Chapter 31

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The three approached the front door to the main building. Mara tried to open it, but it wouldn't budge. She tried again. Still it did not move. She knocked. No one answered. She knocked again. Still no one answered. "You don't suppose they've all gone, do you?"

Dixon shrugged. "I can't imagine. And I've never seen sanctuary locked. Not any sanctuary."

She put her ear to the door. "There's someone in there. I can hear them." She knocked again. "Hello! Hello! Is anyone there?"

The door opened a crack. "Mara, is that you?"

"Yes, Faith, it's me and Dixon, and another visitor. Please, please let us in."

Faith opened the door. When they entered, she stood before them, her Oathtaker's blade from days gone by, in her hand. She sheathed her weapon.

"Oh Faith, you haven't locked sanctuary!"

"We have to keep an eye on anyone trying to enter." Pain shone in the woman's eyes.

"Are you all right?" Mara asked.

"Sure. Fine. I'm fine. Thank you for asking." Faith stepped back. Her eyes narrowed. "Where are— Oh, gracious Good One! Don't tell me that anything has happened to—"

"No! No, all is well. Not to worry."

"What are you doing here?"

Footsteps approached.

"Ted, it's good to see you!"

"Mara," he nodded in greeting, "Dixon." He patted his friend's shoulder. "I heard some commotion. What happened? What are the two of you doing here?"

"It's a long story, Ted," Dixon said, "but the crux of it is that we heard reports of something going on here in Polesk. Mara insisted we check it out."

"But the—"

"Everyone is well and safe," Mara interrupted.

"How did you get here?"

She grinned. "We'll fill you in on everything, but you should know that we won't be here long. We have to get back to Nina and . . . and the others."

It was clear by the look on Ted's face that he was confused, concerned.

Dixon clapped him on the shoulder. "Patience. We'll fill you in." He introduced Klynn to his friends. "How long have you been staying at sanctuary, Ted? We heard what happened."

The man dropped his head and shook it. "It has all been just horrible. We did what we could to save some, but in the end we didn't succeed."

"Except for Hattie's little one," Faith said.

"Yes, of course, Hattie's little one," he repeated. He turned to Dixon. "What's the matter with us? Are you hungry? Can we get you anything? We've made sanctuary a sort of home away from home while the soldiers still roam the city."

"Thank you," Mara said. "Actually, I could use something to eat. I hope it's not too much trouble."

"Just this way," Faith said.

"How long have you got?" Ted asked Dixon as they followed the women.

"That's up to Mara, but I expect she'll want to make this quick so we can get back. We met Klynn when we got into the city. She helped us to make our way here."

They entered a back room that traditionally served as a rest area for guest speakers. It sported a hearth, the space and tools necessary for cooking, and it had its own well-stocked larder.

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