The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. - Richard Bach
Darken had barely been aware of the existence of the small town until now. It was of no strategic importance to him, had no important food crops, and wasn't known for fomenting rebellion. Now, though, it was the most important place in the Midlands.
Here the Seeker would be born, the half-brother whose destiny would be to kill Darken.
Here the Seeker would die just as he took his first breath, Darken swore. If only he could be sure which child it would be.
"The massacre will not solve your problems, Lord Rahl."
Darken turned from the window. "How did you get in here?"
The woman spread her hands. "I have my ways."
Witch woman, he thought. "And what are you doing here?"
"I have come to warn you. The massacre you plan will turn the people against you like never before. And I foresee many possible futures in which this plan fails. You will murder many innocents and gain nothing but more enemies as survivors and their kin rush to join the rebellion."
Darken didn't think of it as a massacre any more than he thought of his father's death just a week ago as a murder – it had been an assassination, necessary to protect himself. If one town had to be destroyed to safeguard his future and his plans for the Midlands, so be it. You had to cut down trees to build houses, had to destroy in order to create.
"I suppose you have some alternative suggestions," Darken said. Ones that granted her suitable rewards, no doubt.
"Only this, Lord Rahl. Do not destroy Brennidon. I can find the mother of the child for you. Use your magic to reach the town before the troops you have dispatched, and call them off."
Darken rubbed at his top lip. "And in return?"
"I ask no favours," she replied. "I am trying to bring peace to this land, and your plans hold only the seeds of destruction."
Darken didn't trust her, of course, but she raised a valid point. If he could avoid destroying an entire town, he would – he'd even planned to give the townspeople chance to surrender the boy quietly, but he didn't need a magic mirror to know that the chances of that happening were incredibly slim.
There were probably reasons beyond altruism for her actions, but Darken wasn't interested in them. He'd take this chance, and, if it was not successful, he'd have this woman killed and burn half of the Midlands if that's what it took to destroy the Seeker. And let the consequences be on her head – for if she was the prophet she claimed, she must know that.
"Then let us go to Brennidon."
Darken tugged the hood lower over his eyes. The woman – Shota, she'd told him during their preparations – had disguised herself with magic. She was older now, with white hair. One wrinkled hand clutched a stick and she limped along quite convincingly.
Her eyes were bright and alert though, scanning the town square. "This way," she said softly and he followed, and then she held up her hand. "Wait."
They stopped by a water trough. The single horse currently tethered near it regarded them with suspicion and then snorted and resumed drinking.
"See," Shota whispered. In front of them was a row of ramshackle houses. From the one just to their right, a tall man exited and made off into the crowd.
"Zorander," Darken hissed.
"Yes. You are here to kidnap his daughter, Tarralyn ," Shota said.
The wizard was the bane of his existence. Darken felt the rage building, reopening old wounds. That Zeddicus Z'ul Zorander was also responsible in any way for the birth of the Seeker was unbearable. Yet that the Seeker should be a Zorander stood to reason. The destinies of the Rahls and Zoranders were intertwined like two vipers, inseparable and venomous. He should have seen it before.
Darken strode forward and barged into the house. A woman, heavily pregnant, was sitting on an old wooden chair, her nimble fingers embroidering a plain blanket. She looked up from her work at his approach with a half-smile on her lips that died when she saw him. He glared at her, she who contained the seed of his destruction in her womb.
"Who are you?" she began, and then panic set in. The embroidery fell to the floor, forgotten, and she struggled to her feet. "Father," she shouted and Darken quickly crossed the room. He would not let Zeddicus interfere.
He dragged her into his embrace, quickly reciting the words of power that had brought him here.
Darken and Tarralyn vanished, leaving Shota behind in Brennidon.
Tarralyn looked fearfully around her, taking in the throne room and the obvious motifs of the Rahl family. Then she turned to Darken and lifted her chin, doing her best to hide her fear and confusion. He was almost impressed.
"Darken Rahl," she sneered. "You sink so low as to kidnap a pregnant woman, now? Truly your malice knows no bounds."
"If that were true you would already be dead." Darken moved to the throne and sat down. He was flanked by two Mord'Sith; Emma was pale and blonde, while Lara was dusky and brunette. In the hallway two soldiers were on guard. Tarralyn could not escape, and the wizard could not bypass the magical wards. Zeddicus was powerful but even he had his limits. Shota hadn't revealed how she'd managed to bypass his safeguards, and only now did he remember he'd left her behind, and without forcing that fact from her. Still, it would take time for Zeddicus to even find Tarralyn , and Darken would order Giller to strengthen the magical barriers as a precaution.
"What do you want with me?" Tarralyn asked. "Is this about my father?"
Darken's eyes narrowed. "No. Not beyond that he is responsible for my existence in this miserable world, and for yours. And, it follows, for the child you will bear that is fated to kill me. Unless I kill him first."
Tarralyn , appalled, took a step backwards, arms wrapped protectively around herself. "No. Please."
"Co-operate and I may spare your life," Darken said. He would have no use for her after the birth, and while the idea of torturing Zeddicus's daughter wasn't without appeal, it lacked elegance. Besides, she was a victim of the wizard's in some ways, just as he was.
"I won't let you harm my child," Tarralyn said. "My – my son. You're certain it is a boy?"
Darken nodded. "We shall soon see." He snapped his fingers and Lara turned to him. "Take her to her room."
Tarralyn stayed rooted to the spot as the woman took her arm.
"Go with her," Darken said. "I shall not harm you before the child is born, that much I promise you."
He could have had her imprisoned in the dungeon, but that would have meant he was punishing her for a crime she would never commit. It would suggest he doubted his guards and his magic to keep one magic-less woman contained. It would appear unnecessarily cruel.
The more he thought about it, the more he thought how valuable Tarralyn might be to him, a hostage against the actions of her father. Hostage taking was a noble tradition, one he ought to consider reviving. It had nothing to do with shackles. The hostages were welcomed into the household, and treated with deference and respect, so long as their families did nothing treasonous.
Tarralyn was apparently not familiar with the concept, staring at him with horror. Her food was barely touched. Dining alone would have been preferable to her disdain, but Darken was determined to try and win her over. She might resist now, but once the child was dead she would be broken. She would mourn, and then she would adjust to her life here. Maybe he'd even find her a husband from one of the neighbouring kingdoms, let her bear another child. It would be good for political purposes.
"You mean to keep me here forever?"
