Marked (Book One of the Marked Saga)

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Beck was soaring through the sky, the chilly night air flowing through his feathers. Wait… what?

He was seeing through the eyes of a bird. From the power he felt from the wing strokes, and the heavy, powerful talons tucked against his belly, he must have been a bird of prey of some kind. He had no control of the bird, though, and it frustrated him.

Suddenly, his vision in front of him shifted, and he was diving towards the earth. He cried out in surprise, and in response, the bird screeched. The wings on either side of him flared out suddenly, catching him before he hit the ground. He glided for several feet, and then there were three figures in front of them. As he came closer, he recognized Basil in his bear form, and beside the bear he could see a girl with fiery red hair. Grace. He smiled to himself when he saw her, but when he saw Malcolm, his heart soared even higher than the eagle had been flying.

The eagle flapped its wings furiously, landing upon the stip of leather wrapped around Grace’s shoulder. She smiled at the eagle and stroked the feathers along his chest. “Well, Vincent?” she asked in a whisper. “What did you see?”

Vincent? Of course. Malcolm, and Ma Donna, had told him he’d be able to see through the eyes of animals. Malcolm had told him it would happen if he practiced enough, where Ma Donna had said nothing of the matter. She had told him he was powerful, possibly the strongest Seer in over a thousand years. Nothing that anyone knew would apply to him.

“Oh, Beck. Wakey, wakey.”

He felt a strange pulling sensation in his gut. Cold washed over him, and he was pulled away from Vincent. The world blurred around him, and then he was back in his body. He was wet, freezing, and water was in his lungs. Beck began coughing, turning over onto his side to allow the water to leave his body. He gasped for breath, and then turned his gaze upwards.

He glared as he made eye contact with the mage. Diana. Searing hatred ripped through him, and he wanted nothing more than to kill her.

He gazed around a moment, before returning his gaze to her. As far as Beck could tell, he was in a room with a concrete floor and metal walls. Chains hung above them on the walls, and for a moment he couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that he had been here before.

She crouched beside him, and then a silver fox raced across the concrete floor to stand beside the mage. She stroked its fur for a moment, and then said in a sickly sweet voice, “Now, I know you’re not trying to escape, hmm?”

Beck frowned. “I—I don’t…”

He paused, freezing up as Diana pressed a long, slender finger to his lips. His skin turned cold, and he could feel ice forming on his face. He shivered, and hated himself when Diana smiled.

“Hmm,” she murmured. “Powerful Seer my ass. You can’t even stay in the bird’s mind when I pulled at you.”

“What do you want?” Beck growled.

Diana grinned. “Now, that’s an interesting question. Let’s see… I want Basil back,” she said. “I want Malcolm to suffer, and I want Grace out of the picture. She’s the only thing standing between me and the mage throne. I’ve been after that damn chair for centuries, and I’m not about to lose it to some little girl who barely tapped into her own magic.”

Diana stood, moving away from Beck. He tried to stand, but the fox stood in front of him, black lips pulled back from its teeth in a silent snarl. Beck glared at the fox, then called out to Diana’s retreating back, “You’ll regret this. They’re coming for me now, and none of them will show you mercy.”

She paused momentarily, her steps faltering, Then, throwing her head high, she picked up her pace and rounded the corner, leaving Beck under the watchful gaze of her fox.

Grace crouched amongst the bushes and trees, eyes narrowed as she surveyed the area. A thin, two foot long metal stick rested across her knees. With a flick of her wrists, it would slide out into a six foot tall bo staff. It had recently become her weapon of choice, and she knew she’d need to use every advantage she had if she hoped to get Beck back.

Ahead of her, Basil and Malcolm were covering each other as they slipped from the cover of one shadow to another. They were both dressed in black, their forms fading in and out as they entered darkness.

For a moment, she became annoyed. She understood why, but she hated the fact that she was left behind as the two of them moved in to rescue Beck. She wanted to do more to help, instead of being left as the lookout. He was her best friend, and she knew Beck longer than either Basil or even Malcolm.

She sighed and shifted, easing some of the strain on her knees. Her legs shook, and she longed to sit down. But the fear of being caught unprepared stopped her.

Basil and Malcolm disappeared from view, slipping into the old lumber mill turned warehouse before them.

She sighed in frustration, her grip tightening on her staff. She stayed that way for several moments, but after a while, a strange nawing began to tear at her gut. She frowned. Something was wrong, and she couldn’t figure out what it was. After several moments, she heard the wingbeats of an eagle, and then Vincent was soaring overhead.

She caught his eye. He blinked, once, and then flew over the warehouse. After glancing back and forth a few times, Grace rose to her feet. She flicked her bo staff out to full length, and then began to stalk towards the open door.

As soon as she stepped inside, she was attacked on all sides. Grace cried out as someone aimed a kick at her knee. She moved her staff to block, and then brought the end up to catch her attacker under the chin. She shifted and stabbed the ends back and forth, quickly following up with a series of strikes and sweeps.

Unfortunately, she was outnumbered, and before long, her weapon was knocked out of her grip. Hands grabbed a hold of her arms, and then she was brought struggling into the depths of the warehouse.

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