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Chapter 26, Part 2-2

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When they arrived at the pub, Ezra met them. "You look lovely," he said to Mara.

She grinned. "How very charming of you," she said as she nudged him.

Dixon looked on without expression.

Ezra directed them to a comfortable corner table. Near it was another empty one. Dixon motioned with a nod that the rest of their party would take it.

Nina and Adele sat against the wall with the girls. The Oathtakers glanced at one another. They both would have preferred sitting there, but they also wanted to be where they could best defend the infants. They'd have to rely upon Basha and the others to keep their eyes on their backs.

Celestine arrived with cold ales for them all. "On the house," she said. "We're serving roast beef this evening. I hope that will be all right with you all?"

Just then Ezra directed Basha and the others to their table. Once done, he returned to Mara's side. "May I?" he asked as he pulled out a chair.

"Certainly."

"Well, old friend, I am surprised to see you here," he said to Dixon.

"Oh? Why's that?"

"Weeeeellllll," Ezra drawled, "rumor has it that trouble follows you."

Dixon chuckled. "Some things never change, I guess."

"Really, are you safe in the city? There are those who would recognize you."

"But you said you weren't concerned for our safety here."

"Noooo, that's right. We're well covered."

"I figured if anyone would be, it would be you. Anyway, I suppose my being in the city isn't entirely safe, but it's necessary." Dixon took a long drink. "We've come for information, so naturally, I thought of you."

"What kind of information do you seek?"

The collective attention of the group turned to the bar where a scuffle was underway. Mason, Ezra's hired muscle, broke up the troublemakers and then ushered them to the door. Once done, the din of the room returned to its former level. Within moments guests lifted mugs and clinked silverware as they returned to business as usual.

Dixon turned back to his friend. "Lilith."

"What of her?" The innkeeper turned serious. His jaw muscles flexed.

"What are you hearing?"

Ezra motioned for Nancy. He pointed at Dixon's ale, then back to himself, directing her to bring another one. Then he leaned in. "It's odd. I've never seen this before."

"What's that?" Mara interrupted.

"What does she know about my enterprise?" he asked Dixon.

"The general stuff."

The innkeeper directed his next comment to Mara. "As Dixon no doubt told you, I have eyes and ears throughout Oosa. Oddly enough, I've gone blind and deaf over the past few weeks."

"I don't understand."

Nancy returned with Ezra's drink. Foam slid down the outside of the mug. He wiped it off, then dried his hand on his pant leg. He took a long, deep drink.

"Ahhh, that's good," he said, setting his mug down. "Just what I said," he then continued. "My people are unable to come up with any information. Well, not much anyway."

"They aren't checking in with you?" Dixon asked.

"No, that's just it. Most of them are reporting as usual. Although," the innkeeper frowned, "the numbers are down." He took another drink. "Of those that report, they just say they've no news."

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