"Or until your father is dead," Darken said, picking up a goblet. "Tarralyn , is there something wrong with the food? I have far more effective ways to kill you than to poison you. I'm sure you need to eat."
"I would rather starve," she said bravely. She hadn't changed out of the peasant clothes either, though he'd ordered a clean gown to be provided for her. There was no helping some people. The Zorander arrogance ran hot in her blood, even if the magic within her had never manifested itself.
"You can starve in your rags in the dungeon if you wish," Darken said. "Or you may live as a guest in my home. The choice is yours. Make it now."
She shook her head. "I can hardly bear to look at you," she said. "You want to kill my child."
The image of Panis, gloating, rose up in Darken's mind. Taunting him that soon his brother would be born and that his days would be numbered. Killing Panis had been all too easy after that. Darken had seen the Underworld and he had no plans to return there any time soon.
Darken shrugged, his long hair shifting about his shoulders. "Before he kills me. It is self-defence, nothing more."
Tarralyn began weeping. Darken stirred in his chair. He hated crying. The Mord'Sith never cried. It had been trained out of them, this foolish outpouring of emotion. People cried as if it meant something, could change anything. If that were true, Darken's life would have been very different. The last time he'd wept, Panis Rahl had punished him for the weakness by smacking him across the face so hard he'd seen stars. Darken hadn't shed a single tear since.
"I won't let him," Tarralyn said, gulping the words out in between her tears. "I will tell him he must never raise a hand to you. I will protect you from him, if you just let him live."
Darken got to his feet, eyes dark with rage. "Protect me?" he demanded. "You think I need your protection?"
Tarralyn met his gaze, puzzled. "But you're afraid of him," she said.
Darken's dagger was in his hand, though he didn't remember drawing it, and for a moment both their fates hung in the balance. Tarralyn was silent, eyes still wet, but no longer crying, and Darken fought for self-control.
At last he flung the dagger aside and gestured to Lara – assigned as Tarralyn 's personal guard or gaoler depending on one's perspective – who was lurking in the shadows. "Take her to her room."
He stormed out of the door and headed for his own chamber, stopping only to order one of the newest Mord'Sith, Junior Mistress Clarissa, to come with him. He didn't want to sleep alone tonight, and the buxom red-head would be a welcome distraction.
The next evening Tarralyn joined him for their evening meal wearing the voluminous red gown that almost completely concealed her pregnancy. Looking at her was easier when his attention wasn't focussed on the burgeoning threat she held within her.
"Your chamber is to your liking?"
"It is, Lord Rahl," Tarralyn said demurely. For a while they ate and then she asked, "How was your day?"
Darken was stunned. He sought refuge in taking a long swallow of wine. No Mord'Sith had ever asked him – nor, that he could remember, his father before him, – such a question. He shared information with them that they needed to know or that he wished them to be aware of, and their questions were always about specifics.
"It was – why do you care?"
She shrugged. "I was making conversation. And from my window I saw a wagon bring several wounded men to the palace. I was curious."
"A minor skirmish at the border," Darken said. There were those who sought to test the new Lord Rahl's resolve. He had to prove his mettle or risk D'Hara falling into enemy hands. "We are safe here."
"Your Mord'Sith have impressed upon me just how secure the People's Palace is," Tarralyn said, with just a hint of bitterness. "What of the wounded?"
"They are being cared for."
Tarralyn raised an eyebrow, though she said nothing and helped herself to another piece of bread.
"You thought otherwise?" Darken asked.
"Compassion is not what I expected from you," she replied.
Darken sat back in his chair, goblet in one hand. "I take care of my people," he said. "I want peace, but not everyone will agree to my terms. Sometimes conflict is necessary. People are killed. My people. And in return for their sacrifices, how could I do other than ensure their wounds are tended and their families provided for if they die?"
Tarralyn nodded, chewing thoughtfully. "You think sacrifice is acceptable."
"I think sacrifice is necessary," Darken said. "Where do you think the furs that keep you warm come from? The meat in your stew? The wood that makes this table?"
She tipped her head. "One cow might feed and clothe many," she said. "But one life for another – is that a fair trade?"
"It depends on the life," Darken said. He was eighteen, a man now, the Lord Rahl, but it was an effort to remain cordial with her when she questioned him. "Self-preservation is the most basic of instincts. Please, do not spoil the evening with talk of the prophecy."
She stood. "Forgive me, but I can think of nothing else. Please, I am tired. Let me retire to my chamber."
Darken nodded and stood, beckoning for an escort to take Tarralyn to her room for the night. He watched her leave, suddenly eager for the baby to be born, the sooner to be rid of the wretched child. Perhaps then he and Tarralyn could have even more interesting conversations. Despite himself, he rather liked having her around.
"The child comes," Clarissa said as she strode into his study.
Darken nodded, striving to appear nonchalant, and dismissed her, but his heart quickened at the news. He wandered the hallways and finally took to pacing the library like an anxious father-to-be. He leafed through volumes of D'Haran history, unable to concentrate on the words. Just a few more hours and it would be over. Soon he would be safe.
At a movement behind him he turned to see Lara.
"Lord Rahl. The child is arrived and healthy," she announced without preamble.
Darken nodded. He gestured and she nodded in response and led the way to Tarralyn 's chamber.
Tarralyn was alive, and he felt a momentary twinge of anger at himself for not asking about her health. Her welfare was his responsibility, after all. The healer had already left and Tarralyn looked tired but otherwise fine, smiling, even. She was sitting up amongst a mass of pillows and sheets, the baby cradled in her arms.
She looked up as he entered the room, his shadow falling over them. Her expression faltered. "No. Please, let me hold him a little longer, please."
Darken motioned to Lara and, over Tarralyn 's screams and pleas, Lara took the child and brought it – him – to Darken.
"It is a boy?" he asked, despite Tarralyn 's assertion, and Lara nodded, destroying the last faint hope that Shota had been wrong and this was not the son who would one day murder him.
He held the baby, who'd squalled once at being removed from his mother's arms, but was almost immediately calm once more. He planned to snap its neck, a quick and merciful death. He gazed into its eyes – somehow he felt he owed the child that much.
If the baby had cried, the awful high pitched shriek he associated with babies, he'd have killed it there and then. Yet instead the baby stared back at him solemnly, its tongue darting in and out like a snake, but without any noise.
"Richard," Tarralyn said desperately. "His name is Richard."
It was a clever ploy, and it endeared her to him. But Mord'Sith had names and died in his service; the men in the Dragon Corps had names but would lay down their life for him.
