Mara’s eyes opened wide. She stumbled, then dropped onto the nearby bed, as trinkets on the table and shelves rattled, and dust rained down from the ceiling. “Gracious Good One!” she cried.
Dixon stumbled, then regained his balance with a hand to the wall.
“What is it? What’s happening?” Nina cried.
The floor stilled. The rattle of knickknacks and trinkets stopped.
“Nina, you’re an Oathtaker!” Mara exclaimed.
“No! What’s going on? I meant no harm, I swear!” The young woman’s hands jittered. “Here, take her!” she exclaimed, handing Eden off. She returned to the edge of the bed and sat with her arms held tightly around herself, her knees up, in a sort of quasi-fetal position.
Ted called from down the stairs.
“I’ll see to Ted and Faith,” Dixon said.
“It’s all right, Nina, you haven’t done anything wrong. We just . . . Well, as you no doubt figured out, Dixon and I are Oathtakers.” Mara knelt down and gently pressed Eden back into the young woman’s arms. “When you swore to protect the girls, the earth shook much as it does when an Oathtaker accepts his charge.” She searched Nina’s face. “Did you feel anything else?”
“You mean fear? I thought the house would fall down.”
Mara chuckled. “Anything else?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Believe me, you’d know if you’d felt anything like what an Oathtaker feels.”
“Are you and Dixon Oathtakers to the twins?”
“I’m Oathtaker to both of them. But Dixon swore the same oath that you just did—and with the same results.”
“When we get a chance, we’ll discuss this further,” Mara said.
“Ahhh . . . I had to do a little explaining, there. Ted and Faith both wondered what happened.”
“What did they say?”
“Only that they’re as confused as we are. I’d told Ted yesterday about what happened when I asked you to let me help with the girls. But now, with Nina getting such a response to her vow . . . Well, it’s all very confusing. Anyway, he agrees this deserves a closer look, but for now, he’d like to take us to sanctuary. It would be nice to stop there for a short time. What do you think?”
“Yes, I’d like to take a few minutes to offer my thanksgiving,” she said, “but we should get moving quickly, so let’s bring our belongings along and be on our way from there. Agreed?”
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