Chapter 19, Part 1-1

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"Mara." The voice came from somewhere distant. "Mara, wake up now."

Her head was foggy, her thinking lethargic. She couldn't concentrate. Is someone calling me?

"Mara!"

Someone lightly slapped her face.

There was something on her forehead. It was heavy and cold. Is that a damp cloth on my forehead? Whatever for? She tried to fight through the fog. Where am I? What's happening?

"Mara," the voice urged again. It was insistent, growing louder.

Through her sluggishness, she wondered, is there danger? What's all the fuss about? Oh, go away and let me sleep.

Again the voice called out. Again someone slapped her face. "Wake up now, Mara. Can you wake up now?"

Slowly, she turned her head from side to side. She didn't want to awaken. She wanted to stay in the land of dreams.

Wait. Who is that? For a moment, she fought for clarity, but her dreams called her back. She smiled as she felt herself drifting away.

"Mara!"

It's that voice again. Who is that? I know that voice.

"Mara!"

She groaned.

"There she is. She's coming to now," someone whispered.

Another slap—a little harder this time.

Ouch! Is that absolutely necessary?

"Mara."

Frustrated with her inability to remain in that place of calm and quiet, she struggled to regain consciousness. If I can just get through this fog.

She pushed harder, concentrated more intensely. Finally, she felt the fog lifting. The sounds and smells around her grew louder and stronger. She heard voices, the shuffle of horse hooves, wind whistling, and a fire crackling. Is that burning wood I smell? Yes, there must be a fire here. Mmmmm. Do I smell food?

"Mara!"

She opened her eyes slowly, then closed them again. They were so heavy, but at least her grogginess was dissipating. She opened her eyes again. "Dixon?" she asked, in a whisper.

"Yes!"

He's smiling. He looks good. He's whole. He's healed! "Oh, Dixon," she breathed in deeply, "is it really you? Are you all right?" Her words tumbled out slowly.

"Yes, it's really me."

"Oh, I thought you were done for." She turned away and closed her eyes.

He put his hands to her face and turned it back toward himself. Seconds passed before she opened her eyes again. Smiling, he said, "I hear I have you to thank for saving my life."

She closed her eyes. "It was nothing," she mumbled.

"Right. That's what I told the others, but they insist I should be grateful to you."

Her eyes flashed open. If that didn't beat all! Then she saw it. He was teasing her.

He chuckled. "Well, I guess I know how to awaken you now."

"Really? How's that?" she asked, smiling in turn.

"Just appeal to your greater vanity."

"Charmer."

"Ha ha ha!" he laughed. "Well, I see you're back to your old self. But you had us frightened there for a time," he added, now serious.

She tried to sit up, but feeling very weak, gave up.

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