“I have to go. Rowena thought her children would be in great danger and I suspect she was right. I don’t believe there’s been a seventh seventh for . . . What? A couple hundred years or more? Reigna is likely the child we’ve all been waiting for. And that says nothing for Eden. Twins . . . It’s never been heard of—a Select bearing twins,” she whispered. “In any case, I promised I’d take the girls to safety at once.”
“Reigna? Her name is Reigna?” Dixon raised grief-stricken eyes. “And Eden?”
Suddenly Mara felt deeply sorry for her fellow Oathtaker, and badly for having lashed out earlier. She looked away. His pain was too real. It made her feel as though she eavesdropped.
“Yes,” she finally said, “the eldest is Reigna, the youngest Eden. Rowena named them herself. I took my oath while she still lived, and I intend to abide by it. So, I have to go. These babies will wake soon, and they’ll wake hungry. My first order of business is to find milk for them—perhaps a wet nurse.” She made her way to the door.
“Wait! I’ll go with you.” He sprang forward and grasped her arm. When she tried to pull away, he loosed his grip. “Listen, Mara. It’s Mara, right?”
She frowned, then nodded, her brow raised.
“Listen, Mara, you’re right about Reigna. She’s the first seventh seventh in ages. Many have awaited her birth for . . . a very long time. Rowena and her friends planned her very existence. As to Eden, I can only guess at the significance of her birth.” He hesitated. “Look, I can help you to carry out your charge. You need me. That is I . . . I—” He lowered his gaze. “Please. Please, let me come with you.”
She considered his words. She could use some help. “Very well then, but we’d best be on our way and quickly. Just one thing though—and don’t forget it. The girls? Reigna and Eden? They’re my charge.” She stepped out of the hut.
“Stop! Mara . . . stop. Rowena’s releasing her power may have bought us—bought you,” he quickly corrected himself, “a bit of time. But someone trailed us for months and they won’t stop now. We need to erase whatever signs we can of what happened here.”
She recalled the teachings of her local unit of the Oathtakers’ Guild, her hood. When the ranking member of the Select released her power to her offspring, a unique magic allowed for a short window of time during which no one could track the new ranking member. Its origins had long since been forgotten, but stories told of the event having been witnessed more than once before.
“How much time do you think we have?”
“It’s hard to say.” He dropped his pack outside the door.
“Could you venture a guess?” She found his behavior encouraging her natural tendency toward sarcasm.
He gazed into the distance. “About two sun downs.”
“Well then, I suppose leaving Rowena’s body here would tell a great deal. You’re right. It won’t take that long to dig a grave. We don’t want it too shallow, but we need to be quick and—”
“Think,” he said condescendingly. “If we bury her body, those thugs following us could still find it. More likely, they would find it. Then they’d know she gave birth. We should burn this hut with,” he hesitated, “her body. Then if those cretins find any sign we were here, or if they find her remains, they’ll still have no evidence of the twins or of what happened here. With any luck, they’ll think their chase has come to a close.”
“Yes, I guess it’s not likely they’d give up if they were responsible for the pack of grut that tried to take Rowena down. When they realize the beasts were destroyed, they’ll have good reason to think someone survived.”
“Well then, let’s get moving.” She exited.
“Where are you going?”
“To get some wood so that when this hut goes up in flames, there’s plenty of fuel to keep it burning hot and for a good long time. The less evidence the better. Isn’t that what you just said?”
Leaving him, Mara went into the woods. She kept Reigna tied to her front side and walked about carrying Eden’s basket. It left her but one hand to work with, so she selected large branches that she could drag back to the hut.
After some time, having seen no sign of Dixon, she grew irritated that he wasn’t assisting her. Finally, breathless, she stepped back inside the hut. She found him kneeling at Rowena’s side.
“Dixon, finish your ‘good-byes’ so we can get out of here.”
Her voice jolted him back to the present. He unclasped a locket from around the dead woman’s neck and placed it in his breast pocket, then slipped a ring from her finger. Finally, he pulled the blanket up over her face.
Mara wasn’t certain, but she thought she heard him tell Rowena to “sleep well.” Perhaps it was not such a good idea to take him along. She couldn’t allow his mourning to hold them up. Shrugging, she went to gather more wood.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish