Marked (Book One of the Marked Saga)

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Regan had been scared before. When she was younger and attended her first martial arts tournament? She was scared. When she and her parents died? She was terrified. But nothing was as frightening as what she was waiting for. Fighting against a horde of demons and Kuren seemed more appealing.

Regan and Basil were sitting together at a table in the Hideout. That morning, when Basil returned to the House, he had gone straight to Regan and told her everything. At the time, she was dumbstruck. Grace? Here in Wolf Valley? It was impossible. She was supposed to be back at their home in Butte, living with Beth and Mike. How could she have been living here this whole time, and Regan had never known?

“Relax,” Basil whispered in her ear. “Everything will be fine.”

“Easy for you to say,” she snapped. “She’s going to think I abandoned her, and she’ll be right. I did leave her when she needed me most. And for what? Just so we can keep our stupid, meaningless existence a secret? This is stupid.”

Regan stood and began gathering her coat, slipping her gloves on as she moved. “I can’t do this,” she said. “I can’t face her, Basil. I’m sorry.”

He jumped to his feet, furious. Regan frowned as he wobbled slightly, his face going pale. He was still recovering from the attack, and even though it had only been barely three days, he still seemed sick.

“So what, are you going to run now?” Basil snapped. “Are you a coward now, running away from your problems with your tail between your legs?”

“Don’t you dare,” Regan snapped, causing heads to turn. She didn’t care. She ignored them as she leaned closer to Basil, snarling, “I am not going to do this. I’m leaving, and that’s that.”

She turned, and her blood ran cold as she saw who entered the Hideout. The first thing Regan noticed about her was that she still had her messenger bag with her. Regan had given it to her when her sister started high school, and Grace had loved it. She had carried it everywhere with her, and Regan was pleased to see she still was.

Grace was wearing jeans and a coat, with stylish snow boots up to her knee. Her copper red hair was tied back into a braid, and a soft, white beanie was atop her head, keeping the heat trapped inside.

Grace froze when she saw her, her green eyes widening. She blinked, then took a few hesitant steps forward, as if she were afraid Regan would disappear. “Regan?” she asked. “Wolf Girl? Is that really you?”

Regan smiled at the nickname. Even when she was human, she had always had a fascination with wolves. She had always wanted to open a wolf sanctuary, hoping to save wolves as they jumped on and off the endangered species list. When they were younger, Grace had started calling her Wolf Girl, and the nickname had stuck.

“Yes, Gracie,” Regan said as tears spilled onto her cheeks. “It’s really me.”

They started at each other a moment more, and then they both lurched forward, and within seconds they were in each other's arms, one refusing to ever let go of the other.

Basil sat a distance away, sipping at a mug of hot tea as he gave them their privacy. He was still cold from the inside out, and he felt like vomiting. Malcolm said that chills and nausea were aftereffects of the poison that had been used, and Basil hated it.

Grace was, unsurprisingly, furious. After the sisters had reunited, Grace had gone off on a tirade, screaming and cursing at Regan. The people inside the Hideout had turned to watch the spectacle, and when Regan had finally calmed her sister, they retreated to a corner to sit and talk.

Thanks to his hearing, Basil was able to listen in. He knew he shouldn’t, but he couldn’t help himself. He was worried about Grace and was concerned that she’d explode again and attack her own sister. So, he sat on the other side of the Hideout, where he could see and hear the sisters.

“Why didn’t you come to see me?” Grace asked. “Why did you leave?”

Regan sighed. “I wanted to,” she said. “Believe me, more than anything I wanted to see you. But the other Mejhan, they don’t like it. I had to cut my ties to my life, and let everything go.”


“Because we’re immortal, for one,” Regan answered. “And… well, I already died. You needed to accept that, and move on with your life. It was for your protection, as well as mine and the Dark Realm.”

“Well, I’m a part of it now.”

Regan nodded, her eyes downcast. “I know,” she said. “If I had known you were living in the valley, I would have gone to see you. Why did you move here?”

Graced sighed. She crossed her arms and leaned back in her seat, refusing to look at her. “It was Aunt Beth’s idea,” she finally said. “She felt that some ‘country air’ would be good for me. Fat load of good that did.”

Regan frowned. “What do you mean?”

“I was attacked the other day,” Grace said. “Some men, who had a boss that wanted me. They said their boss wanted me, that I was supposed to be dead and he was pissed about it. Did you know we’re descended from a powerful clan of mages?”

Regan blinked. “No,” she said. “I didn’t know.”

Grace nodded. “Well, at least our parents didn’t tell you either.”

Regan was frowning. Grace narrowed her eyes and said, “What’s wrong?”

The elder sister shook her head. “I don’t really know,” she replied. She cast a quick, anxious glance towards Basil, and then looked away again. He frowned.

