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Title: Kings and Queens (3?)
Author: Amanda (aka seven_3_oh)
Pairing(s): Cara,Kahlan; referenced Kahlan/Richard, Kahlan/Other, Cara/Other
Fandom: legend of the seeker
Word Count: 9,168
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.
Summary: Nearly a decade has passed since the day the Keeper was defeated. Some things have changed over the years, and some things have remained the same. Kahlan Amnell sits as the Mother Confessor, watching as fables become true, rumors gain momentum, and trusts are betrayed.
A/N: Read Part 1 & 2 first. Yes, I am posting TWICE in one week. Oo Aahh. With that I would like to ask that you trust me. Have faith and patience my gentle readers. We are building a foundation. Every castle, friendship, civilization, commitment, love and yes every story needs a firm and strong foundation. We are building ours. And upon it there shall be a massive cathedral of epic awesomeness built. *winks* so trust me.
Silently her boots struck the stone floor of the balcony, and Cara slipped through the glass paned doors into the Mother Confessor’s private chambers. The guards had told her that the Mother Confessor was to not be disturbed, and while she appreciated their obedience, she was not in the mood to sit idly in her own rooms waiting for Kahlan. She closed the door behind her to keep the days chill out, and walked through the darkness, through the open door into the even darker bedchamber. The room held the scent of Kahlan’s perfume as well as the unmistakable aroma of sex. But there was only quiet in the room now. She tisked as she walked silently through the dark rooms, her eyes noticing Kahlan laying asleep in the darkness of her bed.
"This will never do. The Kahlan Amnell I know would never sleep well past midday." Cara wrenched open the thick curtains, filling the room with light from the high sun. It fell across the bed and a ghastly scream was heard.
Cara turned, shocked, and just as she turned, a hand was around her throat and the curtain pulled closed. The back of her head slammed against the pain of glass on the other side of the curtain with enough force to shatter it, and to cause her to see stars before her eyes.
Blinking she choked out, "Kahlan."
As vision returned the Mother Confessor’s hand was still tight around her throat, and Kahlan’s blue eyes were glaring at her, as tears of blood ran from their corners and down her face, as her lips were pulled back in an angry sneer, exposing elongated eye teeth in her mouth.
Cara sagged under Kahlan’s touch. "We do have much to talk about."
Roughly the hand around her throat was pulled away, but Kahlan did not step back from Cara. Her eyes were still intent with anger. "How did you get past my guards?"
"The balcony. You recall? My private rooms, assigned by you, are just over and up slightly. It is a simple jump."
"And the orders to not be disturbed."
"Well I rarely listen to orders."
"There is more truth than you know in that statement."
"I am sorry.” Cara’s eyes moved over Kahlan, looking at her, inspecting her. Her hand set lightly on her shoulder, and it was then that Kahlan flinched. “If you would have told me… that the sun can." Cara’s hand moved down Kahlan’s arm, which she held delicately, looking at the severe burn along the once soft pale flesh. "I have some ointment for burns in my chambers."
"It will heal."
"It will be painful."
"Cara? Right now all I know is pain."
"Tell me Kahlan. Tell me what happened to you when I was away."
“There is much to tell…and yet so many questions I myself still have not found the answers to.” Kahlan said softly, pulling her arm from Cara’s touch. “Why… how can you look on me, like this and not recoil in fear?”
“Fear?” Cara chuckled. "This looks like blood but." Cara ran her thumb across the line of dark tears defiling Kahlan’s cheek, and brought it to her lips.
"No." Kahlan grabbed her wrist and her grip was powerful as it halted Cara from tasting the blood."I know blood is at the center of this."
Cara narrowed her eyes, giving a wordless command to Kahlan. Quickly and with a look that bordered on apology she released her. Which was just as Cara had planned. Undaunted Cara grabbed her cheeks and pulled Kahlan’s face close, running her tongue along her cheek, her mouth taking in the drying blood.
She shoved away from Kahlan, and closed her eyes, swirling the blood on her tongue, tasting it. It was not as metallic, nor as bitter, it was not turned and rotten, it was thick and sweet with a trace of something more.
Cara turned and continued to roll the blood inside her mouth, tasting it as she walked towards the hearth. She spat into the low flames of the fire, and where she had expected the hiss and sizzle of the spit on the red hot logs the flames burst forth triumphantly and violent in a whoosh of power.
"Apparently fire is another thing I should be mindful of."
"One should always be mindful of fire. It cleanses and it destroys."
"I think that proves your point...I know blood Kahlan. I know the flavor of all sorts, all circumstances. Your blood? Those tears? Taste as if you combined your tears with honey and water from a pure spring."
The events that were revealed as Kahlan sat up in her bed, the heavy blankets pulled around her, with Cara sitting close by seemed to weave around them in the darkness, creating what felt to Cara to be a whimsical story, to be told to young children in the dark of a new night to panic them before sleeping. While Kahlan’s words were poignant, the moments and sights they described were difficult to be believed. Cara watched as the faint trails of her blood stained tears rolled down her face, which sometimes Kahlan blotted away, and other times ignored. She watched with precision as Kahlan spoke and the elongated teeth in her mouth returned to their previous length. She even took Kahlan’s hand in her own once, to feel the cold chill of her skin, and subtly pressed a finger against the vein in Kahlan’s wrist, to feel her faint heartbeat.
Her mind was working to comprehend the tale, as her eyes were taking in the image before her. Cara well knew that one sense could not be trusted alone, and so it was her senses; smell, taste, touch, sight, hearing, combined with her mind and her emotions, that lead her to accept that this was no trick of magic, nor curse laid on Kahlan’s shoulders. There was no magic in her body that was not her own. That did not feel dangerously familiar to Cara.
