In one world, Richard realised too late.
The magic of Denna’s agiel pulled and pushed him to his breaking point. The Mord’Sith delighted in the torture; the thrill of bringing another pet to heel.
If possible, she derived even more pleasure in watching him, face-to-face with the woman he loved. The dagger was in his hand, and her life too.
Richard resisted; how he tried to fight the magic. If anyone could, Denna believed it would be him. Still, even a man as unusual as he could be broken.
Love, Denna thought, would not enough to save Kahlan Amnell from her fate.
The Confessor, in her foolishness still believed in the innate goodness of her Seeker to save her.
Those were the thoughts that Kahlan would die with.
Richard brought the blade down, his eyes closed, as it plunged deep into her heart. There was a soft gasp, and Denna smirked, as the deep red began to run through the pristine white of the other woman’s dress.
Only then, did Richard seem to snap out of his daze, and realise what he had done. He fell to the floor with the woman he so-claimed to love. Kahlan was still breathing, but barely, in his arms.
His mournful cry pierced the air. Denna went to him, surprised to find the blood-coated dagger now pointed in her direction, pushing her away.
Richard clung to the dagger almost as tightly as he did the Confessor. While Denna decided to step back, she also drew her agiel, her own warning, though Richard clearly did not care.
“It’s okay,” Kahlan assured, in her dying moments, all for the sake of the man she loved – the man who killed her. “It’s okay. I-I forgive-“
But her feeble attempt to apparently absolve Richard of what he’d done went seemingly unheard by the man in question.
The dagger in his hand rose; Denna watched with quick eyes, but was not swift enough to stop it, as it met its target.
When the weapon fell from now-lifeless hands, Denna kicked it away, as she inspected the miserable sight before her.
Lord Rahl would not be pleased at first, but in time he would understand. A pity, he might call it.
A pity indeed, Denna mused, that both the Seeker and Confessor now lay dead at her feet.
In another, Kahlan woke to the sound of gentle sobbing only paces away.
She remembered, briefly, the illness that had pervaded her body when she had Confessed the man who had tried to kill Zedd. She felt much better now, than she had before.
That Confessed man was nowhere to be found now, as Kahlan studied her surroundings.
In the haze between dreams and waking, she struggled to understand exactly why someone would be crying, at least so close by.
Groggily, she turned her head, in the direction of the other bed. Zedd looked much better too, sitting up, and with a comforting arm wrapped around a redheaded woman.
“Jennsen,” Kahlan said, both as a form of greeting and also in relief.
It must be, Kahlan believed, in relief that her grandfather had pulled through the worst of the illness, that the younger woman cried too.
Richard must’ve been so glad to have found her.
Jennsen only cried harder at the sound of her name. She didn’t even look Kahlan’s way, before pulling herself from her grandfather’s embrace, and running from the tent.
Zedd stood, to go after her, before letting out a shaky sigh and settling himself down beside Kahlan instead.
“You look better,” Kahlan noted, with a soft smile.
Zedd didn’t smile. Grimacing, he took her hand instead, and blinked at her through watery eyes.
“It’s over,” he finally said.
Kahlan shuffled uncomfortably under the blanket, at the way he said it.
There was a sadness and gravity there, that she didn’t like. More so, it was one she did not understand the need for, not when they were both better, and Jennsen was safe.
“I know,” Kahlan asserted, ignoring the look in Zedd’s eyes, for now. “I feel much better too. I assume Richard found Jennsen, and the cure.” She could feel panic rising in her chest, especially when Zedd averted his eyes, but fought against it. “Where is he, anyway?”
“Where is he, Zedd?”
The First Wizard still didn’t look at her, instead choosing to let go of her hand to retrieve something from his robes. Kahlan felt the tooth pendant press into her palm, before she could understand what it was.
Jennsen’s cries made perfect sense, now.
Yet, Kahlan could not comprehend, could not fathom what it implied, and for that reason, she refused to believe what her heart told her was true.
“Zedd, there has to be some mistake,” she said desperately, pushing him away, as well as the blanket that covered her.
If she could get to her feet, and leave this tent, she would find Richard, and this would all be some misunderstanding.
Zedd took her by the shoulders, forcefully, to stop her from moving. She struggled only momentarily, before she faltered; staring into the grief-stricken eyes of the Wizard. She curled her hand tighter around the pendant Zedd had just placed into it.
