It was about four o'clock the following morning when it started, and there was not a resident of Lor Mandela who did not hear it. At first, it was deep and quiet—coming from somewhere far, far away. But as the day progressed, the sound grew. . . and grew. . . and grew. By midday, the entire planet was immersed in a loud, mournful, haunting moan that seemed to be coming from the very center of the world. Every person—and in fact, every living thing on Lor Mandela—was set on edge. The sound was unrelenting. . . unceasing. . . unnerving. Ultara knew what it meant, as did Gracielle. They knew that the planet didn't have much time left to live. It was groaning in pain as it struggled to maintain the last anemic fragments of its remaining life.
The day developed only to cold and dreary. The sky was dull and colorless with an icy, sickly, green fog hanging just over the dark horizon.
In Brashnell, Darian sat with his back to an enormous, heavily carved, wooden desk, staring out the window at the bleak scene. “Audril . . .” he mumbled to himself, “without Audril I am . . . powerless? Why? Why would a small child be so important to me?” He lowered his face into his hands. “Without Audril . . . .” he moaned. A sudden rustling outside drew his attention. He stood and walked to the large glass door across the room. “Audril . . . .” he breathed again shaking his head.
He opened the door and stepped out into a large courtyard surrounded by tall, columnar trees. He shivered, and pulled the dark green jacket he wore tightly around him. “Well, where are you, you wretched animal?” The trees directly in front of him started to shake and sway. “Come on!” he demanded. The trees rustled again throwing hundreds of tiny leaves twisting through the misty air; at the bottom of the trees, the massive leg of an animal suddenly appeared. The leg was charcoal grey, thick and strong like a huge plow horse, and easily five feet high. Jutting out from the shimmering black hoof were three, long, curved claws, which clicked noisily on the gravel ground. The trees shook violently once more, and through them burst the rest of the enormous animal, thrashing its head and prancing nervously.