"Oh!" Mara dropped her hold on Dixon. "I thought we'd had it there for a minute."
He rolled over. "Not safe yet," he whispered. Looking down as a guard made his way toward them, he motioned for Mara to find cover. When something momentarily diverted the guard's attention, Dixon unlatched the rope from the deck post.
Mara pulled tight against the wall, as though willing herself to become a part of it. A woodpile partially hid her. It smelled sweet, almost wine-like.
As Dixon crouched down at her side, his hand brushed against something furry. He pulled away. A cat leapt out, screeching in fear, its back arched in protest. Wood crashed down from the top of the stack.
The guard turned back to the deck. He approached, stopped, and then shouted, "Who goes there?" He paused to listen, then jabbed his sword up through the balcony railings.
The cat jumped to the top of the railing and hissed.
The guard flinched. Then recognizing the beast for what it was, he relaxed. "Damn cat." He stood quietly, watching for further movement, listening for further sound. A long minute passed and then finally, he moved off.
Mara exhaled slowly, soundlessly.
Dixon grinned at her as he made his way to his feet. "Nothing like a little rush of fear to get the morning off to a good start, huh?" he joked, his voice hushed. He helped her up, then turned to a door against which he'd been resting. "Before the next guard comes by," he whispered.
She pulled on a loop of rusted wire that served as a makeshift handle. The hinges emitted a faint creaking as the door opened. She stepped inside, Spira at the ready, Dixon immediately behind.
The Oathtakers entered a room, nearly dark. Only weak rays of the rosy, emerging dawn's light entered it through cracks in its boarded up windows. It smelled musty and old. At first glance, Mara thought it empty, but then she saw a woman seated silently at a rickety table, rocking, her shapeless gray woolen garb melding into the background.
"Who are you?" the woman asked, turning vacant eyes on her visitors. She ceased rocking.
Mara quietly introduced herself and Dixon.
"Klynn," the woman tersely responded.
"We beg your pardon for intruding, Klynn. We mean you no harm. We merely sought a way into the city around the guards."
"Have you come to lend succor to the city?"
"I don't know what you mean."
"Whyever would you steal your way into the city while others seek to escape, unless you've come to lend aid to others?"
"We're Oathtakers," Mara said.
"We seek information," Dixon added.
"What is it you wish to know?"
Mara pointed toward the empty chairs at the table, a question in her eyes. Klynn nodded her assent. The aged seats creaked in protest as the Oathtakers sat.
Mara leaned forward. "We've just arrived in the area and . . . we've seen some disturbing things. We need to get to sanctuary to meet with a friend."
"Why do you say that?" Dixon asked. "Is it unsafe to move about in the city?"
"I think the world is coming to an end."
"What?" Mara asked.
Klynn breathed in and out slowly, audibly. Suddenly, she cocked her head to the side, furrowing her brow as if in great concentration. Then she cocked her head to the other side. "Are they screaming again?" she finally asked, of no one in particular.
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...