken neck. You don’t need the Church for that.” Which started an argument about the good of the Church in general. Davin played along, mainly to direct the conversation away from himself.

Seeing Bayn approach from the rear of the wagons, Peto removed his saddle spear from its scabbard. Catching Davin’s eye, he grinned. He seemed to be looking forward to a fight.

Just as Bayn drew abreast of the five, a series of bright flashes almost blinded Davin. They were just off the road, in the trees which stretched up the slope.

The original HellholeHellport must be directly above them about fifty meters and to the east maybe a few hundred. The problem was, if that last flash was what Davin believed, the HellholeHellport was about to drift down and west, right into their lap. He edged his horse towards Bayn and caught his sleeve.

“Sir, that HellholeHellport I warned you about. I think there is a chance it is about to form right here, near us.”

Bayn frowned. “Here?”

Before Davin could answer, the sound of hoof beats diverted their attention. A single horseman at full gallop came into view around the turn in the road. As he rode up, Davin recognized Karl, one of the older ranche hands. He sawed the reins of his mount as he approached, pulling up beside Bayn and Davin. It was Bayn that he spoke to.

“The General asks that we turn the column and proceed back down the road, sir. The HellholeHellport is one of the worst we have ever encountered. It is drifting in this direction, and malitos continue to pour from it. With our help, the defense is holding, but the position of the hole blocks our route to Iglesa, so the General intends to retreat with the survivors.”

Bayn turned toward the wagons. His impatient summons brought all who were close by. In terse commands, he reordered the wagons, sent drivers scurrying, clustered the mounted defenders, and directed their positions. They quickly scattered as directed, full of purpose, as inspired no doubt by Bayn’s demeanor, poise, and self-control as by his commands. Very much like Father, Davin thought. Some of the nearer wagons, including the Aldronne coaches, pulled out and headed back down the road to be nearer the front end of the wagons as they retreated.

Bayn gestured for Davin, his friends, and Karl to remain. “Remain here as the rear-guard. I know you have had some training in facing malitos, and I assume your friends have experience with bow and sword.”

Angelo grinned his normal irreverent grin. “I’d be glad to give you a little exercise if you need it.”

Bayn merely stared at Angelo, and his grin faded. Davin broke in. “We’ve had a good deal of training. Peto and Angelo have won awards at the spring games.”

Bayn nodded. “Very well. Please stay here. If there is an attack, try to blunt it and retreat as slowly as possible until help arrives.” He turned to Karl. “If you would please return to General Blackthorn and tell him—”

He was interrupted by a most uncanny sound, a combination of windstorm roar and animal scream.

Though he had never seen one directly form close by, Davin did not have to ask what was happening—he knew. A HellholeHellport, a portal to There, was opening before his eyes. The ground, the sky, the leaves on the trees—all seemed to distort, to bend, to bulge, and at last tear. Great cedars and oaks were ripped in two, their branches and trunks tossed like pebbles. A fierce yellow glow suddenly sprang up in the middle of this distorted chaos, and the shreds of here suddenly drew back to reveal There—another place, not of his world, that was filled with sulphurous yellow mist and blue-red tongues of flame. And just as suddenly, half a dozen malitos bolted through in one harsh, clawed-and-fanged mass.

Davin had heard about malitos all his life. He had seen dead ones and even studied how to face them in combat and how to form a defensive line to face an all-out attack. But nothing prepared him for what he saw, a writhing mass of talons and fangs that resolved almost instantly into the most terrifying creatures he had ever imagined, let alone faced.

Bigger than the General’s hounds, the malitos seemed to be covered with a coating of heavy black fur. They had wolf-like heads, the protruding jaws a cross between mouths and muzzles, jammed with long, sharp fangs, faces topped with a group of four red eyes with beady black pupils. Each had four wiry legs with paws that seemed all claw, and they made a hideous, high-pitched keening as they swept out of the hole and into their midst before Davin could even react.

