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Legends of the Seeker: misc ficlets

Chapter Text

For the first line prompt: Her laugh broke the silence.

Her companion glared at her but said nothing. Shota shook her head, smoothed her hair, and took up her goblet.

"Forgive me," she said, without an ounce of sincerity in her voice, "but for you to come to me like this. To ask me to help you." She sipped the wine, chased a drop around her lower lip with her tongue. "Well, let us say that even I did not anticipate this."

Darken Rahl regarded her coolly, ignoring her mockery. "Yet here I am."

Shota nodded. "Yes."

Rahl sat back in his chair. The cave was dry and relatively homely, with a table, two chairs, a finely woven rug, and even a mirror on one wall. He didn't think Shota lived here, but it seemed she used it often enough to have made it into a cosy place to converse. More private than a tavern, at least.

"If what you say is true, then I will help you," Shota said. "However the Seeker must live. That is non-negotiable. He will be prevented from unleashing this evil you speak of, but I will not see him harmed. His life, his destiny, is too strong a force within the fate of the world."

Rahl shrugged. "The fate you see. I can imagine others. But I will commit to this. The Seeker will live."

Shota stood. "I must scry." He followed her out to a small pond where she gazed intently, waving her hands over the surface sometimes. "There," she said at last. "He is back in Brennidon."

"Then Brennidon is where we must go," Rahl said. Shota nodded. The alliance was made.

Chapter Text

"Here, kitty," Richard called. The cave was dark and he almost stumbled over a rock as he entered it. He put one hand out and ran his fingers against the rough wall, following the tunnel around a bend into a large cavern.

The cavern was lit by a fire beneath a large cauldron and several candles. There was a sweet scent in the air. A tall woman was stirring the cauldron. She paused and smiled.

"I'm Alessandra."

She had long dark hair beneath a silvery hood that matched her sleeveless dress. Armbands with long legged spirals trailed silver scarves, so that she almost sparkled like starlight in the gloom. Her eyes were dark and mysterious. She wore some sort of tiara on her forehead and a large unusual pendant hung at her throat.

"I'm –"

"Richard Cypher, the Seeker. I've been expecting you."

Alessandra put down the ladle and took up a pewter cup with engravings that he couldn't quite make out. She dipped it into the cauldron. Steam or smoke rose from the cup as she held it against her body.

"How –"

"I'm a witch woman."

Richard wondered what sort of mischief she might bring him. Shota's plans usually caused him trouble, though at least she let him finish a sentence. He tried again. "I didn't mean to disturb you. I was just looking for a kitten. It was limping a bit, and I followed it for a while and I thought it came in here."

Alessandra laughed. "You are a compassionate man. That's a good quality in a Seeker."

She drained the cup. Richard watched, brow furrowed. He put one hand on the Sword of Truth more out of instinct that any real expectation of danger.

Alessandra vanished. Richard blinked. Then he saw a black and white kitten. It padded over, still favouring one leg, and rubbed itself against him, purring. He put down one hand and the kitten reached up to nuzzle him with her nose.

Richard had a lot of questions, but the foremost one in his mind was how he was going to explain this to Kahlan.

Chapter Text

Sebastian wasn't sure how he'd ended up here.

Well, that wasn't entirely true. He'd ended up here on his quest to collect the golden eggs of the mythical Grey-Tailed Bird, which supposedly had magical powers, and would no doubt fetch a wonderful price.

If only the customer who'd purchased the first egg hadn't dropped it, and seen that the shell was only painted gold and the yolk wasn't silver but a pale yellow. If only they'd just accepted a refund and gone on their way. If only they'd hadn't claimed they needed the egg to save their One True Love from certain doom.

And, of course, if only the customer wasn't a warrior who towered over even Sebastian, with muscles on top of muscles, and a sword that could cut through a tree trunk in one swoop. It had certainly gone through his countertop like a knife through butter.

So now Sebastian was climbing up this mountain, freezing various bits of his anatomy off. That Thaddeus had been implicated in the plan and was also perched on the ledge with him, was of no comfort. That the warrior was waiting at the base of the mountain and had promised to chop off their heads if they came back down without a real egg this time, was the worst thing of all.

"If we survive this," Thaddeus said, teeth chattering, "I am going to kill you."

"Don't be like that. Come on, just a bit further." If the Grey-Tailed Bird was real then this was supposed to where it nested. One more ledge up, at the end of a narrow outcrop, was a bundle of rocks and twigs that Sebastian was praying was the nest. "We'll get two eggs, one each. Then, if we make it down safely but damage an egg, we've got a spare for Mr Abs down there. If we make it down with two undamaged eggs, then we sell the second one for a profit, which I will generously split with you." Seventy five-twenty five in Sebastian's favour, but they could quibble over the details later.

"If we get safely down," Thaddeus said. "Look."

A giant bird circled and landed on the nest. "Wow, look at those talons," Sebastian enthused. "Definitely the right bird. See? We'll be in the money in no time."

"Yes. I see the giant bird with the sharp beak and talons who'll rip us to pieces if we take even one of its eggs."

Sebastian rolled his eyes. He preferred to look on the bright side. Some people just didn't have the entrepreneurial streak.

*later*

"Here." Sebastian handed over the egg. The cut on his face had stopped bleeding and although the wind was cold through the rips in his coat and shirt, he felt rather energised by the experience.

The warrior examined the egg, grunted, and wandered off. "You're welcome," Sebastian shouted after the ungrateful customer. To Thaddeus, sitting on a rock, still panting with exhaustion, he said, "Let's head home and sell that other egg. You know, I think this is going to be the start of a new line of business – and of a beautiful partnership."

What Thaddeus replied didn't bear repeating.

Chapter Text

"Where is my sword?" Richard asked. He had looked under his bed roll. He had searched behind the trees. He had checked his scabbard. The Sword of Truth was missing. What was a Seeker without his sword? He had to find it! "Kahlan, did you take my sword?"

"Why would I take your sword?" she asked, brow furrowed.

Richard shrugged. "To polish it?"

Kahlan gave him a Look. Richard coughed and turned to Cara. "Cara, did you take my sword?"

Cara raised an eyebrow. "I did not take your sword, Lord Rahl, to polish or otherwise."

Kahlan reached down to her boot. "Oh no! My daggers are gone!"

Cara stared at her holster. "And my Agiels. What in the Underworld is going on?"

"Someone is taking all our weapons," Richard said. "Well they can't take Zedd's magic…can they? Zedd?"

But Zedd was nowhere to be found.

They hunted for Zedd and the weapons. Cara called, "Here, wizard, have some persimmons."

"He'll be cross if he shows up and finds you don't have any," Richard said. Cara ignored him.

"Maybe whoever took our weapons took Zedd too," Kahlan said. "As they couldn't take his magic."

There was a noise in the bush. Richard pounced. He pulled out by the scruff of the neck – Zedd.

"What are you doing here?" Richard asked. "We've been looking for you."

"I can't help it. I think it's Powerful Magic! I keep stealing things. I stole a tankard from that inn we were at last inn, and a saddle from a horse I saw tethered, and your sword, and Kahlan's daggers, and Cara's Agiels – and I had to wrap them in my spare coat to pick them up – and the best apple from a tree, and –"

"Zedd!" Kahlan said, shocked. "What did you do with all thse things?"

"Here, in the bush. I think I'm making a nest."

"Like some sort of magpie?" Kahlan asked. "Do you know how to break the spell?"

"Maybe if Cara Agieled me?"

So Cara retrieved her Agiels and used one on Zedd who howled a bit and said he'd lost all compunction to steal. They returned all the items to their rightful owners, except the apple, which Zedd ate, because wild apples didn't actually belong to anyone.

Chapter Text

"You went into the swamp, Lord Rahl?"
Richard beamed. "Yes, to rescue fluffy."
Cara quirked an eyebrow. "Fluffy?"
The muddy lamb in Richard's muddier arms bleated and urinated down Richard's shirt.
"Isn't he adorable? Yes, he is!"
Cara made no comment.

 

Cara watched Richard and Kahlan sitting by the fire, caressing and kissing each other. Foolish, that's what it was. If Richard became Confessed, all was lost. Richard liked to take unnecessary risks, though, she'd learnt that early on. Luckily for the two idiotic lovebirds, she had a plan. Should Richard be Confessed, she'd kill Kahlan, and use the breath of life to bring her back.

The baby sat, gurgling, swamped by the wizard's robes.
"Oh, dear," Richard said.
"You would think he had learnt his lesson about eating suspicious fruits," Cara said, arms akimbo. Clearly he had not.
They'd have to find a wizard to age Zedd back up. In the meantime, Cara was not going to be on baby sitting duty.

Kahlan had the decency to look sheepish as Cara freed her from her bonds.
"Thank you, Cara."
What would they do without her?

"A gift?" Cara unwrapped what turned out to be a hairbrush. She eyed Kahlan with distrust.
"Your hair is getting longer," Kahaln said. "I thought you might like...it's red. Like your leathers."
Cara mustered up a smile, blinking, because she'd got something in her eye. "Thank you." She stuffed it into her pack.
"Cara, supper is ready," Richard called. "Quick, before Zedd eats it all."
Cara went to join her friends.

Chapter Text

Cara had been trained that anger, loyalty, and pride were feelings that made her a powerful weapon. Sadness, remorse, love; those were feelings to be avoided, emotions that would make her weak.

There was logic in these teachings, and yet when she had chosen to follow Richard Rahl instead of her former master Darken Rahl, and joined his merry band, she had been thrust into a new world where no-one believed as she did.

Instead, Richard saw love as a force for good, one that made him powerful and willing to make any sacrifice in its name. Kahlan insisted that remorse was necessary to atone for wrongdoing, and it was the remorse she saw in Cara's eyes during her trial that had led her to spare Cara's life. Zedd thought grief was a natural part of life, and that refusing to acknowledge sadness was to refuse to acknowledge oneself, to harden one's heart and mind against good memories and the chance of happiness.

It took time for Cara to accept these things but she was adaptable and willing to learn. Anger was powerful but doubly so when she was angry over the mistreatment of those she'd come to care about. She'd chosen loyalty to the true Lord Rahl, Richard, and, in serving him she found that loyalty could be an expression of love. Even sadness had its place, and allowing herself to grieve over the loss of Leo let her carve a place in her heart where he would always reside and never be forgotten.

She would always be proud of being Mord'Sith, but she was also proud of her new found family. She may have lost her Sisters of the Agiel, but Cara had found a place amongst people who loved her, and she had to admit that she loved them all in return.

Chapter Text

Darken stood at the window, arms folded behind his back as he watched the snow fall, blanketing the green hills and grey mountains, of D'Hara. He would cut a fine figure when he made a public appearance this solstice eve, his Rahl red robes like blood against such a landscape.

Cold as a tyrant's heart, people said of winter. If only they understood that, beneath his robes and hard exterior, Darken was soft as melted ice, his heart broken but not beyond repair, his need for warmth and love every bit as strong as the land's need for springtime's thaw.

Chapter Text

This was all the wizard's fault, Cara thought, and glowered at him. Or she would, if Richard's elbow were not jammed against her neck, making it impossible to move and fix anyone with a steely gaze.

