“Fifty-eight years,” Kahlan gasped, the last of her hope dissipating. “I’ll be an old woman.”
“I’m so glad you asked to see me.”
The first thing Kahlan noticed was the warmth. It was so warm in the Rahl’s chambers compared to the dungeon down below. It was so warm yet Kahlan felt chilled to the bone. She stood tall, rigid straight. Her hands in chains and clasped before her.
Kahlan inhaled deeply, quelling the rising anger, the hatred boiling within her. “You know I will always despise you.”
A mimicry of a smile curled the lips of a snake. “Perhaps.”
“Full amnesty for all members of the Resistance,” Kahlan said, setting her resolve. If this was to work, if she was to wait for Richard, she had to attach strings. She *needed* to attach strings. “Without exception.”
“With your guarantee that they lay down their arms,” Rahl answered.
“That includes Shota,” Kahlan added.
“The guarantee remains. Shota stops her efforts to plot against me.”
“Places of healing in every province,” Kahlan continued, emboldened by Rahl‘s easy acquiescence to her demands. “A home for every orphaned child who’s parents you murdered.”
“I would expect you to be my wife. In every way.” Rahl shifted, the sound of leather creaking rippling through the air. Of all of Rahl‘s accoutrements, it was the gloves that disturbed Kahlan the most. Leather, dark and red as blood, not the leathers of a Rahl but a Mord’Sith. Rahl, Lady Cara Rahl, shifted once more, narrowing her eyes just the slightest. “As long as that is understood, I agree to all your terms, Kahlan Amnell.”
“Then..” Kahlan swallowed, lifting her chin in defiance. “I will be your Queen.”
“They love you. The people of D’Hara.” Cara stood by window of Kahlan’s chambers, hands clasped behind her back as she watched the celebrations down below. “I haven’t seen the people this celebratory in..” she paused, the slight smile on her lips coloring her voice. “Well, a very long time.”
“They see our union as a symbol of peace,” Kahlan snapped back immediately. “I’m sure it won’t be long until they see through your deception.”
Cara turned her head, features obscured by the curtain of blonde hair. “You don’t think I want peace.”
“I think..” Kahlan paused, her wedding dress completely removed by the always present chamber maids, who now moved to drape Kahlan in her shift. “Your definition of peace is drastically different from mine.”
Cara chuckled, loud and throaty. “I think you have me confused with my brother. My other brother, not the one who called himself the Seeker.” She turned fully, the barely formed smile instantly fading. “Stop!” Everyone in the room froze. “My wife won’t be needing a shift tonight. And no one is to enter this room unless called upon.”
Kahlan’s hands immediately folded over her chest, covering her breasts. The maids nodded politely to Cara before scurrying quickly out of the room. The room went dead quiet under the sound of Kahlan’s heart, the beat pulsing heavily against her ears.
Cara walked, no, swaggered towards Kahlan, slow and predatorily, her fingers going to the buttons on her robe. Feet from Kahlan, Cara stopped, pulling the robe off her shoulders and letting it drop at her feet. Kahlan may have hated Cara but even she had to admit the Lady Rahl, in all her glory, was stunning.
Kahlan shivered. She darted her eyes away at such brazenness then, remembering who‘s company she was in and how such an act could be seen as weakness, returned her gaze, raising her chin defiantly. And the predatory smile on Cara’s lips broadened.
It’d been three months since Kahlan’s proposal to Cara Rahl. Three months since Kahlan had learned more of Cara’s desires, her hungers, her appetites. And she shivered at all those things easily read in Cara’s eyes. This was the deal. Cara offered. Kahlan accepted, now Cara would take what was hers.
Cara stepped closer, until the two were toe to toe. She placed her hands on Kahlan’s wrists, gently taking away Kahlan’s last act of discretion.
“Beauty such as yours,” Cara purred, eyes raking down Kahlan’s body then back up until their eyes met. “Should never be hidden.”
“You wish for me to walk the halls of the People’s Palace naked?” Kahlan smirked.
Cara laughed. Kahlan had seen Cara laugh only twice before and each time she found it disconcerting. The way the smile lit up Cara’s entire face, the flecks of light that danced in her eyes. The lack of menace. Rahl’s weren’t supposed to laugh or smile. Kahlan wasn’t supposed to find it.. charming.
“Oh Kahlan,” Cara smiled, the laugh dying in the back of her throat. “When I said your beauty shouldn’t be hidden, I meant..” She raised her hands to Kahlan’s shoulders, a single fingertip pointing at her shoulder blades. “From me.”
With that, Cara pushed and Kahlan flopped backwards onto the bed. Kahlan immediately placed her arms slack at her sides, drew her eyes to the ceiling. She’d accepted Cara’s offer to be her wife - in every way. She never agreed to enjoy it.
The bed dipped and Kahlan felt it as Cara crawled over her. She felt the warmth of her skin, the wetness of her breath as Cara’s face crept close, hovering over every line and curve. Her tongue flicked lightly over a nipple and Kahlan swallowed the surprised gasp rushing up her throat.
Face to face and Cara ran her tongue along the line of Kahlan’s lips before bringing both their lips together. Cara closed her eyes. Kahlan did not. She didn’t mean for her heart to hammer hard within her chest or for her body to shiver at Cara’s sudden moan.
“You are,” Cara breathed onto Kahlan’s mouth as their lips parted. “Exquisite.”
“Thank you, Lady Rahl,” Kahlan said flatly.
The smile returned, Cara beaming as if Kahlan’s act of defiance pleased her. Which just made Kahlan hate her more. She pulled her eyes away from the ceiling and towards Cara’s face as the blonde went silent. Cara’s eyes were no longer on Kahlan’s but lower, pointed at the metal collar around Kahlan’s neck. And Kahlan stifled another shiver as Cara’s fingers grazed over the smooth metal.
“Does it hurt? To wear this?” Cara asked.
“Do you care?” Kahlan huffed.
Green eyes snapped back towards hers. “I could take it off. All you have to do is ask,” she said before the familiar flicker of menace returned. “But, then again, you’d only try to kill me.”
“It’s not the Rada’Han keeping me from killing you.”
“No, it’s not. It’s your promise.” She leaned down, pressing her lips to the corner of Kahlan’s mouth. “And a Confessor always keeps her word. As does,” she lifted her head again, her eyes hard as she gazed down. “A Rahl.”
With that, Cara began to descend. With a softness to her touch Kahlan found hard to believe a Rahl could produce. Cara was soft and gentle, and Kahlan found herself balling her hands into fists as Cara’s mouth suckled on a nipple while her fingers caressed and massaged Kahlan’s other breast.
Kahlan closed her eyes. She closed her eyes because she couldn’t be this person, the one who was enjoying *this*, enjoying finally being touched. So, she closed her eyes and imagined Richard’s face, his eyes, his smile. She imagined those were his hands on her, causing her skin to warm, her heart to race, the warmth to pool between her legs.
The lips trailed down her stomach, the vibrations from the chuckling stirring Kahlan from her thoughts.
“You’re thinking of him, aren’t you?”
Kahlan dared to lift her head, Cara off the bed, kneeling, staring up at her from between her legs.
“Does it matter?”
“If that’s what it takes for you to enjoy it,” Cara smirked, eyebrow rising coyly. “And believe me, Kahlan Rahl, you will enjoy it.”
Cara grabbed Kahlan by the backs of her calves and pulled, pulled until Kahlan’s backside sat at the edge of the bed. Then, Cara lifted Kahlan’s legs, folding them at the knees, her palms pressed flat and hard against the backs of Kahlan’s thighs. Kahlan stared, befuddled, because what could Cara possibly do from down there.
