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Author: Amanda (aka seven_3_oh)
Fandom: Legend of the seeker
Word Count: 40,512
Summary: Set in Season Two of the television series, ‘Legend of the Seeker’. The continuation of the AU combination of the television series (from mid season 2) and the book verse. You would be well advised to read, “Honesty” “Away ” & “Primary” before jumping in.
Disclaimer: "Legend of the Seeker", its characters, and the situations depicted on the show are the property of ABC Studios, Disney, et all, as well as Terry Goodkind. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
Author's Note: This Chapter (10) is the OMGWTF! Chapter. All the players’ pieces will be set on the board. Every one. All good guys on one side, all bad guys on the other… So, now comes the really crazy turbulent stuff.
Author's Note: sex & violence. (& a lil plot)
In a huff of exasperation Cara stormed into the Mother Confessor’s private chambers. Her hair was falling loose from the pins that had held it up for hours. Her legs ached with unfamiliar annoyance from the shoes she wore, and over all she felt raw and exposed in this dress. Instinctually she wanted to dig her nails into the smooth silk and rip it from her. Her fingers even moved to the bodice to do just that, before in a flash she recalled the look of pleasure in Kahlan’s eyes, seeing her like this.
She wouldn’t destroy the dress then.
As she pulled the cord that hung from the ceiling in the corner, signaling the servants, her face turned angry.
The door opened and Hally and Leona came into the room, both looked calm, as if nothing was out of the ordinary.
“Well?” Cara asked, pulling pins from her hair, and marching into the bed chamber.
“The hall is being cleared by D’Harans as you requested.” Hally said following. “The Mother Confessor refused to leave, just as you thought. She is saying her goodbyes.”
Cara harrumphed under her breath. “Yes of course she is staying; someone just tried to kill her but there are protocols to be followed.”
Two maid servants appeared behind Hally and Leona, who stood flanking the doorway. The smaller women looked to the leather clad Mord-Sith, their eyes wide, but they had learned by now, to accepted these women to always be around, watching.
“Help me out of this thing.” Cara ordered, and the maids moved around her. “Who is watching over her?”
“Salina, Tosha and Captain Ryan.” Hally offered.
As Cara lifted her arms out from her sides, and heard the popping of the small threads that had been used to sew the dress closed on her body, her eyes moved back up to Hally. “Go to the Mother Confessor’s private office, Leona, and do not let anyone inside that room, especially not her. Hally? I want you to become the Mother Confessor’s shadow. Do not let you out of your sight”
Hally nodded slightly. “Of course.”
Dragon Corps guards surrounded them, and Berdine felt the jab of an argon’s tip on her lower back, persuading her to drop down on her knees. A noise of discontent fell from her lips as did the Agiel in her hand.
“Somehow I feel like you want to say that we should have known better.” Raina mumbled dropping her Agiel as well.
Berdine nodded in agreement. Moments before dawn they had slipped down through the cracks in the rocks surrounding the temple, and made their way to incapacitate the first of four guards who stood before the massive metal doors. It should have been a simple act, but somehow they had been spotted, and as they killed the first of the guards, another half dozen had surrounded them from behind. Raina was correct; perhaps they had been caught in the trap of overconfidence. For all intent Berdine had thought the number of guards much less than it was.
It did not make sense, as to what all of these soldiers were doing here. She thought they may have been wintering here, yet that seemed too simple an answer. She was thankful that the two of them merely had swords and argons pointed at them, versus being dead. The thought of death suddenly seemed all the more real and final, as the situation began to sink into her skin.
A knee slammed into the center of her back, forcing her lower, and Berdine grumbled low, as she watched red leather boots stride closer to her. A Mord-Sith. This was becoming even more interesting, she thought to herself, as she looked to her side, to see Raina’s dark eyes looking disinterested, but she seemed well, unhurt.
Berdine let her eyes look up and found herself looking into the light brown eyes of an older Mord-Sith. Clearly this woman was a trainer, but not one she had ever seen before. Which was not uncommon. Once a Mord-Sith’s training was complete, unless they too followed the path of being a trainer, they rarely, if ever crossed paths with these particular sister’s of the Agiel. She wore the coiled whip at her side, where one would normally wear an Agiel. That weapon was probably kept at the small of her back, as was the way of a trainer. Berdine felt her eyes narrow as she looked at every line and mark on the Mord-Sith’s face. She did not recognize her at all.
“Two wayward Sisters, come all this way to the far north in the dead of winter.” The older Mord-Sith stated as she stepped in front of them. Berdine felt her skin twitching under the intensity of the woman’s inspecting eyes. “I wonder who sent you.”
“Lord Rahl.” Berdine replied her eyes tuning as cold as the ice on the ground, and just as blue.
“Oh?” The Mord-Sith said with feigned surprise “Well, isn’t that something. Last I heard Lord Rahl had been murdered by a traitorous Mord-Sith and the Seeker.”
“You’ve been misinformed; Lord Rahl is alive and well.” Raina barked.
“Oh, I think it is you who has been misinformed. That imposter that you are blindly following will be dealt with, in time.”
“Why are these men here?” Berdine asked.
“Never you mind, Sister. It is not your concern.” She snapped her fingers, and the men of the Dragon Corps moved forward. “Bring them inside, so we can have a more detailed conversation about the true reason for their unannounced visit.”
She nodded to the small bench in the corner of the room, and Leona, carrying one of the jewel encrusted boxes moved forward, and set it down. Cara did the same with the other, and then set the small copper tube between them.
“You can return to the Palace now.” Cara said softly.
“Yes, Mistress.” Leona said, bowing her head, and then leaving in a brisk walk. Not that Cara blamed her, this room made her skin crawl and actually created an throbbing pain in the center of her bones. She assumed that the room was spelled, and it was only by stubborn will that she could walk over the threshold. When Zedd had still been here, he had explained to her that the Wizard’s Keep was once a thriving Palace, full of thousands of wizards and their families. It was a place of community as well as training and the storage of knowledge and artifacts of magic that should be safely kept from the curious hands of the lay person. Which made sense to Cara, as she well knew, magic was tricky at best, lethal at worst. This room, a long narrow hall, was in the center of the Keep, and to get here one had to pass through a series of archways and doors. Some of those archways were shielded with magic, which made her body ache, or filled her mind with a sense of dread. Others, she could not pass through at all. But, as she had discovered as she explored, looking for libraries and clues to the secrets of the Confessor and Mord-Sith, where one way was blocked there was always another way that was not. It was in patience and determination that one could move through the dark stone Palace. And Cara possessed both of those attributes.
The room she stood in, when she found it had confused her. Why would a room that seemed to hold nothing but odds and ends, broken vases, and silly looking broaches be spelled so heavily, and take such a long time to get to. It was as she explored this room for the first time, looking for books or anything really that pertained to Mord-Sith, that she noticed the two identical items that sat on a black marble pillar in the far corner of the room.
She had recognized the bronze swirls over the dark glass, the iron clasps. Sitting side by side were the two Quillions. They seemed harmless enough, sitting there. Cara knew that inside one was the power of the Confessor taken from Dennee, and in the other that of Annabelle. Seeing those two magical artifacts sitting there sparked the notion that this room was a storage room, and that all of the things she saw laying around her were in fact objects of dangerous magic. When faced with the scroll and the two chests containing the heads of her fellow Mord-Sith, Cara knew immediately where she could place them for safe keeping.
She slipped a short note under the scroll, on which read ‘Magic. Weapon to kill Lord Rahl?’ She hoped that when Zedd returned he would know what to do with them, but in the mean time, as long as they were nowhere near Kahlan and her curious hands, she could breathe easier.
Cara walked over to the corner, and the two Quillions. She walked around the pillar, part of her wanting to touch the outer casing, to feel the intricate metal loops, but not knowing exactly what would happen if she did. Her lack of knowledge was frustrating.
With a sharp exhale she turned and left the room. She had too much to do; standing around thinking in this damp room wouldn’t solve anything.
His low moans and his blood chilling screams did not invoke in her the same emotional tide that she felt when she touched Cara in this way. It seemed half there, the emotions, as if, when the whip cracked just before it struck his flesh her soul sighed in resignation. That this was not what she wanted, but was merely what she needed.
And that realization bothered Kahlan.
Because she knew she was not abusing Drefan because she cared, in fact if the world was without him she would be happy. No, she swung the whip, and her firsts, because each and every blow that landed, she felt as well. Through the bond she held to from him, she felt each punishing strike, as if she were standing alone in the room and swinging the cat-o’-nine over her shoulder and its knots were licking at her own skin. It was the hidden truth to why she craved these moments in the dark room with him. He brought her the pain she desired.
Pain that, she wished Cara could provide her.
Rikka stepped from the shadows, her eyes moving over Cara quickly, before she nodded to the door behind her. “She is still inside. You look no worse for wear.”
“You heard then?” Cara asked her.
“Word travels fast, especially when the prized Mord-Sith of the Mother Confessor slaughters a queen.”
“She had it coming.”
“I am sure that she did.” Rikka replied, her lips turning into a smirk. “I also heard about a dress.”
Cara rolled her eyes. “Don’t start.”
“I would never even dream of it.” Rikka said as Cara stepped pasted her and into the small chamber where Shota had taken to reading and researching. There was a large window off to one side, and the view of the deep mountain cavern if provided was impressive in its complete lack of life. It was almost as if one had framed a portrait of the side of a cliff face. It was, peaceful in a way to Cara, what it lacked, it in fact accented. Each time she looked out the window she was overcome with the image of a thick meadow, full of grass and flowers. She shook he head, it was probably a spell of some sort. The Keep was thick with them.
“Cara. This is unexpected. I thought you would be busy with the gala.” Shota said from behind the long table, though she did not look up.
“The gala is over. It ended abruptly once I killed Queen Milena and her wizard.” Cara said evenly, and Shota raised her eyes from the book she was reading.
“The Wizard was going to kill Lord Rahl.”
“Ah? They walked into the Confessor’s Palace, without hesitation and tried to kill Kahlan and Drefan, and your response is ‘Ah’?”
“Tried is different than succeeded.”
Cara slapped her hand down on the large table. “This is not some joke, Witch! If you can see events in the future, then why did you not see this?”
“Because it was not worth my seeing. Do you really think you need to worry about one little wizard? He was easily dispatched, I am sure. You look unharmed, and if anything had happened to the Mother Confessor, well,” she chuckled, “I doubt you would be here. I told you both that people will continue to be visited and ultimately controlled by the Dream Walker. People will keep trying to kill Lord Rahl.”
“While you will sit idly by and do what?” Cara snapped. “You have been in here for days and yet you still say you have found nothing? Why am I beginning to think that you aren’t looking for what we agreed upon? Instead you are searching for something all together different.”
“The trust of Mord-Sith is not something I would ever expect.”
“Good.” Cara growled. “Because I don’t. You have sent me in circles, telling me that I am the one to blame for what is happening to her. Yet you offer nothing. NOTHING.” Cara leaned closer to her, and while her voice’s tone grew in anger, the volume dropped lower.
“Cara, I have been trying to help you. Her headaches are as they were. No better, and no worse.”
“It feels more and more that you have been playing me for a fool. That you just wanted an excuse to be allowed in here, to root through books and whatever else you have been exploring, all for your own gain. We agreed, you could be here, if you helped me to cure Kahlan. If you were able to find a way. You have not done that. You have not even been able to tell me anything new about the Dream Walker. I am through playing games with you, sorceress.”
“Fine.” Shota crossed her arms. “Are you done with your little tirade? I am busy.”
Cara’s nerves snapped and she reached down and flipped the massive oak table before Shota.
Childish she knew, but it had felt good to lash out at something.
With a sigh of rejection Kahlan leaned against the stone wall and slid down, bringing her knees up before her, and crossing her arms over them.
“Mistress, have I displeased you?” Drefan asked, his voice hoarse.
She set her chin on her knee, and let the bloody leather whip fall to the ground. “No, Drefan.”
“Why did you stop?”
“Why did I even start?” She mumbled to herself. The headaches would abate for awhile, when all her focus was on the swing of her arms. But her hands ached for the scream of the Agiel, and part of her desperately needed release, and she only found a half hearted feeling of that when she was here with him. It made no sense to her, doing these things. Kahlan Amnell was not a monster. She was not a cruel woman, but she wondered when it had been enough, when would Drefan’s abuse be just punishment for what he did and what he had intended to do. The line was there, in the distance, she knew it was, that line that she dare not cross; when these sessions in the dark of night went from his acceptable punishment to her own ravenous need to cause pain.
“Why did want to become Lord Rahl?” She asked softly, her eyes closing.
“To rule. To have power.”
He was quiet for a moment, and slowly she opened her eyes, realizing and not caring that a tear crept from the corner of her eye. She took in his naked chest, covered in new welts and cuts, and the scars of the old. His loosely fitting black pants were hanging limply on his hips, wet from blood and sweat. Part of Kahlan wondered when she had become this person. One who could last out at another in cruelty? This was not who she was, and every time she lashed out at him, every time she hurt him she was reaching for the impossible. She was trying to hurt herself. And perhaps she was, perhaps as the Mord-Sith inside of her howled at giving another pain, the Mother Confessor in her was sickened and fueled with guilt.
“Lord Rahl is the ultimate ruler. I would have a kingdom, I would have servants and followers, and I would be adored.”
“Adored?” As she said the word her mind flashed the image of Cara, in that stunning blue gown, her smile genuine and honest and full of adoration. Not because Kahlan was the Lord Rahl; no the look of love in Cara’s eyes was the love she felt for Kahlan. For who she was and because of what she was. Love that made her do things such as wear a fitted dress to a silly Gala; love that moved her limbs without effort as she sliced the throat of someone threatening Kahlan. Her mate adored her. And she felt the same.
“Yes, Mistress. Growing up the bastard child of Lord Rahl? I was not loved. I was cast aside as I have no real magic of my own. I was not wanted… but to be Lord Rahl? He is loved above all others.”
“Love.” Kahlan looked at him, seeing his empty face, knowing he was nothing more than flesh and bones, soulless. “They do not love the Lord Rahl. It is magic. It is empty.”
“It would have felt real enough for me.” he answered, his lips turning into a sneer. The part of him that was still inside, the part of him that hated Kahlan issued forth a low laugh. “Empty love, which you know all about, Confessor. Your people love you, because they fear you. Even your whore only loves you out of fear of you. So how is that any different than what I wanted?”
Her eyes moved to the large window in this room, seeing the fading light of day, and comforted in the darkness that would soon come.
“It’s not.” Kahlan replied, staring hard at him. She had become used to the switching back and forth of his personality. The interchange from adoration to abhorrence. It was refreshing. When he was vile, hurting him was easier.
"Strike me dead as you should have done."
"Death is not punishment enough. You live so that each and every day you suffer a fate worse than a thousand deaths."
"What did I ever do that was so wrong?" He asked.
"It was what you intended to do."
"You punish me for intent?" He laughed. "Then who will punish you for what you have done?"
"Every moment I spend here with you, Drefan, I punish myself."
Men moved out of her way as she stomped through the narrow halls of the barracks, her fingertips resting on her Agiel, and her face focused. Cara knew walking into this place was a slight insult to the Home Guard, and their looks of distain echoed that feeling, but she didn’t care. She refused to sit, doing nothing. Not that she was expecting much from this visit, but it was a thought that was tickling at the back of her mind, and Cara decided to follow it through.
Her flat palm hit the door, and it swung open. Sergeant at Arms Wyborn was sitting at ease behind his desk; clearly her approach had already been announced.
"Mord-Sith." He replied.
She smiled at his tone. One of respect sprinkled with annoyance.
Cara closed the door behind her, and then approached him in the small room, her eyes taking in the rough hewn logs that made up the walls, the Mother Confessor’s official crest that hung on the wall behind him. Maps had been tacked to various other walls.
“I was going to send this over to the Palace.” He said, turning and lifting the sword from where it rested against the wall. “There was no need for you to come here.”
Between his words she read his true statement, she was not wanted in this place.
“Thank you.” She offered as he set Kahlan’s sword on his desk. She noticed the fresh polish on the metal of the sheath, the strong new black leather straps on the baldric. Her eyes looked at his, and he nodded to her unvoiced question. Cara’s finger tips moved over the swords handle, where once there had been a braid of leather in black and green, the colors of Kelton, there now was thick blood red leather.
“Mord-Sith leather is not easy to come by.” He said kindly. “I think that it does the weapon justice. Reminds it perhaps what its purpose in life is.”
“To protect the Mother Confessor. To be an extension of her power, her rage, and justice.” Cara added, meeting his eyes for a moment. “Just as I am.” He nodded, and she bit the inside of her lip, to remind her to be respectful to this man, a man whom Kahlan looked to for advice and support. “Thank you, Sergeant, for this.”
“Of course.” His smile did reach his eyes this time.
“I came to see you, for an all together different matter.”
“The ruckus at the gala?”
“Partially.” Her fingers lifted from the handle of the sword, and she searching his face, finding his serious expression that seemed to reflect her own. Her fingers drummed on the cold steel as she thought about the Dream Walker. That she was able to control a witless queen was one thing, but also a fairly strong wizard was another thing all together. Whoever was burning on the pyre behind the palace, the wizard had enough foresight to use wizard's fire, though he had been foolish and untrained to attempt its use on a Mord-Sith. Perhaps he had been unaware of who Cara was, she was after all in that silly dress.
Shota had warned of this, that the gifted would be coerced or turned to fulfill the Dream Walker's desires, which seemed very clear. Kill Lord Rahl, and capture the Mother Confessor. Based on the actions of both would be assassins their secret was still kept. This Dream Walker did not know that those two were one and the same. "The elite guards for the Mother Confessor?"
"What of them?"
"Would they, in your estimation, be willing to devout themselves to Lord Rahl?"
"Hmmm.” She tapped her finger on his desk. “If they were ordered by you to say the devotions?"
His eyes narrowed. "Their heart would not be in those words."
"I was afraid of that." Cara pursed her lips. She had expected as much. This seemed to only leave her one option, one that she was not in complete control of. "Things are happening, in the Midlands, as well as here, you know that don’t you?
"I do. I see it on the streets, hear it spoken in the meal hall. We see it in the attempted assault on the Mother Confessor in her very own Palace. The unrest? The suspicion, the hatred for D’Hara, all seems on the rise."
“Forgive my ignorance, but do the people of the Midlands know much of magic?”
“Of course. The Midlands is a thriving kingdom full of the wonders of magic.”
“In D’Hara we know magic, but we always equate magic with our Lord Rahl. Lord Rahl is the magic against the magic, while we, the people, the soldiers, the Mord-Sith, are the steel against the steel. In that regard we know of magic… but almost fear it. Fear because we do not understand it.” Cara looked up at him, to see if he was still following her train of thought. His blue eyes seemed clear and open. “The Queen and the Wizard I killed?”
“They were not acting on their own accord.” She looked at her gloved hands. Part of her mind told her to hold her tongue, that she did not know this man, nor did she know his true intent, and if he was loyal to Kahlan, or had been corrupted by the magic of the Dream Walker. She sighed. “Do you know anything about Dream Walkers?”
He crossed his arms, and leaned back in his chair. “Stories. Fables told to children. I was raised in the far south, along the edges of the Kern River. Tales such as those were common place. As were the tales of the wild eyed D’Haran giants.” His fingers scratched the incoming beard on his chin.
“They are not fables.”
“You know this how?”
Cara’s brow furrowed. “I only believe what I see, much like you.” She regarded him for a moment, and in her apprehension it was almost as if she could feel the gentle touch of Kahlan’s hand on the back of her neck, comforting her, telling her that she could trust this man. “Shota, the Witch Woman came to the Mother Confessor, and spoke of this Dream Walker. And now? Seeing what happened this day, with the Queen and Wizard, I am convinced that the threat is real.”
“If there was such magic, why would this Dream Walker not enter in your mind?” He said forward. “You are the one closest to her. You could easily kill both the Lord Rahl and the Mother Confessor.”
Cara nodded. “The power of a Dream Walker cannot reach me, or any other Mord-Sith. Nor can it reach any truly devoted D’Haran.” She said evenly.
“The devotions.” He said softly understanding.
“Yes. When spoken with truth and conviction? They protect the minds of those bound to Lord Rahl from the intrusion of the Dream Walker.”
“Men and women of the Midlands will not, with honesty of heart, devote themselves to another.” He rapped his knuckles on the desk angrily.
“Then all of the Midlands will become the enemy of the Mother Confessor and the Lord Rahl.” Cara said.
“Only D’Harans can keep her safe.”
“Or those devoted to Lord Rahl.” she did not yet voice the other option.
She watched as the seas of emotions began to churn in his eyes and on his face. She allowed him a moment or two to truly think about what she had said, before she pressed him with the reason she came here.
She took the sword from the desk, and pulled it slightly free of the scabbard, appreciating the brilliant shine of the blade. He had done a wonderful job. While Cara did not favor blades in the same way that Kahlan did, she knew and appreciated fine craftsmanship.
“We will change the guard detail around the Mother Confessor immediately.” He said.
“In the morning will be fine. She will…” Cara dropped the blade home, looking up at him. “She will be fine tonight. I will see to it.”
He nodded, accepting this.
"Sergeant, what if I asked for six of your strongest, meanest, fiercest soldiers? That their loyalty, their character did not matter so long as they posses strength and cunning.”
"I would wonder why."
"The Mother Confessor needs guards who will die for her. Follow her every command. Incorruptible."
"Confession." His whispered, putting his hands flat on the desk.
"Kahlan Amnell will not confess someone unjustly."
She believed him, but Cara also knew her mate, and knew that this may be something she could get her to waver on, this once. “What would you say?" Cara stressed.
"I would provide you these men. If she will do as you are suggesting."
The stone of the floor rushed up to greet the side of her face as Berdine was shoved eagerly to the ground. With her hands tied behind her back, all she could do was fall forward. Not that the feeling of these specific stones slamming against her cheek was a new one to her. On the contrary. She had been broken in this temple as a child. And she had been broken again here from time to time. She closed her eyes for a moment, not so much in remembrance of moments past here, but in a way making peace with her current situation. Being captured she could live with, the sound of Raina as she was forced to her knees, the air bursting from her lips, beside her. That was not something Berdine wanted to live with.
“Oh look, the two love birds have returned.” A familiar voice said slowly, and Berdine could not stop her head from snapping up in shock. Her eyes rounded in astonishment as the Mord-Sith stalked slowly into view. “Interesting that just the two of you came all this way. Have you forgotten so much of your teachings? Never make siege with less than four. But no, for some reason you came here, just the two of you? What? In the hopes of having some sort of private time?” She laughed, her full lips pulling back into a sneer.
“You… you are dead.” Berdine hissed.
“Please. Kill a Mord-Sith? It takes a little more than a broken neck.” Triana said with a smirk. “If Cara had been thinking clearly she would have tossed my body onto a pyre.” Her eyes twinkled angrily. “She can’t even kill properly. Clearly, seeing as how the two of you are still alive.” Her eyes rolled.
“So you are a baneling?” Raina asked, because Berdine was having difficulty forming words.
Triana, who Berdine had watched have her neck snapped in Cara’s hands. Triana who had rallied the Mord-Sith against Cara after Darken Rahl’s death. Triana who was cold, deceitful, and who had always possessed some strange sway over Cara.
