Chapter 6, Part 2-2

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"So it's true the Oathtakers keep a home for refugees from Chiran?" Dixon asked. "Amazing, isn't it? Anyway, we're hoping one might join us. We could help her to make a new life here in Oosa."

"I'd be ever so grateful," Mara said.

Just then, a stand displaying knives with beautifully carved handles caught her attention. She stopped mid-stride. She surveyed the table of goods, then picked up a blade to examine the intricate pattern on its scrimshaw handle. It depicted, in minutest detail, the form of a hawk, its eyes piercing, the vanes and barbs of its feathers exquisitely complex and detailed. She placed the knife back down as the attendant made his way to assist her.

"Lovely blade, Miss, lovely," he said as he lifted another for her to see.

She looked at the item he presented, then put it back down. Again she picked up the knife with the scrimshaw handle, testing its weight and balance. "How much?"

"Oh, that one is a beauty. A rare one. Yes, indeed. But luck is with you. We have a great sale today. Just two gold marks."

She turned the blade in her hands. "One and a half."

"I don't know. That one's special. The blade comes from Sugu. They're famous for their fine workmanship."

"One and a half gold marks," she repeated, looking the vendor in the eyes as confirmation of her final offer.

He wiped his hand through his hair. "Well, all right, it's a deal." He slipped the weapon into a simple leather sheath and handed it to her.

She paid the merchant.

"Might I interest you in anything more? We have these lovely—"

She waved her hand. "Thank you, no."

Patrick, who stood at her side, reached toward the knives. Fearing he'd harm himself, she grabbed his hand. "Careful, little man, those aren't toys."

"Patrick," Francis cautioned.

"I'm bein' 'haved, Dad! Look, no knife!" The boy released Mara's grasp and held his hands up, palms out, grinning broadly.

Francis took his son's hand, then picked up the conversation where they'd left off. "As a matter of fact," he said, "there may be just the person for you at the home. 'Nina' is her name. She's just arrived, so she's not had time to make this her home or to make any friends here yet. She's grieving terribly."

He pulled Patrick, who found the sights alluring, back to his side. "She had a child of her own, but the poor thing was born as she was escaping Chiran and it didn't survive. She was very near the border at the time. I believe it all happened just a few days ago."

"Oh, how very sad," Mara said. "Do you think she might be willing to join us when we return home to—"

"Princhon," Dixon interrupted. "We're headed back to Mara's family home.

"That's right," she continued, taking in a long breath. "I hope my mother will find some peace in having Cecile's children with her." She looked back to Francis, tears welled in her eyes. "We would be ever so grateful if you could put in a good word for us." She wiped at her eyes as though embarrassed for having allowed her emotions to show. Glancing at Dixon, she noted his surprise. It seemed he hadn't expected her to be so convincing an actress. She nearly grinned in response, but held herself in check.

"Well, you look to be good folks. I don't suppose either of you is a trained Oathtaker?"

Instinctively, Mara reached for where Spira rested. The light cloak draped over her shoulders concealed her weapon. She said nothing.

"I am, as a matter of fact," Dixon said. "That's one of the reasons we thought to check in with the local hood."

"Have you no charge either?" Francis asked.

Dixon hesitated. "No, I . . . I've no charge." He swallowed hard.

"It's a shame what'shappened to the Select, don't you think? I fear for Oosa," Francis said.


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