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The Divide
By Aerows


Book 1

Lord Rahl and his grandfather, the First Wizard Zedd, had left that morning to go south through the Divide to reach a troop of D'Haran soldiers that were suffering from some sort of malady. The Divide was an area so devoid of magic that it could weaken things that were inherently magical. That included the Sword of Truth, Agiels and a Confessor's power.

Mord'Sith could also be affected by it, and if given a choice, Cara had no intention of having her Agiels destroyed for the sake of saving two days travel time. She gripped the weapons at her side, those that had trained her to be Mord'Sith, and drank in the pain they bestowed. The pain was not a comfort; it was a reminder of reality, and one that grounded her. It was the reminder of her duty, and her self-confidence rose; she was Mord'Sith and would not fail in her mission. There was no pain or weakness that could conquer her.

Pain is weakness leaving the body.

Cara was traveling to Renwold with Kahlan. The Mother Confessor had her own mission, and would not be dissuaded. Something in her eyes still looked haunted after her confrontation with Richard when he had told her of the Divide. There, her Confessor's power would not work, and she could safely be intimate with the Lord Rahl without confessing him. The risk was that her powers would be weakened, possibly for an extended period of time. The grim set of her features and the way she had turned her back to the Seeker for even suggesting it had illustrated no conflicts. She would not turn away from what she was or her duty to her people.

The Mord'Sith respected that, and had in truth expected no other reaction from Kahlan Amnell. She was the Mother Confessor, and was busy writing her own legend independent of those that had come before her. Zedd and the Lord Rahl had magic; Kahlan, Mother Confessor and ruler of the Midlands, was Magic. The wizard had intimated that she herself, Mistress Cara, was also magic, but the Mord'Sith had sneered. Still, she had not been sorry when Lord Rahl had ordered her to protect and obey the Mother Confessor as she did himself. It was not an unwelcome duty, and one that she would unhesitatingly carry out, even at the cost of her own life.

The Mord'Sith and the Mother Confessor had started out as enemies, but they had been traveling so much together and relying upon one another, in life or death situations, that they had settled into what could only be called a friendship. Occasionally, the concept twisted Cara's mouth, but she couldn't deny that she felt a certain kinship with the Confessor. Kahlan Amnell was a warrior to the blood and bone, and a Mord'Sith respected that quality. Cara respected that quality. Kahlan trusted the Mord'Sith with her life, and Cara would gladly give her life for the Confessor. Setting off once more in the company of just the Confessor gave her a different feeling than it would have months ago; Cara found herself looking forward to spending time alone with the tall brunette.

The Sword of Truth was on Kahlan's leather covered back, and while Cara would never say it aloud, it seemed to her that it suited the woman and her deadly grace far better than it suited Lord Rahl. Lord Rahl was the Seeker, but his raw power was better suited to a heavier weapon like an axe or a mace. Kahlan, for all that she was the Mother Confessor, was a master of blades. Daggers nearly the length of short swords were what she used most of the time, but Cara had seen her use a sword. Kahlan used a sword like it was a part of her. With the Sword of Truth in her hands, and the skill of a thousand years of Seekers flooding into her, she was a storm of steel.

The Seeker had only begun using the Sword of Truth in the last six months; Kahlan had spent nearly a lifetime learning blade work. Yes, she thought to herself, a wood's guide is far better suited to the axe. A traitorous thought slipped across her mind. And the Mother Confessor is far better suited to rule. She clamped down on that thought, however, because what was, was. Richard was the Lord Rahl, and Kahlan was the Mother Confessor of the Midlands.

They had defeated the Keeper, but now rumors of a new threat had arisen; the Imperial Order. The Order despised magic in all forms, and they were coming to put their boots to the neck of the New World. The barriers had fallen when Richard had gone through the gates of Perdition, and now the Old World was streaming into the New. The fact that they were now crossing this harsh terrain and wouldn't find a town for another day made Cara curse them soundly. She would kill them for forcing her to traipse across this land for that reason alone, never mind the fact that they were coming for her Lord and the people of the New World.

And Kahlan, her traitorous mind once again supplied. How was it that she suddenly felt so much loyalty to the Mother Confessor – the one person that she had been trained to hate as her mortal enemy? One glance at the woman answered her question. Kahlan was a born ruler, a powerful warrior in her own right, and a gorgeous, compassionate woman. She could have appeared in rags and still she would have commanded and ruled as easily as she did in her regal white dress. In her traveling leathers she looked like the Queen of War. Which she is, Cara's mind again supplied, tempered by duty and … compassion.

The town of Timberline was aptly named; it was on the very edge of the forest, before the terrain gave way to the arid, rocky landscape of the desert. This would be the last town they would encounter until after they had crossed two days worth of Wilds wasteland to enter the territory of Renwold. They could have taken a slightly different route and added a week onto their travels, but Kahlan had wanted to get to Renwold as soon as possible. Having to travel on foot was certainly slowing them down, but the Confessor was resolved to go forward. Richard and Zedd would catch up with them in a town just inside the border.

Kahlan fumed the entire way. She was enraged that Richard would not only suggest that she put off investigating reports of an army invading her land, harming her people, but that she would risk weakening her powers at a time when they were needed the most. And for such selfish reasons, she inwardly ranted. She knew her feelings for Richard had subtly begun to change as their mission to stop the Keeper had ended, but even before there would not have been the slightest hesitation in her decision, nor should Richard have ever expected there to be.

"Come with me." Richard had asked, his hand stretched out to her, brown eyes sparkling. She knew why he had asked. In the Divide, she wouldn't be able to use her powers, thus couldn't Confess him if they consummated their relationship. She had just stared at him. Richard had interpreted her searching look as consideration. "It's only for a few days, then we can all go together to Renwold to help your people." He eased closer with a warm smile.

Cara had looked on their confrontation with stunned surprise, which is to say her eyes widened and a sneer touched her lips. The look she gave Richard suggested he had just done something supremely stupid. It was as disrespectful of an expression as she had ever shot the Lord Rahl's way.

Kahlan recoiled from his outstretched hand in shock unable to speak for a long moment. "Richard, have you lost your mind?" She had shouted in his face, rage flooding her. "I'm the Mother Confessor. I have a duty to the people of the Midlands as their ruler and as the highest authority in the land as a Confessor. I can't risk weakening my power right now anymore than I can ignore my duty to my people. You have no idea how long it will take to resolve the situation with the D'Harans."

Anger flared in his brown eyes. "Zedd said the weakening of your powers wouldn't be permanent, and it's only for a few days. We can leave the Sword of Truth with Cara, and then we can go to the D'Haran camp." He crossed his arms, his raptor gaze that of the Seeker who believed he had clearly worked out the solution to a problem. "You'll have a contingent of D'Harans to help."

His mouth had twisted at the mention of the D'Harans. It was subtle, but it was clear to a Confessor that could read the truth. Kahlan knew he was very reluctant to do anything at all until the Mother Confessor had reminded him that despite what he wanted, he was the Lord Rahl and it was his duty to see to his people. It was then that she had realized it was only the mention of the Divide that had caused him to relent. It stung her that it wasn't duty, but rather selfishness that ultimately drove him to do the right thing. It also disappointed her, and reminded her of just one more reason her feelings toward him had chilled; as the Seeker, it was easy to see him as duty-bound. As the Lord Rahl, ruler of D'Hara, whom they would need to fight the coming battles, he seemed so unwilling.

"So you would have me risk weakening my powers, but not the Sword of Truth?" She asked quietly, her face frozen in the mask of the Mother Confessor. "Richard, what you are asking of me is something that I cannot do - something I will not do. Go with Zedd, we will meet you in Duskwood." With that she turned her back on the Seeker and marched away. The look of satisfaction on Cara's face as the Mord'Sith helped Kahlan make preparations to leave had not been lost to the Mother Confessor. At least Cara had understood; Zedd would have, too, had he not been off investigating the Divide.

Richard had tried to apologize to Kahlan as he placed the Sword of Truth in her capable hands, but she had just looked at him, knowing her face was carefully schooled into the dispassionate face of the Mother Confessor. She had slipped the baldric over her head, merely said, "Take care, Seeker, and listen to Zedd's counsel."

Richard had ordered Cara to protect and obey Kahlan, and the Mord'Sith had merely nodded. Kahlan then heard them converse in soft words, but she could not make out what it had been. When she glanced back briefly at Richard, there was a look of regret on his face. His look of regret couldn't penetrate the anger she felt enough to give him more than a nod of farewell.

Cara secured their lodging in Timberline, so that the residents would not know it was the Mother Confessor in their midst. Lord Rahl would be able to find a Mord'Sith, and another woman; they didn't need to announce to everyone that the Mother Confessor herself was there. Protect her as you protect me. Lord Rahl's order had been clear. It was too great of a temptation for their enemies. Mord'Sith were hardly a common sight, but they were not unprecedented. The Mother Confessor was unprecedented no matter where she went.

Cara had climbed the stairs, and stowed their gear with the advice that the Mother Confessor should stay put and rest, since it was sensible. It had irritated Kahlan. She was not used to hiding who she was, nor was she used to being idle. She had stayed in their room for all of fifteen minutes, pacing around before she left it. She carefully hid the Sword of Truth beneath the mattress of the bed and the ball of frustration in her belly seemed to loosen. With practiced ease she hid daggers about her person before heading for the main hall of the inn. A glass of wine was just what she needed to balance her nerves out.

Kahlan sat at a worn, but clean oak table in the common room with the hood of her cloak up. She had pulled her long hair back in a braid, hiding it in her cloak so as not to call attention to herself nor her station with her long hair. In the Midlands, no one had longer hair than a Confessor, and Kahlan's hair was that of the Mother Confessor. It had pained her to braid it, as though she was denying a part of herself, but she was used to that. She was capable of denying her stature and the ache it caused her bundling up her braid to get a bit of anonymity. It was a comfortable old friend, the way the pain pulled at her.

The table was in the corner, facing the door of the inn so that she could see all that came in or out without being obvious about it. She had stayed here before; the beds were clean and the Innkeeper kept the rougher sorts out. The large bouncer, Moll, wore a cudgel at his waist and he knew how to use it. She sipped on the wine in front of her, attempting to dispel her irritation.

Cara had disappeared an hour ago, claiming that she needed to check for supplies in the town. There hadn't been shouts, screams or commotion so it was a fairly safe bet that the Mord'Sith wasn't in any trouble, but Cara could find trouble nearly as quickly as Richard could. Cara's over-protectiveness bothered her at times, but right now, the lack of her was bothering Kahlan worse. She wanted to take a bath and wasn't willing to be left that vulnerable without the blonde around. After days of traveling, Kahlan felt grime and sweat mingle together like a cloak on her body and she was ready to be rid of it. It was only the two of them, though, and if experience had taught her anything, it was that they needed to be careful.

If Kahlan were honest with herself, she actually missed the company of the Mord'Sith. Her anger at Richard had receded as she and Cara had traveled, each content in their duties. Finally they were in a town where they could enjoy a good meal. The blonde had been more surly than usual over the past few days, and Kahlan had hoped a relaxing dinner and a good night's rest would put the blonde in a better mood.

Just as she was about to get up and attempt to find the blonde, Cara breezed into the inn with her familiar confident strut. The Mord'Sith appeared to be nearly relaxed, or as relaxed as Cara ever got. Kahlan's voice was dry. "I see you've decided to join me again. I'm guessing it didn't occur to you that I wanted a bath, too, since I see you've already had one." Cara just smirked and ordered a wine from the serving girl brusquely.

"The opportunity presented itself, and I didn't want to waste it." Cara answered smoothly, accepting the wine from the serving girl who had practically run to serve the woman in red leather. Apparently Mord'Sith were just as feared here as they were everywhere else. Cara certainly had presence. "Bring a bath to our room immediately and make sure the water is hot." She commanded the mousy young woman in a tone hard enough to cut stone.

She then turned green eyes that could only be described as amused to Kahlan's blue ones, and said, "See, now you will get your bath." She took a healthy sip of her wine, and Kahlan shot her a puzzled look. "What?" The Mord'Sith asked in a slightly harsh tone.

"Well you are certainly in a better mood." Kahlan eyed her suspiciously. "Maybe I should go have a bath where ever you had one instead. Did you beat someone up on the way here, too?" A fight usually put the Mord'Sith in a better mood.

A slightly arrogant grin covered Cara's face. She cut her eyes back to Kahlan and said in a low voice that caused a shiver to go down the Confessor's spine. "No, I haven't been fighting." Kahlan waited, expecting more. The Mord'Sith was far from loquacious but judging from the satisfied look on her face, there was certainly more to her good mood than just a bath and supplies.

"Where did you find a bath house in this town? I've been here before but I don't remember them having one. I'd like to visit it before we go." Kahlan said, attempting to prod the blonde into telling her where she had been.

Cara raised an eyebrow, and got a challenging look in her eyes. "I'm not taking you to a brothel Kahlan. You'll have a bath in the room soon enough." Kahlan could swear Cara's eyes sparkled a little when the Confessor sputtered into her wine cup. Having spent enough time around Cara, her face truly was expressive when one knew where to look. The Mord'Sith was amused.

Kahlan's mouth was dry and she took a deep drink of her wine. Before her better judgment took hold, she blurted the first question that came to her mind. "What were you doing in a brothel, Cara?" Her voice was a little higher than normal, and she felt a blush creep up in her cheeks.

Cara, for her part, was rather enjoying the brunette's discomfiture. She cocked an eyebrow and looked Kahlan straight in the eye. "What everyone else does in a brothel." The wicked smirk she delivered as she said it, drew out the syllables and drank of her wine spoke volumes.

"They have men in the brothel, too?" Kahlan asked genuine curiosity threading her tone, still trying to wrap her mind around the fact that Cara had gone to a brothel for … what everyone else did in a brothel. Not that Kahlan had ever been in a brothel before, nor was it ever likely she would be.

Cara just looked at her. "As customers, yes, but I certainly didn't go there for a man." Kahlan opened her mouth, but Cara forestalled the next comment that she knew was coming. "Surely you are aware that a woman can take her pleasure with another woman." Her tone was arch, and she cocked an eyebrow over eyes that sparkled with challenge.

Kahlan felt a heated blush rise even higher in her cheeks, but was spared coming up with a reply to that when the serving girl came to announce that her bath was ready. Cara looked just as happy that the conversation had come to an end. Before Cara could rise to follow her, Kahlan placed a hand on her shoulder. "Finish your wine. I'm sure you can guard me adequately from here." As Kahlan hurried away, Cara watched the slim hips sway and felt a bit of disappointment that she wouldn't be in the room with the brunette while she was in the bath, and not entirely for reasons of security.

Kahlan wasn't certain which emotion was running highest in her; embarrassment, excitement or, oddly, jealousy. She had known women that preferred the company of other women, but it hadn't dawned on her until right then that Cara was one of them. Cara was beautiful, and commanded a sensuality that one would have to be blind to miss, but Kahlan had never thought of her in that way before.

For some reason, now it was all that she could think of. Sitting in the warm bath, naked, contemplating Cara taking her pleasure with another woman was bad enough; thankfully the blond had gotten the hint and stayed outside. Naked, with the blond watching her as she thought about Cara taking her pleasure with another woman would have been more than she could manage at the moment.

Kahlan did not bring up Cara's trip to the brothel again when they had dinner together in the common room and mercifully, the blond had let it go, as well. Cara was less irritable than usual, and the Confessor felt herself responding to the Mord'Sith's lighter demeanor. Cara wasn't ever what one could call cheerful, but she was definitely more relaxed. Kahlan found herself looking at the blond's face, admiring the high cheekbones and full lips. She realized she had been staring when Cara shot her a strange look and announced she was going to bed. Kahlan shook her head and wondered if she'd had too much wine as she followed the Mord'Sith up the stairs to their room.

Kahlan had discovered that what she liked most about staying at an inn during their travels, besides the fact that it was a real bed, was that when she and the Mord'Sith shared a room, they usually shared a bed. When it was cold at night and they made camp, occasionally she would share a blanket with Cara to keep warm, but the Mord'Sith grumbled about it. When they stayed in an inn, and there was only one bed, there was no reason for the blond to argue. Kahlan had discovered that she craved contact; as a Confessor, there were few that welcomed her touch willingly. Slipping into the soft sheets, she rested her head on the pillow, feeling relaxed and content for the first time in days. As she felt Cara slide in beside her and blow out the candle, Kahlan felt herself close to drifting off to sleep.