“Why would I need to be a baneling? There were a dozen Mord-Sith at that battle of the caves. The breath of life was all I needed. Do not think your absence, when I did return to the living was over looked, Berdine. Where ever did you run off to?” She snapped her gloved fingers. “Oh, let me guess. You went to the People’s Palace, running with your tail between your legs for her.” She gripped Raina’s face in her hands angrily. “She always runs to you.” She glared down at Raina.
“I ran to serve Lord Rahl.” Berdine growled, wishing that she could break the rope around her wrists and snap Triana’s neck again. This time she would take her head off, to be sure the job was complete.
“You can’t lie to me, so don’t bother. I know you ran to your precious Raina.” She back handed Raina, and Berdine felt it in empathy. “You serve a false man. I serve the true Lord Rahl. And you will again. Unless of course you merely break and die.” She stood tall and walked to stand before Berdine, glaring down at her. “I’ll make you a promise, Berdine. If you die while I am breaking you? You know, as you always did in the past? Well, this time? I won’t bring you back. And when the true Lord Rahl returns, and when he tires of Raina again…we will see to it that she joins you.” She ran her finger along Berdine’s cheek, and she felt her eyes flashing like razors at her. She dared this woman to try and break her again. She would find a way to hurt her. Every blow she delivered to Raina, Berdine would catalogue and she would be sure that it was returned in kind to Triana. “It is the least I can do for how you are going to help me.”
“Help you?” Berdine laughed. “Why would I help you? To what end? Your delusions of a Lord Rahl? I have kneeled before our sovereign Lord Rahl, and basked in the light and power.”
“Oh, you will help me alright. Or I will, one by one, break every bone in your dearest Raina’s body.”
Berdine bit her tongue and felt before she tasted the blood blossom in her mouth.
“You will do as I ask, when I ask.” She growled. “Cara needs to return to her true family. And to me.” She smiled devilishly. “And I think I know just how to get her here. But first, there are a few things we need to do.”
The Agiel slammed against her chin shockingly. It had been a long time since she had felt the full weight of rage behind the weapon, and it bore through her jaws, rattling her teeth and as she opened her mouth to scream, Berdine instead spit her mouthful of blood in Triana’s face.
She smiled hearing Triana’s scream of outrage, before the pressure to the side of her head filled her mind with a loud pop, and darkness consumed her.
The cold had seeped through her leathers, and even through the gloves on her hands. Not that she noticed at the time. No, it was not until she was standing here, on the balcony, the wind slicing through the night and the air, when she took off her gloves and tucked them away behind her belt that she felt the burning heat of her skin, and that prickling sensation of the cold that seemed deep inside of her, deep enough to make her bones feel brittle.
Kahlan was not in their chambers.
And as Cara had walked across the Palace grounds, she kept her back to the eastern walls, not wanting to look up, not wanting to be the woman standing in the cold shadows looking into windows praying for just a glimpse of a familiar shadow. No. That would have been too much.
When Kahlan would disappear for hours at a time, Cara would pretend that she did not know where she was. But in time the truth would return and with it an ache. An ache she did not recognize and that she hated. She hated feeling the way she did. She hated that the ache would move her to near tears when she would wake in the night and find the bed she lay in cold.
Cara’s hands moved over her chest, where the feeling of ache grew, as she felt her mind reeling.
This should not matter.
She would not let it matter.
Her knuckles popped under the pressure of the fist her hand made, as with her other hand she flipped open the journey book again. After the long day Cara had taken a moment and looked inside to see if Berdine had left her a message… and what she saw chilled her, as much as the wind, as much as the spectacle of the gala, as much as the knowledge of where Kahlan was.
Suddenly the distance felt oppressive, that like everything else, Berdine and Raina’s safety seemed so far from her grasp and her control. Cara was not used to all of these emotions, feelings. Her eyes glared out over the new darkness, the birth of the night, and she wiped angrily at her eyes, annoyed with the tears that were there.
This was not like her. She should be numb. This should not matter, she told herself over and over again.
Behind her, in the chamber, she heard a door open and then close.
“What is the matter?” Kahlan asked as she walked behind Cara, slipping her arms around her waist.
Cara had been gazing out over the city, palms flat on the wall of the balcony, the journey book open beside her hand. That was where Kahlan found her, and she had stood inside her bed chamber for a few moments, merely watching the rise and fall of Cara’s shoulders as she breathed. The snow from earlier had ceased, but the thick clouds hung overhead, glowing a deep orange as they reflected all of the light from the fires and candles burning in the city below.
Kahlan tightened her arms around Cara, feeling her back pressing firmly into her. The closeness was a comfort to her, as was the feeling of Cara’s hair on her cheek, and the smoothness of leather under her fingers.
“Something is not right.” Cara offered, one hand moving to rest on top of Kahlan’s over her stomach, the other turning the book ever so slightly. Even in the faint light Kahlan could make out the precise and neat script that she now associated with Berdine.
We took the northern approach to the temple, and have discovered it surrounded by a platoon of Dragon Corps. We have not been able to determine why they are here, only that they are, and seeming to be guarding. We caught sight of what we believe was one Mord-Sith today through the north windows, on the floor where if I remember correctly the younglings reside. There has been no other outward sign of their presence. We determined that we would not wait for your response, as we are very well aware of their infrequency. At dawn we will make our way to the temple, and as Raina stated, will slaughter anyone who stands in our way.
“She is always so formal.” Kahlan observed.
“Yes.” Cara sighed.
“You don’t like that there are soldiers there.”
“No. I do not. They should not be. The northern temple is not a place where soldiers would stay; it was reserved for training and a home base in the northern territory for the Mord-Sith. When Darken Rahl died all the temples reverted back to their autonomy, until commanded otherwise by the new Lord Rahl. Soldiers should never go there. If they did, it was not for debate or to discuss the weather.”
Kahlan could hear her teeth grinding.
“So tell them not to attack. Tell them to leave there and travel somewhere else?” Kahlan suggested.
Cara flipped the page over, and written in her sprawling hand, covering the entire page was; Do not attack. Return here. NOW!
“I’ve waited… no response.” She slammed the book closed. “Their entry could have been from this morning, or two days ago. I just didn’t think to check.” Kahlan felt her sag slightly in her arms. Her voice was low. “If anything happens to them, it is my fault.”
“Shouldn’t it be the fault of the person who brings them harm?”
Cara turned in her arms; her eyes Kahlan could now see were wet from tears. “As you and I have discussed, the soldiers are merely following orders, yes part of the blame of a death is on their hands, but the person at the greatest fault is the one who sent them there. I sent them there. Me.”
“Cara, you did not know.”
“You’re right. I didn’t. I sent them there as an excuse. I wanted them away from here, away from what I…” Her brows furrowed and she looked down, a look of shame coming over her face.
Kahlan reached out, and cupped her cheek tenderly, lifting her eyes back up to her. “Cara. You had their best interests at heart. You cannot blame yourself for this. Just as making assumptions and thinking the worst is not wise. You do not know what they found once they entered the temple.” Kahlan smiled softly, hoping her eyes conveyed her belief in Cara, that this was not her fault. She brushed her thumb slowly over Cara’s bottom lip. “You are not to blame.”
Cara’s eyes closed, and Kahlan felt her relax against her body with a low and intoxicating sigh. Her lips moved to kiss Kahlan’s fingers
Dangerously dark green eyes flashed open. Cara grabbed her hand, hard, as hard as her eyes were cold and effectual. "This blood under your fingernails. It is neither yours nor mine."
Kahlan’s eyes went wide in fear, at the look in Cara’s as well as being so easily caught. "I can explain."
"I know you can. But there is no need. I know… I know what you have been doing.” Cara’s voice was even and calm. The very worst sound from a Mord-Sith. “Did you think I was so naive? I know Kahlan!” She released Kahlan’s hand and stepped back, leaning against the stone wall. “Every single time you give me the tea, I taste it and it breaks me to know you are doing this. That you would rather me be drugged than let me help you."
"But nothing! I take it the tea, I drink it, I do as you wish, and I die a little inside." Cara said, turning her face away from Kahlan. A backhanded slap would have been kinder than Cara’s words.
Kahlan honestly did not know what to say at that moment. She knew what she felt, but the words seemed to elude her.
“This… dark place, this… jealousy?” Her tear filled eyes looked over her shoulder, “I know you love me. I am devoted to you in every way… so why? Why do I feel this?”
Kahlan sighed, watching the sadness in her eyes. “To have love, you have hate. You can’t pick and chose what you feel, only that you feel… and I am sorry, Cara. That… that I have caused this.”
“You didn’t!” She shoved the journey book to the ground and as she stormed away from Kahlan, her boot fell heavily on it. Cara spun around. "Why...why you can't just ask me to go there with you?"
"So it is easier to go to someone else for solace."
Kahlan rushed forward and whether Cara liked it or not, she put her hands on her arms, grounding the both of them. "What I do with him is not solace. It is release."
A mournful sob broke from Cara as she tried to turn away from Kahlan, but she would not let her go. Instead she pulled her into her arms, firmly, locking them around the back of the Mord-Sith.
"Cara." She sobbed her name, and pressed her face into her neck. "I don’t want to be this creature. I... I don’t want to feel so much hate. I just want... I want beauty, and love. I want to be free of the nightmares and the pain."
"I am sorry, Kahlan. But the only way for you to do that? To have that back? Is to find the beauty that lays within the pain. To find the harmony in the hate. I am sorry that I am torturing you so."
"You aren't." This was not coming out as Kahlan hoped it would, she did not want Cara to think she blamed her. She was twisted inside, pulled in every direction and not knowing which was the true way or the just way. Kahlan was floundering in the place of not having enough time or strength for each aspect, and it exhausted her. Her eyes begged Cara to understand. She did not wish away this new knowledge, of knowing and being this new and wonderful thing, the thing Cara was... but she just needed time. The one thing she could never get enough of.
"No? Who did this to you? I did.” Cara said firmly. “It was my own ignorance or vanity... I did this to you, and for that I will always hold shame."
Roughly Cara forced Kahlan’s hands to release her, and she stepped back, her eyes wide. “Cara?”
The blonde’s mouth moved, as though she was going to speak, but then she shook her head.
“Cara… please?” Kahlan pleaded.
“Did you get your fill of hate and rage with him?” She snapped.
“Yes.” Kahlan’s eyes fell to the stone floor.
“Good. Then I will give you love. I will give you beauty.” She said softly.
Kahlan’s eyes rose back up, as a soft whimper slipped from her lips, before Cara’s mouth was pressed to them, hungrily.
Vaguely she felt fingers on her skin, perhaps her jaw, but she could not be sure. Consciousness slowly seeped into her mind, and with a low groan her eyes opened. With consciousness came the pain, pounding in her shoulders, and her head.
“Finally!” Triana’s voice snapped. “I swear, Berdine. You used to be formidable. Impressive, and could withstand so much pain. But one little smack to the head and you are knocked out cold.”
Her mouth felt like she had walked across the Azrith Plains, dragging her tongue along it’s barren ground. She coughed. “How long?” She mumbled.
“Nearly a day.” Raina’s voice offered, and she moved her eyes to her love, to see her face unmarked, but her eyes swallow, and the white was red, as if she had been crying. Berdine was suddenly angry at herself, for being unconscious for that long. For not being there to protect Raina. They flash in her deep dark eyes chastised Berdine for even thinking such a thing. She nodded softly to the brunette, before looking forward, and seeing that Triana stood in front of her still, arms cross, as strange smile on her lips.
From the corner of the room a man walked closer. His long blue robes were adorned with stitching of silver. He was tall, with black hair that was cut short, and matched the well kept beard on his face. In it there were a few hints of grey, which seemed odd considering his youthful face. His eyes were almost as dark as his hair, his features were sharply formed. Berdine watched as his eyes moved over her and then Raina. When he grinned he appeared boyish. But somehow this estimation felt wrong to her.
“This is Neville.” Triana said softly, walking behind him, and setting her hand on his shoulder, leaning into him. The man’s face seemed to grow with the shine of joy, at having the Mord-Sith fawning over him. Clearly, who ever this man was, he did not understand exactly who and what a Mord-Sith was. Because Triana was not moving into his body out of adoration or lust, it was to get close enough to confuse his senses, to manipulate the man he was. That was simple training.
Berdine considered him for a moment, and felt the humming of magic coming from his lanky body.
“Have you lost your mind?” Berdine said shocked. “A wizard? Here?”
Triana laughed softly, her fingers moving to the neck of this man’s dark blue robes, and she pulled it down, to reveal the ancient looking collar around his neck. “He’s a little kitten, really. Aren’t you Neville?”
His lips moved from a soft smile to a sneer. “Even kittens have claws.”
Triana rolled her eyes. “Fine. Yes you are a very powerful Wizard.” Her voice placated him, and whether he accepted her sarcasm for what it was or truth, she could not tell.
“They don’t feel very powerful.” He said to Triana.
“Of course not. These two? Are merely the stepping stones.”
“Don’t we have enough of those already?” He asked.
“Ah, but Neville. You don’t understand. They are very important stepping stones.” Triana ran her gloved finger along the edge of his beard. “Summon him?” She purred.
The Wizard lifted his hands, and holding his palms a small width apart chanted softly. The language was familiar, and the hair on Berdine’s arms lifted even under her leather. He was speaking High D’Haran, and the words were that of a summoning spell. One she had witnessed being cast before. What seemed like lifetimes ago, in the sacred garden at the People’s Palace.
There was a thick chafe of rough wind that moved around Berdine, and froze her skin. Her eyes flipped up sharply, leaving Triana and the Wizard, moving to the large open hearth, and the flames burning there, which rose higher and turned a sickly shade of green.
A shadow appeared, growing denser, until she could see the crooked smile, and the familiar empty eyes looking down at her. Her knees ached at the sensation of memory, of looking up at Darken Rahl from her knees, while he looked down on her with a smile of distain.
“Well, if it isn’t my favorite librarian.”
Berdine bit her tongue, and was almost positive that she could feel the tight rage rolling off of Raina beside her.
“I was hoping to see you again, that you have managed to not visit me directly here in the Underworld, why it is a testament to your tenacity, Berdine.” He smirked. “That or you have been hiding away behind books, and as we know, books rarely swing swords.”
“You are dead and gone.”
“However here I stand.”
“Still dead, still gone.”
“Hm. Yes. The literalness is a bother. But, it is only temporary.” He smiled, looking to Triana and the Wizard. “Isn’t that right, my dears?”
“You will live again Lord Rahl. You will retake your place as our Lord and master, ruler of all D’Hara.”
He waved his ghostly hand at Triana. “Yes yes. Your excitement is noted.” Even in this form Berdine could feel the sinking sensation in her guts, at being under his hard gaze. “While the Seeker and his merry band of halfwit fools were able to thwart my Master and reseal the veil, there were consequences to his actions. And those consequences compel me to act. To return to the land of the living. And you, Berdine, will help us.”
“No. I won’t.”
“How many times will it take, for Triana, the other Mord-Sith, or even Neville here, to kill Raina in front of your very eyes, before you in fact will help me. Before you will do anything and everything I command?”
He tapped his finger to his lips. “Mm. See? We will come to an understand, you and I. And once I am successful? I will reward you for your efforts.”
She shuddered, recalling exactly how he liked to reward her. Sensing her thoughts, Darken Rahl smiled joyfully. “You should get better acquainted with Neville… while he will soon be gone, well… his body will remain, and I plan on using it thoroughly. I have so missed breaking the two of you; it always brought me such joy, the taste of your tears.”
The curtains were drawn in the guest room, and it gave the whole room a sense of a dream, as though stepping inside she was moving from reality into something all together different. The woman, the Seer, was sitting at the small writing desk, a quill in her hand, but it was lifted from the paper, and her eyes did not turn to see Kahlan as she entered, on the contrary she was looking forward into nothing, her eyes wide but clouded.
Cautiously, as to not disturb her, Kahlan waved off Rikka, who glared at her before closing the door. Kahlan did not fear the Seer, her magic resided in visions, and she had no other magic. Gently she stepped further into the room.
The Seer shook her head slowly, and then her quill moved across parchment with rapid scratches.
“Good morning, Jebra.” Kahlan said when she was close enough to see over the woman’s shoulder, she had been drawing a map, not writing words. The Seer jumped slightly.
“Mother Confessor!” She moved to stand.
“No, it’s alright, sit.” Kahlan smiled. “I am sorry to disturb you.”
“Don’t be. You are the Mother Confessor, it is an honor just to be in your presence.”
Kahlan pursed her lips. “I trust your accommodations were acceptable.”
“More than, Mother Confessor.”
“Call me Kahlan.”
“I cannot.” She offered as her eyes looked up at her with sincerity. Kahlan sighed, expecting as much.
The blonde Seer lifted it and handed it to Kahlan. “Yes. You will need this one day.”
“Oh?” Kahlan looked at it, there were no names, but she could see two rivers, a large bay, and the markings of a forest.
“I cannot say.” She hung her head.
“Cannot or won’t?” Kahlan asked.
“In this case, I cannot Mother Confessor. I only saw that you would need this map, in the future.”
Kahlan bit back the annoyance she felt, that she felt often when speaking with a Seer, a Prophet, or a Witch Woman. Anyone who saw glimpses of a future that may or may not come to pass. The ambiguity of it was draining.
“Last night, when you touched my hands, what did you see?” Kahlan asked, leaning on the edge of the desk.
“You will not like what I saw.” Jebra replied, looking down at her ink stained hands.
“I need to know.”
Her bright blue eyes looked up at Kahlan. “Do you? Perhaps in the knowing you will alter events.”
“You have a point. You stated emphatically that I must leave Aydindril. Were you referring to the failed attempt on my life at the gala?”
“No. That was just the first attempt, there will be many more. But… that was not what I saw, when I touched you. No what I saw… “ She looked down at her hands. “You must leave.”
“Why must I leave?”
“You will die here if you do not. You must leave immediately.”
Kahlan thought about that for a moment. It was far from the first time in recent days she had been told that she would die if she stayed here, nor did she doubt the truth of this woman’s vision. What she doubted was that destiny and fate were so solidly written that events could not be changed. “And where do you propose I go?
“Anywhere. Just away. You must get away from Aydindril and the Mord-Sith.”
“That is preposterous.” Kahlan laughed. She had not expected that addition.
“I beg of you, Mother Confessor… please.” The Seer’s eyes were wide, and as Kahlan looked at her, really looked at her as a Mother Confessor would she could see the woman was not only telling her the truth but that she was honestly terrified for her.
“I am sorry, Jebra, but no. I may consider leaving Aydindril, as I had planned to this spring anyway… but I will not remove myself from the Mord-Sith.”
“Mother Confessor, I am sorry to say this but you must. Especially from Cara.”
“Never.” Kahlan said her jaw clenching.
“You don’t even ask me why?”
“The why?” Kahlan laughed sadly. “The why does not matter to me. Because it will not happen. I will not leave her side.”
“She will kill you.” Jebra whispered.
“Then I welcome death.” Kahlan snapped.
Richard’s curiosity was grating. Though, Nicci could see that as the Seeker he would not merely take what she had to say at face value. He needed to see for himself the size of the coming threat, yet she did not think it was safe. Not that what she thought seemed to matter. At least, as she looked over her shoulder at the large horse, on which the even larger man, Chase, sat, he had allowed her to keep him controlled. Chase was hardly gifted, so binding him magically was simple, and keeping him bound was not a drain at all on her magic. On the contrary, she could barely feel him struggling at the invisible shackles that were around his wrists. Richard had asked her to use literal bindings, rope or something similar. All that was required in way of a dispute was a look from her, and a laugh from Chase. That man was imaginative as he was strong. Even links of chain would probably not hold him, nor keep him from doing what he desired. Which was, killing Richard.
There was bitterness to the air, and it seemed familiar to her, as their horses crested another of the low lying hills south of Anderith. It reminded her of the springs of her youth, when the wind would roll over the sandy deserts of the Barrier Valley, through the rotting jungles, and the sparse farm land of the Old World. The air smelt of desperation and human suffering.
She found herself smiling at the scent of it.
But it was not a smile of pleasure.
Richard’s horse had stopped, and she came up beside him, while the Wizard and the Boundary Warden were still some distance behind.
“What is that?” Richard asked softly.
Nicci looked at Richard, noticing the thoughtful look on his face. She followed his gaze, and saw in the far distance a shadow on the green hills. A shadow that seemed to move, undulate. And then Nicci heard it as well.
“What is that sound?” Richard asked again.
“Battle drums.” Nicci said.
When she left the Old World, and the Palace of the Prophets, her mission had been clear, the plans made and carried out in the service of the Keeper. Destroy all life. Assist her master in his ascension. She took nothing with her, save her power, and memories were like collected baubles of childhood, left behind as they had no real purpose. However, memories, even when you leave them behind, have a way of following you.
The sound of battle drums was one such memory.
The pulse of it. The constant beating that was so similar to that of a human heart. Continual. Terrifying and calming at once. The beating of the drums signaled the arrival of the Emperor and his troops into a city in the Old World. There were places where the drums would beat for an entire year, constantly, achingly they would beat, until the Emperor arrived. Those drum beats had been the symphony of her actual youth, when as a small child, before she knew of the Sisters of Light and Dark, she had been a toe headed girl, living her life in the service of those with less than herself.
The throbbing beat of the battle drums were coming with the shadows in the distance.
“Signaling the arrival of the Imperial Order.”
“Why would an army announce their arrival?”
“When you are a force as massive as the Imperial Order? You do not need to rely on stealth. You swarm, you arrive. And you take what is before you. No one can offer resistance.” She looked to him. “Do you believe me now, Richard? This is not some fairy tale, this is not some exaggeration. The Barrier is down; the Imperial Order is streaming into the Midlands. And there is nothing you can do to stop them.”
“I do not believe that.”
Nicci smiled. “No, I did not expect you would.”
“Do you think we could get a little closer?”
“This is almost too close. If you can see them at all, then they know you are here. And you, Richard Rahl, have a price on your head.”
“That I don’t understand.”
“Use your head, Seeker.” She began, and then a blinding pain filled her mind, and pulled the air from her lungs.
Pain was something Nicci knew and expected, and usually did not bother her. This was like someone had poured melted iron into her ears and it was slowly hardening inside of her skull. Her hands went to her head, as her vision went from white to the black of unconsciousness.
She thought that for a moment she heard Richard calling her name.
The Seer had refused to talk about what she had seen when she touched Cara, it was as though she was so mortified that Kahlan would so matter-of-factly denounce her vision, that she would die at Cara’s hand that she was unsure what more to say, or even how to sit in the room with her. The woman’s demeanor had changed to nervous apprehension, as if part of Jebra could sense the angry Mord-Sith that lived inside of Kahlan, who had been pacing back and for in her mind, enraged that someone would dare to tell her that she had to separate herself from her Sisters of the Agiel.
Before her inner Mord-Sith got out of hand, Kahlan had excused herself. Once outside the Seer’s rooms she asked Rikka to be sure that guards were placed outside, and that the Seer was made comfortable, but that she was not allowed to leave the Palace. No, Kahlan had further questions, but knew she needed to calm before she asked them. Just to be sure her anger did not lash out at the innocent woman.
“This will cause quite a discontent with the Council, Mother Confessor.” The magistrate said, as he tightly held his skull cap in his hands. His aged eyes colored yellow by time and wisdom moved around the room with worry, looking everywhere but her. She wondered what he was thinking. Surely he was shocked at the events of the previous night, but he seemed even more uneasy.