Richard was sandwiched between Cara and Kahlan, which she thought he might enjoy under other circumstances, and if he weren't so, well, *Richard* about such things. Cara didn't doubt he was Lord Rahl, but she was pretty certain there had never been a Lord Rahl who was quite so...pure wasn't the right word, exactly. Constrained?

Zedd was squished somewhere beneath them, face pressed into the net, one hand still clutching a pomegranate. The basket was sat somewhere near Cara's hip, to her annoyance and discomfort.

“You might imagine that the First Wizard would have learnt his lesson about reaching for suspicious fruit after the incident with the persimmon,” Cara drawled.

Kahlan gave a moan, which was caused by nothing more untoward than her struggling to reach her dagger. Richard shifted to try and give her more room, pressing himself tighter against Cara, which would have been more pleasant if it were not for the elbow-in-the-neck thing.

“Got it,” Kahlan said breathlessly.

“Careful. It's a long way down,” Richard said. The trap had closed around them the moment Zedd touched the basket, sending the net high up into a tree.

“I'll make the ground soft,” Zedd said, though his voice was mumbled by the net digging into his face. Cara thought it served him right.

“You can make the ground soft but not magic open the net?” Cara asked in disbelief.

“Magical rope,” Zedd mumbled. “Anti-magical rope, that is.”

Cara rolled her eyes, though no-one could see.

A few moments later, Kahlan sawed through the net and they all fell to the ground, which obligingly cushioned their fall as it were a fine mattress and not a rocky path through dense woodland.

“Who would put a trap out here?” Richard asked, helping Kahlan to her feet. “And why would they bait it with a basket of pomegranates?”

“Or use a rope impervious to magic?” Zedd agreed.

Cara brushed at her leathers and nodded towards the tree line. “I see a trail. Let's go and find out.”

Chapter Text

"The voice spoke again, a whisper that made his hair stand on end," Zedd intoned. Richard and Kahlan bent closer to the fire, listening intently to the story. Embers from the campfire rose like fireflies, orange against the darkness. Cara rolled her eyes.

"He grabbed a jar of shadrin eyes and hurried to the cauldron. The voice continued to repeat the words of the prophecy. It will come for you! His hands were shaking so much he could barely finish making the mixture, but somehow the young wizard poured all the ingredients into the boiling water. He grabbed a wooden spoon and began to stir for all he was worth."

Richard chewed at his lip, brow furrowed. Kahlan's hand tightened on her knee.

"Smoke rose from the cauldron. The wizard called out, 'Spirits, who haunts me? Why must this prophecy be my fate? I have not gone to the foot of the mountain, I have avoided the curse the witch put upon me! Why does this voice besiege me? Banish it, I beg of you!' and he fell to his knees."

Zedd made a flourish with one hand, enjoying his dramatic performance, staring up at the half-moon.

"And the spirits replied," Zedd went on in a hushed whisper, "They said, 'We cannot banish it. It is not merely a voice. It is the prophesied demon, come to enact the witch's vengeance. And –"

"It's coming from inside the castle," Cara drawled.

Everyone looked at her. The mood was ruined.

"What? That's an old story. We used to tell a similar story to new Mord'Sith. Wooooh, the Confessor is inside the temple, oooh, scary!" She shot an apologetic glance at Kahlan, who gave a wry smile at being the object of a Mord'Sith's tale of terror.

Zedd snorted and poked at the fire with a stick. "Fine. Then it's your turn, Cara. Tell us a scary story."

Cara leaned over to him and said, "One day a wizard got up and went to the larder…and there was no food left!"

Chapter Text

"What are you doing?" Richard asked, watching Kahlan walk along, bent over.

"Nothing."

"No, really. Did you hurt your back?"

Kahlan gave him an angry glare, though she had to tilt her head sideways. She looked like some sort of owl and Richard stifled a laugh.

"It's the Day of Tellar. Happens every 100 years. There's a superstition that says people are likely to get decapitated on such a day. So I'm walking bent over to protect my head and gorgeous hair."

Richard burst out laughing. "Hey, Zedd," he called, looking behind him. "Do you see what Kahlan…what, you believe in this too?"

"Basophobia is a perfectly natural reaction to the Day of Tellar," Zedd informed him, though mostly he was informing the ground, being similarly bent over.

"The Midlands is a silly place," Richard said, turning around just in time to walk straight into a low-hanging tree branch that hit him smack in his forehead, sending the Seeker flying backwards.

"Umph," Richard complained as he landed on his butt, and rubbed at the swelling on his head.

"Told you," Kahlan said smugly, as she walked past, still bent over.

Richard took some small comfort that from his position on the floor and her odd way of walking, he got a good glance at the cleavage.

"That's enough of that," Zedd observed, seeing the Seeker's gaze. "Tomorrow's the Day After Tellar. We have to keep our heads tipped right up and stare at the sky."

 

The next day, Richard sat, arms folded, and glared at his two companions from the base of the deep hole.

"So, this looking up thing to avoid harm? Not such a good plan, huh?"

Chapter Text

5
Richard blinked away tears of joy and, without further hesitation, threw himself at his brother, wrapping his arms around him, enveloping him in a warm hug. "Thank the Creator."

Cara rolled her eyes and said, "Thank the Mord'Sith", but quietly, not wanting to disturb the reunion. Kahlan smiled at her, and then at Richard, knowing for herself the joy he was feeling.

4
"I'm glad to find you. We've been tracking you for weeks," the taller man said. "Asking everywhere about the Seeker's whereabouts."

Richard held out his sword. "Why?"

"To tell you the Boundary has fallen." The other, hooded, man's voice was somewhat muffled.

"Impossible," Richard said. He wished Zedd were with them, and not on important family business. He stared at the hooded man, the back of his neck prickling – danger? Or something else?

"It's true. And as for impossible …" He threw back his hood. Richard's mouth fell open.

Kahlan let out a gasp. Cara frowned. "Michael," Kahlan said. "Michael Cypher. But he's dead."

Cara shrugged. "So was Rahl. So was I. So was Richard. So was your sister."

Richard shook his head, taking a cautious step forward. "How?"

Michael spread his hands. "It's a long story. We have a lot to talk about. But for now, the simple answer is a Mord'Sith, who was trapped on our side of the Boundary. She wanted me to help her return home."

Cara nodded. Saving the Seeker's brother might curry favour with him later, and Michael had, as far as she could make out from the occasional stories Richard told of him, an authority figure back in Hartland. It was never a bad idea to save someone's life if they might help you get what you wanted later.

"How do I know it's you and not a trick?" Richard asked, voice tight with emotion. He wanted so badly to believe it, but he'd been deceived by magic before.

"Ask me anything."

Richard leaned in and whispered into his ear. Michael laughed. He whispered back and Richard laughed too.

3
Cara stared behind them. They were being followed, she was sure of it.

"What is it, Cara?" Richard had noticed her unease.

"Someone close by. Since the last village we passed."

Richard looked to Kahlan, who pulled a dagger from one boot.

"Then let's see who it is and what they want."

Two men soon approached, one taller, with bronzed skin and dark hair, the other cloaked and hooded.

"I am Richard Cypher," Richard said, approaching them, sword held casually in one hand, ready to fight if the need arose. "Who are you?"

2
"You're free to go," Michael said, knowing he had no hope of stopping her anyway. He wished she'd stay. This was a strange new world to him beyond the now fallen Boundary.

Dressed once more in her leathers, she looked more fearsome. She gave him a sharp toothed smile. "Good luck finding your brother. Don't look so disheartened. We will meet again, Cypher, I'm sure of it."

"I look forward to it." It wasn't a lie. He gave her a slight bow, and watched her stride away. The man she'd found to guide him shifted uneasily, foot to foot. He didn't like Mord'Sith, but he did like the money he'd been promised.

"Let's go," Michael said. The guide nodded.

1
Michael coughed, lungs filling with air. It hurt, everything hurt, and then nothing did. His fingers sought the wound at his torso, but found only dried blood and torn clothing over smooth skin.

"Welcome back," said a woman, though she sounded more bored than happy.

Anna gave a gasp, hand clasped to her mouth. She fell to her knees.

"I told you," the strange woman said, dark eyes glittering. "I brought him back. Now will you listen to me?"

Chapter Text

Red was the Rahl family's colour. Clothes, linens, tapestries – everywhere in the People's Palace the signature was clearly visible. Blood red, vivid and powerful and unmistakable.

Black though; black was the colour of his hair – Rahl ran a silky strand through his fingers. Like his mother's hair, though he barely remembered her at all. The sole portrait of her did not match what vague memory he had of her. Surely she had not been as severe as the painting suggested. Surely she had some love in her heart. The red robes the sour woman in the portrait was dressed in did not suit her. She would have looked better in black.

His very name conjured up the idea of blackness. It conjured a sense of foreboding, the night sky swallowing the sun, a shadow falling across the land.

When he took Walter's body, Rahl wore threadbare black robes. It was not his accustomed finery, no rich velvet robe with intricate golden embroidery. Yet the dark clothing suited him, for a time. Soon enough he would reclaim his throne and his wardrobe.

Red was the Rahl family's colour, and Darken was a Rahl, and wore it with pride. Yet he was also Darken, and just as comfortable in black.

Chapter Text

"Resolutions?" Cara asked, wrinkling her nose. "Like vows?"

Kahlan hesitated, smoothing her white dress over her knees. "Not exactly like vows. They're sort of promises that you make, but not to anyone but yourself."

"Vows you make to yourself?" Cara frowned. "Who punishes you if you break them?"

"No one!"

Richard chuckled, poking at the campfire with a stick. "Everyone breaks them," he said, "or at least we did back home."

"Then what," Cara asked, exasperated, "is the point?"

Zedd, who'd been lying, eyes closed, against a tree log, cleared his throat. "The point is to think of something you wish to change about yourself and work towards it. Not out of fear of punishment, but because you genuinely wish to better yourself." He sat up, blinking. "If you break your resolution so easily it is because you chose the wrong one. Something you don't truly desire, or something that is too difficult to accomplish all at once. You ought to be reasonable and kind to yourself when choosing a resolution."

Cara considered this a moment. "Perhaps an example would help."

Zedd sighed. "It would be a foolish resolution for me to give up persimmons because I love eating them. And it would be a rather large task to never use any magic not strictly necessary. But I could make a resolution to be more considerate – and to ensure it is a measurable goal, I could resolve to do this by never taking seconds until everyone else at a meal has had their fill."

"That's very noble," Richard said, surprised.

"It was just an example," Zedd countered hastily.

"I resolve to be more open with my feelings," Kahlan said. "If I want to hug someone and they'll let me, I'm going to do it. If I want to say I love someone, I will. If I feel angry, I will speak about it." Her features softened. "I love you all, and I want you to know that."

Richard leaned over to kiss her. Cara tried not to roll her eyes. She understood that Confessors were raised, as Mord'Sith were, with a emphasis on self-control. Still, if Kahlan were any more open with her feelings they would all drown in her affection.

Perhaps that was it. Cara made a silent resolution to try and roll her eyes less, at least outwardly. Just one a day. And if she failed, well, Richard, her Lord Rahl, said it was not only acceptable, but traditional to do so.

Chapter Text

1. Richard Cypher

Richard Cypher. It was the name he grew up with. His father was George Cypher, his mother was Mary Cypher, though of course he didn't call them by their first names. Adults did though, nodding politely and saying, "Morning, George," or "Pleasant day, Mrs Cypher," or "George, Mary, you must come to dinner tomorrow!"