It didn’t take long to figure it out.
Cara descended, ran her tongue up the entire length of Kahlan’s sex and Kahlan’s mouth went slack as her head slammed against the mattress. She knew about sex, had on occasion pleasured herself. But sex was always about control, procreation. And her Sisters never told her about *this*. How Cara’s tongue did things Kahlan’s fingers never dared.
Cara licked, slathered Kahlan’s sex with her tongue, poked and prodded and teased. Kahlan knew she wasn’t supposed to gasp and moan, writhe and roll her body. She knew she wasn’t supposed to but couldn’t stop it from happening. Her head began to pound from the magic swelling within her, stopped like rushing water against a dam by the Rada’Han around her neck. In all the times before, with her fingers and just her thoughts, it’d never felt like this.
The tongue exploring her sex became lips wrapped around her clit, became a finger circling around her opening and the dam broke but didn’t break. Something exploded within Kahlan, both magic and not magic, and Kahlan’s body bucked and convulsed, cries echoing off her chamber walls, Kahlan barely realizing they were her own.
Cara stood by the window of Kahlan’s chambers drinking from a chalice, body illuminated by the dying glow of the fire.
Kahlan pulled the sheets over her body, rolled onto her side..
Kahlan entered the Great Hall, flanked (she was always flanked) by a quad of Mord’Sith. The hall was crowded, to the point of overflowing, with people. The crowd parted, flock of birds like, as Kahlan walked. She felt uncomfortable at their nods and curtsies, their deference to the wife of Lady Rahl. She walked, not stopping until she reached the edge of the dais where the throne of Rahl sat. Where Cara Rahl sat, one leg crossed over the other, leaning on her elbow.
“You summoned me?” Kahlan said, a hint of disdain in her voice.
Cara smiled, she always smiled at Kahlan’s little acts of defiance. “I didn’t summon you,” she waved her hand. “They did. The people of D’Hara.”
She turned her head slightly, then moved her eyes back to Cara. “I.. I don’t understand.”
“You are the Mother Confessor, aren’t you?” Cara rose from the throne, stepping aside, bowing slightly as she waved her hand towards the ornate chair. “Then do what it is that you do best.”
“RAHL!!” Kahlan stormed into Cara’s chambers, throwing open the double doors, pushing them hard enough to slam against the walls. She stormed into Cara’s chambers and..
Skidded to a dead halt.
It was mid-day and the curtains to Cara’s chambers were drawn tight. The only illumination came from the dozens of candles flickering from various points in the room. But that’s not what forced Kahlan to skid to a halt, for her mouth to drop open and the words to die in the back of her throat.
It was the Mord’Sith. A half dozen of them, naked, unconscious, strewn about the room like flotsam after a storm. Some lying in the most tawdry of positions, as if they’d gone unconscious during the act instead of after.
“What d’you want?” a voice called out to her.
Kahlan’s eyes adjusted to the dark, finding Cara’s voice. She swaggered from behind a post, naked as the Mord’Sith around her, bottle of wine in one hand which she brought to her lips and took a long pull.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Kahlan bristled.
“What does it look like?” Cara said, slight slur in her voice. “Or should I say, what does it look like they’re doing.. did.. whatever. Because what they did is what you refuse to do.”
“I..” Kahlan stammered, cheeks flushing. “Perform my duties..”
Cara snorted, taking another drink from her bottle. “If I want to fuck a dead fish..” she paused, swaying on her feet. “No, that’s right, I am the Lady Rahl. And I do not fuck dead fish, which my Sisters could attest to were they conscious,” she paused, taking another pull of her wine, raking Kahlan with eyes filled with disdain. “It’s a good thing my dear brother isn’t here. I’m sure once he got his farm boy hands under that dress, he’d be severely disappointed.”
The words snapped Kahlan from her haze. She marched across the room, stopping until she was inches from Cara then swung her arm, slapping Cara hard across the face.
Cara’s head whipped back. She slowly turned her head back towards Kahlan, the clarity returning, the menace returning. With the hand holding her wine bottle, she wiped the blood from the corner of her mouth.
“If you wanted to be whipped,” Cara growled. “All you had to do was ask.”
“I..” Kahlan stammered, clasping her hand around the other to massage the stinging. “I’m sor..”
“What do you want?”
“The Resistance,” Kahlan straightened, thankful to have something else to talk about. “You swore they’d be given amnesty..”
“And I kept my promise. The Resistance were given amnesty for any and all crimes that happened *before* our marriage. I am not so forgiving for what they do afterwards.” Cara stomped over to a table, grabbing a full wine bottle and pulling the cork. “So, yes, they will be punished for attempting a coup. For believing the ridiculous notion that my dear brother is still alive. You wouldn’t happen to know who gave them that idea, would you?”
Kahlan’s mouth clamped tight, forming a grim line. This arrangement was to stop the senseless deaths. Now, there was more innocent blood on her hands.
Cara snorted, as if she’d read Kahlan’s mind, saw the guilt etching itself all over Kahlan’s face. “Now, unless you’re planning to get naked and let me fuck you how we both know you want it. Leave!”
The Sword of the Seeker, Richard’s sword, it seemed out of place, nothing more than a sword lying on a table instead of hanging from Richard’s hip. Kahlan pursed her lips, brows furrowing at the ache squeezing her heart. The ache was always there, always present but seeing Richard’s sword made it all the more real. Made her ache as hard and as deep as that first day she realized Richard was somewhere in the future. A future without Kahlan.
She raised her hand, made a motion towards the table. The guard she’d forgotten was there stiffened, stepping in front of the table and placing himself between Kahlan and Richard’s sword.
“M’Lady,” he said politely but sternly.
Kahlan lowered her hand, taking a step back. She forced a polite smile on her lips. “What’s your name?”
“Alan,” he said warily.
“How old are you, Alan?”
Nineteen, Kahlan thought to herself as she gazed at Alan, seeing him for the first time. No longer a boy, not yet a man. He was tall, broad shouldered, hair the color of wheat and brown eyes. “And how is it you came into the Dragon Corps?”
He straightened, puffing out his chest. “My family’s always served in the Dragon Corps, M’Lady. Ever since the first Rahl ruled.”
While there was a Rada’Han around her neck, she could still read people. Alan was a good man, kind, gentle, even with his misplaced sense of loyalty. One day, he’d make a good husband, a good father.
A good father.
“And,” Kahlan smiled demurely, lowering her head and lifting her eyes. She took a step closer. “Is there someone waiting for you at home when your shift ends?”
Alan’s eyes went wide, his pale cheeks flushing bright red. “No, M’Lady.”
The plan was simple. For Richard to return home, he needed the powers of Orden, Agiel and Confession. In his possession, he had the Boxes of Orden and a Mord’Sith. Kahlan would give him a Confessor.
“Someone as handsome as yourself,” she edged closer, placing a hand gently on his forearm. If Cara could have multiple lovers, so could Kahlan. “I find that doubtful.”
The next morning, Kahlan awoke, looked out her window and saw Alan’s head on a pike outside the castle gates.
Winter came early to D’Hara, the cold seeping into every corner of the People’s Palace. Kahlan entered her chambers, surprised at the warmth within compared to the hallway outside. Her eyes immediately went to the fireplace, where a roaring fire glowed brightly and the stack of wood that reached halfway up the wall next to it.