“I do not care. They came here, into MY HOME to do harm. Their punishment fit the crime.” Kahlan said her voice cold. “The Council should know and expect, if someone comes before me with intent to do harm, that offense is and will be punishable by death.”
“I understand that Mother Confessor, but.”
“No. Not arguments. That has been the rule of law for centuries, that I have not been enforcing it? Well that time is now over. I will enforce it, and swiftly.”
His eyes landed on her for a moment before he sighed heavily. “As you command, Mother Confessor. I will see to it that the notifications are written, and delivered with your seal to all the kingdoms and all the members of the Council.”
“Good. That is all.” She snapped, and he half bowed, and half scurried from the room.
“Well, it seems as though you are starting the morning productively.”
Kahlan looked to the door, watching as Cara came in, her voice had been jovial, but her expression was anything but. She searched her face, and was rewarded with the sparkling glimmer in her eyes. She smiled sadly.
“We are trying.” Kahlan said. “How has your morning been?”
“Productive as well.” Cara offered, as she stepped closer to her desk. “I think it is about time.” Cara’s voice said softly, as an Agiel rolled across the wood to rest in front of Kahlan. Her eyes looked at the weapon, and though she registered Captain Ryan clearing his throat in the corner, it did not matter. All that seemed to matter was the low hum of the Agiel calling to her, and how her fingers instinctively twitched in want.
“Are you sure? You said.” Kahlan’s eyes looked up at Cara as she stood before her, eyes clear and focused.
“What I said before was probably wrong. I am tired of tip toeing around this, and certainly tired of seeing you in this state. I know what it feels like to not have this near.” Her eyes flicked to the Captain, who was trying to slowly leave the room. From Cara’s expression she had hoped he would hurry, but she sighed. “We need to talk.”
“Talk?” Kahlan asked, knowing that she did not want to talk at all. Part of her, inside wanted to lift the red leather weapon and feel the familiar weight, and wanted her palm to burn with the pain. She licked her lips slowly. “We can talk.”
“Mmhm. Later.” Kahlan forced herself to look up, and saw the same passion she felt in her blood reflected in Cara’s eyes.
“Any new information on that Wizard?” Cara asked, changing the subject.
“Apparently his name was Marlin. Not that it matters.”
“I suppose your right. It doesn’t. Are you almost ready to go visit General Reibisch?”
Kahlan nodded, and slowly her fingers lifted the Agiel. The pain sang to her, and her mind focused, the headache that had been growing abated, and she felt as though she was invincible. Standing, she slipped the weapon into the holster that she had been wearing under her dress, wearing for weeks, in the hopes that this moment would come. Her eyes locked onto Cara’s as she put the Agiel in it’s place against her thigh.
“Yes. I am ready now.” Kahlan sighed heavily as she removed her hand from the Agiel, and felt the throbbing in her thigh.
The touch of a hand on hers snapped her mind from the blackness that had consumed her. She was no longer on the grassy plains beside Richard. No, now Nicci was standing in the center of a barren waste land of dry and cracked earth, the sky above her a thick purple color, and the clouds a painful white. Glaring she looked down, to see a small girl holding her hand.
Her robes and shawls were all different colors of the earth, their tones complementing one another and her hair while mostly covered by a head wrap, was a dark brown and held soft waves. Her face was as young as she was, her eyes a startling white. It was the combination of her desert clothing, and those eyes that made Nicci’s mind lock on to what had been teasing about the edges for all this time.
“You.” She said softly, as realization came over her. She was in her mind, and this was the Dream Walker. The one who had been prodding and poking at her mind for months.
“More or less.”
“I thought that it had just been a foolish Sister or Wizard, attempting to put a spell of obedience on me.”
“Nothing that simple.”
“Nothing ever is.” Nicci said, looking closely at the girl, and suddenly not minding that she still held her hand. It gave her a sense that this child was just that. It seemed to fit, the urging in the dreams she had, were gentle, compared to how they could be. A child, who still possessed a sliver of innocence, would use her power to urge, versus torture into submission. There were traces of innocence in her white eyes. “It was when Chase was affected that I began to suspect. Why can I see you? How are you able to force me here now?”
“I am close.”
“You are with the marching Army?”
Nicci regarded her again, before pulling her hand away. “Your eyes should be black.”
“They will be. When the next phase is complete.”
“You need to fully mature.”
The girl nodded.
“And I am here with you now, why?”
“You must devote yourself, you have to protect yourself.” She said earnestly.
“Why? You have no true power over me.”
“Not yet, but soon? She is making sure of it.”
“She who controls me.”
“A true Dream Walker cannot be controlled.”
The girl looked at her, but did not speak.
“I am sorry.” The girl offered sadly. “She has managed to find your weakness.”
“I have no weaknesses.”
The young girl smiled sadly. “That is not true. Do what needs to be done, because I will have control over you soon.”
“Why are you doing her bidding?” Nicci asked.
“I have no choice in this matter.”
“I do not think that you do see, Nicci.” The young girl hung her head, as the voice that spoke was not her own. Instead it was a voice that lived in a higher pitch, sharp along the edges, and holding a slight accent. An accent from the southern reaches of the Old World. An accent that while familiar was not one that Nicci had heard in a long time. “But you will see. Soon? Soon I will have you under my thumb, and I guarantee my control over you will be much more painfully efficient than that of the Keeper.”
“Show yourself, if you are so confident.”
The girl looked up at her, and the dry and cracked riverbed where she stood seemed to smoke and shutter, and all the while, as the thick white and grey of clouds moved around the girl she changed, she grew taller, her limbs becoming almost frail. And her body became swathed in ribbons of black, which moved with an unseen wind, lifting long black hair that was now covering a ghastly pale face. Faint ice blue eyes looked out from behind the veil of jet black hair.
“You.” Nicci whispered shocked at the realization that washed over her.
“I will have you. I will have each and every one of the gifted in your world, and when that is done they will lead me to the Mother Confessor and with her as my weapon? No one, no land is safe.”
“You are insane.” Nicci said softly to the sorceress, the one who could make even the cockiest of the Sisters of the Dark tremble in fear. A sorceress who was frail on the exterior, but who seemed to be timeless, as timeless as hate, as timeless as the shadows she wrapped around herself.
“Perhaps. But you know I speak the truth Nicci. There is nothing you can do. You will bend under my will.”
She sat up, gasping for air, feeling as though she had just been under water. That was the feeling that had consumed her as she stood in that dreamscape. That all of the air had been removed from the world. Her hands fluttered to her chest as Nicci pulled in a lungful of sweet smelling air.
She realized that Richard’s hands were gently on her shoulders, and looking at him sharply she noticed his soft expression.
“Thank the Spirits. We were getting concerned.”
Her eyes moved, taking in the scene. The sun seemed to have only moved slightly, so she had not been unconscious too long. The Wizard stood off to the side, hands inside the sleeves of his robes, his expression school in calm. Richard on the other hand, was so close to her that she could not only smell the scent of his clothes and skin, but was sure that she was nearly resting in his lap.
She pushed herself away from him, and tried to clear her head.
“Nicci, what overcame you?” the wizard asked.
“You! You must all give the devotions to Lord Rahl. Make Chase do it as well.” She said, running her hand over her sweat slicked face.
“What are you talking about?” Richard asked.
“I know who is controlling my dreams.” Her eyes looked to the Wizard. “A child, a dreamcaster, one who has been given power beyond even her own young comprehension.”
“A dreamcaster!” the Wizard exclaimed.
“She came to me. She told me that the only way to be safe was to devote ones self to Lord Rahl. I know the histories, as I am sure you do as well, Wizard.” She stood on shaky legs. “She may be a dreamcaster now? But very soon she will have the full power of a Dream Walker.”
“But they are extinct.”
“Do you, with all your power and cunning, want to take that chance? Do you? You know very well what will happen when, not if, but when, the Dream Walker gains control of your mind.”
“What are you two talking about? Why do we have to do the devotions? I have not had any dreams, neither has Zedd.”
The Wizard ignored Richard, “But a child. Perhaps we can find her, explain that this is powerful magic, not to be toyed with.”
“The child is not our concern. We should be more worried about the sorceress who is controlling her somehow.”
“Controlling a Dream Walker?” His eyes narrowed. “Your expression is one of, dare I say, concern, if not bordering on fear. What did you see?”
“I saw the girl, and then She came to me. I saw who is pulling the strings.”
"I am not sure if you have a word or a story for her here in the Midlands. In the Old World? She was a myth and a legend when I was but an infant, some two hundred years ago. It was in her name you were cursed, and stories of her were told to terrify children. I thought it was all make believe. Until I became a Sister of the Dark. Until I stood face to face with her. The one that the darkness fears? That is her. They call her Six.”
“I see.” The Wizard said, as he rubbed his palms together nervously.
“You see now Wizard, what must be done?”
“Many things, Nicci. You are right.” He turned to Richard. “We all must swear allegiance to Lord Rahl, unwaveringly.”
“No. If that is what we must do? I think you are wrong. I have no loyalty at this moment to my brother, so why am I not under the control of this, Dream Walker, or the sorceress you speak of?”
Nicci shook her head. “You are an idiot. To whom is your devotion and loyalty sworn to?”
“Kahlan.” Richard replied without taking a pause.
“It is she, somehow, who is Lord Rahl. The bond moves through her. That is why the both of you are safe.”
“That is ridiculous.” Richard laughed.
Nicci crossed her arms, her eyebrows rising. “Oh?”
“Good Spirits.” The Wizard mumbled, before he dropped to sit on the ground, his eyes wide, his bushy eyebrows reaching for the sky.
Kahlan allowed Nick to find his own footing through the busy crowds of the camp. As they emerged through the city gates, she was astonished at how the army seemed to have doubled in size over night. The Galean forces, some forty thousand in this first deployment, had set up their camp beside that of the D’Harans. As far as her eyes could see, were tents, smoke from fires, men milling around. Activity. It was a mobile city almost. It had been a long time since she had been surrounded by such a large military presence. Not since she had visited the camps of the Galean army when she was a very young child. In the mid morning wind the flags atop tents snapped, creating a strange undercurrent of sound.
It reminded her of the whip.
She looked to her side, to see Cara, her shoulders stiff, her eyes moving back and forth over the crowds. If Cara had gotten her way they would not have come into the belly of the army, instead General Reibisch would have come to them.
“I don’t like this.”
“So you have mentioned once or twice.”
“Well I don’t.” Cara grumbled. “We know that the Dream Walker can control the minds of anyone, and you think it is wise to walk through the center of one hundred thousand men? Even I think that is a little reckless.”
Kahlan laughed. “We don’t know for certain that the power of the Dream Walker can travel over large distances, and I doubt she is here in Aydindril. I am sure it will be fine.”
“Oh don’t pout.” Kahlan chuckled.
“Pout! I do not pout. But I will keep saying that I do not like this!”
“I would expect no less from you.” Kahlan said, watching as Cara rolled her eyes.
She set her chin on the back of her hand that rested on the ledge of the bared window. She was familiar with this room, small and cold, higher up in the temple than those in the dungeon, but it was still a cell. It was still a place that made it all too clear that she was a captive, that she was not free. Except in her mind, which is where Berdine knew she was always free, no matter what was done to her.
The sky outside was turbulent with a coming storm. She could not tell yet if it would bring the thick flakes of snow, or the cleansing drops of rain. At least it was something other than sunshine. She did not want to know sun from inside this cage. Sunshine should be reserved for those moments of peace, moments such as the day she and Raina made love in the middle of the forest on their journey here. That was what she wanted to think of when she saw the sun. How it highlighted her skin, how it made her deep brown eyes sparkle.
Berdine sighed. “So, he was there, when you died?” She asked softly, her tone not angry, just resigned.
“And you decided to lie to me, why?”
A hand settled on the small of her back. “I preferred to focus on being back in your arms. Is that so wrong?”
“No.” Berdine agreed, and then she did sigh again, this time because Raina slipped her arms around her waist and leaned her head against her back. It was comforting. “What did he say to you?”
“What he always says. ‘oh you were my favorite, oh how I love to torture, oh how I am so very superb.’ ” Raina grumbled. “He is just creepy.”
“I was thinking arrogant. But creepy? Yes that works.”
“How long do you think we have?”
“Knowing Triana? Not long. I am surprised they put us in here together actually.”
Berdine turned slowly, to keep Raina’s arms around her. “Oh?”
“How much more will it hurt when they do separate us?”
Berdine pursed her lips and nodded. “I am sorry.”
“Don’t. There is nothing to be sorry for. Are we not Mord-Sith? Are we not strong, resilient and powerful?”
“Then do not be sorry.”
“And when they”-
“No. Berdine, whatever comes to pass? The life I have lived with you has made it worth it. They can never take those moments from me. And if they do kill me, or you? We will meet again. In the afterlife.”
Berdine clenched her jaw to keep from speaking, from saying all the things they never spoke to one another. Things that were felt, and understood, without the need for words. Her eyes blinked, she knew that they did.
As if sensing her internal conflict, Raina pressed her cheek to her chest. “Either way? It will be fine.”
“This is ridiculous.” Prince Harold complained, tossing the rolled up map of D’Hara back across the table.
General Reibisch had just finished providing a detailed report from one of his scouts just returned from the far south of the Midlands. A report that had detailed a few small battles having been waged around the outskirts of Anderith, as well as a less detailed report of a substantial legion making its way up through the Wilds. A legion described as ‘a blight of fetid humanity that stretched from horizon to horizon, leaving nothing but death in its wake’.
Kahlan had attempted to temper that information with what she had learned so far of the Dream Walker, which she knew was not much, but should have been enough to get these men, her Generals, to understand that there was a serious threat moving into her lands.
Prince Harold seemed stubbornly oblivious to the information being presented. She did not remember him being so stubborn.
“It is not.” Kahlan offered. “We have yet to receive word from Renwold. That city lays directly in the path of this army. I believe that it would be in our best interests to send a small group of scouts south, to gain more detailed reports.”
“Perhaps we should also send men to the south of D’Hara? I know that the south of D’Hara is adjacent to the Old World. If I were moving an army north, that is the way I would direct them.” General Reibisch suggested.
“That is a good idea.”
“I have heard much about the speed and strength of the Galean Calvary.” General Reibisch complemented, turning to the younger man, who had been appointed High General of the Midland and D’Haran armies. “Perhaps, Prince Harold, you could send some of your men to the south east?”
“You cannot expect me, nor my men to run about in the deserts of your spiritless kingdom. No. You want to protect D’Hara? Then run back home and protect it. I still say there is no proof of this army coming from the south. I have never heard of an Imperial Order.”
“Just because you do not know of something does not mean that it does not exist. You are not all knowing, Prince Harold. You are a man that is all.”
“Have you seen this supposed army? Or what of this Dream Walker you speak of? All of it? Every last word? Makes you sound preposterous, Kahlan.”
Cara growled as her hands slammed into his shoulders, knocking him back four steps. “The MOTHER CONFESSOR will not be spoken to in such a way.”
“Cara, it’s alright.” Kahlan said, pinching her nose between her fingers, hoping desperately that this headache would be kind and abate for a while.
“No it isn’t.”
“I agree with the Mord-Sith. You need to be watching your tone, boy.” Sergeant Wyborn snapped, much to Kahlan’s surprise.
“Kahlan.” Prince Harold began but with Cara’s fingers digging into his tunic, and her face angrily staring at him, he amended. “Mother Confessor, I meant no disrespect. I thought we could speak freely here.”
“You can.” Kahlan rolled her eyes.
“Oh yes, let’s have the little boy run the army.” General Reibisch snapped under his breath.
“I do not appreciate your tone.”
“Both of you stop it. Yes, there is animosity between D’Hara and the Midlands, but we have something far greater to worry about. If these reports are correct, or even a slight exaggeration it is still enough that we need to be concern. This? This threat? It is real, and it is what will unify all the free peoples of the New World.” Kahlan said, standing, and began pacing.
“Fine. I concede to your point, Mother Confessor.” Prince Harold stressed her title, and for a moment Kahlan was convinced that Cara was going to punch him in the mouth. That she didn’t was a shock. Instead she released him and stepped back.
She watched as Prince Harold extended his arm to Kahlan, who took it, as they moved out of the large command tent. She felt her jaws clench. She knew that she shouldn’t feel this tingling of outrage but she did just the same. As Sergeant Wyborn stepped past her, she cleared her throat.
“A word, Sergeant?”
He stopped and turned setting his hands on his hips, waiting.
“Have you thought more about what we discussed last night?”
“I did not know that I should have been.” He said in a curt voice, yet his eyes twinkled with sarcasm.
“Perhaps you could speak with General Reibisch? I am sure that he would be more than happy to explain to you the value of the devotion to Lord Rahl.” Cara said, and noticed that General Reibisch looked up from his papers, his eyes very interested.
“While I appreciate your suggestions, do not think that my position has changed.”
Cara watched his face, and annoyingly she could not tell if he was being serious, or playing with her like a cat with a mouse.
“Has the Mother Confessor agreed to participate with your other request?”
“Not yet no. But that does not mean that she won’t. Have you found suitable men?”
“Perhaps.” The twitch of a smile that wanted to appear but was being kept hidden caused Cara to inwardly sigh.
“Talk to General Reibisch.” She suggested again.
The tall man nodded, and she walked out of the tent, to find Kahlan, and to be sure that she was no longer touching that annoying little Prince.
Her fingers tightened around Richard’s throat, and while Nicci was no Confessor, she did not need to be to destroy him. She had more magic in her body than he could comprehend, and the frustration at his continual arguing and lack of common sense was galling.
“RICHARD.” She growled, and he glared at her. It did not go unnoticed by her that the Wizard was still sitting on the ground, content to allow his mind to wander. “You need to just stop. Arguing with me for the sake of arguing is petty and childish. I thought you were a man. I thought you to be the great Seeker of Truth. You need to begin to live up to your destiny, or just stop living. I will help you either way you decide.”
“You would kill me?”
“If you keep acting this way? Yes. I will. And I am sure that your grandfather would applaud my efforts as then he can name a new Seeker, perhaps one who does not have his head hidden away in his own breeches.”
“Make your choice now, Richard Rahl. Will you stop fighting me every step of the way, will you listen, be open minded and try your very best to understand that the war that is coming is so much more important than your broken heart and hurt feelings. You could love again, and love someone else, other than Kahlan Amnell. But you never will if you do not let her go.” Nicci narrowed her eyes as she tightened her fingers, and for affect allowed just a caress of painful magic to move through her fingers and into his skin.
He groaned, and that turned into a sneer as he looked at her with rage in his eyes. “FINE! Just let me go.”
Her fingers released him immediately and she stepped back. “I am serious Richard. Try my patience again? You will be through. The world needs a Seeker, someone to guide us through the darkness that is about to descend on all of mankind. Either that man is you, or you are in the way. There is no middle ground in this.”
“Yes, fine. I understand.” He rubbed his throat. “We will all give the devotions to Lord Rahl.” He looked to the Wizard. “Zedd?”
“Oh, I have been doing that just now my boy”
“Well help me get Chase down? So we can convince him to do them as well.”
“Well, I can certainly help with that.”
“Nicci?” Richard asked.
“I will return here in one hour.”
“Where are you going?” Richard began to ask, and the look she gave him silenced his voice. His eyes looked away nervously.
She would do the devotions, but she would do them alone.
At Cara’s urging they had galloped back to the Palace. At first Kahlan had wanted to enjoy the warm midday sun, but as they had left the army camp and entered through the stone walls of the city proper Kahlan had felt the tension in the air, had seemed to sense the changed. Where she had before been on the receiving ends of the look of fear and respect from the citizens of Aydindril there was a staggering sense of disgust in the eyes that looked upon her. Not two moments into their casual canter through the city streets four black horses, being ridden by ever watchful Mord-Sith, appeared around her. Kahlan has looked to Cara, curious as to why they were suddenly there and why the Home Guard was absent, but the blonde’s eyes were focused on a large group of men who were making their way towards them. That was when Cara ordered the Mord-Sith, as well as Kahlan to ride hard and fast back to the Palace.
It seemed that with each day that passed things were getting worse.
In the courtyard of the Confessor’s Palace, Kahlan brought Nick to a halt, and looked behind her, seeing something she had never seen before. The Home Guards were closing the gates behind her. In affect locking out the citizens. In all her years Kahlan had never known the gates to be closed. In fact she did not even think those iron bars could move from the open position.
A warm hand rested on her naked thigh, and she looked down, to see Cara’s flushed and wind kissed face looking up at her. Softly, calmly, she smiled, and it was all Kahlan could do to not melt seeing that very special smile.
“The gates?” She asked, and took the hand that Cara was offering. With ease she dismounted Nick, her breath caught in her throat, as Cara leaned into her. Just the feeling of closeness, of leather on leather sent sparks of desire through the muscles of her body. Her limbs ached to be wrapped with Cara’s, her center trembled, needing her mates attention. The long, slow kisses they had shared the night before had been amazingly loving and rejuvenating. But they had stopped, not going further than those very passionate kisses. Kahlan’s body, so close and suddenly synchronized with Cara’s was literally vibrating with desire.
“For safety I have ordered all the entrances to the Confessor’s Palace be bared, and we will be having D’Haran guards standing by.”
“D’Harans?” Kahlan asked, raising her eyebrow in question, before her eyes went wide in surprise, as she felt Cara’s hand gripping her side, just below her breast. Teasingly Cara’s thumb moved over the side of it, and even through the thickness of leather she could feel the touch on her already sensitive skin. She whimpered Cara’s name softly.
“Mm.” The blonde absently licked her bottom lip.
“I miss you.”
“And I miss you.”
“Can…. Can we?” Kahlan whispered.
“Soon. But first.”
Kahlan groaned, and rolled her eyes, as Cara took a step away from her. “First? By the Spirits, Cara you are a tease!”
“Me?” Her hand went to her chest and she batted her long eyelashes.
“Yes. You.” Kahlan crossed her arms. “So, first. Is this when you tell me why we rushed through the city, why I am suddenly being guarded by Mord-Sith and D’Harans again, even though we agreed that D’Harans would not be the ones to oversee my safety, so I do not have to have Drefan at my side every moment?”
“I think that there are far more important things to be worried about than a few D’Harans sensing a strong bond to their Queen. Besides it is temporary.”
“Because you are going to have an elite guard around you at all times.”
“Oh? And who will this elite guard be comprised of? You removed the Home Guard of Aydindril; you say the D’Harans will be temporary. What is left but Mord-Sith?”
“A very elite group of men.” Cara took her arm, gently and they began climbing the massive front steps of the Palace. The eyes of the guards they passed were downcast, as they stepped through the massive doors and into the Palace. “Guards who will be trustworthy.”
“I find my current guards exceptionally trust worthy.”
“Hm. Well.” Cara mumbled. “That trust is misplaced. With the tensions moving through the city, with the very stark and clear reality of the situation at hand, there is but one choice left to you.”
The shock of what Cara was suggesting was evident on her face she knew it was. “You… you cannot be serious.”
“Oh, I am Kahlan.”
“But…. I couldn’t.”
“Do you want to die?” Cara asked sharply, as she opened the door to Kahlan’s private chambers off of the Council room.
“Of course not.”
“Then this is something you need to do. They will be the only ones you can trust, because they will be confessed to you.”
