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Author: Amanda (aka seven_3_oh)
Fandom: Legend of the seeker
Word Count: 14,984 // 246,207
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: *mini note, as i wrote a scene that is posted here, oh, over two months ago, and low and behold it was there on the tv...so, huh.* and if only we had been shown Dahlia before I started primary, well, things would have been even more angsty. As it is, I played with what I saw and what was said at the end of S1 / beginning of S2. So just go with it, yes? Good. AND! another update later this week. *wink*
A/N: seriously. buckle up.
She stood, her back straight, her gloved fingers interlocked behind her back, looking out the massive windows across the plains. Dust devils were swirling in the afternoon light, as the cold air came down from the mountains to slam into the winter heat from the dusty soil. They spun, small little vortexes, dancing with one another, until they collided. Sometimes they became bigger, other times they obliterated each other. Cara watched, her face without expression, because inside, behind the mask her soul was like those dust devils. Her doubt and her darkness were twirling and dancing, colliding and warring with her love and her faith. It had been nine months now. Nine months since the night in the Temple. Time was constant, and moved. Time and distance became a curved blade moving under her skin. Removing strips of it with each passing day. She forced the doubt and the darkness to slam together to obliterate each other, so she could be left with peace. With the calm love and faith she had in Kahlan.
That morning a humming in her ear woke her, and blinking for a moment to clear her mind of dreams Cara sat up. The room was the same; the moment seemed like every other she had experienced. A long string of existence. The faint blue light before her eyes couldn't be real. And yet, as she opened her palm the light sat on her skin. And the humming increased, and her body was flooded with feeling. "Kahlan." Cara had sobbed, feeling her mate near. Knowing it wasn't true, but not caring as the tears rolled down her face. And she closed her eyes, and listened to the words of the Night Wisp, hearing the tale of battles waged in her name, and of all the moments Kahlan thought of her. The depth of Kahlan’s love. This Night Wisp had come all of this way, and would soon perish. But inside of her she had carried Kahlan’s emotions, her feelings and her thoughts. Then Cara's eyes had opened wide. She looked to the small creature in her hand, to see its brilliant blue light waning, slipping away as was its life. It had given it's all, just to come to her, to tell her, to share with her the beautiful glory that was her daughter’s birth. It was as though she too had been there, kneeling beside Kahlan in the safety of the Night Wisp forest, as their daughter, Carys, was born. She knew she was smiling, as the tears rolled down her face, as her heart broke and beat at the same time.
Cara closed her eyes.
The darkness and the doubt, the anger and the pain at not being there, not holding Kahlan, not seeing their daughter surged and spun. It twirled with enough force to make her sway. And her love, her understanding, their bond, and the truth turned and gained ground. Became a massive and destructive force inside of her. The two halves continued to battle, and wage their own war inside of her body.
She willed her thoughts to quiet. And she willed her own mind to focus on one thing. One thing.
She felt pressure building inside her head, felt her eyes close and she saw stars, and she focused any magic, any power she had outward, flinging it away from herself. Sending, if she could, three words to Kahlan, where ever she may be.
"I love you."
"Mistress Cara?" the voice interrupted her thoughts, her dark and soothing mood.
"What is it, Garren?" She asked, not needing to turn to know the Mord-Sith stood at attention behind her.
"In accordance with Lord Rahl's order, the new batch of trainees has been delivered."
Cara winced, and did not turn, did not allow the other woman to see the pain on her face.
"He has requested that you be in charge of the initial training. The first breaking."
"I am sure he did." Cara turned then, knowing even Kahlan would be proud of her ability to shield her emotions. "I will not...ever...be party to that."
Cara backhanded her, swiftly and mercilessly. The woman crumbled to her knees.
"Who is in charge here?"
Keeping her eyes to the stone floor Garren murmured, "You are."
"Yes. I am. Do not forget that."
"Yes Mistress." Her reply followed Cara as she walked slowly back down the long hallway, finding comfort in the shadows. She wanted to retreat into them, to retreat into her thoughts of Kahlan. It was as if, since waking that morning she knew. Today was a special day.
Her flat palms slammed into the wall, as her body had spun from the force of the impact. Her face burned from the connection of the armored glove on her cheek. Her right hand balled into a fist and she punched the wall, knowing the ancient brick cracked under her strike, and she turned back around, to glare into the nearly black eyes of the Mord-Sith standing there. Her face was hard, but Berdine’s heart was harder.
“You are ordered to return to the People’s Palace.”
“You are Mord-Sith Berdine. This is your life. There are no options here. There is doing as commanded. Nothing more.”
“Then you do not understand a thing about the world. About what it means to be Mord-Sith.”
“I have been instructed to kill you, if you do not return.”
“Then I suppose I should ask you, did you enjoy the sunrise this morning?”
“It was your last.” Berdine growled, kicked the Mord-Sith in the head, sending her across the chamber. “Where is Raina?” She screamed down at the woman who was blinking, blood emerging from her mouth and nose.
“NO!” Berdine sat up, the scream caught in her throat.
“Nightmare?” A voice asked from beside her. She looked up to see the Mother Confessor, concern on her face. She was sitting at her desk, dressed in her white gown, and she seemed to radiate calm and safety.
She brushed her hand against her cheek, pushing away the tears there, “Yes.” She admitted shamefully.
“It… whatever it was, I am sure it was just a dream.”
“Raina.” She whispered. The nightmares were a constant. All Mord-Sith experienced them, to varying degrees. Though in the months that Raina had been gone, Berdine’s nightmares had taken on a cruelty. Of her being unable to see Raina. Or being kept from her. Berdine knew that her mind was absorbing her own concern and that of the Mother Confessor. She was feeling her emotions and her sadness.
It had become stronger since they had journeyed together deep into the forests of the Rang’Shada Mountains, the feeling and the realization of how difficult this must be. How hard for the Mother Confessor and for Cara. Berdine had sobbed the day Carys was born. She had been told to wait outside a thick ring of ancient trees that pulsed with magic and foreboding. Berdine had found waiting to be worse than many different techniques of torture she had been subjected to over the course of her life. She had been wearing black Mord-Sith leather, for the very first time, and had decided to lash out at her gloves. Pacing back and forth between the trees, the gloves were balled in her fist as she clenched and unclenched her hands. The feeling of that place unsettled Berdine, as had the screams that had danced through the night. There had been a dozen or more times when she had jumped, and nearly stepped through the ring of trees, through the shadow of magic and run to Kahlan. The only thing that held her back, rooted her to the ground was the warning. Clear and honest. If she were to step into that sacred place she would die. And Berdine refused to die. Her own innate stubbornness would not allow her to die. Not yet. Not without seeing Raina again. So she had paced, her body taunt, her hands clenching and unclenching. Until a twig snapped. At that moment, as she turned she was certain that if her heart was not already beating inside of Raina's chest it would have stopped. The Mother Confessor had appeared ethereal. She had smiled sadly as she came closer, the gloves fell to the ground, forgotten, Berdine’s eyes were transfixed on the small pink body the Mother Confessor had held in her arms, wrapped in the softest red linen. Berdine’s heart had ached for Cara, wishing she could have been standing there in her place, to see this moment. To experience it. The Mother Confessor had extended her arms and the child in them to her, asking if Berdine would like to hold her. Which she most certainly did not. Someone as big and clumsy as her would break such a small and fragile thing. And she had said as much. Not that it mattered. The child had been thrust into her arms. Berdine had blinked with astonishment at the life in her arms, bright eyes looking up at her, and her little fingers curling and then uncurling against the leather she wore. "Her name is Carys." Kahlan had said softly, as her fingertip touched her daughter’s cheek. "Carys Amnell. Princes of Galea, and one day, she will be Mother Confessor."
Her hand moved to her face, and she rubbed away the cobwebs of dreams, and memory, along with the haze of the dread from her skin. “Mother Confessor?”
“Kahlan.” She stressed once again.
The dread of the nightmare clung to her, and it held the sword of darkness in its hand. In her dream, as well as in her heart, Berdine knew she wanted blood. She wanted to break bones and watch her enemy bleed in pain. “Am I a monster?”
“What?” Kahlan asked, setting her pen down between the pages of the book.
“I… I have done things. So many terrible things… and I feel as though I will be punished. In this life and the next, I should not be granted a moment’s peace or kindness for what I have done.”
“How can you be a monster?” Kahlan asked and then gestured to the small bundle who lay sleeping in the crook of Berdine’s arm. “She does not think you a monster. Nor does Raina, nor do I.”
“This one? She just doesn’t know me yet.” Berdine said, her finger tip moving over the sleeping infant’s cheek.
“Give her time.”
