Marked (Book One of the Marked Saga)

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Beck stood in the foyer of the mansion, his stomach twisting in knots. He didn’t know how he knew where Grace was, he just knew that his gut told him where to go. He was surprised when he ended up at the house that James Evans had died at. When he knocked on the door, a Japanese man had answered. The man froze at the sight of Beck, eyes widening for a moment before introducing himself as Malcolm and inviting Beck inside.

Now, Beck was waiting for Malcolm to return with Grace. He groaned as a wave of pain crashed through his skull, nearly causing him to collapse. He leaned heavily against the wall, tilting his head back and sighing deeply. If there was any way for him to be rid of this horrendous headache, he was willing to do whatever it took.

Pain lanced through his skull again, and he had the brief image of Grace walking down a hall, with the man named Basil beside her. They were following Malcolm, who was leading them—

They were all in the foyer. Beck heard Grace cry out, “Oh my God, Beck!” And then the sound of her feet hitting the floor sent spikes through his head and neck. He whimpered as she crouched beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“What’s wrong with him?” Grace asked. “Is he okay?”

“I believe,” Malcolm said, “that he’s having a vision.”

Beck shook his head. “No,” he groaned. “I’ve been having visions.”

He opened his eyes and found Malcolm crouched before him. He raised a hand to Beck’s forehead, and then said, “How long has this been going on?”

Instantly, the pain seemed to subside. Beck sighed and said, “About a month now.” He pushed himself to his feet and said, “It started out as déjà vu at first, but then it got worse…”

“Let me guess,” Malcolm said. “Headaches turned to migraines, and then you began to see things during the day.”

Beck stared at him. “Yes,” he said. “How did you…?”

“You’re a Seer,” Malcolm said, as if he were stating a fact. “The first one to be born in over a thousand years.”

“What?” Beck mumbled. He looked to Grace, the only person he knew at the moment. “What’s going on?” he asked.

Grace shared a glance with Malcolm. He nodded and she turned back to her friend. Beck’s stomach twisted in fear, and he had the feeling he wasn’t going to like what came next.

“Come with me,” Grace said. “I have something I need to tell you.”

Regan’s heart hammered in her chest. Sweat covered his skin, causing her to nearly lose her grip on her katana. She adjusted her hold and rolled the blade over her shoulder just as her enemy swung his ax down to cleave her in two. She shifted to allow the ax to slid down along her sword, and then she twisted and turned the sword so the blade was up, slicing in an upwards motion from groin to the jugular.

The Kuren dropped to the ground, and Regan spun around as she searched for Caíl. How did this happen? She thought in horror. She and Caíl had been preparing for an attack on one of Duncan’s estates in California when they were attacked by a horde of Kuren. Both in animal and human form, they swarmed upon the cabin like a nest of flies attacking a rotting corpse. Regan barely had time to grab her katana before the first of the Kuren reached her.

She had sliced and hacked her way through the throng, and by the time she finally had a moment to catch her breath, Caíl was nowhere to be seen.

She heard a howl, and seconds later Caíl had burst through the mass. He was in wolf form, and blood, guts, and mud caked his fur. He swatted a huge paw towards a Kuren in human form, and then leaped onto the back of a black panther, sinking his fangs into the panther's scruff.

A scuffle behind her caught Regan by surprise, and she turned in time to avoid being sliced in half as a Kuren swung a huge great sword at her midsection. The edge of the blade caught Regan’s shirt, and a searing pain erupted in her midsection. She gasped and dropped to a knee, pressing a hand to her stomach. When she pulled her hand away, blood coated her hand and arm.

“REGAN!” Caíl screamed. She watched as Caíl, now in human form, shoved his way through the multitude. He had a bloody dagger in his hand, and he slashed and sliced as he made his way towards her.

A shadow loomed above Regan, and she looked up to see the Kuren looming over her, his sword held high over his head. The sun shone in her eyes, and though she tried, she couldn’t find the strength to get up and fight or to run. To do anything but sit there and wait for death to claim her.

