Chapter 7, Part 1-1

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The young women at the Oathtakers' mission home retired for the night with their little ones. The children cried softly and whimpered as their mothers nursed and tucked them in. A gentle voice sang the melody of a traditional lullaby, while others whispered softly. Eventually, the household stilled.

Mara, Dixon, and Ted, gathered in the parlor. Faith set out tea and sugar, biscuits and cream, then closed the pocket doors to grant privacy to the little gathering.

The smell of blueberry, like a whisper through the air, rose up from the still warm biscuits to join the apple scent of the chamomile tea. Together they created a fruity perfume, both invigorating and calming at the same time.

Dixon poured cream into his tea. He untied his boots and loosened the laces. "Now that things are quiet, we can begin. I guess the question is: where?"

Mara caught his eye and smirked. "As you know, I like to start at the beginning." They shared a smile, recollecting how she'd asked him to tell his story.

"Mara," Ted said, "Dixon filled me in on what happened with Rowena and how the two of you made it here with the girls. He told me something of the danger Rowena had been in. I think we should try to come up with a plan for the girls' safety. I'll do whatever I can to assist."

"I'm sure Dixon told you that I'm very new to this. I was in training until recently, but with so few Select remaining, and so few instructors having actually worked with them . . . Well, I'm afraid my training was very sketchy indeed."

She wore a loose house frock and slippers borrowed from Faith that she kicked off her feet. Then she curled her legs to the side and put her hands in her pockets. "I appreciate your help."

"I like your idea. I too like to 'begin at the beginning.' So, could you fill us in on what are your skills? Also, what attendant magic have you identified? I expect it's still coming into play, but some may already made itself known."

She refreshed her tea, then sipped at it. "Well, my skills include instruction in the history of Oosa, the Select, and the Oathtakers. Of course I'm also trained in general defense, and I have some skill at healing."

"Mara," Dixon interrupted, "it might help to know that we're all of the same understanding. What do you mean when you say that you're skilled at healing?"

"I mean things I've been taught, such as how to set a broken bone, or to mend a cut, how to guard against infection, how to assist in childbirth . . . That sort of thing."

The three sat quietly for a minute.

Finally, Mara sighed. "Honestly, I'm feeling a bit over my head. I can't understand why I was called to aid Rowena, but I can tell you that I responded to something beyond my ability to define or to, I don't know—refuse?"

Ted nodded. "That's a good way to describe the call."

"But why me?" She frowned. "I worry I may not be right for this." And I should be honest. I worry I'll fail to live up to my oath. She cast the thought aside as quickly as it had arisen.

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