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The Marked Ones

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Magic destroyed the world once. Now, magic users are the enemy. To be marked with magic is to lead a cursed life.

Rosie is completely average. There is absolutely nothing extraordinary about her in any way.

For most people, that would be a blessing, but Rosie wants nothing more than to have a spark of magic, even if people say that all mages are evil.

She wasn't born with magic, though. She's sure of it. After all, she is 17, and magic always presents when you are 13.


So, when she's suddenly able to wield magic, Rosie is initially confused, then thrilled…until the soldiers come for her, and she realizes everything she's about to lose.

No more school. No more friends. No more freedom.

Her life is over…at least the life she knew.

No. She won't allow herself to be locked in a cage. She must escape.

There is one place that is truly safe for people like her.

The lost city of Toledo – a haven for witches and warlocks since before the war, and the only place Rosie can be free.

But it's only a legend. Nobody has seen the city in decades.

Can she find the lost city before the army descends upon her?


  1. I had written several novels before this book, but I had never intentionally written YA before, and this was a chance for me to really delve into those tropes.
  2. This book was the result of a trip to Spain, and a ton of my research was used in the book, including real place like Toledo, with as close to accurate architecture as I could make it.
  3. I don't do a ton of alternate history, but I'm a European History fan and this gave me a chance to give my own spin on WW2, which I know might seem trite and passe, but I really think I did a cool twist on well-trodden territory.



The Royal Military Police pounded their feet on the sidewalk above the sewer where I cradled my newborn baby. They had been on our heels since we entered Madrid, and with every step I took, the threat of the RMP finding us multiplied.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Keep calm. You knew the risks when you came here. It will be okay. Just put one foot in front of the other. 

I looked down at my sweet baby’s face, resting so peacefully. I didn’t want to give her Nyquil, but I needed her to sleep until we dropped her off and got out of Madrid. She would forgive me in time, if she ever found out who I was, that is. If all went well, that wouldn’t happen until her eighteenth birthday.

“Hey!” Tom said, slinking down into the sewer. His curly black hair fell over his ice blue eyes. I loved him so much it blinded me to the world we brought our baby into, and now we all suffered the consequences.

“What did you find?” I asked breathlessly.

“I found a way through the RMP blockade. Let’s go.”

I squeezed my baby tightly in my arms and ambled down the sewer behind Tom. This would be my last chance to hold her tight. The next time I saw her, she would be an adult.

“Wait,” Tom whispered, hearing the footsteps of RMP soldiers above our heads.

It wasn’t an easy decision to leave my baby, but she had a better shot at living here, with the Normals. It was a risk. If they found her, they would brand her a traitor to the crown, but concealing her identity was her best chance for a real life.

The sun on the side of Tom’s cheek glowed as he beckoned me forward down the grimy sewer. 

“Turn that off!” I whispered forcefully to him.

“We need the light,” Tom replied as he inched down the dark sewer in front of us.

“They’re going to see!” I said.

“Nobody will see, Susie,” Tom replied with a smile. “Trust me.” 

He didn’t make it five steps before he regretted those words. Something ripped off the sewer grate behind us, and a robotic Goliath peered down at us. Ten feet tall and crewed by Royal Air Force pilots, Goliaths were the most lethal weapon against magic users. They were built to take us down by the dozen. 

“Halt!” it shouted. “You are in violation of statute 20.986 of Her Majesty’s charter.”

“Cover your eyes!” Tom shouted to me.

Tom held up his hands, and the sewer went white. The man inside the Goliath covered his eyes as he stumbled backwards against the stone wall of the sewer, momentarily dazed. Tom grabbed my arm to pull me forward. I looked back at the destruction as we disappeared into the darkness.

“I THOUGHT YOU KNEW the path, Tom!” I scolded after a half hour of aimlessly wandering through the sewers. “We’ve passed the same dead rat a half dozen times already!”

“How do you know it’s the same rat?” Tom asked. “Maybe it’s another dead rat. Ever think of that, huh?”

I sighed. “I don’t want to have this discussion. Really and truly, I don’t. I just want to get our baby to safety.” 

I looked down at the baby. She breathed heavily in my arms and tossed back and forth as if trying to break free of a nightmare. Soon she would wake up, and if we weren’t safely hidden by then, she would cry and blow our cover. I kept a pacifier in my back pocket just in case we needed it, but she hated pacifiers; and even if she took it, I couldn’t promise it wasn’t covered in sewer sludge.

