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Walk Softly and Carry a Magic Sword

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"The compass has stopped working," said Kahlan. It was the first thing she'd said in hours.

Of course it has, thought Cara. 

When the bards came to write songs and stories about the Seeker's epic quest to defeat the Keeper of the Underworld, she hoped they'd leave this part out. Actually, Cara hoped they'd leave everything out, she couldn't abide bards or singers. 

Already today, Zedd had been captured by Denna, that disgrace to the name of the Mord'Sith. Then Richard Rahl, the legendary Seeker himself, had left their quest with two Sisters of the Light in order to attend wizard school in the Old World. 

("Richard had no choice," Kahlan said when Cara had put it to her in exactly that way. "His wizard powers were going to kill him if he didn't learn to use them.")

Cara and Kahlan had pursued Denna, who sent the dregs of the D'Haran army to stall them, in the hopes of rescuing Zedd. 

They'd come across the bodies of Zedd and Denna late in the afternoon. At least, Cara told herself, the wizard had taken Denna with him and recovered the compass for them. A good death was all that you could hope for in this life. But the gnawing sensation that had taken up residence in Cara's gut told her that this wasn't as much of a comfort as it once would have been.

The Mother Confessor had been silent ever since. They collected enough firewood for two funeral pyres (the only way this day could possibly get any worse would be for Denna of all people to return as a Baneling) burned the bodies and set up camp in a clearing some way away, all in silence. The observation about the compass was the first thing Kahlan had said in hours. 

"Let me see," said Cara, holding her hand out.

"It only works for the Seeker," said Kahlan, but handed the compass over anyway.

Cara flicked the compass open - nothing. She banged it against a nearby rock, just on the off chance - still nothing. "I supposed that proves I'm not the Seeker," she said. "Thank the Spirits for that."

"Cara, don't you see? Without the compass we've no hope of finding the Stone of Tears."

Privately, Cara thought that they hadn't been doing all that well at finding the Stone when they'd had a working compass. 

"So, we'll find a new Seeker. I imagine the Midlands must be crawling with heroic idiots who'd be delighted to take on the Keeper in exchange for a magic sword and compass."

"It's not that simple. Only a Wizard of the First Order can name a Seeker and..." Kahlan trailed off. Across the fire Cara could see her blinking back tears.

"You're not telling me that Zedd was the only Wizard of the First Order in all of the Midlands?" Kahlan met Cara's gaze. "You are telling me that."

"Maybe," Kahlan began, "we could get into the Old World somehow, and get to Richard?"

Cara was already shaking her head. Back when she'd been serving at the Mord'Sith temple the last Lord Rahl had attempted to break the veil into the Old World. It couldn't be done, not without more magic than even Darken Rahl had at his disposal. 

"Impossible," she told Kahlan. "Without powerful magic..." The gnawing feeling in Cara's gut returned with a vengeance.

"So," Kahlan began miserably, "we don't have a Seeker and we can't name a new one because we haven't a wizard. The Keeper's going to win."

Cara looked at Kahlan. She was sitting with Richard's sword across her lap as though it kept him close to her, which was ridiculous, but Cara was trying to keep the eye-rolling to a minimum until the Confessor had a chance to pull herself together. She remembered Kahlan that afternoon, cutting down D'Haran soldiers as though she'd been born with that sword in her hand; she'd been a sight to chill the blood of even the fiercest Mord'Sith. 

Cara had an idea. "You'll have to do it." 

Kahlan's head snapped up. She couldn't have looked more shocked if Cara had just announced a deeply held desire to be confessed. "What? No!"

"Yes."

"I can't."

"Of course you can," said Cara. "I've seen you fight. You're not as good as me, but neither was Richard."

"Cara, a person can't just decide to call themselves the Seeker, they have to be named."

But Cara was warming to her idea. Fine, Richard had gone off to learn to be a wizard, but they still had a quest and a magic sword. And, yes, Kahlan Amnell might be a woman of honour and a fierce warrior, but she also had a borderline death-wish and believed in helping innocents, and if Richard had taught her anything it was that those were the important qualities in a Seeker.