"Richard. It's unusual." Not quite as rare as his own name, but enough to raise an eyebrow.
"It's from the Westland," Tarralyn said. "Before the Boundary went up, one of my mother's ancestors bore the name, and we've kept it in the family. My great uncle was Richard and now my son is Richard Zorander."
"Richard," Darken said again and the baby wiggled in his arms and laughed. It was mere coincidence, of course; the child wasn't an hour old yet and had no concept of language. He was absolutely not responding to the ridiculously odd name.
"Please," Tarralyn begged. "Let me hold him."
He should kill the child now. He could give it to Lara and she would do it without hesitation.
"One day this boy will kill me," Darken said. He was trying to reason with her and he knew it, hated himself for it. She was well aware of the prophecy and it was pointless to discuss it further.
"He will not." Tarralyn swallowed and closed her eyes. "I swear by the Creator, She who gives life to all things, I swear by my sight and my blood and my breath. I swear no harm shall come to you from this child and may I be struck down if I am forsworn."
It was an ancient oath. Darken had never heard anyone utter it, though he'd read of it in some of the older volumes in the library. Then Tarralyn opened her eyes again.
"Master Rahl guide us. Master Rahl teach us. Master Rahl protect us. In your light we thrive. In your mercy –" she hesitated, took a breath, "in your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom we are humbled. We live only to serve."
He had never thought to have a Zorander swear fealty to him. It was unnerving, though he'd never admit it. Darken looked down at the baby – Richard – once more. Richard yawned.
"Mercy, Lord Rahl," Tarralyn begged. "I will do whatever you ask of me, but please do not kill my child."
He could not give in, could not show weakness. Darken sought for a way to reconcile the sudden conflict within him.
"There might be a ritual needed to ensure that the prophecy dies along with him," Darken said at last. "I cannot take that chance. For the moment, he shall live."
He handed Richard back to Tarralyn . Tears streamed down her face.
"Thank you," she wept. "Thank you."
Darken left the room, his thoughts in turmoil. It was supposed to have been so easy. He'd killed many times over, the guilty and the innocent alike when it suited his purposes, young and old. He had planned on having Brennidon razed to the ground if it had come to it. Why should this one child be any different?
Clarissa was waiting by his door that evening, lust in her blue eyes. Darken welcomed her into his bed, but while his body went through the motions, his mind was elsewhere.
Darken dispatched several Quads and Mord'Sith to search for Shota. She was the one behind the prophecy of his doom, and so she was the one who would know if this truly was the child mentioned in it – and the one who might be able to find a way to void the prophecy.
Panis had believed fervently in the prophecy, so much so that he'd been willing to wait for a son to be born and let the burden of assassination fall upon the child, rather than kill Darken himself.
Darken could not help himself from trying to thwart the prophecy, but he knew there might be alternatives. He sent a messenger to seek out any Sisters of the Light, in the hope that the Creator's servants might have insight into the prophecy, for they, too, were slavish in their devotion to mystical guidance. The messenger was to pose as a defector from the D'Haran army and claim to be looking to find and protect the Seeker.
He sent a similar message to Aydindril, where the Mother Confessor held sway, for her people waited anxiously for the prophesised saviour, a Seeker who would require a Confessor walk at his side.
He demanded Giller work whatever spells he knew to divine the future of the young boy, Richard. That a specific ritual might be required had been a desperate ploy but it could be true.
Somehow, keeping Tarralyn happy and on his side had become desperately important to him. A happy and compliant hostage would be much easier to live with, of course, but was there more to it? Darken refused to entertain such thoughts.
Tarralyn was sitting in the courtyard, the bench bathed in sunlight. She was cradling Richard in her arms, singing softly to him. Darken hesitated, unwilling to intrude upon the quiet, private moment. She sensed him though, turning her head.
He'd not seen her for several days while she recovered and he was busy with sending out messengers. The fear in her face was undeniable, and he saw how she tried to cover the baby as much as possible with her hands, holding him tight against her body. Richard didn't approve of this and mewled in annoyance.
"Tarralyn ." Rahl walked slowly over to her. "Let me see him."
Hesitantly she moved to allow him to see Richard. Rahl gazed at him and Richard screwed up his face and then gurgled appreciatively.
"I will not harm him, not today," Darken said. "Tarralyn , there is something you must know. The boy's father, you know who he was?"
"A gentle man," she said. "Kind and compassionate."
Darken gave her a twisted smile. "No. Whatever illusions he employed to hide his physical appearance, whatever pretence he made to you, he was not a kind man. He was my own father, Panis Rahl."
"That's a lie." In her horror she spoke out against him harshly, clutching at Richard again as she realised her mistake.
"I wish it were," Darken said. "Panis was determined to sire a son to kill me, for he believed wholeheartedly in that wretched prophecy."
Tarralyn shook her head. "But, but I can't accept that…Panis Rahl? I would never have had anything to do with him had I known. My Lord," she added quickly.
"I cannot blame you for that," Darken said. "He was not a good man."
Tarralyn sat in silence for a while, digesting this information. Darken strolled around the courtyard, admiring the statues, running his fingers through the lavender stems so the flower heads released their pleasant scent.
"Then Richard is your brother," Tarralyn said at last, while Darken was gazing into the fish pond.
"Then he is Richard Rahl."
"And heir to my throne," Darken pointed out. "Another reason he is so dangerous to me."
Tarralyn bit at her lip. Richard waved his arms around as much as her grip would allow him to. "He's your family," she said.
It hadn't been of any concern to him before this moment, beyond the fact that Panis's hatred had conceived this child. When Tarralyn spoke of family, it seemed to mean something.
"Yes." Darken looked at the sky, judging the time by the height of the sun. "Will you join me this evening, once Richard is asleep?" To his surprise he found he'd missed her companion these last few days.
"As you wish, Lord Rahl," she said.
He wished she had merely agreed, but at least she would dine with him. Besides, Mistress Nathair was due here this afternoon to report on her latest batch of Mord'Sith recruits. He had an empire to run and not all his thoughts could be of Richard and Tarralyn .
"What of Richard?"
"Mistress Lara will guard him with her life while he sleeps," Darken said. It was a gesture of trust, for this meant Tarralyn would be allowed to wander the hallways from her chamber to the dining room unaccompanied – though he doubted she would try to run without the baby. At her frown he added, realising a Mord'Sith might not seem the best choice of nurse, "Lieutenant Bale has recently become a father. He will also stand guard, and your maid, Sarrah, can stay with Richard if you wish."
She nodded. "Thank you, Lord Rahl."