“I do not think you should lead the serge. Let someone else do it. I know, you take your daughter to Aydindril and I will lead the Calvary?”
“Berdine. We need you. She will need someone who can protect her from magic. Someone who knows what a Confessor can do.”
“How many times must I tell you? I am Mord-Sith. No female child is safe with me."
"She will be. I trust you Berdine. To raise her. To care for her.”
Berdine's throat snapped with her swallow. When Kahlan spoke this way, when her words and the resignation in her face spoke to the truth, that she may not live to see the end of the war, terror grew inside of Berdine. The world needed the Mother Confessor in it. It needed her sense of honor and duty. To think of a world without her, was to think of a world that was flipped and turned inside out where nothing would make sense. "No. That is what you must do. Forsake the war. We will fight in your name. You need to take her and return home."
"When the war is won? I will return home. We will find a way to break the oath, and Cara will come home. We will be a family. Until then? Protect her? Love her?"
"Kahlan please. Don't do this."
"I already have, Berdine."Kahlan smiled.
“Cara is not going to like this.”
“Who do you think gave me the idea? Now, hush. You’ll wake her.”
There was something about the sound of leather striking flesh that soothed her. Even when it was done to annoy her, it still had that delicate quality of calm. Her eyebrow raised slightly as Raina did it again, slapped her gloves against her bare hand.
Raina stood beside her as they looked across the Kern River to see the encampment there, were the Mother Confessor’s troops had set up two nights ago. When Cara and the Third Battalion met up with General Reibisch the night before she had not realized that the two armies were separated by the massive river and the canyon it ran between. She could see the glow of fires, and movements as people moved about the camp, but she knew she would not be able to see Kahlan. Kahlan was far to the south, moving quickly against the tides and beaches of the ocean. Her message this morning was that she had found a solution to the pressing problem. Emperor Jagang had requested a meeting with the Mother Confessor, Lord Rahl, and the Seeker. His invitation spoke in gentle tones, of putting aside arms and coming to a peaceful surrender. They all knew it was a trap, but they also knew that they could spring a trap of their own.
“Will she be traveling to the rendezvous?” Cara asked.
Cara gritted her teeth, knowing she could not be there. They were meeting in the Midlands, and where she stood now, on the edge of the canyon, on the edge of D’Haran soil was as far west as she could travel. Rage bubbled inside of her guts, burning her throat.
“I need to kill someone.”
“Funny. Kahlan said the same thing just before I left.”
Cara laughed. “Well tomorrow we will both get our wish.” She shook her head as Raina slapped her glove again. “You can go back, you know.” Cara said, feeling the other Mord-Sith’s annoyance.
“I know. And I will. Eventually.”
“Eventually could be now. I do not need someone to watch over me.”
“No? I think some of us would argue that point. You do have a way of getting into trouble when you are left alone.”
Her arms crossed. “Never. I do not get into trouble, I merely… act.”
“Ah, yes. So very right, Mistress. Whatever was I thinking?”
“She is as well as can be expected. When I left she seemed so very focused, every moment is spent in planning, preparing, and sparring.”
“Sparring?” Cara asked, her eyebrows conveying her interest.
“Yes. She and Berdine go at it for hours.”
Cara felt her eyes narrow and a deep flush of red move under her skin. Jealousy and anger merged. While she knew better, and she knew full well that Raina was poking at her with a stick of what ifs, she still felt it bubble under her skin.
“Though I think she will soon find someone else.”
Raina winked. “Berdine pulls her punches.”
“Kahlan hates that.”
“I am well aware.” Cara smiled, the jealousy moving to a low simmer. “How is… did you see?”
Raina looked behind them, at the D’Haran camp. Darken Rahl was there, in the middle of it all, his favorite Mord-Sith and concubines catering to him as he, Zedd, Nicci, Richard, and the Prelate Vera poured over ancient texts and spells. Cara had left as quickly. It not only made her head hurt to hear them talking of magic, but to see them all, around the table, and not see Kahlan, it had been too strange.
“Your daughter is adorable. Which I believe is due in part to the Mother Confessor alone. You could not be party to anything adorable.”
“Hm.”Cara pursed her lips in agreement.
“Berdine thinks she may begin walking soon.” Raina said off handedly, and then slapped her glove against her palm again.
Cara sighed, her eyes moving along the camp, wondering so many things. So much she could not experience firsthand, but learned through notes left nightly in the journey book by Kahlan, and those letters sent between commanders.
Cara too wanted to change the subject. “Did you kill the Prince yet?”
“She forbids it. I noticed Nyda sulking about. I did not expect to ever see her out of the dungeons. But there she is, and every time I turn around she is watching you.”
“As she has been instructed to by Lord Rahl.”
“Oh, I think it is more than that.”
“No it isn’t.” Cara said firmly. “She is to keep watch, to see if you brought… my daughter with you.”
“Does he think we are that stupid?”
“Lord Rahl thinks every one besides him is stupid.”
“Are you sure that is all? That you could not trust her? You could use an ally. I would of course suggest myself, but I hate you.”
“I am well aware of that fact. Besides, Berdine would be less than pleased to be away from you.”
“She… is conflicted.”
“She needs you, Raina.”
“She has me.”
Cara turned to her. “No. She needs you. Once the siege is over, take her away.”
“Oh yes, and we shall leave the Mother Confessor and your daughter unprotected?”
“Take her with you then.” Cara growled and stepped away, moving further up the river’s edge.
“You know we cannot just up and leave, and that Kahlan would never go along with us.”
“I know what it is like to be plagued by the nightmares, the demons. I know Berdine’s terror.” She looked over her shoulder. “You know what you need to do.”
“I have not done that…to her.”
“Raina…” Her voice left all the words unsaid.
“How do you stop the nightmares?”
“I don’t. I embrace them. I have learned that to feel something is better than feeling nothing. Besides, my lust for blood will be sated soon enough.”
“Yesterday’s squirmish wasn’t enough?”
“Please. That was just a prelude. Tomorrow we will bath in their blood.” Cara smiled mischievously.
Rikka wasn’t sure why she was holding her breath, it just seemed as though she should. And so she did. She held it and didn’t move as slowly, methodically the Mother Confessor prowled around her, eyes moving up and down her body, like she was prey before the starving hunter.
“I don’t know.” Orsk said from the corner of the tent.
Kahlan crossed her dark leather clad arms, and turned her head in a way that made her long hair fall over her shoulder. “I actually think it is perfect.”
Rikka let out the breath she had been holding.
“But if any of the others there know you they could give her away.” Berdine said.
“You worry too much Berdine. If she.” Kahlan reached up and lifted the white hood and set it over Rikka’s head. “Wears it like this? I don’t think they will be able to tell the difference. What do you think, Rikka?”
“I think I am terrified. How can you wear this? Are you worried that every step will get some dirt or grim on it? I mean it is so very white.” She huffed, her hands moving over the tight white bodice of the Confessor’s gown.
“It is not just any white material.” Kahlan said.
“It’s magic?” Rikka knew her eyes went wide. No one had mentioned that the dress was spelled.
She laughed softly. “I don’t know about magic. It is treated with some oils, so that most dirt rolls off.”
“Hmm.” Rikka frowned.
“Are you sure you want to do this? You know it will be a trap.” She said honestly, her deep blue eyes searching Rikka’s.
“Which is why it should be me.”
“I thought we decided it was you because your breasts are similar.” Hally said from where she sat in the corner, using the tip of her knife to clean beneath her nails. “That’s why Berdine can’t do it. Her breasts are far too large.”
“I am right here!” Berdine grumbled.
“What is it with you and your obsession with breasts?” Rikka sputtered.
Hally shrugged and displayed her impish smile.
Her eyes moved again to the mountain of a man who stood in the corner, his eye watching her closely. Rikka’s heart skipped when Hally stood and went to stand in front of him.
“I say we arm wrestle.” She heard Hally challenge, followed by Orsk’s low laugh. With him distracted, Rikka leaned closer to Kahlan.
“You need to confess Orsk.” She whispered. The blue eyes looking back at her were stunned. Though it was common knowledge that the large D’Haran was free of confession, he still stayed; he still fought and followed the Mother Confessor.
“He is no longer confessed.”
“I know that, but why should I confess him again? Did he touch you?”
“No. Well, yes. He, He is a fool and he thinks he is in love with me.”
“Oh Rikka!” She exclaimed a little too loudly, so Rikka’s fingers went around the Mother Confessor’s arm and yanked.
“No ‘oh Rikka’. This is bad. I am dead. He cannot love me. I cannot love him. If you confess him, then he won’t care.”
“Care about what?”
“When I die.”
