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SUMMARY: Definitely AU from "Eternity" on.
Kahlan's POV. Kahlan/Cara, mention of Richard, Dahlia.
DISCLAIMER: As always, everything here belongs to other (much more wealthy) people. I'm just having fun.
COMMENT: Nineteenth part, a continuation from "Haven"
Cara seemed to clothe herself in her Mord Sith identity along with her blood red leathers.
I watched furtively as I put on my own travel dress, and I saw a silent, very deliberate transformation from a happy, open young woman into a shuttered and determined warrior as she pulled and tugged herself into her clothing. She fell into some familiar ritual of preparation, clearing her mind with each lace tugged, her face wiped clean of any surface emotion as the final glove was slipped on. All possible armor in place.
It pained me that she felt she was about to go into some sort of battle with a friend. But worse, was this feeling that I was losing, so quickly, the person I had just gained in that room. It made the air suddenly feel suffocating, and my breathing cramped.
Until she caught my eye. Then her face immediately thawed, igniting some light within her, something reserved for me. She cocked her head in sympathy at my obvious upset, only misunderstanding why, and reached up to help tighten the last ties on my sleeve. She allowed a little of the warmth of our Bond to tickle against my insides as she worked, which loosened my tight chest immediately.
I realized that whatever else I had to worry about, Cara, and my connection to her, wasn’t one of them. That was further proven as we left the room and started down the steps. She made a point of making contact with me, a small brush of the hand or shoulder, or she held my questioning eyes just a little bit longer than usual. Though to an outside audience, she was just a formidable Sister of the Agiel, she subtly let me know that she was also my Cara, standing by me.
When we hit the lower landing, we descended into the middle of a noisy, hungry midday crowd. Looking around for Zedd, it seemed as if a few people were staring back at us, other lodgers vaguely familiar from the night before. I saw looks of awe, but also a few lip curls and leers. My face warmed with this pointed reminder of what interesting gossip we must be. Cara was busy answering with challenging glares of her own, when I spotted Zedd in a booth ahead of us.
I could see why we hadn’t noticed him before. He was so slumped, he seemed a foot shorter. His eyes were sunken and darkly circled. And more telling were the untouched bowls of stew and freshly fired bread surrounding him on the table.
I tugged Cara’s elbow and pointed with my head. She nodded and set her jaw. Something made Zedd look up just as we neared and his face split into a fond smile and he immediately jumped from his seat and embraced me.
“Kahlan, my child,” he murmured happily, my face against the familiar scratch of his robes. He let me go and held the sides of my face. “You’re alright, then?”
I was stunned speechless, but nodded tearfully. Still smiling, he then turned to Cara, and reached out a welcoming hand. Cara actually took a step back, and it twisted my heart that she was so surprised to be greeted at all.
After a hesitation, she gave him her hand and he pumped it. “Good to see you too, my dear.” His arms swept over the table. “Sit! Sit, please. Help me with all this food I foolishly ordered.”
We fell heavily into the booth, Cara next to me and Zedd across from us, and we all proceeded to stir uncomfortably. Saying nothing, and certainly not lifting a fork.
Zedd huffed out a breath and gave a wincing smile. “Well, this is a little awkward, isn’t it?”
“Zedd…” I started, though I didn’t really know what I was going to say.
But he immediately held up his hand, his sleeve swiping his stew. “That’s not your fault, I’m not saying that,” he added quickly. He blew another breath out. “It just is, isn’t it?” he said gently.
His understanding tone made my eyes burn, and I silently nodded again. I felt Cara shift a little closer to me, her leg against mine.
“Do you want to know about Richard?” he asked me, carefully.
I almost nodded yet again, but I felt foolish and forced words from my tight throat. “Is he…where is he, Zedd?”
“He’s camped out about a league north of here. I couldn’t get him to come. I’m sorry.”
I interpreted for him. “He won’t talk to me.”
Zedd’s face crinkled ruefully. “He can’t hear you right now, Kahlan. He’s…stuck. He can’t get past his anger.”
I shook my head, remembering how patient and gentle he’d always been to me, unfailingly, even from the start. I knew I’d hurt him terribly, but I didn’t think it in his nature to be like this. “I don’t understand. That’s not Richard. He’s a kind man, Zedd. He’s-“
“The Seeker.” He offered with a resigned sigh.
I just looked at him, and Cara fidgeted beside me. “Meaning what?” she asked.
Zedd toyed with the napkin in front of him. He wasn’t as eager to regale us about the esoteric details of magic as he usually was. “All Seekers have a reservoir of righteous anger that fuels them. The Sword of Truth is fueled by the rage released by the person welding it.” Zedd threw the now twisted napkin across the table in frustration. “Richard adapted so quickly to this, seemed to be able to control this aspect with so few difficulties, as with the incident with the Minders…And we were so in need of an active Seeker…Well. He didn’t get the proper training he needed to handle it. This situation has triggered something in him and it’s overwhelming him right now.” He added, somberly, “I’m sorry. I blame myself.”
I reached out and squeezed his arm. He withdrew as if to reject my consolation and rubbed hard at his eyes instead. When his hands fell away, he looked so deflated. Defeated. “Ah, Kahlan. I’m getting too old for this,” he muttered wearily.
“What can we do?” I asked.
