Write a review @ Amanda
Title: Primary (Chapter 9 to 13/?)
Author: Amanda ( aka seven_3_oh)
Fandom: Legend of the seeker
Overall Rating: NC-17
The reality of what she was doing, what they were all doing, hit home as she stood across the room beside the fireplace. The flames behind her did nothing for the chill that radiated from inside of her bones, and Kahlan wrapped her arms around herself, watching as Dennee sat on the edge of the bed, the quillion stone on a table before her, pulling all of the magic, all of the power that made her a confessor, from her body. Her sister was panting, and moaning occasionally with the pain of the extraction, and each moan made it difficult for Kahlan to breathe. She wanted to go to Dennee, to hold her and console her. But she knew that she could not get too close.
Her tears fell slowly, not as the river her heart wanted. One or two tears would escape her capacity to hold them inside. With this act, with removing the power from her sister that was in all likelihood killing her, Kahlan was making the dreams she had true; she was making what the Night Wisp told her reality.
Kahlan was now the last.
Unable to watch any longer she turned her head away.
The very last, she thought to herself.
“It is done.” Zedd said softly, and as she turned back he lifted the metal sides protecting the large glowing crystal. She rushed to sit beside her sister, who looked stunned.
“I…” Dennee started, before looking up at Zedd, and then to Richard who was standing in the corner with his arms crossed, where he had been silently watching the entire event.
“Here. Let me get these off of you.” Kahlan soothed, and began undoing the thick leather covering her sister’s hands. Gently she worked, and Dennee put her head on her shoulder.
“Come, we should leave them to it.” Zedd said to Richard as he walked towards the door.
“I want to stay.” Richard said defiantly.
“It is improper to do so.” Zedd’s voice was firm, and Kahlan looked up.
“Richard, please. Go with Zedd. Get some dinner, and find your rooms.”
“But I would like.”
“Richard.” She said her voice much harder. “Later I will come to you… We need to talk.”
“I think you are right, we do.” He uncrossed his arms.
“Come, my boy.” Zedd put his hand on Richard’s shoulder, to guide him through the door.
Kahlan shivered at the look Richard gave her. He was clearly used to getting his way.
“That one has a temper.” Dennee said softly after the door to her room closed. Kahlan laughed in agreement, before pulling off the last of the bindings on her hands. “He will probably never understand what you are.”
“You are very right, on both counts.” Kahlan said softly, her eyes flicking to the door once more. She would deal with Richard later. “What can I do for you? To make you comfortable?”
“Rest will help.” Dennee looked up and then with her now safe hands gripped both of Kahlan’s. Her eyes beseeched her as much as her voice. “I want to leave soon. The sooner the better in fact.”
“But why? I’ve been gone so long. I could… I would like for you to stay.”
“This is not my place.” Dennee shook her head, “It hasn’t been my place for a very long time. And besides, Kahlan, those soldiers, and those monsters? Knowing that they are walking the halls of this sacred place? No. I am sorry Kahlan, but I cannot sit here and watch that happen. I know you are wise, and so you must have your reasons. Your whole life prepared you for becoming the Mother Confessor, so I know that if you have your reasons, then I should not doubt them. You were always so much smarter than me. But… but I can’t see those things walking the halls of our ancestors’ home.”
Kahlan nodded. She did understand what Dennee was thinking, though she did not agree nor particularly like it.
“I think… I think I just need some rest tonight. But Kahlan, I would like to leave soon.”
“Alright, Dennee. I will come see you in the morning, before I address the Central Council. Anywhere you want to go, I will see to it that you are taken there, and made safe. Anywhere in the all of the Midlands. You just have to name it. Though know.” Kahlan hugged her, “Know that I do not wish for you to go.”
“Stay with me until I fall asleep?” Dennee asked in a small voice.
“Of course.” Kahlan said, hugging her tighter before sitting back against the bed, and letting Dennee curl around her. The extraction of the magic plus the weakness she had already been suffering made sleep come quickly for Dennee.
Kahlan placed the unconscious woman's head in her lap, and gently ran her fingers along her forehead, though her dark hair. While she could feel this semblance of familiarity, what was more striking was the difference. Her mind told her that the body which she held to her's with sisterly devotion was not the same as the one she had always known. But her heart told a different story. The whimper in sleep was the same now as it had been when Dennee had been but a small child and Kahlan had held her in just this very position. With Dennee sleeping, Kahlan allowed herself a few more tears, which slowly rolled down her cheeks.
She cried for the loss of her sister, for the loss of her power; Kahlan cried for the exhaustion circling her mind, and for the battles ahead she had to fight. She cried because she was now the last, and did not know how she was going to manage that burden.
The moment Kahlan stepped out of Dennee’s room she was surrounded by Mord-Sith; they seemed to appear as if they were breathed into existence. Being surrounded by them she did feel safe, safe enough for a moment to allow herself to feel just how exhausted she was.
“May we escort you to your chambers, Mother Confessor?” Cara asked softly, meeting Kahlan’s eyes. “I recall that you requested an hour of rest.” Cara lied, in her own way telling Kahlan that she knew she was exhausted. And Cara was correct. Kahlan felt as though she could hardly stand. Though the idea of rest was tempting, there was something that she had to do before she could rest, something that was weighing heavily on her.
“I may have said that, Cara, but there are so many things that I need to see to before I can even consider retiring for the evening.”
An out of breath boy, though by the uniform he was wearing, apparently a Home Guard soldier, even though he looked as though he had yet to spout his first beard, ran down the hall. He skidded to a stop before Captain Ryan, and was suddenly and very adamantly whispering.
"What is it?" Kahlan asked.
"Mother Confessor," the boy dropped to his knees.
"Rise, rise.” She said in an exasperated tone. “What is it?"
"He was just telling me that, through the back gate comes." He looked at the boy, and then at Cara.
"Comes what, Captain Ryan?"
"A dozen women, on horses black as night, appearing to be dripping in blood red leather." He looked to the boy, "He was concerned that they were sorceresses."
"Preposterous." Berdine mumbled from behind Kahlan.
Slowly Kahlan turned to Cara, an eyebrow inching up higher. "A dozen?"
“Yes, Mother Confessor." The boy finally found his voice and answered before Cara could.
Delicately Kahlan took a step closer to Cara, aware of all the guards, and servants milling very closely around. "A dozen Mord-Sith. Is there something you would like to tell me, Cara?"
Kahlan knew that she would feel the light pinch she set against the back of Cara’s arm.
"Consider it a welcome home present." Cara said sternly.
"Most people give flowers." Kahlan whispered.
“I am not most people.”
Kahlan took her arm and led her a little further away from the others. “No you are not.” She noticed the guards all tense up the further the two of them stepped away. “What is going on, Cara?”
“Nothing. Just… a little added precaution.” Cara looked back over her shoulder at the guards all beginning to inch closer to them.
“Cara. I am exhausted, and weary. Please don’t play games with me.”
“I’m not. Something… something doesn’t seem right. So, I ordered them to come, as a preventative measure.” She repeated.
“Richard does not know about this?”
“He will not be pleased. It will give him one more thing to not be pleased with before this evening is over.” Kahlan sighed.
“What do you mean?” Cara asked.
“I need to tell him. I have to tell him tonight.”
"No." Cara said softly, this time she was the one who took Kahlan’s elbow in her hand and brought her closer to the wall.
“What do you mean no?"
"I mean." Cara looked, and her face furrowed, seeing all the eyes and ears around them. She pulled Kahlan through the closest door, after giving Berdine a look, the look that gave no room for argument, that all of these witnesses were to stay out. "I mean don't tell him." Cara said as she closed the door.
Kahlan looked at her in disbelief, which was followed by immediate concern."Are... Do you not want me to tell him because you, you don’t?" Kahlan looked away. Even saying it out loud was too much for how tired she was. Her shoulders sagged. "I can't and won't be with him, even if you have decided you do not have feelings for me. That you don't”-
"You’re smarter than that." Cara interrupted her.
Kahlan looked up. "Am I?"
"Yes. You are, Confessor."
"But.” Kahlan sighed. “Cara, you have been distant... and what you said, after that stupid wish, and."
Gently Cara cupped her cheek, and Kahlan leaned into the warm soft leather that covered her hand, suddenly and completely relieved. She had not realized how much she missed Cara’s touch until she felt it again. Kahlan breathed in the scent of the leather, and wanted nothing more than to fall into Cara’s arms.
"I know what I did is not something easily forgivable." Kahlan whispered.
"You are smarter than that too." Cara chastised. "Just... don't tell Richard yet.”
"What is going on?" The Confessor’s eyes searched her face. But she could not read the Mord-Sith.
Cara bit her lip. "Give me a little more time."
"Time? Time before you tell me what is going on? Time before I tell him I don't love him? Time before I… before you... you are with me?" Kahlan questioned.
"Yes." Cara replied before kissing her just once, very softly. It seemed against Cara’s will that she backed away, and opened the door. “I wish you would rest, Kahlan.” She whispered, just as Kahlan walked past her.
“I told Richard I would meet with him.”
Cara nodded, understanding. "Berdine and Raina will stay with you, and I will see to your present."
"All right." When Kahlan looked at Cara’s genuine smile, it was as though all the weariness left her body for a moment. Like the light that lived inside of her burned a little brighter. When she addressed those around her, she was really stating the obvious for Cara's benefit. "I think I will meet with Lord Rahl before I retired for the evening."
"Yes Mother Confessor." The Home Guards said as one, and with one more lingering glance, she began moving away from Cara, down the hall.
Cara watched Kahlan and her newly appointed guards as they walked down the hall, impressed that no matter the amount of exhaustion that she had seen in Kahlan’s eyes as she walked these halls her back was straight and her gait was one of strong purpose. Once they rounded the corner and were out of sight she leaned towards Hally.
“I would like it very much if you would get more acquainted with members of the Home Guard.” She said softly.
“As you wish Mistress,” Hally said pulling her Agiel with an animalistic grin.
Cara clicked her tongue in warning. “That won’t be necessary. You possess a wide variety of skills.”
Hally smiled wider, slipping her Agiel back into its holster.
“And keep your leathers on.” Cara chided, causing Hally to cross her arms.
“Then how shall I get more acquainted with them, Mistress?”
“Use your brain, Hally. You have one, I know you do.” Cara turned around, “In the mean time, we need to greet our sisters.” Hally fell into step beside her. “Do you know who Rikka brought with her?” Cara asked as they walked down the hall.
“No. Her squad has been in southern D’Hara for some time. And I was working in the dungeons when Darken Rahl was… removed.” Hally explained.
“Hmm. This should be interesting then.”
True to the young boy’s word the twelve Mord-Sith were standing beside their black horses. Each horse wore the blood red leather saddle, with the yellow crescent moon and star embossed onto the rear housing of it, just below the cantle. Slowly Cara approached Rikka, and passed her going to the horse. It had been years since she had seen their official saddles. Gently she made a calming noise in her throat to the horse, which turned slightly to watch her, and then she ran her fingers over the yellow moon.
“I see you are well, Rikka.” Cara said, not bothering to look at her.
“As are you Cara. I was worried for awhile, when I heard. Though I should have known better, you, like our horses were never easily broken.” She offered, and Cara turned, watching her face, especially her blue eyes. Her face always gave a slight show of her emotions. Rikka could fight like the fiery wind off the southern deserts, and was not afraid to show her anger in her eyes. Rikka had a bit of a temper, and refused to hide it behind a stony countenance. As a result the previous Lord Rahl had sent her to patrol the southern boundary, to keep fear in the hearts of the nomadic tribes that lived here. “What happened to you was not honorable.” She said definitively.
Cara thought about that for a moment, ran her finger along the arch of the crescent moon one last time, and then turned. “Thank you.”
Rikka slightly nodded her head in acceptance of the complement.
“I take it that Lord Rahl is here.”
“And you will be taking us to him.”
“I shall.” Cara said softly. “In time.” Cara slowly stepped away from the horse, and Rikka fell into step beside her. “Your squad? Do you trust them?”
“Trust? Is there such a thing for us?”
“Oh yes. There is.” Cara affirmed.
Taking a deep breath Rikka thought for a moment. “I have traveled with them all for some time now, and their allegiance to Lord Rahl is strong. Their allegiance to their sisters is stronger.”
That was what Cara was hoping to hear. “Good.” Her eyes moved over the women, and some seemed familiar to her, but she could not place their names. Rikka had been away from the People’s Palace for some time, years it seemed. But not knowing the Mord-Sith personally did not mean that she did not know them at the core, knew what motivated them. It was her hope that Rikka’s faith in them was solid. She was putting more faith in them than probably prudent, but at this point Cara didn’t see any other alternative. The eyes of the warriors were set forward; none of them stared at her as if she did not belong, even though she herself was beginning to wonder if she still did.
Her eyes moved over the beautiful horses again. “I see you brought more than just yourselves.” Cara said, noticing that there were a few large crates and boxes strapped to some of the horses.
Rikka nodded that she was correct. “A few odds and ends. Some letters specifically for Lord Rahl.”
Cara suddenly felt eyes on her, and turned, looking up. A light snow was beginning to fall and through it and through the glare of the lit torches on the outer walls of the palace above she could see a vision in white, looking down at her. While she couldn’t clearly see Kahlan’s face or eyes, she just seemed to know that she was looking at her and suddenly Cara found herself wishing she could be the one standing beside her. Instead she saw Richard’s shadow.
Cara spoke, not looking away from Kahlan above. “Well, I suppose you should be presented to Lord Rahl now.”
“As you wish, Cara.”
Slowly Cara bowed her head to Kahlan, hoping that she would hold her tongue, just for a little while longer. Just a little longer, she told herself.
Then she turned to Rikka. “Come. We will go to Lord Rahl, and along the way I will show you where we will be staying.”
“I assumed the dungeons.” Rikka smirked.
“While I have seen the dungeons here, and they are very well appointed, I think you will prefer the rooms that the Mother Confessor selected for us.” Cara said, as they walked under the archway. Hally came to flank Cara, and the others were silently marching behind.
“This palace is nice. We’ve been staying on the eastern slopes for a few days, keeping an eye on things until you arrived.”
“See anything interesting?”
“No.” She shook her head.
“Was your journey a good one?” Cara asked.
Rikka rubbed her backside. “I miss flying.” She sighed. “Has the new Lord Rahl mastered the power of flight yet?”
“No. Perhaps you can ask the Wizard.” Hally offered.
Cara glared at the tall Mord-Sith, “Your skin is becoming soft, Rikka. Perhaps more than concerning yourself with taking wing, we should toughen you up.”
“If you wish, Cara.” She bowed her head with respect.
Cara laughed softly while shaking her head. “Ask the Wizard. The worst he can say is no.”
Richard was looking up into the late evening sky, his face set, his hand resting on the hilt of the Sword of Truth. His expression was pensive. It mimicked how Kahlan felt inside, pensive. Wanting things to be different, but knowing that to make it so there would be things she needed to do that were neither pleasurable or in some estimation, just.
"The stars are different here." He said softly as she stepped beside him on the large balcony garden. He had not been in his rooms when she arrived, and knowing him as she did, there he was, standing amid the small fruit trees, under the stars. "While I know they are the same, they look different." She looked up, and he was right, their shine was muted by the lights of the city surrounding them. "I... I never imagined that they would look so different here." Slowly he turned. "Allot will be different here, won't it?"
"Yes." She agreed, wondering if he knew just how true his words were.
"I think I prefer the view from outside the city gates." Raising his eyes to her he asked, "Is this really what you wanted? To come back here?"
"Want?" She clasped her hands behind her back. "There is duty. There is responsibility. Those come before want." The emphasis that he placed on the word want, forced Kahlan to think about it. That word. Want. What did she want? At that moment she wanted to be in her private chambers, to have many moments strung together with Cara, alone, in her massive bed. She wanted nothing greater at that moment than to allow herself to relax into the knowing hands of the blonde, to see the gleam in her eyes, to feel that electric pulse that burned through her entire body when they kissed. That was what Kahlan Amnell, the Mother Confessor wanted. While she looked back at the stars, instead of him she continued. "To want something is fine. To earn it, is better. The things I want shall be earned, no matter the length of time it takes, and that is what will make them that much sweeter." Kahlan told Richard, which was as much for her benefit as his. She knew very well that there were sometimes where wanting wasn't enough. When duty came before want.
"I suppose." He smiled sadly, turning and setting his back on the stone wall, crossing his arms gently and looking over her shoulder. She assumed he was looking at the light pouring from the multitude of windows, at the smooth and sturdy walls of the Confessor's Palace. "You seem to have suddenly found a balance, a tranquil acceptance being surrounded by them."
"Them?" Kahlan turned to look. Flanking the open archway to the Palace were two of Richard's D'Haran guards. Closer, but still standing a way off were Berdine and Raina. They uncharacteristically were standing close to one another, Berdine leaning slightly towards the shorter Mord-Sith. "Yes. I have."
"To me it seems strange." He looked to her again. "That you seem to trust the Mord-Sith, when before you despised them."
Kahlan worried her bottom lip for a moment.
"When you first met Cara, you wanted to destroy her. You didn't trust her." Richard shrugged. "But now? Now you trust her, as you trust these women, who not long ago set out to kill you and all of your kind."
"Richard, I did as you asked when Cara joined us. I trusted you. And in trusting you I was able to open my eyes, and see past my own hate and my own preconceived notions."
"She killed your sister. That was never in dispute."
"No. It wasn’t."
"So what changed?"
"You know, that when I look into someone, before I confess them, I can tell if they are lying?" She asked.
"Cara never lied. She told me exactly what she did. And in that same look she told me she wished to die for what she had done. She offered no false promises, no salve to my breaking heart. She merely looked me in the eye and told me that she accepted whatever fate I decided." She looked at him, watching as he glared at the two Mord-Sith. "In that moment, as I was about to confess her? I discovered that I had forgotten myself. Forgotten the teachings of my elders, and all of the discoveries I made as a child when reading of past Confessors. You can hate the deed, the act, but you cannot hate the tool. Seeing into Cara I knew, as well as I knew anything else in the world, that she had not killed my sister because it brought her pleasure, she did not butcher people, leaving death in her wake, merely because it was what she wanted. She and her Agiel were the tools. Darken Rahl was the momentum. To hate the tool is not just. It is not logical. I cannot hate Cara for the things she has done at the command of another."
"And if she were to do something that was by her own command. If she did something that was purely for her own self interests and desire?" Richard asked.
Kahlan thought about that. And she knew the answer as her mouth formed the words, "That would be different. That would make her the master of her own fate." Her eyes narrowed at Richard, "As you well know, Cara is not like that."
"I thought I knew. But now?" He motioned towards the Mord-Sith behind them. "Now I am not so sure. She argued with me for months, that I was the Lord Rahl, that she would do anything and everything I commanded. And yet, she brings others here. She has acted as her own master, and is ruling over these other women." He set his hand on her arm. "They deny me what I want, which is time with you." He smiled sadly. "If they truly followed me, they would not stand in my way."
"Richard, you are not thinking of the whole picture. By standing in your way they are doing exactly as you ordered them to. They are protecting me."
"Yes." She stepped away from him and leaned on the short wall, her eyes following the snow that was beginning to fall again, from the highest spires above, down. Her eyes followed the white that glowed against the shadows of night, her eyes taking in the site on the ground some five stories below. The snow became almost invisible, mere flecks of reflective light as it fell on the shoulders of the Mord-Sith gathered below, thirteen in all, with Cara standing tall, looking up at her. As if the blonde knew Kahlan was there, as if by some magic, or perhaps even something stronger, she knew to look up just then and see that she was being observed.
Out of the corner of her eye, Kahlan looked at Richard, as the moon highlighted his hair and brow, as the fire from the torches around the garden highlighted the metal of his sword and the gentleness in his eyes. Kahlan suddenly realized that the world she was taught to believe in, what she was guided to believe and want, was as far from the truth as one could get. She irreverently knew that while she was supposed to want all that Richard offered to her; what she required, and what her soul needed came from the look in the eyes of the Mord-Sith below.
He was still beside her, still watching Berdine and Raina, as she asked “Does their presence bring up memories? Is that why you have been so adamant about not wanting them here?" Kahlan asked, watching his eye tremble slightly.
"It does not help that every memory I have of being surrounded by D'Haran soldiers is not a good one. And." His hand griped the hilt of his sword and he slowly lifted it, before allowing it to drop back down with a clang. "Seeing so many Mord-Sith does remind me a certain time." He looked at her in a way that made her shiver inwardly. The darkness of hate coloring his expression. "Reminds me of what I have experienced, and what I know they are capable of."
"This creates in you anger and fear." It was a statement. "When it should bring about a common bond."
He looked at her, questioning.
"They have all suffered the same abuse, yet while you were tortured at the hands of Denna for a few days? They suffered even more violations for years, Richard."
Momentarily her words seemed to sink in, and his eyes looked to the ground. "I know. Which is why I value Cara and her friendship above some ancient bond. Perhaps it will just take me more time?"
"Those two seem different to me." Richard said turning to stand beside her, and looked out into the distance of the night.
"They are." Kahlan looked back down, allowing her eyes to settle on Cara, down below; holding back a soft smile as she could barely make out the bow Cara gave to her. Just the sight of her made Kahlan feel better, feel as though there was hope for a greater understanding. When Cara turned away, Kahlan lost sight of her, and the file of Mord-Sith, dripping in red, began entering the Palace below. "Every person is unique, Richard. Different." Slowly she turned. "It does not matter that they fit into a specific mold, be it armor, or leather. Underneath they are a unique individual."
He nodded. "I know."
“And you should also know? There are twelve Mord-Sith on their way up here to greet you.” She said, and could not help her soft smile.
“I noticed.” He grinned back. “I suppose it won’t do much good to order these ones to leave either?”
“No, it will not.” Kahlan put her hand on Richard’s arm just briefly. “Because I requested that they come.” She lied.
“Oh really? Worried about my safety?” Richard laughed.
“Yours, mine, Aydindril. Does it matter why?”
He tilted his head to the side, looking at her closely, and it was for a moment like she could feel the gaze of the Seeker on her. She did not know if she appreciated the intensity of his stare. “No.” He replied, looking away, and again pulled on the hilt of his sword, before letting it drop loudly. “No I suppose it does not.”
They were silent for a moment; Kahlan turned away, and crossed her arms against the cold, letting her eyes move over the distant shadow of the Wizard’s Keep in the distance. She had been dreading this conversation as much as looking forward to it, and yet, she had promised. She would wait. Richard came closer to her, and was also looking out over the dark distance. Kahlan could not help but wonder if he already knew. If the Seeker had looked through her and had seen that she did not love him, not in the way he wanted her to. The emotions Richard had ran deep, far below his surface; and knowing that he was a kind man, of pure heart and intensions did not make the fact that she was going to hurt him any easier. If he were a wicked man it may have helped. But he wasn’t. For all of his faults Richard was kind, and caring. It was not his fault nor was it hers that their hearts were not meant to be matched. As he put his hand on hers she forced herself to not pull away; bit her tongue to hold back from telling him that she did not love him.
That time would come, and for the first time she was worried for Cara. Worried about what Richard would do when he found out the truth.
The sound of purposeful footsteps, the strong and quick gait of a dozen women caused her to turn, pulling her hand free of his. If he noticed, he did not show it.
Kahlan composed her expression as she watched the Mord-Sith march out into the garden. With ease they all moved into a line, and dropped, placing their foreheads to the cold snow topped stone. Kahlan noticed Berdine and Raina follow their lead, as did the two D’Haran guards. In one unanimous voice they all spoke. "Master Rahl guide us. Master Rahl teach us. Master Rahl protect us. In your light we thrive. In your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom we are humbled. We live only to serve. Our lives are yours."
