Chapter 1: Bleeding Tears
A bright light seemed to envelope everything as the rays of the sun made contact with the Stone of Tears. Kahlan could hardly believe it, yet it had happened. Her tears of grief and anguish over killing the man she loved had formed a new stone. Zedd had reached out and plucked up the pale blue stone, and the old wizard had looked as stunned as she had.
It had been a mad dash to the Pillars of Creation, clutching Richard's hand and guiding him up the steep rocky steps. But, thank the good spirits, they had made it in time. Placing the stone in his hand, Kahlan guided it to the resting place amongst the iron spinners. She thought it only right that he, her Seeker, the man who had sacrificed so much for this quest, be the one to place the stone in its place.
As the light subsided, she looked around to see the green smoke and flames disappear as the horrific cracks in the ground began to heal over, sealing the rift. The veil restored, Kahlan turned to Richard, wanting nothing more than to gaze into his warm brown eyes and see the love for her that he held. Instead, she was met with a ghastly sight. His eyes were dull and seemed to look right through her, the tiny scratches from where the glass had hit his face marred his handsome features. Red lines streak down his face from his eyes, like bleeding tears.
"Kahlan?" his mouth opened and he called for her. His blind eyes darted around in search of her. His hand reached out and she grabbed it and held it to her cheek. He visibly relaxed at her touch. "You're all right?"
"Yes, Richard," Kahlan cried softly. "I'm all right. You're death called me out of the Con Dar, and Cara and Zedd made it just in time."
"And the Stone of Tears?" he asked. "Did you managed to get it back from the Keeper?"
"No," Kahlan murmured softly shaking her head. "The Stone—"
"That silly prophecy was right," interjected Cara. The Mord'Sith smirking with satisfaction. "It turns out that Kahlan's tears created a new Stone of Tears."
Zedd nodded. "You may have given the Stone of Tears to the Keeper, my boy," he said. "But the Keeper failed to take into account the Creator's prophecy that as long as Kahlan's pure heart beats, He was doomed to failure." The wizard smiled, though Richard could not see it. "It appears you two are meant to fight side my side."
Richard gave a nod and took a quick breath and grinned boyish. "If you don't mind, Zedd, I'd like my vision restored, so I can gaze upon the face of the woman who has saved us all from the embrace of the Keeper."
Kahlan blushed a little at Richard's acclamation of her achievement. She did not feel like she deserved it, especially with what she had done that had caused her to cry and her tears to manifest into a new stone. But, just the same, it was nice to hear him say it.
"Hold still, my boy," Zedd said, stepping closer. "Kahlan, dear one, will you give me some room." Kahlan gave Richard's hand one last squeeze before she stepped back to give the wizard room to work.
Zedd raised his wrinkled hand over Richard's eyes and began mumbling the words for the healing spell. Suddenly Zedd jerked back and cried out in pain. Richard doubled over and screamed, his hands clutching at his head as he collapsed to the ground. Kahlan's eyes grew wide in terror as she dropped down beside Richard to hold him as he shook. Cara watched on helplessly, and Zedd, recovered from the sudden pain, heaved in great big breaths.
"Dear spirits," Zedd huffed. "That dark sorceress must have infused those glass shards with subtractive magic, spelling them to repel any magic used to heal him."
Hot tears stung her cheeks as Kahlan held Richard to her breast. She looked up at Zedd, her lips trembling with worry and despair. She had just lost him moments before and she did not want to lose him again. "Can anything be done?" Kahlan asked. It was more a desperate plea than anything else.
Zedd knelt down next to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "I do not know, dear one," he replied, looking concerned. "It has been a long time since the New World has seen subtractive magic." He looked up at the Stone of Tears, the pale blue stone still glowing. "Long ago, the Order of Wizards wielded both sides of magic. There might be something at the Wizard's Keep in Aydindril that can help."
"Then we must go there," Kahlan declared. "We have to help Richard. Spirits, Zedd, I tried to confess him… and… Zedd?" Her brow furrowed as she suddenly remembered what had happened. "When I tried to confess him, nothing happened. Why?"
Zedd gulped. "You noticed that, did you?"
A groan saved the wizard from any further explanation, as Kahlan directed her attention back to her Seeker. "Kahlan…?"
"I'm here, Richard," she soothed, caressing his face. "I'm here."
Richard groped for her arm. "Kahlan! Oh spirits, Kahlan…," his voice was laced in fear, the torment clear on his face. "I can't see you." His head darted around as he sought her out. "Kahlan, where are you? ...Zedd? What happened? Why can't you heal my eyes?"
Zedd took a deep breath and explained the situation to Richard.
"Is that even possible?" Richard questioned after Zedd had finished telling him, his voice slowly regaining its normal intonations. "Can subtractive magic act in such a away?"
"To be honest, my boy, I don't know," Zedd said. "The last wizard in the Midlands to have subtractive magic died around two thousands and fifty years ago."
"Merrit?" Kahlan asked.
Zedd nodded. "Yes, Kahlan, the wizard who turned Magda Searus into the first Mother Confessor. He was the last Wizard of the First Order to wield both additive and subtractive magic."
Richard's hand shot out and to his credit he managed to grab Zedd's arm. He pulled his grandfather to him. "Zedd," he said in a strong voice. "Why am I not confessed?"
Zedd blinked, obviously thrown off by the question. Kahlan could tell by the look on the wizard's face that he had been hoping the subject would drop and that the pressing matter of Richard's blindness would end the questions.
"Answer me, Zedd!" Richard shouted, a little fear creeping into his voice.
Zedd took a deep breath and looked over at Kahlan. "There is no magic more powerful than that of the love a man has for a woman," he said.
Kahlan furrowed her brow, confused. If all Richard needed was to love her, then why did Zedd not tell them this long ago? He would have saved them a lot of suffering and heartache if he had.
"He needed to do more than just love you, dear one," Zedd continued, as if in answer to her unspoken question. "Richard had to be completely devoted to you, love you absolutely with no room for any doubt. If I had told you the way, doubt would have latched on to a small corner of his mind and waited there… festering, destroying any chance for the two of you to be together."
Kahlan turned to Richard and sobbed softly. Not in grief, but in joy. His love for her was total and absolute. It had been stronger than the magic of confession. Her heart was hammering so hard in her chest that she was surprised that no one asked her if she was all right. Kahlan had never known that such devoted love could exist in anyone other than the confessed. And now, to know that it did, and that it radiated out from Richard's heart for her, made Kahlan feel more jubilant and happy than she ever had before. But then reality hit, and Richard's present predicament came flooding back into her mind, and she looked back down at her Seeker.
"Richard," she spoke softly, leaning her forehead against his so he may feel her breath and her presence. "We have to get you to Aydindril."
He nodded and his hand moved around in the air for a moment before finding her arm. He ran his fingers up and down her skin and tenderly caressed her with much affection. "As long as you are with me, Kahlan, I will go wherever you command."
Cara huffed and stepped forward. "All right, if we're all done with the mushy stuff, I think it's about time we set up camp."
Chapter 2: Ringed Penance
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
They slowly made their way down the rocky steep steps, Richard grasping a hold of her hand tightly as Kahlan led the way. Zedd and Cara had long ago made it down, and Kahlan and Richard were making slow progress compared with their rapid ascent when the world of life had been in the reach of the Keeper's cold embrace. Kahlan gladly ripped off cloth from her own skirt to make a bandage for Richard, and he had smiled when she tied it around his eyes, running her fingers tenderly down his cheeks as she wiped away the streaks of blood. By the time they made it down to the beach twilight was fast approaching. Over by the edge of the cliff, Cara and Zedd had set up a small camp, and a fire was brewing. Richard clutched her hand, squeezing it hard, as if he sought to reassure himself of her presence. Directing him, Kahlan positioned them by the fire and with her help Richard managed to sit down. "So, I was a widow… and a school teacher?" Cara was saying as Kahlan slipped down to the soft sand next to her blind Seeker. "Living in a little cottage," the Mord'Sith was shaking her head dubiously, "with two children?" Zedd was nodding, as he slowly ate a chuck of cheese. "That's right." Cara huffed and rolled her eyes. "Next time, just kill me." Zedd's smile widened and he chuckled softly. Beside her, Richard's lips curled with amusement, and Kahlan could not help but smile along with him. Cara stood gruffly. "I'll take watch," she declared, glaring at them, annoyed. Kahlan noticed Richard smirking as the Mord'Sith walked away. He turned his head. "Zedd, what—" pushing back her tears and biting her trembling lower lip, Kahlan gently guided his head in the correct direction, he smiled at her touch, but continued talking, "—was that about?" Zedd half smiled. "I was just telling Cara of an interesting experience I had performing some magic on her." "Huh?" Richard chuckled, his hand still clutching Kahlan's. "What sort of magic?" "The Spell of Undoing," Zedd leaned back and looked into the fire. "You see, Cara had been inflicted with some nasty magic by Rahl, and I did this spell… however, the spell was more powerful than I had anticipated." "So what did it do?" Richard asked, and Kahlan could feel him stirring with curiosity. Despite herself, she smiled. Even blinded, he was still the Seeker, always full was questions. "Well, it ended up removing all magic inflicted on Cara, even the magic of her Mord'Sith training," Zedd explained, looking towards his grandson. "As a result Cara was never a Mord'Sith. So, she never led the attack on us when we opened the Boxes of Orden. We had won, and you had the power of Orden. You were able to bend Rahl to your will with the power and Kahlan's confessing powers tempered it, and Orden protected you for her powers." "Let me guess what happened, Kahlan and I got married," Richard said, grinning for ear to ear, holding her hand up to his heart. "Bags, boy, appears I didn't name you Seeker of Truth on a whim," Zedd guffawed. "But right you are. I was stunned! Apparently the spell protected me from the changes in the timeline and I was the only one that was aware that things had altered." Kahlan could not help herself but smile at the thought of marrying Richard. Sheepishly, she lowered her eyes and blinked. "Zedd…," she tentatively asked looking back up at the wizard. "What was I wearing? At our wedding?" She cast a sidelong glance the man she loved, noticing how Richard was smiling at her question, clearly wanting to now the answer as well. Zedd rocked back and chewed on his cheese, smiling. "A beautiful beaded dress, and a jeweled circlet in your hair." "And me?" Richard grinned, inching closer to Kahlan, his hand moving up her arm to pull her closer to him. "What ghastly thing did I wear?" His grandfather laughed. "Well, you were wearing this hideous red tunic thing," Zedd shook his head. "Let me tell you something, my boy, when you two get married here in this timeline, I think you'd look better in something different. It… it was not really pleasant seeing you in Rahl colors." "Don't worry about that, Zedd," Richard declared, his fingers dancing along Kahlan's shoulder. "It's not like I'll be able to pick out anything. I won't even be able to see Kahlan when we wed." "Richard," Kahlan said, turning to him and bringing her hands up to his face. "Please don't talk like that. Of course you'll be able to pick out your outfit," she looked down. "And see me… when we wed. That is, if you'll still have me after what I did." "Kahlan," Richard's hand moved along the curve of her neck, so he could cup her face with his hands. His other hand groped blindly for a while until he was able to bring it up to join the other. "Of course I still want you, Kahlan… I've always wanted you. Spirits, I think I fell in love with you the first moment I saw you running from that quad back in Hartland. Even after you held your dagger to my throat and glared at me with fierce eyes." He caressed her cheeks with the pads of this thumbs. Kahlan closed her eyes and eased into his touch. "And even if I can't see," he continued. "I can still remembering the brilliance of those eyes you have Kahlan. You're the most beautiful woman I've ever known." Kahlan smiled coyly and ran her fingers down his chest. "You're the most wonderful man I've ever known, Richard," she whispered back. "So honest, noble, and brave… and oh so forgiving… what have I ever done to deserve a man like you?" "I don't know," he teased. "But it must have been something great." Zedd cleared his throat loudly. "Well, yes. Clearly you two are meant for one another. And don't you fret, Richard," he said, reassuringly. "You have my oath as First Wizard that you will see your bride on your wedding day." Kahlan nodded a silent thank you to Zedd and the old wizard grinned. "Now I think I'll give you two some alone time," he grinned, winking knowingly. "I'm sure there is much you two want to… um… talk about." Groaning with aches and old age, Zedd stood and shuffled out to find Cara, seeking to pester the Mord'Sith instead of them. "Talk?" Richard mused as he moved his fingers over her lips. Kahlan opened her mouth slightly as he continued to trace her velvety lips with his fingertips, shivering with the intense feeling of arousal that came from his touch. A wiry smile appeared on his face. "I don't think we'll be doing much talking." He leaned up to kiss her, but missed her lips and ended up planting a wet kiss on her cheek. He sat back, apologizing, his face showing some of his disappointed that he had missed. Kahlan caressed his face. "You don't need to apologize, Richard," she said, running her fingers through his hair as she slowly inched closer to him. "I'm the one to blame. I… I crushed the glass Nicci used. It's my fault." "No…," Richard asserted, using his hands to feel her, as she climbed up into his lap. A smile spread across his face as she directed his hands to rest on her hips. "You were under confession. You had no control over your actions. It was not you who blinded my, Kahlan. It was Nicci." "But I killed you as well," Kahlan allowed herself to sob softly as the memories it brought back. "And that is something I can never forgive myself for." She was now fully straddling his lap. Richard smiled and her cheek flushed feeling the warmth of his body so closer to her own. "Never mind that, Kahlan," he said, rubbing her back. "As you can see, I'm alive…" he smirked. "Very alive." Kahlan let out a breath as she felt his excitement brush against her thighs. Despite her feeling so guilt and shame, she smiled. "I can see that," she replied, resting one hand on the side of his face and the other on his shoulder. "But," she turned serious and could not help but hold back her tears. "Oh, Richard… I want to make amends. I want some punishment for what I've done. It's all my fault. I should have never assumed it would be easy to confess her. We knew Nicci was devious and conniving, but I allowed myself to be fooled." She took a deep and looked on his ruined face. "I demand you punishment." Richard smirked and laughed, grabbing her tighter around her arms. "I don't think you're in any position to be making any demands, Mother Confessor," he jested. She gave him a slightly slap on the shoulder. "I deserve it," she said. His smiled faded and he arched his head towards her. "You want to do penance, Kahlan?" Richard asked, his chest heaving as she felt his body warm with the closeness of her own. "Yes, Richard," she breathed. "Give me a task, and I shall do it. Anything." Kahlan fiddled with her fingers on his chest, where the mark of the Keeper had once been. It had vanished the moment the veil had been restored, only to be replaced by a scar from where she had stabbed him. Tears began to from in her eyes as she continued, "I am yours to command, Seeker. The Mother Confessor, who bows to no man… bows to you and asks for your command." He smirked. "Well, there is one task I have for you right now, my Confessor," he said, moving his hands up the small of her back, pulling her closer to him. "Since I am blind and cannot see," he said. "You can retrieve something for me." "Of course, Richard," she said, wiping tears away. "I'll do anything." "Well, all that talk of weddings and such got me thinking," he said, giving her a boyish smirk. "It reminded me of something." He paused and took a deep breath. "Reach into my breast pocket." Hesitantly Kahlan laid her hand on his chest, and slowly slipped her fingers into his breast pocket. She felt something hard and metal. Running her lower lip under her teeth, she retrieved it and held it up before her eyes. It was ring. "I bought it a while ago, after I returned from the Palace of the Prophets. I knew then that I had to marry you some day, my beautiful confessor," Richard said. "I've been saving it for the day we discovered the way around your powers. Not that day's arrived. I know it's nothing fancy… hardly worthy of your beauty." He smirked. "But it's all a simple woods guide could afford." His hand reached up as he searched for her hand. He found her and his fingers slowly ran circling along her hand, until she gave the ring to him. Tears began to form in her eyes as Kahlan realized what he was going to ask her. He held it up before her and smiled. "Kahlan Amnell, will you marry me?" he asked. "Oh, Richard, of course I'll marry you," Kahlan said, grabbing his face in her hands and kissing him. His lips curled into a grin and she held her hand out, helping him slide the gold band onto her finger. Then he gripped her hand tightly. "I love you, Kahlan," he said. "You've made me the happiest man in the whole world." "And I love you, Richard Cypher," she said, smiling down at her hand, loving the sight of it with a ring. This was more than Kahlan could have ever hoped for. As a confessor she had been destined to take a mate, for the singular purpose of procreation. She was never told she could marry for love and that the man she would marry would be immune to confession. Out of all confessors, she, Kahlan Amnell, was given this highest of all luxuries. Tears formed in her eyes as she wept with joy that despite all that had happened, Richard still loved her and still wanted to marry her. But this was no punishment. This was an award. She turned to him and wiped away her tears. "I still need to be punished, Richard," she said. "Give me another task. Command me, my future husband. I submit myself to you for judgment." A thin smile formed on his lips. "Kiss me," he murmured pleadingly. Kahlan grinned. "You don't need to command me to do that, Richard," she moved closer. "I'll do that willingly… free of charge." Richard laughed. "I thought you wanted to seek penance, Kahlan?" he said grinning. "If this will not do, then I guess I will think of something else." He paused and took a deep breath as he felt her breath on his cheeks as she inched ever so much closer to him. "But for this moment… just kiss me. Please?" "Of course, my Richard… my sweet Richard," Kahlan pushed forward and captured his lips with hers and opened up to him, as his arms encircled her and pulled her close. Kahlan closed her eyes and basked in the warmth of his embrace, silently vowing that as along as she lived, she would never leave the side of her Seeker, her love… her Richard.
They slowly made their way down the rocky steep steps, Richard grasping a hold of her hand tightly as Kahlan led the way. Zedd and Cara had long ago made it down, and Kahlan and Richard were making slow progress compared with their rapid ascent when the world of life had been in the reach of the Keeper's cold embrace. Kahlan gladly ripped off cloth from her own skirt to make a bandage for Richard, and he had smiled when she tied it around his eyes, running her fingers tenderly down his cheeks as she wiped away the streaks of blood.
By the time they made it down to the beach twilight was fast approaching. Over by the edge of the cliff, Cara and Zedd had set up a small camp, and a fire was brewing. Richard clutched her hand, squeezing it hard, as if he sought to reassure himself of her presence. Directing him, Kahlan positioned them by the fire and with her help Richard managed to sit down.
"So, I was a widow… and a school teacher?" Cara was saying as Kahlan slipped down to the soft sand next to her blind Seeker. "Living in a little cottage," the Mord'Sith was shaking her head dubiously, "with two children?"
Zedd was nodding, as he slowly ate a chuck of cheese. "That's right."
Cara huffed and rolled her eyes. "Next time, just kill me."
Zedd's smile widened and he chuckled softly. Beside her, Richard's lips curled with amusement, and Kahlan could not help but smile along with him.
Cara stood gruffly. "I'll take watch," she declared, glaring at them, annoyed.
Kahlan noticed Richard smirking as the Mord'Sith walked away. He turned his head. "Zedd, what—" pushing back her tears and biting her trembling lower lip, Kahlan gently guided his head in the correct direction, he smiled at her touch, but continued talking, "—was that about?"
Zedd half smiled. "I was just telling Cara of an interesting experience I had performing some magic on her."
"Huh?" Richard chuckled, his hand still clutching Kahlan's. "What sort of magic?"
"The Spell of Undoing," Zedd leaned back and looked into the fire. "You see, Cara had been inflicted with some nasty magic by Rahl, and I did this spell… however, the spell was more powerful than I had anticipated."
"So what did it do?" Richard asked, and Kahlan could feel him stirring with curiosity. Despite herself, she smiled. Even blinded, he was still the Seeker, always full was questions.
"Well, it ended up removing all magic inflicted on Cara, even the magic of her Mord'Sith training," Zedd explained, looking towards his grandson. "As a result Cara was never a Mord'Sith. So, she never led the attack on us when we opened the Boxes of Orden. We had won, and you had the power of Orden. You were able to bend Rahl to your will with the power and Kahlan's confessing powers tempered it, and Orden protected you for her powers."
"Let me guess what happened, Kahlan and I got married," Richard said, grinning for ear to ear, holding her hand up to his heart.
"Bags, boy, appears I didn't name you Seeker of Truth on a whim," Zedd guffawed. "But right you are. I was stunned! Apparently the spell protected me from the changes in the timeline and I was the only one that was aware that things had altered."
Kahlan could not help herself but smile at the thought of marrying Richard. Sheepishly, she lowered her eyes and blinked. "Zedd…," she tentatively asked looking back up at the wizard. "What was I wearing? At our wedding?" She cast a sidelong glance the man she loved, noticing how Richard was smiling at her question, clearly wanting to now the answer as well.
Zedd rocked back and chewed on his cheese, smiling. "A beautiful beaded dress, and a jeweled circlet in your hair."
"And me?" Richard grinned, inching closer to Kahlan, his hand moving up her arm to pull her closer to him. "What ghastly thing did I wear?"
His grandfather laughed. "Well, you were wearing this hideous red tunic thing," Zedd shook his head. "Let me tell you something, my boy, when you two get married here in this timeline, I think you'd look better in something different. It… it was not really pleasant seeing you in Rahl colors."
"Don't worry about that, Zedd," Richard declared, his fingers dancing along Kahlan's shoulder. "It's not like I'll be able to pick out anything. I won't even be able to see Kahlan when we wed."
"Richard," Kahlan said, turning to him and bringing her hands up to his face. "Please don't talk like that. Of course you'll be able to pick out your outfit," she looked down. "And see me… when we wed. That is, if you'll still have me after what I did."
"Kahlan," Richard's hand moved along the curve of her neck, so he could cup her face with his hands. His other hand groped blindly for a while until he was able to bring it up to join the other. "Of course I still want you, Kahlan… I've always wanted you. Spirits, I think I fell in love with you the first moment I saw you running from that quad back in Hartland. Even after you held your dagger to my throat and glared at me with fierce eyes." He caressed her cheeks with the pads of this thumbs. Kahlan closed her eyes and eased into his touch.
"And even if I can't see," he continued. "I can still remembering the brilliance of those eyes you have Kahlan. You're the most beautiful woman I've ever known."
Kahlan smiled coyly and ran her fingers down his chest. "You're the most wonderful man I've ever known, Richard," she whispered back. "So honest, noble, and brave… and oh so forgiving… what have I ever done to deserve a man like you?"
"I don't know," he teased. "But it must have been something great."
Zedd cleared his throat loudly. "Well, yes. Clearly you two are meant for one another. And don't you fret, Richard," he said, reassuringly. "You have my oath as First Wizard that you will see your bride on your wedding day."
Kahlan nodded a silent thank you to Zedd and the old wizard grinned.
"Now I think I'll give you two some alone time," he grinned, winking knowingly. "I'm sure there is much you two want to… um… talk about." Groaning with aches and old age, Zedd stood and shuffled out to find Cara, seeking to pester the Mord'Sith instead of them.
"Talk?" Richard mused as he moved his fingers over her lips. Kahlan opened her mouth slightly as he continued to trace her velvety lips with his fingertips, shivering with the intense feeling of arousal that came from his touch. A wiry smile appeared on his face. "I don't think we'll be doing much talking."
He leaned up to kiss her, but missed her lips and ended up planting a wet kiss on her cheek. He sat back, apologizing, his face showing some of his disappointed that he had missed.
Kahlan caressed his face. "You don't need to apologize, Richard," she said, running her fingers through his hair as she slowly inched closer to him. "I'm the one to blame. I… I crushed the glass Nicci used. It's my fault."
"No…," Richard asserted, using his hands to feel her, as she climbed up into his lap. A smile spread across his face as she directed his hands to rest on her hips. "You were under confession. You had no control over your actions. It was not you who blinded my, Kahlan. It was Nicci."
"But I killed you as well," Kahlan allowed herself to sob softly as the memories it brought back. "And that is something I can never forgive myself for." She was now fully straddling his lap. Richard smiled and her cheek flushed feeling the warmth of his body so closer to her own.
"Never mind that, Kahlan," he said, rubbing her back. "As you can see, I'm alive…" he smirked. "Very alive." Kahlan let out a breath as she felt his excitement brush against her thighs.
Despite her feeling so guilt and shame, she smiled. "I can see that," she replied, resting one hand on the side of his face and the other on his shoulder. "But," she turned serious and could not help but hold back her tears. "Oh, Richard… I want to make amends. I want some punishment for what I've done. It's all my fault. I should have never assumed it would be easy to confess her. We knew Nicci was devious and conniving, but I allowed myself to be fooled." She took a deep and looked on his ruined face. "I demand you punishment."
Richard smirked and laughed, grabbing her tighter around her arms. "I don't think you're in any position to be making any demands, Mother Confessor," he jested.
She gave him a slightly slap on the shoulder. "I deserve it," she said.
His smiled faded and he arched his head towards her. "You want to do penance, Kahlan?" Richard asked, his chest heaving as she felt his body warm with the closeness of her own.
"Yes, Richard," she breathed. "Give me a task, and I shall do it. Anything." Kahlan fiddled with her fingers on his chest, where the mark of the Keeper had once been. It had vanished the moment the veil had been restored, only to be replaced by a scar from where she had stabbed him. Tears began to from in her eyes as she continued, "I am yours to command, Seeker. The Mother Confessor, who bows to no man… bows to you and asks for your command."
He smirked. "Well, there is one task I have for you right now, my Confessor," he said, moving his hands up the small of her back, pulling her closer to him. "Since I am blind and cannot see," he said. "You can retrieve something for me."
"Of course, Richard," she said, wiping tears away. "I'll do anything."
"Well, all that talk of weddings and such got me thinking," he said, giving her a boyish smirk. "It reminded me of something." He paused and took a deep breath. "Reach into my breast pocket."
Hesitantly Kahlan laid her hand on his chest, and slowly slipped her fingers into his breast pocket. She felt something hard and metal. Running her lower lip under her teeth, she retrieved it and held it up before her eyes. It was ring.
"I bought it a while ago, after I returned from the Palace of the Prophets. I knew then that I had to marry you some day, my beautiful confessor," Richard said. "I've been saving it for the day we discovered the way around your powers. Not that day's arrived. I know it's nothing fancy… hardly worthy of your beauty." He smirked. "But it's all a simple woods guide could afford."
His hand reached up as he searched for her hand. He found her and his fingers slowly ran circling along her hand, until she gave the ring to him. Tears began to form in her eyes as Kahlan realized what he was going to ask her. He held it up before her and smiled.
"Kahlan Amnell, will you marry me?" he asked.
"Oh, Richard, of course I'll marry you," Kahlan said, grabbing his face in her hands and kissing him. His lips curled into a grin and she held her hand out, helping him slide the gold band onto her finger. Then he gripped her hand tightly.
"I love you, Kahlan," he said. "You've made me the happiest man in the whole world."
"And I love you, Richard Cypher," she said, smiling down at her hand, loving the sight of it with a ring.
This was more than Kahlan could have ever hoped for. As a confessor she had been destined to take a mate, for the singular purpose of procreation. She was never told she could marry for love and that the man she would marry would be immune to confession. Out of all confessors, she, Kahlan Amnell, was given this highest of all luxuries.
Tears formed in her eyes as she wept with joy that despite all that had happened, Richard still loved her and still wanted to marry her. But this was no punishment. This was an award. She turned to him and wiped away her tears.
"I still need to be punished, Richard," she said. "Give me another task. Command me, my future husband. I submit myself to you for judgment."
A thin smile formed on his lips. "Kiss me," he murmured pleadingly.
Kahlan grinned. "You don't need to command me to do that, Richard," she moved closer. "I'll do that willingly… free of charge."
Richard laughed. "I thought you wanted to seek penance, Kahlan?" he said grinning. "If this will not do, then I guess I will think of something else." He paused and took a deep breath as he felt her breath on his cheeks as she inched ever so much closer to him. "But for this moment… just kiss me. Please?"
"Of course, my Richard… my sweet Richard," Kahlan pushed forward and captured his lips with hers and opened up to him, as his arms encircled her and pulled her close.
Kahlan closed her eyes and basked in the warmth of his embrace, silently vowing that as along as she lived, she would never leave the side of her Seeker, her love… her Richard.
Many of you might recognize some of the dialogue from a deleted scene on the 2nd Season DVD. I could not help myself. I really liked that scene. So I had to include some of it.
Chapter 3: Seeker Sleeps
Richard was exhausted from everything he had been through, so Kahlan let him sleep, stroking his head where it lay in her lap, listening to his even breathing as he dreamed. She gently ran her fingers through his hair occasionally stopping to gaze with joy upon the ring on her finger. Kahlan could still not believe it. With everything that had happened, she had yet to allow her mind to catch up with events.
The Keeper had been defeated, Richard could not be confessed… and spirits, he'd asked her to marry him. It was her dreams coming true. The only thing that put a blemish on the whole thing was the fact that Richard had been blinded and no amount of magic was capable of healing him. He stirred softly in her lap and she looked back down at him, brushing his hair way from his brow.
Gently, Kahlan undid the bandage around his eyes, so that she could check on the injuries. The glass had done more than blind him, it had left little scars along the tops of his cheeks and just above his eyebrows. When she finally removed the cloth, she gazed down at him and could almost imagine all he was doing was just sleeping and that nothing bad had happened to him.
Their kiss had been so passionate and long—longer than any other they had ever shared, that Kahlan swore she still felt phantom sensations on her lips, as if he were still kissing her. It was a pleasant feeling, one she'd never get tired over. Taking out a washcloth from her pack, she carefully began cleaning his face. He stirred at her touch, but did not wake, a small smile forming on his lips.
Cara came back to camp and sat with a huff on the opposite side of the camp. She was about to saw something, when she noticed Richard sleeping, his head resting in the Mother Confessor's lap. She sat for a while, obvious holding back what she wanted to say. Kahlan gazed over at her and smiled.
"How was it?" Cara asked, softly, smirking slightly.
"How was what?" Kahlan furrowed her brow, confused.
Cara's mouth dropped slightly, and her eyes looked embarrassed. The insight came to Kahlan quickly and she blushed. "We just kissed, Cara," she told the Mord'Sith. "And…," she held up her hand with the ring on it. "He proposed."
"About time," grumbled Cara, slumping against a rock. "I was wondering how long he was going to keep that thing in his pocket before he asked you."
"You knew?" Kahlan raised her eyebrows.
Cara gave a nod. "You never wondered why we were having difficulties with hunting?"
Kahlan shook her head. It was true, the last couple of weeks, every time Richard would accompany the Mord'Sith to find some game, they had come back empty handed. At first Kahlan was angry and suspicious, thinking they were doing more than just hunting. She saw how Cara looked at Richard, it was obvious that the Mord'Sith loved him, but she kept her feelings to herself, knowing that Richard loved Kahlan. But would loving her have stop him from indulging in the pleasures she could not give him? Sometimes it frightened even herself how quickly she could become jealous.
"He'd never stop talking," groaned Cara, bringing Kahlan back to the present. "Always Kahlan this, Kahlan that." She crossed her arms. "It was quite annoying really. I had to threaten him with my agiel to shut him up and ask what it was he was so anxious about. That's when he showed me the ring." Cara shifted and looked into the fire. "He wanted my opinion on whether or not it was good enough for you."
"He worries like that," Kahlan said, looking down on her Seeker with a smile. "Always worrying about me."
"You don't know the half of it," grumbled Cara, as the Mord'Sith shifted onto her side, and positioned her arm under her head. "I'm going to try and get some sleep."
Kahlan made to ease Richard off her lap, when Cara shook her head.
"No, Kahlan, you stay where you are," the Mord'Sith grinned. "Zedd and I are splitting up the watches between us, you rest with Richard. You both need it after what happened today."
This was a surprise. Kahlan had never known the Mord'Sith to be so caring. Kahlan gave a soft smile and thanked her, then slowly eased Richard's head out of her lap and cradled it in her arms as she slide down beside him on the sand. She laid her head on his shoulder and sighed with contentment. And closed her eyes and slept.
Kahlan awoke to the sounds of Zedd talking. Her eyes fluttered open and she looked up to see the wizard and Cara speaking. The Mord'Sith stood and stretched, her red leather creaking. Then, with almost jerky movements, Cara made her way away from camp to begin her next watch. Slowly, so not wake Richard, Kahlan sat up and brought his head into her lap again. Zedd sat down across from her and smiled, when he noticed the gold band on her finger glisten in the firelight.
"I was wondering when Richard was going to give you that," Zedd said smiling, as he began going through the pack. He took out some cheese and salted meat and handed them over to her. "Eat, dear one," he said. "You've had a trying day."
Kahlan accepted the food with a sigh. "Not as trying as Richard," she said, looking down upon him as he shifted slightly, his lips parting and the faint sound of her name on his lips met the night air. A small smile touched her lips. "Zedd," she said looking up. "Do you really think we can find a way to heal his eyes in Aydindril?"
Zedd gave a nod. "The Wizard's Keep should have the answers," he said confidently. "I just hope we don't run into too much trouble getting Richard there."
"I know," she said, delicately nibbling on the cheese. "It's going to be a hard and long journey." Kahlan narrowed her eyes. "But I can handle that. As long as I'm with Richard and he's with me, I'll be fine."
"I have no doubt, Kahlan," Zedd smiled softly, easing back across the rock face. His grey eyes looked off into the distance and he sighed deeply. "Spirits, I think I've forgotten what it's like not having to worry about banelings or D'Harans coming to attack." He slumped. "Though we still have troubles," he gave her a weak smile when he noticed her gaze. "We'll heal him, Kahlan. I know it. You'll be able to see his eyes looking at you again."
"I hope so, Zedd," Kahlan mumbled, stroking her fingers through her Seeker's hair. "I hope so."
Zedd asked if she was done eating and Kahlan nodded. She really did not have that much of an appetite, especially when Richard was in need. The old wizard took the leftovers and looked at them, no doubting debating whether or not to finish them off, before he reluctantly put them back in the pack.
"So… are you looking forward to seeing Dennee?" Zedd asked out of the blue.
Kahlan blinked. She had hardly thought of her sister in the last couple of weeks. It had been a frantic run to get to the Pillars of Creation and the events that followed kind of over shadowed everything else. "To be honest, Zedd, I really haven't thought of it," Kahlan said, brushing her hair away from her face and tucking it behind her ear.
"I understand, dear one," he said, his grey eyes looking down at his grandson. "Perhaps you should go back to sleep. Don't worry, Cara and I will see to the watches."
Kahlan nodded. "Cara told me."
"Rest, dear one," Zedd grinned. "Spirits knows the Seeker is going to need you tomorrow."
Kahlan smiled and gave in, lying down next to Richard again, pulling him closer, and relishing the feel of his warm body against hers. She curled her arm around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder, gazing up at this tranquil face. Looking on him now, she would never have thought that anything bad had happened.
Chapter 4: Morning Frustrations
Kahlan shifted slightly and moved to nuzzle his neck, but something was wrong. She didn't feel her Richard beside her. Her opens opened in a flash and she sat up fully alert. Zedd and Cara were soundly sleeping, the old wizard snoring softly, the beginning to dawn appearing on the horizon. Fear gripped Kahlan's heart and it was like a great vise had clenched her chest. She had trouble breathing as her eyes looked franticly around for Richard. Jumping to her feet, she spied traces of footprints in the sand and rushed to follow them.
What was he thinking, going off by himself? She lowered her brow, a little angry with him, but her worry consumed most of her being, leaving no room for hurt feelings. Darting around the cliff face she found him stumbling around, his arm outstretched as he searched for the wall with his hand.
"Richard!" she called out and rushed for him. He turned at her voice, his hearing directing him to her. She pounded into him and pulled him into a fierce hug, letting out a soft gasp of relief that he was all right. "Spirits, Richard, what are you doing? You scared me half to death."
"I'm sorry… I needed to relieve myself, and I didn't want to wake you," he said, then frowned, obviously angry that he couldn't even do that much.
"Well," Kahlan chided him, stroking the sides of his face with her hands. "Next time wake me, okay. I don't care what for… just wake me." She paused, waiting for him to agree. When he did, she brought her hand down to his and intertwined their fingers. "Do you still need go?"
Richard's eyebrows knitted together. "Kahlan, I can't ask you to help me with that," he flustered, frustrated with his helpless state.
Kahlan rubbed her thumb across the back of his hand. "It's no problem," she said, brushing her hair from her face as the wind picked up. "I don't mind. After all, we are going to marry one another, aren't we? And married couples help each other out, both in good times and bad." She paused and smiled. "I know you'd help me out if our places were reversed. And you would not stand for it if I did not accept your help."
He finally smiled. "You're right, Kahlan," he said sighing. "I'm sorry. I… I'm just not used to being this helpless. Especially with something as simple as… well going to the bathroom."
"Come here," Kahlan said, holding his hand and leading him away from the camp.
She wrinkled her nose and thought, pondering how she'd handle this. Sure she said she'd help him, but it was still a bit awkward. They hadn't even made love yet and here she was already helping him go to the bathroom, like he was some child. She knew Richard's proud nature was making him frustrated that an act as simple as this needed her help. But she would not stand for that stubbornness, especially when she awoke to find him gone. It had been an awful feeling, one she did not care to repeat.
"Which…?" she began to ask.
"I just need to pee," he answer quickly reddening with embarrassment.
"All right," Kahlan took him and directed him to some rocks that would shield him from the wind and the view of others. "Do you need help getting it—?"
"I think I can manage now, Kahlan, thank you," he said tersely, then smiled apologetically for his tone.
Kahlan nodded. "Just call for me when you're finished," she said, then turned her back and stepped away to give him some privacy. She placed her hands on her arms and hugged herself against the cold chill that blew up from the wind and stared out at the ocean, amazed at how beautiful the sight was compared to yesterday when the Keeper had been so close to winning.
The images of her stabbing Richard and him dying before her still haunted her mind, and she had to close her eyes, least she start crying all over again. It was not long until she heard her name. Kahlan spun around to see Richard stumbling around the rocks.
"Wait, Richard, stand still," she came back over to him and gripped his arm, pulling it around hers and leaned into his shoulder as she walked them through the rocks and back towards to camp.
He sighed and seemed to calm at her touch. "You're so good to me, Kahlan," he said. "I'm so lucky."
"No, I'm the lucky one," she replied, resting her head on his shoulder as they walked. "I've found a man who could love me, all of me, not just the woman, but the confessor as well." Kahlan stopped them and turned to him, placing her hands on his chest, seeking some more time alone with him before they rejoined the others. His eyes looked through her, but she pretended they were drinking in the sight of her. She leaned closer and kissed his lips softly.
Richard responded and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her soft feminine body flush up against him. They melted into each other's arms and Kahlan flushed with excitement and smiled, overjoyed to feel his touch. After the soft kiss, Kahlan wanted something deeper, so she inched closer and grabbed his head in her hands.