Though questions filled her mind, she held her tongue, seeing the exhaustion on Kahlan’s face. She knew her questions could wait, and Cara urged Kahlan to close her eyes, to rest. Promising that she would not leave her side, that she would watch over her, to ensure the sunlight did not find her delicate flesh, nor her peace to be disturbed.
And as she slept, Cara began to pace.
Kahlan was fairly certain that she heard a growl come from Cara as she tried to rise from her bed. Blinking her aching eyes she looked at the sullen expression on Cara’s face as she stood beside her bed.
“Your eyes should be closed.”
“And yet they are open.” Kahlan swung her legs over the side of the bed. “Have you been pacing all this time?”
“All? Hardly any time has passed at all.”
“But enough. I feel…better?” Kahlan offered, knowing it was neither the truth nor a lie. She stood, and moved around Cara to pull the blue and silver cord hanging against the wall. Somewhere near by a bell was ringing.
“Did you dream further?”
“No.” Kahlan said,
“I have been thinking.”
“Of that I have no doubt.” Kahlan smiled sadly.
“It is too coincidental that this…person from the mythical north just happened to find you in an abandoned castle in the highest reaches of some forsaken mountain range.”
“Astute of you.” Kahlan shrugging off her warm long gown, letting it pool around her feet. Cara must have added wood to the fire, for it was strong and warm behind her. Her eyes watched as Cara’s own looked over her very thin and sheer shift covering her chilled flesh, before rising back up to meet Kahlan’s gaze with a lift of her brow.
Doors opened in the main room, and two young maid servants came quickly into the bedchamber. “Mistress?”
“Please draw my bath, and bring some tea for Mistress Cara and myself.”
“This is serious Kahlan.” Cara stressed coming to stand directly beside her, so close that Kahlan could feel the anger that warmed Cara’s blood radiating through her skin, and her words pushed at Kahlan’s hair. “What if this…what has happened…is merely a plot by these foreigners to destroy you?”
“Wouldn’t a sword in my heart have been a little more effective?” Kahlan asked, turning so she could feel the full power of Cara’s rage so close to her own body. Unconsciously her fingers traced along Cara’s forearm.
More servants were adding to the flurry of activity around them now; two groomsmen brought in the large copper tub, which was being efficiently filled by other servants carrying buckets of scalding water. The steam began to rise, as did the scent of lavender from the oil that was added as well.
Cara whispered, “If they meant to kill you, yes. But what if.”
“What if indeed.” Kahlan gasped as she felt Cara’s hand grasp her hip.
“This is important Kahlan. Far more important than anything else. We must protect you.”
“And I must protect the Midlands.” She allowed her hands to move to both of Cara’s arms, as she wondered if the Mord-Sith could read her eyes, or deeper inside, if she could tell how much Kahlan missed this sort of possessive touch from her, if Cara could see how Kahlan’s heart was beating faster.
“Kahlan.” Cara stressed, her eyes burning with the indignation inside of her. “Without you there is no Midlands.” Her whisper was bordering on the painful, as was her touch.
Begrudgingly Kahlan stepped back, away from Cara. Swallowing she admitted softly, “There will always be a Midlands, with or without me.” She grabbed the bottom edge of the sift she wore.
“No! You are more.” Cara began but stopped speaking and spun around, giving Kahlan her back.
Internally Kahlan sighed, she had hoped for at least one lingering glance from Cara. But her friend was far too focused on the problem at hand to see the begging in Kahlan’s eyes for understanding.
“Everyone OUT!” Cara yelled, causing the servants to shudder as they rapidly attempted to escape her. Cara chased after them, and slammed the door closed. Kahlan closed her eyes wincing. But they went wide as she heard Cara’s boots striking the floor as she rushed back to her. Leathered fingers gripped her shoulders, and aquamarine eyes stared hard into blue. “I am terrified that this will kill you. That this is something we cannot stop or reverse. For you to ignore it? Pretend it is not happening is no longer an option. Your people? Those that you focus all your time and energies on? Would order your head cut from your neck if they knew you…”
“Cara do you.” Kahlan turned her head away.
“Do I what?”
“Nothing. I need to bathe, and I need to meet with the petitioners who are impatiently waiting for me. If you care to join me, then stay.” Slowly she looked back at Cara, her heart wishing for once that she could merely say what she wanted and not be silenced by her own insecurities. She had no such filter when it came to her demands of Berdine, or the King, but to say such bawdy things to Cara seemed impossible. Kahlan seemed to know that Cara would understand, and Cara would lay with her in the hot water of her bath, or take her against the cold softness of her bed. But she valued Cara’s friendship too much to allow it to be tainted by the disgust and emptiness that Kahlan knew would become all that was between them. Slowly the hands on her skin slipped away.
“Leaving you is not an option. I am here to stay.” Cara said softly, but misunderstanding what Kahlan had truly been asking for. “Take your bath.” Cara ended kindly, before she turned and stalked away.
The door closed and Kahlan brushed her fingers over her cheeks, smearing the bloody tears across her skin.
Ten leagues from the city gates of Tamarang sat a small inn, and on the first floor the lively dining hall. Leaning at the back of the two story inn was a stable, with a roof that was in great need of repair. She found the stallion munching on a bucket of oats, and ran her hand along the red skirt beneath the black leather saddle. He was getting sloppy. Not only a horse thief now, but a shoddy one at that. She patted the horse’s rump before moving back towards the inn.