As they all began the devotion for a second time, Kahlan looked towards Cara’s bowed head, and watched as ever so slightly she lifted her blonde head. Their eyes locked.
"Master Rahl guide us. Master Rahl teach us. Master Rahl protect us. In your light we thrive. In your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom we are humbled. We live only to serve. Our lives are yours."
The vigor of her stare, of their eyes meeting sent scalding pulses of desire through her. Kahlan knew and felt that even though Cara was saying those words of devotion to Richard, she was in fact making that pledge to her. Pledging her devotion and so much more.
"Master Rahl guide us. Master Rahl teach us. Master Rahl protect us. In your light we thrive. In your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom
we are humbled. We live only to serve. Our lives are yours."
They all sat up, though stayed on their knees, and Richard took a step closer to them, as he absently pulled the Sword of Truth from its scabbard slightly before dropping it again. The clang of it rang with a foreboding of finality.
Kahlan feel very small as she stepped into her large private chambers. Which she thought may be part of the point, having rooms this large. Designed perhaps as a reminder to the Mother Confessor, that while she wielded authority over a multitude of kingdoms and tribes, she was at the core just a woman. Alone.
Her chambers were quiet, it seemed even the popping of logs in the flames of the fire hushed themselves, adhering to Kahlan's wish for painful silence. Sitting in the soft chair, her black fur mantle draped behind her, she pulled the small reminder from where it had been all day, tucked against her breast. Kahlan held the small piece of leather in the palm of her hand, her fingers moving over it softly, knowing that not too long ago this was over Cara's heart, touching her flesh, molded to her body. Protection, as well as a warning.
Kahlan had heeded that warning, until her desire refused to be afraid.
She remembered back to the night in the inn, which almost seemed as though it were a lifetime ago. She could remember walking into the tiny room, to see Cara’s strong body straddling the frightening barmaid. She remembered the honest and defiant look in Cara’s eyes. Kahlan knew then and even more now, that jealousy had been in her eyes. Jealousy for she wanted to be the one under Cara, and jealousy that Cara was touching someone else.
When did hate turn to friendship? When did distrust turn to trust? When did desire turn to love?
There was a soft knock on the door, before it opened and Berdine stepped inside. “Mother Confessor? The visitors you were expecting.” Berdine said, and once Kahlan nodded to her, she motioned for the two men to enter the room. Kahlan tucked the small bit of leather back against her breast, before she stood and watched as Captain Ryan stepped into the room, and pressed his fist to his heart. Beside him a massive mountain of an older man with gray hair did the same.
“Sergeant of Arms Wyborn.” Kahlan said with a cheerful smile and then moved into his large arms for a hug. “I was so worried when I heard that the D’Harans attacked the city that you would have been killed.”
“An old warrior like me is hard to kill, Mother Confessor.”
“Yes, I suppose so.” She smiled widely; glad to see his warm blue eyes looking down on her. Everything she learned about battle she learnt from this man, who was more like a father to her than a subject. He held her out at arm’s length from him, his eyes narrowing, looking her over.
“Well you are still strong, if not a little wiry. But that can be good. I happened to hear gossip over the past year that the Mother Confessor was a considerable foe, wielding her daggers, let alone her magic.” He chuckled, and then tapped her nose. “But I told you, use a sword, not the daggers.”
“I like the daggers.” Kahlan explained. “Being closer, more personal seems to throw the enemy off their guard.”
“She’s not wrong.” Berdine whispered from behind her.
There was a cough of annoyance, and Kahlan turned to greet the younger man. “Captain Ryan.”
“Mother Confessor,” He bowed.
“It there a reason that vermin is still in this room?” Wyborn asked, glaring at Berdine, who merely smiled in reply.
Kahlan stepped out of his arms, and looked at him with the same hard look he used to look at his recruits. A look she had picked up from him at a very early age. A look that she knew conveyed a reprimand as well as asked for him to exercise patience. “You, no doubt, have noticed many Mord-Sith about today.”
“We have Mother Confessor, and if I may say, neither I nor my men are happy about it.” Wyborn said crossing his arms.
“We can protect you.” Captain Ryan declared.
“I have every confidence that you can, Captain. And yet, you will treat all the Mord-Sith with respect. As you would treat the elite personal guards of the Mother Confessor.”
“That is what the Home Guard is.” Captain Ryan argued.
“Yes, and how many are left? I noticed very few accompanied me on my procession here today, and even fewer are throughout the Palace.”
Wyborn’s glare intensified. “Our numbers were thinned considerably.”
“I know.” Kahlan set her hand on Wyborn’s shoulder. “Do not take their presence as an insult or a slight.”
“One of them threatened me.” Captain Ryan offered.
“Oh?” Kahlan asked looking at Berdine.
“Mistress Cara merely introduced herself.”
Kahlan smiled. “I just bet she did. Mistress Cara would be your equivalent Sergeant of Arms Wyborn, and more than that, she is my…” Kahlan faltered for a moment, but just one moment, “my most trusted advisor. She shall have my ear, and will be my eyes.”
“And this one?”
“I’m Berdine, the Mother Confessor’s favorite.” She said with a large smile.
“I see.” Wyborn said, before crossing his arms. “And all those other D’Haran giants now taking up space in my barracks?”
“They are here to protect the Lord Rahl.”
“Aren’t those women supposed to do that?”
She looked at Berdine, “Yes, they are… supposed to.”
Another knock sounded on the door of her receiving chamber. Berdine went and opened it, allowing in a young maidservant who was carrying a small tray with a bowl of soup and a small loaf of bread and a large pot of tea. It looked as grand as any feast Kahlan could remember. She had forgotten how very hungry she was. Berdine took the tray from the girl, and then set it near Kahlan’s chair on a small table. As Kahlan reached for the bowl, Berdine slapped her hand away playfully. Sergeant Wyborn chuckled despite himself, and Kahlan felt properly admonished as she watched Berdine take a very small spoonful of soup, and tasting it, in fact checking it.
“I doubt my own kitchen staff is trying to kill me on this, my first night back.” Kahlan muttered.
“How many strides did it take for that girl to get from the kitchens to this room? How many opportunities were there for someone or something to intercept this?” Berdine asked sternly. And then she nodded. “It appears fine. But I caution you, you may have allowed your guard down while you traveled, but in a palace there are a thousand beady eyes all looking for the slightest opportunity to strike.”
As much as Kahlan wanted to protest, she knew that she couldn’t. Berdine’s words were true. She nodded. “You are right. Thank you Berdine.”
“Of course Mistress.”
“I should be fine for now. Why don’t you go get something to eat?” Kahlan said as she motioned for Wyborn and Captain Ryan to sit in the chairs around her. It felt familiar as she watched Sergeant Wyborn reach over her and pour her tea, before pouring some for himself.
“Mistress Cara said.”
“I am sure that she did, yet I am perfectly safe here with Captain Ryan and Sergeant Wyborn.” Kahlan interrupted.
“I don’t like it.”
“I doubted very much that you would.” Kahlan said with a smile.
“One of us will be outside that door.”
“I should hope so, Berdine.” She smiled softly.
With a huff the Mord-Sith glared at the men in the room, and then stormed out.
“They certainly have tempers.” Wyborn laughed softly.
“That they do.”
“Good. Tempers are what help stroke the fire of battle. And as much as I hate to admit it, she was right. You need to be careful.” He added with approval. “Tomorrow will be a very important day for you, Mother Confessor. I will assume that your return will be with slightly more permanence than the last?”
“Yes, while I cannot say what the future may bring, it is my intent to address the Central Council and let them all know that I have returned.”
“Your timing is very good, Mother Confessor.” Captain Ryan said, as he went to stand by the fire. “At current all the palaces on King’s Row are occupied. Winter is coming quickly, but they all stayed for the final session of the season.”
Kahlan nodded, taking a bite of the bread.
“Your sister will abdicate the seat tomorrow then?” Wyborn asked.
“Yes. It will be done first off, or not at all. It depends on how she is feeling really. But you and I both know, she won’t need to officially resign before the Council. My walking into the room will be sufficient.” She met Wyborn’s eyes. “Dennee was… not well. But. But she will be better now. I… we took care of the issue that was ailing her.”
Slowly he nodded his head, not needing to know specifics, but having been raised at the Confessor’s Palace, and then living his already long life in service to them he knew much more about what he needed to know, and what he could find out on his own through the mouths of servants. “The only problem I see is that you are without a Wizard.” Wyborn said, sitting causally in the chair across from her. She noticed that Captain Ryan was still standing, and looked nervously from the Sergeant to her. It seemed clear that he had never imagined seeing a man sitting so casually in the Mother Confessor’s chambers. She was sure that if she told him some of the stories of her youthful adventures with Wyborn; such as the time he threw her over his shoulder and marched her all the way through the palace with her kicking and screaming mad, all because she had defied his order and had been caught practicing with a cross bow unsupervised, that the young Captain would blanch in disbelief. Though she had deserved her punishment that day. While unintentional she still had killed that poor cat with a misfire of an arrow.
“I am. Though, Zedd is a Wizard of the First Order.”
“Ah yes. Now that the spell has been broken I remember that old fool.” Wyborn chuckled.
“I do not think I need a Wizard to stand beside me anymore.” She said softly, looking at the now empty bowl before her.
“And why is that, Kahlan?” The Sergeant had an ease about him, always had, and suddenly it came to Kahlan. Richard had always reminded her of someone. That someone was this imposing man sitting beside her, asking questions with a gentle tone. She regarded the Sergeant’s kind features as well as his easy smile, and recalled how hard his face could look when he was upset or thinking deeply about something. Perhaps the familiarity and comfort she had found in Richard was just her memory reminding her of the man who should have been her father. It made much more sense if that was the case, if Richard brought out the feelings of contented familiarity due to her missing this man. Perhaps that had been what had allowed her to easily misunderstand what she felt, feeling love and a connection to Richard but one that was not routed in passion, one that was based in comfort. Not that it mattered much anymore. She now knew the nature of her heart, and her mind was clear. What she had been missing, what she needed, and what she truly loved was becoming clearer each moment.
“I have Mord-Sith.” She said definitively.
He thought for a moment. “Well, while they cannot use magic, such as Wizard’s fire, or stringing a light web, they do have something extra. Their ability to pull magic from another. Plus, in hand to hand combat they can be formidable.”
“There were Mord-Sith that attacked Aydindril?” She asked, wondering just how personal his knowledge was.
He nodded. “Only four of them. Four women and four thousand men. So, that leads me to think that they are exceptionally well versed in combat.”
Slowly she nodded, and with all sincerity met his eyes. “You have no idea until you are on the receiving end of their wrath. Which I hope and pray you never are.”
Cara paced back and forth in the large parlor, moving with a mixture restlessness and unease. This room and the bedroom beyond were the ones that a kindly old maid servant had informed her were to be hers. Apparently Kahlan had a sense of humor.
While these rooms were just two doors down the hall from the Mother Confessor’s chambers she doubted very much if they resembled
each other at all. Nearly every surface in this front parlor was blood red. The walls hung with a shear fabric of red, a small chair and chaise, both covered in blood red velvet. Even the carpet on the stone floor and the coverings on the windows were blood red.
She held her Agiel in one hand, and was rolling it between her fingers as she paced. Behind her, silent and waiting were all of the Mord-Sith. She wondered absently if this room calmed them, made them feel comfortable. It seemed to have the reverse effect on her. It made Cara on alert. Which was good for the time being.
“You will all cut your hair.” Cara said without preamble or explanation, as she turned and faced them.
Uncontrollably Berdine gasped. Her eyes fell in shame at having made any noise.
“We are in the Midlands now, and the rule of this land is that no woman may keep her hair longer than the Mother Confessor.” Cara smirked, “That being said, we are not merely servants in this land either.” She slid her Agiel back comfortably against her thigh, and stepped closer to the line of women, who all stared straight ahead, not meeting her eyes. “Tomorrow is a very important day. Lord Rahl will petition the Central Council of the Midlands for a treaty between this land and D’Hara.” She began walking up the line. “I am sure some of you are wondering why then we need to adhere to the rules of this land. You are certainly thinking to yourself that you are Mord-Sith, D’Hara born and raised. And you would be correct. To a point.” She turned and stared into one of the girls’ dark brown eyes. “As of this moment we, the Mord-Sith, pledge our allegiance to the Mother Confessor of the Midlands.”
“Cara?” Rikka asked softly.
With ease Cara walked towards her, and raised her eyebrow, her look asking the woman to continue.
“Our oath is to the Lord Rahl.”
“Yes it is.”
“We serve him.”
“Then how can we serve her as well?”
“We do not serve the Mother Confessor. We align ourselves with her, and we devote ourselves to her protection and safety.” Cara smiled, pulling a small dagger from Rikka’s belt. “The line we walk is not blurred. We serve the Lord Rahl. We are his to command, as it has always been.” She began walking away from Rikka, and then moved behind the line of women. “That does not mean we are not free to pledge our allegiance to another. Does that make sense?” She asked standing behind Berdine.
“Yes Mistress. It is the same as my bond to you.” Berdine said softly.
“Explain for the others?”
“I serve Lord Rahl. I am his to command. But also, you are my Mistress and command me through the bond we created during my training.”
Cara set her hand on Berdine’s strong shoulder. “Exactly.” She grasped Berdine’s long braid in her hand, yanking on it, albeit playfully. “To show our respect, and to let all that come tomorrow to look upon Lord Rahl and the Mother Confessor, know that we will adhere to their customs. And they will learn that Mord-Sith are not to be trifled with. Alas, some of you will lose more of your braid than others. And I still have many years to wait before my braid is as it was.” Cara lifted the knife and sliced away a good chunk of Berdine’s auburn tresses, which she tossed unceremoniously to the floor. Before she released her sister, she leaned forward and whispered softly, just for her, “She will think you as lovely as ever, Berdine. Don’t fret.”
For an indeterminable length of time she stood just inside the room, her back against the solid oak door, her hands together before her, merely watching. The room was dark and quiet, only the faintest light from the embers that still fought for life in the large fireplace illuminated the woman sitting in the large chair, her head resting on the back, her long dark hair hanging loosely, and the thick black fur wrapped around her as she slept. Cara was at least twenty feet away from her, but it was as though Kahlan’s presence was everywhere around her, touching her skin, moving through her hair. Her face was tranquil in sleep, and she looked as though she had finally been granted a moment of peace. Cara was loathe to interrupt it, and was merely content to stand, watching over her.
The way the weak glow from the fire highlighted her face was so reminiscent of nights she had stood on the edge of camp, watching the Confessor sleep. For many nights, stretching into weeks and then months she had observed her in this light. Trying to determine what sort of woman Kahlan was. She was a fierce warrior; Cara knew and had repeatedly been privileged to witness. She was also compassionate to nearly all manner of creature and human alike that they came across in their journeys. Cara knew the Confessor was a woman, full of emotion, and passion; be it for getting lost in laughter, or the way she would look to Richard. Kahlan was all of these things, and so much more. Cara knew from watching, that there was a deep well of sadness behind her freckled smiles, and the strength in her shoulders was as much from battle as it was from the burden of her duty.
When Cara had noticed herself observing the Confessor with a more critical eye she had warned herself against allowing any attachments to develop. But it seemed as though parts of her had refused the warning. And what was more; the Confessor had also ignored the warnings. Because now the looks of adoration were no longer left to linger on Richard, now they lingered on her.
With a soft smile she pushed off of the door and walked slowly across the room. If only for a moment Cara wondered if being here, in Aydindril had been a good plan, because as she was well aware, here Kahlan was the Mother Confessor, and her time was not her own. It would take more of an effort than merely slipping away into the woods to have a quiet moment together. And now she had a sensation of foreboding in the back of her mind. That something was just not as it seemed to be. It was a solid warning, and one that Cara was heeding.
Slowly she reached out, and ran her fingertips gently along Kahlan’s cheek, moving softly over delicate freckles. Seeing Kahlan’s soft expression in sleep she vowed, not for the first time, nor the last, that she would die before she ever let any harm come to her.
Kahlan’s hand grabbed her wrist as quickly as her eyes shot open.
“I didn’t mean to wake you.” Cara whispered, losing herself in the blue eyes looking up at her.
The Confessor did not speak. Her grip on Cara’s wrist shifted, and then she put her other hand on the edge of her glove, and pulled it down, exposing the inside of her wrist. Kahlan’s eyes did not leave hers, did not blink or falter in any way, as she leaned forward and set her warm lips to the inside of Cara’s wrist. The touch of her lips sent fiery rods of desire through her bones. Kahlan’s lips lifted away from her skin, and she slowly licked them, before replacing them to Cara’s wrist. This time the wetness made Cara’s head swirl, almost in the same way that it did after a solid punch to her skull.
“Kahlan.” She murmured, and then her eyes rolled back, as the Confessor’s tongue slid slowly along her wrist, following the faint blue of her veins. When the pressure of Kahlan’s mouth lifted, Cara’s eyes swung back to the burning blue. Delicately Kahlan pulled her glove back to cover her now burning flesh.
“I didn’t mean.”
Cara set her finger against her lips, silencing her. Kahlan nodded softly, understanding that she needn’t apologize. As Cara removed her finger, she slowly stood. “You look beautiful in your polished leather.”
“As do you in your white dress, Mother Confessor.”
Cara racked her eyes down slowly and then back up, wanting nothing more than to remove that pristinely white dress from the equally pristine body that wore it. She could feel the desire building up inside of her again.
“Please Cara,” Kahlan took her hand, and began walking backwards, pulling her. “Please come and lay with me. Even if we don’t have time… for,” the pointed look she gave Cara made her temperature spike as well as her inner thighs to tremble. “I need to be close to you. I need to just feel that you are in fact real, and have your arms around me.”
“Please. Just until the dawn?”
“Kahlan.” She dug her heels in firmly, stopping them. “The dawn rose a short time ago.”
“Yes. I… I tried to get away sooner. I am sorry.” Cara sighed. “Your ladies are waiting in the hall to dress you and prepare you for today.”
Kahlan nodded her face becoming sullen. Cara grabbed her into a fierce hug, pulling her against her, and it seemed as though a part of her had needed this closeness too. Kahlan’s arms went around her tightly and she kissed the Confessor’s neck.
“Thank you.” Kahlan whispered.
As she slipped out of Kahlan’s rooms she heard the resonance of chain mail. Lord Rahl was standing directly in front of her, his arms crossed, two large D’Harans behind him "Cara."
"Lord Rahl." She tilted her head slightly. "You look well rested."
He scratched his freshly shaven chin. "It was time, wasn’t it?"
"Is she awake?"
"Yes, and is preparing for her entrance. Come," Cara gestured down the hall.
"I would like to see her."
"As would everyone else already waiting her arrival in the Council Chambers. I will walk you down."
Kahlan had to stop on her way down to the Council Chambers to see Dennee. It was written that Dennee should be in attendance, to officially abdicate her position, but it was not truly required. And more so, Kahlan wanted to see how she was feeling. She motioned for Rikka and Berdine to wait for her outside, before slipping through the door.
"Dennee, how are you feeling today?" She asked, and was please to see her sister sitting up in bed, a little color back in her cheeks.
"Better." She smiled softly. "In fact better than better.”
“Well you look beautiful.” Kahlan smiled, sitting next to her on the bed.
“Thank you. Is it still odd, looking at this face, but knowing I am inside.”
“No. Not at all. I know you are in there, Dennee, I feel it, and that is all that matters to me.” She smiled. “So you feel better and look better.”
“I am. I feel strangely peaceful and whole again. It... it is not something I have ever felt before Kahlan. At first, I missed the power, as I knew I would. But now? Now that I lay here and thought about what the consequences of removing the power I am relieved. I have been truly given a second chance at life."
“You look stunning as well. You will awe them with your beauty, and if I know you at the same time you will terrify them with your fervor.”
“Oh, I doubt that.” Kahlan blushed slightly, and yet, Dennee did know the wrath that Kahlan Amnell could bring when pushed to it. She had seen it many a time as they grew up, and as they fought to get to the Boundary together. “Will you come down?”
“No,” She smiled shaking her head. “I can’t. It would feel too dishonest. I am no longer a confessor. And I know it is only a ceremonial passing of responsibility. You are the Mother Confessor, they all know it, and any who doubt it will get the sharp end of your tongue.”
“You may be right.” Kahlan squeezed her hand. “Do you still wish to leave today?”
Kahlan nodded. “We will leave after mid day. That will afford us plenty of time.”
“Thank you Kahlan. You have saved me yet again.”
She hugged her sister fiercely. “Of course, Dennee, of course.”
“Well, what have you to say of the Lord Rahl?” Berdine asked Rikka as she came to stand beside her, now dressed in her brown leathers.
“I thought he would be taller.” Rikka said crossing her arms and standing firm on the other side of the doorway from Berdine. “Mother Confessor has a sister?”
“Yes, she used to be a confessor, but they removed her power.”
“Apparently, Cara killed the Mother Confessor’s sister.”
“You just said she was in the room with her.”
“She is. Denna brought her soul back and placed it in another body, in the hopes that she would kill Cara or something.”
“I see. Never did see the big picture, our Denna.”
“True. Well, apparently this new body wasn’t strong. So.”
“Hmm.” Rikka said, but did not ask further questions. “Are we to forbid entry to everyone?”
“Even Lord Rahl?”
“Especially.” Berdine said with a smile.
“I see.” She turned, “You know, this morning, he suddenly reminded me of one of those tiny little dogs, the ones that used to follow Countress Altona around the palace, nipping at her skirts. Do you remember?"
"Hush, someone may hear you and tell him."
"Maybe they should. Maybe someone should tell him what became of that yapping mutt."
She rolled her eyes. “What?”
They both bristled with anticipation as they heard loud steps coming down the hall. Four D’Haran guards marched passed them, Berdine noticed that Rikka sneered at one of them who had the audacity to turn his head slightly to look at them.
“One would assume to see Mord-Sith or First File Guards watching over the Lord Rahl, not those common thugs.” Rikka complained.
“I too find there presence somewhat unnerving.”
“Are they Reibisch’s men?”
Berdine nodded. “Lord Rahl met with the General, and returned with a small guard of twenty five. To stay close to him on the journey here.”
“Which would mean that the General is not far behind.” Rikka commented. Her blue eyes spinning with thought.
“That’s correct. We have estimated that they will arrive in five days time.” Cara said as she seemed to suddenly appear over Rikka’s shoulder.
“Should I send some sisters of the Agiel out to welcome the good General?”
“While I think that would be a very good idea, I want all Mord-Sith to stay close. Until we can determine what the threat here may or may not be.” Cara offered. Berdine noticed that she looked at the closed door, her face showing a touch of concern.
“Agreed.” Rikka nodded.
“Lord Rahl is waiting with the others in the chambers below.”
“Should we expect any disturbances this morning?” Rikka asked.
“No... I don’t think so.” Cara crossed her arms. “I think the mere presence of the Mother Confessor will cause each small little thought of sedition to flutter away.” She looked at Rikka. “Though just in case, could you advise the sisters that we are to ring the room, and that at any sign of aggression we are to act and act swiftly to neutralize it, though not with lethal force.”
“As you command, Cara.” Rikka nodded in respect, her dark braid falling over her shoulder. She tossed it back, and then started walking back down the hall.
Watching her go, Cara sighed. Berdine noticed the traces of worry and exhaustion under her eyes. Anyone else looking at Cara would see a lightening rod of focus and power, but Berdine had known her longer than most. She knew when something was weighing on her. And Berdine had a very good idea that what weighed the most was on the other side of the door.
“This hallway reminds me of the People’s Palace.” Berdine said with a tone of longing. “The way the white marble seems to breathe.” Closely she watched as Cara’s eyes softened a little.
“Yes. I have felt that too. It is reminiscent of the passageway from the Mord-Sith quarters.”