The Mord'Sith lay in the dark, relaxation taking over her. Her physical needs had been adequately, if not expertly relieved by a tall, short-haired brunette at the brothel, and now she could rest comfortably. She waited until she heard the deep even breathing of the Confessor sleeping. A smile washed over her features in the darkness, and she rolled closer to her, slipping against Kahlan's body softly, draping an arm across Kahlan's waist. Kahlan made a little noise of contentment, pressing her backside firmly against Cara's thighs, and placed a hand on the one at her waist. She stiffened slightly, both at the spike of arousal the movement had caused and because she had thought the Confessor asleep.

"This always feels good, Cara, you are so warm." The Mord'Sith was startled by the Confessor's gentle statement, and froze. Cara felt a mortified blush rising in her cheeks. She hadn't realized that Kahlan knew that it was often Cara that initiated the contact between them when they shared a bed. "It feels safe having you close to me in a strange place." The Confessor murmured sleepily, stroking her hip, then pulled Cara's hand more firmly across her waist as she settled into her.

Her nose was buried in the sweet scent of the Confessor's hair, listening to her breathe, her body warm against her own. She forced the arousal down roughly, content to lie there in the moment. There was no watch to wake up for, and no wizard or Lord Rahl to interrupt or worse, witnesses to her weakness for the Confessor's warmth. She could never admit it but she relished it when she spent the night in an inn next to Kahlan. With the gentle acknowledgment that Kahlan felt warm and safe sleeping close to her, the Confessor had absolved Cara the Mord'Sith Protector of the sin of enjoying it. She was not far behind the Confessor in drifting into a peaceful, dreamless sleep, with something suspiciously like a contented smile on her face.

Kahlan kept finding herself looking at the Mord'Sith – really looking at her. Her full lips, her breasts and the raw sexuality that she so casually displayed. She could swear Cara had caught her perusal a few times, but the blond had said nothing and done little more than flick an eyebrow at her in question. Kahlan tried to continue on as though things were normal, but they weren't. Something had changed inside of her as she began to consider possibilities she had not before.

Cara had not missed the surreptitious glances the Mother Confessor kept sending her way. At first, she thought it was puzzlement, as though the Mord'Sith was something she'd never seen before, but as she caught the blue eyes sliding across her body she realized that it was something else entirely. She felt the burning glances nearly like a touch, never imagining that it would be the Mother Confessor directing such looks her way. She wondered if the dark-haired woman had any idea of the heat her looks were projecting. Considering the shock that had registered in her face when Cara had blithely announced she'd been to a brothel for pleasure with a woman, the Mord'Sith suspected she did not. If the Confessor didn't stop looking at her that way, she was going to need to visit another one soon.

Cara sat down with her back to a rock, having pitched camped, and finally caught dinner as it ran too close to her. She roasted the small rabbit over the flames, and looked over at the Mother Confessor. Kahlan's face was as unreadable as her own had ever been, staring into the fire. Something was clearly on her mind, because the Mother Confessor unconsciously kept stirring the flames, causing sparks to shoot up while an intent look took up residence on her face. The only time Cara saw her do that was when she was deep in thought. She knew that the Confessor had been extremely angry at the Lord Rahl, but she had thought Kahlan was past the brooding stage. The Confessor certainly could hold on to anger far longer than many, but when it passed, she tended to let it go completely.

Cara contemplated what to say to Kahlan to drag her out of her pessimism. Having traveled with the Confessor for this long, Cara found that she could not only read her moods, she found that she purposefully did so. That was also ridiculous, because a Mord'Sith did not go around reading the moods of people other than the Lord Rahl whom they served. Except Cara found she … cared. She cared how Kahlan felt. She struggled to explain to herself that it was because it helped her protect the Mother Confessor better.

The desert grew cold as darkness deepened. The Mord'Sith flicked the blood red cloak around her shoulders, an eye on Kahlan, and an eye into the nothing of darkness. Kahlan's boots shifted in the dust to her bags, and she dug into them, withdrawing a tightly sealed bottle. She opened it, and eyed Cara. Taking a deep drink of it, she shook her head roughly after swallowing, then recapped it. The blue eyes offered a challenge. Cara always felt exhilaration rise in her when Kahlan got that look in her eye.

"Take the chill off?" Kahlan brusquely pressed the bottle into the Mord'Sith's hands, eyes flashing over the cloak Cara had wrapped tighter around herself unconsciously. Had Cara been the sort to flush with embarrassment, she might have. As it stood, she merely cursed herself inwardly. Kahlan had noticed that she was cold, noticed her weakness. Kahlan could handle the cold far better than she withstood the heat; the Mother Confessor was from a land of snow and storms. Cara herself was fine in the glare of the desert sun, but wasn't overly fond of cold.

She raised the bottle, and uncapped it, the scent of alcohol assaulting her nostrils. She held the blue eyes across from her. Cara, for all that she was Mord'Sith, did not drink hard liquor often. She consumed wine - and ale if necessary - but this was not ale or wine; this was very strong liquor. She knew her limits and consuming strong drink was not something she allowed herself to indulge. The challenging stare told her that Kahlan knew this, and was daring her to refuse. She inwardly sighed and brought her lips to the neck of the bottle. She tilted it back to get a throatful as Kahlan had done, and it burned her tongue. She closed her eyes, choking a bit as she downed the stinging liquid, grimacing as she recapped the bottle. She opened her eyes to amused blue ones, and a flash of white teeth in a mouth curved into a full grin.

Kahlan took the bottle back, amusement dancing across her features. "Not used to Aydindril Stout, I see." Kahlan's voice was almost musical with laughter. Cara glared at her. Kahlan ignored the glare and took another swallow from the bottle, the warmth pleasantly flooding her middle. She had forgotten she had the bottle of liquor at the bottom of her bags until she had found it yesterday. She passed it to the blond who clearly wanted to refuse but took another swig out of sheer Mord'Sith stubbornness.

"No, especially not on watch, Mother Confessor. Alcohol dulls the senses and I am not given to failing in my duties." The words were harsh and laced with displeasure at Kahlan's mockery. Kahlan rose and packed the bottle away into her bags, and then shifted so that she was close enough to lay a gentle hand on Cara's gloved one. Cara found herself pierced once again by eyes the color of a clear sky.

"Cara." She said it gently. Her name said in that tone of voice paralyzed the Mord'Sith. Kahlan held her with only her gaze. "In a few days, we are going to be surrounded yet again by duty. We are here, alone, in the middle of nothing." Kahlan looked away from her, and Cara felt her heart swell at the sight of the regal profile, long dark hair whipping around it.

The Mother Confessor was beautiful. Strength and dedication all etched themselves into her features, but compassion and kindness softened them. She turned back to stare into Cara, taking her gloved hand into both of her own. "If I can't let go here, for just a few moments, I can never let go." Kahlan said it with a sigh and then let go of her hand, and started moving back to sit on the rock she perched upon.

Something in her voice was sad, and suddenly, Cara realized where Kahlan's earlier melancholy originated. Even this fierce soul had limits, and Kahlan had reached hers. The argument with Richard had affected her, and despite the fact that she did her duty without question, it still weighed on the Mother Confessor's soul. Without even thinking of what she was doing, Cara surged forward catching her before she pulled away, and knelt before her. Whether she had intended to merely take her hand or embrace her, Cara could not say, because halfway to Kahlan, soft lips met hers in a gentle kiss, and suddenly she was lost. Kahlan's hair blew around them as their mouths met.

The lips were soft and warm; shocked she attempted to draw back, stunned that she had taken such a liberty with the Mother Confessor. Strong hands caught her around the shoulders, holding on to her. The kiss deepened, and on pure instinct, she opened her mouth to the one that was on her own. Her tongue surged against Kahlan's, plundering her mouth, tasting the liquor they had both consumed, and the taste of the woman herself. Arousal flooded her, and she wanted nothing more than to take and be taken. She let one hand drift down to Kahlan's waist, pulling the Confessor more tightly against her, and with a shudder, she felt the soft press of breasts against her own through the leather. Lips tore away from hers roughly, shattering the sensation. She felt Kahlan's forehead upon her own.

She opened her eyes to see the Confessor, eyes firmly shut, with an anguished look upon her face. Cara raised a dust-covered, blood-red leather clad hand to stroke her cheek, to reassure her. Kahlan leaned into the touch, but then pulled away.

"I'm sorry – I don't know what came over me. I shouldn't have done that." Kahlan's words were soft, and her eyes still closed. Her pale cheeks had a flush of pink to them in the firelight. Cara pulled her softly against her chest, and stroked her cheek with her own. She murmured into the shell of Kahlan's ear. A tenderness consumed her; it was a part of her spirit invoked only by the woman in her arms.

"It is alright, Kahlan." She felt the Confessor shudder. Her own breathing was heavy. Kahlan had sent arrows of desire through her, all converging in her center, all screaming at her to reclaim the dark haired siren's lips and possess the one causing her blood to race. Warm hands stroked up her back through her leather, and Cara involuntarily gasped with want.

"You can let go with me, Kahlan, and you certainly don't need to get me drunk for me to desire you." It was supposed to be teasing, but it couldn't be, not with the feelings coursing through her. It came out huskily and much more intimately than she had intended.

"I'm sorry Cara." Kahlan pulled back roughly, embarrassment coloring her pale cheeks, stood and walked ten paces away from her. "I forgot myself." Kahlan said it so softly, Cara almost wondered if she had really heard it or if it was the wind. Cara's arms were empty, but not as empty as the vacant tone with which Kahlan had spoken. The dust rising around Kahlan's boots was like the dust that the Mother Confessor had shaken from her Mord'Sith heart, causing it to beat and to feel again. There was nothing she could think of to say or do in that moment, but silently she willed her own strength into Kahlan.

Tendrils of desire still coiled through Kahlan, a day later. A night's sleep hadn't banished the kiss she had shared with Cara in the desert. She had slept across the fire from the Mord'Sith, not trusting herself to be close to the warm body. Or the lush curves, her mind devilishly taunted. As Kahlan watched the cocky, sensual saunter of the Mord'Sith's hips, she briefly closed her eyes. Cara had acted as though nothing had happened, and they had resumed their camaraderie on the trail.

Kahlan inwardly sighed, thinking again to the kiss she had pressed onto Cara. She hadn't intended to capture Cara's lips, but she had. She knew Cara blamed herself for it, but Kahlan knew that it wasn't the blond's fault – it had been her that had hungrily leaned forward. It had been her that had brought out the bottle of liquor, and it had been her that had embraced the Mord'Sith with desire. What had come over her?

It was Cara's trip to the brothel that had opened the floodgates in her mind. Her mind kept supplying her with visions of Cara naked, and Cara in the throes of passion. While she had never touched a woman in that way, her imagination was vivid. She had been aware that women could share such relations, but it hadn't occurred to her until the brothel incident that she might wish to engage in them herself. It certainly hadn't occurred to her that she might want to with Cara. The kiss had confirmed that not only might she want to, she wanted to with more intensity than she could ever recall feeling with Richard.

Thinking of Richard, Kahlan sighed, and breathed a prayer to the good spirits that he would be okay. Though her feelings had somewhat cooled toward Richard, she still loved him, didn't she? It was just the press of duty on her that was distracting her, she told herself. And it is the press of duty that is causing you to hold on to Richard. Her thoughts betrayed her.

Cara's response had been unexpected. Cara had responded with an intensity and passion Kahlan had never experienced. Cara did not hide her sexual side, but the tenderness that came through was a surprise. You can let go with me, Kahlan. Those low, soft words were spoken in her ear had nearly unhinged her. At that moment, Kahlan had realized she was playing with fire. If her control of her magic slipped, she wouldn't just Confess Cara, she would kill her. There was a time when she had nearly done so in justice and vengeance; at times it made her shudder to think of how close she had come to doing so. She would never forgive herself if she destroyed the woman that was Cara.

Maybe when Richard returned, everything would go back to normal and it would break the strange draw the Mord'Sith had over her. The thought of his warm brown eyes and his smile, though, didn't excite her as it once did. Instead, it was sparkling green eyes and a sensual smile that caused that excitement. Her eyes flickered to the red leather clad figure walking just ahead of her. It was soft swells and even softer lips that seared themselves into her memory now. She felt herself flush, and took a sip of her water from the skin at her waist, attempting to think of anything but that voice in her ear. You certainly don't have to get me drunk for me to desire you. The drink of water did nothing to stop the wetness, nor did it serve to quell the heat.

Cara and Kahlan had both decided that until Richard and Zedd returned, they would continue the ruse of the Mother Confessor hiding her presence. Practically speaking, Kahlan wanted to get to Renwold as quickly as possible, and with only the two of them, they would be slowed down if every flyspeck village along the way knew the Mother Confessor was coming to visit. They would force guards upon her, and such pomp and circumstance made travel as slow as syrup from a birchbark tree. Cara had also been wary about her protection; by knowing she was headed their way, there was far more opportunity for enemies to lie in wait. Cara wasn't concerned if an entire army came at them; she would still protect the Mother Confessor, but she agreed that it was tactically to their advantage to remain inconspicuous for the moment.

Arriving in Dalewood, the small town outside of Renwold where they would wait for Lord Rahl and the wizard, Cara once again made arrangements for their room. She briefly reconsidered making her normal request for a room with one large bed, but she found that nothing inside of her could come up with a reason to do so. She had said nothing about the heated moment in the desert and Kahlan had not brought it up again, either. Accordingly, she decided, there was no reason to change the routine. And you really don't want to, anyway, her mind unhelpfully supplied. She took a certain delight in knowing the Mother Confessor had never suspected that Cara purposefully chose their rooming arrangements.

She was also determined to locate additional horses so that the two of them would not be forced to resort to walking everywhere in the event a similar circumstance arose. Richard and Zedd had taken their horses as spares, a fact which had irritated Cara to no end. The Mother Confessor needed to get to Renwold, but as usual, Lord Rahl had put his priorities above everyone else. The Mother Confessor had said nothing, but Cara could tell that it grated on her nerves. It was a petty retaliation for Kahlan not going with him, and the Mord'Sith had told him so, but as usual, Lord Rahl had ordered her to her duty.

Once again, the nagging feeling that Kahlan was in so many ways more suited to rule entered Cara's mind. Kahlan would have considered all the options; she would have made arrangements if troops were ill, likely going herself, but she wouldn't have crossed the Divide just to save a few days. She certainly wouldn't and hadn't contemplating going that way just for the purposes of a dalliance, even if it was with the man she loved. That Lord Rahl had chosen a way that required him to leave behind the Sword of Truth, split them up and abandon the Mother Confessor without horses was just foolhardy in her opinion. It was her place to disagree and offer her input, which she had, but when he made a decision she could only obey.

"Mo … Kahlan, I'm going to locate extra horses if there are any available. We need spares in the event one becomes lame, or other circumstances arise." She had nearly slipped and called her by her title. The Confessor arched a brow rather sardonically at her.

"Am I to assume this errand will take an hour or two, and that you will come back bathed, in a good mood with no luck at finding these "supplies"?" There was teasing in her tone, but the look on her face made it sound a bit harsher than it may have been intended. Her blue eyes were unreadable.

Cara's frustration over the looks Kahlan had been sending her, combined with the knowledge that earlier she had considered just that while rejecting the idea stung her. She seized both Agiels in her hands, the pain tempering her anger somewhat, but not enough to keep all heat out of her voice. "I am going to look for the saddle-wearing four-legged variety, Kahlan, not something with two legs to mount."

Kahlan's cheeks flushed but whether with anger at her tone or embarrassment in the way Cara had phrased her answer was unclear. Her face became the Mother Confessor's in an instant, and icy blue eyes calmly confronted the Mord'Sith's glare. The fact that Kahlan had brought up the visit to the brothel irritated Cara, and the disapproval clear in the way she had addressed the subject irritated the Mord'Sith even more. Biting back a retort that Kahlan should try it some time, knowing that it would be a cruel thing to say to the Confessor, she spun on her heel wordlessly. She slammed the door to their room as she left, still gripping an Agiel in one hand.