Smoke swirled below the eaves, from the roaring fire in the river stone hearth that was not properly being tended, as she slipped inside. The four long tables were all full, with rowdy men who seemed not to care about smoke, or anything else, but for the ale in their cups, and the mutton on greasy planks set on the table’s centers. Her eyes adjusted to the early evening light in this place, and even from below the hood of her black cloak it only took a moment’s review to find him. Where he always was, in the center of the loudest men. Slaps on the back, and coins tossed at the matron to ensure that his cup never went dry.
His eyes were red, even from where she stood she could see that, and it was to be expected. He had been gone since the prior evening. Apparently the idea of the Queen’s Gala was not to his liking. For there he sat, the Seeker of Truth, in his now filthy velvet coat, and tousled hair. Even his beard looked ragged and his hair was far too long. He not only ran away from the gala thrown in his honor, but he had apparently ignored requests to cut the unruly mop on his head.
“I go away for a fortnight and he loses his mind.” She grumbled.
“Just like that! They turned tail and ran!” Richard laughed, slapping his palm on the table. “So much for the ferocious Kelton Army!”
“Single handedly I heard it said. You bested a platoon of those cravens.”
“One look at my sword and they knew who the better man was.” He smirked, before tossing back what remained in his cup.
“Maid! Bring the Seeker more ale!” A rather large man who sat at Richard’s right declared.
“Seeker? No! Not a man this great.” Another said, standing now. “He has bested D’Harans, Keltons, and those savages from the Old World. He kicked the Keeper between the legs and sent him crawling back into the Underworld. And!” the man hoisted his cup higher, while Richard grinned triumphantly at the slaps landing on his back. “AND! He was a true man who told the Mother Confessor no thank you! Even after she set her evil touch on his skin!”
“To Richard! The giant among men!” Another man toasted.
“Oh no.” She sighed, moving along the far shadows of the room, attempting to get closer to him if she could.
“To Richard! The true King of D’Hara and the Midlands!”
“Denounce the Virgin Mother, All for King Richard!”
“All hail King Richard!”
“To the King!”
She lifted him by his arm, while hissing in his ear, “Come, King of Ale, your wife has requested an audience.”
Even with her cloak concealing her the men around them began joking all the more, while still cheering Richard.
“What’s this? Another maidenhead to break?”
“Or perhaps another new mother come to collect her due.”
“I hate you.” He slurred in her face, as he stood swaying.
“Yes well, I am not really a fan of myself as of late either.”
He tried to pull his arm away, but her grip was firm, and he was far too intoxicated.
“Be a good boy, Seeker, and act as the great man these fools believe you to be. Or I will knock you unconscious.”
“Just leave me be, Raina.”
“Alas, I have taken the purse of gold from your wife, and will see that I have earned it.” A casual caress along the back of his neck was all it seemed to those still cheering Richard on, but the pinch of the nerve there cause him to drop into unconsciousness. She pulled his arm around her neck and with a bawdy smile she walked him through the chorus of drunken wailing and out into the early evening air.
Cara's anger was at the point of boiling as she paced back and forth in the anteroom. It had been misapplied hope that while Kahlan prepared Cara would calm down. She only seemed to have become more obstinate and aggravated. Kahlan shooed away her maid servants and set about trying the last of the laces on her white gown. She knew Cara’s wrath was making them uncomfortable, and it was merely the cap to the explosiveness churning in the red leather clad Mord-Sith.
True to form the moment the doors closed behind the servants, Cara turned on her. "You do not have to do this. In fact I think you should not do this at all."
"Don't Cara me, Mother Confessor. You have just spent the day telling me of your unique condition, and while you slept for a candle mark and no more, you are now going to go down those stairs and sit for petitioners? You are the MOTHER CONFESSOR! YOU do as YOU please, not as it pleases them!"
Kahlan sighed. "And there you are wrong, Cara. I was appointed to this position; it is a great honor and with it come responsibilities."
"We should wrap you in the thickest cloaks this damn palace has and ride immediately to the Keep. You need to tell Zedd all of it, all that you told me! This is not something you can ignore and hope to go away, like a sickness or a strange rash."
"YOU cry blood. You DRINK blood. There is no BUT."
"Don't forget where you are." Kahlan whispered, and as she did, Cara stopped pacing and looked at her, eyes widening. "Do not forget that while you are my dearest friend, Cara, I am."
"The Mother Confessor." Cara pulled herself together, and the anger that had been burning in her eyes seemed to recede like the ocean currents. Slowly Cara bowed her head.
"Your concern...is touching, Cara. Please do not think appreciation is not felt. There are things that I must do. To ensure the calm within my kingdom. You and I have not even spoken yet of the lands of the north, of the Viceroy and his agenda. That is what is on the minds of the people: who are these people? What is this land? Are we in danger of another war? Are we threatened? If seeing me at ease calms the people, then that is what I shall do. We will go to the Wizard. Tonight. Once the formalities are completed."
"Yes, Mother Confessor." If she did not know Cara better she would think her tone was one of pouting. Yet, Kahlan did know Cara. As she stepped closer to her, she lifted her hand to her cheek, but stopped before their skin touched.
She was shocked as Cara's gloved hand guided Kahlan’s own to touch her warm skin.
"Forgive me?" Cara asked.
Kahlan nodded, marveling at the warmth of Cara's skin, and the pulses felt surging through her arm at their touch.
"We are sisters of the Agiel, Kahlan; we are also Confessor and Mord-Sith, sovereign and soldier."
Slowly Kahlan pulled her hand away. Cara only ever saw her as a friend and as a leader, nothing more. No matter how Kahlan saw her.
"As we are those things, I will remember my place, and I will also be the fly in your honey jar, until you relent and begin to take care of yourself in the same way you take care of your citizens."
"I expect nothing less from you, Mistress Cara."