"Give me the sword," Cara ordered. 

Kahlan handed her the Sword of Truth, smiling indulgently as though Cara were playing some sort of elaborate practical joke. 

Cara took the sword and stepped over to where Kahlan was sitting on a log next to their campfire. She tapped Kahlan smartly on each shoulder with the flat of the blade, said, "Right, you're the Seeker, here's your sword," and shoved the sword into Kahlan's hands. 

"That isn't quite how it works, Cara."

"Well, I refuse to do any of that ridiculous "I name you" shouting and arm waving," Cara looked around their camp. "I suppose if you insist I could set something on fire." 

"Cara--"

Cara arched an eyebrow at Kahlan, daring her to argue. Kahlan didn't. Cara nodded and sat back down. "Oh," she said, tossing it to Kahlan, "here's your compass."

Kahlan flicked the compass open and actually looked a little crestfallen when nothing happened. "It doesn't work," she said, in a tone that most definitely didn't imply that she'd told Cara this would happen.

Cara shrugged. "It's not as though we were following it most of the time anyway." 

*

The next morning Cara woke at dawn to find the legendary Seeker of Truth lacing herself into her corset. It was almost a shame there weren't any bards or singers around, there was probably a song in that. 

*

They set off in the direction they thought the compass had been pointing in. Kahlan still seemed pensive and Cara fell back to walk a few paces behind her.

"We need a map," said Kahlan, stopping and turning to face Cara. "We can't just walk in circles and hope that we trip over the Stone of Tears."

"Why not?" asked Cara, shrugging. "That's what we were doing before."

"No, it wasn't."

"No, you're right. Occasionally we turned round and walked leagues the way we'd just come in order to save a village full of people too stupid to run or fight when they saw banelings coming."

That was when the screaming started. It was coming from the direction they'd just come, of course.

Kahlan had the sword in hand and was running past Cara before the first scream was abruptly cut off. Cara grinned and set off after her. 

*

They arrived in the village square to see the inhabitants running around in a manner so hysterical and directionless that it'd put headless chickens to shame. 

Cara grabbed the arm of a young woman who was rushing past her. "What's going on?"

"Gars," the girl gasped, trying and failing to squirm free of Cara's vice-like grip on her arm. 

"Don't be so stupid," said Cara. "Gars don't hunt during the day."

"Er, Cara..." said Kahlan. Cara looked up in time to see one of the winged lizards bearing down on her. She threw herself to the ground, the girl underneath her.

Cara felt the gar pass mere inches from her back, and the girl, not realising that Cara was the only thing saving her from becoming lunch, clawed at her face and neck with her fingernails. 

The gar flapped its wings once, caught an adolescent boy who was standing stunned in the middle of the square in its claws and swooped upwards. 

Cara saw Kahlan leap up and grab the boy's ankle. The gar faltered for a second before flapping its wings again and lifting them both off the ground. 

Oh, for Spirits sake-- "Kahlan!" 

Kahlan let go and dropped back to the ground. She landed in a crouch, pulled her dagger from her boot and threw it at the gar, which let out a pained scream but didn't let go. 

Well, that was a waste of a perfectly good dagger, thought Cara.

Cara got to her feet. The girl she'd saved scrambled away looking particularly ungrateful. "Are you all right?" she asked Kahlan. 

"Yes. What was that? I've never seen a gar attack during the day, have you?"

Before Cara could answer, a woman pushed her way through the crowd of villagers who were standing around trying not to look too relived that the creature hadn't taken them. 

"Please," she said, almost stumbling into Cara, who'd neatly stepped between the woman and Kahlan. "Please, it's got my son. You've got to help him. It's got my son."

"He's dead," Cara said. It was best for the woman to know the truth. "Gars don't keep their prey alive."

"Cara," Kahlan admonished gently, touching Cara's arm, prompting her to step aside. "Do you know why it attacked you?" she asked the woman. 