She walked deeper into her chambers, stopping in her tracks at the sight of Cara in her room. Cara stood by the window, in her Rahl robes, hands clasped behind her back as she watched the snow fall.
“Kahlan,” she finally said, acknowledging Kahlan’s presence.
“Do you want me to disrobe?” Kahlan’s voice dripped with disdain.
Cara turned her head. “Do you want me to fuck you?” Silence then Cara chuckled. “That’s what I thought.”
“Do you always have to be so.. vulgar?”
“Would it make a difference?” Cara inhaled deeply, letting the air out with a hard sigh. She turned her body fully, facing Kahlan. “How long are we going to keep playing these games?”
Kahlan narrowed her eyes, of all of them, Cara was always the hardest to read. It’d been almost two months since Cara took her anger at Kahlan out on the guard named Alan. Even longer since Cara had entered Kahlan’s chambers and Kahlan performed her duties as a wife. Kahlan wasn’t sure what worried her more, the things she couldn’t read off Cara, or the things she could. “What do you want, Cara?”
“I want what any married person wants.” She said, stepping towards Kahlan. And Kahlan swallowed hard, uncertain how to read what she saw on Cara’s face. “I want my wife to trust me.”
“Why should I trust you?”
Cara chuckled then her face went serious. “Why shouldn’t you? Have I not given you everything you’ve asked for?”
“Everything..” Kahlan’s fingers instinctually went to the metal band around her neck. “Except my freedom. What do you think it says when the people see me as your wife then see this around my neck?”
Cara’s eyes narrowed, glancing down at the Rada’Han then back up. “Is that what you want? To have this off your neck?”
Kahlan swallowed hard. Could it really be this easy? “Yes.”
“And what will you give me in return?”
“Isn’t that what marriage is?” Cara narrowed her eyes, examining Kahlan’s features as she spoke. “A series of negotiations and compromises? What will you give me in return for the Rada’Han off your neck?”
“What do you want?”
“Oh, Kahlan,” Cara sighed. She reached out, grazing the backs of her gloved knuckles down Kahlan’s cheek as the playful, menacing glint returned to her eyes. “I want you to kiss me. Kiss me like you want me, like you love me. I want you to kiss me as you would Richard. Is it so wrong for me to want to be kissed like my wife means it?”
“Cara..” Kahlan felt her heart thudding heavily in her chest. It really couldn’t be this simple. She’d still have to wait for Richard but she could be free, free of the Rada’Han and, with a touch of her fingers, free of Cara.
All it would take was one kiss.
Kahlan stepped forward, lifting her hands and clasping them on either side of Cara’s face. She bridged the gap, felt Cara’s sigh as she brushed their lips across each other. Kahlan inhaled deeply as she pressed their lips together, as her own eyes fluttered closed and her heart flip-flopped in her chest. Like she meant it, like she wanted it, but where was the line between pretending and intentional? Kahlan could feel herself crossing, opening her lips and darting her tongue across Cara’s mouth. Plunging in her tongue as Cara sighed, threading her fingers in Cara’s hair, tangling and fisting, her other hand sliding around Cara’s waist and pulling them together.
Cara was a monster. Kahlan hated her, hated everything she stood for, everything she’d done. It was just a kiss.
It was just a kiss.
They parted, Kahlan panting, all thoughts of the kiss and her reaction to it gone as she watched Cara reach into her robes..
And pulled out a key.
Kahlan immediately turned, back facing Cara as she pulled a hand up, pulling her hair off her neck. Cara’s fingers grazed against her neck and Kahlan ignored the shiver down her spine, licking her lips in anticipation.
The turn of the key, the tumble of a latch and Kahlan’s magic soared like a caged bird suddenly set free. Kahlan groaned, the magic roaring through her, hot and dry like a desert wind. Sparks dancing over kindling piled high within her, all that pain and anger kept under heel, Kahlan’s rage erupted.
She whipped around, hand striking like a snake and she grinned as she felt Cara’s throat in her grasp. Everything she had, everything she was or would be, Kahlan poured into that touch. She glared at Cara, at the self-satisfied smirk on Cara’s lips, at her eyes.
Cara’s eyes remained green. A rock in a storm, Kahlan’s magic didn’t pour into her but buffeted around the Lady Rahl. It wasn’t freedom Cara offered but another test, another game and Kahlan had failed. As quickly as it surged forward, Kahlan’s magic ebbed, taking all of her energy with it. Her knees went weak, body slumping to the floor.
With her boot, Cara pushed Kahlan onto her back. She planted her feet on either side of Kahlan’s torso, then knelt down. Grabbing a fistful of Kahlan’s dress, Cara pulled, lifting Kahlan off the floor until their faces were inches apart.
“I may be a Rahl but don’t ever confuse me for either of my brothers.” Cara tightened her grip, leather creaking as she pulled Kahlan closer, her eyes hot with rage. “Did you think I would marry a Confessor, lie with one and not make sure I was immune to confession?”
Cara released her grip, Kahlan slumping back to the floor. Cara rose to her full height, pulling her hands behind her back and clasping them together. She stepped over Kahlan, making her way towards the door.
“And don’t think,” she paused at the door, head barely turned back towards Kahlan. “That kiss was meant for anyone but me.”
“Do you think this is wise, Kahlan Amnell-Rahl?” Shota said serenely, hands clasped together before as she stood alone in the Great Hall. “Summoning me here to the People’s Palace? I‘m fond of neither prisons nor Rada‘Han‘s around my neck.”
“Neither am I,” Kahlan snorted, fingers going to the bare skin around her neck where the metal band once wrapped around it. “Believe me, if I were allowed outside the Palace walls I would gladly meet you elsewhere.”
“Why have you asked to meet me?”
“I..” Kahlan paused, eyes glancing about to make sure they were truly alone. “I know I have to wait, to be patient. I just wanted to know if it’s still possible. To bring him back and set things right.”
“Set things right?” Shota asked, eyebrow rising. “What makes you think things are wrong?”
Kahlan balked. “How can you say that?”
“Because I see what you do not. What you refuse to see. I have seen many visions of many possible futures and even I didn’t see the possibility of a lamb taming the lion.”
“I am no lamb,” Kahlan hissed at the suggestion.
“Perhaps,” Shota smiled with a tilt of her head. “But you have tamed the lion, nonetheless. Are you so blinded by your love for Richard that you can not see the great things you’ve accomplished here with Cara?”
“Is that what I am?” Exasperated, Kahlan tossed her hands into the air, letting them slap at her sides. “A sacrificial lamb?”
“What is a Confessor’s life, if not one of sacrifice?”
“Damn you, woman! I did not summon you here for more riddles!”
“No!” Shota’s voice boomed against the stone walls. Magic, fueled by her sudden burst of anger radiated off her, enough for even Kahlan to take a step back. “You summoned me here to tell you your heart was made of stone instead of clay. Molded by forces even you can not control. I have seen visions of the future and they are just that, visions. I have seen what could happen should Richard return and I have seen what could happen if he doesn’t. One or the other, you have always been fated to be tangled with a Rahl. So, I ask you this, Kahlan Amnell, what are you sacrificing to have Richard back? And why are you so willing to sacrifice it?”
Cara was always hard for Kahlan to read, her training as a Mord’Sith, the Rahl blood running through her veins. Even the little slips, the tiny cracks in the façade she always wore were always contradictory in nature, the smile on her lips and mirthless eyes, a soft and gentle touch and blank expression.
In two weeks, it would the first anniversary of Cara and Kahlan’s marriage, celebratory preparations already in full swing. It had been over a year since that night on the cliffs, when Richard attempted to join the Boxes of Order and disappeared, seemingly forever.
