Kahlan knew exactly when it had happened, down to the instant. The very moment when a small corner of her heart let go of Richard, of the desire to put things back the way they had been.
The moment her husband placed their son in her arms, she fell completely in love. Not with her husband. That had come later, in small ways, in minute moments that had built upon one another until one morning she had awoken to find herself in love.
She fell in love with her son, and then through him, with Darken Rahl, Lord of D’Hara.
The small toys he brought to the nursery, the care with which he played with Nicholas. He could often be found in Nicholas’ room at night, watching him sleep.
“Affairs of state kept me away while he was awake,” Darken would say in explanation when she found him thus employed.
One evening he found her in her work room, Nicholas asleep in his arms. “He was having bad dreams. He missed you.”
She had rubbed her forehead, face paint smearing as she replied, “I'm having difficulty with one of the houses of healing.”
His solution had been simple, even elegant – the strategy born of a lifetime’s experience in leading a nation.
And it had been completely fair, as fair as it was possible to be.
It was a quiet love, a sneaking love, a love she hadn’t looked for or wanted, a different love.
But it was love.
As Nicholas grew and her love for her family grew with him, Kahlan came to realize a hard fact.
There would always be a place in her heart for Richard. But she could not help him fulfill the prophecy. Not if it meant Nicholas would never be born.
There was no end to the things a mother would do for a child. None.
She would give up Richard, give up the prophecy, give up the happily ever after that had always been no more than a dream.
And who was to say that things would not have gone worse if the prophecy of Darken’s death was fulfilled?
She had gotten amnesty for the resistance, had the rule of law restored in the Midlands, opened countless orphanages and places of healing.
Who could say that things would be better if she had never been coerced into becoming the queen of her enemies?
“Kahlan,” Darken’s sleep muffled voice sounded in the dark bedroom, “I can hear you thinking. What keeps you awake at this hour?”
She did not mention Richard. They never spoke of Richard.
“You are to be a father again.”
He sat up, reaching for her, a hand splayed over her still flat stomach.
“You are certain?” It was too dark to see his eyes, but years of marriage told her that his brows would be raised, a spark of some ephemeral flame blazing in those blue depths.
“A Confessor knows,” she rested her head in the juncture of his shoulder.
He always smelled like the calm before a storm, the scent of rain in the air.
When they told Nicholas the next day that he was to have a sibling, Darken smiled. His son would never be told that his siblings were better, more important… destined to kill him. He would have a family.
He looked up from reassuring Nicholas that he would not have to share his room to find Kahlan watching him, a soft look on her face.
He would never tell her that Richard had been his brother. It would serve no purpose.
Kahlan unconsciously rested a hand on her abdomen, supporting the new life that was already precious to her. She could never truly hate Darken Rahl, not even in the black spots on her heart.
He had given her the most precious things she would ever be able to call her own. Her children.
She watched him talk to Nicholas, his black hair falling against his cheek. He caught her stare and smiled up at her.
It was not a boyish grin, the face was more angular, the lines sharper, the scars deeper.
Different than, not better than the man she had expected to spend her life with.
Richard would return one day. One day she would tell Darken.
In fifty-seven years the Seeker would return to find the House of Rahl much changed.