"There's banelings," one of the other villagers answered. "Hiding in caves in the hills. One of them is from Rothenberg, he has two trained gars and they take people for the banelings to kill."

The hysterical woman sobbed. "You see. My son, Declan, he'll still be alive. You have to save him, please."

"We will," promised Kahlan.

"Yes," said Cara. "We will, apparently."

"And who are you?" asked the man who'd told them about the banelings. 

"I'm Kahlan Amnell, I'm--"

"--The Seeker," Cara cut in. 

"I thought Richard Cypher was the Seeker?"

"Things change."

*

In the end it took them most of the day to hike to the hills and locate the cave the banelings were hiding in; the villagers' mapmaking skills not being as advertised.

At dusk they stormed the cave. The banelings had been using the gars to do their dirty work for weeks and weren't expecting to have to fight. One of them claimed to have been the Marquis of Rothenberg before he died, as though that gave him a perfect right to use gars to abduct children; Cara took a special delight in sending him back to the Underworld. 

She found the gar that had been hit with Kahlan's dagger slowly bleeding to death in the back of the cave. She retrieved Kahlan's weapon and put the creature out of its misery. 

Cara found Kahlan with Declan and the other prisoners, splitting their chains apart with the Sword of Truth. She walked up behind her and casually slipped the knife into her boot. 

Kahlan looked around, startled. "I found your dagger," Cara explained, and Kahlan smiled happily at her. 

Well, it was a very good dagger, thought Cara, she would have been sorry to lose it. 

*

Declan's mother insisted they accept a hot meal and a warm bed for the night. Kahlan accepted graciously. Cara put up a token grumble for the look of the thing, but was secretly quite pleased; it was raining heavily and their only other option for shelter would have been the cave with dead gar. Plus, the food was good and the child was silent (being somewhat in awe of Cara after having seen her kill a gar).

"I'm sorry I don't have two rooms to offer you," apologised their host. "It's only me and Declan and we don't need much space."

"Please," said Kahlan kindly. "You've been more than generous."

"I'll take the floor," said Cara, eyeing up the narrow bed, which along with a single rickety chair was the only furniture in the room. 

"Don't be silly," said Kahlan. "Who knows when we'll get another chance to sleep in a bed. Anyway, it's a cold night and it'll be warmer with both of us."

Cara turned to face Kahlan, an innuendo on the tip of her tongue. Then she remembered that this was Kahlan, and that there were members of severe religious orders who'd forsworn all human contact who could take lessons in chastity from Kahlan. The Confessor was probably the only person in the Midlands for whom the phrase "let's get underneath the same blanket for warmth" really was about sharing body heat. 

Cara settled for smirking at Kahlan as she stripped out of her leathers. She wore nothing underneath. Kahlan blushed red and averted her eyes until Cara was underneath the blankets. Only then did she strip down to her underthings, fold her clothes over the back of the chair, set the sword within easy reach of the bed and slide in next to Cara.

"Comfortable?"

Cara favoured Kahlan with a look that implied that comfort was utterly unimportant to a Mord'Sith. Then she remembered that Kahlan had blown the candle out before she got into bed and so couldn't see her expression, and then she realised that she was rather squashed between Kahlan and the wall and one of her arms was already going to sleep. She shifted until she was lying half against Kahlan, her breasts pressed to Kahlan's upper arm and her arm over Kahlan's abdomen. 

"Now?" asked Kahlan. 

"Yes."

"I'm glad you're here," said Kahlan quietly. "I almost forget today, just for a minute, about Richard and Zedd..."

"Gars can be distracting like that," said Cara.

"What I mean is... I'm glad I still have you."

Cara didn't know quite what to say to that. "The Lord Rahl asked me to look after you."

"Oh. Goodnight, Cara."

"Goodnight, Seeker."

Cara was used to staying awake and standing watch as the others slept, so she listened as Kahlan's breathing evened out and the house creaked and settled. But it had been a long time since she'd slept on anything other than cold ground and it was warm and comfortable and so Cara eventually drifted off thinking that Kahlan might actually be onto something with this innocently sharing body heat stuff.