A few weeks later Darken visited Tarralyn 's chamber, nodding to Lara, who was, as always, standing guard.
Tarralyn was sat in a chair by the window, embroidering and talking to Richard, happy in the crib Darken had provided, while she stitched.
"You see how the red brightens it up," she said. "It will be a nice addition to our room when it is finished." She looked up and saw Darken and immediately made to stand.
Darken held out one hand, staying her movement. "Do not disturb yourself. I have come to inform you that I will be visiting some of the Mord'Sith temples. I will be away one week, two at most. The staff will take care of your every need in my absence; call on them as you will."
"Very well," she said.
"Do not try to escape," Darken said. "Mistress Rana is in charge of the Palace while I am away and should you try to leave she will not hesitate to incapacitate you."
"I understand that I am your prisoner," she said.
A silken cage was still a cage, though he'd tried to make her comfortable. "Hostage," he reminded her, though it was semantics from her point of view. Now that Richard was born, he could let her go and, as gesture of good faith he said, "I could consider setting you free if you would agree to leave Richard here with me."
"I cannot leave my child," Tarralyn said, as he knew she would.
"You are an attentive mother," Darken said. "Richard is lucky to have you."
She put aside her needlework, curiosity in her face. "I love him, and so I want to take care of him. It is in a mother's nature to want to be there for their child."
"Even a mother's love cannot cheat Death," Darken recited softly. It was a line from an old ballad. "Death will take a child and Death will take a spouse. Death will take a mother. Death knows no bounds."
Tarralyn gazed at him, and he could see the question unspoken on her lips, politeness and perhaps fear of arousing his ire keeping her from saying the words aloud.
"My mother died when I was very young," Darken said. Tarralyn was maybe six years older than him, about the age his mother had been when she gave birth to him. She hadn't even celebrated her thirtieth birthday. "I barely remember her."
Tarralyn bowed her head. "I'm sorry."
He gestured with one hand that it was nothing, even though the loss was still painful to him. What might his life have been like with a mother to watch over him? If only his mother had been there to protect him from Panis's wrath and to sing songs to him each night as Tarralyn did to Richard.
He realised that jealousy was what he felt when he watched Tarralyn with Richard. Envy for the maternal love he'd never had or couldn't remember, a deep desire to have someone care about him unconditionally – not because they had been trained to do so, as the Mord'Sith were, but because he was worth loving.
It was a good thing he would be away for her, he realised. She was infecting his thoughts, confusing him. He was Lord Rahl, and this visit to the temples was to impress that upon the Mord'Sith, a mark of his claim to the throne. Lord Rahl was not weak. Lord Rahl did not need to be loved.
The tour went well, until, on his way back to the Palace, an assassination attempt was made on his life.
"Lord Rahl," Tarralyn said when he strode into the throne room, a presumably false smile on her face. "Welcome – " the words died on her lips. She shifted Richard in her arms. "You're bleeding."
He shook his head. "It is Mistress Emma's blood. She died protecting me from an assassin."
"Emma?" Tarralyn 's lower lip trembled and Darken didn't think he could control himself if she started crying. Richard stirred and gurgled, sensing his mother's distress. "My Lord. I am so sorry. Lara? They are – were – close."
"She has been notified." He was somehow not surprised that Tarralyn had tried befriending the Mord'Sith set to guard her. "Mistress Emma will be appropriately honoured and mourned this evening when she is laid to rest."
"I do not have anything black to wear," Tarralyn said. Sombre clothing was preferred for funerals but only nobles usually had the option of owning clothing specifically for such occasions. That she would be aware of the custom of wearing black did not surprise him at all; that she wanted to attend did. Then her face fell. "Forgive my forwardness. You ought to change out of those robes. I will order food, if you can stand to eat."
If not for his exhaustion, both physical and emotional from the day's events, he might have been more angry or even amused at Tarralyn 's attempt to play at Lady Rahl. Instead he merely nodded.
"I will have something suitable delivered to your chamber," he said and turned on his heel.
"The person who killed Emma. What happened to them?"
Darken glanced over his shoulder at her. "Some of this blood is also his."
Tarralyn nodded, satisfied. Darken went to his room and tore off his soiled garments, throwing them petulantly into the fire. He pulled on a soft robe and sank down by the fire to gather himself.
Despite custom, as Lord Rahl he would wear red to the funeral. Tarralyn could do the same. He'd had gowns made for her as she regained her figure under the ministrations of his healer; red, and the blue that was her favourite, and a green that brought out her eyes.
"Captain Grant," he called and the dark-skinned soldier entered his room, giving a crisp salute "Inform Tarralyn Zorander she is to wear red to the service this evening."
"Sir." Grant went on his mission and Darken closed his eyes, desperate for a few moments peace away from the burdens of office.
Tarralyn was the only one to weep openly at the service. Perhaps it was her hormones, Darken thought. Perhaps it was merely that she was the only one in attendance who hadn't been trained by the army or the Mord'Sith to hold their emotions in check.
Lara was deeply affected, though only a slight gleam in her eyes and an occasional tremble of her lower lip betrayed her feelings. She'd taken a lock of hair as a memento and kissed Emma's forehead. These were acceptable displays of affection for Sisters of the Agiel.
"Where is Richard?" Darken asked as everyone but Lara dispersed as soon as the ceremony was concluded.
"With Sarrah and Clarissa," Tarralyn said. "Clarissa hated Emma and would not have wanted to attend, so I asked her to keep Richard safe. He might have fretted during the service and disturbed the mourners."
"You trust Mistress Clarissa?" Darken asked, frowning.
"I told her it was on your orders," Tarralyn admitted. "And that if a hair on his head was harmed she would answer to you and to Mistress Rana. Not that he has any hair, yet." She gave him a shy smile.
Darken blinked, unsure how to react to her manipulations.
When Richard was four months old, Captain Grant and Mistress Rana brought Shota before Darken Rahl. They threw her to her knees in front of him. Behind him, Tarralyn stood with Richard bundled up in a carrying sling.
"The information was correct," Rana said. "She was exactly where they said she would be."
Finally. There had been no word from Aydindril, nor from the Sisters of the Light, and Giller's divinations had been fruitless; this was the only success in his quest to uncover the truth behind the prophecy.
Shota glared at him. The Rada'Han round her neck gleamed dully in the candlelight. "Darken Rahl. What have I done to deserve such treatment?"