“Mm.” Berdine hummed happily.
“Berdine?” Cara asked after a moment of silence.
“Do you recall the place where the passageway verged? The right lead to the devotional courtyard?”
“Of course I remember.”
“Did you ever go down the left passageway?”
Berdine looked at her seriously. “That was forbidden.”
“I… yes. I know. I…” Cara looked away. Berdine then knew that she had been correct. She knew specifically what it was that weighed on her Mistress’ mind, what made her seemed tired and almost conflicted. They were alone in this hallway, and so she took the opportunity, set her hand on Cara’s chin and guided her eyes back to her own.
“I did go that way Mistress Cara.”
Cara blinked. “Where did it lead?”
“A hallway. At first is was like any other… but then. Then the difference became apparent. It had massive arches, filled with waved glass, showing all of the Azrith Plains. The view… was breathtaking, beautiful.” She smiled, and closed her eyes, remembering the view.
“Where did it lead?”
“It led to a devotional courtyard, but this one was clandestine, and full of blossoming flowers.” Berdine hardened her eyes. “Pristinely white roses circled by the most vibrant red orchids. It was a private space, just big enough for two. It was protected with magic, and the flowers always bloomed, and the rain never reached the small white marble pebbles on the ground. While one had to fight against the nature of the forbidden to walk down the hall, the view eased the concern, and once you reached the sanctuary, it made everything worth it. Every step.” She noticed that Cara’s eyes were still closed. “Mistress?”
“You should have chosen to go down that passageway.”
Kahlan walked through the massive twenty foot tall doors as they opened, and passed the line of six Mord-Sith on either side, all of whom had their heads bowed in respect. What Kahlan noticed immediately was the change. Not one of their braids hung lower than their shoulder blades, and while their hair was still long and impressive by Midland standards, it was a clear indication. Cara came along side her for just a moment, and she asked softly, "Cara, what did you do?"
"Only what was required, Mother Confessor." She said, giving her a quick look from the corner of her eye.
"All will see that even the Mord-Sith revere the Mother Confessor. It will help them to understand the width and breathe of your command."
"Mmhm." She said as Cara turned away to walk behind her, as each of the Mord-Sith fell in line behind her. Kahlan had to keep her face expressionless but allowed her heart to swell with admiration at what Cara had done for her.
Immediately the sound of a thousand boots hitting the marble floors filled the massive oval shaped chamber, and every man and woman rose from their seats, before they immediately kneeled towards the center of the room.
Kahlan lifted her head higher, prouder, as she walked between two massive marble columns that supported the domed ceiling above. In the hush of the room, she chanced a quick glance to the immense mural painted above, of the first Mother Confessor Magda Searus, with her stern expression and powerful eyes. As Kahlan walked in the silence she could hear faintly Richard mumbling behind her. What Cara said to him, in her low and sarcastic voice almost got a smile to appear on Kahlan’s face.
“And to think, she almost gave this up. The complete worship of an entire land of people, just for a little cabin in the woods.” Cara hissed. “Now go stand where I told you to.”
“Rise my children.” Kahlan said benevolently, as she walked through the sea of bowed heads, looking up at the dais that circled the room. She noticed that each and every representative of all the kingdoms was present, and all were bowing to her. “Rise my children.” She said again as she came to the white marble steps and slowly went up them. “Rise, people of the Midlands.” She looked down at the First Chair for a moment. Seeing it’s imposing structure, the delicate carvings amid the back and arms. She set her hand on the ancient wood, and it seemed to hum with power, the power of the three thousand years previous and each and every one of the Mother Confessors who had come before. Turning she sat, and gazed out over the assembly of people, looking at them all from under the white hood of her gown.
Her eyes moved up, to look again at the enormous ceiling painting of Magda Searus. The first. What did that woman feel? What did she know of life and of love? How heavy was her burden knowing what she had to do to protect her people, an assembly of people who did not understand her, and feared what they did not understand. How had she managed to do what was required of her, knowing that there were few if any people who would ever truly know the burden of their gift. And Kahlan wondered what she would think, looking down with emotionless eyes, knowing that sitting before her was the last Mother Confessor.
Silent as arrows through the thick wood, the Mord-Sith moved from the shadows. Mord-Sith flanked the wall behind the chairs of the representatives on the dais, and then marched in the Home Guard, lining the walls the rest of the way around the massive room. Behind her chair on one side stood the Sergeant of Arms, wearing his armor that was so polished it gleamed in the morning light that came through the windows high above, his silver hair matching it perfectly, and on the other side of her stood Cara. Both were glaring at those assembled, as if daring them to break any accordance or rule of etiquette.
All of the men and women retook their seats, hushed murmurs all that reached her ears. She barely motioned to him before the massive voice of the Sergeant of Arms filled the room.
“Members of the Central Council of the Midlands, and honored guests, it is the privilege of the people of this great land to welcome home and to respect our First Chair of the Central Council, Guardian of Truth, Mistress of all the Midland Armies, The Mother Confessor, Kahlan Amnell.” Each and every member of the Home Guard slammed the handle of their pikes to the marble floor three times. Sergeant Wyborn moved to stand at her side, and as was proper she nodded her head to him once.
Slowly she looked out over the crowd; meeting eyes of nearly every person assembled, and in her own hard way dared each of them to dispute who she was or what she represented. When none did, and she felt that everyone was properly understanding that she was now the Mother Confessor; all being done with a mere glance from her steel blue eyes, it was then that she nodded ever so slightly to the floor man.
“Lord Rahl, Seeker of Truth, has come to beg the permission of our Mother Confessor, for the right to speak.” the floor man announced loudly, before striking his staff twice.
“Lord Rahl,” Kahlan said, lowering her head to him as a sign of respect, though only slightly. She watched as Richard stepped forward. He had shaved off his beard, but had not bothered to put on the thick red coat or black leggings that she knew Rikka had brought for him. Instead he stood in his same clothes, albeit they looked to have been cleaned. His eyes moved over the large room, over the thousands of eyes all turned to look at him, before he nodded back to her. He stepped forward, to where Cara had reminded him to stand earlier, and set his hand on his sword, and smiled.
“Mother Confessor, Central Council of the Midlands, I come before you today as the Seeker of Truth to petition for the treaty between D’Hara and the Midlands.
“While at the command of Darken Rahl atrocities were committed against this peaceful and kind land, and I assure you he has paid and paid dearly for them here in life and now in the Underworld. I made sure of that. His actions were his own, and not that of the D’Haran people. While warriors yes, they are also not without compassion. They merely fight for their common goal, the pleasure of their Lord Rahl.
“While Darken Rahl was my brother, I do not carry the stigma of hate in my heart that he and those before him did. One cannot automatically assume that the son will follow in the father’s pursuits. As the Seeker of Truth I have witnessed many untold examples of this, all throughout this lovely land. Lord Rahl and the D’Haran people merely wish for peace, for the continuation of their lives as well as yours.
“I beseech the Central Council to accept the D’Haran treaty that we are presenting today, review our terms, and then accept it.” He said, crossing his arms and looking around the room.
His words were very well thought out, and Kahlan did appreciate that he had made them, versus storming in here and telling them to sign because he wanted them to, part of what he said still bothered her. And more than that, his cocky attitude bothered her. And what was even more infuriating was the little fact that though he addressed her as the Mother Confessor he still did not seem to understand.
She was going to make him understand.
“Seeker, it is the role of this Central Council and the alliance that it signifies, to accomplish nothing but to let all people, in all lands live in peace. We sincerely hope that the Seeker of the Truth is not suggesting that we do not have peace, nor will have peace until we sign a D’Haran document.
“Perhaps our ways are foreign to you, and to all those D’Harans represented here which is why you come before this Council making a demand for peace. The people of the Midlands know very well the measure of peace, as we have always acted with that ultimate goal in mind. Within the Midlands each land leaves their neighbors to themselves, knowing that in doing so their own land is safe from covetous hands. This is the symbiotic relationship of every nation, every tribe and kingdom. That relationship was threatened when D’Hara attacked us without cause or warning.”
“Kahlan?” He asked softly.
She rose from her chair, her presence seeming to grow and fill the room, swallowing his voice, as well as whatever cockiness he had entered the room with. As she spoke her voice rose in power, until Kahlan was sure that it would be the only thing that would fill the mind of every man and woman in the room.
“As Mother Confessor I speak for this distinguished Council when I say that we would like to make it very clear to Lord Rahl. That every member of this Council will stand to protect each other. Every neighbor will put aside differences and none will ever stand alone, nor defenseless. We will all stand united and we will destroy any and all manner of people who dare to threaten our peaceful existence.
“You would be wrong to think that because the army of D’Hara swooped in to this land, catching us unawares that we are vulnerable. Quite the contrary. The Midlands are unique in our differences but vastly superior in our passion and desire to live as free peoples. So I would stress upon you, Seeker, to understand that just because the armies of D’Hara were able be victorious once, that will not be the case if there is a next time. D’Hara may think that our common defense, that the Central Council here in Aydindril is weak. We are not. We are unified; we are the defense against murderers who would underestimate us. Ours is not a feeble union as you seem to think but one with teeth.”
Richard looked at her with eyes no longer blind.
She scanned her eyes over the room, and every single face was turned towards hers. From the envoys, to the princes, the Home Guards and the Mord-Sith. She could even make out the eyes of the D’Haran guards, the visors of their helmets down. She even noticed Zedd, standing at the very back of the chamber in neutrality, as soft smile on his lips. All eyes were on her, and she was completely calm.
“Now.” Her voice was suddenly soft and kind. “That being said, the Central Council welcomes the treaty that D’Hara is presenting. In fact we look forward to a peaceful union with D’Hara.” She sat back down in her chair, crossed her legs, and then set her hands down gently on her knee. “Prince Fyren of Kelton, would you please advise the Seeker as well as the guests here today in the Council Chamber to the protocol of bringing such a treaty to the floor of the Central Council of the Midlands?” Her tone moved into boredom.
“Yes Mistress! Thank you Mistress!” Prince Fyren rose from his chair behind her and stood at the edge of the marble railing, looking down at the Seeker who was clearly seething. “It is the blessed honor of this Council to welcome the treaty presented to us by the Seeker of Truth on behalf of the D’Haran people. This treaty will be provided to each land, kingdom and tribe. In accordance of the rule of law in the Midlands, four days shall pass where the Seeker, Lord Rahl, will have the opportunity and the honor of meeting with each and all heads of state, dignitaries and envoys who wish to discuss terms and conditions. On the fourth day the Central Council shall meet, make their decision and then present that to our masterful and all knowing Mother Confessor. The Mother Confessor will then either accept their decision, or will call for an additional period of review by the Central Council, as is her right and her responsibility as sovereign of the Midlands and all her peoples.”
“Thank you Prince Fyren.” She said softly with a smile, and he rushed back to his seat. “Now we shall recess for the allotted four days. Please, respected and honored members of this Central Council, let this be your main focus. All other petitions, requests, and hearings should wait. As always you may submit them in writing to Prince Fyren and I shall review. But I again strongly urge you; make this D’Hara treaty your priority.”
“Yes Mother Confessor.” The Council boomed with the collective voice of the people.
Cara leaned forward slightly and whispered in her ear, “I can still hear Lord Rahl’s knees knocking, Mother Confessor.”
“Lord Rahl to see the Mother Confessor.” Announced the Home Guard officer who stood at the door to her antechamber off of the Council floor. She had wanted to leave as soon as possible, and had slipped in here to sign what needed to be signed so that she could, in good conscious escort her sister part of her journey north. When Richard was announced she didn’t look up, but rather signed her name to an approval for a grain purchase, and then slid it across the large table to Prince Fyren.
"Kahlan, I am sorry." Richard said softly.
"For?" She asked not looking up from the papers spread on the desk before her.
"For being a brat."
Kahlan raised her eyebrow at him.
"I didn't believe, or really want to understand how much responsibility there is for you. That you are the Mother Confessor, I thought I understood what that meant. I was clearly wrong, and for that I apologize."
"And now you seem to understand?" She asked suspiciously.
"I do. Seeing you sitting up there today, with all of these dignitaries looking to you for guidance and you never once faltered. You commanded respect and attention in that room." He looked down for a moment. "I am honestly ashamed that I was so short sighted before." He came closer and sat on the edge of her desk, on top of some of her papers. Her eyes looked to the papers and then to him, with ice filling her eyes.
"Plus I never realized how much work there is to having a title."
"Is that so?"
"When Rikka," he motioned over his shoulder, and Kahlan looked up and returned the warm smile of the Mord-Sith, dressed in brown, behind Richard."Brought me over one hundred letters from various generals, captains, clergy, I thought she was mad." He crossed his arms smiling.
"And were you able to get through all of those letters so quickly?"
"What? Oh." It was as if he suddenly realized what he was doing, which was sitting on her desk, keeping her from her duty, again. "Oh, no. I... I haven't."
"Perhaps you should." Slowly Kahlan stood, and felt more than saw Berdine come closer to her. "Unfortunately Richard, I must see to my sister now."
"About that, I thought perhaps I could travel with you."
"That will not be possible."
"You have been granted four days, that is four short days, Richard, to address all of the members of the Council, to answer their concerns and questions. The acceptance of the treaty if up to the Central Council. Not me. And if they do not receive the assurances that they want, they could deny the request."
"Which would mean?" His eyes narrowed.
"War would be declared again." She said her voice as sharp as the Sword of Truth that he gripped the hilt of.
"Yes. And as we have both seen the ravages of war, I think you would want to do all that you could to avoid that."
"You're right...I... Kahlan? Have you read through the treaty yet?”
“No Richard, I have not. There are a few more pressing things. I will get to it soon. This afternoon I am sure.”
“Well I will be available, when you get back, if you want to discuss it.”
“Well… I suppose I should go and,” his voice quietly trailed off.
“Yes, you should. I am sure Zedd will aid you if you need it.”
“I... alright. Rikka, come. I need your assistance."
"Of course Lord Rahl." Rikka said, and then bowed to Kahlan, as Richard rushed by her, "Mother Confessor, I wish you a safe and swift journey."
"Thank you." Kahlan replied, smiling softly as she saw the sparkle of mirth in the woman's eyes. She looked back down at the desk, at what papers were left. She knew she would never get through them all in time, and began pulling them together. She would just take them along.
“Let me, Mother Confessor.” Raina offered, before bumping her out of the way.
“I could have done that!” Prince Fyren whined.
“Prince Fyren?” Kahlan asked, as she lowered her white hood.
“Yes my Mistress?”
“I think it is time for you to go visit your palace on King’s Row. I know your brother is there. Perhaps you can go and do whatever it is he asks of you, that does not injure you or another person, for the next four days. Could you do that?”
“Yes please, My Mistress. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to please you.” He bowed before moving quickly from the room.
“Perhaps we should have made for you a red dress.” Raina mumbled.
“That would be a sight.” Berdine chuckled.
“I dare say you are right.” Kahlan said and then smiled. “We are more the same than we are different.” She watched as Raina and Berdine moved about the table, gathering all the papers and replacing the caps on the bottles of ink. She wanted to help, but they moved so efficiently she felt as though she would be in the way. “I’ve been wondering… why do none of you also wear two Agiel?”
“One is sufficient. Two is overdoing it.” Berdine stated without even looking up from her task, until Raina smacked her in the arm.
“She is asking why Cara has two.”
Kahlan looked away for a moment; she had not realized she was so transparent.
“You know how and why we carry an Agiel?” Berdine asked.
“Yes. It allows you to inflict pain, as well as absorb another’s magic, to use against them.”
Berdine nodded, her hands moving quickly to finish her task. “And that the Agiel we carry is the Agiel we were trained with, broken with. It will only work in that way.” Kahlan nodded. “Mistress Cara carries her Agiel, but also Triana’s.”
“But I have felt both Agiel, and both are able to inflict pain.”
For a moment Berdine raised her eyebrow at that comment, before continuing. “Because Cara was retrained by Triana. It was used against her, and therefore.”
“Triana was my year mate. We were initiated a year prior to Berdine and Cara.” Raina interjected.
“Is it common? Retraining?” Kahlan asked.
“Common? No. It is done as punishment for an infraction. And before you ask I cannot say what Cara’s infraction was. I was not in the People’s Palace at the time.” Berdine answered.
“But this Triana? She trained Cara again?”
“She began to. But…” Raina began but hesitated.
“You can tell her. We trust the Mother Confessor.” Berdine bumped her with her elbow.
“Triana was known throughout D’Hara as the one Mord-Sith who was unable to train and revive.”
“You are saying it wrong. Where Denna was an expert in torturing her pets to the brink of death before pulling them back and beginning anew, Triana took them beyond the brink. She broke them irrevocably.”
“Could not be broken. In fact when Triana tried she failed. She could not make Cara submit to her.” Berdine said proudly. “She carries Triana’s Agiel because she is honoring the memory of her teacher, as well as.”
“That’s quite enough, thank you.” Cara snapped as she marched into the room.
Both Berdine and Raina stepped back, heads lowered. Kahlan was so close to discovering more of the intricate web that made up the enigma that was Cara, and yet she was always almost finding out. She sighed.
“Well Mother Confessor, your coach is prepared, the horses of your guards wait. All we need is your sister to be brought down. I have ordered all Mord-Sith and D’Harans to stay out of the southern stairwells for the next hour, to be sure she doesn’t get a look at any of us.” Cara said, her eyes a little hard as they silently disciplined the other two Mord-Sith.
“Thank you Cara.” She said softly.
Slowly Cara’s eyes moved away from them and to Kahlan, and they softened considerably as she nodded her head with respect.
The coach had stopped, and Kahlan had sat beside her sister, unsure what she could say.
"I will miss you." Kahlan said, meaning it, taking both of Dennee's hands in hers.
"You will be too busy to miss me."
"Not at all. I honestly do not wish to see you go." Kahlan confessed, but she knew her sister needed to. This was her chance at finding happiness, no longer burdened with duty, a duty that Kahlan knew Dennee never wanted. She was always too kind to have the determination it took, taking ones soul from them.
"Kahlan... I worry about you."
"You have so easily fallen into something strange with these women. Mord-Sith were created for the simple purpose of combating Confessors’ magic. You know this. It was taught to us both. They are our sworn enemies."
Kahlan looked at their hands. "Just because wizards once decided that they knew best, does not mean it was right. The Mord-Sith are not mindless weapons. They, just like us, have souls, desires. Hearts."
She considered trying to explain to Dennee that while her experiences are the hands of the Mord-Sith, Cara in particular, were appalling, that did not mean that all aspects of them were so. The entire ride she had tried to find the words. But here they were. Stopped, and she was still at a loss as to how to get her sister to see the world from the view where Kahlan stood. Looking at her sister she knew that she would probably never see her again. She understood that once Dennee discovered the truth of her feelings for Cara, and for all the Mord-Sith, that the thin tie to her sister would be irrevocably split. Dennee would never understand nor forgive her. Kahlan already knew that she would never sacrifice her feelings for Cara, not for her sister, nor for her duty as Mother Confessor. And because of that this was more than a farewell. Kahlan knew that this was goodbye.
"No. I can't believe that. I saw what they did to the Confessors in Valeria. I felt what they did to me. What that one did to me." She shook her head and pulled her hands away roughly. "Something is blinding you to the truth Kahlan. And for that I am sorry. I would hate for you to be hurt, but perhaps that is what you need to learn."
Chastised she was, but she did not believe in the hate that Dennee wished she would. She couldn't. She knew too much, had witnessed too much already to go back to that way of thinking. "I wish you a safe and speedy journey, my sister." Kahlan said sadly.
"And I wish the same for you."
Stepping out from the warmth of the carriage, into the lightly falling snow, Kahlan for a moment wished she had remembered to bring a cloak, something to keep the chill off of her. But she had been in such a rush to see to it that her sister was sent off to the northern lodge that it had slipped her mind.
“Mother Confessor.” A soft voice said into her ear, just as she felt the familiar weight and warmth of black fur draped over her shoulders.
“Mm. Thank you, Cara.” Kahlan smiled, setting her hand on Cara’s for just a moment. “I had forgotten the weather.”
“Good thing that I did not.” Cara replied, coming to stand beside her. The driver urged the horses of the carriage to walk on, and the ten men atop their horses urged their mounts as well. “I… I know that seeing her was not easy for you.”
Slowly Kahlan turned her head to Cara, to see her eyes looking haunted as they watched the well appointed carriage begin to move up the steep road along the side of this mountain pass. The wheels rolled over the fresh snow. It was as though, in the shadows of Cara’s eyes Kahlan could see the self doubt, the anger directed within. Because Cara was well aware of what Dennee reminded Kahlan of, that Cara had killed her sister, had killed untold numbers of confessors and more, at the request of Darken Rahl. And Kahlan knew that for Cara those deeds were fresh, and a taint on her. Just by the set of her shoulders Kahlan knew that the Mord-Sith was worried that Kahlan’s feelings would be swayed with that knowledge.
Her overwhelming desire then was to put her arms around Cara, to tell her that what was past was past, and that it did not change how she felt about her. Yet her yearning was tempered by the eyes of all those behind them.
“Nothing is ever easy, especially not that which is worth having.” Kahlan said gently, and smiled a secret smile when Cara turned to her. “Captain Ryan?” she asked, knowing it was time for the second reason for this journey, the reason why she had directed the carriage driver to take this particular route.
“Mother Confessor.” He replied walking closer.
“Your men were well versed in their orders I hope?”
“Of course Mother Confessor. They will not only travel with your sister to the northern lodge, but will guard and serve her through the winter season. In the spring they will accompany her to wherever it is she wishes to travel.”
Kahlan nodded. “Thank you Captain.”
“Shall you now be taking advantages of the springs, Mother Confessor?” He asked.
“I shall. Please, go back down to the village with your men.”
“Mother Confessor. We shall stay right here until you are ready to return to Aydindril.” He argued, but in a roundabout way.
She regarded his young face, which he tried to make hard with determination, but as she looked at him his eyes faltered and he looked down. “Send all your men away. We won’t be long, and do not worry. I am perfectly safe with the Mord-Sith.”
“Mother Confessor.” He bowed his head gently.
Turning she looked at Cara whose eyes were looking at her with interest. “Just over this ridge there are a few small hot springs. I thought, after all the hard work you, Hally, Berdine and Raina deserved a small reprieve.” She smirked, and then walked away, leaving Cara standing there. The reprieve was as much for her as well, as she was tired, sore, and was not going to allow the sun to set on one more day without being with Cara.
She was a good ten paces away when she called over her shoulder, “Well? Are you coming?”
Cara couldn’t seem to swallow for a moment. She stood, her feet frozen to the ground. Even as Berdine and Raina rushed past her to walk beside the Mother Confessor she could not move.
It was the desire to run to her, it was the desire to be alone with Kahlan, and it was the fear that she may be dreaming that caused her feet not to follow the request from her mind.
She cleared her throat. “Hally.”
“Yes Mistress Cara?”
“You may not like this… but.”
“Like? Mistress Cara, whatever you order will be exactly what I like.”
Cara rolled her eyes, and then looked onto the four D’Harans who were milling around behind the four Home Guards. “Why don’t you and the good Captain head back down to the small village taking the D’Harans with you as well.”
“Why would we do that?” Captain Ryan snapped.
“While I know you want to be near at hand Captain, as I because the Mother Confessor wishes to take a reprieve here at the spring. I do not think it would be acceptable for you to stand watch over her, do you?”
“I… well no.” He blushed slightly.
“The D’Harans would love to visit the village as well, isn’t that right Hally?”
“Yes Mistress.” She smiled.
“Don’t worry Captain Ryan; you are in very good hands with Hally.”
“Excuse me?” His face was scarlet now.