*

"What about Shota?" Kahlan asked the next morning as they were preparing to depart. 

Cara could think of a few things to say about the witch, more than a few. "What about her?"

"I think we should ask her about the Stone of Tears, she may know where we can find it."

It wasn't the worst idea Cara had heard voiced on this quest, and Plan B currently consisted of walking to the nearest medium to large town and asking people at random if they'd seen the Stone of Tears on their travels. 

"Although," continued Kahlan, "even if she does know, I'm not sure that she'd tell us." 

Cara fingered the hilt of her agiel. "Leave that to me." Kahlan shot her a mildly disapproving look, and Cara smirked and rolled her eyes.

*

Shota, in what Cara regarded as typically difficult behavior, didn't live within an easy day's journey of, well, almost anywhere. 

It was said that very few of the people who ventured into Shota's realm ever returned. Cara thought that they probably all got lost and wandered round the mountains in circles until they starved to death. 

"I'm glad you're with me," said Kahlan when Cara voiced this opinion. "I might get discouraged otherwise."

*

On the third day, Cara's horse threw a shoe. 

"Where's a wandering blacksmith when you need one?" mused Cara. 

"We'll both have to ride the other horse," said Kahlan.

"This is not a dignified way for a Mord'Sith to travel."

"Do you want to walk?"

Cara didn't. She hung onto Kahlan's waist and tried to avoid being jabbed in the jaw with the hilt of the Sword of Truth.

*

"What do you think Richard's doing?" asked Kahlan. 

"He's probably moved onto advanced wizardry by now; you know, eating three square meals a day and making dire proclamations about Powerful Magic."

Kahlan giggled a little at that, and at least she'd stopped going all misty eyed every time Richard's name came up. 

*

On the seventh day, the terrain became so rocky that they had to abandon their remaining horse.

After three hours of keeping one eye on the ground, which kept shifting disconcertingly under her boots, and the other on Kahlan to make sure she wasn't about to fall and break her neck, Cara found herself wondering if the Stone of Tears was really all it was cracked up to be.

*

"Why do you always walk behind me?" Kahlan asked. 

"So that if you fall and crack your skull open you won't take me down with you."

"I see."

*

"It's so I can see you."

"What?"

"Why I walk at the back. It's easier to protect you if I always know where you are."

"Cara..."

*

In the end it was Cara who lost her footing. In her defence, solid ground should not move six inches to the left with no advance warning. Bloody Shota.

She collided with Kahlan and together they tumbled down the rocky slope until they thudded into a large boulder. 

Cara ended up sprawled on top of Kahlan, both of them breathing heavily, while her brain did a quick check for broken bones and tried to locate her missing dignity. 

"Cara?"

"Kahlan."

"Cara."

"Kahlan."

"Your agiel is digging into my hip."

*

On the ninth day, an avalanche blocked their path. This forced them to take a detour through a forest that turned out to be infested with shadrins - in the mating season.

"You know," said Cara, retrieving the Sword of Truth from the chest of a territorial male and tossing it back to Kahlan. "Raw shadrin liver is a powerful aphrodisiac."

Kahlan gave her a look. 

"Just making conversation," said Cara.

*

"Shota's doing this on purpose," said Cara as she and Kahlan finally made it to the shelter of a cave.

"It's just weather, Cara."

"Rain is just weather. Snow is just weather. Rocks the size of my fist pelting down from the sky is magic. Evil magic."

Cara set about starting a fire while Kahlan stripped out of the worst of her wet clothes. When Cara turned back Kahlan was bent over, sliding one of her boots down her thigh, beads of water dripped from her hair onto her chest. 

Cara decided that the worst thing about Shota's realm wasn't the magic or the weather, it was the lack of a conveniently located barracks or tavern.

*

"Ah. The Mother Confessor and her faithful Mord'Sith." Shota, when they finally located her, was lounging by a river, magically observing the events of the Midlands in the water. "I've been watching your journey with interest."

I'll bet you have, thought Cara.

