Suddenly, Rowena’s eyes opened wide. She grasped the Oathtaker’s arm and pulled her close. “Mara!” she exclaimed, her voice soft but firm.
“What? What is it?”
“Another? Another what?”
“Mara,” she repeated, as a contraction bit deeply.
The Oathtaker took another look. “Oh, goodness, there’s another!” This was indeed a miracle. No Select had ever before born twins—not one, not ever. “Easy, Rowena, you can do this.” Half giddy, Mara fought to hold down her grin.
A tear rolled down Rowena’s face as another contraction took hold.
“Almost there,” Mara encouraged. “Almost there.”
After a couple minutes, a final contraction gripped the woman. When it released, the Oathtaker held up another child. She tied off the cord and cut it. Once again she felt a tingling sensation, then the infant’s heavenly scent momentarily overtook her. Although this child looked identical to her sister, her fragrance, a combination of bergamot, jasmine, and orange, with hints of warm musk, differed. Like her sister, the infant took in a gulp of air, but she did not cry.
Mara rummaged for something in which to wrap her. Once done, she looked for the infant’s sign. It differed from her sister’s. She studied it for a moment before she could make it out, but then it seemed completely clear. It consisted of two squares. When looking at them as touching side to side, the top horizontal line of the one on the left was in a darker pink color. From its upper right corner came a downward stroke, again in the darker color. This line divided the two squares. Then, on the square to the right, only the right side vertical line was darker from the rest of the mark. Together the darker portions denoted the numerals “seven” and “one.” But when considering the mark from the other angle—as one square atop the other—the mark looked like a straight-sided numeral eight.
She turned her attention back to business. “Rowena, look.” She placed the infant next to her mother. “What will you call her?”
Her eyes rolled briefly, then refocused. “The seventh seventh ‘who is but is not,’” she whispered.
“She is a seventh, but she is not.”
Mara didn’t understand, so she simply nodded. “What’s her name?”
She pulled in a shallow breath. “Eden.”
“Eden. Paradise.” The Oathtaker pulled the blanket up over mother and children to keep them warm. Then she focused her attention back on Rowena. She placed her hands upon her, praying for healing, but sensed no change. “I’m so sorry I can’t do more. I—” Hot tears welled in her eyes. She wiped them away brusquely. “Is there anything I can do to ease your pain?”
“Mmmm. no.” Rowena breathed shallowly. “Thank you,” she whispered. Her eyes rolled upward, then closed. Then she said softly, “I have done it.”
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