Standing in the room was Rikka, her face pensive. “But… Mord-Sith.” Kahlan stated.
“I will not risk it. I want you surrounded by warriors who will defend you and only you.”
“I have Orsk.”
“One man. No matter how big and menacing is still one man.”
“But to take their lives? What if they are fathers, sons, brothers?”
Cara sighed, crossing her arms, and looking intently at Kahlan. “I have asked for those who would be put to death any way. Not the weak ones who have wasted away in your dungeons. But strong, virile, evil men. To make this easier on you.”
“This is never easy.”
“I didn’t mean to imply that it would be.”
"I am stripping them of their free will. Cara... that kills me inside. To see soulless faces looking at me. I take their will when I confess them, and with the bond of Rahl I take it as well."
"No. It isn’t the same."
"No. We have free will." Cara argued.
Kahlan felt her eyebrow rise in argument. She did not want to do this, but felt forced to prove her point. She looked at the brunette Mord-Sith who had remained silent all this time. "Rikka, kneel."
Kahlan watched as her face went slack, and her eyes narrowed. Kahlan focused her will, her desire for Rikka to kneel, and while clenching her fists at her sides, the proud Mord-Sith had no choice. She kneeled.
"It is not the same." Cara still argued.
"Cara." Kahlan said coldly, and mentally commanded her to drop to her knees as well. With a grimace on her face and anger flashing in her eyes, Cara dropped to her knees before Kahlan as well. "You see? To do this to everyone I know and love?"
Kahlan shook her head, feeling the power of the bond, the power of Lord Rahl. And now Cara was suggesting that she strip the free will of men, just so they could protect her? It made her mind reel. Had she come so far from her old self, that Cara, the women who loved her and understood her, could ask her to do these things?
“Kahlan. Confessing them will not be done because you want to rule them, it will be done to protect yourself. You and what you stand for is too valuable to this world to merely ignore. Just because you are consumed with empathy, that does not mean you should sacrifice yourself.”
“My whole life has been a string of sacrifices, Cara. You should know that. And… no! I cannot be this! You are asking me to take another step on the path where I lose myself completely.” Kahlan wiped the tears from her eyes, and walked past the two kneeling women, she had more to say, but the worlds seemed to be caught behind the emotional lump in her throat.
Kahlan released the order in her mind, and she heard both Rikka and Cara gasp in relief as she matched out of the room.
"Kahlan." Cara called after her, but she did not hesitate in her steps, instead she kept walking briskly away.
Cara’s hand slapped onto the stone floor as she leaned forward when the command from Kahlan was revoked. She called out to her, but the Mother Confessor did not stay.
“Well, that went about as well as one could have expected.”
“Oh do hush.” Cara grumbled to Rikka.
“She will understand soon enough, and do what you suggest.”
“I know. But she is right; it goes against everything that is her.” She shook her head as she rose to her feet. “Ever since she became Mord-Sith she has been changing, going against all that made her what she was. Against her character.”
“Did you expect her to remain, the kind and compassionate Mother Confessor, once the talons of Mord-Sith sunk into her soul? You may be impetuous, Cara, but you are not stupid.” Rikka said, still kneeling on the floor, but she had sat back on her heels.
“Perhaps I had been hopeful.” She said, her eyes focused on the open doorway. She had been hopeful, as she had been narrow minded. All that had been in her thoughts at the time had been to save her from being wed to Drefan, to ensure that she was not collared. Instead the Mother Confessor had become chained to an even harsher mistress. Mistress Kahlan.
“The Witch returned to the Keep today.”
“Mm.” Rikka said. “And I asked her to join us here at the Palace; I offered her your terms, word for word.”
“She was not pleased.”
“I don’t care.”
“I also did as you asked.”
Cara looked over at Rikka. “Oh? What did you find?”
“Well, when I looked through the books she has been paying the most attention to, I admit I could not read them. I am not as intelligent as Berdine when it comes to things like that. But there seemed to be a theme, in those books I did understand.”
Cara crossed her arms, waiting.
“Oaths. Bonds. Yes there was a tome or two regarding the Barrier between the Old World and the New, but it seems the focus of her research was more focused on oaths and bonds.”
“Tomorrow will you show me?”
“Yes. But tomorrow?” Rikka looked at her confused.
“Kahlan will come around. She will know that what I am suggesting is… it is the only way.” Cara clenched her jaws. “I have the feeling that once she does this? The Confessor in her will be exhausted. And…in exhaustion will relent to her other half.” Cara knew her eyes went hard.
Rikka nodded. “I will prepare things for you.”
Cara watched closely from the shadows in the dining hall, as Kahlan sat down beside Drefan. She still wore her dark traveling leather dress, and it looked as though the shadows that had been in her eyes all day were stretching out further, covering her body.
It pained Cara to see her this way, but she knew, in the pit of her soul, she knew that it would not be for much longer. She would heal her mate, one way or another.
Her eyes moved over the empty tables and chairs, there were hardly any representatives from the other kingdoms here tonight, which Cara knew was uncommon. Now that the kingdoms had arrived in the city, and with the Spring Session of the Central Council slated to begin in a few short days, for them not to be here was an obvious slight against the Mother Confessor.
As insulting as it was, Cara was pleased. She did not want to even imagine the dangers that could lurk in a room full of Midlanders, all of whom could be agents of the Dream Walker.
The massive doors to the hall opened, and with the familiar sound of chainmail and hard leather boot soles, her eyes moved and watched as General Reibisch, Sergeant Wyborn, Captain Ryan, and Prince Harold all strode down the center of the room.
A faint smile prickled at the corner of Cara’s lips, and she stuck to the edges of the room and the shadows as she walked closer to Kahlan as she sat on the raised platform. The Mother Confessor looked up, first confusion on her face, and then a look of humility filled her eyes.
She was not in the mood to eat, nor was she in the mood to sit here pretending to be something she was not. Her nerves were frayed and Kahlan just had the feeling that if Drefan so much as hiccupped at her, she would slam his face into the hard oak wood of the table, not caring who may witness it. The servants placed the plate of food before her, but none of it looked appetizing. She would rather curl up in bed than eat.
She looked around the room and saw not one member of the Council in attendance. After the catcalls and the contempt she witness from the citizens of Aydindril as she had ridden through the city she really did not expect there to be a mass of sycophants sitting and hoping for an audience with the Mother Confessor.
And still it burned. It physically and emotionally hurt her. Cutting to the core. She was, for now, the last Mother Confessor, the last of her kind, and it seemed that through no fault of her own, the respect and power that came with that title was diminishing more and more each day. Even before the threat, real or imagined, of the Dream Walker, her people, those she sacrificed her life for, did not care enough for her to make a simple showing of respect. Kahlan Amnell was slowly and affectively destroying the role of the Mother Confessor.
She closed her eyes tightly, feeling the bile rising in her throat.
In the distance of the hall the doors creaked open. She heard sure foot falls, before she opened her eyes. Before she saw the four leaders of her armies as they walked toward her and Drefan.
All four men had a set look of determination on their faces, even Prince Harold, who earlier at the D’Haran camp had seemed annoyed at the prospect of following the ridged commands she laid out looked at her with respect.
These four men and their attendance here made her sigh, relieved in a sense, and comforted in another.
The back of her neck tingled, and she felt before she saw, as Cara slipped from the shadows beside her, and came forward. As she stood next to Kahlan’s chair, her gloveless hand brushed against her arm, and understanding, and thankful, Kahlan took her hand and squeezed.
“Mother Confessor.” Prince Harold addressed her, his head bowing slightly.
“Prince Harold.” She returned his nod.
“We request your permission to speak to you…and your husband, the Lord Rahl.” He said.
At the word husband, Kahlan tightened her fingers around Cara’s, and her eyes looked up at the sea green ones that met hers immediately. The smile Cara gave her, one of complete love and appreciation calmed the thunder in Kahlan’s heart.
“Request granted.” Kahlan said softly, before she moved her eyes away from her mate, and back to the men before her.
“We come to you, not as officers of your army, not as anything more than men coming before their sovereign.”
Kahlan swallowed deeply as she watched the four men moved to kneel, and lowered their heads to the granite floor.
"Master Rahl guide us. Master Rahl teach us. Master Rahl protect us. In your light we thrive. In your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom we are humbled. We live only to serve. Our lives are yours."
Cara’s hand slipped from her’s, and she watched with wide eyes as Cara moved to kneel beside her as well.
"Master Rahl guide us. Master Rahl teach us. Master Rahl protect us. In your light we thrive. In your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom we are humbled. We live only to serve. Our lives are yours."
Even Drefan’s voice joined the devotion chant, and it made Kahlan feel a small amount of her pride and self worth returning. She may be destroying the role of the Mother Confessor inadvertently, but at least she was leading the role of Lord Rahl into a more benevolent reign.
"Master Rahl guide us. Master Rahl teach us. Master Rahl protect us. In your light we thrive. In your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom we are humbled. We live only to serve. Our lives are yours."
She turned her head sharply to the side, as if hearing something in the distance. It as faint, almost as if she had heard her name whispered, and it had been caught on the wind, and was rolling across these hills of tall grasses to her.
Nicci moved her hands over the length of her black dress, feeling the course material, and it grounded her for a moment.
The idea of being beholden to any one thing displeased her. After a life that began with her vowing to uphold the law of the Order, to living for the word of the Creator, and then bowing to the whims of the Keeper, Nicci’s whole life had been spent in the service of another. It was always what someone else needed or wanted that Nicci lived to provide. Since meeting Richard, since she broke her vow to the Keeper she had slowly been learning how to live her life for herself. Learning what it may or may not be that she wanted, desired. It was a comfort to her, finding herself. And now, she was faced with going backwards, with having to give a vow to another, and in all likelihood once done, she was not sure if she would ever have the drive to return to just herself.
The touch of the wind felt like a push, like someone was trying to get inside of her mind again.
Six had said that there would be a way, that Nicci had a weakness. While she wondered what the worst could be, the idea of anyone, but especially an insane sorceress being the one to control her made this decision far easier than she would have imagined.
Facing to the north, Nicci dropped to her knees, and lowered her head to the earth. The smell of it, thick and rich with the promise of life filled her senses. She pressed her fingers deep into the soil, and her mind cleared, and her voice began to speak the words.
Inside her mind, Nicci heard a low crackling, like laughter.
The laughter was replaced by a short scream of her name, and then calm. A peace washed over her. Reminiscent of the first time she stood in the Palace of the Prophets, before the stained glass windows, as the noon sun burst through, creating a living breathing room of magnificent color.
Calm and warmth seemed to fill her for a moment, and Nicci sat up, her face upturned to the sky as she realized there were tears on her face, and a light laughter broke from her lips.
She left the dining hall, and moved into the Council Chambers, feeling Cara behind her, keeping a slight distance, as if she knew that Kahlan had much on her mind. Which she did. Cara’s words echoed inside of her mind, slipping in and out around the sharp jabs of pain that the headache was causing. She moved through the shafts of moonlight that came from the high windows above, and with each step closer to the First Chair, beneath the watchful eye of Magda Searus Kahlan became more and more aware that Cara’s words were true. No matter how against her nature they were, no matter what her heart told her was wrong with those words, her mind knew. Her reason? It understood exactly what was at stake.
Doing this, accepting the guilt for her own actions and doing this may be the only thing that would keep her safe. And if she was not safe, if someone like the Wizard or the Queen was successful the next time? The line of the Confessors would assuredly end with her.
She turned and sat in the First Chair, looking out over the large oblong room, the thick shadows dancing with the bluish white caress of moonlight from above.
Perhaps knowing that she didn’t need to say anything, Cara merely kneeled before her, looking up at her with understanding. Cara’s hand rested on her knee, and for long moments, beats of their hearts they merely sat, in silence, looking into one another.
“I don’t want to do this.” Kahlan whispered.
“What if I cannot do it?”
“I have never done so many at once when not in the throes of the Con Dar.”
“If you would prefer I could see to it that you…”
“Don’t you dare, Cara. My nerves are frayed enough, to think of you being hurt? No. Please.” She took Cara’s hand in both of hers. “Please I can’t even think of that right now.”
“Alright.” Cara offered gently.
“I hate this. I hate the idea of this."
“What if I falter? Or if I pass out?”
“Shota has agreed, albeit begrudgingly to stand by and help, incapacitate anyone that requires it. I am here, and will happily beat any or all of them unconscious for you. If you do pass out? I will always watch over you Kahlan.”
She smiled softly, for a moment enjoying the love she saw in those darkening blue green eyes. “I know you will.”
The air shimmered behind Cara slightly, but enough that Kahlan noticed. She also knew that when Shota was attempting to make herself invisible the slight ripple, like heat in the air, gave her away. It was how the witch woman managed to slip by her guards.
“I appreciate you help in this, Shota.” Kahlan said, and smirked as the witch woman appeared, and rolled her eyes.
“Yes well, Cara made it clear that I had little choice in the matter.”
“She is exaggerating, as is her way.” Cara snapped playfully.
A loud commotion sounded in the distance, shouting, and the rattling of chains. The reality of the situation was blossoming around her, that she was actually considering this, made Kahlan’s skin crawl. She could not see the men yet, but could hear them, hear the vile words coming from their lips. It did not matter who they were or what they had done. In moments they would cease to be anything other than the tools by which Kahlan would be protected.
The pain in her head seemed to focus itself at the forefront and she moaned, setting her head in her hand.
“Kahlan?” Cara’s voice asked, concerned.
“I’ll… I will be alright.”
“I told you Cara. This is too much.” Shota snapped.
“And I told you that I was through listening to your advice in this matter.”
Kahlan pressed her eyes closed, willing the pain away, for a little while, just so she could do what must be done.
“I am fine.” Slowly she lifted her chin up, steeling her heart as well as her expression. “Bring me the first one.” She said in a frozen voice.
She watched as Orsk shoved the man to his knees before her. He tried to pull away from the massive D’Haran, but it was a useless gesture.
“You cannot do this!” He yelled at her, his hazel eyes flashing with anger and contempt.
“But I can.” Kahlan replied softly, as she stood. Her hand brushed genly against Cara’s cheek, and te Mord-Sith remained kneeling, as she passed.
“In the name of the Keeper I curse you.”
Kahlan smiled sadly. She already felt cursed.
As she walked to him, as she extended her hand towards his throat she was almost positive that she could hear the first Mother Confessor, Magda Searus renouncing her, accusing her of using her gift for selfish gains.
Was choosing life over death selfish, Kahlan wondered, as her fingers slipped around the man’s strong neck. She did not know the answer.
All she knew was the moment of silence, as the world around her froze, as there was nothing and no one but her and the man in her hand. Lowering her sacred walls, her power slammed into him, and the air around her moved, caching and lifting her hair in a vortex, as the power moved between them, his eyes turning black as his soul, his free will was sacrificed.
His hazel eyes cleared and shone brightly with love. “Command me Mistress.”
Rikka was shocked by what she was witnessing. She had never directly seen a confessor release their power into another. She had the misfortune of standing a little too close to Kahlan once when she released it, and had felt the air pulled from her lungs, and been knocked to the ground with the force of a gale wind. But to see Kahlan, who she respected, not merely as Lord Rahl, and as a Sister of the Agiel, but as a woman was shocking. The way her face became a mask of indifference, even as tears fell from her eyes, her strong hand wrapping around the throats of these men. The complete silence. They were dying in her hands, part of them was, and yet there was no scream. There was only their pleading when it was done, as they asked how they could please her.
Seeing the toll it was taking on Kahlan physically bothered Rikka. She knew then that she, like the others had been getting soft here in Aydindril. This should not affect her one way or another. That it did? Well she would need to work on toughening her skin.
“All is prepared.” She said as she came up beside Cara.
“Did you have any trouble?”
“No. They were just where you said they would be.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“Questioning me?” Cara asked, only for a moment taking her eyes off of Kahlan, to glare at Rikka.
“Someone has to.”
Cara pursed her lips. “Please escort Shota from this chamber. I do not think her skills will be required.”
Rikka nodded, but then stopped, as Cara’s hand grabbed her arm. “Be nearby, but not too near.”
“I understand.” Rikka confirmed.
Shota was standing beside the large wooden chair, with its appointments of blue velvet, and the large seal of the Mother Confessor on the back of it. Her red hair was moving in a false breeze, one of the little quirks Rikka was now familiar with when it came to the Witch. Her arms where crossed, as if she were cold, even under her thick white fur mantle.
“Cara would like you to know that your presence is no longer required here.”
“Is that so?”
“How do you feel watching this? Knowing your Lord Rahl is in pain?”
“I accept the pain she is in, and I strive to do what I can, when she commands it. The bond does not motivate us to make the Lord Rahl’s life easier, merely to follow orders.” Rikka whispered.
“Then why do I feel like this is not right? That I should be protecting her?”
“Ah.” Rikka nodded. “That has nothing to do with the bond and everything to do with who Kahlan Amnell is.”
The sound of stone running along the length of steel was somewhat comforting to her, as she sat her eyes unfocused as she looked into the fire. Her mind, for the first time in a long time was quiet, at peace. In devoting herself to the Lord Rahl she had actually been given herself back. She was not sure if this feeling of self would last though.
“I wish you would call me Zedd.”
“Perhaps in time.”
He sighed. “What is it, Nicci?”
“This bond, to Lord Rahl. I understand it, but am not familiar with it in practice. Can the Lord Rahl control me with it?”
“Yes and no. You are protected, just barely now, by the devotion and the bond to Lord Rahl, but because you are not of D’Haran blood? He cannot truly command you. “
“It is through the bond that he can control the Mord-Sith.”
“Yes, the bond as well as being broken. The most elite of the Mord-Sith were doubly broken by Lord Rahl’s own hand, ensuring that they obeyed each and every one of his commands.”
“I see… well, if Kahlan is the Lord Rahl, I doubt she has broken any Mord-Sith.” Nicci said, her eyes going back to the flames.
Kahlan dropped to her knees, beside the sixth man, who bowed his head to her. Cara slowly came closer, and just as she was about to set her hand on Kahlan’s shoulder she looked up at her. Her cheeks were streaked with the faded and fresh tracks of her tears, her blue eyes were brilliantly bright amid a sea of blood shot white, and her skin was so pale that the freckles that adorned the bridge of her nose stood out even more.
“Are you happy now?” Kahlan groaned.
“I am never happy when you are in pain.” Cara said honestly, softly.
She squatted beside Kahlan, and as much as she wanted to embrace her, to hold her close against her chest and sooth her, she knew that something more was required. Cara had watched the tortuous events, as Kahlan confessed the six men, each one taking the light from her eyes, each one making her lips pull into a tight white line.
Cara’s hand deftly moved, and gripped the Agiel on Kahlan’s thigh, which she pulled free, regardless of the sting of pain that licked at her skin.
Kahlan’s eyes widened, watching as Cara set the weapon on her arm, and she grimaced.
“Take it Kahlan. Take the Agiel and come with me.”
The brunette nodded, and where a moment ago her limbs hung with exhaustion, her eyes seemed drained, an insurgence of strength seemed to fill her. She took the Agiel roughly, and with it in her hand, she pressed it to Cara’s neck.
The pain spread and grew, thrilling her muscles and causing her to tremble. Kahlan stood, and with the Agiel urged Cara to do so as well.
“You will all stay here, silently.” Kahlan ordered the men.
“Yes Mistress.” They answered in unison.
Cara was about to protest, that these men were now the ones who should be surrounding Kahlan at all times, but the pain intensified, and she panted heavily.
“Don’t speak, Cara.” Kahlan growled in warning.
She blinked her eyes, in acceptance. Cara knew, with the Confessor’s power now at its weakest it had been in a very long time, that the Mord-Sith inside Kahlan would slip to the fore, would demand blood and pain.
Cara would feed Mistress Kahlan. She would burn and bleed and break for her, to exhaust that part of her as well.
Kahlan pulled the length of the whip through her gloved fist, relishing the pull of each braded line across her palm. Her eyes were closed, her mind swimming, lost in the lust.
The smell of sweat, blood and excitement filled the small tower room. The room in which she had died; the room where Kahlan had been reborn as Mistress Kahlan. The room where she had been whittling away hours with Drefan hanging from those chains. But now? Now Drefan sat cowering in the corner, having been ordered by her to kneel and place his forehead to the wall. No, this time, the blood scent in the air was sweeter, consuming her senses.
Kahlan cracked the whip against the floor, watching as the skin across Cara’s back twitched and danced, as if the leather had caressed it. That was the power of sound. Without the searing touch of the whip still her skin reacted.
She delayed her intent, and in doing so increased the tension in the room. Waiting for the blows to fall brought more reaction, more pain, than the actual strike.
In punishing Drefan Kahlan would feel the pain herself, burning under her skin, and with each blow she felt filthy. She would be consumed with the bile of self hate. Pulling back her arm, and allowing the tip of the leather whip to caress Cara’s inner thighs, watching her exquisite mouth twitch, seeing how her nostrils flared with the touch Kahlan could feel the splendor. In lashing out at her mate, she was rewarded with beauty, the strength and determination of life. These moments were love, and to be appreciated. Kahlan felt that inside of her soul. Regardless of how much hate the Mord-Sith inside of her felt, each movement, each action was surrounded in love.
With each caress of the whip she also felt that it was not enough, that Cara, her silence thick, her eyes when open staring out the window filled with tedium was an insult. As if Kahlan’s actions were not truly reaching Cara. That the blonde was merely going through the motions. Perhaps she was reacting that way on purpose, perhaps she knew if would increase Kahlan’s frenzy, her desire.
Ultimately her love.
Kahlan swung the whip again, and Cara groaned as it met the back of her thighs. The whip was not enough. It did not convey her hate enough. It create welts, and broke skin, but it was not satisfying. Kahlan wrapped the wet leather around her own neck, and pulled the Agiel from its home on her thigh. Even through the leather of her glove she could feel the burn of it. The pain throbbed through her muscles, and it’s soft scream echoed in the small stone room. She had missed this sensation. Self inflicted pain at holding the weapon, knowing that with the ease of a thought she could do so much. So much more than a simple whip. It was the device that focused her intent and her own pain. Pain that she would deliver to Cara.
Not to hurt her and make her suffer, but to see her eyes widen in shock. To hear her voice cry out. To feed the Mord-Sith’s insatiable need for hate and pain.
Kahlan closed her eyes for a moment, breathing in the complexity of the air, her ears only conscious of the way Cara was breathing.
Behind her closed eyes she could see Cara smiling at her, with the special shared smile. She could see as her mate mouthed the words, saying that she loved her.
The mixture of emotions, the love and the hate, made Kahlan’s mind swim. Was this why she had not wanted to do this with Cara? Was the simple truth that she could not contain all of the love and all of the hate at the same time?
As her eyes opened, and Kahlan pulled her arm back she screamed. A scream full of hate. The Mother Confessor in her battled against the Mord-Sith and her hands slammed into her head the pain blinding her. She felt like she was breaking in half.
The pain in her head was more intense than it had ever been.
“KAHLAN!” Cara screamed her name this time, and she opened her eyes, looking at Cara’s concern, the way her brow furrowed. “Stop fighting it. The Confessor in you is exhausted. Let her sleep. Let the love you feel for me melt away. Think about the hate, embrace the hate.”
“I love you.” Kahlan sobbed. “How can it melt away?”
“Who did this to you?” Cara snapped. “Who gave you this pain? Who made you conflicted? Who do you hate for this?”
