Chapter One

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Beams of golden sunlight streamed down through the swaying treetops, irradiating pollen floating in the air. Seven magpie birds flew north, singing a haunting cry in the ominous afternoon wind. Nearly a few yards away, pillows of dark smoke rose from a red glow below the trees. The birds amplified their cries and swooped down to find their prey.

Daemon paced from side-to-side on the creaky wooden deck before stopping in his tracks. He flipped fallen strands of greasy black hair out of his eyes and looked up, searching the sky to find the source of the violent shrieks. He squinted at seven birds flying closer, then opened his eyes as the birds suddenly descended and flew directly at him at an alarming speed.

"Leave," he shouted. Seeing as though they had no intention to stop, Daemon ducked just before the magpies shot over his head and flew straight through the front door of the cabin.

Daemon grabbed the door handle and slammed it shut with the animals inside. He ran down the steps and over to the boy sitting on an oak log and staring at a campfire.

"Don't tell me you didn't just see that?" Daemon asked. Atlan hadn't moved a muscle or even acknowledged Daemon presence. He was like a statue, gazing into the fire in an almost trance-like state. For a moment, he looked up from the fire with his piercing amber eyes.

"Sit with me," Atlan said.

Daemon went over, crunching the fallen autumn leaves under his feet and sat next to him on the log. Atlan turned his head to look at Daemon with his piercing amber eyes.

"I keep asking myself what am I doing? On mornings like this it's just. . .right now. . .I'm so wrapped up in the thought of trying to figure out what to do that I don't know what to do."

"Destiny is on our side, Altan." Daemon said while placing a hand on his back. "Seeds of doubt will always find their way into your mind, and if you entertain them, they will only grow until you are unable to move forward in life."

Altan rubbed his pale hands together against the flames. Warmth radiated through his bones, numbing the rest of the world away. The embers glowed blue and gold, mystical like a dream. When he leaned forward, he could almost hear a voice coming from inside the fire. For hours he'd tried to discern what it was saying but couldn't interpret the faint whisper.

"Well if you're right, then we can't keep Destiny waiting."

Daemon's mouth curved into a smile. Together, they rose from the log and walked to the molded stairs. Altan walked up along the rail to avoid a large hole in the wood and stopped at the door. His fingers trembled. He could hear Daemon coming closer and wiped the sweat on his tattered jeans.

He opened the door, and they walked in. Immediately, their noses were overcome by a putrid smell. They walked through the house, not even batting an eye at overturned chairs and furniture and glass shards scattered across the floor from a broken lamp.

They walked to the long hallway of doors and Altan stopped to look at the floor while Daemon continued further to the last door at the end of the hallway. Altan crouched and touched the scarlet stained surface where five claw marks traveled from the front of the hallway to the end.

Suddenly, a scream came from the last room. Altan ran to the room and saw Daemon swatting at magpies pulling the flesh off three lifeless bodies.

"Get them out of here," Daemon shouted, accidentally missing a bird with his foot and instead kicked the older man's rib cage with a sickening crunch.

Atlan ran at the birds, sending the ones who were picking at the dead bodies up into the air, flapping their wings and trying to figure out how to make their way out of the windowless room. He swatted at one and grimaced as another magpie's body slapped him in the face.

Daemon sprinted out of the room while Altan screamed in fury. He couldn't even begin to explain how angry he was that birds were about to mess up his entire plan. The three bodies were supposed to be left untouched, but now pieces of their skin and eyeballs were missing.

A light bulb went off in his head.

"We can't let them escape. We have to kill them or else it's all ruined," Altan shouted just as Daemon came in with a long shard of glass in his hand.

"Don't worry," he said. In less than a few seconds, he spun across the room in a swift motion, jumping and twisting his body while sticking to the end of the glass into each magpie's body until they were all on the glass like a shish kabob.

Daemon pantingly sat it next to the body. His pupils were dilated and his irises was a fiery orange before flashing back to dark brown.

"This was an unforeseen circumstance,"

Atlan turned around and walked over to the bodies. "Do you think this will still work?"

Daemon walked over to his side and looked at their awkwardly angled limbs and slack necks.

"It's fine. Their bodies are just the physical part of the sacrifice," Daemon said. "Their blood is what matters the most."

Daemon turned his head to look at Atlan's blank expression. "Are you ready to say good-bye to your family?"

Atlan stared at his mother, father, and brother lying in the fresh pool of blood. It didn't take much for him to remember the way it gushed out their sliced throats just a few hours before.

"Can't say goodbye to people who're already dead," Atlan said.

Daemon clapped his hands together. "Good. It's time."

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