They all stood quietly, each processing the horrors that could exist in such a world. Then after some minutes, they moved on.
"And here," Ted said as they approached the seventh and final window, "is the sign of the seventh. The seventh signify completion and order. They are teachers and prophets. Their gifts enable them to educate others about the value of a life in balance. That balance is simple, but profound. Care first for yourself and those for whom you're responsible. Do not be a burden to others."
"And," added Dixon, "cause no harm, except or unless it is necessary to protect yourself or others. You are never obligated to allow another to steal your freedom, your time, or your labor. You are never asked to be a slave to the whims of others."
"The great admonition," Mara whispered.
The seventh window depicted a woman in simple attire. Signs of the other symbols of the Select—a seed, a couple in outline, three adjoining rings, a cornerstone, an animal, and a human face—surrounded her.
"Completion," Mara said. "Let me summarize this one. The seventh signify a reign over life in general, life in order, life lived fully, justly, and well. The seventh bring wisdom—that being the knowledge of all of the six underlying principles, how they interact, and how to apply those principles to daily circumstances. With the seventh properly in place, life goes forward in peace and prosperity, with the fullest of blessings."
"Well put," Dixon said.
When she looked at him, he winked. She smiled and blushed at his compliment.
The group made its way toward the center of the room. There sat a statue they could not have missed upon first entering the building. Now they examined it more closely. The lights from the surrounding windows and ceiling all converged at this place. Their continued waltzing played upon the outlines of the majestic rendition of a very old woman holding a perfect, an exquisite, newborn.
"How incredibly beautiful!" Nina exclaimed.
"This statue signifies the life we have through the Good One," Faith explained. "We are to value all life, from the earliest moment to the last. Ehyeh commissioned the Oathtakers to protect the Select because it is they who have carried this message through the ages and from place to place. There is nothing more important or precious than life and freedom. We guard it because it is the Good One's gift to us."
"Which again explains the great admonition, our creed," Dixon added.
"Exactly," Faith said. "The Good One has but two requirements for us: take care and responsibility for yourself, those to whom you are responsible and those unable to care for themselves, and cause no harm to others unless they threaten your life or liberty, or the life or liberty of others."
Mara stepped closer to the statue. The old woman was the visual representation of a life fully lived. Her skin was weathered and wrinkled, her hair thinning, her eyes wilted. A woman of strength, though well past her prime, she appeared content.
The statue was so lifelike, Mara half expected its subject to inhale. The artist had captured each wrinkle on her knuckles, the finest details of her ears, her toes, her lips, and even her tired arteries. By contrast, the infant was the depiction of perfect, robust, newborn health.
The old woman held the child with one hand placed high in the middle of its back and with one finger extended to steady its head. Her other, slightly curved hand, held the child's bottom. Arms and legs bent, fingers held in little fists, and chubby toes curled, the child slept the peaceful slumber of one nourished and protected.
Dixon stepped to Mara's side, arms folded.
They watched the fluttering colored lights dance on the statue.
"This is amazing," she said. "It's so like my dream," she then muttered, as though to herself. "Or nightmare, more like . . ."
He turned a hawk-like glare at her. "What did you say?"
"I said it reminds me of my dream—or my nightmare. But not this part. This is so like— Yes, I'd say it is exactly as I—"
He grabbed her elbow and pulled her away from their friends and some lingering visitors. He glared. "What dream?"
She pulled her arm from his grip. "What's the problem, Dixon? So I had a dream. The statue just brought it back to my recollection, that's all."
"Mara, tell me—right now. What did you dream?"
He spoke so quickly, he flustered her. Still, she couldn't help but notice the look in his eyes. Was it worry? Or perhaps, fear?
"I had a dream last night. Someone was chasing us. Actually, there were so many things from the past couple of days in it that . . . Well, I guess this statue was new, but . . . Well you were in it, and me, and Ted, and Faith, and Nina and the girls. And . . . someone else. Someone I didn't recognize. She was beautiful. That is she looked beautiful. But she seemed . . . confused . . . and I think she was a danger to the girls."
Dixon became more agitated. His eyes darted around the room. He pulled at her arm again. "Mara, tell me what happened. Who was the woman? This is important."
"All right. All right." Again she pulled free of his grasp. "It was a nightmare, that's all. This woman approached us by a statue just like this one. She led us out of the building and then she took Reigna and Eden."
His face went ashen. "Mara, we've got to get out of here right now!"
"What? It was just a dream."
"No, it wasn't just a dream! Seeing something like this in real life after having first seen it in your dream is almost certainly a sign. It's some kind of attendant power at work. A message from Ehyeh. He was trying to warn you! And now that it took so long before you mentioned this—"
"I didn't know!"
"Oh, I'm sorry. I just— Look, we've got to get out of here. Quickly! Head for that door! It leads to the back of the building where Francis left our horses. Take Nina. Now—go!" he urged, pointing to the exit. "I'll be right behind you. Just ride northeast as hard and fast as you can. Go! Go! Go!" He touched her low on her back and gently pushed her toward the door.
She grasped Nina's hand and then dashed away.
Dixon approached his friend who'd watched the exchange. "Ted," he said, his voice low, "we have to go—now. I'll explain everything as soon as I can. For now, I thank you and—"
"What is it?"
"There's trouble coming. I'll get back to you as quickly as possible, I promise. I—"
"Well, well, well," came a voice from the main entrance, "if it isn't Dixon Townsend."
***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...