“It’s over, Kahlan. Darken Rahl is dead,” he said, and then he looked down. His voice broke terribly, and it was in that exact moment, that Kahlan Amnell felt the world around her go dark.
“And Richard – Richard is too.”
In a world, many years into the future, Nicholas Rahl attained his greatest victory over his parents long after they were both gone.
The rambled writings of Darken Rahl, only found by chance, led the Master Rahl to an imprisoned witch woman, and then to the hills where it was believed the infamous Seeker perished, a year or so before Nicholas was even born.
Of course, throughout his life, he had heard the stories of the ‘hero’, from his mother. He’d also listened as his father reiterated those tales – this time painting the Seeker as a ‘villain’ instead.
Labels aside, Nicholas hadn’t been all that impressed with Richard Cypher. The young man – younger than Nicholas, when he should have been so much older – fought, but disorientated as he was, fell quickly to the lull of Confession.
Nicholas knew it was his mother’s deepest fear brought to life, and so revelled in it. Kahlan Amnell had been terrified of a day that the light in her Seeker’s eyes might have died.
His mother’s secrets had been easy to figure out when the witch woman. Shota, had been Confessed.
Nicholas, the last Confessor, as well as the only heir to the Rahl magic, took the power of Orden as his own too, though his dominion was strong enough without it. With barely any effort at all, he disposed of the rogue Mord’Sith too.
From the hills, Nicholas travelled, the Seeker in tow, to the People’s Palace. Nicholas surveyed the remains of a world, and a people, that had submitted to him and his power – a feat that surpassed anything his father could have ever dreamed of.
On arrival at the People’s Palace, once the seat of power for the reigning Lord Rahl, Nicholas wondered if his mother’s ghost still roamed the halls, though they had burned long ago.
“Can you hear me?” Nicholas asked, into the void, the Seeker trailing behind him. The other man’s hands were bound, though Nicholas knew he wouldn’t dare to make a move against his Master.
There was no answer, only silence, though Nicholas hadn’t been expecting one. Nicholas wondered, gleefully, if he had sent his mother’s soul scurrying to the Underworld.
“What are we doing here, Master?” questioned the Seeker, though some sort of recognition seemed to light up his eyes when he noticed the coffin they stood in front of.
Nicholas thought it was a garish monument to a woman who had undermined the D’Haran Empire until her last breath. She had no business being Queen of D’Hara, or even his mother.
Nonetheless, Kahlan Amnell had been both.
Nicholas looked up, to where the Seeker traced his hands over the marble. Nicholas could not hide the contempt he felt in his heart, when he looked upon the other man.
Richard Cypher had been many things, before, apparently.
He was the adopted son of a woodsman, in a land without magic – a pitiful upbringing, in Nicholas’ opinion. Only more impressive, he was also the grandson of Zeddicus Z’ul Zorander, the last Wizard of the First Order.
Richard was named the Seeker – the True Seeker - destined to fulfil a prophecy to slay Darken Rahl.
Nicholas bristled to remember that the Confessed man in front of him was the half-brother of the very man he had sworn to kill. That made him Nicholas’ uncle too, though the Master Rahl found little reason to care about that.
“We have come to show my dear mother,” Nicholas drawled, “what her efforts brought her.”
“Efforts?” the Seeker asked, that same dull note of obedience in his voice.
Nicholas ignored it, just as he ignored the look that lay behind the confusion prevalent in his eyes. The Confessed could not act against those who controlled them. Their whole being became devoted to their Master; but it did not mean they couldn’t remember those they left behind.
Mostly, the Confessed did not care.
But this was Richard Cypher and Nicholas stiffened again when reminded of the warnings the witch woman had given him, when she had told him of this man and what he would try to do; that, in some twisted way, Nicholas owed his entire existence to him.
Nicholas leaned down, next to the carving of his mother.
“I hope you know,” he told her, as if she was really right there beside him, “that it was for nothing.”
A fire blazed in his chest at what he deemed to be her highest betrayal. He was brought into the world to ‘save’ it. He thought, smugly, that he had, in his own way – even if it was not what his mother envisioned.
It was what she feared above all, but that had never stopped Nicholas.
“And you will never,” Nicholas warned, with a quick look to his uncle; who was still focused intently on the marble in front of him, “see the love of your life again.”
