Reaper (Book Two of The Marked Saga)

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“All right, ladies. Get the hell out of my van! Now! Move, move, move!”

Adrenaline coursed through her veins, causing Regan to jump at any small sound or movement. She, Rose, and the Irish setter—Seamus, she remembered was his name—piled out of the van. She quickly glanced left and right, noting at least five more vans on either side of them. Dozens of Mejhan were pushed and pulled from the vans, some wearing many heavy chains on their arms and legs, but all of them wearing the same collar she wore. She even saw a Mejhan with a muzzle over his face.

She was shoved forward from behind, pushed into a line of other Mejhan. As she shuffled along behind everyone else in her line, she glanced around, taking in as much of her surroundings as she could. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see. It was dark out, and in front of her was a long, two story building made from concrete. Bars covered the windows, and off to the right she could see a fenced in yard with three layers of fencing topped with sharp barbed wire. Guard towers were spaced evenly every few hundred feet, the white lights from the towers blinding her. As she drew closer, Regan had no choice but to drop her gaze in order to see in front of her.

She made her way through a set of doors, where Mejhan guards on either side were yelling and screaming at the incoming prisoners. One of the guards, a burly man with a bull spirit hovering behind him, roared in her face, spit flying from his mouth. Regan snarled, her canines sharpening as anger started taking over. He reached out and gripped her throat, cutting off her airways. After giving her a look that dared her to defy him again, he threw her away, causing her to stumble into the shuffling line behind her.

Regan growled low in her throat, and continued on her way. I’ve gotta get out of here, she thought, looking all around her. Everywhere she looked, incoming prisoners were being processed, everyone given a mesh bag being quickly filled with supplies. Regan reached one of the tables, where one of the bags was thrust towards her. She followed the lead of the prisoners around her, taking soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, and toothpaste. She began collecting clothes as well, grabbing an assortment of sweats, T-shirts, long sleeved shirts, and a used pair of jeans. Regan frowned as the pile of clothes grew bigger in her bag. She brought it to her nose, gagging as a horrid stench ripped through her nose. She turned her head to the side, coughing and hacking, her stomach threatening to discharge its contents. Her clothes smelled like death, like fresh corpses rotting in the ground. Judging by the dirt packed into the creases, it wouldn’t surprise her if they did come from corpses.

After she had gathered an assortment of supplies, Regan followed the crowd down a long hallway, into what looked like an auditorium. Regan perched on the edge of a seat by the doors to the auditorium, watching everyone that entered. By the time the doors closed behind them, Regan had counted everything there was to count. Seven doors, twelve windows, and seventy nine Mejhan. Twenty three of those Mejhan were guards, seven of them female, and sixteen male. There were fifty six prisoners in the room, and only thirteen of them, including Regan, were female.

Her gaze landed on a familiar form, and the tension in her body instantly eased. Rose was sitting in a seat three rows ahead. Her dark hair was tied back into a thick, messy ponytail. She was seated between two burly men, both of them hungrily eyeing her.

Regan heard heels clicking on a wood floor, and she looked up to watch a woman step onto the stage up front. She had brown hair pulled back into a tight bun, and she wore high heels, a blouse, blazer, and a pencil skirt. The spirit of a lioness followed close behind, her golden eyes closely watching the crowd before her.

“Hello, and welcome to the High Council Prison,” the woman began. “My name is Lillith Martin, warden to the prison.”

No one listened to her. All of the new inmates were speaking with one another, their voices raised to a dull roar. Rose slowly turned in her seat, looking at everyone she could. When she looked behind her, Rose’s ocean blue gaze landed on Regan’s, refusing to look away. Regan stared back, and oddly enough, she felt a strange sense of calm wash over her.

Lillith turned to one of the Mejhan beside her. He was a lion as well, and like some of the guards, he was in animal form. Lillith nodded to him, and he opened his jaws in a loud roar. Instantly, the chatter subsided, and everyone watched Lillith closely.

“Thank you,” she said, but whether it was to the lion or to the crowd, Regan couldn’t tell. In front of her, Rose turned forward in her seat, leaving an empty space in Regan’s chest.

“Now,” Lillith continued, “you all know why you’re here. You have, in some way, committed crimes against the High Council, and you have been placed here to await the date of your trial. Depending on the severity of your crime, you could be with us anywhere from a few weeks to several decades. I am going to lay out ground rules for you all—follow them, and we won’t have any problems. If you break these rules, your stay with us will be most unpleasant. Now, rule one…”

Regan paused as she entered the dormitory. Cubes were lined up on both sides of the large room, each with two bunk beds. After the orientation speech, Lillith had told everyone to find and claim an empty bunk. Immediately, the crowd had crashed through the doors, racing to find a space. As far as she understood, there were more prisoners than there were bunks. If there were any prisoners left without a bunk, they would have to find a space outside.