Irrationally, it incensed her even more that she was adhering to her mission of protecting them. She had already decided against locating "entertainment" in favor of doing her duty. Of either of them, Kahlan should have been the one who suggested finding spare horses. The Mother Confessor certainly would be able to subtly utilize her considerable resources and knowledge of the area to locate them far faster than a Mord'Sith. As she stalked through the common room, the few customers there shied away from her angry glare. The pounding of a great many hooves immediately banished her anger, and the whine of her Agiels sounded in her hands.

No sooner had she exited the inn than there was a commotion in the streets. A squad of mounted D'Haran soldiers dusted up the road, with the townspeople giving them a wide berth. Two figures in red leather on mounts of the glossiest jet black lead them with composed faces and confidence that radiated their deadly abilities. Frightened townspeople either stopped and stared, shouted, or went running off in all directions. Clearly, this close to D'Hara, the inhabitants weren't entirely unfamiliar with this occurrence. Cara rolled her eyes. So much for being inconspicuous. Spotting Cara through the crowd, the two Mord'Sith immediately rode up to her and dismounted.

"Berdine, Raina, what are you doing here?" She snapped out impatiently before their boots touched the ground. She gripped an Agiel in one hand; she no longer was comfortable with Mord'Sith appearing out of nowhere, and with good reason. Richard might be the Lord Rahl, but she still remembered the last time she had encountered her Sisters. Vaguely, she heard a voice reassuring the frightened townsfolk in calm tones, but at that moment, she was focused on the potential threat.

"Lord Rahl has sent us ahead to protect the Mother Confessor." Berdine answered with a smile. "It seems she has a reputation for finding trouble, and Lord Rahl thought we could be of assistance." Cara bristled at the implications in Berdine's comment. She was implying that Cara was not able to protect the Mother Confessor on her own. Even worse, was the implicit insult to Kahlan as though she was a wayward child rather than the Mother Confessor of the Midlands herself, and a warrior more than capable of protecting her own. Berdine was in for a rude awakening on both counts.

"And who will assist you, Berdine, in getting out of the trouble you are in with me?" She said it with a malicious smile, threat clear in her voice. She then felt a warm palm on her back, and without turning, she knew who it was. Kahlan was standing beside her. Despite her annoyance with the Confessor, Kahlan could be relied upon to confront potential problems personally, and without hesitation. While that made protecting the Mother Confessor more challenging, it also guaranteed that she would be in the center of the storm right along with Cara. Kahlan knew what she had gone through at the hands of her Sisters. She was pleased she had restrained herself from hurling regrettable words at the Mother Confessor. If for no other reason than her forgiveness, and her sincere friendship, Kahlan did not deserve her anger; she deserved her loyalty.

Berdine and Raina had the good sense to back down at the sight of the the wrath on Cara's face, and the dangerous glint in the cool eyes of the Mother Confessor. "Mother Confessor." Berdine inclined her head deeply to her, respectfully avoiding meeting Kahlan's eyes, as was proper. "Lord Rahl has sent us ahead with word. He will be arriving in the morning." Kahlan's hair was free, and she had the Sword of Truth on her back. It was plain for all to see who it was in their midst, despite the fact that she was in her traveling leathers. The townspeople had stopped in the streets awestruck.

Cara was glad that Berdine had chosen to temper her demeanor with the Mother Confessor and had avoided mentioning the word protection. She was still angry at Berdine's veiled insults, but affronting Kahlan's pride in her own lands would have been disastrous. She would still remind Berdine of her place later, but had she greeted the Mother Confessor with a shred less respect she would have reminded her forcefully right there in the street. If I got the chance before Kahlan did it first, she mused.

"He did, did he?" The Mother Confessor was the one speaking just then, her face expressionless, and her tone even with traces of arrogant self-assurance that made Cara inwardly smile. Kahlan made no moves and said nothing further as she waited for the approach of the rest of the soldeirs. A huge blond D'Haran waved the soldiers to dismount, and approached them, dropping to a knee with a fist over his heart. "Mother Confessor, I'm Sergeant Kimmel. We are camped outside of the town, one hundred strong and at your service." Cara could hear the intake of breath at her shoulder. She didn't need to see Kahlan's face to know it was the frozen mask of the Mother Confessor, nor to know that she was seething with anger.

The unmistakeable ring of the Sword of Truth being drawn echoed in the Mord'Sith's ears, but to the D'Haran Sergeant's credit, he didn't so much as twitch as the Mother Confessor brought the Sword to bear. Kahlan held it loosely with both hands, point down in front of her. It looked as relaxed as it did deadly. For long moments, silence reigned and both the soldiers and the townspeople held their collective breath. The anger of the Sword of Truth surged through the tall form beside her, and while Cara's expression and stance never wavered, she was prepared to draw her Agiels and strike in an instant.

"Mistress Cara," Kahlan finally spoke, voice sharp with command, stressing the appellation. Chilly blue eyes caught her own, the composure and strength of the Mother Confessor causing the Mord'Sith in her to stand a little taller with pride, "Please see to your squad and impress upon them what is expected. While the Midlands are courteous enough to tolerate them for the sake of their Lord Rahl, it is only at my discretion and my continued, but limited largess." The Mother Confessor's voice was clear enough to carry throughout the town, and as cold as the glacial pond her blue eyes resembled. Her voice was the unmistakable voice of command, absent of warmth in its finality.

Cara was struck by the sight of the Mother Confessor as she stood before twenty-five armored soldiers and two Mord'Sith, with the Sword of Truth in her hand. She had never seemed so beautiful to Cara as she did at that moment, dark hair streaming around her stern face. The fury in her eyes made it clear that she was prepared to end her largess immediately and personally. Her back was straight, and she was every inch a warrior Queen. Pride, wonder and arousal coursed through Cara at the transformation of this woman from kind friend only moments ago, to majestic, implacable ruler. At that moment, Cara felt a loyalty and desire to serve this fierce Queen with every fiber of her being. Twenty-five soldiers dropped to their knees, fists to their hearts along with the two Mord'Sith. Cara felt the urge to kneel herself, but a glance from Kahlan held her upright.

"I'm sure you can coordinate with the local garrison to decide where the D'Harans may camp. I will make certain the local garrison understands their purpose here is as an honor guard to Lord Rahl and not as an invading army." The Mother Confessor had clearly said that for the benefit of the townspeople, and the garrison commander who had arrived with a squad of foot soldiers.

"By your will, Mother Confessor." Cara responded formally, her voice even. Command came easily to the blond Mord'Sith. Kahlan felt a burst of pride in her own heart at Cara's effortless ability to take control. With one last look at the D'Harans who knelt before her, Kahlan sheathed the Sword of Truth and strode away with purpose toward the local commander. The Mother Confessor had in a few short sentences justified their presence, and demonstrated that not only were these D'Harans under her command, they were under the command of someone that was subordinate to her. At another time, it might have grated on Cara's nerves, but now, it just struck her as both politically wise, and exactly what she had wished for the moment she'd seen them ride into the town.

Explicitly naming Cara as the head of the contingent allowed her to avoid giving commands to D'Haran soldiers, which, regardless of Richard's thoughtless orders, were an honor guard for Lord Rahl. The Mother Confessor could never accept an honor guard in her own lands made up of any but her own soldiers. To do otherwise would be a grave insult to her and to her land's ability to defend itself. She had merely glanced into Cara's green eyes, and she had known the Mord'Sith understood the situation.

No one had dared moved from their kneeling position under the hard green gaze of the Mord'Sith. "Mistress Berdine," Cara, sounding instantly like the head of the Mord'Sith that she had once been, "Stable the blacks, then wait at the stables for more instructions." It was an insult to order a Mord'Sith to wait at the stables, but no more than the previous insults had deserved. Her voice carried easily, and her green eyes were sharp enough to pierce an anvil. Berdine rose immediately, gathering the reins of the two black Mord'Sith stallions.

"Sergeant Kimmel, leave your best two horses with Mistress Berdine." The Sergeant rose then motioned his men in orders. He selected his own sorrel warhorse and a grey, his second pressing a fist to his heart then immediately following after the auburn haired Mord-Sith. Their military efficiency pleased her, and they appeared to have proper discipline. Those that were not given orders stood ramrod straight in formation, as though afraid to breath.

"Mistress Raina," The dark-haired Mord'Sith had remained kneeling until addressed, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Cara. She had always respected Raina's sense of duty and her judgment. She had likely cautioned Berdine against her antics, but Berdine being who she was didn't listen. "Return with the Sergeant and his men. Disturb nothing on the way, and stay there until you are sent for." She shot a hard glance at the Mord'Sith, allowing a trace of amusement to sparkle in her eyes, one she knew only a Mord'Sith could detect. "You will keep order." The huge blond D'Haran and Raina both clapped fists to their hearts; Cara had explicitly told Sergeant Kimmel that while he was in command of the soldiers, the dark-haired Mord'Sith was in command of the camp. Mord'Sith were uniquely qualified at public relations, and Cara had no intention of letting anything escalate out of control due to the orders of a hotblooded soldier.

Without another word, Cara looked at Kahlan, ever the Mother Confessor at that moment. She had apparently finished with the garrison commander, though she was now trailed by four soldiers. From this point on, now that it was clear that the Mother Confessor was in their midst, Kahlan would be trailed by soldiers. The Mord'Sith Protector in her was relieved, but Cara herself rather regretted that duty was upon them once again. Kahlan's back was straight, and easy grace covered her features. She was confident, and conveyed that confidence to everyone around her. The townsfolk were smiling in their ease as the soldiers rode from town, and Kahlan took charge of the situation.

Cara decided that things were well in hand for the moment to approach Berdine. "Berdine. Explain why twenty-five soldiers were required for you to meet with us." Cara's asked coldly, pinning the tall auburn-haired Mord'Sith with a glare.

"Mistress Cara, in the end, it turned out to be the proper solution. The Mother Confessor impressed the men; they will in turn tell the others. Lord Rahl had not mentioned how formidable his betrothed is, and the implication that she needed protection gave the wrong idea." Berdine explained succinctly, no apology in her voice. While Cara agreed inwardly, she allowed herself to appear unconvinced.

"It could have also gotten all twenty-five of them killed, Berdine – you know I am most certainly capable of it. The Mother Confessor is just as capable, despite what Lord Rahl ordered." The irritation that Cara felt at hearing Kahlan called Lord Rahl's betrothed was nothing new, but the fresh intensity of it was. She seized an Agiel to keep the anger from causing her to beat Berdine senseless.

If Berdine was chastened, she didn't show it, but she did smile. " It is a pleasure to serve Lord Rahl by serving the Mother Confessor. She certainly is...," Trailing off, Berdine flashed her eyes at Cara for a brief second, "She is beautiful and certainly capable of protecting herself and those she cares for." It sounded sincere enough. It fanned the flames of Cara's temper, however. She wanted to hit something, but more than anything, she wanted to be next to Kahlan again.

"Go back to the camp. In the morning, I want you here to provide backup protection for Kah...the Mother Confessor." She hoped that Berdine had missed her slip, but the auburn-haired Mord'Sith's feaures had betrayed nothing but attentiveness. With a smile, she added, "Ride the grey horse; we will be keeping the blacks." She intended to make certain that the Mother Confessor had a mount worthy of her. She could think of nothing more worthy than the glossy, black stallions of the Mord'Sith. It would also serve to irritate Berdine as much as Berdine was currently irritating her. She knew Berdine loved the animal, and the slight twitch near the auburn-haired Mord'Sith's eye told her she had scored a direct hit. "Make certain that everyone understands that they are to pay for anything they acquire, and that they are to behave as guests here."

After leaving Berdine in the stables, she approached Kahlan, swallowed up by a crowd of fawning subjects. Now that she had revealed herself, there were forms to be observed, local politicians desperate to offer platitudes, and information to be gained. After the fifth confirmation of where the local garrison should post soldiers, despite the lack of necessity of doing so, she was irritated for Kahlan. It was needless, but they needed do it for the Mother Confessor. Finally, Kahlan politely mentioned that she needed some refreshment from their travels. It took another fifteen minutes for Kahlan to assure them that the Inn suited her needs, and the Innkeeper boasting that accommodations at the Spur and Gavel were the finest in Dalewood, if not Renwold itself.

Meeting Cara's eyes, Kahlan flashed her eyes to the inn. Cara decided that intervention would be necessary. "Mother Confessor, I have received a message for you. I realize that despite our long journey you wish to spend time with your people, but I believe this matter cannot wait despite the fact that you have not rested properly in two days." Cara received glances as though she was the Keeper herself for requesting the Mother Confessor's attention, then shame filled glances at her pointed words. At least ten minutes later, the hangers on allowed Cara to extricate the Confessor from their midst to retire in their room at the Inn.

Kahlan signaled for the soldiers to remain in the common room to stand guard. Cara nodded at the guards almost imperceptibly and followed at her shoulder. If the Mord'Sith was fuming, the Confessor was furious. Silently they went upstairs into the room. This time, it was Kahlan that slammed the door. Fury, exhaustion and irritation colored her tone.

"I cannot believe Richard would send a contingent of D'Haran soldiers through my lands. Did he not realize he could have sparked a war?" This was the Mother Confessor, offended, affronted and extremely angry. "I cannot believe Zedd let him do it, either! He is supposed to be advising him!" Her voice was laced with bitter fury.

"Berdine most certainly should have known better. She has lived nearly all of her life at the People's Palace." Cara scoffed. "If the Lord Rahl gave her an order, she had no choice but to follow it, but she certainly could have followed it with more finesse than marching twenty-five soldiers into town unannounced."

"Do you trust them, Cara?" This was asked gently, and there was the tone of her voice that compelled honesty. Kahlan had felt much better after witnessing the discipline that Cara had commanded, but she need to hear it from the one D'Haran she trusted implicitly. She took the Mord'Sith's hand in her own, the touch conveying that she also realized that it was trying for Cara to be in the presence of her sisters. Once again, Cara was struck by Kahlan's ability to be so many things; she felt all the feelings from earlier rise in her again. She took Kahlan's other hand in hers and Cara faced the Confessor, eyes intent on the startlingly blue ones.

Her voice was filled with assurance, but much lower than she had expected . "You are a formidable Ruler and Commander, Mother Confessor; D'Harans cannot help but respond to that." She looked away, but remained holding Kahlan's hands in her own.

At a soft squeeze of the gloved fingers, Cara's green eyes flickered to Kahlan again, almost seeming to caress her face with the glance. Cara hesitated, then a gloved hand lifted to stroke Kahlan's cheek in one feathery touch. When Cara spoke again, her tone was almost intimate. "You are also a wonderfully brave and beautiful woman, Kahlan Amnell; I cannot help but respond to that." With that, Cara dropped her glove from Kahlan's cheek, and she released the Confessor's hand.

"I'll order us something to eat so that we can do so in peace." The Mord'Sith turned and exited, the words lingering in the room with Kahlan for long moments after the blond had left her there, her own emotions and thoughts swirling. A smile finally settled on Kahlan's lips as she looked around the room and realized that if nothing else, they were in a room with only one bed and some momentary peace. She sat down on it, exhausted by the relentless political meanderings that would no doubt occur the longer she stayed in this tiny town.

Awakening to a knock at the door, Cara pulled herself from sleep, the tickling of hair at her nose. The Confessor she held close to her, protected and warm, stirred in her arms, as well. Cara was in a bare shirt and her breeches. The Mother Confessor was in a shift that covered her nearly to her knees, but it was Cara that rose to open the door. She cared little if her body was bared; she was as deadly dangerous naked and unarmed as any ten armed and armored soldiers. Throwing open the door, a young man that had barely gotten a deeper voice greeted her. To his credit, his eyes swept her body quickly, then focused completely on her eyes, as though he was holding the gaze with his dear life. He was, but not for looking at the completely under-dressed woman standing before him. Had his eyes flickered for a second toward the Mother Confessor, who remained in the bed, she would have introduced him to her fist.

Morning was not the best time of day for the Mord'Sith, not that she would have felt differently in the afternoon or night.

Wordlessly, she glared into the eyes holding hers. "There," the young man's voice cracked a little, and he gave a swallow before continuing. "There's an old man downstairs that wants to see the Mother Confessor, and says he's the First Wizard. He's with another man, younger, who calls himself the Seeker and a woman dressed in red leather." The young man shifted his feet, as though he wanted to dance with excitement at the prospect of not only the Mother Confessor in town, but a First Wizard and the Seeker of Truth. Berdine had apparently met up with the Lord Rahl at her command to arrive in the morning. It pleased Cara to know Berdine still followed her orders without question.

