You’ve met two villains from TMC. It’s time to introduce you to some goodies. First one up? Mark Shephard. I debated on how to do this, how to get him to sit down and ask him about himself. But asking Mark to sit for a few minutes is as impossible as asking a five-year-old to sit through a three hour lecture.
So, I asked a buddy of his: TMC’s very own hero, Luke Cedrus. I know we haven’t discussed Luke in detail, yet. But he’s next. Promise. (He really wants to meet you.) For now, he told me about the first time they met. And this little tidbit: “Mark can be a bit of a sissy.”
If there was one thing I enjoyed about my living arrangements at the ward, it was Mark. It was the closest I could imagine to family, even if he had only been there two years. Before that, he’d been living on the streets. That is, until a man in a long coat brought him to the front door and demanded Mrs. Hall take him in. She muttered about one more mouth to feed, but for once she listened.
That night, I found him upstairs on a new bed, a beaten-up skateboard beside him, and three pairs of socks—flying above him. My jaw dropped. My eyes grew wide. It was like, well, like magic, obviously. But it was the first joyous sensation I’d felt in a long time. I never imagined I could feel so overjoyed by socks. And it was then I discovered Mark was a keeper. Until that, I’d kept that secret to myself.
“How the heck are you doing that?” I asked after I stopped gawking and finally found my voice.
With a grin, Mark held up his key. Beautifully ornate, the bronze key had a slender neck with a square base. Its top was formed with two bronze ovals, an intricate pattern weaving like ribbon throughout. “All keepers have them,” he said. “It’s like a third arm, practically.”
From then on, I questioned Mark about everything: how he had learned magic, where he had learned, if there were others like us. But Mark hadn’t revealed much. His memory seemed shot, and for whatever reason, I believed him and left it at that. One thing I never stopped wondering, though, was when I’d get my own key. Mark constantly reassured me that it would come. “By fourteen at the latest,” he told me one night. “I got mine when I was twelve. Don’t worry, it’ll come.” And with each passing year, I told myself that too. It would come. It had to come. There was little left to hope for.