They headed to sanctuary. Francis and Patrick led Sherman, Cheryl, and Spot, a horse Ted provided for Nina, so named because of a single white patch on its forehead.
As they walked and visited, the day came alive. People scurried past, children laughed and ran, buggies clattered, roosters crowed, and dogs barked. Several townspeople greeted them. It was clear by their smiles and waves that Ted and Faith were neighborhood favorites.
"Faith here," Ted said, putting an arm around her, "was quite the Oathtaker back in the day, and is a great healer. People come from all around to see her when they need things. I bet she's birthed—what, Faith, about a hundred babies?" He pulled her closer and smiled at her.
"I suppose that's about right. With Polesk having swelled so terrifically in size in the last years, and now with the mission home up and running, my skills are called upon fairly frequently."
"How long since you—" Mara began.
"Were an active Oathtaker?" Faith completed the question. "My charge died of natural causes about forty years ago. Shortly after that I met my husband and had my family and now— Well, just think, now I have grandchildren!"
Before long the group came to sanctuary, situated at the top of a hill. The main building was larger by several times than anything else in the vicinity. Made of white brick, it reached up and up, then sported a tower that surpassed the height of even the tallest trees.
Gardens, benches, alcoves and statues covered sanctuary grounds. Even at this early hour, hundreds of people milled about. Families wandered around, hand in hand. The more business minded stood in groups, in quiet conversation. Gaggles of young people, dressed in the carefree common manner of students, were engaged in animated discussions.
"It's beautiful," Mara said. "I've never seen anything like this."
"It was the first here in Oosa," Ted said. "When the Select came to these lands, this was the first building they and their Oathtakers, built. You might say it was the center of their new venture. As you probably know from your childhood history lessons, others exploited and used the Select in their old country. Their service to Ehyeh made them prosper. Those envious of the blessings the Good One bestowed upon them, enslaved them.
"Eventually the Select fought for and won their freedom. They wanted a new life for themselves and their children. This land became their sanctuary, and they built the main building here as thanks to the Good One. They intended for it to represent the covenant between Ehyeh and the Select, and to serve as a continual reminder that the people should serve Him and follow in His ways."
"It looks like sanctuary in the City of Light," said Dixon.
"Yes, sanctuary in the City of Light was modeled after this one. It's larger to be sure, but its designers based it on this campus right here. And of course, contrary to popular thought, this is the only one that was built with magic."
"Magic!" Mara exclaimed.
"Yes, I'm afraid much of the history has been lost, but many old writings indicate that this sanctuary was built with magic."
The group followed a footpath to the front of the main building. Gravel crunched under their feet. Overhead the leaves of massive trees fluttered in the soft morning breeze. For the most part, the dew had burnt off, yet small glistening droplets still clung to the grass in the dappled shade beneath the trees. Pillars of night blooming jasmine, their blossoms just closing, their light, fruity aroma filling the air, grew near the entrance to the main building.
"What lovely gardens," Mara said. "Who sees to them? That can't be a small job."
"That's one of my many duties," Ted said. "Francis assists me. It's such a joy to work at sanctuary. Until I get a new charge, this is the closest I can imagine to being and doing as the Good One would have."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I figure the Good One is responsible for all life and all good things. He made the world and all that's in it. That's where the name Creovita comes from—'give life.' Being creative is the best way I know to be like Him. Really, I think people have an innate longing to create, and that they are happiest when doing so. Fortunately, I get to satisfy my own such desires." He hesitated. "Does that make sense?"
"It certainly does."
Enjoying the heady scent of the jasmine, Mara approached sanctuary's front entrance, Nina at her side. The infants both rested contentedly. Reigna wriggled, then stretched her little hands and made them into fists. Mara grasped one and kissed it.
Just then, Francis and Patrick arrived with the horses. Francis motioned that he'd bring them to the back of the building.
"Right this way," Ted then said as he led the group inside.
***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...