Cara inwardly smirked at the barely hidden intrigue in the young man's voice, while her face betrayed nothing. "Tell Zedd and the Lord Rahl that the Mother Confessor and I will meet them in the common room for breakfast. See to it that the Wizard doesn't eat everything in the kitchen before we arrive, and send up wash water." She shut the door on whatever reply he could offer; she didn't really care to hear it. Kahlan had risen from the bed, and she wasn't about to let a serving boy gawk at the Mother Confessor in her shift.

Their meeting was not a happy one. Kahlan was still fuming over Richard sending an army through her lands. The Wizard's glance was unreadable. "Zedd, how could you let Richard order a foreign army onto my lands? You, of all people, should know better." Her eyes probed the Wizard, but if he was uncomfortable with the scrutiny, he didn't betray it.

"I did what I thought was best, Kahlan, as the Seeker and as Lord Rahl." Richard interrupted hotly. Kahlan held his eyes for long moments, her face composed, though etched with traces of anger.

Cara buttered a piece of toast, keeping her face neutral. It was her duty to support the Lord Rahl, despite her own personal opinion of the matter. If she bit into the toast and chewed on it more forcefully than necessary, while shooting a look at the Lord Rahl in question, it was to be expected.

She was bound by duty, but she wasn't politically ignorant. Far from it, Mord'Sith understood politics better than most. Lord Rahl looked away, stuffing a forkful of eggs into his mouth. He grimaced and drank from his mug, clearly wanting to rid his palate of the taste. Berdine had accidentally knocked the pepper over into his plate earlier, but Lord Rahl hadn't noticed the mishap. Cara forgave the auburn-haired Mord'Sith for her earlier insults when the Lord Rahl's face reddened with the effort. It really was his responsibility to be aware of attempts to poison him. Coddling Lord Rahls that were capable of taking care of themselves was not her duty.

Kahlan, of course, had more compassion. "Richard are you alright?" She asked it graciously, and though she was angry with him, she offered her own cup for him to drink from. He coughed, and accepted the kindness with relief. Cara continued eating her toast, wondering if Lord Rahl would have had the same awareness that the Mother Confessor so effortlessly displayed. No one at Kahlan's table would be allowed to suffer; even one who deserved it. Meeting the blue eyes of Berdine across the table, she realized that she wasn't the only one considering that question.

When Richard's coughing subsided, he spoke abruptly, a raptor gaze on the Mother Confessor's face. "I'm going to Westland, Kahlan. Chase brought me a message that I'm needed there." His eyes darted to encompass everyone at the table, mugs halted on the way to their mouths, chewing stopped for a moment. Kahlan recovered first. She responded by rising from the table, throwing her napkin upon it and exiting the inn. Cara watched her go, wanting to go to her, but she settled for a glare at Lord Rahl. He threw his fork onto the plate, following the Confessor, accompanied by Zedd and Berdine who also rose.

Popping the last bit of the toast in her mouth, Cara then plunked down several coins on the table. It figured that Lord Rahl would find a way to leave her with the bill. Draining her tea, she sighed. They never could eat a meal together without disruption.

Lord Rahl was adamant about leaving. An axe was on his shoulder, and Chase, the Boundary Warden was at his side. Zedd merely looked distinctly worn and still hungry, clearly irritated that his breakfast had been interrupted. Cara couldn't fault him since she was feeling the same irritation.

"They will put people to the sword, Kahlan, and the Westland will burn." Lord Rahl's voice carried, and the anger with which he gripped the axe-hilt was unmistakeable. He was a man on the edge of violence. He was nearly gone to destruction out of loyalty, and it would have sickened Cara to see something so heroic had she not admired it in Kahlan. It tore her in two to compare them; Lord Rahl was a reminder of her duty, but Kahlan was duty. She wanted to snarl at herself for being so divided. The problem was that the Mother Confessor was right.

"I can't stand by and let that happen, anymore than you can let it happen here in the Midlands - not if I can save them. They won't listen to you or to D'Harans, but they will listen to the Boundary Wardens and to me." Richard spoke vehemently, his stance firm and raptor gaze in place. "Someone has to go and lead them to defend themselves against the Imperial Order."

"And what of the bond, Richard? When you cross over into the Westland, there will be no one to protect you. You are the Seeker, and the ruler of D'Hara. You would leave all of D'Hara vulnerable to the Dreamwalker if something happens to you. You would leave all who are sworn to you vulnerable, including Zedd, Cara and me." Kahlan was aghast that he would even consider such a thing. Kahlan wondered if here and now she was going to have to Confess him to get him to do his duty. She would certainly incapacitate him if necessary.

A glance to the Mord'Sith told her that Cara was fully prepared to do what was needed, as well. Cara, for all of her dislike of magic, clearly understood the implications for the D'Harans, the bond that protected them from the Dreamwalker, and for the Mord'Sith themselves. Kahlan needed to see little more than the flash of her green eyes to know that the Mord'Sith had no intentions of letting Lord Rahl hare off to Westland.

"It is the duty of a Confessor to protect the Seeker, and I can't do that with you in the Westland, when you are needed here and in D'Hara." Kahlan's tone was cold and controlled. "Here you have armies to protect you; in the Westland, you have no guarantee they will not turn you over to the Imperial Order, much less that they will follow you."

"It's the place of a Wizard to protect the Mother Confessor, but you don't have one of those, either!" He shouted back, reminding her how all of their roles had been disrupted. Determination hardened his features; Kahlan knew he was loyal to the people of the Westland and always would be.

"It's my duty to protect the Lord Rahl *and* the Mother Confessor." Cara growled, torn in this conflict, but needing to at least take part in it. She must remind herself of her duty.

"It's my duty as First Wizard to protect all three of you from your own foolishness!" Zedd's voice thundered in all of their ears, at that moment every bit the First Wizard Zo'rander. Each of them paused for a moment, hands to heads except Cara, who just shook hers with a look of irritation on her face. "All of you are so eager to throw away your own lives, and if you do, you will throw away everyone in the New World with you." The Mother Confessor had the sense to look abashed, but Richard pressed on.

"Zedd," Richard looked at his wizard grandfather, who looked resigned and anything but pleased. "We have to do this. You named me the Seeker and you know I must do this. It's the only way to save Westland, the Midlands and D'Hara."

The Mother Confessor looked sharply at Zedd. Anyone else would have quailed under that glare, but the First Wizard merely sighed, his countenance no more ashen than it already was. "Wizard Zo'rander," she said formally, "I have a duty to the Seeker, but my first duty is to the Midlands. Lord Rahl has a duty to the D'Harans, and to protect them with the bond. You know what is coming for us." Unspoken was that Richard had a duty to the remaining Wizards and Gifted that could be controlled through the Bond.

"The Seeker," He said with emphasis, "Lord Rahl has agreed to pass the Bond on to a new ruler of D'Hara in his stead, so that the bond may protect both the Midlands and D'Hara. It will unite them under one who bears the Rahl bond." Zedd eyed her. "The Seeker cannot be chained against the Truth that he knows he must follow, Kahlan, you know this." He said gently.

Very little caused the Mother Confessor to lose her composure, but this news threatened to do so. "And who would this person be, Zedd, that could turn on us in an instant and break the fragile bonds we have already forged? Who would you entrust our lives to – with whom would you entrust the lives of every D'Haran, and thereby the lives of everyone in the New World to in this cause?" She was pale, but she remained strong. Cara felt a flash of cold go through her soul, as well. The next Lord Rahl could order her from the Mother Confessor's side as easily as breathing and she would have no choice to obey.

Zedd's eyes remained as steady as his voice, piercing her own. "The one that has already forged those fragile bonds, Mother Confessor. You, Kahlan Amnell, will take the Bond of Alric Rahl ." Kahlan's eyes blinked in disbelief, but the Confessor in her maintained enough composure to keep her jaw from flying open as it nearly had. A sharp gasp caught her attention.

Kahlan flicked her eyes over to the Mord'Sith who had made the uncharacteristically startled noise. Just as quickly as the intake of breath had happened, Cara's features were back to her ever stoic expression, but approval shown in the green eyes that briefly met her own. Clearly this idea did not displease the Mord'Sith. Kahlan felt oddly warmed by that knowledge. The Mord'Sith's confidence in her gave her strength.

"Kahlan, my people are from Westland. It's my home. This isn't what I want to do, this is what I have to do." Richard's eyes took on their characteristic warm sparkle and he smiled. "I can't be the Lord Rahl, and we will need the Westlanders. You've already won over many of the D'Harans. They will follow you as Queen of D'Hara and Lady Rahl."

Kahlan couldn't fault his logic. If the Imperial Order landed in the Westland, and secured a foothold there, they would have resources and a pass that they could hold. The Order would have a shipping lane, and a means to keep themselves supplied. They could then stream into the Midlands from both the Westland and from D'Hara. It would be a battle on two fronts rather than one – a tremendous tactical advantage for an army as large as the Imperial Order.

Chase, the hulking Boundary Warden spoke up, his deep voice serious. "We've already sighted scouting ships near Kings Port, and Order soldiers at market under the guise of trade. The Imperial Order is preparing to move into the Westland. Some of the Council are willing to listen to them. I've seen what the Order does, Mother Confessor; unless we all stand together, united, they will destroy the Westland and leave the Midlands and D'Hara vulnerable, too." Chase's gaze didn't waver as he caught Kahlan's eye.

"Will they follow him, Chase? Can Richard unite the Westland to repel the Order there?" Kahlan's voice was the controlled tones of the Mother Confessor, assessing the situation tactically. Cara knew, though, that she was still concerned for the Lord Rahl, even as she would do what had to be done.

"If anyone can, Mother Confessor, it would be Richard. With Michael gone, opinion has changed to favor his brother. We need a leader, and Richard Cypher's name comes up at every gathering. Everyone on the Council knows Richard's commitment to our people, as do the Boundary Wardens. It's why I came looking for him." Kahlan searched him for the truth, and found that he told it. She nodded her head at him.

Turning to him, Kahlan took Richard's hand, and lead him away from their friends for privacy. She felt that strange ache she had been feeling since the trek across the desert blooming within her again, and realized that Richard's return would not be resolving anything with regard to her feelings for Cara. The Seeker within him and the Confessor within her sought the truth, even the uncomfortable ones.

"Richard, are you sure this is what you wish to do? To pass your leadership on to me, the Bond to your people?" The implications were staggering, but she made her face take on the countenance of the Mother Confessor. She knew the very lack of emotion conveyed emotion to Richard, because he brushed a hand through his bangs in exasperation. It was something they had argued about frequently. She had a destiny that was preordained by who and what she was; he contended that people made their own destinies.

"The D'Haran's aren't my people Kahlan; the Westlanders are my people. They always have been." He sighed, looking away from her. "Chase came to me before Zedd and I left for the Divide. When you chose not to come with me, it answered a question. I do this Kahlan, because even though I love you, I know that your duty will always come first. I don't think we can ever be what we want to each other. As the Seeker, I have to accept the truth whether I like it or not."

His gaze was sad, but resigned, and Kahlan couldn't help but feel a pang of sorrow. His hand was soft on her own as he caressed her fingers, and Kahlan thought for a moment that he would move to kiss her. She was strangely relieved when he didn't. Another kiss echoed in her mind too strongly, and she realized that she didn't want to compromise the memory of it with anyone else's lips. Not even Richard, whom she had once thought she loved.

"There's more, Kahlan." Richard said this quietly, his gaze the soft, intent one of the Seeker that was telling a painful truth. "The D'Harans have seen fighting near Renwold. I can't lead D'Harans in the Midlands, but you can." Kahlan wanted to bristle at the idea that she needed D'Harans to protect the Midlands, but the truth of the matter was that it would take days to mount an adequate defense from the north, days they may not have.

As the Queen of D'Hara, with D'Harans under her command, it was at her discretion. Her mind reeled with the implications of merging the two forces together, but pragmatism in the end decided. It always did in war. "We are all in this together, Kahlan, as we always have been. It's just coming full circle; this time to draw us apart." His smile was sad, but also conveyed a sense of relief that she hadn't seen in him for a while, either. Perhaps he wasn't the only one that had felt torn by duty.

She embraced him, feeling him as a brother and the friend he had always been to her. Tears splashed down her cheeks at the ache she saw in his eyes, but honesty told her she didn't feel in her own heart. She was a Confessor, uniquely created to see the truth, and the Seeker of Truth would also see it. Richard would always be someone she loved, but she wasn't in love with him. He smiled sadly as they pulled away, and she felt the same smile when his fingertips brushed away her tears. He took her hand and they both stood before Zedd. It was as united in purpose as they had ever been.

With resolve, they faced the Wizard, to declare their intentions to complete the ceremony. It was much like declaring a marriage, or a funeral in this case. Kahlan's romantic intentions for Richard had faded, but it pained her to see that he was struggling against his own. She realized that the Divide had, indeed, told him what he needed to know. He was acting as the Seeker, and by choosing this course of action, he had forced her hand. She wanted to bless him and rage at him in equal measure for it. There were no excuses and no decisions that were not her own, now, and while that comforted her, it also frightened her. She would remain strong, though, and reveal none of those fears.

Cara reached out to take her hand. Kahlan was about to shake it off, knowing how embarrassed Cara would be to show compassion in public. She couldn't show anything but strength. She refused to offer Cara her eyes, but Kahlan allowed herself to take it. With Berdine and Raina following behind them, and eight soldiers, both D'Haran and Midland, Cara led her to the bank of the river. Away from the crowds gathering, with the soldiers taking watch with Berdine and Raina standing forth to rebuff the merely curious, Cara seated her at a blanket spread with a very light lunch, then moved away to take up her own station. Strangely, for once, she didn't feel alone. With every bite of fruit that she took, and every spalsh of the river, she felt the subtle presence of care watching over her.

"This is not a duty I expected," she said formally, all the Mother Confessor, "but I will do what is necessary to take leadership of D'Hara as a Rahl. The New World will not give up an inch of ground to the Imperial Order that is not covered in the blood of D'Harans, Westlanders and Midlanders alike, along with the corpses of our enemies. It is war they seek, and it is war they will get. We will fight without quarter." Her voice carrying to both the gathering of townspeople that gasped, and the soldiers that stood in parade formation to the side. The Mother Confessor's fierce defiance was reflected in her tone – it was sharp and cold like steel. Cara nearly shivered in anticipation hearing it; there was no one more suited to keep that promise than Kahlan Amnell.

Her aristocratic features could shift from compassion to determination in an instant; resolve was clearly written in the set of her mouth, arch of her neck and the clench of her fists. The Mord'Sith in her tried to ignore it, but the warrior and the woman inside of her, the part walled away by all things Mord'Sith, was knifed by her raw beauty. Cara cursed herself for her weakness, but she knew her features had softened slightly, and wondered if the Mother Confessor had read it in the glance that ghosted over her in just that moment.

Zedd removed a large, clear crystal dangling on a chain from his robes, and held it aloft. "The bloodstone of Alric Rahl. It is part of the reason we went into the Divide." Kahlan quirked an eyebrow at both Richard and the First Wizard in question. "Yes, we knew, but I wasn't certain we would find the Bloodstone, and it seemed premature to announce the idea if it didn't work. I also wasn't certain we would be able to get it out of the Divide without destroying it. It functions similarly to a quillion in that it transfers magic."

"Draw the Sword of Truth, Mother Confessor, and make a strike on your left forearm." The ring of the Sword being drawn seemed to bring a chill of finality to the air. Kahlan struck it across her forearm, immediately drawing a line of blood. Zedd held the crystal to the cut, and it seemed to fill, absorbing her blood into itself until it was full and completely red. Kahlan felt strangely light-headed, as though she had bled far more than expected to merely fill the crystal. When she staggered slightly, she felt Cara's palm at her back and a hand on her waist steadying her.

The Mord'Sith hissed in discontent. "Wizard, you had best know what you are doing. If that thing is broken or its magic causes harm, you'll wish for Denna's tender affections." Kahlan was paler than usual. Cara was uncomfortable with magic, and it made her twice as irritable that it was being used on the Mother Confessor. And Lord Rahl, she added as an afterthought, but her mind had already transferred its loyalties to the Mother Confessor. Now it would just be in the capacity of Lady Rahl, her Mistress Rahl if this worked.

