Chapter 6, Part 4-2 (End Chapter 6)

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"No, you'll not do more harm than good. You believe in the Good One and in the great admonition. If you gave Mara your promise, the Good One will help you to fulfill it. She'll need help—a great deal of it, I'm sure."

"You don't know the half of it. The things she doesn't know." Dixon stared out.

"Go on."

"Well as I said, we had a rough start."

"Yes?"

Dixon told his friend about how Mara had told him to go his own way. "Said she wouldn't put up with me."

Ted grinned. "Seems maybe she knows you pretty well."

On seeing the man's smile, Dixon knew Ted was teasing. He laughed easily. "Yes, well, I told her I would do anything—anything to help her to keep the twins safe. I felt I owed at least that much to Rowena. So I swore an oath to protect them. And that's when the most amazing thing happened!"

"What's that?"

"The earth shook."

"You received a confirmation? But you said Mara was—"

"Well—yes, of sorts. And that's just it, you see," Dixon interrupted. "The earth shook as though Ehyeh had acknowledged my words even though the twins already had their Oathtaker, but it was Mara who felt the emotions that accompany a confirmation." Once again he beat a rhythm with his hand on his thigh. "What do you suppose that means?"

"I can't say, but I can look into it for you. Maybe sevenths are different. Seventh sevenths anyway. It's been so long since there were any."

"Thank you, my friend."

"I'm here to help." Ted's countenance turned serious. "Listen, Dixon, I'm dreadfully sorry for your loss. I know you loved Rowena dearly. I'll do whatever I can to help, but we need to get Mara in on this conversation. We need to consider where the girls might be safe. They are prime targets after all. Perhaps that's why your sworn allegiance had such an effect." He drew in a deep breath, then exhaled slowly. "Twins, you say." He shook his head. "It's never happened before."

"Yes, I've been thinking about that. With the number of Select so low, and with more marriages between them and those not born Select, maybe that had something to do with it."

"Maybe." Ted paused. "It would help to know what Mara's attendant magic is, and who she knows and where. Also, we need to sleuth out the facts about who ordered the hit on Rowena."

The two old friends sat quietly watching the park visitors.

"I should tell you that we weren't entirely honest when we arrived," Dixon finally said. "We didn't know exactly what we'd find, so we told the others that the girls are Mara's nieces."

"I don't see any harm in that. I'll set the record straight with them all. I'm sure they'll understand."

"Well, we were also in desperate need of someone to nurse the twins. I hope this is all right with you . . . A young woman living at the house who lost her child—"

"Nina?"

"Right, Nina. We asked her if she'd be willing to go with us to help with the girls. I'm sorry to say we hadn't had the opportunity to share all of the facts with her in advance."

"Sometimes an Oathtaker has to do—"

"What he has to do," Dixon completed Ted's sentence. The two smiled sadly, knowingly, at one another.

"I don't think anything would have stopped Nina from helping with those girls. Ehyeh directed you here. He directed her here as well. It was a good thing to do—to ask her to help you."

"Yes, but was it the right thing?" Ted had often reminded Dixon that doing a good thing, was not the same as doing the right thing.

Ted smiled. "I believe so." He brushed his hand against a rosemary shrub at the side of the bench. Its piney scent filled the air. "Listen, I say we head back to the house and then the three of us will have a good long talk."

Dixon stood. He was relieved to have been able to share some of the burden he'd been carrying. Combing his fingers through his hair, he responded. "Let's do it."

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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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