Mark of the Dagger (The Marked Series Book 1)

BOOK: Mark of the Dagger (The Marked Series Book 1)
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Mark of the Dagger. Copyright 2014 Stella Rae

All Rights Reserved. No portion of this work may be reproduced by any means whatsoever without the explicit written consent of the author and the author's publisher. This work contains people who have been used in a fictionalized setting. Any resemblance to persons living or deceased is used strictly for the embellishment of the story to lend creditable of the fictionalized work. The copyright laws of 1988, namely the Berne Convention Copyright Laws of 1988, and the Digital Millennium Copy Right Act of 1998, enacted by Congress protect this work from piracy and any transmission, trade, or sale through means electronic, printed, shared, or otherwise is strictly prohibited and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

 

Cover art design by Dark Water Arts Designs

Published by Stardust Paranormal

Published in the U.S.A.

Dedication

 To the people that encouraged and pushed me to chase after my dreams; I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

Prologue

 

Father Kris was a Holy man, a man of God and he dedicated his life to servitude. Thirty five days ago, Father Kris awoke in the night with sacred visions. Of course Kris believed himself insane until his visions depicted workings of Christ. Now he understands the purpose of these visions, for he is to warn the people of a terrible fate:

Dark days will come, evil will unite

To battle our people, to destroy the light

Our warriors will fall, our light we will lose

And a darkness will come, consuming all hope

When despair arises,

Our saviors will be,

A boy who is lost will be part of our grace

The best of his race there will be no one stronger,

A girl who is half, she will fight to defend,

Not only herself but all of those within

The strongest of all, She will be the key

With her fierce loyalties and his fierce love

They will unite a family that will be all above

For they bear the Mark of the Chosen

Their bond cannot be broken

For love is the light they will need.

 

This vision is a warning and with God’s directions, he would help save the rest of humanity. With a last glance at the church that had been his home for forty years, he packed up his meager belongings and mounted his horse. His journey would lead across the lands and he had little hope of returning.

 

Chapter One

Dani was running through a black, impenetrable forest, the light from the sun could not break through the canopy of leaves and branches above her. Her vision couldn’t be relied upon, there was no path, no sign of people or even any animals. The trees were nothing but black masses with moss hanging from every surface trying to catch itself in her hair. As she continued to run, all she could do was trust her footing to leap over the shadowy roots protruding from the uneven ground.

Fear was strong in her heart, pounding a rhythm so deafening it nearly drowned out the sound of footsteps pursuing her. Too scared of losing her momentum, Dani pushed forward, afraid to look back. She was not entirely sure how many sets of footsteps there were.  Though she was sure there were many.

The sound of rushing water, fierce and steady assailed her ears. With the darkness surrounding her, all she could do was jump, praying it would be enough to clear the stream. Trembling with dread, she leapt without slowing and cleared it by three feet.  She gave little time to consider how in the world she cleared the jump without getting soaking wet or hurting herself.

With her feet pounding against the uneven, log fallen ground she ignored the stich in her side and pain in her calves.  Never in her life had she run this hard or exercised this much.  Nor had she wanted to, but she knew she had to, she had to get away.  Whatever was chasing her was inhuman and would kill her, the thought a burning imagine in her mind she knew was the truth.

Through her blinding fear a clearing came into view. Sunlight and little spots of color dotted the ground ahead. Had she not been terrified, she would have enjoyed the contrasts of the dark forest against the wild flowers basking in the sunlight.

She pushed herself harder, to run faster. In the back of her mind there was a voice yelling at her to ‘get into the sunlight, everything will be all right as long as she was in the light.'

Ten feet from the opening to the clearing, black shadows stood in her way. She turned in a circle hoping to find another way in but she was surrounded. She could hear soft laughter, it was the low grumble of a menacing chuckle.  Its sinister sound emanating from the shadowy mass from every angle.  Goosebumps rose on her arms and legs and for the first time she noticed that she was in her purple night shorts and cami.  The hair on the back of her neck stood on end.

Her throat clogged with fear, she could not call out for help. She began to pray, praying to whatever God existed for help. With a sinking heart, she knew she would not get out of this alive.

She felt a sudden pressure in her right hand and out of nowhere a long silver sword appeared with a ruby and emerald encrusted hilt. No two things had ever fit as perfectly as this sword in her hand. The weight was not too heavy nor too light.

In her heart she knew this was what she was fated to do, she needed to destroy the shadows.  She felt the overpowering urge deep in her veins.  As soon as she lifted the sword high above her head, it shone like the sun with a blinding bright light and her fear abated just enough for her to believe that everything would be ok.

