Darken watched as the Mother Confessor was escorted away to his dungeon. She would break in time.
But not with torture.
No, Kahlan Amnell would break herself, foolishly concocting some plan to help the Seeker.
He didn’t believe his brother to be dead. He would never believe it until he saw the corpse himself. He had learned that lesson once already.
It was enough that he was gone.
Darken stood, going to his balcony to accept the daily devotional.
He did not think of another who had vanished in a swirl of discordant magics.
His fist did not clench.
The knowledge that one day his most devoted, deadliest Mord’Sith would meet her match had always been in the back of his mind. He had reserved her for problems no others could solve, a paradoxical solution.
He trod to his rooms and his shadow was lonely.
There was a scar in the wood of one of the posts of his bed. A memento of a wonderful night playing games as only Cara could play.
He touched it.
He broke his fast on fresh fruit imported from the Midlands.
He did not think of green eyes.
A guard brought him word of an overheard conversation between the Confessor and the witch, Shota, who occupied the next cell.
Darken had put them next to one another for a reason.
He ordered the man to make a report of that and anything else he might overhear.
Darken went to his stables, knowing a ride would clear his head. A quad of soldiers clumped noisily behind him.
He did not remember a time when he had needed only one escort.
He rubbed the muzzle of the battle trained white mare that was kept in a stall next to his warhorse. It would be sensible to gift the animal to another loyal warrior.
But he did not.
“Lord Rahl,” wheezed a Mord’Sith, hanging from chains above a grate as he trailed an Agiel over her flesh, “let me try again. I will not fail you.”
He struck Garen across the face, and flinched when she let a whimper escape.
He did not think of Cara and how well she managed pain. He did not hate Garen for not being her.
He did not brood on the fact the Cara would not have failed.
A completed report awaited Darken on his desk, the color of the seal telling him it was intelligence.
Reading of the words spoken between the Mother Confessor and the witch, half heard things, half caught whispers absorbed by listening spells, one thought rang in his mind.
The Seeker was alive and would return some time in the future.
Darken called for a palace artist, one who had managed to stay alive and in his employ for many years. He was very talented.
The willowy man bowed before him, the paint spattered across his clothes like ichor.
“I wish for a painting.”
“It will be done as you have said, Lord Rahl,” the painter replied after hearing his assignment. He turned to go.
Hesitating and hating it, Darken called the painter back.
“You will also paint another.”
The paintings were completed and delivered to his chambers on his wedding night.
Kahlan seemed grateful for the interruption.
He should punish her for the insult, but he found his attention too focused on the rolled canvas in his hands.
“What is it?” Kahlan asked, surprised he had not killed the servant for daring to enter the chamber.
He showed her.
“Richard,” her voice caught, “why –”
“Think of it as a wedding gift,” he wrapped an arm around her naked waist, his fingertips hard against her skin, “our child will know the face of the enemy.”
She held the canvas to her chest, not caring the reason for its existence, only that it did.
“What’s this?” she said when the painting crackled and she realized there were two.
It was torn from her hands before she could see it.
“It is not for you,” he said, a coiled spring in his voice.
He stormed through the adjoining door to his private room.
Kahlan gazed at Richard’s painted face.
Darken mirrored her without knowing it, though it was not Richard his eyes were fixed upon.
His heir would also know the face of his greatest ally.
When she returned she would serve the House of Rahl once more.
Reaching out tense fingers, Darken stroked the oily lights and shadows that formed Cara’s face.
He did not long for her.