Heck, I couldn’t promise she wasn’t covered in sewer sludge. I could barely see anything in the tunnels.

“Which way are we going?” I asked.

“I don’t— We have to go up, Susie. It’s the only way. I can’t find my bearings down here. We should be at the Plaza Mayor, and if we are, it’s only a few more blocks to the drop point, but I have no idea if that’s—”

He stopped talking as helicopters landed overhead. That wasn’t a new sound, and it might not be for us, but more soldiers milling about was never a good thing.

The Royal Military Police were always hunting for Shiners like Tom and I. Ever since the war, we couldn’t go anywhere without the RMP or the US Army on our tails, but it had gotten worse of late, and I didn’t want that for our baby. She should have a real life.

The baby’s eyes fluttered open. There was no keeping her silent now. I kept her pressed to my chest, but she squirmed out, and let out a deep wail.

“Shh shh shh shh shh,” I said, rocking her with my arms. “Shhhhh...”

But she wouldn’t stop crying. She wouldn’t stop wailing. I reached into my back pocket to grab the pacifier, but it was gone. I searched the ground around me; I’d lost it in the sinewy labyrinth of the sewers.

“What do we do?” I asked Tom.

He looked back at me. “I have an idea, but you’re not going to like it.”

I caught his eyes for a moment. I knew he was going to give himself up before he pushed open the sewer grate.

“No. No. No.” I blubbered as the tears filled my eyes. “Please, Tom. Don’t”

“Just get ready to run.”

He leapt out of the sewer grate and held up his hands. The glow of his cheek brought the attention of a half-dozen RMPs and three Goliath mechs that surrounded the square above us. Then with a little nod, he turned back to me and unleashed a fire ring around his body that knocked all the guards to the ground.

“Remember,” I said to the baby. “Mommy loves you.”

The crescent moon on my cheek glowed a bright blue. I gathered all the sewage I could and pushed it out of the grate above me with all the force I could muster. The bile jettisoned me forward out of the sewers and into the air. When I hit the ground, I was already running away as the mech suits were rebooting their systems after Tom’s attack. 

“Tom!” I shouted.

He was already halfway to me by the time I shouted. We sprinted down the nearest alleyway, running as fast as we could, with our baby screaming loudly into the night.

“That was so stupid,” I shouted. “You could’ve been caught.”

“But I wasn’t caught,” Tom said, pointing backwards. “And did you see the statue in the center of that square? It was Philip III on horseback. This s Plaza Mayor, just like I said. We’re just a few blocks away from the drop point.”

I turned to look at King Philip III on horseback at the center of the square and realized Tom was right. We were close. I couldn’t believe we might actually pull it off and give our daughter a chance for a real life. I wanted to smile, but that was before the mech suits stomped toward us. Their steps quaked the ground under our feet.

“Run!” Tom shouted, but I was done taking orders.

“No!” I shouted back, stuffing my crying baby into his arms. “You run.”

I kissed our baby’s sweet head as I gave Tom one last glance, then I turned back toward the mechs towering over me. The soldier piloting the nearest suit sneered at me from her protective bubble, enjoying her job a little too much for my taste. 

The moon on my cheek glowed bright blue. I pulled my arms close until the pipes in every building burst into the street, creating a wall of water between the mechs and my baby.

The water rose into the air, and I shot it as fast as I could at the approaching mechs. I turned back to see Tom frozen in horror, unable to move his feet. The baby in his arms wailing for comfort. 

“Run!” I shouted. “Don’t stop!”

We would never see each other again. I would be arrested, detained, and the very least. At worst, I would be executed as a lesson to all other magic users. I wanted to live and meet our baby again, but that wasn’t possible anymore, and it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that we got our baby girl to safety.

I teared up as Tom turned the corner, and my salty tears mixed with the water bursting from the pipes around me. I shot as much water as I could at the mechs, but they were ready for the blast the second time.

They locked their feet into the ground and stepped forward one after another. It was slow moving for them, but they would eventually be on me. Every slow step of their boots brought me closer to my demise.

“Enough!” A modulated voice screamed from the other side of the streaming water.

A metallic claw burst through the water and wrapped around my head. I couldn’t hold my concentration. The water fell around me, splashing harmlessly onto the stone.

The metallic arm pulled me close to the bubble cockpit that encased the driver inside, who smiled a maniacal grin at me. She enjoyed the chase. She enjoyed hunting Shiners like me. It was written all over her face. And she would enjoy hunting my child, too. I wouldn’t let that happen.

