Chapter 30, Part 1

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The fire crackled. No one had spoken for some time.

"Mara," Dixon finally said, breaking the near silence.

"I said I'm going."

"But, Mara—"

"Look. Look here," she said, cutting him off. She held the oracle toward him and ruffled through its pages. "It says 'Go,' so I'm going." Her eyes, reflecting the fire in the grate, were hard on him. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I probably shouldn't have waited this long to go."

"Mara," he said again, his voice soft, "maybe it means that you should go from here. You know, leave the City of Light. Or maybe it means you should go back to sanctuary for more resources. Or maybe . . ."

"No. It means I'm to go to Polesk to find out what Lilith was up to while there, and to learn anything else I can about what she—"

"How can you know that?" he interrupted. "What if—"

"I'm going, Dixon, like it or not."

He shook his head.

"Maybe she's onto something, Dixon," Basha said.

His eyes flashed her way. "How can you say that when you know it could be dangerous?"

"Dixon, we got nothing from Udaye, and all Dooley could tell us was that Polesk was in an uproar." Basha stood at Mara's side. "You know how it is. Sometimes there's no explaining the call, the demand. If Mara is so adamant about this, well then, I think we should support her." She turned to Mara. "I'll go with you, if you like."

"Basha—no," Dixon said, "your duty is to Therese now that you've been reunited, just as Mara's is to the girls."

"I know my duty, Dixon," Mara snapped.

"I know. I know. I just . . ." He shook his head. "Look, I'm sorry. That didn't come out the way I meant it. All right, so you insist on going. Leave Basha here. Take me along. I don't have a charge to attend to."

She set her lips tightly. "I don't know," she finally said before turning away.

He grasped her arm. Gently, he turned her back toward himself. "Take me along. We'll go to Ted's. If anyone will know what happened when Lilith was there, it'll be Ted."

"Maybe you should stay here to help with the girls."

"Of course we'd prefer you were both here, but we'll keep the girls safe," Basha offered.

"You think I should take Dixon?" Mara asked of her.

"Yes."

"Very well then." Mara glanced at him. "I need you to understand. I don't want to go. I have to go. I just . . . know it, and I can't explain it."

"Can you explain what you feel?" he asked. "I'm trying to get a handle on this."

"Peace."

"You mean you feel a sense of peace about going?"

"That's right. And I feel . . . discord, discontent, distress, about not going."

"You know how it is, Dixon," Basha said.

He sighed deeply, then smiled. "Yes, I know the feeling. So when do we leave?"

"Immediately. I hope we'll be back within hours—a day or two at the most," Mara then said to the others. "If we're not back within . . . let's say three days, take the girls and proceed to Lucy's safe house. If that happens, have Leala and Fidel send some resources so I can continue my studying when we meet back up with you. Understood?"

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