"Save making the prophecy that turned my father against me?" Darken asked. Deep down he suspected that even without the prophecy Panis would never have truly loved him nor respected him; a son was a pawn at best and a poor replacement for his own self-assured talents. But it was the prophecy that had made Panis hate him.
"I speak only the truth of what I scry," Shota said. "You would have me lie to spare your feelings? Are you such a coward that you cannot face the truth?"
"You dare insult me?" Darken would not be branded a coward. His fist clenched involuntarily. Shota held his gaze, defiant.
"Lord Rahl?" Tarralyn said.
At her voice, he forced himself to open his hand, thankful for the interruption. He would never punish people for telling him the truth; he'd sworn that after seeing his father be seduced by lies and half-truths his advisers told him for fear of retribution if the truth displeased him.
"Tarralyn Zorander," Shota said, her eyes falling upon Tarralyn and Richard. "So, the child lives." She shook her head. "I have tried to help you, Lord Rahl, and had you spare Brennidon, but this is foolishness."
Darken glanced at Tarralyn who was eyeing daggers at Shota. "His mother has sworn an oath that the boy will not oppose me."
Shota gave a harsh laugh. "You think your death must be one of malice? Perhaps one day you practice your swordplay with him and he stabs you. Maybe one day he doesn't tighten your saddle and you fall from your horse. You have at least two more years, that much I am certain of, but beyond that my foresight becomes increasingly vague except for this; one day that child will be the death of you, Darken Rahl."
Darken gestured impatiently to Rana and Grant. "Take her to the D'Haran border and remove the Rada'Han. Then release her." Imprisoning her would gain him nothing and would possibly earn him more contempt from Tarralyn .
When they had left the room, he turned to Tarralyn . "It seems the prophecy will not be thwarted by your oath."
She bit at her lip, staring down at Richard.
"We have two more years to find another way," Darken said.
Tarralyn turned astonished eyes on him. "You will spare him?"
Tarralyn crossed the room and awkwardly got down on one knee. Darken shook his head.
"Do not kneel before me," he said. "You are a guest and this is my half-brother. It is not seemly." He held out his hand and helped her to her feet. Her skin was warm and soft against his and she smelled of roses and baby. Richard was fast asleep, content, one thumb in his mouth.
Tarralyn smiled softly. "Would you like to hold him?"
Darken hadn't touched Richard since the day he'd been born. He shook his head. "I wouldn't want to wake him."
She nodded and bowed her head briefly. "I will see you at dinner?"
"Yes." Darken watched her leave. Two years.
It wasn't long enough.
Three weeks later, Rana escorted the messenger to Aydindril to the courtyard where Darken was tending his roses. He found working in the garden to be calming, especially when Tarralyn sat upon the nearby stone bench to embroider and Richard lay, watchful, upon a red blanket spread upon the grass.
"What news from Aydindril?" Darken asked, and saw the tension in Rana's body and the madness in the messenger's eyes.
"That the prophecy cannot be escaped," the man said, each word dripping with hate. "The Seeker will kill the tyrant Darken Rahl and the Midlands shall rejoice upon that day."
"Is that so?" Darken asked, idly opening and closing the small shears he was holding. "Did your Mistress tell you this?"
"Yes. You are not worthy to speak of her," the messenger said. "If she had ordered it, I would kill you myself, but she bids me to stay my hand. Your time will come soon enough. Your father's blood is on your hands and you will answer to the Keeper for that."
Darken lifted a hand to Rana. "Take him away. Execute him." She nodded, prodding the messenger with her Agiel when he stumbled.
Tarralyn was on her feet, face pale.
"We are safe," Darken said. "The Mother Confessor has Confessed him, but even she will not risk beginning a war she knows she will likely lose by attempting an assassination within my own palace."
"You're going to kill him?" Tarralyn asked, moving to stand next to him.
"Execution is the kindest option," Darken said. "He will pine for his Mistress evermore."
She reached out and touched his arm. "You could let him go. Show mercy."
"His Mistress will have no further use for him," Darken said, choosing not to pull away. "At best she will command him to serve her by being a good man; tell him to become a farmer, for example. His free will is lost. His life will never again be his own."
Tarralyn shook her head sadly. "What he said…did you really kill your father?"
"Yes." He shouldn't explain. It was none of her business anyway, and yet he found himself telling her everything he knew about the prophecy and how he had never been loved, always feared and despised by his father. He didn’t regret killing Panis and he told her so, and to his surprise found no condemnation in her eyes.
When he'd finished, she scooped Richard up and pressed the baby into Darken's arms.
"He doesn't fear or despise you," she said. "And for your willingness to try to avert the prophecy, neither do I. Look at him and do not fear or despise him, either. He is your family now. He will not betray you."
Richard stuck out his tongue at Darken and one chubby fist caught at Darken's finger, clutching at it tightly. Darken smiled and Tarralyn leant one hand on Darken's shoulder and tickled Richard under the chin with the other.
"He will grow up without a father," she said softly, "but maybe that isn't so terrible. My own father quickly tired of me once I was no longer a tiny baby, innocent and cute to his eyes, and clearly without magic. He and my mother argued so often that she told him to leave. I hadn't seen him in years until he showed up in Brenndion, babbling about prophecy. And from what you say of Panis. – it sickens me enough that I was lied to, but it would sicken me further to have had him raise Richard as he raised you, without love. At least Richard will always know love."
Peace did not come easily to the land. Darken's army quelled many a rebellion and forced back a number of attacks on D'Hara. Treaties were signed, uneasy truces were formed, but war was in the air, like the scent of blood upon an autumn breeze.
Richard thrived and Darken spent time with his brother and with Tarralyn as often as his duties allowed. Richard's first birthday came and went without incident. The months flew by and soon Richard was wandering around the castle, pointing to things and asking 'Dat?' and, soon enough, "What dat?"
Sometimes Bale's wife, Greta, and her son, Joel, joined Tarralyn and Richard for a walk in the grounds. It chafed her to remain within the environs of the Palace, Darken knew, but Tarralyn never mentioned it to him. He hoped Greta's company lifted her spirits.
Richard was more interested in the adults in his life than Joel or the cook's youngest daughter, who Tarralyn had tried to introduce him to. To Lara's apparent distaste, Richard adored her. "La-la," he would say, waving at her and she would respond gravely, "Master Richard." Richard would laugh and offer her a toy to play with while Tarralyn hid a smile at the Mord'Sith's seriousness.
Darken was Da-Da. "I am not your father," he'd said, frowning but Tarralyn had brushed his concerns aside.