She swung the sword in an arc through the shadows with a battle cry that tore from the depths of her soul. A cry of pain from the shadows echoed hers and surrounded her. She spun again, swung over and over into the shadows until the denseness dissipated. As soon as she could see the clearing again she ran the last ten feet as fast as she could.

In the middle of the clearing she dropped the sword, and giving into the pain in her legs, she fell to her knees clasping her side. Knowing she was safe, she took a minute to admire the flowers and with a smile she lifted her face to the heavens and whispered 'Thank you God.'

 

"Dani... Danielle.”

Danielle awoke gasping for air, her mother towered over her, shaking her shoulders. Her mother Sarah had a concerned look on her face.

Trying to catch her breath, Dani sat up in bed. When she felt she could speak she said. "I'm ok. I had a nightmare."

"Are you sure? You were yelling as if hounds of hell were after you. I've never heard you this terrified before," her mother said, gently.

"I'm fine mom. Promise," Dani ignored her mother as the look of concern deepened and realized that the back of her neck was burning. The stinging sensation on the back of her neck was excruciating she felt as if it were on fire. Not wanting to freak her mom out any more than she already had, she discreetly lifted her hand to rub her neck and brought it back to make sure there was nothing on it. She rolled her shoulders and made to get out of bed. "I'm going to take a shower. I'll be down in a few." After her mother nodded and left the room, she crossed to the bathroom, thinking that a nice hot shower would help the sting and wash away the last of the nightmare. The smell of the familiar lemon soap helped to ease the last of her fears.

Nightmare mostly forgotten, she dressed for school in a pair of blue jeans and layered tees with her hair pulled into a ponytail, and headed down the stairs to the kitchen for breakfast.  Dani paused at the picture in the hallway of her younger self with her two favorite men; her dad and Uncle Joe.  She was only three when it was taken but knew from cheesy smiles on their faces and the love she held for both of them that it had been a great day.

She seemed so small while standing between the two muscled, compacted men.  Their formidable presence overshadowed anyone near.  The brothers looked nothing alike aside from their height at six feet tall.  Her dad had brown hair like Dani and brown eyes whereas Dani’s were bottle glass green like her uncles.  Joe’s hair and beard were red.

Her father has been dead for a little over thirteen years. With a sigh, she blew a kiss to the picture and went into the kitchen. Sarah was at the stove flipping pancakes, as per their back to school tradition. She always made them on Dani’s first day of school. Smiling over her shoulder while Dani rummaged in the refrigerator for the orange juice, Sarah said, “Are you excited for your first day as a junior, Sweetie?"

Dani rolled her eyes, making sure her mother saw it. "It's just school. Besides, there isn't anything exciting about being a junior. Ask me again when I am a senior." Her mother chuckled and went to open the back door at the soft knock. Dani already knew who it would be... Mia.  They have been walking to school together every day since second grade.

Mia rushed in. She was a little tornado of blond hair and rushing excitement. "Oh my gosh I can't believe we are juniors, Dani. I can't believe it, can you believe it?" she asked without taking a breath. Dani looked at her mom over Mia's head and smiled.

With a laugh, Dani said, "No Mia, I can't believe it."

After they ate breakfast, they got their school things ready to go. As Dani bent over to grab her backpack from the floor beside her, the hair from her ponytail slid over her shoulder, exposing her neck.

At Mia's shriek, Dani jerked back up, thinking something had happened. She turned around and found that Mia was rushing toward her from the door. "Oh my gosh Dani what is that on your neck, did you get a tattoo?" Mia asked while jerking at the collar of Dani’s shirt to get a glimpse of it.

"What are you talking about? Of course not," Dani jerked out of Mia's grasp and swatted at her hands.

"What's going on?" Sarah asked coming into the hallway.

"Mia thinks I got a tattoo," Dani said dumbfounded. She met her mother’s confused look with one of her own. Then they both looked at Mia.

"I swear," Mia started. "I saw something on the back of your neck Dani. When you bent over-"

"Did you say the back of her neck?" Sarah asked in a sharp tone as she walked toward Dani before either girl could answer.

Sarah pushed aside Dani's hair with a near timid touch, knowing what she would find. With a small intake of breath, she saw what she has always been terrified she’d see; The Mark of the Dagger on the back of her child’s neck, blade pointing down. The same mark that Dani’s father and his brother Joe have. As of right now it looked more like a raspberry birthmark, but she knew that soon it would be outlined in ink like a real tattoo. Only a few people know what it truly is and what it means.  Sarah had hoped this would skip her daughter. She had wished and prayed that it would, not wanting to risk losing her only child the way she had lost her husband. But this, this fight is in her daughters’ blood and she should have known that the time would come.

