Seven windows wrapped around the entryway, three to the right, three to the left, and one front and center. Each ran from floor to ceiling, upwards of twenty feet high, and each depicted a different scene. From the top of the windows rose a round domed ceiling made up of seven more windows that collectively, replicated a night sky of a deep azure blue with assorted stars, constellations, and other heavenly bodies.
Sunlight passed through the windows, all made of small crystals pieced together into mosaics. Each multi-faceted crystal caused the incoming light to refract many times over. As the breeze moved the leaves on the trees outside, colored reflections moved about, inside. The dancing, spinning speckles touched on and flitted across the walls, floors, and objects on display.
"Over there," Ted pointed, "hallways lead to the inner sanctuary—what you might call the prayer room, and classrooms and libraries. This sanctuary boasts the largest collection of original works of our forebears. Although Polesk itself is not the largest of Oosa's cities today, many people come here to study and to visit this sanctuary. That accounts for many of the people you see here today."
"What do they study?" Mara asked.
"Mostly history, economics, and social issues." Ted paused. "The Select who settled here sought above all, the freedom to serve Ehyeh. They also wanted to be free to work for themselves and to choose the type of work they would do. They wanted to be free to give help to others, or to refuse it when others did not contribute to their own welfare. They wanted to be free to come and go as they chose, and to speak their minds unfettered.
"The first settlers determined that the best way to ensure the freedoms they valued for themselves, was to support those freedoms for newcomers to the land. They felt that so long as the community lived according to the great admonition, they could afford to acknowledge the same rights for everyone in Oosa. So, when people from other places settled here, they too practiced their own ways."
"We studied some of the history in our hood back home," Mara said. "We were taught that our forebears started what had never been done before. One professor told us that the story of world history was one of murder, oppression, and slavery. He said Oosa, which stood in opposition to that history, was the first and is still the only place of its kind."
"Freedom," Nina whispered, as though transfixed by the concept.
"That's right. Let me show you the story this sanctuary tells. We'll start there." Ted pointed toward the front of the room and to his right.
Taking Mara's elbow, he directed her to the window he'd indicated, the first of the three on that side. "This, as you can probably make out, depicts the first of the Select. The first signify new beginnings and birth."
"A seed just coming to life," she said. "It's lovely."
"Yes. Firsts are responsible for protecting life in all its forms. Of course, there are always more firstborns than any other, and as you probably know, if a family is blessed with more than seven children, the count begins anew. So the next born child—the eighth—is also considered a first."
The window depicted a yellow-green seedling with healthy roots branching downwards, water droplets surrounding it. Mara reached toward it. The refracted lights danced off her hands and arms.
After surveying it for some time, they all moved right, to the next window.
"Unity," Mara said. "The sign of the second of the Select."
"Exactly," Ted said. "Seconds govern the unity of person to person, most notably that of husband and wife to one another, second only to that of parent to child. Seconds encourage, support, and protect families and family relationships, without which life, a stable community, healthy children, and a safe future, eventually would cease. With fewer Select, these relationships have suffered."
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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...