Kahlan swallowed, and slowly her eyes closed. Rikka knew her words were harsh, but they were true. And she felt as though she could ask this one favor of the Mother Confessor. Not that she was owed anything, but because the Kahlan would understand. When blue eyes looked at her again, they nodded.
“Thank you.” Rikka smiled, and Kahlan returned it.
Kahlan’s lips and eyes turned up in a hard smile. “It is time for us to teach the Imperial Order that little lesson. That the female is deadlier than the male. That Mord-Sith are not to be discounted.” She set her hand on Rikka’s shoulder. “May the spirits protect you.”
“And you, Mistress Kahlan.”
Zedd grabbed the reins of her horse and held on. She glared down at him. Morning was quickly approaching and she needed to be in position. She did not have time to talk with Zedd, or be lectured by him. There were far more important things going on.
With the way his eyebrows bounced and his lips were pulled thin Cara was fairly certain that Zedd had been waiting a very long time to give her this lecture. Nearly an entire year in fact. She sighed.
"What you did was foolish, reckless."
Her glare conveyed that she was well aware, and he should have expected no less.
"Where ever did you get the notion to use the Blood Oath? Mord-Sith deplore magic."
She shifted on the back of her horse. "It is amazing the things one can find, when moving about the Wizard's Keep."
"The Keep. YOU WENT INTO THE KEEP?!" He exclaimed.
"I did. Often. Doesn't that just get your hackles to rise? To think, a Mord-Sith moving about your sacred halls, venturing into your private chambers? Why imagine all of the things one could do, could find." Her eyes burned into him.
Just as she felt Lord Rahl's eyes burning into her at that moment. Without looking she knew Darken Rahl was standing beside Nicci and Richard behind her. They needed to leave now as well, to travel south and prepare the spells. She could feel them all looking at her. It made her skin tremble under her leather.
Zedd blinked."I... yes. I do not like that at all. There are dangerous and powerful magics strew about."
"There are. I was careful."
"And not once afraid of walking into some light web and dying?"
"Someone needed to do something."
He swallowed, and his eyes dropped. "We have not yet had time to find a solution."
"And delaying me this morning to tell me that vital bit of nothing? Not making me any more pleased."
"Kahlan and her troops have traveled down the oceans' edge. They will turn and come back north, while in the Old World. Be very careful that during the battle you do not cross into the Old World and that you stay clear of her."
"In the middle of a skirmish, no matter how bored I may become I am not foolish enough to die merely because of a misstep Zedd."
"Well, if someone were to force you."
"If someone can manage to do that, then I deserve to die."
"You need to live, and stay strong, Cara."
"Yes I know, so you can use Lord Rah's magic to help with the spell. I am impetuous. Not an idiot."
"We miss you."
"Well, that is to be expected."
She yanked the reins away, and urged her horse to step away from the Wizard. "Perhaps someone will find the time to sort out my little mess, once the war is over?"
"You have my word, Cara."
She would rather have his actions, but didn't bother voicing that.
The main entrance to the massive tent was open, and Rikka, as well as General Reibisch, Hally stepped inside. They, by instruction, told the guards and Mord-Sith to wait outside for them. Inside the air was thick and wet with body heat and sickly sweet incense. It was trying to mask the smell of boiling meats and sweating skin. It didn’t accomplish it’s intent, only seemed to highlight it. For Rikka, after being submerged within the Imperial Order for a year she was accustomed to the smell. In fact it was familiar to her now. As they walked past young boy, wearing only loin clothes and the lines of whipping scars across their chests, past women wearing nothing at all but dull gold rings through their bottom lips, she was familiar as well with the man who sat behind a long table. Laid out before him was a massive breakfast meal, only partially eaten. Rikka had observed this man, this supposed great Emperor many times over the months. She had watched him carefully, picking apart his flaws and weaknesses. Which there were many. The most glaring, was his arrogance. Emperor Jagang was a stout man of average height with massive arms and chest. His head was shaved bald, increasing his already imposing appearance. He was large yes, but he could easily fit into Orsk’s shadow. His vanity was displayed by a gold ring halfway up his left ear which was connected to another gold ring on the flare of his left nostril by a thin gold chain. Half a dozen gold and jeweled chains were prominently displayed on his massive chest and his thick fingers bore gold and silver rings. The people of the Old World, the followers of the Order lived hand to mouth, were taught that any ornament, anything they had was gluttonous and an insult to the Creator. And their leader adorned himself in jewels. He gorged on feasts daily, the remnants were not given to his citizens, his troops, but were fed to his dogs or left to rot. Emperor Jagang was the epitome of what his own voice spoke out against. Somehow he managed, with his sloppy appearance and his intellect, to convince millions to follow his command. He was masterful in his ability to poison minds into serving him. Emperor Jagang did not care about his men as long as they were loyal and served him to their dying breath. Well, Rikka knew, on this day many would be giving that loyalty to him.
“I am so very pleased you could grant my request. Mother Confessor, Lord Rahl, Mistress Cara.” He used a small stick to pick meat from his teeth. “I see he Seeker denied my invitation.”
“The Seeker is still in Westland, and could not make it in time.” Rikka said, forcing herself to keep from smiling. This greasy creature was as stupid as they had thought.
“Pity. Not that it matters. I will see him soon enough, and add his men and kingdom to that of the Empire.”
“So you have said.”
“Your attitude is overconfident. You know, Mother Confessor, I don’t like the fact that you people took it upon yourself to slaughter my wife. There will be consequences.”
“As there are consequences for you coming into my kingdom and slaughtering my innocent people.”
“Innocent?” He spit. “Your innocent people were defiling themselves, they were gluttonous and turned their back on the Creator. They were living in abhorrent hedonism. We are saving them. In death they are now with the Creator, in the better place.”
Rikka’s eyes became hard. “Then so is your Empress. Though, I am more inclined to believe she is polishing the boots of the Keeper.”
“Watch your tongue woman.”
“I would rather have yours, to hang upon my wall.”
“You fool.” He smiled, his rotting teeth flashing. For an instant Rikka missed her power as a Mord-Sith. She craved the song of the Agiel as she gripped it, longed for the way it would lance her with pain as she pressed it into this man’s skin, breaking his bones. She knew, she could feel, that what awaited him would be fitting, and would be more powerful than what she would have been able to provide him. Still she lifted her chin proudly, knowing that she, Rikka, was the one standing before him.
The golden dagger hissed through the air. She watched it come. She did not move out of the way. Because, she knew, this was her duty.
It slammed into her chest, beside her heart.
Rikka looked down at it, seeing the deep red of her blood spreading out through the white material of the Confessor’s gown. General Reibisch pulled his sword, but as he moved forward, one of Emperor Jagang’s guards was behind him, a long curved knife slicing his throat. Hally moved to her side, but an arrow through her chest knocked her back. Rikka’s eyes followed the young blonde, to see her hit the ground, her lips pulled back in a smile. With a calm finality Hally tossed a small orb to Rikka. She caught it, and turned back to Empoerer Jagang.
Rikka’s eyes narrowed. “You lived down to what we expected from you.”
“We? You are dead. You just don’t know it yet.”
“I have been dead for some time.” Rikka said, feeling the deep weakness moving through her limps. Knowing that the blood that coated the dress she wore had been borrowed, and knowing that her body was almost empty. The time was almost at hands. “The Mother Confessor proudly denies your insanity. You wanted war, Jagang, you have your wish. A real war, not the murdering of innocent people. A war led by a woman, the Mother Confessor. A war without quarter. The Imperial Order will be slaughtered like the feral pigs you are. I will give your wife a swift kick when I see her in the Underworld.” Her knees gave out and she dropped, slowly to the ground. She could taste the blood in her smile, giving him and his wide eyes a stubborn grin. He rose from behind his table. Realization grew in his beady eyes. “It’s fitting. I was the one who sent her there.”
Her fist closed around the small orb the Wizard had created, tightly, shattering the thin glass, and releasing the light web. As her vision turned to white, the last thing she heard were the Emperor’s impotent screams.
Kahlan leaned over the withers of Nick as he galloped. She did not need to urge him, he found his own momentum, and kept moving onward, faster and faster, as if he too was anxious to launch them into the center of the chaos ahead. Her thigh muscles were straining as she was pressing her weight forward. Her mind was filled with the pulsing of her blood, and the earth shook with the thunder of the hooves behind her, the massive force of the Galean Calvary.
From the center of the enemy camp a harsh white light bloomed in the shape of a massive dome, reaching out, covering tents and men, before with a resounding and earth trembling roar it collapsed on itself, and everything that had been there was now ash inside of a crater. The light web had been activated. One of the most deadly of spells. Which meant Rikka was successful, which meant as well that she, and the others were dead.