The sight of Kahlan so clearly steadied and comforted by the Mord'Sith's hand on her sent an arrow of sorrow to Richard's heart, but one that he smiled softly to cover up. He set his jaw around the pain, and sent gentle reassurances to the blond who was desperately trying to sound gruff instead of worried. Worried not for the future Lord Rahl, or the present one, but so clearly focused on Kahlan. That Kahlan drank in the strength of the Mord'Sith's touch, when she would have once shrank away, clarified it all. He had never been completely comfortable with the Mord'Sith's touch, and he had certainly never stroked her reassuringly, as Cara allowed Kahlan to do in return. He would have gotten his arm bitten off, Lord Rahl or not.

In that moment, Richard knew he had done the right thing, as much as it sent a blade to his heart. It had been a string of events that had lead them here, a flurry of looks and touches, but ultimately, Richard knew that from the moment Cara had entered their lives, he had lost Kahlan's romantic affections. He had ignored it and tried to continue on, but looking at the stern, blood-red leather clad woman and seeing true emotion in her eyes, he refused to lie to himself. They might not know it yet, but Richard felt it as strongly as an arrow to his body. Shota had been right; he and Kahlan could not be together - not just because of their potential children. While the hot stab of jealousy gripped him, he forced himself to focus.

"Richard Rahl, Seeker of Truth," Zedd intoned, ignoring the Mord'Sith's jibe, "Strike with your weapon on your right forearm." Richard drew the large axe, the one that he had been carrying since arriving in Dalewood. She feared he would slice his arm too deeply with the heavy weapon, but as he struck with the edge, merely a line of blood welled up. Zedd pressed the crystal to Richard's right forearm. It seemed to be draining into the slice on his arm, disappearing into him rather than flowing out. When the crystal turned clear, Zedd directed Richard to make the cut on his left forearm this time. The axe struck again, another clean line denoting how sharp it was. Once again Zedd held the Bloodstone of Alric to the wound, and the crystal filled to red to the top.

"Mother Confessor, Kahlan Amnell, strike with the Sword of Truth on your right forearm." Kahlan complied. As blood disappeared into the slice on her arm and the crystal turned clear again as it had for Richard, Cara was pleased to note the color seemed to return to the Mother Confessor's cheeks. Then she felt it. As the last of the color disappeared from the crystal, it was as though she suddenly became aware of the power of the Lord Rahl, Mistress Rahl, flow into the tall slim form beside her.

She felt an immediate urge to drop in devotion, and it seemed more meaningful than it ever had for her. She felt part of the Mother Confessor's strength flow into her, the familiar intensity of her, combined with the awareness and power of a Rahl. The Lady Rahl, for the first time in their history, Queen of D'Hara. Richard, Chase and Zedd pledged it along with her, repeating the words that would cement them in the bond to the Mother Confessor, Lady Rahl and protect them from the Dreamwalker.

The D'Haran soldiers, Berdine and Raina also dropped. At the second repetition, the small gathering of Dalewood soldiers also dropped, hesitantly repeating the words. Berdine nudged Sergeant Kimmel; they repeated it a fourth time along with the Midlanders for their benefit. That simple act bound both groups together tightly, it seemed. When they all rose together, the animosity that had been there was still present, but it looked more like that of rivals in the same games, not as enemies.

"What of the Sword of Truth, Richard?" She asked both the Wizard, and the Seeker. Zedd gazed at Richard's face keenly. A broad smile broke out on the Seeker's face, the first she had seen from him in weeks, shining with certainty.

"I am the True Seeker. The True Seeker has never needed a Sword. I'm am a Wood's Guide, and I choose this." Richard hefted the Axe from his shoulder; it glistened with the same light as the Sword of Truth. "We found it in the Divide." It looked right on him, the Confessor thought to herself. "The Sword was never supposed to have a history without the Axe." He grinned as he hefted it to it's position on his back into the fine metal holster that housed it. It reminded her of a tapestry she had seen once in Aydindril – a bearded man with an axe and an army, uniting with a woman carrying a sword.

"There was a time when D'Harans stood beside Midlanders to defeat a common enemy, which was the purpose of Alric Rahl's bond, Kahlan." Zedd explained. "Alric Rahl had remarkable prescience in preparing both the bond and a means of transferring it were it to become necessary. When we found the Axe, I knew that the time had come for them to stand together again." Despite his smile, his face was grave. The enemy that was coming for them would require their collective resistance if it were to be defeated.

"It suits you Richard, former Lord Rahl. Be well, or I will kill you." Cara threatened him gruffly, even as he smacked her affectionately on the shoulder. A strange look of satisfaction covered her face. "I believe you have found the Axe of Truth, Seeker, since the Sword was never your best weapon." The grin that lit up her face was echoed by a glare that momentarily darkened Richard's, but then burst into laughter.

He pulled her into a rough hug that could have been a headlock and admonished "Take care of her." She elbowed him in the ribs, on his sharp exhale, each releasing their hold, both green and brown eyes sparkled. She promised solemnly, "With my life, Richard."

His words resounded later in the dark, when she could not sleep. She wished that she could have imagined she'd heard it. "Take care of her with your heart, too, Cara. I know you have one, and I know it belongs to her." The woman in her arms stirred, and Cara smoothed Kahlan's dark hair in the calm of night. The Lady Rahl was her duty, but she would protect and follow Kahlan for reasons that were entirely her own.

Guiding an army in war was never easy. Governing was even less so. The Mother Confessor was not the sort of leader that needed war to manipulate her people into supporting her; far from it, Kahlan would have preferred to lead in peace. Since she was denied that course of action, it was up to her to restore stability to both kingdoms. She now had the might of the D'Haran army to marry to her own Midlands, but that also meant she had an entirely new responsibility.

The people were what ultimately mattered; their protection and prosperity were the duty of the Lady Rahl and the Mother Confessor. She had inherited hundreds of thousands of new subjects to whom she had an obligation. Now she was D'Hara, the moment they accepted her as their ruler. She detested the part of herself that required she look upon people as tools to an end, but there was only one way to run a war campaign. Wars were only won with victory in mind, and she held tight to the lessons Wyborn, her father, had taught her about waging them. It wasn't necessary that she like it; it was just necessary that she win it. She needed every resource she could get. The tall blond man before her was just such a resource.

"Lady Rahl," Captain Tremane spoke with a fist to his heart, kneeling to her. "My brother was among the 50,000 men cut down by your force of 5,000 in the battle of Galea." Kahlan braced for a challenge, and eyed the escort of two hundred heavily armed D'Harans that stood behind him. Sergeant Kimmel's forces had joined under Captain Tremane's with his arrival. She felt Cara tense beside her, and did not need to look to know that the Mord'Sith was ready for anything. She was always ready for anything.

The Captain raised his other fist at shoulder height and the two hundred behind him dropped immediately, left fists to the ground, right to the heart on bended knee. "Under your command, the D'Haran Army will be victorious." He smiled, with a look that could only be described as respect, but nothing more. "D'Hara will prosper. We are the steel against the steel, and you are the magic against the magic. It is my honor to serve the Lady Rahl, Queen of D'Hara and Mother Confessor of the Midlands." That had not been what Kahlan expected. It seemed that Cara had ensured Captain Tremane had been briefed on the circumstances surrounding their new ruler. Despite his compliance, however, the Mother Confessor didn't entirely trust him.

Tremane had come with Richard, to join with the troops Sergeant Kimmel commanded. Kahlan still had difficulty thinking of herself as the Lady Rahl, Queen of D'Hara. She could only imagine the political fallout that awaited her in Aydindril. Midlanders might welcome a new army to serve them when they needed their protection, but centuries of bad blood would poison the alliance once that necessity faded. It was up to her to gather both sides in unity so that there could be eventual peace. Easy was the last description she could give it.

Two hundred soldiers, left fists in the dirt, right to their hearts gave the Devotion. "Mistress Rahl guide us. Mistress Rahl teach us. Mistress Rahl protect us. In your light we thrive. In your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom we are humbled. We live only to serve. Our lives are yours." Kahlan's breath caught; she knew what custom demanded of her, but it was still overwhelming to have former enemies bow before her. She had the duty to accept the devotion of the D'Harans.

Rahl blood flowed in her veins now, and Alric Rahl's Bond compelled the D'Harans to her as tightly as the union between the Mother Confessor and Midlands ever had. D'Harans now accepted her as both a Rahl and the Queen of D'Hara without question the moment she invoked the Bond. When the first reciting of the Devotion by the armed men and women ended, she took the hand of the D'Haran next to her, who attempted to kneel. She didn't need that now. She needed someone to keep her grounded.

"No, Cara." Cara knew that she should be kneeling too, but she would not refute the word of the person who issued the command. The unspoken request was that she remain upright, and an equal. It went against everything she had ever been, but the Mord'Sith in her would not refuse an order. She could not disobey an order from this Rahl.

"Be yourself, Mother Confessor, and you will be the Lady Rahl to them." The words whispered in her ear did as much to steel Kahlan as the breath that ghosted on her ear lobe. "I will address the rest." Strength flowed into her from just those soft words, and Kahlan accepted that she could withstand the Devotion to her. With the Devotion, she felt something of herself being parceled out to everyone that gave it to her. The bond apparently flowed both ways, taking and giving. Alric Rahl had indeed been a just ruler; the tyrannical leaders that D'Harans had known couldn't possibly have felt this kinship to them. It humbled the Mother Confessor to the people that had endured so much for their own survival.

Cara's voice barked out after it had been repeated three times. "Field Devotion only." Instantly, two hundred and one men snapped to attention at the harsh command in the Mord'Sith's voice. "Ration out, and prepare to move in 3 candle marks." Her sharp order was delivered in a timber coarse enough in timber to curdle milk, though she didn't raise her voice beyond what was necessary to be heard. The way she stood implicitly stated her intent to be obeyed.

A tent arose in all of five minutes, with a cot and a table for the Lady Rahl to work and to eat. Cara closed the tent flap and barked orders just outside of it, leaving no one able to enter it without going through her first. Sergeant Kimmel personally served her two bowls of stew; one for herself and one for the Mother Confessor. It was clearly hastily prepared, and no one else wanted to brave the Mord'Sith if it wasn't very good. Cara's respect for the blond man rose a notch. She snatched one from his hands and grunted, even as she tasted it. Deciding it was acceptable, she passed it into the tent for Kahlan who was pouring over maps.

He asked tentatively, "Should we prepare to mount up, Mistress Cara?" The question was "Where are we going and will this be a leisurely procession", but he valued his skin enough not to voice it. Cara merely continued eating, letting the silence stretch. She was Mord'Sith, after all, and making people uncomfortable was what she did best. Captain Tremane approached, just then, an easy grin on his face that showed far too many teeth.

The Captain was a good soldier, by all reports, from a lineage of good D'Haran commanders. That he had not risen higher by now, however, concerned Cara. She would need to consult with Nyda on this; the tall Mord'Sith was the oldest among them, usually considered a weakness, but even deep into her middle years the blond could break a man before breakfast, and two Mord'Sith. She also had the archives at her disposal; Rikka may have been the de facto leader of their Sisterhood after Cara was cast out, but Nyda supplied the brains and common sense.

Berdine was unquestionably the product of being her pupil; the auburn-haired Mord'Sith was practically a walking archive, herself, though she was more volatile than Nyda had ever been. And far more arrogant, too. The auburn-haired Mord'Sith likely would never have survived her breaking had she not been so strong, and had she not had the equally strong willed, but cool-headed Raina to counter her. Perhaps Berdine would have some ideas about this Captain's service record.

Kahlan exited the tent, looking every inch the Warrior Queen of D'Hara. "Captain Tremane, the force riding for Renwold, how large is it?" Cara smirked slightly at the puzzled look on the Captain's face, but he recovered and answered, "I estimate one thousand, my Queen."

Kahlan nodded, "Marauders then, testing the strength of our defenses, and softening the countryside up for pillaging." The Captain agreed with her assessment, his respect rising a notch. "It has been my experience Captain, that with a wise commander, one D'Haran is worth ten of any soldier. They are outnumbered." The smile she offered was deadly, Sergeant Kimmel's chest swelled with pride, while Tremane just showed his teeth.

"I will need two warhorses, Captain, one for myself and Mistress Cara. We will demonstrate to the Imperial Order that they are not welcome here or anywhere else in the New World." Cara's smirk broadened at the look on the Captain's face. She said nothing, however, expecting exactly this outcome because she knew the Mother Confessor. Her Lady Rahl merely continued speaking in commanding tones, fit for the army she lead. "If there is an enemy on my land, Captain Tremane, I do not sit around and wait for it. I ride out to meet it."

"Lady Rahl," Sergeant Kimmel spoke up, drawing the glittering eyes of the Captain, and the intent ones of the Mother Confessor. "The Sorrel, my mount, was personally trained by the Horsemaster of the First File. His name is Echo, and it would be my honor for you to ride him." He looked at the Lady Rahl as though the sun rose with her. Kahlan offered him a pleased smile and a nod of her head. If jealousy clouded the face of the Captain briefly, Cara knew that neither the Confessor nor the Sergeant had noticed.

"He is a fine horse, indeed, Sergeant," she answered with the kind regard of the Mother Confessor, not just the Lady Rahl in her tone. "If I am not mistaken, he has within his bloodlines those of the fabled North D'Haran Arkyne." The young Sergeant gave a shy smile, pleased that his Lady Rahl knew of them and their history. Cara was once again reminded that Kahlan was a leader with an impressive store of knowledge to guide her, and she used it with a gentle, firm hand.

"You are not mistaken, Lady Rahl. Echo is an Arkyne Sorrel. My father gifted him to me when I was raised to Sergeant from the Dragon Corps. He will not break in a charge, nor will he unseat you when he shows your enemies hooves and teeth." That was what I recognized, thought Cara. Looking at the hulking blond with the baby face that didn't match his sheer physical power, she was instantly reminded of Hummel, the equally hulking Horsemaster with the unfortunate name of Hummel Kimmel. Sergeant Kimmel was the spitting image of him; it was no wonder the family members tended to go by one name alone. Northern D'Harans had a strange custom of naming, and it usually resulted in tongue twisters. Colonel Krinmel Kimmel was a name that was inevitably mangled by history, despite his valor on the field.

As he strolled away, Sergeant Kimmel felt a smile upon his face. What kind of woman was this Lady Rahl that she inspired such looks from the head Mistress of the Mord'Sith? That the Lady Rahl returned them with equal longing surprised him, but he was pleased for them. He realized, too, that it meant that Mord'Sith Cara was also one he would need to embrace death for before it could find her.

He had also heard the tale of how she had taken down 50,000 soldiers to a man leading an army of 5,000 unseasoned soldiers. 2,400 of them survived the battle. Now she was prepared to ride with the D'Haran army to fight one thousand with two hundred men. Of course, they were D'Harans, and as his Queen had said, they were worth ten of any other soldier. He wondered if they were even more under the command of one such as herself.

Awe rose in him, and inspiration. She was truly the magic against the magic. He felt his pledge of devotion tighten around him like his skin, and he knew that he would follow her command to the end of the earth. An unconscious fist went to his heart. For this Lady Rahl, the Mother Confessor, going to the ends of the earth seemed like a possibility he was fully prepared to meet.

No quarter, and no mercy had been the order, save for two soldiers. None had been given, and the Imperial Order squad had been slain to a man, save for two. If the Mother Confessor was liberally splashed with blood, like the D'Haran troops, Cara was bathing in it. She noted the looks of awe in the faces of the men surrounding her and the Queen of D'Hara with satisfaction. The Mother Confessor and Lady Rahl had been herself, and the D'Harans could not help but respond to it. Once again, Cara found herself regarding Kahlan Amnell, the woman, and she could not help but respond to it, either.

There were five dead out of two hundred D'Haran soldiers confronting one thousand Imperial Order troops, and twenty serious injuries. Kahlan had spoken softly to each of those, her natural compassion extending to those who sacrificed everything in defense of their lands and at her command. She had not stopped until the bodies of their enemies were piled and set alight, the wounded had been comforted, and the five who had perished, fully honored. She set fire to the pyre of the Imperial Order troops personally, with the two sullen faced soldiers looking on.