Hally punched his shoulder. “She means I am not one of your meek Midlander women. I will drink you under the table, and then be strong enough to help you back on your horse.” She winked at Cara before Hally took his arm and started leading him away.
Her eyes moved over the icy covered granite, looking for any place for someone to hide, and was calmed somewhat that she did not see any, as she followed the footprints in the snow up a small incline, then through a crack in the silver rock. Cara objectively heard the Mord-Sith voice in her mind telling her that this was not an entirely safe location, and that she should not allow her guard to drop, but the woman inside of her, that all too often quiet voice, begged for just a moment to be.
As she emerged she grinned, seeing a small black water pool, with two already naked and smiling Mord-Sith sitting inside. Kahlan was standing a few feet away, smiling. Inside her mind the Mord-Sith relented, for now.
“I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help watching. The moment they saw the water they suddenly looked like little girls, pulling off their clothes and then jumping in.” Kahlan offered as Cara came to stand beside her. “Thank the Spirits that the rocks are dark, making the water well…”
“Black?” Cara offered smiling.
“Yes.” She looked at Cara, “and I had no idea how quickly your leathers could come off.”
“There is a trick to it.” Cara smirked. And then turned to look back at the two Mord-Sith as Raina shoved Berdine playfully under the water.
“Will I ever learn this trick?” Kahlan asked leaning against her.
“Depends. One has to be wearing the leather to learn the trick.” Cara responded, her eyes she knew were full of mirth and desire.
“That could be arranged.” Kahlan purred, as if remembering the feel of the second skin.
The sound of Raina’s squeal and Berdine’s rich laughter broke the intensity of the moment, and Kahlan laughed lightly.
“They are like children. Sisters. And yet.” Kahlan regarded the two as they wrestled in the water.
“They are lovers as well.” Kahlan finished.
Cara nodded. “That they are, and that they have been for so long…and that they still find laughter. It is all a testament I think to their strength.”
“Why does Berdine call you Mistress, but not Raina?” Kahlan dared to ask.
“Kahlan. I… I do not think you want to know.”
“Yes.” She looked at her pointedly. “I do.”
“What… what if I tell you that I don’t think I can tell you? Because when you know, you will no longer look at me, like you are at this moment. I don’t think I could bear that.”
“Cara, I have no illusions as to what you have done, nor the life you have lived.” She took her hand, and pulled her closer. “I know all of that, and I know who you are today. Now.”
“No buts. Seeing Dennee, and spending time with her did remind me of who you were, and what you are. And Cara, it reminded me of how much I respect you, and admire you. You went against all you were trained to do and trained to believe in and you turned against all of that to help Richard defeat Darken Rahl. Doing that, doing what you did at the cost of losing everything you knew, is what shows me that you are so much more than you appear. You are not a monster. You are not a mindless weapon. You are Cara. You are Mord-Sith, and you are a woman with a heart.”
Cara lowered her eyes, taking in her words. She wanted to believe them, and part of her did. Yet there was a larger part that reminded her that Kahlan thought she knew what Cara was, but until she saw the truth she would never truly know.
“They are beautiful.” Kahlan said softly.
Cara looked back seeing that the playfulness had ended and Berdine was holding Raina, their backs facing them. “Mm.”
“Why don’t you join them?” Kahlan said softly.
Cara’s eyes widened as she lifted her head.
“I brought some papers with me to look over, and I could use the time wisely. You should get your much desired bath. I will be right here.”
“No, you should take advantage of this time. I will order them out, and we will watch over you.”
“I insist, Cara.” She slipped on her Confessors mask, and looked down at Cara, who knew she would not win this argument.
She smirked. “Always the Mother Confessor.”
“Always.” Kahlan smiled.
“I will leave them to.” Cara looked under her brows at Kahlan. “There is another spring, down the way?”
“Yes. There is.” Kahlan said softly.
“Then I will go there, but just for a moment.” She looked back at the two Mord-Sith. “They deserve a moment to be together, don’t they?”
“They do.” Kahlan whispered, her eyes searching Cara’s. She could almost feel her touch in that look, and with a very small smile, she lowered her eye to the ground, and walked through the crevasse, towards the warmth she could feel in the air coming from the other small pool of spring water.
Stripping out of her leather, she knew.
Standing naked in the snow, she knew.
Walking into the scalding hot water of the spring, she knew.
And yet, she allowed this. Cara would give the Mother Confessor this moment of trickery. This small little dance. Because Cara had seen it in her eyes as she lied and said she was going back to the horses to get her papers. Because Cara could feel the slightly nervous tremble in Kahlan’s hand as she touched the back of her own. Because she respected Kahlan’s modesty, she would gladly play this game, and dance to the song she played.
She closed her eyes, arching her back and felt the hot soothing water against her skin. She did not realize how very tired and sore her muscles had been until they felt this perfectness.
The sound of a heavy cloak being dropped to the snow behind her and Cara’s skin began to hum, yet she kept facing away. The desire to turn, to watch Kahlan stepping towards her, to watch her powerful and naked body as she came to her was strong, but Cara would control herself for a few moments more.
When she tried to imagine how Kahlan was feeling she found she could not. She could not empathize with having shyness, or being nervous. But, inside, in that small little place in her chest, where before she would experience a tightness, or an itching, Cara now understood. That it was not her body physically reacting to something. But it was her feeling. What happened in that small village, beside the well, while a torturous punishment more painful than she had ever experienced, it had been beautiful as well. Because amid her screams, amid the pain of guilt, she had felt things. She had felt and known that she was feeling.
The mere thought of what she was feeling for Kahlan terrified her, because if she felt this way now, how would her body be able to contain it if she felt more?
Already she was struggling to keep that feeling away, when she had more important things to focus on.
She heard the water move behind her, and slowly closed her eyes. For now, she told herself, she would allow herself to feel a little. In making that decision, the muscles in the back of her neck tightened with anticipation, and she could feel desire blossoming under her skin. “Do you know that I can sense you?” She lowered her voice, “That I know when you enter a room?”
Hands gripped her shoulders, before she felt the unmistakable feeling of naked breasts pressing to her back. “Just as I can sense you. I knew I couldn’t fool you, but I thank you for letting me try.” Kahlan’s voice whispered in her ear before her lips pressed against Cara’s throat. “I knew you would never believe that I would sit and read letters with you, here… warm.” She ran her tongue along the length of Cara’s neck. “Naked. Wet.” Cara moaned softly.
“I’d hoped.” Cara managed, then moaned as she felt Kahlan’s tongue moving over her shoulders, across her tense and marked shoulders and upper back. “Kahlan.” She hissed, feeling hands moving along her sides, sliding over her stomach, slowly traveling cross her skin, before hands gripped her breasts. Cara leaned into Kahlan’s hands, and her vision blurred, the heat from the spring’s water no longer able to compete with the heat of her own need.
Teeth nipped against her neck. “Cara… I… need.”
She turned swiftly, looking up at Kahlan. Seeing her dark blue eyes. The heart in her chest began to pound so strongly she felt her body swaying with it.
Cara gently set her hands on Kahlan’s hips, pulling her tightly against her. The confessor’s eyes darkened ever so slightly, her lips parted, and their bodies pressed close, warm and slick with the water surrounding them.
“Mm.” Kahlan bit her bottom lip, her eyes roaming over Cara’s face, before she lifted her hand from the water, and ran her fingers along her cheek, then jaw. “You know, for months now your face has haunted me. I would sleep at night and dream of you, of being able to touch you, touch your face like this.”
The water was warm, but Cara did not feel clean, not yet. There was so much she wanted to wash away, so much that hurt when she thought about it, that made her sit up at night, unable to sleep, because she would remember all that she had done. She would feel the whip, the blood, and the feeling of pleading fingers on her flesh.
“Stop.” Kahlan said softly, and Cara blinked. “I know what you are thinking.” Kahlan kissed her softly. “So stop. Be here. With me. Right now.” She kissed her cheek. “Please. Be here.”
Cara nodded slowly.
“Be here.” Kahlan whispered before she leaned forward, putting their lips together, and Cara could feel Kahlan’s body tremble.
“I am Kahlan. I swear to you I am.” Cara replied, brushing their lips together. “I won’t hurt you.” She kissed her cheek and then her nose. “Don’t be frightened.”
Kahlan’s hands grabbed her head sternly. “I am not trembling because I am scared of you, Cara. I am trembling because I want you desperately. If you don’t touch me soon I am going to explode.” She pulled Cara’s mouth to her own and kissed her with such a need that this time Cara moaned into her mouth. She was the one left trembling as she felt Kahlan’s tongue slip between their lips, as it explored her mouth, and the strong hands of the Confessor moved down over her back.
Thankful that her feet could touch the bottom of this small spring, she lowered her hands slightly and then lifted. Kahlan moved with her, and wrapped her legs around Cara’s waist, and Cara took over control of their kiss, letting go, allowing herself to do as requested, and just be there with this amazing woman.
“Cara.” She panted her name over and over again, letting herself get lost in the feeling of hands roaming over her skin under the water, of a mouth pressing against her neck, chest, moving lower along her breasts. She ground her hips into Cara, and then felt it again, the deep yearning, the warning. “Cara we… we have to stop.” Kahlan unhooked her legs from around Cara’s waist and set her feet down.
“No! No we don’t.” Cara growled.
Cara yanked her back to her, their bodies tightly together. “No.”
“Cara… I… I can’t take the chance that I won’t move away in time.” Her back arched as she felt Cara’s thigh slip between hers. “Oh Spirits.”
“What if I take that chance? What if I demand you take it with me?”
The sound she made was undecipherable, and her hands moved into Cara’s wet hair, pulling her mouth roughly to hers, claiming her lips, sucking on them, and licking them. She was losing herself faster than she ever thought she would. But, she couldn’t let go, she refused to let go.
“Damnit Kahlan.” Cara growled. “Trust me.”
“I do! I just… I don’t trust myself.”
“Well I do.”
“Of course I do.”
Cara slipped her hand beneath the warm water, and Kahlan wrapped her arms around her neck, holding her tightly against her breasts. Her entire body quivered with want as she felt the strong hand caressing up her thigh, and she shuddered in Cara’s arms as that hand cupped her sex. Every muscle in her body tightened with desperation, as she intensified the grip of her arms to pull Cara closer. She moaned a plea, her whole being desperate to feel Cara touching her.
She trusted her, it would be fine, she could just let go for a second, one small delicious second, and feel Cara moving against her.
And then she felt every muscle in Cara’s body turn hard as steel.
Slowly the hand moved away from where Kahlan needed it, desire it, ached for it. She leaned back, looking at Cara’s face. Her expression was one of unadulterated fury.
“Cara?” Kahlan asked.
“Some one is watching us.” She said in a voice so low and sharp it scared Kahlan. “Do not move, Mother Confessor.”
Cara moved away, and pulled herself slowly from the warm water, and as it ran off her skin, it highlighted her muscles, making her appear all the more beautiful and deadly. She bent, lifted the long black fur coat, and then turned. “Come.”
Kahlan did as commanded and slipped from the water, and was immediately surrounded by warmth. “Cara, what is it?”
“We are going to return immediately to Aydindril.” She said softly, before she turned her head and whistled loudly. Her eyes were deadly serious. “I swear you are safe with me, and with the Mord-Sith, but do not venture out of our sight for any reason or with anyone.”
“Of course… is this… something you will explain to me?” Kahlan asked. She wanted to press Cara, but could tell from the way her body was moving that this was not the time nor the place to question her.
“I promise.” She said, pulling Kahlan between the natural crevasse where their clothes were. It seemed they were sheltered enough that Cara relaxed slightly and she pulled Kahlan close for a moment. “And I promise you, we are not finished.”
The horse beneath Hally was in a lather as she forced the reins back, causing the horse to skid to a stop in the large courtyard behind the Confessor’s Palace. She had ridden ahead as fast and as hard as the horse beneath her could. She slipped from the saddle and ran towards the stairs and the servants’ entrance of the palace.
Rikka burst through the door, Agiel in her hand, eyes looking everywhere. “What is it? Where are they?”
“Still coming.” Hally answered. “Where is the Lord Rahl?”
“At the Galea Palace, having dinner with Queen Cyrilla. Where he has been for hours. What is going on Hally?”
“Something put a fright in Cara.”
“Or enraged, it is difficult to tell. But she was clearly in no mood for questions. She sent me on ahead to make sure Lord Rahl was here, and safe.”
“He is. Though how safe?” She shrugged. “Did the Mother Confessor review the treaty yet?”
Hally squinted at her. “I don’t know. Why should that matter?”
“I just finished reading it. And it will matter.” Rikka put her Agiel away.
“Well you can ask her, they are but an hour behind me. Less, knowing Cara.”
Kahlan was fairly certain that if she thought that she could have gotten away with it, Cara would have ridden their horses all the way up the Palace steps, through the main hall, and then up again to the Confessor's Private Chambers. As it was her glare when she jumped from the back of her horse made all the Home Guards stand back. While she did not once put her hand on Kahlan as they stormed through the Palace, it was evident to Kahlan just by her energy that Cara would not hesitate to do so, or to kill anyone who came within a foot of her. Feeling her worry and her anxiety drove her legs to move faster, until they halted outside of the doors to her rooms.
Cara turned to Berdine, a look of vile rage on her face, "No one. And I mean it."
"And I second that." Kahlan said, using her voice for the first time since she had gotten onto her horse hours ago. "No one, not staff, not guard, not anyone is to come through this door until I personally tell you that they may. I do not care who it is nor how important. The all of Midlands could be burning, and this door WILL NOT BE OPENED." Kahlan yelled, for the benefit of all to hear, before grabbing the handle and yanking the door open.
She stormed into her room, pulling the wet black fur mantle from her shoulders, and tossing it towards her chair, before spinning around. She watched as Cara threw the lock down on the door.
"Cara tell me what is going on."
“No?” Kahlan stepped forward, her hands balled into fists at her side. “I am not some weak sniveling woman who needs you to protect me from the darkness. Do you need to be reminded of that?"
"I know good and well who you are and what you are, Confessor."
"I also know that the spider cannot always take the time to tell her mate why they must stay behind, only that they leave them, and go about stringing the web, because it is what must be done." Cara yelled back at her.
Kahlan stopped her voice, and felt her rage slipping away. "Mate." She whispered.
Cara narrowed her eyes, her expression clearly showing that she was about to make an excuse, to say something else, but Kahlan refused her that moment, instead her hand reached out. She grabbed Cara’s throat and she kissed her possessively. Her hand moved to her still wet and frozen hair, not caring about anything anymore. Kahlan gripped her hair, deepening their kiss. The world be damn, the Midlands could very well be on fire, and Kahlan Amnell did not care. Nothing was going to stop them this time.
Her mouth tasted of fury.
As Kahlan dipped her tongue between Cara’s lips, that was her first thought; that Cara's mouth tasted like tea leaves left to steep too long; the bitter discord between calm and passion.
The hooked fingers of the Keeper himself seemed to have been buried into Cara's back; that was how hard she had pushed their horses and themselves in returning to the Palace. That was the look in her eyes; rage certainly, bitter and vile hatred, rooted in fear.
It was an unfamiliar color in Cara's eyes.
"I am strong enough to handle anything." Kahlan said evenly.
"I know you are."
"Then tell me."
Her eyes were hard, and the boiling heat of her wrath rolled off of her like the steam of melting snow falling beside literal flames.
"Cara." Kahlan's voice did not plead, it merely soothed. In one word she tried to convey a sense of peace. Reminding her that whatever she had been running from was left behind, that there was no one here but the two of them. "You are strong enough." Kahlan said, her fingers relaxing their grip in her hair, understanding that Cara’s fear was for Kahlan.
A gloved hand went around the back of her neck, before their lips pressed together again. Kahlan kissed back still feeling driven. Her mouth did not relent, nor did that of the Mord-Sith, as Cara's tongue moved along the side of hers, telling her a thousand stories in the hushed voice of touch. The Mord-Sith’s body was tense, and felt harder than any steal or granite as it refused to be moved; until Kahlan ran the length of her tongue along the roof of Cara’s mouth. Her eyes closed as she willed Cara to believe in her words; and to believe in what Kahlan knew inside, that for the first time she was alive because she now knew the touch of the one person who was her equal. Her mate.
Ever so slightly she felt muscles soften. Cara responded to the kiss, allowing Kahlan’s tongue to dance with her own, before the full lips replied in kind. As she moved the tip of her tongue along the bottom of Cara’s roguishly, Kahlan felt the break of Cara’s tension, and she could suddenly taste the familiar and delicate sweetness of Cara. The taste she knew, that she craved grew as their kiss eradicated all of the bitter anger, and blossomed into desperate desire.
Their lips bursts apart with a thrust of air as Cara's back hit the solid oak door. Kahlan opened her eyes, and peered slightly down, seeing wide blue green eyes searching her face with disbelief. Her cold hand moved deeper into Cara's hair, as their lips met again. Anger was replaced by a forceful and needy passion. She flicked the tip of her tongue along the cleft in the center of Cara's bottom lip before sucking it into her mouth. Cara's hand grabbed her thigh, and she heeded the call, lifting her leg slightly, laying it over the top of the Mord-Sith’s as she moved closer. The pressure of a firm leather clad thigh between her legs was not enough and just enough in equally teasing measure. Cara suckled her tongue, pulling it deep into her mouth, as bodies shifted, leather creaked, and Kahlan could feel the throbbing heat of muscle pressed perfectly against her center. Her hips bucked, needing to feel more, needing all of the strength Cara had. Gloved hands rested on her hips and urged them to move against her.
The stinging ache of the Agiel on her inner thigh caused her hips to buck. Pain and pleasure made her gasp. In that flash of pain she seemed to feel everything; every conceivable emotion and sensation as if sent beneath her flesh from deep inside of Cara.
The hands on Kahlan’s hips pushed her away, gently but firmly. Kahlan's eyes narrowed in dissatisfaction, until her head fell back when those hands moved over her stomach, rising higher to cup her breasts authoritatively.
Kahlan rolled her neck and brought her eyes back to Cara's. For a moment she was sure she saw a flash of darkness in Cara's eyes, but it was gone as quickly as it arrived. She grasped gloved hands, pulling them from her, and walked backwards over the thick carpet on the stone floor, pulling Cara with her towards the bed chamber, never looking away, not blinking.
She wanted this woman. Kahlan wanted her in ways she could not even quantify or explain. At that moment she just felt. She was consumed by feeling, by the animalistic rush of necessity. Kahlan had to know Cara, to know the woman, to strip her bare, lay her down and learn every single inch of the powerful body; to mark it, cover it with her mouth, her hands, and her very presence. Kahlan needed to be inside of her and feel Cara’s heart thundering. She needed to taste every drop that she had to give. Kahlan simply needed. Her desire for Cara blinded all rational thought, all hesitation. It was all eradicated and exchanged by her love, her desire, and the ultimate necessity; that she know her mate. She knew her every thought was all showing in her eyes, because Cara gasped as she was urged through the doors to the bed chamber, because Cara’s full lips parted, showing mouth watering acceptance. The look of complete arousal reflected beautifully in Cara's ever darkening eyes.
Kahlan felt the massive wooden post of her bed against her back, and stopped. She slid her palms up the red leather sheathed arms, over the strong shoulders, over the hard leather about Cara's neck, before her hands met around her throat, and then she slid them down, her right hand moving over the thick buckle, that her fingers quickly unlatched. Her hands slid down further to the three large buckles, which were easily undone. Not once did she look away from Cara’s hard eyes. Not once did she hesitate. There was no room for that here. There was room for just the two of them. Everything else in the world was outside the doors, and that was where it would stay.
Their passion had banished reality.
The thick leather corset seemed to melt under the heat of her hands, and it fell to the floor. Her left hand worked the large belt buckle and then that too fell away.
Kahlan stepped closer, her need causing her to pant slightly, she watched her breath move the hair framing Cara's face, as her eyes gazed up at her. Without looking she pulled first the left glove off of Cara's hand, and then slowly she lifted Cara's right wrist. Kahlan set the gloved fingers on her lips, before running her tongue slowly along the length of the forefinger. Cara's eyes were burning almost a solid green now, and widened. But she did not look away. It was as if Kahlan could feel those eyes inside of her, and it made her quake. Slowly she parted her lips before running Cara's finger along her bottom lip, then back across the top of her teeth. The moan that broke from Cara's mouth as their eyes stayed locked, as Kahlan slipped the red leather into her mouth, and as she sucked deeply on Cara's finger made her own body begin to throb and clench. Slowly she allowed the finger to slip almost completely out of her mouth, before she brought her teeth down on the end, and bit hard, holding the leather. She coaxed Cara's hand from the glove. The hand, now bare, pulled free of Kahlan's grip, just as Kahlan's mouth opened, and the glove dropped to the floor.
"Kahlan." Cara groaned, moving her naked finger across Kahlan's wet bottom lip, before she slipped it inside of Kahlan's mouth. Her tongue ran along the length of it as she watched Cara's mouth fall open, and Cara dipped slightly before her knees locked again. The warm taste of her skin was like a tease, a tiny morsel alluding to all the skin that was to come, all that she was going to know and taste. Reluctantly she released it from her mouth.
Cara cupped her cheek before running her hand down to her neck, which she gripped lightly. The Mord-Sith was holding her as a Confessor would; something about that touch made her breath catch and her heart skip once.
It skipped second time as the familiar sound of the gold chain of an Agiel reached her ears, and as she felt a distant pain as the tip whispered slowly up her thigh. In the pain, just as before, she could feel the tempering of Cara. As if the ache moving through her muscles was an unfamiliar marriage of pain and love. Kahlan couldn’t seem to pull in enough air, couldn’t seem to swallow, all she could do was feel that touch as it spread from the epicenter of the Agiel’s tip and ran throughout her body. Cara smiled pulling it off of her skin, and then she threw the Agiel over Kahlan's shoulder, towards the massive bed behind her. Cara leaned forward and not so much kissed, as licked Kahlan's lips once, and she felt knowing fingers pulling at the laces of her dress.
"Cara." Kahlan said in a voice so low she almost didn't recognize it as her own. With impatience she moved the hands away, and reached for the white dress herself, and pulled the one lace that was the gateway to them all just releasing. She breathed a sigh, which Cara mimicked, as the dress parted over her breast, revealing the thick black leather beneath.
"Soft. Hard." Cara mumbled, her hands pulling the white dress lower as she broke eye contact with Kahlan for the first time, to press her lips against her right breast. As she felt the nip of teeth Kahlan pulled harder to get it off, not caring what happened to the dress, and put her hands to Cara's head, forcing her mouth harder. Her body groaned as she felt the warmth of Cara’s tongue moving between her breasts, her naked fingers reaching to pull against the thick leather corset. Her entire body sighed as fingers moved the leather strap off her shoulder, and released first her left breast and then the right. She hissed Cara's name as she felt a mouth cover her left nipple, felt the scaling brush of a tongue, followed by the cold hardness of teeth grazing her sensitive skin. Her chest was heaving now, and her skin was burning, needing to be free of all these constraints. She needed to be naked, she needed to feel skin against hers, and she growled this to Cara, who lifted her head slightly to look up at her, wet lips parted as she whispered, "Yes Mother Confessor," before she stepped back, her hands going to remove the leather around her own neck.
Kahlan bit her bottom lip as she sat back on the bed and bent to undo the stubborn bindings on her right boot. Against her will she removed her eyes from the Mord-Sith so she could try and focus on unlacing it. As she pulled it off, she felt a still quiet settle beside her, and looked up.
The fire beneath the large marble mantel in the corner of the room crackled, warm red and orange light filled the room and highlighted the curve of naked breasts, the bend of hips, the long line of thighs as Cara stood just a few feet from her, naked. Her chin lifted and she exuded a pride that Kahlan had seen before, but it looked so much more regal and significant as Cara stood before her completely free of her armor.