She shoved his unconscious body off the horse and into the river. Which, as she knew he would, he burst from puttering and spitting.
She lowered the cloak from her head, and the evening wind caught in her shoulder length hair.
"Why do you drop me into water every time?"
"You answered your own question. Every time."
"This stream is particularly cold."
"I don't particularly care."
"You are a mean woman. Where did she find you?"
"Where my sort of women are to be found. Now are you sober enough to realize that you stole a horse? That you ran out of the gala being held in your honor?"
"Not my honor. None of those fancy dress parties are for me. They are so they can feel better about themselves, and the way they squeeze their serfs."
"Mm. No. Rahl. As in Lord Rahl, as in D'Hara. As in D’Haran gold. Stop being a hypocrite. Queen Rachel is your friend. Or was until you embarrassed her and then thumbed your nose to her by riling up her subjects into chanting for your coronation."
"They were doing that? It wasn't a drunken dream?"
"No it was not. Again you moan for the plight of the common man, and yet they all want you to be their king. You, being the Seeker of Truth and a man of noble intent I would think should be telling them about democracy, and how every man can have a voice. Versus drinking their ale and hearing about how they want you to be their king." She looked down on him. "You're an embarrassment. A wet one. Now get on that horse, and we will return to Tamarang so you can apologize."
His hand ran through his wet hair, as he smiled up at her. "I will, I mean, it makes sense. But... well Raina. You are here to ensure I get to Aydindril. And we are so far from there. If we go back, if we are asked to stay..."
"Get on the wretched horse Richard.” She said with angry resignation.”I swear if you trick me again?"
"What?" He laughed, pleased that he had won. What he failed to grasp was that she did not want to return to Tamarang either. The place had an eerie feeling about it, and there were far too many self appointed lords and ladies all in search of a piece of the notable Seeker.
"I will tie you to the horse, and we won’t stop until you’re covered in sores and unable to sit at the convening of the Central Council."
“I thought my wife had paid you to see to my welfare.”
“Welfare, yes. To ensure you did not embarrass her or yourself. To be prompt in your arrival in Aydindril. Lady Niada said nothing as to what your condition need be when we got there.” Raina said matter-of-factly as Richard mounted his horse.
“Lady Niada.” He shook his head annoyed. “How can she be Lady when I am not Lord.”
“Do you need that explained to you?” Her eyebrow twitched up.
“No.” He rolled his eyes, and turned his horse back towards the road. “Explain to me why she hired you, a woman, to be my warden?”
“A man would slap you on the back and feed into your ego.” Raina said pulling her hood back over her head. “I on the other hand will do no such thing. Nor will I cheer you on as you mount your conquests.”
“Your dear wife thinks that a dozen children is enough for any man, even the Seeker.”
Richard rolled his eyes. “It is not a dozen.”
“I am sure it is more.” Raina offered, to Richard’s shaking head.
“My wife should understand.”
“I think she does, that is why she sent you word.”
“You saw her?”
“Of course. Our paths crossed when I went south. She bids me to tell her ever devoted husband that she will be traveling along the main route to Aydindril and looks forward to seeing you there when you arrive.”
“Then we best hurry, Raina. My wife does not like to be kept waiting.”
Her white gown whispered against the polished floor as she and Cara walked side by side through the large and empty corridor. As they rounded the corner the heavy footfalls caused Kahlan look up. Berdine was shimmering in her bright red leather, her hair pulled back severely, and a chilling smile on her lips. It had been so long since she saw her in such a way that Kahlan had almost forgotten what a remarkable figure she made. Almost. She walked so swiftly towards them; the men behind her were trotting to keep up.
“I’ve just returned from the Keep. With one or two promising leads.” Berdine said almost triumphantly, motioning to the two servants behind her that were doing their best to hold stacks of books each.
“Promising?” Cara asked.
“Leads?” Kahlan finished.
“Yes, there was something you mentioned this…er… that.” Berdine stopped as if just realizing that they were standing in the open corridor. “That we can talk about later.” She looked over her shoulder at her fidgeting assistants. “If you drop any one of those it will be your undoing boy.” Her voice was like a blade, and both men stood straighter. “Oh, the Wizard will see you later this evening.”
“How is he?” Kahlan asked.
“Cranky.” She smiled, but it shimmered and faded. “There has been talk that the Mother Confessor will be opening the dining hall to all who wish to come this evening. He was displeased that he was not given the three days notice to hobble down the hillside.”
“Your timing is good, Mother Confessor, as your sister and the others are here. They arrived this morning and are none too pleased with you.” Berdine said casually, as servants moved around them.
“They were in a foul mood at being turned away from your rooms this morning.” Cara added.
Kahlan sighed. How had it slipped her mind that today was the day Dennee and the others were returning to Aydindril for the winter. They had migrated down from the northwest and the temple that was kept there, where young confessors were surrounded by others of their kind, and trained in an environment more suited to young ones with powers they were just beginning to understand. It was a temple where Kahlan had spent many seasons. They did not always return for the winter, but Kahlan had summoned them, not comforted knowing them to be in such a desolate place that while protected, was still not ideal for soldiers to guard. Kahlan kept her composure, but had to force her hand to stay at her side, instead of running across her face with annoyance.
“Priella is in a fine mood. Servants were rushing about, fussing like chickens at the… display of discontent?” Berdine smiled. “Apparently her rooms are now very austere.”
“She threw most of the furnishings out the window.”
“Ahhh.” Kahlan said with a sad smile.
Cara laughed softly. “Things have not changed all that much then in the time I have been away.”
“Oh you would be surprised.” Berdine said to Cara.
“Then this reunion shall be interesting. Will you be joining us Berdine?”
