Mara and Velia set out to join Basha who waited for them on a brush-covered hillside not far from the main camp. A modest bonfire sat before her.
For a time, the three Oathtakers communed in silence. Chattering fox and hooting owls sounded out around them. Amidst that strangely synchronized musical background, Bane howled at the moon from afar, while an occasional hare scurried about in the surrounding brush.
Finally, grinning, Basha pulled out her flask and offered it to Mara.
“No, thanks,” she said, waving her hand. “I’ve been having trouble sleeping and, truth to tell, that wouldn’t help.”
“Anything in particular wrong?”
“No. Just . . . nightmares.”
“I’m sorry. Care to share?”
“No—but thanks. And don’t be. Sorry, I mean.” Mara shrugged. “I’m fine so long as Dixon’s there.”
“After saying ‘good night’ to my five boys, I could certainly use some,” Velia said.
“Five!” Basha exclaimed. “But you only have four boys.”
Velia chuckled. “Ahhh . . . Have you met my husband? Jerrett? Big guy? Lots of muscle? And body art?”
The three friends laughed.
Basha handed the flask over.
Velia took a swallow. “Good thinking with this,” she said, raising the vessel in the air, “although in truth, it’ll take us a few weeks to get to the palace, and this won’t even last the evening!”
“Oh, there’s more where that came from,” Basha replied.
Once again, they all laughed.
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