Elevation of the Marked - March McCarron


Elevation of the Marked is the second installment in a series, and is not a stand alone novel. This story begins where the first left off, with little reintroduction to to the world, characters, and events of Division of the Marked. For those readers who need a refresher on the first book, I have included a summary and a glossary of terms at the back.

This story is darker than the first, and may not be suitable for younger readers.


A white-gloved hand placed a tumbler upon the table, setting ice cubes jangling against crystal.

Arlow eyed the amber liquid and deemed its color acceptable. He placed his fingertips about the rim, his wrist slack. “My thanks.”

Something about his countenance made the waiter pause. “If the beverage is unsatisfactory…”

“The drink looks excellent, chap; I’ve high expectations it will taste excellent, as well.”

Again, the waiter—a diminutive man with an unfortunate haircut—rocked on his well-polished shoes. “I could certainly ask the barman to make one with less ice, if you’d prefer.”

The tinkle of conversation in the Palace Restaurant chimed in harmony with the clinks of glasses, the scrapes of silverware against plates. The place was unusually full, given it was that odd time of day between lunch and dinner.

Across the room, the head of palace security, Harrion Alboss, caught his eye. Arlow offered a slight smile and raised his glass in a silent, cross-room toast.

He then turned attention back to his overanxious attendant. “My good man,” Arlow said, rather magnanimously, in his opinion. “You may inform your barman that he has struck upon spirituous perfection. Less ice and the drink would be insipid, more should render it overcrowded.” To prove he spoke truth, he raised his glass, took a careful sip, and smacked his tongue to the roof of his mouth.

The placated waiter finally retreated and Arlow took a second, more considering mouthful.

“Spirituous perfection?” his companion asked, her tone unmistakably wry.

In fact, it was first-rate—a good, full body with a fine finish. “It will do.”

Vendra pursed her lips. “Are you ever not ridiculous?”

“I should hope not,” Arlow said, flashing his most charming smile. “Seriousness suits me ill.”

Vendra scowled. “Which is why I have so little confidence in your word.”

Arlow leaned deeper into his chair and crossed his feet at the ankle. He glanced around the restaurant again. At a nearby table, the newly married Mrs. Jenner—an attractive little minx, he had to acknowledge—sent him covert smiles. He winked at the girl, as yawning in her direction wouldn’t be the thing.

For a minute, he wondered which of them were the falser—the women of court or himself. They, with their simpers and coquetry, hair extensions and masks of talcum powder, seemed about as genuine as the ‘authentic Chaskuan silk’ sold in the back alleys of Accord. But he and his increasingly insincere attentions could hardly be labeled honest, either. Like actors on a stage, they delivered their lines and wore their costumes; all polish and no purpose.

He continued to scan the room, finding it mostly occupied by ladies, several of whom he had been taking measures to avoid. His time amongst his sisters of the Cosanta, women of substance and passion, must have ruined him for such creatures as these.

Vendra cleared her throat, and Arlow’s gaze snapped to her. Not all are better company, he amended as he took in her irritated expression. “Regardless of your confidence,” Arlow answered at last, “I mean what I say. Everything is prepared. It must be done between four and four-thirty in the evening, but may be triggered on the day of Quade’s choosing. All I need do is give the signal.”

“And what, may I ask, is the signal?”

Arlow shook his head with a mocking tsk-tsk. “Some faith, dear sister.”

Vendra crossed her arms before her robes and leveled him a scornful look, though she refrained from responding. Being a fellow Cosanta, she could scarcely object to his calling her ‘sister.’ Arlow’s eye alighted upon her exposed wrist, where the tip of a scar peeked from beneath the fabric. He had noticed other such scars on her arms and back in the past. He couldn’t imagine what job Quade had assigned her, his druggess and right-hand-woman, that should have resulted in such injuries.

“Four o’clock,” she said, her black brows descending. “You mean to do it during the royal audience?”

“Quade desired it should be public.”

“And what if I said that today is the day?” she asked, a challenge in her voice.

He toasted her, a vision of insouciance. “Then today should be the day.”

A flurry