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Chapter 27, Part 2 (End Chapter 27)

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Some sanctuary guests ran for cover, while others cried in fear. Within moments, however, the shaking ceased and the people resumed their former activities with little loss of time.

Accompanied by the oldtimers, Mara and company gathered around a table on sanctuary grounds. She explained about their journey and their purpose for visiting sanctuary. In answer to their questions, she informed the old ones that the oath they'd each sworn was most serious, as the confirmation they received witnessed. Leala and Fidel assured her of their good intentions and expressed their desire to be of assistance.

"How many years did you say you'd been studying here?" Jules asked Leala.

"Years? Oh, my, more than sixty, for sure."

"You must have been a very young woman when you first arrived."

"Young! Oh, dear me, no."

"Not young?" Mara asked.

The old woman laughed. "No. No, I married my dear Jonathan when we both were just twenty. What a dear good man, may his blessed soul rest in peace. He died at near seventy and I've been here since."

"Wait," Nina said. "That makes you . . . What? About—"

"I'd say one hundred thirty or so. I must confess, I stopped keeping track some time ago," she whispered conspiratorially to the young woman.

"Whew!" Jules exclaimed. "And you, Fidel? How about you?"

"Oh, I'm just a young pup compared to Leala here."

"Young pup, my—"

"There, there, Leala," he said, patting her gnarled hand. "Young ears. Young ears about. Watch your language." He smiled broadly.

"Well?" Mara asked, struggling to keep her grin at bay. "How long?"

He leaned in. "If you must know," he said, then he turned to Leala. "Cover your ears old woman. This information is not for you."

"Ha ha ha! You're no spring chicken. I know that."

Mara smiled as she watched the old people banter like siblings. "Well?" she asked again.

Fidel looked at Leala and raised a brow. She sighed deeply, then covered her ears and rolled her eyes, clearly humoring him.

Once again, he leaned in. "Well now, don't let on about this to Leala." He turned to confirm she covered her ears and was not trying to read his lips. "She thinks I'm younger than she is," he whispered, "and the truth is, I like to let her think so. But," again a quick glance toward her way, "I'm three years her senior!"

Mara and her friends laughed.

"What? What's funny?" Leala removed her hands from her ears.

"Nothing, old woman," Fidel said. "They're just enjoying a good chuckle at my expense is all. They're clearly amazed at how a young man such as I, could be so brilliant."

"Huh! They're probably laughing at what a know-it-all you make yourself out to be."

"All right, so you've both been here for some time," Mara interrupted. "What I need to know is how you can help me. I don't think it's any mistake that you're both here. I believe you're here for this time and for a particular purpose."

"Well put," Fidel said.

"So?" the Oathtaker asked.

"Well," Leala said, "we've both studied here for years. My expertise is history."

"And mine," Fidel said, "is prophecy."

"Prophecy?" Jules asked.

"Indeed."

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