The days leading to that particular anniversary, Kahlan had been inconsolable, locking herself in her chambers for days on end. Even Cara stayed at arms length, letting Kahlan work through her depression.
It had been a mistake to marry Cara. Her love for Richard, her desperate need to get him back, blinded Kahlan to the consequences of her own actions. Kahlan at Cara’s side legitimized Cara’s rule in ways all Cara’s might and magic could not. With amnesty given, the Resistance dissolved quickly and easily, makeshift soldiers content to go back to their families and farms. Schools for healers grew around the healing centers, the town’s around them flourishing as the sick and wounded were healed, ready, willing and able to return to work. Even all the orphaned children found homes.
Kahlan continued her duties as Confessor, and it seemed the world wanted a Confessor more than it ever needed a Seeker. With Kahlan at Cara’s side, all of D’Hara was under Cara’s control and now, half of the Midlands. And peace, real peace, seemed an actuality instead of an ideal.
All under the rule of Rahl.
Kahlan learned to begrudgingly respect Cara. There was more to the woman than just magic and might. A tactical mind that transitioned easily from warfare to politics. And Kahlan was always there, always at Cara’s side. And Cara actually listened to Kahlan’s advice, deferred to her judgment, allowed Kahlan to delegate when negotiations required a more ‘delicate’ hand.
The hatred inside Kahlan still burned. Kahlan constantly stoked the tiny, flickering flame. There was peace, but it always came at a price. Cara’s price. Kahlan always the one to pay.
It would all be so much easier, Kahlan thought, if she could just *read* Cara.
Until the day she did.
Cara entered Kahlan’s chambers, placing a decorated box on the table next to where Kahlan sat.
“The anniversary for our.. arrangement,” Kahlan’s voice dripped with disdain. “Is still another week away.”
Cara inhaled deeply, closing her eyes and bowing her head. “I look forward to the day,” she opened her eyes, gazing up from her bowed head. “When you gaze upon me with something other than contempt.”
Disappointment. There was no misinterpretation to Cara’s actions, the tone of her voice, the solemn expression on her face, the slight slump in her shoulders. Kahlan blinked, uncertain what to think or feel. The marriage was an arrangement, a move to garner more power and influence. Nothing more, nothing less. But there it was, the desire for more, etched plainly on Cara’s face.
Just like that, the look was gone. Cara straightened, lifting her head, her eyes cold and hard. “I’ll be in the stables,” she said, turning and heading towards the door. “And I expect you to be wearing that when you meet me.”
In all the time within the People’s Palace, Kahlan had never been allowed outside its walls. Never allowed to walk within the Palace without a quad of Mord’Sith at her heels, always watching, listening.
Not today. Today there was just Kahlan, the open air, the horse she rode on. There was Cara, in her riding trousers, simple white shirt and brown, leather coat, but it was a small consolation and Cara was willing to let Kahlan take the lead.
Kahlan relished the small moment of freedom. She rode her horse hard and fast, grinned freely at the feel of the wind on her face, the fresh air in her lungs. She rode until the People’s Palace was nothing more than a faded memory on the horizon, until her lungs and muscles burned, her skin covered in a fine sheen of sweat.
She rode into a clearing, Cara close on her heels. Kahlan glanced back. Cara’s eyes concentrating on the path before them, a smile on her face Kahlan had never seen before. She would never thank Cara for this. Her freedom should never have been Cara’s to give because Cara should never have taken it.
She would never thank Cara but when she saw Cara smile and Cara glanced at her..
Kahlan smiled back.
They stopped at the edge of a lake, Cara placing a blanket on the ground beneath a shade tree, where she set out food from her satchel - bread, cheese, a flagon of wine.
They sat and ate in silence. Eventually, Kahlan spread herself onto the blanket, rolling onto her side and propping her head up with a hand. She watched the birds, the water, the horses as they meandered about nibbling on the grass. She watched Cara. Who sat with her back to the tree, elbow on her raised knee, fingers twirling a blade of grass.
Feeling Kahlan’s eyes on her, Cara turned her head, soft smirk on her lips. “What?”
“Nothing,” Kahlan chuckled softly, shaking her head.
“You know all you have to do is ask and I will give it to you.”
There it was again, that crack in the façade, revealing something hidden beneath. A sincerity in her voice Kahlan could and could not believe was genuine.
“You never talk about your family,” Kahlan finally said. “Why?”
“Everything there is to know about my family is practically public record,” Cara answered, tossing the blade of grass from her fingers. “What more is there to know?”
“I don’t know,” Kahlan shrugged. “Your mother?”
Cara swallowed, eyes going blank as she stared at the horizon. “She died in childbirth.”
“Oh,” Kahlan said. “What about your father?”
“I adored my father,” Cara said with a twitch of a smile before her face went blank again. “My father adored pitting one child against the other. I would never compare to Darken. Darken would never compare to Richard. I think the only reason father loved Richard so much was because Richard wasn’t around for my father to bend to his will.”
“But, you grew up in the People’s Palace. Why did you become a Mord’Sith?”
“It wasn’t by choice, if that’s what you’re asking,” Cara paused. She stretched her hand, leather creaking as her fingers splayed open. “In my father’s eyes, women were only good for one thing.” She closed her hand, fingers curling into a fist. “Why would his daughter be any different.”
Kahlan felt the blood drain from her face, the tight squeezing around her heart. She reached out her hand, meaning to place it sympathetically on Cara’s knee only to have Cara move her leg from Kahlan’s reach.
“When I was old enough to bleed, my nursemaid, an old battle-axe of a woman,” Cara chuckled with fondness at the memory. “She noticed the way my father’s eyes turned towards me. It was she who suggested I be sent to the Temple, to learn the ways of the Mord’Sith. To best serve the House of Rahl, she‘d said to convince my father. He agreed. My brother laughed as they dragged me kicking and screaming. To better serve,” Cara snorted. “Like it never occurred to any of them that I could rule. I cried the day I found out my father was dead. And my Sisters beat me for showing weakness. I had no need to tell them they were tears of joy.”
“And your brother,” Kahlan asked. “Darken Rahl?”
Cara snorted derisively. “I will always relish the look on his face when I plunged my Agiel into his heart. For no other reason than because he gleefully took what my father never had the chance to claim.”
Kahlan dared to reach out again, finding Cara’s hand on the blanket, clasping around it. “I’m sorry, Cara.”
“For never knowing love.”
“What makes you think I’ve never known love?” Cara said and Kahlan read her openly, clearly. Cara had known love - love, followed quickly by loss and heartbreak. Cara pulled her hand out from under Kahlan’s, quickly rising to her feet. “It’ll be dark soon. We should go.”
“Dance with me.”
Cara looked at Kahlan’s offered hand as if it were the most horrifying thing on earth. “I..” she blinked. “Do not dance.”
“Are you telling me..” Kahlan leaned down, bringing her lips to the shell of Cara’s ear. “The great Lady Rahl is afraid to dance?”
“There’s a difference between afraid and unwilling,” Cara scoffed.
“The same words you hear on the lips of a coward,” Kahlan dared then darted away, merging with the crowd behind her.
They’d reached a tiny village just as the sun dipped below the horizon. And found themselves in the middle of a wedding. Where no one recognized the woman in green leathers as the Confessor Kahlan Amnell, or Cara in her riding pants and coat as the great Lady Rahl.