“I will follow along.” Berdine smiled with a slight bow of her head. “Mistress Cara, Mother Confessor.” Kahlan interlaced her fingers as she and Cara began walking again, while Berdine and the servants rushed back towards the Mother Confessor’s rooms.
“Is she fulfilling your needs?” Cara asked as they continued down the corridor.
Kahlan looked sharply at her, but there was no hint of mirth or sarcasm in Cara’s expression. “Berdine is… many things.” Kahlan offered.
“Was it alright that she came here?”
“Of course Cara. You know that I trust you, and your judgment.”
“Well, she is Mord-Sith, so do not trust her that much. Berdine is far more suited for the life of an advisor, a scholar than that of a guard. And well, here? I think she can be of use to you. And somewhat safer.”
“So long as I do not kill her based on a whim.” Kahlan smirked.
“You are the Mother Confessor, if you so chose.” Cara joked. “Why did you send Raina away?”
“She left.” Kahlan said. “I thought, initially, that she had returned to D’Hara. Yet Berdine assured me that she did not.” Kahlan worried her lip for a moment. Cara’s eyes wondered at what she was holding back. “They had a disagreement.”
To that Cara shrugged. “The two of them are fiery, and inadvertently they burn each other from time to time.”
“Raina is with Richard.” Kahlan confessed. Kahlan was quite sure that was no accident or coincidence. She and Cara exchanged a pointed glance. It was as if Cara felt it too, what had been on her mind; if there was a game the two Mord-Sith were playing at.
“As we well know, the Seeker is in need of a”-
“Nursemaid.” Kahlan mumbled.
Steward Wyck’s right eye twitched, in his attempt to stop looking at Cara. She rather enjoyed the affect she had on him. It was a combination of his long taught distrust for Mord-Sith, and the annoyance she knew he felt that she was close to Kahlan. Over the years he had made his lack of affection for her plain as the end of his hooked nose. To him she was a wall between the Mother Confessor and himself. The Steward was the man who was the right hand to the Mother Confessor, the overseer of daily life within the Palace, and all of Aydindril truthfully. It was her ear that he should whisper secrets into, and vice versa. What he found was her willing to listen, but Kahlan Amnell was never a woman who would merely trust another because it was expected. She was a woman who knew the value of trust, and that it was to be earned. Steward Wyck had not earned it yet, and Cara was not sure he ever would. Perhaps from another Mother Confessor, but not Kahlan. There was too much doubt in everything he said. Over the years she had stood at Kahlan’s side in Aydindril, she kept a close watch on the man, and he impressed her with his ability to walk the fine line. Yet clearly while she had been away these many months, he had not gotten any closer to Kahlan. And the twitch in his eye expressed how much he did not like speaking candidly with the Mother Confessor, having Cara standing on her other side.
Kahlan was holding the small letter, which the Steward had brought her and they had been discussing. Slowly she folded it, her eyes slightly bitter. “Reply to her, and express our joy and gratitude that she has seen to it that she will be joining us for the winter.” Words were kind, but the thin pull of Kahlan’s lips showed her annoyance.
“Yes, Mother Confessor.”
“Is that all?”
“There are petitioners who.”
Kahlan sighed again. “It is the duty of the Chief Steward to act in the stead of the Mother Confessor. To hear grievances and record them into the annals of history, is it not?”
“Then I suggest you do your duty, Chief Steward. I will sit for petitions tomorrow, from noon on, until all feel they have been heard.” She leaned ever so slightly towards him. “And I will be comforted knowing that my time shall not be wasted on petty disputes that could and should be addressed by the rule of law, and overseen by my Chief Steward. Am I clear?”
“Yes, Mother Confessor.” He bowed humbly.
She turned back to Cara. “Where do you think she is?”
Cara knew she meant Berdine, but also knew that in asking she was dismissing Steward Wyck.
“Surely she is on her way, Mother Confessor.” Cara replied looking hard at Wyck who nodded and scurried back behind Kahlan’s chair, towards one of the many doors at the back of the room. When the sound of a door closing reached them it seemed to Cara that Kahlan sagged slightly in her chair.
“Why in the Creator’s name is that woman coming here?”
Cara crossed her arms. “When did you last have an audience with Lady Niada?”
“Lady.” Kahlan snorted. “Six years ago. In Renwold.” Her eyes looked up at Cara. “You were there.”
“I was near.” Cara smiled. “If you recall the battle on the edges of the Wilds?”
“Where you and Richard fought together and pushed the D’Harans back.” Kahlan set her chin on her palm. “That was the last time I saw Richard as well.”
“As the wife of the Seeker, I am sure she merely wishes to see her husband. And well… she is guaranteed he will be here.”
“You heard the letter. She is bringing all of the brood with her.”
“Tell her not to come then Kahlan.” Cara said softly, knowing that Kahlan’s angry tone hid the hurt that even after all this time was still inside of Kahlan’s heart.
“My own selfishness should not rule reason. There is no justification to not allow her to call upon me.”
“She is from Westland.” Cara offered, turning slightly as she heard a door open. She motioned to Kahlan, that it was only Berdine, finally coming into the quiet and empty chamber.
“You know what they will say. If I refuse her? That the Mother Confessor’s jealousy hindered diplomatic relations with a sovereign kingdom.”
“Who cares what they say.” Berdine huffed. “It is rude for her to come.”
“You heard?” Kahlan asked her.
“But of course, Mother Confessor. It is part of my service to you, hearing things.” She smirked, and pulled her braid over her shoulder. “Speaking of, it won’t be long now.”
At the far end of the chamber the doors opened and in stepped two of the Home Guard, and between them the doorman dressed in his bright blue velvet.