Shota gracefully rose to her feet. "Confessor--" she looked Kahlan carefully up and down "--or is it Seeker now?"

"It's both," Cara answered for her. 

"I told Zeddicus that Richard Rahl would fail on his quest."

"Richard didn't fail!" said Kahlan. 

"Lord Rahl is indisposed at the moment," said Cara, stepping between Kahlan and Shota and slowly and obviously reaching for her agiel. "But he. Did not. Fail."

"Whatever you say. How is your quest proceeding in his absence?"

"We need to know where to find the Stone of Tears," said Kahlan.

"And what makes you think I know where to find it?"

"You're right," said Cara, tossing her hair over her shoulder. "Because it's not as though you can use magic to see anywhere in the Midlands."

"Very well," said Shota, turning and walking a little way down the shore. "I will give you a map."

"Thank you, Shota," said Kahlan. Cara reluctantly grunted in agreement. 

Shota starting drawing patterns in the air. "I admire your commitment to your mission. I would have expected you to be riding as fast as possible in pursuit of Zeddicus."

"Zedd?" Kahlan began. "Shota, don't you know? Zedd is dead."

"Denna killed him," said Cara. She remembered that Zedd and Shota had been close once, even if they'd had a very complicated relationship. Cara let her gaze slide sideways to Kahlan - she knew all about complicated relationships. "I'm sorry."

Shota murmured the words to a spell, drew a map from thin air and handed it to Kahlan. "No," she said, "she didn't."

"What?"

"What?" 

"No, we saw the bodies. We burned them."

"Merely a spell." Shota gave Cara a long look, and Cara bristled. "You seem to have started a fashion for reformed Mord'Sith."

"Denna?" said Cara. 

"Reformed?" said Kahlan, in a similar tone of disbelief. It was at times like this that Cara really thought she and the Mother Confessor were in complete sync. 

Shota beckoned them down to the river's edge. She waved her hand and an image of Zedd and Denna appeared in the water. They seemed to be sitting in a tavern. Zedd was eating what looked like most of a chicken and Denna was wearing an expression of faint disgust. That didn't necessarily mean anything, Cara was sure she'd had a similar look on her face on the occasions she'd seen the wizard eat. 

"Cara?" Kahlan looked to her for confirmation that this wasn't usual Mord'Sith behaviour. 

"I can't be sure, but when I was working for the D'Harans breaking men generally involved more chains and torture." Cara advanced menacingly on Shota. "If you're lying--"

Kahlan halted Cara by gently touching her arm. "No. I can read her," she stared searchingly at Shota, "she's telling the truth. Where is that tavern?"

"Give me the map back and I'll show you." Shota cast another spell over the map and handed it back to Kahlan. 

Kahlan's face fell. "It's in the opposite direction from the Stone of Tears."

Cara hadn't expected anything else. 

*

"We can't go after Zedd," Kahlan said when they'd stopped to make camp on their way back down the mountain.

"I know."

"We've been off the trail of the Stone of Tears for too long already."

"I know."

"The Keeper is getting stronger everyday."

"Kahlan," Cara reached out and caught Kahlan's hand, "I know. Zedd would say the same, and so would Richard."

"We could split up, I suppose."

"No," said Cara, more quickly than she meant to. "I'm not leaving you."

Kahlan squeezed Cara's fingers. "Cara..."

"It's too dangerous," said Cara, pulling her hand away. "You'd get hurt without me around to look after you."

"Maybe Zedd will be okay. Perhaps Denna really has changed?" Kahlan looked hopefully at Cara. 

"She's a Mord'Sith."

"So were you."

"I still am. I have just accepted that Richard is the true Lord Rahl."

Kahlan met Cara's eyes. "If it's just Richard, then why are you still here with me?"

"He asked me to look after you."

"Cara, please don't try to lie to me." 

Kahlan reached out for her hand again and Cara stood up abruptly. "I'm going hunting."

Kahlan let her go even though she must know as well as Cara that there was next to nothing to hunt on this mountain.