"I will always be here for you, my Richard," she whispered softly. "Always."
Richard smirked. "With you as my guide, how can I go wrong?"
Even though he could not see, Kahlan smiled at him and kissed him, pushing hard into his mouth, begging for him to open to her. He eagerly complied and she tasted him as their tongues met and their lips danced with each other. His hands drifted down around her waist and his fingers fiddled with playful taps on her rear.
"Spirits, Kahlan," he murmured between panting breaths as they separated and rested their foreheads against one another. "Even without my sight, I still see your beauty. Its breathtaking." His hand groped around until it found its way to her cheek. She eased into his touched and kissed his palm.
"Richard," she spoke softly, easing him closer to the cliffs. "I don't know how much longer I can wait."
Her raised his eyebrows, questioningly, then a grin quickly replaced the perplex look that had previously captured his face. "As you can see, Kahlan," he said. "I'm helpless right now. How can I defend myself?" he joked. Then he turned serious and his eyes stared pass her head, believing he was look at her. "Though, I want to see you when I make love to you. I want to look into your eyes and know that I have pleased you."
Kahlan placed her hands on his chest, and softly caressed him, biting her lower lip. "You'll always please me, Richard," she said. "And you don't need your sight to know that."
"That may be, Kahlan," Richard conceded. "But I would still like to see you."
"I want you to see me, too," her voice was almost pleading, and she hated that. Kahlan had always been strong. But there was something about Richard that made her feel different than before she'd known him. It was like the Creator had created them just for each other. Without him, she felt empty and alone. Perhaps that was why her tears had formed a new Stone of Tears. Just as the Creator's grief had been deep, so too Kahlan's must have been.
"There you two are!" came the grandfatherly voice of Zedd. The old wizard rounded the corner and arched his head back. "I found them, Cara! Their over here!" He turned back and winked at them. "You two love birds secreting away to kiss… eh?"
"Something like that," Kahlan said blushing pink, turning to face Zedd.
Cara came around the corner and she rolled her eyes when she saw the state of the Seeker with his arms wrapped around the Mother Confessor. "Zedd," she declared, huffing. "We need to get his sight back soon. If we're not careful the Mother Confessor might tackle him and we'd lose him for about a week. Who knows what she'd do to him in that time span."
Richard smirked mischievously. And Zedd gave a loud chortle and clapped the Mord'Sith on the back. Cara grimaced at the slap, looking annoyed with the physical contact, but said nothing. She pursed her lips and looked over at Kahlan.
"I think the wizard can handle the Seeker for a while, Kahlan," she said, stepping over. "Right now, I think you need a bath."
"Bath?" Kahlan wrinkled her nose and tried sniffing the air. "Why?"
Cara closed the distance between them and lowered her voice. "Your still covered in blood, Kahlan," she said softly, avoiding looking at Richard, as if she had wanted to say his blood.
As Zedd took Richard back to the camp, Kahlan and Cara made their way down the beach and found a nice little inlet that provided both privacy and shelter from the elements. Cara immediately began undoing her leather and looked at Kahlan, as if to tell the confessor to do the same.
Kahlan looked down at herself and her heart sank. She was covered in blood… Richard's blood. Holding back her tears at the thought of how it got there, she took off her jacket and began unlacing her corset. Cara, already nude, came over and helped. Kahlan let out a breath as the corset was removed and she rubbed her sore ribs. She managed her skirt on her own and when she was down to her underthings, Kahlan stepped over to the water's edge and crouched.
Cara, looking very much like Cara, simply strolled out into the water as if it was in need of some good old fashion Mord'Sith training. Kahlan stood and hesitantly removed her underthings, and followed. Running her fingers along the surface of the cool water, Kahlan thought of what had happened and again felt the guilt for being partly responsible. She had crushed the glass that Nicci had used. In a way, it was her doing as well as the sorceress's.
"Stop blaming yourself, Kahlan," Cara said, dunking her head under the surface and throwing her hair back. "It was not your fault. It was Nicci's."
"I should have been stronger," Kahlan retorted weakly. "I should have fought back."
"How could you?" Cara said raising an eyebrow. "You were confessed."
"I'm a confessor!" Kahlan nearly snapped. "I should not have been able to be confessed in the first place."
"Really?" the Mord'Sith looked dubious.
Kahlan slumped her shoulder. "At least I thought so," she grumbled. She looked around, seeing that the water was only coming up to her waist. The Mord'Sith was farther out, so the surface came up to her chest, only the top of her bosom visible. Kahlan looked down at her own chest, and all she saw was splatters of blood on her breasts where her clothing had not covered them. It was his blood. Richard's.
She sniffled and wadded deeper into the water. When she was far enough out, she bowled her hands and brought some of the cold water up to her chest and began rubbing off the blood, seeking to purify herself of the sin of killing her beloved. It came off easily, having dried during the night, but no matter how hard she rubbed at her skin, she still felt the taint. The stain.
Cara watched her, worry etched on her face, yet she remained silent. Kahlan finally submerged herself and held her breath under the water, feeling the cold wrap in around her like the embrace of death. She held herself under, as if wanting the torment of the cold water to lash out at her. After a time, longer than she could reckon, Kahlan came up and heaved in a big gasp of air.
"Feeling better now?" the Mord'Sith smirked, her eyes looking dedicated and fierce, as they always did.
Kahlan took another breath, yet nodded. "A little," she said, and it was not a lie. She turned to wade back to the shore. "We should get back to Richard and Zedd."
"I think we can wait a little longer," Cara said. "He's not going anywhere, if that's what you're worried about? It's not like he's going to leave you. Or even could if he wanted to."
"You do!" Kahlan turned to defend herself from Cara's insinuations. "You think it's my fault! You think it was my idea… don't you! That I told my mistress what she should do to stop the Seeker!" Kahlan wadded closer to Cara. "You think I'm responsible!"
Cara's eyebrows knitted together and she held up her hands. "That it easy, Mother Confessor," she said, the shock in her voice evident. "I was just trying to reassure you."
Kahlan stopped and blinked. Spirits, what was the matter with her? Cara was her friend, and was only trying to help. She slumped her head and turned. "I'm sorry… I… I'm… I guess I'm just worried about Richard," Kahlan let out.
Cara came over to her and placed a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. "So am I," the Mord'Sith admitted and Kahlan looked up and saw real raw emotion in the Cara's eyes. "All right," grumbled Cara, quickly regaining her normal abrasive attitude. "Let's get back to the Seeker… he must be going crazy listening to the Zedd jabber on about the best inns and taverns in the Midlands."
Richard could hear Zedd humming as his grandfather tended to their things, packing. He let himself smirk as he heard the occasional interruption in the humming. "Stop eating all the food, Zedd," he said, trying to chide the wizard.
"Me? Eating all our food?" Zedd laughed. "Never."
His grandfather groaned and Richard could sense the old man coming back over. "Done packing?" he asked.
Zedd took a quick breath. "Yes, my boy, all done," Richard felt him sit down next to him, and soon his grandfather's hand was on his shoulder. "Today is going to be difficult, Richard… I want you to be honest with us. Don't let your pride take over and push onwards when you are having trouble. Do I make myself clear?"
Richard smirked, having a hard time taking Zedd seriously when he could smell the cheese on the wizard's breath. But he nodded. "Yes, Zedd, I'll be honest with you all. After all, I can never lie to Kahlan, even if she wasn't a confessor."
If he could see, Richard knew Zedd would be grinning. Then, something strange occurred. Richard could literally feel the air around him begin to buzz. The wind picked up and there was a shimmering noise that sounded eerily familiar.
Zedd stood up. "What are you doing here!" he demanded, his voice thick with anger.
"I've come to help," came another voice. He wasn't sure who it was, but it was obviously female.
"Like the Keeper you are!" growled Zedd. "Shoo! Scat!" His grandfather was growing angrier. "We don't need your help, she-devil!"
"Oh, come now, Zeddicus, you are being unfair, truly," came her voice and Richard instantly recognized it. It was Shota!
Chapter 5: Witch's Warnings
"I've come to offer my help with the Seeker," Shota said in smooth voice that Richard did not all together trust. Neither did his grandfather, for Zedd let out a huff.
"Since when have you ever helped the Seeker?" Zedd demanded. "You only care about yourself, Shota!"
Richard tried to stand, but it was difficult not seeing, he stumbled but managed to find the cliff face behind him with his hand. Slowly, he pushed himself up until he hoped he was facing the witch woman.
"How can you help?" he asked, cutting Zedd off. "Can you heal my eyes?"
There was a long period of silence that followed his question and Richard was afraid he'd embarrassed himself and had spoken to the cliff face instead of Shota. Then there came a soft sigh.
"No, I cannot," Shota admitted. "Even that is beyond my powers. This dark sorceress has powers even I cannot comprehend."
Zedd hooted. "Then it is true after all!" he guffawed. "Even the all powerful Shota is subject to the laws of magic."
"As are you, Zeddicus," the witch woman replied, coolly. "I do, however, know of a way to make it easier for the Seeker to make it back to Aydindril."
"Oh, and how's that?" Zedd inquired.
A pause came and Richard tensed a bit, afraid something was happening that his eyes could not tell him of. Then he heard the sounds of Shota's dress as it moved over her person as she came closer to him. "I can take him," Shota said.
A feeling rose up in his chest and he shook his head. He dreaded the idea of leaving Kahlan, especially now that they had found out that he could not be hurt by her powers. He clenched his jaw and shook his head again.
"The way ahead is difficult, Seeker," came Shota's voice, much closer than it had been before. "The Mother Confessor will not always be able to help you. You must know that."
"He has Cara and me, as well," Zedd spoke up. "Or do you think so lowly of us?"
"Zeddicus, come now, you know how I feel about you," Shota chided.
"Yes, yes," grumbled Zedd. "I was the great love of your life, or so you claim."
"It is the truth, Zeddicus," she said. "Have I ever spoken a lie to you?"
Zedd huffed and Richard knew his grandfather must have been rolling his eyes. Then he jumped, feeling a hand on his shoulder. "Let me take you back to Aydindril, Seeker. The Wizard's Keep holds the answer to your blindness," Shota attested.
Richard took a deep breath and shook his head. "No," he declared, heaving. "I'll never leave Kahlan."
"She can come too, if you like," Shota said.
"What of Zedd and Cara?"
Shota laughed lightly. "They can walk."
Zedd growled. "You're nothing but a schemer, Shota!" he declared, his voice coming closer. "And I will have you no longer meddling in my grandson's life."
"You cannot stop destiny, Zeddicus!" Shota snapped back. She came up close to him and Richard could smell the fragrance of the witch woman's hair as she leaned in to whisper in his ear. "A storm is rising, Seeker. One far worse than anything you can possible imagine. You thought the Keeper was fearful… just what until you meet the chaos coming."
"Another vision, Shota?" Richard asked, a little afraid. Shota's warning that he would give the Keeper the Stone of Tears had been accurate. "Are you proclaiming that I will fail again at something?"
"You are right to mock me, Seeker," she replied tersely. "I was mistaken in my assertion that you would fail in your mission to restore the veil. I failed to incorporate the Mother Confessor into my calculations. I will not make the same mistake twice. For you to stop this approaching storm, you must have your sight returned. That it why it is important you get to Aydindril and the Wizard's Keep as soon as possible."
"Even if you took him there," Zedd spoke up. "He wouldn't know what to do. Bags, I don't even know if I'd know what do. It's been so long since I have been to the Wizard's Keep."
From the fall of her voice, Richard knew she had turned to face the wizard. "Then you are very fortunate that I have arrived, Zeddicus," Shota turned back to him. "Let me help you, Seeker. You and the Mother Confessor must leave here at once."
"Zedd?" Richard wanted his grandfather's counsel and advice.
"I don't know, my boy," Zedd took a breath. "Perhaps Shota is right. I'm not sure. It is up to you. You are the one true Seeker of Truth. You will know what to do."
"I'll give you an hour to contemplate what I have told you, Seeker," Shota said. "Go and speak with your confessor. Zeddicus," he knew she was turning to his grandfather, "we have other things to discuss."
"Do we?" Zedd sounded dubious.
"Yes, we do," the witch woman asserted. "Now send the Seeker out in the direction of the Mother Confessor, so that we may speak privately."
Kahlan was standing waist high in the water when she heard a sudden noise behind her. She spun around to see Richard stumbling towards them. Instinctively she covered her breasts with her hands, then laughed to herself and let them fall to her sides. She no longer had to hide herself from him for two reasons: Firstly, he was blind. And secondly, and most importantly, she was to marry him. It was only a matter of time until they were able to make love and Kahlan was eagerly awaiting that day.
Cara looked up, and smirked as she saw the Seeker stumble around the rocks, his sword out in front of him, as he used it to help guide him like a cane.
Kahlan rose out of the water and wadded up to the sandy shore. Richard heard the rippling of the water and spun in her direction and for a moment she could have sworn he was looking right at her.
"Kahlan? Is that you?" he called out.
Without even taking the time to dress, Kahlan rushed for him and pulled him into a wet embrace, kissing his smiling lips. As they backed away, she bit his lower lip suggestively and they shared a breath.
"Yes, my Richard," Kahlan whispered. "It's me."
"Kahlan, your… your naked!" he blushed, though she did not know why, it was not like he was seeing anything. Though, she smiled to herself, he could no doubt feel it.
"What of it?" she smirked and hugged on to him tightly. "I am your betrothed and besides… you can't see."
Richard let out a groan. "Spirits, Kahlan, once I get my sight restored, I'm might have to make you parade around our room naked so that you can pay me back for this glorious sight I'm missing this day."
Kahlan leaned closer and brushed her lips against his ear. "I'm sure we'll have plenty of days in the future where I can pay you back for missing this moment," she teasingly whispered.
He nodded, and then turned serious. "Kahlan… Shota, she appeared back at camp, saying that she must take both you and me to Aydindril at once," he said.
"At once, why?" Kahlan asked, turning back to her clothes to dress. She slipped on her underthings and looked over her shoulder at Richard as he moved his head around as if trying to sense where she had gone. "Here."
His head snapped towards her and he cautiously took some steps forward. "She says that the Keeper is not the worse of it. That something else is on the rise," he said. "Something she says that I will need my sight to defeat."
"Can we really trust what Shota says?" Kahlan raised her eyebrow, unsure whether it was even wise to give anything the witch woman said any credence.
"I think so," Richard said. "This time at least." He paused and frowned. "When I was with the Sisters of the Light, Verna showed me prophecies that spoke about me. One in particular mentions that I am destined to face a storm of evil unlike any other."
"A storm?" Kahlan furrowed her brow, becoming worried. She slipped on her skirt and began lacing up her corset. "I don't know, Richard. Can we truly trust in prophecy that was told to you by the Sisters of the Light? They have not always been honest with us. And beside, they were wrong about you. You did not fail."
"Yes, I did," he said firmly. "Don't deny it, Kahlan, I did. I gave the Stone of Tears to the Keeper, the enemy of life. And prophecy was right about you. Your pure heart saved all of us. You are the one who restored the veil, not me. Not the Seeker." His shoulders slumped. "I am no good to anyone… especially without my sight." He paused, then held up the Sword of Truth. "Maybe you should take it back… and Zedd can name a new Seeker."
Kahlan held back tears at what he was saying. He was being too hard on himself. She pulled on her jacket and gently pushed his hand down. "Keep it, Richard," Kahlan said. "You are the Seeker whether you like it or not. And I am your Confessor."
"You are far more than just my confessor, Kahlan," Richard responded, smiling, his hand groping through the air until he found her. He caressed her cheek and brushed his fingers through her hair.
A cough came from behind them and Kahlan spun to see Cara glaring at them. The Mord'Sith finished tightening her leather belt around her waist and huffed, stepping up to them. "If we're done with all this… this mushy stuff, let's get back to camp," she said. "Then maybe we can finally get something done."
Kahlan held his hand as they went back to camp. Cara followed them at a distance, looking somewhat sullen. Richard seemed to be having trouble breathing and she was becoming worried that something more was affecting him. When they arrived at camp, Kahlan saw the witch woman standing silently before the fire, her hands grasped together at her waist.
Shota's long auburn hair flowed in the wind as she looked up at them, he almond eyes gazing straight at them.
"Well, Seeker?" she said, as Kahlan led Richard into the camp. "What have you decided?"
"No," he said. "I'm not going with you, Shota. We'll find our own way to Aydindril."
Zedd smiled and gave a nod, placing his hands on his hips as he turned to Shota and glared at the witch woman. "There, you have it, Shota," he snapped. "The Seeker has made his decision. Now leave."
Shota huffed and glared at them all. "You make a foolish decision," she declared. "When chaos rains down on you, do not come to me begging for assistance!"
Kahlan blinked and Shota was gone. Zedd let out an annoyed growl. "I hate it when she does that," he grumbled.
"What is it?" Richard asked.
"She's gone," Kahlan informed him. He gave a nod and stumbled around, his hands searching for his pack. "No, Richard, let me carry it."
"No!" he practically shouted. "I'm not some invalid, I can carry my own pack." Richard took a deep breath and apologized. "I'm sorry, Kahlan… I just… just let me carry my own pack."
She nodded. "All right, Richard, but don't push yourself, okay… I… I can't lose you again," Kahlan replied, running her hand down the side of his arm tenderly, with much affection.
Richard inclined his head, vowing he would heed her counsel. Cara picked up his pack and handed it to him. Kahlan helped him slip the straps on before retrieving her own pack. Once he seemed satisfied, Richard reached out for her hand. Kahlan took it and held it close, intertwining her fingers with him.
"Now what, Seeker?" she asked.
"We go to Aydindril," he proclaimed. "Zedd, led on."
Chapter 6: A Coming Storm
The day had been long, slow going, and exhausting. Despite all that, Kahlan had enjoyed herself. She liked having to practically hold Richard's hand the whole time. It felt good to have his constant touch. Zedd and Cara had offered to take turns guiding Richard, but Kahlan wouldn't have it. She wanted to be the one that guided her love. Richard did not seem to mind, but she knew he had difficulty at times, like when they'd come to a rocky area. Kahlan had to slow down and tell him to follow her instructions to the letter. They walked cautiously across the rocks until they made it to surer ground.
Meanwhile, Zedd was becoming more nervous about Shota's warning about a storm on the rise. His fretting was beginning to infest the group and Cara grumbled and huffed when they started to set camp, clearly annoyed with the wizard's worrying. Richard made a move to help the Mord'Sith hunt, when Kahlan pulled him away and ushered him to a fallen log.
"No, Richard," she said. "You're staying put, where I can see you."
Cara smirked. "And where you don't get into any trouble," the Mord'Stih added and gave a sharp laugh. Cara took out her bow and arrows, then disappeared into the forest to find some game. Hopefully, now that they had reached a wooded area, there would be some animals about. Kahlan was becoming concerned for Richard. He'd hardly eaten the entire day, partly because he refused to allow her to help him. That annoyed her.
"You should let me help, Richard," she made her thinking known, as he adjusted his pack to begin going through it.
Richard frowned and shook his head. "I can still eat by myself, Kahlan," he said, sounding resentful. "You don't need to hover around me like I'm some new born babe in need of constant supervision."
Kahlan furrowed her brow and sat down beside him as Zedd began shuffling about the clearing setting up their bedrolls. At first Kahlan had insisted that she do it. Even though he was a powerful wizard, Zedd was still an old man and the rigors of the day's travels had fatigued him greatly, but he would not have it.
"You look after the Seeker, dear one," he had said. "That is your duty. Not just as his Confessor, but as his wife-to-be." He winked and then turned to unpack.
"Really, I'm fine," Richard was saying, clenching his jaw as he lied to her. She could sense it, being a confessor made things like that second nature to her, but she did not reveal she knew he was lying. Even if she wasn't a confessor, she could tell he was lying; his face betrayed him when he grimaced.
Kahlan took his hand and held it in hers, holding it in her lap as, with her other hand, she stroked her fingers through his hair. "Well, at least let me change the bandage and clean your wounds," she said.
Richard relented with a nod. She stood and retrieved her pack, taking out her waterskin. Brushing her fingers along his temples, she slowly slid the cloth up his head and away from his eyes. They still looked dull and dead, and stared out at nothing. The small scars from the glass had begun to heal, but some were still red and tender to the touch.
Taking the stopper out of the waterksin, Kahlan sprinkled some water on a cloth and then washed Richard's face off. "You're sweating, Richard," Kahlan's brow creased in worry as she felt his forehead. "And you burning up. You should have told me."
He gave a weak smile. "I didn't want you to worry," he replied. "It's just a slight fever and headache."
"Nothing is slight with you, Richard," Kahlan could not help but smile. Seemingly sensing her smile, he smiled back and his hand ran up her arm and he tenderly caressed her shoulder.
"I guess neither of us is really normal, are we?" he jokingly asked.
Kahlan took out another cloth and changed his bandage, replacing it with a new one. Richard remained silent as she tied it around his head covering his eyes. Unable to help herself, Kahlan ran her fingers through his hair, again, and massaged his scalp. Richard's lips curled into a grin.
"That feels good," he murmured softly.
"Well, if you behave yourself," Kahlan replied, smiling to herself. "I might even give you a kiss."
"Oh, then I'll be good," Richard quipped back.
Cara had been successful and had caught two hares. Zedd grinned widely and started a fire. The Mord'Sith dealt with preparing the hares, as Kahlan rummaged through her pack and pulled out their small cooking pot, placing it over the fire. She filled it up with some water and began adding spices for a rabbit stew. Thankfully, Richard sat on the log, where she had told him, and stayed put.
He was quiet as they ate. Kahlan would feed him with a spoon, though she could tell by his expression that Richard was not pleased with having to be assisted in doing something as simple as eating a stew. Zedd and Cara talked about trivial matters such as the weather and scenery. Richard seemed to enjoy listening to their conversation, because his frown turned into a small smile.
When they had finished eating, Kahlan cleaned up and dried off the pot with a rag before stuffing it back into her pack. Richard stayed and waited for her to come to him. She slipped down next to him and curled her arm around his, resting her head against his shoulder. She felt him sigh with a mixture of frustration and contentment.
"What are you think about, my Richard," she whispered softly as they listened to the crackle of the fire and Zedd grumbling to Cara about the hardness of the ground.
"About what Shota told us," he hesitantly replied. "A storm is coming."
"What do you think she meant?" Kahlan asked cautiously, not wanting to get him worrying like Zedd was.
Richard's brow lowered, and his mouth turned into a frown. "Something dark," he replied. "Something evil."
"An army of some king?" Kahlan asked. "Lead by some new villain we have to defeat."
"No, I don't think so," Richard answered, taking a deep breath. "She said chaos is coming. She said nothing of an army. She just said chaos."
"Well, whatever it is," Kahlan replied softly, leaning further into him, trying to lighten the mood. "We'll face it together."
He smiled and leaned his head over, resting it on hers. "Why'd you think I asked you to marry me?" Richard smirked and kissed her head before leaning back. "Kahlan, I'm tired… can you direct me to my bedroll?"
Kahlan smiled and stood, knowing that after Zedd had set up camp, she had pushed her and Richard's bedrolls together. Zedd and Cara's voices dropped as they noticed where the Confessor was leading the Seeker. Kahlan helped him lay down. Checking on the others one last time, Kahlan then laid down next him and pulled a blanket over them. She wiggled back until her back was pressed up against his chest.
Richard sighed contently as she took his arm and draped it over her shoulder. His breath danced across the back of her head and through her hair, as he squeezed closer to her.
"You know," he whispered softly into her ear, his warm breath sending shivers of delight down her spine. "There are certain advantages of be blind."
"Oh and what's that?" she asked, arching her next to look back at him.
Richard smirked and ran his other hand down her hair. "I've never got to sleep this close to the Mother Confessor before."
"Well, you behaved yourself during supper, so I figured you deserved a reward," she said, inching her bottom closer to his waist. Richard groaned as she brushed against him.
"You better watch yourself, Kahlan," he murmured softly back. "Or I might be tempted to take your virtue."
"Take my virtue?" she chuckled back. "You will never have to take it, Richard. I'd give it to you freely."
His arms tightened around her waist and he pulled her closer. Kahlan eased into his hold and let out a soft moan of pleasure, as his lips sought out her neck, and he gave her soft kisses.
"All right, Seeker," she laughed slightly. "I think it's time you get some sleep."
"Right you are, Mother Confessor," he replied, but stole one more kiss, before easing down and wrapping his arms around her, snuggling up closer. He buried his head into her hair.
Finally being able to sleep in his arms brought her untold joy that she did not know how to express it in words. She listened with bated breath, as his breathing grew steady and even. When she was sure he was asleep, she turned onto her side to look up him.
As she shifted, his hand flexed and he grabbed her, pulling her closer, muttering her name softly as he slept. Kahlan gently caressed his face, basking in the glory that was her Richard. The orange glow of the firelight seemed to dance off his brown hair giving it a luminosity that was brilliant.
Kahlan ran her fingers down his face, exploring ever inch of his handsome features. She ran her fingertips across his lips; they were cracked and dried from lack of water. Her eyebrows knitted together as she felt his forehead again. He wasn't drinking enough and certainly wasn't getting enough rest.
She scooted closer to him, determined to keep him warm during the cool night. Kahlan wrapped her arms around his midsection and hugged him close. Softly, she brushed a kissed across his lips and whispered her love for him, before going to sleep.
He was not sure what time it was, but he had a feeling it was close to midday, because his grandfather kept suggesting that they look for a nice place to stop for a rest. Cara would grumble something along the lines that they'd just eaten three hours ago. Zedd would laugh and declare that keeping pace with her kept his appetite high.
Richard stumbled and Kahlan's soft delicate hand tightened around his. He felt her hand on his shoulder and she asked him if he was all right. He nodded, lying.
The headache was still there, but the fever had broken during the light. He had awaken to find Kahlan snuggled close, he could feel her soft breath on his cheeks, her body pressed flush to his. His hand had been lightly resting on her hip and he smiled, enjoying the closeness, tempted to explore her soft body with his hand. But it only lasted a moment, because she then stirred and woke. Cara must have already been up, because the Mord'Sith suggested they eat a quick breakfast before heading out.
As he shifted up to a sitting position, he groaned, stretching his aching muscles. Yesterday had been grueling The hiking was the hardest part. He had to completely rely on the others, Kahlan most of all. Richard did not like having to surrender so much of his will, but he could do nothing less when Kahlan asked him to trust her and let her guide him.
"Will you let me guide you today, Richard?" Kahlan asked, as he felt her sit up beside him.
"Kahlan," he responded, forcing a smile. "You've been my guide since the moment we met. I can trust no one greater than I trust you."
Her hand ran down his face and her lips came close to his. His senses could tell she was smiling, and he ached to see that, knowing it was her special smile, the one she only gave him.
"You're the only man I will ever serve, Richard," her lips came closer, so close to a kiss, yet so far. "I'll love you until my dying breath."
"Oh, well, I'll never stop loving you," Richard replied, grinning. "I'll love you even in death, so I have you beat."
Kahlan gave him a playful slap on the chest. "Just for that Richard Cypher, you get no morning kiss."
Richard groaned. "Then stop teasing me so, Kahlan," he moaned, when she backed away. "If your not careful I might forget myself and start groping around where I ought not to."
"Really?" Kahlan came back. He shivered with delight, smelling the scent of her hair, as she leaned over to whisper in her hear. "Then next time you wake and I'm still asleep you should take advantage and do some groping!" She laughed and kissed his cheek and then disappeared from his senses, only to return a moment later to hand him some cheese and bread. "Would you like me to help you?"
"No, I can manage," Richard said, using the smell of the cheese to help guide it to his mouth.
Now, three hours later, Richard headaches were growing worse and he was finding that, for the first time, hearing Zedd complain about the need to some rest and food as something not to grumbled about, but applaud. Kahlan seemed to sense his pain, his labor breathing, no doubt, giving him away, because she held his arm close and leaned into him, lowering her voice.
"Are you sure you're okay?" she asked. "And please, don't lie. I know when you lie and it hurts me so that you won't trust me with the truth. If you want me as your wife, you're going to have to be completely honest with me, Richard."
He took a deep breath and nodded. "I know, I'm sorry, Kahlan," he replied. "Then… to be honest, the headaches have gotten worse." Richard hated to worry her, but she was right. If they were to share a life together, he had to be completely honest with her. And if he could not be honest to the woman he loved, then what sort of man had George Cypher raised.
"Let's rest for a while," Kahlan called out to the rest.
"Great idea, Kahlan!" Zedd shouted back. "See, Cara, even the Mother Confessor sees the advantages of some rest."
Cara huffed. "I don't think she has you're growling stomach in mind, wizard."
Kahlan sat him down on the ground, and ran her fingers through his hair, brushing it away from his brow as her cool hands felt his sweaty forehead. "You warm, Richard," she said, and her hand dropped to his chest. "And your heart's beating like a galloping horse," her hand eased up to cup his face. "Rest, Richard. I'll get you some water."
He nodded, sighed, feeling exhausted, with no will to resist her. "Yes, Mother Confessor."
Kahlan was worried for Richard. He'd not been well since Shota's visit. She knew he was frustrated and irritated at having no control over where he went, and annoyed with the amount of things he need help doing. She left him leaning against a tree trunk and stepped over to Zedd, where the wizard was sitting munching on some berries.
"Zedd," she said, crouching down beside him and looking him in the eye. "I'm worried about, Richard. I think he's pushing himself too hard. Can… can you please check on him?"
Zedd nodded. "Of course, dear one." He heaved himself up and Kahlan followed him over to Richard.
When he felt Zedd's hand on his forehead, Richard frowned. "Kahlan, you're worrying too much."
Kahlan crossed her arms and looked down at him. "No, I'm not," she assert. "And besides, I have every right to worry. Don't you go dying on me after proposing."
A smirked formed on his face. "Believe me, Kahlan, I have no intention of leaving you at the altar."
"Well, you better not!" she huffed in mock indignation, then she frowned, and she had to hold back a cry. "Richard… you're bleeding."
Zedd frowned and looked down. "Dear spirits, he is!"
Bloody tears were running down from under the cloth that covered his face. Kahlan, clutching her hands together to her breast in fear, started for him. But then, suddenly, her whole world seemed to freeze. Richard stood up and pulled the cloth from around his head. Kahlan nearly yelped when his dull eyes seemed to look straight at her; the whites of his eyes had turned red and the blood leaked down his face. His hand shot down and the steel ring of the Sword of Truth met the midday air.
"Kahlan, down!" he shouted.
Chapter 7: Dark Cloud
"Kahlan, down!" he shouted.
Without hesitation, Kahlan obeyed his command. Richard hefted the sword up in his hand and flung it towards her. For a moment, she was afraid he'd gone insane and was trying to kill her. But the shinning steel sailed over her head and impacted into the trunk of a tree with a resounding whack. Kahlan spun her heard around and looked up just in time to see the black vapors of a cloud begin to disperse and move from away from the sword.
A cruel laughter filled the air as she stood, pulling her daggers from her boots, ready to defend her Seeker. The cloud morphed and stormed around. The tumult inside it was like a thunderstorm, raging and churning. Tiny lightning strikes manifested within the depth of the dark cloud as it hovered towards them.
Before she could do anything, Richard had jumped her from behind and was pulling her to the ground. A hideous roar arose and engulfed all hearing. Richard was shouting something, but she could not hear what it was he was saying over the din of the roar. He held her to the ground and she begun to panic, afraid that something had gone wrong with him. Why wasn't he allowing her to defend herself?
The black cloud twisted around the tree like a snake and smoky tendrils came out and warped around the trunk, digging in deep. There was a shuddering yawn and the wood began to crack. Richard's head darted about as he heard the noise. He gripped her arm and pulled her with him, rolling across the leaf cover ground as the tree groaned and collapsed.
The howl came again and then Kahlan felt a plume of heat arch above them as Richard buried her beneath him, shielding her from whatever was happening. An awful cry sounded around them and then the wind picked up in a sharp gust that tossed her hair about. It was quick and soon the air was still and silent.
Richard eased off her and rolled onto his back, breathing heavily. Kahlan looked up frantically to see Zedd and Cara staring at them with stunned looks. Richard coughed and whizzed. Heaving in deep breaths and stifling her own confusion, Kahlan looked down on him. His eyes had turned normal again, yet they were still dull and unseeing. The red that had pooled in the whites of his eyes was gone. Kahlan fumbled around for a cloth and wiped the blood from his cheeks and face. Slowly his breath evened out and he closed his eyes, losing consciousness.
She eased over to him and looked up at Zedd, her brow furrowing with concern. "Zedd, what was that?" she asked through panting breaths.
Zedd slowly approached the fallen tree and shook his head. "I don't know, dear one, but whatever it was, it had no natural magic that I could sense." He bent down and retrieved the Sword of Truth. "However it is clear that Richard could sense it, and that it fears the Sword of Truth."
Cara stood with her hands on her hips surveying the area. "I think we should move on… now."
"Richard's in no condition to travel," Kahlan said, spinning her head around to glare at the Mord'Sith.
"Then we'll carry him," Cara said as if it was the obvious answer. She turned to Zedd. "Don't you have some sort of spell that would make him lighter, wizard?"
Zedd slumped his shoulders and nodded. "Yes…," he answered, then turned and looked at Kahlan. "She's right, dear one. We should get moving. I do not want to be in the woods when that thing shows up again." He looked up and squinted his eyes. "We're a couple of leagues from the Duchy of Pendose," he said. "Perhaps the Duke would be kind enough to offer us shelter for the night."
Kahlan and Cara did most of the carrying. Zedd had to occasionally invoke the spell again. Kahlan found it odd carrying Richard like he only the weighed the same as a bucket of water. Cara grumbled that she thought it was odd that Zedd left the women to carry Richard while he hardly lifted a finger. The wizard hooted back that he was indeed helping by carrying their packs and keeping his strength so he would continue to administer the spell, and if need be use his magic to defend them.
Fortunately, they reached Pendose before nightfall. The guards opened the gates for them once they saw the length of Kahlan's hair. No one in the Midlands turned away the Mother Confessor.
The steward greeted them on the steps of the estate house, and he had the soldiers help with Richard, taking the Seeker to a room to rest. Cara went with them so Kahlan and Zedd could go through the pleasantries that were necessary. They followed the steward into an audience hall filled with luxuries Kahlan had not seen in many months; Tapestries and statuary, lush green plants and pots of flowers, filled the room.
At the end of the hall was a small raised dais where a tall thin man with long crimson hair sat, watching them with keen green eyes. He was dressed in rich attire, and Kahlan knew that this was their host, the Duke of Pendose.
The steward banged his staff on the ground. "Presenting the Mother Confessor Kahlan Amnell of Aydindril, and First Wizard Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander, Wizard of the First Order."
Their hosted nodded, griping the arms of his chair, and rose to his feet. "I am Duke Hiram, welcome to Pendose."
Kahlan bowed her head. "You are most kind to give us shelter."
Duke Hiram smiled slightly and let out a soft laugh. "Begging your pardon, Mother Confessor, but no one would dare turn you away," then he turned grim and serious. "Especially in these dark times."
Kahlan furrowed her brow, confused. "Dark times?"
"Oh, I know, yes," the Duke said, nodding. "The veil has been restored and we no longer have nasty rifts tearing across the land, but something far worse than banelings as begun stalking our woods. The peasants and surfs have had to flee into the strongholds, and my men are doing their best to protect them, but it is difficult."
Zedd stepped forward, frowning. "What is stalking the woods, Duke?"
Duke Hiram looked at him and his eyebrows rose. His eyes looked afraid and tired. "The dark cloud," he answered, almost in a whisper. "It appeared not long after the rifts closed. At first we thought it was just some smoke drifting through the air from a forest fire, but then it started to move against the wind." The man hugged himself, looking terrified. "And after it shows itself, bad things always happen."
"What sort of bad things?" Kahlan asked, growing concern.
The Duke shivered. "To foul to speak of," he shuddered. "Especially in the presence of the Mother Confessor. I would not have you hear such things from me."
Zedd turned to her and lowered his voice. "Perhaps this is the storm Shota warned us about."
"The one she said Richard would require his sight to defeat?" Kahlan questioned, looking worried. The wizard nodded, a grim expressing seizing a hold of his face.
"Have you come to help us, Mother Confessor?" Duke Hiram asked, the hope in his voice was hard not to miss.
Kahlan turned to him and took a deep breath, holding her hands together in front of her and assuming a confessor's stance. "I wish it were," she said. "But we are currently on our way to Aydindril. The Seeker has been afflicted with a powerful spell and only the magic kept at the Wizard's Keep can heal him."
Duke Hiram paled. "The Seeker cannot help us then?"
"I'm afraid not," Zedd said stepping forward. "Not until we get him to Aydindril… could we impose on you for some horses and supplies. It would shorten our journey north to have such things."
The Duke looked away for a moment in thought, then nodded. "Of course," he said, turning back to them. "Anything for the Seeker and Mother Confessor. Pendose needs him strong if we are to fight off this abominable evil."
Kahlan nodded and bowed her head. "We thank you, Duke Hiram."
"Can I offer you a meal, Mother Confessor?" he offered. "We've had so little visitors to Pendose since the tear in the veil, my wife and I would enjoy hearing some news of the outside world."
She would rather not, preferring to spend her time with Richard, but she could hardly decline when the Duke had been so generous and understanding. "That is most kind," she said. "But first I'd like to check on the Seeker."
"You are all welcomed to join us at our table," he said, extending the invitation to their entire party.
Zedd smiled. "Then you shall not want for conversation tonight, Duke."
After checking on Richard, and finding that he was still unconscious, Kahlan wanted to stay behind and tend to him, but Zedd reminded her of the Duke's generosity and the need to stay in his good graces. She reluctantly agreed. It was a rare thing to find a noble who actually respected and treated the confessors as was expected. Since the rise of Darken Rahl, many of the princes of the Midlands had begun to turn away the confessors in fear that Rahl would accuse them of siding against him.
Cara offered to stay behind, but Kahlan insisted she come too. They could all do with a good meal. Zedd used his magic to seal the door, just in case, and the three of them went to the dinning hall to attend supper.
The food was delicious and surprising bountiful, considering the hard times the Duke said his realm was under, and Kahlan could not remember the last time she had such a filling meal. The Duchess was a meek looking woman with big eyes, and she hardly spoke. Her eyes kept casting nervous glances at Cara, no doubt the red leather made her fearful. She appeared to be half the Duke's age, but that was not uncommon amongst the nobility.
Zedd and Duke Hiram did most of the talking, and Zedd went into a longwinded tale of how they sealed the rift. Kahlan was thankful he left out the part about the Seeker giving the Stone of Tears to the Keeper, and her stabbing and killing him afterwards. When Zedd had finished his tale, the Duke raised a goblet of wine and said a toast in thanks to them for saving the world from the Keeper.