“I’m trying not to push him. I don’t want him to turn from me as well. I’m hoping time will be our ally here. But he’s...”
I didn’t like the look on Zedd’s face. “What?”
“Insisting we go on with our quest to acquire the Orb of Cymeryd.”
Cara scowled. “And do what with it? He can’t even touch it without losing his powers. Much less deliver it to Rahl.”
I blinked, thinking Cara and I must be missing something. “Has he reconsidered asking Jennsen for help?”
Zedd shook his head sorrowfully. “He just keeps saying he’ll figure something out when he gets there. He’s not very rational right now. I don’t know,” he sighed. “Everyone has some magic in them – everyone but Jennsen – so it’s not fair to draft someone else to handle the Orb, either. There’s no telling what affect it would have on them.” He wiped his hands over his face again. “I’m just hoping I think of something else by the time we get there.”
Cara tilted her head, disbelieving. “So you are taking him to the Orb? In this state?”
“The trip is still a week’s journey from here,” he replied. “I’ll work on him, try and calm him down and get him back to a place where he’ll listen. I was hoping you’d take a separate route and meet us there. Whether he believes it or not right now, we undoubtedly will need both of you.”
“He refuses to even be in the same room with us,” Cara scoffed mildly. “If we just show up in the middle of this mission of his, he won’t exactly be happy.”
“No, he won’t. But I fear for his welfare otherwise. And I have to try and look out for him the best I can. Whether he understands or not.” Zedd eyed the room around us before stealthily pulling a hand drawn map from his sleeve and pushing it towards me on the table. “This will show you the way to the ruins of Amar. I’m taking Richard a slightly longer route. You should get there a little ahead of us.” He paused, he’s tired eyes flitting hopefully between us. “If you’re willing, of course.”
My mind was struggling over such a dangerously vague mission with a hostile Seeker, and I hesitated. But Cara spoke up firmly and decisively. “I still serve the Lord Rahl.”
Zedd brows jumped a little in surprise. Cara held his eyes defiantly. “I would die for Richard,” she said. “I just couldn’t deny my heart for him.”
I stared at Cara. She hadn’t even said as much out loud to me. Either what it cost her to go against her loyalty to Richard, or what exactly her feelings were towards me. I knew, but she hadn’t said it.
“Of course we’ll do whatever we can to help,” I said, looking at my hands. “We didn’t want to hurt Richard,” I added, softly.
“Kahlan.” Zedd’s comforting rumble made my eyes lift. “I’ve lived long enough to know love is not something you can cast in amber and keep forever, petrified and unchanged. It has a will of its own. We don’t control it, as much as we might try.” He smiled with honest affection. “Looking back, I can see that you’ve been fighting this for awhile. And I know you fought it in large part for Richard’s sake. I ache for my grandson, but he deserves more than companionship out of a sense of duty or loyalty.” He looked at us both pointedly. “We all do. He’ll see that one day.”
I looked at Zedd gratefully, but I didn’t know what else to say. I cleared my throat. “Do you still think Shota is involved in this? Do you really feel all this is even necessary?”
His mouth became a thin line of worry. “Yes, I do. I didn’t want to believe it, but now…yes. Only Shota could’ve done something on that scale. But I’ll be blasted if I understand what’s going on now. Or rather what’s not going on.” He shook his head unhappily. “It’s a risk to separate, too, but I’m not sure what else to do. I admit, I’m at a loss right now…”
As determined as I’d been to not allow myself to feel guilty about my feelings and my decision to be honest about them, guilt scratched at me now, knowing how much more precarious our safety was because of it.
Zedd reached out and patted both our hands. “I should be getting back to Richard,” he said with a sad smile. “I’ll see you soon then?”
I returned his smile weakly. “Yes.” Cara gave a curt bob of her head.
He got up stiffly and walked several paces, before turning around again. “I’m glad you’re both happy and have found a home in each other’s hearts. That’s a precious thing. It shouldn’t be denied.” Then he walked away, and I kept my eyes on the back of his white head until it disappeared from view. I was bewildered that he could see it with such certainty, even during such a brief, unhappy conversation.
Cara also stared at the spot where Zedd had been, and worried her lip. “I have to see Dahlia before we leave.”
I was thrown at the sudden turn in conversation. “Of course. I’ll go with you.”
“You don’t…need to.” She said it in a way that made me think she was trying to spare me.
“Actually, I think I do,” I said quietly. “I don’t think they’ll let you unless I’m with you.” Cara was still looking away. “Are you alright about this?” I wasn’t sure if I meant leaving Dahlia here, or going on a mission we couldn’t accomplish. But Cara answered both.
“Our options are limited,” she said wryly, head down.
“Yes. They are. Right now.” I nudged her shoulder with mine. “We should go ahead and eat, though. We don’t know when we’ll get another chance.”
She finally lifted her head, and all the intimacies we’d shared, both of flesh and feeling, were resting plainly on her face for me to see.
I reached out and squeezed Cara’s gloved hand on the table, and her mouth lifted a little before she pulled away and dutifully turned to her food. As her soft eyes drifted from mine, I was pulled instead into the hard glare of a Dinas soldier at a nearby table.
He had a nearly empty mug of mead in his hand. And I didn’t need my Confessor’s powers to read the resentment radiating off him.
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