When she saw the conditions of the dorms, though, Regan decided it may be better that way. Mold was collecting in every corner of the room, and within ten seconds she saw at least six rats scurry across the floor. Her stomach tightened with nausea. At least outside, she was closer to nature. And, it would be easier to find a way to escape.

There was a presence to her right, and then a familiar voice said, “Looks like we’re outside.”

Regan smiled, comforted by Rose’s sudden appearance. “Looks like you’re right,” she said. They turned and left the dorm, heading outside.

There were at least twenty other Mejhan setting up outside as well. All around, Regan could see tarps and blankets being set up, strung between trees and bushes. Past the main courtyard, made up of basketball courts, was a small, mini forest. Hundreds of feet away, though, Regan could see the chain link fences. They were at least twenty feet tall, and she could see reinforced chicken wire high above them. Regan also had no doubt that the fences were buried at least ten feet into the earth, preventing anyone from burying their way out, or simply shifting into animal form and flying away.

They were absolutely, truly imprisoned.

Rose bumped her elbow into Regan, jerking her head towards a collection of bushes. “Over there,” she said.

Regan nodded, following close behind. But she never took her eyes off the russett wolf. Her intentions seemed good enough—just two fellow prisoners sticking together while waiting for an opportunity to escape. And yet, she couldn’t bring herself to trust Rose completely. Not after what she went through with Caíl. she had been lied to and betrayed, and she refused to ever let herself fall into that position again.

Rose had somehow managed to obtain a heavy, gray tarp and some rope. Together, she and Regan spread the tarp out over the bushes, creating a small hut in which they could crawl under and stay dry should it rain. After tying it down, they tossed their mesh bags underneath and straightened.

The other wolf smiled, tipping her head back towards the sky. The sun had begun to rise, painting the sky with streaks of pink and purple. Regan breathed in deeply as well, closing her eyes for a brief moment.

“We make a pretty good team,” Rose said.

Regan opened her eyes. She shrugged, saying, “I guess so.” She narrowed her eyes and said, “Don’t think this means I trust you, though.”

Rose laughed. “Believe me,” she said, “I don’t trust you either. But, I do seem to enjoy your company.”

Regan frowned. “Why?” she asked.

The other girl shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “There’s just something about you, your aura… it’s weird.”

Her gut twisted. “Weird how?” she asked.

Rose frowned, biting down gently on the corner of her bottom lip. “I don’t know,” she finally said. “It’s bright, brighter than a typical Mejhan. And there are specks to your aura I’ve only ever seen in a mage.”

Regan’s stomach was doing acrobatic flips now. She couldn’t tell anyone, not even Rose, about the lightning. The only other people to know was Douglas, Sybil, and Breccan. And that was only because they were on the receiving end of her magic. No, even if Rose was an ally now, she couldn’t tell her.

Rose shrugged. “Oh well,” she said. She turned and ducked, crawling under the tarp. Regan stared at the spot she had disappeared from, then sighed. She turned and sat on the ground, pulling her knees up to her chest.

I have to get out of here, she thought.

The black wolf crouched at the edge of the woods, watching the prison closely. More specifically, he watched Regan. She looked small, like a scared pup washed up on the bank of a river. And yet, she also seemed powerful. And angry. She looked ready to tear out the throat of anyone that dared to provoke her any further.

After the explosion at the factory, the wards had fallen, and all of the supernatural beings escaped. Caíl and Leah had gone in search of Regan, knowing that the hunters were there for her. The last time he saw her, she had shot blasts of lightning from her fingertips. Then she was knocked out cold, and dragged away from the river.

Caíl knew he had to make this right. He knew he had to rescue Regan, protect her from the horrors of the High Council’s Prison. Or at the very least, spirit her away from the terror.

He hated himself for what he had done. He didn’t want to betray her, but he had no choice. Duncan was threatening to kill Leah, and Caíl had promised her dying parents that he’d look after her. He was determined to keep that promise, no matter the cost.

Now, Regan was imprisoned, and Leah was angry with him. She had always been a good soul. She never wanted anyone to suffer because of her. She had asked Caíl to stay away, and he had gone against her wishes. Now he was paying the price.

He had to make this right. He had to save Regan, and return her to her sister, Grace. Only then, in the presence of powerful mages, would she be safe from the High Council.

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