"I hope that when the Seeker is better, you shall return to save us from the dark cloud," he added before taking a sip.
Kahlan hesitantly nodded, not wanting to commit Richard to anything without his presence. Duke Hiram stared at her for a moment, and his eyes dropped to her hand.
"Forgive me, Mother Confessor," he said, looking back up. "But I could not help but notice the band on your finger. Am I correct in assuming that you have chosen a mate?"
She fought back a blush as a smile crept across her lips. "In a manner of speaking, yes," Kahlan replied.
"She's going to marry the Seeker," Cara blurted out before Kahlan could silence her. She had not yet been ready to let other people know about that and had hoped to speak with the council before she made it public knowledge. Cara gave an look to say sorry, and then went back to eating her meal.
Duke Hiram leaned back and narrowed his eyes. "Is that wise, Mother Confessor?" he asked. "The Seeker is still needed, and to marry and—pardon—be intimate with him would seem inadvisable. He would be confessed." He paused, looking apologetic for his tone. "I have heard the rumors of your love for each other, but I had always assumed neither of you would act on it, knowing the consequences and damage that could be done."
"It is different with Richard," Zedd announced. "The Seeker has gained special knowledge that has made him immune to her confessor's touch."
"Really?" Duke Hiram said, sounding very intrigued. He leaned back and swirled his wine around in his goblet, looking Kahlan over with his keen eyes. "Then the Creator is truly great to allow such a thing."
"Yes," Kahlan nodded, holding up the goblet to her mouth to hide behind it as she blushed from having her love life discussed so openly.
Kahlan managed to slip away and take some food and wine back to Richard. She asked Zedd how she would get pass his magical lock and he told her not to worry, that he had keyed the door to the three of them and it would open for her. Sure enough, when she pulled at the latch, the door opened. Kahlan stepped into the dim room, and took the plate over to the bed and laid it on the nightstand.
She turned to the fireplace and started a fire, trying to warm the room. As she jabbed at the embers with the iron poker, trying to get them to further ignite, she heard a low groan and turned to see Richard sitting up.
"Who's there?" he asked, his hands fumbling around him as he tried to discover his location.
"It's me," Kahlan called out, returning to the bedside. She climbed up onto the mattress and eased him back down, rubbing her hands across his bare chest.
"And where are we?" he asked, when his head touched the pillows.
"The Duke of Pendose has given us shelter in his estate house," Kahlan replied.
"So we're back in the Midlands," Richard attested, sighing with relief.
He then turned to her, his blind eyes darting around. It seemed his other senses were beginning to work better, because he had no problem facing her when he spoke.
"I'm sorry about before, but I sensed something, and I had to protect you, Kahlan." His hand groped about until he found her cheek. He caressed her with the pad of his thumb, his fingers dancing along the back of her neck that sent shivers down her spine that only seemed to make Kahlan want to pounce him and have her way with him.
"You sensed it?" she asked, taking in a quick breath to stifle the feeling.
"Yes," he replied. "That's the only way I can described it. One moment it was simply there and I knew it was a danger." He paused and his brow furrowed. "Where's my sword?"
"Resting on the desk," she said, turning her eyes up to look at it, confirming what she spoke.
Richard let out a grateful sigh. Kahlan sat back and brought the plate over. Richard smiled as he breathed through his nose and smelled the food. "I guess I'm going to have to let you feed me, aren't I?"
Kahlan smiled as she picked up a piece of venison. "I wouldn't have it any other way." She held the meat bit up to him and rubbed it against his lips. Richard slowly opened his mouth and grazed his teeth against the meat, slowly gnawing at it. Kahlan's eyes were fixated on his lips, and for a moment she wished it were her neck he was nibbling on instead of the venison.
As she helped him eat, Kahlan told him about Pendose and the dark cloud and how Zedd suspect that it might be the storm Shota had warned them about. She told him about what Duke Hiram had said about it and asked his opinion. He hummed slightly as she held the wine goblet up to his lips, helping him drink.
When she returned the goblet to the nightstand, and picked up a grape to feed him, he held up his hand to stop her. "I'm full, Kahlan," he said, and shifted onto his back, his dead eyes staring off into nothing. "I think I know what this dark cloud is."
Her eyebrows knitted together as she brushed his hair from his brow. "What is it, Richard? What could possibly be so destructive and evil."
Richard heaved and took in a deep breath, his brow furrow with concern. "It's chaos, and… and I think it's hunting me."
Chapter 8: Turning Back
Richard sat on the saddle of his horse, frowning. His hands held the pommel as the stallion rocked back and forth as it steadily made its way forward. Kahlan was holding both his and her reins in her hands as she directed her horse to follow Zedd. Cara was behind them, and the Mord'Sith's eyes narrowed as she watched Kahlan maneuver her horse closer to Richard's.
"Is something wrong, Richard?" Kahlan asked softly, so that the others could not hear.
"I'm just thinking about Pendose," Richard said. "Maybe we should have stayed."
"What?" Kahlan frowned, herself, this time. "But we have to get you to Aydindril. Then… then we can get your eye sight back, and… and we can get married."
"I know, I know," he said nodding, one hand coming up to adjust the bandage around his head and scratch his temple. "And… and I want to do that more than anything…" he paused and clenched his jaw. "I just don't like leaving those people behind in danger. I mean, I'm the Seeker, what good am I if I don't help people in need."
Kahlan shifted to hold both reins in one hand and reached over with her free hand to touch his arm. "You're no good to anyone if you die…," she nearly choked out. "Richard, you can hardly walk without me directing you, how can you fight something that has no form or substance."
Richard lowered his brow, and he scowled. "I'm not weak, Kahlan!" he hissed. "I can still fight. Spirits, I saved you from that thing. I even fought Sisters of the Dark at the Pillars of Creation like this. I can fight it. I know I can." He turned his head to face her, though he could not see her, he looked towards her. "If you've ever trusted me, Kahlan," he said. "Trust me now!"
His hand suddenly darted out and he grabbed the reins from her. Kahlan let out a shout, but he was too quick. Richard spun the horse around and gave it a kick, sending the mount galloping away in the opposite direction.
Cara let out a yell as Richard went careening past her, and the Mord'Sith looked up at Kahlan with a bewildered look. Kahlan called for Zedd and the old wizard turned back to see what was going on. He rode back to them.
"Bags! What's happened!" he huffed.
"Richard's being stubborn is what's happening," Cara grumbled, spinning her horse around. "And, as usual, we're going to have to clean up his mess." The Mord'Sith gave the horse a sharp squeeze with her legs and spurred her mount on. "Well, what are you waiting for!" she yelled back at them as she went galloping after Richard. "Let's go after him."
Kahlan needed no more encouragement. She grabbed her reins and urged her horse onward. What was Richard thinking? He did not need to prove himself to her or anyone. She bit her lip, knowing that he'd never do such a thing if he were not blind. He was allowing his current condition to cloud his thinking. Kahlan was determined she would rid his mind of such thinking. All that was required now was to catch up with him.
Astrid looked out of the cabin window. "Erik, hurry!" she called back to her husband.
"I'm moving as fast as I can, woman!" he growled, shoving food into a pack. Astrid furrowed her brow, hurt a little by his mean tone, but she loved him fiercely, so she forgave it. They were worried and frightened, and both for the same reasons.
The sounds had started an hour ago and they were getting louder. Twenty minutes ago she thought she had heard screams from the neighboring farm. The Duke's guards had been around earlier today, telling them to vacate the area. Astrid did not know why, but there had been rumors for weeks, ever since the closing of the rifts, that something evil had slipped through and was haunting the woods nearby Pendose.
Astrid bit her lower lip, worried, and ran her hand over her swollen belly, trying to ease the child growing within. He was kicking something fierce. Erick came up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Sorry, Astrid… I'm just…," he began.
"I know," she said, holding his hand, resting it over her belly. "I'm worried about the baby as well."
Erik slipped his hand down to grab hers. "Let's go."
She nodded and took one last look over their home before closing the door. They darted away from their cabin and through the thick woods that lay beyond. Erik led the way as they pushed through the brush and undergrowth that surrounded the trees. His brow was beaded with sweat, and the worry creased his entire face.
Astrid stumbled and almost fell. She yelped, immediately moving her arms over her belly to protect the child. Erik caught her in his strong arms before she could hit the ground. "Hang in there, Astrid," he murmured into her ears, caressing her cheek as he pulled her with him. He lifted her into his arms and began carrying her.
The growls and howls of some fearsome beasts echoed throughout the wind. But they did not sound like any animals Astrid had ever seen or heard before. It was like a combination of all the predators that had ever stalked the woods of Pendose.
Suddenly she heard a snorting noise, and Erik held on to her tightly as they turned a corner. They were met by a rearing horse.
"Whoa! Whoa!" shouted the rider, but the horse ignored him and bucked. The man slipped and fell off his saddle, collapsing onto the ground.
Erik gently set her down on her feet and checked to make sure she was all right, before going to over to see to the rider. Her husband gripped the reins of the horse and soothed it. The stallion snorted and calmed down as Erik rubbed his neck. Astrid smiled; he was always so good with animals. She stepped forward, resting her hand on her belly as she watched Erik help the rider up.
"Are you all right?" he asked. Astrid narrowed her eyes as she looked at the man. He had a bandage wrapped around his head and his brown hair was unruly and drenched in sweat.
"Where am I?" the man asked, breathing deeply.
"In the woods of Pendose," Erik replied. "Come. You must come with us, the woods are not safe at night."
"Yes, I know," the man nodded. "I've come to help."
Erik exchanged a perplexed look with her, then turned back to the man. "Forgive me, sir, but you seem to be the one in need of help," he said.
"I'm fine!" the man snarled and clutched at something around his waist. His hand came up and he had produced a fierce looking sword.
Erik backed away and moved to shield her. "Please, sir, I meant no offense," he said. "Please… my wife… she's with child."
The man stopped. "Then you should move… now," he said.
They had no idea what he was talking about. Astrid clutched on to Erik's arm, worried and scared. Whoever this man was, he was causing panic, and frightening her. She placed her hand over her belly, concerned for her unborn child.
"Go now!" the man shouted, stepping around blindly, pulling away his blindfold.
Astrid gasped. She clutched Erik's arm tightly. "Erik, look at his eyes!" Bloody tears were running down his cheeks, and the white of his eyes had turned completely red.
Then it came, the howling. Astrid spun around and cried out. A vaporous cloud of black morphed and crawled around the tree. The horse whinnied in fright and snorted, rearing up. The man darted around, and before Erik could grab the reins of the horse, the steed bolted, galloping away.
"Down!" the man cried, pushing Erik aside.
Astrid backed away as the black cloud came towards her. The strange man darted in front of her and held his sword up. The blade glowed a brilliant white. She held a hand over her eyes, and watched in shock as the man darted straight at the screeching black cloud.
Erik jumped up by her side, and grabbed her arm, pulling her back. They watched as the man swung his sword while the black cloud twisted and roared around him. The man screamed and the tendrils came out from the particles and began snaking along the ground like mist.
The tendrils crawled out towards her, reaching for her swollen belly. "No, not my baby!" she wailed, backing up. The man immediately began thrashing about inside the cloud, the sword swinging around in his hands.
Holding her arms around herself, to protect the child yet to be born, Astrid backed up and cried out, as she heard a wail that sounded like death itself. Within the black cloud, the man crumpled over. The cloud shifted and darted from him, as he pushed himself up swinging the sword wildly. It twisted and squeeze, and screeched in what sounded like pain. The sound engulfed the entire woods, and the particles shot up into the air. The dark cloud gone.
A sudden stillness came over them. The man slumped on the ground, resting on his knees. He moved his arm, and held up his sword, using it to prop himself up.
"Erik, look! The sword!" Astrid gasped, pointing out at the man.
Erik squinted and looked at the hilt of the sword. "Spirits, it can't be," he furrowed his brow. "The Seeker?"
The man's head darted up, hearing them talk. "Yes?"
Astrid pushed off of Erik and waddled over to the man, clutching herself, feeling her baby kick. "You're the Seeker?"
"Yes," the man answered, pushing up off the ground with the sword that she now knew was the Sword of Truth.
Suddenly the neighs and whinnies of approaching horses filled the air. The galloping hoofs resounded around them. The Seeker stood and told them to move behind him. Astrid grabbed a hold of Erik as they moved to obey. The Seeker's chest heaved as he raised the sword in front of him. She thought she heard him whisper something to it, like it was an old friend, but she was not sure.
Astrid had never seen the Seeker before. She had only heard stories about him and his deeds. But whether they were truth or not, she did not know. All that mattered was that he was here now, and that he was protecting them. Protecting her unborn child.
Out of the shadows, three horses arrived with riders. One of them had blonde hair and wore red leather. Astrid squeezed closer to her husband, afraid that the Mord'Sith had come to attack the Seeker. She knew that the D'Harans had little love for him, since he had killed their master, Darken Rahl.
However, it was one of the other figures that dismounted first. It was a woman with long dark hair and piercing blue eyes. Astrid was left awestruck by the woman's beauty. She wore dark clothes that accentuated her curves and her skirt's cut provided a generous show of her thighs.
The woman came rushing towards them, and Astrid was afraid she might be some sorceress from the south. Merchants had told her of how strange women from the south had appeared through the Midlands during the tear in the veil, seeking to find the Mother Confessor and Seeker. Astrid was worried that this might be one of those women and that she had allied herself with the Mord'Sith.
But as the woman got closer, Astrid noticed that the expression she wore was not one of anger or revenge, but one of worry and concern.
The woman opened her mouth. "RICHARD!"
The Seeker immediately lowered his sword and the beautiful woman collided with him, her mouth smashing into his as she kissed him with such a passion that Astrid felt embarrassed to be staring. Her arms wrapped around him and pulled him tight as she buried her head in his chest. Then she backed away and gave him a punch in the shoulder.
"Don't you dare do that to me again, do you hear me!" she admonished him.
"I'm sorry, Kahlan," he said, his voice thick with emotion. He moved the sword around and found the scabbard, and sheathed it.
"Kahlan… Kahlan Amnell?" Astrid said stepping forward.
The beautiful woman with the dark hair looked at her for a moment, and her blue eyes darted down, noticing her swollen belly. She smiled and nodded, leaning into the Seeker. Astrid looked back at her husband and her eyes grew wide. He helped her as they knelt before the woman, who was holding onto the Seeker like her life depended on it.
"Sorry, we did not recognize you, Mother Confessor," Erik spoke for them.
"The Seeker saved our lies, Mother Confessor," Astrid quickly added, not knowing why she felt the need to explain the Seeker's actions. "He saved us."
The Mother Confessor nodded and turned back to the Seeker, running her hands down his face. "Well at least you did something right, Richard," she murmured, then kissed him again, but this time, more softly and with much more love in it. Astrid had heard rumors at the market in Pendose that the Seeker and Mother Confessor shared an undying love for one another. It was one thing to hear stories, but quite another to see that love in person.
The Seeker seemed to relax, and he rested his head against her shoulder as the two others approached. Erik helped her up and Astrid looked nervously at the woman in red.
"This is Cara," the Mother Confessor introduced the others. "And Zedd."
"How do you two do?" the old man with the long grey hair smiled at them.
The woman in red glared at them for a moment, then turned back to the Mother Confessor. "We should find someplace to rest for the night," she said.
"You can stay at our cabin, if you like?" Astrid spoke up before she could stop herself.
Erick grabbed her. "Astrid, what are you doing? We need to get to Pendose, it's not safe out here."
Astrid turned to her husband and placed a hand over her swollen belly. "I'm not going anywhere in this darkness, Erik," she said firmly. "If we've discovered anything this night, it's that it is not safe outside during the dark. It would be much safer, and easier, to travel in day light."
"The woman has a point," the woman in red said, giving Erik a glare. "What sort of man makes a woman heavy with child trudge through the woods in the middle of the night?"
"One who fears for her safety and the safety of his child!" Erik retorted back. "We live alone at our farm, and being alone is not safe during this terrible time."
"Well," Astrid said, stepping away from him to stand before the Mother Confessor and Seeker. "We won't be alone tonight, my husband. We'll have the Seeker and Mother Confessor… and their friends," she looked cautiously at the woman in red, "as protection."
The Mother Confessor nodded. "What do you say, Richard?"
He huffed. "Well, with Cara's insistence, and your worrying, I guess I have no choice."
"And what about my aching stomach?" piped up the man the Mother Confessor had called Zedd. "I'm starving!"
The Seeker furrowed his brow. "Zedd, you're always starving."
The Mother Confessor smiled and turned to Astrid. "We would be honored to be guests in your home, please… lead on."
Chapter 9: Awkward Moments
Kahlan latched on to Richard as they followed the couple back to their cabin. Cara and Zedd took care of the horses, and followed behind them. She thought she could hear the two unlikely friends bickering about something; most likely the wizard had made some comment about finally getting something to eat. They had been in such a rush to follow Richard that Kahlan had refused to let them stop to eat, much to Zedd's displeasure.
She was angry with Richard, but that anger was lessened, when they found him safe and sound, though she was worried that his eyes had bled again. She admonished him for removing his bandage, and Kahlan took some time to clean his face before they continued on to the young couple's cabin. Even though she hated to admit it, Richard was right. He was not completely helpless and he was walking with more purpose, and did not seem to require as much help. His other senses picking up more of the slack now.
They reached the cabin in less than an hour, and the woman opened the door for them. "I'm sorry, it's not much, but it is home," she spoke nervously, the concern evident on her face that her home would not meet with the Mother Confessor's approval.
Kahlan looked around and thought that the woman was being modest. Compared to all the places they had to sleep during their travels throughout the Midlands, this place was luxurious. It was no estate, like Duke Hiram's massive mansion in Pendose, but it was better than any other inn or tavern they had stayed in.
"It's lovely," Kahlan responded, genuinely, as she helped Richard down into a chair. The Seeker rested his arm on the table and sighed, scratching his cheek.
"I am called Astrid," the woman with child said, slowly wrapping her arms around her swollen belly, and nodding towards her husband. "And this is my husband, Erik."
"Well, Astrid, thank you so much for opening your home to us," Kahlan said, smiling, as she placed a hand on Richard's shoulder. His hand immediately came up and joined hers, as if he craved her touch.
"It is our honor," Astrid asserted, waddling over to take a seat, getting off her feet. "We shall be able to tell our child that we had the Mother Confessor and Seeker in our home as guests. It will truly be a tale to tell."
"Nonetheless, it is still very kind of you," Kahlan insisted. Astrid gave an understanding nod and made no more protestations about how much of an honor was being done to her and her husband with merely giving shelter to travelers, albeit travelers who were quite well known and famous.
Zedd and Cara entered, closing the door behind them, arguing about something. Kahlan looked up and gave them a glare, telling them with her eyes to show so respect and gratitude to the young couple who had offered them shelter for the evening. Zedd gave a big toothy grin, while Cara did her normal Mord'Sith nod.
"Oh, here I am, sitting around…," Astrid said, pushing herself up, "when I should be making something for us to eat."
"Don't trouble yourself, my dear," Zedd said, stepping over and placing a hand on Astrid's shoulder, gently easing her back down to her seat. "I may be renowned for my skills at wizardry, but few know I am also a talented cook."
Cara snorted. Zedd looked over at the Mord'Sith with false indignation.
"Snicker as much as you want, Cara," he said, giving an impish smile. "But I know how much you enjoyed my rabbit stew two nights ago."
"It was good enough," Cara said with a wave of her hand, admitting nothing.
Zedd placed his hands on his hips and shook his head. Cara tilted her head and stared back, pursing her lips. Kahlan rolled her eyes and took a deep breath, easing away from Richard to stop this before it got out of hand.
"Erik," she said, turning to Astrid's husband. "If you could give Zedd a quick tour of your kitchen, I'm sure he'll be able to manage without much assistance."
Erik gave a nod and gestured for Zedd to follow him. Grinning from ear to ear, Zedd took off after Erik. Cara smirked, then turned to start taking care of their things. Kahlan returned to Richard to find the Seeker smirking and holding back a laugh.
"It's never a dull moment with those two around," he said.
"You're quite a handful yourself, Richard," Kahlan said, pulling a chair over to sit beside him. She turned to Astrid. "So, Astrid… when are you due?"
Richard's brow furrowed, then he seemed to remember the conversation they had had after Kahlan and the others found him with the young couple. He turned his head in the direction of Astrid, his hearing directing his movements. The young woman gave a brief smile and her hand came up to rest of her baby bump.
"If the midwives are to believe, within a week," Astrid said, allowing herself to smile.
"Congratulations," Kahlan said, looking down a bit, wishing she could be carrying a child as well. Seeming to sense her mood by the tone in her voice, Richard reached out blindly, but found her hand with amazing quickness. He gave her a loving squeeze and smiled, his head facing her. Kahlan squeezed his hand back, silently thanking him for his comfort.
"Thank you," Astrid replied, averting her eyes and smiling a little, obviously noticing the unsaid feelings that had passed between the Seeker and Mother Confessor. She looked back up and bit her lip, as if holding back something. Kahlan gave a nod and gestured for her to speak her mind. "Sorry… I was just wondering… are the rumors true?"
Kahlan blinked. "What rumors?"
"Well," Astrid shifted uncomfortably under Kahlan's gaze. "I was just wondering… the soldiers were talking… they were saying that the Seeker is immune to your powers. And that you were with child."
"The soldiers said you spent the night with the Seeker," Astrid said, blushing, looking down, clearly worried she had crossed an invisible line she should not have. "I'm sorry… I don't mean to intrude, but it is hard not to see the way you love each other. Even with the Seeker blind, he can hardly keep his eyes off you."
"No, I'm not with child," Kahlan said flatly, trying to wear her confessor's face.
"But you want to, don't you?" Astrid said, rubbing her belly, smiling. "I know how thrilled we were when my moon blood did not come." She paused. "I'm hoping for a boy…" she suddenly looked terrified. "I'm sorry, I forgot, confessors can't have sons…" she began fretting.
Kahlan was suddenly feeling cornered. She knew that, now that the rift was sealed, people would expect the Mother Confessor to work at conceiving a child. Being the last confessor was a burden she did not like to bear, and it made it worse when people pointed out that fact, even when it was in a kind innocent way like how Astrid had asked.
Before she could answer, Richard spoke up, easing away the awkward silence with his warm voice. "If all we can have is daughters," he said, reassuringly squeezing Kahlan's hand. "Then we will have daughters."
"Then you do plan on having a child together?" Astrid asked, smiling.
Kahlan gulped. They had not even gotten married yet, let alone had the talk about starting a family. She knew she should have seen this question coming… certainly once they reached Aydindril, she would hear no end of it. Currently, Kahlan was still too rapt up in Richard's present state of blindness to even stop a moment to give a thought about having children.
"Yes," Richard said, his hand squeezing hers tightly, answering Astrid's question for the both of them. Kahlan was left speechless, and it warmed her heart to hear our confident and sure his voice was when he declared that he wanted to have children with her. She had wanted that for so long, it made her love him all the more to know that he wanted it too.
Astrid nodded smiling. "I'm sorry for being so forward… I was just hoping to have someone to talk to about being with child," she replied. "I'm the only expectant mother in Pendose."
"Well, either way, we're very happy for you," Richard said, nodding his head.
"It took Erik and me a while," Astrid said, seeming to let go of her concerns of seeming forward. "How long have you two been trying?"
Kahlan felt her cheeks flush in embarrassment, and was thankful Richard could not see her redden at how people had taken note of how she had spent the night with the Seeker, and had been gossiping about what the two of them were doing—even if they hadn't been doing what, apparently, everyone thought they had been doing. She knew that Richard wanted to be together as much as she did, but she respected and understood why he wanted to wait. She wanted him to be able to see her, too, when they finally got to be one.
"Kahlan," Cara's voice called her out of her thoughts, and Kahlan sighed, for once grateful for the Mord'Sith's interruption.
"Yes, Cara?" she asked, turning to look upon her friend.
Cara's eyes narrowed, her lips curling into a smirk, and her eyes gleamed with mischief. "The Seeker's dirty, and… he smells of horse," Cara said sniffing the air and grimacing. "I've prepared a warm bath," she looked over at Astrid as if to apology for not asking permission to pour one. "Perhaps you should take him and get him cleaned up before supper."
Kahlan felt herself flush with the idea of washing Richard, seeing him for the first time. Beside her, Richard seemed to stop breathing and his face was unreadable. Then, ever so slightly, his lips began to turn up in a smile. His eyebrows rose with a boyish quality to his movements.
"You know what… I think that might be a good idea," he grinned.
This was not how she expected things to go this evening. From the cooking area, Zedd, having overheard their conversation, began chuckling loudly and winking, giving Erik a few jabs with his elbow, as if he was sharing in on the wizard's amusement. Cara smirked and the Mord'Sith directed her with a nod of her blonde head, as Kahlan stood up, suppressing a blush, and took Richard's hand in hers and led him towards the washroom.
Kahlan did not know why she felt like a little girl sneaking out of her room after curfew, but she did. Her heart pounded with a fierceness that she had never felt before, and she had to remind herself to take a breath, least she faint with anticipation of finally seeing Richard in all his glory, as she had longed to do since she had admitted to herself that she was in love with him. She had suppressed those feelings for so long that it felt strange and awkward to have them storm to the surface all at once.
After they entered the washroom, and as soon as Kahlan had closed the door, she released her control on her mask of a confessor's face and blushed like there was no tomorrow. Richard, seemingly sensing her embarrassed state, laughed slightly and rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb.
"There's no need to be embarrassed, Kahlan," he murmured softly, as he let go of her hand and began removing his vest.
Kahlan vaguely remembered nodding in response. All she could do was stare at him as he slowly began to strip in front of her, constantly wearing a boyish smirk.
"Richard, I…," she lost her voice when he removed his shirt and her eyes locked on his bare chest. Kahlan bit her lower lip and breathed heavily through her nose as her gaze wondered his tight pectorals and abs.
Richard's smirk grew, and he began unfastening the scabbard that held the Sword of Truth. "If I could have use of my eyes, I have no doubt I'd be seeing your cheeks turn pink," he chuckled softly.
Kahlan opened her mouth and released a soft gasp, blinking and coming back from her trance. She felt silly that she was staring at him. It was not like she hadn't seen him without his shirt on before, it's just that… this would be the first time she would see all of him, not just his bare chest. And spirits be damn, she wanted to see him! All of him!
"It's only right, you know?" he said.
"What do you mean?" Kahlan spoke hastily, feeling herself flush all the more with unwelcomed arousal at seeing the gorgeous sight that was her Richard. She looked up into his dull eyes, wishing that they were alive with his boyish humor and unrelenting love.
"I've seen you naked… before…," his voice trailed off.
Yes, she gave a nod, remembering what he had told her about that time when she'd been split in two. She still was confused about that incident, Richard didn't like to speak about it… as if more had happened than her simply splitting in two: One half becoming an insane and clingy lover, while the other half became a tyrannical dictator of a Mother Confessor. Something had happened during that time between her and Richard, and he never hid that fact, but there was something else that had happened, something that the Mother Confessor half of her had done; yet he never told her what that was. Whatever it had been, she could tell that it hurt and pained him.
Shoving her thoughts aside, Kahlan stepped closer to him and tentatively reached out to touch his chest. His skin was warm and he seemed to become even warmer at her touch. Richard's breathing grew laborious as he closed his eyes, allowing his other senses to take over.
"The woman who used magic to look like me," she said, ignoring the events of Aydindril and the medallion. "The one with the magic mirror."
As if thankful for the avoidance of the other event and the focus on this other one, Richard smiled and nodded. "Yes," he smirked. "I was totally shocked when you… I mean she, came up and suggested we take a swim. And then you…," he laughed and shook his head, "she… I mean she… took her clothes off and dove into the lake." He paused and his hand came up to touch her face. "I thought it was you."
"Well," Kahlan smiled herself. "Someday, you'll get to see the whole me… the complete and real Kahlan."
"But for now," he said, finishing with his sword, and handing it to her, "it's my turn to bare myself to you… all of me, with no shame or embarrassment. I love you, Kahlan. And… besides, you're wearing the ring I gave you, so why shouldn't I want to take my clothes off when I'm around you!" He laughed and his other hand held her head steady, as he directed his mouth to hers.
They kissed as Kahlan set down the sword. Backing away, she took a deep breath, preparing to finally see the man she loved in his complete glory. She'd been waiting for this for so long, and had always feared that seeing him thus would be a curse, knowing she could only look and never touch. But all that was different now...
Richard fumbled around as he searched for the edge of the tub. Finding it, he dipped his fingers into the water and smiled. "It's still warm…," his head turned towards her, and she was amazed at how good he was becoming at using his other senses to perceive the world around him. "I have a slight change to the plan," he smirked.
"Oh, and what's that?" Kahlan asked, raising her eyebrows, already figuring out what he was going to say.
"We could take the bath together," he said, his grin grew even wider.
Kahlan inched closer to him and ran her fingers down his chest to his waist. "Sounds like a good plan," she said, as she leaned into him, giving him a kiss, as she slowly began to unbuckle his trousers.
Chapter 10: The Bath
To be safe, I'm rating this chapter M.
"We could take the bath together," he said with a smirk.
Kahlan inched closer to him and ran her fingers down his chest to his waist. "Sounds like a good plan," she said, as she leaned into him, giving him a kiss, as she slowly began to unbuckle his trousers.
Her hands began to tremble with anticipation at finally seeing her Richard. She grumbled to herself, upset that her nervousness and anxiety were getting the better of her. His hands slowly slid down and joined hers. He held her hands, rubbing them tenderly and with great affection.
"Here, let me help you," he spoke, noticing how she trembled. "I may be blind, but I'm not lame."
Kahlan laughed softly, and together, they unbuckled his trousers. She then set to work at unlacing them, as his fingers danced up her arms, find their way to her top jacket. His fingers brushed across her cleavage and she blushed, not knowing why she was feeling so embarrassed and awkward with him touching her in places she had longed for him to touch.
After all they had been through, Kahlan felt she deserved the caress of her lover's touch. The touch of the man she loved, the man who loved her, and would be her husband. Her hands, no longer shaking, Kahlan managed to unlace his trouser all on her own, and she smiled at the accomplishment. Richard's hands gripped the edges of her jacket, and she arched her arms back as he slid it off, allowing it to fall to the floor. At the garment fell from her, his hands followed his removal, his fingertips teasingly dancing along her exposed arms, tickling and exciting her.
She allowed herself to grin, and she gazed at him in awe at how confident and sure his movements were. If ever there was a man who could survive without his sight, surely it was Richard. And she knew that she would stay by his side of her entire life, giving it up if asked, just to be with him, even if he was blind and could never gazed upon her again. Richard meant too much to her for the vanity having his eyes confirm her beauty. Kahlan had always known that the beauty Richard always saw in her was her spirit, as was the same with her to him. She loved him for who he was, not for his body.
Of course, it helped that he had a rock hard body full of tight muscle and gorgeous skin, but she'd love him just the same with his soft and flabby. She'd love him when he was grey or bald, and all wrinkling. Kahlan would stay by his side until she died… and if he died first, Kahlan wanted to join him. She could not bear the thought of living in a world without Richard.
His roaming hands brought her thoughts back to the present, and she smiled, loving the feelings his fingers were stirring inside her body. It was light he was making a fire, rubbing the sticks together until sparks ignited and burst to life to create the hot passionate flames of their love.
Wrapping her arms around him, and pulling his mouth to hers, Kahlan kissed him in a way she never had before; opening up to him completely and without pause or hesitation, knowing full well that her powers no longer threatened to take him from her. Richard groaned into her mouth, obviously enjoying it. His hands were making quick work with her blouse and he soon rid her of it, and began attacking the laces of her corset with great zeal. Kahlan giggled airily, as he dug his lips into her neck, nibbling at her flesh with the kind of passion that had long eluded them. She arched her neck back, giving him more access, as he freed her of her corset.
Suddenly, she blushed, fully aware that she was about to become exposed to him. But then she remembered that he could not see, and her heart ached at the thought. As if he could sense her troubled mind, Richard paused from his ministrations and his hands drifted down her side to rest on her hips.
"Kahlan," he murmured, his breath warm and moist on her cheek. "I love you so much…" he bit his lip, his brow furrowing as he thought. "And I want you… I want you so much. I don't care if I can't see you, my darling Kahlan; I want to be with you. Completely."
Kahlan let out a breath, startled by the conviction and resolve in his voice. Ever so slightly a smile began to creep along her face. "I want to be with you, too, Richard," she answered, placing her hands on his chest, feeling his muscles flex beneath the surface, excited by her touch. "But… shouldn't we wait, I mean it's not that I don't want too—I do, but to do ithere…" her words trailed off as he moved forward and captured her lips with his, his tongue playful dancing across her teeth, as she opened up for him.
Pushing into him, Kahlan flushed with a heated excitement that she always felt whenever she was around Richard. He was so very handsome and gorgeous, with strong arms and beautiful warm brown eyes… oh, how she missed the glow and sparkle of his eyes. His fingers danced up from her hips, tickling her spine, as he gripped the corset and finally pulled it away.
Immediately his hands were upon her in places and regions that had long since been denied. Kahlan moaned with the exquisite pleasure his touch gave her. His hands moved across her breasts, and he leaned forward to kiss them. She pushed herself into him, begging him to do more… much more. Kahlan felt him grin against her flesh as he continued to nibble and kiss her. Her hands moved down his chest, feeling his tight abs, running her fingertips down to his waist, and pulling at his trousers.
They went down with ease and Kahlan had to push Richard back, tenderly kissing him as she gazed upon the man she loved for the first time. She caught her breath, and her eyes became unmoving as she stared at the state of his excitement. She always knew he became excited easily in her presence, just kissing her, but she had never suspected how excited she could get him… until now.
"Richard…," she managed to gasp, finally looking back up to him.
His cheeks blushed a bit and he grinned at her mischievously. "I did say I had a change in plan…," he smirked. "Once Cara suggested you give me a bath, my mind started thinking… and I was excited way before you closed the door."
Kahlan tentatively reached down to touch him. He moaned slightly at her touch, causing her to giggle. She was surprised at the firmness of his excitement, and the velvety feel of the skin… he was so warm and eager, that Kahlan felt herself becoming wet in places she never knew she could become wet in. He guided his hands down her arm and wrapped his fingers around her delicate hands, pulling them back up.
"There will be time enough for that, my sweet Kahlan," he murmured, kissing her hands softly, then slowly lowering himself to his knees. His lips danced down her neck and chest, pausing for a moment on her bosom, before continuing down past her stomach, where he kissed her bellybutton and licked at it playfully.
Kahlan let out a moan that came out in a gasp, as she had tried to suppress it, concerned that the others would hear her and realize what they were doing… if they did not already know. Richard seemed to pay it no attention, his complete focus on her. His hands drifted down her legs, rubbing her thighs, and helping her out of her boots. She almost forgot he was blind; his movements were so assured and precise. It was like he knew exactly what he was doing without even seeing.
Once her boots were removed, he began working at her skirt, tugging that the hem, as he pulled it down. Kahlan flushed a little, feeling a warm churning sensation between her thighs that left her confused and feeling overwhelmed. She was rapidly losing all control, becoming consumed by his ministrations. Spirits, if they did not make love, she would die.
Her skirt let loose and feel down pass her knees. She laughed softly, as he ran his hands back up her legs, tickling and teasing, as she stepped out of it, allowing him to brush it aside as he began working at her underthings. Kahlan caught her breath as he tugged at the fabric and practically ripped it off. She ran her hands through his hair as he descended upon her, kissing her femininity.
She murmured his name, overwhelmed by what he was doing. Her anxiety and nervousness flew away, as he danced warm wet kissing along her pelvis and across her flat stomach, as he rose up, his hands resting on her hips, his fingers tenderly caressing the soft flesh of her rear, as he pulled her towards him.
"Richard?" she breathed out his name in a moist breath, gasping for air, as his mouth descended upon her breasts.
"Yes, my Kahlan?" he murmured, his voice blowing softly on her skin, making her shiver in rippling pleasure.
"We're supposed to be taking a bath…," she panted between breaths, trying to stifle her rising need to simply have him. She could feel his arousal pressing against her thigh and she wanted nothing more than to admit and succumb to him as wife to her husband, but she wasn't ready. Not yet, at least. As much as she wanted too, she could not.
Richard rested his forehead against hers and they shared a breath as they kissed. "All right, my beautiful confessor…," his cheeks were warm with unsatisfied hunger.
"Soon, Richard…," she promised, as she helped him over the edge of the tub and into the warm water. "Soon we will be one, I promise. I vow to you as the Mother Confessor."
Richard slipped into the water and eased down, holding out a hand for her to follow. Kahlan smiled and accepted his hand, raising her leg over the lip of the tub. She eased into the warm water beside him, playfully running her hand across his bare chest, loving the warmth and love the emanated from his body.
She splashed water at him and giggled, enjoying herself, as she pressed her body up against his. Richard let out a soft chuckle and the mirth shaking his whole body. He raised one arm out of the water and placed it behind his head, resting it against the back of the tub for support, as he smiled.
Kahlan clung close to him, relishing the feel of the warm wet bodies touching and mingling beneath the water. "Well, shouldn't we be cleaning up?" she asked, leaning up to gaze upon his countenance.
Richard grinned and shifted to bring her close to him, pulling her flush against his body. "Kahlan," he whispered softly, cupping his hand in the water and wetting her hair, his fingertips attentively feeling as he went. "I love you, so much… and…," he swallowed, his dull blind eyes seeming to stare straight at her. "I have… I have a feeling that something bad his going to happen… so… can't we make love? Please? Just one night, it's all I'm asking."
"Something bad? Like what?" her heart pounded beneath her breast in worry. She would never let something happen to him. He was too important, too precious, to her. "Please, don't say that? As long as we're together, nothing bad will happen."
"Kahlan," he groaned. "I wish it were so, but it is not. Think of everything that has happened to us over the past year of fighting the Keeper and his minions. And now," he turned his head away, swallowing. "Now, there's this cloud, and my blindness." He turned his head back towards her. "I want to make love to you before it's too late, my Kahlan… my gorgeous beautiful confessor."
He ran his fingers through her hair, and cupped her face. She closed her eyes and eased into his touch.
"I want no regrets, Kahlan, none," he said. "And for be to at peace in mind and body, I have to make love to you. So please? Let me…" his voice faltered for a moment, then came back. "Don't you want to?"
"Of course I do, Richard," Kahlan nearly sobbed at the idea that Richard might have thought she no longer desired him before of his blindness. "I want to… more than you can imagine."
