Reaper (Book Two of The Marked Saga)

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Regan lay half in, half out of the shelter, hands on her stomach as she gazed up at the sky above. It was warm and sunny out, and fluffy white clouds drifted lazily across the sky. Just last night, she had met up with Caíl again to give him the layout of the prison. There were exactly eighty five doors and three hundred forty two windows. She had drawn out the layout of the prison on a piece of paper Caíl provided her, as well as the guard’s patrol routines. Now all she had to do was wait for him to devise a plan of escape.

It was agony. Regan hated to sit around waiting for help to come. She was a creature of action, and she always performed best when moving. But this waiting around, doing nothing? It was torture.

As she waited, Regan could feel a thick, suffocating darkness threatening to take over. Her eyebrows drew together as she concentrated, focusing on holding the darkness at bay. The last time she had felt the tight grip of depression, she was back in Wolf Valley, right after failing to save the boy possessed by a demon at Malcolm’s party. After Caíl came to her with the promise to help hunt down her killer, she had allowed anger and hatred to replace the emptiness. But now, after his betrayal and just laying around the prison with nothing to do, she could feel the cold numbness creeping back in.

A loud commotion drew her attention away from a mushroom shaped cloud. Regan turned her head, glancing at the door leading to the inside of the prison. Rose emerged seconds later, a panicked look on her face. She caught sight of Regan and raced towards her.

“Regan, they’re coming!” Rose hissed, shooting a glance over her shoulder.

“Who’s coming?” Regan pushed herself onto her elbows, staring at Rose with a frown on her face.

“The guards,” Rose answered. “I heard them—they’re coming to take you away for trial.”

Regan blinked, surprised. She knew that they would be coming for her eventually, but she figured that her trial wasn’t set for at least a few more years. After all, Mejhan were immortal—why not let her rot for a decade or two before sentencing her?

Regan lurched to her feet just as the door leading into the yard burst open. At least six guards, all dressed in black uniforms, briefly scanned the yard before their eyes landed on Regan. The leader jerked his head, and they made their way to her.

Knowing that it was useless to resist, Regan complied with their commands. She let them place shackles around her ankles and wrists, and then lead her away. They moved through the prison, and inmates watched curiously as Regan and her entourage made their way through the prison. She was checked out at the front desk, and then led outside to a black van much like the one that she came in. Except, this one was much more heavily armored, with no windows in the back. She was shoved into the back, and once she was chained to one of the many hooks on the floor, the doors closed. A moment later, the engine rumbled, and they rolled away.

They drove for hours. As the journey wore on, a nervous pit began gnawing its way through Regan’s stomach. Her emotions were torn in many different directions. She was confused, wondering why they had set her trial so early into her imprisonment. Why now? Compared to many of the other inmates, she had committed a rather petty crime. There were prisoners much more dangerous than she at the High Council Prison, inmates who were imprisoned for heinous acts. Such as assassination, and being full-blown traitors. She had only temporarily sided with a Kuren, in order to kill another of the evil revenants. That wasn’t cause for an early trial.

She was also terrified. She knew she would be found guilty, but what would her punishment be? Surely not execution. Her crimes weren’t that drastic.

But what if she was sentenced to death? As a Mejhan, anytime she died, she would come back to life. The way she died, and how young she was, determined how long she stayed dead for. She thought back to the conversation she had with Rose, weeks ago. The Council normally beheaded and burned the body of the convicted. But, as Rose said, it wasn’t always foolproof. She shuddered as she thought of the Reaper, the one that could truly kill her. What was it that a Reaper did, exactly? What did they do that struck fear into the hearts of the convicted?

Throughout the turmoil of her emotions, Regan could also feel the heavy weight of darkness pressing down on her chest. Breathing was difficult, and her limbs felt heavy. Despite everything, a part of her didn’t seem to care. A part of her was hoping to be sentenced to death. She longed to float, to be free. To no longer exist.

And then fear took over again. The last two times she died, she had had the same experience. She was trapped in the darkness, with a cold, dark voice urging her to give up, to give in. She was chained, and it was so dark she couldn’t see, couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. Only when her wolf spirit came to her did she regain her senses again.

The van abruptly came to a stop, pitching Regan towards the front. She grunted as her shoulder slammed against the wall separating her from the driver and guards. When she righted herself once again, the doors were thrown open. Guards unlocked her chains from the floor, and then roughly grabbed her arms. She growled, but their grip only tightened. Then, she was brought out into the bright sun, causing Regan to blink.

When her eyes had adjusted to the brightness, the guards were leading her up to a building. It looked like a regular courthouse, with white columns. She was dragged up the stairs, and through the doors. They led her down halls, and then through a door.