"It's your name he's trying to say. Besides, he has no father to be made jealous by it," she said. "Lord Rahl, he loves you."
"If he is to call me Darken, then you ought to also," Darken said, in a moment of madness. He regretted it immediately, but found himself thrilled when she smiled and said, "As you wish, Darken."
Indeed, Richard did love him. At bedtime, Darken told him stories, half-remembered tales of brave princes rescuing princesses, and stories of brave Mord'Sith and D'Haran Generals who kept the land safe from monsters. "Nigh-nigh," Richard would yawn after a story and let Darken tuck him in. The warmth that spread in his chest when he turned to see Tarralyn watching him with the boy worried him; he could not afford to be weak.
Richard's second birthday was in one month. They never spoke of it, but both Darken and Tarralyn knew that only five more months remained before Richard posed a danger to Darken – at least according to Shota's prophecy. Their halcyon days were almost over.
"The prophecy says the Seeker will kill the tyrant Darken Rahl," Tarralyn mused one evening, her brown hair shining in the firelight. "If Richard is never named Seeker, we might avert your death."
It was an interesting thought. "It is his destiny," Darken said at last. "Destiny is harder to change than prophecy."
She shook her head, pacing the stone floor. "The tyrant Darken Rahl. If we could change how people perceive you –"
He loved that she said 'we' but it sounded like a desperate ploy. "I have never considered myself a tyrant, merely an effective leader. Someone must make the hard choices. Someone must be willing to do terrible things for the greater good." He reached for a piece of fruit and tried to change the subject. "It is almost Richard's birthday."
"We will have a party," Darken said impulsively. Richard would be pleased, and Tarralyn would be pleased that Richard was happy. Furthermore, what tyrant would throw a party for his would-be murderer? "Perhaps if the people see how I care for my brother they will think better of me."
When he drew up the plans the following day, Rana voiced concerns about his security during such an event. Darken would not be dissuaded. "I will not hide away in my palace," he said. "We will take all the precautions you think are necessary, but the party will go ahead."
There would be cake, and gifts, decorations, and a puppet show, Darken insisted. No expense was to be spared.
Even the decorations were the Rahl colours of red and gold, but Tarralyn couldn't complain. Darken had kidnapped her and intended to kill Richard the moment he was born, yet now he was throwing a lavish party to celebrate his brother's second birthday. Tarralyn thanked the Creator every day for keeping her and her son safe.
The guests were relaxed and enjoying themselves but the soldiers and Mord'Sith were on high alert. Tarralyn watched the puppeteer, The Amazing Reuben Rybnik, getting ready for the show. He was a young man with a shock of pale blond hair and a slightly arrogant sneer on his lips. For some reason he seemed familiar, though Tarralyn couldn't think where she would know Reuben from.
Richard clapped his hands together in delight at another gift. Tarralyn had said he shouldn't be spoilt but the guests were eager to impress Lord Rahl with their generosity. Even if she dressed him in a new outfit every day, Richard would still outgrow most of the clothes before he ever got to wear them. She'd go through the presents later, donate some of the clothes and toys to the poorer families of D'Hara.
Lara had already been gifted with a thin red and purple scarf by Richard who'd decided she would look nice in it and waved it at "La-La" until Darken had lifted one eyebrow at her and she'd reluctantly wrapped it around her neck. Tarralyn had been trying to get Richard to pronounce his R's now he was older but when it came to Lara he just shook his head. "La-la," he said, and so La-La she remained.
The puppet show began and Richard was enthralled. He sat on a tiny chair specially made for him, at centre stage. The puppets danced and fought and told jokes. With the puppeteer out of sight Tarralyn was able to focus on his voice and her sense of unease grew. Perhaps she should tell Mistress Rana that she didn't trust the man. Rana wouldn't hesitate to throw the puppeteer out – one less person in the palace was one less security concern. Yet Richard was enjoying himself and Darken would be angry if she disrupted the show.
Rueben stepped out from behind the tiny stage when the show was finished, bowing as applause filled the room.
"I have one final trick," Rueben announced, tugging at his sleeve with long, thin fingers. Tarralyn felt a prickle of static at the back of her neck and a tingling in her palms.
Reuben spread his hands, then reached for Richard with one hand and pointed the palm of the other at Darken.
"Stop him," Tarralyn yelled, jumping to her feet. She threw herself at Darken and his chair tipped over. She felt heat, and saw flames from the corner of her eye. She and Darken both hit the floor. There was utter chaos, screams and the smell of burning. People were running and she wanted to get to Richard but she couldn't even get up without being trodden on.
It felt like hours but probably only a matter of seconds passed before Tarralyn did manage to sit up. "Darken?"
His sleeve was still smouldering, the skin of his shoulder red and blackened. He clutched at the elbow of his wounded arm, face pale, eyes filled with involuntary tears of pain.
"Richard," he gasped.
Tarralyn crawled towards the stage. "Richard?"
Lara was crouched down and as Tarralyn approached she moved to reveal Richard, sobbing but apparently unhurt. Tarralyn picked up him, shushing and holding him close.
Mistress Rana and Captain Grant had Reuben on his knees, Rana's Agiel a hairsbreadth from the back of his neck. His long robes were singed along the left hand side, presumably where one of the Mord'Sith had deflected some of the magical fire back at him.
"Wizard," she accused.
"Tarralyn ," Reuben said. "I was trying to save your son. What has Rahl done to you that you sit at his side and pretend you are not a prisoner?"
"Father?" Tarralyn asked, her voice trembling. He was a First Wizard, and changing his appearance would be easy for him – even Panis had fooled her and his magic was nothing in comparison.
"Yes. I have been trying to rescue you."
Liar, she thought. He wanted to rescue Richard first and foremost. He'd only sought her out once she was pregnant. She was nothing to him, a vessel, mother of his grandchild. The male heir, the Seeker, was more important to Zeddicus than his own daughter ever had been or ever would be.
"Fetch the Rada'Han," Tarralyn said, blinking away tears. She bounced Richard on her hip, as much to distract herself as to comfort him. "Put the wizard in the dungeon until I can question him further."
"Tarralyn ," Zedd cried but Rana applied the Agiel until his words were drowned out by his screams.
"It shall be as you command," Rana said.
"We need to secure the palace," Tarralyn said. "Captain, find General Egremont – he was at the gates, last I saw him, get this castle secure." Egremont was probably already overseeing things as the guests fled, but she wanted him inside, searching the palace for accomplices and making her home safe once more.
He gave her a salute. "Yes, Lady Tarralyn ."
