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~:: A Proper Schooling - Chapter IV ::~

Cale broke her quiet reverie with a soft laugh that brought her back to the present. “I seem to remember the last time I asked you what was on your mind and you said it was 'nothing, really'.”

She blushed as the memories of the first night they'd been intimate together came rushing to mind. The fact that she'd been desperate enough to come right out and ask him to help her conceive a child was still a cause of great embarrassment for her. She shot him a sidelong glance.

He was evidently thinking of that same night as he held her tightly to him and ran his fingers lightly down the hollow of the small of her back. “Not now,” she whispered huskily, glancing furtively towards the door. “What if Dawl comes back with the children?”

He rolled his eyes. “Then they will find the bedroom door closed. Dawl will snicker, Zakai will blush, and Adara will remain blissfully, innocently unaware.”

Part of her was tempted to give in, but she still needed to shower and make herself presentable for their trip to Salamanca. “We do not have time,” she said, flatly.

Just as he was about to present her with a rebuttal, they heard the sound of an opening door and running feet.

“Adara lost her concentration when some Vahzilok zombies ran out from behind a shipping container, and fell to the ground,” Dawl explained. “Zakai took care of the zombies, but she skinned her knees pretty bad. I wanted to heal her, but she insisted that mommy do it.”

Az looked down at her daughter's swollen eyes that were still wet with unshed tears. She kissed her tenderly on the forehead as she bathed her in healing energy. Picking her up, she balanced the girl on one hip. “You know,” she said, slowly, “I will not always be around to heal your wounds. Soon you must learn to depend on others.”

Adara gave her a horrified look. “You will always be around, mommy.”

“Honey,” Cale interjected, “what mommy means is that you are going to start school soon. We won't be able to stay there with you.”

The child's eyes flew wide open. “No! I don't want to go.” She squirmed from her mother's grasp and dropped to the floor in a despondent pose.

Az shot a helpless glance at Cale and then looked back at Adara. In the end, it was Zakai who came to their rescue.

He knelt beside Adara and took her hands in his. Looking her in her teary eyes, he spoke softly. “Adara, you are growing up into an intelligent young lady. You must go to school in order to develop your potential. I go to school almost every day and I can tell you that it is a wonderful experience.”

The flow of tears stopped instantly as they could all nearly see the wheels of thought turning in the child's mind.

“You will love going to school. You will get to have many books and make many friends there.”

She smiled. “I want to be like you and go to school, Zakai. But don't you miss your mommy and daddy?”

“Of course I do,” he said with a gentle laugh. “But I know my mother and father want me to learn as much as I can. And they are always nearby if I need them.”

She pursed her lips as if she were giving the matter intense consideration. Then with a mood swing that could only be executed by a preschooler or a schizophrenic, she threw her arms around his neck. “My knee is all better,” she squealed. “Take me back to the sand lot so we can fly some more, please?”

“Hover,” he said gently.

“Hover!” she yelled with a grin as she went tearing down the hall towards the door. Dawl turned to Az with a shrug of her shoulders and followed them.

Turning to Cale with a lump in her throat, Az mumbled “This is not going to be easy on any of us.”

He took her by the hand and led her towards her bedroom. This time any protest she might have voiced was lost beneath an intense urge to let him comfort her.

A few hours later, Zakai had excused himself as he had an evening class. Az had showered and dressed in a maroon suit. She bathed Adara and adorned her in a deep green ankle length dress of soft velvet trimmed in chiffon and lace. Despite a few mild protests, she braided the child's blonde locks into a small crown and pinned the end with a tiny clip made of blue and green crystal fragments. Cale had shed his normal costume in favor of the traditional garb of an Archmage as it seemed more appropriate.

Dawl returned home to change into a rather modest outfit, by her standards. She met the trio at the Talos train station for the ride to the area most knew simply as Croatoa. The trip had proved rather slow and uneventful, aside from Adara fidgeting impatiently during most of it. Azazela breathed a deep sigh of relief when the train finally pulled into the station in the sleepy little burg of Salamanca. Dusk was just beginning to fall as the family walked along the cobblestone street towards the university plaza. Cale carried Adara, who clung to his neck as she gazed wide-eyed at some of the mystical inhabitants of the small town. She instinctively knew that none dare approach her in the company of three well-experienced heroes. Nonetheless, she held on to her father as though her very life depended on it as she warily eyed the strange creatures.

They followed Dawl to a small building older building near the campus at the very edge of the town. She rapped quietly on the door and it was immediately opened by a dignified older woman wearing the familiar garb of the Cabal.

To Chapter V