Then there was his brother, Michael Cypher, who Richard loved dearly. They didn't look much alike, but that wasn't so unusual, or he thought.

It took a while for Richard to be able to write his name, and at first he got it wrong. Cyfer. Cyhper, and sometimes with the letter y written backwards. He preserved, and proudly wrote Richard Cypher or R Cypher or RC on many of his belongings.

Finding out he was adopted changed nothing. They were still his family, even when Michael turned from him in grief and misplaced rage. He would always be Richard Cypher, no matter what other names and titles were bestowed upon him.

2. The One True Seeker

"You are the One True Seeker," Zedd intoned and Richard was still thinking Zedd was every bit the crazy old man the villagers thought him to be. Or maybe he was the one who had gone mad, to be hallucinating a woman in white who insisted Zedd was not just a wizard but a very powerful wizard.

Richard couldn't ignore the feeling of power when he held the Sword of Truth, though. When he finally claimed his birthright he knew he was the Seeker, he understood his lineage, that many had held this weapon before him, and many would hold it after him. For now, though, it was his. He was needed to bring justice to the world. He would defeat Darken Rahl.

That Kahlan would be at his side was a pleasant bonus.

3. Richard of Brennidon

Richard would never forget his parents, but now he knew he was adopted, he was curious about his birth mother and father. An unwise journey to Brennidon to try and find out more about his past put him in danger, and he was initially misled as to the identity of his mother.

Little did he know at the time that, while he was away, Kahlan discovered a secret about Richard's family. Bound by her duty as a Confessor, she could not reveal it. Richard remained unaware of the truth for a while longer.

4. Richard Cypher, grieving brother

When his hometown was threatened, Richard returned to offer assistance and attempt to drive out the D'Haran invaders and close the Boundary once more.

It was a bittersweet reunion with Michael, who finally admitted that he had been wrong to side with the D'Harans and wrong to believe that Richard could ever have killed their father. Michael was killed during a battle and he died in Richard's arms, promising to tell their father of Richard's heroism.

Richard returned to the Midlands, and his quest, with a heavy heart. "I am the last living member of the Cypher family," he said, staring into a bowl of stew, Zedd's hand on his shoulder.

Still, that he had managed to reconcile with Michael before the end, however, was some small comfort. Richard was more determined than ever to destroy Darken Rahl for the harm he had done, and continued to do, to Richard's family and Kahlan's homeland.

4. Richard, son of Taralyn

Richard was soon to discover family he never knew he had. Jennsen, a red-haired woman with the rare ability of being Pristinely Ungifted, was revealed to be his sister. Their mother was Taralyn – daughter of Zeddicus Zorander.

Richard faced many emotions – anger that Zedd had kept this from him, even if it was to keep him safe, joy, but also grief. Taralyn was killed by the Mord'Sith Denna and she was unable to be revived.

Richard had lost his mother all over again, a heartbreak he had not been expecting, but he was determined to find solace in the fact that he had gained a grandfather and a sister. He sent Jennsen somewhere safe, knowing she would be in danger from Darken Rahl.

"I couldn't bear it if anything happened to her," he told Kahlan, thinking of Michael, George, Mary, Taralyn.

He still didn't know the whole truth.

5. The lost Seeker

A combination of powerful magic using an Agiel, the Boxes of Orden, and Confession, flung Richard into a dystopian future where he had vanished from the world and a cruel tyrant, Nicholas Rahl, had wreaked havoc.

Richard was determined to find a way home and unwilling companion Cara, on finding that she was also the last Mord'Sith alive in this terrible place, decided to help him.

"I'll find you, Kahlan," he swore silently, over and over. "I'll find my way back to you."

Ultimately they were successful in returning to their own time, and Darken was killed in the ensuing conflict.

6. Richard Rahl

The celebrations were shortlived ("I should have known it was too good to be true," Richard muttered) when the Veil between the world and the Underworld was torn open. Facing new and terrible threats, Richard was under enough strain without learning that he was, in fact, a Rahl.

Without Darken, the Mord'Sith had taken to vying for power. They relied on a Lord Rahl to keep their magic alive. "An Agiel without magic might as well be a spoon," Cara speculated as she and Dahlia bathed together. "No, less useful – at least a spoon helps you eat soup!" Since their weapons were still functioning however, there must be a Rahl alive somewhere in the world.

To Richard's horror, it was revealed that he was Lord Richard Rahl, rightful heir to the throne of D'Hara. His father had been Panis Rahl, disguised so as to trick Taralyn into sleeping with him. Jennsen, too, was a Rahl offspring – Zedd was disgusted at Panis's trickery but even he admitted that this made sense as to why she was Pristinely Ungifted. Panis was Darken's father, meaning…

"He was my half-brother." The idea was abhorrent to Richard, that the tryant he'd fought so hard to overcome was related to him, and, on the other hand, that he'd been in some way responsible for the death of a family member.

Some nights, when he was standing guard, he'd think about Hartland, longing for the basic luxury of always sleeping inside, and for the days when he was a simple woodsman with family he loved and trusted.

7. Richard, beloved

Richard had come to love Kahlan with all his heart, and knew she felt the same, although her fear of Confessing him made her wary of fully returning his affection.

Once the Keeper failed, when Kahlan's love enabled her to cry a Stone of Tears, there could be no doubt as to her love. They would be together forever.

Chapter Text

They were lost. No-one wanted to say it, because when Cara had suggested as such earlier, Richard had denied it empathically and made a speech about how he was the Seeker, and a woodsguide, and if they just kept on the path, they'd soon come out of the woods.

That had been a little after noon, when the sun was at its zenith, and the forest had seemed less eerie. As the day had drawn on, and the shadows thickened, Kahlan had grown uneasy. Tempers were frayed because they were low on provisions and they hadn't seen a single fruit bearing tree or bush, let alone a rabbit or anything resembling a vegetable. Now, as the sun was dipping towards the horizon, she tugged at Richard's sleeve.

"We ought to look for somewhere to stop for the night."

It would be a grim night, with no food and their meagre water rations, but Richard nodded, defeated. The path had led them deeper and deeper into the woods and there wasn't a single clearing large enough for them to lay out their sleeping rolls or start a fire. Worse still, there wasn't any sound but their footfalls. No birds in the trees or scurrying of mice in the spiky undergrowth. It was disturbing.

They followed the path around a bend and, to everyone's surprise, came upon a broad clearing with a cabin. It looked deserted and was of rough wooden construction, but solid and weatherproof. Richard went up to the door and knocked. The door flung itself open at his touch.

"Hello?" he called, but there was no-one there. He gestured to the others to stay back, and drew his sword. Slowly he edged into the cabin. There were some ashes in the grate, long gone cold. The single table and two chairs were a little dusty. The bed was made. Several candles sat on the mantelpiece. In the large cupboard which took up a corner of the cabin were supplies – an axe, some old rags, some jugs and boxes. Richard sniffed at one of the jars. Ale and it smelt good. One of the boxes held green apples, carefully packed in straw, and another was full of carrots and potatoes.

He went outside. "There's no one there but it's well stocked. I say we stay overnight and leave some coins behind as payment in the morning."

Zedd looked doubtful, though when Richard mentioned the apples, the wizard looked up at the sky and said, "It may rain."

A rumble of thunder made their decision for them. They went inside.

 

After a decent meal, they settled down to sleep. The rain had begun outside, hammering on the roof and hissing against the windows when it was whipped up by the strong winds. Zedd had taken the bed and Richard and Kahlan lay on their bedrolls near the fireplace. Cara took first watch, sitting at the table.

Some hours later there was a flash of green light. Cara was on her feet instantly. Richard blinked and, next to him, Kahlan rolled over. Zedd was still snoring.

"What was that?" Richard clambered to his feet and picked up his scabbard. "Zedd, wake up!"

Zedd moaned and opened his eyes. "Whaaa?" He cleared his throat. "What is it?"

"Something odd," Richard said. "A sort of green light that woke me. And it's colder, isn't it? I'm not imagining that?"

Cara glanced at their shirtless leader with the expression of one who thought that you deserved to be cold if you kept removing all your clothes. "Somewhat."

"Let's get out of here," Richard said in one of his decisive moments. He rushed to the door and rattled the handle. The cabin became colder, mist rising from the floorboards.

Cara put one hand on her Agiel and Kahlan looked around for an enemy to fight. Zedd whispered, "Powerful magic!"

"Who's there? Who is doing this? Show yourself," Richard demanded, drawing the Sword of Truth.

They'd banked down the fire before going to sleep but now it burst back into life in the grate, the flames turning from red and orange to a sinister, Otherworldly green.

"Darken Rahl?" Richard asked, unimpressed. "Show yourself!"

There was a noise like a thousand whispers, the words unintelligible but the sound unmistakable. It seemed to take on a physical form, brushing like cobwebs at their faces.

"I'm not afraid of you," Richard said. The whispers stopped. An eerie moaning echoed through the cabin. Cara rolled her eyes. Kahlan raised an eyebrow.

"Bah, it's just some sort of spirit," Zedd said. He rolled up his sleeves. "I'll take care of this."

WAIT, came a disembodied voice. WHO ARE YOU?

"I am Richard Cypher, the one true Seeker, this is Kahlan Amnell, the Mother Confessor, Zeddicus Zorander, First Wizard, and Cara, the most feared Mord'Sith in the Midlands!"

Cara gave Richard a surprised but pleased look.

OH. The voice sounded rather apologetic, which was an odd thing for a spirit to be. SORRY. I WOULDN'T HAVE TRIED TO HAUNT YOU IF I HAD KNOWN. PLEASE DON'T BANISH ME, GREAT WIZARD.

"Hmm," said Zedd, preening a little. "Are you going to let us go?"

YES, YES. I HAVE A DESTINY AND WELL…IT'S A LONG STORY, BUT I MUST SCARE PEOPLE INTO DOING GOOD. AND YOU ARE ALL CLEARLY ALREADY DOING GOOD. SO, YES, BY ALL MEANS, PLEASE LEAVE.

The door swung open. Grabbing their gear hastily, everyone hurried outside. The door slammed shut again and the eerie green light vanished, leaving the window dark and the cabin looking deserted once more.

"Well," Richard said, glaring at the cabin. "I suppose I should have known that a comfortable dwelling with a supply of food was too good to be true. It would seem it is a Seeker's destiny to spend most of his life sleeping under the stars, whatever the weather."

"At least it has stopped raining," Zedd said. Above them, the sky was clear and cloudless, the stars fading as the grey twilight of pre-dawn chased away the darkness. "And we did get a decent meal out of it. It was nice to have a few hours of sleep in a bed. Some of us are not as young as the Seeker but also must sleep under the stars, you know."

Richard sighed. "You're right. Let's just get going."

When they found the path it led straight back out of the forest and out onto the open plains. When Richard looked back, the path had vanished, swallowed up by the trees.

Chapter Text

Zedd clutched the persimmon triumphantly.

"Zedd, no," Richard said, his Seeker-sense tingling – or maybe it was his sword. Or maybe that feeling wasn't the Sword of Truth, but something quite different, which would serve him right for thinking about Kahlan's cleavage while walking.