Finally Tarralyn was free to deal with Darken. Lara had righted his chair, and helped him back into it. Her scarf still sat jauntily about her neck.
"I have sent for the healer," she said.
"Thank you, Mistress," Tarralyn said. "Darken. I think we should go to your chambers. We will be safer there."
He nodded. Tarralyn kissed Richard's head – he was quiet now, anxious but not crying. She carried him along the corridors with Lara assisting Darken, and two guards in front of them and two behind her.
Even so, Tarralyn didn't feel safe until they were in Darken's bedroom. She'd never been here before. It was large, as she'd expected, but more sparsely decorated than she'd imagined. A bed with luxurious drapes and bedding, a side table with a lantern, a comfortable chair by the fireplace, a tapestry on one wall, and a sword mounted on another, a generous closet, and a rug by the bed.
"You saved my life," Darken said from where he sat on the edge of the bed, wincing as Lara tried to remove his robe, parts of which were seared into his skin.
"One of the Mord'Sith deflected most of the fire," Tarralyn said. "Lara, do you have a knife?"
Lara nodded. "Yes, my lady." She took out a slim dagger and sliced at the robe.
"If not for you, it might have been more than my arm that was scorched," Darken said. "Thank you."
It had all happened so fast. Tarralyn remembered seeing Reuben's – Zedd's – hand on Richard's shoulder and fearing he was about to harm or kidnap him. Which was probably what he had intended, after striking at Darken. She'd raised the alarm to save Richard. Protecting Darken had just been instinct. She'd felt the warmth as the flames licked past her – she could have been hurt or killed.
Suddenly dizzy, Tarralyn sank down into the chair. Richard slid from her lap and watched the proceedings solemnly.
He's done nothing to me, she thought, remembering her father's question. He had given her and Richard a chance at life, had treated her with deference, had come to love Richard – and sometimes she saw something in Darken's eyes that suggested he cared deeply for her, too.
"Father," Tarralyn said coldly. The warm red cape around her shoulders could not stop a shiver that came from her emotional state rather than the chilly air of the dungeons. She kept her chin raised and her hands clasped together, a pose worthy of the Lady Tarralyn that the Dragon Corp and Mord'Sith obeyed without question.
The Rada'Han had stripped him of his magical powers and he was older now, his hair longer and turning white, his face lined and hands thinner with age. He turned sad eyes upon her from his seat on the straw covered floor.
"My darling Tarralyn ," he began.
"You will listen," she interrupted. "Darken has done everything in his power to break the prophecy. He has raised his brother alongside him as kindred."
Tarralyn sighed. "I am as disgusted by Panis's deception of me as you are, believe me. He came to me disguised, as you came here in disguise, both of you with Darken's murder on your mind, both of you using me and now Richard as a pawn in your games. Enough. I will not be toyed with any longer. I will not let you turn my son into a murderer."
Zedd was mercifully silent. Tarralyn tugged at her cloak, smoothing the material over her hips. "Darken is Richard's half-brother. Darken is my nephew, I think, and very nearly my step-son though I never married his father. And neither of those are as important as how much he has shown that he cares for me and for Richard. He is my family."
"So am I," Zedd said.
She nodded. "Yes. It pains me to have my own father locked away. But I am between the Keeper and the Boundary here, with my father on one side and Darken on the other."
Zedd regarded her solemnly. "What do you suggest, then?"
She took a steadying breath. "The healer is having problems repairing the damage your Wizard's Fire did," she said. "So you are going to be taken to Darken's chamber. Your Rada'Han will be removed and you will heal him. Then you will leave this palace and you will not return until I invite you."
"Tarralyn ," Zedd protested. "You cannot ask this of me."
"Then much as it hurts me, you will remain here. Indefinitely." Tarralyn turned on her heel and walked away, ignoring Zedd calling her name. She sagged a little when she rounded the corner, out of his sight. Only when she was calm once more did she head back to Darken's side. She would not let her emotional turmoil be the cause of any further distress between Darken and Richard.
The next day Tarralyn again went down to the dungeons. Zedd smiled warmly at her approach, only to frown in dismay when she once more uttered the terms of his release. He again refused.
"I could make him more amenable," Mistress Rana offered with a predatory smile. Tarralyn shook her head quickly, trying to find the words to put her off without offending the fearsome Mord'Sith.
"No, thank you. He will give in soon, I am certain of it. And being forced to capitulate to me will be torture enough."
Capitulate, she thought. Darken's impressive vocabulary had rubbed off on her, just as – fanciful as the thought may be – that her gentleness had rubbed off on him.
No, she thought, her skirts sweeping the stairs as she made her way back to the upper levels. There was still much anger and ambition within Darken. It was her presence, his desire to please her that would sometimes stay his hand when he was prone to violence. If she left him now, who knows what horrors he might inflict upon the land?
She couldn't leave him, for he wouldn't let Richard out of his sight, partly out of fear and partly out of love. Yet if Darken did release her and her son, he would be alone once more. The Mord'Sith and Dragon Corps were loyal comrades but not family – they would not call him on his rage, they would not comfort him with soft words in his moments of despair. For his sake, as much as for Richards, and for the sake of the Midlands, she would stay.
Besides, she'd grown accustomed to the People's Palace and the luxury and safety it provided. Richard would never be cold, never go hungry, would receive an unparalleled education. She truly did think of herself as a hostage and not a prisoner now – and the salute from the captain she passed was proof that they too saw her as an honoured member of the household and not a captive.
The next day Zedd agreed to her terms, though she could see that it cost him dearly. Richard was safely locked away with Sarrah and Lara, and Tarralyn sat on the bed with Darken's head in her lap to discourage any further magical attack.
"You chose me," Darken said when Zedd had been escorted from the castle.
"I chose what was best for Richard. And eventually Zedd chose me over his hate," Tarralyn said. "I am simply glad it is over." She ran gentle fingers over the freshly healed skin.
This moment felt so right. Yet it was a matter of weeks before the prophecy became active once more. She prayed silently to the Creator that she had done the right thing, and that night, on her knees, she prayed for guidance.
They were sitting in the courtyard, watching Richard try to teach Joel the rules of a game he'd invented using twigs and a toy cart.
"My father," Tarralyn said, unable to hide the hint of distaste in her voice, "always said names have power."
She wasn't talking about how the name Rahl might strike fear into an enemy's heart because of the reputation of the family. She was talking magically. She was aware that to know someone's real name was akin to possessing an item of their clothing, though admittedly not as powerful as having a piece of their hair or a drop of their blood. A spell was just a sequence of words that channelled energy, and a name was a special kind of word; an identifier, a vessel filled with an individual's energy.