Rage and vengeance widened Kahlan’s eyes.
Her left fist gripped the reins; the right lifted her sword high.
She cried out with the surge of emotions that raged inside of her, and she slammed her sword into the dark shape of a man, the first of the day as she broke through the edge of Imperial Order’s encampment. With the impact of the sword’s blade against bone her arm felt the jarring at the same time the hilt stung her palm.
The increasingly familiar sting that fueled her rage.
Her body was tight, all of her muscles prepared and hungry for the strain that would come. She smelt death in the air, blood. Inside of her she could feel the latent darkness and hunger from the long sleeping Mord-Sith stretch her arms and purr with contentment at awakening. As the enemy’s cries announced their arrival, she met them with all of her strength. Her sword came down, again and again, slashing bodies, destroying any flesh that was within her reach.
Death’s symphony filled the air. As living shadows materialized out of the thick mist of morning, they moved along the banks of the Kern River, between long chilled fires, tents, bedrolls, shadows bringing death without mercy. Ringing steel, the tearing of canvas, the splintering of wood and bone, the moan of leather, hollow thuds of flesh hitting the cold ground, a crescendo as fire bust to life, and the aria of screams merged into the roaring symphony of terror. Cara watched it all playing out before her, as she sat atop her black warhorse. An arrow was pulled back, and her eyes were moving watching the dance. Her eyes like an eagle, focused. Her shadows moved through the sleeping enemy, the Third Battalion in their black leather, happily carrying out her command. Kill every one. This was not to be an ethical battle, this was war and they were giving back to the Imperial Order exactly what they had brought into the New World. They roamed the land like wild beasts, and her troops slaughtered them as such.
Cara’s eyes found an acceptable target, he threw open the flap to his tent, pulling on his sword with one hand. His bald head glistened in the light from the fire that burned the large supply wagon. Without a care she released the arrow. It hit its mark, landing in his throat, and he fell back.
One down. She had given up hope months ago, that killing all of their commanders and generals would matter. It seemed that for each man they slaughtered, another ten replaced him. The Imperial Order was a swarm, it seemed with no end.
Lacking hope did not mean Cara was lacking determination. It merely meant there would be much more killing to be done. She urged her horse on, trampling through and over anyone in her path. The sound of a hundred hooves followed her, as the additional troops, along with Mord-Sith in their blood red leather followed her into the fray.
She pulled the long sword from where it lay beside her horse’s saddle, swinging it at anything that moved close enough to her. A man lunged toward her, and Cara easily split his skull. The sun was just beginning to touch the distant horizon, soon it would help to blind the enemy, as she and her troops attacked from the east.
“No mercy!” She cried, and all around her the voices of the troops called back.
She had to see. Just for a moment. Her horse pawed at the wet sand, and the waves were receding with the dawn. She had promised they would leave immediately, once the light filled the sky. But Berdine needed to see.
She looked towards the battle field. She could not see it from here, but was sure that she heard the clamor. Perhaps it was just in her mind. But the sound of steel against steel vibrated in her bones. When it happened she squinted her eyes, seeing the intense white light cresting over the line of land. Her heart skipped a beat.
Raina was on that battlefield. As were every single person she cared for.
A soft cry erupted from her arms, and she looked down as Carys fussed, as if she heard Berdine’s thoughts, felt her concern.
“Hush hush you. No crying.” She rocked the small child in her arms, whose big blue eyes were peering up at her from the thick fur she was wrapped in. Her face crunched and she began to cry in earnest. “They are going to pay dearly for this.” Berdine grumbled, and moved to pull herself up onto her horse. Carys was wailing now, as if she knew that they were about to head north, away from her mother. “Now, little one. We have a long journey ahead of us. If you are good, and do not cause me to have a splitting head ache, I will tell you all about the Night Wisp.”
Carys immediately stopped crying and blinked. How an infant knew what she was saying, Berdine did not know. But she also did not know how a tiny child could glare up at her in the very same way Cara would, when she demanded she go on.
Berdine held the reins with one hand, and while her horse began moving along the beach she turned and looked over her shoulder. She sent a silent plea to the Creator and all of the Spirits known to her, that they all watch over and protect those she loved, that she cared for. She hoped that she would see them all again. Safe. Alive. Emotion clawed at her throat, and she turned away. Her voice cracked as she began, “In a remote and ancient forest there is the beautiful land of the Night Wisp. It is here that they gather at twilight to dance together in the air above the grasses and wildflowers, like joyous fireflies. It is said that they dance and sing, of things common to all life: of dreams and hopes; of loves."
She and the Wizard both used fire and air to knock back attacking men, as Richard swung his sword, hacking away those foolish enough to charge them.
A blast of scalding fire whooshed past her, taking out the column of men who had been rushing through her blind spot. She glared at Darken Rahl.
“Careful.” She warned him.
“You aren’t hurt. Stop being a baby.”
“Rahl!” Richard exclaimed, and Lord Rahl moved to the side, avoiding the sword that had come too close for Nicci’s comfort.
“Are we there yet?” Darken Rahl asked.
“Almost. Just over this slight ridge. Stay close to me, Lord Rahl.”
“Oh? Love on the battlefield, Mistress Nicci?”
“Hardly. I will ensure you don’t accidently step into the Old World and die.”
“Yes, that would be bad.”
“I don’t see it that way.” Richard yelled with a smile as he rushed past them, swinging blood from the blade of his sword.
Nicci thought of reminding Richard that he could be using magic, not steel. But he seemed to be enjoying himself.
Confusion swarmed around them, and Kahlan sprung, the blade in her hand slicing through leather, flesh, bone and muscle. The men around her folded away, and she moved forward, her eyes hard, her lips held in a sneer. It had been pure coincidence, seeing the flash of his sword, the color of his leather and cape through the fighting masses. But when she did see him she was propelled by the desire to end this. Kahlan moved through the mass of fighting, taking down men twice her size easily, and with a sense of joy. She watched Prince Harold as he fought with a sword in one hand, a dagger in the other. His face was hard with concentration, and she moved beside him, and dispatched one of the men beside him.
"Thanks." He huffed, and blocked the swing of another soldier.
"Don't? He laughed, stabbing his sword into the chest of the man nearest him.
"Don't thank me." Kahlan offered, and rammed her sword through his back, as she stepped closer to him, to hiss in his ear. "No one touches me without my permission."
"What? I?" He whimpered, and then fell to the ground.
He fell to the ground, a satisfaction moved through her mind, and Kahlan turned, running forward, needed more, needing to destroy. Her hand reached out and she grabbed one solider by the throat. He dropped to his knees as her power pulsed through him, destroying him and making him hers.
“Command me Mistress.”
“Find your commander, kill him. Kill any and every man who fights for the Order. And then, as the sun sets, kill yourself.” She hissed and then left him.
Swords and daggers, blunt knives and axes were a blur and shimmering lights around her, as she parried, deflected, and fought back. She blinked, her sword coming down for a moment, after what had seemed like an hour of continual fighting. She knew she was getting close, perhaps too close, as she noticed surrounding her fighting were D’Harans and not her Home Guard and Galean Calvary. Their red and black uniforms danced dizzyingly around her.
And then the burn of black leather, moving around through the fray.
“You are too close Kahlan.” Raina said, appearing before her and shoving her hard.
“I will strike you down.” Kahlan growled. But she knew Raina was right. They were supposed to force the Imperial Order into the thin strip of land that was between D’Hara and the Old World. Force them there, but Kahlan and her fighters were to be on the other side, on the D’Haran side by now. The sun was nearly at its highest point.
“Fine. Just don’t let her see you.” Raina barked.
“She is here?” Kahlan’s eyes widened.
“Of course she is!” Raina said before rushing off, back into the thickness of battle. “Hurry Kahlan! It is almost time!”
The latent energy was easily felt, just as Nicci had expected it to be. The battle raged around them, but now that they were here, the Wizard created a small bubble of safety for them. No one could enter into it, though a few tried and found themselves looking into the face of the Keeper, their bodies turned to ash.
“It is time.” the Wizard announced.
“Nicci, are you sure that this is the only way? We are condemning thousands to death or the unknown.”
“Now you ask that question? Really Brother, your timing? Ingenious.” Darken Rahl snapped as he spread his arms out, his palms aimed at the ground, and crackling with dark subtractive magic. He and Nicci would provide the Subtractive while Richard and the Wizard would give Addictive.
“The time for questions is over Richard.”
“Okay.” He said, holding the Sword of Truth to his forehead and closing his eyes. It began to glow white as he channeled his magic.
Nicci looked at the Wizard, who sadly smiled and nodded to her.