In one last burst of energy, I flung by hand up, and the water around me shot up from the ground into an icicle which crashed through the bubble and stabbed the driver in the stomach.

I fell to the ground, coughing, as ten MPs with machine guns surrounded me. In that moment, I lost the will to fight on and passed into unconsciousness.


Ialways wished I had magic powers. Sure, magic users lived in ghettos all around Ambrosia...but they could do things nobody else could. They could breathe fire, control rain, see into the future, and create beautiful illusions with the snap of their fingers.

Once I saw a magic user leap fifty feet into the air onto the top of a building to save a kid’s balloon. He got arrested for that, so maybe it was a dumb idea. Still, it was nice. Magic users could do that all the time as if it was nothing—as if they were taking a leisurely stroll.

I didn’t have any of that. I didn’t have any powers or cool stories, and my cheeks didn’t light up when I wanted to breathe fire out of my mouth or look deep into the future.

I was just a normal kid with straight, dirty blonde hair and an overbite, who hunched over when she walked and had to wear orthopedic shoes through middle school to straighten out my foot. There was nothing magic about that, or me.

“Rosie!” Mama said, calling up the stairs through the thin floorboards of our row house. “Breakfast!”

If I had magic, I could get my clothes to dance around the room and dress me by themselves...but no. I had to be a Normal, which meant I was stuck putting on my school uniform myself, like a sucker.

“Coming!” I shouted to my mother as I pulled the blue vest over my hair. As I did, I caught a glimpse in the mirror, and I couldn’t help but think that I really was a Normal. There was nothing special about my reflection. Average height, average hair, average looks. So very normal.

Stupid Normals. We were the worst. No magic. No powers. machine powered electricity and junk. I heard the Light Wielders once used their magic to power the whole grid before stupid Alexander Graham Bell spoiled it...just like a Normal.

I flipped the light off in my room as I picked up my backpack and ran downstairs. Our townhouse was small and cramped—too cramped for even just the two of us—but we managed. Mama and I didn’t need much, and we didn’t get much, so it worked out.

I hopped over the banister and landed on the creaky wooden floor. Mama sighed at me from her seemingly permanent spot huddled over the kitchen counter. “Would you be gentle. You’re gonna snap those floorboards one of these days.”

“Good,” I replied. “We need new ones anyway.”

“Oh yeah,” Mom replied, sliding scrambled eggs on to a plate. “And who’s gonna pay for them. You?”

I ran forward and kissed her on her cheek before sitting down at the kitchen table. Mama was a plump woman, and she kept rounding out with age. With every year that passed, her cheeks grew rosier and plumper. She didn’t care though, she was happy, and that was what me at least.

“You’re gonna miss the bus,” Mama said, laying a plate of scrambled eggs in front of me.

I sighed. This was the thousandth day in a row she’d made scrambled eggs for breakfast. “Do I have to? Can’t I have a Pop Tart or something?”

“No,” Mama said. “They’re bad for you. Now, eat up.”

I grumbled as I stuffed the scrambled eggs down my throat. If I had magic, I wouldn’t have to eat scrambled eggs.

TELEVISIONS BLARED out onto the street as I walked down the alleyway toward the bus stop. Ambrosia didn’t use school buses. We had to take the city bus just like everybody else, but at least we got passes which made riding free.

The narrow and windy streets of Ambrosia were crafted from the remnants of Madrid that remained after the war. Remnants of the old language spoke in old Madrid still clung to the city like bits of flotsam.

Businesses sometimes still had their signs up in Spanish, and you could get tapas on just about any street corner, but people only spoke Spanish in the darkness now, in the same corners that magic users practiced their powers. Here, and in all of Europe, people spoke English. Anything else meant you might be plotting against the queen.

“Hey!” my friend Anabelle said, running up as I walked down the cobblestone streets that lined the back alleys of Ambrosia. Anabelle wasn’t like me. She wasn’t normal. She was a Normal, but she was anything but...long silky brown hair, bright green eyes, and a million-dollar smile that shined for days. She could pal around with anybody, but she chose me...or she was stuck with me. After all, we had lived five houses away from each other since we were babies. 

Our bus picked us up on the main street, Queen Anne Boulevard, that once took people to and from the Prado, and other Spanish cultural touchstones. Many of the buildings were repurposed after the war.

“Are you with me?” Anabelle asked.

I had been zoned out since I walked out of the house this morning, just like every morning for the past few months. I wasn’t sure why, but I had trouble focusing ever since we’d started high school last fall.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You sure?” Anabelle asked. “Cuz you look like you are a million miles away.”