"Kahlan," he pulled her close, touching noses. "If you are to be my wife, then you must learn when it is time to please your husband…," he grinned and his eyebrows shut up mischievously. "And that time is now. I will not take no for an answer, Mother Confessor."
Kahlan blinked and took a deep breath, trying to reconcile herself with Richard's refusal to give up so easily on being intimate. Spirits knows she wanted too… but it was just so painful knowing he could not see her. She wanted him to be able to witness the joys and ecstasies she no doubt believed he would bring her. She wanted to gaze into his eyes and see the love that was always there as they became one.
"Well?" he asked, stirring next to her, rubbing his wet nose against hers. "What is your answer, Mother Confessor?"
Kahlan bit her lower lip and furrowed her brow, feeling her cheeks flush as she made her decision. "Yes, my Richard," she said hastily, fearing she would change her mind and cause him pain. "I'll make love to you… yet… I do so wish you could see me…"
Richard sighed and nodded. "As do I, Kahlan," he murmured. "But I will still feel and hear your responses… I will know the pleasure you feel… the pleasure we shall both feel."
His hands ran down her spine, playing with her skin as they went, swirling up all these feelings and sensations inside her that were completely foreign and new to her. She leaned forward and press her lips softly against his, giving him a loving and tender kiss. He shifted, maneuvering her into his lap, adjusting her legs, as he placed her above him.
Through panting breaths of heated desire and wanton need, Kahlan prepared herself. She knew how it was done, the other older confessors had seen to it that the younger ones were taught, but this would be her first time. At least the first time she could remember. She wondered if she still had her virtue and if it would hurt when he first entered her.
As if sensing her anxieties, Richard's hands came back out of the water, rubbing the pads of his thumbs along her cheeks, as he held her face in both hands. "Don't be nervous, Kahlan," he murmured softly. "Know that no matter what… I love you."
"I love you, too, my Richard…," Kahlan whispered lightly through her lips as she placed her hands on his chest, leaning forward, capturing his mouth in an embrace. She opened up to him, and allowed his tongue inside, deepening the kiss as she pressed herself closer to him.
He pulled back and his blind eyes seemed to pierce straight into hers. "All you ready?" he asked, always concerned and worried about her needs above his own. She thought it silly for him to behave as such when he was the one handicapped by his blindness, but she made no mention of it.
Kahlan gave a hesitant nod of her head, and with his hands cupping her face he could sense her affirmation and consent. He smiled at her, and pulled her to him, kissing her as his hands explored her hair and ran down its length, eventually submerging under the water to grip her behind and guide her.
Ever so slightly, with his arms around her, Kahlan lowered herself onto him. Her mouth dropped slightly, and she let out a soft gasp, as she felt her maidenhood taken. Tears began to flow down her face, yet not in pain, but in joy. His brow furrowed in concern, as he felt her tears on her face as he brushed them away with his fingers. Kahlan reassured him that she was well by gripping his head in her hands and pressing her lips against his, kissing him slowly with delicate and deliberate movements, seeking to memorizing everything about this moment.
The warm water swirled around as she began to move her hips, closing her eyes and moaning with the exquisite feeling of becoming one with him… with Richard. Kahlan was delighted that she had felt the dull pain between her legs when he entered her; it was proof of that which she had always prayed and hoped.
Richard was truly her first… whatever magic had torn her apart, and then brought her back together had kept the real Kahlan whole. Richard alone would always be the first and only man she would ever love. With his arms around her, his lips caressing her neck, they began to make love.
Chapter 11: Amorous Feelings Abound
Kahlan did not know how to feel after their time together in the bath. She had always thought that since Richard had previously said he wanted to wait until he got his sight back that their first time would always be in her big bed in Aydindril. She had never thought, not even once, that they would end up making love in a bathtub while staying under the roof of a young farming couple. Not to mention the experience in itself. Kahlan had been unprepared for the sheer amount of pleasure she would derive from becoming one with the man she loved. She had enjoyed every moment of it, and was sure Richard had as well.
They had hardly bathed, spending most of the time making love as the waters warmed with the heat of their passion. Kahlan did her best to keep her groans and moans of ecstasy as quiet as possible, but it was very difficult. Richard brought her so much pleasure to even attempt to suppress it was a maddening prospect. And since he could not see, she wanted him to hear how pleased she was with his ministrations.
Finally being with Richard in all the ways she had hoped was almost hard to believe. It had happened. It had actually happened. She was no longer a virgin; she had given it to the only man she had ever wanted to give it to. And she would happily be with him all over again.
Kahlan felt numb with delight and contentment, pleased to have finally been able to love Richard in all the ways a normal woman could. Even blind, Richard seemed to be able to know just what to do to give her as much pleasure as humanly possible, plus even beyond that. Kahlan had no idea that such pleasure could be had. And she loved Richard all the more for giving it to her.
Afterwards, Kahlan quickly cleaned them with some soap and rinsed their hair. Richard grinned and rubbed his hands over her, lathering the soap thickly on her body. Kahlan laughed, knowing by his playful smirked that he was enjoying himself too much. Finally finished, Kahlan stood and stepped over the lip of the bath and onto the floor. She found a towel and quickly dried herself off.
Richard stood and held out a hand. She gripped it and guided him out of the tub. His fingers intertwined with hers as she smiled, pulling him close to feel his lips on hers one last time before they got dressed. His hands rested on her shoulders and slipped down to her hips, feeling her as he went.
"Richard…," she smirked, feeling his excitement against her thigh. "We've just made love several times in the bath… it's time to focus on other things besides…"
"You naked?" he laughed, finishing her sentence. "I'll try Kahlan, but it's difficult… especially when I can feel your soft body so close to mine." He smiled and hummed, slightly, allowing his hand to explore her more.
Kahlan gasped slightly in pleasure as the feel of his touch, but she had to stop him. The others would be wondering what was taking them so long.
Astrid stared at the door, blushing. It had been over two hours since the Mother Confessor and the Seeker went to take a bath. She felt her child kick restlessly inside her, and she placed her hand on her large belly, trying to sooth the child within. Zedd, the old wizard, had finished making a nice spice soup an hour ago, and had left some in the pot above the hearth for the two bathers.
A blush flushed to her cheek when the door finally opened and the Mother Confessor and Seeker emerged, a silly grin plastered on his face, which told more than words. Zedd grinned widely and gave Erik a jab with his elbow, and the Mord'Sith, Cara was her name, smirked, her blue eyes twinkling.
"It's about time," Cara spoke softly to the wizard. "The tension in the air has been palpable." She turned and stood, giving her seat to the Seeker, and she looked up at the Mother Confessor, smirking. "I'm glad you two finally got it over with."
Astrid watched as the Mother Confessor's creamy white skin turned pink with embarrassment. She was obviously very self-conscious. Astrid wondered why. She had always thought confessors were good at suppressing their emotions. But there was something about the Seeker that seemed to melt away the mask Astrid was used to seeing on a confessor.
The Seeker only smiled more when the Mord'Sith laughed slightly at the sight of the Mother Confessor blushing. Erik stood and offered his chair to Kahlan, who smiled and gave a nod of thanks. Her husband came over and stood behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder. Astrid reached up and placed her hand on top of his. "Well, it is late," she said. "And I'm very tired. With your leave, I will retire for the evening."
"You don't need my leave, Astrid," the Mother Confessor said, kindly. "This is your home, we are your guests."
"Just the same," Astrid replied, as Erik helped her stand. "You are still the Mother Confessor. You shall have our bed, Erik and I will take the guest room."
The Mother Confessor stood and shook her head. "No," she said. "You have your bed, Astrid…," she smiled slightly, her eyes darting down to Astrid's swollen belly. "You need the comfort of your own bed more than I."
Astrid gave a nod, sighing. "You are most kind, Mother Confessor."
Erik held her hand as they left the Mother Confessor and her party. They went into their room and closed the door. Slowly Astrid removed her gown until she was in nothing but her shift. She sat on the edge of the bed and looked over at Erik, as he removed his shirt and sighed, uneasily.
"Erik?" she questioned, looking over her shoulder.
"Yes, Astrid… my sweet?"
"I… I just could not help but notice how the Seeker looks at the Mother Confessor," she said. "And how she looks at him. And… and what they must have done in the bath."
He chuckled. "Yes, I thought it was obvious, my sweet," he murmured, lying down on the bed, pulling at her to join him. Astrid closed her eyes and lowered herself to lie on her side, scooting back into Erik's chest. His arm wrapped around her and he placed a hand on her belly, running his fingers tenderly over the swell. "They have no doubt already begun working on the next confessor. If she has conceived this night, then we shall have the honor of telling our child that a confessor was conceived in this very house."
"But the Seeker is not confessed," Astrid objected, confused. "How can that be?"
"I don't know, my sweet," Erik whispered into her ear, as he began to kiss her neck. "Does it really matter?"
"No," Astrid smiled, enjoying the feel of his lips on her neck. It had been so long since he'd shown her any tenderness in this way. Maybe the knowledge that the Mother Confessor and Seeker had made love in their home had made Erik amorous. It was difficult to make love in her present state, but they had found ways. She arched her neck over her shoulder and stared into his eyes.
"Are you going to make love to me?" she asked hopefully.
"Yes, my Astrid," he kissed her cheek, as his hands ran up her shift. "My sweet, the light of my life… the mother of my child."
Richard smiled as he heard Zedd chuckling, telling them that Cara and him were thinking of sleeping in the stables with the horses. "For warmth!" his grandfather jokingly replied when Cara huffed and inquired what he was talking about. No doubt, Zedd was winking and grinning like a mischievous cat, implying that Richard and Kahlan could have the guest room all to themselves. As he stood, Kahlan's hand sought out his, and he loved the feeling of her skin, remembering how soft and warm she had been when they had shared those precious moments in the bath.
Despite being blind, he believed that it was one of the greatest pleasurable experiences he had ever had. It had been even better than that time that he had thought it had been Kahlan, his whole Kahlan, only to then find out that she had been split in two. Part of him felt guilty for not telling Kahlan the whole truth of what had happened, of how her confessor half had taken a mate… he knew she would feel responsible and guilty for those actions, when she had nothing to do with them. He did not want her to feel guilty for anything.
He had been amazed and startled when he felt a small trickle of blood escape from her when they had made love, evidence of her losing her maidenhood. He had felt it before, with the non-confessor Kahlan, and he did not know what to believe anymore. Had Kahlan been completely restored to the way she had been before she had been split in to? And had everything that had happened between the two halves become null and void? He shook his head; sometimes magic was vexingly confusing.
Richard allowed Kahlan to lead him. As they departed the kitchen, he heard Zedd and Cara bickering, no doubt the Mord'Sith grumbling about his joke about them sleeping in the stables. Kahlan's hand was warm, and her skin was silky smooth from their quick rinse after their lovemaking.
The sounds of door closing and the latch bolting shut, informed him that they were now alone. He smiled as he felt Kahlan tug at his shirt. Her breath was close, and he narrowed his focus, using his other senses to direct his hands to her face. Kahlan's cheeks were warm when he touched them, flushed with a heated passion that was leaking out of her lips as she breathed heavily.
She pushed forward and captured his lips in hers, wrapping her arms around his neck, pulling herself closer to him. Her hand was turning into a fist as she clutched at his shirt. Richard ran his fingers through her hair and melted into her embrace. When she pulled back, Richard gasped with how quick her hand went from his shirt to his waist.
"Kahlan?" he questioned, panting. "What are you doing?"
Kahlan removed her hand from his groin and placed it back on his chest. "I'm sorry, Richard…," she murmured, her voice sounding ashamed, mixed with worry. "I… I just thought that now that you've taken my virginity, you… you would not be interested in me again."
Richard shook his head and smiled, directing all his senses to her. He wrapped her in his arms and pulled her tight. "I will always want to be with you, Kahlan… always," he said softly, soothing her by running his hands tenderly up and down her exposed arms. "But you don't have to open you legs for me all the time," he chuckled. "Not that I don't mind… but sometimes, simply snuggling and falling asleep in each others arms is enough."
"Really?" she replied.
"Yes, really," he smirked. "I never want you to feel like I'm forcing you to do anything. Whenever we make love again… I want it to be a mutual decision."
He closed his eyes as her hand came up to caress his cheek. "You're so good to me, Richard," Kahlan spoke softly. "What have I've ever done to deserve a man like you?"
"Well, to begin with, you can stop asking that," he said. "Because you have me, and I'm not taking that engagement ring back."
Kahlan laughed softly, and leaned forward, resting her forehead against his. He felt her breath against his cheek, and for a moment, they simply stood there with their arms wrapped around each other. Richard took a deep breath and hugged her tight.
"Now, Mother Confessor," he whispered softly into her ear, taking the opportunity to smell the fragrance of her hair while he was close. "I believe we've both had an exhausting day… what with the hard ride, and our bathroom activities, I believe we both need a good night's sleep."
Kahlan sighed. "You're right, Richard…," if he could see, he would have imagined Kahlan was raising her eyebrows suggestively as she continued. "But there's nothing saying we can't have a little fun first, is there?"
Richard caught his breath, as Kahlan's hand ran down his chest, teasing him. "No… not at all, my beautiful Kahlan," he replied, pressing his lips against hers, as she pushed him backwards, directing him to the bed.
Somewhere nearby a dark cloud crept along the banks of a creek, shifting and reeling across the rocks and running water. It rumbled and bits of light flashed from within its depths. The vapors parted and as the cloud moved away a dark form slipped out, twisting and groaning in agony as it writhed on the bank of the creek. Small hands clawed at the sky, begging, pleading for mercy. Then a sudden gasp escaped from its mouth and it howled, heaving in the sudden pain that came to it. The dark cloud slipped back and hovered above, watching as its spawn began to take its first breath.
Chapter 12: The Decision
Richard felt the warmth of sunlight on him. He blinked his eyes, then sighed, remembering he could not see. Despite that, he found himself content, enjoying the feel of Kahlan in his arms. He smiled to himself, and slowly slipped out of their sleep embrace.
He sat up, stretching, trying to loosen the tension in his muscles from last night's activities. Kahlan had been surprisingly aggressive in their lovemaking, something he had not expected, but he had no complaints about it either. He felt her stir beside him, and he turned onto his side, reaching out with a hand to touch her, running his fingers through her hair, cupping her face in his hand. And, using his sense of touch to direct his movements, he leaned down and kissed her.
Kahlan's lips curled into a smile as he continued to caress her lips with his. Her hand came up and raked through his hair, pulling him closer, deepening the kiss. Her mouth opened for his and their tongues did a fierce battle that she easily won. She always won. Kahlan had won his heart long ago, so it was no surprise to him when she won this battle.
As Richard pulled back, he wished with all his heart they he could see the glorious sight that was his Kahlan. He was positive that she must look radiant in the morning sunlight that was, no doubt, coming through the window. Richard was certain that she would literally be glowing after their passionate lovemaking of the previous night. It made everything he suspected was coming in the near future all the more bearable.
Her arms wrapped around his neck, pulling him back down for another kiss. Richard savored it, memorizing everything about the feel of his beloved kissing him. After all, that was all he had at the moment, just the sense of touch and smell. He loved how she smelled.
The fragrance the soap left behind in her hair from the bath mixed with the sweet smell of the dew-like sweat that remained from their lovemaking was intoxicating. When they parted, she sat up next to him and leaned her head against his shoulder.
"How's my Seeker?" she asked, her voice the greatest sound he had ever heard. "Did you enjoy yourself last night?"
"Oh yes," he hummed in response. And Kahlan giggled slightly, as Richard dipped his hand down and tickled her ribs playfully.
"And from all the noise you made last night, I take it that you enjoyed yourself, as well, Mother Confessor," he grinned, continuing his torment of her. Kahlan laughed and pushed him away, as his hand started to seek out softer flesh. He felt the mattress shift as she got up off the bed.
Richard closed his eyes, fully aware that doing so was meaningless with his blind state, but he did not care. He could still feel what it felt like to close his eyes, and it was something he found reassuring. In a way, it allowed him to focus his concentration on his other senses. And right now, he was primarily focusing on his hearing, trying to figure out what Kahlan was doing.
From the rustling sound he heard, he deduced that Kahlan was dressing. He could hear her grumbling, no doubt, as she tied up her corset. The sound of her displeasure made him laugh. He heard her huff and he felt her plop back down onto the bed next to him.
Her hand slapped his chest lightly, more in a playful manner than one of anger. "What's so funny?"
Richard smirked. "Oh nothing…," he said.
"Liar," Kahlan murmured, scooting closer to him, rubbing a hand tenderly down his arm. "Have you forgotten that I'm a confessor and can tell when you lie."
"I believe we've gone past that, Kahlan," Richard responded, reaching over to pull her closer, loving the feel of her soft feminine body next to his. "You no longer need your powers to read me."
She laughed slightly. "I suppose you're right," she conceded. Kahlan took a deep breath, and sighed.
"You know, you don't have to always wear a corset," he said, chuckling.
"I thought you like how it… well, accentuated my figure," Kahlan replied hastily, and Richard could tell by the rise in her voice the she was blushing.
Richard fumbled around until he found her hand. He danced his fingers up until he reached her neck. Slowly he cupped her flushed cheek in his hand. Kahlan's hand came up to join his, and she rubbed the back of his hand with hers, holding it to her cheek.
"Oh, Richard, I wish we could just stay in here all day," Kahlan said, the frustration and desire clear in her voice.
"I wish for nothing more in the world than just to be with you for the rest of my life, Kahlan," Richard responded. "That I was not the Seeker, and you not the Mother Confessor. That we were just Richard and Kahlan, two people who loved each other and that that was all that mattered."
"So do I, Richard," Kahlan sighed. "So do I."
Richard let out a soft groan as her hand ran down his chest. "Kahlan," he murmured, grabbing her hand to stop her. "Now is not the time for diversions." He paused, regretting saying it. He would like nothing more than to give in and spend some more precious moments with his love, but there were matters that needed attention. "There are things that need to be done. Paths to choose."
Kahlan let out a breath, and he could feel her relenting. "Of course, Richard, your right… I'm sorry," she said. "But whatever happens, whatever decisions you make… let me be by your side."
Richard smiled and pulled her hand up to his lips, kissing it slightly. "I would have it no other way, my confessor… my Kahlan," he agreed. "No matter what, I want you at my side. Of that, I am sure of." He sighed and kissed her hand again. "Now, help me get dressed."
Kahlan stepped out into the kitchen to see Zedd talking at great length to Astrid about something that did not make sense, to either Astrid or Kahlan. Zedd raised his eyebrows and shrugged. From behind her, Kahlan felt Richard's hand come to rest on her shoulder. She smiled, enjoying the touch, even if it was not intended to illicit anything, but it did.
The group turned, seeing her. Astrid made to stand, but had difficulty. Cara narrowed her eyes, and then jumped to assist. Kahlan smiled to herself, seeing the Mord'Sith do something to help another, as Cara helped Astrid stand. The woman's arms wrapped around her enlarged belly, and smiled slightly, giving a nod of thanks to the Mord'Sith. Gone was the fear and apprehension that had once accompanied Astrid's eyes when Cara was near.
"I trust our guestroom met with your approval, Mother Confessor?" Astrid inquired.
"Yes, it was most kind of you," Kahlan said, reaching up to take Richard's hand in hers, and walking with him over to the table. Richard stood beside her, and his hand separated from hers, as he moved it slowly up her arm and then draped it around her waist, pulling her closer.
"We thank you for the bed for the evening, Astrid," Richard said. "It has been a long time since either of us had had the pleasure of a mattress to sleep on."
Cara smirked and folded her arms across her chest. "From the sounds coming from your room, I doubt you two got any sleep."
"Yes, indeed," Zedd said, grinning mischievously, as he plucked an apple up out of the bowl in the center of the table.
Kahlan's cheeks warmed, causing a soft chuckle to issue from Zedd. Beside her, Richard shook his head. "Now, now, you two, enough with the jokes," he said, then frowned and turned serious. "I've made some decisions."
"Decisions?" Zedd hooted, perking up, pausing in the middle of a bite of his apple.
"Yes," Richard said, nodding, his head turning towards Kahlan. "We've both made a decision."
Cara folded her arms. "What decision?"
Kahlan took a deep breath, remembering everything Richard had said, and what she had agreed too, while they had got dressed. Part of her had not liked it, but it was necessary. "Richard and I are going into the forest to hunt down this dark cloud," she explained. "Meanwhile, you and Zedd will head for Aydindril."
"What!" Zedd sat up, standing. "I know how you said you both came to this decision, but who's decision was it really?"
"Mine," Richard said, stepping forward and lowering his voice. "Zedd… I need you to get to the Wizard's Keep as quickly as possible. You need to find the cure for this blindness."
"But why can't we all go together," Zedd protested, huffing. "Wouldn't it make more sense for you to come with us and be healed immediately when I find the book with the spell that can cure you. And besides, didn't Shota say you needed to be in Aydindril?"
"She also said that chaos was coming, and that I was the only one to stop it," Richard replied hastily. "And this dark cloud…"
"You believe it is this chaos that the witch woman mentioned," Cara said, raising an eyebrow.
Richard nodded, his head turning towards Cara, and it was as if his blind eyes were looking straight at the Mord'Sith. "Yes," he said firmly. "I know it is."
Zedd shook his head and turned toward Kahlan. "Dear one, please, talk some sense," he pleaded. "Convince the Seeker to see reason."
Kahlan took a deep breath and moved closer to Richard. She grabbed his hand and turned to Zedd with a steel gaze. "We made this decision together, Zedd," she said, putting on her confessor's face, hiding her own wariness about the whole thing.
The old wizard took a deep breath and inclined his head. "Very well, if that is what you two want," Zedd said, sighing. "Then… I will do as you wish."
Kahlan inclined her head, thanking him.
Cara looked less convinced. "You expect me to leave the Lord Rahl alone and unprotected?" the Mord'Sith scowled.
"I won't be alone, Cara," Richard said, bringing Kahlan's hand up to his chest, resting it just above his heart. "I'll have Kahlan with me. She is a confessor, after all. She's not helpless."
"Oh, I know that," Cara said, smirking. "The Mother Confessor is a pretty good warrior, especially for not being a Mord'Sith."
Kahlan raised her brow, surprised by Cara's compliment. Perhaps Richard was finally beginning to get through to Cara.
Cara turned to Zedd. "Come, wizard, we've got a long journey ahead of us, and the sooner we start, the sooner we'll get there."
Zedd gave a nod. "Right you are, Cara," he nodded. "Right you are." The old wizard came over to Kahlan and placed his weathered hands on her shoulders. "Take care of yourself, dear one," he said, giving her a big grandfatherly hug. He backed up and gestured towards Richard. "And take care of my grandson as well."
"We'll look after each other, Zedd," Richard promised, tightening his grip around Kahlan's waist. She loved how they could finally freely hold one another in public without fear. Simply having his touch right now was making this difficult decision easier to bear.
Zedd gave a smile. "Oh, I have no doubt…," he lowered his head and placed a hand on Richard's shoulder. "Just be careful, Richard. We still really do not understand what is going on."
"I will, Zedd," he nodded. "You be careful, as well."
The First Wizard inclined his head, and then turned to the Mord'Sith. "All right, Cara, let's get some supplies, pack up some grub, and be on our way."
As Cara and Zedd packed up, Astrid turned back to Kahlan. Her arms had never left their protective hold over her swollen belly, and she looked worried. Kahlan could tell that the young woman wanted to speak, but she appeared to be having difficulty admitting as much.
"What is it, Astrid?" Kahlan asked.
"Mother Confessor, I… I was just wondering if… well… if it were possible that Erik and I could have your assistance in getting to Pendose," she finally said. "It's just… difficult, in my current condition. And with this cloud out there… I… I…"
"You're afraid?" Richard spoke up.
Astrid turned to the Seeker and nodded. "Yes."
Kahlan turned to Richard, sensing him pondering over it. She knew what he had decided when he tilted his head slightly. Kahlan turned back to Astrid and gave her a smile.
"Don't worry, Astrid," she said. "The Seeker and I shall escort you and your husband back through the forest to Pendose. We'll make sure you get to safety."
Astrid beamed and bowed her head. "Thank you… thank you very much!"
When the woman left to inform her husband, Kahlan turned to Richard, and led him out of the cabin. Zedd and Cara were fixing the saddles to their horses, and were in the process of mounting. Zedd looked over his shoulder at them, as they stood in the frame of the doorway. His grey eyes looked worried, but he did not express his concern aloud.
Cara narrowed her eyes, looking as if she did not like any of this, but she too, kept her concerns to herself. Zedd pulled the reins of his horse and cantered over. "We'll return as soon as possible," he said.
"Till then, Zedd," Richard said. And as the wizard and Mord'Sith departed, Richard turned to Kahlan and smirked. "I hope those two don't get themselves into any trouble."
Kahlan shook her head and grinned. "I think we're in more trouble than they are, Richard," she countered.
"Are you having second thoughts?"
"No," she asserted, vehemently. "I'm not just the Confessor to the Seeker. I'm his betrothed as well. I am not leaving your side, Richard. Nothing, not even this dark cloud, is going to make me do that."
They went back inside and Kahlan sat Richard down at the table, as she helped Astrid and Erik pack and prepare for their journey. Within an hour, they were ready. Though blind, Richard was able to assist Erik, when the man helped his wife up onto the horse. Kahlan had wanted Richard to ride the other one, but the Seeker was being stubborn and declared he was not lame, and could walk.
Kahlan relented to him, and told him to remain close. She took hold of the reins of the horse with one hand, and with the other, grabbed Richard's hand. Leaving the last horse behind, the four of them—the Mother Confessor, the Seeker of Truth, and the young couple—made their way into the forests of Pendose, where chaos lurked.
Chapter 13: A Difficult Path
"So, what are you thinking about?" Kahlan asked.
Richard furrowed his brow. "What?"
"You looked far away, as if deep in thought," she replied.
He held her hand and brought it up to his lips, kissing it lightly, though making sure to keep enough of his attention on his steps, so that he would not make a fool of himself and trip. As the day continued, it had become easier for him to walk. He had been able to use his other senses more as they went, and he did not have to rely as much on Kahlan's assistance… though he still enjoyed holding her hand.
"Well?" Kahlan asked.
"I've been trying to think of how we are going to deal with this dark cloud," Richard answered. "But then my thoughts always seemed to drift back to last night."
Kahlan laughed and he felt her arm wrap around his. She eased closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder. "It was that good, was it?" she asked.
They stopped, and Richard turned towards her, raising a hand up to caress her cheek. "It was better than good," Richard replied softly. "It was great!" His hand shifted to cup her face, and he pulled her towards him, tenderly brushing his lips against hers. He could feel Kahlan flush with the same desire and passion he was feeling. She eased into him, and her hand ran down his arm to clutch his hand. As their kiss deepened, their fingers intertwined.
Backing away, Kahlan let out a light breath. "You're a confessor's dream come true, Richard," she said quietly.
"And you're my dream come true, Kahlan," he smirked. They turned and continued walking. Richard shook his head and laughed.
"What is it?"
"Well, to be honest," Richard said. "You are quite literally the woman of my dreams."
Kahlan leaned against his side, and adjusted his steps. She told him to be careful, that they were approaching some uneven rocky terrain. "What are you saying, exactly?" Kahlan asked.
"Come on, Kahlan, you know what I'm saying," Richard laughed. "I've been dreaming about being with you since the day we first met. And now, finally being able to fully be with you is, quite literally, a dream come true."
"Really?" Kahlan giggled softly and her arms wrapped around his, tugging him closer. "You want to know a secret?" she whispered.
He gave a nod, very eager to hear her secret.
"I had dreams of being with you, as well," she murmured in a quiet voice.
Richard raised his eyebrows. "Now that's news to me," he wanted to stop and continue this conversation, but then a strange sensation swept over him and he felt as if he was sensing a presence. He slowly untangled himself from Kahlan's arm and held his hand up to halt their movements.
"Richard, what is it?" Kahlan gasped.
His hand drifted down to his sword and he gripped the hilt. "Stay behind me," he ordered, firmly.
"Do as I say, Kahlan!" he hissed, then gave her a soft smile, regretting his tone, but he could not allow anything to harm Kahlan.
She glanced over her shoulder, signaling Astrid and Erik to stop. The couple obeyed her commands, and she turned her attention back to Richard. "Talk to me, Richard."
"It's the cloud," Richard replied. "I… I don't know how I know, but I do. I can sense it."
He gritted his teeth together and pulled the Sword of Truth from its scabbard. A sudden roar erupted all around him, and Richard knew that the cloud was upon them.
Zedd narrowed his eyes as he looked out across the grassy hills. If he had to guess, they were probably a couple more days ride from Aydindril. He turned his head and looked over at his silent companion. The Mord'Sith had said very little, and he could tell that something was bothering her. He pulled the reins on his horse and brought it up next to her.
"Well, my agiel wielding friend," Zedd said, lowering his brow. "Tell me, what are you brooding about?"
Cara scowled. "What do you think?"
"Ah," he nodded. "Yes… I'm thinking of them, too."
Cara shifted in her saddle and pursed her lips, narrowing her eyes. "I just don't feel right leaving them alone," she shook her head and looked up, her eyes angry. "I swore to protect the Lord Rahl."
Zedd gave a nod. "I know how you feel, Cara," he said. "Honestly, I do. But in a way, you are protecting Richard by helping me get to the Wizard's Keep."
"Yeah, yeah," Cara said waving her hand to dismiss it. "I know. Apparently there is going to be some book in the library that will help us heal Richard."
"At least that is what that she-devil Shota claims," Zedd concerned.
"So what? Are you saying this might be some wild goose chase?" scoffed Cara, raising her eyebrows.
Zedd chuckled slightly. "No," he turned his attention back to the grassy hillside. "I'm sure Shota was telling the truth. I just don't like how she went about telling us."
"Neither do I, wizard," Cara said. "Neither do I."
She squeezed her legs, sending her mount galloping off up the hill. Zedd grinned. Though, he would never admit it out loud, he was enjoying his time alone with Cara. An odd thing, indeed, a wizard being friends with a Mord'Sith, but Cara was no ordinary Mord'Sith to be sure. He kicked his legs and encouraged his own horse off after Cara's.
Kahlan bent her knees as she reached for her daggers, pulling them out and clenching her teeth, ready for a fight. Richard was standing slightly in front of her, holding the Sword of Truth at the ready. A loud roar resounded throughout the entire clearing. Wisps of dark particles seeped out from around the trunks of trees. The particles grew quickly and became thicker, morphing into shapes. The inner lightning burst from within the cloud as it moved closer. Tendrils of black smoke manifested from its being and slithered along the forest floor like snakes.
She shuddered. Just the thought of snakes always made her shudder. Kahlan did not know why snakes terrified her so, but they did. The only thing Kahlan could thick of was that she must have had a traumatic experience when she was young. She looked up at Richard and gasped in horror. His eyes had turned red, and blood was running down his face like tears. Every time they had encountered this cloud, his eyes would begin to bleed.
Kahlan spun her head around and shouted to Astrid and Erik to find cover. This was going to be a tough fight, if any of the other encounters they had previously had with the cloud were telling. She did not want the young couple to be harmed, especially Astrid, who was heavy with child.
Then, suddenly, a howl issued out from the shadows; sounding like nothing she had ever heard before. It was a terrifying sound. Kahlan looked to her right and saw a dark form rushing towards them. Richard's heard it too, but he did not move. He kept his focus on the cloud. Kahlan dodged around him and held her daggers up at the ready.
"Kahlan… what are you doing?" Richard grunted. He may be blind, but his other senses were more than capable of making up for that. In some ways, he seemed even more attuned to his surroundings than before. He had proven that last night… in both the bath and the bed.
"There's something else," she called back. "Not just the dark cloud, but a…," she squinted at it. "I don't know what to call it. It's a biped, and looks like a man… but it's not."
"All right," Richard gave a nod, adjusting his hold on his sword. "Just be careful."
The shadowy figure howled and rushed at her. Kahlan spun around and slashed at it with her daggers, finding it to be solid. The thing screamed when her blades cut into its back, as it flew past them. Richard jumped away and dove into the dark cloud, shouting a battle cry as he soared through the air.
She watched as he landed in the middle of the ever-growing dark particles. The blade of the Sword of Truth immediately began to glow a bright white, and he spun around swinging wildly. Cries and screeches pierced the afternoon air and the cloud seemed too visibly withered and shuddered, as if it was in pain.
Kahlan's attention was called away by a howl from her left. She quickly ducked as a shadowy arm swung at her. Her hair went flying as she skidded left and right, avoiding the snarling punches of the creature. She jabbed her arm out, slashing the thing across the chest, moving with a grace that always came to her in battle. As the shadowy figure fell back, Kahlan risked a glance over her shoulder towards Richard.
The Seeker was still in the middle of the dark cloud, and the Sword of Truth's glow appeared to be brightening. Richard arched his back and flipped the sword around in his hand, ramming the blade down into the ground. Her eyes grew wide as the ground began to quake and the light grew in intensity. She raised her arm to shield her eyes, falling to her knees, as the bright light seemed to ignite in a burst that enveloped all sight.
"RICHARD!" she could not help but scream his name when the light prevented any sight of the man she loved.
Then it was gone, and the cloud had vanished. However, the dark creature was still there. Still on her knees, Kahlan rolled away as it lunged for her. However, she was not quick enough, and something sharp scrapped across her upper arm. She was totally unprepared for the intensity of the pain that came from something as simple as a scratch. The creature rounded on her and soon was upon her. It snarled and pinned her to the ground.
Kahlan whimpered, and closed her eyes, feeling its warm breath against her face. She shuddered as hot sticky saliva dripped down onto her cheeks. The creature roared and the sound was deafening in her ears. Time was running out. She had to think of something to do to save herself. Her daggers had been lost when the beast had tackled her. The beast pressed closer against her and she could feel its strength. Its muscles were hard and lathered with sweat and blood. It was larger than a gar, and much more fierce.
"Hey, you!" it was Richard's voice.
The creature snarled and looked up, glaring out at Richard with black eyes. It howled and Kahlan risked a glimpse of her love. Richard was standing with glowing red eyes gazing out at them. He smirked.
"That's right, ugly," he taunted the beast. "I'm talking to you."
The thing slipped off her and crawled on all fours towards Richard. Its mouth gaped open and it screeched. It looked at him for a moment, slithering across the ground. Then it stopped. It cocked its head to the side and blinked, staring at his glowing red eyes. Kahlan was left startled, herself. Richard looked like Richard, and he moved as if he could see, but there was something different about him. Something more powerful than the man she had known. He was no longer the man who had made loved her last night. The Seeker looked almost like a demigod.
The creature shivered back, and howled like a wolf, then went bounding off into the woods. Kahlan waited for a moment, then pushed herself up to her feet. Richard's chest heaved and he rammed his sword back into its scabbard. Kahlan watched in astonishment, as his eyes seemed to glow even more brightly, then diminished just as quick. He blinked and his eyes returned to normal… well, not really normal. But back to the dullness that they had been since they had closed the rift to the Underworld.
"Richard!" Kahlan cried out as she saw him sway back and forth for a moment, before collapsing on the ground.
Chapter 14: Useless
Kahlan skidded across the ground and dropped to her knees, catching Richard in her arms before he could completely fall to the ground. She tugged him close to her as she sobbed over his body, thinking he was dead. Kahlan eased him down onto the ground and curled up beside him, laying her head in his chest, continuing to grieve.
"Richard…," she sobbed, choking back her tears as she looked up at him. Kahlan ran her hands over his face, trying to wake him, but nothing happened. "You… you can't be… be gone."
She buried her head in his chest again, and then paused. Beneath his chest was a thump… then another, and another. Kahlan glanced back up, wiping the tears from her face. Slowly, Richard began to move his head. His lips parted and a low groan issued out of his lips. Kahlan frantically moved up, positioning herself next to his face, running her fingers down his cheek.
"Richard? Richard!" Kahlan cried, wishing that she had not sent Zedd away. Even if the wizard could not repair his eyes, he could have used his magic to heal Richard of the wounds inflicted on him by the dark cloud.
"Kahlan?" his voice was coarse and he sounded in pain, yet at the same time she could hear the love for her in his voice.
His hand fumbled around, grasping for her. Kahlan reached out and gripped his trembling hand in hers and held it tightly. "I'm here, Richard," she spoke. "I'm here."
"Help me up," he asked.
Kahlan stood and held both his hands, helping him to his feet. Richard staggered for a bit, and leaned against her for support. Kahlan had to remind herself to breathe. She closed her eyes and said a quick prayer of thanks to the good spirits that Richard appeared to be okay. Richard adjusted himself, and bent to retrieve his sword. His hand groped around for moment.
"Here, let me—" Kahlan began.
"No! I can do it!" Richard growled. His hand shot out and he grabbed the handle of the Sword of Truth. He pulled it up, and leaned against it like a cane. He turned his head towards her and tried to smile. "I… I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell."
Kahlan ran her hands down his chest and nuzzled his neck, hugging him. "I understand, Richard," she murmured, brushing her lips against his neck. Richard closed his eyes and bit his lower lip.
"Kahlan…," he said, turning to her. "We… we have to go. It's not safe here." He paused, and clenched his jaw. "When I was in the middle of the cloud, for a moment—just a moment, I thought I could see."
"See?" Kahlan furrowed her brow.
"Yes," Richard nodded. "There was this moment when everything was clear, and it was just as it had been when I… I had the use of my eyes. Except…"
"Except, what?" she questioned, holding him tighter as he began to wobble.
"Except…," his eyes closed and his voice began to drawl. "Except everything was red." Suddenly he slumped forward, and Kahlan clutched on to him to prevent him from falling face first onto the ground. He was still breathing and his eyes were moving frantically beneath his eyelids.
Kahlan looked up towards Astrid and Erik, calling for help. The woman and her husband appeared almost immediately. Astrid was still on top the horse and she was looking at them with worried eyes. Erik stepped over and helped Kahlan with Richard as they moved him over to a bed of leaves that formed a natural cushion.
She let out a cry, when she noticed that tears of blood were again dripping from his eyes. Her heart beat fiercely beneath her breast, as she clutched at his hand, holding it to her chest, praying to the good spirits to protect him. Erik went back to Astrid and helped her off the horse. Together, they led the animal off the path and attached it to a tree, before joining them. Astrid stood behind them, her hands wrapped around her belly, as Erik knelt down on the other side of Richard and began checking the Seeker for any wounds.
Kahlan felt helpless. Never in her entire life had she ever felt this helpless or useless before. Kahlan desperately wanted to help, but it seemed like there was nothing she could do. All she could do was cry, and clutch Richard's hand to her breast.
