Marked (Book One of the Marked Saga)

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The Black Wolf

“What the hell were you thinking? You know better than to run after a demon by yourself!”

Regan sighed and leaned back in her seat while Dominic continued to yell and curse. She looked to her right, and then dropped her eyes. She couldn’t make eye contact with Malcolm, who was leaning against the wall by the fireplace. She felt like a failure, and she knew it was her fault that boy was dead. If she had gotten Basil to help her, instead of trying to get killed by a demon, that boy would still be alive.

They were all back at the mansion, in Dom’s office. Dom was pacing around the room, his shoulders tense. When Regan shifted her vision to gaze at his aura, she saw the shadow of his red fox spirit pacing alongside him. Basil was leaning a hip against the desk, his arms crossed over his chest. He refused to look at her. And Malcom… if he looked at her at all, it was with a furious expression on his face. She was supposed to resolve the demon situation, not make it worse. Now someone was dead because of her, someone that wasn’t going to come back…

Dominic had finally stopped. He sighed heavily and turned to her, his body both weary and angry. “The point is,” he said, “you should have gone to Basil first. Or even Malcolm. You may be a Tracker, but they both have more experience hunting demons.”

“I know,” Regan said. She pushed herself to her feet, her movements slow and painful. She barely raised her eyes as she said, “I know I’m a disappointment, a sorry excuse for a Mejhan. I know I’m supposed to help save people, but all I do is get people killed. I’m done.” And with that, she spun on her heel and stormed from the office.

She raced down the stairs, swiftly making her way across the marble floor. She shoved the door open, and as soon as her feet hit the ground, she shifted into wolf form. After shaking out her fur, she began to run.

After Regan had accepted the strange woman’s offer of a second chance at life, she never thought any of this would happen. She hadn’t been prepared for the sudden low self-esteem, for the self-loathing that she suddenly felt. Back when she was alive, when she was human, she felt that she had a purpose in life. She had plans for herself. She was going to become a martial arts instructor, and move to the city and open her own studio.

Now, she felt lost, confused. And things only became worse after the day came when she had been dead for a year, and she hadn’t done anything meaningful in her new life. After that, the depression had set in, and she had dived headfirst into a downward spiral. Before long, she began to welcome the numbness. It had become an addictive feeling, and not a day went by when she didn’t feel empty.

The cool, refreshing winter air pricked at Regan’s fur. She lengthened her strides, hitting the base of the nearest mountain within moments. Skirting back and forth across the mountain’s face, she began scaling its snowy banks, her paws occasionally slipping on ice covered rocks. She yelped once as she felt her ankle twist under her as she stumbled, but she welcomed the pain and continued onward, up towards the peak.

When she reached the top, the sun had begun to rise. The horizon was painted in a myriad of gold, purple, and pink. She sighed and closed her eyes, raising her nose as a breeze ruffled her fur. When she opened her eyes again, a black wolf stood before her.

Regan crouched and growled, the hairs along her back spiking up. She took a quick peek at his aura, and then snarled when she saw red. Kuren.

The black wolf tipped his head to the side, bright green eyes gazing at her as a wolfish grin pulled at his lips. He was sitting before her, his tail lightly brushing at the snow behind him. Regan began circling him, and he stood and mirrored her movements.

The Kuren were the counterparts to Mejhan. While a Mejhan was born from a human dying from saving a life, Kuren were created when they died while performing an act of evil. Their souls were forever tainted, and they strived to bring the Mejhan to their knees. That was another part of Regan’s new job. Saving people from the influence of the Kuren while battling demons was supposed to be her new purpose in life, though she had never accepted it.

The black wolf suddenly changed direction. Though her sprained ankle pulled at her, Regan swiftly kept pace. She limped slightly as she stalked along the snow, and as she stepped over the ground where the Kuren was, she caught his scent: cold, crisp mountain air and pine. It was intoxicating, and it took her everything she had to refocus.

Without warning, the wolf leapt across the invisible circle, a snarl tearing forth from his throat. Regan yelped and dodged to the side, barely avoiding his fangs and claws. She spun around, and shoved off the icy ground towards him. Her jaws clamped down on his shoulder, and he howled in pain.

The Kuren began bucking around, and Regan had no choice but to let go. Blood began spilling onto the snow below them, and she felt the hot, coppery liquid trailing down her throat. She braced her front legs and faced him, her back towards the valley. Of one thing she was sure—she wouldn’t let a Kuren past her into the valley. She refused to let that happen. If the Kuren managed to find the demon, he could control it, and the citizens of Wolf Valley wouldn’t be able to find peace for a very long time, if ever. She’d die before she let that happen.

The Kuren lunged for her again, but this time she was too slow. His large chest and head barreled into her, sending them rolling down the side of the mountain.