Kahlan was deep in the crowd when she felt strong arms wrapping around her waist, spinning her around. And then she was staring into playful green eyes, and lips desperately trying not to smile.
“I am not a coward,” Cara said, almost pouting.
“Then dance with me,” Kahlan grinned back.
And they danced. The sounds flutes and lyres and makeshift drums filled the air, mixing with laughter, a joviality Kahlan hadn’t heard in such a long, long while. The song ended and Kahlan found herself twirled once more, spinning, almost crashing back into Cara’s arms. Closer this time, Kahlan staring into green eyes gazing at her almost reverently and definitely hungry.
“You,” Kahlan smiled, swallowing the sudden nervous tension within her. “Are a terrible dancer.”
Cara’s grip tightened, pulling Kahlan closer. “And you, Kahlan Amnell, are exquisite.”
“Strangers!” someone called out, breaking the moment as both turned their heads towards the voice and found themselves standing before the bride and groom. “Thank you for making our wedding day even more enjoyable.”
Kahlan and Cara stepped apart, standing shoulder to shoulder. Kahlan suddenly found herself missing the contact, her hand instinctively reaching for Cara’s. “No,” Kahlan said. “Thank you for having us. May the Gods bless your union.”
“I think the Gods already have.” Cara reached into her pocket, pulling out a small change purse and handing it to the bride. The bride’s eyes went wide at the sudden weight in her hand. “If only all unions were as celebratory.”
“You don’t have to sleep in the stables.”
Kahlan stood in the doorway to her room above the tavern. Like all things, the party eventually died down. The bride and groom leaving for an actual honeymoon now that they had the coin to pay for one. It’d been a long time since Kahlan had felt happy. She didn’t want the night to end.
They made their way to the tavern, where Cara paid for the last room available. One with a single bed and Cara offered to sleep in the stables. The one beneath Kahlan’s window, of course.
“There’s room enough for both,” Kahlan added.
“I think it would be best if, for tonight..” Cara paused, eyes darting into the room behind Kahlan. “I put some distance between myself and your bed.”
Cara’s aching desire, so easily read on her face, put a blush on Kahlan’s cheeks, made her head bow at the sudden skip in her heart, the warmth cascading across her skin. She lifted her head, followed her feet as they stepped closer towards Cara.
“Thank you,” Kahlan said softly.
“For today,” was all Kahlan could say, all she could think to say because there were no words that could completely encompass what this day had meant to her. And Kahlan found herself leaning forward, meaning to put into action what her words had failed to express.
A hundred times Cara had kissed her and not once had Kahlan ever reciprocated. And here she stood, leaning forward, pressing her lips to Cara’s, feeling Cara’s breath hitch in surprise, the sudden and heavy beating of her heart. Light and soft and gentle, and when Cara’s lips parted, Kahlan flicked her tongue in invitation.
Then blinked in surprise as Cara broke the kiss, Cara gazing back at her like she would regret that action for the rest of her life.
“Goodnight, Kahlan Amnell,” she said, stepping backwards.
Cara walked away, taking several steps before she stopped in her tracks and there was a moment, when Cara stopped and Kahlan wondered if Cara really would bridge the distance between herself and Kahlan’s bed. She wondered whether she wanted Cara to.
Cara stopped, clasping her hands behind her back, features obscured by the curtain of blonde hair as she turned her head slightly back towards Kahlan. “I don’t hate him. I don‘t hate Richard,” she said, voice barely above a whisper. “But, I resent him. For the place he always held in my father’s heart. For the place he holds in yours.”
Kahlan had balked the first time Cara showed it to her, shuddering with revulsion at the idea of what Cara wanted Kahlan to do with it. Like a master carver with a chisel, Cara patiently whittled away at Kahlan’s resistance. Now, Kahlan would never admit she looked forward to when Cara brought it with her (that would be admitting Cara had won) but there was a certain visceral thrill when Cara opened her robes, pulling out the satchel made of soft velvet.
A harness made of leather, red as a Mord’Sith’s uniform, with buckles made of the finest silver. The phallus carved from the horn of a Shadrin Cara had killed herself, a custom of the Mord’Sith, to create objects of pleasure from the creatures they’d killed. Leather molded around the horn, the base attached to the harness.
Cara was never more acquiescing, or submissive, she was never more *vulnerable* than when she allowed Kahlan to pleasure her with it. Kahlan was always fascinated, staring intently at the way the tip pushed open Cara’s folds, the way it slipped not quite so easily into Cara’s sex. How Cara would groan, neck arching, eyes sliding lazily closed as her hands curled the sheets into fists.
In no other way would Cara allow herself to be taken and by no other person. And Kahlan (though she would never admit it) relished the *power* of it all. To push and thrust, how Cara would whimper and mewl and just writhe beneath her. When Kahlan could drop her own façade and Cara would let her, let Kahlan fuck her with every ounce of anger and hatred within her. Until Kahlan made Cara scream.
The first time, Kahlan placing her hand to Cara’s throat, had been nothing more than an experiment. To see how far Cara would let Kahlan go. Cara merely opened her eyes, seductively smiling up at Kahlan before her brows crinkled, her mouth went slack and the paroxysm took over.
The next time, Kahlan used her magic. She knew Cara was immune to Confession and someday, far, far into the future, Kahlan would contemplate why she bothered to try. Because Kahlan knew, there was a part of her, buried down deep, that had always wanted to do this, to use her magic in a moment of intimacy. When the opportunity arose, the buried down deep darkness within her rushed forth and grabbed it.
Kahlan waited until Cara teetered over the precipice then squeezed her fingers, just a little, just enough. Her eyes misted black, powers surging forth. Cara arched into Kahlan’s touch, groaning as the magic buffeted her. It surged into Cara, out of Cara..
And back into Kahlan.
It hit Kahlan like a storm surge from nowhere, thick and heavy, crashing over her, sweeping her into its heavy current. Kahlan felt her magic in a place she’d never felt it before, deep between her legs, her entire sex on fire, melting her insides as she convulsed and shuddered, as the scream tore up her throat.
The magic swept out of her as quickly as it had entered. Every last ounce of energy drained, she collapsed atop Cara. Panting heavily into Cara’s neck, Kahlan felt little tendrils of fear slithering up her spine.
No one told her it could be like this.
Why did it have to be with Cara Rahl?
Why did Kahlan have to like it?
Another ride through the forest, to enjoy the dying days of Summer before the chill of Fall set in and rides such as these would be more difficult.
Cara brought along her satchel of velvet. Kahlan didn’t object and eagerly took Cara on a blanket beneath a shade tree.
Long after they’d sated both their appetites (no one more surprised than Kahlan to discover she actually had appetites), they lay under the shade tree, boneless bodies still slick with sweat. Cara laid on her back, hands snuggled beneath her head. Kahlan on her side, head to Cara’s shoulders, watching her fingers as they painted lazy patterns on Cara’s stomach.
Cara drifted a hand to the back of Kahlan’s head, fingers gently threading in her hair and softly petting. Kahlan sighed at the contact, pressing her lips to Cara’s shoulder. She kept her head up, focusing her eyes on Cara’s face.
Cara‘s lips spread into a smile. “What?”
“I know you, Kahlan.” Cara opened one eye, squinting. “Especially when you want to talk.”
“Oh,” Kahlan chuckled, pressing her forehead to Cara’s shoulder, amused at how easily she’d been read.
“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, all you have to do is ask and I will give it to you.”
Eyes narrowing, Kahlan examined Cara’s face. She had been told a thousand times and, a thousand times, Kahlan never really believed it. “You once said you knew love,” she paused nervously. “Who did you love, Cara?”