Eventually Erik stood back and shook his head. "I don't know what's wrong," he said, turning to Astrid. "There appears to be no visible wounds on him, at least that I can see. It could be some sort of spell or something, but I'm just a farmer. I'm not trained in the magical arts."
"Shh," hushed his wife, placing a hand on his shoulder to silence him. "You're not helping. Can't you tell that the Mother Confessor is beside herself with grief and torment over what is happening to the Seeker."
Kahlan shut her eyes and tried to hold back her tears. She was the Mother Confessor, for crying out loud! She had to be strong. Astrid and Erik must think her weak for wailing like this. Kahlan did not want to look weak or fragile, but she could not help it. Richard was everything to her and she could not lose him, not after they had finally been able to be together and experience the physical love that had been so long denied them.
She lowered her head on his chest and let go, allowing herself to cry. Her tears ran rivers down her cheeks and soaked his shirt. She did not care. Kahlan no longer cared what other felt or thought. For this moment, she was just a woman who was mourning the injuries inflicted upon the man she loved.
Kahlan let out a yelp when something touched her head. She looked up and saw Richard's other hand moving, his fingers wiggling as he sought her out. Kahlan moved her head so that he could touch her face. His fingers ran down the side of her face, caressing her, until he cupped her face in his hand and rubbed her cheek with the pad of his thumb. She looked up and saw his eyes flutter open as he arched his neck up. His eyes were still dull and lifeless, but it was almost as if he was staring straight at her.
"Kahlan?" his mouth parted and her name issued from his lips.
"Yes, Richard, I'm here," she murmured softly. "I'll never leave your side."
"What happened?" Richard asked. "The last thing I remember was leaning against you as we walked… and I was trying… trying to explain to you what it was like when I was battling the cloud—What happened?"
Kahlan smiled and helped him sit up. "You fainted," she said.
"Fainted?" he echoed, sounding dubious. "I do not faint, Kahlan. I pass out. Not faint."
"All right, then," she said, her smile growing. She sniffled and wiped the tears from her eyes. "You passed out."
Richard reached up and felt his face, feeling the drying blood on his cheeks. "Are my eyes bleeding again?" he asked, his blank gaze directed towards her.
Kahlan gave a nod, though he could not see it. "Yes," she said. "You began to bleed again when you fain—passed out."
He inclined his head and lowered his brow in thought. Kahlan narrowed her eyes and watched him as he thought, trying to gage how he was. Sometimes she suspected that Richard hid certain things from her, as if he did not want to worry her, but that sort of attitude was growing tiresome. He had proposed to her, and she was going to be his wife. There was no reason for him to hide anything from her anymore. She had seen him at his most vulnerable and she never stopped loving him. If anything, she probably loved him more than ever before.
However, it was hard when he would not open up to her. It made her feel useless and she did not like feeling useless. Kahlan placed a hand on his cheek and pulled his head closer to hers. She rested her forehead against his and she inhaled a deep breath.
"Talk to me, Richard," she whispered. "If you don't talk to me, then I can't help. And I want to help. So talk to me… please."
Richard sighed. "All right, Kahlan," he relented. "You're right, of course. You are my true partner in life, I can trust no one more so than you." He paused and licked his lips. "Something is going on, Kahlan. Something far more dangerous than anything we have ever faced. More so than the Keeper trying to conquer the world of the living. This cloud… it's not just hunting me, it's changing me. Every time I fight it, it is harder to defeat. It learns, grows, adapts. And it's doing the same to me."
"What! How?" Kahlan demanded, clutching his face in her hands. "How is it changing you?"
Richard took a deep breath and blinked. For a moment, his eyes seemed to glow red, but it was only for a second. Kahlan knitted her eyebrows together, growing concerned. "Shota was right," he answered. "To defeat this thing, I need the use of my eyes. I need my sight back. Otherwise, I'm not good to anyone… least of all you."
His hands suddenly sprung up and he gripped her shoulders so tightly it hurt. "Kahlan, listen to me," he hissed, his chest heaving. "There might come a time when it might not be safe for you to be around me. I'm losing control of my emotions… or my own power. And… and I don't want to hurt you. If I tell you to run… Run!"
"Richard… you can't ask me to do that," she pleaded, feeling like he was stabbing her heart. "I love you too much to abandon you when you need me most."
"Kahlan, you don't understand," Richard said, shaking his head. "When I see… and a I see in red, it's not like before. It's like I'm being controlled and that I'm filled with hate and anger. You don't know how much it took for me not to raise my sword at you; how hard it is to fight it!"
Kahlan was close to tears, hearing what Richard was saying. She cursed herself for agreeing to send Zedd away. If ever there was a time they needed the First Wizard, it was now. "Please, Richard," Kahlan continued to beg. "You cannot ask me to leave you. I love you. I love you!"
"Spirits, Kahlan!" Richard seethed, pushing her back. "That is why I'm telling you this. I love you so much that I cannot bear the thought that I will lose control and hurt you! …or worse."
He heaved himself up to his feet. His hand groped around for the Sword of Truth. He picked it up and rammed it home into the scabbard. His head dropped and it was like he was looking down at her, as she knelt before him. She arched her neck to gaze up, terrified to see the expressions of anguish and determination twisting together on his face.
"You once told me that only the Seeker can command the Mother Confessor," he said. "And that she must obey. Is that true?"
Kahlan reluctantly nodded. "Yes," she sobbed. "That's true. But… please, Richard, don't… don't." Spirits, she had an idea what he was going to do. She did not want him to do it, but she was powerless to prevent him. His mind was set and he was not going to listen.
"Then, as Seeker of Truth," Richard began. "I order you to—"
But whatever he was going to order her to do was interrupted when a loud cry of pain engulfed the clearing.
Chapter 15: Nighttime Miracle
"Then, as Seeker of Truth," Richard began. "I order you to—"
Before he could finish, a sudden cry came from behind them. Kahlan spun her head around and blinked, seeing Astrid clutching her swollen belly. The woman's dress had a growing line of wetness streaking down her legs. Erik, the woman's husband, looked confused and unsure. Kahlan took a breath to regain her senses, and then rushed to the woman's side.
"Richard!" she called to him, and she smiled, taking notice that without sight, Richard was still able to follow her and had remarkably sure footing. He followed the sound of her voice and was by her side when she reached Astrid.
"Ah!" groaned Astrid, and she clenched her teeth. Her eyes frantically darted around and her shoulders lowered as she wrapped her arms around her large belly. "Mother Confessor… what… what is happening to me?" she asked.
Kahlan placed a hand on the woman's shoulder and directed Richard to the other side. The Seeker found Astrid's shoulder and helped hold her up as she moaned.
"Your water has broke, Astrid," Kahlan said, trying to sooth her.
Astrid's eyes grew wide. "What!" she choked through her gasps. "No… no now. Not here."
"Well, it can't be helped," Kahlan said, looking around for someplace to take Astrid. She spotted a bed of leaves off to the side of the trail. It would have to do. She turned her head toward Richard. "Richard, help me with her," she said. "She's going into labor."
Richard shifted around, and then held out his hand. Astrid's arm flew out and she clutched his hand tightly. Kahlan looked over her shoulder at Erik and told him to fetch some blankets and water from their bags. He nodded and darted towards the horse.
With Richard's help, Kahlan guided the woman over to the bed of leaves. She was amazed at how calm and relaxed Richard seemed, and how he seemed to have no problem helping to direct the laboring woman with her. This was definitely not going how she had hoped. Kahlan had been hoping that they would have arrived in the village of Pendose before Astrid went into labor, but they were going to have to make do with what they had.
Astrid let go of Richard's hand as Erik returned with blankets and waterskins. Erik took Richard's place as the Seeker stood back, his face holding an expression of worry and concern. Kahlan took on of the blanket and spread it out over the leaves, and then helped Astrid down to the ground. Erik took up a place behind her, helping to hold her back up, telling her to lean into him.
Richard stood off to the side, his head darted back and forth as he used his other senses to monitor what was going on. Kahlan knelt down net to Astrid, as the woman's hand came up. Kahlan took it in hers and rubbed the back of Astrid's hand with her thumb.
"Mother Confessor," Astrid spoke through her clenched teeth. "I… I'm scared."
Kahlan brushed the Astrid's damp hair from her brow and tried to sooth the woman, but it was difficult. "I know… I know." She had seen and even assisted in the birthing process with some of the old confessor's back in Aydindril, when she, herself, had been a young. But there had always been a midwife to help.
Suddenly Richard was by her side, his hand resting on her shoulder. "Kahlan…," his voice was pleading.
She arched her neck and looked up at him, seeing his dull eyes staring past her, not exactly looking at her, but the best he could manage. "What is it, Richard?"
"I was with Emma when she was in labor once," he said. "Chase ran to get the midwife, but he was delayed coming back… and… and I had to deliver the baby."
Kahlan furrowed her brow. If only he could see! She took a quick breath and gave a nod. "Can… can you talk me through it?" she asked.
Richard lowered himself to his knees and gave a nod. "I'll try my best."
Astrid's mouth opened wide and a horrifying scream came issuing out. Erik knitted his eyebrows together in concern and tried comforting his wife, but Astrid was lost in her pain. Kahlan let go of Astrid's hand and moved to the woman's legs. Richard took her place and gripped the desperate woman's hand. His other hand moved through the air searching, until he found her belly. He rested his palm on it, spreading out his palms. He closed his eyes and his brow lowered in concentration. Kahlan watched, her own eyes growing wide, as she waited.
"The baby's coming," he said.
"How do you know?" Kahlan demanded, brushing her hair back, as she began to lift Astrid's dress to prepare for the delivery. She moved more blankets beneath Astrid's thighs and checked on the water.
Richard lowered his head and did no answer. Kahlan wanted to shout at him that she needed help, that she was lost and did not know what she was doing. Astrid's threw her head back and screamed, the cry piercing the night air. Suddenly the Seeker's hand shot up and his pack came falling towards him. Kahlan watched on in stunned silence, as Richard opened the bag and removed a pot.
"Pour the water into the pot!" he ordered, all the while keeping one hold of Astrid's hand.
"Breathe, Astrid," Erik was saying as Kahlan quickly removed the stopper from the waterskin and dumped the contents into the pot.
Richard moved without seeing, placing his palm above the pot. He lowered his head and closed his eyes. Within moments, the water was boiling. Kahlan would have started asking questions, but then Astrid's screamed again. Kahlan took a deep breath and returned her attention to the woman. She looked down between the woman's legs and caught her breath.
"Richard… I need you," she said.
"Is she dilating?" Richard asked.
Kahlan nodded her head and gave a big yes. Richard's head darted toward her and he inhaled quickly. "The baby will be coming soon," he narrowed his brow. "This is the quickest labor I've even seen." He turned towards Astrid. "You should consider yourself lucky, Emma had to go through this for hours."
Richard placed his hand on Astrid's shoulder and waited until the woman looked up at him. Her face was beaded in sweet and she looked exhausted and terrified.
"It's almost time, Astrid," Richard spoke in a calm voice. "I'm going to need you to push, all right."
Astrid blinked franticly and gave a nod, panting and huffing through her breathing. Erik placed his hands on her arms, helping to support her as the woman clenched her muscles and pushed. Kahlan watched, wide eyed, as the woman arched formed and screamed. Richard snapped his fingers and Kahlan looked up, her mouth gaping. She had no clue what to do. All she had done with the other confessor was bring water and blankets. Kahlan had never actually seen the birth take place. She had been deluding herself in thinking she could help.
"Kahlan," Richard breathed. "I need you to check on her."
Kahlan gave a nod and steeled herself to look down once more between Astrid's legs. She let out a cry when she saw it. "Richard… I think she's crowning," she cried. Astrid was screaming something fierce and Kahlan was amazed that the poor woman had not blacked out. She began to wonder how in the name of the spirits she, herself, would get through this. She shook her head, dismissing the though. If Richard were with her, she'd make it through. Though Astrid was holding Richard's hand, she could tell the woman was taking comfort in her husband's presence.
"Push!" Richard commanded.
Astrid arched forward and screamed.
Richard darted his head in Kahlan's direction. "Kahlan, you need to prepare to catch the baby… can you do that?"
Kahlan nodded and did as she was told. She watched as with each push Astrid gave—followed by a scream, of course—resulted in more of the baby's head to emerge. Eventually, after much agony and cries, the baby head emerged and the rest seemed to follow. Kahlan placed her palms beneath it and held the wet little thing as it began to wail.
"It's a boy," Kahlan said, feeling a little pang in her heart knowing that she could never give Richard a son. She looked over at the water and now knew why Richard had heated it, but was still amazed about how he did it. She thought his Han had been taken by Nicci, put apparently not all of it had.
She took a cloth and dipped it into the water and rinsed the baby off. Richard instructed her was to do and she removed her dagger and cut the umbilical cord. Richard was suddenly by her side.
"Direct my hands to the umbilical cord," he said. Kahlan set her dagger down, as did as he command. She watched as Richard took the remainder of the cord and tied it. Afterwards, he told her to wrap the baby up in a blanket.
Kahlan did as he instructed and grinned when the baby quieted and looked up at her, smiling. She picked the baby up and shifted on her knees to hand the little bundle up to Astrid. "You're son, Astrid," Kahlan said.
Astrid beam and accepted her baby, tears of joy running down her face. Erik leaned over and smiled, looking down at his son. He kissed Astrid and held his hand out in front of the baby. The little boy reached up and grasped his father's finger in a tight little fist. Astrid and Erik laughed. Kahlan watched, feeling no joy in the sight. She felt empty inside, knowing that the simple pleasure of giving Richard a son would never happen.
"Thank you, Mother Confessor," Astrid said looking up. "Thank you so much."
Kahlan forced on her confessor's face to mask her sadness. She did not want to mar this happy moment for Astrid and Erik. They deserved to be happy.
"Kahlan, I need you're help," Richard said, still working beneath Astrid's legs. Kahlan shifted and knelt beside him, silently thankful for the interruption. She did not know what to would have said to Astrid. Her thoughts were still heavily involved in her own ruminations.
Richard's head moved slightly, detecting her presence. "The afterbirth," he informed her.
Kahlan nodded, and waited. Soon a bloody mess appeared between Astrid's thighs and slipped out onto the blanket. Richard folded the blanket up and moved it away. Kahlan brought the hot water over and used a cloth to clean Astrid. She bit her lower lip and tried to focus her mind on her work and not on the fact that she was never going to have a son. Only daughters.
Suddenly, she felt Richard's hand on her shoulder. "I don't care, Kahlan," he said.
"What?" she looked over her shoulder, staring into his dull eyes.
"If all we can have is daughters," he said, as if he had sensed her thought. "Then I want daughters." His hand moved up to cup her face. "And they'll all be as beautiful as their mother."
Kahlan smiled, grateful for his reassuring. Richard rubbed her shoulder, affectionately.
"Seeker?" Erik called.
Richard moved his head in the direction of the man. "Yes?"
Kahlan looked up to see Erik exchange a look with Astrid. The woman nodded and Erik looked back up at them. "May we name our son after you, Seeker?" he asked.
Richard raised his eyebrows. "I would be honored."
"Then Richard it is," Astrid said beaming. She adjusted the little bundle in her hands and looked up at Richard. "Would you like to hold him, Seeker?"
Richard took a breath and Kahlan felt his hand tighten on her shoulder. She reached up and patted his hand, unsure why he was so concerned about holding an infant when he had done so much without hesitation.
"You should hold him, Richard," Kahlan murmured softly. "After all, you are his namesake."
Richard sighed and gave a nod. She helped him over to a kneeling position beside Astrid. Kahlan directed him to hold out his arms, and she watched as Astrid eased the small bundle into his hands. As soon as the baby was in his arms, Richard smiled.
A small fist came out and grabbed his collar, tugging at it. Kahlan giggled as Richard furrowed his brow. Then something happened that she did not expect. The infant's hand seemed to glow and the luminosity increased. A bright light engulfed all sight, and Kahlan had to raise her hands to shield her eyes. The last thing she remembered hearing before she blacked out was Richard's screaming.
Chapter 16: The Leviathan
Zedd adjusted himself on the rock, looking back over his shoulder as Cara poked the fire with a stick. They had rode in silence for most of the day, which, for a chatterbox like Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander, was quite frustrating. He had almost resorted to talking to himself, but he held back, not wanting to appear a crazy old man. Though he knew that was probably futile, the Mord'Sith probably already thought of him as a crazy old man.
"Hey, wizard!" Cara snapped. "Don't tell me you're going to let your stew get cold."
"I wouldn't think of it," Zedd chortled as he pushed himself up and shuffled over to the campfire.
Cara narrowed her eyes and harrumphed, as Zedd sat down across from her and began digging into his meal. Cara produced some bread from her pack and broke it into two pieces. She tossed one piece over to Zedd, who smiled in thanks, dunking it into the stew before taking a big bite. He smacked his lips together noisily and grinned over at the annoyed looking Mord'Sith.
"Nicely done, Cara," he smiled. "We'll make a cook out of you yet!"
Cara rolled her eyes. "You're just lucky I found a rabbit," she smirked. "Game is getting scarce the closer we get to Aydindril."
"Well, just the same, you're improving," Zedd winked at her. "You should take that as a compliment."
"Compliments are for the weak, wizard," Cara huffed. "I need no positive reinforcements. I already know I'm superior."
Zedd laughed and shook his head. They continued to eat in silence, the only noise coming from the crackling campfire. As usual, Zedd finished his first and took another generous helping, while Cara was still halfway through hers. When the Mord'Sith saw him take his second helping, she simply shook her head and rolled her eyes, hiding a smirk behind her bowl.
After Zedd finished his second helping, he looked up at Cara and smiled. The Mord'Sith put her bowl down and narrowed her eyes. She huffed and stood up, placing her hands on her hips.
"I'll take first watch," she stated, leaving no room for any protest, and sauntered away to begin her patrol.
Zedd grinned and inched closer to the fire, searching inside the pot, pleased to find some more stew left. He scooped out the remainder and placed them in his bowl. He leaned back against the trunk of a tree and slowly finished off the meal, savoring every last bite. He was in the middle of a large slurp when a figure stepped out of the shadows and into the firelight. Zedd looked up and his bushy eyebrows rose up in shock.
"Shota! You she-devil, what are you doing here?" he grumbled, standing when he saw the witch woman emerge into the glow of fire. Her auburn hair shone with a brilliant sheen.
"Zeddicus, you wound me," Shota said with a pout. "Really, you do. I would have thought that after everything I've done to help, you would see that I have nothing but your best interests at heart."
"I'm sure you do," Zedd replied, sardonically. "But really, Shota, why are you here?"
"Come now, Zeddicus," Shota smiled, stepping forward, raising a hand reassuringly. "You know how I feel about you. You were… no… are the love of my life. I will never do anything to harm you or bring you to danger."
"Likely story," he harrumphed. Still, just the same, Zedd crossed his arms, deciding to give her the chance to explain.
Shota approached him and gave another smile. "Things are happening right now that I had not expected," she said. "The Seeker is in grave danger."
"Richard's always in danger," Zedd said. "Such things come with bearing the title of the Seeker of Truth."
"Yes, indeed," Shota agreed. "And I believe the Seeker accepts those risks. But right now, the danger is not just to him, but to the Mother Confessor as well."
Zedd knitted his eyebrows together. "How so?"
Shota smiled wirily. "Time enough for that, Zeddicus," she said, gazing at him with her almond colored eyes. "Right now, you need to listen to me."
She swirled her hand around and a book appeared in her hand. Zedd narrowed his eyes in a frown and looked down at the book.
"That book is from the Wizard's Keep," he growled, incredulously. "How did you get that?"
"Come now, Zeddicus," Shota smiled smugly. "You don't think I'd give away all my secrets, now do you?"
Zedd lowered his brow and scowled. "No, of course not. You can be quite infuriating sometimes."
"Granted," Shota relented. "But that is besides the point." She held out the book. "This treatise has the cure of which you seek."
He took the book from her and opened the leather bound cover, scanning the title page. "This is about the Leviathan of Chaos," Zedd said, looking up from the pages. "I don't see how this can help. The Leviathan is nothing but a myth."
Shota shook her head and took the book back from him, flipping through the pages. They knelt down beside the fire for more light, as she indicated the marks on the page she had sought. The faded ink showed a dark figure writhing in agony over a shapeless form. Shota turned the page, and he saw the same shapeless form latching on to something. The shape was a silhouette of a man falling to his knees, screaming in excruciating pain.
"What is this?" Zedd questioned.
"That," Shota pointed a delicate finger at the shapeless form surrounding the man, "is the Leviathan of Chaos."
"And this man?" Zedd asked, knitting his eyebrows together in concern, fearing that he already knew the answer.
"The Seeker…," Shota replied, her eyes watching him for his reaction, "of Chaos."
"No," Zedd said shaking his head. "That's impossible. Just like the Leviathan, the Seeker of Chaos is a myth… a fairy tale told around the campfire… like a ghost story."
"It is the truth," Shota said. "And you know it, Zeddicus. Do not play the fool. You have seen the Leviathan. I can see the truth of it in your eyes. You're scared, and rightly so. The Seeker has lost his vision, and a dark cloud has appeared." Zedd nodded. "And if all the prophecies can be interpreted correctly, Richard Rahl is destined to become the Seeker of Chaos."
"No! Never!" Zedd attested, though there was a part of him that feared that the process had already begun.
Shota inched closer to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. "If you wish to prevent this, then you must turn back. You need not go to Aydindril any longer. This book can help you."
She stood and bit her lower lip, as if debating whether or not to say anymore. Deciding, she adjusted her wispy grey dress and stared down at the old wizard.
"You know, this all could have been avoided if the Seeker had come with me when I first warned you," Shota told him.
Zedd looked off into the fire, vaguely listening. Shota huffed and turned to leave. The wizard stood and grabbed her arm, stopping her. "Shota, wait…," he pleaded with big watery eyes. "Surely there is a way to save my grandson from this fate."
Shota squinted at him, her almond eyes reflecting back the light of the fire. "I cannot always swoop in and save the day, Zeddicus. If I did, the Seeker would never learn anything."
"Enough games, Shota!" Zedd growled, lowering his brow, becoming irritated with the witch woman. Usually he could handle her incessant games, but now was not one of those times. "Tell me."
"To prevent the Seeker from being transformed by the Leviathan," Shota relented, "he must not be touched by an uncorrupted soul." She pursed her lips. "That is all I can say."
Zedd's eyes suddenly went wide. "What did you say?"
Shota narrowed her eyes, scanning the sudden change in the wizard's expression. "Richard Rahl must not be touched by an uncorrupted soul."
"Dear spirits," Zedd muttered, realization coming to him. Slowly, he let go of Shota's arm.
Shota looked at him oddly, and then turned to leave. She hesitated for a moment, spinning back around, and glared straight at Zedd, frustrated.
"What is it, Zeddicus?" she asked in a caring voice, so unlike her usual self.
"We ran into a couple in the Pendose woods," Zedd said. "The woman… she was with child and fast approaching the time of birth."
Shota took a breath and placed a hand on Zedd's shoulder, waiting for him to look up at her. She gave him a sympathetic smile. "Then I'm afraid you may be too late to save the Seeker… however," she continued, "you may be able to save the Mother Confessor." She paused. "That is, if you hurry."
The witch woman raised her hand and stepped away. Zedd blinked and when he looked around Shota was gone. He immediately shouted for Cara. The Mord'Sith came running back into camp with her agiels out and at the ready.
"What is it, Zedd?" she asked, her eyes darting around, looking for the danger.
Zedd was already climbing up on his horse. "We have to go back… and quickly," he said. "Richard… dear spirits… Richard and Kahlan are in far greater danger than I had originally believed. We must get back to them at once." Zedd squeezed his legs, sending his horse galloping into the darkness.
Cara grumbled and holstered her agiels, quickly packing their things. "I knew we shouldn't have left them," she muttered under her breath, as she mounted her horse and turned it around, kicking her legs, and directing the horse to follow Zedd's lead.
Chapter 17: Transformation
The light was harsh and unrelenting. All Astrid could hear was the wailing cries of baby Richard. She pulled her baby back and clutched him to her breast, terrified. The little infant's tiny hands clutched for his mother as the Seeker continued to scream. Erik's hands tightened protectively on her shoulders, and Astrid gulped past her fear, determined to protect her baby at all costs.
In the blink of an eye the light diminished and it was dark. The Seeker was no longer kneeling by her side, but standing off in the distance, his arms spread wide to the sky. The Mother Confessor had turned and was looking towards him. Astrid could only imagine what must be going through her mind, staring off at the man she loved and being unable to do anything to help him.
There was a tremor, and the ground shook. The air seemed to warm, as if heated by an invisible fire. The Seeker cried out and threw his head back as the dark cloud came bursting through the forest and enveloped him.
"NO! RICHARD!" wailed the Mother Confessor, as she fell to her knees, crying.
The ground beneath them began to tremble. Astrid shuddered in fear. But that fear gave her a strength she never knew she had. She tightened her hold on baby Richard and reached out for Erik for support. Her husband helped her to her feet. Astrid should have been tired and exhausted from giving birth, but the appearance of the dark cloud was a threat to her baby, and she would let nothing harm her son.
As the cloud continued to rage around the Seeker, the Mother Confessor stood and turned around, rushing to them. Her face was contorted in the grip of some terrible terror that only she knew. There came a sudden roar from the woods. The Mother Confessor spun her head around, her brilliant blue eyes darting here and there, searching for the coming danger. She spun her head back to them, her long hair flying up around her.
"Run," she spoke softly at first. And when they did not respond, the Mother Confessor knitted her eyebrows together and pushed them away. "RUN!" she shouted.
The Mother Confessor turned back around as a dark figure emerged from the woods, charging through the underbrush at dangerous high speeds. It was the beast that had attacked with the dark cloud not long ago. It came charging towards the Mother Confessor, intent on nothing else but her. Astrid gasped and watched as Kahlan Amnell bent down and retrieved her daggers from her boots.
The ground continued to roll and Astrid lost her footing. She yelped as she began to fall. She turned herself around, clutching baby Richard to her, and making sure that she fell on her back. Erik went stumbling and he banged his head against a tree trunk, and slumped down unconscious. Astrid grimaced as she hit the ground, but thankfully the forest floor was covered in needles and leaves; they had softened the fall.
Baby Richard continued to wail, his cries almost as deafening as the sounds coming from the beast, but to Astrid, the baby's cries were the only sounds she heard. She held him to her breast, trying to sooth him, but he was terrified, and rightly so. Astrid stood and tried to steady herself. The ground continued to shake and the Seeker's screams grew in volume. Astrid shuddered and turned to her husband, checking on him. He had a gash on his forehead and he was bleeding. Tears streaked down her face as she tried to think of what to do. She felt extremely useless. Erik was unconscious, the Mother Confessor was fighting off the creature of black, and spirits know what was happening to the Seeker within the dark cloud.
Astrid looked up, cradling baby Richard in her arms as she watched the Mother Confessor slash at the creature with her daggers. The Mother Confessor spun with grace and expertise as she attacked the creature. It snarled and dove around her and did not seem to be deterred by her counterattack. Astrid's baby kept crying, and his face was turning beet red. She sat back and tried to hide them in the underbrush. She held him with on arm and tugged at Erik, trying to pull him behind the tree to safety.
When she got him as far as she could, she sat back and focused all her attention on the baby. She adjusted the bundle around in her arms and placed her hand on the baby's forehead. He was warm, but appeared all together healthy. She had no idea why his hand had glowed when he touched the Seeker, or what had happened. She was worried and concerned, but she had to keep her anxiety under control. Astrid was going to need all her wits about her if she was to protect her newborn during this.
Kahlan dodged a strike by the creature. It's clawed hands grabbed for her. She was desperate to get to Richard, but she had to concentrate on fending off this monster. With each slash of her daggers she cut the creature, but it did not slow or hinder the beast's progress. With each advance, the creature would push her back and further away from Richard. This was something that Kahlan could not allow. She would never abandon Richard, even if he made it an order. He may be the Seeker, but she was the Mother Confessor. And even though it was true, what she had told him, that the Seeker outranked even the Mother Confessor, they were more than just those two titles to each other.
Underneath the snarls and growls of the monster, Kahlan could hear the screams of torment coming from the man she loved, and she would never give up when he was in danger and she could still help. She swung her dagger at the creature arm and slashed opened its blackened skin, sending dark mud-like blood spraying across the clearing. The creature hopped back and screeched, cradling its injured arm. It sneered at her and then bounded away, howling.
Kahlan gasped in air, trying to recover enough energy to dive in the cloud and save Richard. Her chest heaved and her heart pounded with great force. The ground trembled and a great maw opened up in the earth between her and the dark cloud, separating her from Richard. Squinting her eyes, she tried to judge the distance. It was not that far… she… she could jump it.
Spinning around Kahlan ran back, the calculations working hard in her mind as she tried to figure out our far and fast she would have to run to be able to make the jump. Turning on her heals and holding her daggers tightly, Kahlan clenched her teeth, determined to reach Richard.
RUN! She yelled at herself. Kahlan took off like a banshee, running with all her might, faster than she ever had. At the predetermined spot, she launched herself into the air and went flying over the large opening in the ground. She had the vague feeling that this rift looked similar to the ones caused by the Keeper, but there were no green flames, just an inky black abyss. Before she knew it, Kahlan had reached the other side, and it was only by mere inches that she did not end up tumbling down into the darkness. Kahlan spun her arms out, trying to steady herself.
For a moment she shook her head at the audacity of such a desperate and dangerous jump. Never had she attempted such a jump. She remember Richard jumping the rift on their journey to the Pillars of Creation and wondered if she had looked similar diving over this chasm.
Shaking her head, and taking a quick breath, Kahlan got her wits back and she dove into the terrible darkness of the cloud. Particles and dust spun around her, making it difficult to see. She coughed and wheezed, finding it harder to breathe. Groping around, she almost stumbled, but her mind was focused and determined to find her love. She would never abandon Richard... never leave his side. As long as he was alive, she would be with him. And when he was not, she still would. The world was not worth living in if there was no Richard.
"NO! Noooo!" his voice was loud and clear. She darted towards its direction, heedless of any danger that might befall her whilst inside this monstrous cloud.
Then it started to part, breaking away like a storm to let in the sun. But there was no sun, no light, only the dark sparkling lights of the stars above. No moon was here to light their way. It was hidden, obscured. She blinked, and saw him.
"RICHARD!" she cried, dropping her daggers and rushing to his side. His hands flew to his forehead, and he clutched his head as he collapsed to his knees, crying out in agonizing pain.
Kahlan skidded to her knees and caught him before he fully fell to the ground. Blood trickled down from his eyes and his whole body rocked with each tremor of pain. He dug his fingers into her shoulders, and screamed. Her heart pounded with worry and concern. She had no idea what was happening to him and it was terrifying to see the blood pouring down his face. Kahlan would do anything to sooth him and take his pain away. Spirits, if she could, she would even take that pain unto herself so that he did not have to feel it.
Richard leaned his head down onto her shoulder, sobbing from the torment he was receiving, and his arms hugged on to her like a vise, as if she was the only thing that existed in this world that could calm him. Kahlan wrapped her arms around him and tried to sooth him with comforting words, rubbing her hands down his head and back. She blinked, and listened to him sob, looking around.
Her brow furrowed when she realized that they were no longer in the forest. Something had happened whilst they had been absorbed by the cloud. It had transported them somewhere… somewhere far away, no doubt. They were sitting on the top of some desolate mountaintop, with only rock and dirt as their surroundings. Above them, the dark sky seemed to have a green hue to it. Everything seemed strange and off, not quite right.
Richard's hands tightened around her, digging into her skin. It hurt, but she didn't care. He began to sit up, raising his head. Kahlan returned her attention to him, and quickly brought her hands up to cradle his face.
"Richard… Richard?" she called his name, hoping that he would respond to her voice.
A faint smile formed on his lips, and he sniffled. Kahlan tried to wipe the blood from his face, but there was so much.
"Oh, Richard…," Kahlan whimpered, trying to stifle her own heartache at the sight of her love.
His eyelids fluttered and began to open. Kahlan took a deep breath, wanting to see his warm brown eyes, not caring if they were dull and dead. She wanted to see his eyes.
"Spirits…. Kahlan… no," Richard groaned, half to himself. "No… you should not have come…! No… Kahlan, why? Why did you come for me?" He knitted his eyebrows together in anger, not yet fully opening his eyes, and frowned. "Why?"
"Richard, I… I couldn't abandon you. How could I? I… I love you," Kahlan held back a sob, and sniffled. "I could never leave you… and you know that!"
"You should have listened to me," Richard spoke, almost in a growl. "Damn it, Kahlan, you should have listened!"
His body shook and his head jerk back. Slowly, his eyes began to open. The rocky ground beneath them began to quake and Kahlan gasped when she saw him glare at her. She held back a wail as she gazed upon his face, distorted by his new eyes. Instead of the warm brown eyes full of love that always looked her way, all Kahlan saw were the red glowing eyes of hate.
Chapter 18: Blood Eyes
"Run… Kahlan… run…," it was like he had to force the words out. The muscles around his eyes twitched as he strained, like he was trying to fight some powerful urge that he did not want to have. His lips trembled and he opened his mouth. "Kahlan… spirits, please… run."
All Kahlan could do was stare in shock and fear, as Richard's stared at—yes!—stared at her. He was no longer blind, but his eyes were not his own. They were pits of lava that swirled around and glared at her with an undying hatred that did not belong to him. She could tell he was fighting it, but he was quickly losing himself to whatever force was seizing control.
"Damn it, Kahlan… RUN!" he roared as he threw his head back and screamed. "RUN!"
Kahlan shuddered, horrified at the sound of it. It was guttural and primal, sounding nothing like the loving caring man she had fallen in love with. Richard stood and pushed her away from him. He arched his back and howled towards the sky like a raving wolf. Kahlan scooted back, searching for her daggers. She did not want to fight him, but if she was forced to defend herself, she would.
She watched in horror as the blood continued to pour from his eyes, all the while the red orbs stared at her, fixating like she was some prey, and he… he was the predator. Richard's eyebrows knitted together as he continued to fight against it. His arm moved in jerky motions, as if some unforeseen puppet master was pulling the strings. His face looked liked one of tremendous sorrow and anguish. The tears of blood continued to run, dripping off his face and splattering on the rocky ground.
Lightning flashed and struck the ground exactly in the center of the growing space between them. Kahlan turned and frantically glanced around for her daggers. From the corner of her eye she could see Richard pulling the Sword of Truth from its scabbard. The cold steel rang across the empty mountaintop. The blade began to glow that same fearsome orange color it had when Richard had been with the Minders.
Kahlan let out a frustrated breath and huffed, pushing herself up to her feet. Whatever force had transported them to this lone mountaintop had not done the same with her daggers. She was defenseless… except for her confessor powers. But she could not use them. Richard was immune to her touch. It was his love… their love that protected him. And even if she could confess him, she would not. She could not. Not to Richard. Any other man, yes. But not Richard Cypher.
Richard raised the sword in front of him and glared at her with the glowing red orbs that had been bestowed upon him. "Run… Kahlan… run," he continued to plead. His words may be his own, but another controlled his actions. With jerky movements, he began to move forward. His other hand came up to join the first, as he held the sword more assuredly.
He was close. So close that Kahlan could almost feel the warmth of his breath. It was both reassuring and frightening at the same time. Blinking, she dodged the first swing. The glowing blade missed her by mere inches, gliding over her head, slicing at some of her hair. Some strands of her dark hair went flying away in the wind, and Kahlan ducked and rolled around.
"Why aren't you running!" came Richard's voice as his body pivoted around to follow her. "I… I don't want to hurt you, Kahlan… but I cannot control myself. I… I'm being transformed into something else. Damn it! Listen to me and run! Run!"
"Never!" Kahlan spat back, her chest heaving with anger. How could he ask her to do that? After all they had been through, after everything they had to sacrifice! How could he so simply ask her to walk away?
Richard's brow furrowed and more bloody tears came pouring down his cheeks. "I'm losing, Kahlan, can't you see?" he cried as he swung the sword at her again.
Kahlan jumped right, but she was not quick enough. Part of the blade nicked her arm, but it was only a scratch. When Richard saw the blood, and cried out, she would have thought he had just stabbed her. As he roared in anguish at the slightest wound he had inflicted on her, lightning flash and thunder sounded. Kahlan squinted and watched as the muscles in his throat tensed. His face shook as he tried to hold back the evil that was growing within.
He was right. Kahlan could see it in his face. It was a battle he was losing, and there was nothing she could do to change that, no matter how desperately she wanted to, she could not. Despite her own wishes, she was going to have to obey him. Not just because he was the Seeker, but also because he was the man she loved, the man who had dared to love a confessor and ask for her hand in marriage. She closed her eyes for one brief moment and vowed that she would return to him. Somehow, someway, she would help him return to himself and then… then she would marry him and love him.
"Oh, Richard," she whimpered, gazing at him as he trembled like in a seizure, though his eyes were still locked on her. "Forgive me. I… I love you… and I will come back for you."
His head turned slightly. "Just go, Kahlan," he wailed. "Go before it's too late!"
Kahlan tightened her jaw to hold back the tears and took one last long look at the man she loved as he fought against the unnatural force that was surging through him.
"I love you," she murmured softly, then darted over a boulder and began scampering down the mountain.
Just as she cleared the boulder, Richard lost control. He raised the sword and brought it up, swinging down towards the boulder. As she ran, she heard a shuddering crack and glanced over her shoulder, seeing Richard cleaving the massive stone in two with the glowing Sword of Truth. She had no idea that the sword could do such things. But now she knew… so in the future she would be prepared.
Fighting back the overwhelming grief at having to abandon Richard, Kahlan plunged down the slope of the mountain, meeting trees and brush. She tangled around them and ignored the scratches from the thorns and thistles. The only light was from the moon, which for some odd reason cast a green glow. However, at the moment, it did not matter. The save Richard, she had to first save herself. She could still hear him roaring in the distance, no doubt as he was forced to charge down the face of the mountain after her.
Kahlan took a deep breath, her cheeks flushing with the exertion of her run, and tried to focus on not smashing into anything. But her mind kept wanting to wander. She wondered how Astrid and Erick were doing… and the baby, the infant had just come into this life, and already he had witnessed such terrible things.
"KAHLAN!" came a roar that sounding nothing like her Richard, though it came from his voice. "I'LL GET YOU! AND WHEN I DO, YOU'LL WISH YOU WERE NEVER BORN!"
"Oh my," Zedd closed his eyes and could literally feel all his muscles slump in defeat. They had been too late. They had ridden all night and hard into the day, finally catching up with the young farming couple hours after the sun fell below the horizon.