Cara could read the exhaustion in the arctic blue eyes, but Kahlan's steps were steady, confident and she looked as though she could take on another thousand without relenting. She placed her hand on the neck of the first Imperial Order soldier, releasing her magic in an explosive burst. She stumbled slightly, and Cara's palm to her back caught her. The Mord'Sith knew that expending her Confessor's magic took a lot out of Kahlan, and she had already been fighting for two hours along with the rest of them. Pride rose in her when Kahlan took a deep breath and stood steady again.

With a flick of her eyes and a gesture, she caught the attention of Captain Tremane. She didn't want them to see their Queen weak, but she knew Kahlan was going to fade fast after the Confessions. Tremane nodded, but his eyes clearly said there was no reason for anyone to hold anything but respect for Lady Rahl. He inclined his head to a large tent that had been set up upwind from the fires and ringed by other tents that were being erected far enough away for privacy, but clearly the circle of protection the Queen of D'Hara warranted. She nodded.

The second confession took Kahlan to her knees, and Cara feared she had been too quick to catch her. The touch of a Confessor's magic was death to a Mord'Sith; Cara remained upright with her hands on Kahlan's biceps. The thunder without sound echoed around her, but she was still herself. Her only thought had been for Kahlan, to catch her when she fell, to hold her strong and upright as she knew the Mother Confessor would wish to be in front of those willing to give their lives in service to her and their lands. She murmured "Strength, Kahlan" into her ear. Kahlan took a shuddering breath, and Cara heard heard the barest whisper of, "Thank you, Cara."

"Command me Confessor." Both of the men had spoken, kneeling to her. Kahlan's voice when she spoke was surprisingly strong, despite the fact that Cara still held a discreet, steadying palm to her back and another on her wrist that betrayed her exhaustion.

"You will never harm another soul in the New World again. You will go back to the Old World, and you will relate what you saw here today to those that you know. You will report to your commanding officer with this message: The Mother Confessor, Queen of D'Hara, sends her regards. You will then kill your commanding officer, and every Imperial Order soldier within reach of your weapon, descending by rank, until you are slain." Kahlan's voice was steely, and it rang within reach of every ear listening. She produced two pieces of parchment, and pressed them into the hands of the men, as they thanked her for allowing them to please her.

If Kahlan staggered a little on the way to the tent, and the Mord'Sith had to hold her up a little more forcefully, nothing was said, and no indication of notice was given. The Mother Confessor, Queen of D'Hara maintained her dignity until she crossed under the tent flaps and collapsed in the arms of the blond haired warrior that was beginning to suspect she was suffering from an acute case of feelings.

Cara undressed the Mother Confessor gently, removing the blood soaked armor. When she had stripped her to her under clothes after gently propping her in the chair at the table, she poked her head out of the tent, about to demand water. She refused to leave Kahlan and no soldier would ever see her vulnerable. To her great relief, Berdine stood on the other side of the tent with Raina. Despite the ugly terms she had left her sisters on, they were still her Sisters of the Agiel, and it had been on Darken Rahl's orders that she had been humiliated and cast out.

"Berdine." She let some of the relief thread into her tone, but none of it in her expression. "The Mother Confessor," she felt the need to clarify, "Lady Rahl is expended, and she needs care. I need warm water." She ended the discussion by thrusting the blood encrusted leather armor at Raina, who wordlessly collected it. Berdine's eyes lit with the knowledge that she had something to do and things to demand. The tall redhead nodded assertively and in moments, a cadre of soldiers arrived with not only hot water, soap and cloths with which to wash the Lady Rahl, but also with liniment to rub her body and a measure of decent wine and food. Cara could only wonder where the wine had been produced from since D'Haran troops were barred from having any in the field.

"Cara, you could use a change yourself," Raina said, offering her a set of clothing that consisted of a tight blood red linen shirt and short breeches to sleep in. The blond Mord'Sith nearly snapped at her that she needed nothing, but realized that Kahlan might require comfort in the night. It would do her no good to clean the Lady Rahl only to dirty the bedsheets with her own smell. Accepting the wisdom of the dark-haired Mord'Sith, she stripped to the skin. She accepted the fresh things in exchange for her bloodied armor given to Raina for cleaning, then nodded to her and Berdine. Both Mord'Sith and herself acknowledging them as the peace offering that they were. They were all united in service to Lady Rahl now. There was no room for malice between them, only duty.

Stripped and hastily washed of the blood that had coated her, Cara set about taking gentle care of the Lady Rahl. The smooth muscles that played beneath the pale skin as she cleaned away the traces of blood, sweat and grime were hypnotic. Relenting to the woman inside of her, Cara could almost feel herself a sculptor, an artist as she washed and changed the body underneath her hands from that of a warrior into that of her Mother Confessor. Kahlan's flesh was too warm to be a statue, however; Cara cursed herself when she realize what she was doing. She was looking at the woman with open desire. She had been evaluating the Lady Rahl as though she was not her Queen, but with a gaze of sexual longing better suited for a common whore.

She seized her Agiels in both hands, and let the moment pass. If there was wetness between her thighs, she could resolve it later – perhaps with Berdine and Raina, both. She could resolve it with anyone but the Mother Confessor, so vulnerable, this way. The Queen of D'Hara and Mother Confessor of the Midlands deserved better from her; so much better than her, she thought. She need to be alert and to care for the ruler of two lands, for Kahlan Amnell, the woman. Banishing the wetness from her mind, she did her duty.

After ensconcing Kahlan's cleaned, and salved body into a clean shift and then the linen covered cot, she washed her own. She put on the thin shirt and breeches, though she usually slept either nude or in her leathers. She stuck her head out of the tent flaps to give a nod to Raina and an order to Berdine. "She will need food as soon as she awakens, but now she needs rest. See that nothing disturbs Lady Rahl."

Berdine grinned in response to her command, and leaned back against the tent poles with her arms crossed. The Keeper himself could stride into camp – Berdine and Raina would send him back to the Underworld before he would enter the tent of the Lady Rahl. Berdine would likely force him to cook and serve the Lady Rahl's breakfast before he went.

Inside the tent, Cara hesitated. Kahlan slept with even breaths, but the night was cold. She would need to warm her, but Cara couldn't sleep with the persistent throb between her legs. Not next to Kahlan, the Lady Rahl, could she pretend. The Mord'Sith acceded to practicality and sank into the chair. It was too strong.

She slid her own fingers into her wetness, into the desire that even the Agiel's sharp pain could not quell. After a few moments of circling the tender spot, she pressed two fingers from her other hand inside of herself, watching Kahlan in slumber, a rhythm from both opposing sensations bringing a satisfied moan to her lips that she only barely suppressed. She didn't want to share this with anyone else, after all. She only wanted to watch the breath sigh from between beautiful lips, lovely profile slack with sleep and safety under her own watchful eye. Something within her wanted to send the abrupt physical delight to Kahlan, imploring her to feel the joy she felt looking at her while orgasm thrummed forcefully through her. If there was any magic in the world, she hoped her own satiety would give the Confessor good dreams and peace.

When she recovered, the relief kept the urges at bay. Cara slipped between the crisp linens onto the cot. The night was cold. She buried her face in the freshly washed hair of the Mother Confessor, and put her arm around the slender waist. She thrust her thighs into her backside, pulling her close. The Mord'Sith Protector would keep Kahlan warm and safe in this strange place, or any other. A soft smile covered the blonde's lips as she fell into the oblivion of exhausted sleep.

Another soft smile covered the lips of an auburn-haired one as she peeped in during the night to ensure that those she protected were safe. It was echoed by the dark-haired woman beside her that briefly clutched her own gloved hand, peering into the tent flap. This Lady Rahl wouldn't begrudge them their love. It appeared that this Rahl had found a love of her own. A pair of soft, exhausted snores filled the tent. Frowning, she noticed that they were both clothed despite the fact that they could hardly be closer if they shared the same body. Cara certainly should know better, but apparently Berdine was going to have to offer suggestions, after all. She smirked conspiratorially at her mate; she was good at offering advice. Raina slapped at her hand playfully as they devised ways to teach these two to take off their clothes before going to bed.

A voice rang out. It was still night, but Kahlan was drawn to it. It was low, resonant and melodic. It was music she had never heard before, a song soft with a mezzo-soprano that glistened with the notes it carried. It didn't seem possible for a voice to convey that many notes, and certainly not while singing. She could practically hear an entire band of strings behind the voice; yet the voice stood alone and haunting. Under the moon, deep in the flowering garden, the sight of the singer caught her breath.

Cara was singing. Did Mord'Sith sing? In her dream, it was apparent that Cara did. She was in her red leather, ever watchful, but the song she was singing could not be more incongruous to what she was than if she were wearing an apron and baking a pie. Her voice was appropriate for a temple. It was appropriate for a performance in the amphitheater. Kahlan sank to the ground with bent knees listening to it.

Cara manipulated the tones in her voice as though she were accompanying herself. Her green eyes were closed, her chest rising and falling. Shining lights pulsed to accompanied her and it was then that Kahlan drew in a breath of wonder; Night Wisps. The full lips parted and closed on the notes, as blue, green and yellow lights softly illuminated her strong, feminine features. Her throat moved with sinuous grace, and sent shivers down Kahlan's spine in contrast with the words she was singing. Kahlan felt her heart constrict at this sight of the Mord'Sith. She wanted to go to her, but knew she would merely serve to ruin the moment. Listening to her was enough to make her undone.

The lovely voice wound down. Kahlan suddenly felt herself back inside, underneath warm sheets, smiling. She would have never guessed that such beauty resided in her Mord'Sith. Her? Such a possessive term. She found she didn't even have the heart to retract it. She slept with a smile on her lips, and a song in her heart that couldn't be silenced. Somewhere in her dreams, she felt thighs press into her backside, and arms encircle her waist. Breath on her neck told her that what was hers was there with her. She drifted deeper into sleep with warmth at her back, breathing remnants of the haunting melody.

Cara woke before dawn, her body resting completely on Kahlan's chest, breathing in time to the rising and falling of the woman below her. It was time to get up, and certainly before this intimate position betrayed her. She squirmed in her sleep to move away from the Confessor, but a thigh rose and struck her gently between her own. When it shifted, it was impossible to miss the fact that she was pillowed on a soft chest, and there was friction in the place where she most certainly did not need additional stimulation. Or at least, if she did, not innocent additional stimulation.

As she pondered how to extricate herself from this situation, the thigh lowered, and she took the opportunity to roll out of the embrace that held her. The abrupt movement sent her out of the cot and into the cold, tugging most of the blankets with her. The resulting thud of her landing on the ground, and the gust of cool air naturally awoke her companion who opened her eyes to see the Mord'Sith coming to her feet, attempting to put the covers back over her. Kahlan's eyes seemed to freeze as she glanced at her body. "Cara?" She said in surprise.

"Kahlan." She replied blithely, then her voice dropped with concern. "Are you alright? Your face is flushed this morning." She leaned over to put a hand to Kahlan's head as the Confessor's eyes flew shut. "Kahlan?" She asked insistently. The Confessor's face looked as though she might be taking a fever. Blue eyes flashed open and settled somewhere on her face though once again she caught them flickering down into her chest, then they shut again. It was then that Cara realized that she was wearing little more than a thin, sleeveless top and breeches that barely went past her buttocks in the back, and certainly no further in the front. Cara leaned a little further into the bed experimentally, knowing she would give Kahlan a full view down the thin top.

"Kahlan, I didn't mean to wake you, but are you well?" She said it gently, with a soft touch on her shoulder. She smoothed the dark hair away from her face as blue eyes came open, the blush striking Kahlan's cheeks scarlet as the blue eyes darted exactly where Cara knew that they would. She was about to lean over even further, when a knock sounded outside on the tent pole. Blue eyes flickered shut, but Kahlan uttered a strangled, "Yes?" Cara couldn't tell whether she wanted to curse or be thankful. She strode directly to the tent flap, flinging it open in anger, despite the cold, uncaring. Briefly she wondered if Kahlan enjoyed the view from the back. "What is it?" Her tone was harsh and Kahlan clearly yelped in the background, no doubt diving to cover herself.

Cara spoke with explanation over her shoulder. "It's just Berdine and Raina, Kahlan." She spoke with certainty. "No men will come within twenty feet of a tent containing a Mord'Sith without express invitation unless their life depends on it. You have three at yours, so your life depending on it will be the only reason they will get within shouting distance." She heard the Mother Confessor's relieved sigh, but her quick glance over her shoulder had told her that Kahlan had indeed observed the other view she offered. Outwardly, she showed annoyance, but inwardly, a devilish grin covered her heart.

Berdine's smiling face appeared in the tent with a tray containing hot tea, some bread, fruit and what looked like deer meat to break their fast. Cara glared a little as Berdine surveyed her dress with a smirk, but took the tray and smacked it onto the table. Berdine hesitantly stepped into the tent carrying a pile of leathers, and Cara was pleased with her work. They were Kahlan's, and they looked to be thoroughly cleaned and mended. A stack of small clothes accompanied them, and suddenly she felt the irrational urge to glare. "Raina took care of these last night, for the Lady Rahl, as well as yours." Berdine answered her question wordlessly, and a pair of gloved hands outside of the tent sent in a stack of her own leathers, also expertly cleaned and mended. She remembered how well Berdine and Raina worked together and found her ire fading.

"Thank you, Berdine. Please tell Raina it is appreciated, and so is the breakfast." The smooth voice of the Mother Confessor sounded by the table, risen from the cot, all graciousness and the Lady Rahl.

Berdine answered with a pleased, even tone. "I will be glad to convey your gratitude, Lady Rahl, but it was I who made your breakfast and Raina who tended to your clothing." Cara knew that Raina had also heard on the other side of the tent flap. Kahlan had a way of complimenting people that made them feel it to their toes. Berdine beamed at her as though she was a child given a sweet, but then her eyes flashed appreciatively over the newly arisen Lady Rahl. It was quick, but it lingered enough that Cara caught it. She had the urge to shove Berdine out of the tent. Kahlan just gave her an pleasant smile with a teacup in her hand as though she wasn't just standing there in her shift.

"Please arrange for a meeting in two candle marks with Captain Tremane, Sergeant Kimmel, and Raina. I expect you to attend, as well. There are things we need to discuss, and I would like for it to be in a reasonably private location." Kahlan's voice had an edge of command that left no room for disagreement. Cara smirked as she wordlessly dressed in her leathers. Kahlan also had a way of politely dismissing someone that made it impossible for them to linger. Berdine disappeared immediately with an "Of course, Lady Rahl."

Kahlan turned to begin dressing herself, eyes not meeting Cara's until she was halfway into her own leathers. On impulse, the Mother Confessor seized the leather laces at Cara's collar when she fumbled with them, tightening them as she had done many times before. The familiarity of such an action, here in the midst of the D'Haran camp was not lost on the Mord'Sith. She returned the favor, helping Kahlan into the final lacing and buckling of her own armor and corset.

The Mother Confessor's blue eyes shone with gratitude, and they sat down to breakfast. Kahlan was starving due to the effects confession had on her body, while Cara picked at hers until she was certain Kahlan had eaten her fill. She drained the rest of her tea and offered the rest of her peach to the Mother Confessor when she caught her eying it surreptitiously. She ducked out of the tent, to allow the Mother Confessor the use of the chamber pot alone and to address her own needs in that regard at the latrines set up nearby. On the way back into the tent, she had a subdued conversation with Berdine.

"Berdine, when Lady Rahl uses her Confessor power, it expends considerable amounts of energy." Berdine eyed her with a sultry look, and Cara rolled her eyes, wanting to shake her. "She used it twice yesterday on the Imperial Order troops." Cara snapped at the auburn-haired Mord'Sith.

"I see." Berdine said with a smile, as if that explained everything.

Cara sighed and gripped her Agiels. She didn't want to shout. "When she uses her Confessor power, she needs rest, but she also needs larger meals to replace the energy she has lost." She hissed the last part, not wanting Kahlan to know she was taking this into her own hands; Kahlan had a way of ignoring her own needs. Realization dawned on Berdine's face and she nodded that she would see to it in the future.

"Arrange to have some fruit and tea at the meeting. I don't want Lady Rahl running out of energy." Cara thought about Berdine's sultry look at the Mother Confessor this morning, and couldn't help adding, "You certainly don't want to deal with me if she does!" Cara probably gripped Berdine's collar a little too hard when she gave in and seized it, because Raina diplomatically offered another peach. Cara gave her an appreciative smirk and released Berdine with a stern glare. Berdine just smirked, blue eyes sparkling with the knowledge that she had gotten under Cara's skin.

