Her confidence having increased with each of her journeys, Mara was more comfortable with the sense of traveling than previously. She felt the movement to, the change in, her surroundings. She concentrated on the colors before her. They were glorious, quieting. They filled her senses, empowering her to deal with whatever was ahead.
She came to a stop and opened her eyes.
Basha stared at her. "It's you again."
"Yes. How is it that you also are here again?"
"Fortunately, I got away earlier before Lilith arrived. I've only just returned now to see to Dixon." Basha's eyes never left Mara, as though she measured her every move. "How do you know who I am? And what's your connection to Dixon?"
"That doesn't matter now. I came to help him."
"Who are you?"
"I told you before. My name is Mara."
"How do I know I can trust you?"
"Look, I'm not here to harm Dixon, I'm here to try to help. Maybe even get him out of here."
Although wary, Basha allowed Mara to approach.
"Oh, gracious Ehyeh, look at him."
"I know, and I'm afraid what Lilith might do next—that she might be driven to even greater destruction." Basha's eyes welled with tears. "He's near death already."
"Well, look at him! And I can't wake him or I could try taking him through the tunnel, but—"
Basha gestured toward the door. "There's a back way out of here, but I can't carry him."
"He's blessed to have a friend like you."
"Blessed! Look at him!" Basha wiped a tear away, roughly. "And Lilith's not likely to stop until she gets what she wants."
"What is that?
"I don't know. She refuses to speak to any of us."
"Perhaps I can heal him."
"You're a healer?"
"Yes," Mara said, thinking back to when she'd healed Therese's wound. "I'm an Oathtaker and a healer."
"Is that how you're able to appear out of nowhere?"
"Uh-huh. So your charge must be rather important."
Mara bit her lip as she met the woman's gaze. "You could say that."
"Not now. I'll do my best to fill you in, I promise. But for now, I need to concentrate on Dixon."
"Very well." Basha did not look pleased.
"I think he has some broken ribs."
"I believe so."
Mara put her hands on him. She concentrated on encouraging his body to heal. After a couple minutes, she sat back on her heels and sighed.
"I'm trying to get some power to him, but it just stops dead. Basha, I'm going to try to take him from here. I want to see if I can travel with him. Maybe it's this place."
"How do you plan to do that?"
"I'm not sure I can. But before he was in this . . . prison . . . I traveled to see him. Did he tell you about that?"
"When did you last speak with him?"
"I haven't spoken to him since the night after he arrived here. I tried the next evening, but the guards refused me entrance to—"
"At the falls you mean," Mara interrupted.
Basha stared. Her eyes narrowed. "What do you know about the falls?"
"Like I said, it's a long story. But since you haven't spoken to him since that night, you couldn't know about my earlier visit to him—before he was brought here. When I saw him, I was able to take something that belonged to him back with me."
"And you think that maybe you can take him with you this time?"
"I'm hoping so. By the way, where is 'here'?"
"We're in the bowels of the palace. Lilith turned it into a dungeon of sorts. Where did you come from?"
"No time now, Basha. I've got to try to take him away."
"I guess wherever you'd go couldn't be worse than this."
Sounds came from outside the door. The same voice Mara had heard the last time she'd found Dixon, called out.
"Who is that?" she asked.
"Adele. She's a maid to Lilith."
"She's got lousy timing."
"She hates Lilith. She's probably coming to warn me that she's on her way back here."
"Can you keep her from coming in?"
Basha went to the door and opened it a crack. "Adele," she said, "what is it?"
"Lilith is coming back."
"How long have I got?"
"All right. I'll leave as quickly as possible. And Adele, thank you."
"My pleasure, believe me."
"Run along then."
"I'll wait for you."
"No, Basha, I know my way around here better than anyone. I'm staying here to wait for you in case you need help. I'll hide you if need be."
"Suit yourself." Basha closed the door and turned back. "You don't have long."
***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...