Kahlan sat with Serafine in her lap, reading a story to her granddaughter. Ebony hair gone silvery now fell across the page, and Kahlan tucked it behind her ear before continuing.
Darken waited for the predictable happy ending, content just to listen. The story wasn't remarkable: the hero saved the princess from a multitude of improbable dangers and finally, when the author's inspiration failed, the couple was allowed to live in peace.
The princess was the real hero, however. Her lovesick swain could have accomplished nothing without her quick-witted help.
But she didn't see it. She believed in her lover. He had her faith, her trust, and her love.
Serafine clapped her hands when Kahlan finished. She ran off to play, and Darken moved closer behind Kahlan.
"Put this away for me?" she said, leaning back far enough for their eyes to meet.
Darken brushed one finger lightly across the arch of her neck before complying. He set the book of nightwisp stories aside on the windowsill.
When he returned to Kahlan's side he knelt, ignoring the way his knees protested, and took her hands in his.
Kahlan had saved Darken Rahl. And after decades of marriage, he still didn't know how to thank her.
"You are far more incredible than Princess What's-Her-Name," Darken said. "Serafine should model herself after you."
Kahlan pulled one hand away from Darken in order to run her fingers through his hair, and then to trace the line of his jaw. Her lingering touch reassured him, despite her next words.
"I hardly want our grandchildren to follow the example of my life," said Kahlan.
She didn't need to go on. Darken tightened his jaw, thinking of all that his wife had suffered, so much of it at his hands. If he could go back and change the past…
Well, he wouldn't. Even had Darken not known that his brother the Seeker would one day return and that therefore wishing to change the past was dangerous, even if he could have been sure that his children and grandchildren would remain unharmed by any such meddling, he would not choose to change one moment of his life with Kahlan, from their first meeting at the Keep of Edron to this afternoon in the nursery with Serafine.
The miracle was that Kahlan would change nothing, either.
Kahlan tapped her fingers against Darken's lips. "You didn't put the book away," she pointed out.
Darken recovered quickly from this non sequitur. "It is away," he argued. "It's not here." And a servant could easily reshelf the thing.
"It's all right," said Kahlan, smiling at his indignation. "I forgive you."
Darken stared at her. And then he laughed in a moment of pure joy.
He brought Kahlan's hand to his lips and kissed her palm. Her wrist was directly in front of his eyes, and Darken noticed, not for the first time, the tiny black mark on her pale skin.
It was the size of a small freckle. The spot marked a puncture wound that would have healed long since except that it was the Shakai'iah that had made it, and magic that powerful did not fade.
Darken looked up. Kahlan was watching him. She met his eyes and gave him her understanding smile, the one that was part compassion and part indulgent complacence.
Darken kissed the Shakai'iah scar.
"Copper for your thoughts?" Kahlan asked, after Darken had gotten to his feet, using the arm of her chair as a convenient prop.
Darken thought about protesting—only a copper?—but instead he met his wife's ocean-blue eyes and told her the truth.
"I was thinking of what a blessing it is, that we outgrow old selves."