Kahlan’s eyes traced the line of her neck, to her collar bone, moving down to her perfect breasts. "I must learn that trick," she said referring to how fast Cara had stripped.
"I promise to show you." Cara whispered with a soft smile on her lips.
In a frenzy to keep up, Kahlan pulled at her remaining boot, and then stood, while pulling loose the knot that held her black pants around her waist, and they pooled around her ankles. She felt free, even with her corset still on. Cara stepped towards her, and Kahlan set her hand against her chest, between her breasts.
"No... Let me. Just... stay there so I can look at you." She whispered, and Cara nodded. Her eyes took in the shadowed skin of Cara's nipples, then down the line of muscles across her stomach, her gaze tripping and mapping all the faint lines across Cara’s level stomach; all while she reached behind her back and with practiced hands worked the knot free. With a sigh she took in a lungful of air, and the corset fell around her, and Kahlan fell with it, to her knees. Her hands moved across the impossibly silky skin of Cara's thighs, and she looked up at her in awe.
"Beautiful." Cara whispered the word on the tip of Kahlan’s tongue, her blue green gaze keeping in step with Kahlan's, the only difference was when she blinked suddenly as Kahlan moved her hands over her stomach, and teased her fingertips lower, dragging them across the soft dark hair at the apex of her thighs, barely touching, but wanting to desperately. Cara's hands settled on her shoulders, and as Kahlan trailed her fingers lower, down inner thighs, she saw Cara's expression soften, as she ran her fingers through Kahlan’s long dark hair. The look in Cara's eyes, while still passionate had taken on a deeper meaning, a tenderly poignant quality that made Kahlan forget herself for a moment. Her fingertips moved down calf muscles, over the tops of her feet, and then settled on the floor as her eyes and soul became mesmerized in what she saw looking back at her. Cara’s hands moved over her face, as if she had lost the ability to see, as if she had to use only the touch of her hands to learn Kahlan’s face, to see her smile, feel the ridge of her brow. It made Kahlan’s heart sing, to be touched in such a tender way, to feel the gentle trembling of Cara’s hands, to see her eyes rounding with the depth of emotion. Emotion that Kahlan knew Cara always felt but kept locked deep inside of her soul. Her memory spoke to her, in Cara's voice, as she recalled, "Loyalty, anger, pride; these feelings make you powerful. Sadness, remorse, love; theses feeling make you weak." Cara's eyes now spoke of the truth Kahlan had constantly believed in. That love did not make you weak, love made you strong. Kahlan was awed by Cara, and awed by the moment.
Slowly she drew her fingers back up Cara’s legs, as she stood, and then leaned forward, keeping their bodies from touching and lightly breathed a kiss upon Cara's lips. She moved slowly around Cara, to stand behind her, her fingertips gently brushing across her skin, before she placed her lips on her shoulder. Her hands moved over her shoulders and back, feeling the faint raised skin, the different textures, her eyes focused on the slight variations in color, showing the reminders of past moments, thin lines left from a whip, thicker raised lines from a blade. Kahlan leaned closer and ran the length of her tongue over one such line of pale skin, and felt the muscles of Cara's back jerk beneath her mouth.
"Such beautiful skin." She whispered, before kissing her way lower, finding a thicker line on Cara's side, and licking it as well. "The skin of a warrior." She said reverently. "You wear your life proudly. It is a map," her mouth found another scar over her hip, "showing everywhere you have been." Her kisses followed the scar around Cara's body to her stomach. Kahlan kneeled again, this time kissing the intersecting lines across Cara's belly. "Showing everything you experienced. It is yours. It is who you are. A warrior." She whispered with her lips pressed to her flesh, before she kissed the unmarked skin between her hip and the shadow of her sex, which brought about a whimper and another tremble from the blonde.
Kahlan moaned softly before brushing her cheek against the soft hair. She inhaled deeply, filling her lungs and surrounding herself with the delicious scent of Cara. Her lips pressed desperately against Cara’s sex, and she heard the blonde sigh her name and a hand brush her shoulder, tentatively. As Kahlan kissed again, this time with more desperation she could feel the hand on her shoulder twitch, and thighs part ever so slightly. She accompanied the third kiss with her tongue, running it along the already wet cleft, and gripped Cara's inner thighs tightly, knowing that she needed feel grounded. The hand on her shoulder moved to gently cup the back of her head, and she spread Cara's thighs wider. Her heart pounded. Because Kahlan knew. She knew that if she crossed this line that would be that. No turning back, no changing anything. Slowly she lifted her eyes, and was captured by the deep blue green that held her. Eyes that were telling her that they would give her everything, and would gladly go with her. In her mind Kahlan heard her own voice whispering to the woman standing above her, who was looking into her, that she loved her, and her mouth pushed to Cara’s center, her tongue reached deeply, and the explosion of Cara's essence on her tongue was as consuming as the sound of her voice saying Kahlan's name. Her eyes closed against her will, and she urged Cara even closer to her, her hands cupping her ass and she twirled her tongue greedily around the throbbing clit. She teased it with her tongue, and felt the thigh muscles on either side of her head twitch, and moved her mouth slightly lower, before plunging her tongue inside of the Mord-Sith.
"Kahlan." Cara growled, her hand pressing harder against the back of her head, as her hips moved against Kahlan’s mouth. And she welcomed it. Kahlan needed it. With every stroke of her tongue her mind screamed that she loved Cara. With every swallow she fell more into the black haze of desire, feeling it burning through her, and growing inside. Her mouth latched onto the hard bundle of nerves and she suckled, feeling her own center contracting, feeling her power mounting.
The heat from her skin increased as did the way her body swayed slightly in time with the pressure from her mouth. Kahlan lapped her tongue greedily along the length of Cara’s center, exploring again her opening, tasting her, memorizing the feel of her smooth flesh. Her name broke again from Cara’s lips as she moved one finger inside of her. She smiled, feeling fingers gripping her head, holding her there, and added a second finger. The magic in her body slammed against the walls in her mind, kicked at the edges of her heart, forcing her hand faster. Kahlan wanted this moment to languidly stretch for hours. To keep the slow rhythm and drink of Cara’s ever increasing passion. But her magic would not grant her that. It moved her on, reminded her of what she was. Her tongue flicked the swollen flesh in time with her increased thrusts. As she felt Cara’s body tighten and sway with her she delivered a final thrust, and sucked hard. The delicate muscles against her lips throbbed, while those surrounding her fingers clenched and then released all their built up tension in a flood, which she greedily drank.
Panting with her own frustration she released Cara from her mouth and stood slowly.
She was about to speak, when Cara's mouth claimed hers, kissing her with frenzied need, her tongue licking at her lips, tasting herself on Kahlan’s tongue. As her hands gripped skin and pulled her against the blonde and their kiss deepened and intensified Kahlan felt herself dangerously on the edge. She could feel it rising inside of her; the need for release, and with the swelling she could feel the wall between her power and Cara weakening. She pulled her mouth away.
"Bed." she hissed, before Cara kissed her again, nodding her head as she did so.
The moment their lips separated Kahlan missed the feel of her. She ran her hand over her shoulder, down over her breast to settle on her heart before she kissed her lightly once. Her eyes opened and Cara kissed her again, before taking her hand, moving to the bed.
Kahlan felt a slight sweat break out across her back as she watched Cara on her knees, moving backwards like an exotic creature, her naturally bronze skin in perfect contrast to the white of the bed linens and the white sheer panels of fabric that hung from the thick wooden posts of her massive bed. She eagerly followed Cara and wrapped her arms around her, pulling her as close to her body as she could, breathing in the scent of her hair, before she kissed her neck. "So strong." Kahlan praised, and set a kiss to her neck once more, before finding lips and impatiently kissing her, while guiding Cara with her, as she lay down.
With a soft sigh Cara lay down atop her, her hands moving into Kahlan’s hair again, holding her head still as she kissed her. Kahlan could feel the emotion dripping into her with each pass of Cara's tongue against hers; it was like hearing a symphony of words through touch. It was how Cara had kissed her as they lay amid the Night Wisp. It was a kiss she felt through her entire body.
Kahlan had kissed others before. She had kissed princes, kings, and seekers, but she never experienced a kiss the way she did when Cara kissed her. She hadn't ever thought it possible to feel so much everywhere, inside and out.
She had loved before, but this was a love that made her soul soar and her body sway in a way that was completely beyond her comprehension.
These touches, these caresses, and this woman were right, completely and utterly. Cara felt as if she were meant exclusively for Kahlan, that she was hers, and in kind she knew that she was Cara’s.
Cara shifted slightly, her hand moved to cup her cheek, and then Kahlan felt the pressure of warm wet skin caressing her thigh. Kahlan lifted her leg slightly, and Cara ground herself against her. She gasped, ending the kiss, looking into Cara's eyes. There was not one touch of fear or concern, even though Kahlan knew her own eyes were darkening.
Her soul suddenly begged to hear Cara's voice. She prayed to all the spirits to hear her say what Kahlan knew she was feeling.
Stubborn lips pressed to hers instead, and Kahlan arched her back, rising up to her, feeling the sweat slicked skin meeting, and she reached her hand under one of the many pillows behind her head. With lips pressing desperately to hers, kissing her again in that way that was forcing her closer to the edge of oblivion she murmured Cara's name.
Kahlan’s mouth tightened against hers, before moving, and Cara could feel her saying her name, and swallowed it. She knew Kahlan was close, and she was not going to allow her to stop the rushing river they were on. Cara would see it to completion because for her, in this moment there was nothing else in the world. There was only Kahlan. Kahlan's skin, Kahlan’s hair, Kahlan's eyes, Kahlan's scent.
As she licked her bottom lip she felt the body beneath hers move slightly, but not in the direction she expected.
Cara opened her eyes, which then went wide with shock as she saw the flicker of firelight reflected on the curve of the cold metal in Kahlan's hand.
Her eyes narrowed.
Never would this woman be collared, was her only thought.
She did not stop kissing Kahlan, but moved her hand off of her cheek, slowly, and just as the vile collar hovered close to Kahlan's neck she grabbed it and leaned back.
With one hand Cara slapped the collar around her own neck, and felt the bite of magic on her skin as it locked tight. “You will never wear a collar.”
"But... if I don't I will confess you." Kahlan pleaded, her fingers moving over the lock; it was a wasted action. Kahlan would not get it off of her.
“Then confess me." Cara whispered. "With this my own power will be blocked. I will not die."
"Cara." Kahlan pleaded.
"I could live with being confessed.”
“But I could not!”
"You will." Cara said firmly and then kissed her again. She felt the slight resistance of the Confessor’s stubborn lips. "Confess me." She breathed into her mouth. Kahlan's body was still obstinately rigid under her, and Cara rolled her hips, pressing her thigh to Kahlan’s sex harder, before she kissed her again, and sighed as she sensed the muscles relax ever so slightly below her, and Kahlan's lips softened as she kissed her back.
"I won't." Kahlan vowed.
Cara kissed her cheek, moved her mouth to her neck, mumbling to her, "Trust me."
"Cara I will not lose you."
"You won't." She replied, skimming her hand across the unnaturally soft skin of her arm, over the old scar on Kahlan’s shoulder, before moving her hand lower, along her side. "Kahlan." She demanded attention, as she looked into her bright blue eyes, and her hand moved between their bodies. The eyes told Cara so much; it was as if looking into them she could hear Kahlan's voice in her mind, telling her over and over how she felt.
Cara could feel it. She could feel the pounding of her own heart replying in kind. "I." She tried to say, but her mouth was struck mute as she ran two fingers between Kahlan's legs, instantly feeling how wet the Confessor was. She watched blue eyes widen slightly, the tip of her tongue slipped between her lips, before her mouth opened wide feeling Cara's fingers moving through her slick folds again, this time with more pressure. "Kahlan. I." She tried again, but instead set her forehead on that of the Confessor and slowly moved her two fingers inside of her throbbing center. A deep sigh filled her ears.
Her arm began moving between them, her fingers nestled deep in the throbbing wet warmth of Kahlan. Cara could feel the way her body was tense, pulled tighter than any bow. She could feel how with each thrust she was getting wetter, and her thighs began to tremble. As she pulled almost all of the way out, Cara moaned her name, and slowly moved deeper inside, feeling Kahlan's muscles tightening around her fingers, feeling her hips starting to move with her. Kahlan's back arched and she breathed angrily through her teeth, her eyes wide and so very blue.
"Let go." Cara breathed, looking at her. Admiring her. She had never seen anyone or thing as beautiful as Kahlan at this moment.
"No! I can't lose you." She growled angrily.
"You won’t." Cara began thrusting deeper, and Kahlan's eyes locked onto the collar around her neck.
"I. I." Kahlan panted and Cara increased the tempo of her thrusts.
"Cara please." Her voice cracked, on the edge of tears, rapture, pain, sorrow.
"Let go." She urged, her thumb brushing Kahlan’s hard clit, making her breath hitch. Her face showed she was fighting it, holding on, and keeping her wall up, not allowing herself to feel. And Cara felt so much. That small little place inside where she kept this feeling, where it was locked away, where she knew she kept things safe, opened. Just as the wall Kahlan used to keep her power locked away was crumbling, Cara's wall where she kept her passion, desire, and love was crumbling. Her arm was moving faster now, her thumb keeping constant pressure against Kahlan. "Let go." Cara breathed.
"Cara." Her voice hitched.
"You will be safe." Cara vowed, “I love you Kahlan. Let go." She blinked and watched as her own tears landed on Kahlan's cheek. "I am already devoted to you." As another tear fell from her eyes she meant it. She did not care if she was confessed. It would not change how she felt about Kahlan at this very moment. She would fall on her knees confessed or not and pledge her life to her. She already had. That small hidden place inside of her was already expanding; stretching and filling with the love she could see in the Confessor’s eyes. Another tear fell. "Let go."
Cara curled her fingers slightly and watched as the blue eyes before her turned a deep and endless black; she increased the speed of her thrusts. She could feel Kahlan's power released, feel it touching her skin, caressing her bones, embracing her body. It was unique and amazing at the same time. The Confessor’s muscles clenched around her fingers, and the tension in Kahlan’s body snapped in release. Her eyes turned completely black as she screamed Cara’s name, and the entire room shook with the power of her magic.
As she pulled in a deep warm breath she felt the strike of metal on her skin, just above her heart. Part fear and part rage washed over her as she opened her eyes, expecting to see the empty expression of Cara confessed.
What she saw was a slight smirk on her lips and a flush to her cheeks.
“Mm. I like it when you let go.” Cara said in a husky voice.
The Rada’Han lying on her chest was warm, and broken. Kahlan lifted it up, and could feel the residual vibrations of magic in her hand. She looked to Cara, her eyes narrowing in seriousness. "You would have let me confess you?"
"You knew." Kahlan said, and then threw the metal across the room, towards the fireplace.
Cara shook her head no. “All I knew was that… that if you confessed me it wouldn’t matter. I am already devoted to you… already bound to you.” She said softly.
Kahlan looked at her in awe, before she leaned up and kissed her delicately. She wanted, she needed to tell her that she loved her as well, but could only manage a moan as she felt Cara deepen their kiss, and she rolled them over.
Growling, she took Cara's hands and pressed them into the bed above her head, and straddled her, breaking their kiss.
"I would have been so mad if you were confessed.”
“You should trust me. I trust you.” Cara said with complete sincerity.
“And if you had been wrong?"
"I wasn't." She responded, lifting her hips slightly so that her stomach pressed against Kahlan’s tender sex.
She whimpered pressing down against her, feeling the muscles against her wetness, “How could you have been so sure?”
"I knew that allowing myself to love you would be my salvation." Cara sat up, and wrapped her arms around Kahlan, kissing her into silence.
Sweat was slowly drying on her skin, and Cara enjoyed how it made her flesh retract and release its tension. Her eyes were focused on the white material of the canopy above them, filmy wisps of white. Kahlan lay on her side, beside her. Neither was sleeping, rather just laying in the deep calm that came on the heels of heart racing passion. Gently she turned to her side, looking on the smooth pale expanse of Kahlan’s back, the way the muscles lay relaxed and soft.
For a thousand heart beats she had wished to see this sight, to have this sensation of contentment within her. At first meeting she had felt trepidation, when blue eyes looked at her with contempt. Being on the receiving end of the scrutiny of the Mother Confessor. With time had come knowledge, and with knowledge had come understanding. The training which born her, created the Mord-Sith Cara, brought her a weariness of seeing a Confessor, let alone being grasped by the neck of the Mother Confessor. Yet the first moment it happened something inside of Cara had accepted that this woman would be her undoing. At that time and for a time after she had thought that her undoing would be her death.
And perhaps it was a death.
The death of the void. Death of the darkness that surrounded the small locked rooms inside of her mind.
With the death of one thing there would be the birth of another.
Cara closed her eyes. And felt.
She felt the warmth from the body next to her, she felt Kahlan’s phantom touch on her skin, she felt the emotion that rolled off of this woman every time their eyes met. She felt her own heart aching to feel the touch of her skin again.
Cara felt the delicate balance. She felt unrestrained and she felt bonded.
“Confessor," She whispered softly, her lips brushing Kahlan’s cheek, then her tongue snaked out to lick at her ear. "Confessor, there is something you need to know." her tone was seductive and she knew it.
"Mmm" Kahlan said, coming more alert from the deep relaxation.
"If anything were to happen to."
Kahlan rolled over, her eyes wide. "No. No! We are not talking about that now.”
"Yes. We are.” Cara said sternly. “If anything were to happen to me,” she moved her finger down Kahlan’s cheek, "such as if I am incapacitated,” Cara reached across her body, fingers moving across soft white linen, “you need to know that you have an additional weapon."
Kahlan’s eyes widened and she watched Cara wrap her fingers around the handle of the Agiel. Cara slowly dragged it across the white linen towards Kahlan’s thigh. Before it touched her, Cara quickly moved, and straddled the Confessor, and ran the leather tip of the Agiel over her own thigh, feeling the pain as it blossomed under her skin. “The Agiel.” Cara said breathlessly.
“Cara.” Kahlan whispered, setting a hand on her chest, her eyes searching her face. Cara breathed in the scent of them, of their love and of the room, and breathed through the pain and she moved the Agiel across to her inner thigh, just above Kahlan’s skin. She focused on Kahlan’s eyes, she focused on the pain that lived inside of her, the darkest places in her soul that were embracing the bright love she felt for the Confessor. Just before touching Kahlan’s pale skin, she moved it back across her own thigh, relishing the juxtaposition of sensations.
Kahlan sat up, her arm going around Cara’s neck loosely.
“It only works for you if you have felt its teeth.” She bit Kahlan’s shoulder. “It’s just a piece of metal until then. The power is in the pain.” Cara whispered again before she grazed the tip of it along Kahlan’s side, tickling her ribs with what Cara knew was a biting pain, but not one that would harm her.
Kahlan hissed, her body vibrating at the touch of the Agiel, until Cara lifted it away. Cara held it out to her. Kahlan’s eyes moved to the weapon, before moving back to Cara.
"This one... has been keyed to your inner pain for a while now."
She could read Cara’s intent; she was asking her to take the Agiel.
Taking a deep breath, her eyes searching Cara’s, she lifted her hand. Hesitating for just a moment, until Cara blinked at her, urging her on, Kahlan took it. Her fingers wrapped around the handle, and her eyes widened, feeling the pain.
“How?” Kahlan breathed.
"When I used it on you in anger, and then when I healed you. It knows you. It understands you. You can wield it if needed. The Agiel is the focus; your pain is the thing, the power."
Cara wrapped her fingers around Kahlan’s and they both held tightly. Kahlan could feel, just as before when this Agiel touched her, she could feel Cara, somehow through the ache. Like salve on a burn, she could feel the essence that was Cara, surrounding her, and comforting her.
She missed the feeling as Cara’s fingers slipped to her wrist. Cara urged Kahlan’s hand closer. Cara moaned as the Agiel in Kahlan’s hand pressed against her bronze skin. It was as if suddenly Kahlan understood, as she could feel the anger and the dark pain that lived inside of her, as well as the love she had for Cara. They seemed to become one immense power that burned through Kahlan, pulled from her soul by the Agiel and directed, forced into Cara.
“Cara I… I can’t.” Kahlan shuddered, and pulled the Agiel from Cara’s skin.
Kahlan raised an eyebrow.
“It will hurt you to wield it. I don’t want you to feel that pain. But if you need to. If you ever have to. Know that you can.”
Kahlan set the red weapon gently on the bed, and looked at it. Cara had just given her the equivalent of a ring, or a dowry. She had clearly been planning to do this for a while, and she had just given Kahlan a tangible piece of herself. It was an immense gesture. Kahlan blinked, feeling the tears filling her eyes. Slowly she moved her eyes back to Cara.
"Cara..." Her eyes moved over her face, "I am yours."
"And I, yours."
Slowly Kahlan closed her eyes, gently her face relaxed and she could feel the warmth of Cara’s words caressing her.
“I love you.” Kahlan whispered to Cara.
Softly a hand cupped her cheek. “You do not know how long I have waited to hear those words said in truth.”
This time as they kissed it was soft, delicate. Beyond tender. The moment of them joined, fingers clasped around the Agiel had brought this out in both of them. Moving their lips together Kahlan could taste the salt of her tears, and then she could taste that of Cara’s as well.
Her head jerked up as she heard the approach of at least five large men. As they rounded the corner in a rush, Berdine could see the hawk like glare in Lord Rahl’s eyes, highlighted by the light from the rising sun streaming into the hall through the windows.
“Move.” He ordered her.
“No one may enter, by command of the Mother Confessor.”
The guards that had been standing watch with her began to step closer.
“I said MOVE Berdine!”
“No.” Her hand pulled her Agiel and it sang to her of a thousand torments as her eyes narrowed at him. There was not even the smallest chance that he, or any of these men would get past her.
The Home Guards’ swords rang out as they were pulled as well, and the morning air crackled with the tension.
“He said move you whore!” A D’Haran guard snapped at her, just as the back of his armored glove slammed across her face. He was a mammoth sized man, and he sent Berdine to her knees. She looked up, hand on her bleeding mouth.
Her eyes rounded, and she felt the overwhelming emotion rolling through her body, which one could describe as pain, that she had disobeyed her master. The pain fed her own anger, pushing it through her Agiel in her hand, which begged to touch and break someone. Her eyes narrowed with deadly intensity as she watched the point of a Home Guard’s steel rest against the tan skin of the seething man’s neck.
“Mistress Berdine was clear. No one may enter.” The guard urged.
Berdine smiled, feeling the blood dripping from her lips, watching as each of the D’Haran soldiers were surrounded by three additional Home Guardsmen.
“I must see her.” He growled.
“No.” Berdine said as she stood tall, taller than he was.
Slowly she felt the ebb of sleep, and the flow of consciousness. The warm hand resting on her stomach brought a knowing smile to her lips. Kahlan leaned back, pressing her body to Cara's. A contented sigh slipped from her as the hand on her stomach tightened, and a soft kiss brushed against her shoulder.
"Mm." She turned slowly, placing her hand over Cara's heart. Her muscles ached as she moved; reminding her of each and every blissful moment they had shared throughout the night. Leaning closer she kissed Cara gently. "This is how I want to greet every morning."
Cara nodded, and kissed her again, this time with more need. Kahlan could feel her passion, which had been sated and left smoldering, reignite again. Slowly she met Cara's warm kisses, feeling her heart rate increase under her palm.
Faintly she could hear the call of steel and it sharpened her mind.
"Did you hear something?" Kahlan asked, setting her head on Cara's warm shoulder.
"Yes. Lord Rahl is at your door."
"They should let him in. Perhaps his eyes will reach where I know my words will not."