I wished I was a million miles away, flying over Paris or Berlin with my hair fluttering in the wind, but I couldn’t tell that to Anabelle. She had no desire to leave Ambrosia and was quite content with going to school, playing piano, and being doted on by older boys.

We couldn’t be much more different, and yet we could finish each other’s sentences. Even when she grew half a foot in the middle of eighth grade and could suddenly sit at the popular table, she never abandoned me. She insisted I be included too, even though people looked at her weirdly when we were together.

“I said I’m fine—” I scoffed, but I couldn’t finish my thought. My eyes turned to the television screens lining the alleyway. They installed screens on streets and alleys all over Ambrosia that blared propaganda out of them 24 hours a day, in case we weren’t aware that every citizen sat on the knife’s edge.

“Last night a pair of Shiners were arrested trying to sneak past Plaza Mayor with their baby,” a reporter said. “Luckily, our wonderful RMPs caught them before they could carry out whatever horrible plot they had planned. Hip hip hooray for the brave men and woman of our military.”

I hated that term...Shiner. People used it all the time, but I saw what it did to magic users when you called them that. Their eyes fell low, and they lost their breath for a second. They were powerless to stop people from saying it, but they didn’t have to like it, either.

“Good riddance, I guess,” Anabelle said with a triumphant smile on her face. “Hip hip hooray.”

It was one thing Anabelle and I disagreed on, though she never knew it. She had more tolerance to magic users than most people in Ambrosia, but there was this latent magicism that still reared its ugly head from time to time.

I tried to broach the topic with her several times, but it always turned into a catfight. She was adamant that she wasn’t magicist, but that didn’t change the fact that she said some really magicist stuff from time to time. Still, she was the best friend I ever had, so I quietly bit my tongue around her for the sake of the friendship. After all, she was a good person otherwise, and it didn’t affect me, right?

“Yeah,” I replied halfheartedly, noticing the 235 bus, which would take us to school, pulling up at the end of the alley. “Come on. We’re gonna be late.”

“Wait!” I shouted, flailing my hands in the air as we ran toward the bus. “Stop!”

The driver was used to halting his route due to our tardiness. There wasn’t a week that went by when we didn’t have to rush to catch up to a departing bus at least once. Of course, if I had magic, this wouldn’t be a problem. I could fly us to school. Then I wouldn’t be able to go to school, either, though. At least not mine—as it wasn’t integrated.

Some schools still let magic kids and Normals interact together, but they were few and far between in the city. Most magic users were schooled by their own kind in the ghettos of Ambrosia.

“Please!” Anabelle shouted behind me as the bus pulled away. “Stop!!!”

The bus jerked to a stop, and the door swung open. “Come on, then.”

I hopped onto the bus and showed my school ID to Trevor, the kindly old bus driver who always smiled at us when we came on board.

“Thanks, Trev,” I said, sucking wind. “You are a lifesaver.”

“Oh, think nothing of it,” Trevor replied from the driver’s seat, smiling at me.

The bus was packed. There wasn’t an empty seat anywhere. I passed a pregnant woman wearing a red plus sign on her tattered jacket. Her matted hair hadn’t been washed in days, nor had her muddied face.

She was a healer, endowed with the ability to fix others with her magical hands. Magic users weren’t supposed to sit at the front of the bus, especially not when Normals needed a seat, but I didn’t mind letting her stay.

“Can I sit there?” Anabelle said sweetly to the woman.

“Please,” the woman replied in a thick Irish accent. “Don’t make me go up the stairs to the back. I just worked a twelve-hour shift, and I’m so tired.”

“Look, I don’t want this to be a thing,” Anabelle said. “But you really shouldn’t be up here. I mean, I personally don’t care, but like, just let me sit there okay. Your place is in the back.”

“Just let her sit there,” I said. “It’s not that far.”

“It’s the principle of the thing, Rosie. I mean, without rules society breaks down.”

“Come on,” I said, pulling her arm.

“No!” she shouted back. “Quit being a wet blanket!”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” the healer said, crouching down in her seat. “Please, I don’t want to move.” 

“Hey!” Trevor shouted in the rearview mirror at the woman. “Get to the back of the bus!”

“There’s no room back there, sir.” She looked up at me. “Please, don’t make me move.”

“I don’t mind standing,” I said, grabbing on to the metal pole.