They tumbled down the mountain, and at every opportunity she had, Regan would claw and bite at the Kuren. He’d return the favor, and by the time they had finally rolled to a stop on level ground, they had left a trail of disturbed, bloody snow in their wake.

Regan pushed herself to her paws, lunging for the Kuren. He was taken off guard, and then he was on his back. Regan snarled viciously, and then her jaws were at his throat.

Who are you? She demanded. Who sent you?

A deep, amused chuckle sounded through her head. Seconds later, a male voice said, Name’s Caíl, he said. And no one sent me. I came on my own.

Regan snarled and her grip on his throat tightened. Tell me the truth! she snarled. Who sent you?

One of his green eyes narrowed as he stared up at her. I am telling the truth. No one sent me. I actually came to see you.

Why?

Because I know who killed you and your parents.

Regan was so taken aback by this statement she let go. Caíl pushed himself to his feet, shaking out his ruff. She narrowed her eyes as his form started to shimmer, and then he had assumed his human form. Seconds later, she followed suit.

Caíl looked to be around her age, though he could be much older than she could guess. He had lightly tanned skin, with short, pitch black hair. His eyes were just as green as they were when he was a wolf. He was barely six foot even, and though his shoulders weren’t wide like Basil’s, Regan knew that he had lean, hard muscles hidden underneath his coat and clothes. The wounds she had inflicted on him as a wolf transferred to his human body.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Regan demanded.

He smirked. “That car accident that killed you? Yeah, that was no accident.” When he spoke, his voice had a light accent of some kind, one she couldn’t detect when he was in wolf form.

“How do you know?” she asked.

Caíl shrugged. “The less you know, the better,” he said. “Point is, I know who you should look for.”

“Even if you are telling the truth,” Regan said, “which I don’t believe you are, why would you help me? Aren’t we mortal enemies?”

“Yes,” he said. “But at the moment, we both have a common interest. I’m sure you want to know more about your murder—because that’s what it was—and I want revenge. Your killer crossed me some time ago, and unfortunately, I can’t take him on by myself. I need someone just as angry, just as revenge-driven as me. And who better than the one girl he actually killed?”

“Him?” Regan asked, her voice suddenly very small. It was easy to believe that Caíl was lying, until he began to put an identity to this story. When he said “him,” Regan had the sense that he was telling the truth. He may be a Kuren, and they couldn’t be trusted. But somehow, she truly believed him.

Caíl nodded. “Duncan Carter,” he said.

Regan’s knees suddenly went weak, and she began to collapse. Caíl was by her side in an instant, catching hold of her before she fell. He helped her sit on the ground, and then crouched beside her.

Duncan Carter had been in business with Regan’s parents, the owners and founders of MacEntyre Arms and Weapons. Her parents had sold weapons to the military, and they made great money from it. Duncan Carter acted as liason between her parents and the military. Regan had met him, had known him.

She didn’t want to believe Caíl. It was the last thing she wanted. But one thing she had always been good at, even when she was alive and human, was telling when someone was lying. Caíl may be evil, but he was, at the very least, honest about it.

For the first time in almost three years, Regan felt something other than the crushing weight of her past on her chest and shoulders. Rage made her body quake, and for a moment all she saw was red. She wanted nothing more than to maim, to rip flesh from bone. She wanted to kill.

“I can tell this is a lot for you to take it,” Caíl said. “Think on it for a few days. Meet me back here when you’re ready, and I’ll give you more information.”

He stood and began to walk away, back up the mountain. Regan turned to him and called out, “Wait!”

Caíl turned back to her, one eyebrow raised. She pushed herself to her feet, facing him square on. She took a deep breath, then, “Why do you want Duncan dead?” she asked. “What did he do to you?”

Caíl smiled, but it held no humor whatsoever. Anger and hatred blazed within his eyes, and in a very calm voice he said, “Because he killed my family, too.”


Later that night, as Regan was lying in bed, her mind turned over the events of the morning. Of Duncan Carter, who had been in her life for as long as she could remember. Why would he want her parents dead? And why was he willing to kill Keith and Larissa’s daughters in order to achieve his goal?

He had to be a Kuren, Regan decided. There was no possibility of him having killed Caíl’s family without being alive in whatever time the black wolf was born. She may not know Caíl’s age, but when he stood near her she could sense a centuries’ old soul beside her.

For so long, Regan had been lost, confused. She had allowed the feelings of hopelessness and despair to control her life, because she didn’t know what else to do. But as she dwelled more on the new information she had been given, she began to shake with excitement and fury. She wanted vengeance, for her parent’s death, and her own. Thanks to Caíl, she now knew where to start.

And his name was Duncan Carter.

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