"Well..." she said, batting her eyelashes at him, "just because Zedd came and told us the elders want their spirit house back, that doesn't mean we have to surrender it until we're good and ready."
Richard took in her frolicsome offer with a mannered smile. "Zedd was just using the elders as an excuse. He wants me."
She bit into the roll he had given her as she watched him absently break a rice cake in half, his thoughts seeming to drift from what he was doing.
"He hasn't seen you for months." With a finger, she wiped away juice as it rolled down her chin. "He's eager to hear all you've been through, and about the things you've learned." He nodded absently as she sucked the juice from her finger. "He loves you, Richard. There are things he needs to teach you."
"That old man has been teaching me since I was born." He smiled distantly. "I love him, too."
Richard enfolded mushrooms, greens, pepper and onion in tava bread and took a big bite. Kahlan pulled strands of limp greens from her roll and nibbled them as she listened to the slow crackle of the fire and the distant music.
When he finished, Richard rooted under the stack of tava bread and came up with a dried plum. "All that time, and I never knew he was more than my beloved friend; I never suspected he was my grandfather, and more than a simple man."
He bit off half the plum and offered her the other half.
"He was protecting you, Richard. Being your friend was the most important thing for you to know." She took the proffered plum and popped it in her mouth. She studied his handsome features as she chewed.
With her fingertips, she turned his face to look up at her. She understood his larger concerns. "Zedd is back with us, now, Richard. He'll help us. His counsel will be a comfort as well as an aid."
"You're right. Who better to counsel us than the likes of Zedd?" Richard pulled his clothes close. "And he is no doubt impatient to hear everything."
As Richard drew his black pants on, Kahlan put a rice cake between her teeth and held it there as she tugged things from her pack. She halted and took the rice cake from her mouth.
"We've been separated from Zedd for months -- you longer than I. Zedd and Ann will want to hear it all. We'll have to tell it a dozen times before they're satisfied.
"I'd really like to have a bath first. There are some warm springs not too far away."
Richard halted at buttoning his black shirt. "What was it that Zedd and Ann were in such a fret about, last night, before the wedding?"
"Last night?" She pulled her folded shirt from her pack and shook it out. "Something about the chimes. I told them I spoke the three chimes. But Zedd said they would take care of it, whatever it was."
Kahlan didn't like to think about that. It gave her gooseflesh to remember her fear and panic. It made her ache with a sick, weak feeling to contemplate what would have happened had she delayed even another moment in speaking those three words. Had she delayed, Richard would now be dead. She banished the memory.
"That's what I thought I remembered." Richard smiled as he winked. "Looking at you in your blue wedding dress...well, I do remember having more important things on my mind at the time.
"The three chimes are supposed to be a simple matter. I guess he did say as much. Zedd, of all people, shouldn't have any trouble with that sort of thing."
"So, how about the bath?"
"What?" He was staring at the door again.
"Bath. Can we go to the springs and have a warm bath before we have to sit down with Zedd and Ann and start telling them long stories?"
He pulled his black tunic over his head. The broad gold band around its squared edges caught the firelight. He gave her a sidelong glance. "Will you wash my back?"
From Soul of the Fire (Goodkind, Terry. Sword of Truth, Bk. 5.), by Terry Goodkind. Copyright © April 13, 1999 , Terry Goodkind used by permission.
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