“A few days ago,” Regan said, “I learned some interesting things. Our parents' death, and mine, weren’t accidents.”

“What do you mean?” Grace demanded. “Do you mean that the accident was staged?”

“Yes,” Regan said. “And lately, I’ve been having nightmares about that night. More so than usual. I’m starting to remember things that I didn’t before, and I’m hoping those dreams, and my contact, will help clear things up.”

“Your contact?”

“Yes. I can’t tell you for confidential reasons,” Regan said, her eyes flicking nervously towards Basil. “But I’m looking into it.”

Grace sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger. Regan reached over, grabbing hold of her sister’s forearm. Grace glanced up and Regan said, “Let’s talk about something else right now. Are you still doing art?”

Grace’s eyes lit up at the mention of art, and then the sisters were conversing lightly with one another. Basil was somewhat short of amazed, and suspicious. Whatever Regan was doing, she was going to great lengths to keep it secret from him.

Basil jumped as the chair next to him moved, and then a teenage boy sat down. He seemed to be eighteen, and after closer inspection, Basil realized he was Grace’s friend. They had gone to Malcolm’s party together, and after the demon had killed that boy, he had escorted Grace away.

“Hi,” the boy said. “Name’s Beck.”

Basil narrowed his eyes. Beck seemed ordinary enough, with sandy blonde hair and amber colored eyes. He was lightly muscled and wore a simple pair of jeans, a T-shirt, snow boots, and a coat. He looked ordinary, but Basil was taken aback at the waves of power that rolled off of him. He snuck a peek at Beck’s aura but could find no traces of magic. Yet he seemed to have the power of one, which confused Basil.

Beck jerked his chin towards where the sisters were, saying, “You friends with Grace?”

“Yes,” Basil replied.

“Hmm. You one of the friends from Montana?”

“Yeah,” Basil lied. “So’s the red-haired girl with her.”

“You sure?” Beck asked. “Because that looks a hell of a lot like her dead sister.”

Basil’s head snapped around. Beck met his gaze without flinching. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on here. I don’t know if I want to know. All I know is this—Grace is my best friend, almost like a sister. If anything happens to her, I want you to promise me you’ll protect her.”

Basil blinked in shock. This mortal had no clue what was really going on, but he knew trouble was stirring in the sleepy town of Wolf Valley. Basil decided to tell Malcolm about him, and hope that the mage had some insight.

“You have my word,” Basil swore.

Beck nodded. “Good.” He stood and turned to leave, but before he did so he said, “Tell Grace to call me when she has a moment. I need to hear her voice for myself.”

Basil nodded, and after sending a glance in his friend’s direction, Beck turned and strode out of the Hideout, back into the snowy winter beyond.

Interesting, Basil thought. Very interesting…

Regan turned to glance over her shoulder, making sure she wasn’t being followed. Once she was certain she was safe, she shifted into wolf form and raced up the side of the mountain.

It killed her inside to leave her sister, but she needed to meet Caíl. They needed to devise a plan to destroy Duncan Carter, and she couldn’t have either Grace or Basil know. It took her everything she had to not tell Grace about Duncan, knowing how much danger she’d be putting her sister in. No, she needed to resolve the situation first. Once Duncan had been dealt with, then she would tell her sister everything.

When she had reached the spot where she had met Caíl, the black wolf stepped out from behind a tree. He yipped at her and turned away, facing the east. Follow me, he said. Then he took off running.

Regan sped after him, her paws spraying up snow behind her. The two wolves ran along the side of the mountain, the sun setting as they ran. Regan inhaled deeply, relishing in the feel of the cold air brushing against her lungs. She lengthened her stride, and within seconds she had caught up to Caíl. She knew she could easily outrun him, but she decided to keep pace instead since she didn’t know where he was taking her.

When Caíl began to slow, Regan did as well. They had followed the mountain as it curved around, leading away from the valley. Before long, they came upon a small canyon, and at the base of two mountains, they arrived at a small log cabin. Caíl shifted into human form, and Regan followed suit.

They stomped up the steps together, heading to the front door. Caíl opened the door, allowing Regan to step in first. She paused, feeling suspicious. She gave Caíl a look, and after smirking in return, he stepped inside. After a moment, Regan followed him.

“So,” he said. “How’s your sister?”

Regan froze. “How did you know about her?”

He laughed. “You gave me permission to enter the valley,” he said. “I know everything I can and need to know. So, I ask again. How’s your sister?”

“She’s fine,” Regan grumbled, her eyes scanning the layout of the cabin. It was simple, with a bed shoved into one corner, and a table set up in the center. There was a small closet with a few shirts hanging from a rod, and a dresser pressed into the wall beside it. There was a single door leading into a bathroom, and in the far right corner of the cabin was a small kitchen.