“Mother Confessor? May I have the privilege of announcing Mistress Dennee, Mistress Priella, and Mistresses Cora, Sanna, Sibelle, and Drence.” He bowed.
“Impeccable timing.” Cara whispered to Berdine, who grinned, before standing taller and all expression slipped from her face. Cara felt her own go slack as they turned to watch the announced Confessors enter the small assembly room.
They came, moving like whispered promises, the future of the Confessor bloodline, and Kahlan’s face lightened as she rose from her chair and her eyes sparkled with joy.
“Sister.” She smiled and walked to meet them.
Cara watched closely as Priella glared openly at her. She had to swallow her instinctual desire to snap her teeth at the young blonde Confessor.
Sanna and Drence took after their mother in their looks, with light brown hair and even lighter blue eyes. It was interesting, that even while Dennee had been given life a second time in a new body, her daughters resembled the blond and fair eyed woman she used to be. Cara did not understand what ever sort of magic caused that to be. Her other daughter, Sibelle, the middle child, resembled Kahlan in a way, with her dark hair, bright blue eyes, and warm smile. If Cara had not been at Kahlan's side the year Dennee carried the young child in her womb she would have her doubts as to which woman was her mother. As it was, she knew all three confessors were nieces to Kahlan, and all seemed to have that intelligent spark in their eyes, along with the shadows of carrying the power they did. While if dressed in something other than Confessor black Cara knew they resembled children of four, five, and eight years of age. It was their eyes that hinted to them being something much more. Cora was an awkward looking girl with dusty brown hair and light brown eyes, on the edge between childhood and womanhood at thirteen years of age. Cara still remembered her as the shy three year old that she had been forced to climb a tree to retrieve. That seemed almost a lifetime ago, when she and Kahlan had discovered both Cora and Priella, young orphans, hidden in the far eastern deciduous forest of D'Hara. They had been all that remained of the ten Confessors, their guards and tutors who had not been able to make the crossing to the island of Valeria, and instead had rushed into the unpopulated corner of D’Hara. Hiding in the open had been a brilliant tactic by Priella’s mother, who unfortunately had died merely by happenstance, at the bite of a rock viper. Yet somehow the two girls had enough wits about them to survive long enough to be found. Priella had been seven then, and very adapt with slinging rocks. Cara still had a scar, hidden high in her hair, from her. Now she seemed to have evolved to slinging glances with her bright hazel eyes. Her blond hair was growing long, well past her shoulders. Cara thought it was a little too long for a young Confessor.
As if by silent command, all of them kneeled before Kahlan as she stood, smiling happily. Kahlan offered Dennee her hand, which her sister took and kissed.
“Stand, up, up all of you.” She laughed lightly and opened her arms. She and Dennee embraced. “I am sorry dear sister that I was not at the gates to receive you.”
“Duty comes before all else.” Dennee said.
“There is much truth in that.” Kahlan released her and turned to the smaller children. “Was your journey pleasant?”
“The snows began, Mother Confessor.” Cora replied.
“The city is so pretty, Mother Confessor.” Sibelle blinked.
“I spied a white stag!” Drence exclaimed with exuberant joy on her face.
“Did you now?” Kahlan grinned.
“I did! I did!”
“Did not, Drence!” Sanna said nudging her shoulder.
“So too I did! Tell them, Priella.”
“If she says she did.” Priella added.
“And you, Priella? How was the journey?”
“Like any other.”
“Coming home should be somewhat comforting?”
“Comforting is the duty of a Confessor. That is what will bring me comfort.”
“I see.” Kahlan said, before looking at Dennee and raising her brow. “That would be the cause for your discontent then? When you arrived? You lack the comfort of doing your duty as a Confessor?”
Cara noticed Dennee shaking her head as Priella kept quiet. Kahlan moved back towards the raised dais, stepping calmly. Dennee ushered the younglings closer to where Kahlan was going to sit. Even Drence at four years old stood proudly, clasping her hands together before her.
“There is much taking place around us and decisions which must be made. We are pleased you are here, close and safe within the Palace.”
Priella grumbled under her breath, and Cara turned to Kahlan, who looked up at her as she sat, her eyebrow rising slightly.
“With different circumstances you would be granted your wish, Priella, and would be our representative traveling through the Midlands, to act as a Confessor. Alas, that seems to not be prudent at this time. I am sorry it upsets you to the point of anger. In your continued lessons, we will work to curb that impulsive nature.” Kahlan’s voice kept its kind tone, but her words, if the young woman paid attention were meant as a chastisement. Cara was certain the young woman was not even listening, as she seemed far more intent on glaring at her. “It would please me, if tomorrow you sat at my side during petitions.”
“As you command, Mother Confessor.” She said tightly.
As she rubbed her temple to ease the aching behind her eyes she wondered if asking them to come back to the Confessor’s Palace had been a wise decision. While her sister Dennee was standing quietly, with her hands clasped before her, Priella was clearly aggravated in the way she swayed as she spoke. When last Kahlan saw her she had been a smiling girl of sixteen, but a passing of another summer had brought about a change in her, and she was now embracing the frustration that came with womanhood.
Kahlan had dismissed Berdine and Cara, hoping that would calm Priella somewhat, but it seemed to loosen her tongue and unleash her disobedience. She doubted any Confessor in the past, at so young an age would ever had the audacity to speak to the Mother Confessor as Priella was now. Kahlan knew she had no one to blame but herself for that, as she was far to gentle with the girl. Perhaps with all of them. Treating them tenderly, because they were the delicate future, instead of harshly to make them strong.
The moment the two Mord-Sith were absent she had begun her tirade. Apparently seeing the two in the Palace was just an added slight to having seen the others walking the King’s Rows earlier in the morning at their arrival.
