"Who? Is who screaming?"
"Why, all of them. All of those they've come after," she said, making a circular motion with her hand.
"Ahhhh, Klynn, we just arrived in Polesk. We don't know what you're talking about. Who was screaming? Who is after whom? We don't understand."
"So no one is screaming now?"
"No, no one is screaming now."
"I've wanted to stop them. Oh, merciful Ehyeh." Klynn dropped her head into her hands.
Patiently, the Oathtakers waited until it seemed she would say no more. Mara looked at Dixon, raising a brow and shrugging, silently inquiring as to whether he had any ideas.
He signaled that he would give the questioning a try. "Klynn, can you tell us who you were talking about? Who was screaming?"
Her dull gray eyes slowly moved his way. "Everyone. They run through the streets screaming, crying. I think it will never end." She rocked again.
"Why do they scream?"
"Why?" She stilled, then cocked her head again, as though picking up some distant sound. Moments later, she turned her attention back to him. "Wouldn't you scream if it was you?"
"I imagine if something terrible happened to me that I would scream, yes," he said. "Was that it? Did something terrible happen?"
"Terrible, yes. Horrific. Unspeakable."
"So many dead. So many still dying."
"Excuse us, Klynn," Mara said. She stood, stepped away, and then motioned for Dixon to join her. "I can't tell what's wrong," she whispered. "Maybe she's not in her right mind, or maybe she's in shock. I don't think we'll get anything more from her. Perhaps we should—"
"Shock, yes," the woman spoke out, as though Mara's comments had been directed to her. "No," she then said with a shake of her head, "that's not right. It's just that I keep reliving it all and . . . it goes on and on." She held Mara's gaze. "I'm not crazy." She motioned for her guests to regain their seats. "It's just been so awful. They keep searching and finding and . . ."
"I'm sorry. I meant no offense," Mara said, "but we're short on time and we don't want to trouble you. Perhaps we should move on."
"Please, don't leave." Klynn grabbed Mara's forearm. "I'll tell you what happened. I think your coming here is good for me. I've not been myself for weeks now. But you're Oathtakers. You give me . . . hope." She glanced about, her eyes narrowed. "There is no screaming now," she said with conviction, "is there?"
"That's right." Mara said. "Tell us, what happened?"
"It sounds impossible. Had I not seen it, I would not have believed it myself. That dreadful woman. Who would have believed it of her? Oh, I should have done something! But what? What could I have done?"
"What dreadful woman? Who are you talking about?" Dixon asked.
"Lilith. That demon, Lilith!"
"Of the first family?" Mara asked.
The woman nodded.
"What about her? What's she done?"
Klynn relayed the story of how Lilith came to Polesk accompanied by an army of thugs from Chiran, how she deceived the parents of infants so as to murder their children, how the soldiers at her bidding went house-to-house seeking any child that might otherwise have escaped her wrath, and finally, how they now held the city and its surrounds captive.
"Oh dear, Klynn. How dreadful for you!" Mara exclaimed.
"The wailing, the lamenting. It has gone on for weeks now."
"And that's why you asked if there were people screaming."
"So, these Chiranian soldiers who remained behind are still killing people?" Dixon asked.
"Yes. They remain on guard for anyone who may have escaped Lilith's orders. They watch all entrance and exit points to ensure no one escapes the city. And they roam the surrounding lands to seek out any infants she may have missed. But you know, I think the worst part is seeing some people give away the wherabouts of those in hiding."
Dixon and Mara exchanged a meaningful glance. "This all must explain the bodies we saw last night," she said to him. "Why would Lilith not allow anyone to leave the city?" she then asked Klynn. "I don't understand."
"To be certain word does not get out."
"And if it did?"
"Oh, ma'am, she is only done in Polesk. Now she's making her way through all of Oosa, city by city, village by village."
"To do the same elsewhere!" Mara exclaimed.
"She said as much. She said that if the people did not deliver to her the child that she sought . . . "
"Do you know where she went from here?"
"No. I only know that she'll devour every city in her wake."
"Oh dear, Klynn," Mara said, "I'm terribly sorry for everything you've been through and we thank you, but we have to go now. We need to get to sanctuary."
"You still want to go there even though you've learned what you came to Polesk for?" Dixon asked.
"Yes. I want to see Ted. Maybe he can tell us more."
"I know the best waysthrough the city," Klynn said as she got to her feet, "and all the shortcuts andalternate routes. I feel you've brought me back from the brink of insanity andI'm so, so grateful. I'm going along to help you."
***Thank you for taking time with Oathtaker. I sincerely appreciate your votes and welcome your comments.***
Oathtaker is an award-winner in the 2014 Readers' Favorite International Book Award contest. A completed work, it is currently available in print form at CreateSpace at createspace.com/4767727, in print and for your Kindle on Amazon (see the link) and from Barnes and Noble for your Nook.
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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...