It was almost time.
Using her daggers she deflected a sword and then slammed her forehead into the face of the man, shattering his nose. As he staggered back she sliced his throat and turned.
The world stopped. There was no sound. There was no war. There was only, in the distance, Cara. Her back was to Kahlan, but she knew her. She knew her lines, her angles, she knew the way her hair moved as she was struck, and she could see her smile from the side, voracious. Hungry for blood.
She was so close. Too close.
She took a step back, ducked the coming sword and her dagger plunged into the chest of the would be assailant. Her eyes looked to be sure he was falling back, before she chanced a look to Cara once more.
She felt her heart stop. Cara was looking directly at her.
She felt the prickling at the back of her neck. Someone was looking at her.
Slowly Cara turned, and looked through the thick haze of dust.
“Kahlan.” She breathed seeing her blurred outline, knowing she was there, so close.
Cara slammed her eyes shut.
She would not die.
Not that way.
“no… nonono.” Kahlan whispered.
Cara’s hands fell to her sides, and her eyes closed.
Kahlan knew it was probably one of the hardest things Cara had ever done, but she did it. She closed her eyes.
The men surrounding Cara all lunged for her; at least five of them fell upon her, swords and knives drawn.
“NO!” She screamed, watching as Cara started to fight back. But it was too late. “No! CARA!”
The scream filled her ears and she looked across the desert, amid the fighting. Kahlan was standing in the wrong place, and she was screaming. Nicci’s eyes moved just in time to see Cara, not one hundred yards from Kahlan, become swarmed by a mass of men.
"Kahlan you must move now!" Nicci screamed, but the Confessor couldn’t hear her. Nicci watched in terror as Kahlan began to charge forward.
Frustrated Nicci took off running, to intercept her.
"Nicci. What are you doing?"
"I can just as well complete the spell there as here. Do not stop!" She ordered Zedd and Richard.
Leaving the protection of the web, Nicci ran as fast as she could, through the thick of the fighting, men from both sides falling dead around her. Her magic stopped hearts and exploded brains. She did not have time to determine deserved to die, they all did if they were in her way.
A hand grabbed her arm, shaking her. “What is it?” the deep voice asked.
Kahlan blinked looking up into the scarred face. "Orsk! Protect Cara! Protect her with your life, as though she were me!"
"Yes, Mistress." He vowed and ran. He moved through the fighting, not stopping, ducking and moving, as Kahlan did not breathe, as she waiting. It was as she watched him pull the first man off of Cara that she gasped. Orsk was not confessed to her. But he still moved as if he were.
She felt something brush against her hair, before she was knocked to her knees with magic. A sword swung over head, and it would have sliced through her throat. Her darkening eyes looked to see Nicci rushing towards her. Understanding, Kahlan had to look back, had to see if Orsk was successful.
The ground beneath her hands and knees began to shake violently. Her fingers dug into the sandy soil, feeling the magic pulsing low, beneath bedrock. She could feel how very cold it felt.
"MISTRESS!" Orsk yelled, as he became Orsk swarmed as well.
Slowly she stood, her eyes taking it all in, every particle of dusk, every look on the faces of the men who were lashing out at Orsk, as the pile of men on top of Cara grew, as her heart took one last beat, before she felt it crack in half. Her mate was going to die. Cara was going to be slaughtered by these men. She was hurt and would die. Kahlan would never see her again, never touch her again. Cara would never hold their daughter. Would not live to see her ascend to the role of Mother Confessor. Her mate was going to die.
As her heart broke, the Blood Rage poured out. It latched onto the Blood Lust, and it rode the tendrils of her Confessor’s power, moving through her veins, bursting blood vessels in her eyes and her nose it is so intense. Blood began to weep from her eyes and nose. Her black and red eyes were crying tears of blood.
Men swarmed around her, thinking her prey.
They were mistaken.
Every man around her for ten paces was flung back as if there were nothing more than husks, all instantly dead, confessed and commanded to die, all in the same instant that a heart shattering scream erupted from her mouth.
The ground shifted beneath her feet, the magic was moving around her and through her. The magic from the others still chanting, as well as Kahlan now in the full throws of the ConDar.
"It's time." Nicci whispers to herself. She would allow the intensity of the moment to move through her later. Now, at this moment there was nothing more she could do, but this one act of selflessness. She skidded to a halt, and with a deep pull of air into her lungs she slammed her hands down into the ground. She released the Subtractive magic as well as the Han she carried inside of her, the life force of over one hundred Sisters of the Light and Dark.
Before here the Barrier exploded from the very earth, growing taller, the wall of pulsing green energy. Panting Nicci watched it gain height and strength, feeling as if she were under water. The rumbling of the earth is nearly deafening, but she can still hear the low growl coming from beside her.
Her strength gives out, as the last of her power is forced into the earth, sacrificed, and she falls to her side. Looking up, Nicci watches as Kahlan stares at the thick green Barrier, as she turns, blood streaming down her face from her eyes, her dress moving so very slowly around her, as she looks at Nicci with hate and contempt.
"WHAT DID YOU DO?" She screams.
“I remember you.” The scarred man said as he loomed above her, an odd smile on his bleeding face.
She had not expected to see anyone. She had expected to either die, or to be killed once she was set upon by so many people she did not know who and what she was hitting back at. “Hello Orsk.”Cara felt pain radiating in her legs, and she knew that she could not stand. Not on her own. Either her back or her legs were broken. She was not sure it mattered which, with the way he was looking down at her. “I know you are no longer confessed. So, if you plan on killing me, hurry up. You could be using this time more wisely.”
“You are a stubborn one.” He said, before reaching down and lifting her into his arms.
“What are you doing?”
“Because the Mother Confessor commanded me too.”
“Did I miss something?”
“Not at all, Mistress Cara. Not at all.” He hefted her easily into his arms, and then the earth beneath their feet began to rumble and move. A scream that Cara knew too well pierced the air, absorbing and becoming the only sound that could be heard. Orsk turned, and being held by him as she was she gasped as she saw the thick green wall of energy, pulsing and moving as it rose from the very earth, as it vibrated and flared with power and went as high as the midday sky. Through the thick green wall of the barrier Cara caught the faintest glimpse of Kahlan, of her neck back her face pointed towards the sky as magic flared like lightning off of her body.
“Spirits no.” Cara whimpered, before her body began to convulse, she the pain of seeing Kahlan dug through the center of her bones, and everything turned black.
Her hand went around her throat. "How could you?" Kahlan still felt the rage and the need to protect moving inside of her, she was still feeling the ConDar. Her eyes looked to the thick green Barrier, and then she looked round them. She saw men still battling, as if nothing had happened. But Kahlan knew. From the lay of the land. She and Nicci were not where they were supposed to be.
"How could I not, Kahlan?” Nicci choked out. “We just saved millions of lives. Look beyond your own selfishness. Look at what we did."
"We are here, in the Old World now, how are WE to be saved?"
“Perhaps we are not meant to be saved. Perhaps it is you who must save them. The Order thrives here, perhaps to defeat the Order we must adopt their thinking. We all must sacrifice who we are, what we have, for the good of everyone else."” Nicci said softly.
Kahlan let her go and stood. “You did this.”
Nicci looked up at her, her face accepting of anything Kahlan determined to do.
She felt the power from the Barrier, and the heat from the sun, the wetness from the blood that coated her skin. And she screamed again, before she stormed away from Nicci, her dagger drawn. The first man she came to was greeted with four repeated stabs to the chest, before with just her intent she confessed the man beside him. Her burning red eyes looked over the vast desert. Everyone one before her would die.
Sitting in the throne room, with Darken Rahl sitting in his chair, as they went over maps and strategies with Commander Meiffert, she would find herself staring at the pale marble wall in the distance, she would somehow see the lines of Kahlan's face in the veins there, she would listen not to the words around her, but to the sound of words in her mind. In her memories. Her eyes would burn and she would swallow roughly, and she would have to bite back on the feelings.
Cara would hold her Agiel in her hand, feel the pulsing pain of it, the familiar ache that moved up through the bones of her hand, her arm. She could feel every scar that Kahlan's love healed split and tear back open. Her heart, heavy, felt as though it wanted to stop beating.
It was the day, when she was healed enough to leave the People's Palace with the latest influx of soldiers to fight along the front line that she made the decision. That she knew that the only way to get through each day, was to do what she knew, what she was skilled at. She would partition her mind. She would rebuild the walls around her heart, and blockade off her soul. She would embrace the pain and the hardness that she was, and in doing so she would survive.