Cara was tending to the husband, whom Zedd had used some of his magic to heal, but a head wound like that was going to need more than magic to heal. While the Mord'Sith grumbled and looked altogether displeased in having to tend to the man, the First Wizard checked on the newborn and his mother.
Astrid had been crying when they found her, hidden behind a huckleberry bush, clutching her infant son to her breast. Zedd ran his hand over the wailing baby's forehead, and sensed a slight fever. He muttered some words, and soon the baby was cooing and nestling up to his mother's breasts, asking for some food. Astrid opened her blouse and directed the infant's mouth to a nipple, which the baby latched on to greedily and began to suckle. Covering herself up a bit, the woman looked up to Zedd and told him what had happened.
"What is it, wizard?" Cara asked, noticing the old man's expression of dismay when Astrid had finished her tale.
He looked over his shoulder at the Mord'Sith and shook his head. "We were too late," he said. "Richard has been transformed by the Leviathan."
"Transformed?" Cara narrowed her eyebrows and looked dubious. "How can a cloud transform a man?"
"Not just a cloud, Cara, but the Leviathan of Chaos," Zedd asserted. "The thing… well, it's an extremely ancient being, one which the wizards of old thought was extinct."
"How old is it?" Cara asked, though not out of curiosity.
Zedd looked back over to check on Astrid, before continuing. He pulled out a blanket and placed it over the young mother's shoulders. Grunting at his old bones, Zedd turned back to face Cara.
"The Leviathan was born out of hate," he explained, taking out the ancient book Shota had given him and flipping through the pages to the story. "In the time before remembering, the Creator and the Keeper loved one another. And from that love came their children… us. The Keeper grew jealous of the Creator's love for their children—"
Cara huffed and rolled her eyes, waving her hand in annoyance. "Yes, yes, yes… I know that story already," she groaned. "How does this Leviathan thing come in?"
"The Leviathan was birthed during this time, Cara," Zedd said, sitting down and resting the heavy book on his wobbly knees. "The Keeper created death, and killed their first born. As you know, the Creator's grief was so profound that it created the Stone of Tears." Zedd turned the page and raised a hand, pointing one finger up at the sky. "What most don't know is that for a split moment, barely a second, the Creator felt immense hatred towards the Keeper for what he had done. And in that split second, Chaos was born.
"So foul and wicked was it, that it had no form," he continued, staring down at the ink image of the vaporous cloud engulfing the man. "It was cursed to wander the land without form or shape until one day it would find a host."
"A host?" Cara looked up and frowned. "I don't like where this is going."
"Neither do I," Zedd chimed in with a nod. "But unfortunately, fate seems to have other plans." He turned back to the book and turned the page, shuddering at the image of the man raising a sword, his eyes turned red. "This is why Shota said Kahlan was in danger. For the Leviathan to fully control its host, it must kill the one the host loves above all else."
"Kahlan!" the Mord'Sith said.
"Yes, Kahlan," echoed Zedd. "The one woman that Richard has ever truly loved." His head sunk down and he felt the beginnings of tears. How foolish was he to think that he could have prevented such a thing. The Leviathan was one of the oldest beings in creation. It could never die, never be stopped.
"But why this whole Seeker of Chaos business?" Cara asked as she finished wrapping the bandages around Erik's head. She looked up at the wizard, awaiting an answer.
Zedd coughed and shrugged. "I'm not entirely sure," he admitted. "Perhaps that is what the host is called. From what I've read so far, it would appear that once the Leviathan has complete control of the host, it quite literally seeks out chaos and feeds on it."
"But Seeker of Chaos, come on, wizard, don't you think it's odd how the host this thing just happens to choose is also the Seeker of Truth?" Cara raised an eyebrow and sat down across from him, folding her arms across her chest.
"If we can't find Richard and Kahlan," Zedd replied, "we may never know." Cara gave a gruff nod of agreement. "But first, we'll get these three to safety. The little one needs shelter."
Cara looked over at the baby. "Is it true?"
"What?" he raised his bushy eyebrows, confused.
"That they named him after Richard?" she elaborated.
Zedd cocked his head and looked over at Astrid and baby Richard. He turned back and forced a small smile. "Yes, it's true," he answered. "From what Astrid told me, Kahlan had to deliver the baby as Richard shouted out instructions."
Cara snorted and shook her head, smirking. "I'm glad I wasn't there."
"Oh… really? Why?" Zedd felt a little bit of mirth, and was silently thankful.
Cara looked at him as if he was playing dumb. "I hate babies."
"You hate babies?" Zedd raised his eyebrows, highly suspect of Cara's declaration. "Why would you?"
"They're messy and noisy," Cara said, wrinkling her nose in disgust. "And they need constant supervision."
"Surely you would like a child of your own some day," Zedd put forth.
Cara harrumphed. "Clearly you've never heard a Mord'Sith scream in labor."
"No, I never realized they did."
"Well, they don't," Cara said. "Why? Because Mord'Sith don't have children. We take them. And we train them."
"Oh I beg to differ. What about your son…?" Zedd broached, knowing the subject was a sensitive one with the Mord'Sith.
Cara visibly shuddered. "Sure, the birthing with him was difficult, but painful," she shook her head. "Never. I've endured beatings at the end of an agiel that were more traumatizing than giving birth to Rahl's bastard."
Zedd squinted, noticing the hints of tears in the Mord'Sith's eyes. She would never admit it, but Cara had truly hoped to find her son when she went off to find him. Sure, she scoffed at the notion of her being a mother, but Zedd knew that if there was anything in the world Cara wanted more than serving the Seeker, it was to find a love of her own and have a family. She would never admit that much, but he knew the truth.
The red leather creaked as Cara pulled shifted to hug her legs. "Besides…," she said, looking up with a smirk. "I already have a big baby to look after."
"What? Me?" Zedd chuckled.
"You stink, you never shut up… and you're constantly eating," Cara said, giving him her famous Mord'Sith smile. "If that isn't the definition of a baby, then I don't want to know what is."
Zedd laughed lightly, and gave a nod. He turned back to check on Astrid. Leaning forward, he pulled the blanket tighter around the young woman. Astrid looked up at him with big eyes.
"You'll save them, won't you?" she asked in a wavering voice. "You'll save the Mother Confessor and the Seeker?"
His brow furrowed and he knitted his bushy eyebrows together. "I certainly hope we can, young one," Zedd said, reassuringly. He hand his large weathered hand over the woman's forehead and soothed her. "Now rest, and take care of your baby." He paused and gazed down at the happy infant suckling on his mother's breast. "Take care of Richard."
Chapter 19: On The Run
Kahlan jolted awake. She took in a deep breath, and shuddered, trying not to cry. She did not know how long she had slept, in all honesty she did not care. Running throughout the night and the other day had been exhausting. Managing to stay one step ahead of a possessed Richard was tough work, but she had managed it somehow. When it had grown dark, she had needed to find a place to hide and sleep. She found a hollowed out tree trunk. It was a tight fit, but enough to squeeze in and get some rest. Somehow, she managed to fall asleep despite the terror that had enveloped her like a cloak.
Staring out of her damp hiding place, Kahlan glimpsed the morning fog. This place, wherever they were, was foggy most of the time. It aided in her escape, but it also made it difficult to see where she was going. Her black dress was torn and ragged, and she knew she had looked better. Her hair was all tangled and stringy, and dirt and grime seemed to have invested itself in ever crevice of her body. She blinked and wiped the crud from her eyes. She could still feel the dried stains of her tears from her silent sobbing.
Taking a shallow breath, Kahlan inched out of her hiding place and skipped down the rocky slope to the creek. She crouched by the babbling water and cupped her hands, splashing her face with the freezing water. Pushing back her hair, she bent down to drink from the creek, unaware of how quiet it suddenly became. No birds or insects. Nothing was making a sound.
A twig cracked and Kahlan sat up, eyes wide. She heard the growl first, and darted like a scared deer back into the foliage. She wedged herself back into her hiding place, just in time to see Richard emerge from the other side of the creek. He stopped there, skidding to a stop. His chest was heaving and his eyes still glowed that awful color of red.
Kahlan tried to hold her breath, terrified that he would hear even the minutest of sounds. She tried to calm her nerves, not wanting her heart to beat as fiercely as it was beneath her breast, but just seeing him made it do that. Not just from fear, but also from the love she bore him. Richard was not in control of himself anymore. She did not blame him for his actions. The dark forces of this world had claimed the man she loved, and now spoke with his voice and moved with his body.
She watched, in trembling fear, as Richard cocked his head back and forth, sniffing the air. He scowled and knelt by the creek, dipping a hand into the cool water, taking quick sips. He splashed some water over his head and down his back. He rubbed the back of his neck, stretching. And then he stood and rested a hand on the pommel of the Sword of Truth, as his red eyes scanned the surroundings.
He let out a frustrated huff and then darted away, pushing through the underbrush, heading further down the mountain. After ten minutes passed, Kahlan finally released her breath. Sweat had beaded on her forehead and her heart was hammering inside like she had just had a face-to-face encounter with the Keeper of the Underworld. Kahlan eased out of her hiding place and collapsed to her knees, utterly spent.
She could not keep this up. She needed more than sleep; she needed food… spirits, she needed Richard. Kahlan would never have admitted it before, or even perhaps recognized it, but she derived so much strength and courage from him. He was her light, the shining beacon in the night that guided her on. She did not know what she would have done if they could never have been together. Would she have forsaken her duty as a confessor to continue the line? Probably, she grudgingly conceded. If not with Richard, she would never have wanted to lay with another.
Holding up her hand, she looked at the engagement ring he had given her. She had never been happier than when he had asked her to marry him. Never had a confessor even been given the chance to be asked such a question. No man would have ever dared. Confessors were cursed to have to choose a mate, not a husband, a mate. That's what they were, nothing more than a tool for procreation. No love was involved… just confession. But with Richard and her, it was different. They loved one another and that made all the difference. They could marry for love, not duty.
Closing her eyes and sighing deeply with sorrow, Kahlan stood and hugged herself as she began her journey away from Richard, the only man she ever loved.
Kahlan did not run. She did not feel like it. Tired and hungry, all Kahlan wanted to do was curl up somewhere and sleep. Her eyelids were heavy and she had trouble keeping her eyes open. It did not help that it was so cold and that the ground was cover in a blanket of mist. She could barely see the ground, and she had to pay attention, least she trip on some overgrown root system.
The noise of the forest returned. Birds chirped, squirrels jabbered, and insects buzzed. Somewhere off in the distance a woodpecker was attacking some poor tree. And up above a hawk screeched as it defended its nest from another hawk. An owl hooted and a crow cawed in response. Suddenly, everything seemed loud. It was overwhelming, going from silence to such great abundance in sound. Kahlan felt surrounded. She began to hyperventilate, feeling pressured and trapped. Closing her eyes, Kahlan put her hands over her ears and ran crying into the mist, wanting to find some peace and quiet.
Just as she feared, her foot caught on a creeping root and she went crashing to the forest floor. But the floor was sloped, and she continued to roll. Kahlan tried to reach out for something to grab, but she was falling too quickly. Then the ground gave out beneath her, and her eyes went wide. She let out a cry and hastily dug her fingers into the dirt, and managed to latch on to a vine just before she could go plummeting over the side of the cliff face to the abyss below.
She yelled out in terror and gripped at the edge, trying to pull herself up and prevent herself from falling to her death. Tears of grief and horror manifested themselves on her cheeks as she thought about all the things she would never be able to do with Richard. All the things she would no longer get to experience. All this would happen because she had allowed herself to become overwhelmed with the cornucopia of forest noises that had assaulted her hearing.
Then he was there, standing above her, looking down with his red eyes. He squatted and looked at her, frowning. Kahlan blinked and stared up at him, half in relief and half in terror. He was Richard, but he was not. His brow furrowed and his eyebrows knitted together as he gazed down at her. His jaw clenched.
"Richard!" she managed to gasp. It was nothing more than a squeak, all high pitched and thick with emotion. It was nothing like her normal confident voice. At this moment, she was not the Mother Confessor; she was just Kahlan Amnell, a woman pleading with the man she loved to save her.
Richard knelt down on his knees and leaned over the edge, peering past her. His eyes slowly drifted back to her. "Got yourself into some trouble, have you?" came the voice that sounded so much like the man she loved, but was not. Something in the way he spoke was just wrong.
The vine she had gripped began to give way and Kahlan had to struggle to keep herself from plummeting to her death. Richard just stared at her, a strange twisted smile forming on his lips. Their eyes locked and Kahlan shuddered, but tried as she might, she could not look away. He looked straight at her, peering into her very soul.
Then, he reached down and grabbed her arm, heaving her up over the edge and into his strong arms. Kahlan let out a breath of relief at being saved from certain death. However, her heart sank with the sudden realization that her current situation was not as safe either. Richard held her in his arms, tucking one arm under her legs and the other around her shoulder, and carried her back up to surer ground.
She should have fought back, should have resisted, but she could not, not when it was Richard holding her. Kahlan closed her eyes and admonished herself, knowing Richard would be disappointed and angry that she did not to resist, like he had told her to. Instead of doing as she had been told, Kahlan just allowed him to carry her… to where, she did not know or care. Even if he was not Richard, truly Richard right now, in a way it was still him. He was there, somewhere, inside.
Richard carried her through the mist, and down a line of trees. She bit her lower lip, wondering what had happened. Last time he had threatened to kill her, and now… now he was just carrying her down a path in the woods. If she had not been scared to death, Kahlan's mind would have been in romantic places, especially being held in Richard's strong arms like this. Despite the present circumstance, Kahlan allowed herself to pretend that this was her Richard. She buried her head into his chest and looped her arms around his neck to help him support her.
His jaw tensed and he looked down at her, his brow furrowing in confusion. It was like the part of him that was her Richard was trying to breakthrough. His eyes narrowed and he looked up, scowling.
"He's gone," he spoke.
Kahlan blinked, startled. She had not expected him to speak. His voice was so much like her Richard's, while at the same time it wasn't. It spoke with a different tone and inclination, with different feeling and emotions behind it. It may sound like him, but it was not his voice.
"What?" she pushed out.
"The Seeker of Truth," Richard responded. "He fought well, but in the end, like everything else, he surrendered to chaos."
"Chaos?" Kahlan squeaked. "Is that what you are? Chaos?"
He cocked his head and looked down at her, smiling smugly. "The Mother Confessor is perceptive," he chuckled. "Yes. I have been called that. I have many names, but chaos best suits me, yes."
Kahlan shivered, suddenly no longer wishing to delude herself that this was Richard. This thing, whatever it was, may be using his body, but nothing about him was Richard. He looked at her and laughed.
"What… what do you want with me?" she asked, her voice betraying her and quivering.
He looked at her with a strange glint in his red eyes. The look sent a chill done her spine, a feeling she did not like. This did not bode well. Richard tightened his grip around her.
"Well?" Kahlan asked, trying to put more defiance into her voice.
Richard looked at her with his red eyes. "Oh you would like to know, wouldn't you?" he smirked.
"I thought you wanted to kill me?" she question.
"Oh, yes," Richard grinned, nodding. "You will die. You have my word. But first… first I must punish you for running away."
"But you—" she cut herself off. No, it wasn't this thing that told her to run, it was Richard. She closed her eyes and silently asked forgiveness for not getting away, for not obeying him. If Richard were ever able to regain control, he would no doubt blame himself for whatever this Richard did to her. Now, she fought. If not for her, then for Richard.
Kahlan kicked her legs, and squeezed her hands around his neck. Richard growled and grinned wickedly, as if he was enjoying this. He stared at her wildly with his lava-like eyes and rammed his forehead against hers. Kahlan blacked out for a second, but it was enough for him to gain the upper hand. Before she knew it, he was ramming her against a tree trunk, pinning her with his strong arms. He butted his head against her again and she blinked, dazed and stunned.
As her head floated, she was vaguely aware of him freeing the Sword of Truth from its scabbard. Using all her strength, she ducked, hearing the steel whack into the trunk, sending bark scattering overhead. The thing in Richard howled in anger and pulled the sword back with one hand. His other hand reached out and grabbed a chunk of her hair. With a sharp tug, he pulled her down and flung her into the air. Kahlan yelled out as she went flying, afraid that he had tossed her towards the cliff edge.
She landed with a hard thud on the rocky ground. Spinning her head around, her hair flinging around wildly, Kahlan caught sight of Richard bearing down on her, the sword raised at the ready. Using every amount of energy left to her, Kahlan scrambled across the rocky floor. She cut her hand on a jagged stone, and blood began to flow. She bit her lower lip, ignoring the pain.
Kahlan glanced over her shoulder and saw Richard bringing the sword down. She closed her eyes tightly, preparing for the end, but it did not come. Slowly, she opened her eyes and saw the blade stabbing the ground before her. Confused, Kahlan was caught off gaurd when he was suddenly on her, spinning her around and pinning her to the forest floor. His hand gripped her arms tightly above her head. He was hurting her, but she didn't say anything. This wasn't Richard. Nothing would stop this thing from hurting her.
She managed to look up at him. His red eyes stared into her blue ones and he gave her a lecherous grin. Kahlan shuddered. She had never seen such a look on Richard's face and she did not care to see it now. It was not him. When he looked at her it was in a loving tender way, not something full of wanton and depraved lust.
"You know," he purred, gripping her wrists in one strong hand and tracing the side of her face with the other, his eyes squinting. "This solid form you beings live in is fascinating, don't you think? All I've ever been is a vaporous cloud. Sure, it has its advantages, but this…," his hand skimmed down her body and groped her breast, "this is something much different. More pleasurable, yes?"
Kahlan tried to kick and squirm, but he was pressing all his weight on her and it was nearly impossible to move. The way he touched her was nothing like the way Richard would touch her. As every minute passed it became more and more clear that this was not Richard. His body yes, but him, no. Again, she tried to fight, to push him off, but it was useless. His hold on her wrists was like a vise and she was beginning to worry that she was about to experience something far worse than being killed. And for this thing to do it using Richard was even more heartbreaking.
"You know, I always wondered why you solids enjoyed this physical intimacy so much," he said, as his hand slid up her leg, until he reached her thigh. "But now, feeling you, a perfect specimen of womanhood," he smiled. "I see why the Seeker desires you so." He squeezed her flesh and Kahlan turned her head away as he leaned down to kiss her. He growled and moved his hand up to her stomach, punching her in the gut hard.
Kahlan cried out and turned, spitting in his face. He howled and pummeled her with his fists. Pain rippled through her as Richard went berserk. He moved faster than she had ever seen he move before. It was terrifying, seeing him move with such speed that she could not tell what he was doing. But she felt the results of his movements. The torment was unrelenting. He yanked at her clothing, ripping it to shreds.
Fighting with everything she had, Kahlan tried to stop him, but he was too strong. His fist came up in a blur and pounded in to her face. Everything after that was hazy. She was vaguely aware of him removing her clothing before she passed out.
Chapter 20: The Answer
They had got Astrid, Erick, and the little one safely to the village of Pendose by the next day, and then Cara revealed to Zedd the bond all D'Harans had with the Lord Rahl. It was not something she often talked about, but she had it. Zedd was curious as to why she never revealed this side of the bond, but at the moment he could care less. Cara was using this bond formed by the first Lord Rahl to find Richard, and that was more important to him than why she had hid this ability.
The riding had been hard and fierce, and his backside ached, but his focus was on finding his grandson and Kahlan, who was everything like a granddaughter to him. And soon she would be. Richard wanted to marry Kahlan and make her part of their family. And Zedd fully supported Richard in that endeavor. He could not have asked for a better woman to be the wife of his grandson. Kahlan gave Richard so much by just loving him that Zedd had had to restrain himself when he saw the two falling in love.
As with all First Wizards, he had been passed down the secret to how to love a confessor. The wizard Merrit had done it with the first Mother Confessor, Magda Searus. When a man fell completely in love with a confessor, to the point where he would already devote all his being to her, the powers of that confessor would be useless against him. They could not touch him. They would just wash over him, unable to make him love her more than he already did. That was the secret Zedd knew, and as much as he wanted to tell the two lovebirds, he couldn't.
It was fear that knowing the secret would prevent them from achieving it. Having planted the idea in their minds, Zedd was afraid that there might be some small doubt in the back of Richard's mind. And that small bit of doubt, no matter how tiny or insignificant, would result in Richard then being confessed. For it to truly work, they had to find out on their own. And they did.
But now, spirits, now their love was going to be tested again. And this time he feared he had the secret to save them but could not tell them because he had yet to find it. The answer to save Richard from being the host to the Leviathan of Chaos was hidden somewhere in the pages of the book Shota had given him from the Wizard's Keep. Somewhere in that book was the means to end this, and Zedd was so frustrated that he had yet to find it.
As they rode, he tried to steer with one hand and read with the other. Being a wizard he was able to concentrate on both tasks, but it was mind numbingly difficult. The text the ancient tome was written in was one of the older dialects used by the wizards and he had never been to good at learning it during his studies, much to the disappointment of his father.
Cara pulled the reins on her horse, bringing the mount to a stand still. Zedd did the same with his, and guided his mount up alongside Cara. He lowered the book and looked out beyond the Mord'Sith towards the ominous clouds on the horizon. They had reached the forest of Gregor's Maw, an altogether unpleasant region in the Midlands, not far from Serpent's Fang, a tremendous dead volcano that still issued out vapors that turned the moonlight green. Some people believed that this place was cursed, and the constant fog and mist added to the dreadful nature of the place.
The Mord'Sith let out a breath and wiped the sweat from her brow. She looked over her shoulder and gazed up at him with big blue D'Haran eyes. "Richard's in there," she said, her eyes darting back to the forest.
Zedd's horse nickered and danced around nervously. He reached down with a large weathered hand and gave a pat on the steed's neck, understanding the animal's trepidation. The wizard did not have a good feeling, as well.
"Gregor's Maw," he growled, scowling out at the misty forests in front of them. "A terrible place, if ever there was one."
"He's in there," Cara repeated, and for the first time looking concerned. "And where he is…"
"Kahlan won't be far," Zedd finished, giving a nod. There were many things the Mother Confessor would do, but abandoning Richard was not one of them. He only hoped that such devotion to the Seeker had not blinded her to the danger that was transpiring. He closed his eyes and prayed that she had not already fallen victim to the Leviathan. If the beast had taken hold of Richard, only the spirits know what it would do.
Cara narrowed her eyes, putting on the face of the determined warrior that she was. "Let's not waste anytime sitting here talking," she grumbled. "I can sense him more clearly now… and he's close."
Zedd gave a nod and squeezed his legs gently, encouraging his mount to follow Cara's lead. The wizard closed his eyes and mumbled some words, giving the horse more awareness so that he may focus on the book while the horse carried him through the woods. If anything, he had to find the answer, and he was not going to get it if he ignored the only book ever written about the Leviathan of Chaos. He ducked his head as they galloped into the dense forest shrouded in mist. High above it all, looming in the distance was the tall peak of Serpent's Fang.
Kahlan woke up feeling like she'd just fallen off a cliff. Her head was pounding and her lip was swollen from where he'd hit her. She had some of her mobility back and arched her neck to look down at herself. Her clothes, what little was left of them, had been removed. She closed her eyes for a moment and knitted her eyebrows together trying to remember what had happened. Kahlan examined herself some more and nearly let out a cry when she saw that her legs had been pushed apart.
Using all the strength she had, Kahlan tried to move her legs. Tears of agony formed in her eyes when she felt the terrible ache in her thighs and the soreness of her leg muscles as she closed them up. She rolled her head back and sobbed softly, realizing what that thing had done to her with Richard's body. She didn't know whether to be angry at the violation or not. In a way both of them had been violated. Richard was helpless, trapped in his own body as that thing, whatever it was, did as it pleased. She closed her eyes, trying to stem the rivers of tears, almost thankful that she had blacked out before it had happened.
Slowly, she rolled onto her side and curled up into the fetal position, sobbing silently, not wanting that thing, if it was still around, to relish in her suffering. The only comfort she could derive from the entire episode was that it had not been another man. In some twisted sick way it had still been Richard, the man she loved, who had been inside her, still his seed that she felt caked to her thighs. But the truth of the matter was that it was not him.
They had made love before, and she remembered how blissful and pure it felt afterwards, like being embrace by the Creator herself. It did not feel like this. She did not have this terrible agonizing pain in her legs or the bruises all over her body. Richard was kind and gentle, tender in his affection for her. This thing, this beast… this monster had just taken her for its pleasure. It had no love, only hate. It was chaos.
Kahlan heard a sound that made her look up. Richard was squatting not far away, splashing water across his bare chest. She narrowed her eyes, staring at him with rage for the violation that had been done to her body. For a moment, for a split second, she forgot that it was Richard she was staring at. All she thought about was the glowing red eyes that had glared at her as he hit her.
He appeared unaware that she had awoken. She had that for an advantage. Kahlan quietly sat up and looked around. The mist was returning, crawling across the rocks and foliage like a creeping snake. How she hated snakes. As her eyes darted around, she spotted it, and almost thought she was being too lucky. No way he would just leave it there unguarded.
There it stood, still stuck in the ground where he had stabbed it. Kahlan looked over her shoulder to check on the Seeker, before slowly scampering over to the sword. Embedded into the ground, it was the only weapon available to her. And no matter how much she loathed the idea of hurting Richard; he had been right when he had tried to warn her. She had suffered for not heeding his warnings. But now, however, she would no longer be a victim. If there was one thing Kahlan hated above all else, it was being a victim.
Tightening her fingers into a fist, Kahlan grabbed the pommel with her hand. Slowly standing, she pulled the sword out of the ground, being careful not to make a sound. On her tiptoes, she stalked up behind Richard, ready to meet out justice for the crimes done to her body. But then he spun around and she was confronted with his gorgeous boyish face. It was his face, his body that the monster was possessing. How could she bring herself to harm him? How?
The red eyes glowed brightly and he grinned wickedly. "I see you've awoken," he said, treating her like nothing more than a common street whore. Slowly he stood before her, pushing out his chest, brazenly showing off all the toned muscles possessed to him in Richard's body.
Kahlan felt like a fool, standing there before him, trembling. He rose up above her and shook his head in disappointment.
"You might have been a good roll in the hay for the Seeker, squirming and such," he spoke cruelly, folding his arms across his impressive chest. "But for me, not so much. You just laid there and took it like a whore."
"You knocked me out, you monster!" Kahlan spat out through clenched teeth. "You just took me. You've never had what Richard and I shared."
"And so shall you," he spoke confidently. Richard lowered his arm and held out his hand, palm open. "Now, be a good little whore, and give me the sword so I can end your pathetic life."
That was it. Kahlan was not going to take this anymore. She had to end it. If that meant injuring Richard, then so be it. Richard would gladly give up his own life if it meant that she would live. She would happily do the same for Richard. But Richard was gone, consumed by this monster. It was just her now.
"Never!" she cried and swung the sword.
Kahlan was weak and exhausted from everything that had happened, so her swing was not that forceful. But it was enough to cut his arm. Richard yelled out and pulled back, shocked. His red eyes grew wide and he looked down at his arm in amazement and horror. Kahlan narrowed her eyes, absorbing the reaction for future thought. Then it struck her and she smiled triumphantly.
"You've never felt pain before?" she demanded.
The red eyes locked on her and Richard slowly began to back away. "No… not like this, not in the physical way you solids feel pain," he said, cradling his arm. "You did this to my spawn. You wounded it."
"Your spawn?" Kahlan questioned, then nodded, remembering the creature that attacked in conjuncture with the dark cloud. "Oh, yes, that. How did it fair?"
"It bled out and died," he answered. "You killed it."
Kahlan shrugged. "Glad I could help in your education of what it means to be a physical being," she stepped forward and pointed the blade at his face. "Now, leave Richard!"
Richard backed his head away. The muscles surrounding his eyes twitched in nervous anxiety and the terror was clear on his face. But then his brow lowered in determination and he gritted his teeth together.
"I will never give up this host," he seethed. "I have never felt more powerful in physical form than in this body. I like it here. I think I'll stay."
He made a move to run away, but Kahlan was quicker. She used her knowledge of combat to dance around him and slash at him with the Sword of Truth, cutting more gashes in him. Richard stopped and he stumbled. Kahlan noticed the red glow in his eyes began to diminish and he fell to his knees. He let out a cry and when his head looked up, she saw the warm brown eyes she had come to love. He looked around frantically and saw her. Immediately tears welled up in his golden brown orbs and he began to sob.
"Oh, Kahlan," he gasped, and it was Richard's voice! "Forgive me, I fought. Spirits, you have to believe me… I tried to stop it! Oh my… Kahlan… Kahlan…" he shuddered and he closed his eyes and screamed, bringing his hands up to his head and gripping it tightly.
Kahlan collapsed down beside him, holding the sword slightly to the side, so she wouldn't hurt him. With her other hand she tried to steady and sooth him, telling him that she believed him, that she knew he would never do anything intentionally to hurt her. That what had happened was not his fault. She could tell the strain of fighting the monster within him was becoming too much to bear. His skin was visibly paler, and dark shadows were forming beneath his eyes. When he looked back up at her, the red glow was starting to return.
"Kahlan," he murmured. "It's the sword. It fears the sword."
Kahlan moved the sword closer and gasped when it began to glow. Richard shook and he hugged himself, his eyebrows lowering as his brow creased.
"Richard… oh Richard," Kahlan ran her free hand down his face, helping him to look at her. "What do I do?"
Richard's eyes darted around as his mind thought. When his eyes returned to hers she did not like what she saw there. He had decided upon something that he knew she was not going to like. She bit her lower lip and waited for him to ask.
"Kahlan," he broached, his face trembling with the strength it took him to retain control of his body as the chaos within tried to consume him once more. "I… I need you to do something. You're… you… you're not going to like it, but you have to do it. No… not just to save yourself… but… but to save me."
"What Richard? What?" Kahlan was having difficulty holding back her own tears at the dreaded ideas of what he was going to demand of her.
Richard looked at her with his warm brown eyes and she saw all the love and carrying he had for her reflected in that gaze. He gave her a weak sad smile and opened his mouth.
"Richard, no! I can't do that!" Kahlan objected, her voice near a shrill.
Richard groaned and clutched his middle. "It's winning, Kahlan," he cried. "Spirits know I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you, to marry you and have children with you… but Kahlan… damn it, right now I'm losing you. If you don't do as I say… then I'll be lost forever to this damnable thing."
Kahlan sat back and shook her head, not wanting to believe a word of it. "There has to be another way, there has too!" she pleaded in a wail as tears ran down her face.
"NO! THERE'S NOT!" Richard shouted, grabbing her wrist. He moved and pushed his chest out bare before her. He was so weak and vulnerable; Kahlan felt all the worse knowing that he was right. "DO IT!"
Her mouth dropped open and she let the dismay and misery of what she was about to do envelop her being like a cloak. She was going to have to kill Richard with the Sword of Truth to free his soul of the monster… of this chaos that had taken him from her. Kahlan positioned the point of the blade above his heart and sobbed, looking away.
"Kahlan…?" he called in that soft voice of his.
She sniffled and raised her eyes to look into his.
"I love you," he whispered.
And then, before she could say or do anything, his hands came out and wrapped around hers, pulling them forward as he plunged the glowing sword into his chest.
Chapter 21: Resolution
Kahlan cried out as the blood came pouring out, soaking her hands. How could he do that to her? How could he force his death into her hands? Part of her hated him for doing that to her, but most of her just wanted to cry. "No, no, no…," Kahlan sobbed. Richard's mouth dropped and he stared up at her, his warm brown eyes beginning to dim.
"I… I'm sorry, Kahlan," he gasped, his head drooping. She released the sword from her hands and grabbed his face, holding it up, so that he could look upon her. He tried to smile, but he was having much difficulty. His strength was diminishing. "Every… everything's so cold."
Kahlan ran her hands down his face and leaned forward to kiss him. She planted her lips on his softly, giving him a long tender kiss filled with all her love for him. He was growing weaker by the second, but he still had some strength left to respond to her. When they broke away, Kahlan rested her forehead against his.
"Richard… I… I love you," she murmured, wanting him to hear those words before it was too late. Richard's breath was becoming shallower and Kahlan sniffled, trying not to cry. She did not want the last thing he heard to be her crying.
Richard opened his mouth, his lips trembling. She looked into his eyes and knew what it was he wanted. Kahlan gave a brief nod and leaned forward, capturing his gaping mouth with hers and shared his last breath with him. Almost immediately his body slumped and went limp. Kahlan clutched onto him and cried, burying her head in his shoulder as she grieved.
Then he shook and his eyes bolted open. Kahlan yelped and backed up, seeing the glowing red eyes of hate. Richard's body was dead, but the terrible thing inside him had yet to be destroyed. He threw back his head and screamed. It was a deep resounding cry that seemed to make the entire world quake. Kahlan closed her eyes and latched on to Richard, never wanting to be separated from him.
"NO!" raged the voice that was not Richard's. His body shook and his arms went wide, reaching for the sky. The ground trembled beneath them and Kahlan held on to him as the dark dust and particles of the cloud came bursting out of his mouth, shooting up into the sky like a geyser.
His eyes dulled and returned to normal. As the last of the foul demon left him, his body slumped and was dead again. Kahlan held him to her breast, crying, watching as the cloud raged and stormed above them. Bursts of tiny lightning strikes flashed within the interior of the thing as it hovered above them. Terrible howls and screeches that sent chills down her spine came issuing out from the thing as it contorted around and smashed into the trees. Wood broke and the trees yawned in deep cries as they toppled.
Kahlan tucked her hands under Richard's arms and pulled him away from the growing destruction. She may have just lost the man she loved, but spirits help her, she was not going to allow this monster to destroy his body like it had destroyed him. Her bare chest heaved as sweat trickled between her breasts as she pulled him back. He was dead weight, and she had little strength. Everything she had had left had been used to drive the beast from Richard. Now she was exhausted and had nothing left to fight. She was relying purely on adrenalin.
Tendrils of black smoke came out from the cloud as it grew in size, encompassing more of the clearing. With each swing of it's massive limbs it destroyed trees, boulders, anything that was in its way. Kahlan slipped and lost her grip of Richard, his body falling to the ground. She cried out and collapsed over him, shielding his body from the debris that flowed around them as the cloud tore through the forest. She closed her eyes and asked the good spirits to look after them.
A flash of heat flew over her and Kahlan cried out, pressing closer to Richard's body. She looked up and saw an orange flash fly over her head and collide with the dark cloud. At the moment the flames impacted with the monster, it let out a horrific howl and seemed to constrict into itself.
"Again!" she heard a familiar voice.
Kahlan spun her head around and saw Cara running down the slope towards them. Not far behind, Zedd stood perched on a rocky overhang. He raised his hands and flames shot out from his fingers, roaring towards the cloud. Kahlan felt the burst of heat flash over her, but this time she kept her eyes opened and watched as the flames met their target. The smoky tendrils retreated back into the cloud as the flames impacted with it. The ground shook and trembled, large rocks burst out from beneath the surface.
Jumping to her feet, Kahlan looped her arms around Richard and began to drag him away from the torrent of destruction. Dust and rock, debris of all sizes exploded around them as she pulled the man she loved. She was never going to let go of him. Never. Even dead, he was Richard. He was the man she loved. And nothing, not even the threat of death itself was going to make her abandon him.
Within moment, Cara was by her side, clad in her red leather. The Mord'Sith took a quick look over her and said nothing about her nude appearance. Cara ducked her head under Richard's other arm and helped Kahlan carry him away. They dove behind a large grey stone as Zedd hopped down from his perch and shot out another wave of Wizard's Fire at the cloud.
Kahlan remembered from before that the monster had been unaffected by Wizard's Fire, but right now it seemed to be having an effect. She wondered if it had something to do with the cloud having just been driven out of its host… out of Richard. Kahlan hugged his head to her chest, and watched from behind the stone as Zedd continued to pummel the cloud with flames. Cara locked eyes with Kahlan for a moment, before her hand darted down towards the sword's pommel.
"I'm sorry," she said. And then, with a quick twitch, she yanked the sword out of Richard's chest.
Kahlan let out a soft cry as she felt his body jerk, a delayed reaction from the weapon being removed. The tears streamed down her face as she rammed her palm over the wound, trying to stop the flow of blood. Cara lowered her eyebrows for a moment, and placed her hand on Kahlan's shoulder, before jumping up and darting around the boulder.
The Mother Confessor watched as the Mord'Sith rushed to the Wizard's side. She tossed him the sword, which Zedd then thrust up into the air, shouting some incantation. With large eyes, Kahlan watched as the Sword of Truth began to glow a vivid orange. The mass of particles shifted and contorted in agony, and the howls that issued out from the cloud matched the level of pain she perceived from it. A growl came out, as the cloud seemed to morph into the image of a man.
Spirits, it was Richard, an exact copy of his physical form, yet it was all dark and billowy, like the cloud that it truly was. Its head turned towards them, as a red glow manifested around the eyes. It's vaporous mouth opened and a terrible screech roared across the clearing, causing Kahlan to close her eyes tightly as the ground and air seemed to vibrate from it. When she opened her eyes again, she saw that the demon was losing its form, turning back into the shapeless cloud that it was.
While still possessed of some of Richard's features, the cloud thrust its arms up towards the sky and went launching up into the canopy of trees, dispersing and disappearing. Zedd lowered the sword and his shoulders slumped in exhaustion. Kahlan pushed herself to her feet and pulled Richard out from behind the boulder.
"Please, help me!" she cried. "Cara… give him the breath of life!"
The two turned towards her. Cara rushed to help her, and they laid Richard down across the forest floor. Kahlan knelt at his side, clutching his hand, sobbing. Zedd's bushy eyebrows knitted together, as he took in Kahlan's appearance, and he quickly removed his cloak, draping it over her shoulders. Cara dropped to her knees and examined the wound.
"It's deep…," she murmured. "It… it might be too late."
"Just do it!" Kahlan wailed.
Zedd lowered down beside her and placed a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. She could tell that he was near tears at seeing his grandson in such a state. Cara bent over Richard, parting her lips and positioning herself above his head. Kahlan watched through blurry eyes as the Mord'Sith blew out some air from her lungs; the sparkling breath drifted from her lips and into Richard's gaping mouth. Zedd immediately pushed his hand forth and spread out his palm over the wound. He closed his eyes and began mumbling some healing spell, adding his magic to the breath of life.
It seemed like an eternity that she waited, but it had only been seconds before Richard gasped, sucking in air. His chest heaved and he nearly lurched up. Zedd and Cara held him down, the former muttering some soothing words of comfort to his grandson. Richard's eyelids fluttered open and his eyes… spirits, his eyes were staring straight at her.
"Kahlan?" his brow furrowed in confusion as he called for her.
