Landing with one foot upon a rock, Mara fell forward, only to have Dixon grasp her arm to steady her. "Are you all right?" he asked.
"Whew! That was incredible!" he exclaimed.
She laughed. "I know. Indescribable, isn't it? Too bad it's over so quickly."
"Yes, I'm sorry I was unconscious through it the first time." He looked around. Leafless hardwood trees surrounded them. An inch or two of new fallen snow covered the ground. "Where are we?"
"I'm not sure. I was aiming for Polesk, but it seems . . . Well, needless to say, I'm still working on this particular talent."
The waning second moon cast limited light into the glen. The rustlings and babblings of the night creatures that stuck around for winter, sounded out. Mara jumped at the laughter of a skulk of fox, then wrapped her shawl more tightly around her shoulders and shivered, in part from the cold, and in part in response to the sound.
"Where to from here?" he asked.
"To wherever my nose leads us, I guess."
He laughed. "Picking up any scents?"
She shook her head, grinned, then headed for a trail she made out in the moonlight. Edging her way around a thorny bush, she pointed out to Dixon, so he would not misstep, a hole in the ground.
Soon, they reached the edge of a rocky ledge. Dixon moved aside the branch of an evergreen obstructing their view. The smell of pine permeated the air. He placed his hand on the small of Mara's back, directing her to take a look.
She inhaled deeply of the fresh scent. "I know where we are. We passed through here on our way to Polesk. That's the city there."
"Right you are." His eyes scanned the horizon. "It's odd, though. Polesk is not nearly as lit up as usual."
"How can you tell?"
Standing just behind and to her side, he moved the branch farther back to get a better look. He leaned in, his cheek nearly touching hers. With a nod, he directed her attention. "See there? Those lights?"
She couldn't help but notice his closeness, his hand on the small of her back. "Yes." She struggled to focus.
"See those lights just below the tower? Those are the Oathtakers' offices. It appears some lamps burn, but not as many as usual. And look," he continued, directing her attention higher, "above the offices, is sanctuary's steeple. Usually it's lit up right to the top. Mirrors surround the lamps in it. They multiply the light many times over. But they're all out now." He bit his lip. "In the past, when I've been through here at night, sanctuary has lit up the night sky."
"Why would the lights be out?"
"Not sure. Mourning, maybe?"
"Maybe they're still acknowledging the loss of Rowena. I don't know. But it's like the heart of the city has been shut out." He allowed the branch he'd been holding aside to fall back into place, and then they retook the trail.
"You know, I can't help but note that Ehyeh brought you here rather than directly into the city, Mara. Maybe we shouldn't go there after all," Dixon said after several minutes of silence.
"Maybe. But for now, I feel led that way."
"So, why do you suppose we landed here?"
"I don't know. Maybe there's something He wants us to see."
In silence, they advanced, one lending a hand to the other when needed, one moving a branch aside for the other when needed, one pointing out a pitfall to the attention of the other as needed. They communicated with signs and gestures.
YOU ARE READING
An Oath Sworn. A Struggle Engaged. A Sacrifice Required. When Mara, a trained Oathtaker, is drawn by the scent of the Select to battle underworld beasts summoned by powers of evil to destroy the guardians of life, she swears a life oath for the prot...