Karl pulled his horse between Charger and the nearest malito, sword drawn. Before he could lift it, six-inch-long claws ripped out his throat and swung him aside, and for an instant Davin saw death in the dripping red claws and fangs as the malito sprang at him. Then the whistling arc of Bayn’s blade hewed the malito’s head with one mighty blow, its wielder taking no notice as he jumped from his horse to face more of the oncoming mass. With a yell, Davin’s friends and others from nearby jumped into action. Spears shifted and stabbed, swords swung in silvery arcs, and arrows flew at more targets emerging from the Hole.

Davin realized that he was holding an arrow in his right hand and the bow in his left—he had fired an arrow at one of the remaining malitos and drawn another out without thinking, at least one profit of two years at the Academy. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Bayn rip the entrails from one invader with the flying tip of his sword, catching another across the eyes with the hilt of his weapon and smashing its head into pulp.

Releasing his second arrow, then a third, Davin began to feel an unfamiliar rhythm, his aim finding a home again and again in the frenzied movement in front of him, as more and more of the black beasts leapt from the HellholeHellport. How can this be? I don’t feel either clumsy or inept, Davin thought, his quick grasping of arrows, fitting them to his bow, and finding a smooth release that was a comfortable mix of dexterity and ease.

Where his arrows hit deeply, spurts of a black fluid that might be blood gave evidence of his accuracy. Hitting the malitos seemed no problem at all—it was like aiming at the sea and trying to hit water.

The attackers grew fewer as they approached him, in part due to the arrows of Davin and those beside him, but as much to Bayn’s swordsmanship. Davin could see him whirling, spinning, beating, and hacking at them, only just able to pull his sword from one collapsing body in time to decapitate another. He was ducking and swaying and dancing¬, a grim smile on his face. Malitos tumbled into piles, they barricaded his back, they fell at his feet as if in worship. Nothing could withstand him.

And yet, through all of this, a feeling grew in Davin of imminent doom, of a dark cloud gathering. He tried to shake off these feelings, finding some tiny comfort in the grisly routine: fit arrow to bow string, aim, and release, fit arrow and release, fit arrow and release.

The battle lulled with only a half-dozen malitos left standing, and all of those being worried by two or more armed men. Most of the fighting had concentrated at the front of the wagon line. The men had rallied to Bayn, and they, Davin, and his friends had overwhelmed the two dozen or so malitos, but not without casualties.

Pon, another long-time rider for a nearby ranche, lay half out of his saddle, chest dripping red. Besides Karl, two or three others, friends and neighbors of Davin and his family, lay on the ground, gravely injured. One man looked dead. The uninjured gathered to help.

Glancing east, Davin realized that the HellholeHellport had moved. The perfect circle, at least ten meters across, was no longer opposite his position but several paces south and closer to the wagons. For a moment, the fiery portal was clear of invaders. It simply seethed and simmered, blue and red flickers against a background of pasty, yellowish fog. Davin stared, fascinated, into the opening, no more than a few strides away. At first, he discerned nothing more than dancing colors. Then, as he scrutinized the opening, it cleared for a moment, the flames—if they were flames—dying away. The yellow mist parted, as though a dry wind had brushed it aside, and Davin was staring at the towers and pinnacles of a wondrous city.

Strange, winged objects flew through the sky, things under the control of intelligent minds, he knew instinctively. There were square towers of crystal, and sharp peaks of silver and bronze, many glowing from the interiors through myriad windows as if a thousand fires burned inside them. Then, as quickly as it had appeared, the vision vanished in a wave of yellow mist.

Bayn appeared beside Davin, beckoning to his friends. “Everyone appears unharmed in your group.” Each nodded, and Angelo said, “About the practice . . . I think I’ll pass on that opportunity.”

Davin’s friends laughed, and even Bayn managed a fierce smile. “And you, my young friend, your accuracy with the bow was outstanding. I have seen few in my lifetime with the smooth release you displayed. You are becoming a master bowman.”

Me? Dave felt dumbfounded, as his friends stared, goggle-eyed. Before smart-alec Angelo could comment, he said deprecatingly, “Perhaps those two years at Academy did me a bit of good after all.”

“All of you did well,” Bayn added. “Now, keep your places, stand ready, and be prepared for another attack.” Again he arranged the defenders, leaving two older men to tend to the wounded.