Cara laughed softly. "Berdine will not allow him to pass. Nor will your guards. If he does gain entrance, it will be as he steps over their corpses."
"Can I tell him now?" Kahlan asked.
"He already knows."
"Oh?" Kahlan lifted her head and looked at her, wondering if that was who had been watching them.
"The Seeker of the Truth has known for some time I suspect. But Richard from Westland has been ignoring that knowledge."
"Have I been that transparent? It seems you knew how I felt before I did."
"Perhaps, Mother Confessor, I was merely hopeful."
Kahlan kissed her nose playfully. "You? Hopeful?"
"Very." Cara purred.
Faintly Kahlan heard her name as it was yelled in desperation and anger. It made the hair on her neck rise, nervous anticipation for the confrontation she was going to have. Kahlan sighed, kissing Cara's lips softly. Kahlan wanted to forgo everything just to stay right here. Reality that was about to force its way back into her conscious, yet she was no longer overwhelmed at the thought of it. She felt reborn. Kahlan felt as though she now saw the world through clearer eyes.
She smiled, feeling strong arms wrapping around her, feeling the intoxicating curves and swells of Cara's naked body against her’s.
“I love you." She whispered.
While she did not know what the dawn would bring, she could feel the warning in her bones. She could feel the tension slowly increasing as did the light in the sky.
“It is time.” She said softly, feeling Cara nod against her. Reluctantly, and slightly cautiously she looked at Cara’s face, before smiling at her. “I don't like secrets, Cara. Do you trust me?"
"You know that I trust in you, to protect me. And you should know I will protect you."
"It's more than that."
"Let me judge if we should be frightened?"
"I am not frightened."
"Well?" She looked at her face. “Will you now tell me, please, what has been troubling you so?”
“How would you like to go hunting?” Cara asked with a slight smirk.
Kahlan returned her smile, “Hunting?”
“I believe there is a fly waiting.”
Cara opened the door with a flourish, and immediately Kahlan’s eyes scanned the scene. Half a dozen men, milling about outside of her door. Her eyes focused on the closest person, Berdine in red leather, who smiled softly at her, and Kahlan noticed the bloodied lip.
“What is the meaning of this?” Kahlan barked, her eyes daring anyone to move towards her. "Did Richard hit you?"
“No!” he interjected, trying to come closer, but a guard blocked his path.
"It is nothing." Berdine proudly replied. Cara grabbed Berdine's chin, tilting her head to inspect her spilt lip. She nodded as it to approve the injury or to agree that it wasn't serious. Kahlan watched, seeing as the two of them seemed to silently communicate. Cara's eyes narrowing, and Berdine's slight nod.
Cara pursed her lips, letting go of Berdine and standing back, crossing her arms.
“So? Is there a reason you are all standing outside of my private chambers?” Kahlan snapped.
“You know full well what I am doing here.” Richard said.
“No. I do not. Though I am sure I could hazard a guess. Is that what you would like?”
“Who are you?” Richard hissed at her, before he shoved past the young Home Guard who had been blocking his way.
Kahlan raised her brow at him, questioning.
Instead of responding his eyes focused on Cara as she stepped beside her. The leather breathed into the silence as her body coiled, ready to strike.
Slowly the rage left Richard’s eyes, and his face dropped, and as if all the fight left his body his shoulders dropped.
“How could you?” He whispered sadly, before he turned and began walking away. Kahlan knew him well enough to know that he was not leaving, not yet. Richard’s emotions ran deep and he was pulling them up closer and closer to the surface as she stomped away. As he was about to round the corner, leaving in his wake angry silence, he spun around, his arm reaching out as he pointed at her with betrayal painting his normally soft features. “You just walked away. Threw away everything we had.”
A sad smile pulled at her lips. “Richard. I have always been standing here; I have always been as I was. It was you who didn’t open your eyes.”
“Oh my eyes were very well open, Mother Confessor! I have known for some time about, her!” He pointed at Cara, who moved ever so slightly to stand in front of her, protecting her.
Kahlan set her hand on Cara’s arm, calming her. She then looked around at all of the Home Guards who were protectively surrounding the four massive D’Haran soldiers who seemed to now follow Richard everywhere. She stepped through the tension of the men, and walked up to Richard. His nostrils were flaring, and his hand gripped the handle of his sword so tightly his knuckles were white.
Deliberately, slowly, the Mother Confessor steeled her expression, as she moved her eyes up then down Richard, admonishing his behavior with her look.
He blanched. “I loved you! I worshipped you and instead of returning my affections, as I thought you did, you chose that! You embarrass not only me but yourself by flaunting it in front of these men!” He pulled the sword, and lifted it, his face flush with anger. It was not the first time Kahlan stood, looking at Richard, sword held high as if he were about to strike her. And now, just as before, Cara stepped between them.
"Put the sword down Richard." Cara’s voice was even, purposeful.
"You." He growled.
"Yes me." Her hand moved, ever so slightly, but Kahlan saw it. "I made a vow. One I intend to keep."
Richard's body heaved with his rage, fueled by the sword in his hand. But Kahlan did not feel any fear. It was as though she innately knew that no matter how hurt or angry Richard was at this moment, he would not strike out at either of them. At his core he was a kind man, and killing them would not quell the wrath he felt.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the brightness of red moving around all of them. Kahlan commanded him softly, "Put the sword away, Richard."
“I never expected you to betray me. Certainly,” he slammed the sword back into its sheath. “Not with her.” His voice dropped to a low hiss. "I don’t know if I can ever abide this."
“It doesn’t matter if you abide it, accept it or not. It is.”
“You cannot honestly tell me, Kahlan that you could love her, as you claimed to love me.”
“You are right.” Her voice went hard. “I cannot. Because the way I love her is nothing at all how I loved you. I love Cara with a ferocity that I have never imagined.” She stepped closer to him. “Do not confuse my words, Richard Rahl. The root of this is not choosing her over you. No. The core of this is that I choose not to love you.”
His eyes closed with the slap of her tone. “No. This is not.”
“It is.” She crossed her arms. "What would you do? Command her to leave? Command all of them to leave? To what end?"
"To hurt you as you have hurt me,"
She closed her eyes and nodded. "If that is what you feel as though you should do." When her eyes opened and she looked at Richard she knew her expression was terrifyingly still, and her voice emotionless. "But I caution you. When your voice becomes that of the master, they will listen and follow... but in time they may turn and bite the hand that feeds."
Richard turned away slightly. Kahlan nodded to her guards, who stepped back from the D’Harans slowly. The fifteen Mord-Sith surrounding them all kept their Agiel in hand, and did not move an inch, she noticed. The four giant men walked cautiously around Kahlan and Cara, and surrounded Richard. His eyes were hard as he looked at her again. “Perhaps you should heed your own advice, Mother Confessor.” His eyes flicked angrily at the women surrounding them.
She crossed the arms of her white dress, wondering what he meant by that. Instead her voice filled the hallway. “Escort the Seeker back to his rooms. Privileges of he and his D’Haran guard have been revoked.” She watched as his jaws clenched. “They are to relinquish their weapons to the Sergeant at Arms, and are not to roam the Palace grounds without my prior approval.”
“As you command, Mother Confessor.” The men behind her replied in unison. Cara nodded, and the Mord-Sith closed in immediately around Richard and his guards. Kahlan watched as they made short work of stripping the swords, knives and axes from the four men, the weapons clattering on the ground like after thoughts.
“You shall change your mind soon enough, Kahlan.” Richard snapped at her.
“I doubt that very much, Richard.” She stepped closer, and held out her hand. “Your sword.”
“You cannot be serious.” Richard blanched.
“Oh I am.”
Sneering he lifted the sword’s baldric over his shoulder, and slapped the sword down on her hand. Just as he turned away, Cara took three rapid steps to close the distance between herself and the largest D’Haran. She pressed her Agiel into his side with a growl, while grabbing his arm. Kahlan watched his body wince in protest.
"Don't move." Cara hissed in his ear, increasing her pressure slightly. Kahlan watched as her eyes widened, and her mouth pulled into a thin line, before she looked at Kahlan and nodded once.
Kahlan carefully walked around them, and stood, crossing her arms and glaring at the helmet and visor that covered all but this giant of a man’s grey eyes. She looked once to Richard, who crossed his arms and smiled.
"Instead of sneaking about the Confessor’s Palace like a filthy rat, why don't you introduce yourself," Cara twisted the Agiel before adding, "Lord Rahl."
Kahlan's look echoed Cara's words, and she carefully watched as he lifted one hand and removed his helmet, tucking it in the crook of his arm, before smiling handsomely at her. His bright grey eyes sparkled, and his dusty blond hair hung long in the front and unruly from being under the helmet.
"Mother Confessor." He bowed his head with respect.
“And you are?” She asked, eyes narrowing, seeing the familiar lines of his face, noticing the small curve of his smile that matched Richard’s.
“He is my brother.” Richard said cockily, "Drefan. The Lord Rahl."
Kahlan tilted her head slightly. “I see.” Slowly she uncrossed her arms, and clasped them before her, running her eyes over this man slowly, realizing as that she was regarding him as an enemy, and slowly taking in his measure as a threat. He was, like nearly all D’Haran men, very tall and muscular. His coloring was light, more like Cara than Richard. Even though he stood a good foot above Richard, their faces did hold many similarities of expression, the line of their jaws, crinkle at the corner of their eyes when they smiled. Though what was strikingly different was the lack of kindness in this man’s cold gray eyes. He allowed her scrutiny, and seemed to enjoy it, until he winced slightly, his lip curling as she glared at Cara who still stood at his side, her Agiel pressed to his ribs. “Your father was a prodigious man. Should I be shocked when I discover there is an entire garrison of Rahls?”
His laughter was rich, and deep. “No, there aren’t. Though I do believe our great grandfather did have such a private army.”
She did not bother to comment, instead her eyes moved to Richard, to see the smugness on his face, which still did not completely cover the hurt in his dark eyes. “Guards? Please see to it that Lord Rahl is given a room as well in the eastern wing of the palace. Neither of you will be walking about the palace without my approval.”
“Perhaps you would like to give me that approval now? I am sure there is much we have to discuss.” Drefan offered.
“You would be wrong.”
Berdine appeared silently beside her, “Mother Confessor, if you please, it is time.”
Her eyes flashed to Berdine, before she looked to Cara who nodded briefly as she stood behind this man. Clearly the Mord-Sith did not want her here any longer, which made Kahlan wonder if they knew more about this stranger. She would certainly adhere to their discretion. Especially Cara’s.
She nodded curtly to Drefan, and then Richard. “Gentlemen.” Before she turned and walked back into her rooms, Berdine beside her, Raina falling into step on her other side. As they moved through the doorway she heard Drefan’s faint laughter, and could not discern if it was full of mirth, or malice.
Raina stepped into the room first, and then stopped beside the wall, and did not follow her deeper into her chambers, though Berdine matched her stride for stride as she moved angrily through the anteroom into the bed chamber, where she began to impatiently pace back and forth in front of the unmade bed. Five strides, and then she turned, crossing her arms, and five more to the other side of the bed.
Another Lord Rahl? Was that what had been weighing on Cara’s mind? Had she somehow known? The bond the Mord-Sith, and all those of D’Hara, shared with Lord Rahl Kahlan understood in principle, but because she did not actually feel the bond it was hard for her to completely understand the complexities of it. She turned again, eyes flicking to the door. Where was Cara?
Berdine walked closer to the large fireplace, it’s white and grey marble warm from the fire that burned inside over night. Kahlan watched as the tall Mord-Sith bent and pulled two massive logs from the black iron rack, in one hand. Just seeing the unexpected strength; Kahlan herself could only manage to lift one of those three foot long logs at a time; she paused in her pacing. Effortlessly Berdine tossed the logs on the flames, brushed off her hands, and turned slowly. Kahlan’s eyebrows rose as she moved a step over and the toe of her brown leather boot touched the Rada’Han that still lay on the floor where it had been flung the night before. It was as if she were testing a prone animal, checking to see if it were truly dead.
“Do you know what that is?” Kahlan asked, leaning against the large post at the foot of the bed.
“Really?” Kahlan asked.
“Oh yes.” Berdine nodded. “Did you know they were originally created by the wizards who fought alongside Alric Rahl, during the Great War?”
“I did not.”
“Alric Rahl was… he was like Richard.” She looked over her shoulder at Kahlan. “A good man. And a very powerful wizard.” Berdine bent and picked it up. Slowly she turned the Rada’Han over in her hands, examining it.
“A good Rahl?” Kahlan asked unconvinced.
“Just as you have said, Mother Confessor, there are good and bad of every ilk. A name does not necessarily mean someone is evil. One should never paint an entire people with the wide brushstrokes meant for a few.” She said softly, before looking seriously at Kahlan. “I am pleased for you, Mother Confessor.”
Kahlan raised her brows in question. “That?”
Berdine motioned with the Rada’Han. “That it worked.”
“That did not work. It fell right off… I don’t know how or why.” Kahlan shook her head. She had been convinced at the time that in letting go, she would destroy Cara. Terror danced with rage at the mere thought that in a moment which should be utter bliss she had to hold back just to keep from destroying the soul of the one person in all the world who made her feel like she was whole. The agony of knowing what was going to happen battled extensively with the will and force in Cara’s eyes. The utter devotion and calm in them, her voice telling her to let go. That Kahlan would be alright. It had been so hard to keep her walls solid, and then when Cara whispered that she loved her, the world and her walls came crashing down. In that moment of emotional and physical rapture, feeling Cara’s love along her skin, seeing her soul, and feeling her deep inside of her, Kahlan had broken into a thousand pieces, all screaming Cara’s name. She had been convinced that she, in that moment of perfection, had destroyed the one thing that mattered. That she had not was a blessing from the Spirits. And more. It was a truth that Kahlan never even allowed herself to contemplate in all of her years. That she could have a mate that she loved, versus one she despised.
“She loves you.” Berdine confirmed in a soft voice.
Kahlan, pulled from her thoughts, looked up at her.
“She loves you because of who you are, not in spite of it. She loves every aspect of you. She was completely devoted to you. And still is. The Confessor’s power is rooted in love. When you confess someone they are completely bound to you, in love with you, and will do anything and everything to shine in your love. That is why Mord-Sith power is rooted in hate and pain. We are the balance to Confessors. Created to stop you.”
“I know.” Kahlan said sadly.
"We are trained to kill confessors."
"I am aware of that."
"Think about that. Do you understand, truly?" Berdine’s expression was soft, but her eyes were forcefully trying to convey her point. "Mord-Sith live for two things and two things only. Protect Lord Rahl, and kill confessors."
"I... what are you?"
"That Cara can love amazes me. That she loves you, not only a confessor, but the Mother Confessor? The means something."
Kahlan’s voice was barely audible. "What?"
"She has forfeited her life; all that she knows and understands, to feel. Do you see then? Why Cara is still alive?” Berdine’s head moved to the side slightly, as she regarded Kahlan.
Kahlan closed her eyes, smiling softly. “Did she know what you know, did she know that it would be alright?”
“No. You can’t tell someone what they should feel, because it will not make it pure, because the knowledge would affect them.”
Kahlan opened her eyes, and what she saw standing in front of her was not a powerful Mord-Sith, but a kind and wise woman.
“I had hoped she would let you in. That she could let herself love you.” She smiled sadly. “For so many years I have watched Cara moving through life with nothing but her hate and her pain. I had hoped… but she did not love Triana. Merely felt affection for her. And… when Triana betrayed her.” Berdine looked down at the metal collar. “When we left her for dead I was certain that if she did survive, that she would never allow herself to even consider the possibility of love. That she would never let someone in. Because the one time that she tried she was hurt. She was stripped of all that she knew.”
“What if I hurt her?” Kahlan whispered.
“You say that as you are planning to.”
“No. I swear.” Kahlan at her. “You are a conundrum Berdine. I… I see what you are, but I don’t.”
“I am Mord-Sith, Mother Confessor. I survived the three breakings.” She stood straighter, her shoulders locking, and the pride in her voice was very apparent. “I was not made to be the weapon in Lord Rahl’s fist. I was made so that Lord Rahl could control me and what I knew.”
“But you were taken as a child, what could you have known?”
“She knows High D’Haran. No one alive knows that language, save Richard.” Cara said softly as she came into the room.
Kahlan turned, relieved to see the blonde standing there, and at the same time confused. “Richard?”
Cara nodded. “I’ve seen him read it as if it were nothing more than words on parchment.” Her lips set in a hard line. “I don’t think he even realized he was doing it.”
“When was this?”
“Just before we killed Darken Rahl. When we were sent through time?”
Kahlan nodded, moving across the room, and stopping a breath from Cara, her forearm resting against her chest, finger tips touching her hair softly. Seeing her made Kahlan realize she was worried about Cara being out of sight. It was an irrational fear, she knew Cara could take care of herself, but still the feeling had blossomed suddenly. Cara’s eyes searched her face, her expression asking if Kahlan was alright, and so she nodded ever so slightly.
Berdine walked beside them, and held out the Rada’Han to Cara. “Keep this near.” Berdine said softly, and Kahlan looked at her, momentarily confused. “It is better than no one know, than those who could use the knowledge against you.”
“You’ve been reading again.” Cara said, taking the collar.
“The Wizard may have left a book out.” She shrugged, and then turned to Kahlan, bowing her head, before she started to leave the room. “Mother Confessor.”
“Berdine.” Cara said, tossing the collar onto the bed, her eyes not moving from it.
“Stay. I… You and Raina will stay here for now.” Slowly her eyes met Kahlan’s, full of unspoken words, before she added in a cold, unemotional tone, “Four went with him.”
“Who?” Berdine asked.
“Freya, Mila, Vita, and Neva.” Cara said softly, looking at Berdine as she set her hand gently on Kahlan’s hip.
Berdine’s lips went into a tight angry line and she shook her head.
“What? What does that mean?” Kahlan asked.
Cara turned back to look at her with all seriousness, “It means you can no longer trust them.”
Berdine added, “The Lord Rahl commands us. Our breaking involves him and his magic, it is like a mark, a branding that cannot be seen, only felt. When he orders us we are compelled to obey.”
“I know that you are forced to.” Kahlan assured.
“No, Kahlan, we are compelled to.” Cara said ashamed.
Her hand found Cara’s chin and she made sure that the blonde was looking her in the eyes before she spoke, “Don’t. Do not be ashamed of who you are.” Just slightly she watched as the muscles about Cara’s eyes soften. Kahlan moved her fingers from her hair, running them gently over her cheek to her lips. “I am not ashamed of who you are or what you are, so you should not be either.” Her voice became soft as she added. “Everything is changed. Do you understand that? Cara the world now is not the same one that existed yesterday?”
“Perhaps more has changed than even we know.”
Berdine cleared her throat. “Perhaps I should make some tea?”
With a sigh, Cara looked down, but then looked back up quickly as Kahlan pressed their lips together gently. A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth, trying for a moment to emerge, before she narrowed her eyes and playfully glared at Kahlan. Just that one little moment made Kahlan feel brighter inside. Cara’s fingers on her hip tightened for just a moment, before she stepped away from her.
“That went better than I expected.” Cara said discharging the electricity between them.
“Oh?” Kahlan asked.
“Well, neither of us are dead, or have sucking chest wounds.”
Despite her mood, Kahlan laughed. She covered her mouth with her hand. “Ahem. Sorry.”
Cara smirked slightly.
“What does this mean? Really?” Kahlan after clearing her throat, attempting to be serious again.
“I don’t know.”
“Do you know him?”
“But you knew that Richard was no longer the Lord Rahl?”
“I did. When he returned to the village, I could feel a subtle difference. It was as though I could feel him through the bond, and he was right before me, but when I looked at him the bond didn’t feel the same.” Cara explained.
“And this is what has been bothering you?”
“Yes, it just didn’t make sense. If there was another Lord Rahl, why did he not step forward, announce himself? It reeks of deception, and that always leads…” Her voice trailed off as her eyes seemed to look far away, thinking.
“Cara, why didn’t you tell me?”
Cara crossed her arms, and looked down.
Kahlan knew she was being stubborn, but not why. “Was it?”
“She wanted to be sure.” Berdine offered.
“Is that it? You didn’t want to accuse someone of something?”
“I was… concerned.” Cara looked up at her, through her hair, and her brow was furrowed, “What if he had some plan, to hurt you? And I flushed him out before discovering his weakness, what would have stopped him from turning to all those D’Haran soldiers, and all the Mord-Sith and simply say to them ‘kill the Mother Confessor.’ How could I have saved you then?” Cara blurted out in a strained voice.
“You could have. I know you.” Kahlan comforted, setting her hand on her arm.
“She is right Mistress, killing forty odd men is a simple task for you.” Berdine said from over her shoulder by the fire, where she moved the iron kettle of water over the flames.
“Thank you, Berdine, for reminding me.” Cara growled.
Kahlan looked up, realization filling her, “He was the one at the hot springs.”
Cara nodded. “That was when I was sure, about which one it was. Only four D’Haran’s accompanied us. And of those four? Only one had black dust from the granite rocks on his tunic when we mounted the horses. That was his mistake. It showed his hand.”
Berdine stood up and crossed her arms. “We should have eliminated him there.”
“I know.” Cara set her hand on Berdine’s arm, and gave her a meaningful look. Kahlan saw it pass between them. “I know.”
“You… you could have just killed him?” Kahlan asked, the concept for some reason hadn’t settled in her mind before then. It should have. Cara had, after all, helped Richard kill Darken Rahl.
“Squashed him like a bug.” Berdine affirmed with a grin.
“But you didn’t?” Kahlan asked this to Cara.
“I was focused on getting you safe. I… it was like I was not thinking beyond how angry I was that he had seen you… like that. I was just… it was about getting you safe.”
She stepped right up to her, and looked her in the eyes. “Cara, keeping me safe, keeping us all safe was the right thing to do.”
“What if it wasn’t? What if because I failed to act at that moment, things have now been set in motion that will be far worse?” She shook her head in anger. “I… I forgot myself. I swear to you I will not forget again. I will not hesitate. In any action. To hesitate is to fail. And I will not fail.”
In the long moment of silence that stretched out in the room, Kahlan took in not only the strength of Cara’s words, but also the finality.
That Cara had been concerned for her solidified that love she felt. That she had even contemplated killing Lord Rahl to keep her safe allowed Kahlan to know that everyone had been right. Cara would die to protect her. As she regarded Cara, she wondered if the Mord-Sith knew that she too, would die to protect her. “What do you mean? Showed his hand?”
“That he may not know as much as he thinks about Mord-Sith, or even being the Lord Rahl.”
“I never… the idea of there being another Lord Rahl, beside Richard never entered my mind. Could this continue to happen? How many long lost brothers could there be?” Kahlan asked, before taking the cup of hot tea Berdine offered with a thank you.
“There should be none. It is the rule of the land; those born of a Rahl and not in line for the throne are executed. Every ten years there is a purge, to rid the land of those missed at conception.” Berdine explained.
Kahlan reflexively grimaced, hoping the two women did not notice.
“That he did not announce himself, that he has been hiding in plain sight, observing, causes me to wonder what his motives may be. Regardless of what Richard’s intent is, this man…” Cara looked down for a moment. “He has his brother’s eyes.” She said through hissed teeth.
Kahlan sat down heavily on the edge of the bed, her eyes had a dark quality to them, not anger necessarily, but shadows that seemed to stretch deep inside. It was a look that Cara was familiar seeing, after being side by side with the Mother Confessor during their travels. She was thinking, and feeling the implications now laying before her. “There are so many things that need my attention, the daily things. And now? Now this?” Her voice wasn’t necessarily a whine, but it was brimming with frustration.
“There may be more, Mother Confessor.” Cara said cautiously.
“More? More than a new Lord Rahl? More than he and Richard being up to something, but what we don’t know?”