She felt Cara stiffen beneath her. Kahlan braced herself for when Cara attempted to move away, surprised when Cara didn’t offer an excuse to put some distance between herself and Kahlan.
“Her name was Dahlia,” Cara said and Kahlan’s eyes widened at the unexpected revelation. “We met at the Temple. She was,” Cara paused, chuckling. “A lot like you. But, she was weak. For a Mord’Sith, I mean. She openly showed emotion, let her heart rule her head. I think that drew me to her even more. I shielded her from our Sisters, took the blows meant for her. And she’d sneak into my room and apply the healing salve onto my body. I hated her for her kindness as much as I craved it. The first time we kissed..” Cara paused again. “I couldn’t get enough after that. Any moment, any second we were alone, I spent it kissing her.”
“My brother happened,” she sneered derisively. “Mord’Sith aren’t supposed to love. At least, love no one more than they love Rahl. He made me watch as he took her chastity. Then, he took what I’d promised to her. When he was.. done, he asked me if I’d felt it. If I’d felt when they slipped the blade into her heart and the bond between our souls was severed.”
“Cara,” Kahlan gasped. “I’m so sorry.”
Cara merely shrugged, as if the past were over and done with. “It was then I swore to kill him. I still remember the look on his face. It’s strange, back then, I thought he did it because he could. Another way to torment me.”
“I think he was afraid. The bond between the Mord’Sith and Rahl is strong. If I could break that bond between one Mord’Sith and him, make one love me more than she loved him, I think it threatened him. The idea that if I could do it to one I could do it to them all. Stupid fool,” she sneered. “If only he’d known. Had he allowed our relationship to continue, to let me have that one thing, I would have done anything for him. I would have done anything for her.”
“Kahlan.” Cara stood at the door of Kahlan’s chambers, patiently standing in her robes, hands clasped behind her back.
“What?” Kahlan snapped then sighed in resignation. “I’m sorry, that wasn’t meant for you.”
It’d been a long trip back from the outer provinces, where Kahlan had performed her duties as Confessor for much longer than she intended. Her time spent negotiating petty squabbles too numerous to count that could have been resolved quite quickly and easily had the individuals involved not been so intent on maintaining their grudges.
Placing her fingers on the back of neck, Kahlan craned her neck back, massaging the tension with her fingers. “It’s been a very long journey and I want nothing more than to take a long hot bath.”
“As do I,” Cara said with a purr in her voice, a wolfish smile on her lips and eyes focusing on parts of Kahlan’s body that were not her eyes. She paused long enough for Kahlan to blush then her face went blank, serious. “Wizards from the First Order are here to see you.”
“There are no more Wizards of the First Order.” Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander had been the last and he died at the same spot where Richard disappeared.
Cara nodded her head. “A point of contention they will eagerly debate. Regardless, they are here.”
“Why do they want to see me?”
Cara darted her eyes away, shifting her weight on her feet, her stance almost apologetic. “They want to name a new Seeker.”
The air rushed from Kahlan’s lungs as quickly as the color drained from her cheeks. In the back of her mind, Kahlan always knew this day would come - the day the Wizards would replace Richard. She just never expected it this soon. The mere idea of handing the Sword of Truth to someone other than Richard sickened Kahlan to her stomach.
“Why?” Kahlan asked, blinking away the tears welling in her eyes.
“They’re wizards,” Cara shrugged. “Pompous, arrogant..”
“No. I meant, why ask me?”
Cara stared back as if it were the stupidest question in the world. “Because I told them to. If it were up to me..” she stopped, holding her tongue in regards to her thoughts of the Seeker. “Confessors and Seekers are bonded. If the decision to name a new Seeker is to be up to anyone, it should be you.”
The Wizards of the First Order named a blacksmith called Leo the new Seeker. He was a good man, a kind man if a bit mischievous. Kahlan wanted to like him. Knew, deep down in her bones, that she should. She didn’t. She couldn’t. It wasn’t just the way the Sword of Truth looked wrong hanging from his hip, his brown hair and kind eyes, or the clothes he wore that did and did not look so much like Richard’s.
It was also the way he smiled at Cara. How he openly flirted with the ruler of D’Hara. It was the way Cara responded to his flirtations.
No, Kahlan did not like the new Seeker. She didn’t like him at all.
The door to her chambers opened and Kahlan, already naked, heart beating heavily with anticipation, smiled openly and lasciviously. Cara purred at the sight before her, Kahlan rolling onto all fours, crawling towards the edge of the bed.
“You started without me,” Cara grinned, standing at the edge of the bed, Kahlan rising to her knees, fingers already working on the buttons of Cara’s robe.
“It’s been awhile.”
“Has it?” Cara teased. “I hadn’t noticed.”
Kahlan stilled her fingers, brows crinkling, lips pursing. It hadn’t been long in the grand scheme of things, merely two weeks. Two weeks since Cara insisted she and Leo go on another ‘training session’. Alone.
“Did you..” Kahlan couldn’t finish her question, curling the edge of her lower lip between her teeth.
Cara’s face brightened like the sun appearing from behind a cloud. “Is my Kahlan actually jealous?” she asked, then placed her fingertips beneath Kahlan’s chin and lifting until their eyes met. “No, I did not fuck the new Seeker.” She brushed her lips across Kahlan’s. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve shared my bed with anyone but you.”
Like a spark thrown onto very dry kindling, Kahlan’s desire roared to life. She clamped her hands on either side of Cara’s face, crushing their mouths together. The kiss hungry and urgent, and Kahlan purred into Cara’s mouth as Cara’s lips parted and Kahlan jutted her tongue inside.
Kahlan moved her hands from Cara’s face to her robes, fingers yanking, pulling open the buttons, pushing the material of Cara’s shoulders. Kahlan didn’t know when it happened, when Cara opened her chamber door and Kahlan’s feelings went from dread to anticipation to pure unadulterated lust. None of it mattered at the moment, all that mattered to Kahlan was she wanted Cara. Here, right now.
“Kahlan,” Cara panted as their mouths parted and Kahlan’s lips went about the task of attack Cara’s neck. “Kahlan..” she said a little more forcefully, placing her hands on Kahlan’s shoulders and pushing just enough for them to part.
Kahlan blinked in disbelief, lips curling into a coy smile. “The great Lady Rahl doesn’t want sex?”
“Believe me..” Cara eyes glancing towards Kahlan’s breasts, rolling her shoulders and tilting her head like parting from Kahlan was almost torturous for her. “The great Lady Rahl really wants to have sex with you. It’s just..” she paused, uncertainty written all over her face and Kahlan wondered when Cara became so easy to read. “There’s something I have to say to you. And, if I don’t say it now, I’m not sure I’ll ever have the courage to.”
“Cara, what is it?”
Cara closed her eyes, inhaling a deep sucking breath. “I’m sorry,” she said.
Green eyes opened, filled with sincerity. “For taking your virtue. I, of all people, know what it’s like to have that taken from you and I’m sorry. For that alone, you should hate me for the rest of your life.”
“Cara,” Kahlan sighed, kissing Cara gently on the lips before pressing their foreheads together. “Do you think I wouldn‘t want you so much now if I hadn‘t forgiven you long ago?”
As a Rahl and Mord‘Sith, Cara was taught never to forgive. That all past transgressions should be remembered, the punishment eternal. The concept of forgiveness as alien to Cara as love had once been.
“Are you..” Cara stammered, eyes darting about. “Sure?”