With a chorus of screams, a black mass of malitos spewed out of the portal once more, spreading toward the defenders in a horde. The sheer mass would have overwhelmed and killed them all had it been the first attack. With Bayn’s quick organization, the twenty or so defenders now opposite the hole were well prepared. The first of the black invaders was met with such a rain of arrows that a dozen fell almost at once. Others bulled their way over and around their own dead and continued the charge, impaling themselves on the spear-front and making room for others to attack the defenders.

Still astride Charger, Davin again sent arrows into the oncoming black tide. It seemed that they would be overwhelmed for sure; men were fighting at close quarters, and the keening of the malitos and the screams of men made it clear that defenders were hurt and dying. Several men fell beneath a tidal wave of black, clearly beyond any help. Some malitos stopped to gnaw at fallen defenders in the midst of the battle. In a perverted sense, Davin was grateful for the distraction. The dead could feel nothing (Deos grant they were dead), and it gave the defenders fewer of the besiegers to repel.

Malitos continued to spew from the fiery portal, but now they were pouring down the right side of the column away from Bayn and his awful, blood-draining sword, moving past Davin and the forward defenders that were still mounted, rushing toward the rear of the column. Toward Riala and the Aldronne coaches! Leaving Bayn to the frontal defense, Davin heeled Charger and set off after the malitos that were racing along the line of defenders toward the rear of the wagons.

The HellholeHellport continued to drift away from Bayn and the forward defenders, putting extra pressure on those near the column center and rear. Bayn and his front defenses were beginning to move, to edge sidewise along the wagon train, as malitos focused their attack to the south. Even as they moved, Davin could tell that only he and a few of the older men would stand in the way of the horde when it reached the women and children.

As he rode, Davin managed to attract the attention of his friends. He reached the rear of the column just ahead of the mass of malitos, accompanied by a half-dozen of the younger men, including Angelo, Peto, and Geron. Riala, Meara, and Aliceia were out of their wagon, and each had managed to find a spear, joining nearly a dozen women and the few older men that were not at the front of the battle with Bayn. They formed a phalanx of defenders who were the last hope of the children, now all tucked away from sight in the family wagons. Merging with Davin’s group, they turned to make a defense.

Outstripping the other defenders who were still fighting their way south, the malitos fell upon Davin and his companions with boiling fury. Fell on them as if from the sky, and there was everywhere blood and sweat and death and the sounds and smells of battle. The awful stench of the malitos surrounded them as the bristly bodies sprayed black blood over their own kind and defenders alike as they died.

All but out of arrows, Davin could do nothing astride Charger. Dismounting and snatching a spear from one of the wagons, he edged into the battle line just as the onslaught of malitos collided with the prairie folk. Nearly two dozen malitos and not much more than half that many defenders. Much of the fighting was one-on-one, spear, sword and longknife against malito fang and claw. Danin nearly lost his arm, blood pouring down his side, Bacio’s leg was drenched in red, Juan would never walk again. Angelo fought like a demon with his sword, his side gaping open and bloody.

Without thinking, Davin took the spear position: kneel, brace, wait, thrust—and a malito was impaled on his spear-point, its keening cry reduced to a gurgle as it suffocated in its own blood. Jerking the spear out of the carcass, Davin barely avoided having his bowels opened by another attacker. He managed to crack the bristly head with the lance haft, then spun the shaft and hacked the protruding throat open wide. Spear training was compulsory at Academy.

Concentrating on the nearest assailant, Davin was still vaguely aware of the action on each side. To the left, Riala and Meara jabbed at a dying malito with spears, while Aliceia thrust at another as it attacked one of the older defenders. On his right, Angelo and Peto each fought two attackers simultaneously, worrying one and hacking at the other. Peto’s spear was lightning fast. If Angelo was the more aggressive, Peto had the most finesse. Both were keeping their besiegers at bay.