"You allow Lord Rahl's wolves to stalk through this sacred palace, with little thought to our safety. Mord-Sith kill our kind. They are so few of us left, and yet you allow them to walk among us. You should have slaughtered them all."
"Mord-Sith... yes. They are... to be wary of. But those in these walls? They are not beholden to Lord Rahl. They are."
"Are you so blinded? I watched them murder our kind! Dennee, your dear sister was slaughtered by the one who stands close to you!"
"And yet my sister lives. Returned by magic and the will of a Mord-Sith."
"Brought back to kill Cara."
"But she did not. And she will not. Cara is not to be feared."
"Kahlan you are foolish to trust them." Priella spoke candidly, and Kahlan was not pleased with her tone, nor the use of her given name.
"Oh? I know them better than I know you. You think I should listen and trust you?"
"I am a Confessor."
"Yes. You are." Kahlan said evenly. “A very young Confessor. I am sure that your studies have begun to build for you a strong foundation of justice and reason. I would also hope, Priella, that you are learning humility and understanding. Things are not always as they seem. Decisions are made by those who hold knowledge that you are lacking. I am the Mother Confessor. I am in this chair, and I oversee the law of this land.” Kahlan watched as Priella moved to speak, and decided to not give her that chance. “You may never fully understand the why…but it is your duty to obey.” Dismissively Kahlan added, “There is a crowd gathered in the dining hall, waiting us all to join them. To break bread and share our wine. Let us not ruin their meal with stubborn tantrums.”
Denied, Priella turned and stormed from the Council Chambers. The younger girls followed quickly, appearing uneasy. Dennee was the last to leave, and looked once more at Kahlan, before she too turned and left the room. The doors closing echoed through the chamber.
Kahlan could feel her as she moved from the shadows behind her massive chair.
"Be mindful of Priella." She said softly.
"She is not a fan of mine I take it?" Cara asked.
"Hardly." Kahlan sighed. “Her temper.”
“Is apparently already becoming a thing of legend. Even the scullery maids were talking about it. She is what, seventeen now?”
“Almost eighteen.” Kahlan corrected.
“A head full of ideology and a body full of power.” Berdine added as she came around the other side of Kahlan’s chair.
Cara spoke carefully. "The Council is to meet in three days time. Those that are in attendance will have a voice. If you allow her to be there, Priella may attempt to add hers."
“She is of age, where she should be in attendance.” Kahlan sighed. “Though I would rather that not be so.”
Berdine spoke up. "There may be more to concern yourself with than that. It has been said that Lord Rahl may be in attendance."
"Here? In Aydindril?" Kahlan said shocked.
"There is a rumor." Berdine said.
"Find out the validity of such a rumor?"
"Yes Mother Confessor." Cara said bowing, and turned quickly to leave.
She could feel her annoyance growing as her fingers drummed out a beat on her knee. "Where did you hear that from?”
“Not sure who was whispering. They were gone by the time I made my way down to the main floor. I was in the Council Chambers, voices carry there.”
“They do.” Kahlan agreed. “He would not...dare...yes he would. Knowing Darken Rahl. He most certainly would. What of his wayward brother?"
"There has been no official word from the Seeker, Mother Confessor. Aside it has been said that he is traveling north through the Midlands."
“The unofficial reports?” Kahlan asked Berdine pointedly.
“They left Tamarang this morning. He is well aware of your request. Yet…” Berdine shrugged.
"That would be so like Richard. To arrive as requested, but to be sure he was obstinate about it, neither confirming or denying his attendance. Plus coming late." A low grown of discontent rumbled through her chest. "He is." Her palm slapped down against the chair’s arm. "Insufferable."
“Send the army for him.”
“Already done.” Kahlan pinched her nose. “I would banish him from the Midlands if I thought it would do any good. His wife is bringing those children of theirs, and he is taking his time in arriving.” Slowly she stood, and her head jerked to the side, as she felt Berdine’s hand on her hip.
“He does not need to come here. Nor does she.”
“Yes. He does. It is how things are done. He is the Seeker, and therefore he is to have a voice in the Council. It doesn’t matter that he lives with his head in the clouds, or that he and I have a certain boiling hatred for one another.”
“Mother Confessor, you are...” Berdine warned softly.
Kahlan sighed and pulled the black cloth from her wrist, and dabbed her eyes. She ran her tongue over her teeth, feeling them sharp and deadly.
“Thank you Berdine. It seems I need to be mindful of my temper.”
“Then we should stay here for a moment longer.”
“More bad news?”
"Gossip is beginning to flourish once again.”
“As is the way.” Kahlan sighed.
“They are calling you the Virgin Queen."
"Spirits how I hate that." Kahlan groaned. “I am neither a virgin nor a queen.”
"Queens, kings, dukes, duchesses, all forms of royalty, are never chaste, and your people know it. The title is not an honor, but a slight. A tarnish against you, being spread across the land by certain factions who are not as loyal as they should be. Punish them for it."
Kahlan's eyes looked sternly across the empty chamber. "I intend to."
Cara stepped from the shadows of the adjoining passageway to match step with Kahlan and Berdine as they moved down the wide corridor, heading towards the dining hall’s massive doors.
She had just returned from her short visit to the D’Hara palace on King’s Row. General Frannick had been cordial, if not amused to see her. Not that his amusement offered her any useful information.
In the two candle marks she had been away calm seemed to have returned to Kahlan. Her skin seemed to glow warmly, and her hair and dress were impeccable. She wondered what had transpired when she was away, or if it was merely because the sun had set.
“That was swift. What of the rumors?” Kahlan asked.
