A minute passed in silence. Mara sat quietly stroking the woman’s face and brushing back her auburn hair.
Suddenly Rowena’s eyes shot open. She grabbed a handful of Mara’s tunic. “You must run—quickly. Take them . . . to safety.” Her words grew softer as her grip loosened and her eyes closed.
“I promised I’d help you and I promise I’ll help them. I accept your daughters as my charge. I swear to you and to Ehyeh, who is above all, that I would give my life for them. I will be their Oathtaker for so long as they live.”
At that very moment, the ground shook. A sense of power, unlike any other, filled the Oathtaker. It was as a welling of emotion, a filling of needy places in her heart, a song bursting. This was the confirmation—the Good One’s acknowledgement of her oath. She now owed Reigna and Eden protection for so long as they lived. She’d never heard of an Oathtaker with more than a single charge before, that was true, but then she’d never heard of a Select bearing twins, either. It had felt right to swear to protect them both. However could she have chosen between them?
“I am . . .” Rowena shuddered, suddenly overtaken with chills.
Once again Mara’s eyes welled with tears. Then she remembered. Oh, great Ehyeh! “Listen. Listen to me!” She slapped Rowena’s face, first lightly, then more firmly. She knew she couldn’t save her, but she also knew that it was too soon to let her go. “Rowena, release your power. Release your power, now!” If she did not, her children would not carry her power forward.
Slowly, laggardly, Rowena’s eyes opened and refocused. Mara’s words jarred her back fully, if for only a moment. She fought for a breath as she struggled to speak.
The woman whispered three simple words slowly but succinctly: “Restore . . . and . . . revive.” With that, her eyes rolled up and back, her body shuddered violently, and she exhaled the last of her breath.
In that same instant, the earth shook. The trees around the hut swayed. Blinding lightning burst and crackled causing a deafening, exploding thunder. The sky, visible through the hole in the roof, turned momentarily blood red. The children let out their first cries—
And the door of the hut burst open.
Mara’s eyes flashed upward.
There stood the most fearsome looking man she had ever laid eyes upon.
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