She was named for her mother, Eralynn. Darken had been saddled with a name that conjured up an image of a shadow falling across the land, the extinguishing of light.
"What of it?" Darken asked.
Tarralyn leaned over and tucked a strand of his hair back behind his ear. "What if you were not Darken Rahl?"
It was a simple idea. Too simple, surely. Yet she had dreamed of this last night and a dream could be a message from the Creator, could it not?
"Changing one's name does not change one's essence," Darken said, though he rubbed at his lip thoughtfully.
"Does not General Sanford have more power and respect than Captain Sanford?" That had been an important aspect of the dream. It felt like déjà-vu to utter the words aloud.
"No, no," Richard said in exasperation. "Stick. Stick like – " he waved it around in demonstration. Joel sighed.
"I'm sorry," Tarralyn said, when Joel began to copy Richard's actions and Darken was still silent. "It was a far-fetched notion."
"No," Darken said, a smile spreading across his features. "It is worth the attempt. A naming ceremony to rename me – we will have Richard named also, for I robbed you both of that when he was born. There is only one thing."
"Name me. I do not know what my mother wished to call me, because my father made all the major decisions in my life and, I believe in hers. It would please me if you would choose me a name."
Tarralyn shrugged, floored by the unexpected demand. "Let me think on it. I had picked out Richard's name weeks before he was born – Richard for a boy and Anna for a girl. You cannot ask this of me and expect an immediate answer."
He nodded. "You have a week," he said. "That is how long the ceremony will take to arrange."
"Stick," Richard said again. "That-it. Yes." He beamed with delight as Joel completed the manoeuvre with the twig.
"What are you playing, Richard?" Tarralyn called.
"He a wizard," Richard said, unaware of the uneasy looks this drew from his guardians.
"And what are you?" Darken asked and Tarralyn 's heart pounded in her chest, terrified that somehow Richard had heard them talking and would say "Seeker".
"I a gar," Richard said as if this was obvious. "RAAAA."
Joel waved the twig around helpfully and Richard fell on the floor.
"Oof," he said. "You win. Wanna play new game?"
"La-La," Richard called. "Play horsie. Me first."
Lara, who had been sitting quietly in the sunshine gave a long suffering sigh and moved to lift Richard up onto her back.
Incense burned in copper braziers, filling the hall with scented smoke. Darken knelt before Giller, who splashed salt water over Darken's shoulders.
"Before the Creator we stand," Giller said, "and ask her to bless this life, to watch over him all of his days."
Tarralyn stepped forward. Sarrah was holding Richard, whose nose was wrinkled up at the incense but was otherwise fascinated by the proceedings.
"What name shall be bestowed upon him?" Giller asked.
"Daegen Rahl," Tarralyn said in a clear voice. "The dark-haired son of the morning."
"I name you thus, Daegen Rahl, in the sight of the Creator and all present. Go forth in Her love and be happy all of your days."
The carefully selected audience applauded politely. Darken – Daegen – stood.
Sarrah passed Richard to Tarralyn , who balanced him on her hip. She walked him around the room, through the thickest of the smoke, and then crouched at Giller's feet. Richard made a noise of annoyance at the water being splashed upon them but Tarralyn shushed him. She'd explained the ceremony and he knew he was supposed to be a good boy because it was a very important day.
"Before the Creator we stand, and ask her to bless this life, to watch over him all of his days," Giller said again. "What name shall be bestowed upon him?"
"Richard Zorander Rahl," Tarralyn said. "The brave ruler; may he lead with compassion."
"I name you thus, Richard Zorander Rahl, in the sight of the Creator and all present. Go forth in Her love and be happy all of your days."
When the applause had died down, and Richard had gone to complain to Sarrah and Lara that he was wet, Daegen took Tarralyn 's hand.
"There is one more order of business," he said. He cupped her chin in his free hand and bent to kiss her right cheek and then her left. She was too astonished to protest, though she blushed red at the unexpected, but not unwelcome, contact.
"Tarralyn Zorander, I name you Lady Tarralyn , for you are mother to Richard, my brother, and I recognise you as kin."
She smiled, blinking hard at this unexpected honour.
"Now we will celebrate," Daegen declared. Richard forgot about being damp because there was cake to be had, and Tarralyn squeezed Daegen's hand as they walked into the dining room side by side.
The summons came early one morning. Mistress Lara had banged on Tarralyn 's door and demanded that Lady Tarralyn join Lord Rahl in the throne room immediately.
Tarralyn dressed as quickly as she could, by which time Sarrah had arrived to take care of Richard. Tarralyn hurried to the throne room, terrified that there was bad news, that war was on their doorstep, that her father was back.
"Lady Tarralyn ," Daegen said, and at his calm tone, she slowed her pace and walked gracefully to the throne alongside his. She sat, smoothing her skirts over her knees. In front of them was a woman dressed in red robes, but not the deep red of D'Hara. She wore a veil over her hair and regarded Tarralyn with unconcealed curiosity.
"This is Sister Rachel," Daegen said. "She brings news of a prophecy."
Tarralyn nodded, keeping her expression neutral despite her inner fears. "Is that so?"
Sister Rachel gave a curt nod. "Evil rises in the east," she recited, "war will surely come. Only if the brothers Rahl lead their army against the enemies of magic will peace be found. Yea, and the Boundary will fall, and the Seeker will take up his sword. The Confessor will retrieve the stone, and the Woman in Red shall be her protector."
Tarralyn let this sink in for a while. The brothers Rahl? But Richard was still only a child.
"When is this supposed to happen?" she asked.
Sister Rachel spread her empty hands. "The Creator has not shown us when."
"That's the problem with prophecy," Daegen mused. "It's always so vague."
"Wait," Tarralyn called as Sister Rachel made to leave. "What of the prophecy that the Seeker will kill the tyrant Darken Rahl?"
Sister Rachel glared at her and at her Daegen. "That prophecy is gone from our temple walls," she said.
When Sister Rachel had gone, Tarralyn turned to Daegen. "It's over. We're safe."
He nodded. "For now."
"Richard is far too young to lead an army," Tarralyn said firmly. "I think we probably have a few years yet." She would have to make peace with her father, for he could help persuade the Mother Confessor to assist them and that would be vital since a Confessor was part of the divine plan. There was a lot to think about.
But they were family now, and whatever happened they would face it together.