“Inside of you there is a war being waged. Between love and hate. You were never meant to be both, you are now? You are dying because the two halves of yourself cannot coexist equally.”
“I am killing you.”
“Who is to blame? Whose fault is all of this pain and torment?”
“YOU! It is YOUR FAULT!” Kahlan yelled, her eyes opening, and her fingers tightening around the handle of the Agiel.
“Then punish me!”
Kahlan screamed again, this time in rage, as she rushed forward, and slammed the Agiel into Cara’s stomach. The blonde’s scream harmonized with her own, and inside Kahlan felt the Mother Confessor shudder and sob, and then slip away.
The bolt of lightning, ten times stronger than Wizard’s fire, leapt from Richard’s palm and into the thick of the Sisters of the Dark who had attempted to ambush them in the middle of the night.
Nicci had been sleeping further away from the camp and closer to the edge of the Kern River when the attack came, and had miraculously managed to roll out of the way of a dacra, just as it buried itself into the ground. Her eyes flashed with the power she held and she had been about to release a thick bolt of magic, when amazingly Richard had done just that, and obliterated three of the Sisters in the process.
Nicci’s eyes searched the dark, and with the aid of her magic the night became day in her vision, and she saw that the Wizard was down on the ground, but was essentially unharmed. Richard stood over him and seemed to be acting on pure instinct as he let unleashed another volley of magic, this time it was the hard compress of air that sent Sisters into trees, their spines snapping with the impact. The look of determined rage on Richard’s face thrilled Nicci’s heart; and in that moment she knew what her weakness was.
She sprung to her feet and rushed towards the one remaining Sister, and using a thrust of magic, knocked the dacra from her hand before she could throw it at Richard. As Nicci reached her she pulled back her fist, and with the addition of magic she landed a punch to her jaw, shattering it and causing the Sister of the Dark to fall to the ground. With one word Nicci threw a web around the Sister, nullifying her magic. With a growl of desperate rage the Sister of the Dark turned and looked up at Nicci.
“Why Sister Christabel, I have not seen you for quite some time.”
“Oh, it is just Nicci now.” She said glaring down at her.
Richard slowly walked over. “Why did you attack us?”
Sister Christabel laughed. “Why wouldn’t we attack you, Seeker? You may have thwarted our Master once, but that does not mean you won. No. We will kill you and once in the Underworld you will suffer at the hands of our Master.”
“I think you are not telling the whole truth.” Nicci said, and watched with a smile as Sister Christabel’s eyes widened.
“What do you know of truth? You are like water, moving back and forth from one master to another, based on the tide of your moods. You now travel with the Seeker? You turn your back on your Master?”
“The Keeper did not live up to his end of the bargain.” Nicci said off handedly. “I think you were sent here by Six.”
Sister Christabel’s face went even paler than it had been at the mention of the sorceress’s name. “I… what...”
“You have much to explain. And I am sure that the Seeker would be very interested in what you have to say?”
“Oh. I am.” Richard replied, crossing his arms. “Who sent you?”
Absently Nicci kicked her. Sister Christabel glared up at her, and for her silence received another kick, this one to the side of her face.
She ignored Richard, and sent a small stream of magic into her, wrapping it around her forearm and pulling until she heard the snap. To her credit, Sister Christabel only moaned. “Who sent you?” Nicci repeated.
“She did.” The Sister confessed.
“Why?” Nicci asked.
“To kill you and to kill the Seeker.”
“How is she controlling you?” Richard asked looking at the Sister of the Dark with darkness of his own in his eyes.
“As she always has, the ancient ways, of drawing.”
“Artistry.” The Wizard mumbled as he came to stand with them, brushing off the leaves from his robes.
“Did you know she was able to wield that power, Nicci?” Richard asked.
“The rumors stated she could. It would explain how she is controlling the Dream Walker.”
“Indeed.” The Wizard agreed.
“What is artistry?” Richard asked.
“First things first.” Nicci said, pulling her own dacra from the inside of her sleeve and slammed it into Sister Christabel’s chest. The bright green light, the pulse of her Han flickered and then Nicci ordered the magic into herself. In a crash of air around her, the bright green light glowed, swirled around her arm and then merged inside of Nicci’s body, mingling and then becoming one with her own Han.
“Was that necessary?” Richard asked.
“Very. Why let her magic go to waste.” Nicci replied, pulling the dacra from the now dead body. With a flick of her eye to Sister Christabel her flesh was rendered to ash.
“Dear Spirits!” Zedd gasped.
“You could do the same, Wizard. If you practiced. No need to bother with building pyres and setting fire to them.”
“You just.” Richard stammered.
“Yes. I just.” Nicci crossed her arms and looked to the two men. “Six is controlling the Sisters of the Dark and the Dream Walker, and if she is doing this using artistry… well it is an ancient magic.”
“Then we have a very good chance at reversing those spells.” The Wizard interrupted.
“Someone is going to explain to me exactly what it is you are talking about?” Richard asked, looking from Nicci and then to the Wizard.
“Of course.” The Wizard turned to make his way back to the campsite, and Nicci shrugged. She would allow the Wizard to tell Richard if he so chose. She would correct him when needed.
A warm and strong hand set on her arm, and she froze, looking up at Richard. “Are you alright?” He asked, his voice actually sounding sincere.
“I… yes. Yes I am fine.”
“Good.” He smiled gently, and then his hand moved off of her, but slowly. That did not go unnoticed by Nicci.
Richard moved around the fallen bodies of the Sisters he had killed, all that was left of them were a few pieces of ghastly red material, and a fragment of bone. His magic had eradicated them. Once more Nicci felt her appreciative eye move over Richard, and she saw him in a different light.
The Wizard sat heavily on the log before their fire. A strange calm fell over the campsite. Nicci felt nothing and no one near them for leagues.
“Very few people have the aspect of the gift needed to be an artist.” The Wizard began, pulling some dried sausage and cheese from his pack. Apparently sleeping through an attack by the Sisters of the Dark had stirred his appetite.
“Just like actual painters.”
“Correct my boy.”
“Is this the same magic that James, the painter who was able to create worlds, and place people and things inside of those worlds, had?” Richard asked.
“Similar but different. He could paint you, and you would leave this world and enter the painting.”
“I remember.” Richard grumbled, and took the sausage offered to him by his grandfather, and in turn he held it out to Nicci. She declined, shaking her head.
“That is one form of magic. But those who use the magic of artistry do not create a world and transport one there. No. They create a likeness of a person, or place, and around that likeness they then add spells. Spells that do not need words, spells so very powerful, conveyed using only images. This magic has been used since before the time of written language. It is that old.” The Wizard paused to chew for a moment. “You see, my boy, the drawings made are an actual casting of a spell, and as such the spells must be drawn precisely, with the victim or target, as well as each aspect and symbol working together to produce the desired effects.”
“That sounds dangerous. Can anyone anywhere learn this? Could a hapless child for instance be sitting at the family table and draw such a spell on parchment?”
“No, thankfully. There have been rumors that some families in the Midlands have this talent. But not much has ever come about in the way of proof. Apparently there is a place, a series of caves, north of here actually, where it has been said that in the old days artists drew their spells.”
“And this is a place of power.”
“Yes. It’s called the Sacred Caves, if I am not mistaken.”
“Then could this be where the sorceress is? At these Sacred Caves?” Richard asked, his eyes looking to Nicci for a response.
“In the deep south of the Old World where Six lived, when I heard of her, and was where I met with her once before, she living in caves. Her caves were a vast system, and the rumors were that they went deep into the earth deeper than any caves in all of the Old World, reaching below the oceans and all the way to the Underworld.”
“Unlikely.” The Wizard chuckled.
“Exactly. That was all fables I am sure. But the caves did have a sense of magic to them. And the walls were covered in crude renderings, drawings.”
“Then perhaps this Six, she is still deep in the Old World?”
Nicci shook her head. “No Richard, she is close. Which means her power is very formidable.”
“So she could be sitting anywhere, and drawing these spells out on parchment.”
“As terrifying as that notion is? I do not think that is the case. If it was that simple? You would be dead, I would be under her control, and she would have taken over the Midlands in a blink of an eye.” Nicci said.
“I agree. What would make more sense is that as she has traveled she has come across caves with the proper magic, and that combined with her own skill as an artist? She has been able to craft spells. Which, dare I say is lucky for us!”
“Lucky how?” Richard asked.
The Wizard grinned. “Because my dear boy, if her spells are on the walls of caves, others with the proper magics can find them, and alter the images and thus the spells.”
“One could do that? Just… alter a spell?”
“Of course. Add an attribute to the victim that they do not possess? And suddenly the spell is broken. Turn the details of the spell into something else entirely? And it changes the entire spell. Just as effective as dropping one tiny grain of black sorcerer’s sand onto a spell cast in an acre of white sand. The smallest details sometimes make the biggest difference.”
The chains sung with a mournful tone as Cara’s body swung from them. The length of the leather whip lay coiled on the floor, and she just watched as Cara tried to pull in air, her lips parted.
“When you scream it makes my heart break.” Kahlan said softly, as she stepped closer to Cara as she swung on the chains. “Your muscles, your skin. It all calls to me, and…”
“Kahlan.” Cara moaned her name.
“Cara.” Kahlan said softly, as her fingers slipped the Agiel into its holster. She stepped closer to Cara, her eyes moving over her sweat slicked skin that glistened in the light from the multitude of candles, which gave her the rich amber glow that perfectly complemented her bronze flesh. Her head was hanging down, and Kahlan reached for her, her hands lifting her chin. She smiled as those deep blue green eyes focused through the pain, on her. “Oh my love.” She said delicately in response to the look she was given by Cara. Gently she held her face with one hand and with the other moved her gloved fingers across her brow, smoothing the furrow there.
Slowly Cara closed her eyes, and her whole body seemed to relax into Kahlan’s touch. Gazing at the beautiful expression of resignation, of submission on Cara’s face, the way she just relented and gave in, made the love Kahlan felt for her swell in her chest. While she craved the issuing of pain, of hearing the song in screams, this moment, seeing and feeling Cara in this way was a gift. Cara gave herself willing to each and every whim that Kahlan may have. The abuse from the Agiel, the crack of the whip, all of it led Cara to this moment, the moment where, in the tenderness of a loving touch, Cara broke for her.
“You break for me, each and every time… and I die a little inside. Because I hate doing it, and I love doing it.” Kahlan whispered to her, and slowly Cara’s lids lifted, her eyes thick with moving color, and the tears that began slipping down her cheeks. “Cara, I love you. Everything that you are, everything that is.”
She whimpered her name over and over again. The word, the vow, the all consuming prayer. As she broke all that she knew was her love for Kahlan. That she would die at this very moment if it would protect her, if it would heal Kahlan. Cara would forfeit everything she had.
“Kahlan.” The name, whispered in love, cut her to shreds like the sharpest shard of ice.
"Why, Prince Harold, you continue to get more handsome with each turning of the seasons." Shota’s voice, while spoken in a private tone, was caught and echoed off of the many arches above their heads in the receiving hall.
"While you remain ever as you are. Unaltered, undiluted, and stunning." he smiled, bowing his head to kiss her knuckles.
Rikka, standing where she was, narrowed her eyes seeing that.
"You continue to try and impress me with your charm, when you know it will do you no good."
"Ah, even a witch woman gets cold on winter nights."
"Yes, and then she lights a fire in her hearth and sits in her favorite chair made of the bones of all those lovers who disappointed her.” Shota’s tone flashed with a flirtatious hunger.
"I recall that chair." Prince Harold smirked. "Among other things."
"Stop." She smiled. “This is neither the time nor the place.”
“I suppose you are right.” He smiled at her. “Care to join me for a late meal at the Galean Palace?” He extended his arm to her, and she took it with a smile.
“I see no reason why not.”
Rikka crossed her arms, watching as the two of them walked through the large receiving hall together. Prince Harold was devoted to Lord Rahl, but that was nowhere near the same as being confessed. Her eyes narrowed in concentration. The shifty nature of the Witch just reinforced her extreme dislike for her. She knew she should inform Cara.
Rikka lifted her eyes up, to the massive archways on the ceiling of the Confessor’s Palace, held up by the thick marble pillars.
It would have to wait. Cara was otherwise occupied.
Laughter filled the chamber, bouncing off of the light colored stones that made up the walls, and it took her a moment of blinking blood from her eyes and seeing the shocked face in front of her to realize that it was in fact her own voice laughing.
Triana stood before her, the Agiel in her hand held up, but seemingly frozen, her eyes round with shock.
Berdine was not sure for how long she had been hanging from the chains, not that it mattered. She had endured worse than this without breaking. And try as Triana might she would not break her, not while Berdine was efficiently quartering her mind. Let them abuse her body, she was elsewhere, she was in her memories. She was surrounded and comforted by moments long since experienced, moments with Raina.
“You are insane.” Triana said shocked. Berdine wondered what she had in fact said to get such a response from the Mord-Sith.
“Perhaps.” Berdine said still laughing.
“I swear if I had my way I would have killed you long before now.”
“Why don’t you stop talking and start doing? You never were very good at this.” The Agiel pressed against her side, aggravating her already broken ribs. “Oh! That tickles.”
“DAMNIT!” Triana back handed her, and she was wearing her armored gloves, and the metal split open Berdine’s lip as well as broke her nose. “You WILL break!” Triana screamed into her face.
Berdine merely laughed in reply.
As Cara’s head rolled back from the slap, her lips pulled back into a deep and honest smile. Which was so very unexpected that Kahlan’s arm stopped mid swing and she just looked, her mind suddenly frozen on that very smile.
The rage slipped out of her, like the sweat rolling from her brow.
Somehow, some way , Cara always managed to bring Kahlan back, bring her through the deepest dark, into the light. Through the pain and the hate, into the brilliant glow and warmth of love and joy.
Her fingers released the Agiel, and it hung from the gold chain around her wrist. Kahlan quickly walked to the wall, and using the small wheel there, added more slack to the chain, and began lowering Cara. Once her feet were touching the blood splattered floor, Kahlan returned and silently unlatched the shackles around Cara’s bruised and bleeding wrists.
With the iron shackles off of her wrists she dropped to her knees, breathing heavily, as deeply as she could with her cracked ribs.
Drefan giggled manically in the corner, even though he was turned away from them, she was sure he knew the sound of the chains groaning once their burden was released.
“Cara.” Kahlan said softly, her hands cupping her cheeks and lifting her face up.
She searched Kahlan’s eyes, the Blood Lust had passed, she had come through to the other side, and looked drained and exhausted, as if she had not slept for weeks. Kahlan brushed their lips together, and Cara immediately deepened the kiss, fervently tasting and taking Kahlan’s mouth, her tongue delving in deep. Kahlan’s moan was a symphony to her ears, and as Cara pulled their mouths apart, her eyes opened, and she took in Kahlan’s expression of want, as well as the weakness and exhaustion that radiated from the brunette.
Which was exactly what Cara had counted on.
She pulled her head back before slamming it forward, striking their heads together, and knocking Kahlan off balance and onto the ground.
Her hand went to her forehead, as Kahlan looked at her, shocked.
Cara rose to her full height, no longer feeling the pain of torn muscles, cracked skin and abused muscles. Her intent fueled her and gave her strength.
“It’s my turn.” She said dangerously. Cara’s own desire increased as she watched Kahlan’s body tremble at her mere words. She reached down and grabbed Kahlan’s right wrist and pulled painfully, before slapping the iron shackle around her it.
Kahlan did not protest as the same was done with the left.
Cara went to the wheel on the wall and turned it, hearing the clicking of the automatic lock as each link passed through, as she continued to turn the wheel and the chain lifted her feet from the ground. Kahlan swung back and forth, the expression on her face angry and a little scared.
“Put her down!” Drefan ordered. Cara looked over her shoulder at him, seeing that he was now standing, and was about to move closer to her.
“You have no say in this.” She said evenly.
“You lying-“ He never managed to say more. When his mouth formed the letter L, Cara added all of her strength into her fist and struck the bottom of his jaw, forcing teeth up through his tongue.
His hands went to his mouth, which opened to a torrent of blood, and the tip of his tongue feel to the floor.
“Sit and be quiet.” She snapped, before turning back to Kahlan.
“The Confessor in you is being held down, by the Mord-Sith. The Mord-Sith who is exhausted now…”
Cara’s voice trailed off and became quiet. “Yes.” Kahlan answered, feeling the excitement and the terror at being chainlike this. Of her shoulders protesting at the angle they were over her head, how her wrists burned against the sharp iron. Cara moved around her, and when she came back to the front, her eyes looked up, framed by her matted blonde hair, her eyes were hard, and in control. Cara was moving and speaking as though this were any other moment where she was in control. As if all of the bruising and blood on her naked flesh was not her own.
“Now is the time to strike out at her. To take back control.”
Kahlan watched as she turned and walked to the large window. The cuts on her naked back were still bleeding as she stood, looking out into the darkness of the night. Her voice, when she spoke, was low, calm, very controlled.
“I let my passion rule me, Kahlan. It overshadowed my reason. All I knew and all I saw was you in danger, the threat and I reacted. I did not think it through. I clawed and battled and bent reality to my will, all to save you from marrying that man, from allowing someone as heinous as Drefan rule D’Hara and rule you.” Even though her skin was broken and bruised, even with blood dried on her skin, and her hair hanging limply she seemed beautiful, poised and powerful. Slowly, methodically she turned around, her eyes red and brilliantly shining with conviction. “I put you in harm’s way. I made you the one thing you never should have become. And while I know, I KNOW, Kahlan, that inside of you there has always been the lust and the rage… the Mord-Sith that rose in you? She will kill you. She will kill the goodness in you. She will kill the compassion and the empathy.” Cara blinked slowly. “That will not come to pass. I swore you would never be collared, and then I was the one to slap the bonds and chains of hate
around your wrists and throat. Well… tonight? I am removing them.”
She shook her head. “No. Do not say my name like that. Not here. Not now. My mind is made up.”
She stood, her hands on her bare hips, looking up at Kahlan’s body, at the way the red leather covered her, pulled tight across her breasts, flattened her stomach underneath the additional thick leather of the corset. It was strange, for a moment, to be standing here, the one in control, and yet bleeding and completely naked. As if the leather armor was entrapping Kahlan, not protecting her, that the Mord-Sith had her chained and controlled. And that was the truth. The truth that Cara felt in her soul.
In herself she could feel the calm confidence of the Mord-Sith. She knew the power and the control. And it had only been very recently at Kahlan’s hand that she had learned the submissive side of her nature.
While Cara tried to assist Kahlan in finding the balance between love and hate, she was destined to fail. In the Mother Confessor as she was there would not be a way to balance the two. Because the Mord-Sith fed and thrived on the love and compassion inside of her. The more compassionate the child, the more empathy she had then the better the Mord-Sith she became. Cara had made a horrendous error in working to evolve and break Kahlan, making her into a Mord-Sith. If she had been any other woman, any other Confessor even, then the balance of power, the personality of the Confessor and the Mord-Sith would have thrived side by side in harmony. But Kahlan Amnell was no ordinary Confessor, she was no ordinary woman. Her life was lived for the freedom of others; she put herself at risk to ensure others could thrive. She loved completely and unconditionally. Those people of Aydindril who threw stones at her, who cursed her existence under their breaths, to Kahlan were the sun and the stars and she sacrificed her own
happiness for them. No, Kahlan Amnell was no ordinary woman, and as such when she was broken, when she passed through the three stages of evolution to become Mord-Sith the power and the majesty of the hate and the desire for pain consumed all of the compassion and love. That was the source of the headaches, that was the reason for her need to inflict pain on Drefan and herself, that was the reasons she cried in the night, plagued by the terror of dreams. Because she was the gentlest and kindest woman Cara had ever known.
As far as Cara knew one could not reverse becoming Mord-Sith. But in time one could learn to uncover the parts of their heart and soul that had been sectioned off during the breakings. Just as Cara had learned to love, respect, care for Kahlan and others, as the thousand feet of stone around her heart had begun to crumble she hoped that with what she was about to unleash in the room, the same could be done for Kahlan. As a way not to undo her becoming, but instead to put the hunger of the Mord-Sith in its place, behind that of the Mother Confessor.
Cara stepped closer to Kahlan, but was careful not to touch her, as the Blood Lust in her eyes flashed between pure red to black. Her power was jumping from Blood Rage to Blood Lust. A dangerous combination. Cara was not afraid of the touch of the Confessor; she knew that no matter what Kahlan could not confess her. No, her hesitation at touching Kahlan was more to do with keeping both the Blood Rage and the Blood Lust battling inside of Kahlan. Trying to retain a certain balance. Her eyes moved over her mate’s tight face, knowing that beneath the hateful sneer was a face that shone brightly with unconditional acceptance and love. Love that Cara wanted to profess to her suddenly. She wanted to touch her, to feel that tactile connection, she felt it powerfully, a nagging in her mind telling her that what if something went wrong, what if this moment would be the last time she would ever have the chance to touch her.
Shaking her head, and forcing those thoughts away, she turned and walked to the corner, where a blood red pile of silk lay. It was merely a covering. Surprisingly through the night neither Kahlan nor her curiosity seemed drawn to the material, and to what lay underneath.
“Cara what are you doing?” Kahlan asked as Cara pulled the silk off of the two large objects.
"I do not know if this will work." She said, unlocking the iron and bronze covers and exposing the dark black quillion crystal. It seemed to sense Kahlan, sense her magic, and it began to hum and vibrate in Cara’s hand.
“Don’t touch it Cara!” Kahlan pulled against the chains.
“A quillion will take any magic into it. You have magic.”
Cara laughed. “Oh, I am not worried about that.”
“Please… what are you?” Kahlan asked.
Cara walked to the other quillion and as with the first she unlocked the iron and bronze case.
“What are you doing Cara?”
"You may die." Cara said softly, looking deeply into the ever shifting colors of Kahlan’s eyes. It was a very real fear. One or both of them could die.
"Then you will bring me back." Kahlan said matter-of-factly.
Slowly she felt her lips pull into a smile. "Always." She lifted a large crystal in each of her hands, and felt the power licking at her skin, burning her, pulling at her. “Kahlan, I love you.” She said sincerely, and watched as the thick blue tendrils of magic leapt from the blackness of the crystals, and tried to reach out for Kahlan. With a low rumbling growl, Cara lifted her arms and threw the crystals to the floor, where they both landed below Kahlan’s feet, shattering and the room seemed to explode with a scalding white blue light.
"Are they still inside?” Rikka asked as she came around the corner, and saw Hally and Captain Ryan standing, looking forlorn at the closed door.
Hally merely nodded.
Rikka sighed and turned around, and just let herself fall back against the wall. Her gloved hand went over her face. "None of this is normal. Whatever it is Cara has planned.”
"Is anything ever normal? Each of us was different, broke differently. We are different."
"I know that. I know we each have specific talents. But... The Mother Confessors’ headaches have been getting worse. I left a tincture in her room day before last. Enough to last anyone else a week at least. It is empty now. Her headaches are not just because of the pressure of the lust, and the pain. No. It is something more."
"Cara knows." Hally offered.
"She knows it is more. She has been beside her self, trying to get answers. Berdine suggested she talk to the Wizard, Zedd."
"That old fool is gone."
"Cara has been spending all of her free time at the Wizards' keep. In the libraries, looking, searching. I have never seen her so determined."