Kahlan, predictably, had a quill in her hand and was signing a parchment as she entered the tent. Every spare moment she had sitting down since she had become the Lady Rahl had been filled with her composing orders, writs or reviewing maps. She was an extremely organized ruler, something that the Mord'Sith had suspected, but not gotten the opportunity to witness much in their travels. Kahlan had a brilliant mind, and was was a highly effective diplomat, and though she had heard of her exploits as a tactician, it was only lately that she had understood how that knowledge came to fruition. Kahlan studied the puzzle from all sides, had contingency plans for her strategies that failed, and used her diplomatic skills to gather together unexpected allies. Watching the dark haired woman trace a finger over a map, then write something on the parchment, she stood there with a peach in her hand and realized she was yet another unexpected ally.

She plopped the peach down on the center of the map, and propped a hip on the table. A wide grin spread across Kahlan's face, but her blue eyes just lingered on the peach for a moment. They rose to meet her own, and the smile bloomed to a blinding one she had never before seen on Kahlan's face. It was like the special smile she sent to Richard, and had of late sent to her, but it was more. It was a smile that made her, Mord'Sith Mistress Cara, feel special to her toes for causing it. One hand put down the quill, the ink stain on the middle finger catching her eye, making Cara smile, too.

Kahlan raised the peach to her mouth, and took a large bite from the sweet fruit. She put it down, and stood between the Mord'Sith's legs that were propped by the table. Cara suddenly couldn't breath from the look in those blue eyes. Kahlan's lips parted, the chunk of peach between them, an offering. The Mord'Sith, receiver and giver of so much pain and pleasure felt her world turn liquid. Her head tilted forward and she seized a fistful of dark hair, easing the lips holding the fruit toward her own. It became a game of lips, teeth and tongue with the sweet intrusion of the fruit playing in their mouths.

Cara took a bite next, and offered it to Kahlan's mouth. The Mother Confessor tongued the fruit in a way that made Cara's insides quiver before letting her teeth graze against Cara's lips to take it. As Kahlan's tongue plunged into Cara's mouth, seeking the fruit that the Mord'Sith stubbornly attempted to keep away from her with her own tongue, there was a banging on the tent pole. Kahlan managed to steal the bite out of her mouth before Cara choked on it.

"Yes?" Kahlan asked, mouth still full of the fruit, smoothing her hair that was now a bit wild with dishevelment.

Cara pulled back the tent flap blocking the view inside with a growl, "What is it?" Berdine stood outside, her eyes seeming to flash to Cara's chest, but thinking better of whatever comment she was going to make merely stated, "The meeting is arranged and ready for Lady Rahl when she is ready." Cara nearly delivered a stinging reply, but Kahlan in the background was ever composed and once again, the Lady Rahl.

"Yes, I was making some notes for the meeting, Berdine, could you please take these? I just need to note one more item." If Cara hadn't known what they were doing half a minute earlier, she would have thought they were having a heated discussion about maps that got them distracted. Kahlan was bundling scrolls into Berdine's waiting arms, who had become the epitome of the compliant, if reluctant secretary. Kahlan scooped up the peach that remained on the last map and took a hearty bite out of it, then rolled up the remaining parchments. Berdine paused for a moment, eyed the Lady Rahl's lips, then shot a glance at Cara's. The smirk on her face that Kahlan couldn't see spoke volumes.

Cara didn't know whether to sigh in frustration or smile. She had already brushed away the large drop of juice from the peach that stained her leather, which Berdine clearly had noticed. She decided to do neither. In one burst of energy, she stole another bite of the peach in Kahlan's hand, and shared it with the Lady Rahl in Cara's new favorite way the moment the auburn-haired Mord'Sith exited the tent.

Looking across the sands, with the Sword in her hand, and a dagger in the other, Kahlan saw only one thing. A parade of corpses and carnage. She steeled herself, for this was ultimately what war entailed. This was what she had come to do, because there was no other way to save her land. There was no breaking in the face of the howls of the enemy, no running in the face of their violence.

A golden head shouting with full lips screamed at her. The voice raised itself enough to catch her attention as an opponent was thrown her way. Kahlan ducked. The blade that would have beheaded her whistled above her head, and she bashed the dagger's hilt into his throat without thought. She was at her foe long enough to shred his ankle with a piercing slice of the Sword, then she glided on to the next partner to rip out his throat. If she crushed one, subdued and then irrevocably destroyed another, she was a warrior. It was a dance of death, and Kahlan knew the steps.

Cara had come to mean more to her than anything. They fought like possessed souls on the battlefield, and made it their own. She wanted to dance with Cara in a more gentle way. She had found the streak of lightning that she could never hold, but one that would light up the sky if she dared. Combat was a steady charge of intensity between them. Both had been conditioned to do battle as a reflex and as an exoneration. It made it so hard to love, but it made it so incredibly easy to share it with someone that was in the same trial and triumph.

Battle ended, they dragged back to camp. It had been another surprise attack as they attempted to travel across the Lower Wilds to D'Hara. The Imperial Order had infiltrated her land more than the Mother Confessor expected, and she hated it. Coming across a burned out village had incensed Kahlan the first time; three times, en route to the meet with the Dragon Corps deployment, it made her vengeful. These were the Midlands, and if Galean and Kelton troops could not arrive soon enough, Kahlan would restore order herself, even if it was with D'Harans.

Renwold had openly decried her leadership, and had chosen to go it alone. She had advised them not to do so, but Ambassador Jahir would not listen. He thought his walls would withstand the Order. They wouldn't, not even with the might of a hastily gathered army of citizens at his back. She would have stood with him, had he consented to the might of D'Hara behind her, even if it was only now one hundred seventy-five strong. Jahir's squad and the D'Haran contingent would be enough to repel them. Of that, she was certain.

Jahire refused, and the Mother Confessor refused to waste resources on someone who refused to see the better part of reality. More than anything, she felt betrayed, and she wept inside for the people of Renwold. Choices had been made; lives would be lost.

She couldn't afford to waste resources on those who wouldn't listen. Two Hundred of the Renwold Corps marched beside the D'Harans, despite the fact that by many, they were considered as traitors. Her sisters, and herself – Kahlan – fought for justice while they stood with the Midlands. Men and women who knew the cause was lost in their homelands had packed up and traveled as families behind the army. The Mother Confessor only hoped they would forgive her when the occupiers were disbanded, and their friends and family who didn't leave, perished. Looking into the eyes of those who followed, though, they knew.

Looking into green eyes that swirled with purpose, consideration and speculation all at the same time, Kahlan broke. Ir was not revealed by her face, her body language, or anything she said. It was what she did without touching her. It was what she could do to the Confessor while touching her, made Kahlan groan with need, thrusting her hips into Cara's.

Renwold was lost. Tamarang was next. She couldn't say she was glad on her march East, but Tamarang was too strategic to lose. It sat between the easiest pass to D'Hara, the Southern Midlands gap before the Rang'Shada Mountains, and the Steppes to the Old World. Queen Milena was nothing if not opportunistic, so perhaps the knowledge that the D'Harans stood as one with the Mother Confessor would sway her loyalties. Somehow, Kahlan doubted it. She would not put it past Milena to succor the Imperial Order, and if she had, Kahlan intended to remove her from the throne. Physically, if Cara let her get there first.

The man was wearing clothing that said he was a noble, but it was torn and stained. He was spitting in anger as he asked to see the Mother Confessor. Cara was in the tent for once; she had gone to wash up after Kahlan had ordered it. The Mord'Sith's eyes had flashed at the command and the smile that had subtly followed it. She then nodded in approval; she was who the Mother Confessor and Lady Rahl chose to stand beside her. It had pierced Kahlan's heart to part from her, but she needed the Mord'Sith's strength. Another Mord'Sith stood beside her.

Berdine veritably loomed beside her. She didn't trust this Rewoldor; he was the son of the Ducain of the territory. His purple tights held loosely on him, and the chest of it sagged. He was the picture of ruined nobility. "You left them. You left my people to be slaughtered!" He screamed at her, spittle flying into the Mother Confessor's face. That was enough, but he raised his hand to strike Kahlan across the face, and she refused to look away or flinch from his wild brown eyes. At the last second, a blade met his hand, and severed it at the wrist.

Berdine pulled his hand with satisfaction and hurled it into the fire. "Princeling, you will raise a hand once to the Lady Rahl, and then you will never raise it again." Berdine's harsh reaction stunned her for a moment, but then Kahlan saw the poisoned dart she had pulled from the hand before the auburn-haired Mord'sith had pulled it from the now quivering young man.

She should show mercy, but Kahlan couldn't feel it for stubborn people that refused to see reason, not at that moment, and not when she had given her life to the defense of them. She knelt down to catch his throat, and released her magic into him. Thunder without sound echoed around the camp, and she heard the sound of footsteps upon her. Cara. She didn't have to turn to know that the blond Mord'Sith would be at her back; she heard the low whine of drawn Agiels before she felt her at her side.

"He's from Tamarang." Kahlan took one glance at the poison vial and knew it. Milena had sent an assassin to cover her tracks, it appeared, and used the proximity of the two nations to execute it. Cara was ready to eat hammers and spit nails. How she had missed this was anyone's guess. Now she had a choice. She could abandon Tamarang, or go on, disarming it of their Queen. Both choices were harsh, but it was necessary. Milena and the Mother Confessor had never been friends, though she had thought they were allies, and at the very least the vassal of the Midlands.

If Tamarang had become the stronghold of the Order, she would route them out. Apparently there was less time to waste on the Southern border than she had thought. Renwold would soon be lost, as would Tamarang if she didn't depose Milena. She needed the Dragon Corps and the First File, after all. The Southern border of the Midlands would be awash in D'Harans, but that was infinitely preferable to being subjugated by the Imperial Order.

It was time for a stand. The only thing that kept her from crying out in rage and despair was a strong grip on her elbow, one that wasn't readily visible to any but Berdine, whose blazing blue eyes burned with determination, and the subtle, powerful presence beside her. Cara gripped her tightly, not enough to grasp, not enough to hold, but just enough to tell her she cared. The Mother Confessor wanted nothing more than to fall into Cara's embrace at that moment, but now was not the time. She had a war to fight.

Kahlan eyed Cara, and gave the order. "We ration out, rest in shifts for four hours, then we move out." Kahlan looked to move away but Berdine met her with a palm to her shoulder.

"I will see to it, Lady Rahl, and I would hope that you will avail yourself of your own order of rest." Cara smirked, though she looked as though she would countermand the order in a second if necessary, but the Lady Rahl just sighed. "Please, Mistress Berdine, if you can do without myself and Mistress Cara, I will attempt to eat something." Berdine smiled pleasantly, as though she had not just severed a man's hand and thrown it into the fire. She produced two plump peaches in her gloved hands, blue eyes sparkling. "I understand these are the Lady Rahl's favorites."

Kahlan smiled, unable to formulate a comment. She took them in her hands, passed them to Cara and walked away. Cara held her arm steadily, the Confession having robbed Kahlan of her energy. A look at the beautiful blonde made her think of ways she wanted to expend herself before she even got it back. Kahlan's eyes drooped though, and Cara quickly stripped her of the still bloody armor the Mother Confessor had worn in battle, holding her close against her now immaculate red leather uniform. Cara used the still warm wash water to wash the nude Mother Confessor's body, now half asleep from the drain of the release of her magic and bundled her into the cot.

With a smile, Cara positioned the fruit Berdine had saved for them on the table, so that it would be the first thing Kahlan would see when she awakened. She leaned over and kissed the head of the Lady Rahl, and when the Confessor trembled slightly, she resolved herself to do her duty as bodyguard to the Lady Rahl, but not before she ensured they were safe. Poking her head outside of the tent, Raina was standing beside it, looking well and smiling at her. With an incline of her head, she took Kahlan's armor, this time gesturing for a soldier.

Cara nodded that it was okay; this time, she wanted the protection of the Mord'Sith, not them as servants. These were Kahlan's people now that she had blooded herself and their enemies beside them. That was a pull that no D'Haran could resist; Kahlan Amnell was the Lord Rahl as strongly as any had ever been, and even the Dragon Corps could see her when they did the Devotion, though most didn't even know what she looked like beyond a description. Alric Rahl's bond rose strong in Lady Rahl and the D'Harans. It tended to be that way with everyone that knew the Mother Confessor, Cara sighed.

Cara stripped herself of her armor, and slid in behind Kahlan, pulling her Lady Rahl gently against her own flesh to warm her. If Cara had few defenses against the Mother Confessor, she had none against Kahlan Amnell the woman. It didn't even matter if she was now Bonded to her; she was Bonded before to the woman she had been before she was Lady Rahl, and was even more potently.

If the Lady Rahl dropped from exhaustion and needed her near, she would be near, and nothing would take her away. Nothing would take her from the Mother Confessor, not war, death, or anything so ridiculous as modesty. Not now, not today when she came so close to losing her. She pressed warm breasts to a warm back, draping the Mother Confessor's long locks around both their shoulders. She was completely covering Kahlan Amnell, and Kahlan covered her. She drifted as soon as her head hit the pillow.

Kahlan had long since stopped her internal denials of the intense attraction she had to Cara. The searing kisses they had shared left her weak with need, and she knew that the Mord'Sith was attracted to her. Cara had, in so many words, also told Kahlan that she cared for her. Kahlan refused to allow the Mord'Sith to do the devotions along with everyone else because she never wanted Cara to feel that she was obligated to her. Their relationship had enough challenges without a radical imbalance of power becoming introduced into it.

The problem was that it was already there. Kahlan was the most powerful person in the New World; then again, the Mother Confessor decided that Cara was likely the most stubborn person in the New World. She let out a breath that would have been a sigh had she not realized that underneath the linens, she was completely naked. Instead it ended with a sharp intake of breath as she realized that Cara was with her, just as bare.

Kahlan rolled over carefully. The Mord'Sith appeared to be asleep, blond hair spread out across the pillow. Cara's face was softened in sleep, and despite the rising tide of desire that was assaulting the Mother Confessor, she was infused with sharp pangs of love and tenderness. It was the first time Kahlan had fully admitted it to herself; she was utterly and completely in love with the blond Mord'Sith. She had been for some time. Their cause had been united before; they were struggling to save the world and protect the Seeker. Richard had always come first, though, and while the Mord'Sith often argued with him, it was her duty to obey him. There were no such barriers now.

Kahlan couldn't resist her curiosity. She had seen Cara naked before; early in their travels it seemed to Kahlan that everyone had seen the Mord'Sith naked. Getting the Mord'Sith to acquiesce to some level of modesty, or at least the appearance of it, had been a challenge. She certainly had not openly ogled the blond, not the way that the Mord'Sith openly ogled Kahlan. Sometimes the way Cara looked at her made her feel exposed no matter what she was wearing. At first she had assumed the Mord'Sith did it to make her uncomfortable; since the kiss in the desert, and the ones after that, Kahlan had come to realize that it was open, physical appreciation. She certainly had caught herself admiring the blond appreciatively often enough.

Kahlan lifted the linens and let her eyes travel the expanses of golden flesh. Cara was so beautiful. She started at the thighs that were the last thing she could see within the confines of the cot. Kahlan knew from experience how strong they were, and even now in sleep the definition of muscle was clear. Her breath caught as she traveled higher to the tiny patch of dark golden curls between the Mord'Sith's thighs. She felt her face grow hot as her gaze skittered past that to a well muscled abdomen that had Kahlan nearly clenching her fist to stop herself from reaching out to stroke it.

She reached the full globes of Cara's breasts, entranced with them. While her own chest was nothing to be ashamed of, Cara's was magnificent. The ache bloomed even stronger between her thighs just from looking at them, and the lovely dusky pink tips of them. Nipples that began to harden under her gaze. Kahlan hoped it was due to the cold air hitting them. She slowly looked upwards, face now on fire to see green eyes that sparkled and what could only be called a wolfish grin on Cara's beautiful face. She hastily dropped the linen and flopped unto her back while slamming her eyes shut. Mortification and desire both struggled for the upper hand.