"But persimmons are my favourite," Zedd whined, lips a fraction of an inch from the soft, juicy, flesh. Richard swallowed hard and tried to think about cold river bathing.

"Doesn't it seem suspicious?" Richard asked. He looked to Kahlan and Cara for support.

"It is the only fruit on the tree," Kahlan agreed.

"Maybe there's a worm in it?" Cara suggested.

Zedd looked crestfallen. He tossed the fruit aside. Grumbling, he took the lead, complaining under his breath about Mord'Sith always looking on the bleak side, and how some people ought to be more concerned with their thoughts than other people's actions. Richard blushed and tried to think pure thoughts. Cara just rolled her eyes.

When they'd gone, Shota appeared and glared after them. She'd been sure that Zedd would have eaten the fruit, making him lose his memory, and then he would have been clay in her hands, to mould as she wished.

Oh well. There was more than one way to ensnare a wizard. She'd do better next time.

Chapter Text

Zedd frowned at the rest of the group.
“All right, who ate my bean?”
“Bean,” Richard said, puzzled, “I haven’t seen a bean.”
Cara rolled her eyes.
“Don’t play coy,” snapped Zedd.
“Everyone should calm down,” said Kahlan.
For a moment there was silence.
Glowering, Zedd said, “I had a magic bean in my bag and now it is gone.”
“How strange,” said Richard.
“I don’t think any of us took it,” Kahlan said.
Just then Darken appeared as if by magic.
“Kahlan, Cara, Zedd, Brother,” he purred.
“Look, here’s the thief,” Cara said.
Master Rahl shook his head.
“No, I didn’t take your bean, though I know who did.”
“Oh, yes?”
Pointing to a tree, Darken laughed.
Quickly scurrying about, its tail a rainbow of colour and its ears looking like leaves, was a squirrel.
Richard looked shocked and begged Zedd to help the creature.
“Silly squirrel,” Zedd said, waving his hands and removing the odd appearance.
The squirrel jumped onto Richard’s shoulder and chattered in his ear
“Unbelievable, I think it wants to be friends,” Cara said.
“Very well,” agreed Richard, suggesting they keep it as a pet.
“What will you call it?”
“Xavier,” said Richard.
“Yes, that’s lovely,” Kahlan said, while Cara, Darken, and Zedd, rolled their eyes.

Chapter Text

Humphrey stamped around the woodland. He liked the forest very much. The estates were full of wonderful forests with tall shady trees, and lots of wildlife, and even the occasional peasant to eat. Humphrey's Shadrin family had lived here for generations, and for the most part it was a fine place to be. Except for the hunting. Not Humphrey's hunting; he enjoyed to hunt very much. No, when the humans came hunting. And today Humphrey heard noises that suggested humans were prowling nearby.

Sometimes the humans were happy with a deer or a few rabbits or some pheasants. Humphrey understood that. He liked to eat deer, and rabbits and pheasants, just not as much as he liked to eat humans. But while deer had hooves, and Humphrey had horns of which he was very proud, people tended to have metal claws they kept in their waists until threatened. So he had to careful which humans he tried to eat.

But sometimes the humans wanted a Shadrin. Humphrey didn’t understand why. Shadrin were not good to eat, not even other Shadrin ate each other. Humphrey's nest mates had both been killed by the nasty humans. Sometimes you could run from them or scream at them until they ran away. But sometimes the humans used their wicked sharp metal claws.

Suddenly the human hunting party came blundering into Humphrey's territory. They scared away the rabbit he had been about to snack on. Humphrey was very cross about that. He bellowed in rage.

Then a human – not one of the two legged ones, but one of the ones who seemed to be shaped like an upside down flower, stepped forward. She was very pink, like the blossoms growing by Humphrey's favourite watering hole.

The flowery human had a yellow head. She lifted her hands. Something sharp came flying at Humphrey. It was the last thing he knew.

Chapter Text

"Stay back," Zedd yelled. He was on the floor and didn't know how he had got there or who these people were, or, worse, who he was. The grass was slightly damp and there was a smell of sulphur in the air.

"I was just going to help you up," protested Richard. "Are you all right, sir?"

"No. I don't know who I am!"

Kahlan drew her daggers and moved to stand between Zedd and Richard. "Who are you?"

He thought about it for a moment. "I don't know," he said honestly.

Kahlan pursed her lips. "Magic," she said at last. "I don't know who I am either."

"Someone who thinks wandering around in white is a good idea in a muddy forest," drawled Cara, sitting by a tree trunk.

Kahlan's eyes narrowed. "Because that skin tight leather is so subtle!" Cara shifted uncomfortably, puzzled by her strange clothes.

"Ladies, ladies," Richard said. "Let's not fight."

They were interrupted by the wizard, who'd managed to drag himself to his feet. "This seems like Powerful Magic," intoned Zedd. He patted at his face. "Creator, I'm old."

"Then we need to find a wizard," Richard said decisively.

"We?" Kahlan and Cara said in unison, and then glared at each other.

"Who put you in charge?" Cara demanded. "For all I know you're the one who did this to us."

Richard pointedly asked if she had any better ideas and she had to admit she didn't. Reluctantly, and with Zedd grumbling and Kahlan throwing suspicious looks at Cara constantly, the four of them found the nearest river and began to follow it in search of a settlement.

"Do you think we were travelling together?" Kahlan asked.

"I don't know. Maybe." Richard looked at her thoughtfully. "Maybe you're my sisters and I'm taking you to safety."

"Sisters?" Cara asked.

"Safety from what?" Kahlan asked.

"Then maybe I'm your father," Zedd suggested before Richard could come up an answer.

"Grandfather more like," Richard snickered, earning a scowl.

"I'm armed," Kahlan said. "I hardly think I need escorting." She pointed to Cara's Agiel. "What's that thing? Is it a weapon?"

Cara brushed her hand over it and fell to knees, screaming in pain. A moment later Zedd had her hand in his, looking for injuries, Richard was crouched down, trying to soothe Cara, and Kahlan was looking shocked and guilty.

"I think it is a weapon," Richard said, stroking Cara's hair. "But not one she can use." It was another puzzle.

"I'm sorry," Kahlan said. "I didn’t know."

Cara rubbed away her tears, embarrassed. "It wasn't your fault." They continued on their way.

They reached a village later that day, but they had no wizard. The nearest sorcerer of any worth was fifty miles to the north. Dejected, Richard purchased four tankards of ale and they all sat in the corner of a tavern, wondering what they could do.

"Zedd," said a woman. They all looked over. Shota took a seat.

"Do you know me?" Richard asked.

"I know all of you. I was addressing Zedd." She gestured and he smiled at gaining some morsel of information about himself. "My name is Shota. It seems you've got yourselves into some mischief."

Richard nodded glumly. "Can you help us?"

"Oh yes." Shota smiled evilly. "For a price."

They were in no position to argue.

Chapter Text

Sera was practising with her daggers. Cut, thrust, twirl, duck. Her sleeves and hair spun around her, a white tornado with a blonde halo. Jerrel watched her, impressed. Despite his initial concerns, she'd proven herself skilled and courageous. She didn't rely on her Confessor powers, using them only when she had to. Her daggers were her weapon of choice.

Jerrel was polishing the Sword of Truth. It was his weapon of choice, and more than that – it was a symbol. A connection to all the Seekers who ever were or would be. When he fought, he was not fighting alone.

Sera wasn't the first Confessor to travel with him. He still felt grief and guilt over the woman who had scarified herself to save him. There were many Confessors, she'd said as she died in his arms, but only one true Seeker.

He'd been reluctant to allow Sera – so young, he thought, though she was actually just one year younger than him – to come with him after that.

"The Seeker needs his Confessor," Kronos had said in a tone that brooked no argument. "Or a Confessor, at least." It was probably one of his wizard's rules. Another such rule was that the Confessor needed her wizard, and so Kronos accompanied them everywhere. He was, he said forty years of age, but he liked to look younger and passed for twenty five with ease. In fact he and Jerrel were sometimes mistaken for brothers, with their olive skin and dark hair.

Sera looked nothing like them. She was Jerrel's opposite in so many ways, pale skinned and fair haired, quick with her tongue, and light-hearted. It helped that she was also different to her predecessor. He couldn't have faced looking at another steely-eyed brunette every day.

Kronos had gone to haggle over horses. Jerrel hoped he'd be back soon. The sky was clouding over and he'd like to make the next village before it rained. There was nothing heroic about getting soaking wet.

Sera came over to him, sheathing her daggers, chest heaving as she caught her breath.

"What are you thinking about? You look so serious?"

"Where Kronos has got to."

"He'll show up," she said, with an easy shrug. She grinned. "You worry about him."

Jerrel hotly denied it, but it was pointless to lie to a Confessor. There were stories of Seekers who had developed feeling for their Confessors but there was no chance of that happening here. They were a team, complementing each other. After just these few weeks, he found himself relying on her, trusting her, needing her. He cared deeply for her, but he would never love her. Women were not the objects of his desire. It was probably, given Sera's face and figure, which drew admiration and envy wherever they went, for the best.

"Do you ever think about the other Seekers and Confessors?" he asked, to change the subject.

"Of course. But we are not them."

But perhaps one day their names too would go in history alongside all the others who'd fought to protect the Midlands.

Chapter Text

Rahl stared into the flames, not bothering to look as the Mord'Sith approached him. He watched her shadow drop to the floor as she knelt at the side of his chair.

"Lord Rahl," Garen said. "I bring you a gift."

Rahl wasn't much in the mood for gifts. He gestured with one hand over the side of the chair. "What is it?"

Garen shuffled forward and dropped something into his lap. Rahl stared down at the spiky thing that was digging into his skin beneath his thick velvet robes. It didn't look spiky – it was mostly ginger fur, except for the tiny pink nose, white whiskers, and the huge green eyes.

The kitten mewled pitifully, showing a pink tongue and sharp white teeth. Rahl reached down and carefully petted it with one finger, keeping his hand behind the kitten's head and away from the teeth.

"We thought you might like a new pet," Garen said.

Well the Mord'Sith did love their pets, Rahl thought. No surprise they thought he would like one. He frowned as the kitten lifted its head to rub against him. He touched the metal band around its neck with one finger.

"What is this? A rad'a'han? Is the kitten somehow magical?" If it was a shape-shifter there was going to be serious trouble.

Garen looked momentarily flustered, but this was not something a Mord'Sith was allowed to be, and she quickly schooled her face into a more nonchalant mask.

"No, my lord. It is a simple metal collar." Under Rahl's intense scrutiny she added, "For the kitten's protection. In case you…it in case it displeases…it shows she belongs to you, Lord Rahl."

Rahl lifted one eyebrow. So word had gotten round about the previous kitten, the one he'd given to Jennsen. He hadn't meant to harm the pathetic creature; he'd merely forgotten his own strength in his rage at Jennsen's betrayal.

The kitten tasted Rahl's finger hopefully. Garen looked mildly horrified, but Rahl was no stranger to pain anymore than she was, and laughed at the audacity of the tiny kitten.

"I shall call her Jenny," he said, still thinking of Jennsen. He couldn't really blame his half-sister for her actions, not when she was under the spell of Richard Rahl's charisma and his Zorander bloodline's magic. One day she might yet realise her mistake and return to him. And then she could take care of her namesake, just as he would take care of Jennsen herself, someone to love and be loved by. Until then, the kitten would have to suffice.

