Five Corners: The Marked Ones
BY Cathi Shaw
Published: January 30, 2014
Genre: YA/ Fantasy
Growing up in a sleepy village untouched by distant wars and political conflicts, it was easy for Thia, Mina and Kiara to forget such horrors existed in the Five Corners. That is until the dead child is found; a child that bears the same strange birthmark that all three sisters possess. A Mark their mother had always told them was unique to the girls. Kiara's suspicions grow as their Inn is soon overrun with outsiders from all walks of life. Strangers, soldiers and Elders who all seem to know more about what is happening than the girls do. After Mina barely survives an attack in the forest, the sisters are faced with a shattering secret their mother has kept from them for years. As danger closes in around them, the sisters are forced from their home and must put their trust in the hands of strangers. With more questions than answers, Kiara finds herself separated from everyone she loves and reliant on an Outlander who has spent too much time in army. She doesn't trust Caedmon but she needs him if she has any hope of being reunited with her sisters and learning what the Mark might mean.
Cathi Shaw lives in Summerland, BC with her husband and three children. She is often found wandering around her home, muttering in a seemingly incoherent manner, particularly when her characters have embarked on new adventure. In addition to writing fiction, she teaches rhetoric and professional writing in the Department of Communications at Okanagan College and is the co-author of the textbook Writing Today.
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
Kiara stared at the small body laid out in the family's tiny kitchen. She didn't know the child but that didn't stop her heart from jerking in her chest as she looked at the perfect little girl lying in the wooden box. She was dressed in what were obviously her best clothes; her dark hair had been carefully combed and braided. She was only six years old.
Kiara felt her own mother watching her closely. She forced her gaze away from the small lifeless form. Brijit murmured softly to the parents and then moved to Kiara's side.
"Come away from here, Kiara," her mother said firmly.
But Kiara couldn't stop herself from looking back at the child, noting how someone had twined a pretty scarf around her neck, concealing the ugly slashes that she knew were hidden beneath the colorful material. The result of a blade taken to vulnerable flesh. This poor girl had had no chance against her assailant.
Brijit tugged on her arm insistently. "There is nothing more for us to do here," she whispered in a hushed undertone. "Let’s go and give the family some peace."
Kiara shook her head, noticing for the first time the buzz of voices around her. The small room was filled with interested townsfolk, people who had never given a care for this family, suddenly drawn to the run down shack out of morbid curiosity. Kiara felt a sudden wave of shame wash over her. She suddenly wondered what she was doing here?
True, Brijit had come to wash and dress the child and had asked for Kiara's help in carrying the dead body, remarkably heavy for one so small. Death did not bother Kiara and she was strong enough to hoist weights around. Her little sister, Thia, while a healer like her mother, had not been large enough to help with this task.
But the heavy work had been completed hours ago. And still Kiara had stayed, transfixed by this tiny person who was no more.
Don’t try to deny it, she told herself vehemently, you know why you’re here.
She had seen the Mark on the child's shoulder. She resisted the urge to rub her own shoulder where an identical Mark was hidden beneath her tunic. It was something she’d believed she only shared with her sisters. But this child proved different.
And there was no question that this child had been assassinated.
Suddenly it was hard to breath, the walls closing in around her. She had to be away from that place. Kiara pushed through the door of the shack while her mother was stopped by one of the family members.
She stood in the muddy yard, drawing in deep breaths of the frosty fall air, trying to calm down.
"Tell no one of what you have seen, Kiara."
She whipped around and saw Brijit behind her, calmly tying her bonnet before they started the journey home.
"Why?" Kiara asked, her voice rough with emotion.
Brijit did not answer for moment, instead she pushed past Kiara to where the horses were waiting and mounted her small mare.
Kiara watched her mother through narrowed eyes. She had begun to suspect that Brijit was hiding things from her. And she didn't like it.
When it was clear that Brijit intended to leave this place with or without her, Kiara mounted in silence and turned her horse toward home.
"I saw it, Brijit," she said quietly, refusing to let the matter rest.
Brijit looked up suddenly, worry lines on her forehead.
"You can tell me to be silent but until you share what you know, I'm not likely to be. What in Five Corners is happening? This isn't the first death like this ...?" She heard the question lingering in her voice, even though she knew the truth. She was sure, based on her mother’s reaction when they’d arrived, that this was not the first innocent death Brijit had stumbled upon.
Brijit sighed. Then looked ahead on the path. "No. It's not," she admitted, confirming Kiara’s suspicions. "Another child was found in the Lowlands. He was killed in the same way."
"Did he have the ..." Kiara hesitated. They never spoke of the Mark.
"Yes," Brijit said quickly, before Kiara could voice it.
"And two more near the mountains to the North."
A rock of fear tightened in Kiara’s stomach. She never would have guessed her mother would keep so many deaths a secret.
"Who is doing this?" Kiara asked quietly, trying to calm her mind. "And why?"
“Stop with the interrogation, Kiara!” Brijit’s voice was high pitched and shrill and so unlike her mother that Kiara could only stare in shock.
Brijit closed her eyes for a moment. Then she opened them and forced a brittle smile to her lips. "I don't know who would do such a thing, Kiara. Sometimes there are people who are ... not right in their head. And they kill things they shouldn't."
Like Johnny Oldsfeld, Kiara thought. He killed small animals for the sport of it. He liked to watch them suffer and eventually die. But this was different. Johnny didn't chose only those animals that had white spots.
And Brijit was avoiding Kiara's eyes a little too much. She was focused on the road refusing to look at her. She looked almost guilty. But why would that be? Her mother was a healer not a killer. Surely Brijit had nothing to feel guilty for.
"Is there nothing we can do?" Kiara asked, anger tingeing her words.
Brijit shook her head. "Be on the lookout for strangers," she offered softly.
Kiara stared at the back of her mother's head as Brijit rode ahead of her. Suddenly Brijit turned back. "Oh, and Kiara ..."
"Say nothing of this to your sisters."
Kiara's eyes narrowed as she considered her mother's words. Brijit knew more than she was letting Kiara believe. And Kiara was determined to uncover what her mother was hiding.