Simultaneously Davin caught a black blur of movement to his left, while he heard Peto cry “Davin!” The blur was a malito that had gotten past two defenders. Instead of attacking them from behind, it made straight for Davin—and Peto’s cry was all the warning he had. Pivoting, Davin was aware that his spear was pointed the wrong direction and he was unbalanced to the right. The malito in front of him was the biggest he had seen, fully the size of a pony, all fangs and claws. He tried to complete his pivot, knowing that his effort was too little, too late, and that nothing stood between him and certain death . . .

Except Peto, who lunged between them, sword now out, swinging wildly, cutting off the vicious charge. Before Davin could respond and assist Peto, he heard Riala scream. He let the pivot carry him fully around. (Deos!—Let Peto hold it!).

Riala, Meara, and Aliceia were holding off two more malitos; the older man that had stood beside them was down, his throat spewing a shower of red as he rolled and spasmed in the dirt. Once again, Davin didn’t think; he simply sprang between Riala and his sister and thrust his lance into the larger malitos. It shrieked and spewed a black circle as it tried to pull away, bowels leaking through the great slice in its belly. Jerking out the spear, Davin made to slash at the second . . .

And slipped.

The second malitos swiped its claws within a hairsbreadth of his face before Aliceia brought her spear through its neck. Davin scrambled to his feet as another mass of bristly death, a dozen more malitos, raced toward them. Then from his left, a host of fighters swept between his group and the attacking horde. Bayn and the rest of the fighting men had finally arrived.

Bayn danced among the keening figures, while half a dozen other defenders slashed and jabbed with spears and swords into the latest charge from the HellholeHellport. More rapidly than Davin would have thought, the remaining malitos were dead, with those defenders still on their feet staring around in wonder.

No fewer than seventy malitos carcasses lay along the lines of wagons, sprawled in pools of their repulsive blood, a few still twitching or struggling to crawl away. As his gaze swept to the right, Davin saw several tiny, bloody figures lying near the last wagons. Somehow, the attackers had managed to drag several children out of the covered wagons. All appeared dead—and to Davin’s horror, the two small girls that he had watched on their wagon were among the bodies sprawled on the dusty road.

Women were piling out of wagons to join those who had fought alongside the men, their cries of heartache and recognition so wrenching that he twisted away, forcing himself to survey the casualties toward the front of the line.

. . . And spied Peto. Down, bloody and still, Angelo and Geron beside him.

Peto was not the only one. Another half-dozen bodies lay in the dirt, some among the piles of black carcasses, many not moving and others obviously hard hit. Davin ignored them, diving to the side of his two friends who knelt beside Peto.

Angelo was still clutching his side. Claws had opened a series of long gashes to the ribs. Geron appeared whole, and Davin consciously registered that he himself was also untouched despite being the target of direct attacks by three separate malitos.

But Peto was dead.

Peto, who had trained with Davin as both learned horsemanship in Aldronne’s barnyard, who had waved and grinned at Davin earlier at the thought of some fun, lay face-up, eyes open blindly at the sky. Tears rolled down Geron’s cheeks as he held their friend’s hand. Angelo was drawn and pale, no expression on his face. Peto looked the most relaxed, staring placidly at his friends, as though he knew how well he had fought.

Davin wanted to join Geron in tears, but they wouldn’t come. Instead, there was a great hollowness as the harshness of life on the plains was pressed home.

“He saved my life,” was all Davin could manage. Kneeling beside Geron, he brushed a smear of dirt off Peto’s face. Very little blood stained Peto’s shirt; punctures from massive claws had made two small holes in the material. The swipe of the charging malito had impaled his heart.

Wiping his eyes, Geron gestured toward the pile of dead creatures to their rear. “And you saved the women. Peto covered your back. He would have taken that devil, but he tripped over someone that had fallen.” He gestured toward a rough pile of bristly fur. “That bastardo won’t kill anymore.”

They sat in silence. To their rear, screams and cries punctuated the morning as mothers mourned small, torn bodies. Many of the survivors worked on the wounded along the line of wagons, determining those beyond help. Bayn stood beside them, surveying the casualties, face somber but alert. Any of the attackers that still lived had escaped into the forest along the cliff face. The fighting was ended, at least for the moment.