She would have to call Joe. She didn’t understand exactly what Joe did and knew that she could not explain it all to Dani on her own. With a sigh of resignation she fixed Dani's shirt and let her hair fall back into place.

"It's just a birthmark," Sarah said to Mia and Dani, knowing it was a useless excuse and they would both see through it. But she didn't want to get into it with Dani right then and even if she did, she couldn’t say anything in front of Mia. With an incredulous look, Dani said, "I've never had a birthmark there before." Dani pushed into the hallway to look in the mirror with Mia on her heels. Sarah could hear the girls’ exclamations from where she stood.

"It looks like a sword," Mia said in awe. When they came back to the front door, Sarah looked at her daughter who grew unusually quiet. She saw the scared, uneasy look Dani shot her and knew that Dani knew that, that was no ordinary birthmark.

"You two better head on to school or you will be late," Sarah said in a small voice. She watched as Dani picked up her bag, gave her a distracted look over her shoulder and walked out the door.

With her back to the wall Sarah slid to the floor and cried into her hands.  Her daughter being marked was the last thing that she wanted to happen.  If there were some way she could mover her daughter away and pretend it never did then she would.  But she knew that no matter what, it would follow her.  Dani has to do what she was born to do.  She has to be the one to choose, with or without Sarah’s blessing.

When Sarah finished crying she dried her face and cleaned the kitchen. As soon as she finished, she sat at the table with the phone in her hand debating what to do. After a few moments she decided she had to make the call. "Joe..." she said in a small voice as soon as he picked up on the other end.

Dani went through the first half of the day in a trance-like state. She kept replaying her nightmare over and over in her head. By lunch, Mia had had enough of her mental hiatus.

"Dani what is wrong with you? You haven't listened to a word I have said all day and you haven't even touched your chicken salad sandwich. You love chicken salad sandwiches."

Dani was startled out of her reverie by the concerned tone of her best friends’ voice. She knew she was being crazy. But she couldn't help but think that her nightmare last night has something to do with this new birthmark. And come on, who gets a birthmark when they are sixteen years old? Aren't they called 'birthmarks' because you are born with them? That was a horrible excuse her mother came up with and they all knew it.

Dani saw the look in her mother’s eyes. She noticed the slight tightening of her grip on Dani's shoulders when she saw the stupid mark on her neck. Dani was certain that her mother knew more about this than she was saying.  Something told Dani this mark was more than just a birthmark and didn’t know why, but she knew in her heart that her dream last night was what started it all.

Looking up at Mia, Dani tried to smile, "If I tell you, you would only think I was crazy."

At Mia's protests, Dani took a deep breath and told her everything. She explained her dream with detailed precision.  Story telling had always been something Dani excelled at.  Maybe that was why she thought this was more fantastic than what it really was. Like something out of a storybook. She also explained about waking up with her neck burning.

"Do you think your dream was real?" Mia asked when she was finished.

"No, not necessarily. I mean it felt real; I was in the same pajamas I slept in. But when I woke up my feet weren't dirty. My legs weren’t scraped like you would think they would be after running through a forest. But I do think that in a way it was, like maybe an awakening of some kind.”

"When I held that sword, Mia, it was like coming home. It felt amazing to have it in my hands. And when I swung it, it was as if I was meant to, like I was born to do it. Then, waking up with a freaking Dagger on my neck seems a little weird, don't you think? I sound crazy don't I?"

"Yeah,” Mia said on a laugh. "But I would probably think the same thing if it happened to me. Maybe you should hold off on freaking out too much.  You may not even have any more dreams.”  She gasped and Dani turned to see what she was looking at. "Look," Mia said quietly. "It's David Holmes. Oh my gosh he looks so much better this year."

And with this came the change of subject that Dani so desperately needed.  She was once again a teenage girl talking about normal teenage things. No thoughts of shadows, swords, or daggers. Just her and her best friend talking and drooling about half the population of their class. Normalcy.

***

By the end of the school day the events of this morning were forgotten, Dani was in a good mood and happy to see her Uncle Joe's pickup truck in the driveway when she got home from school. She raced inside, and with a big smile jumped in his arms in greeting.

"Uncle Joe!" Dani said on a laugh as he spun her around. Not many people could. She wasn't what you would call small exactly, though she wasn't a giant either. She stood at five feet six inches and weighed about one hundred and thirty pounds. But she was all curves. "What are you doing here?"

BOOK: Mark of the Dagger (The Marked Series Book 1)
3.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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