“Wait a minute,” Mara said. “What did you mean? That you ‘went through great pains to create it.’ The compact, I mean.”
“It’s part of Lucy’s attendant magic,” Dixon said. “She can infuse objects with magic so they can be used for other than their ordinary purposes. Like the compact here is used to communicate. Or so it seems,” he said, glaring at Lucy.
Mara nodded. “All right, Lucy. Shall I continue?”
The woman took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly, as though trying to rid herself of the knowledge that Dixon was angry with her. “Please, do.”
Mara relayed the story of the past few days.
Lucy listened carefully, asking for specifics from time to time. “So Rowena released her power?”
“Thank the Good One for that. Her children’s line will go on to lead the Select. And you’re sure you weren’t followed?”
“No, we’re not,” Dixon said. “We did our best to hide our trail, and of course Rowena’s release of her power gave us a head start. But someone intercepted us once already.” He told her all about Heri.
“We came here to Polesk because we needed a wet nurse for the girls,” Mara said. “We’ve found a lovely young woman here at the Oathtakers’ mission home for Chiranian refugees who’s willing to go along with us to care for the girls.”
“And the other gentleman there with you?”
“Ted Baker. Also an Oathtaker,” Ted said.
“Baker . . . Baker,” Lucy repeated, as though trying to conjure any information or recollection.
“He has my full endorsement,” Dixon said.
“Well, no matter,” she continued with a wave, as though Dixon hadn’t spoken.
“Maybe you could help us,” Mara said. “We were just discussing where we should go from here when you—what do you say—‘called?’”
For the first time, Lucy laughed. It was a delightful sound. “Yes, that’s right. This means of communication does come in handy. We’ll be able to get information to you quickly this way, now that the twins are your charge and your attendant magic allows for it.”
“Have you any suggestions for us?”
The woman pursed her lips and tilted her head. “It would be best for you to come here. It’s where Rowena was headed after all. We just didn’t want her to unintentionally lead someone right into the camp. I’ll need to contact the others in the field to find out what they know, then get back to you. In the meantime, keep the compact handy, but don’t ever answer my call unless you’re certain no one can see or hear you.”
“All right. We’ll do as you say.”
“Good. I’ll get back to you with an update soon.” Lucy hesitated. “Where did you say all this happened?”
“Just south of Parkton,” Dixon said. “There was a small wayfarer’s hut along the old messenger’s route between there and Lentontown.”
“I know the place. I’ll send some folks out to see what they can learn. In the meantime, be prepared to move at a moment’s notice. Keep the infants close, your bags packed, and your horses rested.”
“Thank you,” Mara said.
“Oh yes, what of the young woman? A Chiranian, you say?”
Briefly, Ted informed Lucy of Nina’s predicament.
“She’s positively taken with the girls,” Mara added. “She wouldn’t allow harm to come to so much as a hair on their heads.”
“Good. Oh, one more thing. If you need to reach me before I get back to you, use the compact to communicate.”
“You can leave a message. Just open it and speak. I’ll retrieve it when I can. Remember, be discreet.”
“Just curious, Lucy,” Dixon interrupted, “is Mara the only one with sufficient attendant power to make use of the compact?”
Lucy avoided his gaze. “No, Dixon. In that you were Oathtaker to a seventh, you certainly can and may use it.” She paused. “I’m sorry. It was wrong of me.”
He said nothing, though his scowl spoke volumes.
Suddenly, her expression turned grim. “You’re awfully young for all of this, aren’t you?” she asked Mara, her voice laced with accusation.
“None of that,” Dixon said, his voice was firm. “Have no fear. The Good One sent the right person for the job. Don’t try to second guess Him.”
Lucy sighed. “Yes, I suppose you’re right.” She smiled at Mara. “Welcome then, little sister. Welcome to the inner circle.”
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