Chapter Text

Darken Rahl preened in front of his magic mirror and asked, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the best Rahl of all?"

And the mirror said, "Richard Rahl."

And Darken had a temper tantrum, destroying two glasses, a table, and costing him one expendable-anyway castle guard. Then he asked the mirror again, "Who is the best Rahl of all?"

"Richard Rahl," said the mirror. It wasn't the mirror's fault. It had been enchanted by the Zorander bloodline and as such felt a certain loyalty to Richard Cypher/Rahl, grandson of Zeddicus Zu'ul Zorander.

Darken picked up a fire poker and caressed it lovingly and said, "I'm going to ask once more, and I suggest you think *very* carefully about the answer. Who is the best Rahl of all?"

"You, sire," the mirror said, because loyalty only goes far. So Darken was happy and the mirror wasn't broken, at least not that day.

Chapter Text

Cara awake with a start. Richard, on watch, turned. She lay still, not wanting him to know she was awake. She closed her eyes again and concentrated on slowing her racing heart. Richard, reassured, went back to his guard duty.

It was his fault, his and Kahlan's and the wizard's. They were the ones encouraging her to feel. The problem was that feelings weren't just joy and friendship and other bright, happy emotions that people tended to think of. Feelings were also sharp and painful; emotions like guilt and shame and remorse.

When she'd been the epitome of a Mord'Sith, where her sisters were her family, where emotions were weak, she'd never dreamed like this, and any nightmares she did have were easily pushed away, discarded. Now it wasn't so easy. Now she was having to come to terms with everything she'd done in Darken Rahl's service. She hated having to revisit the faces of the girls she'd killed for not living up to Mord'Sith ideals; aside from her father's murder, seeing the frightened children begging for their lives was the worst image her subconscious could torment her with.

Cara tried to sleep once more, wishing she were not haunted by the ghosts of her past.

Chapter Text

"Women like it when you can impress them," Zedd said airily.

Richard nodded. "Impress them," he repeated.

"You could probably take your shirt off too. Show off those muscles you're so proud of."

Richard stared down at his chest. "I'm not that proud of them. I just like to exercise. And chopping wood and sword fighting just make them stand out more."

"Hmm. Well, off you go to the tavern and try your luck."

Later Richard came home covered in ale, one cheek red – Zedd thought the redness looked like a hand print.

"What happened, my boy?"

"I don’t know what I did wrong," Richard wailed. "I did what you said; I took off my shirt and said 'Who wants to see my sword?'"

Chapter Text

Kahlan strode off into the woods. It hadn't escaped Zedd's notice that she'd barely said two words over supper.

"Kahlan seems a little on edge," he offered. Richard, gazing moodily into the fire, shrugged.

"Zedd," he said, finally looking up. "You've had…girlfriends. Women. Um, lovers."

If he was blushing, Zedd couldn't tell in the gloaming.

"Many," Zedd agreed. "Not so much in Westland. It's harder to court when you're playing the eccentric chicken man. But in the Midlands, where I'm First Wizard; well, power is an aphrodisiac."

Richard nodded seriously. "But what about my grandmother? Why did you leave Shota? Why did you tell that barmaid you had another woman waiting for you?"

Zedd was momentarily lost for words. He hadn't thought anyone had heard him making excuses when they'd left the tavern.

"You're good at seducing women," Richard went on. "But I don't think you're very good at keeping them around. I should have realised that. I don't think I should come to you for relationship advice."

Zedd gave a rueful smile. "Possibly not."

Richard got to his feet. "I need to go and apologise to Kahlan," he said. "I'd like her to stay with me. Always."

Chapter Text

Darken has always been jealous of Richard, and why should he not be? He is Panis Rahl's true heir, born in wedlock, firstborn child, firstborn son. Yet Panis turned on him so easily, and deliberately fathered another son. That would be reason enough to feel jealous – that it is Richard's destiny to kill Darken adds fuel to the fires of hate that burn in Darken's heart.

Darken lives in a palace with treasures and the best food, drink, clothes, books, bed linen. Richard is a pauper. And yet there is one thing Richard has – besides Panis's devotion – that Darken cannot have.

Kahlan.

Kahlan's love.

If Darken could have the Mother Confessor at his side, all the Midlands would kneel alongside the D'Haran's in supplication to his rule. There could be true peace.

She's beautiful, intelligent, a skilled fighter, fierce and dangerous and she makes Darken's heart quicken to behold her. Yet she will not see him other than as a monster. She belongs to Richard and her head is full of Panis's lies.

Yet Darken can't help but wonder what it would be like if she were his. To make love to her, not fight a war against her. In his occasional flights of fancy, he imagines them side by side, her hand in his as they stand on the balcony of the People's Palace, hearing the words of the devotion.

In this dream, he is content.

Chapter Text

Kahlan liked her corset because it supported her, it let her be athletic and fight with grace.

Zedd approved of her corset because of this practicality.

Richard liked Kahlan's corset because it gave her exceptional cleavage. He didn't dare mention it.

Kahlan rather liked this about it too but wouldn't readily admit to it, nor that she knew how much Richard liked her corset.

Cara also liked Kahlan's corset because of the practicality – but she, too, noticed how it showed off Kahlan's exceptional assets. She was less discreet than Richard.

Kahlan pretended she didn't notice Cara noticing her assets because it made things simpler. But she rather enjoyed all the attention her corset and cleavage got.

Chapter Text

"Furthermore, I tell you this; I am the One True Seeker!"

Cara rolled her eyes.

Kahlan would never agree that Richard's speeches could be overlong or overly dramatic, but even she gave Cara a wan smile.

"He means well."

Cara tipped her head to one side and regarded Kahlan coolly.

"Yes. And as Lord Rahl, he may make as many speeches as he wants. Hundreds, even."

Kahlan heard the sardonic inflection in the last phrase and suppressed a giggle. "And did you roll your eyes at Darken Rahl's speeches?"

"Rarely. He was a powerful leader but not a showman. When he spoke, it was short and meaningful. Besides," Cara said with a smile, "when I did, he punished me."

Kahlan didn't voice her thought that maybe that was what Cara wanted from Richard. The relationship between the three of them needed no further complications.

Chapter Text

They took shelter in a cave just before the rain began coming down in sheets. Thunder rolled across the landscape and Cara saw a flash of lightening as she peered outside.

"Cara, come inside," Kahlan fussed. "Richard's got the fire going and we can have something to eat while we're warm and dry."

"They say there was a thunderstorm the night Darken Rahl was born," Cara said suddenly. "That the skies turned black and rivers burst their banks from the downpours. Lightning struck the northern tower of the People's Palace and at the D'Haran-Midlands border, a monument to the Creator was split in half. It was the worst storm in centuries and people feared it was the end of the world."

Richard turned questioning eyes to Zedd.

"There was a storm in D'Hara that night," Zedd agreed shortly. "A bad one. But I wouldn't go so far as to say it seemed apocalyptic. That's an exaggeration."

Cara glared at him. "I'm just repeating the stories. Mord'Sith do not exaggerate."

Chapter Text

Richard didn't want to be the Chosen One, the One True Seeker. He wasn't going to run from his destiny, but he'd never have chosen this life for himself.

He would never have wanted Michael to hate him for being 'special'.

He would never have chosen to be fated to kill Darken.

He would have loved to have grown up alongside Jennsen.

He knew Zedd had a somewhat difficult relationship with his own brother, Richard's grand-uncle Thaddicus Zorander.

He knew Kahlan loved Dennee, even though her soul now resided in another's body.

Richard wished they had all had more conventional and loving relationships with their siblings.

Chapter Text

Richard's weapon of choice was the Sword of Truth, a sharp blade which he wielded expertly and with steely authority.

Kahlan's powers of Confession were impressive, but she also carried two daggers and she was a blur of hair, sleeves, and metal when she fought.

Cara kept a knife in her boot because sometimes a knife was useful for cutting vines or skinning prey, though an axe was preferable when it came to firewood. But her favourite weapon was her Agiel. It might be a blunt instrument and it might not draw blood, but it was as effective as any edged weapon, and could rarely be turned against her. She wouldn't exchange it, not even for the Sword of Truth.

Chapter Text

"No!"

Shota put her hands on her hips. "Whenever you seek me out, you expect me to listen to you, and to cooperate."

"Go away," Zedd told her.

The next day, Shota arrived at the camp wearing very little. Richard nearly choked on his breakfast.

"Zeddicus," Shota purred, but Zedd shook his head.

"NO!"

Two days later the group rounded a bend in the road and found Shota sitting on a blanket with a delicious picnic laid out.

For a moment, Zedd wavered but then he lifted his chin and walked straight past her. The others followed, though not without a few backward glances at the food.

The next morning, Zedd told Richard that he was going to go and help Shota.

"I thought you told her no," Richard said. He glanced over at Shota who was waiting for Zedd with a triumphant grin on her face. "What did you do to him?"

Shota extended one hand to show Richard a wonderfully ripe persimmon nestled in her palm. Richard sighed. He should have known.

Chapter Text

The serving girl poured the wine and then stood back. Rahl sipped at the liquid.

"You're new, here," he said.

"Yes, my Lord. I am Anne."

"Anne," he repeated. His eyes travelled over her body, deciding if she were worthy of bedding. He took another mouthful of the wine.

"Take off your apron," he ordered.

Anne did so, untying the straps and pulled the apron off, folding it carefully with shaking hands and putting onto the table. She turned back to face Rahl. Without the apron he could better appreciate her cleavage.

Rahl took another drink. "Unlace your corset," he said.

Anne began to do so, fingers trembling. The laces finally began to loosen, and she dared to look back at Rahl, seated at the head of the table.

Rahl coughed, tried to clear his throat.

"My Lord?" Anne asked, pausing in her undressing.

"Continue," Rahl croaked.

Anne continued to tug at the laces of her corset. Rahl coughed again and clutched at his throat. He reached for the wine and knocked it over, the red wine spilling over the table and dripping to the floor.

"Anne," he gasped. "Fetch Giller."

Anne, however, made no move to call for help.

"Something wrong?" Anne smiled and tugged at the laces, but this time tightening them.

Rahl tried to stand, but his knees gave way. He fell to the floor, convulsing, then was still.

Anne gave a cold smile. She'd done what no-one else could, what only the Seeker was supposed to be able to do. She had killed Darken Rahl.

She walked across to him, crouched down by the body.

"A little too much to drink, My Lord?" she asked mockingly.

Suddenly Rahl sat up and grabbed her. Anne struggled, but his grasp was too tight, one hand clasped over her mouth, muffling her terrified screams.

"You thought you could poison me so easily, you foolish child?" Rahl hissed. Still keeping one hand over her mouth, and pinning her knee to her the floor with his own body weight, his free hand reached into his robes. He drew out a sharp ceremonial dagger.

"Now," Rahl said, conversationally, "I know what's in your future. Let's see what's in mine."

Chapter Text

Richard shivered and edged closer to the fire. Kahlan, her blankets wrapped around her shoulders, smiled in sympathy. Zedd kept his hands over the flames until it seemed they'd blister in the heat, then he'd rub them furiously together before resuming the initial position. Even Cara looked miserable and had a blanket tucked over her knees.

"Cold enough for Hawliresh," Zedd muttered.

"For what?" Richard asked.