And she would allow, in the dark of night, in her dreams, she would allow herself those melancholy moments of feeling, of dreaming of walking with Kahlan, of the feeling of their hands entwined. Only at night. Only in the shroud of dreams. In the dark, in the quiet came dreams. With the dream came her face, and her presence. It was as if, in the thick embrace of dreams she could be anywhere, could see anything. And each and every night it seemed that Kahlan came to her. That they would walk through forests, and fields, that they would sit in silence beside massive lakes as the moon highlighted the ripples that were created as the caress of winds moved through time, and as the Night Wisp seemed to dance, over the water, over the wild flowers in fields that stretched from horizon to horizon. In these moments, and in these dreams she was consumed with the feeling of peace, of a calming love that punctuated from Cara all the emotion she felt with Kahlan and for Kahlan. And in those dreams she was so very happy.
When she would wake, as her eyes would open and the color of the world was bleached, faint, and as the world around her seemed so very empty she vowed, as she sighed Kahlan's name, Cara vowed she would never sleep again.
For as wondrous her dreams were, the pain that accompanied waking was almost more than she could bear.
"Cara, I dare say, you appear to be having feelings." Lord Rahl said, looking up from his papers.
"Perhaps I am, feelings of joy."
"Joy?" He asked with a shocked smile.
"I was imaging gutting you like a fish and tossing your entrails over the balcony."
He blanched. "Well then."
The cheers and merriment from the city of Tanimura reached her even where she sat, on the edge of the large desk in the Prelate’s office. Vera was sitting, her hands steepled before her lips, but she had not spoken in some time.
Neither had Kahlan.
Her body was weary, the muscles of her arms sore from the battle, but it was all a soothing pain. In feeling it she knew she was alive. Which was much more than could be said for many others.
There seemed to be a crescendo in the clamor from the city that surrounded Halsband Island and the Palace of the Prophets. She rose and went to the window, holding back the thick curtain and looking out. In the night sky she could see the glow of a thousand fires.
“They rejoice for you.”
“They should rejoice for themselves.” Kahlan countered.
“With your army you have pushed back the Imperial Order.”
“Pushed back indeed. And they will surge again.”
Kahlan shook her head. “Then why should I bother? How many more of my people will die to save these citizens of the Old World. Citizens who were helping the Order up until the Barrier was activated. Why should our lives become forfeit when these people don’t seem to care?”
“Because you are the Mother Confessor, because it is your duty.”
Kahlan laughed darkly. “My duty is to the people of the Midlands. Not these people. Not those of the Old World. Find a way to send me through the boundary. Find a way to return me to my actual people, and I will fight for them. Here? Here there is no reason for me to.”
“You could… work to establish your power here, Kahlan. The Old World could use someone with your gifts, and your sense of justice.”
Her eyes narrowed on the Prelate. “No. So long as I am trapped here? The Mother Confessor Kahlan is dead. Here I am merely Kahlan Amnell. Your prisoner.”
“No, my dear, you are not our prisoner.”
“Can I walk through those doors? Can I make my way through the Valley of Perdition, through the Boundary and make my way home?”
“I… well… no.”
“Then I am a prisoner.”
Cara walked down the wide passageway, her boots silent on the white marble floors, which glowed a warm hue the same color as an autumn sunset. Without thinking she took the passage that she had never walked down before. It was as Berdine once told her, brilliantly beautiful as she came upon the glass windows that went from floor to ceiling overlooking the Azrith Plain. The sun was low in the horizon, and the sky was softening in color. The sparse land, without trees or towns, without hills, was startling in its beauty. She never considered this land beautiful, but now she did. Now it seemed to hold a promise. That one day someone would come across the land, and bring with them hope and freedom.
She leaned against the marble wall, her eyes looking out, seeing but not seeing. She was no longer here, not in the People’s Palace. She was, in that warm and comforting place within her mind. She was surrounded by Kahlan and her love. She could see her eyes, the love in them, looking a there as she smiled. In Cara’s hand she held the lock of hair, her thumb moving over it, feeling the silken texture. A small little reminder that she was not crazy, that she had not imagined the existence of Kahlan, nor merely conjured up their love. It had been real. Though brief, it had been the first time in Cara’s life where she had been truly alive
Voices, combined in song, but the sounds being pulled from the stringed instruments, the tempo and the words being sung by the children below was all foreign to Kahlan. Seemed to reach inside of her, and it comforted while at the same time pushed her heart to beat harder, the reality that she was in a completely different world, not what she knew, not where she knew. All those times she questioned Nicci about the worlds on the other side of the ocean haunted her. In her curiosity she forgot herself, she forgot how much she loved the Midlands. How the smell, and the sound of her homeland was such a part of her. now that it was kept from her, that it was all so very far away, she understood Nicci's reluctance in telling her of the other worlds, just as she understand now that while she may have wanted adventure, now she just wanted the scent of spiced soup, the sound of the birds in the forests, the lullabies heard being sung to her daughter.
She closed her eyes, her hands balling into fists. This was a twisted path of melancholy that no longer served her, not all the time. She needed to hold those feelings at bay; she needed to walk through the halls of this Palace, to move through the streets and amid her army with a mask of indifference. She needed to be the strength. She may have lost her child, and her love, but so had all the men and women who had fought with her. Who were in this new and strange world. She would move through them and around them and she would give them whatever she could to make this transition more bearable.
The door opened behind her, and with it's creaking hinges the sound from the courtyard below swelled, a man's voice joined the children, and it added a new dimension. While the language was unknown to Kahlan, the emotion in the words, in the music seemed to speak to her, perfectly. The longing and the hope.
"They are singing to you. For you. They were told your room faces this courtyard."
"Why would they sing for me?"
"To bring you comfort. It is a song about comfort, about the timelessness of love." Nicci said softly.
Kahlan turned and glared at her. "Did you know? This whole time, did you know that this would happen? That you would raise the barrier and cut us off?"
"And you never told me, never discussed it."
"Would you, in all your passion and drive, your love for your daughter and your people, would you have listened to me?"
Kahlan sighed. "I would have listened, and then disagreed."
"The Imperial Order has been pushed back out of Tanimura. That has not happened in one hundred years. You can be the savior to this world."
"What of my world?"
"They have a champion. More than one. This world needs you in it now."
"I... I will never."
"Kahlan, I am sorry. Part of me, that very small part that is beginning to understand what it truly means to feel? That part of me is sorry that you had to sacrifice all that you did."
"So, I will sacrifice everything. Even when I thought I would not do such a thing for the Midlands, for D'Hara, here I am, giving it all up for this place."
"I am only one person."
"You are the Mother Confessor."
"No. Not any more, not here. Now I am just Kahan Amnell."
"Never just." Nicci set her hand on her arm. "Berdine and Raina will take very good care of your daughter. And Cara, I am sure will find a way...to..."
"I just want her to live."
"As she wants you to."
"Life." She sighed.
"Ah, Kahlan, life, and time does not move in the same way here. There is time, to battle, and to make a difference."
"And time... to lose myself in Cara."
Kahlan smiled sadly. "I have a journey book. She has the other. We... have been..."
"I couldn't live if I did not have that. If I couldn’t be sure she was alive. Can you, undo it?"
"I am sorry Kahlan. If there is a way? Not that there is, I don’t want to give you false hope. But if there is a way, perhaps it can be found in the libraries and vaults here."
"Good thing that time moves slowly here, so you will have all that you need."
In the small courtyard she saw the roses and the orchids, growing together. Neither choking the other out, not fighting over soil or sunlight. Existing together, being symbiotic in their differences, but beautiful together. Cara kneeled on the tiny white pebbles, her black gloved hands moving into the pristine white pebbles, and she bowed, her head touching them, feeling the residual warmth of the day’s sunlight on them.
She thought of Kahlan, and where she may be in the world. What sky she was seeing, what the air smelt of. Was there rain clouds in the sky? Was the sun setting there as well, or was it brilliantly high in the sky. Knowing she was alive, was more than she could ask for. Through time, and distance, she was there, somewhere. Cara knew it, could feel it somehow. And it would be enough. Until the time came to pass that she could smell her skin, feel her arms, taste her kiss… she would not allow her heart to break just yet. She could stay strong; she would hold the love in her heart tightly.
30 years later
Her eyes were closed tightly, and the fingers of her right hand moved along the thick root of the fir tree. She was surprised that the bark was still there, from all the moments such as these, when she would sit here, and touch the tree to merely feel grounded, to feel something alive. Because for every day that passed, every year that seemed to be tossed aside as if it never mattered, Kahlan found herself here, in the woods, as the moon moved above, the same moon that would be looking down on Cara, on their child. On the world she missed, that was still a part of her.
“I need to stop it. I really do.” She mumbled to herself.