“Determined is all well and good, but she should know better than any of us, that messing around with magic is not safe. There is a very real possibly that whatever is happening in that room? Could kill one or both of them!” Rikka snapped.
“You can’t expect her not to at least try.”
“I suppose not.” Rikka sighed, looking at the door suspiciously. It was too quiet. "Did you hear about the fire?"
"Which one?" Hally asked.
"There was more than one?"
"The city seems to be falling apart at the seams." Captain Ryan offered. “Two fires reported tonight alone. Yesterday there were four.”
"As though Aydindril, just like the Mother Confessor contains too much. It needs some sort of release."
A scream filled the corridor, blood curdling, and a flash of light blinded them all, coming from the cracks around the door. A pulse of magic washed over Rikka, making her dizzy. She blinked and then exchanges a quick glance with both Captain Ryan and Hally before she grabbed a hold of the door and pulled. Nothing.
Hally threw herself against the door, and it shuddered but did not open. Rikka slammed her shoulder into it, with the same lack of results.
"Bradley! Kick this damn door down, but then stay out of the way." Hally ordered.
Without thought he kicked the door, and then motioned for the two Mord-Sith to do the same with him.
Another scream broke from inside of the room, but the door did not open. The three of them in desperation tried again, with the same result.
And then Rikka felt a strange impact of air on her skin, and the door slowly opened, and Cara’s blood streaked face peered out at them.
Once the door was open, Cara sagged against it, the pain and exhaustion consuming her, blurring her eyes.
“I… I need help.” She whispered to Hally as she closed her eyes.
“What did you do?” Captain Ryan’s voice snapped, and Cara felt his hands roughly gripping her shoulders.
“Stop it.” Hally growled at him.
“Stop it? The Mother Confessor is chained to the ceiling!”
“Just because you do not understand something, do not allow your ignorance to be replaced by hate.”
Slowly Cara opened her eyes, looking at the petite Mord-Sith who had spoken sternly to Captain Ryan. She gave Hally a look of appreciation.
“I… can you take her down? Take her to our bed camber.” Her eyes moved to Kahlan, who was unconscious, her head hanging in such a way that her hair covered her face.
Cara was not sure if it had worked; once the crystals shattered she had been knocked against the stone wall, and felt intense pain, as if her skin had been set on fire. Kahlan’s head had snapped back, her screams lifting up to the skies, as the blue energy from the quillions had surrounded her body and then slammed into her chest. The second scream had been worse than the first, but in its wake, Kahlan had passed out.
“Of course Mistress Cara.” Hally replied. “And what of Drefan?”
She looked to him, as he sat in the corner, his eyes wide and brimming with tears, blood still rolling from his mouth.
“Heal him I suppose, and then lock him up in his room.” Cara commanded, noticing there was little to no emotion in her voice. She was exhausted, emotionally and physically spent.
Somehow she found the strength to strip Kahlan of her Mord-Sith leather, and lift and place her in the bed. With her still unconscious, and therefore the results of the breaking of the quillions unknown, Cara stood before the washbasin in the corner of their room, and slowly ran a wet cloth over her body, working slowly, removing the blood and sweat from her own skin. Not knowing was gnawing at her mind, and she would cast glances to the still body of her mate on the bed. At least Kahlan was alive, she kept telling herself. At the very least she had not killed her by making what could be a totally ignorant decision.
She merely clutched to the new tendril of emotion in her heart.
Cara clung desperately to hope.
Her eyes were closed, but her mind was very open, listening to the sound of Cara's even breathing. It was very rare that she was awake when Cara sleeping and she relished the moment.
Outside the slightly open glass doors, the air was different, charged.
The night was filling with the rapid explosions of dry lightening.
A crack sounded in the sky, followed quickly by the bright blue white light that filled the room. By the second strike, Kahlan's eyes opened, and she looked to her side, where Cara was laying at peace, her eyes open and watching Kahlan intently. Nature had stolen from her the moment of calm, of watching Cara sleep. But in exchange it provided her the magic of seeing her lover’s face highlighted in otherworldly sky blue hues as another strike of lightening lit the sky.
“Are you?” Cara asked.
“I am fine.” Kahlan replied honestly.
“How do you feel?”
Kahlan closed her eyes for a moment. How did she feel? She felt at peace, in love. Surrounded and consumed by love and understanding. She felt…right.
“I love you, Cara.” She said, her eyes opening slowly. Leaning closer, Kahlan kissed her, brushing their lips together gently, before she felt Cara's hand on the back of her head, pulling her closer, urgently.
The storm outside began to increase, and it was as if for every increasing beat of her heart lightening cracked and glowed in the room, filling even her closed eyes with the scalding blue light.
Kahlan matched Cara’s need, and they deepened the kiss. Throughout her entire body she felt the urgency, the need. Had it been so long? Moments that passed without this connection to her mate seemed to have lasted an eternity.
Kahlan groaned as she allowed Cara to pull her down, on top of her, as hands began moving hastily, urgently over her back, gathering her thin shift in naked hands, as she felt Cara's legs shifting beneath her, creating for Kahlan the perfect place to lay.
Desperately Cara’s full lips rained kisses along her jaw, down the length of Kahlan’s neck. She arched it back, whimpering Cara’s name, feeling the overwhelming desire pulsing through her veins, the need to join with her, to have their hearts beat rapidly together as one. To be consumed completely in the fire of their love. As lips moved back up the length of her neck, traveling back to her mouth, Cara’s low voice vowed complete and unconditional love.
“I love you, Kahlan.” She said even more firmly as their lips met again, and Kahlan’s body trembled with the surge of emotion she felt. That she felt for Cara and that Cara felt for her.
The storm outside created within Cara an urgency, as though she needed to be and feel and touch Kahlan in every way, before the storm passed by. The need to not waste a single moment more, sped her on, and so she did not hesitate. She could feel the love and the wholeness of Kahlan, could see it in her deepening blue eyes. She was overflowing with love, and Cara needed to feel that love. She needed to break and burn in that love, she needed to bring Kahlan to the climax of breaking before the storm ceased. She pulled her lips from Kahlan’s and rolled them over in the bed.
A flash of lightening illuminated Kahlan’s face as her back arched and her mouth fell open as she felt Cara’s fingers moving along the length of the already dripping center. Biting her lip with the feeling of her own pulsing desire, Cara moved rapidly down Kahlan’s body, pressing her face between her thighs. No teasing, no preamble. Just her mouth pressing on Kahlan’s smooth, hot skin, her lips feasting on the ever growing wetness.
Cara licked her swollen flesh savoring the taste of her arousal and the texture of her skin. Her tongue circled, loving the way Kahlan’s muscles responded with each pass, with each moment of added pressure.
"Cara... I need to taste you," Kahlan groaned.
Cara replaced her tongue with her fingers and moved up Kahlan’s body. Slowly her fingertips spun around Kahlan’s tender clit. "Kiss me." Cara whispered, looking down at her flushed face, and Kahlan did so, ravenously, licking Cara’s lips, sucking her tongue; tasting her own essence mixed with Cara's mouth, and moaning, which Cara echoed.
Her thighs trembled, as Cara felt fingers move between them, as she felt Kahlan’s touch sliding along the drenched length of her. She watched, Kahlan’s fingers glistening, covered in Cara’s excitement, as Kahlan moved them to her mouth - but Cara intercepted, taking them into her mouth, deeply sucking off her own arousal, while looking sincerely into Kahlan’s hungry eyes.
Kahlan’s hips bucked against Cara’s hand and she groaned in protest as well as longing. Smiling she released the fingers from her mouth. Kahlan’s hand immediately went back between her legs, this time the Confessor began mimicking Cara’s movements, teasing her swollen clit with her fingertips, circling, with increasing amounts of pressure.
Cara leaned closer to Kahlan and licked her lips, which opened, and Cara pressed their mouths together. Their kiss was raw, hungry, and passionate as tongues danced, as teeth pressed to lips. Kahlan broke their kiss just as her fingers left Cara’s scalding skin. This time, Cara waited, and watched as Kahlan’s fingers made their way to her mouth.
Kahlan brushed her wet fingertips over Cara's lips, coating them. A deep moan rumbled from Cara’s chest, as Kahlan leaned up and licked her lips dry.
"More." Kahlan moaned, passionately.
Cara nodded; kissing her deeply, knowing there would be more.
The lightening storm increased, flashes of light repeatedly filling the room, and then the thunderous sound of rain, like a torrential explosion, hitting the stone of the balcony, slashing into the room, filling the air with the clean smell of it, the promise of spring, the promise of moments like this. Fulfillment of love, of passion.
Cara moaned desperately, overwhelmed by the tight wetness that surrounded her fingers as she slid inside of Kahlan. The thunder rolled in the room, obliterating the words of promise from her lips, but she felt them, just as she felt the same promise in the press of Kahlan’s lips against her throat. Cara seemed to feel the immense love pouring into her from Kahlan’s heart, just as she wanted to convey those same emotions to her mate. As they moved together, as they filled one another, moving rapidly, urgently together to the edge. Cara cried out Kahlan’s name, as her body broke, this time in complete pleasure and love, as she felt Kahlan’s body tighten just before the caress of her magic swarmed around the both of them as her release was reached. Cara’s mouth desperately found Kahlan’s and they continued to move against one another with one another, ridding out the exquisite throbbing of climax and marching quickly towards the edge again.
Another explosion sounded out side of their room, but with this one they both ended the kiss.
That last explosion was not lightening.
Kahlan looked to the windows, Cara could see reflected in her eyes a red glow, just before the sound of screams reached them.
Before another crash of lightening.
Kahlan stood, naked, looking out at her city as it seemed to burn. She did not care that the rain was landing on her skin, cold and hard. Her eyes were fixated on the red and orange flames that despite the rain reached for the very clouds.
Cara stepped behind her, and Kahlan moaned, feeling first the sensation of naked flesh pressing to her back, before Cara’s arms, and the black bear fur mantle was wrapped around the both of them. Cara set her chin on Kahlan’s shoulder.
“It was a bomb of some sort. Detonated beside the eastern wall. It did not penetrate. The Palace is still secure.”
“Alright.” Kahlan said, glad that while a bomb going off in Aydindril was of concern, that there was no need at that very moment to dress and rush and fight. She was exhausted, and knew she could barely hold up her sword.
“Do you see now? See your city burning? See the unrest. You must leave.”
"You were right." She said her voice catching with emotion. "I know that I have to leave. I...just…can't… the thought of leaving."
"They will kill you if you stay, and I am confident that I cannot protect you here anymore. Not when there are hundreds of thousands of people who are at the mercy of the Dream Walker."
"I... I had thought that our life, here in Aydindril, would be one of calm, of peace. That you and I." Kahlan turned slightly under the soft fur, still in Cara’s arms. Her hand cupped Cara's face tenderly. "I wanted nothing more than having a life with you here, you and I... happy. Safe."
"Kahlan. Leaving Aydindril does not signify the end of us, nor does it stop our feelings."
"I know. Cara, I DO know. It just feels like... a death."
"There has been enough death in this place. View it as life? The birth of something new."
"And the army marching towards us?"
"Do you think, honestly that either you or I would run from a battle? We will go to D'Hara, where you will be safe. And we will prepare the armies and we will strike at this monstrosity. And we will win." Cara kissed her gently "You always win my love. This shall be no different."
“How do you feel?” Cara’s voice moved over her shoulder and brought her back from her thoughts as she stared at the receiving hall below them. Kahlan had been on her way to the Council Chambers, but something caused her to pause on the stairs. To just stop and take in the grandeur of this massive room with the dozen massive marble columns as wide around as two of the most ancient oak trees in all of the Midlands flanking it. The impressive stone work on the ribs and arches on the ceiling. They way the light of dawn slipped through the glass of the windows, making the shadows thicker and darker. This place, the whole of the Confessor’s Palace was beautiful with its bright white marble, and shadowed with its history and nooks and hidden rooms. Standing on the stairs, looking down she had felt that she should look, that she should take it all in, as though somehow Kahlan knew she would not see it again, at least not with the eyes she possessed today. Kahlan knew battles, and she knew the feeling of war, but deep inside of herself she seemed to know that what was coming was so very different than what she had ever experienced before, and it would change her.
“I feel…good.” She replied, her eyes noticing the movement of guards far below them. Their voices did not carry across the vast space of this room.
“Are you sure?” Cara was closer now, and Kahlan smiled as she felt their arms brush together.
“I am. I feel.” She turned and looked honestly into the eyes of her mate. “I feel strong. I feel love for you. I… I actually feel much like I did before I became Mord-Sith.” She confessed.
“And the bond?”
“Is faint. But there. I went to see Drefan. Apparently it will be some time before he is speaking clearly again.” Kahlan gave Cara a stern look, which she did not entirely mean. “But I could sense his thoughts, through the bond.” She took Cara’s gloved hand in hers. “Whatever you did? It worked. I have no headache. I feel no… need for pain.”
Cara sighed. “I am so glad.”
“What did you do?”
“Released the power of Dennee and Annabelle into you.”
“What? I thought you knew? I hadn’t knocked you unconscious or anything. Two quillions. That Zedd used for the two of them. I smashed them and the power of the Confessors went into you.”
“How did you ever figure that out?”
“I didn’t.” She turned and looked down into the receiving hall. “The books in the Keep are ridiculously boring and hold no real information. I… assumed.”
“You were toying with powerful magics.” Kahlan said shocked.
“Apparently.” Cara said lifting her eyebrow as she turned back to Kahlan. “You can yell at me all you want later. Apparently someone of importance is coming into the Palace.”
“I called Queen Cyrilla in for an audience.”
Cara nodded, and Kahlan pulled on her hand, bringing the Mord-Sith closer. She breathed in the scent of her skin and her leather, as their bodies pressed together. “I love you Cara. Whatever you did? I am here, I am alive, you are alive…and I love you.”
Cara cupped the side of her head, and leaned into Kahlan, kissing her with a delicious sense of adoration, the way their lips met and moved together had Kahlan closing her eyes and leaning more into her mate. A low throaty moan came from her as she felt the tip of Cara’s tongue brush against her own, before pulling back, and tracing her upper lip for just a moment.
Kahlan licked her lips, relishing the taste of Cara, as the blonde stepped back and smiled. Kahlan’s eyes moved wantonly over Cara’s body, wanting more of those kisses, wanting to feel more of that body against hers. Her eyes froze as they settled on Cara’s thigh. She wore both holsters. Both Agiel.
“Cara, you are wearing my Agiel.”
“I am.” Cara said softly.
“Kahlan, I do not think that you need it any longer. I will… keep it safe for you.” Kahlan looked into Cara’s eyes and saw nothing but understanding and honest hope.
She nodded, letting Cara know that she did understand. That if what Cara had done with releasing the power of not one but two additional Confessors into her, had in fact put the Mord-Sith inside of her to sleep. “Mm. Will you come down with me?”
“There are a few things I need to look into.”
Kahlan pouted. “I like it when you are beside me.”
“As do I. But you have things you need to do, and there is something that has been bothering me, and I want to look into it. Half of your new personal guards are at the bottom of these stairs, the other half are already in the Council Chamber, surrounding your chair.” Cara smiled. “I even took the liberty of having them wear the elite guard colors.”
“No one wears those except for during coronations.”
“Yes well. I decided that the blue and grey looked much better on them than the red and black.”
“You keep just making decisions.” Kahlan grinned at her.
“Someone has to.” Cara smirked, and with their hands joined they began walking down the stairs. “I will meet you later? Perhaps we can take dinner in our rooms? Alone?”
“I would like that very much.” Kahlan said softly, looking once more at Cara who as they moved down the stairs seemed to be beaming with a certain glow of pride.
Richard Rahl had become the Bringer of Death, and Nicci was spell bound by him. The way he moved seemed to suddenly be with purpose, his eyes moved about the forest as they walked with hawk like determination. If there was a movement, he would see it. He would see it with his eyes and he would see it with the use of his Han.
Somehow, during the attack by the Sisters of the Dark he had finally found himself. He had instinctually found his true self, and as he embraced it, and who he was, he became changed. Richard was finally living as the man prophesies foretold him to be. He was sure of foot, and his focus was sharp as the Sword of Truth that hung at his side.
“You see, my boy, there are those for whom magic and power lies in instinct. Then there are those, like the boys you met at the Palace of the Prophets who were born with a slight advantage of having more magic in them than the everyday boy. But to use that magic, or Han, they need to study, to practice and to train.”
“Which is why the Palace of the Prophets is spelled, why time slows there, to allow them more time for the study.”
“Correct.” The Wizard nodded.
“And I, who have had hardly any training, seem to be in tune with my magic, why?” Richard asked, holding a low hanging Oak tree branch aside, as the Wizard, and then Nicci passed by.
“Because you are acting on instinct. You know what you want to have happen, and it manifests, it becomes true. You want a ball of fire in your palm? You think it and it is. You want to explode that tree? Think it and it is done.”
“Why did they not explain this to me in this way? Why did Sister Vera and the Prelate talk in circles about it taking years and years for me to learn the smallest aspects of my gifts?”
“No one believed that you could in fact be what you are.” Nicci interjected, as she moved between the two men as they walked, her eyes catching Richard’s for just a moment as they passed. She noticed his eyes narrow on her, but not with a look of hate. Nor a look of lust. His look was the one she always wanted to be granted, it was a look of understanding.
“And what am I?” Richard asked.
“A War Wizard.” Nicci said looking over her shoulder.
“Nicci! You do not know that is true.” Zedd argued.
“Of course I do. Just because we do not like the truth, does not change it from being the truth.” She replied, feeling the weight of her words all the more, as Richard’s eyes smiled at her.
After curt and official introductions Queen Cyrilla settled into the chair that had been placed beside Kahlan’s on the dais. She watched the Queen’s eyes move over her new guards, and her looks were that of interest, and perhaps shock with how quietly they stood, how their eyes were focused forward. Kahlan knew Queen Cyrilla, who was Prince Harold’s sister, and knew she was an intelligent woman. She was fairly certain the Queen knew exactly the length and dedication of these men.
The Queen smiled, and the lines around her eyes, conveyed her gentleness as well as the decade of age she had over Kahlan.
“Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.” Kahlan smiled in return.
“Or course, Mother Confessor.”
“Kahlan.” She stressed.
“Oh… I don’t think so.” Queen Cyrilla’s smile became even wider.
“Well, I tried.”
“Harold told me some of what has been going on, what you believe is happening in the south.”
Kahlan nodded. “Yes, scouts have been sent, and I am hopeful that in two weeks time they will return with word. I will rely on you to convey that information to me.”
“And I shall, Mother Confessor.” The Queen looked at her hand. “I will not swear my loyalty or devotion to Lord Rahl.”
“I never expected that you would, Queen Cyrilla. Your devotion is first and foremost to the people of Galea. I know this. I trust in your judgment and your compassion. This is why I think above all members of the Central Council you will be the most levelheaded and just, acting as the First Chair in my absence.”
“I am still not sure why you are so quick to leave. You are Queen of D’Hara, but you are Mother Confessor first.”
“Yes. I am.” Kahlan smiled, and leaned forward. “This is less to do with me going to D’Hara, as it is rallying troops for any probability. As the Midlands have the unfortunate knowledge, the army of D’Hara is massive and very well trained. It is important for Lord Rahl to go before these troops, to get their support.”
“I forget that your husband has not been at the helm of his kingdom long.”
“Exactly.” Kahlan watched Queen Cyrilla’s face closely, as her eyes seemed to darken as she considered something.
“Acting as First Chair.” She paused for a moment. “Would my voice be law?”
Kahlan was quiet for a instant, though she already knew how she was going to reply. Just as she knew this question would be asked and just as she knew that it was the one thing she feared. If the Dream Walker was able to work her way into the Queen’s mind, then they would have the authority and command of the Central Council.
“Yes, you would be the voice of the people, the first in command of the Council, and you would only answer to me. I am still Mother Confessor, here in Aydindril or not. I will still have the final categorical word over all matters. The Generals and Prince Harold follow my commands and mine alone. They will of course report to you and the Council, but I am the commander of all the armies.” Kahlan’s voice was firm, with no room for argument, debate or question. The Queen pursed her lips ever so slightly; she probably did not even realize she did it. “Is there a problem with that?”
“Oh, no Mother Confessor. Of course not. I think this is a good idea, and you are taking the D’Haran Army with you?”
“Yes. We will all be leaving in a fortnight. It does take time for an army of that size to prepare. Also, half of your Galean troops in Aydindril? They will be coming as well, and then the remaining half will be staying here to work with the Home Guard and see to your safety.”
The Queen did not like that, but Kahlan knew that Galean had more troops back in their kingdom. She was not worried yet for the safety of Aydindril based on the threat of the army to the south. Her concerns were more immediate and had to do with the unrest, that she prayed to the Spirits would lesson once she and the D’Haran army left.
“Official notifications have been drawn up, and we merely need to sign them before they are delivered to each member of the Council. Are there any concerns or questions you may have?”
“How will we communicate?”
“You will be provided a journey book. Either I or Prince Harold will communicate with you in that way. If for some reason they fail? Messengers will be sent back and forth. With the weather in the mountains improving, the journey will not be as long as it once was.”
“Fine. Will you be speaking directly with the High Prince of Kelton?”
“I didn’t think that would be necessary. I know, as do all of them Midlands about the feud between your two kingdoms, but I would think that during a time like this those issues can be set aside for the greater good of all. Nitpicking and finger pointing will do no good. Nor will each kingdom deluding themselves thinking that they can look after themselves alone against whatever threat may be approaching. From what I have been told so far the army that comes from the Old World is like nothing we have ever faced, any of us. We will know the validity of those fears soon enough. But, Kelton is still paying retribution to me and to all of the Midlands for the actions of Prince Fyren.”
“Yes Mother Confessor.”
“Well, has that been settled? Are you prepared to step in to the roll of governance in my absence?”
“With pleasure, and honor Mother Confessor.”
She felt someone behind her before she heard them. Her body did not register the presence as a threat, merely another nearby. Looking over her shoulder she could see Hally standing just inside the shadows, staying outside of this small room.
It was one of the thousands of libraries in the Wizard’s Keep, one that she had ventured into when Zedd was still here. He had mentioned at the time something about his room belonging to a Second Wizard. Cara had thought that comment odd. That there were First, Second, Third, apparently even down to Sixth Wizards. Not a very imaginative ranking system. Not that Zedd had asked her opinion.
“I was expecting Rikka to suddenly appear this morning.” Cara said, turning back to the papers on the desk. She had a dream the night before, so very different than the nightmares she was accustomed to. She doubted the dream was sent by the Dream Walker, knowing that through her bond to Lord Rahl she was protected. Though, now that she accepted the idea of a Dream Walker, any and all dreams she had that seemed out of the ordinary were suspect to her. She feared she would always wonder if there was someone with the gift sending her into dreams where she was clothed in a pink dress, weak as a kitten, unable to fight, or even fend for herself. Cara shuddered at the thought. Though in the dream the night before, she had come here, and retrieved a few odds and ends. Her dream self told her that they may be needed.
Quickly she rolled the few sheets of parchment around the black and green quill with its white gold tip, and dropped them all into a narrow leather case.
“She is with the Mother Confessor.”
Cara nodded, stuffing the small cylinder into her pack, along with a small book. The book was full of tiny writing. She could not read a word of it. But perhaps Berdine could.