“She was attacked, right?” Caíl asked.

“Yeah,” Regan answered. “Who were they? Were they Duncan’s men?”

Caíl nodded. “Aye,” he said. “He learned of your sister surviving the crash, and he sent his men after her. Obviously, they failed, bested by a Mejhan bear and a girl who just barely tapped into her powers.”

“What exactly is Duncan’s role in all of this?” Regan asked. “You said he orchestrated mine and my parents’ deaths, yet I don’t even know if he’s human or not.”

“He was a mage once,” Caíl answered. He sat on the edge of his bed, pulling a crate towards him. He opened it and began pulling out an assortment of weapons. “Duncan died around the time I did, and he is now a Kuren. He spent his past remaining centuries hunting down the MacEntyre clan.”

Regan blinked. She grabbed a nearby chair, turned it, and then sat on it backward so she was facing the black wolf. “Why?” she asked. “Why did he kill my ancestors?”

“Power,” he said. “Prestige. He betrayed one of the earlier MacEntyres, back in Scotland. During one of his raids, Duncan and his men were terribly outnumbered.”

A haunted, faraway look came into Caíl’s eyes. He paused in counting his inventory, which Regan assumed he was doing. He clenched and unclenched his hands, his jaw and throat working as he struggled to contain his anger. “I was already a Kuren at the time, but I was horrified at what he did next. Duncan and his men, and I at the time, attacked a settlement, one we knew was housing MacEntyres. In order to draw them out, he grabbed a child, a young girl no older than five. He held a dagger to her throat, demanding that the MacEntyres come out. When they didn’t, he killed the little girl. Seconds later, a blast of magefire appeared and killed him. Three days later, he came back as a Kuren.”

Caíl glanced up, fury in his eyes as he said, “Ever since then, Duncan’s made it his mission to hunt down every MacEntyre that he could find, and wipe the family from existence. Ah, here it is.”

Caíl had returned to rifling through the weapons. He grabbed a long weapon wrapped in a silky black cloth. He came towards Regan and held it out, saying, “I believe this is yours.”

She frowned but accepted the weapon. When she pulled back the silk, she pressed a hand to her mouth and forced herself not to cry.

It was her katana. When she was fifteen, her parents had taken her to California, where a special swordsmith lived. Regan had already received a black belt in multiple styles of martial arts and had found a unique love in the katana. So, she and her parents traveled to LA, and they spent a weekend there as the smith created a katana specially designed for her. The sword had a perfectly balanced blade, and the hilt and tsuba were created from a dark oak wood, painted black, with a black and red tsuka ito wrap surrounding the hilt. The sheath was made from the same wood as the hilt, and painted on the sides of the hilt was a fierce red Chinese dragon.

“Where did you get this?” Regan whispered. She never thought she’d see the sword again.

Caíl shrugged. Everything in your home was auctioned off. I managed to buy the katana, and I’ve been keeping it safe for you.”

“You could have just kept it for yourself,” Regan murmured. “This sword was worth more than both of my parents' cars and the grand piano we owned. My parents went to the best swordsmith in the country, possibly the world.”

He met her gaze and said, “It’s a part of you,” he said. “I understand the connection between a warrior and their weapon. I used to be one myself.”

Regan hugged the sword to her, watching as Caíl returned to sit on the edge of his bed. After waiting in a tense silence for several moments, Regan said, “You told me that Duncan killed your family. What happened, if you don’t mind my asking?”

Caíl clasped his hands together before him, leaning forward and hunching his shoulders. Regan almost thought he wasn’t going to tell her anything when he said, “I had a sister once, just like you. But when I died, I returned to her. She was the only one that would never judge me, even for what I had done.

“She died a natural death, of old age. A hundred years later, I found a young girl, no older than twelve. She was an orphan, living on the streets of London. I took her under my wing, and I practically raised her. She reminded me so much of my sister, and I grew to love her like one.

“I was still under Duncan’s command at the time. To ensure that I would never betray him, he killed her before my eyes. Since then, I’ve sworn to do whatever it took to bring him down.”

Caíl looked up, and Regan was shocked to see a tear on his cheek. His emerald eyes glowed for an instant as he said, “That’s why I chose to help you. Because of what he did to you and your family, and because of your name. You’re a MacEntyre, and you and your sister might be some of the last MacEntyres left in the world. He’s not ever going to stop, not unless we end him.”

Caíl stood, strapping a pair of battle knives to his thighs. He turned towards Regan and said, “I caught the scent of the men that attacked Grace the other day. I lost the scent, but I’m sure you can be able to find it again.”

Regan nodded. She stood, tying her katana to her belt on her left hip. As a Tracker, her senses were stronger than a normal revenant. She’d be able to find the scent easily.

“All right.” Caíl grinned and said, “Let’s go hunting.”

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