*

The first town they came to once they'd left Shota's realm was Maidenfall, where half the population had been struck down by an illness and promptly accepted Darken Rahl's offer to return as banelings. 

Cara ducked the scythe that was clumsily swung at her, tripped its wielder and struck his chest with her agiels.

She glanced up at Kahlan, who was fighting three banelings armed with long handled axes. She kicked one easily aside, decapitated the second, twisted and... missed her step, only slightly. 

Cara knew what was going to happen almost before it happened. Kahlan recovered her balance and brought the sword up. But not quite quickly enough. The axe bit into her side and blood arced. 

"Kahlan!" Cara abandoned the baneling who was still twitching on the end of her agiel. She collided with the axe wielder and didn't even raise her weapons, she easily snapped his neck and dropped to her knees next to Kahlan. 

Her first instinct was to try to staunch the flow of blood, but Cara could already see that the injury was fatal. All that would do was cause Kahlan to linger. 

Kahlan moaned. "Hurts. Cara." 

Cara picked up the dagger from where Kahlan had dropped it when she fell. She placed the point over Kahlan's heart and looked at her for confirmation.

Kahlan nodded slightly and tried to smile, the effect was ruined by the blood coming from the corner of her mouth. Cara thrust the blade past Kahlan's ribs. The Confessor's body arched up then slumped back. Cara discarded the dagger, tore one of her gloves off and placed the palm of her hand over Kahlan's heart and waited for the beats to peter out. 

As soon as Cara was certain Kahlan had stopped breathing, she leant over and brushed her lips against Kahlan's. 

One. 

Cara had a nearly immaculate record of success with the Breath of Life. 

Two. 

Nearly immaculate.

Three. 

Kahlan gasped, snapped her eyes open, surged up and kissed Cara, hands tangling in blonde hair in the middle of the bloody battlefield. 

When it was over Cara rested her forehead against Kahlan's. "How was the Underworld?"

"I didn't care for it."

"Well," said Cara, attempting to catch her breath. "Be more careful next time."

*

They villagers insisted they spend the night at the inn in Maidenfall. At least, they insisted after Cara made several pointed remarks about how the Seeker had nearly died saving their village.

Kahlan wasn't exactly her usual serene self as they ate supper in the bar. Cara knew for herself the aftereffects of the Breath of Life; it made you want to run and fight and have sex, anything to prove that you were still alive. As such she wasn't surprised when she got up to go upstairs and Kahlan followed her. 

Kahlan shifted nervously in front of Cara's door. "I..."

"Come in."

As soon as she'd kicked the door closed behind them Cara pushed Kahlan up against the wall and kissed her. Kahlan pulled Cara flush against her, then shoved her back as hard as she could. 

Cara stumbled back a few paces and looked up in surprise. Kahlan looked slightly mortified and very aroused. Cara smirked and shoved back, Kahlan hit the door with a thud and reached out for Cara, trying to find some purchase on her leathers. 

It was with a great deal of pushing, pulling and clawing at buckles and laces that they made their way to the bed. 

Cara was pressing her thigh between Kahlan's legs, she could feel the heat even through her leathers, when Kahlan pushed her back. "Stop. Cara, stop it. I can't."

"What? If this is about your ridiculous vow of celibacy--"

"It's not ridiculous. I don't want to hurt you."

"I know you can't have Richard because you love him and you'd lose control, but we're different. I trust you to be careful." 

Cara resumed kissing her way down Kahlan's throat. Kahlan threw her head back and moaned, then she shoved Cara back by the shoulders and struck her across the face with the heel of her hand. "Seriously, I can't. I love you. I can't."

Cara lay perfectly still for a moment, looking down at the disheveled Confessor. She threw herself onto the other side of the bed with a huff. "There's no need to make up ridiculous stories. If you weren't willing you only had to say. I'm sure there's a tavern full of people downstairs who'd consider themselves lucky to be up here with me."

And Cara did mean to go and find one of them, or at the very least go and sleep in the next room since Kahlan didn't seem inclined to move. She did neither of those things. 

*

"Why do you find it so difficult to believe that I love you?" Kahlan asked the morning after. 