“And you came all this way, to the Keep, to…”
“One Sister can’t come to see another?”
“Can? Yes. To do so? Suspect.”
“When we leave here?” Hally said, looking strangely shameful as her eyes moved to her hands. Cara waited. Knowing what she was going to say, but still, waiting out the petite Mord-Sith. Making her say it. “Will any Mord-Sith be staying here?”
“Yes.” Cara said, pulling the ties closed on her pack, slinging it over her shoulder and turning to face Hally.
“Have you decided who will be staying?”
Hally rolled her eyes and glared at Cara, understanding that she was not going to make this conversation an easy one. Cara felt her smirk blossom on her lips.
“Will I be ordered to stay here, in Aydindril?”
“Oh.” Her eyes dropped.
“Tosha and Galina will stay here. They will protect the Keep. As Mord-Sith are the only ones who are able to deflect and fight magic, Sergeant Wyborn could use their assistance.” Cara crossed her arms, taking pleasure from the emotions that danced across Hally’s face, those that she was trying desperately to control and keep hidden. The young Mord-Sith was skilled at such a thing, but clearly not when it came to her feelings for a certain Captain. As Hally squirmed like a worm on a hook, Cara took a small amount of pity on her, and added. “You will accompany us to D’Hara.”
“As will Captain Ryan.”
Hally’s eyes flashed up to meet Cara’s. “Really?”
“The Mother Confessor’s idea.” Cara shrugged, as if that was enough of an answer. And from the sparkle in Hally’s eyes, apparently it was.
“I… I see.” Hally stammered.
“So, was that the reason you came here?”
A slight blush rose in Hally’s cheeks and Cara could almost hear the wheels in her mind turning, trying to come up with a different reason. “Spar!” She burst out.
“Oh?” Cara’s brows rose.
“I wanted to see if you would be up to sparing with me.”
“Very thin excuse, Hally. But I am always willing to best you in hand to hand, if that is what you would like.”
Kahlan tapped her finger to her lips, thinking about what Rikka had just asked. While it did not come as a great surprise, she still was not sure if she in fact liked it. She had become used to having the dour Mord-Sith around, in fact all of them had managed to dispel all of the years of teaching and hate she had felt towards them. Not merely when Kahlan became Mord-Sith herself, but it went beyond that, in having them around her, she had learned that they were each one unique, stubbornly independent and their own women. They were bound to the Lord Rahl, and they were part of the Sisterhood of the Agiel, but they were also women. Rikka had volunteered to travel south with the Galean Calvary that would be moving quickly through D’Hara and into the Deep Nothing, to investigate the border between D’Hara and the Old World.
“I would like it better if you stayed with us.” Kahlan said.
“I need to be in the thick of whatever may come. That is what I was created for, Mother Confessor. I am not a trainer, I am not a researcher, I am not a strategist. I was made Mord-Sith to be a soldier, I was made to be the steel against the steel, to be hard and sharp and cut deeply in the name of my Lord Rahl. Let me do this.”
“I understand… I do. You must promise to me that you will be careful. Once you have checked the area you are to return to the People’s Palace and report.” Kahlan said firmly.
“You are worried about me.” Rikka stated with a look of surprise on her face.
“Of course I am!”
“There is no need.” Rikka was silent for a moment, before she continued. “You are a fine Lord Rah, and I am proud to follow you. That has not always been the case.”
“I know.” Kahlan smiled, accepting the compliment, and feeling touched by Rikka’s sincerity.
"Be mindful of Prince Harold."
Kahlan felt her face display her confusion. "Why would you say that?"
"I..." Rikka looked down for a moment, as though she was suddenly reconsidering what she had said.
“Rikka. I value your thoughts and your opinions. I know you do not trade in idle gossip. If you have concern then I would like to hear it.” Kahlan facilitated.
"I witnessed a moment between the Prince and Shota. They are, familiar with one another."
Kahlan's lips pulled tight. Rikka had emphasized the word, ‘familiar’. "I see. Thank you."
"I thought that you should know, Mother Confessor."
"Did you tell Cara?"
"Good. Let me handle the Prince."
"As you command, Mother Confessor."
Gently Kahlan smiled, she would keep a close eye on the Prince.
"Why is it you have all the fun when I am away?" The large man, Chase, grumbled, tossing a small branch he had been cracking into smaller and smaller pieces in his hand as they walked.
They had come to the fork in the main road, where the large Boundary Warden had been waiting for them. Since giving his devotion to Lord Rahl, he seemed calm and reserved. Richard informed Nicci that the man was acting very much as he used to. Everyone but Nicci seemed relieved; as it did not matter to her if Richard’s childhood friend was acting in character or not. She could and would have dispatched him, feeling nothing. The joyous reunion seemed somewhat trivial, but she was pleased when the Boundary Warden informed them that the town he had ventured away to had no sign of troops from the Imperial Order. The size of the Imperial Order’s Army was one flaw in its otherwise unstoppable power. It took months to travel short distances. This would give them, who could move swiftly, time to reach the Mother Confessor.
"Just your luck I suppose." Richard joked.
"Your mission was vastly important, Chase." the Wizard replied, as he looked through the packs of supplies the Boundary Warden had brought.
Nicci wondered if Kahlan ever found herself so very bored when traveling with all these men. It seemed that days were filled with Richard explaining flora and fauna, usually incorrectly, the Wizard eating, and now this man talking of battles. She shook her head. She could not take this for much longer.
Two of the Mother Confessor’s new guards stood on either side of the chamber door, and neither moved, nor lifted their eyes as she moved between them. Closing the door behind her Cara wondered if she should ask them their names. It was such an odd thought. Her entire life at the People’s Palace she had moved through guarded doors, between men in uniforms designating their affiliation, and she had never given them more thought than one would a table or a painting on the wall. They were just there.
Why she would suddenly feel the need to care? She wondered, as she set her pack down beside the table and chairs, if this was all part of her becoming soft. Caring about what a guards name was? She could not afford to be soft, nor to care. Especially not if there truly was a war on the horizon.
She swallowed the questions and the thoughts as she walked deeper into the room, seeing the table covered with a vast selection of food, laid out for the evening meal. She did not sense Kahlan here yet, but seemed to know that soon she would be here. She took a small slice of green apple from the tray and popped it into her mouth as she continued into the bed chamber. Opening the glass paned doors, she let in the cold evening air. The clouds over the city where thick and gray, promising another downpour later. Which would, in theory, clear the air of the acrid lingering smoke from the fires and the explosion of the Dragon’s Breath the night before. Her arms crossed as she looked over the city. It seemed to be humming with an unfamiliar sound. If tension had a sound it would be reminiscent of a minstrel’s mandolin, with two strings snapped, and the remaining tightened to the point that the moment they are plucked they would vibrate in an ear splitting tone before breaking. That was the sound of Aydindril. Cara knew that the worst was yet to come, and that in leaving Kahlan would have a better chance at surviving, even though it went against the Mother Confessor’s nature to just abandon her people.
Cara hoped that in time Kahlan would understand that leaving was not an act of abandonment, but an act of preservation. If she lived, and if they were able to rally against the unforeseen menace and prevail? Then all of her people would be protected.
It would just take time. As did everything that was worth having.
Leaving the open doors, Cara went to the small table beside the bed, where the journey book had been left. She opened the worn leather cover and as she expected, looked down at blank pages. Still no word from Berdine, or Raina. She sighed heavily and then slammed the book closed. As much as she wanted to send another message, Cara did not know for certain who had the book. What if it had fallen into the wrong hands? If Berdine and Raina had been captured or worse.
She tasted the tang of blood in her mouth before she realized that her teeth had bitten through her cheek slightly. There was nothing she could do, if in fact that was the case. If the other two Mord-Sith had been captured, they were hundreds of leagues away and the reality was there was nothing she could do about it. Thinking on it, willing herself over mountains and vast plains would make no difference. Her desire and intent was not enough. She just had to accept that. She would find a way to unearth the cause of their silence, when it was possible to do so.
She sat on the edge of the bed, her hands moving to the thick leather around her neck, and she unbuckled it, loosening the ties, but did not take it off completely.
Cara closed her eyes, and she tried to calm her mind, which was racing down a dozen different pathways, seeing circumstances and outcomes. From the Dream Walker, to Berdine, to the journey to D’Hara, and what she had done to Kahlan.
That morning she seemed so much more herself, more so than Cara had remembered her being all winter. Was it a temporary reprieve, or had she, in her naïve stubbornness actually stumbled upon a way to correct the damage she had done in leading Kahlan into becoming Mord-Sith? If in fact the added power of the Confessor was able to keep the Blood Lust and the headaches away. Cara had never been one to give in to blind faith, but she did now. She did the moment the idea begun to grow in her mind. She wanted to believe that it would work. That she could bring Kahlan the joy and peace Cara knew the brunette deserved. When Kahlan would smile, the honest and pure smile she bestowed upon Cara from time to time, it made her heart stop and thunder at the same time. It made her feel not like Mord-Sith, not like the killer her past proved she was. No. When that smile shown on her she was Cara, the woman. And she felt as though she was worthy of the Mother Confessor’s love, and that in giving her love in return, she was doing what was right. What was just. That together the two of them were whole.
When the door opened in the anteroom, Cara became aware that she had taken off her gloves, and that her hand was moving over the soft white linen covering the bed. The massive and wonderful bed. The bed where she and Kahlan had consummated their love, where they had explored one another, where if Cara was honest with herself, where she had hoped so much more would have happened between the two of them. Not the Mord-Sith and Mother Confessor, but between Kahlan and Cara.
Her eyes looked up, and she knew she smiled softly, seeing Kahlan step into the room, her dark hair moving fluidly, along with the bright white material of her gown.
“Hello there.” Kahlan said, returning Cara’s smile. Her voice held a quality to it, one that now Cara understood, when before she had not. But now, as if a bucket of iced river water had been dumped over her head she knew. That tone? That was Kahlan saying, between words that she loved Cara.
“Hello.” Cara replied in the same way.
Kahlan’s fingers moved and undid the ties across her chest, loosening them.
“Productive day?” Cara asked, content to watch as Kahlan began to remove her white dress.
“One could say so. Letters signed and sent out to all the members of Council. Announcing that we, and the Army will be leaving Aydindril within a fortnight.”
“So we leave tomorrow.” Cara smirked.
“Of course.” Kahlan agreed, the white dress being set aside. “Can’t have the populous knowing our exact movements.” Her fingers moved to the black leather corset, unlatching buckles.
Cara’s eyebrow twitched. She had not expected Kahlan to strip completely, not that she minded. Not at all. Especially after some of the thoughts she had had a moment before, of the two of them on this bed.
"I ... I will miss this bed." Cara said, her eyes not moving from Kahlan as she continued to strip.
"We will return to it."
Her voice became husky. "But, there were so many things I wanted to do with you on this bed."
"Oh?" Kahlan asked, looking at her with very interested eyes.
"Many MANY things, Mother Confessor."
"We did do many things."
"MORE things." Cara stressed, her hands moving to remove the leather around her neck, and then to the thick band around her ribs.
"We have tonight." Kahlan said softly, as her own corset released her, and it fell to the ground.
Cara bit back her moan as Kahlan stepped free of her leggings, and was suddenly, pristinely naked. "Yes... We do, don't we?"
"So what have we not done in this bed?” Kahlan purred, stepping closer, her hands quickly working remove Cara’s belt, and then the Agiel harness around her thigh. “That you want to do?"
"I want you to…” The red leather surrounding her seemed to sigh as it was loosened. “..to lay back for me.” With the assistance of Kahlan’s hands, they peeled the leather from Cara’s skin. Kahlan’s eyes searched hers, pleading with her to finish her thought. “I want to feast on you."
Cara watched as Kahlan bit her lip, hard, and her eyes seemed to darken. "We have done that, Cara."
"Mm. Perhaps... but...not."
Kahlan stepped up to her, pressing their warm and naked flesh together perfectly. A vibration of desire pulsed just below Cara’s skin.
"Not?" Kahlan whispered.
"Will you... would you… if I…then..."
"Are you?" Kahlan leaned forward and licked Cara's lips. "Embarrassed?"
"WHAT?" Cara's brow crinkled. "Of course not!"
"Then... tell me..." Kahlan's voice lowered to a caress. "Tell me, Cara."
"I want to lay beneath you, I want you to straddle my"- her words were silenced, as Kahlan's lips took her own desperately, with an explosion of passion and need.
The feeling of naked flesh pressed together, the way it smoothly moved together, seemingly as though each of their bodies were made for the other, it never became routine, it never lost the passion and the vivid intoxication that she felt the very first time. There seemed to be a charge of energy between them, as their breasts pressed together, as Kahlan lifted her leg slightly, wrapping it around the back of Cara's thighs. She moaned Cara's name as they kissed, feeling her body tremble with the all consuming passion building between them.
Kahlan’s tongue moved with her mate’s, as if dancing together, as if she was exploring the depths and textures of Cara's mouth for the first time.
Cara’s hair was gathering in Kahlan’s purposeful hand, and her mouth lifted away.
"Cara... Oh I love you." Kahlan groaned, never tiring of the surge of emotion that she felt when she said those three words aloud, nor how Cara's eyes softened as she heard them spoken. Cara moved her hips circularly, both knowing and feeling their centers just brushing together, teasingly. Her eyes opened and she was looking into the deep dark blue green bliss of Cara, at the flush that brought color to her cheeks, and the glistening wet and kiss swollen lips that parted.
"I love you." Cara vowed. Her mouth found Kahlan’s cheeks, and she mapped her entire face with her lips, and Kahlan could feel her warm breath, caressing her.
The love between them seemed tangible, alive as it filled her heart, traveled through the length of her body. Her back arched up, as those lips moved down the length of her neck, burning a trail over her skin. In each kiss, and in the soft touch of Cara’s finger tips on her arms, Kahlan could hear in her soul Cara’s voice, promising love, and warmth; vowing that they would have moments such as this, that the bond between them would be stronger and more enduring than even the rising moon outside the open doors.
The thigh on her shoulder trembled, and Cara leaned her cheek into it, to ground Kahlan in the moment, to keep her with her, focused on the cadence that her mouth and her tongue was playing as it moved through her wetness. With each beat of Kahlan’s heart Cara felt the assurance of her love, with each pass of her mouth over Kahlan’s swollen flesh she felt her own emotion growing. She reached deeply with her tongue, moving it inside of Kahlan, and she tasted the exquisite flavor of her excitement, and the hint of salt.
Salt from the tears that Cara’s eyes released. And she did not care. They were not tears of sadness or weakness, they were tears of love; an emotional release that she needed. Because she was so consumed by her love for Kahlan, it seemed as though it was so strong, and so powerful that not even her body could contain it.
Kahlan’s entire body tightened, ready to fall over the edge into bliss, and she shifted herself away from Cara’s mouth, which caused her to groan in dissatisfaction. As Kahlan pulled herself away from Cara she opened her eyes and glared openly at her, for taking the heaven she had found away.
“Now… I need… lay down Cara. I need you now.” She panted out her request. Cara’s muscles tightened, expecting to feel the order through the bond, but it was not there. She did not feel compelled. Instead she looked into Kahlan’s dark blue eyes and she felt more than compelled, seeing the need and the passion in her eyes. Cara felt the overwhelming sensation of her own desire and excitement.
Nodding she rolled onto her back, and moaned loudly as she felt Kahlan’s hands on her thighs, spreading her legs. She whimpered Kahlan’s name as she set her thighs on either side of Cara’s face, and she was blessed, even in the growing darkness with the sight of Kahlan’s center, dripping wet, blushed and swollen.
Cara’s hands reached up, her fingers gripping Kahlan’s buttocks with need, and she pulled her center down to her waiting mouth. With renewed vigor her tongue entered Kahlan, and she felt the muscles welcoming her, pulsing for her.
She swallowed deeply as her own body trembled, feeling Kahlan’s mouth mimicking hers, as she felt her tongue exploring her dripping core. Cara moaned deeply as Kahlan’s lips surrounded her clit and sucked. Her entire body tightened, her muscles dancing under the direction of Kahlan’s dedicated mouth. Cara follower her lead, and did the same. Feeling the firm nub between her lips, suckling it, before teasing the tip with her tongue.
"Oh... oh spirits!" Kahlan's mouth pulled away from Cara, and she knew, she could feel what was about to overtake the Confessor, she could feel the muscles tightening under her lips, could taste the change in her essence that it was literally pouring out of her. And knowing her mate was so close to the edge, she held her hips firmly, pressed her mouth desperately against the burning wet skin, her tongue tipping inside of her, as deep as she could go, as her nose pressed to Kahlan's swollen nub.
She had to groan, as she felt Kahlan's mouth return to her own center, and she felt the brunette’s mouth in a frenzy moving against her inner lips, as her tongue ran up and down the length of her, and she knew her own body would not be far behind Kahlan's if she even lasted that long.
"Mm... Cara." She said softly, barely more than a whisper, and Cara moved her fingers over her warm and smooth back, feeling the peace in her muscles, the relaxed state of Kahlan's body.
In the darkness she could not see the bruises she knew her fingers had left, nor the scratches along Kahlan's freckled skin. She pressed her lips to her shoulder, and wrapped her arms around her, settling her head on her's. Knowing her mate was at peace and was sleeping, and feeling the swell in her heart, the swell of pride, the swell of love, the swell of commitment.
Her body welcomed her waking mind with aching muscles. Muscles that ached in all the most wonderful ways. As she stretched out her leg, Kahlan could feel the tightness in her thigh, and it made her sigh gently, remembering what it was that had strained her muscles. Delicious moments with Cara.
Faintly she heard a contented sigh, and slowly she opened her eyes. Cara lay on her side, fully dressed, her head in her hand, watching Kahlan with warm eyes.
Kahlan could not help but smile. Opening her eyes and having Cara’s loving face be the very first thing she saw. How many years had she dreamt of a moment such as this? Of feeling so very loved, and content? It had seemed like her entire life she had wanted this feeling, but had thought that feelings and moments such as these were not meant for her. She was not supposed to love her mate, let alone have a mate who loved her by their own will. And yet, here she was. Facing this amazing woman who did love her for who she was, and who she in turn loved. She watched as Cara attempted to hold back her own smile, as her eyes dropped, but then, as if Kahlan’s own mood and smile were infectious, Cara’s eyes smiled, and then her lips followed suit, and she returned that very special smile. The smile that was just for Kahlan, which lit her face brighter than a hundred suns.
“Hello.” Kahlan said, stretching her entire body, and then moaning, loving the feel of her muscles’ protest.
“Hello.” Cara answered, still smiling, and still trying not to, adorably.
“You are dressed.”
“And I am not.”
“I prefer it that way.”
“Oh? Should I then stay naked all the time?”
Cara chuckled gently. “If I got my way? Yes.”
“That would be a sight. My riding into battle? Completely naked?”
“Oh.” Cara leaned closer. “I am quite certain that the masses? They would be stunned and very appreciative if you did.” Softly she kissed Kahlan’s cheek. “I love you.”
“I love you too Cara.” She reached out and set her palm to her cheek. “So very much.”
"Oh yes, let's travel to D'Hara early, right at the beginning of the rainy season." Kahlan grumbled as her hands went to her hair and she tried to wring some of the rain water from it. Her eyes glared at Cara who looked just as miserable, her hair hanging heavily around her face, her leather glistening and looking as though it was getting tighter every moment.
"Really Kahlan?" She snapped.
"Yes. Really." Kahlan laughed as Hally ran under the thick overhanging of rock against the mountain trail, both looking as miserable as Kahlan felt. "Any luck?"
"A series of caves, just as you predicted Mistress Cara." Hally said, and Kahlan watched as she put her hands on her hips and turned to face Kahlan with a smiling look of success.
"See." Cara said.
"Inhabited by Gars."
Cara's face fell.
"But they decided to leave." Hally offered.
"Gars? Decided to leave?" Kahlan asked incredulously.
"There may have been fire, screaming, a very unhappy and wet witch woman?" Hally offered, before shaking her head, and sending water flying around them. "So, we can camp there for the night. With enough room for all of us. Just don’t mind the décor."
“Décor?" Kahlan asked her eyebrow lifting.
"You know, rotting corpses, and some cleanly picked bones."
"Perhaps I will stay here." Kahlan said trying not to blanch. She felt a hand on her elbow, and looked to see Cara's eyes flashing.
"She was kidding. By the time we get there, it will be an acceptable place to weather the storm. Isn't that right Hally?"
"Um. Yes?" Hally smiled, and then half bowed before rushing back down the rain slicked trail, to do just that.
"Cara, I am sure it won’t bother me."
“I was just kidding.” She pleaded.
“Still, it will give them all something to do for a while.”
“A while? Why would it be a while? I am soaked to the skin, as are you.”
“I know.” Cara pulled Kahlan against her body suddenly. “You are soaked; your skin is coated with water. And I am suddenly very thirsty.” Her eyes looked up into Kahlan’s and she felt her knees go a little weak, and then weaker still as Cara’s lips moved stirringly on her own.
Through the sound of the falling rain she heard a low moan, and it took her a moment to realize it was her own voice, moaning Cara’s name. Leaning against the wet rock, she had left reality for a time; there had been no cold rain, there had not been the pressure of rock against her back, forcing the sword and sheath painfully against her shoulder blades; there had been nothing but the intoxicating sensation of lips meeting, of the taste of rain from Cara’s skin, of the warmth that swelled from the inside to out.
Kahlan blinked the drops of water from her eyes, seeing the top of Cara’s head, blonde hair made dark with the rain, and her throat made another sound as teeth nipped across the flesh of her neck. Passion was certainly ruling her reason, as her hands moved with their own volition, grasping Cara’s shoulder, her back, holding her closer, as close as possible. Her fingertips moved through her hair, down the back of her neck, touching the naked skin there, and loving immensely the fact that Cara was not wearing her full Mord-Sith regalia, and that without it, Kahlan’s fingers could slide along her wet skin, following the line of the muscles in her neck, over her collar bone, and down between her breasts.
“Kahlan.” Her name was whispered with the tone of longing.
Her own body trembled in reply, feeling that longing as well. In the two days of traveling they had not stolen time like this, alone.
Cara looked up at her, and as she did it allowed Kahlan’s hand to move between leather and flesh, to cup Cara’s full breast in the palm of her hand. As Cara’s eyes closed, Kahlan leaned forward, capturing her lips, biting gently her bottom lip, before sucking it desperately. Deepening the kiss her body ached to feel more, to know the wonder of release that she found only in the touch of her mate. Though standing here, in the wide open, anyone could walk around the corner and be upon them. Part of that knowledge made Kahlan’s heart beat harder, stronger, with the possibility of it.
Not that any of their traveling companions were ignorant to the fact that the two of them were lovers. Still, there was a sense of titillation at being so blatant and so free.
Cara leaned harder into her, and she could hear the scrape of metal from the sword at her back on rock, and the sigh of leather as it rubbed together. It was Kahlan who moved her lips this time, running her tongue along the length of Cara’s neck, swallowing the rain and the salty sheen of sweat from her skin. Her hand flexed, cupping Cara’s breast more firmly, her thumb running across her hard nipple. And the tips of her fingers felt something different.
She pulled her mouth from Cara’s skin, and looked down, seeing what her fingers had found. A tied bundle. The locks of her hair that she had cut for Cara months before.
“That’s mine.” Cara said softly, her fingers moving to surrounded Kahlan’s.
