Marked in Flesh Page 83

Simon looked at the last set of words and shivered. How much human will the terra indigene keep? He remembered the words the Elders had spoken, but it was Vlad who pointed to the list and said, “It looks like we’ve run out of time.”

“We were out of time when the humans disregarded the significance of the Elders declaring a breach of trust and decided to cause more trouble,” Henry rumbled.

“How did Meg know that card was supposed to be a terra indigene form?” Simon asked.

“Jester knew,” Henry replied.

Which meant at some point in his life, the Coyote had actually seen one or more of the terra indigene who were Namid’s teeth and claws.

“He separated the forms from the make-believe creatures and told Meg she shouldn’t send that deck to other blood prophets,” Henry continued. “The Jesse Walker already has that deck, but only Meg knows that not all the images are make-believe.”

Simon handed the sheet of paper to Henry. “We don’t know when it will happen.”

Henry folded the paper until it fit in the back pocket of his jeans. “Meg will receive a phone call, and that will be the battle cry. At least for us.”

Simon felt grief already clogging his throat. “Some of us are going to die. If the Elders have made their decision, why are they going to hold back until some of us die?”

“I don’t think shifters like us are that important to the Elders,” Henry replied. “But even if we do matter to them, maybe they have to wait for something to be set in motion before they act, even if waiting means watching some of us die.”


Firesday, Juin 22

Hope dropped the gray crayon, horrified by the drawing. She leaped up then half fell on the bed when her feet, asleep from being tucked under her for so long, couldn’t hold her. She felt warm liquid run down her legs, barely understanding that she’d wet herself.

Shaking, sobbing, too scared to call for help—too scared that no one would answer—she forced herself to look at the drawing again.

More than death. A horror that would never be forgotten.

She looked closer. She didn’t know that face. He didn’t live in Sweetwater. Had she drawn that face before? She couldn’t remember.

Fear grew inside her, its sharp edges slicing through her ability to think.

Had to find Jackson and Grace. Had to run, escape, hide. Had to tell . . .

A face in the corner of the paper, apart from the rest of the drawing.

. . . the Trailblazer.

Hope pushed to her feet. She could run fast now. She could run to the communications cabin and call the Trailblazer. She remembered the number. She would call because the danger would strike somewhere else before it came to Sweetwater. So she would call, and then she would find her friends and they would run and hide.

She stumbled out of the Wolfgard cabin, almost fell down the steps.


One of the Ravengard, watching her.

No time to explain. Not until she had sent the warning.

Hope dashed between the cabins that made up the terra indigene settlement until she reached the dirt road. Then she ran as fast as she could to the communications cabin, chased by the image of a drawing full of death.

• • •

Joe Wolfgard scratched on Tolya’s motel room door, then turned away and listened to the howl of Wolves in the distance.

The Song of Battle.

<What’s wrong?> he demanded.

<Humans!> came the answer. <They’re shooting our bison again! They’re killing our meat!>

<Wait! They can shoot you too!>

But the pack’s hunters and guards, enraged by more wanton slaughter, didn’t listen.

Tolya opened the door. “Joe?”

<Humans are killing bison again.>

“In daylight? When we can recognize them?” Suspicion in Tolya’s voice.

The humans had been careful so far. They had stayed inside vehicles so the Wolves couldn’t pick up their scents. But Tolya was right—humans wouldn’t reveal themselves unless they were doing something else that was sneaky.

<I have to stop the pack.>

“Go. I’ll keep an eye on the humans here.”

Joe raced in the direction of the pack and wondered if he had missed some new sign that humans were turning rabid.


Firesday, Juin 22

Hearing Nathan’s growl and Jake’s scolding caws, Meg rushed to the front counter to find out what was wrong. Then her mouth fell open as she stared at Robert, Sarah, and Lizzy playing with a large ball in the delivery area—a place where a large delivery truck, pulling in fast, could hit them. A place that was not a playground. They knew that.

“Robert!” Lizzy shouted. “Grr Bear says we’re not supposed to play out here! We’re supposed to play out back!”

Meg gasped and grabbed the counter as a painful buzz filled her abdomen and lower back. When she heard the creak of someone moving around upstairs, the buzz faded as quickly as it began, leaving an echo of pain.

“Grr Bear is a poophead!” Robert threw the ball at Lizzy, who swung Grr Bear like a bat and managed to connect with the ball, sending it in a high arc.

“Robert!” Pete Denby shouted from an upstairs window.

Robert froze for a moment at the sound of his father’s voice. Then, seeing the ball arcing over his head, he turned to run after it.

Pain. Abdomen, back, legs. Remembering training images of people injured in car accidents, Meg’s vision grayed, and she screamed, “Nathan, stop him! Stop him!”

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