"Mord'Sith and Confessors--"

"We're hardly typical. I'm the Seeker of Truth and you're..."

"I'm...?"

"Unique."

*

They came to a valley that'd been cursed by a wizard. Everyone who passed through it was compelled to speak the deepest truth in their hearts. 

"I don't know how to do this," she admitted to Kahlan. "I don't have love affairs, especially not chaste ones, and I don't know what to do. I think I'd disappoint you."

Cara was going to kill the sorcerer who'd cast the spell. She didn't care if he had been dead for three hundred years, she was going to personally go to the Underworld, find him and kill him again. 

"I've got this idea," said Kahlan, turning bright red. "It involves you, me, a four poster bed, a Rada'Han and some rope."

*

"What about Richard?" Cara asked. They'd set up camp and Cara was roasting rabbits. Kahlan's thigh, hip and shoulder were pressed into her own.

"I love Richard and I always will, but that doesn't change how I feel about you. Richard would want me to be happy." 

That was probably true. Cara suspected that Richard could return from the Old World to discover that Kahlan had taken half the Midlands as a harem and his only response would be to smile adoringly at her and say, "Whatever makes you happy."

Cara felt much the same way, she just hid it better than Lord Rahl. 

*

According to Shota's map the quickest way to the Stone of Tears was through the Kingdom of Thrice. Unfortunately they were run out of Thrice after Cara threatened to use the Sword of Truth to ensure that Prince Roderick never fathered any children.

The prince was furious, but his sister the princess might have been amused. It was hard to tell what with her speaking only in blank verse. 

Kahlan had been very good about not mocking Cara for getting them turned around.

"I want to try," said Cara suddenly. 

Kahlan stopped and turned to face her. "What?"

"What I said back in the valley, I still don't understand how this is going to work, but I lo-- care about you and I want to try."

"Cara." Kahlan beamed, ducked her head and then stepped forward and kissed her. 

"And I absolutely draw the line at holding hands."

Kahlan laughed and kissed her again.

*

They stopped and made camp for the night. Cara lay on her side with the fire at her back and Kahlan pressed against her. They kissed, Kahlan running her fingers through Cara's hair and Cara tugging at the lacing of Kahlan's corset.

Kahlan caught her wrists. "Cara."

"The minute we find the Stone of Tears we're going looking for a Rada'Han."

Kahlan kissed her again and smiled against her mouth.

*

Cara was clearing away their camp while Kahlan bathed in a nearby lake. Cara would have gone with her, but she suspected that down that road lay temptation, loss of control and drawn out death by confession. So Cara stayed in the woods and stamped out their breakfast fire with slightly more aggression than was called for.

Cara was suddenly struck across the shoulders with the familiar burn of an agiel. She stumbled forward and whirled with her own weapons already drawn, only to find herself face to face with Denna. 

Denna was still wielding the white agiel, but she was dressed as a common tavern wench and her hair hung down in loose waves. "Oh," she said, lowering her weapon. "It's you."

"Denna, where have you--" Zedd walked into the clearing. "Cara! Thank the Spirits, we've been tracking you for weeks. Where's the Seeker?"

Of course that was when Kahlan, alerted by the noise, rushed into the clearing from the opposite direction with wet hair and the sword at the ready. 

"She's over there," said Cara.

"Wha--" Zedd's question was cut off by Kahlan's attempt to hug the breath out of him. 

"I hate to interrupt the reunion, but what is she," Cara pointed at Denna, "doing here?"

"Denna has decided to renounce her ways and throw her lot in with the causes of freedom, truth and justice."

Denna rolled her eyes as though this was not the first time she'd heard Zedd's little speech. 

"Now," said Zedd, "where's Richard?"

So Kahlan and Cara told him about Richard's wizard powers ("always knew the boy had great things in him") Shota's map and their travels in his absence.

"Goodness," he said, "Richard's a wizard, Kahlan's the Seeker. Nothing else has changed, has it?"

Cara and Kahlan looked sideways at each other.