Checking and rechecking the journey book would not make a message appear any sooner. No matter how much she tried to will it into existence. Her head fell back against the tree, and she felt the pressure of the leagues separating them, and of time. How many days had it been since the book contained the sharp etchings of Cara's hand? They both knew that any moment the books could stop working, that the world outside of where they were could come crashing in. And still they fell into words, into the books to find a sense of peace. Cara would write when she could. Kahlan knew that. There were times when there would be a lull between messages, when either one or both of them would be consumed by something in the reality that surrounded them. They both knew, and they both understood. Months had passed when she herself had not written, when she had been in the far reaches of the Old World locked in a particularly hot and muggy cell.
She did not think that was the case now, why Cara had not written.
Her leg kicked her bag accidently, and with the flap still open, some of her papers fell out. Notes she had taken when in the vaults of the Palace of the Prophets, reading through books with Warren, arguing prophecy and politics with Nicci and Vera. Quickly, with annoyance she shoved papers back inside, and in her rush, something cut her finger. She put her hand to her mouth, sucking the hint of blood from her fingertip. Kahlan narrowed her eyes, wondering what had cut her. She pushed notes aside and found a small roll of paper, in the center of it a small pin, the sort that one used to affix something to a wall. The roll of paper looked ancient, and she felt her brows furrow. She could hardly recall this, what it was, where it came from. She unrolled it and a sharp gasp pulled from her lips. It was a small map. With no words, or city names. But there were forests, the ocean, mountains, a valley. It was small but detailed.
"Oh Spirits." Kahlan recognized many of the land marks, as they were here in the Old World, around Tanimura, there even was Halsband Island, and Grafan Harbor.
Then she knew. She remembered. This map had been given to her years ago, in the Confessor's Palace, by the Seer Jebra. She had not though much of it at the time and had tucked it away in her travel pack. But now? Now it made sense. Now she could see.
Kahlan ran her finger over the worn parchment, forgetting the pin prick of blood on her finger. As her blood touched the map it glowed, and a thin line erupted. Her eyes went wide, watching the line moving through the forests, through the Valley of Perdition, and into...
"Home." She whispered bewildered. Could it be? Could this map truly show her where there may be one crack in the Barrier? She had been searching for years. With no success. But... if this.
She opened the journey book, reaching for her pen, she had to tell Cara immediately. She stopped.
Words. Cara's words. Written on the page.
my love. i miss you. even in sleep there is no peace. in war there is no silence. the screams and cries are like music. the music i heard the last time i saw you. I’ve been at the sea, I am sorry for the delay. i pray you are well, and that you are... happy. i only ever want you to be happy. please be happy.
"I am happy. Because I love you." Kahlan said with a sad smile. Slowly she wrote a reply,
She looked at her words once, and then smiling wider she shoved the book into her pack, lifted it on her shoulder, and consulted the map in her hand. “I am coming home Cara.”
The drums had stopped while she had been away. As the thickness of battle wage on the arid plain she had watched from the high balcony. Her connection to the People’s Palace pleaded with her to take up arms, to go out and fight, defend the people of D’Hara. But her own conscious, her own soul told her to stay where she was. The flags in the distance had snapped in the winds, the familiar blue and grey and white. She would never raise her sword or Agiel to the Midlands, and certainly not to their army.
Cara had traveled north, away from the battle, away from Lord Rahl’s screams and assaults. He knew that he could not win. But still he kept trying. He would try until he died.
Until they both died.
Sighing her eyes opened slowly, setting the journey book on the balcony railing beside her black gloved hand. The leather was cracked, and softer than the petals of the roses that grew and died inside of the devotional courtyard beside orchids where she spent the majority of her free moments. Time and use were reflected on the cover of the book. She had not written in too long, lost in the rhythm of the drums and then the calm of the ocean in the north. She was angry with herself for not telling Kahlan that she was leaving for a while, and could not write, could not share those words that could fold distance, and bring them together.
Cara pushed away the tear from her cheek, knowing Kahlan would understand. Earlier in the morning, when she returned to the Palace she had written to her, and now her lips moved forming a silent prayer, that Kahlan’s words would cover the pages inside, that they would appear, and would give her that blissfully bittersweet moment of the phantom touch.
Do you remember our first dance? Standing surrounded by thousands, and all I saw was you. All there was... was you, my love. Nothing and no one mattered; there was nothing for me but the feel of your hand on mine, and the look of faithful love in your eyes. I have danced with you each and every night in my dreams, and when we have met, come together in the in-between.
You told me once, that you would take the long road. I too, will take that road, and I will meet you, in that field between right and wrong. I will love you Cara.
Cara swallowed the emotion in her throat, felt the soft winter breeze caressing her cheek, imagining it was Kahlan’s finger tips, as she looked out over the massive battle field. Seeing the violence, hearing the clanging of steel, and smelling the coming snow. In a few weeks another winter could fall on the world. On the Old and on the New.
Thoughtfully she regards him; the dark color of his eyes, the pallor of color, the lines that are there. He is weary, and though he may attempt to hide it, Carys can see it there. It appears that the years that have passed have weighed heavily on him. She is hopeful that is the case. She wants Lord Rahl to feel the weight f each and every soul he condemned to death, she wants to ensure that it presses on his shoulders.
His fingers flex again on the hilt of the sword at his hip. Fingers moving on blood red leather. She has never seen the sword, but she had been told of it, told of its meaning, as well as its fateful use. So many stories that she is sure that it will familiar when it is in her hand.
"That sword is not yours."
"There are a good many things in this palace that are not, technically mine, Mother Confessor. That does not mean I have not enjoyed their use over the years."
A sigh escapes from her lips.
He is just as they said he would be. Her childhood had been filled with rich and exciting tales, told to her in excited tones, about grand adventures and the menace of the hapless Lord Rahl. As a child she would giggle every time he entered the tale. He was not an insurmountable ogre or a vengeful dragon. He was a bumbling comedic villain. So as a child she did not fear him, nor the idea of him. As she grew older, as the stories shared with her began to take on a darker, more personal tone, she still did not develop a fear for the man that now stands before her. On the contrary, she developed a significant dislike, a dash of vengeful anger, and more pity. He is just a man, one who is trying to hold on to something that was never truly there. In her life, Carys Amnell had learned the lessons of true evil, what should be regarded carefully, approached with caution. This man, with his tricks, and his words was merely a man. Attempts at striking out at her with innuendo, or some sort of emotional impact in his wo
rds would be wasted. She is not easily offended.
"Be that as it may, Lord Rahl. I am here now. And I will be taking." She steps closer to him. "Every single thing that does not belong to you."
"You do not know what you are speaking of. I do not know what sort of ideas those around you have filled your head with, but I assure you, Mother Confessor, that you cannot merely take from me." He smiles, an attempt at charm. "That being said. There are some things here... which I will gladly see gone. After the Imperial Order was purged from the land, I never expected that my request would be met with such… opposition.”
“Request? You wanted to rule the new world.”
“Well yes, of course. And to think my Brother,” he chokes on the word. “Was so opposed to such an idea. That he even went to the lengths of declaring war against D’Hara… I knew Richard was still sore about losing out to Cara, but to declare war?”
“War against you, Darken Rahl. Not Cara.”
“So you say… is that why, after Richard’s demise you still fought me, lead your armies against me?”
“I fought to right the wrong."
"The wrong when you returned to the land of the living."
"Here I thought you were noble and were here to end the war."
"That was a given. You were fighting for the sake of fighting."
"NO! I was fighting to keep the idiot hordes at bay."
She tilts her head to the side, regarding him. "Is that what you think?"
"Yes. I refused to allow magic to be destroyed."
She laughs at him. "Oh... really? I thought for sure that all of this has merely been your ploy to have control? To take over the entirety of the New World?"
"There is that."
"And you failed."
"Did I? You are now ruler of the New World, are you not?"
"And who made you?" He growls at her. "Who made it so you could breathe air? Swing your sword? WHO MADE YOU?"
Her eyes glare at him. "Not you."
"I GAVE HER THE CHOICE! I GAVE HER THE MAGIC TO MAKE IT SO!"
"Lord Rahl, she could have chosen no. She could have chosen death. It is by her that I was borne. It is in her love my soul was brought forth."
“Whatever you think? You are wrong. She will never leave here, not alive."
"Because of you."
"Because of the oath I made to her, and in turn she made to me. You can have you victory, Mother Confessor, but I will stay here, and I will not age, and in time, I will build back up my armies, and I will wage war again until the New World is mine."
"Oh, not the Old as well?"
"No. Barbarians who do not believe in magic? What use are they to me? And what use are they to you? They do not understand what we are. What magic is? And if they do not know what you can do, well then the people will not fear you, and if they do not fear you, dear girl, then you cannot rule them."
