"I believe I'm moving from place to place in my dreams. Or, that is, I think I've done so."
"I don't know. I've never heard of such a thing."
She sat down. "Listen, I know it sounds ridiculous, but I think I can prove it. I'm not really here. Or maybe I am really here, but I'm also at an inn in Settleton, with Nina at my side, the babies cradled in her arms. Or maybe I'm here and I'm not also at an inn in Settleton—in which case, for the moment at least, the girls are without an Oathtaker's protection." Her brow furrowed.
Dixon resumed his seat. "I may be ready to believe just about anything because I can't think of any other way you could have made it into this room. What do you mean when you say you think you can prove it?"
She traced a design with her finger on the tabletop. "I believe you met with a woman named 'Basha' last night—here in Shimeron."
He sat up straighter, gesturing with his hands, urging her on with her story.
"Basha is Therese's Oathtaker. I listened in on your conversation from the place where my dreams took me."
He raised his brow.
"I wasn't eavesdropping or anything—at least not intentionally. I was just . . . there."
"Was," he said. Then reading the question in her eyes, he continued, "Basha was Therese's Oathtaker."
"No, Dixon, is. Basha is Therese's Oathtaker."
He studied Mara's expression. "If you heard our conversation, then you know Basha questions whether Therese lives. But I've thought about it. Surely you don't think it would make any sense for her to avoid her Oathtaker."
Mara tilted her head slowly right, then left. "I wouldn't say she's 'avoiding' her, exactly."
"What do you know about this?"
"I've met Therese."
Dixon's jaw dropped. "Really and truly? She lives?"
"Really and truly."
"At the inn here in Settleton. That is, I met her here in Settleton. Or is it . . . there in Settleton?" She shook her head. "This is all so confusing. Am I here? Or there? Or am I in two places at once? I—"
He shushed her again. "I'm not sure of the answers to your questions, but can I see and hear you in the flesh, right here and now. You may or may not also be in Settleton, asleep, I don't know. But if you're caught here . . . Well," he contemplated, "I don't know. Would you awaken in Settleton? Or here?"
She shook her head. "Stop! Dixon, I need answers, not more questions."
"One thing at a time. First, did you hear my entire conversation with Basha?"
"No. I only heard you discuss whether Therese might still live."
"How did you awaken?"
"Oh." He hesitated. "Well, assuming you really are experiencing an attendant power and that you're here in your 'sleep,' let's not take the risk of your waking here since we don't know what would come of it."
"You really think this is real?"
He pinched her arm again.
"Ouch! Stop it, Dixon!" She slapped his hand away. Again she rubbed the spot where he'd pinched her. "Of course I feel it."
"So do I, and I'm not dreaming."
"But how can I test it? Wait! Maybe I have. Or, maybe I've begun to anyway."
"What do you mean?"
"When I met Therese, I quizzed her with facts I'd learned from your conversation with Basha. When she tested true, I revealed my identity and introduced her to the twins."
"You sure the woman you met is Therese? You think she can be trusted?"
"Absolutely. I mean, I might have wondered, but she took an oath."
He jerked his head back. "And it was confirmed?"
"The same as for you and Nina."
"Huh. Those little ones are gaining quite a following."
"Yes. And Dixon—she's been staying with Lucy."
A knock came at the door.
"Dixon!" a voice cried.
"Stop!" someone else shouted.
"What is it?" Dixon called. "I'm . . . ahhh . . . not dressed. I'll be just a minute."
"Dixon, they won't let me in!"
"That's Basha," he whispered.
"Dixon!" she called again.
"You can't go in there!"
Mara gestured to Dixon that she would wait behind the divider while he answered the door. She stood, but as she stepped away, she suddenly felt lightheaded. She placed one hand on the table to steady herself, her fingers lighting upon his flint.
The room spun, the colors melded and fused.
She turned to Dixon. Her voice began with a whisper, then faded to nothingness so all he could make out at the end was the shape of her lips as she spoke: "Reigna wakes." Then, as mysteriously as she'd arrived, Mara vanished.
As he grasped the doorknob, he noticed the band on his wrist. Blast! I should have thought to have her remove this!
***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...