Caíl slammed his shoulder into the Kuren’s waist, knocking him to the ground. The sword fell from his grasp and landed in the mud inches away from Regan. Seconds later, Caíl was grabbed her, wrapping an arm across his shoulders and half-carrying her to the Jeep Wrangler parked a distance away from the cabin. Caíl opened the driver’s side door and shoved Regan inside. She still had a hold of her sword, and he snatched it from her, turned, and sliced upwards as a hyena lunged at him. The hyena yelped in pain, and Caíl stabbed the katana into another Kuren. He had a few seconds before the rest of the horde came upon them, and he took advantage of it. Caíl slid in behind the wheel, slamming the door shut just as the horde hit them.

Regan cried out in pain. She looked down at her torso, feeling dizzy as she watched blood gush from the wound in her gut. The Jeep lurched as Caíl put it into Drive, and then his foot slammed on the gas. Mud and snow kicked out behind them for a moment, and then they were speeding down the road towards Wolf Valley. Instead of going into the valley, though, Caíl turned west, away from the town.

“Where are we going?” Regan asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Leading them away from the valley,” Caíl said. “If they learn I can pass through the wards, then they’ll be able to as well.”

“I need to get to Malcolm,” Regan protested. “I’m going…”

He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, pain and regret plain on his face. Regan whimpered and said, “I’m not going to make it, will I?”

“I am so sorry, Regan,” Caíl said in a choked voice. “But no, you’re not going to make it. You’re still young, so I don’t know how long you’ll be down before you regenerate. But I promise, as soon as we can, we’ll return, and I’ll get Malcolm to do what he can.”

Trees flashed by as they sped down the highway. Regan groaned and closed her eyes. Her limbs were becoming heavy, and she could hardly feel them anymore. She was terrified. The last time she had died, she was in pain, and her sister had been left behind. Though she knew otherwise, she was terrified she wouldn’t come back. She was scared that she’d stay dead this time, and then Duncan would still be loose in the world. Her sister would never be safe.

“I’m scared,” Regan whispered.

She dimly felt her hand move, and she looked to see that Caíl had taken her hand in his. He held on tight, driving with only his left hand. He fixed her gaze with his and said, “I know. I’ll be here when you wake up. You won’t be alone.”

She smiled as best she could. Her eyelids grew heavy, and she fell into a deep, dark nothingness.

Beck sat silently in the library, staring at his best friend for several moments. She was biting her lip, and he knew she was nervous. Why wouldn’t she? If she had told anyone else what she told him, she’d be laughed at and ridiculed. She’d be labeled as psychotic, and she’d be taken away to the crazy house. But based on what Basil had been going through the past month, he knew she was telling the truth.

He looked to his left, towards Malcolm. Beck fidgeted nervously as the man stared at him as if he was an interesting specimen. Malcolm was dressed very colorfully, with black and gold eyeliner and shadow darkening his bright, electric blue eyes. He was very attractive, and under normal circumstances, Beck would have like to talk him up, get his number, or ask him out for a drink. Instead, all he could think about was the fact that he could really see the future.

“So?” Grace asked nervously, her eyes never leaving his face. “What do you think?”

“I wish you told me earlier,” he said. “We’re best friends, for one.” He smiled and added, “And for another, it would have been nice if I knew more about this Seer thing in the beginning. Would have saved up on a lot of money for ibuprofen, tylenol, and aspirin.”

She laughed. “I’m glad you’re not freaked out,” she said. “That would have sucked.”

“Yeah, I guess it would have.” He turned to Malcolm and said, “How does the Seer gig work? Can I control the visions.”

“You’ve heard of the Oracle of Delphi, I assume?” Malcolm asked. When Beck nodded he continued, saying, “You’re basically the Oracle. You can see the past, present, and future. You speak prophecies, and if you hone your skill enough, you could even read minds. To a point.”

Beck blinked. “Dude, that’s awesome!”

The mage laughed. “I’m glad you think so.”

Beck was about to ask if he’d be able to cheat at poker when a huge, knocking sound resonated through the house. Malcolm, Grace, and Basil, who was standing off to the side of Grace, snapped their heads up. Beck frowned, and then Malcolm stood and made his way towards the front door, while everyone else followed him.

Malcolm opened the door, and Grace cried out in shock and horror. Some guy in his early twenties was on the front porch, and in his arms he held the body of a dead girl.

“Malcolm,” the man said, gasping for breath. “Regan needs your help.”

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