Kahlan took a deep breath. “Alright, Cara. Tell me.”
“Rikka read over the treaty Richard presented yesterday to the Council. Have… you?”
Her eyes flashed a dangerous blue, dangerous because it made Cara feel as if Kahlan’s hands had just touched every inch of her skin. Just with one moment’s look.
“I haven’t read it yet. Some other matters were far more urgent.”
Cara knew she was smirking, and proudly so.”I agree, they were.”
“So what am I not going to like about the treaty?”
“She didn’t tell me.”
Kahlan lifted her arms in the air. “Of course she didn’t. That would have made too much sense.”
“She mumbled something to the effect that if she told me I would run around killing people, and so she thought it best if she brought the matter to you.”
“And where is Rikka?” Kahlan asked.
“She and Hally immediately went to get Captain Ryan, to inform him of your new guest. But she swore she would return.” She looked at Berdine, “Did she mention anything to you?”
“No Mistress. I was with the two of you all yesterday, and then I was standing guard through the night.”
“Berdine, you didn’t sleep? You must be exhausted.” Kahlan said.
“I’m not the only one.” She mumbled with a grin, before continuing. “I am fine. Mord-Sith do not need sleep.”
“Everyone needs sleep. The moment Rikka gets here you are going to bed.”
“That is an order.”
“Yes, Mother Confessor.”
Kahlan shook her head. “More and more things.” She set her face to her palms. Cara could barely make out what she said next, “And all I want to do is crawl back into bed with you.”
Berdine’s shoulder rammed into the small of Cara’s back, and she looked at her scowling. The Mord-Sith glared at her, and then at Kahlan, clearly telling her to do something.
Rolling her eyes, she walked to the bed, and sat down beside Kahlan, then looked to Berdine, still glaring at her, wondering if she was happy.
The other Mord-Sith motioned towards Kahlan with her head.
Letting out a tight breath, she set her hand on Kahlan’s thigh, patting it. “There there. It will be okay.”
Kahlan lowered her hands just enough to peer over her fingertip at Cara. “Cara. Don’t patronize the Confessor.”
Cara’s smirk turned into a grin, and she had half the mind to reply with a scathing comment, when she looked up, hearing the door in the anteroom open. Instead she jumped to her feet, and watched as Rikka came into the room, slightly out of breath, holding a small roll of parchment.
Kahlan stood. “Tell me.” Kahlan ordered without a hint of hesitation.
Rikka handed her the scroll, which Kahlan took roughly. She unrolled it and began her pacing anew, reading. Cara’s eyes watched her move. With each step she took her body seemed to get tighter, and each step became harder, angrier.
“Cara.” Rikka whispered, leaning towards her ear. “There is a condition listed within the treaty.” Cara’s eyes stayed focused on Kahlan, watching her eyebrows as they went up in surprise, and then as her mouth opened in shock. “It states that to solidify the union between D’Hara and the Midlands,” Cara knew, without hearing the words, the knowledge lodged itself deep inside of her body. She knew. Her shoulders pulled back, and her chin rose in indignation, while part of her inside buckled.
Kahlan’s fist tightened over the middle of the parchment, and her arm swung out in a wide arch as her voice burst from her lips in a mixture of a growl and a scream, before she knocked everything off of the marble mantle. Glass bottles shattered when they hit the floor, candles snapped in half, a very old looking urn shattered under her fist. Kahlan turned to face all of the Mord-Sith in the room, her face full of fury.
“No!” The look in her eyes was utter and undeterred rage.
Cara could see her own anger reflected in Kahlan’s eyes, before her body turned cold, before whatever she may have been feeling seemed drip away in apathy.
“This will not stand.” The Mother Confessor’s voice filled the room. “Do you hear me, Cara?”
“Yes Mother Confessor.”
“No! Do you hear ME?” Her hands grasped at her shoulders, her leather, anything to get purchase, but seemed unable to, a look of fear slipping into her face alongside the anger. “Cara. Do you understand? I will not do this.”
“If it is what must be done.”
“Cara.” She pleaded.
“Kahlan, you may not have a choice,” she said heatedly, each word felt like nails being rammed into her hands.
“If this is how it needs to be. Then fine.” She spun around, her face set with determination. “If the terms of the treaty are that I am to marry Lord Rahl. Then so be it. I will marry this man, and I will confess him, and the consequences be damned.”
“Mother Confessor, there may be a problem with such a simple solution.” Berdine said gently.
“Oh?” Kahlan’s eyes and her tone dared Berdine or anyone else to tell her that it could not be that simple. It would be. She would not be told how to live her life, but she was well versed in playing these political games. And Kahlan would win.
“Well. I. That is to say.”
“Berdine.” Cara growled.
The large Mord-Sith sighed. “The House of Rahl was well aware of Confessors and their power. They created the Mord-Sith as a countermeasure.”
“Yes.” The word pulled from Kahlan’s mouth like a hiss.
“There states, in the law of D’Hara… that should a confessor wed a Lord Rahl, or any of the offspring who could possibly one day ascend to the throne…” She looked to Cara pleadingly. “Under penalty of death by Mord-Sith the Confessor must also agree to be restricted by the Rada’Han, as to ensure the line of Rahl remains free.”
The rage that blossomed on Cara’s face was colored ever so slightly by madness. Kahlan could see it, could almost smell it suddenly filling the room. Kahlan took it in, for a moment forgetting herself, forgetting everything but the look on Cara’s face.
“I… This is my fault. I was a fool to not read the treaty before I let Richard present it. I trusted in him, and just didn’t think.” Kahlan stammered in a rush, trying to defused the bomb that Cara was becoming.
Cara didn’t look at her; she just turned and marched out of the room through the glass doors and onto the balcony. Kahlan watched her go, but for a moment she was still rooted to the ground in her disbelief and anger.
“Perhaps Richard did not understand himself the implications?” Berdine offered.
“Ignorance is not an excuse.” Kahlan sighed, meaning that just as much for herself as for Richard. She rushed out into the biting cold morning, and turned, to see Cara standing beside the stone wall.
She looked at Cara’s profile, the set and strength of her jaw as her eyes looked out over the city, and the vast mountains in the distance. It was apparent she was thinking about something, but what specifically Kahlan could not be sure. But she was sure that she wanted to know. Just as she wanted to do anything and everything to make the shadows of rage leave her eyes.
Turning to stand in front of her she ran her knuckles along Cara’s cheek. Deliberately her eyes tracked to Kahlan’s. The look she received brought out a mass of feeling as well as concern. All of the words Kahlan wanted to say she conveyed instead with a light smile.
“Would you run away with me? If I asked you to?” Kahlan asked in a whisper.
“You would never run away and abandon your duty, Mother Confessor.”
“If I wanted to?” Kahlan stepped closer, feeling the natural heat of Cara’s body warming her own.
Cara’s eyes closed for just a moment, in an attempt to keep Kahlan from seeing her emotions. That was her answer, and one that made her smile just a little more. Made it seem that, even though things were crumbling around them, she still could find a moments peace with Cara.
She set her head on her shoulder, and her arm loosely went around her hips, an embrace of closeness, that while stirring her passion slightly was still chaste, and it grounded her, calmed her.
As she felt Cara’s hand rest on the back of her head lightly she breathed her in, and set her lips on her throat, just above the edge of her leather. Slowly she moved away just enough to look into her eyes, eyes that churned like the deep green waters of the Kern River.
For Kahlan the world slipped away, there was no tension, no Mord-Sith milling about the room behind them, no sound from the city of Aydindril awakening below. There was just Cara and her, standing under the cold winter sun. Their lips came together, and Cara seemed to sigh into her body, into the kiss of promise. A promise Cara made to her again, that she would protect her, and Kahlan promised she would do the same. She would do whatever it took, no matter how arduous to protect Cara. Even if that meant she had to storm down the halls of the palace and chop off this new Lord Rahl’s head. If that was what it could take to keep Cara safe, to give them moments like this, close, warm, then she would do it without hesitation. The kiss of promise slowly deepened and turned into a kiss of renewed strength. Kahlan was overwhelmed by the need for Cara, and kissed her with vigor and necessity.
“Mother Confessor.” A voice tickled at the back of her consciousness, pulling her.
She ignored it. She did not stop kissing Cara, pouring her love into her with each caress of her lips.
“What?” Kahlan’s eyes glared, until she saw Rikka standing there, looking somewhat nervous, if a Mord-Sith could ever appear truly nervous. She looked back to Cara, her eyes vowing to her that she loved her.
Cara’s arms moved off of her hips as she nodded in understanding.
“There is a very angry little woman outside demanding that I allow her to come in.”
“Oh? Well then I suppose we should let her in.” Kahlan smiled sadly, shaking her head. Taking Cara’s hand she walked into the anteroom.
Raina opened the door, and in rushed a small army of white haired women full of unrestrained energy. Two were carrying trays of food, another a pot of tea, another a freshly sew white dress, and another a large box which Kahlan recognized as one of the many storage boxes for the Mother Confessor’s jewels.
Cara tried to pull her hand away from Kahlan, perhaps in an act of decorum. But Kahlan tightened her grip. She refused to let go.
“Mistress! You will be late!” declared the head mistress of the maidservants.
“Apparently I shall be very late, indeed.”
“You cannot be! All of you, out out.” She moved to shoo away the Mord-Sith.
Kahlan felt all expression and emotion leave her face. “They will stay. And we will eat the breakfast you kindly brought, and then you will be the ones leaving.”
“Mother Confessor! You have the petitioners to see to.”
“It is your duty.”
“That may be so, but not today. Not tomorrow, and not until the matter with D’Hara is resolved. Is that understood?” Kahlan’s tone left no room for argument.
“Yes Mother Confessor.”
“And the gala tonight?” The head mistress asked hesitantly.
Kahlan sighed. “That unfortunately is not something I can postpone or cancel. It is to take place as planned.”
“We will have your dress prepared, and will begin your bath now.”
“It’s the morning.” Kahlan admonished. “I do not need to luxuriate the entire day away in a lavender bath, just to attend a gala. There are far more pressing matters at hand.”
“My apologies Mistress.”
“Just lay out my dress, and I will see to it later. In the mean while, have all of Mistress Cara’s things brought to my chambers.”
The old woman’s eyes widened and Kahlan glared at her, until she looked away. “Yes, Mother Confessor.”
She squeezed Cara’s hand. “I hope that is all right?” She asked her softly.
“It does make sense; I will be able to keep a closer eye on you.” She replied softly, returning the squeeze.
“You may eat, Mother Confessor, the food appears safe.” Berdine said as she finished inspecting the trays of food.
“Of course it is safe!” Mistress groused. “Why wouldn’t it be safe?”
“Take no offense, Berdine is just looking out for my wellbeing.”
“Giant coming in here and accusing me.” The gray-haired woman grumbled.
Berdine bared her teeth playfully at the old woman, who just smacked her arm as she walked passed.
Just as Kahlan took up a slice of bread and the cup of tea offered by Berdine, Captain Ryan, four additional Aydindril Home Guards and Hally came into her anteroom. She was at the point of screaming. That it all seemed like too much. Instead she took a sip of tea before looking at the breathless young man. “Yes, Captain Ryan?”
“We have escorted all the D’Harans to the eastern wing of the palace, removed their weapons and left two hundred guards.”
“Did you take their leather armor?” Cara asked.
“No.” He replied looking perplexed.
“Do that then. There are many places to hide weapons in so much leather.”
“Should we take your leather from you as well? You are D’Haran, and perhaps you have some weapons hidden.” Captain Ryan snapped back at her.
“I am the weapon.” Cara said coldly.
“She’s right.” Hally said to him.
“Take their leather, take their chainmail. Leave them in their tunics or nothing at all if that is what you see fit, Captain. Just do not allow them to move about the palace.” Kahlan set down her tea. “Also, I would like you to see to it that Lord Rahl does not come in contact with any Mord-Sith.”
“But he is their commander.”
Her eyes twitched slightly. “That may be so. But I am yours, am I not, Captain Ryan?”
“Yes, yes of course, Mother Confessor.” He said, hanging his head.
“Where is Sergeant at Arms Wyborn?”
“The barracks, Mother Confessor. He saw to it that the D’Harans there were stripped of armaments as well, before escorting them to the eastern wing.”
“Thank you. Please see to it that all of your men understand their orders, and are prepared for the gala this evening.”
His fist slammed against his chest, “At your command, Mother Confessor.”
Kahlan felt the muscle in her jaw twitching in annoyance and stress, as her eyes looked over everyone in this room, all the faces looking to her, depending on her. Her shoulders began to ache a little under the weight of it.
She pulled the thick black skin of the bear tighter around her body, to keep the chill away as she stood outside the massive stables. Cara seemed, as always, unaffected by the weather, standing nonchalantly with her arms crossed. Sergeant at Arms Wyborn also seemed not to notice the falling snow that settled on his shoulders.
“The Home Guard stands at the ready, Mother Confessor.”
“And how many men stand?” She asked tentatively.
“Ten thousand.” His voice lost some of its bravado.
“Ten…” Kahlan closed her eyes for a moment. Only ten thousand. Before she had left the Aydindril Home Guard had numbered at forty thousand strong. The attack on the city, and subsequent battles had decimated their numbers. “Only ten.” It put a chill in her bones. To think of all those lives lost, all for the greedy desires of a demented man. “Currently in the city, how many soldiers of Galea? Kelton? Nicobarese?” Kahlan named the three largest kingdoms that surrounded Aydindril.
“Nicobarese only has five thousand soldiers, and those are the Blood of the Fold.” Wyborn replied.
Kahlan grimaced. Those were just pious religious zealots. She could not count on them to stand by her if she needed them immediately.
The Sergeant crossed his arms. “Galea has their standard two thousand guards, Kelton less, since the… unfortunate incident with Prince Fyren, the High Prince sent most of their troops home. As a sign of respect.”
“That won’t do.” She worried her hands together.
“If we need to rally support, Mother Confessor, say the word and I will begin sending out dispatches to Kings Row.”
“Cara?” She looked at her, “If you were forced to guess, how many troops would General Reibisch have?”
The blonde thought for a moment before replying. “He left D’Hara with a small troop of fifty thousand. After this much time? I am sure his numbers are less, but still… considerably higher than yours.”
Kahlan nodded. “Perhaps the idiotic ritual of this evening can prove fruitful. I will speak with all of the larger kingdoms, to see if they can rally troops. Just in case.” Merely thinking about what just in case would mean struck Kahlan with dread. The Midlands had been ravaged by the horde of D’Haran forces over the past year, and if she were to make the slightest miscalculation that could happen again. While she would see to it that her people fought and fought valiantly, at this moment it seemed as though she was being trapped. And Kahlan Amnell did not like feeling trapped.
“Shouldn’t we toss this Lord Rahl into the dungeons, just in case?” The Sergeant asked.
“We can’t do that just yet. We don’t know his intentions. All we can do it prepare for any eventuality.” She looked up at Wyborn. “Find out for sure, those lands that will stand with us?”
“All of the Midlands stand with you, Mother Confessor.”
“I wish that were true, but as we saw, at how easily they were swayed by Prince Fyren, I cannot just assume I know what they are prepared to do.” She crossed her arms under the fur, shivering again, just at the fleeting thought of a war.
He nodded that he understood, and she was sure that of all her guards and loyal councilors he understood all too well the urgency in preparing for every eventuality. Even that of war.
“I have something for you. Perhaps it will improve your mood.” He offered with a warm smile.
“Oh? I did not know my mood needed improving.”
He chuckled slightly, “You forget, I have watched you from a babe to a young woman. I know your moods.” He motioned for her to take his arm, which she did. “I heard already that you have postponed receiving petitions, but I know you, and I know that you will keep with certain appearances, and that tomorrow you will adhere to the beginning of the Season March.”
“March?” Cara asked from behind them as they walked through the stables.
“At the change of the seasons, the Mother Confessor is to ride through the streets of Aydindril. Alone.”
“That will not be happening.” Cara said adamantly.
“She is alone merely in the sense that her guards are not surrounding her. But the Mother Confessor will have a small rank and file behind her, and in the past she has ridden beside her wizard.”
Cara replied, “You have no wizard.”
Kahlan stopped to turn. “I have you, Cara.”
Unaffected by the moment, Wyborn continued. “The Mother Confessor rides through the city, blessing her subjects. And I thought that Nick here would be the most fitting horse in all of the Midlands for you.” He smiled, guiding her into the large stall.
The horse was massive, one of the largest and strongest Kahlan had ever seen, which was saying something as she had learned to ride on Galean horses just like this. Much thicker of leg and strong they were nothing like the sleek traveling horses they had ridden during their quest. Those horses were made for speed. This horse was made for speed as well as power. He could run for miles unaffected, then turn and race up the side of a mountain if needed. His coat was almost white, closer to the polished silver color of a sword, his mane slightly darker. He tossed his head as they stepped into his stall.
“He is amazing.” Kahlan said honestly, before she turned and gave Wyborn a stern look. “A warhorse? For the Mother Confessor?”
“Of course! Remind all of those people out there, and teach the D’Harans as well. The Mother Confessor is our hammer. She rules these lands with benevolence, kindness, and steel in her spine, sharpness in her convictions. A push over you are not. They need to be reminded from time to time. You are a beautiful young woman, and you are deadly.”
Kahlan noticed Cara nod approvingly.
“He looks as though he is no stranger to battle.” Kahlan said moving around the horse slowly.
“Ah, Mistress, he is battle tested and always ready. A fine horse he is.”
“He fought with you, when Aydindril was attacked?” She asked.
“He did, and when we lost many good men, and good horses, Nick always returned.” He set two hard pats on the horse’s neck, causing him to snort. “Isn’t that right?”
Kahlan stepped forward, meeting the eyes of the mammoth animal. “Hello there, Nick.” He tossed his head again.
“With your permission, Mother Confessor, I need to meet with the men and go over the protocol for this evening.”
“Of course. Thank you Sergeant Wyborn.”
He gave Cara a parting glance, and then with a wink to Kahlan, turned to leave the stables. She walked around the horse, inspecting him, and as if he seemed to know that was the case he stood tall and proud.
“What do you think?” She asked Cara, barely able to see her as she looked over his back.
“He is strong. Beautiful.” Cara set her hand on his nose. “For a horse.”
Kahlan smirked, and looked at Cara, as she moved her hand down the horse’s neck, a look of appreciation on her face. Slowly Kahlan looked around, seeing that there was a silence to the stables, a few noises from the other horses, but that was all. They were alone. Just thinking that made her heart speed up a little.
Her eyes went back to appreciate Cara who looked intently at the horse, in her own way sizing him up, making sure he was what he appeared to be. Kahlan walked around him, her hand trailing on his side.
“A fine Galean warhorse is a thing of deadly beauty. Much like a D’Haran Mord-Sith.” Kahlan said softly, her eyes still moving over her mate, but this time in a more fervent manner. Looking at the curve of her breasts under leather, the way her thighs flexed as she moved, the turn of her backside. Cara removed her gloves, Kahlan assumed to feel the horse, but the act made Kahlan think of everything but the horse.
Seeing Cara’s hands emerge from beneath the red leather made her think of her skin becoming revealed as her leather was completely removed, the way her body seemed to be born anew. Cara tucked the gloves under her belt at her waist. “Your Agiel.” Kahlan said curiously, noticing for the first time that Cara was only wearing one.
“Is where it should be.”
“Beside your bed.” The look Cara gave her was the same intimate look she had given last night.
The horse snorted as Kahlan moved under his head, to reach Cara, and she kissed her impatiently. The energy between them sparked to life again in the kiss. She hummed in tune with the power moving through her body, at the feeling of Cara’s warm lips. Her hands moved over the leather on her back, feeling the muscles her eyes had been caressing moments before.
“Is this a good idea?” Cara panted, her eyes in disagreement with her words.
“Being with you is always a good idea. If we can find a moment to be alone, I shall not waste it.” To punctuate her desire, her hands needed Cara’s breasts with further urgency.
Guided by unseen vision they moved from the warhorse’s stall into the empty one beside it, Kahlan’s hands touching every inch of hard muscle and leather, loving how it felt under her hands. Not as perfect as Cara’s naked skin, but with the leather it seemed to exemplify how very strong and dangerous she was.
With a final parting kiss, Cara kneeled before her, her hands moving under Kahlan’s white dress, to expertly loosen the black pants beneath. As they pooled about her booted ankles the chill in the air, touched her bare legs cause her skin to tingle.
The hard rough hewn post pressed into her back, and she could smell the freshness of the hay piled over the cold hard ground at their feet. Groaning her head fell back, feeling the intense pressure of Cara’s hands against her inner thighs, as they parted, and the scalding heat of her mouth on her sex made her shudder.
Kahlan bit back her moan, instead moving one hand above her head to hold her steady against the post, the other hand to rest on the wall beside her, to keep her from putting her hands to Cara’s head and forcing her closer, deeper. There was no need, the Mord-Sith seemed to read her body and her desires, and moved her tongue roughly back and forth over her already swollen clit. Not teasing her slowly, but attacking her sex with her mouth. Devouring it.
Kahlan bit her lip as she felt finger tips teasing against the edges of her center, not moving inside even though that was exactly what she needed; instead they skimmed the edges deviously, making her hips move counter to them, begging to be filled. Which seemed to be what Cara wanted. Kahlan could feel Cara’s low moan against her body, just as two fingers moved inside of her, filling her. She sighed with the perfection of being filled. Cara’s tongue moved in a circle around her clit rapidly, just as she began moving in and out, with a hurried desperation. Kahlan felt the immediate change in her breathing, in her body, as her muscles began to throb with the pleasure moving through them.
The edge was so close suddenly, after so few thrusts, and she felt herself beginning to crumble too soon. She didn’t want this to end. She didn’t want it to ever end, as she moved her hips against the mouth on her, the fingers inside of her. She gasped knowing she was ready to tumble over the edge, and she realized she was suddenly terrified. If she let go and fell into the bliss of release, she feared that she may hurt Cara.
As if sensing her worry, Cara stilled her fingers, but not completely, just slowed her thrusts considerably. The pressure of lips around her clit lessened, and became a soft, languid exploration of her skin.
Her hand move from the wall, and Kahlan balled the white dress in her hands, to clear her vision, to see Cara’s eyes, gazing up at her. The expression in her eyes moved over her face feeling as if Cara were touching her skin. Slowly Cara nodded to her, all while keeping her tongue against her skin, her fingers began to thrust into her, before she pulled nearly out, and then moved slowly in, deeper, feeling along the inside of Kahlan, coaxing the muscles to relax, to let go.
Kahlan acquiesced to Cara, feeling herself trust in Cara in them. That she could be in the moment, she could relax and feel. Kahlan licked her bottom lip, which she then bit as she felt teeth brush against her clit, as the fingers increased their tempo amazingly, rocking her hips and she did let go. Her muscles tightened around Cara’s fingers as she shuddered silently, feeling the air crackling around them with the explosion of her power.
Annoyed, Nick kicked the side of his stall.
She felt Cara’s tongue moving slowly down the length her sex, licking her. It made her tremble again. She wanted to lay down amid the clean hay and pull the leather from Cara’s skin, she wanted to taste her, desperately. Soon, she told herself, and then groaned as the fingers slipped out of her.
Cara sat back and brought her fingers to her mouth, licking them dry, all while gazing up at Kahlan. It made her heart burn even hotter than it had been. Seeing Cara’s tongue moving along the length of her fingers, Kahlan’s insides clenched.
“Do you know what you do to me?” Kahlan asked in a husky whisper.