Kahlan held his hand up to her mouth and kissed it. "I'm here, Richard… I'm here," she managed to squeeze out.
Richard blinked, his sight returned and his life restored. Zedd stood and moved around to kneel by Cara, placing his arm over the Mord'Sith's shoulder. Cara leaned into his hold and let out a sigh of relief, mixed with joy. Richard's hand shot up and cupped Kahlan's face. He pushed himself up and rammed his mouth against hers.
Kahlan let out a soft sound of surprise, but soon lost herself in his kiss. She wrapped her arms around him and held him to her. Richard was extremely aggressive and he continued to kiss her, almost to the point of calling it ravaging. His lips danced all of her face and his gold brown eyes gazed deeply into her great big blue orbs. Tears of joy ran down his face as he hugged her body to his.
"Oh, Kahlan…," he nearly shouted. "I thought I was going to lose you!"
"No, never," Kahlan replied, running her fingers down his face, feeling every inch of him, wanting to confirm that he was alive. He backed way and rested his forehead against hers, as his hand caressed the back of her neck.
"I'm so sorry I made you do that, Kahlan," he whispered softly to her. "But it was the only way to drive it out of me… the only way I could be sure that you would be safe."
Kahlan gave a nod, but she still believed that there could have been another way other than Richard sacrificing his life. Richard backed up and she helped him stand. He leaned against her, and his eyes take in her appearance. She saw sorrow and self-hatred wash over him. Richard looked over his shoulder at Zedd and Cara.
"Could you give us a moment?" he asked.
Zedd gave a nod, seeming to understand. Cara narrowed her eyes, but relented. She looked like she completely understood what had happened to Kahlan, what the demon had done to her.
"Alright," Cara spoke, flinging some of her loose hair back around with a twitch of a leather-clad hand. "But only for a moment."
Richard inclined his head and watched as the two slowly backed off, giving them some privacy. Kahlan had a feeling why Richard wanted to speak to her alone, and she wanted to reassure him that he had done nothing wrong, that he was not at fault, but before she could say anything, Richard spoke.
"Spirits, Kahlan… I can't believe I… I raped you…," he forced himself to say. He averted his gaze and looked ashamed.
"It was not you, Richard," Kahlan asserted. "It was that monster… that demon that possessed you."
"But it was still me!" Richard seethed, looking like he wanted to die all over again. "How could I allow it to do that to you… to you: The woman I love!"
Kahlan took a deep breath, not knowing how to convince him otherwise. She had to admit, she did ache and it had felt terrible when she had woke up to feel the drying seed caking on her thighs. But she had no memories of the actual… the actual violation. She had been unconscious. The beast had knocked her out before it took her. Kahlan hugged Zedd's cloak tighter around her trembling frame as she tried to think of something to say to reassure Richard that her feelings for him had not changed.
"How can I marry you knowing what I've done?" Richard said, looking away, his shoulders slowing in defeat. "Am I even worthy of you anymore?"
Kahlan knitted her eyebrows together. How could he say that? After everything that had happened to them, how could he doubt his own worthiness of her love? Besides, it was her love to give. She gripped his arm and pulled him around the boulder to conceal them from the gaze of the others. Kahlan moved her shoulders back and let the cloak fall to the ground, baring herself to him. Richard stared at her, wide eyed in shock.
"Kahlan… what are you going?" he gasped.
"You still desire me, don't you?" she asked, putting on her confessor's face.
"Of course," Richard said.
"Then why resist?" Kahlan inquired. "Why do you not simply take me here?"
"Because I love you," Richard asserted, bending down to pick up the cloak and placed it back around her. "I don't want to simply take you, I want to make love to you."
"And I want that as well," Kahlan said, accepting his help with the cloak. "What happened might have been rape… but it was not you that did it. Yes, it may have been you're body, but you were not in control. We were both raped, Richard. The thing used your body for its own sick needs, just as it used me."
She looked him in the eyes, overjoyed to finally be able to see him looking back at her again. "And I still want to be with you, Richard," Kahlan continued. "I want to marry you and have your children. Don't throw all that away because of something neither of us had control of. Don't leave me."
Richard tentatively raised a hand and touched her face. Kahlan closed her eyes and eased into his touch. "Spirits, how I love you, Kahlan," he murmured. "I could not live in this world without you."
Kahlan opened her eyes and looked up into his. "Then you'll still marry me?" she asked, raising her eyebrows hopefully.
Richard tightened his grip on her face and pulled her close, wrapping his other arm around her waist. "If you'll still have me, then of course," he said. "I want nothing more in this world than to be your husband."
Kahlan smiled and leaned forward, kissing him. "Well, for the time being, you can prove you're love for me," she whispered suggestively backing up a bit.
He lowered his brow in confusion, and Kahlan giggled, seeing realization dawn on his face. She laughed and opened the cloak, wrapping it around him, as she enveloped them both inside it.
Cara groaned, and looked over at Zedd. "What's taking them so long?" she asked him.
Zedd raised his bushy eyebrows and shrugged innocently. "Let them be, Cara," he said. "They've just been through a highly stressful episode… they… um, they need to release some steam."
"Release some steam?" Cara questioned, raising an eyebrow, dubiously. "I think they need to do more than just release some steam."
She hopped down the rocks and strolled down to the clearing, and huffed when she didn't see them. "Figures," she grumbled and rolled her eyes. "Always wandering off without a care in the world, it's a wondered neither of them have been killed yet. Wait? They have!" Cara stopped in mid-step. "Spirits, now they've got me talking to myself."
The Mord'Sith crossed her arms and grumbled, glaring down at the ground, following their footprints. Their steps lead around the boulder and Cara lowered her eyebrows, determined to give them both a good lecture on wandering off. Then she stopped when her eyes caught sight of them. They were wrapped up inside the cloak; the Seeker's trousers were pushed down past his knees and the Mother Confessor's legs were wrapped around his middle. Cara gaped, unable to look away as she watched the two make love.
She had never seen such tender love and affection before, not during sex. For a Mord'Sith, sex was something to derive pleasure from, not to show love. Cara knew that Richard and Kahlan were in love, but she never knew that the physical display of that love could be so… so passionate. Blushing with embarrassment at glimpsing Richard and Kahlan's private moment of intimacy, Cara turned and rushed away, darting back up to join Zedd.
The wizard grinned wickedly at seeing her redden cheeks. "I told you," he said, whistling. "Blowing off some steam."
Cara harrumphed, trying to hide her own uneasiness behind the mask of her Mord'Sith invulnerability, but something was telling her that the wizard wasn't buying it. She sat down in a huff and crossed her arms. "They're doing far more than just blowing off some steam, wizard," she smirked. "Far more."
Chapter 22: Reassurance
Kahlan opened her eyes and smiled, seeing the most glorious sight she could think of. Lying next to her on the forest floor was the man she loved. The afternoon light filtered through the canopy of leaves and seemed to make his skin glow. She turned onto her side and curled up beside him, placing a leg over his middle and running her fingers down his features. He stirred and opened his eyes. She nearly squealed with joy when he looked straight at her.
She would never have admitted it, but she had begun to fear that his blindness might be permanent and that he would never be able to look upon her again. Richard gazed over at her and smiled, taking in a deep breath. His chest rose and fell as he breathed, and Kahlan allowed her hand to roam down from his face to his chest, dancing her fingers across his muscles. Richard let out a soft chuckle, then leaned forward and captured her lips in a kiss. Kahlan pushed back and rolled up on top of him, relishing the feel of his body beneath her as he responded to her movements.
Richard pushed her back and eased up. Kahlan let out a groan as he slid out from underneath her and stood up. "I'm surprised they let us sleep so long," Richard said as he looked around for his trousers.
Kahlan huffed in annoyance, wanting to snuggle for a bit, but it was probably for the best. After all they were still in this wild forest, and there was no telling what else was out here. She slowly stood herself, stretching and trying to ease the pleasant ache she felt in her legs from Richard's fierce lovemaking. They had been so exhausted from everything that had happened that Kahlan had been surprised at the vigor and passion they both had this morning.
They had started off slowly, wanting to enjoy the moment of being together, but then their passion and desire for one another had took over. She quickly opened herself to him and lost herself in the sheer bliss that came with being with Richard. They had made love before, in the tub and then again while they spent the night in the guest room at Astrid and Erik's home, but this morning… the zeal of their lovemaking was unparalleled to anything Kahlan had ever experienced.
Kahlan blinked and noticed that Richard was staring at her. "What?" she asked, pulling the cloak up and covering herself.
A small smile creased across his lips as he stared at her. "You just seemed lost in your thoughts, is all," he chuckled slightly. "Like you were remembering… this morning."
Kahlan giggled, loving the feeling of being able to be so relaxed and at ease around Richard, no longer having to worry that she might accidentally confess him. "Cara saw us," she said in a whisper.
Richard looked up and raised his eyebrows. "When?"
"She came looking for us," Kahlan said. "I saw her peeking around the boulder looking all sore and cross, like she wanted to give us a lecture. Then she saw us and she just stopped, staring." She laughed. "It was quite funny, really?"
Richard furrowed his brow. "Why didn't you say anything?" he asked, looking like he had been caught red handed doing something foul.
Kahlan inched closer to him, watching as he pulled his trousers up. "Why? Are you embarrassed to be seen making love to me?" she asked.
"No," Richard said quickly. He looked up at her and smiled, placing a hand on the side of her face and rubbing her cheek tenderly with the pad of his thumb. "I'll never be embarrassed to be seen with you, Kahlan." He looked away for a moment. "But I'd prefer some privacy when I make love to you."
"When you make love to me?" Kahlan scoffed, playfully. "I thought we were making love to each other. I didn't just lie their you know?"
Richard chuckled and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her closer. "Oh, yes… I remember," he smiled. "You know, for someone with little experience, you're quite creative… and aggressive."
"I want what I want," Kahlan asserted, feigning a smug smile. "And I get what I want."
"And what is it that you want, Mother Confessor?" Richard chuckled.
Kahlan reached up and caressed Richard's face. "I'm staring at it," she said, looking deeply into his warm brown eyes and giving him her special smile, the smile she would give no other.
Richard reciprocated her smile and leaned forward to kiss her. Kahlan closed her eyes and lost herself in the kiss. She pushed with her tongue, pleading with him to open for her, which he eagerly did. Their tongues touched and Kahlan felt like she was going to burst with the passion held in their kiss.
"Ahem!" came the sound of someone clearing her throat. Kahlan nearly jumped with surprise, but having Richard's arms around her, she felt safe. Turning, she saw Cara standing there, looking at them with amusement.
"If you two are done," the Mord'Sith spoke with a smirk. "I thought I'd give you some clothes." Cara tossed a pack over to them. Kahlan watched as it landed perfectly in front of them. "I figured you'd need a change of clothing… so I took the liberty of bringing along your pack." She locked eyes with Kahlan. "You left it with Astrid and that husband of hers. I figured you'd want it back." Cara stepped back and narrowed her eyes, looking them over. "You're both filthy. You should go to the creek and get cleaned up."
When the Mord'Sith stalked away, they both let out the laugh they had been holding back. Richard stepped over and picked up the pack. "We should do as she says," he said. "We wouldn't want a disgruntled Mord'Sith on our hands, now would we?"
Kahlan laughed and gave a nod, accepting the hand he offered. She gripped his hand tightly her, and followed him down to the creek.
The creek was clear and cool. Kahlan ran the water down her legs and thighs. She had to admit, she was filthy. Grime and dirt were clinging to her skin and she was having a tough time cleaning them off. Added to that, her hair was all matted and tangled. She didn't feel very attractive, yet her appearance had not stopped Richard from teasing her with kisses on the back of her neck as they sat in the center of the creek.
His hands roamed her shoulders as he rubbed the watered into her supple flesh. Kahlan let out a soft moan as she leaned back into his strong chest. Richard soothed her and murmured sweet nothings in her ear, and would then nibble playfully at her neck. Kahlan tried to ignore him, intent on cleaning herself, but his hands kept roaming and his lips kept kissing.
Kahlan let out a soft giggle, as his fingers tickled her ribs. She spun around, frothing the cool water up around them and straddled his lap, pushing him down into the water. The water splashed up around them as Richard hit the shallow bottom. Before she could do anything more, Richard had her around the middle and was spinning her around. Before she knew it, Kahlan was the one on the ground and Richard was moving over her, kissing her neck and shoulder. His hands danced across her body, touching her breasts and rubbing her thighs.
Kahlan closed her eyes, no longer wanting to bathe. She wanted to get dirty! Richard's hand eased her legs apart and laid down between them. He held her faced in his hands and kissed her, brushing back her soaked hair as he gently pushed himself inside her. Kahlan ran her fingers through his hair as he continued to kiss her. She closed her eyes and gasped as he began making love to her right there, in the middle of the creek.
She was shocked that he was even aroused by the sight of her. Kahlan understood why he had made love to her earlier; it was something to reassure himself that he still had her love. But this… spirits, this was something different. This was Richard making love to her because he loved her, not because he wanted reassurance.
By the time they were done, neither cared if they had gotten cleaned or not. Kahlan felt numb all over, and not from the freezing water. Richard got dress quickly, and then helped her, tying her corset up and helping her into her long boots. Kahlan wondered if the others had heard her moaning in the throws of ecstasy, and blushed at the thought. Richard smiled and cupped her head in his hands. He pulled her towards him and kissed her.
"I love you, Kahlan," he murmured softly.
Kahlan gave him her special smile as she pulled on her small jacket. "I know," she said winking.
Richard walked up ahead with Zedd, as Kahlan and Cara walked behind. He kept glancing over his shoulder, wondering what they were talking about. Occasionally he would catch the two glancing up at him and smiling. Zedd appeared to be oblivious to the fact and he kept jabbering away about how he wished they hadn't lost their horses in the frantic search for them. Richard lowered his brow and hiked the pack up, tightening the straps around his shoulders.
"What'd you call this place, again?" Richard asked, seeking to find some distraction from his thoughts.
"Gregor's Maw," Zedd said, using his most scholarly sounding voice. "From what you've told me, it appears that the Leviathan transported you two to Serpent's Fang before it… well, before it took control of you and made you the Seeker of Chaos."
Richard looked over at his grandfather, annoyed. "I don't like this whole Seeker of Chaos thing," he said. "Are you sure that you're not mistaken?"
Zedd shook his head. "Sorry, my boy, but from what I've been able to tell from the book written by the ancient wizards," he made a point of heaving the thick book up in Richard's face. "Once touched by the Leviathan of Chaos, the host is forever changed. Even once the beast has been driven from his body."
"Are you saying that… that thing is still out there?" Richard narrowed his eyes, not knowing how to feel about that.
His grandfather gave a sagely nod. "I'm afraid so, Richard," Zedd said. "The Leviathan will still be out there causing mischief. However, now we know how to stop it."
Richard placed a hand on the hilt of his sword. "With the Sword of Truth," he said.
"Right you are," Zedd said, giving him an impish grin. "The Leviathan fears the Sword of Truth. It is the one thing that can defeat it. It can never die, but it can be captured and trapped."
"How do we do that?" Richard inquired, letting out a frustrated breath and glancing back at Kahlan.
He hated the images that came to his mind when he thought of what the Leviathan did to Kahlan while it was in control of his body. He knew what Kahlan said, and how she felt, but no matter how much she would reassure him, he would always feel like he had raped her. When they had made love afterwards, part of his fierceness in doing so was to reassure himself that she still loved him, that he was still worthy of that love.
And then again, in the creek, they were supposed to be bathing, but seeing the water dance down and glisten off her supple body… well, he couldn't resist that and he just had to have her again. Making love to her then was more because he loved her, not because he wanted reassurance. Kahlan did not resist, she had played along and he knew he had pleased her, he had felt her reached release. It was then, afterwards, that he felt worthy enough to tell her that he loved her. She gave him a smile, saying she knew. Then she told him she loved him, and that she still intended on becoming his wife. Hearing her say that made his heart soar. He wanted that, as well, and couldn't wait until they reached Aydindril and got married.
"I don't rightly know… yet," Zedd finally answered him, oblivious to the fact that Richard's thoughts had wandered. "It's in here somewhere," he gestured with the book. "I just need to do some more reading."
Richard gave a nod and tugged on the straps of the pack, glancing back over his shoulder at Kahlan. She stared back at him and smiled, tucking some of her hair back behind an ear. Cara picked up her pace, as Richard slowed his. The two changed places and now Richard was walking back with Kahlan and the Mord'Sith took his place up front with the wizard. Kahlan averted her eyes, sheepishly, and smiled.
"How're you doing, Richard?" she said, looking back up at him.
Richard shrugged. "Better, now that you're safe," he said. He looked back up at Zedd and huffed. "Zedd says that this Leviathan thing has changed me. That I'm now both the Seeker of Truth and the Seeker of Chaos."
"Well," Kahlan said softly, trying to reassure him. "You'll always be Richard Cypher to me. The man who saved my life, even before he knew who I was. The man who then went on to fall in love with me, not knowing the danger of doing so. The man who then found a way to love me." She paused and smiled. "The man I love."
He sighed, gratefully. "Thank you, Kahlan," he murmured softly. "All I want is to be with you. I don't care about anything else."
Kahlan raised her eyebrows and gave him her special smile, wrapping her arm around his until they were intertwined. As they continued to walk, she leaned her head against his shoulder. "We'll always be together, Richard," she said. "Nothing… not even the Leviathan of Chaos or my duties as the Mother Confessor are going to part me from your side."
Richard smiled and sighed. "Then you'll make me a happy man."
She tightened her hold on his hand and pulled him to a stop. Richard turned to face her. "Richard?" she questioned softly, looking down for a moment.
Richard knitted his eyebrows together, worried, and reached up to brush her hair away from her beautiful face. "Yes, Kahlan, what is it?"
"I don't want to wait until Aydindril," she said, looking up into his eyes with her sparkling eyes. Kahlan's nose wrinkled in an adorable way as she fiddled with the flaps of his tunic. "When we get to Pendose… I… I want to get married. Zedd can perform the ceremony. He's First Wizard, so he has the authority to preside over the wedding of the Mother Confessor."
Richard's mouth involuntary dropped open. He felt weak and unable to resist when she stared at him with those big blue orbs.
"Well?" she questioned, when he didn't respond.
Richard blinked and smiled. "I'll marry you wherever you want," he said, gripping her face in his hands. "If you wanted to get married in a swamp, I'd marry you there!" He pulled her forward and kissed her. Kahlan closed her eyes and smiled.
"Then, it's settled," Kahlan said, her face lighting up like an angelic spirit. "We'll get married in Pendose!"
Chapter 23: Preparations
Pendose was a cozy little town. The trees of the surrounding forest hugged close to the boundaries, and the small wooden palisades held back the low rolling mist. The citizens were all very friendly and amicable. It did not take long for people to recognize her, thanks in no small part to the length of her hair. The innkeeper beamed when they entered his establishment and he offered to put her and her mate, the Seeker, up in the largest suite. Kahlan had been reluctant to except, especially since the man had referred to Richard as her mate, he was far more than that. However, after one look from Richard, and seeing how exhausted he was, she accepted the innkeeper's offer.
Afterwards, she couldn't have been more pleased. The bed was large and oh so comfortable, Kahlan never wanted to leave it. It was so warm under the comforter, especially with the added heat of Richard's body lying so close to hers. Even though the journey had been long, Kahlan was in the mood for a little fun, but as soon as Richard's head hit the pillow he began snoring. She made a little pout, then curled up beside the man she loved and snuggled, wrapping her arms around his middle and burying her head in his strong chest. With him beside her, and Cara standing guard outside the door, Kahlan fell asleep.
Kahlan awoke to a tickling feeling along her side. She opened her eyes and smiled, seeing that she was exactly where she had been when she fell asleep, the only difference was that Richard was awake as well, and his fingers were tenderly dancing done her side. She squirmed and let out a giggle as he tormented her. He knew exactly were she was most ticklish and took full advantage of it. Kahlan was smiling so hard it almost hurt. She had never been more happy in her life than at this moment. Falling in love with Richard was the highlight of her life.
After deeming he had tormented her long enough, Richard backed off and leaned down beside her, affectionately rubbing her arm. "Good morning, beautiful," he murmured softly, leaning forward, gently pressing his lips against hers.
Kahlan closed her eyes and pushed up into him, as he tried to back away. She reached out and grabbed him, pulling him into another kiss. "You're not getting away that easy, Cypher," she teased, running her hand down his face to rest on his shoulder, pulling him up over her.
Richard raised an eyebrow and shook his head. "Kahlan, we can't stay in bed all day," he said. "We've got to talk to Zedd and see about arranging the wedding."
She narrowed her eyes, then remembered. Yes! The wedding! She had told him that she did not want to wait for Aydindril. That she wanted to marry him here, in Pendose. Kahlan sat up and smiled, beaming. Today was going to be her wedding day! Then suddenly it all hit her like a charging bull. There was so much to do, and so little time to do it in.
"Dear Spirits!" she kicked the comforter off. "We've got lots to do. I've got to find a dress—"
Richard sat up and furrowed his brow. "Couldn't you just wear you're confessor's dress?" he asked, confused.
Kahlan looked back at him smiling, holding a hand up to her lips, feeling the nervous need to bite her fingernails. "No!" she shook her head and spoke vehemently. "I don't want to marry you as a confessor. I want to marry you as a normal woman… as Kahlan Amnell." She frowned. "I've got to go to the tailor's." She turned to leave the room.
"Kahlan, wait!" Richard called, hopping off the bed.
She spun around, wide eyed, feeling the weight of such an extraordinary day hanging over her. She had so much to do before dusk. So much to plan. She didn't want to wait for Aydindril, but she wanted their wedding day to be something special, something they'd remember.
"What?" she nearly spat out, already becoming an overzealous bride-to-be. Kahlan knitted her eyebrows together realizing that she had been shouting. Richard was by her side in moments, cupping her face in his hand.
"It's all right, Kahlan," he said. "Everything is going to work out just right." He hugged her and kissed her forehead. "However, before you go storming out there making everyone else's lives miserable, I think you should get dressed… unless you're planning on having a nude wedding."
Kahlan blushed at the absurdity of such a suggestion and at the idea of other people seeing her that exposed. Richard was the only one… the only man, she ever wanted to see her in that way. She gave a nod and Richard turned back to retrieve her dress. Even though she was quite capable of dressing herself, she allowed him to help, relishing the moments he'd "accidentally" let fingers slip and brush against her breasts and bottom, or when he put her boots on and let his hands wander up her legs to her inner thigh, rubbing her soft flesh. When he finished lacing her boots up, he leaned forward and kissed the exposed portions of her thighs.
"All better?" she asked, raising an eyebrow playfully.
"Well, to be honest," Richard let out a breath. "I think I preferred you without any clothes." He smirked and stood up. "That way I get to touch you all over without anything in my way."
"Oh… is that so?" Kahlan stood and looped her arms around his neck, as he rested his hands on her hips.
Richard gave a sheepish nod and gazed deeply into her eyes. "Don't worry, my cute little nightwisp," he murmured, rubbing his nose against hers. "I'll have you out of your clothes again by nightfall."
Kahlan gave him her special smile, the one she'd give no one else save him. "Oh, you can count on that, Richard Cypher," she whispered teasingly. "You can count on that."
Neither were surprised when they found Zedd sitting in the tavern with a… no, with two bowls of porridge before him. One, of course, was completely empty, and the other was already halfway gone. When they told him their plan, Zedd acted surprised, but Kahlan had a feeling the wizard had expected as much, seeing how he had already asked the baker to cook a big cake. When Kahlan saw the mold for it she nearly fainted.
"Well," Zedd replied with an impish grin, holding his arms out wide. "I did tell him to make a BIG cake."
Richard laughed and hugged her close as Kahlan watched the baker fill the mold with his prized cake mix. After returning to the tavern and having a quick bite to eat, Kahlan left with Cara to go find a dress shop. Pendose had quite a large marketplace and there were several tailors. Cara stuck up her nose when the tailor asked if she would be needing a dress as well.
"No, I'm just fine," Cara growled, eyeing the tailor with an expression that said she was just waiting for him to make a move that warranted a lesson from an agiel. "It's the bride who needs something to wear, not me!"
Kahlan held back a smile, amused at Cara's reaction. She didn't want to have to wait that long, so she had the tailor show her some finished dresses that he could the quickly fix to fit. Kahlan avoided white, she didn't want to wear white on her wedding, she associated the color too much with her confessor's dress. She tried a red one on, but Cara shook her head, saying if anyone was going to wear red, it would be her. She tried a yellow gown with lace sleeves, but the Mord'Sith shook her head again. Kahlan lost track of the number of dresses she tried on before they found one she liked.
"I like it," Cara said, leaning against a pillar with her arms folded across her chest. "The color brings out your eyes."
Kahlan spun around and looked at herself in the mirror. Yes. She liked this one too. It was a sleeveless blue dress that hugged her curves, complimenting her figure. She was a little concerned about the low neckline, but as she examined her reflection, she knew Richard would like it. And what's more, it actually fit her perfectly and required no alterations.
"It's perfect!" Kahlan nearly squealed with delight, turning to the tailor, who was beaming, no doubt overjoyed that the Mother Confessor was purchasing a dress from him.
Kahlan spun around and saw Zedd standing in the doorway. The old wizard had a hand over his chest, feigning a heart attack, and his eyes were wide. She smiled and gestured for him to come in. He shook his head and sauntered in, giving Cara a glare.
"Next time warn me," he scowled at the Mord'Sith.
Cara just looked away and smirked. Zedd turned back to Kahlan and smiled wildly. "You look marvelous, my dear!" he declared.
"You think Richard will like it?" she asked, looking over her shoulder at the mirror to see how the dress hugged her back.
"He'd like you if you were wearing rags, dear one," Zedd chuckled. The wizard then turned to the tailor and began haggling the price.
Kahlan went back into the changing room, slipping out of the blue dress and back into her dark traveling dress. Cara was waiting for her by the door. Zedd and the tailor were still in a heated debate over what Zedd was calling an unreasonable price.
"Just because she's the Mother Confessor does not mean the price should skyrocket so high!" huffed Zedd, but eventually he relented and handed over the asking price. Kahlan never did ask how much he paid for it, but then again, he was a wizard and he often created his own gold using his magic… tricky old blighter!
Cara grudgingly took the package from the tailor after he wrapped it up. The Mord'Sith looked uncomfortable carrying it as they walked back into the square, but she said nothing. Zedd hovered by the baker's checking on the cake, before rejoining them at the florist. Kahlan browsed the selection of flowers, and narrowed her eyes. She looked up at the vendor, a sweet little old woman.
"Do you have any white lilies?" she inquired.
"Oh, no, my apologies, Mother Confessor," the woman said, looking distressed.
Kahlan assured her that it was alright. Cara squinted and looked down at one of the bundles. Kahlan looked over to see what she was looking at and then recognized the yellow flowers that Leo had plucked and had gave to Cara. She looked over at her friend, feeling sad for her. She placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Are you alright, Cara?" she asked.
Cara lowered her brow and tried to hide her sadness behind the mask of a defiant Mord'Sith, so like a confessor's mask. "I'm fine," she blurted out.
"What sort of flowers are you looking for, Mother Confessor?" the vendor inquired, trying to alleviate the tension in the air.
Kahlan bit her lower lip and thought. For some reason she had her mind set on white flowers. She had rejected wearing a white dress, but she still felt that something white should be represented at her wedding. However, there appeared to be no white flowers available. Zedd leaned forward and suggested some blue morning glories along with some pink tulips and yellow daises to put into a kind of wildflower bouquet. Kahlan thought about it and smiled, liking the idea. Zedd grinned impishly and then went about handling the details.
After they had bought the flowers, Kahlan placed a hand on Zedd's arm and looked up at him. "Where's Richard?"
"Oh, Richard, yes…," Zedd lowered his bushy brow. "The Seeker's gone to see the Duke."
"The Duke? What for?" Kahlan furrowed her brow, confused. There was no reason to see the Duke.
Zedd shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know!" the old wizard lied.
Kahlan gave a crooked smile and shook her head. "You should know better, Zedd," she said, admonishing him. "You can never lie to a confessor."
"Fine," Zedd crossed his arms. "Let's just say it's a secret and leave it at that." The wizard blew out a frustrated breath. "For the Creator's sake, let the boy surprise you."
"That's all you had to say, Zedd," Kahlan said, looking over at Cara, who was rolling her eyes.
"Are we done yet?" she asked.
"Almost," Zedd said. "We need to reconnoiter the council hall and see how it fits in with our plans."
"Our plans?" Kahlan raised an eyebrow, unaware Zedd was taking this all so seriously.
Zedd winked mischievously. "What? You'd think I'd allow my grandson to get married in some dung heap?" the old wizard chortled loudly, causing many heads to turn and see what was going on. The First Wizard winked and placed a hand on Cara shoulder. Cara gave him a look, narrowing her eyes. "Why don't you take the blushing bride back to the inn while I go and prepare the feasting hall."
"Feasting hall?" Cara scoffed. "I thought you said you were going to the council hall?"
"Council hall, feasting hall," Zedd said, waving his hands in the air as he backed off. "Makes no difference. Besides, a good feast is what we all need after our little adventure." He looked at Kahlan and winked. "Don't you think."
Kahlan sighed and gave in. "Do what you want, Zedd," she relented. "Cara and I will be at the inn… waiting."
"Good!" cheered Zedd. "Now go… shoo, I don't want you to see the surprise I've got lined up."
"We're going," Cara assured him as she placed a leather-clad hand on Kahlan's shoulder and gestured for her to follow.
Having no other choice, being flanked on both sides, Kahlan relented to the pressure the other two were placing on her and went back to the inn with Cara. The two went up to the suite, and Kahlan was slightly disappointed that Richard was not back from the Duke's estate. Though traditionally it was bad luck for the bride to see the groom before the wedding, Kahlan had been hoping for a little fun before the festivities got underway. She sighed and sat on the edge of the bed, guessing she would have to content herself with the "activities" that were to take place after the ceremony. At the thought of that, a small smile crept it's way onto her face.
Chapter 24: Forever
Kahlan sat restlessly on the bed trying to distract herself by reading. The wife of the innkeeper had loaned her a book—some mushy romance novel, but Kahlan was finding herself more interested in reality than in fantasy. The story didn't do justice to what it was like to be with the one you love. She had been with Richard at least five times since they found out he was immune to confession, and she desperately wanted more. She couldn't get enough of him. And above all else, what she really wanted was to start a family with him. Richard had been so good with Renn that she knew he would make a great father. A knock came from the door and Kahlan looked up. Before she could move, Cara was jumping up from the seat, she'd perched herself in, and seeing who it was. "Yes!" she snapped. "Oh…," came a surprised voice. "I was looking for the Mother Confessor." Kahlan sat up and slipped off the bed, putting the book down. If anything, she was grateful for a visitor. The romance novel was just getting her too wound up for what was to come later tonight. She glided up behind Cara and looked over the Mord'Sith's shoulder to be met with a pleasant surprise. "Astrid!" Kahlan smiled, placing a hand on Cara's shoulder to move the Mord'Sith aside. "Come in, come in!" Astrid smiled and looked up at Cara, watching as the Mord'Sith moved aside to permit her to enter. Cara closed the door behind her, as Astrid stepped into the room. In her arms, wrapped in swaddling clothes, was the baby. "I heard you were in town and I thought you might like to see Richard again," she said. "After all, you were the one that helped to bring him into this world." Astrid held him out and Kahlan smiled, accepting him into her arms. She could not help but smile as she looked down at the little bundle of joy. The little infant squirmed for a bit, and then settled, looking up at her with big eyes. "He has your eyes, Astrid," Kahlan said, looking back up at the young mother. Kahlan rocked her arms gently, enjoying the feeling of holding the baby. He kept looking at her, as if he was enchanted. Cara stepped over and peaked down. Richard turned his little head and stared up at the Mord'Sith and let out a soft burp. Cara scowled and backed away. Kahlan gave a half smile and raised a hand to tickle the infant's chin. He cooed and giggled softly, smiling up at her with a little gummy smile. "He's gorgeous, Astrid," she said, handing him back. "You must be very happy." "I am," Astrid nodded, cradling baby Richard in her arms. "Are you coming to our wedding?" Kahlan asked, standing closer to look down at the baby. "Erik and I were planning on attending," Astrid said. "But I don't know. I don't want the baby to start crying and ruin it." "Don't worry," Kahlan said, reaching out to caress the baby again. She loved how soft and smooth his skin was. And every time she touched him, he'd smile. "I think I can speak for Richard when I say we'd like you three to attend." Astrid gave a soft smile and inclined her head. "Then we will." The young mother and her little babe stayed for another hour or so. Kahlan discussed nursing and other things related to caring for the baby, secretly making notes for when she had her own. She wanted to be a good mother, and Astrid seemed so calm and relaxed with Richard in her arms. After she left, Kahlan felt a pang of emptiness inside her very core, knowing that she could never give Richard a son. She always thought that that was important to men, to have sons. Yet Richard always kept asserting that if all he could have with Kahlan was daughters, then he wanted daughters. She hoped he meant that and was not just saying that to make her feel better. Cara was standing by the window, looking out at the town below. She arched her neck and looked back at Kahlan. "The sun's starting to go down," she said. "We should probably start getting you ready." Kahlan took a deep breath and closed her eyes, mentally preparing herself. This was going to be a day she hoped to remember for the rest of her life and she did not want to miss anything. XXX As luck would have it, the Creator saw fit to send them a rainstorm that night. Kahlan groaned, thinking that all their plans were ruined, but Zedd assured her that everything was running smoothly. Cara and her had to run through the streets holding a cloth over her head to make sure that her hair wasn't messed up. Kahlan had been amazed when Cara started combing her hair and fixing it up to make it look all nice. The Mord'Sith gave her a look and smirked. "Say anything you like about the Mord'Sith," Cara grumble. "But the we know how to braid hair." Cara had done a magnificent job with her hair and Kahlan was worried the rain would ruin it, hence the running. When they got to the council hall, Zedd ushered them into a side room and closed the door. Kahlan tried to glimpse the interior of the hall, but the old wizard had craftily maneuvered them around so that it was hidden from view. Cara handed over the package from the tailor's shop and Kahlan began undoing the strings. Cara stood off to the side and leaned back against the wall, folding her arms across her chest, watching as Kahlan removed the blue dress from the package. "You're right," Kahlan said, holding it up to herself and looking at her reflection in the mirror. "It does bring out my eyes." Kahlan removed her boots and began slowly taking her small jacket off, looking around the room. It was a windowless room with a hanging oil lamp that seemed to provide enough illumination to see. As she looked around, her eyes spotted a small box sitting at the foot of the mirror. She put her jacket down on a chair and knelt down to pick it up, examining the wrappings around the box. There was a note attached to it. Kahlan opened the note and recognized Richard's handwriting: For my beautiful bride on our wedding day. She put the note aside and opened the box, smiling. Kahlan gasped and placed a hand over her heart. Inside was a sparkling circlet for her hair, a diamond necklace, and matching earrings. Cara pushed off from the wall and came over to look. Kahlan held the box out for Cara to see. "Look what Richard got me," Kahlan beamed. "Jewelry?" Cara narrowed her eyes. Kahlan just smiled. She removed the jewelry and then found some high-heeled sandals made of a white wood, engraved with gold and other colorful gems. The Mord'Sith raised her eyebrows. "Shoes? Why would you need new shoes?" Cara scoffed. "Cara," Kahlan chided the Mord'Sith's sarcasm. "They're not just shoes. Besides… I really don't have anything to wear to go along with my dress. You didn't think I was planning on walking down the aisle wearing my traveling boots?" Cara shrugged. "Why does it matter what you wear?" she asked. "In a couple of hours you… well, both of you… will be wearing absolutely nothing." She smirked. "If you ask me, you should just skip the whole thing and just go up to the bedroom." "But then it wouldn't be special," Kahlan shook her head. "I want to be Richard's wife, Cara… and to do that we have to be married. And besides…," she smiled wildly. "Richard and I are going to have fun stripping each other!" Cara raised an eyebrow, and smirked, rolling her eyes. "I'll take your word for it." Kahlan chuckled softly to herself as she set the box down and continued undressing. She stripped to her underthings then slipped the blue dress over her head and looked at herself in the mirror, adjusting it to hug her curves just right. She was still a little nervous about the low neckline, especially since she had no top on and had to remove her corset as well. She felt a little naked in just the blue dress and nothing else except for her small black shorts underneath. Cara stood off to the side and watch, rolling her eyes, as Kahlan sat down to put the high-heeled sandals on. She adjusted the flow of the dress to cover her legs, then stood and looked at herself in the mirror as she attached the small gold earrings to her ears. Then she put the circlet in her hair and tied the necklace around her neck. She looked at her reflection and smiled, feeling more like a bride than a confessor. A tapping noise came from the door. Cara stood and went to the door, opening it and turning back around. "They're ready," she said. Kahlan felt herself flush with excitement. Within moments she would be Richard's wife, it would no longer be a dream, but reality. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves and followed Cara out of the side room. Standing by the arched doorway that led into the meeting hall was the Duke of Pendose, his meek young wife at his side. The Duke smiled and gave a graceful bow. "You look radiant, Mother Confessor," he said. "Thank you, Duke Hiram," Kahlan said giving a nod. Duke Hiram turned to his wife and inclined his head. The young woman curtsied, then turned and went into the meeting hall. Cara stood straight beside Kahlan as the Duke stepped up before her. "Mother Confessor," Duke Hiram spoke. "The Seeker came to me earlier today and asked a favor." Kahlan nodded and waited for the man to continue. He pursed his lips together and cast a worried look over at Cara. "He… the Seeker, that is, asked if I would escort you down the aisle and then, offer your hand to him, as it were." Cara stepped forward. "The Mother Confessor needs no escort!" she snarled, threatening to take out an agiel. Duke Hiram eyed Cara for a moment before returning his attention to Kahlan. "The Seeker felt it would only be right to have a representative of the Midlands Alliance as part of the ceremony," he explained. Kahlan gave a nod. Richard was cleverer than she gave him credit for. Indeed, he was right, having Duke Hiram, a respected member of the Midlands Alliance, be part of the ceremony would certainly give more weight to the wedding with the rest of the council. She looked at the Duke and smiled. "I thank you," she said. "You're participation will certainly help smooth things over with the council when I arrive in Aydindril already wed." Duke Hiram inclined his head. "That was the First Wizard's assessment as well." "Alright," Cara said, huffing. "Let's get this over with." Cara strolled out grumbled as she picked up one of the wildflower bouquets and stepped into the hall, disappearing. The Duke stepped over and handed Kahlan the other bouquet. He extended his arm, and Kahlan looped hers through his. He gave her a smile, and then together they stepped through the arched doorway and into the hall. Kahlan nearly gasped. Zedd had been quite busy, that much was obvious. The entire room had been transformed. Colorful ribbons of blues, greens, yellows, and reds hung from the ceiling. Flowers of every color were ensconced in the walls. Garlands hung from the benches, lining the central aisle. She watched as Cara walked down the aisle, her lone bridesmaid, and up to the dais were Richard and Zedd stood. When she saw Richard, she nearly lost her breath. He was dressed in a crimson tunic with black beads and matching trousers. He had shaved and taken a bath, his brown hair was combed. The Sword of Truth rested along side his hip, where it belong, looking polished, glistening in the candlelight. She glanced up and saw the rainbow colored lanterns hanging from the rafters, giving the entire room a marvelous glow. And off to the side, on the right hand side, was the largest wedding cake Kahlan had ever seen. The baker stood off to the side looking very pleased with himself. Duke Hiram escorted the Mother Confessor down the aisle. Kahlan looked around that the assembled guests and thought that the entire town must be in attendance. She caught sight of Astrid and Erik, the later holding baby Richard. Astrid was dressed in a green gown with a flowery pattern that matched her eyes, and had a jade brooch holding up her hair. She smiled at them. They both returned the smile and bowed as she passed. Kahlan returned her attention to Richard. He was standing, his hands resting calmly at his side, as his warm brown eyes seemed to focus on her and her alone. She felt so naked in his gaze, and would have blushed, but she did not mind the feeling. In fact, Kahlan loved the way he was staring at her, it made her feel like the center of the world. Zedd beamed down at them when they arrived, and she was startled to see that the wizard had actually taken the time to comb his unruly wavy grey hair. Frankly, she thought he looked better before, but she didn't say anything. The Duke held her hand up and offered it to the Seeker. Richard took her hand in his and smiled, giving a nod of thanks to Duke Hiram. Richard looked up into her eyes and gave her hand a loving squeeze before they turned to face Zedd. Cara stepped forward and relieved Kahlan of her bouquet, looking miserable. Kahlan suppressed a laugh. She could tell that the Mord'Sith was not happy with having to stand up there holding flowers. Zedd cleared his throat and raised his hands. "Today we gather to witness a rare union," his voice carried soundly throughout the quiet hall. "Never before has a confessor married for love. And never before has her groom been a man such as the Seeker of Truth, immune to the powers of confession. It is a joyous and happy time." Kahlan looked up at Richard and smiled, giving him her special smile. He smiled back and tilted his head ever so slightly as he gazed at her, his eyes filled with nothing but undying love. Kahlan had to remind herself to breathe, least she faint from lack of oxygen during her own wedding. With each breath, her heart seemed to pound even harder in her chest knowing that soon… very soon, she would be Richard's and Richard's alone. Zedd raised his hands above their heads and spoke some words in the wizard's tongue. He then turned around and retrieved a white ribbon from the podium behind him. He held the ribbon up for all to see. "As is tradition," Zedd spoke, "dating back to the first marriages between the villages and clans that eventually formed the Midlands, when a young couple decided to make a new family together, they would vow to bond with the other for life. She would bear his children and his alone. And he would swear upon pain of death to love and honor his bride for all time, even into the depths of the Underworld, if necessary. So shall it be with the Mother Confessor and the Seeker." He paused and took a quick breath. "They're love is timeless and unending. It has been tested countless times and survived. If ever there were two people who deserved to be together, it is them." He paused and looked down at Kahlan and Richard. "Would you please hold out your hands?" Richard squeezed her hand and together they raised their hands up in front of Zedd. The First Wizard held the ribbon taunt above there clasped hands. Kahlan slowly intertwined her fingers with Richard's, feeling her heartbeat quicken with the vows to come. "Richard Cypher, Seeker of Truth," Zedd said, looking at his grandson with pride. "Do you vow before all those present and in the name of the Creator, to honor, cherish, and love Kahlan Amnell above all others, from this moment and so on, for all time?" "I do so vow," Richard said, smiling. Zedd grinned and winked, turning to Kahlan. "Kahlan Amnell, Mother Confessor of the Midlands, do you vow before all those present and in the name of the Creator, to honor, cherish, and love Richard Cypher above all others, from this moment and so on, for all time?" Kahlan swallowed and took a quick breath. "I do so vow." Zedd's grin turned into a wild toothy smile and he placed the ribbon around Richard and Kahlan's hands, wrapping it around their intertwined hands until it was tight. "Then from this moment on you have ceased to be two souls and have become one, forever bound by your love for one another," Zedd declared as he finished tying the ribbon around their hands. Richard turned towards her and gave her a boyish grin. He began to lean forward to kiss her, but Zedd stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. "Not so quick, my boy," the old wizard chuckled softly. "I'm not done yet." Zedd cleared his throat and raised his hands up in the air. "I, Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander, Wizard of the First Order, do now name you husband and wife," Zedd lowered his hands and winked. "You may now kiss her, my boy." Richard shook his head, and turned to kiss her, but Kahlan was faster. She'd been waiting for this moment for so long she couldn't resist. Kahlan practically rammed into him, and they almost fell over, as they kissed for the first time as husband and wife. A cheer erupted throughout the hall and Kahlan felt Richard smile as he continued to kiss her. When they backed out of the kiss, he rested his forehead against hers and they shared a single breath. "I love you, Kahlan," Richard murmured softly. "I love you, Richard," she smiled, leaning forward to kiss him again. She closed her eyes and giggled softly, when she heard Cara groan in the background. Richard backed up and grinned. He turned to begin untying the ribbon. "Whoa! What do you think you're doing, Seeker?" Zedd said, rushing in to stop him. Richard frowned and looked up at his grandfather. "Getting rid of this thing so I can embrace my wife," he scowled. "Afraid you can't," Zedd said, winking mischievously. "An old wizard's trick. The knot is magically endowed, it can't be untied." "What!" Richard looked angry. "Why would you do that?" "Tradition," Zedd said, as if it was obvious. He looked over at Kahlan. She knitted her eyebrows together and thought. Then she remembered and she let out a soft giggle, holding up her free hand to cover her mouth. "What? What's so funny?" Richard demanded, looking frustrated. "Zedd's right," Kahlan said. "I did kind of ask him for a traditional wedding and well, he certainly went for traditional." Zedd grinned impishly. "Traditional wizard wedding that is! The ribbon can't be removed until the marriage is consummated," the wizard informed his grandson with a knowing wink. "Now, how about some cake?" Richard raised his eyebrows and looked at Kahlan. "Uh… no thanks, Zedd," he said hastily. "I… I think we'll skip the cake… and the festivities. You go on without us." He turned to leave. "But the party's for you?" Zedd objected. "No time!" Richard shouted, grabbing Kahlan's hand and rushing off down the aisle. The people cheered and laughed, throwing flower pedals up over their heads. "Whoa! Where are you going!" Zedd called after them. Kahlan giggled and laughed as they ran down the aisle, the flower pedals falling down around them like raindrops. Richard arched his neck over his shoulder and shouted back to his grandfather, his voice heavy with unbridled desire for his bride: "To get this damn ribbon off!"