“I do,” Anabelle scoffed. “I wasn’t trying to make a scene, but well, here we are. Get up.”

The woman winced at the sound of that word. That horrible word. I spun around to Anabelle. “She’s pregnant.”

“Yeah? And that’s just one more shiner baby we gotta take care of, ain’t it?”

“Wow,” I replied. “I thought you weren’t magicist?”

“I’m not!” she replied before she lowered her voice. “But it’s true.”

I leaned into her with a sneer. “Who? You? Personally? Are you paying for her to eat and sleep?”

“Not today,” Anabelle replied. “But one day I’m gonna be outta school and then yeah, I’m gonna be paying for the lot of them.”

I turned back toward the woman. “It’s okay, miss. I’ll go to the back.”

“No, you won’t,” Anabelle scoffed. “Not with me. I want to sit in the front of the bus like I’m supposed to, and I want her to sit in the back like she’s supposed to. That’s not so much to ask, is it?”

There was a step up to the back of the bus, and behind the guard rails sat dozens of men, women, and children, all wearing tattered clothes embroidered with one of the seven magical signs.

The bus stopped again, and the woman went to stand. “No, don’t. I was just leaving.”

I hopped off the bus. Anabelle shouted at me. “Where are you going?”

“I feel like walking!” I shouted back. “Tell Mrs. Fritz I’m on my way. Or don’t. I don’t care.”

I watched Anabelle’s confused look as the door jerked closed and the bus pulled away. I really didn’t want to get into it with her, but sometimes I had no choice. I just hated how she treated magic users.

SEVEN TYPES OF MAGIC and Normals hated them all equally. Air, Light, Water, Eye, Ground, Mirror, and Health. Each magical user glowed with a hidden emblem on their cheek, which lit up when they used their magic, but otherwise stayed hidden from view. They shined, thus the term “Shiner.” I preferred to think of it as a gentle glow. Before the war, people called it the Glow.

When they weren’t using their magic, which was like 99 percent of the time, magic users were just like everyone else. You couldn’t even tell they could use magic. However, that 1 percent was enough to make them a pariah—and made people like Anabelle hate them.

There was a time when I might have understood the hate. After the Great War, where magic users like Hitler, Franco, and Mussolini revolted against the Normals and tried to take control of the world, executing everybody that didn’t have powers, forcing them into concentration camps, and burning them alive—after that horror, I understood the hatred toward magic users. I understood why the UK and the US chose to subjugate magic users.

They were scared—terrified even. Magic users could do things us Normals could never dream of—and because of that, they were a threat to us. Still, that war ended almost seventy-five years ago, and it’s not like there’s been another war since those days. Anabelle never lived in a world where magic users were a threat, and neither did her mother or father. Still, they kept the same vitriol going, just as if they had lived it.

I felt like magic users should be given fair treatment under the law but...I was still scared of them...even though I never had any reason to be frightened. I’d only seen magic a handful of times in my whole life outside the news, and yet I lived in fear that any moment a magic user would incinerate me or drive me mad with just a thought.

THE SCHOOL WAS A LITTLE under two miles from the bus stop I’d gotten off at, and the opposite end of Queen Anne Boulevard as the old Prado, which was now the British Art Museum, but everybody called it the Picasso, who’d spent most of his life living in France, opposing the rule of Franco.

Franco was the last of the great magical tyrants to fall. Though the rest of Europe was overtaken in 1945, Franco remained in power until 1975, due to his extraordinary skills with magic, and his relative isolation on the Iberian Peninsula. When he was finally deposed, the hammer fell swiftly and harder on Spanish magic users than anywhere else in Europe.

The British Prime Minister claimed that it was impossible to know which magic users supported the great despot, and thus Britain had to assume the whole country was filled with brainwashed magic users.

In other countries, the justice had been swift. If you wore a uniform and marched against the Allies, you were an enemy. Otherwise, you were a friend, even if you were still treated as a second class citizen.

However, in Spain, the war ended in 1975, which meant many of the men and women who fought against the UK and US after that did so without a uniform. Thus, the RMP assumed every wielder of magic was culpable and thus guilty. Of course, that’s just what they force fed us in school. There was surprisingly little information about the war online, at least from any reputable source. I could find nine hundred recipes for brisket, but the only articles about the war were written by kooks and nut jobs.

With each step I moved forward, the school grew in the distance in front of me. I heard the school bell ring signaling the start of classes. I walked as fast as I could toward the school, hoping Anabelle had told our homeroom teacher I was going to be late.

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