Study Break

Cara found the Wizard in the library. She still thought of him as 'the Wizard' because he was the only worthwhile example of a magician of any kind she'd ever met, or, indeed, heard of. Besides, Cara considered him to be very wise—just the way he had sometimes of not using magic was worthy of respect. (When Kahlan's nephew Renn had told her what he'd done to Garen, she hadn't been able to stop laughing for an entire afternoon.)

Just for practice, Cara tiptoed carefully to just behind the Wizard, where she could hover over his shoulder and glory in being taller than he was for once—although she had managed to teach him that height differences didn't matter when you were lying down.

She'd read as far as, Dreamwalker, noun: an extinct magical race with the ability to walk through dreams. See the Palace of the Prophets, vision quests, obscure prophecies, before the Wizard said, without looking around, "Cara, dear one. You know I'm engaged in research vital to the war effort. So you can tell Richard and Kahlan I'm still not available as a babysitter."

Odd, to think of him as a great-grandfather—but Cara never worried about the difference in their ages. Wizards were notoriously long-lived and Mord'Sith notoriously weren't, and she fully expected to die first. (Except that there was a good chance Richard would figure out a way to spare her the Underworld.)

The Wizard was using his stern, scolding voice, but Cara heard the exhaustion behind it. He'd been working too hard—all this research wasn't her style, anyway. She'd rather be out killing things.

There was also another stress relieving activity that occurred to her. Luckily, the library was sound-proof; she didn't care what Richard and Kahlan heard, they deserved it (turnabout was fair play), but there were the children to think about.

"Please," she said, rolling her eyes, and hopping up to sit on the table. She pulled one knee high enough to rest her chin against it, preparing to regard the Wizard with her special Mord'Sith enigmatic look. "I'm not available as a messenger girl. And babysitting is—oh!"

The Wizard—Zedd, this was definitely a moment for his actual name, 'Zeddie' was in fact trying to make its way past her lips—was wearing glasses.

Cara's face arranged itself into a totally instinctive grin. It was probably the cutest thing she'd ever seen. Zedd was always surprising her. They'd spent so many awkward nights together on the way back from the Pillars of Creation, waiting for Richard and Kahlan to get back from their 'walks.' At first, Cara had felt a little abandoned—why should they have all the fun? But there was just something about the Wizard…before she knew it, everything had started falling into place.

"You're wearing glasses," Cara stated the obvious, unable to help herself, or get her face back under control and stop grinning. "Why are you wearing glasses?"

Zedd frowned reprovingly at her, and took off the glasses, wiping them ineffectually on his robes. Cara noted that they were D'Haran manufacture, wire frames with little half moons for lenses. She also noted that he was only smudging them further—his technique was inexpert.

She knew several excellent teaching methods, but he was likely too tired to appreciate the really inventive ones—

"Wizards normally use spells to correct their vision," Zedd explained. "But this Jagang requires all my concentration. I just don't see how Richard can defeat him—and these books are useless!" He shut the Dictionary of Higher Magic decisively, shaking his head at the perfidy of the library, letting him down like this.

Cara knew at any minute he'd start explaining how the Wizards' Keep in Aydindril was far superior, and the library at the People's Palace just couldn't compare to the motherload of prophetic tomes there. But D'Hara had a long history of conflict—and hence better protection spells had seeped into the stones of the Palace. Or so Cara had been given to understand.

She was just as worried about Jagang as he was, but, like all the Mord'Sith, Cara possessed the ability to exist solely in the now, without fear of the past or the future. Richard and Kahlan and their offspring were as well protected as was possible; for the moment, Cara was satisfied with that.

Besides, the Wizard needed to relax. Richard and Kahlan were so preoccupied with their family life, they were leaving the details of the war against the Imperial Order almost solely to Zedd and Cara. She was honored by their confidence, but it did make for long nights in the library, which was a dusty room filled with dusty books, though decently comfortable armchairs and alcoves…

"Let me lick them clean," she said abruptly, sitting back on the table, tossing the Dictionary of Higher Magic out of the way, and swinging one leather-clad leg over the Wizard's head to rest on his other side. She surrounded him.

The Wizard swallowed hard. "What?"

"Let me," Cara breathed, leaning closer and running her fingers down the surprisingly soft skin of his cheek, "lick your glasses."

Mesmerized, the Wizard handed them over. Cara sat up and ran her tongue along the curved edge of the half moon lenses, and then up to the glass itself—

"You know," the Wizard said huskily, "it has been suggested that taking a break from an arduous mental task can be conducive to clearer thought." He was staring at her lips now.

"Really?" Cara purred. "How interesting…" she tapped his glasses against her cheek, liking the way the cool metal, warmed by her tongue, felt against her skin. "I guess we should test that theory, hmm, First Wizard?"

"Absolutely," said Cara's first, and only, Wizard fervently.

And they did.