Kahlan answered with a kiss, less bruising but just as passionate. Like all things with Cara, Kahlan didn’t know exactly when she forgave her, she just did. She made sure Cara believed her, poured every ounce of forgiveness into each kiss, each touch. When Cara laid herself down before Kahlan, opening her legs, offering herself, Kahlan did more than take. She gave. All of her - heart, mind, body and soul - in ways she never had before.
She moaned into Cara’s sex, from the feel Cara’s fingers tangling in her hair and gripping tight, at the way Cara wriggled and writhed beneath her. From Kahlan’s first tentative explorations to this, where Kahlan wanted it, craved it. Of all the things that had slipped through her grasp, this was hers.
Cara was hers.
“Cara!” Kahlan yelled. “This is insanity!”
“No!” Cara barked back. She stood in the center of her chambers, flanked by two Mord’Sith as they removed her robes and replaced them with the leathers of a Mord’Sith. “Insanity is those damn Sisters of the Dark finding a way to resurrect my brother. If only the Creator were as meddlesome in the affairs of man as the Keeper. I’ve already lost an entire legions worth of Dragon Corps to my brother. In three years, I have done what no other Rahl has, brought peace to the realm. I will not let my brother piss away what we have built.”
We. The word hit Kahlan like a blow. The acknowledgement of Kahlan’s involvement in all this and how Cara saw Kahlan - as an equal.
“Surely, there must be another way.” Leo was in the Midlands. Even with the best horses riding at top speed, it would take more than two weeks for him to return to D’Hara.
“There probably is,” Cara smirked. Her uniform complete, except for the braid - the Mord’Sith wore their hair long, Cara did not, Cara strode towards a dresser where her Agiels sat. She picked them up, one in each hand, fingers curling around the hilts. “But, believe me, no one looks forward to killing my brother more than me. Again.”
She turned again, heading for the door, her Mord’Sith close on her heels. Kahlan whipped her hand out, grabbing Cara by the crook of the elbow.
“Fine,” she said, gazing hard into Cara’s eyes. “I’m going with you.”
“Kahlan!” Cara gaped. “I can’t battle my brother and worry about you at the same time.”
“Don’t you dare patronize me!” Kahlan tightened her grip. “I’m worth more to you in a fight than any of your Mord’Sith,” she said, ignoring the bristling stares of Cara’s sisters. She pulled Cara closer, leaning in and pressing her lips to Cara’s ear. “And believe me,” she whispered hoarsely. “No one looks forward to watching you kill your brother more than me.”
They’d never fought side by side before, Cara at Kahlan’s back was as effortless and intuitive as a second skin. Kahlan had heard about Cara’s renowned skills as a fighter, but she’d never seen it for herself. More than impressive, she was formidable. The powers of a Rahl, the fighting skills of a Mord’Sith.
Hopefully, there would be time to admire Cara’s fighting skills, for the moment, they were in the fight of their lives.
It’d been an ambush, and Kahlan heard Cara muttering under her breath as the soldiers sworn to serve Cara that now served Darken Rahl and the Sisters of the Dark swarmed around them. Outnumbered three to one and it was still evenly matched.
The battle seemed to last forever, the numbers on both sides slowly dwindling. Until the odds were one on one, members of Darken Rahl’s Dragon Corps the first to fall. Then, it was just the Sisters of the Dark versus Mord’Sith.. and Kahlan.
Kahlan’s lungs burned, her muscles screamed. She fought through the scrapes and growing bruises. She never thought there would come a day where she’d fight side by side with a Rahl. Then again, Richard was Panis Rahl’s son and Kahlan had fought by his side as passionately and loyally as she fought alongside Cara.
There was no mistaking the voice screaming her name. Before Kahlan could turn, she felt Cara’s body slamming into hers. They tumbled hard onto the ground. Kahlan rolled, turning into Cara, her eyes going wide as she saw..
The Dacra sticking out of Cara’s chest.
“Berdine!” Kahlan cried out. In the span of a heart beat, Berdine was there, Raina at her side. Where there was one, there was always the other. Unlike her brother, Cara always encouraged the affair, understood how love could foster loyalty.
“Find who did this!” she barked and both women were off like arrows fired from a bow. The wound was deep, the Dacra striking home in the center of Cara’s chest just below her breasts. Already, her leather was wet with blood. Cara would die if the blade remained. She would die if it wasn’t removed by the Sister of the Dark who threw it.
Cara coughed, her lips immediately spattered with blood.
“Cara,” Kahlan grit. “Don’t you dare die on me.”
“I’m afraid,” Cara chuckled again only to be cut short by another coughing fit. “This is a battle even I can not win.”
Kahlan placed her hand to Cara’s face. “Cara, don’t..”
“Then give me a reason to fight even more than I already am.”
They were beginning to surround them, Cara’s Mord’Sith, having won the battle despite suffering such a terrible blow. Cara coughed again, wheezing deeply and Kahlan realized Cara was giving up.
Because Kahlan hadn’t given her a reason to live.
“You said all I have to do was ask and you would give it to me,” Kahlan whispered, fighting the choking sensation seizing her throat. “I’m asking you now, live Cara. Live for your Sisters. For your people. If you need a reason, live for me. Because..” she paused, leaning down to whisper in Cara’s ear. “Because I love you.”
She lifted back to a seated position, wiping the tears with the back of her hand. She inhaled deeply, setting her resolve. “You,” she commanded. “The four of you take the Lady Rahl back to the People’s Palace. The rest of you..” Kahlan rose to her feet. “Are coming with me.”
“Where are we going?” one of them asked.
Kahlan began walking, striding purposely into the forest. “To kill Darken Rahl.”
“Darken Rahl is dead.”
“I’d like to say those words please me, but..” Cara winced, shifting on the bed. “I was so looking forward to killing him myself.”
Kahlan chuckled. “It’s good to have you back.”
“How long was I out?”
“Two weeks. It took us three days to find the Sister of the Dark who’d wounded you. After I’d confessed her, it wasn’t hard to find your brother.”
“And it was you who killed him?”
“Yes. And asked Shota to make sure he can never return.”
Cara sighed like a great weight had been lifted off her, closing her eyes as she rested her head back onto pillow. “Thank you, Kahlan.”
Kahlan smiled softly, returning her eyes out the window to gaze at the view below, the hundreds of tiny lights illuminating the throngs of people below. “They love you,” she said softly. “Your people.”
“They love the woman I chose as my mate. That is all.”
“You’re wrong,” she turned back around. “They’ve been holding vigils for you, day and night. They remember what life was like under the rule of your father, and your brother. They honor you, your sacrifice to protect them. Your people truly do love you, Cara.”
“And what about you, Kahlan Amnell?” Cara opened her eyes, tilting her head towards Kahlan. “All my life, I’ve lived in the shadow of my father, my brothers. Does my brother’s shadow still eclipse me?”
“Cara..” Kahlan bowed her head, uncertain of what to say. Richard was always there within her. But, his memory was like the sun, once shining bright and warm, high up in the sky, now slowly fading beneath the horizon. It was all very problematic and confusing. The Seeker and her role as Confessor had been ingrained into Kahlan, as it was in all Confessors. But, there was no more Richard and wouldn’t be for a very long time. And Kahlan found herself troubled at the way she clung to the ‘idea’ of missing him rather than missing Richard himself.
“It’s okay, Kahlan,” Cara spoke softly, shaking Kahlan from her thoughts. “If I’ve learned anything about love, the hardest part is accepting when it’s not returned. Darken never understood that. Neither did my father. I can learn to be content standing in this particular shadow.”