"They're a tale to frighten children," Cara said.

"No," Kahlan protested. "A Confessor I knew said she'd seen one once."

"One what?" Richard asked, still confused.

"The Hawliresh," Zedd said, in his best storytelling voice, "are creatures that somewhat resemblance horses in shape and size but have no hair or fur, and are white-skinned with a row of spines down their back. Their huge black eyes sit either side of a long muzzle and they have a long, greenish tongue."

Cara rolled her eyes, but made no comment. Kahlan nodded in earnest.

"They are only seen during the coldest of winter nights, for it is said their hearts are made of ice," Zedd explained, "and they can only be killed by thrusting a burning torch into their chests."

"They sound dangerous," Richard said.

"Somewhat," Zedd allowed. "For the most part they are mostly harmless, feasting on snow, lichen, and holly bushes. However they have a developed a fear, even hatred, of humans. If anyone nears them, they utter a deafening shriek and strike out with sharp hooves, shedding their deadly spines in all directions. It is said a spine can take out an eye, or pierce your heart! And you can never outrun them."

Richard glanced worriedly at the shadows of the trees around them. "Why do they hate us?"

"Because we hunted them," Kahlan said sadly.

"Indeed. For the mystical stone it is said lies hidden in their foreheads." Zedd shook his head sadly. "I know not if it is true, but the story is that a stone from a Hawliresh's head can bring great wealth and power to one who wields it. None who seek the stone have lived to tell the tale in many years and few Hawliresh remain – though on nights such as this, who knows what one might see."

There was a howl, far away, and probably a wolf. Nevertheless, Richard was glad of the Sword of Truth and his companions around him. It wasn't just the chilly winter wind that was making him shudder.

Chapter Text

Cara's mother kissed her cheek before Cara dashed out to play by the river. It was the last time she saw her mother.

Dahlia snuggled up close to Cara one night in their dormitory, just before they completed their training. She kissed the back of Cara's neck and then Cara's cheek and finally, Cara's mouth. It was the first time she'd been kissed by another woman, at least in that way.

Lord Darken Rahl studied Cara, circled her; smiled. He cupped her chin, and kissed her. It was the first time she'd been kissed by a man. "This one," Rahl said to the watching Nathair, and Cara felt pride blossom in her breast that he had chosen her.

Rahl often summoned her to his bed and bade her to delight him. She did so, never failing to bring him pleasure. At the end of it, he always kissed her - usually roughly -before dismissing her. One time he kissed her softly, gently, and let her sleep the entire night at his side. Cara had never felt so proud, nor so loved.

Leo kissed her with a desperate passion, his tongue in her mouth, teeth catching at her lower lip, his hands everywhere. Later she wondered if he'd known (maybe Seekers had some sort of premonition) that it was the only chance he'd have. At his funeral pyre she said her goodbyes silently and committed every kiss to memory.

Cara kissed Darken Rahl, but her eyes were on Dahlia. He might have her loyalty, but no longer her heart.

Richard slipped one arm around Cara and kissed her cheek. "Don't look so sad," he said. "The rift is closed." He mistook her expression of misgiving for grief, when the truth was that Cara wasn't convinced that this was over. Yet she had to admit that she did feel a sense of loss, as if something had been taken from her. Watching Richard and Kahlan embrace passionately only intensified the feeling; made her feel alone.

Chapter Text

"So you're a prophet?" Richard asked dubiously.

The young man nodded eagerly. "Verily, I have been blessed by the Creator with the gift of foresight."

Cara rolled her eyes. She murmured to Kahlan, standing close by her, "I bet he wouldn't see it coming if I agieled him in the back."

Kahlan shot her a warning look, but Cara saw a smile playing at the corners of Kahlan's mouth. It was hard to take the boy seriously. Cara had seen the servants use better rags to polish the palace floors than what the self-proclaimed prophet was wearing.

"And what wisdom do you have to impart to the Seeker?" Zedd asked. He was reserving judgement for the moment.

The boy closed his eyes and lifted his head so his sightless eyes gazed at the blue sky above.

"Oh, Creator, give me a sign of your benevolence. What guidance does the Seeker require next in his gallant quest to bring light to the land and to overcome the forces of the Keeper?" he intoned.

Richard looked up at the sky too. Cara instead looked around them, not wanting to find herself in an ambush. The boy might just be a distraction designed to lure them into a trap.

The boy opened his eyes at last and turned a puzzled frown to Richard. "I see…I see a bathtub."

"A bathtub?" Richard asked.

"The Creator thinks you smell and need to bathe more," Cara quipped.

Kahlan pointed to a market stall. "There's a bath tub for sale. Let's go and look at it."

Cara sighed. If it was a magical bathtub and someone got cursed from it she was going to be very upset.

Kahlan made small talk with the proprietor about the bathtub - how much it cost and where it came from. Zedd and Richard looked it over, trying to find a magical symbol or other evidence that it wasn't just a cast iron tub used for bathing in.

Cara felt a cold breeze and glanced up. Clouds had quickly gathered and a clap of thunder rent the sky.

"Richard," she began, but then the grey clouds spilt their load of water in great sheets.

"See, you are being bathed by the Creator," the prophet said, dancing about in delight.

"He's not a prophet," Zedd grumbled, watching the puddles form around them, and the other shoppers run for cover. "He's just a weather predictor. Notoriously unreliable. He just got lucky this time."

"Turn the tub over," Cara ordered and soon she, Zedd, Kahlan and Richard were holding the tub over their heads, keeping off the worst of the rainstorm.

Cara hated prophets.

Chapter Text

Thaddicus was not a wizard. He knew his parents had hoped he might inherit the gift, for his father had some minor magic, and before him, his grandfather had been a powerful wizard – not a Wizard of the First Order, of course, but a man who could start a fire or make a rain cloud spill its precious water onto the crops or heal most minor illnesses and injuries.

Unfortunately, Thaddicus was about as magical as a carrot. He could tell when it was about to rain shortly before the downpour began, and that was as far as it went.

He could have accepted that. Plenty of people had no magical ability. It wasn't a bad thing. Except for the existence of his brother, Zeddicus.

Zeddicus had magic, all right. Zeddicus had magic coming out of his ears. Sometimes Thaddicus thought Zeddicus had stolen all the magic of the family and left none for him to born with.

His parents tried to pretend they didn't favour Zeddicus but it was pretty obvious to Thaddicus that they did. Zeddicus didn't notice, of course.

Zeddicus was always talking about what he was doing to do when he grew up, all the adventures he was going have, the palace he was going to live in, the great spells he was going to learn. He wanted to study and develop his gift, and this meant leaving home. Zeddicus seemed to like that idea a lot.

Thaddicus wouldn't really miss him when he left. They were separated by only a few years in age, but there was a huge gulf between them in every aspect of their lives. Thaddicus already had a vague notion he would stay here and help keep the small farm running, look after his parents as they got older, live a good but quiet life. No matter what the stories said, adventure wasn't in his spirit the way it was in Zeddicus's.

Sometimes Thaddicus wondered if they were truly related at all.

Chapter Text

The young woman's eyes widened in delight and she ran towards Zedd.

"Is it really you? The Great Wizard of the First Order, Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander?"

Cara rolled her eyes.

"I am he," Zedd said.

"Praise the Creator," the woman said.

"Are you in trouble?" Richard asked, not wanting to be left out.

"Oh, no, Seeker. No. Keeping out of trouble," she said and blushed. She tugged at Zedd's sleeve and he bent down so she could whisper fierecely in his ear. Then she pointed to the nearby hill. A young man waved at them.

"Hmm," said Zedd. "I'll just be a moment."

Zedd and the woman walked up the hill and joined the young man. Then all three of them disappeared into the woods.

"What do you think he's up to?" Richard asked. "It might be a trap."

Kahlan shook her head, remembering clearly the circumstances that had led to her discovering that Zedd was Richard's grandfather. "No, I don't think we have to worry. She's very much in love, that's all."

"And she's asking Zedd for advice?" Richard asked sceptically.

"Not advice," Kahlan said carefully.

Cara rolled her eyes again.

Zedd rejoined them, a smile on his face.

"What did they want?" Richard asked.

"That's their concern," Zedd said. "And very wise of them it was too, to take precautions."

"What kind of precautions?"

Cara rolled her eyes and clutched at her Agiel for a distraction.

Chapter Text

Zedd was always wary of body switching spells, ever since that day.

No-one used magic in Hartland, and to protect his secret – and Richard's – Zedd had tried to give up using it himself. He'd learnt to chop wood - or at least play the eccentric elderly man who needed Richard to chop the wood for him. He'd learnt to make butter. He'd learnt to keep chickens.

Still, who knew if one day his skills would be called on. So he'd make sure no-one was looking, and blast a tree root with wizard's fire. This practice aside, however, his skills had gotten decidedly rusty.

So it was probably his own fault when he got himself muddled and instead of moving the chicken coop to the other side of the pond, he ended up switching himself with Clara.

"Squawk!" said Zedd!Clara, because chickens can't say much else.

Clara!Zedd looked down at her newly acquired human hands and grinned. "Squawk," she said, or something like it, because even when given a human voicebox, chickens don't know how to use it.

This was Very Bad, Zedd!Clara thought and pecked at the ground through the compulsion that came of occupying a chicken's body. Still, he hadn't completed the spell; the last syllable had been whipped away by the magical whirlwind that had dragged him from his body. This, Zedd prayed, meant the spell wouldn't last long.

Richard Cypher arrived with a basket.

"Zedd? My mother sent you some cake."

Oh no! But all that came out of Zedd!Clara's mouth was "Squawk!"

Richard put the basket at Clara!Zedd's feet. "Are you all right, Zedd?"

Clara!Zedd, inane grin on the human face, tipped her head to one side. Her arms were akimbo and she flapped her elbows a few times. "Cluckkk?" she asked helpfully.

Richard nodded and laughed. "Yeah. Okay. I have to get back. Bye."

Zedd's fears that his magic would be discovered were replaced by the terrible realisation that Richard saw nothing unusual in his behaviour when his body was occupied by a chicken.

Chapter Text

"Who ate my last piece of rabbit?" Zedd bellowed.

"What are you talking about?" Richard, lying propped on one elbow on his bedroll, shot his grandfather a puzzled look.

"I just went into the woods for a moment and when I came back it was gone!" Zedd showed his empty plate and glared accusingly at Cara.

"I didn't take your food, wizard," Cara snapped, adding maliciously, "if anyone steals food around here, it's you."

Zedd glared at her and then at Kahlan, whose mouth dropped open.

"You can't possibly think I took it?"

"You did say you could eat a horse," Richard teased, earning himself a black look from the Mother Confessor.

"You were the last one over by the fire," Cara told Richard with a grin. Conflict was just so much fun.

"I was not," Richard protested.

During the heated argument that followed, a tiny creature padded out from the bushes and prodded at Kahlan's empty plate.

"Look," Kahlan said, noticing it. "Oh, it's a cute little kitten."

Kahlan stared at it, wide-eyed, as if it were the most wonderful thing she'd ever seen. Richard stared at Kahlan being all wide-eyed as she were the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. Cara frowned and looked at the wizard, who was clearly still more annoyed at the loss of his food than overjoyed at the cuteness of the kitten.