The fingers were sucked deep into Cara’s mouth, as she nodded, her eyes sparkling. Cara’s silence spoke volumes, as did her eyes. Kahlan dropped to her knees, kissing Cara with wet open mouthed kisses, her tongue moving over her lips. The feeling of her and the taste of her lips was the only thing in the world for a moment more. Kahlan was completely addicted to her, to being with her. That she had waited so long astonished her, and she vowed to never do such a foolish thing again.
They stopped at the massive staircase that divided the two halves of the palace. Their moment in the stables had come and gone far too quickly.
“I will see to Richard.” Kahlan sighed.
Cara looked at her sternly, not as her lover, not as her mate, but the Mord-Sith. “Do not let them out of your sight.”
“Cara, I can’t barge in there with Berdine and Raina chomping at the bit to beat Richard senseless.”
“It… it would be.” Kahlan looked at her. “It would be cruel.”
“No, cruel would be if I went with you.”
“Richard is a good man. He won’t hurt me.”
Cara chewed on her bottom lip, considering. “They can stay outside. But!” She stepped right up to Kahlan and held her finger up between her eyes. “If he makes any move to hurt you, call out to them. If that Lord Rahl is there? They will be too.”
Kahlan nodded, accepting the command. “I doubt Richard will want to flaunt his hurt in front of anyone else.”
“Hmm.” Cara snorted, before she turned to Berdine. “If Lord Rahl comes,”
“We kill him?” Berdine smiled.
“No… but… “ Cara’s brow furrowed. “Just…”
“What is it, Mistress?”
The dark shadow roamed in Cara’s eyes again, and Kahlan knew that she was genuinely concerned, now she could see that Cara was concerned for Berdine and Raina too. “Remember who I am. If he talks to you, or orders you. Remember who I am.” Her eyes went hard.
“Always Mistress.” Berdine vowed.
Gently Cara looked at her, the look in her eyes punctuating the feeling Kahlan had. That she wanted to forgo everything else and go somewhere private, to lay in Cara’s arms, to feel her skin, and strength. To just make the world stop, if only for a few hours. Her shoulders seemed to roll under the weight of responsibility. The look she gave her then was resignation and understanding. There would be time, they would make time, but first came duty. Kahlan lowered her lids slightly, accepting the unspoken promise from the Mord-Sith.
As Cara walked down the hall, purpose in her stride, the movement catching in her hair, moving it along her strong shoulders, Kahlan felt that sense again, of pride, but also foreboding. Having found the one person who brought her peace and excitement, all in one, she was terrified suddenly of losing her, of not seeing the look of love in Cara’s eyes.
Sighing she turned, and began walking down the hall, the two Mord-Sith flanking her. As they rounded the corner a very agitated wizard
came rushing towards her, from Richard’s rooms, his finger already wagging in exasperation.
“What is the meaning of taking the sword from Richard?”
“He threatened me with it, in front of my guards, what would you have me do? Pat him on the head and send him on his way.” Kahlan snapped back.
“He is hurt.”
“I understand that, but I am not giving him license to pull a weapon on me in anger. I WILL NOT!” Her voice slapped against the cold marble of the walls in frustration.
“I see your point.” Zedd’s reply was almost understanding.
“Did you know of this brother?” Kahlan asked.
She narrowed her eyes. “Did you know about the treaty?”
“Yes, I thought it fool hardy, but… oh… oh a brother. Where did Richard come across a brother?”
“He was with General Reibisch. Doing what, we do not know.”
“A brother… so this… this man is Lord Rahl.” Zedd said his face suddenly still.
“Apparently so. And from the look on your face it appears that Richard did not tell you this, not even when he decided that I should marry this mystery brother.”
Slowly Zedd shook his head. “I did not know, Kahlan… I…” He narrowed his eyes, and his voice suddenly seemed to be not only trying to convince her, but himself. “The Seeker is above the law of the land. It is he who seeks the truth and protects all civilization. That is what he was born to do. That is his destiny.”
“So you think this is a part of some grand design? That Richard was guided by the Spirits to make these decisions?”
“Well I would like to know what this grand design is, because as of now it makes no sense to me.”
Kahlan had steeled her expression, and was prepared to calmly discuss everything with Richard, but as she stepped into the room and saw him sitting there something inside her snapped. The string that bound her anger just snapped. With his audacity he had made the selfish decision that would affect not only her but untold numbers of people. His expression was one of acceptance, as if he had known she would come, as he sat behind the large desk, the top covered with parchment and books. Without waiting for him to stand she stomped right up to the desk, noticed the same official scroll bearing the seal of D’Hara, and she grabbed it and then Kahlan threw the treaty at him. It bounced off his chest and fell to the floor.
"What were you thinking?"
He stood slowly then, "I was thinking of a way to solidify the treaty."
"Oh, I don't think so Richard. You were thinking of ways to manipulate and hurt me."
"You have won that prize, Confessor."
"The marriage between the Mother Confessor and Lord Rahl; you did this knowing full well that you had given over the reigns of D’Hara to your brother?”
“Yes.” He said gently.
“WHY?” Uncontrolled she yelled at him.
“Do you know that from everyone I have met with so far here, in Aydindril, what their only concern has been? That the Mother Confessor has not yet chosen a mate.”
“I HAVE!” her hand slapped down on the table.
“Not one that will produce an heir.” Richard crossed his arms.
Kahlan shook her head and sighed. “I have Prince Fyren if need be. Everyone knows that.”
“Well now you have better breeding stock, Mother Confessor, you have my brother, Lord Rahl.”
“Breeding! You make it sound as though you have found an award winning stud for your mare. This is MY LIFE you are affecting Richard.”
“You made it clear to me, over our time together, Kahlan, the Mother Confessor chooses her mate based solely on breeding. On intelligence, strength. Why act like what I have done is any different?” He barked back at her.
“You have just singlehandedly given all of the Midlands over to D’Hara do you understand that?”
“I do. Perhaps if you had not forced me to play this game, these things would never have happened.”
“Games?” She asked incredulously.
“I am the Seeker, Kahlan. I am not stupid. I knew you had feelings for Cara, and still you toyed with me instead of just telling me the truth.”
“So this is my punishment? To hurt me you hurt my lands?”
“It was all you seemed to care about.” That stung as he said it, and Richard seemed to know, so his voice softened some. “You do not know that he will be a cruel ruler.”
“You admit that you know nothing about this man, and yet you dictate to me that I should marry him.”
“It’s a condition of the treaty yes. How else could you expect D’Hara to agree?”
Kahlan professed, “I expected them to follow the example as set by Lord Rahl; by you!”
He shook his head. “All I have heard since I killed Darken Rahl was that I am this Lord Rahl. Over and over, but I am not. I cannot be.”
“And this man can?” Kahlan questioned.
“He will do a better job at it that I would, I am sure of that. I don’t have the stomach to be a ruler of people.”
“Oh? The way you waltzed into the Council Chambers, and threw this treaty in my face argues against that point.”
“You forced my hand. I had to do it.” He walked around the large desk. “I wasn’t raised in D’Hara, I don’t understand their customs.”
“Which would make you fit to rule. Richard you could have led the D’Hara people in peace.”
“No, Kahlan. They need someone who understands them.”
He was naive, she thought, “You think your brother, this Drefan does?”
“I do. He has the bloodline and therefore the bond. And he was raised outside of the People’s Palace, in the south of D’Hara. So he was not corrupted by the greed for control that Darken was.”
“So you say Richard. But for how long have you known him? Can you really speak to his character?”
“I would like to trust that I can. That what he told me is true. His vision is for peace. Peace within the borders of D’Hara, and peace with the Midlands, which is exactly the same thing you have been telling me you wanted all along.”
“Then why?” She said exasperated. “Why force a marriage? Why not allow things to be as they were? Two kingdoms can work together to forge peace without some archaic intermingling.”
“It doesn’t work that way, just because you want it to.” Richard corrected.
“It has for three thousand years!”
“The world is changing, Kahlan. You know it, and I know it.”
She shook her head, no. Because while he may believe in what he was saying it was just too narrow minded, it was not the entire picture. Whether Richard had done this with malicious intent or not, he was making decisions that would change the course of millions of lives, based on a smattering of knowledge, not the entire picture. Kahlan was insulted by his apparent ignorance, more so than the personal slap in the face he was delivering, by clearly stating he did not approve of her relationship with Cara.
The world was changing, and it would continue to change. Her being forced to marry some stranger would not hasten nor slow that change.
“You claimed to have loved me and yet in no uncertain terms you have just given me, my body, my soul and my sovereignty over to some stranger! Why? If you were so convinced that peace could only be founded in a marriage between D’Hara and the Midlands, why in the world would you then step aside and chose another to be the one to marry me?”
“I knew we could not have a child Kahlan. We both knew that, and while I tried to dilute myself for some time, I knew it was the truth. I could never wish a male confessor on the world; I went to that future, as did Cara. That is not something I would ever allow. So I know you and I could never... should never... But you could with him. So what if you confess him. He is strong. He is Lord Rahl.”
“And he is apparently very smart Richard. There is a rule of D’Haran law.” She pushed her finger into his shoulder. “I cannot confess my husband if he be a RAHL!” She nearly screamed at him.
“No. That… that can’t be right.” He backed up, looking stunned.
“Perhaps you should have looked into the laws of the kingdom you just handed over to a stranger, Richard. Because either you are being exceptionally narrow minded and foolish, or you too are being played for a fool. In the end who is going to suffer most? Certainly not you.” She sneered through clenched teeth.
His eyes widened, as if her words were finally breaking through the hurt that had been clouding his judgment. “You could reject the treaty.”
“Oh! Yes. That’s it. I will reject the treaty and thereby declare war on D’Hara. And when will General Reibisch and the D’Haran army be in Aydindril? Their numbers close to fifty thousand? In three days time at most?” Her voice dripped with sarcasm. “Yes. I think rejecting the treaty and declaring war is the best idea for my people.”
His hand went to the back of his neck, which he scratched. “I… hadn’t thought of that.”
“You should have Richard. You should not have been blinded by your hate for Cara and I.”
“I don’t hate you.” He sighed. “I love you, Kahlan. I love the both of you. But don’t you see how much this hurts me?”
“I do.” She shook her head. “Why do you think we waited? We wanted to protect you, to not hurt you like this. It was never our intent. It… it just became something we could not ignore. I could not ignore.”
His shoulders twitched. "When... when did you move from hate to ... to..." His mouth couldn’t seem to form the words, and for one second Kahlan considered yelling the word at him. The word love. But, she knew that in doing so she would only cause him greater pain. She did not love Richard, but that did not mean she wished to destroy him.
Thinking about his question, some of her rage rolled off of her back, to be replaced but the warmth she felt for Cara. "The day I looked into her eyes, with my hand on her skin about to confess her before that mob. I looked into her eyes and I saw her soul. Amid all the yelling in that town square, amid all of the anger and hate in my heart I heard the voice of reason. Your voice, Richard.” She looked at his shocked expression. “I looked inside of Cara and saw so very much. Remorse, yes. But more than that. What I saw was her own strong will and determination, she had done all she had in life because of what she was, what she was made into. She was the blade that cuts the throat of the resistance, merely to please her master. No matter her own feelings. That was when I knew who she truly was."
“A Mord-Sith, trained and tortured to kill. And your sworn enemy.”
“I once believed that as well.” Kahlan interrupted him.
“And conveniently you no longer believe.” He snapped.
“I now know I was wrong. What Cara did in the past... what she did to my sister... She did it with mercy. Which she did not have to do.”
“Perhaps you are blind to the truth?” Richard asked his voice hopeful. “Perhaps something is making you believe something that is not true.”
“That would be a simple explanation, wouldn’t it? Would that make it easier for you to accept Richard? That this has to be some sort of powerful magic? A hex or spell placed upon me? Because facing the truth is too difficult for you? The truth is rarely pure and never that simple. Truth cuts. I am sorry that it has cut you, Richard. I never wanted to hurt you, and that I have? I am sorry to you for that. But I am not sorry about the reason.”
“I refuse to think you could have true feelings for her. You should know better. You nearly killed her!”
“I can say that I was wrong. At the time, I was acting out of rage and vengeance.” She sighed and her voice grew gentle. “Richard... I will always be thankful for you. Because with your wisdom you taught me so very much. So much about myself and about the world I thought I knew. You taught me to see further than the knowledge I had, and to seek the truth out in the world, and in people. If you..." Kahlan sighed, seeing his face harden and his eyes going cold. "It is because of you that I did not kill Cara that night, when the Con Dar overtook me. It was because of you telling me that you believed in Cara. Because you said that you believed that people can change... that I truly looked beyond my own feelings of revenge and looked inside of her.
“How I view the world now? That is partly due to you, and to how you enabled me to see the good in all people, and to see that sometimes what we believed to be true is really just a shroud covering what we fear.
“You said it to me, more than once, that people can change. I know this to be true. As do you, Richard. People can change. I have changed.”
"I never thought you would do this. That you would be capable of this."
"But you should have. You are the Seeker, and you see the truth wherever you direct your gaze. Look inside me, Richard, and you will know that this is true. I am still Kahlan, but I have also changed. Just as Cara has changed. Just as you have changed.
"You are angry. You are hurt. While your feelings are valid you cannot ignore what is true."
"You shouldn’t. I did not begin my life with the goal of loving her." She said softly. "But that I do? That I know what her love is like? I will not just give it up based on a whim that you may have."
"If you don't have a choice?"
"I do not have a choice now." Kahlan laughed. "I love her, and I will love her, regardless of what you think you or anyone else may do."
"Death has permanence." He said, but not as a warning from himself, as a warning that he was just beginning to understand, what events he may have unwittingly helped to put in motion.
Her laughed grew lower. "Not over love it doesn’t!"
Richard couldn’t help but laugh with her for a moment. She hoped in understanding.
“Maybe I can talk with Drefan? Perhaps we can alter that clause in the treaty.” He mused.
“Richard, you have already opened the door and all the horses have run from the stables.” She said, and then her mind flashed to the scent of hay, the warm touch of Cara’s mouth on her skin. She felt her face flush.
“What? What is it?” He asked.
“Um. Nothing.” She responded, forcing mind back to the discussion at hand.
"I am stunned really." He crossed his arms, his eyes getting a faraway glaze to them. "That she was so adamant that I not collar you, that no one should control you, and yet, for her own gain she is willing to do just that."
Kahlan ordered her face to remain unchanged, "Yes, fascinating isn't it?" Kahlan said evenly.
“You’re angry.” Cara’s voice moved over her shoulder as she followed her into the room.
“Very.” Kahlan said, pulling off the now too warm fur mantle and laying it on the bed. She began pulling roughly at the ties of her dress; the sound of a tear could be heard in the quite of the room.
“That is the second dress you have ripped in as many days.”
“What is it that makes you so angry?”
Kahlan spun around to face her, “Do you need to ask?” Cara’s eyes said that she didn’t, and they showed the concern that Kahlan had expected. “All I want is peace. Peace in the Midlands, even peace in D’Hara and Westland if I can help it. But, what they want from me? I don’t think I am capable of that.”
“You are capable of anything.” Cara said evenly.
“Cara do you understand how it will kill a part of me? To do what they want of me?”
“Turning my back on you? Giving my hand to another? Being with another. I won’t.”
“Do I need to force you to?” Cara’s gloved hands moved across her throat, and then down slowly to her slightly torn white dress. Effortlessly she grabbed the material in her fists and pulled, turning the small tear into a massive one, from the laces to her waist. A smirk of wanton satisfaction blossomed on Cara’s lips, and she pulled again, this time ripping the dress nearly to her knees. Kahlan arch her back, feeling that tear as though it had been her skin. She knew her expression was turning from anger to one of unrestrained desire.
“Don’t you dare force me.” Kahlan sighed softly, as Cara stepped closer to her. She could feel her breasts pressing against hers lightly, and hands settled on her hips. “You… I just found you. I am not going to just give you up. And I know you aren’t going to give me up, no matter how noble you may try to be.”
Cara pushed her down onto the bed forcefully. “This isn’t going to be resolved tonight.”
“No.” Kahlan breathed, and then moaned as Cara ripped the dress from her body, tossing it aside.
“We need to stop punishing your dresses.” Cara growled, yanking Kahlan’s boots from her legs, then pulling off the black leggings. Already her body was trembling in anticipation, from the hungry look in Cara’s eyes and the anger she still felt. “How much time?”
“Two candle marks.” Kahlan pledged, and then lifted her back up as Cara magically unlatched her corset and threw it to the floor.
“I only need one.”
“I want to hurt something.” Kahlan admitted as Cara straddled her. She sighed, feeling free, completely naked. The warmth of Cara’s leather on her skin was like a thousand caresses. She ran her hands up over her thighs.
Cara’s eyes turned hard. “Then hurt me.”
“What if I asked you to?” Cara’s hands cupped Kahlan’s breasts roughly, holding them, leather moving over her nipples, before pinching.
“No.” Kahlan sighed.
Cara bent over her as she slid her tongue across her skin, before flicking the tip over her throbbing right nipple while her fingers continued to stroke the left. “Begged?” Cara asked.
“Pleaded?” Cara shifted; sliding between Kahlan’s spread legs, her thigh sliding against her.
“Stop.” Kahlan panted. The feeling of leather meeting her wet center was foreign and arousing. She moved her hands down from Cara’s back, to cup her ass in her hands.
“What if I needed you to? What if I need to feel your flames of rage burn me? What if I can only be cleansed in your fire?” Cara asked.
“You don’t mean that.”
Cara applied more pressure with her thigh, as her mouth engulfed Kahlan’s nipple, and her hands started to move over her skin. It was exhilarating and distant. Amazing and terrifying, feeling all of her naked skin being caressed by blood red leather.
Kahlan breathed, “I love you.”
“I know you do.”
“Then you know I could never hurt you.”
Her mouth moved, trailing kisses up Kahlan’s breasts to her neck, her tongue exploring, as they started a slow rhythm, Kahlan moving desperately against Cara’s flexing thigh.
“Because you love me…you could.” Cara hissed, before Kahlan cried out as she felt teeth pressing into her neck, and the same time Cara’s fingers wrapped around her left wrist, lifting it high above her head.
Cara rolled her hips, shifting where Kahlan moved against her thigh, and she felt the bit of the Agiel against her skin. She whimpered at the power and pain running up her leg. Her eyes widened. The feeling of pain was tempered by Cara. She knew instantly that while she had been talking with Richard, Cara had been touching this weapon. It felt like her. The pain almost tasted like her tears. Growling Kahlan opened her legs wider, and felt the pain get stronger against her skin, as the weapon pressed against her inner thigh. The bite of the pain danced with the overwhelming pleasure she felt as her clit found the perfect momentum against Cara’s thigh.
“Touch me.” Kahlan begged.
“Now.” She ordered.
“No.” Cara denied her. Her teeth scratched down from her throat to her breasts, just before she felt Cara’s mouth sucking hard. Kahlan thrashed, her body breaking out in a sweat, as her core got even wetter and she slid effortlessly against Cara. She could feel her; feel her strength, her power. This was making love to a Mord-Sith. All power and control and…a thousand emotions and truths fell down upon Kahlan.
“Touch me.” She growled.
Cara shook her head slightly.
Her free hand moved from where she had been squeezing and pressing down against Cara’s backside, down over her hip, and as she spread her legs wider, her fist grabbed the Agiel and she pulled it free, feeling the scalding burn of it against her skin.
“Touch me.” Kahlan ordered in blissful understanding, as she placed the Agiel to the small of Cara’s back, focusing her need and her desire.
Cara called out, her back arching, before she began to tremble. She lifted her head up and glared at Kahlan, her eyes wide with happy excitement.
“Yes Mistress.” She growled back, before rolling them over, lifting Kahlan so that she was sitting on top of her.
“Now.” Kahlan said moving her now free hand going into Cara’s hair, grabbing a fistful and tightening her grip, the hand with the Agiel moved over Cara’s shoulder. She felt her own dark smile flourish as Cara’s eyes rolled back slightly. Cara sat up, keeping Kahlan on her lap. Amazingly fingers were touching her. Sliding through her folds, before Cara moved two deep inside of her. Kahlan’s fingers released the Agiel, and her arms went around Cara’s shoulders as she rocked her hips down, pressing the fingers inside of her deeper. She could feel her anger blossom around her, and then like the petals of a flower the anger got thicker, wet from the passion spilling from her, and the petals feel all around her. The anger fell away, replaced by the sudden understanding that this moment was perfect, that the feeling of leather on her naked flesh, inside of her was as it should be. Cara kissed her hard, teeth pressing hard to her lips, and even that was just raw passion. Unrestrained, unchecked. And Kahlan let go. She roughly moved on Cara’s fingers, while kissing her back with as much passion as she felt inside.
Cara ripped her mouth away, panting, unable to catch her breath, as she tried to speak. “Kahlan. I…Spirits. You are so.” She growled, pulling in air as her fingers froze for just the slightest second, and Kahlan could feel Cara’s body trembling with her powerful climax, without Kahlan even touching her intimately. It invigorated her, and she moaned, kissing the blonde as her the fingers began their rhythm again, and she followed Cara soon after, crying out her name.
Her hair was freshly washed, finger curls applied hastily by six young maidservants. This white dress was somewhat different that those she wore before. The cut slightly different, darted to show off the amazing curve of her hips, resting closer to the edges of her shoulders, and therefore showing off much more cleavage. Underneath she wore a soft white corset, not the black and green leather that Cara had come to adore. Her boots were white, as were the leggings. Even if they had put a crown on her head it would not compete with the royal air of her presence as she stepped out of the bedroom.
Cara stayed sitting as she was, leg draped over the arm of Kahlan’s favorite chair. This is where she had been sitting, waiting while the army of women cleaned, primped and prepared her. She had sat here thinking about the implications of reality that were swirling around them both. There was danger in the air, and Cara closed her eyes to savor the sting of it. There was something intoxicating about knowing a battle was coming.
While she did not want any harm to befall Kahlan, she was tantalized by the coming battle. However it came about.
Life had been a succession of fights, terrifying emotions, battles, moving across the land as quickly as possible, and now... now it was battles in slow motion, where they fought with words versus blades. She longed for the sound of steel meeting steel. The scream of her Agiel.
And something told Cara she would not have to wait much longer.
“Well?” Kahlan asked.
Cara hesitated for a moment, knowing that all of the servants in this room would immediately tell everyone they saw in the halls exactly what she was about to say. But that did not change the words she said, nor how she said them. She slowly rose from the chair and walked towards Kahlan, before she kneeled at her feet. “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever had the pleasure of looking upon, Mother Confessor.”
Kahlan set her hands on her hips, smiling down at her. “Get up, you.”
“I like the view from here.” Cara smirked.
“As do I. Still. It is time. So stand up and kiss me.” She ordered.
Clearly to the surprise of the one maid who squeaked. Cara was in too good of a mood suddenly to care which one it had been so she ignored it, standing and setting a soft kiss on the Confessor’s rouged lips.
“You look beautiful too, Cara.” She said appreciatively.
“I cleaned my leather, for you.”
Kahlan smirked. “Thank you.”
“Shall we?” Cara asked.
“Yes.” Kahlan took her arm, and set a quick kiss on her cheek.
As they stepped out of the Confessor’s Private Chambers, six Mord-Sith, three on either side, moved around them. Kahlan stopped, looking at them all. Cara did her best to not smile.
Each and every one of the Mord-Sith wore polished red leather, which contrasted with their blonde hair and blue eyes.
"Where are Berdine and Raina?" Kahlan asked.
"I sent them to sleep. Rikka and the others as well. I thought that these Mord-Sith would better compliment your dress."
"Oh?" Kahlan laughed.
"And I noticed they invoke a touch more fear in Midlanders.”
"I see." Kahlan smiled, softly. "They are all, each and every one dangerously beautiful. But you are still the most beautiful woman in this palace."
"I think I would prefer dangerous."
"Oh, you are that too, Cara. You are."
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