His mother, in life, had decided to be his judge, jury and executioner.
Nicholas justified, in her death, she deserved nothing less than to know her best-laid plans had gone awry.
Dennee finds Richard, Zedd and Cara, in a world where they barely escaped the Margrave’s Palace with their lives – and without Kahlan, who was apparently no longer being held in the Margrave’s dungeon.
Richard was sure, as he shed his disguise, that she would still be alive. Zedd assured them of this fact, as Cara muttered about the waste of time this whole endeavour had been. Though content to appear as apathetic as usual, Richard knew she was concerned too.
Dennee found them, a week or so later, as the trio chased a lead near Aydindril. She was in hysterics, when she’d realised that somehow, miraculously she’d found them. She searched their faces, first, and then fell to the ground, to her knees, sobbing something inaudibly.
Richard went after her, Zedd and Cara watching with concern over his shoulder.
“What’s the matter, Dennee?” Richard asked, reaching out to hold her shoulders in place, to stop her shaking. “Is it Edmund? Aydindril?”
Dennee looked up, and shook her head.
“Kahlan,” was all Dennee had to say, for a terrible fear to tighten around Richard’s heart, though he tried to ignore it as best as he could.
“She was taken,” he admitted; not easy to do so in front of her sister, “but we’ll find her, I promise.”
Dennee only sobbed harder, and suddenly, her mutterings became incomprehensible again.
“Richard,” Cara said sharply, in a voice that told him he shouldn’t make promises he might not be able to keep.
Dennee didn’t even afford the Mord’Sith a cursory glance. Zedd knelt beside Richard, and took Dennee’s hand in his.
“What about Kahlan, dear one?”
Both Wizard and Seeker gave Dennee the time she so clearly needed, to take a steadying breath in and out. Finally, she calmed enough, to look up at them. Richard noted how she gripped Zedd’s hand tighter.
“The soldier,” she began, “the one Kahlan Confessed and ordered to stay with me.” She took a horrible, shuddering breath. “He broke free, only a few days ago. He tried to kill me – and Edmund.”
“That’s impossible,” Richard replied, with a sideways-look to a stunned Zedd. “No one can break free from Confession. Not unless-“
The realisation dawned on him; somehow slowly but all at once, as if he had known it all along, and he had just been pretending this last week that they would find her, somehow, someway.
Richard pulled away from Dennee slowly, as Cara swore behind him. Zedd looked down, but then went to pull Dennee closer to him, as he sobbed softly with her.
Richard felt Cara’s hand on his shoulder, but, in a daze, he could barely comprehend why it was there, and what this all meant.
A world without Kahlan, in his eyes, was no world at all, and he wished he could deny it all. Almost selfishly, he prayed he could accuse Dennee of lying – but that pang of anger, subsided quickly, at the look in Dennee’s eyes, and how she wracked with sobs.
Suddenly, Richard remembered his nightmare in the Valley of Perdition; a ghostly apparition of Kahlan holding her hand out and asking him to follow her to the Underworld.
Richard shrugged Cara’s hand away, and did the only thing he knew he could.
He marched on, though now without a purpose; ambling and mournful. Every step was heavy, his vision blurred, and it hurt to breathe.
Richard took another shuddering breath, as Cara and Zedd called after him, concern and grief laced in their voices.
Dennee’s terrible cries still echoed around the clearing; Richard continued walking.
Victory wouldn’t come today, but he vowed it would, one way or another, even if the Keeper believed, with Kahlan’s death, that he had won. Richard decided a long time ago, he didn’t believe in prophecy.
That hadn’t changed, even if his entire world had been knocked off its axis in an instant.
He placed a hand over the hilt of the Sword of Truth; it was almost reassuring, in a way, as he finally stopped, to stare up at the dazzling starlight overhead.
He remembered, grief clouding his mind, many nights like this spent with Kahlan. Stolen moments and memories that he wouldn’t have traded for anything else, or everything else, in the world.
The Keeper would be stopped, vowed Richard, somehow, just as Kahlan would’ve wanted.
And then, Richard decided, he would find his way back to her.
There’s a world where Cara and Zedd are too late.
Richard’s body was quickly growing colder, and the world around them already in ruins, by the time the First Wizard and Mord’Sith arrived.
“Cara, hurry! I killed him!”