Kahlan scooped the tiny kitten into her arms and it mewed pathetically. "She must be starving," she said. "Richard, see if I have any dried meat left in my pack."

Richard found a couple of emergency rations, and, to Cara's disgust, pulled the strips into tiny pieces and fed them to the kitten. He and Kahlan were wholly occupied in feeding the kitten while giving it adoringly glances, and, alternately gazing adoringly at each other.

"We should name her," Kahlan said, which Cara knew out right was a bad idea. They couldn't take a kitten with them on the quest and naming it would only let Kahlan get more attached to the creature.

"Shota," Zedd said bad-temperedly. "Looks all adorable, acts all adorable, but will steal the very food from your plate!"

Chapter Text

Sweat, George Cypher had always said, was a sign of honest, physical labour. Whenever Richard became hot and sweaty from chopping wood for the fire, he remembered that and felt good about himself.

When he worked out, stretching his muscles, practising swinging the Sword of Truth, he didn't mind getting that his palms grew slick with sweat. This was a different sort of physical work, needed to keep him in shape. He was the Seeker and had to be at his best.

When he fought, taking down those who would harm him, his companions, or the innocents of the Midlands, he didn’t notice the sweat running down his back until later. Only when his adrenaline was spent did he ever notice his wounds, or the dampness on his chest and beneath his arms. This was decent work, protecting people.

When fire rose in his belly, and he made love, the sweat that pooled in the small of his back smelt of desire. Maybe it wasn't as pure and innocent as the labour of chopping wood, nor as noble as the act of fighting evil, but Richard was never happier to be hot and slick with sweat as when she was in his arms.

Chapter Text

Richard stopped, turned around, stared at the creature that had been stalking him for the past half a mile.

"Shoo," he said, waving his arms. "Go home."

The baby gar made a pathetic mewling noise, much like a kitten. Richard had seen the carcass of the gar's mother a while back. He hadn't wanted to just put the little creature out of its misery, though he knew it would grow up to become a fearsome predator. Besides, the gar was old enough to fend for itself – it had been munching on some sort of rodent until it had spotted Richard.

Since then it had been following him, occasionally darting in and out of bushes and around trees, and making that odd noise.

"Go home," Richard said sternly again and continued on his way.

Half an hour later he reached the camp. The gar was still trotting along just behind him. Kahlan's eyes widened in alarm, Cara reached for her agiel, and even Zedd looked up from the stew he was stirring.

"I told you, go home," Richard said fiercely. The gar ducked its head and mewed.

"Wherever did you find it?" Kahlan asked in amazement. Richard explained the circumstances and her features softened. "Poor darling," she said, approaching the pitiful gar carefully and bending down by it.

Cara rolled her eyes. "It's dangerous," she said.

"Not this little thing," Kahlan said. "You keep telling it to go home when it has none, Richard. With its mother gone, it doesn't know where to roost. You know what that's like, being lost and alone, far from everything you know."

"We'll find some more gars," Richard said in resignation, "maybe they'll take it in. After supper. I'm starving."

The gar mewled again.

"I think he's hungry too," Kahlan cooed. "Who's a poor homeless little gar, then?"

Cara made a noise of disgust but everyone knew that once Kahlan had her mind set on something she wouldn't be dissuaded. The stew was going to have to feed an extra mouth tonight.

Chapter Text

"Cara! Cara, someone's stolen my clothes," Richard yelled.

Cara looked up from the fire she was stoking to see a wet, naked, Lord Rahl. It brought back some pleasant memories; except for the part where this Lord Rahl was hiding his – well, dignity, she supposed he'd say – with the Sword of Truth.

"Who would steal your clothes and leave the Sword of Truth behind?" Cara asked, arching one eyebrow. If she'd gone to the river with him this would never happened.

"I don't know." Richard shivered. "Give me a blanket and help me look for them."

Cara rolled her eyes and wandered over to his pack.

"Ah, Richard," Zedd said, arriving at the camp with an armful of wood for the fire. "Oh, are we going to be naked? The moon's not going to be up for hours –"

"No," Richard yelped. "Someone took my clothes!"

"Who would take your clothes?" Zedd asked.

"Even the wizard agrees with me," Cara smirked, throwing Richard a blanket. She sneaked a peek as he had to lower his weapon – exposing another, in one sense of the word – in order to wrap the blanket around himself.

Kahlan arrived then, clutching Richard's clothes. "Richard, I just caught some girls running off with these," she said.

"Whatever for?" Zedd asked.

"Um, I think they're a bit obsessed with Richard. They said they were huge fans," Kahlan said. "One of them's got a woodcarving of you, apparently, Richard. Rather sweet. Possibly a bit creepy?"

Richard held out one hand. "Gimme my clothes, I'm freezing," he said.

Kahlan handed them over, very, very reluctantly. Cara rolled her eyes and added more wood to the fire.

Chapter Text

Yes, it was true that the creature – part-eagle, part-horse, part-Creator-only-knew-what – that had been attacking villages in this area was magical in nature. But it was the magic of her Agiels that had helped Cara take out the soldiers escorting the beast. It was the magic of Confession that had let Kahlan Confess the creature's handler and instruct him to turn it away from the villagers. It was the magical Sword of Truth that had allowed Richard to slice through the neck that was strong as steel beneath the innocuous looking feathers, finally killing the horrendous beast.

It was magic that had saved Richard's life, in all probability. An almost certainly venomous claw had got past his guard as he'd swung for the neck, and sliced through his left arm. Through his shirt, his flesh, his muscle, exposing the bone.

Kahlan had screamed. Zedd had hurried over. It was magic that knitted Richard's arm, almost severed by the vicious attack, back together, leaving no trace of the dreadful wound.

And, when a less magical, but still deadly, Quad of D'Haran guards thought to kill the Seeker, it was their combined magical abilities that made sure it was Richard and his friends who walked away unharmed.

Chapter Text

Sister Verna Sauverteen stared at the man who refused to meet her gaze. He was turning his hat over and over in his hands. Conn was a true believer. He and his whole family worshipped the Creator, and, he claimed, had done so for generations. He'd given Verna and her retinue shelter for two days after they'd arrived during a rainstorm, been generous with his food and had been respectful to a fault. He had asked nothing in return until now.

Verna had a single mission: to find the one true Seeker. Once found, it was her sworn duty to protect him, to stabilise his magic if needed, and to escort him safely to the Palace of the Prophets. Within the hallowed walls he could spend years training, honing his magic, learning everything he needed to know. Only after being properly instructed by the Sisters of the Light could the Seeker hope to bring an end to tyranny and to lead the way in bringing peace to the land.

This quest was vital and, as such, Verna was not supposed to be distracted by the commoners and their "petty" worries. She was not supposed to interfere. To protect and guide people was the job of the Seeker, and she was only, well, the Seeker of the Seeker.

At first she had zealously obeyed this edict. Along the way however, Verna had sometimes found herself unable to ignore the everyday concerns of the people that the Seeker would one day protect. Sometimes the tyranny people faced was immediate and life threatening and not an abstract threat from D'Hara. They faced problems that could not wait years for a champion bearing the Sword of Truth. And so, on occasion, Verna prayed for guidance. And then, hoping she was truly doing the Creator's work, Verna interfered.

This was going to be one of those times.

"You are sure it is a Shadrin?" Verna hoped against hope that there was a rogue bull on the loose, possibly a large wolf or even a bear.

Conn nodded, raising his eyes to meet her stern gaze. "Tristan saw it, afore he ran away in terror. It had horns like a bull but it stood on two legs, like a man!"

The beast had killed half a herd of his cows, several of his neighbour's sheep, a farmer taking a shortcut through the dense woods at the edge of the settlement, and, last night, the two self-appointed hunters who'd sought to destroy the creature.

Verna sighed. She put one hand to her Dacra, knowing it would make short work of the Shadrin. "We will investigate." She walked away, ignoring Conn's relieved thanks and his regret that he did not know the whereabouts of the young Seeker-to-be.

The Sisters listened as Verna explained that obviously the Shadrin was a danger to them since their route would take them through the forest. They would find it, kill it, and be on their way. Back to their true mission, finding the Seeker. Verna would find him if it took decades.

Chapter Text

Cara surveyed the ruins, one hand resting on the handle of the Agiel at her right hip. The wind stirred her hair, bringing the scent of the nearby ocean to her nostrils. The place was not unnerving, yet she felt something that touched her senses. The weight of history, perhaps.

Richard was running his fingertips reverently over some rough stones that had once formed a massive defensive wall. Kahlan stood watching them all with quiet intensity; Cara thought the Mother Confessor might also hear the echoes of the battle.

"Many a brave soldier died defending this fortress," Zedd intoned. "The fight raged for three days and three nights. The forces of evil battered at the gates. A storm swept across the sea, deluging the defenders and the attackers alike with rain and salt water. A bolt of lightening – " he raised one finger to the sky and then jabbed at a missing section of wall – "struck the north tower, sending masonry falling to the ground below."

Cara could imagine the scene; the scent of torches burning, flames spluttering in the downpour. The yells of the soldiers, the cries of pain. The dreadful roll of thunder so loud it shook the very foundations of this once fine castle.

"At last the Seeker arrived," Zedd said. "He brought a fine dawn with him, the first rays of sunlight making the Sword of Truth shine as he held it aloft. Many fled before he even reached them. Others were cut down by this unstoppable warrior. He turned the tide, saved the castle."

Cara tipped her head. "It's ruined," she pointed out.

Zedd nodded. "It survived that battle," he said. "But as time went on, the king's powered waned, other foes encroached, the sea began to batter at the cliffs below. The fortress was abandoned, left to the elements to do with as they will."

Richard huffed a little. "That's sad," he said.

"But the history has never been forgotten," Zedd said. "The sacrifices made that day, the tale of the Seeker and his timely appearance. Time moves on, but we can ensure our history means something. And now I have told the story to you, as one day you will pass on the tale of your ancestor."

Richard took Kahlan's hand and nodded. "I shall."

Cara nodded too. Tales of heroism were ones worth repeating.

Chapter Text

There were benefits to being a Mord'Sith. The power, the chance to serve Lord Rahl, the companionship of the Sisters of the Agiel, the ability to give the Breath of Life, the sense of purpose.

There was also the bathing pool.

Every temple had one, a sanctuary within the sanctuary. Somewhere to wash away the dirt and blood and stress. Full of water to rinse flesh and hair. The larger pools were big enough to swim in.

The pools were also, in many Mord'Sith's opinion, a place for sex. Somewhere to seduce another Sister. Or to merely take their own pleasure, the warm water a sensual accompaniment to fingers against clitoris.

(Another benefit of being a Mord'Sith and not a servant was enjoying the pool but not having to clean it out afterwards.)

Chapter Text

It is a Mord'Sith's duty to love Lord Rahl, I reminded myself in an attempt to quell the desire to throttle some sense into Richard. I settled for an eyeroll. Kahlan didn't notice, eyes shining as she stared at Richard as if he were the sun, and the moon, and every other celestial object. Zedd saw me though, for I caught the smirk before he schooled his features into a more serious frame of mind.

The wizard also, to my surprise, shared my concerns as I soon found out when he tactfully suggested Richard's plan might not be the best idea.