“General Frannick is not aware of any visit planned by Lord Rahl. Now that does not mean he won’t come. Though he mentioned that he was in contact with his High General this morning, who is in the People’s Palace, as is Lord Rahl.”
“He could not travel such a distance in mere days.” Kahlan sighed.
“Not as he is now, lacking magic.”
“Somehow I am still not comforted.” Kahlan said softly. “It would be very much like him to find a way.”
“I shall keep you in good spirits then, and not mention that we should have killed him when we had the chance.” Cara smiled.
“We had many chances, and I am in firm agreement with you, Cara.” She winked at her. “Perhaps we will get our chance again.”
“This time we could take it?” Berdine asked with almost giddiness in her voice.
“Wouldn’t that be a change?” Kahlan laughed.
On either side of the closed doors stood two of the Home Guards, looking stern and solemn. The two doormen on the other hand, smiled warmly as they bowed before the Mother Confessor, and pulled open the large doors.
“The Mother Confessor Kahlan Amnell!” the older announced loudly. The scent of roasted meat and fresh bread along with the familiar bite of heated spiced wine danced around them as the doors to the grand dining hall were opened. The room had been full of noise and chatter as well as warmth. As they walked down the center of the room, benches scrapped against the floor, and men and women regardless of their station or dress kneeled as the Mother Confessor walked.
"Rise, rise, my children! Let not the feast grow cold on my account. Please, rise." Kahlan said with forced joy in her tone. But that falsehood was not noticed by the others, no seemed to even enter into their conversations, which were picked back up as they walked through the hall.
"A full room." Cara remarked.
Berdine responded quietly. "There is rarely an empty seat, as all clamor for the invitation to eat from the Mother Confessor’s lauders."
"It is tradition." Kahlan said softly.
"As are most things in this land." Berdine winked at Cara.
Shaking her head she looked towards the long table set at the end of the hall, which was not raised, to show that the Mother Confessor was not a superior when it came to sharing food with her general public. Sitting at the massive table, looking like carvings of onyx were the other confessors. From Dennee who sat to the right of the Mother Confessor’s chair, to Priella, and down to the youngest, who Cara was sure still could swing her feet and not touch the floor. All wore their gowns of black silk, and their masks of indifference. The two youngest did offer smiles to Kahlan as she walked past them. It did not go unnoticed by Cara that there was only one chair empty at the table, that of the Mother Confessor. To the right of her empty chair sat the King, and beside him the Chief Steward. Cara felt Kahlan's sigh, and she nodded to Berdine. The two of them moved to stand in the shadows behind the royal table, after she growled at two of the Home Guards to move.
As Kahlan approached, King Fyren, dressed in the colors of Kelton in a motley of diamonds on his short coat rose and pulled her chair slightly for her. His face was smooth, unlike the rest of the court, where men were displaying beards. His eyes seemed to sparkle with happiness, though it did not go unnoticed by Cara that his eyes narrowed slightly as he looked at her and Berdine.
“Thank you King Fyren.” Kahlan said with a false smile as she sat.
“Anything for you, my Mistress.” He said and even snapped a large white square of cloth and laid it on her lap. “I called upon you again last night.”
“I have been busy.” Kahlan said. Cara walked delicately behind their backs, not making a sound, her eyes looking over the shoulders of those sitting, to watch those in attendance further in the room. Though when she heard the intensity of King Fyren’s whisper her attention returned sharply to him.
“Could it be that giving my heart to you is not enough, that I should be sheathed in leather?” He sat back down and leaned closer to Kahlan. “Because Mistress, I could do that for you as well.”
“King Fyren.” Kahlan snapped. “Eat your sup.”
His eyes looked down at his hands, almost pouting. Kahlan seemed to relent and asked him what he had done since they last saw each other. That seemed to be all the encouragement he needed, as his eyes lit and a smile graced his face, and he began speaking excitedly.
“Someone is talkative.” Berdine said when Cara returned to stand beside her.
She set her hand on the handle of her Agiel, half listening as King Fyren told those around them of his latest hunting trip. He was going on at length of the grandness of the lands in Kelton, and the bounty he had managed to bring back for this very feast, all in the hopes of pleasing his Mistress. His exuberance was apparent, and he seemed to not age, his face still handsome and eager as it was the first time she had been forced to watch him looking at Kahlan with such love and devotion.
Kahlan’s shoulders where pulled back with authority, but she merely made noises of encouragement to him as he talked. He had been her chosen mate for many years now, and while no children had been the result of that union, unlike the people of the Midlands, Cara knew why. It was not for the lack of the King’s attention, but more Kahlan’s own firm resolve.
Cara did not know where Kahlan found such resolve. She would have snapped King Fyren’s neck many years before, simply to get him to stop his incessant chattering.
Kahlan nodded, and joyfully the King moved to pour more wine into her goblet. As if to thank him she patted his arm, and Cara was sure he trembled with the joy of her touch. Her eyes narrowed as she again recalled that she used to sit to the right of the Mother Confessor, not as her mate, but as her confidant and friend. She knew very well who had ensured that there was no such seat at the table for her or Berdine. She would allow Chief Steward Wyck have what he could perceive as a win in this, for eating at Kahlan’s side did not matter. Her friendship mattered.
"Jealousy makes your eyes glow." Berdine whispered to her suddenly.
"Jealous. Me? Never. That is preposterous." Cara glared back at her. “There is nothing that would cause me to feel such a thing. If there is anything in my eyes it is boredom.”
"Is it? Perhaps you should find a looking glass, Mistress Cara. For your eyes burn with the green of jealousy."
Cara clenched her jaws. Perhaps she did miss sitting at the table beside her friend after all.
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