“Do you..” Kahlan stammered. It didn’t seem fair. To ask the question Kahlan already knew the answer to and yet, in all their time together, Cara had never actually said those words that would make all the difference. “Do you love me?”
“It’s a fine line between love and obsession,” Cara chuckled weakly. “And I’ve been obsessed with you since the first moment I laid eyes upon you.”
“I know,” Kahlan sighed, lowering her head. It had been a fine line between obsession and love, an even finer one between hate and love. Over time, they’d both crossed over from one side to the other, standing somewhere in the middle but still never quite meeting.
Kahlan walked over to Cara, carefully climbing onto the bed and stretching the length of her body next to Cara’s. In Cara’s room, Kahlan always felt out of place, always yearning to be somewhere else. In the days following her defeat of Darken Rahl, Kahlan stood vigil inside Cara’s room, mending her wounds as Cara fought the battle of her life. Fought that battle because of three little words spoken from Kahlan’s lips. Now, lying at Cara’s side having both said and not said those words, Kahlan felt something she hadn’t felt in a very long time.
She felt at home.
Kahlan stretched languidly, a smile forming on her lips at the slow groan of her muscles from another night of extended physical exertion. She reached, hand sliding across the sheets, fingers finding the pillow next to hers. And her eyes opened at the empty space, instantly searching for the warmth that should have been there.
Cara sat on the edge of the mattress, gazing but not gazing at Kahlan. Rolling onto her side, propping her head up with a hand, Kahlan continued reaching with her hand until her fingers threaded with Cara’s.
Cara lifted their conjoined hands, gently kissing the backs of Kahlan’s knuckles. It was then Kahlan saw the cracks in the façade, reading the emotions beneath.
“Cara, what is it?”
Cara lifted her eyes, lips still hovering over Kahlan’s knuckles. “How long have we been married?”
“Almost five years,” Kahlan smiled. “But you already know that.”
“When I proposed this arrangement, I asked you to be my wife, in every way.”
Kahlan wagged her eyebrows. “And I think I’ve more than fulfilled that part of the bargain.”
Cara chuckled weakly, bowing her head before lifting her eyes. “I have one more thing to ask of you.”
“As you are fond of saying, all you have to do is ask and I will give it to you.”
“And if I asked,” Cara lifted her eyes, face etched with uncertainty. “Would you give me a child?”
Realizing Cara was serious, Kahlan stopped the laugh rumbling up her throat. “It shouldn’t be that hard. I’m sure we can find someone willing..”
“Do you really think I would let you carry any child that wasn’t mine?”
“Cara..” Kahlan’s eyes went wide. “I..”
“I spoke to your witch.”
“Shota is definitely not *my* witch.”
“If you say so,” Cara smirked. “I spoke to her and she said there is a way. For you to have my child,” she paused, brows crinkling as if she were trying desperately to find to put the emotions she was told made her weak into words. “Would you?”
Kahlan felt her chest squeeze, the stinging sensation in the corners of her eyes where the tears were welling. Had Cara asked many years ago, Kahlan would have eagerly accepted. For no other reason than because it would mean bringing Richard back to her. It wasn’t Richard she thought of as she rose upwards on the bed, pushed her face towards Cara’s, hovering her lips over her intended target.
“I will,” Kahlan breathed softly. “On one condition.”
“What condition is that?”
Kahlan smiled. “Tell me you love me.”
The smile on Cara’s lips lit up her entire face as she bridged the distance between them. “I love you.”
TWENTY YEARS LATER
“Kahlan!” Cara scoffed. “What are you doing in here? The children are waiting!”
She looked up from the desk where she sat. “The eve of Sonja’s wedding and you still refer to her as a child? She won’t be pleased.”
“Well,” Cara straightened, smoothing the lines of her coat. “That’s what she is. My child. The eldest, anyway. It doesn’t answer the question, what are you doing in here?”
Here was Kahlan’s chambers, the personal quarters designated to her long ago when she and Cara first made their ‘arrangement’. It had been over a decade since Kahlan last stepped into the room. It was still cleaned on a regular basis, the linens changed, the floor swept and the furniture dusted, but Kahlan never entered the room. She finally had no need, until today.
“I’m writing a letter,” she paused, swallowing hard. “To Richard.”
“Oh.” Cara stepped back, moving as if the entire floor had shifted beneath her feet. “Then.. I will leave you to it.”
“Cara,” Kahlan sighed, smiling despite herself. She rose from her chair. “It’s not what you think. It’s just.. Sonja marrying the Seeker. It made me think of him.”
“As I said,” Cara said formerly, no longer able to hide her doubts and insecurities from Kahlan behind a façade. “I’ll leave you to it.”
“After all this time,” Kahlan chuckled, leaning into Cara and brushing their lips across each other. “And you can still doubt that you are the one I truly love.” She stepped backwards an inch, placing the letter into Cara’s hand. “Read it.”
“Kahlan, I can’t..”
“If you don’t, you will spend the rest of your life wondering what I’d written. And I have no interest in watching you torment yourself,” she said sternly. “Read it.”
Cara took the letter, walking over to the bed and sitting on the edge. Kahlan watched her eyes as they scanned the page, the way they narrowed, the crinkling of her brows, the shaking of her fingers. The letter finished, Cara lifted her head, gazing at Kahlan with disbelieving eyes.
“Kahlan, I..” her voice trailed as she blinked at the tears welling in her eyes.
Kahlan approached the bed, kneeling onto the floor between Cara’s legs. “I meant every word,” she said, placing her hands on both of Cara’s thighs. “I couldn’t understand how Fate could be so cruel as to take the man I loved away and leave me with the person I hated with every fiber of my being. Now I understand, sometimes Fate has to be cruel to be kind. I think Sonja was always meant to be the Confessor who married a Seeker and I, the Confessor always meant to marry a Rahl. Not Richard Rahl, Cara Rahl. The Rahl who gave me four beautiful daughters, a world of peace for them to live in. And there was a time when I thought I could never live without Richard and would have gladly had your daughters for the chance to have him back. Now, I could never dream of sacrificing our children, the life we’ve built together, or live a second without you.”
With bare fingers because she‘d stopped wearing the gloves of a Mord‘Sith long ago, Cara reached out, fingertips grazing down Kahlan‘s cheek. “What if it’s not enough for him? To know you’re happy? He’s the Seeker but he’s also a Rahl. I know I would do anything to have you back in my arms. I fear nothing more than losing you, or our children.”
“If Richard makes that choice,” she said, pausing to clasp her hand around Cara’s, brushing her lips across the backs of Cara’s knuckles. “This world or a hundred other worlds, I will find my way to you.”
Cara closed her eyes, bowing her head as she chuckled. “You are exquisite.”
“And you, Cara Rahl, are mine,” Kahlan rose up from her knees to bring her lips to Cara’s. “And I am yours. Forever, now and always.”
“Kahlan,” Cara placed her hands on Kahlan’s hips, pulling Kahlan upwards then rolling onto the mattress. “You keep talking like that and I may have to fulfill my duties as your wife.”
“I thought you said the children were waiting.”
“I don’t think they would mind a delay. But, on one condition.”
Kahlan smiled, brushing the hair from Cara’s face and tucking it behind a ear. “You know all you have to do is ask and I will give it to you.”
“Then,” Cara husked, lips hovering a hairs breath over Kahlan’s. “Tell me you love me.”
Kahlan’s eyes fluttered closed as she bridged the distance between them.
“I love you.”