"But what could go wrong?" Richard asked. Zedd and I proceeded to tell him, in explicit, and increasingly gory, detail. The Seeker's face fell. It was like watching a sandcastle crumble into the sea, only more melancholy. He turned his puppy dog expression to Kahlan, who, as Mother Confessor, did her duty in gently agreeing that Zedd and I had a point.

"I suppose you're right," Richard said, conceding defeat. "I still think you're overreacting."

At this point I related my only slightly embellished story about the time a foolish Mord'Sith trainee tried to tame a giant clawed groundpig and the resulting clean-up this necessitated. Also, the need for a new trainee. Even Richard paled and then he set the groundpig free without any further word about keeping it as a pet or giving it to the local petting zoo. The children of the Midlands, and their parents, can thank me later.

Chapter Text

"No, Richard, I don't care if it's only a baby Shadrin, it's still a Shadrin and you are not keeping it!"

Richard's lower lip trembled and the Shadrin wailed.

The Shadrin stayed.

Chapter Text

"I tried to warn them," Cara told Richard, who gazed at the scene with horror. "I told them. Never get between a hungry wizard and his cake."

Chapter Text

The night sky was full of stars but no moon.

Zedd looked up, pointed out the constellations to his companions. Richard listened intently, still learning the tales and stories of the Midlands. Kahlan occupied herself more with looking at Richard, for she knew all the names and the stories by heart. Cara pretended she wasn't paying attention, but every now and then something Zedd said caught her interest and she couldn't help but look up.

"And that," Zedd said, one long finger stabbing up at the inky sky, "is Solitaire. You can only see it when the moon is dark, for her light obscures him."

Richard squinted. "Solitaire?"

"Hmm. It is a long and somewhat bittersweet tale," Zedd said. "But it you wish me to tell it…"

Zedd told the story, a touch of magic here and there as he gestured bringing the tale to life as much as his approximations of the voices of the characters. Kahlan took Richard's hand, squeezing at it as the worst part of the story unfolded. Cara sat motionless, her expression neutral, but when Zedd finished the story she edged closer to Kahlan and the Confessor let her knee casually rest against one red leather-clad leg.

"How about a happier story?" Richard asked hoarsely and Zedd smiled and obliged.

Chapter Text

Cara sat leaning against a tree trunk. Kahlan was presiding over a trial in the nearby village, while Richard and Zedd had gone fishing. Cara had witnessed their fishing expeditions before. She had no desire to do so again. She'd told them she was going to collect firewood and herbs for the fish, and would do so, but right now she was enjoying the afternoon sun.

A short distance away the air shimmered, then split apart. Cara was on her feet in an instant, agiels in her hands. Some sort of magic portal, she was guessing, and that never boded well.

A woman stepped out of the portal. Pretty, pale skinned, with long dark hair, the newcomer was wearing a black dress and a long dark coat, along with long black boots. She was holding some sort of tiny box in one hand. She noticed Cara.

"Hello," the woman said brightly.

Cara said nothing, just raised one eyebrow.

"I don't suppose you've seen a nightbolt, have you?" The woman glanced at the box and then around the woods. Her accent was cultured; it reminded Cara a little of Darken Rahl's.

"I don't know," Cara said evenly, shifting her stance slightly. "What does a nightbolt look like?"

The woman shrugged. "About this big," she said, stretching out her arms. "Wings. Green eyes." She frowned. "Please forgive my manners. I'm Dr Helen Magnus, of the Sanctuary Network. The nightbolt is an abnormal I'm tracking."

"Cara," she replied, and, feeling this was somewhat lacking in the face of the other woman's introduction, "Mord'Sith."

"Call me Helen," Magnus went on, frowning at the box in her hand. "Where exactly are we, Cara?"

"The Gerrant Woods," Cara said, and, reasoning the portal might have transported Helen over a significant distance, "the Midlands, near the easternmost border of D'hara."

"D'Hara?" Helen asked. "I'm not familiar with that place. Still, you're not too bothered by the rift?" She glanced over her shoulder.

Cara followed Helen's eyeline to the portal. "I have seen magical portals before."

"Excellent! Now, magic…that does complicate things a little. Let's see." Helen smiled. "I'm from another world. There are abnormals there, what you would probably term magical creatures. One of them, a nightbolt, was causing a problem in the city where I live. I was tracking it with this –" she gestured to the box with her other hand – "until it opened up a rift in time and space and disappeared. Henry, one of my staff, managed to jerry-rig a device that opened up a second rift which is what I just came through. I need to find and subdue the creature, and take it somewhere it will be safe."

"You hunt magical creatures," Cara said, the one thing she thought she understood clearly from Helen's explanation.

"Yes," Helen agreed. "Now it can't have gone far because I shot it with a tranquilizer – er, sleeping potion. So, the nightbolt – possibly you might think of it as a dragon –"

"It sounds like a gar," Cara said. She pointed. "A gar would head over that way, where the trees are not so thick, and where it might seek shelter at the foot of the mountains."

"Splendid." Helen pressed a button on the box and the portal vanished. "Would you care to help me?"

Cara shrugged. It was better than fishing, and Richard was always insisting on helping people, no matter how strange they were. "Very well."

Cara led the way and Helen followed. "So, Cara, what is it you do?"

"I am in service to Lord Rahl," she said proudly.

"In service? Do you mean like the army?"

"I protect him," Cara clarified.

"I see. A bodyguard." Helen kept up with Cara's punishing pace, to the Mord'Sith's secret surprise. "This is a fascinating place."

Cara held out a hand and Helen stopped and fell silent immediately. Cara's opinion of Helen went up another notch.

"Up ahead," Cara said softly, "to your right."

"I see it," Helen whispered. "One moment."

Cara kept one eye on the gar, which was sleeping in a small clearing, and one on Helen, who slipped the box into a pocket of her coat and pulled a long blade from her boot.

Helen crept forwards but as she reached the gar it awoke and screamed its displeasure. One wing knocked Helen to the ground. Cara advanced fearlessly, agiels in her hands and applied them to the gar. Helen struggled to her feet and dodged the gar's tail. Cara moved one agiel to beneath the creature's neck and it howled in pain but its struggles grew fainter. Helen struck the gar on the rump with the blade and after a few moments the gar collapsed, eyes shut. Cara stepped away.

"Thank you," Helen said breathlessly.

"You're welcome." Cara nudged the gar with one boot. "Is it dead?"

"No. Just sleeping." Helen brushed her hair back from her forehead. "Well, time to get back."

She took out the box again and moved her fingers over it. It glowed, and emitted some odd noises, and then another portal opened, just in front of her.

"Let's just get this thing out of your world and back to mine," Helen said. Cara helped Helen drag the gar to the portal. Once the head was through, the body quickly followed – perhaps Helen's friend Henry was pulling it from the other side.

"It was a pleasure," Helen said, holding out one hand. Cara shook hands, regarding Helen coolly. "I'm sorry I can't stay and explore your world some more. Maybe another time."

"That would be acceptable," Cara said.

Helen stepped into the portal and it vanished. Cara headed back to where she'd been sitting when the stranger had first arrived. She wasn't sure if she'd even bother to tell Richard about her adventure, though she had liked Helen's no-nonsense manner. It sounded a little odd even to her, and she had just lived through it. Magic, Cara thought, was a very odd thing.

Chapter Text

White was the colour of purity; pure as the driven snow, the saying went. White spoke of innocence and beginnings. White was the colour a Mord'Sith wore when they'd trained a pet so fully they need not draw blood to ensure obedience.

White was the colour Confessors wore; the colour of justice. White spoke of being unbiased, neutral. White signified power of a different sort than it did for the Mord'Sith, but they were both signifiers of obedience.

White was the colour of winter, cold and harsh and deadly. It was appropriate for both Confessors and Mord'Sith in many ways.

Cara had always preferred red. But (though she'd never readily admit it) on Kahlan, she thought white looked quite lovely.

Chapter Text

"I will not buy another bottle of your evil brew," Zedd bellowed. "My brother is your sometime partner in your diabolical schemes. Surely he deserves this much consideration?"

Sebastian pondered this a moment. "Fine, have another bottle. On me." he glumly handed over a bottle of his new drink. "It's supposed to give people energy," he said in his defence.

"I have lots of energy," Thaddicus agreed, flapping his – well, arms was no longer the correct term. "And these."

"Stop making such a draught," Zedd said, sniffing at the potion. "If I can concentrate I can maybe develop an antidote."

"Actually I'm getting used to them," Thaddicus said. "I wonder if I can fly, with practice, of course."

"Is there actual Gar blood in here?" Zedd asked in surprise, applying the tiniest drop to the tip of his tongue. "I thought that was just the name!"

"Oh no," Sebastian said cheerfully. "And to be fair, I did write it in the fine print."

Zedd strained to read the writing on the label which got progressively smaller.

"Red Gar," he read, "A Drink Giving Energy. Warning. May Give You Wings."

Chapter Text

Richard put his hands on Cara's shoulders and gazed intently into her eyes. "I'll just be away for a few days. Tell Kahlan I miss her, and I can't wait to be back in her arms. Tell her I'm counting the seconds until we can be together again, that I swear by the Creator I will be home before the full moon. Tell her I'm sorry I had to go away at such short notice, but I'll make it up to her when I get back. Remind her that I love her, that I adore her with every fibre of my being."

"Why can't I come with you?" Cara demanded when Richard paused for breath.

"I need you here to protect Kahlan," Richard said. "Besides, Zedd wants to spend some time with me. We don't get much chance to just have some time alone, just us men."

And so Richard left, with many a backward glance. Cara sat by the front door of the cottage, taking out her anger on a fistful of daisies, plucking off petals one by one. At last Kahlan came home.

"Cara, what's wrong?" she asked, seeing the floral destruction.

"Richard and Zedd went to hunt a Shadrin that's bothering the people of West Fort," Cara said. "And they wouldn't let me go."

"Probably thought you'd kill it before they had a chance to," Kahlan said with a smile. "You know how men are."

"Richard left you a message," Cara said, remembering Lord Rahl's urgent tone.

"Yes?"

"Love you, miss you, back soon," Cara said.

"Right. Well, more stew for us, then," Kahlan said brightly, and went indoors.

Chapter Text

"Wizard, what is this strange plant?"

Cara held out the offending greenery for his inspection. Zedd peered at it, eyes lighting up in recogntion.

"Why, Cara Mason, it's mistletoe. Have you never seen it before?"

"No. It doesn't grow in D'Hara. Is it good to eat?" she asked, practical as ever.

"Absolutely not! The berries are poisonous."

Richard and Kahlan wandered over to join them.

"Then what is the point of it?" Cara asked.

"They're not poisonous to all creatures," Richard said. "And we grew mistletoe in Hartland, to decorate our homes in winter."

Cara rolled her eyes. Cultivating a plant for wildlife to eat and for mere decoration!

Kahlan laughed and slipped one arm around Cara's waist. "There are some interesting traditions about mistletoe," she said.

"For instance?" Cara asked dryly.

Zedd took the sprig of mistletoe and held it above Cara's head. "It's traditional to kiss under the plant," he said.

Cara began to see the appeal. She turned and brushed her lips against an astonished Kahlan's mouth. Richard's mouth fell open in shock.

"Like that?" Cara asked, hoping they'd be pleased with her readiness to embrace one of their ridiculous customs.

"Somewhat," Zedd said faintly.

Some people, Cara thought, were just never satisfied.