Kahlan felt the cot move as Cara shifted close to her. She felt a warm hand on her arm, and hot breath on her face. "Like what you see, Mother Confessor?" The Mord'Sith practically purred in her ear. "You are certainly welcome to do more than just look, you know." The sultry response nearly unhinged Kahlan. Every single thought in her head fled south. She opened her eyes to see the blond's face extremely close to her own. The Confessor in her needed to stammer some sort of apology, but Kahlan's brain and voice just could not function. Instead, she just slammed her eyes closed again, and took a deep breath. It was really all she could do at that point.

Cara gently stroked her arm, and Kahlan was relieved she didn't do more than that. Her body was on fire. "As Lady Rahl, you really should avail yourself of your privileges, Kahlan, not to mention your obligations." Cara stated softly, her voice low like a sensual caress. At that, Kahlan's eyes flew open and she shot a look at the Mord'Sith.

Cara barely restrained a smirk; she knew exactly how to get to the Mother Confessor. Pleasure and privilege Kahlan would deny herself out of a sense of duty, no matter how misguided. Responsibility was another matter entirely. The sudden concern on the Confessor's face almost made her smile burst forward. "Obligations?" Kahlan asked in an insistent whisper, clearly disturbed that she had missed some point of D'Haran culture.

"You are the leader of two nations, now, Kahlan. You are leading them both to war." She stared into the blue eyes that were still dilated with arousal. The flush of her face spoke of her need so clearly that anyone looking closely could see it; certainly a Mord'Sith would read it. "You cannot do so effectively if you are distracted by your physical needs." She leaned forward with intent. "Your sexual needs." She emphasized with a cocked eyebrow, wondering if the Confessor was going to pass out from blood loss because all of it was in her face now. She halted whatever Kahlan was going to say with a finger to her lips.

"It is the duty of Mord'Sith to satisfy the needs of the Lord Rahl. Arousal is plain in your face, and neither of my sisters will miss it. Many of the D'Haran troops may not miss it, either. They will assume I am not adequately meeting your needs." It wasn't entirely untrue; Berdine and Raina certainly would notice, and would no doubt continue to inquire when she was going to do something about Lady Rahl's clear needs. It was more gentle prodding with Raina, and less gentle teasing with Berdine, but both had noticed it. Cara had also made it crystal clear that she would kill them both without a second thought were they to mention it to the Mother Confessor, let alone attempted to do anything about it themselves.

As for the men, half of them were so in awe of the Lady Rahl that at this point they would cut out their own tongues before even daring to question her about anything, if they even noticed. The other half were so terrified of Cara and the other Mord'Sith that they would gouge out their own eyes lest they get caught looking at the Lady Rahl in any way that remotely resembled attraction. That point had been made without requiring her to lift a fist; Berdine had "discussed" the matter with the offender with her Agiel, in plain view of the troops while Cara had kept Kahlan distracted over dinner. Cara had surveyed Berdine's handiwork later, declaring it far more tender than she would have been, and had glared coldly at the paling faces. No one doubted her promise that she would do it personally if it happened again.

Kahlan dreaded the thought that she would do anything to lessen Cara in the eyes of any D'Haran. Shame flared in her; she would simply have to get herself under control. It was unacceptable, no matter how much she might desire the blond, to diminish her status because her Lady Rahl was experiencing raging hormones. She would simply have to stop sleeping with Cara, as much as the idea pained her. "I'm sorry, Cara, I had no idea that my attraction to you was so evident. I would never want to ..."

Her apology was cut short by full lips pressed to her own. The kiss was tender, but it was also teasing, intended to arouse. Cara stroked her hand down Kahlan's arm as she moved to cover the Confessor's body with her own. Whatever Kahlan's resolve had been a moment before, it flew right out of the tent flaps. Her hands moved to caress the warm flesh of Cara's back, sinking into the kiss. The thigh that slid between her own was as insistent to parting them as the kiss was to Kahlan's lips. When Cara broke the kiss, arousal clearly painted the blond's features.

"You are entitled to something that no one else may have, Lady Rahl." Her green eyes gleamed. Cara rarely used Kahlan's D'Haran title; if she didn't use her name, she used the appellation of Mother Confessor out of long habit. Kahlan actually preferred it from Cara, too. It helped to remind her in a sea of D'Harans that there was one D'Haran that truly understood who she was and what she was. Right now, though, she was paralyzed by the look on her Mord'Sith's face. Open desire covered it, and Cara's green eyes were hooded and dilated.

"You are entitled to dedicated pleasuring by a Mord'Sith, and I assure you Kahlan, there is no better lover. My hands on your body," she continued in a husky voice that sent jolts through the Confessor's psyche, "and my tongue between your legs will bring you ecstasy." The blatantly sexual comment caused a flood of wetness in just that location of Kahlan's body. When fingers trailed down to softly trace her erect nipple, Kahlan involuntarily bucked right into the thigh between her own.

"You, Kahlan Amnell, are entitled to something no one else has ever or will ever have." She punctuated the statement with another kiss, while her fingers continued to tease Kahlan's flesh in a delicious way. The Mord'Sith slid up Kahlan's body sensually, her own breasts grazing the Confessor's like points of fire. She nipped an earlobe and whispered softly, as though afraid someone else might overhear. "My heart."

The admission dissipated every thought of denial, and the last vestiges of resistance left in the Mother Confessor. This time it was Kahlan who fisted a hand in blond hair, and seized Cara in hot kiss of teeth, lips and tongue. With the other, she did what she had been longing to do, and traced from the soft side of Cara's hip up the smooth stomach to capture one of the full breasts. Cara arched upward at the touch, so that she could cup it fully, and the thigh once again struck her deliciously. She felt the legs below them shift and felt a distinct trace of wetness trail her own. She raised it slightly, and that seemed to open the floodgates of passion in the woman writhing above her.

Cara moaned loudly at the contact. The feeling of Kahlan's hands on her body had long been the subject of her fantasies, and the idea of the Mother Confessor reciprocating her passion ignited her. It had been too long since Cara had felt another's touch, and the fact that it was Kahlan doing the touching sent arousal streaking through her like lightening. When she suddenly found herself flipped, their positions reversed with the Confessor now on top of her, stroking her hands down Cara's body, the Mord'Sith suddenly realized that she had lost control of this seduction.

This time the thigh was much more insistent between her own. When Kahlan engulfed her nipple in a hot mouth, her hand pinching the other almost painfully, the Mord'Sith decided it really didn't matter who was holding the reins. Submitting to Lord Rahl was hardly anything new, but right at that moment that wasn't what she was doing. She was surrendering to Kahlan, and the Mother Confessor's surprisingly adept attentions. When Kahlan decided to do something, she typically threw herself into the task wholeheartedly; this was no different.

When the Mother Confessor slid down her body, pressing kisses to her abdomen, kneeling between her legs, Cara nearly lost herself. Surely as chaste as Kahlan is she isn't intending to... The thought stuttered off into oblivion as she felt a tongue stroke her inner thigh, extremely close to exactly where she had fantasized of stroking Kahlan. She gasped sharply and looked down to see the Confessor with as predatory of a look as she had ever seen on the brunette's face.

"I've never done this before Cara, so the part about my tongue between your legs? You'll have to tell me exactly where you want me to put it." She would have never imagined such suggestive words coming from that pure mouth, nor that pure mouth doing what she was clearly about to do with it. She stroked her tongue again on the other of Cara's inner thigh, just missing the area of interest. She never would have imagined Kahlan would do this, and certainly never imagined she would be the one to do it first. Apparently the Mother Confessor did have an active imagination. Cara spread her legs, and placed her feet flat on the bed, so that Kahlan couldn't miss the dripping place where she wanted that hot, firm tongue.

"Here?" She inquired, sultry amusement in Kahlan's voice as once again, she missed the place entirely and instead stroked through the hair at the top. Cara bucked her hips and growled. "Kahlan, lower!" The growl bloomed into a moan as she felt the hum of Kahlan laughing, the vibrations of it just enough to drive her wild. She shoved downward on Kahlan's shoulder, and put her hand in her hair, directing her where she needed her to go. A firm languid stroke lengthened the moan, and it wasn't long before her hips were dancing with a mind of their own. Cara moved her hands to her own breasts, pinching the nipples almost painfully, savoring the pleasure Kahlan was giving her.

Kahlan felt her own desire rise at the thrill of causing Cara, experienced, wise Cara to writhe with pleasure. The frank discussion with Raina had been insightful to say the least; she would have to thank the dark-eyed Mord'Sith for the helpful information. She had sworn her to silence, and not to tell Berdine, either. Judging from the sounds that were emanating from Cara and no doubt their tent, that had been a pointless endeavor. Everyone within fifty paces of their tent was aware of what was going on inside of it, and exactly who was causing it. She had to seize Cara's thighs tightly to keep the blond's hips from throwing her off of the cot.

The taste of her lover thrilled her; it tasted wild like Cara with traces of sweetness and earth. Giving pleasure to a body that had known such pain made her ache with love for the Mord'Sith. That she held Cara's heart had lent her the courage to take Raina's advice to heart. When Kahlan felt Cara getting close, and her nearly incoherent cries of "Kahlan, inside!", she slid two long fingers into the opening below where her tongue worked. She worked them steadily and forcefully, continuing to caress Cara's clit with her tongue, then added a third. When she nipped lightly at the bud of flesh and flicked it harder, speeding the plunging of her fingers, Cara shrieked out her name in release. Kahlan continued to pump in and out of her, drawing out her climax. Within a few moments, the blond's body was wracked again with orgasm. Finally Cara stopped Kahlan and dragged her forcefully up for a kiss.

Cara tasted herself on Kahlan's lips and decided that it was the most wonderful thing she had yet tasted. She was well-sated, and smiled fully at her gorgeous, dark-haired lover. "Mother Confessor, I was the one that was supposed to be doing that." She tried to sound admonishing but it just came out wonderingly. Where Kahlan had come up with such good notions of how to pleasure a woman, she couldn't imagine, but her suspicions were firmly on the other side of the tent flap. The fact that they hadn't been interrupted despite the fact that it was probably time to pack up the camp, just helped to confirm them. Kahlan just laughed and nipped her on the side of the neck.

"Yes, Cara, but if you do that to me, and believe me it won't take much at this point, I will Confess you." There, her concerns were fully out in the open. "As much as I would like to believe I could control myself, Cara, I know that I can't. Not with you." There were traces of sadness in her voice, and Cara's heart went out to the Confessor that was so certain that sexuality would never be something she could enjoy with a person she cared for.

"Kahlan," she began, looking into the haunting blue eyes, "I don't believe you can Confess me. I was speaking with Berdine, and she seems to think my Bond to you would prevent it." Cara didn't add that Berdine seemed to think that all of the Mord'Sith that were Bonded to Kahlan would have that immunity now. She didn't believe for a moment that Kahlan would act on that knowledge with anyone out of pure desire, but she wouldn't put it past her to try to protect Cara by seeking another outlet. If she could help it, the only outlet Kahlan would ever need would be Cara. "I also don't think that you could possibly get anymore devotion from me than you already have." That was said quietly, almost shyly.

Deciding that showing was better than telling, Cara turned the Confessor onto her back and began a slow assault on her mouth. Kissing her collarbone, and nipping at her pulse point brought a soft whine from Kahlan's throat, and the scent of arousal was heavy in the air. Cara was pleased that they were already both naked. It certainly made overcoming objections much easier without the interference of stopping to remove clothing. She wasn't going to take no for an answer from the Mother Confessor.

If Kahlan had thoughts about interrupting Cara's attentions, when her lips reached her breasts, and her hand stroked up her thigh, they were impossible to summon. This was so dangerous for Cara, but at that moment, it seemed even more dangerous to stop her. Kahlan was fairly certain that if she didn't get a release soon, she was going to catch the cot on fire. The suction on her nipple went straight to her center; she throbbed with need. As Cara turned her mouth's attention to her other breast, Kahlan moaned loudly as she felt fingers brush her sex at the same time. She raised her hips into the touch as it ghosted just out of reach for the pressure she wanted. Cara lifted her head from her breast and smile wickedly at her, knowing that she was teasing her mercilessly.

The Mord'Sith went back to nipping a trail down her body, biting then laving the small pains with her tongue until Kahlan could feel it like a trail of flame on her skin. Cara abruptly captured her thighs, putting her legs on her shoulders as she pushed Kahlan further into the cot and dragged her to her mouth. "You are so wet, Kahlan." The seductive tone sent shivers down Kahlan's spine, as did the breath that caressed her sex. Kahlan could feel her magic pulsing within her and Cara had barely even touched her.

Cara leaned forward and slowly swirled her tongue in Kahlan's folds. Kahlan moaned in agony, "Creator, Cara, that feels so good. She felt like she was bursting apart at the seams, with the only thing holding her together the firm warm wetness stroking her. Kahlan had never imagined that it could feel that good; she had never had anyone even touch her there before, much less do what Cara was currently doing. When a long finger suddenly penetrated her, pressing inside her tightness, there was a burning of pleasure racing through her. When a second joined it, she was mildly uncomfortable with the unfamiliar sensation.

Cara stopped moving, and stopped caressing her, letting the Confessor get used to being filled. The thought that she was the only person that had ever touched Kahlan in this way made the strange tenderness that always gripped her when she realized how much the Confessor, the one person who should have been her mortal enemy, had given to her. She had given her forgiveness, then her friendship, and now she was giving Cara her body. Slowly she began moving the fingers in and out of Kahlan, not going deeply enough to take her maidenhead, but enough to give her a delicious friction.

Kahlan moaned her name, and surprised the Mord'Sith by bearing down on her fingers more sharply than Cara had intended. She took it as an invitation, and completed the penetration, taking the last traces of Kahlan's innocence. She kissed the bud of her clit to help dampen the pain she knew the Confessor would feel, then began to pump her finger into and out of her in earnest. Her tongue caressed her sex, and Kahlan began thrusting into the sensation.

The sharp clench of pain as Cara had taken her was quickly giving way to a sensation of pleasure Kahlan had never known. With each thrust inside of her, and the swirling of the firm tongue was bringing her closer and closer. One deep thrust touched a place inside of her and she cried out Cara's name in delight, aching for that sensation again. When Cara repeated it two more times, her control of both her magic and her body slipped. She came in a burst of magic, release and a scream of joy. Thunder without sound exploded through the tent, and the release of her power combined with her climax darkened Kahlan's vision for several long seconds.

Cara slid up her body, and the first thing Kahlan saw when she became conscious again was the Mord'Sith with a very smug grin on her face. Cara slid the obviously moist, and slightly bloody fingers into her mouth clearly enjoying the sight of a sated Kahlan. "That's the most wonderful thing I've ever tasted, Mother Confessor." Clearly Cara was not Confessed; she looked far too pleased with herself along with being pleased with Kahlan, for that. She leaned down and captured Kahlan's mouth with her own, and held her close. For all of her endearing self-satisfaction, she whispered very softly into Kahlan's ear.

"Thank you, Kahlan. I've never been given such a gift, so freely, before." Kahlan wondered if Cara was talking about her virginity, and considering the things she knew the Mord'Sith had done under Darken Rahl, decided that she honestly didn't want to know. Kahlan was the Lady Rahl now, and what Cara had done in the past, she was absolved of here in the present. She had taken the Confessor as gently, and perhaps even more gently, than anyone ever could have.

Seeing the unreadable look in Kahlan's eyes, she clarified her comment. "Your trust, Kahlan. No one has ever trusted me like you do, and that you would trust me with your body, to pleasure you as your first, is priceless to me." She sealed it with another kiss, and Kahlan felt tears creep from underneath her eyelids to slide down her face. For all that her Mord'Sith claimed that she knew little about love or trust, she certainly knew exactly the right things to say at times.

Outside of the tent, Berdine and Raina staggered, nearly knocked to the ground when they felt Kahlan's magic release. They looked at one another. Lady Rahl was certainly forceful. The extended cry of pleasure accentuated their firm belief that Cara was indeed, well suited to lead the Mord'Sith, not that after their experiences with the blond either of them doubted it in the slightest. As for the Lady Rahl, Raina was positively beaming that her advice was able to help her Lady get over her fears about being with Cara. Berdine assumed that she was merely happy for their Lady Rahl, and fellow Mord'Sith. It took all of Raina's considerable will to stop herself from informing her lover Berdine that she, too, was very good at offering advice.

The End

To Be Contined in Book 2

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