The young women at the Oathtakers’ mission home retired for the night with their little ones. The children cried softly and whimpered as their mothers nursed and tucked them in. A gentle voice sang the melody of a traditional lullaby, while others whispered softly. Eventually, the household stilled.
Mara, Dixon, and Ted, gathered in the parlor. Faith set out tea and sugar, biscuits and cream, then closed the pocket doors to grant privacy to the little gathering.
The smell of blueberry, like a whisper through the air, rose up from the still warm biscuits to join the apple scent of the chamomile tea. Together they created a fruity perfume, both invigorating and calming at the same time.
Dixon poured cream into his tea. He untied his boots and loosened the laces. “Now that things are quiet, we can begin. I guess the question is: where?”
Mara caught his eye and smirked. “As you know, I like to start at the beginning.” They shared a smile, recollecting how she’d asked him to tell his story.
“Mara,” Ted said, “Dixon filled me in on what happened with Rowena and how the two of you made it here with the girls. He told me something of the danger Rowena had been in. I think we should try to come up with a plan for the girls’ safety. I’ll do whatever I can to assist.”
“I’m sure Dixon told you that I’m very new to this. I was in training until recently, but with so few Select remaining, and so few instructors having actually worked with them . . . Well, I’m afraid my training was very sketchy indeed.”
She wore a loose house frock and slippers borrowed from Faith that she kicked off her feet. Then she curled her legs to the side and put her hands in her pockets. “I appreciate your help.”
“I like your idea. I too like to ‘begin at the beginning.’ So, could you fill us in on what are your skills? Also, what attendant magic have you identified? I expect it’s still coming into play, but some may already made itself known.”
She refreshed her tea, then sipped at it. “Well, my skills include instruction in the history of Oosa, the Select, and the Oathtakers. Of course I’m also trained in general defense, and I have some skill at healing.”
“Mara,” Dixon interrupted, “it might help to know that we’re all of the same understanding. What do you mean when you say that you’re skilled at healing?”
“I mean things I’ve been taught, such as how to set a broken bone, or to mend a cut, how to guard against infection, how to assist in childbirth . . . That sort of thing.”
The three sat quietly for a minute.
Finally, Mara sighed. “Honestly, I’m feeling a bit over my head. I can’t understand why I was called to aid Rowena, but I can tell you that I responded to something beyond my ability to define or to, I don’t know—refuse?”
Ted nodded. “That’s a good way to describe the call.”
“But why me?” She frowned. “I worry I may not be right for this.” And I should be honest. I worry I’ll fail to live up to my oath. She cast the thought aside as quickly as it had arisen.
Dixon patted her arm. “That’s my fault. We had a bad start and it was my doing. But rest assured, the Good One knows what’s best. I had no right to second-guess Him, or you. And really, you shouldn’t either.”
“That’s right,” Ted agreed.
“Well, thank you, but there’s just so much to learn in the actual practice of being an Oathtaker with a charge. Where do I go from here?”
“Hold on. You said it yourself. We start at the beginning.”
She nodded. Ted’s presence reassured her, made her feel supported.
He sat to the front of his chair. When the house cat rubbed up against his legs, he scratched it behind its ears. “All right then, how about your attendant magic?”
She tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. “I can’t say I’ve seen anything yet, but—”
“She hears thoughts,” Dixon interrupted.
She frowned. “I don’t know about that.”
“Take my word for it, Ted, it’s true. She’s picked up on my thoughts already. It wasn’t about anything particularly important. I expect the Good One granted the ‘hearing’ as a means of informing her of the power.”
“I don’t know,” she repeated.
“Trust me, you did. And about something you could have had no inkling I was thinking at the time.”
“Anything else you’ve noticed?” Ted asked.
“She might have some attendant power related to her voice.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s just say it’s a good thing she didn’t sing the lullaby we heard earlier tonight, or we’d all be snoring now.”
“Dixon,” Mara chided, wincing.
“No, really! Ted, the other night she sang to the girls and put the whole room to sleep in mere moments.”
She shook her head at him.
“Is that true?” Ted asked.
“We were all so tired. It was late. I think everyone just nodded off and it happened to be when I sang.”
“Well, that’s one to keep in mind.
“Supposing it’s true, what use could that serve?”
“Perhaps you aren’t fully appreciating the value of sleep.” Ted grinned.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, even if all you can do is to sing someone to sleep quickly and easily, that could prove helpful—particularly to someone in need of it for healing.” He paused. “Anything else?”
“Yes. Someone who’d been in the group that pursued Rowena and me, surprised us the other night,” Dixon said.
“You didn’t mention that earlier.” Ted sat up, clearly alarmed. “What happened?”
Dixon told his friend about Heri.
“Did you learn anything from him?”
“That’s just it. Mara seemed to know just how to get him to give us the information we needed.”
“What did you find out?”
“Only that before joining the group tracking Rowena, he was with the palace guard. He said someone sent them out to kill Rowena. He didn’t know who.”
“Hmmm. What did you do?”
“Killed him,” Dixon responded without hesitation.
“Good. Better him than any of you.”
“It wasn’t like we could take him along.”
“In any case, we’d best keep you all as far from the palace and anyone associated with it as possible,” Ted suggested.
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