“Yes, It is.” Kahlan smile widened as Cara took the hair back, tucked it inside of her leathers, against her breast. Kahlan smiled, knowing that Cara kept the locks of hair, but also knowing that she too kept something in a similar place. She kept the small piece of red leather against her heart as well.
“We should…” Cara said softly.
“We should.” Kahlan agreed, but did not entirely mean it. She knew that Cara did not mean it either. Her hand rested on Cara’s chest, over her heart. “You look like… you did before.”
Cara’s brow rose in question.
“Your… leather.” Kahlan offered as way of clarification.
“I discovered that traveling requires a certain leniency.”
“It is too uncomfortable to sleep with… buckles everywhere.” She rolled her eyes and looked away. Kahlan was not sure if the sudden shyness that seemed to overtake Cara was due to her uniform, or the fact that Kahlan now knew what Cara kept close to her heart. Her mate, who seemed stoic so much of the time, had such a large and endearing heart. And Kahlan knew it.
“Let’s not go just yet.” Kahlan whispered, and for a moment she thought that perhaps the falling rain covered the sound of her voice, because Cara still looked out into the distance, past the dark line of trees. Then slowly she turned back to Kahlan, her eyes seeming to darken slightly in the quickly fading light. Her lips twitched ever so, as if she were fighting off a smile.
“No?” She asked softly.
“No. Please. Not just yet.” Kahlan knew her tone was bordering on a plea, and didn’t care. She could go to the cave and spend the night in it with the others, if she had a few moments more to replay over and over in her mind. Her fingers reached out, grabbing Cara’s belt and she pulled. Cara, to her credit did not resist, and in fact stepped close, and set her hands on the rock wall, on either side of Kahlan’s head. Her lips did then pull into a smile, warm and loving.
Kahlan accepted the unspoken invitation and pressed her lips to Cara’s just once, before biting her full bottom lip, and sucking it into her mouth hungrily.
The moan that she heard from Cara thrilled her heart. The rain began to fall heavier, thick and full drops, hitting with a biting chill that Kahlan welcomed against her fevered skin. Her hand moved to cup Cara’s face, while her other hand which was still holding fast to Cara’s belt, relinquished it’s hold and slipped down, moving with the culverts of rain down her strong thigh.
As Kahlan’s hand moved knowingly between Cara’s legs, the Mord-Sith seemed to submit to her kiss, and Kahlan’s tongue which moved deeply inside of her mouth, relishing the flavor of her. The specific taste that was Cara. The rain was now as thick as if they were standing beneath a waterfall, and it brought out a texture to Cara’s lips, and her skin that was intoxicating and new.
All she could seem to hear was the beating of her own heart as the water rushed over them, and it’s beat increased as she felt Cara suck and pull her tongue deeper into her mouth. Some how hands were moving over her body, and through the thick leather of her dress and corset she could magically feel the touch as if it were on her naked skin. Her own hand began moving more urgently back and forth against Cara’s core, as she felt fingers gripping roughly on her naked thigh. Their lips and tongues danced rapidly, moving together with the passionate need that consumed them both.
Kahlan as sure that she no longer needed to breathe, all that she needed was Cara’s kiss, the movement of their lips. Her whole body throbbed as the tip of Cara’s tongue moved along the roof of her mouth. The blonde trembled in her arms, as her hips jerked suddenly, moving in opposition to her hand.
She swallowed the essence of Cara’s mouth along with the clean rain, and moaned as fingers moved along the inside of her thigh, reaching for her.
A scream sounded in the distance. While not human it was enough to clear the ardent fog from Kahlan’s eyes. She set her forehead to Cara’s as they both panted heavily.
“Interrupted once again.” Cara grumbled.
“I know. Still… when you kiss me like that? The world? It ceases to exist.” Kahlan confessed.
Cara’s eyes smiled at hers. “I know.” Gently her kiss swollen lips pressed to Kahlan’s. “I feel it too.”
Without discussion, Cara’s hand found Kahlan’s. Their fingers entwined and they began walking along the muddy path. Kahlan knew that if they talked about returning to the others they would not. Night was thickening around them, and as much as she wanted to stay right where they were, as much as she wanted to return to the blissful world she found herself submerged in as they kissed, with Gars in the area it would be smart if they went to the others. Kissing would have to wait.
“You… are beautiful.” Kahlan affirmed, her hand moving up to touch Cara’s wet forearm.
“Still deadly?” She smirked.
“Always deadly.” Kahlan smiled, and then thought for a moment, wondering when Cara had changed, when she went from the smirking stubborn Cara who looked like this, as they traveled the Midlands, to the regimented and serious Mord-Sith who had seemed to emerge in Aydindril. Not that Kahlan had minded the change; on the contrary, there was comfort and pride in seeing Cara in her full uniform. When once it had created discontent and anger; reminders of what a Mord-Sith was; when Cara had appeared before her, chin held high, eyes clear, the rigid leather seemed to emphasize the woman who wore it. “Cara?”
“Why did you start to wear your Mord-Sith leathers again?”
“They were all that I had. You do recall that I took a knife to my others.”
Kahlan felt a blush rising in her cheeks, recalling not only the cause of the torment of emotions that caused Cara to take her dagger and cut the leather from her skin, but also the look of Cara’s naked flesh, and seeing it for the first time. Albeit not under the best of circumstances. “I remember. But, after?”
Cara stopped walking and looked at Kahlan, her eyes serious. “I was reduced to a pile of emotions. Of everything a Mord-Sith is not. I found comfort at first in the familiar tightness. You understand? Having worn them yourself.”
Kahlan nodded, because she did understand. In being bound and held tightly by the leather there was a certain sense of belonging, of comfort.
“After that? I got used to them again. I…” She looked away, over Kahlan’s shoulder and her eyes clouded some, as if she was uncomfortable with the thought she was about to voice. “I… felt pride again, in being Mord-Sith.”
“Don’t look away from me when you say that. That you are proud of who you are? I understand and respect that. I love that part of you.”
“The part trained to kill. The part that did kill every confessor living, including your sister, and put you in the predicament of being the last.”
“The last for now.” Kahlan stressed.
“For now?” Cara asked, her eyes searching her face.
Kahlan stepped closer to Cara and looked into her eyes, conveying her sincerity and her love. She waited, until she saw understanding and then the glimmer of the same emotions in Cara’s eyes. “We will have a daughter. And she will have a daughter, and so on.”
“We?” Cara blinked at her.
“We.” Kahlan said firmly. “I am proud of you, and proud that you are Mord-Sith.” Her lips silenced Cara’s argument. She had heard them before; she did not need to hear them again, not at that moment.
She stumbled into the room, but refused to fall, and instead aimed for the far wall, and crashed against it, her chest heaving, lungs not pulling in enough air. Her hair was dripping, and Berdine could feel loose tendrils of hair from braid falling around her shoulders. Behind her the cell door closed, and once the eyes of the guards and other Mord-Sith were no longer on her, she allowed herself to fall into a heap on the floor, exhausted and still struggling for air.
Her muscles all jumped when she felt hands on her shoulders.
“It’s me.” Raina’s voice soothed and Berdine groaned, and leaned back against the smaller woman. “You are soaked to the skin.”
“The tank.” Berdine hissed. She hated the tank. Of all the asinine ways to torture someone the tank in her opinion was always the last resort, because it took neither finesse nor expertise to do to someone. Mord-Sith should pride themselves on their skills and their talent when it came to torture. To hang someone upside down and drop their head into a large tank of water? Any imbecile could accomplish that, and with the same results. In this case, none.
“Why would Triana use the tank? I know she is pretty much useless when it comes to the whip, but really?”
Berdine leaned her face into Raina’s neck, and even through the leather she could still smell the warmth of her skin, and it helped to focus her mind. “It was that wizard. Neville. He lacks any grace.”
“Yes. He does.” Raina’s voice was frigid, and Berdine forced herself to not think of anything in that moment that was not the smell of Raina’s skin, or the feel of her fingers on the back of her head. She would scream if she thought of anything else. “What did they want?”
“I am to read for Neville.”
“Yes.” Berdine groaned, sitting back and looking at Raina, seeing the fresh bruising on her cheek, hating it there. “Apparently a delivery came this morning, a trunk of books liberated from the libraries of the People’s Palace. As Darken is still a specter he finds it difficult to flip pages.” Berdine smirked.
“Ah, so when he told you to read for Neville you declined.”
“Now I will be spending my evening reading to the dark hair idiot. Who could imagine? A hundred year old Wizard who doesn’t know how to read the simplest of ancient languages.”
“Not High D’Haran?”
“No. This book is written in the language of the Bandakar.”
“But… all Wizards should know that!” Raina rolled her eyes.
“Apparently Neville is from the Old World, and does not even know of the Bandakar Region, let alone the language or their specialties.”
“So a book of prophecies then?”
“I don’t like this.” Raina said, her eyes darkening to the point of looking black.
“Why do they want you to read these books? Why does Darken Rahl want Cara here? None of this makes any sense. In the old days we would have been tortured and broken in a week and that would be that. Our loyalty would not be in question. But this? Seems a ruse of some sort. And I don’t like it. I also do not like that all the Mord-Sith here? Not one do I recognize, and all seem… in a haze.” Raina mused, her forehead furrowed.
Berdine reached for her, and pulled her closer, knowing the smaller Mord-Sith was probably not in the mood to be held, but also knowing that she would relent and allow Berdine a few moments of closeness, because in that moment, that was all she could comprehend.
“I don’t like it either.” Berdine said softly, before placing her lips to Raina’s forehead. Perhaps the tank had been more effective than she thought, because her mind felt jumbled. She could not seem to think beyond this moment, she seemed to care less and less about anything other than being in the moment, holding Raina tightly against her chest.
The armies of D’Hara and half of the Galean force would be following them to the east, but with their size and scope General Reibisch suggested that they travel south to the Kern River Valley and make their crossing there. It was with a mixture of pride and shame that the General admitted that under the order of Darken Rahl a large bridge had been erected over the river, to make crossing easier for the army. After moments of outrage and argument from Prince Harold, who finally calmed down and agreed that it was a sound plan. The smaller group would travel on foot through the mountains of the boundary between the Midlands and D’Hara. Kahlan, once deciding that leaving Aydindril was what she needed to do, did not want to wait. Though, she teased Cara about traveling during the rainy season, it really was nothing that they had not traveled through before, during the year they journeyed all across the Midlands with Richard in search of the Stone of Tears.
Perhaps the difference this time was the more solemn nature of the group and that it had tripled in size.
Entering the cave, Cara noticed it was surprisingly clean, and that everyone, Hally, Captain Ryan, the four guards, Shota and even Drefan looked dry and comfortable. Cara raised her brow. Orsk was the only one who still seemed wet, and he stood in the dark back of the cave, his arms crossed and his one eye glaring at everyone.
"Shota used magic." Hally smiled up at her, as a way of explaining, from where she sat beside the fire, tending to the cooking pot.
"I see." Cara grumbled, watching out of the corner of her eye as Kahlan stood over the fire, hands outstretched to warm.
"I could make you both dry." Shota offered.
"You could. But I would rather you didn't." Cara snapped. The idea of magic drying her skin seemed appalling suddenly. While her leather was thick and heavy with the rain, she would prefer that to some quick magical fix. She was surprised Hally had allowed such a thing, but then again, Hally was never one to fear magic outright, she seemed too intrigued by the wonder of it. That and Cara was sure that some coaxing by Captain Ryan had come into play. Hally looked at the man as if he were her Lord Rahl. Which Cara understood. She knew she looked at Kahlan in a very similar way, even before she was in fact Lord Rahl.
"I am still surprised that you asked to accompany us." Kahlan said to the Witch. “I would assume you would have been content to stay in Aydindril, or even return to your home.”
“Mother Confessor, in light of events, I thought you would understand. That you need someone with you who has the ability of magic. You are without a Wizard’s protection. I thought it only… logical that I accompany you.”
“How very magnanimous of you.” Kahlan said, sitting down beside Hally. Cara smirked as the small Mord-Sith moved slightly away from the water that was dripping off of Kahlan’s dark leather dress. “So magnanimous in fact that I do not believe you.”
"I have always wanted to see the People's Palace." Shota offered, running her hand over the white fur stole she wore.
"You didn't like your stay there before." Cara mumbled under her breath, before realizing it.
Shota’s eyes narrowed in confusion. "My? I have never been to the People’s Palace."
"Cara?" Kahlan asked, and the sound of her name brought her mind back to the reality, that what Cara remembered from time to time had not in fact actually happened. Kahlan had not married Darken Rahl, she had not given birth to a male confessor.
"Oh... Alternative Reality... when... when I went forward in time with Richard." She clarified.
"You have done that many times?" Shota asked.
"Just the once." Cara said, poking at the flames of the fire with a stick. She willed her mind to push away the thoughts and feelings the memory of the future brought out in her. Of seeing the marble likeness of Kahlan atop her tomb. Of seeing the Mord-Sith temple in shambles, the bodies of her sisters lying about in abandoned decay.
"Well, in THIS reality, I have never been. And I look forward to seeing it."
"Seeing it? Or feeling the magic." Cara asked her eyes hard as she looked up at the Witch. There was something about her that Cara never trusted, and knew she never would. She talked but the truth was never in her words, it was hidden between them.
"Magic?" Kahlan asked.
“The People's Palace was constructed in the shape of a power spell. This spell is meant to drain power from any of the gifted who are inside the Palace walls, while increasing the strength of Lord Rahl.” Cara shrugged.
“When I was there before… it did not seem to affect my magic at all.” Kahlan said.
Cara shuddered inwardly. She had heard the tale, from other Mord-Sith and from Kahlan herself. When Darken Rahl had Kahlan in his favorite torture room; when he had used Kahlan’s trusted Wizard Giller, to shove needles into her body. All in the failed attempt to steal from her the power of the Confessor.
“In fact, when I slipped into the Con Dar and it seemed to be stronger than it had ever been before.”
“Your magic is different Kahlan. What you possess? The gift of the Confessor? It is not like normal magic. It is a twining of very old magics, from three thousand years ago. You are a product of that magical union, and therefore, the spell of the People’s Palace will not affect you in the same way it affects me, or others, like Zeddicus. Cara is correct; the Palace is built in a specific way, to amplify the spell. A power spell was a web cast or drawn to increase one's power with the gift. It also siphons the power of other gifted, leaving them far from their full strength.”
Kahlan asked. “And you want to experience this why?”
“I have my reasons.”
The flames in the fire sparked with agitation as Cara tossed a fresh log on them. “Speak the truth, Witch. You are interested in the unfinished spell.”
A hush fell over the cave. No one spoke for a moment. Shota’s eyes narrowed at Cara.
“What do you mean, Cara?” Kahlan asked.
“Shota? How old are you?” Cara asked.
“Does that matter?”
Cara smiled, but it was neither kind nor welcoming. It was the smile that personified the threat, that Cara’s question was to be answered, and would be answered.
“Ninety four.” The witch woman spat.
“Wow. You look well…rested.” Hally said absently, and then the small blonde snapped her fingers. “oh! I know this!”
Cara raised a brow to her.
“The time spell!” Hally said, smiling, very proud.
“Darken Rahl was working for years on an additional spell, to cast over the People’s Palace.” Cara said, standing and crossing her arms. She had an inkling as to why the Witch was so keen to go with them, and now her suspicions were confirmed. “Berdine explained it to me once.” Cara’s eyes were still on Shota. “The spell was almost completed, before Darken Rahl became side tracked with his obsession over Richard, and the boxes of Orden…. You are interested in the time spell.”
“Perhaps.” Shota said flatly.
“A spell that slows the passage of time. Much like the spell that is built into the Palace of the Prophets. And the one that Shota has created in the Agaden Reach.” Cara explained.
“I won’t deny my curiosity.”
“A spell to stop time.” Kahlan said softly.
“Yes. What more could a ruler want, that to reside in a Palace where they will never age and therefore never have to relinquish their rule?”
The moment the door opened Berdine’s eyes opened, but she did not move from her comfortable resting place. Her arm around Raina’s waist, her head nestled on her shoulders. She knew she should move, she knew she should rise up and stand over Raina growling at whoever it was that dared enter.
In the instant where she knew she should do these things, footsteps echoed on the stone floor, and then the warmth of the body beside hers was wrenched away.
“No.” She growled, sitting up, her finger tips moving across Raina’s chest and arm as the two guards pulled her away.
“Perhaps this will loosen your tongue.” Triana snapped from the door way.
Berdine looked at Raina, whose brown eyes conveyed her command. She was ordering Berdine to stay calm, to do nothing. To not give in. But Berdine could not abide that command.
“What ever you want. I will do. Just… please… do not hurt her.”
“Don’t hurt her?” Triana laughed. “You will get off the floor, and you will read the Wizard his silly little books and then you will do anything else the Wizard wants. Don’t hurt her. Seriously, Berdine? Of course we will hurt her. We’ll just… not kill her. How’s that?”
She rose to her full height and glared down at Triana. Berdine was not disappointed as the back of Triana’s armored gloved hand slammed into the side of her face. The strike helped to wake her muddled mind up. Her eyes narrowed, but she said nothing.
Berdine didn’t need to say anything aloud, she was making promises silently. Of how she was going to rip Triana’s arms off.
The notion of standing watch was ridiculous, and she told Richard as much. What difference did it make if she was asleep or awake if someone decided that they would attack in the dead of night? If they attacked then they attacked. She doubted even if she were in the depths of sleep that anyone could best all of them. But still Richard had rambled on and on about how it was better to be prepared. He did not seem to be concerned with her logic that in all likelihood no one would attack and all they were doing was reducing the hours of rest each person would gain. Something about the twitch in the corner of his eyes made her relent her argument, and she offered to take the most difficult watch. The one between the first and the last. His eye stopped twitching then.
Nicci did not sleep before, she had been all to aware of the sound of Richard sitting beside the fire, carving something. The rasp of steel on wood was grating, was constant. It made her think. And Nicci had not wanted to think, certainly not about what her mind kept returning to. The fact that a mere twitch in the corner of Richard Rahl’s eye was enough to cause her to give in to him. Because if that fact were true? Then what Six had bragged about was also true. That Richard Rahl was her weakness.
Nicci had never known weakness, and she certainly did not appreciate having one now.
When Richard woke her he seemed startled when she rolled over, eyes wide awake. Neither of them spoke for a moment, and she looked at the clouds of thought that had rolled across his eyes. When she rose, he wished her a safe watch, and she meant to say the same nonsensical kindness back about having a safe rest, but instead she had asked what he had been carving.
Richard had replied that it was nothing really, and from where he lay on his bed roll he had tossed it to her. She was looking at it now, as she sat beside the fire.
What he referred to nothing really was in fact something. Definitely something. This was a small carving of a bird. But not some masculine bird such as a hawk or eagle. It was a crow. Just a simple crow. And it was implicitly detailed. Something tiny enough to fit in the palm of Nicci’s hand, and yet she could see each line of feathers. While made of wood she was almost certain it could take flight. There was no possible way someone without the gift could have carved something so intricate.
It fascinated her.
It bothered her.
She tossed the carving into the fire before her, just to see it burn.
It did burn. A dark green. The flames rose into the night air, reds and oranges tinted by the familiar green. Nicci closed her eyes in annoyance.
"Darken Rahl. I told you and your Master, I bow to no one."
"Ah, Nicci, that is no longer true.”
She opened her eyes and looked at the immaterial form of Darken Rahl standing amid the flames.
“From what I understand you bowed willingly to my successor."
"My Master, he will have you in time, and is no longer worried about that. No what he, and I, are concerned with is what we are hearing from the land of the living. It seems as though someone is meddling with power they do not understand."
"It does not concern you." Nicci said, her eyes moving to the sleeping form of Richard in the shadows. He seemed to be at peace and asleep. Nicci wondered if she too were in fact asleep, if this was merely an odd dream.
"Oh you are very wrong Nicci. It does concern me. As it concerns you... I know you are very knowledgeable in prophesies... read any good ones lately?"
“What are you getting at, Darken?”
“I have heard the most interesting prophecy. Set my heart a twitter even. If I had a heart.” He crossed his arms. “ ‘The one bonded to the blade will watch helplessly as his actions force the one in white to take sides. The one in white will betray the one in red, forcing her to choose life; and they will fight. In life there will stand a monument to a ruined age. With the aid of the dark shall come the light, and all life will be redefined. From death will be borne a revival, the one in white will quench the inferno and will fill a shallow grave.’ “ He tapped his finger to his lips. “Now I wonder…. The one in white and the one in red? Could this be our hapless Mother Confessor and her Mord-Sith? We all know the blundering of my brother set this all in motion. What say you Nicci?”
“What does a prophesy matter? Especially to you, as you are dead.”
“Have you ever died before, Nicci? I have. More than once. And I must say, death seems to lack the permanence one normally fears. The question should be, have you chosen your side? The war that is coming? It pleases my Master, as it will give him a new vitality, in the amount of souls.”
“I still do not care.”
“But you should. Oh, Nicci, you should. Because you play a vital role in this.” He smiled kindly at her, but she could see the dark green flames in his eyes. “You will need to decide your side. And soon.”
“Should I assume you have chosen yours?”
“Of course! I choose life.”
“How strangely obvious. You choose what you do not have.”
“But I will. Nicci, I am aware of the plague that rises from the south, and I am comforted knowing you are there, helping my brother to defeat it, but you and I both know that it will take so much more than determination and stubbornness to defeat an army of that size, not to mentioned thwarting a maniacal sorceress bent on domination.”
“You know of Six then.”
“I am in the Underworld, Nicci, at the hand of the Keeper himself. Of course I KNOW!” His face contorted with the rage that he allowed to show. “What she is planning? It cannot come to pass, and I will do everything in my power to stop her.”
While her personal knowledge of Darken Rahl was mostly second hand, Nicci knew enough that whatever altruism he was portraying was false. He would only be motivated by something that would in the end provide him personal gain.
"You wish to return to the land of the living. How does your Master feel about that?"
"He understands that sometimes things are necessary."
"You have a body." Nicci thought for a moment. "And I assume you have Mord-Sith. But do you have someone who can summon your soul into that new body?"
"It is a little more complicated than that."
"A simple Wizard or sorceress could attempt it. Attempt. Not succeed." She stressed.
"I have all I need to become flesh, but I need more. You see. What good would it do me to return to the living without my powers? Without... being Lord Rahl."
"If you returned, you would have to devote yourself or you would fall prey to the Dream Walker."
"Then devote yourself to Drefan Rahl."
"To that bastard." He snapped.
Nicci smiled, and held her tongue.
"Nicci... I know that the bastard is not the true Lord Rahl. Just as I know that the Mother Confessor is the ultimate prize in this battle."
Nicci's smile faded. “If you know everything then why are you here, annoying me?”
“This world is the world I know, the world where I can and will be Lord Rahl again, with or without your help. I refuse to allow some witch of lowly birth to attempt to facilitate her delusions of grandeur. She seeks to break down the walls of our worlds. She covets power. And if she controls the Mother Confessor she will have such power. She could sail the oceans… Nicci, do you know what lays on the other side of the oceans?”
The color fell from her face. She knew it did and she knew there was no point in hiding it. “I do.”
“If Six gains control of the Mother Confessor? All magic will cease. And our world will be no more. It will not fall into the hands of the Keeper… it will fall to those of the outside.”
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