Zedd nor Cara stopped to question the hows and whys of Kahlan’s pained statement; only the fact that the Seeker lay dead, as the Keeper brought untold chaos into the world around them.
Cara leaned forward, breathing her now-familiar magic into her Lord Rahl, as Kahlan watched, hand clutched desperately in Richard’s cold one.
A moment of silence passed, before Kahlan realised, like a punch to the gut, that nothing had happened.
Cara wrinkled her nose, in confusion, at first, and then placed a hand over Richard’s chest.
“Cara?” Kahlan questioned, desperately. “Cara, please.”
Cara shook her now-bowed head, and refused to meet Kahlan’s gaze.
“No,” Zedd muttered, eyes widening, as he reached over, to grasp at his grandson. “No,” he repeated, more forcefully.
Kahlan joined in his devastated mutterings, as she clung to Richard’s still form tightly.
“Come back,” she pleaded, quietly, shaking his still body. She swallowed down the sobs that threatened to overwhelm her; and lifted her head to meet Zedd’s sad eyes.
The Wizard reached over, silent tears streaming from his eyes, and put a hand over hers.
In the other, was a stone, though Kahlan didn’t think to question where he had found it. It was same in weight, shape and colour to the Stone of Tears.
“It’s too late for him, dear one,” Zedd said, gravely. The hand that had rested on Kahlan’s was now brushing back hair from Richard’s eyes, as Zedd looked over his grandson fondly.
“No,” Kahlan cried. “No, we can-we can fix this!”
She hugged the man she loved closer to her, as if it was proof that she could somehow bring him back.
“The Stone could grant life,” Cara said, quietly, now finally looking at Kahlan. “It’s what Nicci wanted, isn’t it?”
Kahlan looked at the blonde across from her and then to the Stone in Zedd’s hand. She traced her free hand along Richard’s now-cold cheek.
“Or it can seal the veil,” Kahlan admitted, as defeat stirred faintly in her chest. She looked up at Zedd.
He nodded; resigned, and pained.
“It can only do one.”
Kahlan squeezed her eyes shut; knowing this was the most painful decision she’d ever make.
“Take Cara with you to the Pillars, Zedd. Finish this, finally.”
“Go,” Kahlan urged, cutting off any protests, her hand still curled around Richard’s. She could feel her face deepen into a frown. “Please.”
Zedd and Cara, reluctantly, raced away, and Kahlan watched them as far as she could; in the midst of the smoke and green flame that now roared across the once-peaceful sands. Thunder crackled overhead and lightning pierced the skies, as Zedd and Cara disappeared from view.
Kahlan curled closer to Richard, as the world around her turned cold. She thought now, on the words he had left her with.
“I know it wasn’t you who did this. I love you.”
Words she had heard but that she hadn’t understood; not in the frenzied state of the Con Dar, not until the precise moment when Richard’s heart had stopped beating.
By then, he must’ve known what was going to happen, because he had already forgiven her. In his way, he told her he didn’t blame her, and that she shouldn’t blame herself.
Kahlan thought the words rung hollow now, when compared with the guilt and loss that burned in her chest and threatened to suffocate her completely.
She wondered, briefly, if she might find some peace in fading away here with him.
Dazzling sunlight began to flood over the sands. Kahlan’s eyes never left Richard, but she knew the light was coming from the Pillars of Creation. She couldn’t even force a smile; though she was glad to know Zedd and Cara had succeeded.
Kahlan swallowed down her disappointment, and a fresh wave of tears formed in her eyes, when Richard didn’t stir. She knew it had been foolish to even hope that he might've.
The Keeper hadn’t killed him. She had, and not even the sealing of the veil, could change that fact.
Kahlan convulsed with barely suppressed sobs, as the realisation hit her over and over again, like a million tiny pinpricks to her heart.
Though sun shone brightly over this plain, and her heart still beat, essential in this fight against the Keeper – Kahlan could feel none of the warmth the bright rays should have brought her.
The world had been saved – how, she still didn’t understand – but she thought it would be strange for such warmth to exist, when the love of her life still lay dead at her side.
“I’m sorry,” she told him, quietly, clinging ever tighter, even as she noticed Zedd and Cara rushing over in the distance.
She wished, wherever Richard’s soul was now – hopefully, with his parents and brother - that he would hear her.