Kahlan sat restlessly on the bed trying to distract herself by reading. The wife of the innkeeper had loaned her a book—some mushy romance novel, but Kahlan was finding herself more interested in reality than in fantasy. The story didn't do justice to what it was like to be with the one you love. She had been with Richard at least five times since they found out he was immune to confession, and she desperately wanted more. She couldn't get enough of him. And above all else, what she really wanted was to start a family with him. Richard had been so good with Renn that she knew he would make a great father.
A knock came from the door and Kahlan looked up. Before she could move, Cara was jumping up from the seat, she'd perched herself in, and seeing who it was.
"Yes!" she snapped.
"Oh…," came a surprised voice. "I was looking for the Mother Confessor."
Kahlan sat up and slipped off the bed, putting the book down. If anything, she was grateful for a visitor. The romance novel was just getting her too wound up for what was to come later tonight. She glided up behind Cara and looked over the Mord'Sith's shoulder to be met with a pleasant surprise.
"Astrid!" Kahlan smiled, placing a hand on Cara's shoulder to move the Mord'Sith aside. "Come in, come in!"
Astrid smiled and looked up at Cara, watching as the Mord'Sith moved aside to permit her to enter. Cara closed the door behind her, as Astrid stepped into the room. In her arms, wrapped in swaddling clothes, was the baby.
"I heard you were in town and I thought you might like to see Richard again," she said. "After all, you were the one that helped to bring him into this world."
Astrid held him out and Kahlan smiled, accepting him into her arms. She could not help but smile as she looked down at the little bundle of joy. The little infant squirmed for a bit, and then settled, looking up at her with big eyes.
"He has your eyes, Astrid," Kahlan said, looking back up at the young mother.
Kahlan rocked her arms gently, enjoying the feeling of holding the baby. He kept looking at her, as if he was enchanted. Cara stepped over and peaked down. Richard turned his little head and stared up at the Mord'Sith and let out a soft burp. Cara scowled and backed away. Kahlan gave a half smile and raised a hand to tickle the infant's chin. He cooed and giggled softly, smiling up at her with a little gummy smile.
"He's gorgeous, Astrid," she said, handing him back. "You must be very happy."
"I am," Astrid nodded, cradling baby Richard in her arms.
"Are you coming to our wedding?" Kahlan asked, standing closer to look down at the baby.
"Erik and I were planning on attending," Astrid said. "But I don't know. I don't want the baby to start crying and ruin it."
"Don't worry," Kahlan said, reaching out to caress the baby again. She loved how soft and smooth his skin was. And every time she touched him, he'd smile. "I think I can speak for Richard when I say we'd like you three to attend."
Astrid gave a soft smile and inclined her head. "Then we will."
The young mother and her little babe stayed for another hour or so. Kahlan discussed nursing and other things related to caring for the baby, secretly making notes for when she had her own. She wanted to be a good mother, and Astrid seemed so calm and relaxed with Richard in her arms. After she left, Kahlan felt a pang of emptiness inside her very core, knowing that she could never give Richard a son. She always thought that that was important to men, to have sons. Yet Richard always kept asserting that if all he could have with Kahlan was daughters, then he wanted daughters. She hoped he meant that and was not just saying that to make her feel better.
Cara was standing by the window, looking out at the town below. She arched her neck and looked back at Kahlan. "The sun's starting to go down," she said. "We should probably start getting you ready."
Kahlan took a deep breath and closed her eyes, mentally preparing herself. This was going to be a day she hoped to remember for the rest of her life and she did not want to miss anything.
As luck would have it, the Creator saw fit to send them a rainstorm that night. Kahlan groaned, thinking that all their plans were ruined, but Zedd assured her that everything was running smoothly. Cara and her had to run through the streets holding a cloth over her head to make sure that her hair wasn't messed up. Kahlan had been amazed when Cara started combing her hair and fixing it up to make it look all nice.
The Mord'Sith gave her a look and smirked. "Say anything you like about the Mord'Sith," Cara grumble. "But the we know how to braid hair."
Cara had done a magnificent job with her hair and Kahlan was worried the rain would ruin it, hence the running. When they got to the council hall, Zedd ushered them into a side room and closed the door. Kahlan tried to glimpse the interior of the hall, but the old wizard had craftily maneuvered them around so that it was hidden from view. Cara handed over the package from the tailor's shop and Kahlan began undoing the strings. Cara stood off to the side and leaned back against the wall, folding her arms across her chest, watching as Kahlan removed the blue dress from the package.
"You're right," Kahlan said, holding it up to herself and looking at her reflection in the mirror. "It does bring out my eyes."
Kahlan removed her boots and began slowly taking her small jacket off, looking around the room. It was a windowless room with a hanging oil lamp that seemed to provide enough illumination to see. As she looked around, her eyes spotted a small box sitting at the foot of the mirror. She put her jacket down on a chair and knelt down to pick it up, examining the wrappings around the box. There was a note attached to it. Kahlan opened the note and recognized Richard's handwriting: For my beautiful bride on our wedding day.
She put the note aside and opened the box, smiling. Kahlan gasped and placed a hand over her heart. Inside was a sparkling circlet for her hair, a diamond necklace, and matching earrings. Cara pushed off from the wall and came over to look. Kahlan held the box out for Cara to see. "Look what Richard got me," Kahlan beamed.
"Jewelry?" Cara narrowed her eyes.
Kahlan just smiled. She removed the jewelry and then found some high-heeled sandals made of a white wood, engraved with gold and other colorful gems.
The Mord'Sith raised her eyebrows. "Shoes? Why would you need new shoes?" Cara scoffed.
"Cara," Kahlan chided the Mord'Sith's sarcasm. "They're not just shoes. Besides… I really don't have anything to wear to go along with my dress. You didn't think I was planning on walking down the aisle wearing my traveling boots?"
Cara shrugged. "Why does it matter what you wear?" she asked. "In a couple of hours you… well, both of you… will be wearing absolutely nothing." She smirked. "If you ask me, you should just skip the whole thing and just go up to the bedroom."
"But then it wouldn't be special," Kahlan shook her head. "I want to be Richard's wife, Cara… and to do that we have to be married. And besides…," she smiled wildly. "Richard and I are going to have fun stripping each other!"
Cara raised an eyebrow, and smirked, rolling her eyes. "I'll take your word for it."
Kahlan chuckled softly to herself as she set the box down and continued undressing. She stripped to her underthings then slipped the blue dress over her head and looked at herself in the mirror, adjusting it to hug her curves just right. She was still a little nervous about the low neckline, especially since she had no top on and had to remove her corset as well. She felt a little naked in just the blue dress and nothing else except for her small black shorts underneath.
Cara stood off to the side and watch, rolling her eyes, as Kahlan sat down to put the high-heeled sandals on. She adjusted the flow of the dress to cover her legs, then stood and looked at herself in the mirror as she attached the small gold earrings to her ears. Then she put the circlet in her hair and tied the necklace around her neck. She looked at her reflection and smiled, feeling more like a bride than a confessor.
A tapping noise came from the door. Cara stood and went to the door, opening it and turning back around. "They're ready," she said.
Kahlan felt herself flush with excitement. Within moments she would be Richard's wife, it would no longer be a dream, but reality. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves and followed Cara out of the side room. Standing by the arched doorway that led into the meeting hall was the Duke of Pendose, his meek young wife at his side.
The Duke smiled and gave a graceful bow. "You look radiant, Mother Confessor," he said.
"Thank you, Duke Hiram," Kahlan said giving a nod.
Duke Hiram turned to his wife and inclined his head. The young woman curtsied, then turned and went into the meeting hall. Cara stood straight beside Kahlan as the Duke stepped up before her.
"Mother Confessor," Duke Hiram spoke. "The Seeker came to me earlier today and asked a favor."
Kahlan nodded and waited for the man to continue. He pursed his lips together and cast a worried look over at Cara. "He… the Seeker, that is, asked if I would escort you down the aisle and then, offer your hand to him, as it were."
Cara stepped forward. "The Mother Confessor needs no escort!" she snarled, threatening to take out an agiel.
Duke Hiram eyed Cara for a moment before returning his attention to Kahlan. "The Seeker felt it would only be right to have a representative of the Midlands Alliance as part of the ceremony," he explained.
Kahlan gave a nod. Richard was cleverer than she gave him credit for. Indeed, he was right, having Duke Hiram, a respected member of the Midlands Alliance, be part of the ceremony would certainly give more weight to the wedding with the rest of the council. She looked at the Duke and smiled.
"I thank you," she said. "You're participation will certainly help smooth things over with the council when I arrive in Aydindril already wed."
Duke Hiram inclined his head. "That was the First Wizard's assessment as well."
"Alright," Cara said, huffing. "Let's get this over with."
Cara strolled out grumbled as she picked up one of the wildflower bouquets and stepped into the hall, disappearing. The Duke stepped over and handed Kahlan the other bouquet. He extended his arm, and Kahlan looped hers through his. He gave her a smile, and then together they stepped through the arched doorway and into the hall.
Kahlan nearly gasped. Zedd had been quite busy, that much was obvious. The entire room had been transformed. Colorful ribbons of blues, greens, yellows, and reds hung from the ceiling. Flowers of every color were ensconced in the walls. Garlands hung from the benches, lining the central aisle. She watched as Cara walked down the aisle, her lone bridesmaid, and up to the dais were Richard and Zedd stood.
When she saw Richard, she nearly lost her breath. He was dressed in a crimson tunic with black beads and matching trousers. He had shaved and taken a bath, his brown hair was combed. The Sword of Truth rested along side his hip, where it belong, looking polished, glistening in the candlelight. She glanced up and saw the rainbow colored lanterns hanging from the rafters, giving the entire room a marvelous glow. And off to the side, on the right hand side, was the largest wedding cake Kahlan had ever seen. The baker stood off to the side looking very pleased with himself.
Duke Hiram escorted the Mother Confessor down the aisle. Kahlan looked around that the assembled guests and thought that the entire town must be in attendance. She caught sight of Astrid and Erik, the later holding baby Richard. Astrid was dressed in a green gown with a flowery pattern that matched her eyes, and had a jade brooch holding up her hair. She smiled at them. They both returned the smile and bowed as she passed.
Kahlan returned her attention to Richard. He was standing, his hands resting calmly at his side, as his warm brown eyes seemed to focus on her and her alone. She felt so naked in his gaze, and would have blushed, but she did not mind the feeling. In fact, Kahlan loved the way he was staring at her, it made her feel like the center of the world.
Zedd beamed down at them when they arrived, and she was startled to see that the wizard had actually taken the time to comb his unruly wavy grey hair. Frankly, she thought he looked better before, but she didn't say anything.
The Duke held her hand up and offered it to the Seeker. Richard took her hand in his and smiled, giving a nod of thanks to Duke Hiram. Richard looked up into her eyes and gave her hand a loving squeeze before they turned to face Zedd. Cara stepped forward and relieved Kahlan of her bouquet, looking miserable. Kahlan suppressed a laugh. She could tell that the Mord'Sith was not happy with having to stand up there holding flowers.
Zedd cleared his throat and raised his hands. "Today we gather to witness a rare union," his voice carried soundly throughout the quiet hall. "Never before has a confessor married for love. And never before has her groom been a man such as the Seeker of Truth, immune to the powers of confession. It is a joyous and happy time."
Kahlan looked up at Richard and smiled, giving him her special smile. He smiled back and tilted his head ever so slightly as he gazed at her, his eyes filled with nothing but undying love. Kahlan had to remind herself to breathe, least she faint from lack of oxygen during her own wedding. With each breath, her heart seemed to pound even harder in her chest knowing that soon… very soon, she would be Richard's and Richard's alone. Zedd raised his hands above their heads and spoke some words in the wizard's tongue. He then turned around and retrieved a white ribbon from the podium behind him.
He held the ribbon up for all to see. "As is tradition," Zedd spoke, "dating back to the first marriages between the villages and clans that eventually formed the Midlands, when a young couple decided to make a new family together, they would vow to bond with the other for life. She would bear his children and his alone. And he would swear upon pain of death to love and honor his bride for all time, even into the depths of the Underworld, if necessary. So shall it be with the Mother Confessor and the Seeker." He paused and took a quick breath. "They're love is timeless and unending. It has been tested countless times and survived. If ever there were two people who deserved to be together, it is them."
He paused and looked down at Kahlan and Richard. "Would you please hold out your hands?"
Richard squeezed her hand and together they raised their hands up in front of Zedd. The First Wizard held the ribbon taunt above there clasped hands. Kahlan slowly intertwined her fingers with Richard's, feeling her heartbeat quicken with the vows to come.
"Richard Cypher, Seeker of Truth," Zedd said, looking at his grandson with pride. "Do you vow before all those present and in the name of the Creator, to honor, cherish, and love Kahlan Amnell above all others, from this moment and so on, for all time?"
"I do so vow," Richard said, smiling.
Zedd grinned and winked, turning to Kahlan. "Kahlan Amnell, Mother Confessor of the Midlands, do you vow before all those present and in the name of the Creator, to honor, cherish, and love Richard Cypher above all others, from this moment and so on, for all time?"
Kahlan swallowed and took a quick breath. "I do so vow."
Zedd's grin turned into a wild toothy smile and he placed the ribbon around Richard and Kahlan's hands, wrapping it around their intertwined hands until it was tight. "Then from this moment on you have ceased to be two souls and have become one, forever bound by your love for one another," Zedd declared as he finished tying the ribbon around their hands.
Richard turned towards her and gave her a boyish grin. He began to lean forward to kiss her, but Zedd stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. "Not so quick, my boy," the old wizard chuckled softly. "I'm not done yet."
Zedd cleared his throat and raised his hands up in the air. "I, Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander, Wizard of the First Order, do now name you husband and wife," Zedd lowered his hands and winked. "You may now kiss her, my boy."
Richard shook his head, and turned to kiss her, but Kahlan was faster. She'd been waiting for this moment for so long she couldn't resist. Kahlan practically rammed into him, and they almost fell over, as they kissed for the first time as husband and wife. A cheer erupted throughout the hall and Kahlan felt Richard smile as he continued to kiss her.
When they backed out of the kiss, he rested his forehead against hers and they shared a single breath. "I love you, Kahlan," Richard murmured softly.
"I love you, Richard," she smiled, leaning forward to kiss him again. She closed her eyes and giggled softly, when she heard Cara groan in the background.
Richard backed up and grinned. He turned to begin untying the ribbon.
"Whoa! What do you think you're doing, Seeker?" Zedd said, rushing in to stop him.
Richard frowned and looked up at his grandfather. "Getting rid of this thing so I can embrace my wife," he scowled.
"Afraid you can't," Zedd said, winking mischievously. "An old wizard's trick. The knot is magically endowed, it can't be untied."
"What!" Richard looked angry. "Why would you do that?"
"Tradition," Zedd said, as if it was obvious. He looked over at Kahlan. She knitted her eyebrows together and thought. Then she remembered and she let out a soft giggle, holding up her free hand to cover her mouth.
"What? What's so funny?" Richard demanded, looking frustrated.
"Zedd's right," Kahlan said. "I did kind of ask him for a traditional wedding and well, he certainly went for traditional."
Zedd grinned impishly. "Traditional wizard wedding that is! The ribbon can't be removed until the marriage is consummated," the wizard informed his grandson with a knowing wink. "Now, how about some cake?"
Richard raised his eyebrows and looked at Kahlan. "Uh… no thanks, Zedd," he said hastily. "I… I think we'll skip the cake… and the festivities. You go on without us." He turned to leave.
"But the party's for you?" Zedd objected.
"No time!" Richard shouted, grabbing Kahlan's hand and rushing off down the aisle. The people cheered and laughed, throwing flower pedals up over their heads.
"Whoa! Where are you going!" Zedd called after them.
Kahlan giggled and laughed as they ran down the aisle, the flower pedals falling down around them like raindrops. Richard arched his neck over his shoulder and shouted back to his grandfather, his voice heavy with unbridled desire for his bride: "To get this damn ribbon off!"
Chapter 25: The Ribbon Comes Off
This chapter is rated M for Sexual Content.
They plunged heedlessly into the raging downpour, neither caring if they got wet or not, because soon both would be stripping the other of their clothes. The rain was coming down harder than it had before and they were soon both drenched. Kahlan lowered her brow as she ran behind Richard, slightly disappointed that her hair was, no doubt, ruined… but then again, why did it matter? It was about to get ruined anyway.
Kahlan narrowed her eyes and tried to concentrate. It was hard work running in high-heels. She wanted to get to their suite at the inn, as much as Richard, but she wanted to get there in one piece. Kahlan knew that if they went any faster she would probably trip or break one of the heels. And she didn't want to break them, especially since they were a gift from Richard.
She pulled on him. "Richard… I can't run in heels," she breathed out through panting breaths, her chest heaving from the exertion.
Richard stopped and nodded, turning to look at her. His eyes grew wide and fell to her chest. "Kahlan…," his voice trailed off, as his eyes seemed to become transfixed on her chest.
Kahlan flushed, remembering how low the neckline was, and with so much rain, the dress was clinging to her a lot more that it had when it was dry. "Richard!" she snapped. "My shoes!"
"Right," Richard gave a nod and smiled, and knelt down, making sure not to jerk his hand that was tied to her too much. Kahlan placed a hand on his shoulder for support as she lifted each foot and he removed the high-heeled sandals with a deft expertise that amazed her.
Richard stood back up, holding them in his free hand. Kahlan used her free hand to hold up the hem of her dress, ensuring that it would not get muddy as they continued their mad dash for the inn. They ran through puddles and laughed, enjoying themselves. She had never found a rainstorm to be this erotic or sensual before.
After removing her high-heeled sandals, it did not take them long to reach the inn. They rushed inside and sprinted up the stairs. Kahlan was breathing heavily, a combination of their mad dash and the anticipation of the night of passion that awaited her with Richard.
Richard stopped at the door to their suite and turned back to her, smirking. His drenched hair stuck to his face and Kahlan let out a soft chuckle as she pushed it back from his brow. "I've got a surprise for you," he said.
He pulled the latch and the door swung open. Kahlan gasped and her smile grew so wide it almost hurt her cheeks. Hundreds of candles lay spread out across the floor, giving the room a warm glow. Two vases were placed on the nightstands on each side of the bed, and both were filled with roses. And the bed, spirits, somehow he'd had the time to litter the entire bed with the red pedals of even more roses. Richard pulled their tied hands up and kissed the back of her hand.
"Do you like it?" he murmured softly, gazing up at her with his warm brown eyes that glowed with a golden sheen in the candlelight.
"Oh, Richard…," Kahlan was quite literally speechless. No one had ever done anything so romantic for her. Well, to be honest, she had never really been in any romantic situations until she had encountered Richard. Most men were afraid of confessors, because of what they could do to you with their powers. The only men that ever talked to her were usually the wizards, and most of them were old men.
Grinning ear to ear, pleased with the reaction he got from her, Richard led her into the suite and closed the door, bolting it shut so that they would have no unwanted intruders. Kahlan turned to him and gazed into his handsome face, losing herself in how the candlelight danced off his features. She raised her hand and placed it on his cheek.
"Oh, Richard," she felt near tears of joy. "It's perfect!"
"Good," Richard whispered, dropping the sandals and pulling her to him in an intense passionate kiss that left Kahlan breathless.
While she was still numb from the impassioned kiss, Richard took the circlet off her head and placed it down on a nearby chair. He reached back up and tickled her neck. With his one free hand he undid the fastenings of the diamond necklace, and skillfully removed her earrings, before placing them down with the circlet. Blinking, and regaining her focus, Kahlan undid his belt and detached the Sword of Truth from his waist, setting it down on the floor. As she did so, Richard kicked his shoes off.
He pulled their tied hands up and kissed her hand, guiding her towards the rose pedal covered bed. They climbed up on it and Kahlan eased down amongst the pedals, giggling softly as the silky pedals tickled her back. Richard shifted over her, using his free hand to push her dress hem up, and danced his fingers up her legs, caressing her thighs. Kahlan closed her eyes and sucked in a breath when she felt his fingers reaching for her underthings. Richard gripped the fabric and began tugging at it. Kahlan shifted, raising her hips to assist him as he pulled her small black shorts down.
They locked eyes as he continued to pull her underthings down past her knees. He shifted over her and leaned forward, pressing his lips softly against hers. Kahlan closed her eyes and moved her lips with his. His tongue slipped between her parted lips and soon they were tasting each other, losing themselves in one another. Kahlan lifted her feet and Richard pulled her underthings up and smiled, tossing them to the floor, before returning his attention to her lips.
Kahlan raised her free hand and gripped his face, pulling him closer, pushing her soft feminine body up against his hard masculine body. Her heart was racing and she could not wait for Richard to be inside her. Sure, they had made love before, but not as husband and wife. Spirits, she wanted him so badly. Kahlan let out a soft giggle, laughing at herself, thinking that reading that romance novel had probably stimulated her more than she had thought.
Richard moved his lips to her cheek and ran wet heated kisses down her jaw and chin, nibbling at her neck. As he did so, his free hand drifted back up her leg and began rubbing her inner thigh. Kahlan moaned softly and rolled her head back, leaning into the pillow, giving him more access to her neck as he sucked on her supple flesh. His hand continued to dance up her leg until he reached her femininity.
She flirted her eyes open when Richard moved over her, looking deeply into her eyes, as he began to caress her special place with his fingers. He moved his fingers over her folds, making her wet. Richard smiled down at her and watched as she responded to his ministrations. Kahlan's mouth dropped open as flutters of pleasure rippled throughout her body. Her stomach muscles tightened and she let out a gasp as Richard slipped a finger past her folds and inside her. Spirits, he'd never done this before… never pleased her with nothing but his fingers.
Kahlan reached up with her free hand and clutched at his shoulder, pulling him down for another kiss as he added another finger to his ministrations between her legs. She felt lightheaded and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of ecstasy produced by the slightest movement and touch of Richard's hand on her femininity. He was working her so well with nothing but his fingers that Kahlan thought for sure that she would reach release. But that's not what she wanted. She wanted more than just that. She wanted Richard, himself, inside her… and she wanted to please him as well.
"Richard…," she managed to gasp his name through panting breaths.
Richard looked up and smiled, continuing to move his fingers. Kahlan closed her eyes and caught her breath as this thumb drifted across her special place, eliciting an explosion of pleasure in her velvet core. Richard grinned, no doubt pleased with the reaction he got from her.
"Richard… Richard!" Kahlan murmured through her heavy breath, half gone in the rapture his fingers were giving her.
"Yes, Kahlan, my sweet?" he leaned down next to her, softly planting warm kisses on her neck and shoulder.
"Richard… I… I want more than just your fingers inside me," Kahlan murmured in a low voice heavy with wanton need. She was having difficulty hiding her obvious desire to have him inside her. "Much more," she added in a warm whisper against his cheek.
He continued sucking on her neck, and she could feel his lips curling into a smile. Richard moved slowly, kissing his way back up to her lips. Kahlan parted her lips and Richard seized them with his, slipping his tongue in. Kahlan closed her eyes and brought her hand up to grip his hair as he pressed his lips against hers. As he backed away, she teasingly bit his lower lip and let out a breath of delight, feeling his fingers slip out of her.
Richard raised his hand up. Two of his fingers were dripping wet with her essence. Richard smiled at her and Kahlan watched with wide eyes as he slowly inserted each finger into his mouth and licked off the dripping essence. When he'd cleaned both fingers he eased down next to her and smiled.
"You taste wonderful, my Kahlan," he purred, leaning forward to kiss her. Kahlan closed her eyes, tasting some of herself on his lips. She was surprised at how she tasted. Richard's free hand began tugging at the straps holding up her dress, but was only able to slip one side down, exposing her right breast.
He leaned over her and began kissing her right shoulder, working his way down until he reached the beginnings of her soft flesh. He kissed the top of her breast, and brought his right hand up to caressed her side as he opened his mouth and sucked on her nipple. Kahlan took in quick breaths and pushed up off the bed, softly pleading with him to continue. His hand squeezed the side of her breast as he continued licking at her nipple and kissing every inch of her flesh.
When he began kissing his way back up to her next, Kahlan moved both her hands, forgetting that one was tied to Richard's. He jumped a bit and laughed. Kahlan blushed, embarrassed that she had lost herself so much in the rapture his lips had on her body that she had forgotten about the ribbon.
"What do you want, my little nightwisp?" he asked, pushing back her hair from her brow and gazing into her eyes.
As a response, Kahlan pushed forward and captured his lips with hers, kissing him gently, as she directed their tied hands down to his waistline. She pulled back for a moment. "You know what I want, Richard," she whispered huskily into his ear.
Soon, all four of their hands were down at his waistline, tugging and pulling at the laces of his trousers. Kahlan arched her neck to look down, waiting to see him when he was freed. She growled, frustrated at how difficult it was to do anything with only one hand. Her frustration only seemed to make Richard laugh. She knitted her eyebrows together, trying to concentrate. Eventually they got the laces freed and she tugged at his trousers.
Richard moved and shifted until his trousers dropped down past his knees. He squirmed around a bit and finally he was completely free of them. While he was focused on removing his trousers, Kahlan had set to work unbuttoning his shirt. She was pleased that her single freed hand seemed quite capable of unbuttoning each notch. His shirt parted and she caught a glimpse of the hard muscles that had been hidden underneath the fabric of his tunic.
Kahlan immediately ran her fingers along his muscles, memorizing every curve and line upon his chest. She danced her fingers down his hard abdomen and down past his waist until she came to the one part of Richard she had been waiting all day to feel. Richard let out a low groan when her fingers wrapped around his firm manhood. He was so warm and his skin velvety to the touch. Kahlan began to dance her fingers up and down his length, stopping at the base to tickle his balls, cupping them in her hand.
Richard did not move and allowed her to explore and feel every inch of his manhood. She knew she should not be surprised at his response to her touch, but it still amazed her at how hard and stiff he got around her. She flirted her eyes up from her hand to his chest, and then gazed up longingly into his eyes. Richard smiled softly and leaned forward, using his free hand to rub her thigh, and push the hem of her blue dress further up.
Despite the fact this was not going to be her first time with Richard, Kahlan still felt her chest tighten in the anticipation of feeling him enter her. It was a sensation she wished she never grew tired of. And a feeling she wanted to feel for the rest of her life. Richard moved over her, his breath warm and moist, as he positioned himself over her. Kahlan opened her legs, feeling a tingle run down her spine as she felt Richard's hardness brush against her folds.
Richard moved his hand up and cupped her face. "I love you… so much," he murmured and leaned forward to kiss her. Kahlan closed her eyes and moved her lips along with his, highly aware that as they kissed, Richard was gently moving his hips. Her mouth opened and she gasped in delight as she felt Richard push completely past her folds and filled her inside with his hardness.
Holding their tied hands by their hearts, Richard began moving his hips back and forth, taking himself barely out of her before plunging back down into her depths. Kahlan moaned and groaned with escalating need as she felt the stirrings of explosive heat and passion inside her. Richard's free hand came up and kneaded her breast, teasing her nipple with his thumb, as he danced kisses down her neck and sucked on her supple flesh.
Kahlan did not know what to do, the sheer amount of pleasure she was feeling at this moment was almost too much to handle. Though she had had made love with Richard before, Kahlan felt like a maid accepting a man for the first time. Her whole body tingled and felt numb as Richard continued to thrust back and forth inside her. She loved how he never stopped kissing her and touching her. His hand just did not want to leave her flesh.
Richard was quickening his pace, as he felt her grow wetter. She felt him pushing deeper and deeper with each thrust. And she was rapidly losing all control over her powers. They were roaring for release, wanting to be let loose. It was all she could do to keep them in check, wanting to feel as much as she could. Richard tensed and he reached up with his hand, hastily capturing her lips with his mouth. His hips were pressed hard against her and she could feel him deep inside her. Richard let out a soft groan and continued kissing her as she felt the warmth of his seed explode within her depths.
Suddenly, a wave of bliss rippled through her body, and her mind felt fogged and lost in all the sensory input she was receiving. Spirits, how could she feel like this when it was not her first time? Was it a result of her mood, the fact that it was her wedding night, or was it something more? Was something magical at work? As the wave of ecstasy passed over her body, Kahlan felt her inner muscles tighten around Richard and she bucked her hips up into him, as she felt a deluge of sensations roar throughout her entire body, exploding out from her very core.
Kahlan raised her eyebrows and parted her lips to moan his name as she felt a pool of wetness seep out of her and soak the mattress. The feeling was heightened by the release of her powers, which could not harm Richard. She blacked out for a moment, the combine feelings of orgasmic release coupled with her confessor powers overwhelming her like never before.
When she came too, the ribbon was loose and slack. Richard had already moved his hand away and was touching her all over with both hands. Kahlan squirmed with delight and brought both her hands up to grab his face.
"Oh Richard…," she murmured. "What did I ever do to win you're love?"
Richard smirked and leaned down to plant wet kisses along her neck. "You won my heart the moment you came into my life, Kahlan" he answered, whispering against her throat in-between kisses. His hands were caressing her sides, one down near her hip while the other massaged her breast. "You gave me a reason to fight, a reason to live." He moved and gazed down at her with his warm brown eyes. "Without you, Kahlan, life is not worth living."
Kahlan's heart fluttered with his declaration of undying love and she wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him down for a long deep kiss. "Well," she said, grinning and raising an eyebrow. "I hope you're not fully satisfied, because I'm in the mood for a little more fun!"
"You must have the ability to read minds, Kahlan," Richard said, sitting back and removing his shirt, tossing it to the floorboards. "Because I don't plan on having any sleep until well before the sun comes up."
Kahlan could not believe she squealed like a little girl at his statement, but she did. She raised her hands up as Richard pulled her blue dress up over her head. However, he did not simply toss it to the floor, like he had with his clothes. He folded it up carefully, before leaning over the side of the bed to place it gently on the floor. When he rolled back up, Kahlan spun him around and climbed up on top of him, straddling his lap with her legs.
Richard laughed and sat up, kissing her, running his hands through her hair and down its length until he gripped her hips, kneading his fingers into the soft flesh of her rear. Kahlan ran her hand down his chest and gripped him, pleased that he was already ready for another round. She moved over him, adjusting herself for optimum entry. Richard buried his head in her breasts, kissing and teasing them with his tongue as Kahlan eased down over him, feeling him fill her up inside.
She gripped his shoulders as she bucked her hips wildly, wanting to feel the heights of passion she had felt before. Richard held her, ensuring that they would not be separated, as he continued to kiss her. Their bodies thrived together in unison and dripped with the sweet dew of love as each sought to please the other. They rolled around and changed positions so many times that Kahlan lost count.
Surrounded by the rose pedals and the soft silky sheet of the bed, Kahlan allowed herself to drift away in the pleasures they had that night and well into the morning. She did not know how many times Richard had brought her to release, and no doubt her essence had soaked the mattress to its very core, but she did not care. And Richard had probably seeded her so many times that Kahlan would be surprised if she was not with child.
The sun was well on its way up into the sky by the time they both plopped down onto the mattress, exhausted. Kahlan sighed contently and curled up next to Richard, snuggling. She ran her hands over his sweaty chest and loved the feeling of their two moist bodies intertwining as they began to go to sleep. Richard's hand aimlessly ran up and down her back, tickling her spine, as her fingers ran circles around his chest.
"I love you, Kahlan," Richard murmured, half asleep.
Kahlan scooted closer, resting her weary head on his shoulder, listening to the pulsating beats of his heart as it pumped blood through his veins. "I love you… Richard… my Seeker of Truth," she murmured back. Slowly, with the arms of the man she loved around her, Kahlan Amnell, the Mother Confessor of the Midlands, went to sleep.