She smiles, she cannot help herself really. "They fear me. Have no doubt, they fear me. “
His eyes became colored with apprehension.
“Lord Rahl, you look concerned. I would be too." Her grin became feral. "In honor of your... assistance in defeating the Imperial Order here in the New World, I have taken steps to ensure your... appropriate reward." She hands him a jeweled scroll case. As he touches it his eyes widen.
"Why Mother Confessor. Providing the Lord Rahl such a gift."
“You know what it is then?"
"It is powerful. I can feel that. What is it?"
“An ancient parchment, containing a spell, the spell in fact that Alric Rahl wrote and then used to create the bond.”
“You don’t say? Where ever did you find this?”
“It was tucked away, in the Wizard’s Keep. I doubt it will do anything to further your bond, intensify it.” She shrugs, watching as his tongue moves across his bottom lip. “When I read it there seemed to be no additional magic there. I thought, if I cannot kill you, I would try to provide you with…some measure of appreciation. One never knows. Perhaps if you, Lord Rahl, were to read the incantation?” She does not finish her thought, she does not need to. The greed for more power fuels his curiosity, and quickly he opens the case.
His smile shines brilliantly, triumphantly for a moment. In his rush he forgot the first rule. As she believed he would.
It is the moment that he looks at her with astonishment in his eyes that she had wanted to see. When he gives her that gift, as his mouth utters the word, "No,” she smiles devilishly at him. Carys Amnell had waited her entire life to see that look. Shock. Pain. Understanding.
In her time millions had died. Not all of those deaths were his doing, but a significant number were. As she had walked, quietly and cautiously through the arid plans of Azrith, through the settling dust and smoke, amid corpses and cracked weapons, each and every one of those lives lost, on both sides weighed on her shoulders. Their lives were not wasted, their deaths not in vain. They had given themselves to the most powerful force in all of the worlds. They had given their lives for love. Love of their kingdom, love of their ideology, love of their sovereign, love of their family, children. Love was what began wars, and ended them.
Faintly she feels the power of his magic, of the bond, being pulled away, as it seems to be taken back by the very walls and floors surrounding them. The scroll itself was written by Alric Rahl, and it was about the Rahl bond. What she, and at the time, the First Wizard, had found interesting when reading it, was that it was a skipping spell. Similar to a light spell, and a time spell, this specific spell would take the bond of the Rahl bloodline and skip it to the next generation.
She knows taking the magic, the bond from him, is her one act of love. Love for him, because if not for him, if not for the life he lived, the passions he had, the obsession, her parents would never have met. She always believed it would be fitting, that it was her standing before him, crushing him.
Taking his magic will not kill him, but it will kill his spirit. And she watches and witnesses the spark fizzle out in his dark eyes. She has things she would like to say, to him, reminding him of who he has hurt. But seeing the spark leave him, seeing the pain in his eyes, she knows in this moment? Words are not needed.
His mouth began to move with shock and pain.
Leaning closer to him, fingers moving to grasp the sword, she pulls it free. “This is not yours.” She grins, looking at the polished blade, as he falls to his knees, gasping in pain. “The spell? It takes the bond of Lord Rahl from you, and it sends it to the next in line.”
“You just destroyed three thousand years of work, of protection.”
“No. I didn’t. There is a Lord Rahl. Just not you.”
“That is not possible.”
“It is very possible. He is on his way here now in fact. Traveling from Westland. Where he was born and raised.”
“My damn brother.”
“Yes. He is Richard’s son. So, ease your mind, Darken Rahl. The line is intact. It just no longer moves through you.”
Carys plunges the sword through his heart, thinking it is a just replacement. Using this sword he tricked Cara into giving her life, and now, by the same blade he would give his. Blood bubbles pop and drip down his bearded chin, his eyes take on a slight lost look. There is only the smallest satisfaction in killing him. The consolation, what is waiting for him in the Underworld. Pathetically his hands move to grab the blade. Let him, she is thinking. She knows her face is cold; hard as stone, stern, focused, and without emotion. The emotion is inside, behind her bright blue eyes. Twisting the blade, hearing it scrap bone, the gurgling in his throat remind her that killing is very personal. He blinks only once, before he looks over her shoulder. His eyes become empty, and his weight falls back. The blade slips from him.
"I believe this is yours." She says to the woman who tentatively approaches her from behind.
Carys looks over her shoulder, to see her as a living shadow, dressed in the thick black fur mantel, stepping from the darkness.
"You can keep it, if you would like." Kahlan, her Mother, says with a smile. "It was it the scroll?" She asks.
"It was. Just as… Mother… suggested.”
“She won’t like you calling her that.” Kahlan laughs softly, and then looks up, as small flakes of snow began to fall from the darkening sky. Her smile fades and her eyes dance around the empty courtyard.
"Perhaps she is somewhere within the Palace?"
"Mm. I think I know where." Kahlan takes one step, and then stops, to look back at her. “Thank you.”
“No, thank you, Mother.”
~~ ~~ ~~
Slowly she stood back up. The pain that had raced through her body had been interesting, though not as intense as she was accustomed to. That it had sent her into a moment or a dozen moments of unconsciousness was another matter all together. Cara preferred not to be rendered unconscious, especially when she has not prepared. A blow to the head she could accept. Some torture now and then she understood. Just collapsing to the ground and loosing unknown amounts of time, was always bothersome. She cracked her neck, and then rolled her shoulders, eyes narrowing and looking around. There was a fine dusting of snow on the stones around her.
She pushed her long braid back over her shoulder, and then looked at her hands. They were the same hands, wearing the same black leather gloves, but they felt different. Stronger. Cara closed her eyes for a moment, and listened. And she heard. Nothing.
The Palace, the ever present hum was no longer inside of her mind.
It was done.
“Kahlan.” She whispered. If she was free of the spell, and the bond, she could try and get through the Barrier, try to get to Kahlan.
She flung open the door and left the balcony, moving quickly. As she turned the corner, to move down the hall way a familiar voice halted her.
Her black leather seemed painted on, molded to her, her hair in the thick long braid. Even looking at her back for a moment Kahlan could not breathe. She knew it was Cara. From the way her hips moved, to the faint scent of her in the air, to the fact that her heart leapt into her throat at seeing her.
This moment. She had dreamed of this moment, had nightmares of it. She had fantasized about it, and agonized over it.
Each and every time, no matter the emotions connected to this moment, it always began the same way. It began with her voice, hesitantly saying,
She turned her head, and her long blonde braid fell over her shoulder. Her eyes flashed dangerously as she looked through the shadows. Slowly she turned completely around, and took one step closer. For the first time in thirty long years Kahlan could see the brightness of her eyes, moist and full of emotion.
She no longer felt the cold that the snow had left on her skin. Cara was burning from the inside, love consuming every chill, everything that had been frozen for years as she stood, staring at the vision before her.
Kahlan’s shoulders, strong from carrying the weight of duty and her life, were covered in the thick black fur, which seemed to match the shadows produced by her hair. She took one step forward, and the nearest torch on the wall danced across her face, and her eyes lit the hall with their intensity.
Cara swallowed. “Hello.”
Her hand went to the black bear mantel, and it fell from her shoulders, reveling beneath the shimmering living white of her gown.
“You’re…” Cara began.
“I am home.”
The beams from the moon, which slipped and battled through the snow and clouds outside, for one instant highlighted her Confessor’s white gown and Cara’s breath was stolen. Gone. Eradicated.
She stepped across the hall as the vibrations of thunder shook her bones, as Kahlan moved towards her as well. As the thunder silenced, a bolt of lightning erupted outside, through the high windows they were bathed in a flash of blue light, and they fell into one another’s arms. Fervently, they clung to one another, feeling arms, the way their chests pressed together, how so very right their touch was. As if this was their first embrace, it filled her body with the shudders of love and of that intoxicating consuming need to hold her closer.
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
They said as together their lips met, as their eyes closed. In their kiss, they both shared every drop of love, need, desire, commitment and compassion. A soft moan and arms wrapped tighter, bodies moved closer, and they both felt all of the emotions, all the love dancing inside; they both felt harmony and comfort, the peace and the rightness of home.
... *roll credits*...
Dedication: for all those that love this fandom, passionately and irreverently, thank you for bringing me into your world, and sharing this place in time with me. for all the inspirational words of encouragement, I thank you, and for staying with me through 4 months and 382,008 total words.
And for you. For your honesty and your truth. For your compassion and your commitment. For your passion and your reason. For your talent and your timelessness. For your love and your pain. For you, because paula you are my home. I will be waiting for you, my love, in the in-between.
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