To his right, now nearly parallel to their current position, the great circle of the HellholeHellport hung, poised in the air, colored tendrils of mist trailing over its bottom edge. Staring intently into the hole, Davin saw . . . nothing. No buildings, no visions of a city. Vagrant flickering, like reflections of fire on the hearth.

Slowly he stood up and wandered toward the portal, suspended in the air only a short distance away. The morning was quiet, except for the moans of the wounded and the anguished cries of the living for the dead. No more malitos issued from the great, gaping wound in reality. It simply floated in the air, drifting ever so gradually to the south. Davin stopped near the edge of the hole and stared into the great circular portal, vaguely aware that should a malito burst forth, he would die instantly, yet so exhausted and drained that it hardly seemed to matter.

So this is a doorway to Hell.

Up close, a soft humming issued from the opening, its lower edge rounded like the crust of a pie. He smelled a vague, sharp odor, like the air after a rainstorm, pungent and biting. Then the mist parted, and he saw the great city once again. Spires of metal and blocks of crystal, buildings that shimmered in the light, beacons streaming from atop great pyramids of burnished silver. And those flying things, darting like dragonflies on a warm summer day, purposeful and beautiful in lustrous shining skins.

How can this be Hell? It came to Davin that the world he lived in was not nearly so pleasant-looking as the scene that had revealed itself. If that is Hell, where in the world I am living?

“Davin!” Bayn called sharply. Turning, Davin saw his father’s guest beckoning him away from the opening. “Avoid the area before the hole. It is death if another attack starts.” Silently, Davin backed away. The others had watched him in passive shock. He was suddenly, bone-chillingly aware of the fate he had tempted as he stared into the opening. He backed into Geron, who had also arisen.

“Did you see that?”

“What?” Geron and Angelo followed his eyes.

“In the Hole. The mist parted, and there was something there.”

Angelo shrugged—then groaned in pain from the effort. “I saw nothing.”

“Nor I,” said Geron. The hole had drifted past their position, and it seemed to have shrunk to no more than half its original size. “I think you mistook those fires for motion.”

Davin didn’t answer, staring back into the yellow haze that had returned to the circle in the air. Bayn was marshaling forces, arranging the still-erect defenders into two lines facing the HellholeHellport.

Charger had stayed where Davin had dropped the reins. Stabbing his spear into the dirt repeatedly, Davin managed to remove most the malito gore. Bayn was right. The hole still existed, although continuing to shrink. As a precaution, he returned the spear to its scabbard and removed his bow and the one remaining arrow from the quiver. The defenders that Bayn had arranged were pacing the slow-moving HellholeHellport, watching for another onslaught, ready to both fight and give the alarm. Bow in hand, Davin went back to stand with Angelo and Geron, a small honor guard beside their fallen friend.

Bayn joined them, staring down at Peto. “He was your friend?”

They nodded. He pursed his lips. “My regrets that I arrived too late.” He looked from one to the other, holding their eyes. “You all fought well, and your families should be justifiably proud. You, Davin, should be particularly proud. One day, I will write the hand-to-hand fighting coordinator, who expressed his doubt to me about your ability, and tell him he is an idiot. You fought commendably.”

He glanced about them. “But the cost… It has been very great. Your friend, many others, those children.” He shook his head.

He erased pain and concern from his face. “So be it. We cannot change what has happened. We must accept our loss and look to the needs of those wounded that survive. I will need your help, Davin, and that of your friends.” He glanced toward the HellholeHellport, then turned back to Davin, Geron, and Angelo. “No more malitos come forth, and the hole is shrinking. I think we can assume that—”

He was interrupted by a shout from one of the men behind them. Whirling around, Davin did not at first understand the source of concern. Then his attention was drawn back to the HellholeHellport.

No fires shone, no yellow mist issued from the opening. There was simply a darkness that seemed to shift and cast curious, blotched shadows across it.

Something was coming.

An enormous, clawed paw thrust into the hole, and a reptilian head as large as a malito’s body pushed into view.

“Deos mie.” The words were expelled almost in a whisper from Bayn. “GranMalo.”

And then it was upon them, climbing through the hole, stretching itself erect, blotting out the sky with its enormous size. And just as suddenly, Davin understood his premonition with icy clarity.