The room was shaped like an oval, with raised seats reaching higher and farther. There was at least fifty Mejhan in the room, all of them wearing long, black robes. In the center of the room was a black, high backed wooden chair, with a hook on the floor before it. She was led to the chair, locked to the hook, and forced to sit down. Regan snarled at the guards as they walked away, and then looked up to the man before her.

This must be the judge, Regan thought. He had pale skin, with steel gray hair, and a long beard. His brown eyes were cold, narrowed into slits as he glared down at Regan.

“Let us begin,” the judge said. He went through a series of names and titles, so that the court scribe could mark down the events of the trial. Afterwards, the judge, who had named himself as James Harrison, peered down his long, thin nose at Regan.

“You, Regan Veronica MacEntyre, are here at this court under the following charges: Taking down the defenses preventing dark forces entering the town known as Wolf Valley to allow a Kuren to enter. Siding with said Kuren, consorting with the Kuren, and meeting, with malicious intent, with a half-demon spawn named Greghon, and then meeting with another Kuren named Duncan Carter, in an attempt to overthrow the High Council. Not only that, but the accused is also charged with resisting arrest, and planning to escape imprisonment at the High Council prison. How does the accused plead?”

Regan blinked, taken aback. Yes, she had lowered the defenses to allow Caíl into Wolf Valley, but that was only so he could take care of the demon she had failed to exorcise. And she did meet with Greghon, a cambion blacksmith. But not with malicious intent. She only met with him to have her katana looked over, and to receive weapons, in order to defeat Duncan Carter. She did resist arrest, but only so she could kill Carter. She never met with him to plot an overthrow of the High Council—he had kidnapped her before she could get to him. And how did the judge know she was planning an escape from the prison?

“How does the accused plead?” Judge Harrison snapped.

“Innocent!” Regan cried. Despite what she had done, she knew she was innocent.

Judge Harrison blinked. “Do you mean to say that you, in fact, did not allow a Kuren into Wolf Valley?”

“Well, I did,” Regan stammered. “But—”

“And what about resisting arrest?” Judge Harrison demanded.

“I did, but—”

“So you’re saying you did not meet with a cambion? For new weapons?”

“I did, but—”

“And what about meeting with Duncan Carter?” Judge Harrison asked. “Or attempting to escape prison?”

Ignoring the part about prison, Regan said, “I did not meet with Carter! I—”

“Then why do I have a witness stating otherwise?”

Regan could only blink. He had a witness? Who?

Harrison turned to a security guard standing at the door behind him, saying, “Bring in the witness.”

The guard bowed, then turned and left the room. When he returned, Regan’s heart dropped to her stomach. Of course, she thought. It all makes sense.

The guard gestured to the witness’s seat to the left of the judge, and Rose sat down gracefully. She shot a smug look in Regan’s direction, and then turned her attention to Judge Harrison, who was now addressing her.

“State your name for the court, please.”

“Rose. Rose Dawson.”

Harrison nodded. “Rose Dawson, walk the court through what you have witnessed, please.”

Rose nodded. “Well, you see,” she began, “I was sent with a small group of hunters to track down MacEntyre. My three companions followed her, while I moved ahead. I knew she was going after Duncan Carter, and so I moved ahead, hoping to find him first. Unfortunately, he found me first, and I was taken prisoner. Before long, MacEntyre arrived, and I heard her and Carter speaking with one another, plotting to bring down the High Council. By then, my companions had arrived, and they attacked the factory I was being held at. I managed to escape, and I returned to them just as they captured MacEntyre.”

Rose smirked at Regan as she continued, saying, “I figured she would try to escape prison, so with the support of my comrades, and clearance from my superiors, I infiltrated the High Council Prison as a new inmate, in an attempt to get MacEntyre to trust me. It worked. I found her conversing with a Kuren at the fence, and I offered her help to escape. Under false pretenses, of course.”

Harrison, and every other Mejhan in the room, glared down at Regan. Her heart was racing, and she knew this would not end well for her.

“Is this true?” Harrison asked Regan.

Regan couldn’t tear her gaze away from Rose. She felt foolish for trusting her, for opening herself up to disappointment and, for the second time in just a few short months, betrayal. Before Harrison could say anything else, Regan snarled, “Yes.”

Harrison nodded. “I ask again,” he said. “How does the accused plead?”

I’ll get out, she thought. Even if Caíl betrays me again, even if I have to fight tooth and nail, I’ll get out.

“Guilty,” Regan said, straightening her back and glaring at the judge and every Mejhan on the Council.

Harrison nodded. “Very well,” he said. “Regan Veronica MacEntyre, you are found guilty for crimes against the High Council. Punishment for your crimes is death, by Reaper. You will be sent back to the High Council Prison, where you shall wait out the remainder of your days until June fifteenth, where you will be executed. Case dismissed.”

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